Amazing cheap steak and squeezy garlic: The best cooking tips I’ve ever come across

Guest post by Megglesworth
Squeezy garlic is a thing!
Squeezy garlic is a thing!

I didn’t start learning to cook until I was 27. I may have a lazy streak, and cooking just seemed like a pain in the ass.

But last night I was eating a super nom-y dinner that took four minutes to make, and it inspired me to share all of my favorite food makin’ tricks…

Prepare: My food co-op has a farmer’s market every Wednesday. (If you have a way to hit up a farmer’s market there is no excuse not to. They are full of great deals and it’s such a soulful feeling to meet the person who cared for, and is making a living from, the food you eat. I swear, it even tastes better!) Buy up your goodies and chop them immediately while listening to your favorite radio show. It’ll be a lovely way to spend your time, and you’ll be set with ready-to-grab veggies all week.

Doctor it up: I know that buying frozen isn’t great. It’s not as nutritious and the packaging sucks, I know. But it’s just so very EASY AND CHEAP! I like to get frozen treats from Trader Joe’s for two bucks for whatever, and doctor ’em up with (already cut) fresh veggies and whatnot. Make enough for lunch later in the week!

Pureed Garlic: Did you know you can squirt garlic out of a tube? It’s totally a thing! I looooove garlic, and this makes it totally fast and easy-squeezy (ha!) to enjoy.

Potato tips: Boil ’em first to cut down cook time. To get them browned and crispy, dry all of the water away with a paper towel and toss in super hotty-hot oil.

Cheap amazing steak: Grab a cheap steak and cover both sides in sea salt. (Yes, it has to be sea salt!) Almost immediately you should see water pooling on the surface. (Water that would otherwise steam, making your steak tough.) An hour later rinse it off really good, and, again, dry ALL of the water away with a paper towel and toss in super hotty-hot oil. (In a cast iron if possible.) Let the steak chill out for about five minutes before cutting to retain the juices. Mmmmmmmmeat.

What are your best tricks?

Comments on Amazing cheap steak and squeezy garlic: The best cooking tips I’ve ever come across

  1. Similar to the garlic in a tube, I ALWAYS get tomato paste in a tube. It seems I’m only using a tablespoon or so at a time and using those little cans ends up with me having moldy tomato paste in the fridge that I forgot to use.

    • More things should come in squeezy tubes/pouches for this very reason. Like, I’m never going to use an entire jar of alfredo sauce at once, so STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME, BIG SAUCE.

      • Yes! I never use a whole jar of spaghetti sauce at once, and I seem to be terrible at using up the rest before it develops mold. I need to get better at freezing unused portions in ice cube trays or something.

    • My father swears by herbs and tomato paste in a tube. As he says, “anything you only need a tablespoon of for a recipe go for the squeezy tube it will save you money”. Big bunches of fresh herbs are great but I always have left overs that wilt before I use them. The can of tomato paste always gets moldy before I need to make more sauce. Squeezy tube all the way!

      • I chop up fresh herbs and put them in ziploc bags in the freezer so that I can use what I need when I need and it doesn’t seem to affect the taste too much.

    • Tomato paste comes in a tube?! I need to buy that. I love the tubes of garlic paste. I like using raw garlic, as well, but sometimes the tubes just work better. Hint: I find it at my grocery store near the refrigerated salad dressings and prepackaged salads and herbs.

    • Yes! Toast + tomato paste from a tube + cheese = instant (ish) pizza was a staple of my student days. I’m fussy about tomato products since I don’t like the actual beasts themselves, but that stuff tastes soooo good.

        • Haha, I would, but I always used a grill and I am sadly without a functioning one at the moment.

          It really is just grilled cheese (that’s right, isn’t it? cheese on toast, anyway) with a layer of tomato paste in between the toast and cheese. Anyone else wants to assemble that into a post of melty-cheese-porn, have at it!

          • I sometimes do this with wraps, for nice crispy “pizzas”.

            If no one else has submitted this yet – I could have a go!

          • Ooh, ooh, pizza-dillas! It’s like a cross between a quesadilla and a pizza — a tortilla, tomato sauce (or tomato paste would work, I’m sure), mozza cheese, anything else you wanna throw in there (chopped veggies, pepperoni, ham & pineapple…), another tortilla slammed on top, heat it all up (either in a dry frypan — I use cast iron) or directly on the stove (like the “No-dish stoner cooking: “Taco Bell” quesadillas” from 2012) until it gets gooey in the middle and crispy on the outside, and voila! Instant(ish) pizza(ish)!

            Alternatively, pita base + pizza stuff + toaster oven = instant(ish) pizza(ish).

      • I haven’t had the best luck with the tube varieties but I do buy garlic and ginger in jars. You can get minced or pureed so I have both for ginger I think, and a big thing of minced ginger in oil. Works easy peasy.

        • I was going to suggest the garlic in jars, too. I lived in a group house with 7 people and we just bought a giant jar of minced garlic every month or two for everyone to use in their cooking. It tastes different to me than the fresh stuff, but it’s really great to have on hand when you just don’t have the time to mince.

    • My solution to the molding leftovers of cans was to put the leftovers in a small freezer-safe container, then freeze. (And preferably mark down when it was frozen and make a list on the freezer of whats inside, so I’m not accidentally opening another can while theres still stuff frozen.) I don’t know about garlic products, since I use garlic powder instead, but tomato-based stuffs freeze well and I don’t notice any really difference when its used in a way that its cooked after the freeze, and even if you only use it a few times before it gets freezer burned, you’re still probably saving money. And a handy hack for things you only use a tablespoon of at a time – use a cheap ice cube tray as your freezer container, so you just have to throw a little ice cube of tomato product in your cooking meal and you’re done.

