Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beef Onigiri - Japanese Fast Food Video

Beef and rice - can't get more basic than that. Just saute a 3-ounce slab of marinated and sliced ribe-eye, then wrap it up in a few balls of sticky rice. That's what makes up a typical Beef Onigiri Japanese recipe. You can add a small sheet of dried seaweed snack (becoming more popular and even sold at regular groceries) for an extra salty kick.

And I picked up all these ingredients at my local 99c only Store! How's that for a unique cheap$kate meal? Hang out with The 99 Cent Chef and you can live high on the hoof - so read on and I'll give you the Beef Onigiri recipe: presented with yummy photos, GIFS, and a video.

There's not much to it, really. Just click here to see my sticky Sushi Rice recipe - that's the only atypical ingredient, but even that is a cinch to make when you follow my unique stop-motion video instructions.

As for steak, well, I get a single serving and marinate it in soy sauce, sugar, and a little garlic. That's a lot of flavor. I like working with these cheap small 3-ounce packages of rib-eye. It's my favorite cut of beef because you get that large centerpiece of sirloin and a marbled strip of super-tender loin along the edge - the best of both worlds.

These small steaks are perfect for stir-fries, like my Beef Broccoli recipe, here. You don't need an $8 slab of beef for my recipes. And while 3 ounces of steak at 99.99 cents still equals 5 bucks per pound, you are saving money by using such a small amount (and saving calories too.)

Japanese Onigiri is fast food from the East. It's portable and filling. You can wrap almost any favorite veggie or cooked protein in sticky rice. Check out my Salmon Salad Onigiri recipe from last month, here, to see what I mean.

Sticky rice is messy to handle, so use a sheet of plastic wrap. My video leaves this part out: I made the rice ball the traditional way of using my hands, and moistened it with a little water. However, most chefs now use plastic wrap to press and form the Onigiri.

You can present the Beef Onigiri plainly or wrap it with a sheet of dried seaweed snacks. You can get packages of dried seaweed snacks almost anywhere now, and what's so great about them is they are pre-cut to a perfect size.

My Beef Onigiri recipe makes about 4 rice balls, and it's easy enough to double the recipe. So give it a go - it's a perfectly delicious small bite.

Beef Onigiri  - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 2 minutes.

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

Ingredients (about 4 rice balls for 1 to 2 servings)
1 cup brown or white rice - use my Sushi Rice recipe. Click here to see the video.
3 ounces of steak - I used a small rib-eye steak. You can use sirloin or any tender cut of beef, even ground meat like beef, chicken, or turkey.
1 tablespoon soy sauce - I used low sodium.
1/2 teaspoon sugar - or a favorite sweetener, that can be sauteed with the meat. Okay to add more to taste.
1/2 teaspoon garlic - chopped. Okay to use garlic powder or dried garlic.
1 teaspoon oil - for sauteing meat.
Dried seaweed - optional. I used pre-cut (about 2 by 4 inches) dried seaweed snacks. Okay to use any size really, just cut them with scissors.

Prepare sushi rice according to my directions here (or use your favorite recipe.) Allow cooked rice to reach room temperature.

Chop steak into small bite-sized pieces. Add a marinade of soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. Mix well and set aside for 5 to 15 minutes. If steak marinades longer, then store it in the refrigerator.

In a frying pan, over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon oil. Saute marinated beef until done, about 2-3 minutes. Drain and remove meat when done. Allow to cool down a couple of minutes.

In the video above I formed the rice ball with my dampened hands. But it's cleaner and easier to use a sheet of plastic wrap.

For assembly, place the sheet of plastic wrap on a dry surface. Pile on about half a cup of cooked rice in the middle of a plastic sheet. Press into the middle of the rice mound to make space for the cooked steak. Add about a tablespoon of steak.

Add just enough rice on top of steak pieces to cover (optional - okay to leave steak exposed.) Pick up the four corners of the plastic to start forming a ball. Now you can close up the rice ball with plastic wrap. Lightly roll and squeeze the ball. You can keep it round; flatten one side; or form a traditional triangle shape.

It's okay to eat the rice ball right out of the plastic wrap, or make a few Beef Onigiri and serve on a plate. For extra flavor, use a piece of dried seaweed and partially wrap the Onigiri. The piece of seaweed gives you a dry surface to hold, for easier eating.

This recipe is easy to increase. Just double the ingredients list to make twice as much.

Use cheaper ground meat like beef, chicken, or turkey - just mix in the marinade and saute until cooked through. Any chopped meat is okay including beef, pork, chicken, and even flaked, cooked fish. You could also stuff rice balls with canned (drained) tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey.

