Friday, July 18, 2014

Indian Frybread Video Recipe - Indian Summer Vacation Series

This is my forth Indian Summer Vacation video, so I think it's time for a recipe.Once we were well into Arizona, and Native American town names and symbols began to appear, I became aware of Indian Frybread at gas-stop markets and restaurants. I was eager to try it, and was not disappointed.

All it takes is 4 ingredients o make traditional Indian Frybread. And the ingredients are cheap but the flavor is top shelf. Frybread is light like a large puffy and yeasty flour funnel cake/tortilla/pancake. It's simply made with oil, flour, water and baking powder, mixed then fried in lard or coking oil.

But it's a controversial addition to the Navajo Indian diet, originating when they were forced to resettle from Arizona to New Mexico over 140 years ago. They were given lard, sugar and flour by the government for the long trek, and from that arose Frybread. It has become synonymous with Indian cuisine. Now, we all know you shouldn't eat doughnuts every day, well Frybread carries the same baggage. You can read all about the controversy by clicking here.

I don't eat doughnuts often, but when I do they go down so good. I can't advise eating Frybread routinely, but as a decadent meal, you gotta try it at least once. I had it with Chili Powder sprinkled on, and my wife had it with honey and cinnamon powder.

 Frybread with Chili Powder
Frybread with honey and cinnamon

And on our drive through Arizona we stopped at a restaurant for a Frybread Taco, filling and tasty. Check back soon, as I will post a recipe for that, too.

Frybread Taco

When we were touring Navajo country, we stayed in a hogan at Spider Rock Campground where we were served fresh made Frybread for breakfast, prepared by a young Indian named Lance. He said the recipe came from his grandmother. I got Lance on video making Frybread, so you get the recipe firsthand.

Lance and trailer kitchen

I shot Lance on the last day of our vacation, so this video is out of chronological order, as I have a few more Indian Vacation posts to publish. But it was a delicious way to end our stay.

Here's the Frybread recipe video I made, shot in a small trailer at the Spider Rock Campground, after a tour of Canyon De Chelly in Chinle, Arizona.

Indian Frybread Recipe - Video #4

Play it here, video runs 5 minutes, 19 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Ingredients (2 large Frybread)
2 cups white flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
Cooking oil or shortening - enough to fill bottom of a pan about one inch deep.

Add flour to a large bowl. Sprinkle in baking powder and mix well.

Add a little water at a time and mix into flour. Keep adding water and mixing to form a ball of dough.

Sprinkle on more flour if needed and mix into dough-ball. You want the dough to feel damp, but not sticky.

Pinch or cut dough into two rounds - these are your Frybread for cooking. This is a good time to heat up the oil in the frying pan to medium/high heat.

Now you need to flatten the first dough-ball until it's like a pizza crust or large tortilla. You can use a rolling pin, or just watch the video to see how Lance formed his Frybread rounds by hand.

He basically pulls the dough outward while rotating the ball. Once is is larger then it rests it on his fist, then whole hand, and he keeps pulling while rotating the dough. You want it thin and round. It's okay if the dough tears a little (unless you're making a Frybread Taco.)

When dough is stretched take a small pinch of it and see if the oil is hot enough. The oil should bubble right as the dough is added. Remove the small piece of dough.

Carefully lay in the flatten Frybread into the frying pan of oil. Be careful of the hot oil. Allow the Frybread to cook about 30 seconds, then start checking it to see when it first starts to lightly brown. That's when it's ready to turn over to finish frying. Depending on the oil temperature, it will take about 2 minutes total for the Frybread to cook through.

When done remove the Frybread and place on a paper towel of metal rack to drain. Repeat the stretching and frying on the other dough-ball. Lance made large bread, you could make smaller ones - maybe four instead of two Frybread.

That's it. I had it with a sprinkle of chili powder. My wife had hers with some honey and cinnamon.

Keep checking back as I will soon have a recipe for an Indian Frybread Taco.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Monument Valley Tour & Vision Quest Video - Indian Summer Series

Monument Valley is one of my picks for 9 Wonders of the World -- something everyone should see. And it's in our own backyard here in the West. But if you can't make it to the magical Canyon Lands, then just sit back and watch the video at the end of this blog post. Allow me to be your Cheap$kate Chaperone - no admission charge necessary for this awesome tour.

