Really cheap, really easy, really good dishes

Please share your go tos for dirt cheap and easy to make crowd pleasers.

Cheddar potatoes:

Boil around 4-5 pounds of potatoes until cooked but still firm, peel if needed(hard or rough skin).

Now using a fork break the potatoes up in a pot until they are in chunks, add a pinch of salt to taste and around a quarter of a pound cheddar cheese sliced thinly and place the pot on the stove on low heat, just enough to melt the cheese. When it is hot stir it with the fork until the cheese is totally melted and evenly distributed.

At this point you can serve as is yum, OR if you’re feeling creative try adding other garnishes like chopped chives or bacon bits. Anything that sounds interesting, you can even try different cheeses besides cheddar, I usually use it because it had a sharp flavor that goes a long way and it is the cheapest cheese in chunks.
If you want to get fancy you can add the chives and bacon bits, form into the shape of a baked potato and top with a dollop of sour cream etc.

I love this, it is cheap and filling and a real crowd pleaser.

Fried Ramen

Boil ramen noodles until cooked. Drain and place in frying pan over medium heat. Add flavor packet and some soy sauce. Cook until noodles begin to brown, add some frozen mixed vegetables, a scrambled egg or two and some soy sauce. Continue to cook until veggies are hot and noodles start to get a little crispy. Season with pepper, if you like.

Peel 4–6 medium-size potatoes and cut into bite-size chunks. Boil in salted water until soft. Drain.

Finely chop a medium-size onion, 4–6 good-size mushrooms, 3–4 large cloves of garlic, and 3–4 Kosher garlic/dill pickles. In a large pan, saute the veg in butter with a bit of sunflower seed oil.

Add the potato chunks, stir and season with salt and pepper. Stir in a container of sour cream until everything is combined well. Simmer on low heat until sour cream stars to bubble. Garnish with dill and parsley.

Serve as a main dish with some rye bread and sweet butter, or as a side dish with meat cutlets, medallions, etc. Also makes a good filling for bliny.

NB: The Kosher sour cream my dad used to buy always tasted (to me, anyway) like it had horseradish in it. The Russian smetana I’ve grown used to eating does not. Follow your own personal preference here.

Bring one cup of water to a boil. Add a cup of whole milk and bring almost to a boil. Slowly whisk in two cups of polenta until the mixture starts to thicken. Add a gob of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in a cup of of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Transfer the cooked polenta to fill the bottom of a well-buttered casserole dish.

Take a jar of Classico (or a comparable brand’s) spaghetti sauce (I’d recommend the garlic and basil type) and stir in another cup of grated cheese. Use the sauce to fill the middle third of the casserole dish.

Rinse a bag of frozen mixed vegetables in cold water. Shake and blot dry, then stir into the sauce. The casserole dish should be almost full by now.

Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees F for a half hour, or until the sauce is bubbly. Remove the foil and top with grated Mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven for 10–15 minutes, or until the Mozz starts to brown.

Serve as a main dish with crusty Italian bread and some warm EVOO (add some butter, chopped garlic, and a chopped anchovy to the oil, if you wish). Or serve as a side dish with meat cutlets, medallions, etc.

NB: Different vegetables can also be used instead of mixed: plain spinach, green beans, and chopped broccoli all work well.

And don’t forget the Chianti! :slight_smile:

Bring two cups of water to a boil. Stir in a cup of medium- or short-grained rice and cook until tender; remove from heat and cover. (I like to add a bullion cube before stirring in the rice.)

Chop a medium-size onion, a medium-size to large green pepper, and 3–4 large cloves of garlic. Cut 200 grams of smoked ham into bite-size cubes. Saute the ham and veg in some EVOO and butter.

Transfer the rice, ham, and veg into a well-buttered casserole dish. Add a jar of Classico (or an equivalent brand’s) spaghetti sauce (I recommend the garlic and basil type) and stir well to combine.

Bake covered in foil at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and top with grated Mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven until the Mozz on top starts to brown.

Serve as for the Casserole Milanese, but with grated Parmesan and Romano on the side.

NB: Other meats can be substituted for the ham; ground beef and ground pork both work well, as does chopped Italian sausage.

