Sunday, June 29, 2014

The 99 Cent Chef's Indian Summer Vacation - Video Series

Get ready for a flash flood of blog posts shot in Native Indian Country. When the Cheap$kate Tourist travels he's strapped with a couple of cameras and battery chargers and a whole lot of imagination. So, that means food-themed videos are heading your way this summer - it's an epic video series.

Monument Valley

It was a jam-packed drive that took us (including my wife, Amy) from majestic Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Arizona-Utah border, to awesome Arches National Park in Utah, and ended up in a dirt-walled hogan at Spider Rock Campground near Chinle, Arizona.

Our Hogan in Spider Rock Campground

This hard-headed Chef even learned a few things along the way that I'll share with you over this summer.

Traveling in Indian Reservations and Parks and talking with Navajo guides and just regular Indians was a mind-expanding experience. There is a connection to Mother Earth and Father Sky, between the real world and the mystical world. It's a whole other way of looking at nature, loaded with artistry and meaning.

I'll feature video clips from one of our Navajo Spirit Guides, Don Mose (click here to get more info.) He's a guide for hire, teacher and medicine man -  we had the pleasure to tap his astute and deep knowledge, during a too short tour of Monument Valley. Plus he was not above acting out with this Cinematic Culinary Cutup, as you will see in upcoming blog posts and videos.

But don't worry, this won't be typical boring lecture/vacation slideshow stuff. You know me better than that, as my videos and observations are leavened with wit and outrageous flights of fancy. Along with all the gorgeous scenery, you'll have to put up with my mug peppered throughout the series, but it's all in good fun. Other videos will include: a Frybread Recipe, my Vision Quest with a talking coyote, and a colossal prehistoric Rock Lobster! I shot enough material for half a dozen videos, so keep checking back every week.

Frybread with Chili Powder

I'll start simple and short - a title sequence without titles. I think the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard did it first, I don't remember the film's name though, I just remember what a cool idea of using audio instead of opening movie type titles. Well, here's my version below.

Indian Summer Vacation - Video #1

Play it here, video runs 21 seconds.

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

I'm not sure what the next post will be, as all this is being created right now, but do check back - as you know, where I go high jinx follows!

And click on any red type to view links about the word or phrase. Plus if you want a sneak peek of my videos as they come fresh from the fryer, just click on the YouTube link to all my videos here.

Indian Summer Vacation Series (click on any title below to see the blog post).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Original Tommy's Hamburgers - Cheap$kate Dining Video Review

If you live in LA, then you've heard about the Tommy Burger. Next to In-n-Out Burgers, Tommy's is at the top of the fast-food burger heap. And, so much so that there are many imitators trying to pull off a homonym scam by calling their burger joint similar-sounding (and spelled) names like Tomy's, Thoma's, Tommie's, Toms, etc. But don't be fooled -- there is only one Original Tommy's Hamburgers and I have the heartburn and a Cheap$kate Dining Video review to prove it! 

The Original Tommy's shack, on Beverly Blvd., has been around since 1946 - that's older than McDonalds (1954) and even In-n-out Burger (1948.) While Tommy's doesn't have the fanatical fan base of In-n-Out Burger, it has plenty of customers, and operates in over 25 locations throughout LA county. The one I go to most is on Hollywood Boulevard, at Bronson Avenue.

A Tommy Burger is an eccentric burger, and I like it that way. First off, there is no lettuce, but you won't miss it, since all the burgers come with plenty of chili. Lettuce and chili don't go together anyway.

And it's one sour burger with the addition of 4 pickle slices and mustard. It's too much of a puckering good thing, so I always ask for some creamy mayo.

But the most unusual ingredient is a huge, juicy, tomato slice, that's about as thick as the hamburger bun. While the tomato is no big shakes (it tastes like any regular store-bought variety) -- but, that's just what this chili burger needs to balance out the disparate flavors.