Okay to substitute meat with chopped veggies (steamed and/or raw) and cooked mushrooms.

Cooked beef can be on top of a rice ball -- meat can be exposed, or covered with rice.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Carnitas Bowl - Leftovers Series

What to do with leftovers? For this new series I'll give you some edible ideas. First up is a loaded Carnitas Bowl. You've come to the right web address to see many of my Mexican meals all brought together in one blog post with plenty of tasty recipe links.

I threw a party for a friend leaving Los Angeles for South Carolina. I gave him a choice from my cheap$kate repertoire of recipes, and he chose tender, slow-cooked, pork Carnitas Tacos. So, where he's going, that makes sense - good Mexican food is few and far between, there. And I have to modestly say that my Carnitas recipe is one of my best.

I also made pinto beans, Mexican rice, calabasitas, plus fresh red chile and green tomatillo salsas. The party and food was a hit. One of my guest, Ellen Bloom, is a talented local blogger and she wrote all about it - just click here.

Carnitas is a one pot meal (plus a frying pan to chrisp it up) of slow-braised pork shoulder cooked in Mexican cola, orange and lemon juice, onion, garlic, with bay leaf and dried oregano. Once the liquid starts to simmer, just walk away for a few hours until the pork is fall-apart tender. Simple to do and so succulent - it's my favorite protein from a taco truck or taqueria. My recipe, with a video, is a click away, here.

Pork shoulder is the cheapest pork, so I use it often. It's especially cheap at Latin markets, like these.

I could have stopped at Carnitas Tacos, but for a party you gotta have some variety, so I added beans and rice.

Put a pot of beans on and the kitchen will draw guest, from the tantalizing smell of my slow cooked beans recipe (click here.) The recipe link is for Black-eyed Peas, but it simple enough to substitute pinto beans; you just need to cook them an hour or two more to fully tenderize. (Black-eyed peas cook quicker than pinto beans.) For a vegetarian bean recipe (that uses red beans, so the cooking time is about the same) read my recipe and watch the video, here.

I used my Mom's recipe, here, for Mexican Rice. Plus I made a trio of salsas: chunky Pico de Gallo, Red Chile, and a green Roasted Tomatillo. Click on any salsa name to see the recipes.

I finally made a veggie stew called Calabsitas (click here) with squash, corn, onion, zucchini, tomato and Mexican cheese. I went down so well that very little was left over.

 It was too much of a delicious party and I had plenty of leftovers. So after a few days of Carnitas Tacos, to change it up, I started making Carnitas Bowls.

I first chop up some tomato, onion and cilantro. I had some extra cheese so i shredded a little bit. I took out some of my homemade Tomatillo Salsa, too.

In a large bowl I added the leftovers that needed microwaving: beans, rice and carnitas. I stored the carnitas with some of the marinade it was cooked in, so the meat stayed moist when heated.

The heated sauce also flavored the Mexican rice - so if you make my Carnitas recipe make sure to reserve plenty of flavorful cooked marinade.

After microwaving, for final assembly, I first added the cheese so it would soften from the heat. Next, I topped the bowl with the chopped tomato, onion and cilantro. And finally I spooned on some salsa.

It was so good. Over the next couple of days, the Carnitas Bowls lost a few ingredients as they were used up. But that's okay, each bowl was unique and all of them were delish.

My Carnitas Bowl is adaptable so make it your own. Add as much of the particular ingredients you like to balance the flavors in your favor.

Do try out my carnitas, beans and rice recipes and throw your own taco party. And make plenty so you can have leftovers to reward yourself with a tasty Carnitas Bowl.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spicy Krab Roll - Sushi Series

Cheap$kate dreams are made of these: krab, mayo, hot sauce, sushi rice, and a sheet of dried seaweed , form a Spicy Krab Roll. I like it that way, and you will too, if you give it a try. So, with an 8 ounce package of krab, you will get about 4 large sushi rolls with this recipe. And when you cut each roll into 8 slices, that makes 32 pieces!

8 pieces from one roll

 It's also an inexpensive way to get your sushi rolling skills up to speed. If you haven't made a sushi roll before, I recommend starting out with my cheap$kate Spicy Krab Roll.

My first rolls were lopsided and often not tight enough, so when sliced the rice would halfway fall out. Or, I would forget to dampen the knife blade before slicing, and the roll would squash and the seaweed would tear unevenly. Oh well, you gotta ruin a few sushi rolls when you start -- but, in no time I quickly got the hang of it. Plus, the mistakes were still deliciously edible.

