The Poor Cookbook: Potatoe Latkes

Hullo internets. Today we will be looking into a Jewish classic and a personal favorite of mine. This recipe has been passed down through my family, and perfected by my mother (of course) and now simplified by yours truly. Latkes can make a great side to just about any meal in substitute of toast, garlic bread, or similar sides. The preparation is rather simple and the ingredients are very inexpensive.


1 Package frozen shoe-string style hash browns (thaw about 4 handfulls)
1/2 yellow onion
1 package matzo meal
3 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour

First off this recipe has a lot of give and take. you could just as easily use about 3 large handfulls of the thawed hash browns and a full onion, etc. I personally like more potatoe less onion, as they fry up better.
First thing is thaw out your hash browns. I did this for about 30min in a strainer, then about 10min in the oven at 200 degrees. A nice thing about getting the potatoe this way rather than cutting them is the resultant has much less moisture and therefore does not need to have the water pressed out. Also slightly chilled potatoes tend to fry up much better.
In a large bowl combine potatoe and finely diced onion. I added about 2 cloves crushed garlic as well, up to you. Beat the three eggs and mix into bowl with potatoe concoction. Once evenly mixed add the matzo meal and about half the flour. Mix together, add more flour if the combined product seems too moist. At this point you can also add black pepper and salt (which i did).
In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat up about 1/4 in of olive oil, vegetable oil, or other good frying oil over medium//medium-low. Powder your hands with flour (the latke mix should be very very sticky by this time) and form the latkes about 3-4 inches around and 1/2 inch thick (or so). Drop them gingerly into the frying pan and allow to brown on both sides. Set on paper towels to drain excess grease.

Viola! You have mastered the time honed art of cooking Jewish latkes. Serve with applesauce for a tradition twist, or whatever your mouth may fancy.
This made about 6 pancake sized latkes for me, two for a good size in a meal, is 3 servings.
Local supermarket cost of ingredients: 3 eggs ($.30), 1 pack of matzo ball mix ($1.5), hash browns ($2), onion ($1). This pans out to about $1.50 per serving calculating generously.

The Poor Cookbook: Baked Mac n Cheese

I know its been a while, school and work as an engineering major can be time consuming. Dont judge me.
So here is a rather simple recipe I found spelunking on the internets ive made my own and would like to share with you.
This is a very straightforward, easy meal to create and most of the ingredients you probably have on standby.

3T Butter
3T flour
2T Mustard
1 egg
12-16 oz assorted cheese
1/2 lb Macaroni elbows

So the starting prep is rather easy. Whisk together the flower and butter on medium in a saucepan. Let fry/simmer for 5-6 minutes then add the milk and mustard. At this point you can also kick in up a notch with say crushed garlic, a pinch of paprika, crushed red pepper, black pepper, etc. Let this concoction simmer down for about 10 minutes, at this time it would also be a good idea to have you macaroni started a boiling in some salty water.
Now comes the fun part, add 8-10 oz of your assorted cheeses to the milk mixture youve been reducing and temper in your egg.
>>(Side note on tempering. Generally this requires beating the egg, then adding about 1T of your hot mixture to the egg to bring it to temperature and not curdle immediately when added to the whole of the mixture. I find this can be avoided by setting the egg in a bowl of very hot tap water for five or ten minutes before beating.)
Fold in your cooked and drained macaroni, then dump it all into a 2 Qt pan. Top this with your excess assorted cheese, and some bread crumbs if available and throw it in the oven at 350 for about 30 min.
The result is a tasty, creamy dish that you can enjoy for the next few days, because it makes a lot.

Cost breakdown. There were some sales at my local supermarket so ill put those prices down. Macaroni $.88/lb (so $.44), 16oz sharp cheddar $4, milk 2 Qt $1.7 (3 cups so $.95), assorted spices you should already have $2. Total comes in around 7.39 and serves at least 5 with sides or as a side 6-7. So your lookin at about $1.48 per serving at the worst, and its all homecooked goodness.