Chili's all it's about at Tommy's. The chili is of the fine-ground variety and no beans. (It's very similar to Pink's Hot Dogs chili, another fantastic fast food joint in Los Angeles - my blog post video of the hot dog landmark is here.) Like a meaty thick gravy, the flavor is just what I want, beefy and spiced perfectly. It's best eaten right away while the chili is hot.

And the Chili Fries aren't too bad either. The fries are fat and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside -- a very good French fry and a great combination when chili is heaped on.

They pile it on the hamburger, so make sure to get a plastic spoon and a couple extra napkins. And, if you get it at the drive-thru window, just pull over in a parking slot. Please resist eating it on the drive home - much too messy and dangerous to maneuver!

And as a special visual treat, I shot my on-camera review in the middle of the public art assemblage "Urban Light", by one of my fav LA artist Chris Burden. To read about the city lamp assemblage click here, and make sure to add it to your Los Angeles art bucket list (it's best viewed at night - plus it's free to see.) Leave it to The 99 Cent Chef to combine a chili burger with art!

A Tommy Burger is not for the faint of palate. Flavors are intense, the chili is like heavyweight oil, and it's a hot mess -- just the way I like it. And it's a less expensive, at $2.15 (plus tax,) than a Big Mac. Now, that's a great cheap$kate deal.

So check out my video below to see how The Tightwad Restaurant Critic rates a Tommy Burger on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best. And if you are new to LA, or plan on visiting soon, make sure to chow down on one of our top 9 burgers, a Tommy Burger.

Original Tommy's Hamburgers - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 46 seconds.

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

Original Tommy's Hamburgers
 2575 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, Ca. 90057

Website for info and other locations:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Banquet Cheesy Rice and Chicken - Deal of the Day

Banquet is moving into the 21st Century with this light and tasty entree, Cheesy Rice and Chicken. On my rotating cheap office lunch menu is their Salisbury Steak and Turkey Dinner (click on the names to see my Deal of the Day review/ratings.) While these meals are not the best, the price is right at 99.99 cents (okay, one dollar.) But this turned out not to be the Banquet Deal of the Day I was dreading.

While frozen dinners were first introduced by the airlines in the 1940's, Banquet's competitor, Swanson, mass marketed them first in the 1950's. Banquet followed quickly.

When I saw the Banquet package it looked cooler that their typical boring packaging - pastel colors instead of garish bright red. The big "new" on the package was the main draw for me - I'm used to Banquet's same old, same old.

The ingredient list is short, compared to their old school frozen dinners. And the serving size is a couple ounces less than the above mentioned meals. Plus, I was still expecting an over-processed entree.

It's a small meal in one bowl - just rice, chicken, broccoli and cheese sauce. I micowaved it according to the directions. After mixing the hot ingredients together, I took a bite. Surprise, surprise, it tasted delish!

You first taste the cheese sauce. While cheddar cheese is listed in the ingredients, it was too mild - more like American cheese. This is fine, but if you are going to advertise cheddar, then make it sharper. That is a small quibble though. There is a good amount and it is satisfying.

You also get a decent amount of plump white rice and it's not mushy. Banquet does a good job on the rice.

You get plenty of broccoli, although it's mainly stem pieces, which I like. They were not overcooked; there was some texture left. I noticed pieces of floret, but those fell apart when I mixed the bowl. I would have preferred larger florets. But the taste was fresh frozen, so no real complaints here.

But the biggest surprise was the inclusion of real chicken breast - not processed cubes of chicken baloney, like I expected. You could actually shred it apart. Now the chopped pieces were small and the amount was miniscule, but, hey, what do you expect for a buck?

While the serving size is small the flavors are big. Overall I was quite impressed - it makes a light lunch.

So on The 99 Cent Chef's Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give Banquet's Cheesy Rice and Chicken Deal of the Day a 7! I look forward to more tasty bowls that Banquet comes up with, and I will definitely be adding this to my office lunch menu, . Check back and I'll let you know how Banquet's new designer bowls rate.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Father's Day Recipes

I know what guys like to eat, I know what guys want. So get out your notebook, or bookmark this page, for a slew of recipes that Fathers everywhere will enjoy.