Here is a GIF of me hand-rolling a California Roll. As you see at the end, it's a little lumpy. To smooth it out just give the roll a final squeeze with a bamboo rolling mat. Click here to see the video.

And in this GIF I use a sushi mat. Click here to see how cheap it is to get a sushi mat online (less than $3 and you can get them at larger chain grocery stores, too.) For a video of sushi mat rolling, click here to see my Spicy Tuna Roll recipe.

I get a half pound of krab for 99.99 cents at my local 99c only Store, and even at a regular seafood market krab is about half the price of any other seafood. The quality of krab can vary, sometimes it's a little dried out and stringy, while other times it's perfectly moist and sweet. An easy way to reconstitute dried and stringy krab is to sprinkle it with water and zap it in the microwave for about 30 seconds until soft and warm - it works quite well.

Regular white rice is cheap. Most sushi recipes call for special (meaning expensive) sushi grade rice -- well, don't believe the hype. Any type of white rice will do fine, and you can make it with more expensive and nutritious brown rice. It's mainly about how you cook the rice, not the grade of rice. Under Directions below, I have a link to my Sushi Rice recipe video.

 The only tricky ingredient to find are sheets of dried seaweed, called Nori, but even that is easier to purchase these days at larger chain grocery stores. And if you live near an Oriental market, then that is the cheapest place to get it. Dried seaweed for sushi rolls are about the size of a sheet of computer printing paper (8 inches by 7 inches.) They usually come 10 to 30 sheets per package. A sheet of seaweed seems brittle, but when cooked damp rice is added, it becomes soft - malleable and easy to roll.

 If you've been following my Sushi Series, then add this to your repertoire. If you are new visitor, then a Spicy Krab Roll is a perfect cheap$kate sushi recipe to start with.

Ingredients (about 4 rolls, or 32 pieces when sliced)
  • 8 ounces krab - roughly shred or pulled apart. If frozen then defrost first.
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of mayo - more or less to your own taste. You want enough to mix into krab until it's as creamy as a macaroni or potato salad.
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce - I used Sirracha Chilli Sauce. You can also use any favorite hot sauce, or a pinch of ceyanne pepper. Add a little at a time to reach your own desired spicyness. You could just leave it out completely for a sweet Krab Roll.
  • 2 cups of cooked Sushi Rice - my recipe is a click away, here.
  • 4 sheets of dried seaweed - depending on how much spicy krab you stuff into sushi rolls.

Prepare Sushi Rice according to my recipe, click here for details. The rice should be room temperature when making sushi.

Roughly shred, or pull apart, krab pieces. Taste a piece and see if you need to soften it -- by microwaving. An easy way to reconstitute, after defrosting, is to sprinkle on a little water, loosely cover, and do a 30 second micorwave (take out pieces as they get warm and soft, and continue to zap in 10 second increments, if krab pieces are still cool.) The krab will soften and plump up perfectly. Finally do a rough chop (or hand-shred) and mix it with the some Spicy Mayo.

Mix mayo and Sirracha Chilli Sauce (or favorite hot sauce) in a bowl. Mix shredded krab and spicy mayo in a bowl. If necessary, cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Now time to bring it all together. You can use a bamboo sushi mat or just roll it up with your fingers. It's easier to use a mat, but now I just do it by hand. If you do it by hand then keep your fingers dry and tighten it up at the end, if needed, with a sushi mat.

If using a bamboo sushi mat lay it out on a dry surface. (Dried seaweed is very absorbent and sticky when wet.) Place one whole dried sheet of seaweed on center of sushi mat.

Now dampen your hands (as Sushi Rice is sticky and water will make handling easier,) and spread out an even layer of cooked rice over the dried seaweed.

You will be rolling sushi, so leave a half inch edge empty of rice. You can cover all the seaweed, on right and left sides, with rice. As for how much rice you pile on, it's up to you. I just do enough until you can't see the seaweed underneath -- about a 1/4 inch deep.

When seaweed is covered with rice (except half an inch along one edge) gently press on the rice with damp fingers, so it's spread evenly across the seaweed.

 Now you can pile on the spicy krab. Cover about a quarter to a third of the rice with spicy krab. I spread it across the center area, end to end. You can use a lot of spicy krab or just a little - it's up to you.

Now time to roll it up. You can rotate the mat away from you to roll, or keep it facing you. Roll the loaded seaweed with a medium pressure as you go, tightening the roll. Keep rolling and adding pressure until you reach the half inch of clear seaweed at the end.

Dampen your fingers and moisten the seaweed edge and just press together to seal.

Once the roll is sealed, wrap the roll one more time in the mat and give the roll even squeezes from end to end. This will help keep the roll from falling apart when you finally slice it.

