Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Make Your Own Seven-Layer Dollar Tree Burrito!

Mmm...you can taste the frugality!

I love and hate the Dollar Tree.

A lot of people will tell you that it’s impossible to feel such extreme (and polar opposite) emotions simultaneously, but when it comes to the Tree of Woe, I really am feeling equal amounts of amore and antipathy.

First, the negatives: it’s the single most depressing place in America. Walking into one of those stores, you are pretty much guaranteed that you will run into at least one or two people you’d consider the absolute most beaten down looking human beings you’ve ever seen, and the cashiers often look like they just got out of the methadone clinic a few hours earlier. Every now and then, I’ll force myself to just go browsing through the store, if only for a “Scared Straight” sort of sensation. “If I don’t keep my grades up, I’ll end up being one of THESE PEOPLE,” I keep telling myself as a watch people shamble down the aisles like something out of a George Romero movie. Needless to say, that program has kept me in line for the better part of my college career.

As for the positives: it’s like walking through the mass consumer version of an insane asylum. On one trip, you’ll encounter knockoff pro wrestling toys, hardback books about the influence of Scarface on foreign policy and novelty food stuffs that are at least one seasonal cycle removed from their original shelf life. Going through the store, you have to fight the urge to just start scooping up random crap and burning a full $20 USD on Sierra Mist chapstick, Halloween-themed Big League Chew and two liter cola-sized bottles of maple syrup - a feat that is way harder than it sounds, mind you.

Of all of the sections at the Dollar Tree, the one I consider the most intriguing is the food section. That’s because literally everything on the shelving is basically a challenge to your stomach, just begging for a game of gustatory Russian Roulette. You know what I’m talking about - yeah, you’ll get a lot of shredded cheese for a dollar, but we’re not telling you what animal it came from - that sort of thing.

Even so, I wondered just what I could MacGuyver up with the produce found at the local Tree. I saw a Cinco de Mayo in-store display earlier this year, so for the better part of 2011, I’ve been musing whether or not I could craft a halfway decent burrito using less than $10 of Dollar Tree goods. So to commemorate the month where Americans stuff more down their throat holes than any other time of the year, I’ve decided to finally make good on my promise to concoct such an economical Frankenstein of a food. . .and I’ve even included a step-by-step guide so you can replicate the experiment for yourself! 

As far as ingredients go, you’ll need the following:
  • A bag of long grain-rice (your pick, white or yellow)
  • A bag of medium sized flour tortillas
  •   A can of black beans (substitute with refried bean paste if you’re really lazy)
  • A can of white hominy (the more, the better)
  • A can of enchilada sauce (mild, but if you can find it spicier, more power to you)
  • A can of diced tomatoes (bonus points if it comes with diced green chilies)
  • A bag of shredded Italian Cheese (minus several frugal points if it isn’t imitation style)
  • A bottle of hot sauce (Tapatio rules the world in case you’re trying to find a preferred brand)

Step one involves boiling the rice. If you haven’t figured out how to do this by now, you probably have way more important things to worry about than making a ghetto-burrito some random dude on the Internet concocted.

Step two involves boiling the ingredients for the burrito stew. This is the part where…

…the hominy…

…the black beans….

…the tomato sauce…

…and lastly, the shredded cheese…

…all comes into play. Once you have all of the ingredients in the pot, boil on low for about an hour. If you’re really cramped for time, I would advise starting the stew before you get to work on the rice - since, at most, the rice should only take about twenty minutes to cook up nice and fluffy.

When both are finished, your stove top should look sort of like this. If there’s a lot of fire going on, that means you probably did it wrong. 

The final step involves actually assembling the burrito. This is the part where you break out the enchilada sauce, the hot sauce, the rest of the shredded cheese, and oh yeah, the tortillas. That last one is really kind of important to the mission. 

If you’re not sure how to approach your creation, here’s a brief video demonstrating how I went about doing it: 

And voila, the fruits of your labor. All in all, it isn’t really a bad dish, although if I had the $8.24 I originally had to purchase all of the ingredients, I probably would have just gone to Taco Bell and picked up eight double beef burritos instead. That said, I wouldn’t have gotten the same experience and satisfaction that I would have if I created something at home, and hey - if you don’t like the Dollar Store Burrito, why don’t you try finding ways to improve the recipe/formula yourself? Apparently, it’s a solid base for a homemade taco, if nothing else. . . 


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