I've had my father-in-law, Bob, over for lunch and dinner. He's a real meat and potatoes type of guy. So what's on the menu for his Father's Day? First off, I would make him a good old Anglo-Saxon, Old World, hearty Sherperd's Pie (recipe here.)

This most British of dishes is literally made with meat and potatoes. It's a one-pot meal and simplicity defined. Just make your favorite mashed potatoes (or follow my recipe) and spread it over a beefy, tomato paste and Worchestershire-flavored stew, which also includes: ground meat (I used cheap ground turkey,) onion, carrots and peas. And you finish it off in the oven, until pipping hot.

After that meal your Dad may be put in a food coma, so make sure he has his favorite spot on the couch ready, including a foot cushion and TV remote controller.

For more meaty meals to serve your Dad (or Husband) just click on any of the following recipes: Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Sausage and Sauerkraut with Beer, Pulled Pork, Chicken Fried Steak, Homemade Deli Pastrami, Chicken Stroganoff, Roast Cuban Pork, Meatloaf, Carnitas (Mexican-style pork,) Baked Lasagna with Ground Chicen, Sweet and Sour Pork, Mint Roasted Chicen, Steak Carne Asada, Pork Bourguignon, and BBQ Chicken.

My Louisiana neice, Candyse, is a new mother this year. You've seen her in a couple of my Mom's videos. I even made one with her husband, and proud papa to newborn Ava, Chef Tony. He's the face (creating a bunch of cooking videos) and main chef for BBQ Guys. When I asked him what Cajun dish he wanted to cook for this blog, he chose a classic Cajun dish - Crawfish Etouffee (written recipe here.) Check out the talened Chef Tony in action in my video below.

Dad's like seafood, so give Chef Tony's rich flavorful stew a try for one of the main men in your life. Other seafood entrees I would recommend are (click on any name to see): Fish and Chips, Scallop Rolls, Fish Tacos, Fish Veracruz, a rich Portabella Crab Rockefeller, Coconut Crusted Fish & Mango Salsa, Scallops and Snow Peas Stir Fry and Salmon Olympia.

My Louisiana sister Brenda is married to Rich and he is the Dad to 4, including 2 of my nephews who are chefs. I always have a good time making cooking videos with them whenever I visit Cajun country. Like Chef Zakk's Blackened Fish and Sweet Potato Hash right here.

And these are my nephews favorite recipes, so I know that Father's will like them too, including: Chef Zakk's Cajun Style Pasta Primavera and Chef Matt's Shrimp and Grits.

Chef  Matt's Shrimp & Cheese Grits

If your Dad (or Husband) likes it raw then I have the perfect recipes for you, my Sushi Video Series, that includes a Spicy Tuna Handroll and Nigiri Tuna Sushi (but if he's squeamish of raw fish I have a colorful California Roll made with cooked crab, here.)

I break it all down for you with easy-to-follow sushi rolling GIF illustrations and a Sushi Rice recipe as well. Click here to get started or click on any recipe name above.

I work with a vegetarian Dad. We're facebook friends so I am enjoying his latest posts featuring his high school daughter who just graduated. She even once posted about making a Mushroom Risotto for his birthday. Well, I don't know her recipe, but if it's good enough for her Pops then is good enough for all my Dad blog readers - click here to see my own Mushroom Risotto recipe.

I like to cook with mushrooms, and here are some more recipes you can click on: Mushroom Nigiri Sushi, Mushroom Soup, a Portabella Mushroom & Bell Pepper Burger, and my Portabella Mushroom Fries video below.