*I was once served this dish at a dinner party in Cambridge, England, at which our hostess referred to it as a “risotto.” I have since been bashed for doing the same thing by people who know Italian cookery well (and yes, I do know what real Italian risottos are like). My apologies if this offends you, but I just don’t know what else to call it!

Call it a pilaf–it’s a hell of a lot closer to a pilaf then it is to a risotto

Risotto is more like porridge, piliafs are casseroles.

(If you want to make it more pilaf-y :wink: take a little butter of olive oil and cook the (dry, precooked) rice in it until it starts to get a little toasty golden-brown…THEN add the water/bullion.)

It sounds great, btw. Don’t let my quibbling about the name detract from the fact that it sounds really good. :slight_smile:

Sounds yummy; will try that the next time I make it.

Sometimes I make it with meatballs (pork and veal) too; this is one of my daughter’s favorite dishes!

The EVOO/butter/garlic/anchovy mix should be used as a bread dip, BTW. It can be refrigerated and reheated if you don’t use it all up in one go.

One pound box of bowtie pasta.
One large green pepper and one large red pepper.
One bunch of green onions.

Boil pasta as directed on package and let cool.
Chop the two peppers into little bitty pieces, each no larger than the erasure on a pencil or even smaller.
Chop the green onions into yet even smaller pieces. (Half a bunch might be enough, depending how much you buy - maybe 6-7 stalks total in the recipe. More if you like a kick in the taste.)

Throw pepper pieces and onion pieces into the pasta, slowly mixing in just enough mayo to make it all moist. Cool in fridge. Tastes good immediately, but tastes better the next day and the days after that. Also, due to the green and red, looks pretty enough to take to a party/picnic/potluck.

This little pasta dish packs a huge punch and is quite spicy - and this from a guy who can eat salsa with a spoon. It is good as a side dish or even just a small plate full on hot summer day when you don’t want to eat anything heavy.

Not ramen noodle cheap, but I hit upon a dish the other evening that made a houseful of teenage boys happy without killing the grocery budget: Mexican “lasagna.” I’m sure there are formalized recipes out there, but my version was
Make a whacking big pan of ground beef, as for taco meat.
Place two flour tortillas in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
Top with a thin layer of refried beans.
Top that with a layer of meat.
Top meat with shredded cheese.
Final layer of tortillas and cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted.
Serve with taco sauce, salsa, sour cream and a salad.

Two pans fed my hungry gang (starving hubby, 3 14-15 year-old boys, plus three others with normal appetites) for about 10, but I'd stocked up on ground beef on sale @ .99/lb. And sure, it’s basically tacos in a casserole dish, but it was way easier to serve this way.

Tony has already requested that this dish accompany us to potlucks. In those instances, I’ll dress it up with jalapenos and so forth.

Boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs
Big jar of great northern beans
Jar of your choice of salsa

Put them all together in a big pot and simmer for a couple of hours. Serve with sour cream if you like.

You can add stuff to it if you want, like cilantro, more onion, garlic, cumin, or anything that strikes you as a good addition. It can also get the sour cream mixed in right before serving so that it’s a creamy soup.

Pasta with anchovies and broccoli.

Melt a small tin of anchovies (i.e. put them in a frying pan in their oil and maybe a bit extra olive oil and heat slowly till they dissolve). Fry a clove or two of garlic in the anchovy-oil. Meanwhile cook the broccoli till it is a bit overcooked and goes soft. Put into the frying pan and with the back of the spoon sort of mash and mix together with the anchovies-oil mixture. Then add in the cooked pasta and coat it with the mixture. The “right” pasta is orecchiette but I’m not going to be snobby. Not spaghetti, though, short pasta. And if you want, add a little bit of chili pepper too.

PookahMacPhellimey, that sounds delicious. I like the taste of anchovy but I didn’t use it in cooking because the taste is way too strong if you just eat a piece of it. This sounds like a perfect way to dilute the taste.

My own contribution is also easy and also a pasta/fish dish. It’s really a recipe of the “open four packages and throw 'm in together” -variety. It is also easy on the quantities: you can’t really go wrong if you add more of this or less of that.

Okay, so cook as much bowtie pasta in salted water as you like. Use a large pan.

