Category Archives: Midwestern

Cheese-stuffed mac ’n’ cheese pie: $1.26/slice

I suppose I should preface this post by stating the obvious, given the meal: I’m pregnant. Four months pregnant, to be exact. (For those who’ve seen me in person and wondered how I managed to get quite a beer belly* from eating bread, fruit and mostly vegetarian meals, now you know.) Am I still making it on $35 a week? For the most part, yes. I’m still espousing the principles, baking all my own bread, growing my own food, and making all my own meals, I’m just eating a little more of them, and occasionally making things like this. It basically takes care of all the pregnancy cravings in one go: pie, macaroni and cheese, caramelized onions, and, to top it all off, goat cheese. (As anyone who’s been pregnant recently knows, listeria danger precludes you from having soft cheeses like goat, blue or brie unless they’re heated, leaving very few opportunities for one to get her fix.) In a way, I’m a little sorry I brought something like this into existence because, pregnant or not, I could eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never get tired of it. I’m sorry I brought it to your attention as well, because once you try it, your life will never be the same.

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Vidalia onion, cheese & rice bake: 94 cents/serving

Let me be straight with you: This is not something I would normally make. It’s very casserole-y, for starters, which is not really my style, and it contains sour cream as a binder, something that always has and always will feel deeply wrong to me. (It’s been only recently—the past year or two, in fact—that I’ve been able to abide sour cream’s existence at all. I mean, it’s soured cream, people.) That said, I’ve been struggling a bit lately to find new and inventive meatless dishes (if you’re wondering how this is even possible, look at my recipe index—what haven’t I tried at this point??), since meat has been quite expensive lately, and when I saw a version of this dish on The Homesick Texan‘s blog, I thought I’d give it a try. I had sour cream on hand from another dish and I had cheese, so I only had to pick up some Vidalia onions to make it work (Walla Wallas would have been the more locally appropriate choice, but alas, they’re not in season). It took me a few bites to warm up to it, but once I did, I was sold; it was extremely filling, so I only needed a small serving to feel satisfied, and the sweet onions contrasted nicely against the heat of the chipotles.

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Chicken taco stuffed shells: $2.04/serving

Astute readers recall there have been a couple meals on this blog that veer (in my mind, anyway) dangerously into “Semi-Homemade” territory. Thankfully it’s literally been only a couple—the mini-meatloaves that use prepackaged onion soup mix, and the honey-lime chicken enchiladas for which store-bought flour tortillas are absolutely mandatory. As ashamed as I am of posting those (which I did because, as much as it pains me to admit it, they’re too good not to share), this recipe absolutely takes the cake. I practically had to put a paper bag over my head when it came time to buy prepackaged taco seasoning and taco sauce. The worst part is that I’ve tried quite a few times to make this using my own taco seasoning and taco sauce, and it’s never the same. I will never feel comfortable putting in the amounts of salt, sugar and MSG the big companies do, and it’s all necessary in this dish. This is certainly not something you’d serve at a dinner party, or even admit in public to making, but it’s a quintessential crowd pleaser—perfect for potlucks, parties, kids, bringing to someone who’s sick or has a new baby at home, and so on. A word of warning: They are addictive.

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Mini cheese ’n’ cracker meatloaves: 60 cents each

As occasionally happens when you buy meat in bulk, you end up with odd bits and pieces in the freezer that are too small to use but too large to throw away—half a pork rib, perhaps, or just a few ounces’ worth of roast. Thankfully, this is what meatloaf is for. (Or originally was for, anyway; it seems most people these days go out of their way to purchase ingredients for it, rather than use it as a vehicle for scraps and leftovers.) To stretch those last few dollars even further, I like to divide the meatloaf mixture among the muffin cups in a muffin tin; that way portion control is easy (two or three with a garden salad is a perfect meal), and the rest become easy, freezable grab-and-go lunches to eat whole or slice up for a sandwich.

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Cincinnati chili: $1.93/serving

Cincinnati chili—like a lot of things from the Midwest, in fact—is one of those things us dyed-in-the-wool West Coasters instinctively want to hate, but deep down inside just can’t. I mean, chili? Not to mention weird bastardized chili, with cinnamon and cocoa powder and kidney beans, on spaghetti? With more cheese than is reasonable by just about anyone’s standards? So shameful! But also so addictive. Adding fuel to Midwesterners’ likely growing irritation is the fact I’ve never even been to Cincinnati. In fact, I’ve never been to the Midwest at all, unless you count one half-hour layover in Chicago and two in Denver. (In fact, I’m not even sure Denver qualifies as “the Midwest,” but the view from the airport window was awfully flat, and I saw at least three Looney Tunes-embroidered denim jackets, which I would’ve sworn on a bible had all gone to the Big Goodwill in the Sky circa 1998.)

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