Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Corned Beef Hash - Deal of the Day

I am a fan of Corned Beef Hash and my latest Deal of the Day is quite tasty, even from a can. What makes it a hash is the addition of cooked diced potatoes. There are a lot of purveyers of canned Corned Beef Hash out there, and as for this one, American Pride, it does the job fine.

The can instructions says this Hash is already cooked and ready to eat - well, I would give it a seared caramelized crust first, then serve. It's too much like a greasy and meaty potato salad texture, kinda off-putting to me, in it's raw state.  

Corned Beef is cured with sugar, salt and coriander spice, so that is a lot of flavor. You can see my recipe here, to make your own Corned Beef, or Pastrami, sometime.

I like my Corned Beef Hash with over-easy eggs for breakfast. I cook the Hash about 5 minutes until it has a crispy crust on one side, then I get the eggs going. It is best to use a non-stick pan so it's easier to turn over crispy Corned Beef Hash. But if you use a regular frying pan, be sure it's well oiled.

As with typical Corned Beef, this version is salty, but not too much to overpower everything, so you don't need to salt the eggs, too. I just add a little pepper to my eggs.

And when the eggs are done, the best part is breaking the yolk and swirling it into the hot Corned Beef Hash. Next cut out a hunk of egg white and scoop it up with a chunk of Hash. Boy is this a tasty mouthful.

I'm sure this Corned Beef Hash would combine with scrambled eggs, too.

I used about a third of this 15 ounce can for one serving. This may seem like a large amount, but once the Hash is heated, it starts to reduce in size, melting out the water and any beef fat.

right from the can

Now there are a couple of minor problems that the can cover photo doesn't show. First, it looks like there are large pieces of  corned beef  brisket. The salty and pungent corned beef taste is there in spades, but the meat texture is more ground meat than typical chunky beef. So the potato and meat mush together in flavor.

The potato part is okay though, while the cubes are on the small side, they are big enough to sometimes have a nice plain potato starch taste.

The ingredient list short, mostly corned beef, potatoes, sugar and a little more salt. You don't want to serve this every day as there is a lot of fat and sodium.

My latest Deal of the Day is a pungent way to start the day. I would give this Hash another try, too. So on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being beast, I give American Pride Corned Beef Hash a satisfying 6!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mexican-style Pinto Beans - Video Recipe

I grew up eating Pinto Beans. We had them added to breakfast, lunch and dinner. After you watch my latest video recipe you'll see how easy it is to do for yourself - and you don't have to have them for every meal like I did.

My latest cheap$kate homemade recipe is a long time coming. I cook with Pinto Beans more than any other legume, everything from chile flavored Texas-style Beans to creamy Refried Beans. I enjoy making Mexican entrees often and Mexican-style Pinto Beans show up every time.

And I'm not to proud to use Pinto Beans from the can - they are cheap enough, taste fine, and are so convenient - the same way I always keep a couple cans of tomato sauce for pasta at the ready.

There's nothing better than the fragrance of slow-cooking beans on the stove top. Like Marcel Proust's madeleine cookie, who's taste stimulates the unfolding of his series of novels "Rememberence of Things Past," the simmering smell of a pot of Pinto Beans soothes my soul with homey thoughts.

Dried pinto beans are tan, with leopard-like spots, which fade to deep brown when cooked for hours.

My mother comes from a small fishing village on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and we lived there with her parents, Big Daddy and Big Mama, for a year or so. Big Mama always had a pot of beans going. These legumes showed up for breakfast as Scrambled Eggs with Refried Beans; for lunch it could be fresh made flour torilllas that we made into Ground Beef Tacos with Beans and Rice; and for dinner Mexican Rice with Shrimp served with Pinto Beans.

So you see how Mexican-style Pinto Beans can be paired with almost any Latin entree, and as a BBQ side dish with cool coleslaw or potato salad.

Pinto Beans are inexpensive at almost any grocery store, and especially at Latin markets. This recipe is perfect for my fellow cult cheap$kate followers .

And it's a short and easy-to-get ingredients list, so you can make your own pot of beans no matter where you live. Dried Pinto Beans are carried everywhere. You can use fresh chopped onion and garlic - but there is nothing wrong with using shortcuts like dried onion flakes and garlic powder.

The spices are dried oregano, cumin and a bay leaf - finishing up with salt and pepper.

My Mexican-style Pinto Bean recipe is tasty without meat. But if you are so inclined, then add smoky pork flavor with a few slices of bacon, some chopped ham chunks, or a ham hock.

It does take about 4 hours to tenderize pinto beans, so, you may want a book or magazine handy to help fill the time.

Some like their beans with a bit of texture, while others like them very tender. You know your friends and family, so it's up to you to decide how long to cook beans. Soak the beans overnight and cut down on the cooking time by an hour or so.

