Thursday, November 29, 2012

5th Anniversary of Blogging - 2 Videos

What a wild 5 years it's been. And I've got 366 blog posts and over 130 food-themed videos to prove it. So check out the Culinary Cheap$kates video highlight reel below -- it's a feast for the eyes and ears, and it's just the icing on the cupcake. (And click on any color-coded name in the paragraphs below to see recipe links and/or video links.)

Play it here. Video runs 8 minutes, 20 seconds.

When I started The 99 Cent Chef five years ago food blogs with videos were just beginning to appear on the internet. Noticing how easy it was to upload videos, I decided to start my food blog. I've always followed television cooking shows: from The French Chef with Julia Child (I watched as a teenager,) to the unveiling of the Food Network. What I noticed lacking were tasty recipes cheap enough for anyone to make, presented with a bit of wit.

This Grinchy Chef does not live for recipes alone, heck that's no fun. I like to mix it up, so I delve into many food-related themes - my blog is a variety show for foodies. If you look on the right side of this blog and scroll down just a little bit, you'll see different groups of videos that are just a click away, including Recipes, Comedy, Restaurant Reviews, and Documentaries. Or you can go to YouTube and subscribe here to see all my videos.

My nephew Chef Zakk

There were no silver spoons on my dinner table growing up -- my mother was a waitress for some years and I was exposed to the working-class side of the restaurant business. Counting my Mom's tips after her shift, I grew up literally pinching pennies.

I like the challenge of creating scrumptious meals using inexpensive ingredients. And this blog is dedicated to working stiffs, struggling-to-pay-tuition students, retirees living on Social Security, and families (without health insurance) living on minimum wage. You can just get by and still eat well. I moved to Los Angeles when I turned 21, knowing nobody, and with only a few hundred bucks in my wallet -- so I learned how to stretch a dollar in the big city.

For my blog, I create appetizers, side dishes, and entrees with ingredients costing 99.99 cents or less, that I cull from 99c only Stores, ethnic markets, and regular grocery stores. I include fresh fruit and veggies in my recipes, too (that I get on sale for way less than a dollar per pound.) 

You won't find many recipes using beef, but I've created plenty of delicious entrees using economic chicken and pork. (Like my go-to recipe of French Cassoulet that combines roasting chicken with white beans - so good.) You won't go hungry reading The 99 Cent Chef food blog, and you'll be entertained along the way with playful prose, eye candy photos, and clever videos.

I began this just as the economy crashed -- then things started happening fast, and after 6 months I was a chintzy food expert on NBC's Nighty News and NPR Marketplace! You could say I was the flavor of the month to the media.

The Chintzy Chef & Brendan Francis Newnam of NPR radio

I've been steadily cranking out videos like a fast-food burger slinger - quick and tasty, like my one minute Coffee Comedy shorts; or sometimes it's a Wolvesmouth-like tasting menu involving 8 unique video small plates illustrating my trip to Seattle for a Public TV cooking segment (on the menu was a Thanksgiving side dish twist I called Stuffing Cupcakes.) You'll never know what I'll come up with, so do check back.

Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Frosting & Gravy

I started this blog to make some fun food videos. They've got to be the most unique cuisine collection of video shorts on the internet: from a recipe for Pasta alla Carbonara with Bacon Bits, to a "Don't Eat and Drive" Public Service Announcement video; and food travelogs, including a search for a 99 cent Shrimp Cocktail in Las Vegas, and family vacations in Louisiana, chowing-down on Cajun cuisine (Alligator Po' Boy anyone?) to funny behind the scenes footage of my appearance on the Cooking Channels Food(ography). You won't see a more diverse and out-there personal cooking blog on the web.

Pasta alla Carbonara with Bacon Bits

As you can see I do more than just rattle pots and pans -- when I get out of the kitchen that's when the fun really begins. Living in Los Angeles, I get a thrill introducing my blog visitors to our melting pot food culture. You can check out my month long series of videos on the local exploding food truck scene, including the one that jump started it all, Kogi Taco Truck. I covered it's travels through the streets night and day. When chef Roy Choi added Korean BBQ onto a Mexican tortilla he created a culinary sensation, and an avalanche of unique food trucks followed. I still think Kogi Taco Truck is the top dog.

