Monday, September 28, 2020

National Coffee Day ☕️ & 🍩

 Wake up and smell the coffee, it's National Coffee Day on September 29. Google this day and see what specials your local coffee houses are offering.

At my first job out of high school I drank my coffee black. Now I like milk and real sugar in my morning coffee.

I used to drink coffee at night when first I moved to Los Angeles, mainly to stay awake during my night classes in film and television, after my 9 to 5 job. Now no more coffee at night as it interferes with my beauty sleep.

In my 20's I added boiling water to a cup of freeze-dried coffee from the jar, but now I go for ground coffee in a vacuum-sealed can from Ralph's grocery store. Sometimes I spring for fresh ground from beans carried at our local Trader Joe's grocery market. My girlfriend prefers Whole Foods coffee beans so I go with her selections these days -- as you can see I can handle any type of coffee, from 7-Eleven crusty pot flavor to a Starbucks frothy cappuccino!

One of my favorite song lyrics is from Carly Simons's top 40 hit "You're so Vain" and it goes: "I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee..."

And this Budget Barista likes coffee as much today as ever, especially when a free donut is offered on this auspicious day by Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. And they are introducing a coffee-glazed donut. and donut-flavored coffee -- too much of a good thing is right up my alley.

I like their plain glazed donuts the best. Other donut stores carry fancier and extravagant ones, but for the price, Krispy Kreme is my go-to donut.

Orchid Donut by DK's Donuts in Santa Monica, California.

So on National Coffee Day, whether it's cloudy or sunny, get a steaming cup -- however you like it!

Click on the above image to play my coffee for breakfast video.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Blueberry Pancakes - Video Recipe

 This is a flashback recipe. One of the first recipes on this food blog was a Blueberry Pancake. Click here to see my cheap consumer camera photos and primitive recipe layout and text. It's the same recipe from 2007 and it's just as delish. This is my stop-motion video version.

I've been making pancakes with fresh fruit forever now and blueberries are so easy to get and cheap these days. I get mine from the 99c only Store

Blueberries are ready to go, just a quick rinse and put them right on a lightly oiled hot griddle or pan -- no peeling or seeds to remove. Finally, pour on the pancake batter and cook until browned on both sides.

You can use frozen blueberries if you like. Defrosted they tend to be mushy so you can add them right into pancake batter. 

For the pancake batter, I use a commercial brand. If you have a homemade recipe then use it. I can get a large box of dry pancake mix at my local 99c only Store or Dollar Tree. Regular grocery stores sell it cheap enough, too.

Start your day right, with my quick and easy cheap$kate breakfast of Blueberry Pancakes.

Blueberry Pancakes - Video

Play it here, video runs 1 minute, 32 seconds.

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

Ingredients (2 servings, using a pancake mix)
  • 1 cup pancake mix - any favorite
  • 3/4 cup water - okay to use milk for a richer pancake batter.
  • 1/4 cup blueberries - add as many blueberries as you like per pancake, about a dozen or so.
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil - to grease skillet. Add more when needed, depending on how many pancakes you make.
  • Butter and your favorite pancake syrup - add as much as you like.

Prepare pancake batter according to package directions. My pancake mix calls for 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water.

Mix pancake ingredients in a bowl. When mixed it will be like thick country gravy.

(If you are using frozen blueberries it's okay to add right to the batter. Defrosted or not, as they will warm up during pancake cooking.)

Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or griddle. Heat the pan over medium heat.

Rinse fresh blueberries and arrange on a hot pan or griddle. Add as many as you like, depending on the size of each pancake.

Brown pancakes 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on pan heat. When you see air pockets then check the bottom of the pancake to see how it's browning.

The instant box of pancake directions mentions cooking time to brown each side as 1.5 minutes each....hmmm, they must be using a super hot pan! Best to just check pancake for color as you go.

If you want a dark brown pancake presentation, then cook one side to get the right amount of brown, then cook the other side for a minute, to finish. Serve browned side up, on the plate.