Once the beans are tender, it's a simple step to make Refried Beans, too. All you do is add a couple of cups tender beans to a heating frying pan that has a tablespoon of oil. Next, pour in a few tablespoons of bean broth. What you want is enough liquid to mix with mashed beans until desired creaminess is reached. If you add too much liquid, then add more beans.

So while a big pot of Pinto Beans are on the stove, filling the kitchen with it's fragrance, you can click on any of my following recipes that feature this filling and flavorful Mexican legume: Scrambled Eggs and Refried Beans, Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Burrito, Carnitas, Ground Chicken Tacos, Carne Asada, Chicken Tinga Stew, Charro Beans and a Frybread Taco.

Mexican-style Pinto Beans - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 2 minutes.

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

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans - rinse and remove any debris, if necessary
  • 1 onion - chopped. Yellow or white onion.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic - chopped fresh or from jar.
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 9 cups of water - for extra vegetarian flavor, add a cup or two of veggie broth (be sure to reduce water an equal amount.)
*For extra flavor add a slice or two of bacon. You can also add any of the following: a ham hock, ham bone, or chunks of ham.

If you like bacon in your beans then start sauteing a couple of slices in a large pot.

For vegetarian Pinto Beans go right to adding a tablespoon of oil to a large pot with a cover.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Add one chopped onion and saute for 5 minutes until tender. Add chopped garlic and saute another minute.

Sprinkle on ground cumin, dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Recipes call for Mexican oregano, but you can use any type, really.

Now time to add the beans. Rinse and remove any debris from dried pinto beans, if necessary. Cook beans in a any large pot. I have a clay one that is especially used for cooking beans in.

Add pinto beans to a large pot with 9 cups of water. Add one bay leaf.

*You can soak beans overnight or a few hours first. I usually just go right to getting the water to come to a boil, without soaking them. It's up to you, soaking will speed up the cooking time, you will save about an hour of simmering.

If you add veggie broth be sure to reduce the water amount.

Bring the pot of beans to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pot of beans.

Cook covered until beans are tender, anywhere from 3-5 hours. You can start tasting them after a few hours to check for tenderness. Stir occasionally, so beans don't burn or stick to bottom of the pot.

And check beans from time to time to make sure liquid doesn't cook out. Add water as needed. What you want is for some of the water to cook out, so you get a thick soup of broth with the beans.

As with any type of slow cooking, make sure to stir from time-to-time. Sometimes the beans will stick to the bottom of the pot, so scrape and stir before they burn.

To thicken bean broth, uncover and continue cooking the last half hour or so. You can also mash some of the beans to thicken sauce.

Pinto beans can cook all day at a low temperature. This recipe works fine for a crock pot.

Soak beans in water overnight to cut down on cooking time by an hour or so.

The beans will taste even better the next day. Pinto Beans freeze well, so make plenty for later.

It's easy to make Refried Beans. Just add some cooked whole pinto beans to a frying pan with a little oil. Mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until mushy. Just stir and cook the beans until hot. You can add bean broth to make the Refried Beans texture as thick or thin as you like.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fresh Boiled Corn - Video Recipe

Summer corn is in season and my easy Fresh Boiled Corn video recipe is here just in time for you to try.

The only prep is cleaning the Fresh Corn and that is easy enough, although a little messy with all the silk threads under the Corn husks.

I break off any long stalk parts that are left on. You can boil the Corn whole. I like to break it in half, if the Corn is very large.

Fresh Corn is often on sale at my local Latin grocery store, and you can always pick up a few ears cheaply at your local farmers market or roadside veggie/fruit stand.

Once the Fresh Corn is boiled tender you can add it to your barbecue grill, right beside that steak or hamburger. Turn the Corn a few times to get a little char all around.

When the Fresh Corn is done, and cool enough to handle, slice off the kernels and use them for a few more of my cheap$kate recipes like: Roasted Cream Corn, Sweet Corn Pudding, Corn and Tomato Salad, Black Bean and Corn Salad, and Calabasitas Mexican Stew; plus add some fresh cooked corn to Fake Crab Ceviche and Clam Chowder.

I spend my high school years in Louisiana and dug into many backyard Crawfish Boil that features crayfish, corn cobs and red potatoes boiled in a heady mix of spices that make up a typical spicy seafood boil.

After removing hot Fresh Boiled Corn from the pot, I simply add butter and season with salt and pepper. If you have a favorite seasoned salt then use that. You can keep it vegan with a fave butter substitute, or drizzle on a flavorful oil. 

Now is the time to cook with Corn while it is in peak season and cheapest - just the way I like it!

Fresh Boiled Corn - Video Review

Play it here. Video runs 1 minute, 32 seconds.

