Thursday, February 20, 2020

Mardi Gras Cuisine with The 99 Cent Chef

You are in for a movable feast during this Cajun holiday called Mardi Gras. The real partying starts this weekend and culminates on Fat Tuesday, February 25th, where everyone lines streets for the parades and floats with masked bead throwers. This is the time of year when New Orleans lets its freak flag fly -- all week long!

Click on any photo to see larger.

Mardi Gras is more than plastic beads and Kings Cake. So read on and watch my videos to see some delish Cajun recipes, plus I'll even give you a personal Po' Boy Sandwich Tour of New Orleans. So scroll on down.

Alright, let's get this party started! Walking the French Quarter in New Orleans, revelers carry drinks spiked with knee-buckling Everclear spirits. And I always make a stop at the local drive-thru New Orleans Original Daiquiris for a  boozy slushy beverage.

Yep, you heard right, that's the way we roll in Cajun country. Now don't worry, you don't drink and drive, just take it home and chill. If you think I'm pulling your leg, then check us out in the video below doing a Daiquiri drive-thru!

If buzzy spirits are too much for you, then settle down within view of the Mississippi River in New Orleans for a chickory-flavored cup of Joe and sugar-powdered beignets at world-famous Cafe du Monde. After the caffeine and sugar rush you will be ready to take in New Orleans and the outrageous French Quarter, just a few steps away.

lived in Gonzales, Louisiana during my high school daze. I didn't know what to expect when our family moved there from Texas. I did some wild stuff over the next four years and ate a lot of down-home Cajun cooking. The video below takes place in a local flea market, so check it out to get the flavor of the place.

Cajun Flea Market Eats - Video

I hitchhiked with my high school buddy Marvin to New Orleans for Mardi Gras during the school break. Back then it was all about grabbing a Po-boy Sandwich, listening to music, catching some beads thrown down by inebriated revelers perched behind French Quarter iron-wrought balconies and Mardi Gras parade floats and getting a good buzz (we were underage, so no booze, but we found other natural ways.)

Chef, Marvin & Dennis - high school buddies

We knew no fear and locals were friendly enough - even picking up a couple of hitchhiking long-haired teenagers like us. One memorable ride was in a hand-painted hippie Volkswagon van where the college-aged, tie-dye wearing driver, and cool chicks in tight bell-bottom jeans, on the backbench seat, passing around a doobie, before dropping us off in the city.

Looks like Red State Louisiana has agreed with Blue State California in legalizing marijuana for medical use. I guess we can all get along if there's a peace pipe to share.

I've kept in touch with my high school buddy Marvin and like to look him up when I land in New Orleans. Check out the video below to see how I (dinner) roll these days, when I tour the Crescent City in search of a delicious Po' Boy Sandwich with my high school bud - all the tasty details are in my original blog post here.

You will get a street-level experience of the Big Easy and the eccentric locals from my documentary short below.

New Orleans Po'  Boy Tour - Video

This year I met up with my long lost brother from another.....daddy, and he's known as the Swamp Chef! He showed up on Mom's doorstep one day and she welcomed him back into the family, and I must say he's a chip off the cypress tree block. He'd fit into a-rockin' Cajun ZZ Top lineup, but with a wooden stirring spoon instead of a guitar.

99 Cent Chef, Mom, and Swamp Chef

When the Swamp Chef shows up there is always a delicious celebration -- and this time it's a BBQ Sausage Po'Boy Party!! Here in Gonzales, Louisiana, it's all about the bread when making a Po'Boy, or as it's also known, a Poor Boy. Just watch the video below to see how the Swamp Chef grills locally made sausages by Ivderstine Farms Butchers and stuff them into a loaf of Reisling's French bread.

The Swamp Chef knows the lay of the land around here and he recommends all you Mardi Gras tourists who need a pitstop, to park here in Gonzales, Lousiana for a big lunch plate of Jambalaya. Just check out the Swamp Chef giving you the lowdown in the video below. And it's dirt cheap of course!

I know you are here for the recipes, too, and boy do I have a pirogue boatful. Between Mom and my Cajun line-cooking nephews, Matt and Zakk, I got that covered.

If you hang out in Louisiana for any amount of time you will inevitably eat spicy steamed mudbugs, crayfish, or as the locals call them, Crawfish. They are milder in seafood flavor than shrimp and are about the size of a small bay shrimp. If you've never had them then watch my video below to learn how to eat one.

