Monday, May 22, 2017

Deal of the Day - Greens Smoothie Kit

My latest Deal of the Day provided breakfast and lunch. Frozen fruit and greens, sweet and earthy flavors, were blended with soy milk, providing a nutritious start to my day. This frozen deli case packaged Greens Smoothie Kit from Applause Food is a deliciously cheap$kate find - you just need to add fruit juice, milk, or a substitute like almond or soy milk.

I'm a late arrival for veggies in smoothies, even after living in health food conscious Los Angeles for decades now. I sometimes make fruit smoothies for breakfast - but next time I'll add a few sprigs of fresh spinach.

As the package name indicates, the ingredients lean towards the greens scale, mainly kale, spinach and celery, with a few chunks of pineapple and sliced apple. It's more liquefied salad or cold soup than fruit drink. After blended with soy milk, the first taste was jolting, but I quickly got into the veggie/fruit mix of flavors.

The greens taste like they were steamed tender, so there is a slight mushy bite to veggie stems pieces. Keep on blending to completely break it down into a smooth gazpacho.

 It is an earthy taste with all the leafy greens. By the time I got to the bottom of the drinking glass, I was a fan of this frozen Greens Smoothie Kit. You can read all about the makers, Applause Foods, by clicking here.

  Click on any photo to see larger.

Applause Foods carry other smoothie kits that feature fruit, and immune, protein, plus super food blends. I suspect this veggie blend was the slowest to move, so it ended up at my local 99c only Store and I'm happy it did.

Greens Smoothie ingredients with soy milk.

The ingredients list is all natural fruit and veggies. And you can get 2 to 3 servings from this 8 ounce package, depending how much liquid you add - so you definitely get your money worth, as long as you have a 99c only Store nearby that stocks it. Hey, I would even put in another dollar or so for this Deal of the Day if I found it in any regular grocery store frozen deli case.

As I this package mentions "What you see is what you get", this frozen smoothie mix is very green.

Feel free to sweeten it up with any fresh fruit you have on hand, like grapes, banana, blueberries or strawberries. I would add some yogurt next time too. This package had large slices of mild flavored apple, with very little tart and sweet pineapple. I would have reversed it, adding more pineapple, as it might have contrasted deliciously with green leafy flavors.

But for a midday veggie smoothie or pick-me-up drink, just blend it with veggie or fruit juice, soy or almond milk.

So how does the latest Deal of the Day find, Greens Smoothie Kit from Applause Food, rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best? Well it ranks high with a healthy 7 ! 

I could learn to start my day with a veggie smoothie, as long as these kits are kept stocked at my local dollar stores.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day Recipe Videos - 82 & Still Cooking

I owe it all to Mom, at least where I get my cooking chops (and any good sense I have.) Just check out my videos below to see what I mean. She grew up in Texas on the Gulf Coast, in a small shrimping town called Port O'Connor. There, I learned to love seafood.

Her father was a shrimp boat captain. So, while we couldn't afford steak, we had all the fresh caught seafood Big Daddy would skim off the top of the catch. Shrimp season was short, but crab and oyster season soon followed.

Mom had looks (like a young Elizabeth Taylor) and smarts, and a scholarship to college if she wanted it, but had no extra help from her parents. So after high school graduation, she was soon married and I arrived on the scene, followed by my brother and sister.

My Dad was in the military so we moved around, but eventually settled back in Port O'Connor after a divorce - Dad was the life of the party, but he was a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.

Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I leaned how to literally pinch pennies when she poured handfuls of customer tips on the kitchen table for us kids to separate and count.

After a few years Mom remarried, and a final sister was born (catch up with youngest sister Denise's Eggplant Recipe, video here.) We moved to neighboring Louisiana  the year I enrolled in Junior High School. There she picked up a whole other way of cooking, Cajun-style.

My high school daze were spent in Gonzales, Louisiana, the self-professed Jambalaya Capitol of the World. So you know this town is serious about chow. Click here to see a culinary video tour of some local Cajun cuisine at the weekend Flea Market, including: Crawfish Pie, Boudin Balls and, of course, Jambalaya.