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

Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 2 ears of fresh corn - I halved the ears of corn. Okay to add more corn to your pot of water. It will take about the same time to cook, whether it's 2 ears or 4.
  • Salt and pepper to taste - or favorite seasoned salt.
  • Butter - or butter substitute, optional. I used about a teaspoon per whole ear of corn.
  • Water - enough to cover the shucked corn.

Over a high heat, add enough water to a pot to cover cleaned corn.

As water comes to a boil clean the corn cobs. Remove the silk and husks that cover the corn. Silk are thin soft threads. They will take the longest to remove - a quick rinse of water in the sink will help take off the smallest strands of silk and boiling will get rid of any that's left.

You can break off any longer stems. Sometimes it's hard to remove, so it's okay to just leave it on. I like to half my corn cobs, if my pot is small. Also, kids may enjoy corn that is smaller and halved.

Add cleaned corn to water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil or simmer. Cover pot and cook corn until it is tender, about 10 minutes.

Some like their corn cooked less and others like it cooked longer - it's up to you.

When done, allow corn to cool for a minute before serving as it's very hot. Be careful handling hot corn.

I just like salt, pepper and butter on my hot Boiled Corn. If you have a favorite seasoned salt then use that. Okay to leave out pepper.

During barbecue season I throw a couple of Boiled Corn cobs on the grill when I cook a steak or hamburger. Depending on the hotness of your grill it takes about as long to cook a steak as grilling Boiled Corn.

Turn the corn when one side is slightly charred. You can char the corn as much as you like. Grilled Corn will dry out some.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cream Puffs from Dollar Tree - Cheap$kate Video Review

What dessert do I bring to a patio BBQ? Well, I took a chance with Dolce Tuscano Miini Vanilla Cream Puffs that I bought for $1 at the Dollar Tree, down the street from my place. These confections reside in the frozen deli case, along with ice creams and frozen dinners. They are described as "Delicious creamy filling inside a flaky European-style pastry" - hey, they gotta be good enough for a party, right?

They needed defrosting, first, although I ate one that was semi-frozen, and liked it that way - the outer pastry was soft and the vanilla pudding inside was slightly frozen.

My neighbors were just starting to barbecue when I got there, so there was time for the Cream Puffs to finish defrosting.

BBQ Crew

Normally I would not subject friends to my filming (yeah right,) but Bob and Anne were game and I thought it would be a nice change of scenery to let them share screen time with me, plus it's always interesting to show how tastes vary. But overall I was not too surprised at the Cheap$kate Dining rating numbers given in the range of 1 to 9, 9 being best.

Cheap$kate guest reviewers: Anne & Bob

Bob and I were on the same page with an above average rating, while Anne liked the cream but dissed the pastry (see her revised rating* at end of this post,) thus dropping it a few points. I know what she means. The advertised flaky crust was not flaky, but slightly soggy -- that's the problem with frozen pastry desserts.

So I can't really blame purveyor Dolce Tuscano too much for that, they're handicapped right off the bat.

The pastry part was fine with a bread crust texture and taste, although slightly damp from defrosting. Maybe a solution is to make sure the pastries defrost out of the box so the moisture evaporates and the crust dries out.

Everyone agreed that the creamy filling was the best part of this cheap$kate dessert. It's light and fluffy, not too heavy. The filling is very sweet with strong vanilla flavor. And the cream is a nice contrast to the pastry.

You get 8 ping pong ball size pastries, so that's great value for a buck. The ingredient list is heavy on sugar, but it is a dessert.

Click on any photo to see larger

I have a comment on my YouTube channel that states they don't carry food items in their local Dollar Tree. I think for Los Angeles the competition is fierce for 99c and dollar stores, so Dollar Tree has to up it's game here and stock more food items. My local one carries all manner of frozen veggies, chilled eggs and cheese, dried pasta, canned beans and pasta sauce -- all for a buck each.

So how does my latest Deal of the Day rate to my guests, Bob and Anne? Well you will have to watch the video below to get their Cheap$kate Dining rating of 1 to 9, 9 being best.

But I will give you my rating right now. I thought Dolce Tuscano Miini Vanilla Cream Puffs are a decent Deal of the Day and give them a rating of 6! I, too, take of a couple of points for the non-flaky crust, and blandness. Maybe a better defrosting technique is needed to improve the rating? But for a buck this is a good deal and I would serve them again for my next patio BBQ gathering.

Cream Puffs from Dollar Tree - Video Review

Play it here. Video runs 2 minute, 7 seconds.

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

Dolce Tuscano is part of Smart Price food products.