Remove the mat and place the whole Spicy Krab Roll on a cutting surface. Take a sharp knife and dampen the blade with water. I start in the middle and slice in half. Then I slice each half into 4 pieces, so I get 8 slices per roll, total. You can make thicker pieces if you like, to get 6 pieces total. The object is to make each piece edible in one bite.

You can eat the sushi as is, or pour a small plate of soy sauce and dip sushi pieces as you eat them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

California Roll - Sushi Recipe Video

I've been California Roll dreaming lately. This sushi roll is made with budget fake crab (krab,) and is a tasty inexpensive ingredient for getting your sushi rolling skills up to speed.

A California Roll is simply constructed of crab (or krab,) thin slices of cucumber, creamy avocado, and sushi rice, wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed (called Nori). I think it's the addition of avocado that makes it the most popular of sushi rolls.

Sushi is notoriously expensive, but don't worry I've got your back, and have a couple of workarounds for you in my latest chea$kate recipe. Number one, I use fake crab (krab,) listed as surimi in sushi restaurants. Secondly, cucumber is cheap, and while avocado is sometimes expensive, you'll only use one avocado to make 4 large California Rolls.

The California Roll first made it's appearance in Los Angeles in the 1970's. Avocado was introduced into a roll as a substitution for more expensive tuna. And, too keep it cheap, fake krab was soon added. If you want to break the bank with real steamed crab (or, if you are lucky enough to have a fisherman friend,) by all means use it.

A lot of people freak when offered raw fish, so a California Roll with cooked crab is a perfect way to introduce anyone to sushi.

I use krab all the time, like in my delicious Mexican Black Bean and Krab Ceviche recipe - just click here to see it. And with this recipe you can make 3 to 4 large California Rolls (and when sliced, that's about 32 pieces!)

My local 99c only Store almost always stocks half pound frozen packages of krab for 99.99 cents. You can get krab from your favorite fresh seafood section in larger markets. For real crab, I've used it from a can - just add a little mayo if it is too crumbly or mealy, to moisten and flavor. Use real crab to impress a date and for special occasions. In the meantime get some sushi rolling skills using cheap krab.

 Fake crab is sold frozen in seafood section of a deli case. The quality can vary when defrosted: from tender and moist, to dry and stringy. An easy fix for dry krab is to drizzle the defrosted krab with water then microwave it for about 30 seconds. It's surprising how well the krab reconstitutes and becomes tender and moist again.

So give it a shot;  what have you got to lose but a few bucks - it's heck of a lot cheaper than dining at a sushi joint. Plus, you'll trip-out your friends once you get a little practice. This is my cheap$kate go-to sushi recipe. It's colorful with a creamy and crunchy texture and the price is right. If  you are new to the sushi experience, here is a cool video about how to eat sushi.

Everyone likes a California Roll, but if you haven't tried one, now is the time to do it yourself -- especially when you see how easy and cheap it is to do, by checking out my Sushi Video and illustrated directions below.

California Roll - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

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

Ingredients (about 4 rolls - about 32 slices)
  • 4 sheets dried seaweed
  • 6 to 8 ounces krab - fake crab. Okay to use fresh crab or from a can.
  • 1 large avocado - slice the flesh.
  • 1/2 cucumber - scoop out seed with a spoon and slice. Okay to peel or leave on some skin.
  • 2 cups of cooked rice - about half a cup per sushi roll. See my Japanese Sushi Rice recipe by clicking here.
  • Small bowl of water - for moistening your fingers and knife blade to handle sticky rice.
  • Soy sauce for dipping - dissolve in a pinch of wasabi or horseradish for spicy heat.

If you are using fake krab allow it to get to room temperature. If the krab has been sitting in the freezer it can dry out and become stringy. I've found rinsing krab in water then zapping it in the microwave for about 30 seconds tenderizes it.You don't want to cook it, just warm it up. As you know, microwaving is uneven and you get hot spots, so check krab every 15 seconds and take out pieces as they soften. Keep microwaving pieces in 10 second increments, if they are still cold and tough to the touch.

Shred or roughly chop krab. You can also leave krab in larger pieces -- as long as they fit on seaweed and rice.

Prepare veggies. Slice cucumber in half lengthwise and spoon out seeds. Slice cucumber halves into thin strips. You can leave on skin or remove some of it.

For avocado, slice in half and remove seed. I like to make slices into avocado with the skin on; then take a spoon and scoop out each sliced half. Fan out avocado slices. I use about a 1/4 of avocado per roll (depending on avocado size.) For cucumber I use enough to cover a about a third of the roll. After you've made a few rolls you'll figure out how much krab-to-veggie balance suits you.