You wouldn't know it, but Los Angeles is fast becoming the Hot Dog Capital of the World. Well, I did another video series on some of my favorite temples to tube steak. There are Soul Dogs topped with yams and collard greens, and carts selling wieners made from heirloom, grass-fed and hormone-free, animals (check out my video on Let's Be Frank, here.)

But, I would say the epicenter is way out in the Valley, at Fabs Hot Dogs, located in an outdoor mall (wouldn't you know it.) The owner, Joe Fabrocini, travels throughout the country picking up regional recipes like the Kansas City Dog, Carolina Slaw Dog, New Jersey Ripper, and our own LA Street Dog. And he does them to perfection, including a Chicago Dog topped with neon green pickle relish -- and be sure to check out my radioactive reaction after ingesting one! And as a bonus, I shot a video recipe of bacon-wrapped LA Street Dog.

I live in South Los Angeles so you know I got the soul food angle covered. Check out the video of my favorite chintzy soul food restaurant Marilyn's Soul Food Express. And just down the street on Crenshaw Boulevard are the Pulitzer Prize food winner Jonathan Gold's recommended hot dogs at Earlez Grille. Rub elbows with the chefs, colorful customers, and the raconteur owner, Duane -- for hot dogz in the hood.

Just this year I introduced a unique way to present my cheap and delicious recipes -- using stop motion animation and time lapse photography. These short videos give you step-by-step instructions presented succinctly while retaining my clever and fun antics. (Plus, you don't have to look at my mug!) To see what I mean just click on the video compilation below:
A Year of Stop Motion Food Animation

Play it here. Video runs 2 minutes, 16 seconds.

My background is in art, film, video editing, and street photography. All these disciplines come together in my cinematic series, Restaurant Nocturnes. This Noir-Eyed Chef likes nothing better than cruising neon splashed nighttime Los Angeles streets and shooting restaurant facades -- this is when they look the coolest. And as a bonus, I collect audio menu descriptions for each one, so this series is groovy to look at, and you learn their culinary stance.

With 11 Restaurant Nocturnes under my belt, I've only scratched the Teflon surface of LA's dining scene. I compile a baker's dozen eateries in each Nocturne, and I include every kind of cafe: from Top Chef season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio's hip ink. restaurant on Melrose Avenue, to Chinatown's Hop Louie, a time capsule constructed in the 1940s.

I also started an anthropological series called First Bites. I'm shooting my now 2 1/2-year-old neighbor, Lola, tasting her first sushi California Roll, wheatgrass, asparagus, and many more ingredients. It's a hilarious series that I will be revisiting. 99 thanks to her parents Bob and Lori. I've also started shooting a Southern version called Miles First Cajun Bite, which includes tasting: crawfish, jambalaya, and cheese grits -- the kid not only eats it but wears it! Click on the titles above to see a sample of these too cute L 'Enfant Terribles.

Lola's First Bite

My food blog would be anemic without the contributions of family, friends, restaurants, and their staff. Anytime you see me in a video, there is someone helping me shoot it (especially Amy, Pete, and Bob) and I owe them 99 thanks. And it's so much better when I can get my Mom, sisters, and my young buck nephews, Chef Matt and Chef Zakk, on camera. They are fun to hang out with, plus they make look good.

Finally, thanks to all my blog visitors for your time and comments. Subscribe and keep coming back as I have a cupboard full of recipes, videos, and fun food ideas to share with you!

5th Anniversary Video YouTube link (to view full size) click here
One Year of Stop Motion Animation YouTube link click here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving & Christmas Recipe 2012 Compilation

It's the most busy and overwhelming cooking day -- well don't fret, The 99 Cent Chef wants to take the stress out and make it a bit easier for you. I got it all here: my holiday recipes, along with a cupboard full of money-saving tips for you during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

 Below is everything you need to serve a sumptuous and cost-saving dinner table feast. Presented with links to my recipes, easy-to-follow directions, and illustrated with yummy photos and fun videos. And make sure you bookmark this page because Christmas is right around the corner -- yikes!