It quickly becomes a party when I visit Gonzales, Louisiana to see my Cajun family. And this first recipe is made with a beer-flavored sauce. Warning, in the video we had to go through a Party Pack of Abita Beer to find just the right flavor!

My nephew Matt has been cooking for years now and has some major culinary skillz. I'll let him give you the low down on a Southern classic Shrimp and Grits video recipe (click here for recipe photos and text.)

Chef Matt's Shrimp & Grits - Video

The cheapest Cajun entree is Red Beans and Rice -- made by my Southern friend Miss Patti. She is a vegetarian with a menagerie of critters she keeps on her property just outside the city of New Orleans.

For real New Orleans-style Red Beans, you should use the brand of beans called Camellia. But if you can't find them, it's okay to use any cheap red kidney beans.

We always have a good time together and you will too watching us cook together. Recipe details are a click away, here.

Ms. Patti's Vegan Red Beans and Rice - Video

 Mom knows Cajun cuisine best. And she is here to share a few with you right now.

It's best to start at the beginning and here's the first recipe we did together, Mom's Jambalaya.

I make this recipe the most. Nothing to it: just brown chicken pieces and sausage with a whole chopped onion. Finally, add rice and water to make the best comfort food ever. Well this is my Mom's version of Jambalaya (click here to read all about it.)

 Mom's Jambalaya - Video

 Mom also makes a killer Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. The trick is all in the deep chocolate-colored roux - actually just flour that's slowly browned in oil.

I'll let Mom explain in the video below (the recipe text is here.)

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo - Video

Lately, when Mom makes hot and spicy Gumbo she adds a scoop of cool Cajun Potato Salad. Last time she was here in Los Angeles I got her to make some, and my cute niece Maranda dropped by to help. This recipe is a family affair you can check out below.

Mom's Cajun Potato Salad - Video

Next to Gumbo, a rich and creamy Étouffée made with local crawfish is another decadent stew. Check out local Chef Tony's take on Crawfish Étouffée.

My other line cooking nephew, Zakk, knows how to blacken fish the Cajun way. And boy does he do a skillful job at it, as my video below will attest. He also throws in a mind-blowing side of Sweet Potato Hash, and yes, it's loaded with bacon.

 Zakk's recipe gets everyone in on the action including his Mom and my Mom, who make noshing appearances. So do check out his delicious Cajun recipes below and click here for all the written details.

Zakk's Blackened Fish with Sweet Potato Hash - Video

The South's favorite nut, next to peanut, is the pecan. And my chef nephew Matt has the best Pecan Crusted Fish recipe this side of the Mississippi River. And he throws in a vegan Spinach Salad with a creamy Strawberry Vinaigrette. Now that's a mouthful.

Pecan Crusted Fish and Spinach Salad with a Strawberry Vinaigrette

My most outrageous Cajun recipe is an Alligator Po' Boy sandwich made by my nephew Chef Matt. They say alligator tastes like chicken -- to me, it is close to the texture of a pork chop and tastes somewhere between chicken and shrimp. Just check out the recipe video and make sure to watch all the way to the end, where the relatives go hog wild over the Alligator Po' Boy.

Alligator Po' Boy - Video

How low can one recipe go? Well, check out the Swamp Chef and nephew Chef Matt's Deep Fried Frog Legs...not for the faint of palate! This recipe goes from a swamp frog hunt to the deep fryer.

Frog Legs Recipe - Video

If you are not in New Orleans attending the glittery and debauched Mardi Gras festivities, you can still have a tasty good time - if you remember to bookmark this page and come back to make any of my Cajun Mardi Gras meals. So Laissez les bons temps rouler!

New Orleans Po' Boy Dining:
Short Stop Po-Boys - 119 Transcontinental Drive (near New Orleans Airport)
Metairie, Louisiana 70001
Phone: (504) 885-4572

Mother's Restaurant - 401 Poydras
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130

Phone: (504) 523-9656

Parasol's Bar and Restaurant - 2533 Constance Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Phone:(504) 302-1543

For a tasty local Los Angeles Po' Boy try The Gumbo Pot in the Mid-City located Farmer's Market. $11.55 for Shrimp or Oyster, and $11.75 for Mixed. For menu click here. Warning, the seafood Po' Boys have a sour bite because of inserted sliced lemon -- I usually take the slices out.

Another local food find for Cajun Cuisine is a restaurant and deli store called Little Jewel, in downtown LA's Chinatown. It's the real deal too. Listen in as you get all the tasty details in my special Restaurant Nocturne arty video below. (BTW, the chef/owner drops an F-bomb at 1:53 minutes.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Brown Cow Yogurt - Deal of the Day

My latest Deal of the Day is creamy deliciousness from Brown Cow yogurt makers.