While the pasta cooks, take a bowl and put in:
[li]One packet of shredded salmon. (about 75 grammes (a handful) per person). [/li][li]One little cup of cream, any cream as long as it isn’t sweetened. [/li][li]Two chopped up toes of garlic. [/li][li]A little jar of capers, if you like. [/li][li]And a packet of shredded lettuce or endives. Shredded endives is dirt cheap for a large bag. And in this recipe it doesn’t cook down so it adds a lot of volume and fresh greens.[/li][/ul]
When the pasta is done, put out the fire, drain and put back in pan. Add a bit of olive oil, and then dump all the contents in the bowl in the pan with the pasta. Stir, and serve.

Prepare one box shells n’ cheez according to package instructions. Add one can Hormel or your preferred brand chili. Stir and heat until piping hot. For a more healthful version of this dish, scoop the grease layer from the chili and discard it before mixing.

Southwest salad

1 chopped white onion
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
1 can drained and cleaned black beans
1 can drained and cleaned corn kernels
1 can petite diced cut tomatoes
olive oil
balsalmic vinegar.

Yum. Cheap and good for you too.

Our family has something we call “goulash” (it’s not goulash):

Make 1/2 - 1 lb pasta (depending on how pasta-heavy you’d like it to be) al dente or a little under - broad egg noodles work well, as does large macaroni or penne
Saute 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped, in a large saucepan with a little oil
Add 1 lb ground beef and stir until browned (you want largish chunks of ground beef)
Mix in a 1 lb can of diced tomatoes
Season to taste with salt, pepper, maybe some cumin, garlic powder, and/or chile powder
Drain the pasta and add it to the ground beef mixture; simmer until everything looks and feels done.
We sometimes add in frozen peas as well, just because my kids are nuts for frozen peas in everything.

I don’t actually eat this dish, because I’m a vegetarian, but it goes over big with the family. I make a version for myself with just onions, tomatoes, peas, pasta, and seasoning, but I’m a minimalist anyway.

Cook itty-bitty pasta (ditalini or tiny shells), and when they’re just done, add some frozen peas just to heat through. Drain and cool. Grate (or cut into pea-sized cubes) Swiss cheese, and stir in with Italian dressing. (You can add other vegetables or use different cheese or salad dressing, but this is the basic recipe. Which originally called for alphabet pasta, which I can’t find anywhere - because it was called “P’s and Q’s”).

Uncooked sausage of your liking
chopped onion
potato, cut up into fry-sized pieces
olive oil

Put oil into a frying pan, add the potatoes. Brown them up and then add the sausage and continue cooking. Add the onion and continue cooking until the sausage is browned and both it and the potatoes are cooked through. Add seasonings to taste.

Frittatas are excellent for several people and have a great eye-appeal. I make mine with eggs, potatoes, onion, some sort of peppers, and either sage sausage or chorizo, topped off with cheddar cheese. After it’s all set on the stove top, I add the cheese on top and put it under the broiler to finish cooking the eggs and melt/brown the cheese. Looks great when you bring the pan to the table still bubbling.

I make something like this, and I also refer to it as a sort of lasagna. Chop up some onion and bell pepper, cook with the meat. After cooking and draining the meat, I add a packet of taco or burrito seasoning (or a jar of salsa), according to directions, and then a can or two of refried beans (about one can to one pound of meat). This means that the mix is easier to spread.

I usually cut the tortillas into strips or squares, and let them overlap a bit, as it’s easier to serve that way. My husband vastly prefers that I make this with either flour tortillas or tortilla chips, but corn tortillas work well, too.

If you want to make it look fancier, you can slice leeks or green onions into rings or half rings, and scatter along the top, with dots of sour cream sprinkled with paprika.

The salad can be either a regular green salad, or a cucumber salad. Either works very well. If you have a CHEAP source of avocados, or need to use up some avocados before they turn brown, then avocado slices, chunks, or guacamole is a nice touch.

Back in the 1970’s my mother used to make an almost precisely similar dish called “Tijuana Torte.” The only difference was she alternated between corn and white flour tortillas in the layers. I’ve no idea where she got the recipe. Years later, while living in Laredo, I mentioned it to some Mexican American co-workers while joking about what my rural Northeastern upbringing had told me was Mexican food. They’d never heard of it, naturally. I made a big baking dish of it for the next faculty party and they gorged themselves on it. Realistically, it isn’t too many parsecs off from enchiladas.