Wednesday, July 17, 2019

National Hot Dog Day - Recipes & Reviews

🌭 July 18th is National Hot Dog Day, so let's begin with a recipe that is literally a hot mess, the L.A. Street Dog. The wiener is bacon-wrapped and topped with mayo, ketchup, mustard, and a grilled fajita mix of bell pepper, onion, and finally a spicy jalapeno. Whew, that's a mouthful. Check it out below. And click on any restaurant name or recipe name to see the original blogpost with all the yummy photos and tasty prose.

The premier tube steak purveyor in town may be Fab's Hot Dogs. Chef owner Joe Fabrocini has brought virtually all of America to the San Fernando Valley, offering a menu of beautifully crafted dogs from every region worth its mustard. The selection of hot dogs are head spinning, but go ahead and dive into my video, where I show you a few favorites.

, L.A.'s most popular hot dog stand (the place can't put up all its celebrity headshots), was started in 1939 with just a pushcart, and has the longest lines of any fast food stand, and deservedly so. It has been filmed and reviewed by every media outlet in L.A. so I won't repeat it all here. However, I did notice one special hot dog that has not been covered, and that is the "Dude," named after the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel. It's the most extravagant of hot dogs - get an eyeful of it in my video below.

Let's Be Frank, serves up wieners with compassion. No factory farm beef, pork, or turkey are used in their franks. All the animals are 100% grass-fed and humanely raised locally in California. Hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, and nitrites are not added in the production of the meat.

Carney's dining train car hosts the cheapest Hot Dog Happy Hour on L.A.'s notorious, and famed Sunset Strip, serving a trifecta of beer, hot dog, and fries for $4.75! This is one of the best deals in town too!

Come on down to Crenshaw Boulevard in South L.A. for soulful hot dogz served by Earlez Grill. These wieners are split and grilled on a flattop for max flavor. Check out my video below to hang with the boyz and girlz in the 'hood.

A culinary car crash of cultures, the Oki Dog is a true representative of diverse Los Angeles. Combining the all-American fast food standbys of hot dogs, chile and American cheese, with the Jewish deli classic pastrami, and wrapped in a Latin street food Mexican blanket of flour tortilla. I dare you to try and finish one. Well, if you want to see what I'm talking about look no further than the video below.

You don't have to go far these days to bring Coney Island to your town. I get a famous East Coast Nathan's Hot Dog from the frozen deli case of my local Dollar Tree, when I want an easy, microwavable, quickie lunch. They do the job and I even wrote a Cheap$kate Deal of the Day you can read here.

I like my hot dogs with just mustard and sweet pickle relish, how about you?

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bastille Day - French Cuisine Recipes

This Chef is a Francophile. I like movies by Jean-Luc Godard, ye-ye pop music by Serge Gainsbourg, and pommes frites, yes French Fries.)

There is more to French cuisine than French Fries of course and I've learned how to make a few recipes for this Bastille Day on July 14th -- the cheap$kate way, of course. So read on to see scrumptious videos and food photography, that I hope inspires you to try a recipe or two. And click on any recipe name to go to my blogpost with all the yummy photos and delish recipe instructions.

This French holiday is celebrated as the turning point of the French Revolution on July 14, 1790. Hey, this sounds like a fine excuse to celebrate French cuisine, to me! So I'll start with one of my favorite ones, a hearty Cassoulet casserole.

One of my early L.A. jobs in the Biz was as a videotape editor. Lunch was often in a neighborhood restaurant run by a charming French couple. My favorite dish was a comforting plate of Cassoulet. It reminded me of a rustic home cooked all-in-one dish: a bean casserole version of Mom's Cajun rice dish, Jambalaya.

A classic Cassoulet is made with confit duck legs, sausage and white beans. I've yet to find duck for 99c or less a pound but chicken quarters from a local Latin market do fine; as for sausage, 99c only Stores always carry it.

A French mirepoix of veggies includes: onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot and celery. They will sweeten this stew with slow cooking on the stove top and in the oven.

In fall and winter months I make a Cassoulet almost every few weeks, and always have leftovers to enjoy and share.

My next Francophile recipe really does use the cheapest veggie, onions. French Onion Soup uses half a dozen roughly sliced onions, that are cooked down until caramelized to a sweet brown hue.

 I get them from my local Latin market anywhere from 4 pounds for a dollar. Go ahead and use the least expensive white or yellow onions.