I went for it and picked up a few small cartons just because it advertises "Cream Top" and I'm all about trying a rich-sounding yogurt. I generally go for light and low-fat yogurt, but since it showed up at my local 99c only Store for 50 cents each, what have I got to lose?

And I was not disappointed! The overall texture is like sour cream or pudding - a lot of yogurts have a more solid Jello texture. While the best part is a topping of cream with a light sour cream flavor. And Brown Cow yogurt has a buttery aftertaste. It's like you just licked a cool ice cream cone made with real milk cream!

Now you would not have this every day if you're dieting or watching your cholesterol levels, but as a once in a while treat Cream Top Brown Cow whole milk yogurt knocks it out of the park.

Now if you like sweet yogurt with fruit mixed in, this may be too bland. This is a very mild sour yogurt, very rich tasting and I liked it just that way.

I usually mix fresh fruit into my plain yogurt, like whole blueberries or sliced peaches, strawberries and kiwi. I find factory fruit added yogurt is too sweet with extra sugar and the fruit is often mushy and bland.  Just watch my video below as an easy and tasty example.

So how does Cream Top Brown Cow whole milk yogurt rate on my CheapSkate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best? I like it a whole bunch and so give it a perfect 9 !!

Be sure to pick up a few of these if they turn up on sale in your grocery, and to push Brown Cow over the moon add a few slices of fresh fruit, too!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Valentine's Day Recipes - Videos & Photo Story

Please sit down and have a glass of wine, and how about a tootsie massage? Kindly allow this Amorous Culinarian to hold your hand and guide you through a luscious menu of Valentine's Day Recipes.

Well, you are in the right place for a romantic read. If the following recipes look enticing to you then click on any name and you will be directed to my food blog recipe pages filled with tempting, tender prose, and pulse-quickening GIFs, photos, and video.

Let's set the mood with the most decadently sexy of confections, a Chocolate Covered Cherry. Here, I'll feed it to you, Mon'Amie....

Click on any photo or gif to see larger.

First up is a video of the Amorous Epicurean on the prowl for budget aphrodisiac ingredients to create a perfect romantic dinner date. Allow me to adjust your seat cushion -- there, lean back, and watch the show.

Shopping for a Romantic Recipe - VIDEO

You will want to start your romantic evening meal with an appetizer - a plump and pleasing Steamed Artichoke is the perfect dish to share with each other. Just swipe a steamed artichoke leaf into my creamy Ginger Mayo Dip and feed the tender petal end to your amour. Your appetite will surely build as you get to the delicately delicious artichoke heart. My Steamed Artichoke appetizer is just a tease.

Cooking & Eating an Artichoke - VIDEO

A lovely Pear and Spinach Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing looks good on the plate and will impress your true love with its lightness and fresh flavors.
And it's the perfect prelude to the main course.

I think Italian food is the sexiest of cuisines. Tender swirling ropes of pasta sliding through a rich creamy sauce will soften any hardened heart. Click on any recipe name below to see my luscious photos and read my tender prose.

There's nothing like a creamy warm egg yolk stoking the fires of desire, and the Flirty Chef's  Spaghetti alla Carbonara is the perfect mood-setter. With the first bite, your date will swoon with pleasure. Sprinkling crumbled bacon over the pasta is gilding the lily, but sometimes you need to go all the way!

In my Spaghetti alla Carbonara Video below I took a couple of cheap shortcuts. I used bacon bits, but you could substitute real bacon or kick it up a notch with sauteed pancetta. Also, freshly shaved parmesan cheese will be more pleasing than the dried brand I used.

And finally, I added a blended raw egg -- for a more romantic presentation, just gently place the egg yolk on a mound of steaming pasta.

Oh, is it time for another sweet confection? Of course, I have more, the apple of my eye...

Would you like another glass of wine before you watch my Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe video below? Oh, don't worry about driving - I'll call Uber for you.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe - VIDEO

There, wasn't that edifying? Staying on the creamy theme, I can also recommend my Fettuccine Alfredo.

It's pasta with butter and cream -- simple and direct. You could mix in some fresh steamed veggies like broccoli for color and crunch -- just see how easy it is to do by clicking here on my Veggies in Cream with Pasta.

