Cooking on a Dime

Creating delicious meals in South Jersey on a budget just got easier with these simple how-to's of the kitchen.

Jibarito Sandwich April 30, 2012

Over the years as I have grown older, my taste buds have adapted to different foods. Growing up, my sister and my father had the same tastes whereas my mother and I had the same tastes. One thing my mother and I hated? Condiments. Now, I cannot eat a cheeseburger without a dollop of ketchup or enjoy a chicken quesadilla without sour cream. And tomatoes? They’re still not my favorite but I can definitely tolerate them. This adventure in the kitchen has definitely opened my eyes to new possibilities when it comes to food.


During my Online Journalism class, Katie Bavosa, a fellow student at Rowan University, asked me if I had ever tried cooking ethnic foods. Immediately I replied no, however, I do love Spanish food and I would love to try a Spanish recipe so Bavosa suggested that I try something different for my blog. So I went to those closest to me who would have the best suggestions for a recipe to try. Jovita Salamone, whom you might remember from an earlier post and another coworker of mine, suggested that I try a Jibarito Sandwich.


I’ve been working at Walgreens for the past 4+ years and I’ve made friends with almost everyone who has come and gone. I have worked, and still work with many Spanish people who have introduced me to all different types of foods. I was very hesitant to try their food but I started small with rice and beans because of course I didn’t really like beans either. I then tried Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls, Papas Rellenas in Spanish. This dish is essentially seasoned ground beef inside a fried mashed potato ball. After this, I have only expanded my interests. I began asking my manager, Barbara Ruiz, to bring me dinner every time we work the same shift.


Ruiz, who grew up in Puerto Rico, has definitely remained true to her roots when it comes to her cooking. Chicken Gizzards certainly don’t sound appetizing and she knew that I wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole if I knew that that’s what I was eating so she withheld that information from me. I knew I needed to dive in and just try it and to my surprise, they were delicious.


So it also came as a surprise when I asked Ruiz if she had ever eaten or made a Jibarito Sandwich and she replied no. However, I will be honest, I can’t tell the difference between Puerto Rican food, Cuban food, and Mexican food. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to. Ruiz informed me that “jibarito” is a Mexican word so I was most likely making a Mexican dish. Regardless, I went ahead to my local grocery store and picked up the necessary ingredients.



  • 1 Green Plantain
  • 4-inch portion of Skirt Steak
  • 1/2 Large Onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 cup Mojo Marinade
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS Vinegar
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 12 Peppercorns
  • 1 TBS Ketchup
  • 1 TBS Mayonnaise
  • Lettuce & Tomato



I will admit I was in a little over my head with this recipe. I didn’t research how to properly peel plantains so they didn’t come out as they should have. But I definitely learned from my mistake and will be able to properly do it the next time with the help of The Noshery.


Beef Pot Roast Tutorial April 21, 2012

Since I’ve started this blog, I have received a few comments from other beginners in the kitchen regarding their concerns on how to make a meal. Today I’m going to show you how easy it is to make a well-balanced meal with hardly any effort at all!


There are no required ingredients for this recipe, except the beef, of course, so just have fun with it. Also, depending on the size of your CrockPot, the amount of ingredients will vary. I made the pot roast the way my mom usually makes it with a few ingredients and lots of seasoning.



  • 1 Chuck Roast
  • 8 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 Celery pieces
  • Carrots
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Garlic & Seasonings



Beef Taco Bake Recipe March 10, 2012

Beef Taco Bake Dinner Spinner Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell’s Condenscened Tomato Soup
  • 1 cup Pace Chunky Salsa or Pace Picante sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese


1. Cook beef in medium skillet oer medium-high heat until beef is browned, stirring to separate meat. Pour off fat.

2. Add soup, salsa, milk, tortillas, and half the cheese.

3. Spoon into 2-quart shallow baking dish. Cover.

4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.


As you can see from my pictures, I used a different brand of salsa and soup than what’s specified in the recipe. I did this simply because of price.



For those that want a fresher dish, here is the Cooks Illustrated version:

Cooks Illustrated Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
  • 2 (10-ounce) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained with 1/2 cup juice reserved
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 8 ounces Colby Jack (Co-Jack) cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, mined or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 pounds 90 percent lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 12 taco shells, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Mix the refried beans, half of the drained tomatoes, cilantro, and hot sauce together, then smooth the mixture evenly into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese over the top.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, vinegar, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is thickened and nearly dry, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spread the beef mixture in the baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup more cheese. Scatter the taco shell pieces over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the scallions and serve.