French Onion Soup comes together with red wine (cheap is okay,) a fave broth, butter, and a little flour to thicken it. A pretty simple recipe, but oh so delish, especially when it's finished off topped with cheese and a slice of crusty bread.

My favorite fries are double-fried French Fries, and that's a tasty mouthful. Soggy fries were the norm until McDonald's came on the scene and changed forever the way Americans look at French Fries.

It became all about the crunchy outside and fluffy inside. Any anyone can do it if you follow my method in the video below. But you have to go to the end of the video for my French Fry tutorial, as the first part is all about British-style beer battered fried fish.

You would think a world-famous French chef would do French Fries right? Wrong -- I reviewed Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Fried Chicken Truck.

You can get French Fries with his fried chicken. Maybe it was an off day, but the fries were limp and soggy. I'm willing to try again when I run across the truck. Maybe they are great, just not when I was there. So check out my Cheap$kate Dining Review for French Chef Ludo's Fried Chicken and French Fries Truck to see for yourself.

But Chef Ludo  Lefebvre did turn my head around for his French Cheese Omelet. Man, is it tender and so good. The French method is to whip eggs first, then lightly scramble them with butter until almost done, but eggs still slightly moist. You finish by adding cheese and gently folding the egg into an omelet shape.

My omelet experience is with middle American diner-style where the eggs are solid and a bit dry. Now I make my omelets the French way, and you can too if you follow my recipe video below.

I grew up watching Julia Child cooking French food on her Public TV cooking show. And she literally wrote the book on French cooking called "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Her personality was larger than life, and I had to do a video in her honor, after she passed away. My recipe homage is a bit silly, but it is done with heart. Check out my version of Julia Child's Crepes Suzette -- done by her nephew, Julian Child!

Beef Bourguignon is a classic French stew, at least until the Cheap$kate Cuisinier gets ahold of the recipe. Beef is too expensive, but pork is the right price, so I turned the recipe into a Pork Bourguignon.

All the other classic ingredients are included like: mushrooms, onions, tomato paste and of course, cheap red wine. To get that rich beefy flavor I include beef stock.

I didn't know there was a French-style Yogurt, so when I saw it at my local 99c only Store, I had to try it. Boy, is it creamy and flavorful. Yoplait is the brand and some buy this brand just for the cool jar.

I like to add fresh fruit to plain yogurt. I find that pre-mixed yogurt with fruit is loaded with sugar and way too sweet for me. Below is how I do it.

So do click on any recipe name to see my original blog post recipe, and dig in!

Viva la France and bon appetit!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Emergency Earthquake Meals - Dollar Tree Edition

The Cheapest Chef has been shaken but not stirred! With 2 earthquakes near Los Angeles over the span of a couple days and whose epicenter was an hour and a half away in Ridgecrest, California -- and the last one was a magnitude 7.1.

After being thrown around in this giant bouncy room of a city the Wobbly Chef made his way to the local Dollar Tree to replenish his Earthquake Survival Kit with foodstuffs of the thrifty variety.

And boy did I find what I was looking for. Hey, when the big one hits I want to be able to get 3 squares a day when the city shuts down and I'm stranded because of collapsed freeways.

This is a Public Service Message is for cheap$kates only, so the rest of you can take the Seismic Chef's meal deals with a grain of salt. Let's just say I combine the good, the bad and the ugly all into one blog post !

If you have trained in the military, the following dining tips will go down good as all the mess kit contents are unrefrigerated and ready to eat -- while some are made more palatable with short heating times

And as a caution make sure gas lines are not broken in your vicinity, as I describe cooking with a small flame below.

Now, not all Dollar Trees are stocked the same. When I visit Louisiana they sell items for more than a buck as these stores are closer to a generic convenience store, but there are still plenty of dollar deals to be found. And impulsive shopping is fine for foodstuffs too good to be true -- because they may be gone tomorrow, so stock up!

And read on you future cataclysmic survivors, and this includes my visitors from other States with their own environmental calamities, like tornadoes, flooding, and hurricanes.

Morning Beverages
When you awaken after being knocked out by that poster or painting hanging over the bed headboard, weave your way to the nearest Earthquake Kit and make a cup of coffee to help clear your head!

Click on any photo to see larger.

I've found ground and instant coffees at the Dollar Tree. I think a jar of instant coffee will last longer and lose less taste. Just add to a cup of warm water and stir (keep reading further below for my ingenious heating method using Canned Heat or Sterno.)

