Friday, December 7, 2007

BudgetFood: Rice. Yeah, that's right... I said Rice.

They're called bread lines for a reason. Carbohydrates, be they bread, pasta, rice, etc... are the staple food of most cultures. They are not, in fact, some evil, dietary enemy of the people as depicted by Dr. Atkins (both overweight and deceased), but rather they are an essential foundation of a healthy diet.

But bread is expensive these days, and pasta is limited in it's application (yes, yes, there are piles upon piles of cookbooks with pasta recipes... but in the end, it's still pasta). Which brings us to rice. Rice, bought in bulk, is INCREDIBLY inexpensive, either in white or brown rice varieties. In Chinatown you can pick up a 20 lbs bag of long-grain, white jasmine rice from Thailand for $11 - $20 bags of brown rice can be found for as little as $12.

As for storing it, with holiday time about, offices and homes are going to be filled with those huge cans of popcorn and pretzels that vendors and relatives send out as end of the year gifts/bribes. Coincidentally, a 20 lbs bag of rice fits PERFECTLY in one of these tins, so Post-it Note dibs on one of these cans and bring it home for rice storage. They're pretty much airtight, so you don't have to worry about bugs, and the rice keeps forever as long as it's dry.

As for preparing it, it's simple - 2 parts water to 1 part rice, bring to a boil then simmer until little holes appear in the surface of the rice (the eyes of the rice, as they're called). Or just buy a cheap rice cooker. I HEARTILY recommend this, as it saves you a LOT of hassle and burning/wasting of rice, and it's incredibly nice and convenient to be able to just dish some rice in a bowl and toss some soy sauce or Furikake on it as a snack. (Furikake is a delicious Japanese seaweed topping for rice.) Cheap rice cookers (get one with a non-stick pot), Furikake, and other "Asian" condiments are available at Pearl River Mart on Broadway between Grand and Broom.
Rice is an incredibly versatile foodstuff - perfect for sides, entrees, soups and even in salads (try adding some room temperature brown rice to your next salad - fantastic!). Here then is just one, super cheap and super easy recipe for rice that can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner.



1-2 cups white jasmine rice (cooked) (you can use brown, or noodles even too)
3/4 cup finely chopped celery (1 stalk)
3/4 cup finely chopped scallion (1 or 2 stalks)
3/4 cup chopped cilantro (also called Chinese parsley or coriander)
1 tablespoon of diced/finely julienned ginger root
2 tablespoons of preserved cabbage **(see below)
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon (more to taste) hot chili paste or chopped hot peppers
2 tablespoons fish or soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar

(** You can get a jar of preserved cabbage from Chinatown when you're buying your rice. One jar lasts for many many months if you eat this regularly, and never goes bad. Preserved cabbage typically comes in a neat little brown ceramic or glass container.)

For the soup base, use either:

- One of those Ramen noodle packs you have lying around
- Broth Boullion Cubes or Powder (Cheap Jacks 99-cent store currently has jars of chicken and beef broth powder that makes tons of soup. For vegetarians, Vegebase is a fairly affordable vegan broth.)
- Or just boil then simmer chicken parts (which they also sometimes have at the 99-cent store) in enough water to cover until they're cooked through, use that liquid as broth and then use the meat in the soup as well.


Put the rice in a large soup bowl, and then on top add the cilantro, scallions, celery, ginger, and preserved cabbage. Then pour the hot, boiling broth over to the ingredients, which will cook the vegetables to perfection, then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Serve immediately.

If you want to get fancy, you can lightly toast the garlic in vegetable oil in a frying pan, til it's golden brown, then pour both the oil and the garlic in the soup. Delicious!

This dish costs maybe $1-$2 tops when you break everything down. And the great thing is, you can change it as you see fit - make the broth from pork meatballs, add or use different chopped up vegetables, like bean sprouts, carrots, etc... Toss in some shrinp! Play around with it and have some fun!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

BudgetDate: Free Ice Skating

It's cold. It's snowy. It's cold. There's nothing we can do about it. It's cold.