I serve it hot with melted butter and my favorite pancake syrup. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My High School Diet 8 During Coronavirus

Pop-Tarts and Tacos are on the menu of my latest High School Diet series. 

This is the eighth free meal I picked up from my local high school and it hits all the sweet spots, especially if you are a student. Hey, even an old-timer like me had a pretty tasty flashback experience inserting a couple of strawberry flavored Pop-Tarts into the toaster, and it's pretty hard to mess up a Beef and 2 Cheese Taco.

And since when did Goldfish Crackers become healthy? I guess listing whole wheat as an ingredient gives junk food a passing grade! 

For this new Food Series, I gave myself the assignment to find out what High School kids are being fed during Covid-19. We here in Los Angeles care about the nutrition needs of young people.

I'll be sharing a different Breakfast and Lunch meal every few days. I think you'll be as surprised as I am of the good, the bad, and the ugly...oh boy.

These meals are Grab & Go from my local High School. I'm sure regular school cafeteria fare is different (better?) than the ones I am getting carryout at the drive-thru lane. You can click here to see the first meal I had at my neighborhood Grab & Go.

The GIF above is a Grab & Go walk up at Susan Miller Dorsey High School. 

There seem to be plenty of meal bags laid out on the tables and once I asked if they ever run out and the attendant replied emphatically "Never!"

Breakfast: Pop-Tarts, Apple, Orange and Milk

It's been quite a while since I had Pop-Tarts, and boy do they hold up as a cheap breakfast pastry. Since I tried Pop-Tarts again I've purchased off-brand ones called  Toast 'em from my local Dollar Tree and 99c only Store. While not officially Pop-Tarts, they are close enough.

You get 2 Pop-Tarts in a package. They are a bit smaller than a slice of toast. And the best way to heat them up is in a toaster, of course.

 Pop-Tarts were filled with strawberry jam. The thin smear of fruity filling is quite tasty if a bit over-sweet like typical grocery shelf fruit jam. It works with the soft cookie-like pastry. 

And there is that hard sugar frosting shell on top that softens when toasted. It's super sweet of course, just the way I remember them. When Pop-Tarts originally appeared on grocery selves in 1964, and we first had them it was a memorable day, indeed. They were a favorite at my breakfast table, and so convenient for late-running student sleepy-heads.

They used to be pure sugar and white flour, but now it's whole wheat flour and sugar.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Fresh fruit is needed after these sugary pastries. The school supplied apple and orange does the trick

Lunch: Beef and 2 Cheese Taco, Carrots, Goldfish Crackers, Apple, and Milk (always Milk.)

Let's dive into my High School Lunch bag and start with an appetizer of Goldfish Crackers. Can't say I've ever had many Goldfish Crackers before, I guess I missed that boat, but I could learn to like them after trying a bag. 

They are salty like a regular cracker, but with cheddar cheese as extra flavor. I can see how kids could become addicted to them.

I've seen different flavors of Goldfish in my local Dollar Tree, too. 

I do play with my food and Goldfish Crackers are another product in need of a personality like The Lego Movie.

Included in my High School Lunch is a small bag of baby carrots. Peeled and bite-sized they are a welcome raw veggie addition. No need to describe them, right? 

For the main course, the following high school Mexican treat is a Frankenstein Taco, halfway between a Jack-n-Box and  Taco Bell taco. But don't get me wrong, I actually liked it better than the Jack-n-Box two tacos for 99 cents. 

There is more cheese than ground meat. Again with no label, I could not tell if the meat is beef or fowl or a soy/meat mixture...hmmm

The corn tortilla is a swimming pool of molten cheese when microwaved. Cheese tastes of mild Jack cheese with a sprinkling of yellow cheese (American?) Since there is no ingredients label I am guessing specifically what's in the Beef and 2 Cheese Taco. 

The ground meat is mushy more than chunky. I couldn't tell what kind of meat it was. The seasoning has a welcome, but mild, chili flavor - this is a taco meant to please all palates. 

