Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tomato Basil Chicken with Spinach - Cheap$kate Review

The overpowering flavor is basil, just like the title says, and that's a good thing. My latest Cheap$kate meal to review is all veggies and chicken, not a carb in sight. I have the feeling I will still be hungry after this taste test.


Tomato Basil Chicken with Spinach is by Smart Ones from Weight Watchers. I've had their frozen meals before and they usually get good marks.

frozen & zapped

 I am a fan of basil whether it's Thai or Italian leaf. Pungent and aromatic this Deal of the Day's flavors are strong. Chunks of bell pepper, onion, spinach, and tomato round out the frozen entree veggie medley.


I like my sauteed veggies chunky, and this meal delivers, although a bit mushy, that's to be expected for a typical meal from the frozen deli case. I guess you could say it is like a rustic and light Italian tomato sauce.


There is not a lot of tomato sauce but what there is pungent with herbs, especially basil. A sprinkling of mild mozzarella cheese is a nice addition.


Spinach is also at the top of the ingredients list. It is tender, although a bit meager in the amount supplied. But I enjoyed what I tasted.


Surprisingly there is a generous amount of white meat chicken chunks. And they are tender and moist - way to go Smart Ones! And they use real breast meat, not ground and spongy loaf mixture.


The ingredients list is short which I like, just give me what's advertised, not a bunch of mystery preservatives.
Click on any photo to see larger.

And here are the nutrition specs for all you Weight Watchers -- I do like a light meal sometimes.


While this meal may not fill you up, it is fine for a light lunch or dinner. I cheated though Weight Watchers so sue me! I had to add a little rice to fill out the meal. I wanted something to soak up the sauce. I'm sure you could fudge your diet and add a small amount of your fave gluten-free grain or pasta.

So on the 99 Cent Chef's Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give Weight Watchers Smart Ones Tomato, Basil, Chicken with Spinach a perfect 9!

You would be smart to pick up a few of these when they show up on sale in your frozen food deli case, of if you are L.A. local then watch out for them at the 99c only Store.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mango Salsa - Video Recipe

This is my favorite Salsa to make at home. Just watch the video below for my Mango Salsa, and see how easy it is to do,  enjoy.

Mango Salsa - Video

Play it here. video runs 1 minute, 53 seconds.

Typical salsas are made with tomato and/or chili, instead of fruit. And I've made all kinds of salsas from scratch, just click on any name to view: tangy Roasted Salsa Verde (tomatillo,) Red Chili (2 dried types - but the same recipe,) Pico de Gallo, and Peach Salsa.


I first made Mango Salsa with a Coconut Crusted Fish almost a decade ago, and I keep coming back. There is just something about scooping up sweet-tangy salsa on a tortilla chip and chowing down. Light sweetness sure goes with heavy flavored pork Carnitas, or spicy Chicken Tinga, tacos and burritos.


Guests go crazy for my Mango Salsa. Every time I bring a bowl it becomes the favorite dish and the first one to disappear, at a party. It's also an aphrodisiac for date night with your amour.

Mangos used to be as expensive as avocados, and I'm lucky to live in Los Angeles where I can now get them two for a dollar at my local Latin market, Superior Grocers. I know they are expensive in other communities but do try this recipe sometime when they show up on sale at your local grocery store.

Click on any photo to see larger.

In the above photo I show two types of mangos I find, Manila Mangos cultivated in the Philipines, and regular Mangoes.  If you ever find Manila Mangos give them a try, while smaller than a typical Mangoes the flesh is sweeter to my taste.

Try out this recipe with fruit that shows up at your local farmers market or roadside produce stalls. Could you make a Strawberry, Blueberry, Pineapple, Peach, or even Kiwi Salsa? You can only find canned fruit cocktail, peaches and pineapple slices to work with? Sure, go for it!

A mango is ripe when it's slightly soft to the touch. When very ripe they do get messy to work with. Under my Directions below I show you how I peel one.


The other Mango Salsa ingredients are cheap enough. I use purple onion, but you can use cheap white or yellow onion. Cilantro and fresh jalapeno peppers are showing up in most neighborhood groceries these days.


Typical salsas use lime juice but I like to mix it up with lemon juice sometimes (plus I have a lemon tree by the laundry room here, so they are freeeeee!)


I used fresh jalapeño, but you can use it from a jar as well. The jalapeños may have a vinegar taste, but that's okay, just drain them first.


 I also remove the jalapeño seeds, but you can leave them in for a fiery Mango Salsa.


My Mango Salsa travels well to your neighbor or friends party. Just remember to bring a bag of tortilla chips!