First up, if you live in Los Angeles, the Grinchiest Chef would recommend getting your big bird at any Superior Grocers -- just click here to see the great deals to be had, it's incredible. (Be sure to check back, this market just opened last week right down the street from me, so the deals to be found here are just beginning.)

You can get a 10-27 pound turkey for 47 cents per pound with a $25 purchase. That's no problem, when Superior Grocers sells yams at 5 pounds for 69 cents, russet potatoes 8 pounds for 99 cents, tomatoes 4 pounds for 99 cents, yellow onions 7 pounds for 99 cents, green bell peppers 5 for a dollar, collard greens for 69 cents per pound, and pork butt (2 per package) for 77 cents a pound. (Now, that's a whole new upcoming pork dish, Mexican Carnitas, I made a video for -- you gotta grab the deals wherever they show up!)

The main event is the centerpiece, a fat turkey overloaded with stuffing. Now, wouldn't it be great if you could get away with just setting out a stack of heated Banquet Turkey Dinners? That really is the cheapest way to go. Well I know that won't fly, but one year in my bachelor days I had one. My wacky review of this frozen poultry fiasco dinner is a click away here.

But seriously, last year I posted my version of a Turkey with Stuffing recipe, just click here to read all about it. Not only is there a recipe that features my Mother-in-laws's decedent sausage stuffing, but I made a video below for you. And it's done in my newest movie technique of stop motion animation to boot.

My recipe is stuffed with cooking tips and cheap shopping sources like my local 99c only Store that carries boxes of stuffing and Hormel Bacon & Pork Sausage Links for, you guessed it, 99.99 cents. Right now they are selling everything but the bird! See their latest flyer of ingredients, here.

Come take a walk on the wild sides with The 99 Cent Rebel Chef. And you can be sure the following links will go over big with your hungry family and visiting neighbors. You've never seen stuffing made like this: Stuffing Cupcakes with Cranberry Topping & Gravy. And here's a wacky backstage video I made when PBS in Seattle flew me out to make my recipe for them.

To get the step-by-step directions for this most deliciously unique savory and sweet stuffing recipe click here. It's easy and quick to make, all you need (or borrow) is a cupcake pan. Stuffing Cupcakes are portable for an office party or any gathering you may be invited to. If you are like me, stuffing, next to roasted turkey, is the main event for my ravenous taste buds.

Boring Creamed Spinach is a typical Christmas side, but I have a Hindi twist. One of my favorite Indian restaurant side dishes is Saag Paneer, which is just like creamed spinach, but with cheese and the added spice punch of ground cumin. My version is made with easy-to-get (and lower fat) cottage cheese instead of Indian Paneer (cheese) and Ghee (butter). Once you and your family try my cheesy and creamy Saag Paneer, you won't go back to Creamed Spinach. And the recipe is a click away, here.

If you are looking for traditional sides I have the old-school French Fried Onions and Green Bean Casserole, which is right out of the 1960's Mad Mad TV series. Yea, all you need is a can opener for the green beans and Campbell's Mushroom Soup. This is a classic recipe where Betty Crocker has it right -- creamy, crunchy and so satisfying. Click here to see how easy and cheap it is to make.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts are edible Christmas ornaments that you can add to the oven during the last 30 minutes of your roasting turkey. Just drizzle them with oil and dust with salt and pepper. Go here to see the recipe details. It couldn't be simpler to do and here is my stop motion animated video to prove it.

Of course, I have some more sides for you, just click on any of the following names:  Whiskey Yams with Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Tomatoes and Onions, Brussels Sprouts in Sour Cream, Roasted Potatoes with Carrots, Honey Orange Glazed Carrots, Collard Green with Molasses and a Pear and Spinach Salad with Creamy Dressing.

