No. 2 No, I’m Not Depressed

What this is not. And the first recipe.

This is not going to be a nostalgic look back at Depression-era foods and recipes. That’s why it’s called New Depression Cookbook, meaning now. I guess I could have called it the New Recession Cookbook, but I didn’t start this because I was worried about a recession.

I started it thinking we’re sliding into a real economic Depression and that I should start recalibrating my life, my expectations and my spending. I’ve always been frugal. Ask my friends. They’d probably say Cheap.  But even I, should I lose my job in this shaky, circling-the-drain newspaper business, can tighten my belt.

That belt-tightening started a few months ago when I decided to check out the Aldi grocery store a few blocks from my house. Aldi is a chain of relatively small (compared to the average mega-super-grocery behemoth) limited-selection grocery stores. The type where foods are displayed in the opened cartons they were shipped to the store in. The type of store – to be honest – I felt was below me. Not any more. Aldi is my new favorite place and I tell everybody to try it.

Owned by the same German foods company that owns Trader Joe’s, Aldi (www.aldi.com) is an eclectic mix of bargain-basement-priced foods stacked side-by-side with fine imported German chocolates, breads, Christmas Stollen, gourmet coffee and other low-priced unexpected treats that change weekly.

You may have to readjust your thinking when you start shopping at a limited-selection store. But, really, think about it – do you really need 200 different cereals to choose from. How weird is that, anyway? This isn’t a plug for Aldi, I just wanted to say that if you have this kind of store in your neighborhood – don’t overlook it – you could save tons of money and find some pretty interesting stuff on the shelves each week.

For instance my recipe for Corned Beef Has with a Twist began as I stood in line at Aldi and noticed the potted-meat selection next to me. I had indulged in a can of Spam the week before to see if it would conjure the summer road trips my family took back in the 60s. We always had Spam on Wonder Bread with mustard and Utz potato chips on the road. After eating it for a week in my lunch at work and frying it with my eggs for breakfast and again at night for dinner, I’m through with Spam for the time being. But there’s no denying it’s a cheap week’s worth of meals.

Next I picked up a can of Corned Beef, which I was pretty sure I would open, gag over and throw away. Not so. I researched a couple basic corned beef hash recipes and adapted them. It’s great reheated. And check out the Leftover Tip at the end of the recipe. 

Corned Beef Hash with a Twist

  • 1 can Corned Beef (the same size as a can of Spam)
  • 1 16 oz can diced white potatoes – drained
  • 1 small can sliced mushrooms – drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • sharp cheese

Because I was a little skeptical of the canned beef, I put it in a strainer and poured a quart of boiling water through it. I figure that reduced the fat and salt content.

Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and toss in some diced garlic (the amount of garlic is up to you, or don’t use any). After the garlic has browned a little fill the pan with the potatoes and press them down with a spatula. Let them get a little crispy before you add the corned beef, mushrooms and peas. Stir and heat everything together and let it simmer covered for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry out. 

Spoon into bowls, grate some sharp cheese on top and finish it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese. Serve with a toasted hardy bread like rye or pumpernickel, or a good multi-grain baguette.

Leftover Tip: This is even better scrambled into your eggs the next morning.

~ Chow for Now! ~

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