For something lighter, lose the cream and serve my stripped-down pasta recipe of John Cassavetes Red Pepper, Olive Oil, and Garlic with Spaghetti. It's a spicy tongue-tingler any tough guy can knock out.

Of course, a Latin lover would challenge any Italian Casanova for Lotherio's scepter. And my Mexican Chicken Tinga spicy stew will send chills down the spine and tingle any lady all the way to her toes.

Chicken Tinga - VIDEO

What? Another? You really do have a sweet tooth, well I do too, I think we are two peas in a pod.  Let's share this one...

Your love will fall under a lusty voodoo spell after sipping a couple of my homemade rum and sugar cane Cuban Mojitos. And if you and your lover are nursing a hangover the next morning, I have a hangover cure: a bowl of Pozole. It's a rich red broth of hominy, chiles, and pork.
Cuban Mojito - VIDEO

Black and white, yin and yang -- all inhibitions will drop with the sweet and sour flavors of my vegan Cuban Black Beans served over White Rice.

If you want to channel your inner domestic goddess, then tie on the apron, get out the potholders, and bring in a hot casserole dish of my luscious Baked Pasta with Cauliflower & Cheese to the dining room table. Just check out the tempting short animated video below to see the yummy and gooey details.

Baked Pasta with Cauliflower & Cheese - VIDEO

I have a recipe that will get any Lady Godiva off her high horse. Let's get tough guy Stanley Kowalski, but with a mushy heart. My chef nephew's Shrimp and Grits will take your date on a one-way streetcar to desire. All aboard to check out the video below of two lunkheads hanging out and cooking.

Shrimp & Grits - VIDEO

A close second to the most sensuous of nibbling is a tender fish fillet on rice or Sushi. Raw seafood will quicken a lover's pulse, and if you chase the sushi down with a few warm cups of sake the temptation to stay the night may be overwhelming.

My Sushi recipes are quite easy to do when you follow my directions. I even have a recipe for those averse to raw fish, a California Roll (in the hay,) that's made with cooked fake krab, creamy avocado, and sliced cucumber. Seafood Rolls and Sushi are handheld bites meant to be shared with your true love.

California Roll -VIDEO

Hawaii is the destination for romancing the palate. Make your own romantic Hawaii-themed date night with my exotic Island classic: Lau Lau. It's a banana leaf-wrapped package of deliciousness.

Oh look honeybunch, I have one left. 

The aroma of slow roasting pork, Hawaiian-style will fill the kitchen and dining room, stoking the appetite of desire. Slowly unwrap the package of tender Lau Lau for your beloved. You won't need a Lei of plumeria flowers to steal a kiss when you serve my savory dish. So click here to see the luscious photos and easy-to-follow recipe text. And aloha to love.

Hawaiian-style Lau Lau

Of course, you can't have a romantic dinner date without the sweets. And I have a simply delicious deconstructed dessert that I call Mini-Banana Puddings.

It's the perfect finger food to woo your loved one. All you need is to lay out some vanilla wafers and stack with a spoonful of pudding and banana slices, finally topped with Hersey Chocolate Kiss. You could also drizzle on any sweet topping like chocolate syrup, caramel, and other favorite candy pieces or sprinkles.

Pssst...don't let your date see this next video. Slip in a Chocolate-Covered Cherry in your date's hand and a heart may melt. I got the confections at my local 99c only Store. Go ahead and watch my cheap$kate video review and see how a five-count box for 99.99 cents rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best.

Chocolate Covered Cherries - VIDEO

After a ravenous night, you will need a replenishing morning meal. And the Don Juan Gourmand's palate-pleasing Fried Egg on Breadcrumbs with Asparagus will satiate any food lover.

It looks good on the plate, but be sure to make plenty, as your sweetheart will ask for seconds!

Another morning after meal is my French-style Omelet. It's a labor of love that you may want to practice making a couple of times to get right. Like lovemaking, the more you do it the better you get! And I have all the right moves a click away.

Here are a few more romantic entrees you can try (just click on any name): Chef Zakk's Tuscan Primavera - Cajun StyleChicken Stroganoff, Julia Child's Crepes SuzetteBaked Chicken with GrapesShepherd's PiePortabella Crab RockefellerCoconut Crusted Fish & Mango SalsaPork BourguignonVegas Eggs BenedictFrench CassouletStuffed Poblano Chiles, and Roasted Mint Chicken.

My go-to confections purveyor is right down the street and it's old school to the max, See's Candies. And they hand out free samples...Wow!