Go get your cook on

The Poor Cookbook: Flank Steak

Now I know what youre thinking, the ‘poor’ cookbook is giving a recipe for steak? Thats a bit of a stretch right? Well not so much in this case. Whilst browsing at the local supermarket, they had a special on flank steak. I got a 1.5 lb cut of aged steak for about $7.50. Thats enough steak for two, maybe three people if you have some good sides to go with your meal. So its still not that cheap, but for steak thats an incredible price.
Todays recipe is not so much the steak as the marinade and preparation thereof. Lets begin:

2 Limes
Fresh Cilantro
3-4 cloves minced garlic (or about 2 Tb)
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea Salt
Fresh cracked pepper
6-8 oz of your favorite beer

First thing you want to do with the steak is trim. There will often be some leftover ligament or fat hanging on the steak, trim off as much as you can. Now you will want to score the meat, to do this take a sharp knife and lightly cut a cross hatch pattern into either side of the steak. You dont want to cut through the steak here, just create little grooves for the marinade to seep in through. This will also look really good once the meat is cooked.
Next we take the sea salt, garlic, chopped cilantro, and pepper, and rub them into the steak on either side. These will get caught in the grooves we just cut into the meat and allow them to release their respective flavor into the meat much easier.
Now combine the rest of the ingredients in a dish or pan (or large ziplock bag) and throw in the steak. The limes are for fresh lime juice in the marinade, and zest if you are so inclined. Youll want to let each side of the steak soak for at least 3 hours before cooking, but no longer than say 8 hours. If you have everything combined in a ziplock then you wont really need to worry about turning the meat in the marinade.
Cooking the meat is pretty straight forward. You can grill it for about 5-7 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the cut), you could also pan fry it for about 4 minutes on each side using a very small amount of oil, or you can broil it in your oven for about 7 minutes on each side (again depending on the cut). A well cooked flank steak is browned on the outside but still pink in the middle. A little practice and you should be on your way to delicious steak every time.

Cost: Again this is a more expensive meal, but not all that bad compared to ordering steak at a restaurant. Steak ($7.50), limes, cilantro, etc should total about $2.50, so lets round it off to $10 for 1.5 lb steak. Again with some sides (like salad, rolls, etc) i got three plates out of the meat, leaving us at $3.50 per serving just for the steak. Less the sides there would still be enough for two to have a full meal, or about $5.00 per person.

Happy cooking

The Poor Cookbook: open face italian sammiches

Today let’s take a crack at a quick and easy recipe that has never failed to impress the ladies. Best of all it’s inexpensive and takes almost no preperations. let’s dive right in shall we?

avocados (fresh as we will be slicing them) x2
tomatoes (see above) x2
whole wheat bread (or your favorite bread)
Swiss chees (deli sliced)
thousand island dressing

First things first, lay out your bread slices (probably six for this size recipe) and apply a generous layer of thousand island. Next slice your avocados and put down a layer on each slice of bread. Repeat this process with the tomatoes (this can’t be tricky if your not good with a knife, takes practice), and finally end with the Swiss cheese.
Throw these into the oven on broil and let it go til your cheese is nice and bubbly and delicous. Depending on your oven, give it about 5 minutes, checking occasionally. Once ready, remove and serve hot. Makes a great side for a soup or salad meal.
Cost? : bread ($1 on a $2 loaf), tomatoes ($1.50), ovacados ($2), cheese ($1 on a $2.50 package), and dressing (you should have this but it’s usually about $2). Let’s say $6 for 6 slices. 2 slices makes a good snack or a small meal, leavin us at $2 per serving generously.

happy cooking

The Poor CookBook: Tortilla Soup

Today’s project is one of my all time favorite soups. It is also one of the easier soups to make, but does require some prep and cook time so be prepared for a little work to get this beauty ready for consumption. This is a more expensive soup to make but the results are well worth the price and the effort. Now accompany me if you will, on the journey of tortilla soup…


1 Carton chicken broth/stock
1 carton beef broth/stock
1 can enchilada sauce (red, heat is up to you. i usually use medium)
2 Fresh JalapeƱos
2 Fresh bell peppers
1 onion
2-3# chicken breast (tenders or whatever you like)
1-2 tortillas (finely chopped)
2 Ears of corn (or two small cans approx)


Sour Cream
Corn chips
Chives (Green onions)
Cheese (mexican mix would be the obvious choice)