And here's our first video we made together in my Los Angeles kitchen - and my wife, Amy, even makes an appearance at the very end of video. You'll get a kick out of her rockin' the cast iron kettle. I make her Cajun Jambalaya more than any other recipe - it's simply delicious.

Here is a link to her Jambalaya recipe with text and yummy photos.

Mom takes a star turn with her next video recipe, her popular Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

It's a traditional Southern dish and its cheap, too. Just chicken, sausage and the Cajun veggie trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion. What gives Gumbo it's unique taste is a dark brown roux, which is flour cooked in oil until chocolate brown.

Just out the video below, Mom will take you though the steps. And, as an added bonus, my older sister Brenda makes a nagging appearance a few minutes in.

Click here to read all about making Gumbo, from roux to rice!

I satiate my sweet tooth during visits with Mom. And the best of her pastry delights are Mini-Pecan Pies. If I can't make it for the Christmas holiday, then I always get a mailed food package with a dozen of these tasty pies.

Mom attracts a kitchen-full of hungry relatives, when these pies come hot out of the oven. And it's a miracle they were done right, because this chef de shutterbug was shoving a camera in her face (and a hot oven) during the whole procedure. We butted heads a few times, but fortunately it all turned out fine.

I even came up with a way to dodge the high prices for pecans - so check out the video below to learn my budget secrets.

And click here to see Mom's Mini-Pecan Pies recipe with text and tasty photos.

Mom has lived half her life in Gonzales, Louisiana. My last vacation visit there fell on Christmas, and she pulled out all the stops with a huge holiday spread, that included Pumpkin Pie. I got her on video making it, and it turned out perfect, as you will see below.

The recipe is a traditional one made with simple ingredients. The pumpkin came from a can, but the crust was handmade with wheat flour.

All the easy to follow steps are written out here, and with delish photos, too.

Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely ladies, and especially to my Mom - I love you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Creamy Cheesy Enchilada Casserole with Chicken, Corn & Peas

Got Leftovers? If you've bought a rotisserie chicken from the market and are looking for a recipe to use up the leftovers - like leg, wing and backbone meat, then read on for a delish dish with a Latin flare: my Creamy Cheesy Enchilada Casserole with Chicken, Corn & Peas.

If you cook with turkey pieces, they are too huge to use all at once, so take a bite out of the those leftovers, too.

Add a package of cheese, a tub of sour cream, frozen veggies like corn and green peas, plus a can of enchilada sauce, and you have a one pot meal for the whole family. 

I use cans of enchilada sauce (sometimes listed as red chili sauce) quite often. It especially goes well with poultry in entrees like: Stuffed Bell Peppers and Chicken Tinga Stew.

Chicken is cheap anytime and turkey segments come on sale quite often, especially during the winter holidays. I get mine from my local Latin market.

Frozen veggies hold up better than canned when baking, so use frozen, or lightly steam fresh veggies for this Mexican-style casserole.

I can always find corn tortillas and sour cream at my local 99c only Stores. You should lightly brown tortillas in a pan to dry them out somewhat, so the enchilada sauce with sour cream does not dissolve away the tortillas (which happened the first time I baked this.)

You need an oven proof pan or dish, but don't fill it up all the way, it may bubble over - always leave an inch from the top lip. You may want to place a cookie sheet under the heating casserole dish in case it overflows.

Since the ingredients are pre-cooked, all you are doing is heating it up, so the baking time is quick, only about half an hour.

Try out my Latin-themed one dish entree, Creamy Cheesy Enchilada Casserole with Chicken, Corn & Peas, and save some leftovers for your weekly work lunches, too.