    • I freeze the rest of my tin of tomato paste into an ice-cube tray. It makes perfect size portions that I can use at any time later for things like pizzas or adding to spaghetti sauce 🙂

    • I’ve been freezing the remnants of my cans in freezer bags folded into tidy squares of tomato paste. I never really measure, so I just pop out squares of frozen tomato paste and add them to whatever I’m cooking (usually curry). It saves me from moldy paste.

      You can totally do the same with ginger. It grates better when it’s frozen, anyway. And you can do the same with fresh herbs, just chuck them in some olive oil. I’m pretty sure garlic is the same way.

  2. Actually, after some studies, they have found that frozen is, many times, more nutritious than fresh. Now, I think they did this with grocery store veggies- not farmers market, as far as I know. But, apparently because they can bring it in directly from the field and flash freeze it, it retains all that fresh from the field nutrition. Now, my issue is I don’t think it tastes as good, so I tend to get fresh anyway…

    • I was about to make this same comment. Sure, if you can buy local that’s the best option, but frozen veggies are generally more nutritious than the “fresh” stuff in the produce section. Tomatoes that are picked green, shipped for two weeks, and then “ripened” artificially just aren’t going to be as nutritious as something that gets flash frozen.

    • I am so glad someone beat me to saying this! I often find the texture of frozen veggies to be less than awesome, but hey! Cheap! Way nutritious! And so so so very easy. And frozen fruit is totally the way to go. A fresh peach is great in season, but frozen ones last all yeeeeeeear.

    • Coming in here to say this too.

      If you’re not using your veggies up in about two days or so, it is much, much more nutritious to buy frozen. Just read your labels.

      The best thing to do is eat things straight from the ground, that night, but many people don’t have that option.

    • Garlic freezes fine. It gets a little softer (upon defrosting) and yellower in color, but it tastes the same. It’s completely fine to freeze if you’re going to cook with it anyway.

    • You’re totally right about the vegetables and fruits being frozen, but I think the author was talking about frozen meals, not just bags of frozen veggies.

    • Yes! Growing up, my mom made this frequently as the base for mac and cheese, lasagna, etc. and I knew it as “mac and cheese sauce”. Years later I heard the name “bechamel” and thought UGH SOOO FIDDLY but when I looked at the recipe, I realized it was the exact same thing as my mom’s mac and cheese sauce.

      • “SOOO FIDDLY” – Lol, this is how I feel when I read the French or Italian names for foods I already eat. Then I realize it’s the same thing, and suddenly feel fancy because I’ve been eating ‘bechamel’ in my lasagna, not just ‘white sauce’.

  3. I sometimes buy the frozen pasta dinner and throw im my own veggies and a bit of shredded cheese. Turns a meal for two into a meal for two for lunch and dinner!

  4. Sheets of frozen puff pastry are the best shortcut to impressively simple desserts and main dishes. Top a pot pie, make a quick pizza, hundreds of dessert options and more!

  5. Mac and cheese + chili = awesome weeknight dinner!

    Make the boxed mac and cheese according to package directions, then mix in a can of chili, put it back on the stove and stir for 5mins until the mixture is hot. So good! It adds protein and substance to the meal. We also freeze sandwich baggies of homemade chili and use those in lieu of canned chili. It’s a good way to use up leftover chili (not sure about you guys, but chili recipes always seem to make waaaay more chili than I need.)

  6. For the steak tip, you’re basically doing the same thing that kosher butchers do to draw out the blood and moisture from the meat. So if sea salt is not in your budget, kosher salt will do just fine. Believe me. You can also give this treatment to pretty much every meat you’ve got (not fish, I’ve never tried fish), and it will come out fine. Just remember to wipe off the excess salt and moisture before you cook.

    Along the same lines, if you’re not buying a kosher bird, you can stick that whole sucker in a big bowl (or clean paint bucket) of saltwater for a few hours, and when you pull it out, dry it off, and roast it, you will have the most moist bird you’ve ever had in your life. Bonus points if your brine solution includes shit like peppercorns and other whole (not powdered) spices. If you get stuck doing Thanksgiving and are afraid of dry, leathery, mummified bird, brine that sucker overnight and you’ll be the reigning monarch of the holiday. (I stick mine out on the balcony with a lid on the bucket since it’s cold here in November. Otherwise, put it in the icebox if it’s going to sit out overnight. Food poisoning will dethrone you from your holiday monarch throne.)

  7. Great ideas here. One note about the minced garlic in a jar. I recently had some and for whatever reason I read the label. It had lactic acid in it, something my dairy allergic kid can’t have without puking. Just a head’s up for lactose intolerant/dairy allergic friends.

  8. Bake shredded cheese + pizza sauce on top of a bagel or english muffin for 5 min = easy delicious pizza

    Pre-portion meat before you freeze it – it’s annoying to have to fiddle with it, but so much better than trying to chip a single chicken breast free when you’re starving weeks later

    If you throw a bunch of veggies and cheese and maybe meat in a dish and bake some eggs on top of it, it’s a frittata and you’re suddenly super fancy

    Frozen shrimp are a great way to add some protein to pasta and make it seem way classier, just throw some in when it’s almost done. Adding bacon bits feels less classy, but is just as good

    You can totally microwave potatoes instead of baking them and they taste just as good

  9. Fresh herbs cheap at the market? Hit the dollar/thrift store for a cheap ice cube tray, chop the herbs and freeze them in their own cubes of water (cilantro, onion, ginger), butter (garlic, parsley, oregano) or stock (rosemary, sage). Once they’re frozen, you can bag them by type and just toss 2 cubes of garlic butter in the pot when you’re cooking.

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