And if that isn't enough -- it's dessert time! After you push yourself away from the table and waddle to the couch to catch a holiday game on the TV, be sure to grab a handful of  my wife's Cranberry Orange and Coconut Cookies (click on the name for recipe.)

But you can't do better than desserts made by Mom. They know what makes a family happy and mine has been generous enough to show me how she does it. Here are a couple of videos I made of her homemade Pumpkin Pies and Mini Pecan Pies.

Now is the time to hit up your local grocery for cans of pumpkin, or if you are cheap like me, cans of sweet potato. You can use either, as the taste is identically delicious.

Check out my Mom's recipe for her Pumpkin Pie by clicking here. Here is my video of Mom making her luscious Pumpkin Pie.

Every Christmas holiday my wife and I eagerly await a package from Mom of her famous Mini Pecan Pies. A dozen of them travel well inside a shoebox from Louisiana to Los Angeles. These small pies are the tastiest present one can receive, and I got her recipe for you -- all you have to do is click here.

This is a great Christmas party dessert, but make sure to give your host a few, as they will disappear way too fast. If you don't believe me, just check out the video I made of Mom setting out a plateful -- and watch my relatives devour them in no time flat! (By the way, I think you will be impressed how the Chintzy Chef gets around paying normally exorbitant pecan prices.)

Well after all that slaving in the kitchen you deserve an Eggnog. In my first holiday-themed video from 2008, I made a Homemade Eggnog that went a 99 cent airline bottle of rum too far. Be sure to view past the recipe for my humorously Tipsy Tree Trimming fiasco -- blogpost with written recipe and photos here.

I hope all my visitors have a great holiday. Keep checking back here for more budget recipes and loads of new food videos.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce

This is the perfect window herb garden recipe. The Argentine condiment, Chimichurri Sauce, is slathered on meat, chicken and just about anything.

It couldn't be simpler to do: just blend together some parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar (or lime juice) and olive oil. Similar to an Italian pesto, the result is a pungent and herb infused salad dressing-like mixture that is so addicting you'll understand why it compliments so many entrees.

Besides meat, you can serve the sauce on bread, pasta, a baked potato, or any favorite cooked veggie. (And just yesterday I mixed a tablespoon-full into my breakfast egg scramble.)

I first had it a decade ago at an Argentine restaurant on Sunset Boulevard called The Goucho Grill (now gone.) I would always stop there before viewing an independent or foreign film at the next door Sunset 5 mall movie complex (since taken over by Sundance Cinemas.) Sitting at the counter I watch fire spitting up and around slabs of chicken and rib-eye steaks on the smoking grill grating. First, I would order a cold South American beer (usually Christal) and almost immediately a small bowl of Chimichurri Sauce with a basket of fresh baked sliced white bread would be placed in front of me.

It didn't take long for the sauce, bread and beer to disappear. And there was never enough Chimichurri Sauce, so I always asked for more. With a slight heat from raw garlic, the herbs, oil and vinegar (or lime juice) delivered a punch of intense flavor. I usually ordered a half grilled chicken with fries for less than $10. As I returned again and again, the prices climbed until I felt priced out. But I have no complaints -- it lasted a few years (and I even ordered a more expensive rib-eye steak from time to time.)

Now when I go to the Sunset 5 to get an art film fix I first stop by Carney's (just a few blocks West) for a great $3.75 Happy Hour of a burger, fries and a beer (click here to see my video of the best Happy Hour on the Sunset Strip.)

As I mentions earlier, if you have an herb garden then it couldn't be cheaper to make. And parsley is the least expensive herb at regular markets, and is especially cheap in an ethnic market. Oregano is harder to come by, so it's okay to use it dried from a jar.

So next time roast a chicken, grill a steak, or pan fry fish, make sure to drizzle on The 99 Cent Chef version of Chimichurri Sauce.

  • 2 cups of parsley - larger stems removed.
  • 1/4 cup of oregano leaves - strip off the leaves from the stems. Okay to use a tablespoon of dried oregano.
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil - or a favorite veggie oil.
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar - any type, I used white vinegar. You could use lime or lemon juice instead.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from a jar.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • A spicy addition is 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
Remove larger stems from parsley - some stem are okay as they are tender and you are going to blender it all.

