I met a rare breed today. Most folks I come into contact with are off a cruise ship and are only in Ketchikan for perhaps ten hours, four and of half of which will be spent exploring fjords and peeping whales with your favorite (I hope) rabble rouser and suspected terrorist, Agent L. (The second trial, by the way, will be over by May 25 and then we’ll all find out if I can ever stroll by the banks of the Bosporus or drink beer on Çaliş beach with dear friends again, but that’s another post about another life.) It’s a shame they spend so little time here cause for such a little place (8000 souls in the town proper) there’s a lot going on- hiking in snow covered mountains, kayaking, snorkeling, looking at the the world’s largest collection of totem poles, ziplining, fishing, and an unexpectedly big and diverse art scene. These guys found themselves an apartment rental and tooled around for a couple weeks, exploring the hiking trails and bars.
“We’ve mostly been barbequeing everything we eat to save money,” said the lady. “Everything is so expensive.”
PRO-TIP: groceries in Alaska are about 25% higher priced than in the continental US. Everything has to be barged or flown in.
“Oh my God I know. First time I went into Safeway I was in shock.”
“First time I went into Safeway I almost cried!” the woman said.
“You know, I pass a Chinese restaurant every day on my way to work, and their flipping egg rolls are eight bucks. Eight bucks!”
We all shook our heads in mute wonder.
The three of us, me and AC and SA, mostly washed up here broke for one reason or another, and we’ve been pooling resources to feed ourselves until payday. One of the perks of my particular job is I get to take home whatever clam chowder or chili is left over at the end of the day. It is widely acknowledged that I am the most creative cook in the house, and that I have a genius for taking shitty food and creating something better than the sum of its generic brand parts. That clam chowder, for instance, is much better reduced a bit, with lashings of hot sauce and pepper, perhaps with some canned corn or frozen veggies in it, poured over garlic bread, or reduced further and made the base for a sort of poor man’s clam alfredo sauce. Chili needs only cheese, more heat, and sour cream to transform it.
But one cannot live on chowder and chili alone.
Here are the universally liked cheap meals I’ve come up with in the past three weeks.
Start with: Generic boxed macaroni and cheese. So sad by itself!
Cook the noddles until al dente and drain.
In the pot melt a smidge under a tablespoon of butter and pour the noodles back in.
Add, in no particular order, the packet of analine-orange cheese powder, a splash of milk, and two or three tablespoons of garlic yogurt, and a few tablespoons af canned diced tomatoes. (To make garlic yogurt, add a clove of minced or pressed garlic to every cup and a half of yogurt, or to taste, and a pinch of salt.) Stir to combine.
Now add a can of chicken.
You read that right, and yeah, I know. I had the same reaction to canned chicken for years. But you know what? it’s cheap protein, and actually pretty good!
Now add two of those packets of parmesan that come with delivery pizza, and lashings of pepper. If someone recently ordered chinese and didn’t eat their fried noodle treats, sprinkle on top with another parmesan thing and bake.
If you’re a fancy rich person who has vegetables I bet they’d be good in this too.
Start with: Chicken Ramen noodles. (Oh so sad.)
Cook the noodles in less than a cup and a half of water, and add the spice packet to it first. Or just use half a chicken bouillon cube.
Stir in a beaten egg to up the protein and make it more like egg drop soup, and add a ton of lemon juice.
Also stir in half a can of chicken , some canned corn, and hell, maybe even some beans if you have them.
Same with the veggies.
What’s your favorite trick to fancy up shitty packaged food?