The tortilla is not a typical one, it seems like a rough cornmeal blend, it doesn't quite work like the corn tortillas you would normally get at a grocery or taco truck. But I can see how unformed palates would be okay with it, as it's really not bad, just inauthentic.

The Beef and 2 Cheese Taco reminded me of a Jack-n-box version with the mystery meat and off tortilla texture. Although I thought it better than Jack's.

 If you want to see what I really think of Jack-n-box tacos just watch my 99 Cent Chef Cheap$kate Dining Review below.

For reviews or info about the purveyors of these food items you can check out Fooducatejust enter a product food name and see what pops up about it:

And you can learn about Los Angeles Unified School District's Cafe LA (which supplies a lot of the packaged food) here:

And do check back for more of my latest food series High School Meals.
 Be safe & keep your distance!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Mediterranean-Style Chicken Bowl - Deal of the Day Review

An almost overwhelming mashup of intense flavors makes my latest Deal of the Day a tasty one.SMARTMADE Mediterranean-Style Chicken Bowl by Smart Ones is a loaded with flavor. 

And I have to give it up to my local 99c only Store for this tasty budget frozen bowl. And it's quick to microwave.

Frozen and Zapped

At first bite, you are hit with sour notes of white feta cheese nuggets. But tiny bland grain pearls of quinoa cut the feta cheese intensity. And the quinoa pearls are cooked just right -- I liked you could feel the pleasing texture.

There are a lot of veggies too, including dried tomato, red bell pepper, chickpeas, onion, and artichoke. Most of the veggies are a bit too pulverized, except for whole chickpeas.

The chickpeas are a welcome addition and I liked that they were large and not overcooked to mushiness. 

 I would have liked larger shreds of kale, slivers of red bell pepper, and chunks of artichoke. While hard to distinguish, those veggie pieces make a tasty blend.

A light sauce is flavored with tomato, it's intense due to fire-roasted tomato, but not overpowering.

Real strips of chicken breast are included, and I counted about 3 to 4 chunks. While not a generous portion, it was enough for a small meal. The chicken breast pieces were cooked just right, not too tough or overcooked.

I like meals by Smart Ones even if they are on the small size at 9 ounces, but they more than make that up for that shortcoming in deliciousness. It's still a great deal even if you have to pay full price at a regular grocery store.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Well, I think you can figure out how SMARTMADE Mediterranean-Style Chicken Bowl by Smart Ones rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best. While small in serving size this Deal of the Day is big on flavors, so it scores a perfect 9 !

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Labor Day Grillin' - Holiday Recipes

 Labor Day is a day of rest for us working nine-to-fivers, yeah right! Well don't sweat it, I'll do the heavy lifting with a wheelbarrow full of tasty recipes for you to choose from. And this Penny Pinching Proletarian has all the photo-illustrated cooking instructions laid out for my visiting toilers, with some videos sprinkled in for no extra charge.

Smoking Pastrami

For this final summer holiday here at the Institute of Penny Pinching, I'm getting out the BBQ grill for a backyard blowout. So read on and click on any recipe name below and you'll be directed to my original blog post recipe page of eats, illustrated with yummy photos.

Let's start with the main meat course. This Chintzy Hash Slinger 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.

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

If you like a rack of ribs then watch my video below for an eyeful of deliciousness. The video recipe features Pork Spare Ribs and I've used this recipe for Beef Ribs, too.


What helps drive this great nation economical engine is our mosaic of industrious cultures, so why not get multi-culti and try my recipe for a grilled Thai-style Chicken Satay with a Peanut Dipping Sauce.

The Japanese version of grilled Shish Kabobs is called Yakatori. And the Japanese like to grill it all, even chicken livers. If that is too pungent for you it's okay to substitute liver with cubes of firm fish like salmon or halibut, and 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 one 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 cheap, grilled boneless and skinless, dark meat leg quarters.

