Thursday, September 30, 2021

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.

And I went through a Coffee Creamers phase trying various flavors. They were loaded with sugar and gave you an extra energy burst out the door. I've left those sugar bombs behind.

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 I can't drink it 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 whole beans carried at our local Trader Joe's grocery market. 

When I worked in film and TV our crew was furnished with Cappuccinos, Macchiatos, and Frappuccinos along with regular coffee. In my European travels with my late wife, Amy, I've had Americanos, Café au Lait, Irish Coffee, and Expressos. Click here to see the different types of coffee drinks explained.

My wife, Linda, prefers coffee from whole 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-flavored to a Starbucks frothy cappuccino!

For those who're lactose intolerant, there are many milk substitutes and I've tried a lot of them. I still haven't decided which one goes best with coffee. If you have a favorite then leave a comment and let us know!

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.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

National Pancake Day - Fruity Recipes!

How I loved pancakes as a kid. And on this delicious National Pancake Day, I have it covered with my cheap$kate spin on the traditional pancake, with the addition of fresh fruit. Just check out my video below to see how easy it is to do.

Strawberry Pancake Recipe - Video

Fluffy browned flour pancakes would jumpstart my day with a sugar blast of maple-flavored syrup. Hey, I grew up in the South in a small town so we didn't have access to real New England maple syrup, but what we had was fine. 

Of course, now I buy real maple syrup. I don't have pancakes as often as I used to, but when I do I make it a special occasion with the addition of fresh fruit that I add to the frying pan then pour on the pancake batter. 

That way I don't need as much syrup since fresh and in-season fruit adds a layer of natural sweetness. And you'll never get bored with plain pancakes again if you try my versions of Fruity Pancakes, and I bet the kids will eat them up, too!

What fruit can you add? Just about any type you can find, really. Start with an easy-to-get sliced banana, then move on to peach, and more exotic ripe slices of mango. 

It's easiest to use small whole fruit that is ready to add, like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Scroll on to see the fruity variations I've tried and pick a favorite to try yourself.

My recipe is basic, I use premixed pancakes from the box. Nothing special really. The average mix is usually just enriched flour, sugar, dried egg, and milk. Normally you just add water. You can use your own favorite mix or even a homemade mix. If price is no object then get organic from Whole Foods or from your fave health food market.

I do like to finish my pancake with a pat of real butter. It's up to you if you want to go that far. 

Here is my basic Pancake Recipe using a box of mix and fresh blueberries. I like to make one large pancake, but you can make them any size you and your family or friends like including small or dollar-sized. 

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. Next pour on the pancake batter and cook until browned on both sides.

Blueberry Pancake Recipe - 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 the skillet. Add more when needed, depending on how many pancakes you make.
  • Butter and 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 for 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 hue of brown, then cook the other side for a minute, to finish. Serve browned side up, on the plate.

I serve hot with melted butter and a favorite pancake syrup. 

Cherry Pancakes are at the top of my fave fruit-filled breakfast. 

You do need to remove cherry seeds, but it's worth the effort and since the cherry season only lasts a couple of months, you won't be making these too many times anyway, so give my Cherry Pancake recipe a try.

Fig Pancakes are another favorite. I have a fig tree a few blocks away so I can get them for free when the tree starts bearing sweet fruit.

When store-bought they are on the expensive side, but I've found packages of cheaper dried figs that work just fine.

Blackberries often show up at my local 99c Only Store, so they will end up in my Blackberry Pancakes. They are often quite large so I slice them in half before pouring on the pancake batter. 

Mango Pancakes may be the sweetest fruit pancakes. You do have to wait for them to reach ripeness until they are soft to the touch like a peach. 

And they are well worth the wait. Check out your local ethnic market to get a good deal on them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Mexican Independence Day - Viva Recipes!

🇲🇽 On this auspicious day in 1810, a brave Roman Catholic priest (and a real Father of two daughters) in the village of Dolores rang a church bell and made a powerful speech that set in motion the War of Independence from Spain. To read all about it, just click here.

¡Viva México!

I can think of no better way to celebrate bashing away shackles from an oppressor than a deep cultural dive into Mexico's culinary arts. And, boy, do I have a barricade of recipes for you to attempt to go through. And, of course, the ingredients are cheap but tasty. So join the charge and follow the Revolutionary Chef !
(By the way, Hispanic Heritage Month begins the day before, on September 15.)