Finally, it's 99 Shades of Cheap! Allow me to leave you with my most outrageous Valentine Day photo story called:

All items cost 99 cents.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 Oscar Party Recipes

And the Best Picture Oscar Entree goes to...YOU! Come and accept your award-winning chow and pass it around to your party guests so everyone has a taste of Oscar. Sit back and watch the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movie trailers below and my Oscar Entrees that are a feast for your eyes.

And click on any 2020 Best Picture Oscar Entree nominee name to be directed to the original blog post for all the award-winning recipe prose and cinematic culinary imagery.

My first Best Picture Oscar Entree nominee for 2020 is for "The IrishmanCorned Beef and Cabbage. I am a big fan of Martin Scorsese's gangster movies, but this one was torturous in length and I felt like I had been given a Mickey Finn by the time the end credits rolled. 

For a groaning buffet table of a movie, you'll at least enjoy watching Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino chew the scenery! And load up your plate on Oscar day with my appetite-crushing Irish classic Corned Beef and Cabbage.

My next Oscar-nominated entree, "Little Women" Blueberry Pancakes, is named for a budding group of young ladies flowering into adulthood. The lively March sisters return to the big screen in this raucous retelling and direction by Greta Gerwig of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Start your Oscar Party day with blushing blueberries sprinkled in an old school breakfast of toasty griddlecakes.

The satirical WWII flick JoJo Rabbit may be the most out-there Best Picture Entree nominee of the group. Even for this Outre Chef, a child obsessed with Hitler is a bridge too far.

However, I would give the flick a shot if the movie theater concession stand serves "JoJo Rabbit" Hot Dogs with Sauerkraut and a stein of beer!  

Hey did you hear the one about the orange-faced comb-over clown? Oh, wait, not the one in the White House, I mean the grimacing white-faced and green-haired Joker on the big screen. Hey, can't you take a joke? Well, that's the problem for Joker, society doesn't get him and he makes everyone suffer for it. 

My toothsome Oscar Entree Nominee, "JokerGreen Split Pea Soup with Ham, is no laughing matter! 

Parasite by Korean director Bong Joon-ho is giving America a societal wakeup call. I saw it and recommend you do too, on the big screen or small. In this timely story, the have-nots move in on the haves and turn the tables. 

With such pungent storytelling, you need an intense Oscar Entree and my "Parasite" Korean BBQ Chicken marinated in garlic, ginger and brown sugar will have your Oscar Party guests eating out of your hands!

Best Oscar Entree nominee "Marriage StoryCalifornia Roll, is a poignant and gripping drama of a marriage on the rocks. With just 6 nominations it's the one to beat.

The movie takes place in NYC and Los Angeles. So my West Coast rolled sushi entree is as deliciously layered as the filmmaking. Showy cucumber, scene-stealing avocado, and understudy krab with rice are wrapped in a layer of umami-rich seaweed.

All is not quiet on the Western Front in my next Best Oscar Entree nominee, "1917" Shepherd's Pie. The WWI war movie follows two British soldiers on a sprint across enemy lines delivering a message to save hundreds of fellow doughboys. 

These soldiers deserve a Victoria Cross but I bet they would gladly settle for a meal that only Mum can make, a hearty ground beef stew topped with whipped mashed potatoes!

Pulp culture auteur Quentin Tarantino is back in my Best Oscar Entree race with "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood" Turkey Leg Carnitas

Tarantino has his cake and eats it too in this fruitcake blending of fact and fiction taking place in 1969 Hollywood. He hits all the hot spots big and small, from plush red booths at the Musso Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard to table 5 at Casa Vega on Ventura Boulevard. I'm not sure if Turkey Leg Carnitas are on the menu at Mexican restaurant Casa Vega, but they should be!

And roaring through the fish line is the Oscar Entree nominee "Ford v Ferrari" Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Bacon Bits. This race track rivalry between carmakers American Ford and Italian Ferrari is built for speed.

If you can't make it to the movie screen for this action-packed tour de force drag race then take a pit stop in your own TV room and slurp up yolk-coated strands of pasta studded with bacon bits -- on a checked table cloth covering your dinner tray of course!

Do try out any of my Oscar Party Entrees - you're sure to get a Standing O. So have your acceptance speech ready because the golden statuette for Best Entree at an Oscar Party belongs to you, the host with the most.

And I'll leave you with a video I made a while ago, when the Academy of Motion Pictures had an Oscar exhibit, along with a podium with a real Oscar. All you had to do was stand in line and take a picture with it -- well you can be sure I showed up for that! Just check out the video below:

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