 If you are glued to the widescreen TV for a baseball game, then you can't go wrong with grilled tube steaks. They are the easiest fast food to make, and you won't have to put in any overtime for my wiener vittles. I have a couple of unusual recipes I think you will enjoy. And it's easy enough to replace cheap hot dogs with your favorite specialty sausages - if you're the artisanal type.

I usually get my hot dogs with just relish and mustard, but sometimes I like to mix it up. Here in Los Angeles, we have a uniquely constructed wiener sold by entrepreneurial sidewalk vendors called the L.A. Street Dog.

It's a crazy quilt 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 so 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, these are ingredients that work well together! Again, I cooked this dish on a stovetop, but you can cook the sausages over an open fire for extra charred flavor.

To add some veggie crunch, try my bastardized version of a Chicago Dog. I can't get Day-Glow 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. Hopefully, Chicago tough guys will give me a pass for tweaking this culinary bad boy. And check out my wacky video below, where my Chicago Dog is the video punchline.


Hamburger is a backyard grill favorite that almost every working stiff lusts over. And boy do I have a meaty South of the Border spin with my Mexi-Turkey Burger.

It packs a lot of flavor with the main 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.

My fave grilled hamburger is slathered with barbeque sauce and has sauteed mushrooms and cheddar cheese. What's yours?

Attention all you breadwinners, I have the perfect meal between 2 buns, Smoked Pork Butt Sammies! For lovers of smoked pork, the following entree will have you asking for seconds and thirds. I like to smoke a whole pork shoulder (or butt) when I throw a Labor Day 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 any photo 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. 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 gratis, no charge. You can always give it a quick smoke pass to kick it up a notch. It really is the perfect party food because you get to sit back and let your friends do all the work and build their own tacos. Go to the following blog post to see some tasty Homemade Salsas to spoon on your taco - or scoop up with tortilla chips.

Carnitas Taco

And pork is still cheap these days, especially when it comes on sale at my local Latin market. 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 for this wage earner, but when I splurge, it's for ribeye steak. I just season it with salt and pepper, that's it. Believe it or not, 3 ounce thin-sliced steaks do show up at my local 99c only and Dollar Tree stores from time to time.

Sometimes I'll finish a steak 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 it's hot off the grill, chop the meat for Carne Asada Tacos or a Warm Steak Salad.

Carne Asada Marinade

If you are smoking meat, get your hands greasy and throw on a slab of corned beef brisket for Homemade Pastrami. I always freeze 2 or 3 corned beef briskets when they are on sale for about 2 dollars per pound during St. Patrick's day sales.

My  Easy Smoked Homemade Pastrami recipe is tasty as any Jewish Deli version - so says everyone I've served it too, and you don't have to leave me a tip. 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 an assembly line of high fives sure to come your way!


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

Grilling a whole fish is the easiest way to do it. Of course, your guest may have to work overtime to pick out fish bones, but all that effort will be worth it if you cook the fish my way.

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 working for a living, and who've got off the conveyor belt of meat, the following recipes are for you. My sister Denise has a fave 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 of 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. You can simply drizzle a little olive oil and season any fave summer veggie to grill over the fire.

 Braised Romain Heart

Click on any recipe name to get my recipe details for: Sweet PotatoesGrilled 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, like in the video below.

My Mom recently dropped by the cheap$kate kitchen and set off a flavor bomb: Cajun Potato Salad. It was so good I had to make a video to share her recipe with you.


Get your guests started with light salads such as: refreshing Watermelon, Mango and Spinach; hearty Black Bean & Corn ; 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.

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 Cuban Black Beans recipe.

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

Every holiday has their produce specials, so be sure to check out your local grocery fliers for all the holiday deals.

Labor Day is almost here, and this Parsimonious Culinary Artisan put in 12 hours, 8 days a week, cranking out the recipes for your use, royalty, and tax-free.

So get to work and click on any recipe name listed above and get all my tasty recipe details - it's the easiest and tastiest job you'll have all year!

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