Before I became an internet chef, way back in the day, I used to drink instant coffee. I know, how lame, but this was way before Starbucks when Folgers and Maxwell House were king. So after devastation, drastic measures are needed. -- damn the taste, I want my caffeine.

A cup of Stormtrooper - May the Force be caffeinated!

For you tea drinker there are plenty of boxes out there. I'm sure you could just set a bag in a cup of water in the sun and in an hour it would be ready to drink. In the South, we call this Sun Tea.

My local Dollar Tree sells milk and soy milk in a box and they are unrefrigerated! When you open them use plenty in your coffee, tea, oatmeal or breakfast cereal - once opened the milk and soy milk will go sour without refrigeration.

A great breakfast (or anytime) addition are single serving 100% Juice Packets. I found small Orange and Apple Juice Boxes with straws included.

As you move wheelbarrows full of debris drink plenty of water. Most dollar or 99 cent stores carry plastic bottles of water, single serving 6-packs or larger half gallon jugs. So do stock up with these.

Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses of per day, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember? I probably drink half this amount as morning coffee, and later an evening beer help fulfill that quota.

Let's start the day with something light to eat. If you were rattled in the morning, then a light breakfast may be in order. I enjoy dipping Italian-style Biscotti with Almonds in my French Vanilla Cappuccino.

And your traumatized digestive system may need a jumpstart, so take a slug or two of Prune Juice.

Breakfast Pop-Ups (Pop-Tarts) are usually precooked pastries with frosting and filled with jam, so you don't need to toast these. And a bowl of Capt'n Crunch will supply all the sugar energy I need to get through a cataclysmic day. And double that fructose dose by serving cereal drenched in Chocolate Milk!

Of course, use any healthy Granola or dried low sugar Cereal you like. And there's always Instant Oatmeal served with or without milk. I do like to add dried cranberries or raisins to mine.

Canned Heat
Many foodstuffs on the shelf taste better heated. My Dollar Tree sells small cans of Fancy Heat for warming small amounts of food or liquids - you often see these tins lit under metal chafing dishes of food in the buffet line or at a fondue party. One lit can warms up a cup of coffee or tea in a ceramic cup quite quickly. Of course, be careful heating up small items as they can get too hot to handle!

I made a small Homemade Grill using a metal grilling rack balanced on a couple of small bricks, or you can build your own heating unit. Place one or two Canned Heat tins under the grill and light the wick(s) with a lighter or match. And this grill can be built almost anywhere even on the ground if the aftershocks are coming fast and close together.

I guess in a pinch a couple tealight candles would work as well if you can hold the cup of coffee over the flame long enough!

With a small cooking pot, you can heat up almost anything. Now you don't need to bring canned or packaged foodstuffs like beans, veggies, chili or canned pasta up to a high temperature,  just let it heat up enough to warm through.

This Homemade Grill is best used out of the wind as the canned heat flame is small and blows around easily, thus making heating less effective.

When cooking with canned foodstuffs, I've read they can spoil if stored in the sun, so keep them in the shade!

This setup will also work well for Instant Oatmeal and small cuts of Pasta (macaroni, bow tie, etc.)  or Ramen Noodles.

Disaster relief - soothing Mac & Cheese.

I would break spaghetti and ramen into smaller sizes for quicker cooking. Cover pasta with an inch of water. When the water reaches a medium hot you can soak pasta/ramen covered for half an hour and it will tenderize. Hey, I like pasta al dente so mine will be ready quicker, ha!

Now, if you have a BBQ  gas grill or a camping stove that wasn't crushed in the garage where it is stored, then you've got it made!

After cooking, canned food is difficult to tell when it goes bad, so use quickly within 20 minutes. Try to keep all prepared food covered and in the shade. There is no surefire method to tell when cooked and opened items are spoiled after laying about for half an hour, so if in doubt, throw out!

For more details using Canned Heat safely just click here. And here is an interesting link and tread about cooking with Chafing Dishes or cooking Buffet-style that talks about safety, cooking times, etc.

My above method is for cooking stovetop style, not about keeping food hot for long periods of time, like at a Buffet.

Small Fruit Cups, packages of Nuts, and a Granola Bar or two are light and quick energy boosters, so you can start picking up all the objects that have shaken off your shelves.

Crackers and Rice Cakes keep long and single-serving Flavored Tuna, or small cans of Mystery Meats, like Vienna Sausage, Spam and Potted Meat are simple and quick to assemble.

Sometimes I need me Louisiana Hot Sauce, yea !

Chips and Dips are an indulgence, but you might as well go for it, hey what do you have to lose after you've lost everything?