Here are some other vegetarian dishes your noshing Husband, Dad or Grandad will enjoy, so click on any following recipe name: Denise's Eggplant Burger, Borscht, Black Bean and Corn Salad, Baba Ganoush, Carrot Nigiri Sushi, Pasta Salad, Stuffed Tomatoes, Saag Paneer (creamy India-style spinach,) Falafel, Steamed Artichoke, Ms Patti's Red Beans and Rice, Eggplant ParmesanBraised Romaine Lettuce Hearts, Pasta with Cashews & Garlic, Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, Eggplant Hummus, Snow Peas with Tofu and Ramen Stir Fry, Veggie Curry with Lentils, Baked Pasta with Califlower and Cheese, Veggie Tempura, French Onion Soup, and Pear & Spinach Salad with a Creamy Herb Dressing.

And finally, if you are an LA local (or just visiting,) and looking for a restaurant to take your Father too, then check out my ongoing nighttime restaurant video series. You'll get menu highlights of a dozen or so restaurants in each of my unique Restaurant Nocturnes videos. I go out at night to bring you a culinary cross section of dining, both high end and low. So just play the video below to see my latest compilation, Restaurant Nocturnes XIII. And click here, then scroll down to the end of the post to activate links to all the other ones (thirteen videos so far.)

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) & Sweet Red Pepper Salad

I noticed this salad at my local Italian deli. I didn't buy any, but just looking closely, it was easy enough to figure out. This bean salad is quick to make -- no cooking involved. All you need is a can opener and a good grip to twist open a jar of pickled sweet red peppers.

My Chickpea & Sweet Red Pepper Salad would go well with any favorite sandwich. You could also spoon it over a leafy salad to add more heft. And, of course, it's just plain good on it's own.

I like canned chickpeas, or garbanzo beans (they're the same thing.) chickpeas are cheap, and lighter in flavor than other beans.

I often find jars of pickled veggies in my local 99c only Stores. I used sweet red peppers, but you could substitute (or add) any favorite pickled veggie you find on sale.

I also use red onion and a little garlic for this recipe. And I finish it up with some vinegar and olive oil. There's not much too it, but it's sure is tasty. I like the tender chick peas and sweet peppers with the added crunch of chopped red onion - an excellent flavor combination.

And if you are looking for an easy pot luck dish to take along, then bring my Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) & Sweet Red Pepper Salad. It's also travels well to your next picnic or neighborhood party. Be sure to make plenty - it's even better the next day, once the flavors have melded.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
  • 2 cans chickpeas or garbanzo beans - drained. Each can was about 15 ounces. Close to 4 cups total.
  • 1 cup sweet red bell peppers - I used half a 12 ounce jar of vinegar marinated sweet peppers. Okay to use more or less to taste.
  • 1/2 red onion - okay to use any cheap onion.
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar or marinade - I used the vinegar marinade from the sweet pepper jar. You substitute with fresh vinegar. Use any type: white, apple or rice vinegar. Okay to use less, to taste.
  • 2 teaspoons of a favorite oil - I used olive oil. Again you can add more or less, to taste.
  • Salt and pepper to taste - I only added a little black pepper, as canned and pickled ingredients have plent of salt for me.

Drain cans of chickpeas. Sometimes the liquid drains easily, but I've had cans were the liquid is like gravy, so you need to empty the can and rinse off the peas. Add them to a large bowl.

Add a teaspoon of chopped garlic, fresh or from the jar.

My jar of sweet red peppers sliced into strips, so I just cut the strips into smaller pieces. Some sweet peppers come in large halves, so you may need to do a little more chopping; but since the peppers are cooked and tender, that's easy enough to do.

Chop half an onion. I used a red onion for color and they are sweeter, but you can use any cheap white or yellow onion. I do a fairly fine chop. Add onion to peas, garlic and peppers.

Finally add a favorite oil and vinegar (or pepper marinade.) Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

I used 2 cans of chickpeas for this recipe but it's easy enough to halve and just use one can. And, of course, reduce the other ingredients by half.

If sweet red peppers are not on sale, it's okay to use almost any cheaply priced pickled veggies, like: mushrooms, olives, cauliflower, artichoke hearts, or a medley veggie mixture.

If you have any fresh herbs, then add a chopped teaspoonful.

My Chickpea & Sweet Red Pepper mixture is a tasty side dish, but can also add some of this protein to a leafy green salad.
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