The beginning of this video starts with a Sunset Tour (5:30 - 8:30pm) of Monument Valley for $80 per person - click here to read about Navajo Spirit Tours. Entering Monument Valley costs $20 per car, but the ticket is good for four days. My wife arranged it all, and also found the best Navajo Spiritual Guide we could have booked. His name is Don Mose and he draws from a deep knowledge of Navajo culture.

I could tell he was an experienced lecturer and teacher by his smooth and engaging delivery. He fed our heads with Indian lore and took us to the coolest landmarks, even where to stand for the best camera angle.

Our Navajo Spirit Guide, Don Mose

And he fearlessly steered our tour tram over unpaved and bumpy dirt roads. At one memorable stop he even sang a melodious Indian song, cappella. You can hear it during my Vision Quest video sequence. He also has a good sense of humor - just watch him volley back any impertinent question I lobbed his way.

There is too much of Don Mose to fit in this video. So if you enjoy his stories, then be sure to check back, as I will put together more of his words of wisdom in another video to share with you, including a lesson using local herbs as organic medicine, plus a tour of Male and Female Hogan living quarters -- totally fascinating.

Indian Petroglyphs

You could skip a guided tour, as you are allowed to tour Monument Valley on your own. But you'll want to read up on it so you don't just drive past the many amazing landmarks.

Can you see the head of Sleeping Dragon Rock?

The third video in my Indian Summer Vacation Series starts straightforward enough, with typical tourist scenes and the prerequisite 99 Cent Chef's hijinks. But by the time you're a minute past the halfway mark...well, get ready for The Vacationing Chef's outlandish Vision Quest.

I knew it would be cool to make something out of our tour of a Sweat Lodge. So when I shot some video, I had no idea what to do with it. Could I have bitten off more than I could chew once again? But the next day during a lunch picnic, I found a bleached-white bone. Suddenly I had a real Vision Quest involving the bone and a talking coyote. Well, you'll have to watch the video to experience it.

Sweat Lodge  - The start of my Vision Quest

You can take The Chef out of Hollywood, but you can't take Hollywood out of the Cinematic Cook. To fully appreciate my Vision Quest you need to have seen the opening scene from Stanley Kubrick's mind-blowing movie "2001- a space odyssey." You remember it don't you? It's the Dawn of Man scene were a large upright black monolith slab (planted by extraterrestrials) triggers our ape/humanoid ancestors use of weaponry. Just watch the film clip first, for the setup to my Vision Quest. My ripoff (I mean homage) begins about 5 minutes, 30 seconds in, but the whole 9 minute, 33 second clip is worth a gander (especially the bone toss at the end.)

Dawn of Man movie still, from 2001: a space odyssey.

Of course you can skip the 2001 clip and just go right to my video below and take in my Indian Vision Quest. It stands on it's own. Anyway, the opening clip to "200l: a space odyssey" is a click away here.

My latest Indian Summer Vacation video has it all: breathtaking photography, skillfully told Navajo knowledge, a hallucinatory Vision Quest and a bit of comedy. And check back as there's a lot to come - I haven't even got to awe-inspiring Arches National Park, or a delish Frybread Taco Recipe.

Monument Valley Tour & Vision Quest - Video #3

Play it here, video runs 7 minutes, 37 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Driving to Monument Valley - Indian Summer Vacation Series

Sometimes the journey is as interesting as the destination. Come along on the road to Monument Valley for a cheap$kate junket in my latest Indian Summer Vacation Video. I'll be riffing on Hollywood cowboy John Wayne and stirring up the pot about the Washington Redskins football name controversy. Plus, you'll get Cheap$kate Tips and a fun point-of-view travelogue experience filmed in majestic Chefscope!

If you are traveling from California, make sure to get just enough gas to cross the Arizona state line. We stopped off the 10 Freeway in Blyth, California - right on the border. It was a lunch break at Carl's Jr. for burgers. (Oh, how I miss the days when their flame-broiled burgers were cooked to order - no longer, as the beef patty I had was as dry as Styrofoam between 2 slabs of cardboard.)

I had the presence of mind to ask the burger-joint manager if I should fill up my gas tank here, or continue driving into Arizona for gasoline. He said: My wife always points me to the border, since it's only 5 minutes away, for gas that's 50 cents cheaper than here in California.

Okay....that's your first Cheap$kate Tip.

Most unleaded prices were from $3.50 to $3.60 per gallon. The above prices are on the high-end for Arizona.