Ingredients (about 4-6 servings)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked turkey - okay to use roasted or boiled chichen.
  • 2 cups veggies - I used frozen (and defrosed) corn and peas. Okay to use any favorite frozen veggie combo. You can use fresh, lighlty steamed, veggies too.
  • 2 cups enchilada sauce - 1 small can, add a little water or stock to bring up to 2 cups, if necessary. Okay to use red canned chili sauce.
  • 1 cup sour cream - or cottage cheese. Light, low calorie, or regular.
  • 2 cups cheese - shredded, sliced or crumbled. I used pepper jack cheese, but use any budget cheese you like.
  • 6-8 small corn tortillas - whole and/or torn in half. Cut tortillas to fit a large casserole dish or deep pan.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil - to lightly brown corn tortillas.

Start with firming up tortillas by lightly browning corn tortillas for 2-4 minutes. This will keep tortillas from dissolving or falling apart when baking with liquid ingredients. As tortillas heat up move on to assembling casserole.

Defrost frozen veggies. Either soak in water (then drain) or allow to come to room temperature. Shred cooked turkey or chicken into bite-sized pieces. Slice, shred or crumble cheese.

In a large bowl lightly mix 2 cups of enchilada sauce and 1 cup of sour cream, or cottage cheese.

Now time to bring it all together. In a large casserole dish or deep pan add a thin layer of creamy enchilada sauce. Next add a single layer of tortillas. Spread on a thin layer of enchilada sauce. Next pile on a layer of turkey, cheese and veggies. Spoon on another layer of enchilada sauce.

Layer on tortillas, sauce, turkey, veggies and cheese until you almost reach the top. I used 3 layers of tortillas total.

Save some cheese and sauce to top the Enchilada Casserole with. Also stop about an inch from the top of dish. You need some room as sauce and other ingredients melt and bubble. You may want a cookie sheet underneath casserole dish in case it bubbles over some.

Cover casserole dish with lid or foil. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If you want the cheese lightly browned then uncover the baking dish during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Serve hot. A delish side dish is my Mom's Mexican Rice, recipe is a click away, here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo - Recipe Battle Royale

On the 5th of May, 1861, Mexico battled and defeated the French invading army. It became a celebrated holiday started in the United States.

And here in Los Angeles the clashing continues in the Cheap$kate Cocina. For my latest recipe roundup it's Mexican verses the French, redux, and the battlefield is the palate. Can we all get along? Forget about it - bring out the heavy artillery and let's duke it out, plate vs plate.

Skirmish one: Tacos Baja Fish Tacos vs Ludo Truck French Fries and Fried Chicken.

Forever on lists of best taco joints in Los Angeles, Tacos Baja makes one of the most delicious Fish Tacos in town. These battered deep fried filet torpedos of perfection are also one of the best deals around, especially on Wednesdays, when they are sold for only 99 cents!

The Fish Taco is loaded with a Mexican machete chopped tomato/cabbage slaw that is topped with cream and chile sauce. When you try to pick up the taco half of the slaw is left on the plate, so be sure to get a forked slaw detector and sweep over the plate to get all that spilled.

The deep fried batter is well-seasoned and cooked to perfection. The fillet has a thick seasoned crust and the bass fish filet is flaky and moist - a detonated depth charge of flavor.

This Mexican pescado taco is a winner, even at the regular price of $1.69 per taco. Your strafed taste buds happily surrender to such crunchy deliciousness. To see what I'm writing about just check out my video review below. (And click here to see my cheap$kate recipe you can make in your own foxhole.)

16032 Whittier Blvd.
Whittier, CA 90603
ph: (323) 887-1980For Tacos Baja website, click here.

The French return fire with Top Chef star Ludo Lefebvre's fried chicken fastfood truck. How does the Ludo Fried Chicken Truck compare to Tacos Baja Fried Fish Tacos?

You would think Chef Ludo has all the culinary training to deliver a coup de grace with his fried poultry ordnance. Not so quick mon ami, fried chicken is an Southern staple so you better have a toothsome battle plan. 

Compared to the Colonel's KFC, the Ludo Truck's Chicken Strips ranks a Private. Fried chicken, when done right, has moist meat with a brightly seasoned crunchy coating. While Ludo's Chicken Strips meet the first requirement, it deserves a blindfold and firing squad for an under-seasoned coating. Chicken Strips start with a handicap -- the skin is usually removed, so the crust has to be exceptional. 