Ingredients
  • 2  mangos - peeled and diced. About 1 1/2 to 2  cups.
  • 1 cup of chopped onion - red, white or yellow. Add more or less to suit your taste.
  • Cilantro - 2 tablespoons chopped.
  • Juice of a lemon or lime- or 2 tablespoons from a jar.
  •  Jalapeño -  about a teaspoon, chopped. Add a little at a time and taste, until the desired spiciness is reached. Okay to use jalapeño from a jar, just drain off pickling vinegar.



Directions
Mangoes are a bit messy and slippery to work with. They should be ripe first, with a slight softness, and yellow or reddish color, depending on the type of mango.

There are a few ways to peel a mango. I've seen them sliced in half, lengthwise around the large seed, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Below is how I do it.

I like to peel them this way. First I slice into the skin from top to bottom four times. Make sure to slice intersecting at the top and bottom.


Now just peel each segment to remove half of the skin, at the widest half of mango. The mango seed is flat and wide so you want to slice off the most flesh along the seed. The seed will guide your blade, just follow the seed as you slice.


Once one side is stripped of flesh, then peel the other side and repeat, slicing along the length of the seed. You can keep slicing around the seed to get all the mango flesh. Now just cut the mango flesh into bite sizes.


Chop the onion into small pieces. I used about a quarter of a large red onion. You can add more or less onion to taste. 
Chop enough cilantro leaves to fill 2 tablespoons. Okay to add more or less to taste.


Add cilantro and onion to the bowl with mango.

Squeeze in the juice of one lemon or lime. Normally lime is used for salsa, but I used what I had on hand. Okay to use juice from the jar or plastic. 


A good trick to get lemon or lime extra juicy is to slice it in half, then microwave it for about 10-20 seconds until warm. This will release more juice.

Mix mango, cilantro, and onion with the lemon or lime juice.

Finally, add jalapeño.


When handling jalapeño make sure not to touch your eyes or lips or you will get burned. Be sure to wash your hands with soap after working with a jalapeño. The oil from a jalapeño is very hot to delicate body parts!

When handling jalapeño make sure not to touch your eyes or lips or you will get burned. Be sure to wash your hands with soap after working with a jalapeño. The oil from a jalapeño is very hot to delicate body parts!


I like to slice the jalapeño lengthwise to cut out the white pith and remove the seeds. Discard the stem. You will have a little spiciness from jalapeno flesh, but not as much as when adding the seeds.

I used about a quarter of a large jalapeño, or about a teaspoon when chopped. If you like your salsa hotter then add more chopped jalapeno, or add jalapeño with the seeds.

If you are unsure about how much you spiciness you can take, just add a little chopped jalapeño at a time and mix, then try salsa.

Serve Mango Salsa with tortilla chips, on a taco, or in a burrito. Keep Mango Salsa in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can make it a day ahead, as it will keep for several days. 


Hindsight
This recipe is easy to double or quadruple for more guests.

You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste - add more mango or less jalapeño, more cilantro or even leave out the onion.

Another way to peel a mango is to just slice lengthwise against the seed, skin and all. Now you can just scoop out the flesh from half-slices with a spoon. Chop into bite-size pieces.

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Labor Day Grillin' - Holiday Recipes

Labor Day is a day of rest for us working nine-to-fivers, yeah right! Well don't sweat it, I'll do the heavy lifting with a wheelbarrow full of tasty recipes for you to choose from. And this Penny Pinching Proletarian has all the photo-illustrated cooking instructions laid out for my visiting toilers, with some videos sprinkled in for no extra charge.

Smoking Pastrami

For this final summer holiday here at the Institute of Penny Pinching, I'm getting out the BBQ grill for a backyard blowout. So read on and click on any recipe name below and you'll be directed to my original blog post recipe page of eats, illustrated with yummy photos.

Let's start with the main meat course. This Chintzy Hash Slinger cooks with chicken because it's the cheapest.



And dark meat is the best bargain. I can even get boneless and skinless chicken leg quarters on sale for around 99 cents per pound at my local Latin market. They also sell 10-pound bags of plain whole leg quarters for 49 cents per pound.


Use your favorite BBQ sauce for a traditional redwhite and blue backyard poultry cookout. I just season cheap chicken pieces with salt and pepper and slather on the BBQ sauce. Before serving, slice into the thickest part of the chicken piece to make sure the juices run clean - no pink or red is allowed!

Next to chicken, pork is one cheap protein and I like to smoke it. Smoking thick meaty Country-style Pork Ribs are a favorite. I boil the ribs until tender (you can also wrap them in foil and oven roast) then throw them on the grill for an hour of smoke. This is a tasty shortcut to traditional all-day smoking. My blogpost shows you how to smoke pork ribs 2 ways.