Strip off leave from fresh oregano - these stems are hard and woody, so try not to add too much of these.

Add herbs to a food processor or blender. Add the chopped garlic. Pour in the olive oil and blender it all together. Pulse blender until herbs are fine chopped, about a minute.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes for extra heat. Pulse blender a couple more times and taste.

Chimichurra Sauce if a great meat marinade as well. Just smear it on your favorite protein and let it sit in the refrigerator about an hour, then fire up the grill or broiler.

Some recipes go with a half mixing of parsley and cilantro. You can add extra oil to stretch the sauce out more.

Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Will last a couple of weeks. When leaves begin to brown then it is done for.

If you do not have a blender then just fine chop the herbs and crush the garlic. Whisk in oil, vinegar and garlic.

Chimichurra Sauce is a great condiment that tops any grilled and roasted meat or fish. It makes a flavorful salad dressing, and also goes well drizzled on potatoes or a favorite veggie. Or just set some out with a loaf of fresh bread from you favorite grocery or deli bakery.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts - VIDEO

The waning days of Autumn and Roasted Brussels Sprouts are a delicious combination. This is just a basic recipe, but there is a reason -- it's just plain good.

These pint-sized cabbages take on a nutty flavor when roasted. It's the difference between a boiled or baked potato -- I prefer mine baked.

My latest stop-motion animated recipe video is a short one. Because all I did was remove the old yellowed leaves and tough stems, slice some of them in half, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and finally finish them off with a half hour of roasting.

When I run across a 10-ounce package at my local 99c only Store, I always pick up a couple. I also have another recipe, Brussels Sprouts in Spicy Sour Cream -- just click here.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner grab a bag of these edible ornaments, to set out along with your roasted bird, and give the Grinchiest of Chef's recipes a try. So until you pick some up, allow me to entertain you with my latest animated recipe video, Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts - VIDEO

Play it here. Video runs 1 minutes, 41 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

Ingredients (2 servings as a side dish)
  • 10 ounces Brussels Sprouts - or enough to fill a roasting pan. Whole and/or sliced in half, lengthwise.
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

To prepare Brussels sprouts, remove any outer yellowed old leaves.

Thinly slice off stem ends and. Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. You can leave the smaller ones whole -- I like to mix it up. Of course, you can just leave them all whole, they will be more tender in the middle.

Arrange into one layer on a baking sheet or pan. Drizzle Brussels sprouts with olive oil. You can slide around Brussels sprouts in the pan to coat all sides.

Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste.

Cook uncovered in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Done when some of the Brussels Sprout leaves are lightly browned.

To make them more tender, just cover the baking Brussels sprouts with foil, or use a baking dish with a cover. You may need to add an extra 10 minutes -- done when easily pierced with a fork or knife.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

This International  Poor Man's Chef brings a traditional English dish from across the pond to these cheapskate shores -- a hearty Shepherd's Pie that will leave you gobsmacked. Also called a Cottage Pie (when using ground meat,) it's a thick top crust of squidgy (mashed) potatoes covering a rich beef sauce loaded with carrots, onion, peas, and ground poultry. You may think I'm off my trolley,  but I guarantee you will be begging for seconds!

This one-pot meal is the Mutt's and absolutely fabulous on a cloudy and parky winter's day. Plus it's cheap, just the way this threepenny bit pinching bloke likes it. You could even bring this as a potluck dish to your next do.

I'm not codswalloping when I say it's really so easy peasy to do: just saute some ground meat, onion, carrots, and green peas, then add a cracking rich broth of beef stock and tomato paste flavored with Worcestershire sauce. This luscious filling is thick like a chicken pot pie. You finish it with a topping of your favorite mashed potato recipe, bake for half an hour, and Bob's your uncle!