*Anne and I have exchanged a few Facebook posts and she actually has upped her Cheap$kate rating by a couple of points when I mentioned the pastries are kept fresh frozen in the deli case - not just set out on the grocery shelf forever, jacked up on preservatives.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Grilled Fish - Video Recipe

Summertime at the grill with a whole fish is quite easy to do. A whole fish does not fall apart easily, like a delicate fillet of fish. You do have those tiny bones to deal with, but if you take your time you will be rewarded with crunchy fish skin and tender flaky flesh. So check out my video recipe below for Grilled Fish, to bone up on how I do it.
Grilled Fish - Video

Play it here. Video runs 1 minute, 26 seconds.

I usually get whole cleaned Tilapia fish from my local Latin grocery store for around 99 cents per pound. Of course you can use any fresh fish you catch.

Most fish is sold with the fish scales removed. If you are not sure just take a spoon and rub the fish skin, in all directions, to see if any scales pop off. They are tough like fingernails so you want to give your fresh fish a quick check to make sure they are all removed.

Be careful when handling a whole fish as their fins may have sharp bones that can easily pierce your fingertips.

And if you are feeding the family, make sure to give the kids pieces of cooked fish that have been carefully checked for those pesky tiny fish bones.

Before cooking whole fish give it a quick rinse before coating it with any seasonings or marinade.

I keep it simple, just rub on a little olive oil, salt and pepper. If you have any favorite herbs then feel free to sprinkle them on, or add a few sprigs into the fish stomach cavity.

I grill with cheap Tilapia fish, but you can use any locally caught fish, or fish from a farmers market. Any defrosted fish you buy should be cooked within a day or two, at most. Fresh fish is extremely perishable so get to cooking it soon.

Fish on a grill cooks fast, so don't walk away for too long to refill your glass of wine or retrieve another can of beer. I use a gas grill and the heat is controllable, but if you are using a charcoal grill you can cook the fish off to the side - it's easier to monitor that way. You can oven-broil a whole fish too, just keep an eye on it.

Fish is done when it's flaky and firm, but still a little moist. It's always okay to break off a piece of fish to taste for doneness.

I like to cook fish with skin on. Some Japanese restaurants even serve grilled fish skin as a special appetizer. For thick and meaty fish cutting a few slices into the thickest part will make a more even doneness - it's also easier to flake off a small piece of flesh to test.

If a whole fish is thin then just oil and season it, and start grilling. My recipe is delish however you slice it!

If you buy fish fillets on sale they need to be handled carefully over an open flame. Make sure to oil the grill or the fillet, so the fish will not stick and fall apart when you turn it.

I like whole Grilled Fish because it's quick to do, but oh so tasty. Just remember to watch out for those tiny bones, it's well worth picking around to get to all that smoky grilled seafood goodness.

Ingredients (one serving)
1 whole fish - I used a cleaned tilapia fish. Okay to use any local caught fish or fish fillet.
1 tablespoon oil - I lightly coated the fish. Okay to just add oil on the grill.
Salt and pepper to taste - okay to use favorite seasoned salt.

Check fish for freshness. It should not smell off - just a clean fish smell. Fish skin is shiny and not over-slimy. Fish eyes are mostly clear, not too cloudy. Go by look, smell and feel - hey, it's a fish so there will be some smell and sliminess, just not too much.

Also check that the fish belly is cleaned out. Sometimes there are small bits of stomach or intestines left, just pull out any leftover pieces.

I also rake a spoon edge over the fish skin - sometimes a few fish scales are still attached. They will come loose when you rub the spoon over skin, but you need to make sure to rub skin from tail-to-head direction. Scales will fly off, so place fish on large plate or a sheet of newspaper, or on a bag.

Okay, now time to get the fish on the grill.

If the whole fish is a big one, then make a few slices into the thickest part of fish, this makes it easier to check for doneness. Also the fish will cook more evenly. Some fish has a thick side and a thin side; you only need to slice into the thick side. Some fish is thick on both sides so slice away. Once you've grilled fish a few times, you can grill it without the slices, just go by touch - fish is done when it is firm to the touch.

I prepare my whole fish simply, just a little olive oil, salt and pepper - that's it. You can brush on a little of your favorite oil or just drizzle and rub it all over the fish. When fish is oiled, sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. For a lighter version leave off the oil and just add some to the grill where the fish is cooked. Adding oil to the fish keeps the flesh from sticking to the hot grill grating.

You can also sprinkle on any favorite herb, or add a few sprigs into the belly cavity. If you have a favorite marinade you can use it.

Heat up the grill and when it's hot add the oiled and seasoned whole fish.

Cooking time will vary, depending on the thickness of the fish and how hot the grill gets. My whole tilapia took about 3 minutes for each side.

It's easy to overcook fish, so you want to check on it often, at least every minute or two. When fish goes from semi-transparent to a solid color, then it is done. You can always break off a piece of fish to test by tasting.

Since fish cooks quicker than chicken or steak, it's best to have all your side dishes set out and ready to serve when you (wo)man the grill.

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

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