Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Best 4th of July Recipes

🇺🇸 This holiday is smokin' at Cheapskate HQ for the 4th of July, and that includes getting out the BBQ grill for a backyard blowout. So read on as I light up the sky with recipes, selected especially for Independence Day dining. Just click on any recipe name below and you'll be directed to my original blog post of eats illustrated with yummy photos and tasty text.

Smoking Pastrami

Lets start with the main meat course. This Chintzy Chef 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! I 21-gun salute ethnic groceries...fire!

Use your favorite BBQ sauce for a traditional redwhite and blue backyard poultry broiling. 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 my favorite. I boil the ribs until tender (you can also wrap them in foil and oven roast) then throw them on the gas grill for an hour of smoking. This is a tasty shortcut to using traditional all-day smokers. My blogpost shows you how to smoke pork ribs 2 ways.

A Classic Potato Salad is my cool preferred side dish for grilled protein. I use a whole lotta mayo and boiled eggs, but it's easily vegan by leaving out eggs and using a tasty mayo substitute.

During BBQ offseason on cold winter days when I'm hunkered down in my bunker, like George Washington at Valley Forge, I Easy Bake Spare Ribs until the porcine flesh surrenders moist and tender. If you don't like smoke in your eyes then this is a great way to go.

What makes America great is our mosaic of cultures, so why not get multi-culti and try my recipe for a Thai-style Chicken Satay with a Peanut Dipping Sauce. The Japanese version of grilled Shish Kabobs is called Yakatori. And Japanese chefs like to grill it all, even chicken livers. If that is too pungent for you it's okay to substitute liver with pieces of regular 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 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 grilled boneless and skinless dark meat leg quarters.

Beef hamburger is just too darn expensive for the Tightwad Cuisinier. But fortunately, Dollar Tree comes to the rescue with two quarter-pound patties for a buck!

I stuff my crumb-catcher with grilled hamburger slathered in BBQ sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and melty cheese.

You can't go wrong with grilled hot dogs, and I have a couple of unusual recipes I think you will enjoy (it's easy enough to substitute hot dogs with your favorite specialty sausages - if you're the artisan type).

Here in Los Angeles, we have a uniquely constructed wiener sold by sidewalk purveyors called the L.A. Street Dog. It's a crazy 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 easy to make, so give it a go - it makes a great appetizer served with toothpicks.


Another Eastern European entree is made with grilled Sausages, Sauerkraut and Beer. Now that's a combination I can get behind! Again, I cooked this dish on a stovetop but you can cook the sausages over an open fire for extra charred flavor and finish with a bath of beer and sauerkraut.

I like plain hot dogs with just relish and mustard. To add some veggie crunch, try my bastardized version of a Chicago Dog. I can't get dayglow 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. Check out my wacky video below, where my Chicago Dog is the punchline.

Hamburger is a backyard grill favorite and I have a South of the Border spin with my Mexi-Turkey Burger. It packs a lot of flavor with the namesake 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.

Attention all you lovers of smoked pork, the following entree will have you asking for seconds and thirds. I like to smoke a whole pork shoulder when I throw a patio 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 photos 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.  This version is a less oily gringo version, that what's served at a taco truck, but I add citrus juices and Mexican Cola for extra flavor.

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 anyway. You can always give it a quick smoke pass to kick it up a notch. It really is the perfect party food because you sit back and let your friends build each taco their way. Go to the following blog post to see some tasty Homemade Salsas to serve with any tacos you like to make.

Carnitas Taco

And pork is still cheap these days, especially when it comes on sale at my local Latin market, Superior Grocers. 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, but when I splurge it's for ribeye steak. I just season it with salt and pepper, that's it. Sometimes I'll finish it 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 done, chop the meat for Carne Asada Tacos or a Warm Steak Salad.

Carne Asada Marinade

Whew, I'm beat. Man, that's a lot of recipes...time for some Red, White, and Brew!

And, long may it pour.

If you are smoking meat, then throw on a slab of corned beef brisket for Homemade Pastrami. I always freeze 2 or 3 corned beef briskets when they are less than 2 dollars per pound during St. Patrick's day/week sales during the month of March.

My Smoked Homemade Pastrami recipe is tasty as any Jewish Deli version - so says everyone I've served it too. 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 all the high fives sure to come your way!

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

Blackened Fish with Sweet Potato Hash

My Cajun nephew Zakk has put in his time as a line cook, and he gave me a Top Chef performance in his recipe video for Blackened Fish with Sweet Potato Hash. While he does his sauteing in the kitchen, you can grill the fish over an open flame, instead of the stovetop.

Gonzales, Louisiana local market 4th of July grocery flyer with great cheap deals.

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 it's "Viva Revolution!" with my Cuban Black Beans recipe.

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

My Mom once took over my cheap$kate kitchen and set off a flavor M80 bomb: Cajun Potato Salad. It was so good I had to make a video to share her recipe with you.