Before starting on our soup adventure we will need to cook the chicken. Here you have some options. I have made this recipe with grilled chicken and baked chicken, whichever suits your fancy will work here. For grilling i suggest marinading the meat for a bit to add some kick to it. I usually go with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, lemon, lime, and cilantro for the marinade. Grill, mince, and set aside.
For baking, i rubbed the meat down with salt, pepper, olive oil, and crushed red pepper; then i baked it at 350 for about 20 minutes. Again when its done cooking you’ll want to chop it up and set aside.
For the soup we will put a stock pot on medium to medium high heat. Chop up all the veggies into soup appropriate sizes (nothing larger than a finger nail is good), make sure when dicing the peppers to remove any seeds. The seeds are where the heat from the peppers is stored, so if you want to kick up the temperature on the finished soup you are welcome to add back in some of the jalapeƱo seeds to taste.
Sweat the veggies a bit (this means saute’ for a few minutes to get some of the moisture out), then add in the broth/stock and enchilada sauce. You can also hit it with a little salt and red pepper to get the flavors melding together nicely. Let this come up to temperature (we are looking for a simmer here) then add the chicken, tortillas, and corn. The tortillas here will serve to thicken the soup a bit by adding flour and absorbing some of the moisture.
We will now let this medley simmer away for anywhere from 45min – dinner time. Ive cooked this soup as long as 5 hours before and allowed it to reduce, it only gets better. The veggies will get soft and mushy, if that is not your thing then don’t simmer the soup as long. Personally i don’t mind mushy veggies in soup so i let it simmer away.
I you would like to make a thicker heavier soup and keep the crisp veggies you can always allow the stocks to simmer uncovered and reduce before adding the ingredients in. This is another nicety of making this recipe is it allows you to control the consistency of the ingredients simply by adding them at different times or in a different order.

When your soup is to your liking, serve in bowls garnished with cheese, sour cream, crushed corn chips, chives, and sliced avocado. These things are not entirely necessary but they really bring out the soup and the traditions therein.
This recipe serves about 5 people, and can be frozen easily for lunches.

Cost: stock ($2.50/per), enchilada sauce ($2), assorted veggies (approx $6), chicken ($3.50-5), tortillas ($1.80), avocado ($2). I am leaving out the sour cream and cheese as they are garnish and should be on hand in the kitchen to begin with. This totals our soup out around $20, and at 5 servings they cost about $4 a piece.
Again a more expensive meal, but totally worth it and rather healthy. This cost can be brought down by reducing the amount of meat (or cutting it completely if your not into the whole meat eating thing), and/or getting canned veggies instead of fresh.

Happy cooking

The Poor CookBook: Mexican Hamburgers

This is one of the more racist dishes I’ve learned over the years. Just kidding, but seriously it always makes me feel a bit out of place mashing an American staple with classic Mexican preparations. I feel the ends justify the means with this one, as it is a rather tasty way to get your burger on. Lets dig in shall we?


4 Hamburgers (Beef pattys to be specific. You can make them by hand, or the frozen ones work just as well. You could even sub in some veggie burgers if thats your thing)
Tortillas (burrito size)
1 Can refried beans
1-2 Can(s) green chili

The prep here is pretty straight forward once you know what you are going for. Cook up the burgers, heat the beans and get your frying pan ready to… well fry actually. The next few steps are where the magic happens.
Grab a hot tortilla, throw some cheese and beans in there, right in the center, then plop down the burger patty, fold around the tortilla shell to close, then toss in onto the pan and begin pan frying the exterior. Once the shell is well browned on both sides, transfer to a plate and smother in green chili.
I usually garnish with a bit of cheese here, sour cream, and maybe some cilantro if you want to get fancy. For being quick and relatively easy this is a great crowd pleaser.

This recipe is (obviously) for about 4 wraps, ie: 4 people.

Cost: Burgers @1/4# ($2.50), tortillas ($1.80), beans ($2), green chili ($3), cheese ($2.50). Now, we are using half a package of tortillas and partial package of cheese, so lets call the total at about $9.50 being generous. With four servings that puts each plate at about $2.30.