Chef Ludo needs to bone up on Southern fried chicken seasonings, especially if Chicken Strips are the ordnance of choice -- or take your fried chicken strips in a more original and delectable direction.

Now the white meat tenders are moist, and is a generous portion, even at $5.50 for two. While the coating is crunchy enough and not objectionable, it's just bland and boring. I expect more from a Top Chef contestant.

The another item I have tried from Ludo Truck is the French Fries -- and I hate to say it, but no improvement here. Chef Ludo should just wave a white flag and surrender.

You would think French Fries from Frenchman Ludo Lefebvre would be a direct bullseye hit, wiping out other fries contenders, but they are more of a warhead dud. These French fries are limp and under-seasoned. Maybe because I am more of a Belgian double-fried crispy fries type. (Chef Ludo, you can checkout my recipe video for a better French fry by clicking here.)

Even though the Ludo Truck fries seem fresh, and thick cut, almost any fast food burger joint makes them better, even when made from frozen pre-cut spuds. Don't fill your mess kit with this meal, stick to MRE's. Okay, at ease... now check out my video below to get all the so-so tasty details.

So in this battle royale, Mexico blows the French out of the water, and not because it's cheaper, it's just tastier.

Sortie two is a battle of soup recipes: Calabasita vs French Onion Soup.

Calabasitas is a Mexican veggie stew made with a bunker-full of summer squash. It's spicy comfort food, a dish often ordered by my wife at a local Hollywood Mexican restaurant, and shared over a happy hour of frosty margaritas.

Along with squash, you need an ammunition belt of onion, corn (fresh or from a can), tomatoes, a can of mild green chiles, cilantro, and finally, some melting cheese as a topping.

Be sure to choose a cheese that is firm, like Jack, mozzarella, Swiss, mild cheddar, or my favorite, Mexican Queso Fresco (avoid processed American cheese; it will melt into a soup - save it for a grilled sandwich).

They say the military marches on it's stomach, well Calabasitas is hearty enough to satiate any soldiers appetite.

So how does Calabasitas stand up to French Onion Soup?

Sweet caramelized onions in a broth of red wine and beef flavor is a full-on invasion of savoriness. It takes a lot of slow cooking sliced onions to make a French Onion Soup. But the time invested is worth it. And when you add a thick slice of toasted French bread and a slab of melted cheese, well you have to succumb to this flavor bomb.

So in the battle of the soups the white flag of surrender is waved by Mexico - France gets the win, but just barely. There, you have your revenge for the last culinary resounding defeat.

 Finally, clash three is a Battle of the Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros vs a French Cheese Omelet.

I've been making Huevos Rancheros often lately. And the reason is: it's the bomb! You got corn tortillas, creamy refried beans, crumbly Mexican cheese, and fried eggs topped with more cheese and tangy salsa. 

You are hit from all sides with this gatling gun of disparate flavors. And it's an easy recipe to make. Just heat up some tortillas and refried beans to add to your fried eggs. I prefer Mexican cheese, but you can use what you have on hand. Deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce with your favorite salsa, either fresh or from the jar.

Just check out my video below to see my cheap$kate version.

It's Guerilla vs Classic Warfare. Technique is paramount to make a French-style Omelettte. I took me a several counter-offensives to finally conquer it. 

Mainly you gently stir the omelet until it is almost done but still lightly moist, then add the cheese and fold the egg. It's served with a damp interior. Oh, and you fry the omelet in butter; so in your own battle of the bulge, fitting into your fighting gear will be a lost cause.

Once you've tried my version of a French Omelette, you will never surrender to any other kind. Check out my video recipe below and start you own cooking maneuvers.

So who won the War of Breakfasts? Man it's a tough decision...I can't decide, so I'll call a truce in this kitchen combat zone - both recipes are victorious!

Everyone is a winner in this war of appetites, so don't wait to be drafted, just volunteer from my recipe boot camp and give any of the above battle-tested recipes a try. 