If you like a rack of ribs then watch my video below for an eyeful of deliciousness. The video recipe features Pork Spare Ribs and I've use this recipe for Beef Ribs, too.



What helps drive this great nation economical engine is our mosaic of industrious cultures, so why not get multi-culti and try my recipe for a grilled Thai-style Chicken Satay with a Peanut Dipping Sauce.

The Japanese version of grilled Shish Kabobs is called Yakatori. And the Japanese like to grill it all, even chicken livers. If that is too pungent for you it's okay to substitute liver with cubes of firm fish like salmon or halibut, and chicken fillets. Everything tastes better when served on a skewer.

Chicken Satay - ready for the grill.

Los Angeles has a bustling Koreatown and I have had the pleasure to try a few Korean BBQ joints. Enter one and you are enveloped in smoke from the tabletop grills, loaded down with marinated beef and chicken. I have my own cheap$kate version of Korean BBQ you can make for your next backyard gathering.

It's all about the marinade that mainly consists of garlic, soy sauce, and brown sugar. It's a potent combination you should try out sometime. Just click here for my Korean-style BBQ Chicken recipe. The photo below shows cheap, grilled boneless and skinless, dark meat leg quarters.


 If you are glued to the widescreen TV for a baseball game, then you can't go wrong with grilled tube steaks. They are the easiest fast food to make, and you won't have to put in any overtime for my wiener vittles. I have a couple of unusual recipes I think you will enjoy. And it's easy enough to replace cheap hot dogs with your favorite specialty sausages - if you're the artisanal type.

I usually get my hot dogs with just relish and mustard, but sometimes I like to mix it up. Here in Los Angeles, we have a uniquely constructed wiener sold by entrepreneurial sidewalk vendors called the L.A. Street Dog.

It's a crazy quilt combination of sauteed onion and bell pepper that's strewn over a bacon-wrapped wiener, then topped with mayo, mustard, ketchup, and finally crowned with a spicy jalapeño!

You've never had a hot dog like this - it's the roman candle of finger foods. In my video below I grill the bacon wrapped wiener on the stovetop, but it's even better sizzling on your BBQ grill.



Allow me to introduce to you to a Currywurst, which is a sausage or hot dog that's grilled and topped with a spicy sauce consisting of ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, cayenne pepper, and curry powder (dried cumin). This Berlin, Germany delicacy started just after WWII as street food for British and American soldiers stationed there. It sounds like a weird combination of ingredients, but it works and it's so easy to make, so give it a go - it makes a great appetizer served with toothpicks.

Currywurst

Another Eastern European entree is made with grilled Sausages, Sauerkraut and Beer. Now, these are ingredients that work well together! Again, I cooked this dish on a stovetop, but you can cook the sausages over an open fire for extra charred flavor.


To add some veggie crunch, try my bastardized version of a Chicago Dog. I can't get Day-Glow green relish out here in LA so I tweaked the Windy City's fast food classic by adding some chopped lettuce along with traditional sliced tomato. Hopefully, Chicago tough guys will give me a pass for tweaking this culinary bad boy. And check out my wacky video below, where my Chicago Dog is the video punchline.



Hamburger is a backyard grill favorite that almost every working stiff lusts over. And boy do I have a meaty South of the Border spin with my Mexi-Turkey Burger.

It packs a lot of flavor with the main ingredient, Mexican chorizo, which has a deep flavored red chile taste, spiced with paprika, Mexican oregano and garlic powder. And you can use regular ground beef instead of poultry. Get out the salsa for my Mexi-Burger.


My fave grilled hamburger is slathered with barbeque sauce and has sauteed mushrooms and cheddar cheese. What's yours?


Attention all you breadwinners, I have the perfect meal between 2 buns, Smoked Pork Butt Sammies! For lovers of smoked pork, the following entree will have you asking for seconds and thirds. I like to smoke a whole pork shoulder (or butt) when I throw a Labor Day BBQ party.


If you have traveled the South then you've run across BBQ Pulled Pork. Mainly served between buns and topped with BBQ sauce, this crowd-pleasing self-serve sandwich has it all: smokey tender pork that's seasoned with a dry rub of sugar and spice.
Pulled Pork Dry Rub
Click on any photo to see larger.

Just set out a tub of Pulled Pork along with hamburger buns, BBQ sauce, sliced onion, pickles, and Coleslaw, and get out of the way as the line forms. And I have an easy gas grill smoking method you can see in my video below.



Pork Carnitas are my favorite tacos. While not done on a BBQ grill it's still one of my go-to backyard holiday foods, so I gotta give you the recipe gratis, no charge. You can always give it a quick smoke pass to kick it up a notch. It really is the perfect party food because you get to sit back and let your friends do all the work and build their own tacos. Go to the following blog post to see some tasty Homemade Salsas to spoon on your taco - or scoop up with tortilla chips.

