Monday, May 27, 2019

Oprah Pepperoni Pizza - Cheap$kate Review Video

I practically had a heart attack when I saw full-sized Pepperoni Pizza by Oprah Winfrey in my local 99c only Store. So I picked up 3 packages, I think you've done it too!

Well, something had to be wrong for them to end up here right? Not really as regular markets sometime over-order food items and they end up in discount store frozen food bins, like the 99c only Stores. Click here for a simple explanation from the horse's mouth, I mean 99c only Store corporate link.

And I've learned you have to shop impulsively there because when I went back a few days later  Oprah That's Good Pepperoni Pizzas were gone. But a week later Oprah That's Good Broccoli Cheddar Soup was in the cold deli case, so score again! (I'll have a video review of  Broccoli Cheddar Soup  next month.)

So on to my Cheap$kate Dining Review of Oprah That's Good Pepperoni Pizza. First off this is a great Deal of the Day, -- a full-size foot wide pepperoni pizza that weight a pound and a half for 99.99 cents? How can it not be? But there are a couple of minor problems here.

Ready for the oven.

Looking at the package description the first warning sign was "low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese" and "1/3 of pizza crust is made of cauliflower." Hmmmm....

Click on any photo to see larger.

A "diet pizza" is an oxymoron and an already disadvantage. It's a no-win for any purveyor, even Oprah!

But if you put enough cheese then the problem is minimized. So Oprah, add more cheese to your pizzas!

I do have a solution and that is a small 3-ounce package of diet mozzarella from my local Dollar Tree! Add the whole package and you will have those satisfactory strands of melty, stringy, cheese connective tissue when you pull apart a molten pizza slice.

Cauliflower pizza crust ended up not being a problem after all. I could not taste any difference between regular pizza crusts I've tried. And the texture was still bready with crispy crust edges. Whew, I was worried about that veggie addition.

This is a hybrid crust though, half deep-dish and half not. I mean it is a thick bread crust. I guess it's a nod to Oprah's hometown and their namesake, the Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza.

I prefer thin-crust in general but have enjoyed deep-dish as well. But this version did not have enough tomato sauce and cheese to be a true deep-dish. The tomato sauce was flavorful with Italian herbs and seasonings, I just wanted more of it.

The pepperonis were plentiful and tasty. The package mentioned uncured, but I could not tell any discernable difference from regular cured types.

When you get any food with Oprah's name it's bound to be nutritious and low fat. Here are the numbers on the package.

Click on photos to see larger.

Overall this was a good pizza. One other change is to shave off a few minutes from the cooking time. It is easy to overcook this pizza so the cheese hardens and the crust is too brittle. The package directions call for 400 degrees and 20 minutes of baking. I would just reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Since the crust is partially cooked you just need to melt the cheese and heat the crust though.

So, what does Oprah That's Good Pepperoni Pizza rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best? Well, you will have to watch the video review below to see the rating. Click on the play button and dig in!

Oprah Pepperoni Pizza Review - Video

Play it here. The video runs 1 minute, 53 seconds.

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

And finally, if you see any more Oprah's That's Good food fare in the discount bin, get a basketful, as they are sure to be a great Deal of the Day!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Color Purple - Jacaranda & Eggplant Hummus

Emblematic to L.A. is its grand boulevards lined with palm trees. This month a purple upstart enters the scene -- the blossoming Jacaranda Tree. Stand under its branches at full bloom and the perfume is overwhelming.

May is the month that launches millions of blossoms carpeting large swaths of sidewalk; drive along 6th Street near LACMA and it's blue for blocks. 

To keep the purple theme going I add cooked purple eggplant to a Hummus recipe. I have found roasted eggplant in oil at my local 99c only Store.

But you can roast or saute a fresh eggplant, too. Just click here to see how I do it.

Click on any photo to see larger.

My Hummus recipe is made with easy to get ingredients. I use sesame seeds instead of hard to find tahini, which is similar to peanut butter, just blander.

And cans of cooked garbanzo beans are cheap at any grocery store. Also add a little lemon juice, ground cumin, and olive oil.

It all comes together easily in a blender or food processor, just blend until creamy.

I like to serve Eggplant Hummus with triangles of pita bread. You can use a favorite cracker or fresh chopped veggies like celery, broccoli or carrot.

So watch my meditative recipe video below, to get things started I give you a tour of some favorite jacaranda tree and blossom sightings in Los Angeles then the recipe follows.

Eggplant Hummus & Jacaranda Blossoms - Video

Play it here. The video runs 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

To view or embed video from youtube click here.

  • 1 small jar marinated grilled eggplant - Okay to use fresh baked or sauteed eggplant.
  • 1 can garbanzo beans - 16 ounces, drained.
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds - or 2 tablespoons of tahini.
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice - fresh or concentrate from a 99 cent plastic lemon.
  • Pita bread slices - or favorite sliced raw veggies.
Drain can of garbanzo beans.