*Click on any recipe name to see the original blog post recipe or review.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scrambled Eggs & Refried Beans - Video Recipe

A remembrance of breakfast past, from this Tex-Mex Tightwad Chef, was my grandmother Big Mama setting a big steaming bowl of Scrambled Eggs and Refried Beans with a stack of homemade flour tortillas in front of her brood of hungry grandkids. When I lived in the tiny seaside town of Port O'Connor, Texas, from 4th grade to 7th grade, there was nothing better than this breakfast on a chilly school day morning.

  Scrambled Eggs & Refried Beans - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 57 seconds.

We lived with her for a short period of time, until my Mom got a job waitressing and we could afford to move to our own place down the street (read all about Mom and her recipes a click away, here.) I was raised on simple comfort food. And you can't get simpler than Scrambled Eggs and Refried Beans.

There was always a clay pot of fragrant pinto beans cooking at Big Mama's house. But you can use canned pinto beans, or any favorite legume including: black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, white or red beans.

And you can't get cheaper proteins than beans and eggs. Canned beans are always on sale and I can get half a dozen eggs for a $1 at the local Dollar Tree. Eggs have gone up in the last few years, but are still a decent deal.

The cheapest way to go is with a package of dried beans. If you want to make a pot of your own beans then just check out my video link of Miss Patties Red Beans recipe - it's vegetarian (blogpost with text and photos here,) and for a soul food version just add a ham hock or a few slices of bacon. (This recipe is great for Navy or white, pinto and black beans - I also have a lentil bean recipe, just click here.)

I like to keep a few Ziploc bags of cooked beans in the freezer to use when I make my Mom's Mexican Rice recipe, which pairs perfectly and is just a click away.

Whether you use canned or fresh cooked beans, the only prep you have to do is heat up half a cup in a teaspoon of oil and mash them with a fork. (I sometimes even find cheap beans already refried.) And you finish by scrambling in 2-3 eggs. It couldn't be simpler, and it's a hearty and cheap way to start the day.

You can serve Scrambled Eggs and Refried Beans any way you like, with corn or flour tortillas (for tacos or burritos, too) and even on a bagel or English muffin. To kick it up a notch sprinkle on some of your favorite cheese, or add a scoop of my Pico de Gallo Salsa (recipe here.) And make sure to put out a bottle of hot sauce!

Ingredients (1 servings)
  • 2-3 eggs - I used medium size eggs.
  • 1/2 cup of cooked pinto beans - you can use any favorite cooked legume.
  • 2 tablespoon oil - any type. Okay to use less oil.
  • Pepper to taste - optional. Canned and cooked beans have plenty of salt for me, but you can add it to suit your taste.
  • Serve with flour or corn tortillas - optional.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a heating pan. Add the beans, along with a tablespoon of broth.

Mash the beans with a fork (or potato masher) as they are heating through. It's up to you how mushy you want the Refried Beans - I like mine slightly chunky. This is how you make typical Refried Beans.

(I always make extra Refried Beans for other favorite Mexican meals. Just type in "Mexican" in the search window at the top right of this page (just below my dollar logo with the moustache) to see some of mine -- and I have plenty.)

I start heating up the tortillas just before the eggs are added. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. To heat up in a medium/hot pan, add a tablespoon of oil then heat tortillas about 1-2 minutes each side.

Once the beans are mashed and warm, push beans to edge of pan and add eggs. Scramble eggs until halfway done. You can use your favorite egg scramble ingredients (a little milk) and do it your way.

Finally mix in the refried beans and finish scrambling until eggs are firm, or done to your taste. Season with extra salt and pepper if you want.

For extra creamy refried beans, just remember to add more bean broth, start with a tablespoon then add a little more, while mashing the beans with a fork (or potato masher) to reach desired creaminess.

If you like more egg than beans then just reduce bean amount.  Make this dish your own and tweak it your way.

I originally published this recipe a few years ago and now have a recipe video to go with it. As always I can't help but make recipe adjustments over time.

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

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