Carnitas Taco

And pork is still cheap these days, especially when it comes on sale at my local Latin market. So you won't break the bank feeding your lovers of all things porcine.


I seldom cook with beef because it's just too darn expensive for this wage earner, but when I splurge, it's for ribeye steak. I just season it with salt and pepper, that's it. Believe it or not, 3 ounce thin-sliced steaks do show up at my local 99c only and Dollar Tree stores from time to time.


Sometimes I'll finish a steak with a little BBQ sauce. But if you want to impress your guests then try out my Carne Asada recipe. Ribeye (or any favorite tender cut) is marinated in cilantro, green onion, garlic, lime juice, and a little ground cumin. When it's hot off the grill, chop the meat for Carne Asada Tacos or a Warm Steak Salad.

Carne Asada Marinade


If you are smoking meat, get your hands greasy and throw on a slab of corned beef brisket for Homemade Pastrami. I always freeze 2 or 3 corned beef briskets when they are on sale for about 2 dollars per pound during St. Patrick's Day sales.


My  Easy Smoked Homemade Pastrami recipe is tasty as any Jewish Deli version - so says everyone I've served it too, and you don't have to leave me a tip. I think it's because the smoky flavor it more intense fresh off the grill, than from a deli where the pastrami has been setting in the cold case for a few days. Hey, don't take my word for it, give it a shot and get ready for an assembly line of high fives sure to come your way!



Seafood and a BBQ grill go together. For Grilled Fish you have to have a delicate touch as fish is easy to overcook. But it's done quickly so you won't smell too smokey slaving over the grill.


Grilling a whole fish is the easiest way to do it. Of course, your guest may have to work overtime to pick out fish bones, but all that effort will be worth it if you cook the fish my way.

I have a deep-fried Fish Taco recipe that's easily adapted for outdoor grilling. Just leave off the batter and grill the fish for a lighter and healthier pescado. Check out my recipe for all the details, including a cool Creme Topping.


A bag of tortilla chips and a light Seafood Ceviche made with budget fake crab is a chill appetizer to greet the guests with.

Seafood Ceviche

For my vegetarian friends working for a living, and who've got off the conveyor belt of meat, the following recipes are for you. My sister Denise has a fave veggie Eggplant Burger (and easy enough to BBQ instead of frying pan sauteing).

 Eggplant Burger

Portabella Mushroom Burger

A tasty meat substitution is an earthy Portabella Mushroom Burger that's topped with grilled bell pepper and cheese (or use a cheese substitute).

Roast a few ears of corn to serve with the veggie burgers or go a little further and make my Roasted Cream Corn.



It's all about the veggie sides when you have a BBQ patio party. You can simply drizzle a little olive oil and season any fave summer veggie to grill over the fire.

 Braised Romain Heart

Click on any recipe name to get my recipe details for: Sweet PotatoesGrilled Bell PeppersZucchini with Herbs, and Braised Romain Hearts (originally done inside, but easy enough to do outside).


You gotta have Potato or Macaroni Salads when you grill meat. I have a colorful Peanut Coleslaw made with red cabbage. But a regular Coleslaw it good enough for me, like in the video below.



My Mom recently dropped by the cheap$kate kitchen and set off a flavor bomb: Cajun Potato Salad. It was so good I had to make a video to share her recipe with you.



Get your guests started with light salads such as: refreshing Watermelon, Mango and Spinach; hearty Black Bean & Corn ; an exotic, but simple, Korean-style Cucumber Salad; a tangy Cuban Salad, or luscious Pears & Spinach with Herb Cream.


Watermelon, Mango & Spinach Salad

If you are doing burgers, then you want fries to go with it, and my double-fried French Fries does the trick.


I like a pot of beans on the stove simmering while I'm grilling. Cook them the day before and they taste even better the next. Be sure to set out a stack of bowls so your guest can help themselves. I like to have some grated cheese and minced onion on the side.

My New Orleans friend, Miss Patty, has a delish Vegetarian Red Beans recipe for you, and I have my own Beef & Bean Chili and Cuban Black Beans recipe.

There is nothing better at stoking appetites than walking past the kitchen and inhaling the savory perfume of seasoned slow cooking legumes.


Every holiday has their produce specials, so be sure to check out your local grocery fliers for all the holiday deals.

Labor Day is almost here, and this Parsimonious Culinary Artisan put in 12 hours, 8 days a week, cranking out the recipes for your use, royalty, and tax-free.

So get to work and click on any recipe name listed above and get all my tasty recipe details - it's the easiest and tastiest job you'll have all year!


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