A traditional Shepherd's Pie is made with any leftover meat, usually lamb. I keep my recipe low fat using ground turkey or chicken, instead of typical fatty ground beef and hard-to-get, expensive lamb -- but don't worry it's still scrummy.

And the ingredients couldn't be cheaper, right? I always find ground turkey and chicken at my local 99c only Store, while a regular market carries frozen tubes of it in deli cases for just over a buck. You can't get cheaper than onions, carrots and potatoes. The most expensive ingredient is frozen green peas, but you will barely use half a package.

There's more to British food than popular Fish and Chips (of course I have my own recipe version here) -- so, if you fancy, do give my latest entree a butcher's hook. You will happily devour The 99 Cent Chef's savory Shepherd's Pie, it's the bees' knees.

Click here to translate all the italicized British slang that I used.

    Ingredients (about 4 - 6 servings)
    • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken - okay to use ground beef.
    • 6 medium potatoes - about 1 1/2 cups when mashed. I used Russet, but any cheap type will do.
    • 1 cup carrots - roughly chopped
    • 1 cup frozen peas - thawed. Canned peas are too mushy, but go ahead and use a drained can if that's all you've got.
    • 1 medium yellow or white onion - chopped
    • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste - If you use tomato sauce, about 1/2 cup.
    • 2 tablespoons of  Worcestershire sauce.
    • 2 cups of beef stock - or one dissolved bouillon cube in 2 cups of water. Okay to use any favorite stock.
    • 1 tablespoon of oil - to saute veggies.
    • 2 tablespoons of flour - to thicken the sauce.
    • 3/4 cup of milk - to make mashed potatoes. Use your favorite recipe. Add butter if you want.
    • Salt and pepper to taste. You can leave out the salt if you use a salty bouillon cube.
    • Water to cover and boil potatoes.

    Start potatoes boiling. Should take about 1/2 hour, depending on how large they are. Done when a fork pierces the potato easily.

    Over medium heat add tablespoon of oil in a large pan. Next, add the chopped onion and carrots. Stir and saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

    Scoop in the ground turkey or chicken. Spread out in the pan and allow to cook for a few minutes to firm it up. Break up the ground meat into chunks. Mix well and cook the meat until done, about 7 to 10 minutes.

    Now time to make the sauce. Add tomato paste (or tomato sauce,) Worcestershire sauce, flour, and stock (or water with dissolved beef bouillon cube) to saute veggies and meat. Mix well to dissolve the flour. Cook until sauce thickens like gravy, about 5 minutes. Add defrosted peas at the last minute.

    While the sauce thickens, the potatoes should be done. Cool off with cold water and peel them. (Of course, you could peel the potatoes first.) Add the peeled potatoes to a large bowl add 3/4 cup of milk and season with salt and pepper. Mash it all together. You should get about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of mashed potatoes. If you have a favorite mashed potato recipe then use that.

    Now time to assemble it all. In a deep baking dish (or two, depending on how large the dish is) add the meat and veggie filling - don't fill it up all the way, leave about an inch of clearance. Now spoon on the mashed potatoes to cover the top of the meat and veggie filling. You can carefully smooth out the mashed potatoes to cover the top.

    Place the uncovered dish of Shepherd's Pie in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. You may want to place a large cookie sheet pan underneath the dish in case some of the filling bubbles out.

    Remove from oven and allow to cool down for a few minutes, this will allow the sauce to thicken. Ready to eat after about 3-5 minutes.

    For a more diet-friendly and healthier topping (I know spuds are too carb-heavy for some) try boiled or microwaved sweet potatoes. You could use steamed and mashed cauliflower, squash (butternut or acorn,) carrots, pumpkin, turnips, or any favorite veggie that you can mash.

    You could also substitute green peas with shelled edamame (soybeans) or green beans. Sometimes, I'll add a few sauteed sliced mushrooms.

    Instead of peas and carrots, you can just use a bag of your favorite frozen veggie blend. For frozen veggies, defrost first and add while you are heating the sauce (after the meat is done.)

    If you like a saucy filling, then add more stock - you may need a larger (or an extra) baking dish or pot.
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