We continued on. Once we were a few hours into Nevada, heading to Flagstaff for our first overnight stay, we began to see signs of Indian life - towns with Native names and market/gas stations selling Frybread and cool trucker hats and t-shirts.

It was hot and dry the whole way, so make sure your car air-conditioner is working. My wife and I were tempted to stop many times for roadside stands selling Indian jewelry and other items, but figured there would be plenty of opportunities further down the road. But the most difficult sights to pass were the frequent highway landscape viewpoints, although I managed to camera-grab as much as I could through the driver or passenger windows, as you will see in my video at the end of this post. Although there were miles of barren road, we always managed to find convenient places to stretch and fill up.

At the end of our first travel day we spent the night in a cheap motel on the edge of town in Flagstaff, Arizona. We stopped for breakfast the next morning at a boisterous Route 66 diner called Mike & Ronda's The Place (click here for Yelp reviews and the address.) Nothing fancy, just huge plates of food priced reasonably. I had a tasty breakfast of two eggs, hash browns with two giant biscuits smothered in gravy for the incredible cheap price of five dollars! Whew, I managed to finish it, but just barely. I recorded it for posterity and it's in the video - seeing is believing!

 Breakfast in Flagstaff, Arizona at Mike & Ronda's The Place.

After a couple of hours on the road, the earth soon turned deep red from the erosion of sandstone. Iconic western movie vistas began to appear around turns and topping hills. 

Pulling over one last time into a gas station/market, before we crossed into Utah and onto the Indian reservation surrounding Monument Valley, I noticed the cold cases lacked beer and wine. I soon found out why, or at least the law - no alcohol sold or allowed on Indian Reservations. I had a cooler with a couple of 24 ouncers and my wife had box wine. I figured as long as we keep it low key and out of sight we would not have any problems. So this is another tip for you, be cool and don't flaunt it - be respectful of local customs and laws. 

We arrived in Monument Valley around noon and checked into Goulding's Lodge and Campground (click here to see all they have to offer.). There is a large gift shop were you check in and just down the road is a well-stocked grocery store. Plus there was a screening room that was showing, later that night, John Ford's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" with, of course, John Wayne, and shot on location in Monument Valley. I'll never watch an old Western movie the same way again after this trip. Check out the movie trailer below.


I thought it interesting how John Ford and his old Western movies are celebrated here -- as the portrayals of Indians are often as bad guys , stilted and lacking subtlety of character. But the director put Monument Valley on the map, at least to the general public. And he insisted on shooting several films here - long before there were paved roads and common conveniences. Now the place is hopping with tourist from all over the world (especially Germans!) 

It was a pleasant stay at Goulding's Lodge, about $92 dollars a night for a nice cabin. There would have been enough room for at least five. Along with a double bed, there were bunk beds and a loft space with one more mattress. Again check out my video to see what it looks like inside. There are slots for RV's and grounds for tent camping, too. This would be our last night for the rest of the week with a comfy bed. For the next few nights we'll be in a tent or Navajo Hogan. You'll soon see what I mean in later blog posts.

We had enough time to unpack and eat a quick deli meal before heading out on our Monument Valley tour at 3pm. Well, you'll have to come back to see that part, and believe me, it's a doozy of a video - probably the wildest one I've made yet! So hit the play button below and take a front seat ride with the Cheap$kate Excursionist, and it won't cost you a cent.

Driving to Monument Valley - Video #2

Play it here, video runs 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

99 thanks to Amy for all the hard work planning and reserving hotels and camping slots for us, and everyone that put up with me waving my camera in their faces! Special gratitude to Mike & Ronda's The Place and Goulding's Lodge and Campground.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The 99 Cent Chef's Indian Summer Vacation - Video Series

Get ready for a flash flood of blog posts shot in Native Indian Country. When the Cheap$kate Tourist travels he's strapped with a couple of cameras and battery chargers and a whole lot of imagination. So, that means food themed videos are heading your way this summer - it's an epic video series.

Monument Valley

It was a jam-packed drive that took us (including my wife, Amy) from majestic Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Arizona-Utah border, to awesome Arches National Park in Utah, and ending up in a dirt-walled hogan at Spider Rock Campground near Chinle, Arizona.

Our Hogan in Spider Rock Campground

This hard-headed Chef even learned a few things along the way that I'll share with you over this summer.

Traveling in Indian Reservations and Parks and talking with Navajo guides and just regular Indians was a mind expanding experience. There is a connection to Mother Earth and Father Sky, between the real world and mystical world. It's a whole other way of looking at nature, loaded with artistry and meaning.