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, the following recipes are for you. My sister Denise has a fav 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 or 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, and boy do I have the recipe cherry (tomato) flavor bombs to prove it. You can simply drizzle a little olive oil and season any fave summer veggie to grill over an open flame.

 Braised Romain Heart

A new favorite veggie to grill is Sweet Potatoes and Yams. They are the cherry bomb of tubers. Grill until soft and sweet with an extra charred flavor. I like to slice them thick to get a creamy soft interior.

Now you do have to watch closely as the high sugar content will cause them to burn easily. But a little blackening is just extra flavor!

Russet and Sweet Potatoes

Click on any recipe name to get my recipe details for Russet and Sweet PotatoesYamsGrilled 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.

Pack my classic ChickenTuna, or Egg Salad for a holiday picnic and watch fireworks from the comfort of your lawn chairs.

The kernels pop with flavor, like a string of firecrackers, when you work your way around an ear of my Boiled Corn. And it goes with any type of picnic you pack. Click here to see how I do it.

While your guests await the main event, get them started with sparkling light salads such as a refreshing Watermelon, Mango and Spinachhearty Black Bean & Corn, and 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.

And great grocery deals are happening this week, too. Steak, hamburger, chicken, corn, watermelon and hamburger buns are all on sale right now. Be sure to check out your local grocery fliers for all the holiday deals.

Independence Day is fast approaching, so create your own 4th of July menu using any of the Patriotic Chef's recipes above. I guarantee your guest will need to chase down the flavorful culinary fireworks you serve with iced tea and a lemon slice, a glass of chilled Chardonnay, or a frosty bottle of beer. Pop a cork and bring it on!

Monday, June 18, 2018

English Muffin Sandwich - Deal of the Day Review

McDonald's Egg McMuffin may be sweating cheesy bullets because Weight Watchers Smart Ones English Muffin Sandwich are showing up in my local 99c only Stores. Especially when McMuffins are in the $3 dollar range, and you get 2 Smart Ones sandwiches for 99.99 cents!

Of course, Weight Watchers have to deliver in flavor to detour a Mickey D's customer to this frozen Deal of the Day breakfast sammie.

First, the cheese is an American processed type and that is okay with me. It is a small looking square, but  is enough to melt nicely into the English muffin crevices.

Do be careful with your first bite, as the cheese can microwave molten lava-hot. Melty cheese with egg is a perfect combination.

Egg puck heats up perfectly. It keeps a scrambled egg texture - a little more solid, but still moist and fluffy. The egg is well mixed and a bright yellow. It's a thin puck, but enough to fill the English muffin.

I do prefer McDonald's McMuffin blended egg, where you can see the white is not totally mixed into the yolk, so there is a strong yolk taste that contrasts with milder egg white.

When you remove the sandwiches from the plastic wrapper, make sure to shake out any ice crystals that may have formed in the bag, or you will have damp spots on the English muffin.

Microwave instructions direct you to heat for a minute, 20 seconds. I did one minute and that was enough. I would start at one minute, then add 10 or 15 second increments so you don't turn the cheese into a watery paste.

Do watch as the sandwich heats up because the melted cheese is slippery and the English muffin will slide off and leave a cheesy mess on the microwave oven plate.

Click on any photo to see larger.

The English muffins are an Achilles' heel of this cheap$kate Deal of the Day. Microwaving bread is always a problem. The texture becomes mushy with strange chewy bits. I mean, it taste fine like typically baked sourdough and it has all the nooks and crannies.

Maybe the solution is to microwave the egg puck separately; reheat the English muffins in a toaster; and place the room temperature cheese slice between the hot egg and toasted bread. Oh, in most cases I probably won't do this, but sometimes?

What is nice about having the McDonald's-style McMuffin at home is you can add whatever you like. Me, I go for a thick tomato slice and mayo.

I am not wise in the ways of Weight Watchers, but I assume this is a low-calorie meal, that is, if you just eat one English Muffin Sandwich. One sandwich was enough for me when I added tomato. It is easy to have just one as each sandwich is wrapped separately.

The ingredient list is a little long, when you add in the processed cheese. But overall not unusual for frozen fare.

Since this sandwich is only cheese, egg and bread, it's a lighter meal, compared to an Egg McMuffin with Canadian bacon or sausage. And it quickly microwaves, and travels well on the road to work, if you are in a rush in the morning.

So how does Weight Watchers Smart Ones English Muffin Sandwich Deal of the Day rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best? Well, I give this tasty breakfast sandwich a strong 7.

If you don't have time to wait in the drive-thru line at McDonald's in the morning, my latest Deal of the Day may satisfy your Egg McMuffin urge.

As a bonus to my visitors, here is my Homemade Egg McMuffin, with easy to follow directions, so you can make your own one day?

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