Sunday, May 28, 2017

National Hamburger Day - Recipes

Bow down to the mighty Hamburger, for today is National Hamburger Day, and this cheap$kate has a platter of tasty ground protein between buns to share with you. Click on any recipe name below to see the complete recipe details.

First up is a Roasted Green Chile Pepper Burger. If you are from New Mexico then grilled chiles are a normal topping for burgers. Just throw a few chiles on the BBQ grill when you slap on a burger patty. When chiles are charred they are ready to eat. All you need to do is choose a chile your taste buds can handle because some are spicy and some are barely not.  

Vegetarians will line up at the grill for my Portabella Mushroom & Bell Pepper Cheeseburger. Cover all the bases with a thick meaty portabella mushroom grilling on one side of your BBQ grill, and a beef or bison ground patty on the other side. Make sure to use different grilling utensils and plates so your vegan friends won't get grossed out, right? You know the rules. And use a cheese substitute (or just forget the cheese) to make my burger totally vegan.

Forget about doing a time consuming veggie mix - might as well go the simplest route with a bun-size grilled portabella mushroom.

While we are on the subject, my sister Denise has a go-to veggie burger she makes with eggplant. Denise visited me in the cheap$kate cocina and showed me how she does it. I even got her to go shopping with me at my local 99c only Store for all the ingredients. Do check out Denise's Eggplant Veggie Burger video below.

Is a Sloppy Joe considered a burger? Well, it is ground meat reshaped into a meaty pasta-like sauce, that goes between 2 hamburger buns - so I vote it in. For my cheap$kate version I use ground poultry, but you can go with traditional ground beef. My video version is right here:

I always see 5 ounce cans of salmon at my local 99c only Store. With one can you can make a couple of Salmon Burgers - now that is a great deal. You can make this seafood burger your own by mixing in any grilled and chopped veggies you like. I use an egg to bind and hold it all together. And for extra credit I throw in a Ginger Mayo Aioli to top the Salmon Burger.

A Patty Melt is as close to a cheeseburger as you can get, without calling it one. What sets it apart is the addition of caramelized onions and using slices of bread, instead of hamburger buns. Melty American cheese and caramelized onion belong together. Watch how it all comes together in my video below.

We all have burgers on the brain during the summer months and I am happy to gift you some delish recipes to get your synapses of flavor firing.

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

๐ŸŒน Mother's Day Recipe Videos - 82 & Still Cooking ๐Ÿ’–

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

Just out of the video below, Mom will take you through 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 - Mexican & French 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 is a Fried Feud: Tacos Baja Fried 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.

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 War of the 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 grรขce with your favorite salsa, either fresh (simple recipe click here) 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.
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