Flag of the Mexican Empire of Iturbide - template for the modern Mexican flag. 

How about starting with a Calabasitas -- a Mexican veggie stew made with a bunker-full of summer squash. It's lightly spicy comfort food, a dish always ordered by my late wife at our fave local Hollywood Mexican restaurant, and shared over Happy Hour frosty margaritas.

Along with squash, you'll 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 gringo grilled sandwich).

They say the military marches on its stomach, well Calabasitas is hearty enough to satiate any soldier's appetite.

The American Revolution broke British rule over our original 13 colonies, and later Mexico removed the yolk of Spain's oppressive reign. And speaking of "yolk," in the Battle of Breakfast Huevos Rancheros wins hands down. 

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 grâce 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.

Tacos are the secret weapon. I can have tacos morning, noon, and night. So read on and you'll know what I mean - just click on any taco name, or highlighted text, to see all the tasty details from my blogpost recipe or review.

In the morning it's spicy Mexican chorizo with scrambled eggs and refried beans nestled into a warm corn tortilla.

Breakfast Tacos

And my Chorizo & Egg Taco is about as cheap as you can get. I get Mexican chorizo from the 99c only Store natch, and all kinds too, like beef, pork, and even soy (which is a recent favorite.) Eggs still show up at my local Dollar Tree.

*Click on any recipe name to see the original blog post recipe or review*

The simplest breakfast taco to make is one made of Scrambled Eggs & Refried Beans. You can use canned refried beans or make my Homemade Mexican-style Pinto Beans.

And for Breakfast Tacos, it's all about the salsa toppings. I like salsa from a jar, but sometimes I just gotta go for it and make my own Homemade Salsa, and it's easy to do.

My Mango Salsa recipe with yummy photos and tasty text is right here, but you can check out the video below:

I'm ready to party on this awesome day, and when this cheap$kate does it you can bet pennies will be pinched without a sacrifice in flavor. For my backyard soirée, it's my favorite taco: a slow-cooked pork Carnitas. Just check out my video below to see what I'm writing about.

I buy a 5 to 6-pound budget pork shoulder, and I can get a couple dozen tacos out of it, too.

 And, boy, it's the perfect budget recipe that your friends and neighbors will line up for. You let them do most of the work -- they get to build each taco to suit their taste. I like to set out some chopped onion and cilantro. You can make your taco bar any way you like, go ahead and add a bowl of shredded cheese, chopped lettuce and tomato, and a cheap jar of salsa, too.

Another rich pork dish is Pozole, a stunning stew of hominy (corn,) red chilies, and pork. If you had a bit too much Tequila the night before, recuperate with a rich bowlful.

I come from illegal stock. As young men, my grandfather and his brother crossed into Texas from Mexico, and after a few years, they applied for and became U.S. citizens. He spent his working life as a Shrimp Boat captain. Now you know the genesis of Tex-Mex cuisine. His daughter, my Mom, has a classic Tex-Mex Chili-Cheese Enchilada recipe my high school buddy Marvin raves about to this day. Check it out below.

Fusion cuisines are made by real Americans, and my "brother from another daddy," the Swamp Chef, has his own version of Cajun-Mex called Cajun Natchos. You have to see it to believe it below.

Here's another gringo fusion rip-off recipe based on a Mexican classic salsa, Peach Salsa. Take your ripe Georgia peach and mix with onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice. All it takes is a bit of chopping. What a great and refreshing appetizer on a hot summer day.

Mexico is a major producer/exporter of produce (and labor,) and Californians get the benefit of Hass Avocados 4 for $1. As far as these invasions go....bring it on!

A lighter version of pork Carnitas, and just as delish, is my Turkey Carnitas made with dark leg meat. After a long day on the battlefield, gather around the campfire and make a few tacos or a fat burrito.

Chicken is one cheap protein. My Chicken Tinga recipe will have your compadres coming back for seconds...and thirds! Chicken Tinga is a stew simmered in tomato sauce with a can of spicy chipotle peppers, but you can make a mild version with a can of enchilada sauce.