I'll feature video clips from one of our Navajo Spirit Guides, Don Mose (click here to get more info.) He's a guide for hire, teacher and medicine man -  we had the pleasure to tap his astute and deep knowledge, during a too short tour of Monument Valley. Plus he was not above acting out with this Cinematic Culinary Cutup, as you will see in upcoming blog posts and videos.

But don't worry, this won't be typical boring lecture/vacation slideshow stuff. You know me better than that, as my videos and observations are leavened with wit and outrageous flights of fancy. Along with all the gorgeous scenery, you'll have to put up with my mug peppered throughout the series, but it's all in good fun. Other videos will include: a controversial Frybread Recipe, my Vision Quest with a talking coyote, and a colossal prehistoric Rock Lobster! I shot enough material for half a dozen videos, so keep checking back every week.

Frybread with Chili Powder

I'll start simple and short - a title sequence without titles. I think the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard did it first, I don't remember the film's name though, I just remember what a cool idea of using audio instead of opening movie type titles. Well, here's my version below.

Indian Summer Vacation - Video #1

Play it here, video runs 21 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

I'm not sure what the next post will be, as all this is being created right now, but do check back - as you know, where I go high jinx follow!

And click on any red type to view links about the word or phrase. Plus if you want a sneak peak of my videos as they come fresh from the fryer, just click on the YouTube link to all my videos here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Original Tommy's Hamburgers - Cheap$kate Dining Video Review

If you live in LA, then you've heard about the Tommy Burger. Next to In-n-Out Burgers, Tommy's is at the top of the fast food burger heap. And, so much so that there are many imitators trying to pull off a homonym scam by calling their burger joint similar sounding (and spelled) names like: Tomy's, Thoma's, Tommie's, Toms, etc. But don't be fooled -- there's only one Original Tommy's Hamburgers and I have the heartburn and a Cheap$kate Dining Video review to prove it!

The Original Tommy's shack, on Beverly Blvd., has been around since 1946 - that's older than McDonalds (1954) and even In-n-out Burger (1948.) While Tommy's doesn't have the fanatical fan base of In-n-Out Burger, it has plenty of customers, and operates in over 25 locations throughout LA county. The one I go to most is on Hollywood Boulevard, at Bronson Avenue.

A Tommy Burger is an eccentric burger, and I like it that way. First off, there is no lettuce, but you won't miss it, since all the burgers come with plenty of chili. Lettuce and chili don't go together anyway.

And it's one sour burger with the addition of 4 pickle slices and mustard. It's too much of a puckering good thing, so I always ask for some creamy mayo.

But the most unusual ingredient is a huge, juicy, tomato slice, that's about as thick as the hamburger bun. While the tomato is no big shakes (it tastes like any regular store-bought variety) -- but, that's just what this chili burger needs to balance out the disparate flavors.

Chili's all it's about at Tommy's. The chili is of the fine-ground variety and no beans. (It's very similar to Pink's Hot Dogs chili, another fantastic fast food joint in Los Angeles - my blog post video of the hot dog landmark is here.) Like a meaty thick gravy, the flavor is just what I want, beefy and spiced perfectly. It's best eaten right away while the chili is hot.

 They pile it on, so make sure to get a plastic spoon and a couple extra napkins. And, if you get it at the drive thru window, just pull over in a parking slot. Please resist eating it on the drive home - much too messy and dangerous to maneuver!

And as a special visual treat, I shot my on-camera review in the middle of the public art assemblage "Urban Light", by one of my fav LA artist, Chris Burden. To read about the city lamp assemblage click here, and make sure to add it to your Los Angeles art bucket list (it's best viewed at night - plus it's free to see.) Leave it to The 99 Cent Chef to combine a chili burger with art!

A Tommy Burger is not for the faint of palate. Flavors are intense, the chili is like heavyweight oil, and it's a hot mess -- just the way I like it. And it's a less expensive at $2.15 (plus tax,) than a Big Mac. Now, that's a great cheap$kate deal.

So check out my video below to see how The Tightwad Restaurant Critic rates a Tommy Burger on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best. And if you are new to LA, or plan on visiting soon, make sure to chow down on one of our top 9 burgers, a Tommy Burger.

Original Tommy's Hamburgers - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 46 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Original Tommy's Hamburgers
 2575 Bevery Boulevard
Los Angeles, Ca. 90057

Website for info and other locations:

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