Finally get out 4 sheets of dried seaweed and a couple cups of cooked sushi rice. (You may need only a cup of cooked rice, depending how thick or thin you make the California Rolls.)

Now time to assemble the California Roll. It's easiest to use a sushi bamboo mat (or a flexible placemat.) The mat is slightly larger than a sheet of seaweed. You could also just place a sheet of plastic Saran wrap, or a large gallon Ziplock bag, on your cutting board or counter. The plastic should be larger than a sheet of seaweed. In my video I just did it by hand. You want to make sure your hand is dry when handing dried seaweed, because it gets sticky when wet.

Lay one sheet of dried seaweed on a clean dry surface, a bamboo mat, or sheet of plastic wrap. Dip your fingers in bowl of water and dampen you hands. Grab a handful of rice and spread it on the seaweed sheet. You can do a small amounts of rice at a time until you get used to handling it.

Gently spread out the rice over the seaweed in an even layer. You may need to moisten fingertips a few times. Don't press to much or the rice will get mushy. The rice layer doesn't need to be too thick, maybe a 1/4 inch or so - you will be adding the veggies and krab, too. (Of course experiment and add as much rice as you like - I use about half a cup per sushi roll.)

Make sure to cover all the seaweed except along the one edge - leave at least 1/2 inch of that end uncovered with rice. (When all the ingredients are added you will roll and dampen that end to seal the California Roll.)

Now add the cucumber sticks and sliced avocado over slightly less than half of the rice and seaweed -- just left of center. Finally add a layer of krab. This is when you can experiment with how much krab and veggies to add. Maybe you like more avocado than fake crab?

Now comes the trickiest part, but it's not too hard to do. You just grab the seaweed and lift the end and fold it over the krab and veggies -- completely to just cover the stuffing. Now with both hands press the roll -- your fingers should press inward like you are making a tighter fist. Just move your fingers up and down the roll to evenly press the roll into a long log-cube shape.

Finally make one more half-roll (if needed,) to the end of the uncovered seaweed edge. Give the roll one more tuck with your fingers pressing inward, like making a fist - go from one end of the roll to the other to tighten and make the roll even looking. Now you will seal the roll. Just drizzle on some water with your fingertips along the uncovered seaweed. Give the California Roll one final roll to seal it closed.

Using a sushi rolling mat instead of your fingers is easier, and makes the roll more even-looking. With a little practice you'll get better at rolling - with or without a sushi mat.

Now you are ready to slice it, then serve. Put the California Roll on a cutting board with the sealed seaweed seam against the board. Get out your sharpest knife and moisten the blade edge. Seaweed is very sticky against the rice, so you must have a damp blade or the seaweed will tear and make uneven edges.

First slice the roll in half. Now you can slice each half-roll in half again, and one more time to get eight pieces of California Roll. The object is to make each piece edible in one bite.

Arrange on a plate. Repeat rolling steps with other 3 sheet of seaweed. (You could do all the rolling at once and slice it all, so everyone gets their roll at the same time.)

Make a dipping sauce with soy sauce. I like to stir in a pinch of wasabi or horseradish for heat.

 Of course, this recipe is easy to double. My 99.99 cent, 8 ounce package of krab is enough to easily make half a dozen California Rolls. Just make twice as much sushi rice (it's cheap enough,) and get one more avocado.

Making a sushi roll takes a little practice. Sometimes the sushi roll is thin, or too fat. But it's easy enough to open the roll and add or subtract filling before you seal it. Here's my GIF of rolling with a bamboo sushi mat.

It took me half a dozen rolls to start to get the hang of it. But that's no problem, because I got to eat the tasty lopsided mistakes. Usually a package of seaweed has 30 sheets, so you can get plenty of practice.

And using krab is a cut-rate way to go. You could even use crunchy thin sliced carrot (or any favorite steamed veggie) as a filling to practice on - vegetarian sushi rolls are the cheapest way to get your rolling skills up to speed.

Make sure to have a bowl of water to keep your fingers moistened when handling sticky Sushi Rice. Also have a hand towel nearby. And your hands and fingers should be dry when rolling with dried seaweed.

If you use crab from a can, it can be a too shredded and a bit dried out. But it is fine if you mix it with a tablespoon of mayo. Stir in 1/2 a teaspoon of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (or your favorite Mexican hot sauce) for a Spicy Crab Roll.

You could even finely chop some krab for a Spicy Krab Roll. Just add mayo and hot sauce as listed above. You want a creamy texture, like a macaroni or potato salad. After it's made, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
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