Add all ingredients (including oil from marinated eggplant) to blender or food processor and blend for 20 to 30 seconds until hummus is creamy.

Serve with sliced pita bread triangles and/or fresh chopped veggies (carrots, celery, red/yellow bell pepper, etc.) 99c only Stores also sell roasted red bell pepper in a jar, so try that sometime instead of eggplant.

If your local 99 cent or dollar store is out of bottled roasted veggies make a plain one with the above-mentioned ingredients and the addition of a 1/4 cup of 99 cent olive oil blend.

I use sesame seeds in this Hummus recipe. Usually, a paste called tahini is used, if you can find it then use it - about a tablespoon or two. Tahani tastes like bland peanut butter, so if you can't find sesame seeds or tahini then add a teaspoon of peanut butter.

I also have a recipe for Baba Gnoush that uses roasted eggplant. Just click here if you want to use fresh roasted eggplant, or if you can't find cheap marinated eggplant in oil. One eggplant should be plenty for this recipe. Eggplants are sometimes sold large-sized, but they shrink a lot when baked or sauteed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Louisiana Vacation - Photos & Video

It's always a good time when I fly into Louisiana and visit my Cajun family.

As soon as I get to Mom's, our first Cajun meal is usually fried seafood like catfish, green beans and loaded potato salad from Cajun Catch in Gonzales, Louisiana.

Click on any photo to see larger. 

Along with a bag of Zapp's Potato Chips. They have almost have a dozen flavors now. My latest fave is Cajun Dill Gator-Tators, followed by Voodoo Heat...oh boy!

There's the usual cast of characters who swing by Mom's house including sisters Denise and Brenda, various nieces and nephews and I can't forget my high school buddy Marvin, plus the latest addition to the family, the Swamp Chef.

Speaking of a sibling born on the bayou, for the first adventure the Swamp Chef tagged along to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo with the kids of my niece Candyse and nephews Jason and Matt. Audubon Zoo is very kid and granny friendly with small cho-cho train rides and benches at every animal exhibit.

Kade with peacock

Adalyn & Ava

Lunch Break: Miles, Swampy, Adalyn & Kade.

The Swamp Chef's never meet an alligator he couldn't tame!

The next day my high school buddy Marvin swung by and took Swampy & I to his house and barn at his lake in nearby Mississippi, barely a couple hours drive along backroads.

Of course, we stopped along the way for a few photo ops.

In Prairieville, Louisiana we stopped at Hole N' Da Wall Seafood, where you can buy 30 to 40 pound bags of live crawfish for a backyard Crawfish Boil. Normally you factor about 10 pounds of crawfish per person to consume -- you only eat crawfish tail meat. Click here to see a video of how I eat a crawfish.

They say if a boiled crawfish has a straight tail, don't eat! Something about bacteria that can't be eliminated once shellfish dies and sets around too long.

Once we got to Mississippi, Marvin insisted we have lunch at a local dining destination called The Dinner Bell located in the small town of McComb. 

And boy did it ring my bell! It's a lunch-only restaurant with the most unusual tables that are giant lazy susans, seating about a dozen diners per table. You just spin the table and reach for the most heavenly Southern-style veggies, and divine fried chicken, catfish and eggplant.

Next stop was Camp Hawleywood, Marvin's lakeside home. It's quite the spread, big enough to handle his extended family including grandkids.

With a stocked pond loaded with bass and it didn't take long for the Swamp Chef to get his plastic worm wet!

It was a chill way to spend the day -- drinking a couple beers and fishing -- now that's a vacation.

But it's mainly about hanging out with Mom and doing small chores: changing light bulbs, mowing the lawn, and after several attempts, fixing her washing machine.

Oh, and doing my food blogging and video making while babysitting Ava, my niece's 5-year-old. And there are always more drop-ins and home cooking.

I guess the plate above says it all about my family these days:Texas Toast, Denise's Slaw and Cajun Crawfish Etouffee, Brenda's Vegan Mexican-style Pinto Beans -- that is, Texans, eat-anything-Cajuns, Vegans, and Mexican half-breeds. 

 Sisters Denise & Brenda

Nephews Jason & Zak

Mom & Candyse

Zak at skatepark

My nieces Candyse and Maranda are always on the go, so it's nice when they drop by.

Maranda & Candyse 

Yoga with Candyse & Ava

And no vacation's complete without coming up with a recipe video. Swamp Chef Cajun Nachos anyone?

Here's a sneak peek of the recipe video intro, "Chef Zak Meets The Swamp Chef"...there's more to come!

My friend Marvin came through again by taking me to New Orleans Airport for my flight back to Los Angeles. Since it was approaching rush hour we took the old Airline Highway, instead of the 10 Interstate freeway - and I'm glad we did! On the way, we stopped at the Zapp's Potato Chips factory and for a final meal at Port Side Restaurant. What a way to go!

99 thanks to all my Cajun family and friends!

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