Now thats an affordable poly-ethnic delight

The poor cookbook: fried polenta

So today we will look at preparation of one of my favorite breakfast snacks. goes well with eggs, toast, etc. Luckily it is rather inexpensive and very easy to make.

corn grits

so we make the polenta as we usually would. For one cup of corn meal, boil four cups of water with a little salt and butter added. Once the water comes to a boil, slowly stir in the corn meal and bring back to a simmer. allow to cook for apporximately 10 minutes, or until the corn meal thickens up.
once the corn meal is cook, transfer it into a greased pan (9×9 to 9×13). throw this into the fridge for at least a couple hours. once cool, proceed to step three.
heat a small frying pan to medium and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. cut our now chilled corn mixture into strips as desired, and allow to fry until golden brown on both sides.
this is commonly served with brown sugar or maple syrup. with a little preperation this is a quick easily and filling breakfast snack. plus corn meal is very cheap in bulk, around $2/lb. one pound should yield about two cups.

The poor cookbook: beef stroganoff

Today’s meal is beef stroganoff. I have adapted it from an old family recipe and cheapened it in doing so. It’s a good one dish meal, easy to make, but does take some time and preparation.

1-2 lbs beef ( of some kind. The recipe origionally calls for cubed steak. I used the stew cut from the local kingsoopers. Cost about 3.50 a pound)
1 tbs garlic
1 onion
1 lbs mushrooms
1 can tomatoe soup
Worshtishire sauce

First thing is to marinade the beef. This isn’t entirely necessary but will definately pay off in the end. I used janes crazy salt, garlic pepper rub with Sierra Nevada double IPA. Marinade for as long as you want, I did about 4 hours.
Next oil the LAN and begin brazing the meat. Do this for 10-15 minutes or until all the meat is well browned.
Next throw in the garlic, onion, mushroom, and tomatoe soup. Let this simmer for 45 min or until the meat is tender. Add worshtisher sauce to taste, usually about 1-2 tbs. Thus can be served alone of on rice/egg noodles/mashed potatoes etc.
The cost for this meal was $7 for two pounds of meat, the onion was $.50, the soup $.80, mushrooms were $2.50. This yielded about four servings. So per serving we have $2.75, not bad for such a classy entree.

The poor cookbook: egg drop soup

So today we will try a soup, cookin poor Asian style. I found this recipe online oddly enough and spiced it up Jew style. It was an inexpensive hit at my place, let’s hope it works for you:

4 cups chicken broth
4 eggs (beaten)
1/4 cup of fresh chipped chives (green onions)
Ginger spice to taste
1-8 tsp salt
1 small can of sweet corn

Now prep is simple. Bring broth to a rolling boil, cut off the heat and very slowly pour in the eggs from at least a few inches above the lip of the pot. Make sure as you’re doing this that the soup has some swirl going, otherwise the eggs will clump into an unattractive mess.
Once all the eggs are added, throw in your chives, corn and spices. Let it all simmer a bit and you’re ready to go.
At this point you can also add some corn starch, this will thicken the soup considerably, making a great consistency.

So our ingredients were chicken stock $2.50, eggs $.17 each, chives $.50, and canned corn $.50. This will make 2 servings, so per serving our cost is $2 per meal. Not bad at all, and rather tasty.

The poor cookbook: johnny casserol

Today’s recipe is a cheap southern classic my ma used to make all the time when I was a kid. That being said I now know how poor we really were…
But I digress, let’s begin:

1lb ground beef
1lb elbows (macaroni, pasta, etc)
1 can tomatoe soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Yep that’s it. Making it is equally simple.
Brown the meat in a large skillet, cook the noodles to al dente. Combine in skillet and add soup mixes, also any other spices you may want. I hit it with some janes crazy salt, and garlic pepper.
At this point I suggest christening it with some Parmesan and serving in bowls.

Obviously this one has some room for improvement. You can sub the tomato soup for some classic red sauce, and/or the burger meat for italian sausage or whatnot. I could even see swapping out the elbows for egg noodles, now that sounds tasty

As far as cost this is about as cheap as it gets. Soups are $.79 a piece, noodles were about $1.50, and the meat was $2. So a total of $5 for four servings is $1.25 per serving. Can you dig it?