So when life gives you frozen lemons... go ice skating!

There are a number of free venues for ice skating here in New York, with very affordable skate rentals. There's free skating in Bryant Park in Manhattan until mid-January, with $10 skate rental and free lockers (you have to bring your own lock - but there's a Cheap Jack's 2 blocks away on 40th Street between 5th and Madison, so you can grab a $0.99 lock if need be!)

And coming up on Friday, December 14th, there's free skating all day, 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., at Wollman Rink in Prospect Park! Admission to the rink will be free, with ice skate rentals available for $6.

And really, does it get more romantic than ice skating? Here's a perfect opportunity to invite that special someone, or potential special someone, on a low-pressure, fun activity date! Hard to beat a date that basically has hot chocolate built into the end.

Friday, November 30, 2007

BudgetFun: Live Karaoke

Now, as an Asian, naturally ANY karaoke is going to be great time for me. It's a little known fact that Karaoke is a Japanese word meaning "Asian guy singing Elvis songs."

However, this enjoyment is multiplied ten-fold when it's karaoke done to a LIVE backup band. Guitar Hero is great and all, but this is the way to REALLY feel like a rock star.

Plus, it's typically cheaper than regular karaoke - no per song charge, no room charges. You just have to wait your turn. Sometimes there's a cover charge, but often not.

There are three main live karaoke bands in the city to look for:

The Human Karaoke Experience:
This is a great place for live karaoke beginners. They're a super cool and relaxed trio with a mind-blowing playlist of 500 songs! Pick out your songs from their website and get to their events early as they have a hardcore group of regulars that always get there and fill up the first couple of pages rather quickly. Put your name down in the earliest slot available, then once on each of the next pages if you want to sing several songs during the night. They play in multiple venues so check their website for a schedule - I've gone to see them at O'Flanagan's Pub on 1st Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets. They serve food there too; I heartily recommend the O'Flanagan Burger for $9.95. Great size and quality of beef, with swiss cheese, mushrooms, onions and sour cream, and decent thick and dirty fries. Drinks aren't quite cheap: Gin and tonics are $6, beers are $7, but I don't drink so take THAT "the MAN!"

Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke:
The grand daddy of all live karaoke bands and NOT for the faint of heart. Formerly the house band for Arlene's Grocery's Monday night karaoke, they were rather unceremoniously bumped out of there in favor of one of their imitators. Arlene's loss, everyone else's gain. Then they played a regular gig at the Continental before that joint sold out and stopped hosting live music altogether. Now they play in multiple venues, primarily at Club Midway on Avenue B in the East Village. There IS a $5 cover, but it's worth it and the singing is free.

This is the hardest rocking live karaoke band in the city, with the band doing dead on renditions of a slew of heavy metal and punk rock covers, with nearly 250 songs in their playlist. The regulars can SING with a capital STFU, so make sure you're ready to leave it on the stage when you get up there. Again, get there early and sign up, as spots and songs fill up quickly.

Rock and Roll Karaoke at Arlene's Grocery:
The band which replaced the aforementioned Punk Rock/Heavy Metal Karaoke band is competent, but feature a rather meager song list. Still, Arlene's is a cool venue for all you hipsters and scenesters, so throw on your best ironic couture distressed t-shirt and head on over there on Monday nights from 11pm-2am for their live karaoke rockfest!

The band also plays other venues from time to time, so check out their MySpace for schedule info.

Welcome to Bachelor on a Budget!

Hi. This blog is dedicated to living the frugal and single life. There are so many affordable and even free activities and opportunities for fantastic living here in New York City, but many of these ideas and events are available in one form or another in every major city in the world!

Expect posts about recipes, date ideas, fitness, housing, shopping tips, entertainment opportunities and finance - everything the frugal bachelor needs to live and love in the big city!

So let's get started!