Lunch & Dinner Meals
Temp your frightened feline friend back home by setting out an open can of Chicken, Turkey or Tuna.  And these do double duty when made into a spreadable Salad on a Saltine. The protein is cheap enough and carried at any discount or local grocer. Mayo and sweet or regular pickle relish come in small unrefrigerated jars so you can chow-down on a stack of Chicken or Tuna Salad on Crackers.

 My Loaded Tuna Salad recipe text with photos is a click away here (okay to add or subtract ingredients on hand.) And here's the yummy video.

After stanching the bleeding of your loved one's wounds, clean up and prepare them a Mexican Lunch!

Mmmm, how I love Tamales. They are plump packages of deliciousness and I have my local fave here in L.A called Tamales Alberto. So how does Hormel Tamales in the can stack up? Well, let's just say smother them in plenty of Pace Picante Sauce!

If the earth shakes on Taco Tuesday and your local fast food Mexican joint is jolted into closure, I have a cheap$kate alternative -- those folded hard Corn Tortillas sold in a box! They store well and taste like Taco Bell crunchy corn tacos.

If you can heat up a can of Refried Beans, a couple tablespoons will fit snuggly into the hard corn Taco Shell. Add some flakes of White Meat Chicken from the can. And finally, top with Cheese Sauce and Salsa...yummy! This hardy Happy Hour meal will help put your wounded spouse or roommate on the road to a quick recovery.

Hamburger Helper? No, it's Tuna Helper.

The whole family loves Pizza, right? I found enough budget ingredients to feed your brood --including pre-cooked single serve Pizza Crusts! You can coax them out from under the sheets, or if they are hiding under the bed, with this fast-food favorite.

So what does your picky kid like on her's? Hmmm, how about Pepperoni with Cheese Product and a little Pizza Sauce

Or maybe they're a vegan-in-training so Black Olives or Mushrooms instead of Pepperoni? Well go ahead and mix and match!

Did you grow up with Chef Boyardee packed in your school lunch? Well, then it's time to become reacquainted with this meal-in-a-can. Add some black olives or mushrooms from the can or jar to make the meal more palatable.

Before you turn in for a cold night under a tarp because your home has been leveled or flagged uninhabitable, a warm supper is in order. Just fire up the homemade grill and open canned meals like Chicken and DumplingsBeans & Franks or Beef Stew.

Desserts are always appreciated as you psychologically recover after an apocalypse.

I love me some Moon Pies. Or how about European Cookies with a smear of Cake Frosting and Sprinkles?

Nutella, you had me at Pretzel.

Local Los Angeles dessert legend Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies are always a welcome treat!

And these imitation Twinkies will last until any end-of-times scenario, plus they double as pillows!

If you have any wood splints left after setting your neighbor's broken bones you can use the lumber to build a fire and roast a few Marshmallows...yum!

Another sweet smelling headrest.

Vegan and Vegetarian
I haven't forgotten my vegan or vegetarian friends, even after being knocked out by the overhead ceiling fan! Dollar Tree sells plenty of Canned Veggies and some specialty appetizers like Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese in Oil.

Let's get a little chic amongst the rubble and dust off the white tablecloth and dig out a couple of candles to light up a makeshift table made from the collapsed front door hanging by a hinge, and dine on a Pasta entree featuring imported Potato Gnocchi and Pomi Chopped Tomatoes, both from Italy.

This posh meal is served with Red Peppers, Genovese Sauce (basil pesto) and finished with Grated Topping. No gratuity is necessary for this Uptown Chef, but thanks anyway!

Can Opener Cuisine is the easiest way to go. Soups in tins come in all types, vegan, vegetarian and good old fashioned Chicken Soup.

The Andy Warhol Diet

Soups On!

After your meal just relax with a cheap small airline bottle of Wine or a warm (European serving style) can of Beer with Beer Nuts.

Well, don't sweat the small stuff at this point, you are still alive and kicking, right?

On the serious side, my meal ideas can be adapted to your favorite grocery market, including Whole Foods, Ralphs or any chain, neighborhood and ethnic markets.

I've seen healthy soups in boxes, organic canned goods, and breakfast cereals low in sugar. Make your own Earthquake Kit to suit your and your families dietary needs.  

So when nature turns toxic and before disaster stikes, take a few of the above tips from the Good Samaritan Chef and be sure to stock up the cheap$kate way!

Only the trauma of an earthquake would cause me try this hot mess!

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