 Chicken Tinga

Carne Asada, or grilled steak, is a favorite taco of mine. Just make my marinade for thinly sliced steak, let it sit for half an hour or so, then slap it on the grill. After the Carne Asada is done you chop it up and serve it on a corn tortilla.

Carne Asada Taco - The marinade is a simple mix of lime juice, oil, cilantro, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Drive anywhere in Los Angeles and you will see taco trucks, sidewalk taco vendors, and taquerias on almost every street keeping the Mexican Culinary Revolution alive and kicking. And I've stopped at most of them. What follows are a few of my faves - with a few recipes I cribbed from them, too.

When I moved to Los Angeles over 40 years ago, I discovered the taco truck. Boy, have they evolved over the years. In the beginning, it was just hamburgers and tacos made with ground beef. Well, that all changed about 10 years ago when a hotel chef named Roy Choi, who was down but not out, rebounded from couch surfing to start Kogi Taco Truck.

A fellow co-conspirator came up with the idea of a Korean taco, and Roy Choi assembled the taco ingredients of Korean barbecue short ribs with a kimchi-style coleslaw, served on corn tortillas. His truck was an instant hit, and Kogi jump-started the neverending nouveau taco truck renaissance.

Kogi is still around and I still love them. Check out my video below, where I hang out night and day, for L.A.'s most uniquely mouthwatering taco. 

¡Viva Taco Revolution!

Inspired by Kogi's mashup of Korean BBQ and Mexican Tacos, I came up with the Loxaco, which combines Jewish and Mexican cuisines.

Loxaco is comprised of homemade lox (cured salmon) in a fast food crunchy taco shell topped with cream cheese and thin sliced red onion. I introduced this preposterous concoction at a book signing in Libros Schmibros, a lending library in East Los Angeles. How did it go over with book lovers? The following video is a twofer, you get a recipe plus a literary happening scene -- even the late great food critic Jonathan Gold makes an appearance - while his wife and kid tried them Jonathan gave them a pass )-:

After a double feature at my fave art house cinematheques like the Egyptian or New Beverly Theater, on the way home I swing by Leo's Taco for a few al pastor pork tacos. They're still cheap, and the line can be long, now that the word is out.

This is porcine perfection on a paper plate. It's tender and flavorful grilled marinated pork, that's cooked in front of a gas grill called a trompo. A cook manning the grill slices off thin slivers, finishing the taco with flare: a flying slice of pineapple. Check out the yummy action below.

I've followed the Two Hot Tamales from the beginning when the Border Grill was in a storefront with half a dozen tables on Melrose Avenue. Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken are fixtures on the L.A. dining scene who jumped on the taco truck train, bringing their neuvo take on Mexican cuisine to four wheels. They primarily park their taco truck in the environs of Silicon Valley West Coast, Santa Monica.

My Tacos El Primo video review has gone viral. That means this YouTube video gets thousands of views per month - right now it is pushing half a million. Why? I'm not sure. Let's see... in this video, I review Buche and Tripas tacos, or tacos made from slow-cooked stomach and intestines. Gross right? One thing I noticed is half my visitors are from Mexico, so maybe half my audience is curious about how gringos react to offal.

I did the taco review because Tacos El Primo was a midnight munchies stop on my return home from various Hollywood treks. When you have a neighborhood food stop, you eventually dive deeper and try eats what you would not normally taste.

Tripas (intestine) Taco

Well, join the multitudes and check out my Cheap$kate video review of Tacos El Primo.

Deep-fried Fish Tacos are one of Mexico's great culinary contributions. These battered depth charges of crunchy perfection are based on the street food of Baja Mexico and other coastal communities. If you like British Fish & Chips, you'll love Fried Fish Tacos.

Fish Taco

The battered fillets of fish are typically served on corn tortillas and topped with a white crema and chopped cabbage. I have my own recipe for Fish Tacos you can see by clicking on the recipe name.

And this is the best taco deal in town: Wednesdays are $1 Fish Taco Day at Tacos Baja! Yeah, that's what you heard - don't believe me? Just watch the video below I shot in Whittier (East L.A.) and see it for yourself.

My no-cook Fake Krab Ceviche just takes some veggie chopping. Because Krab is cooked you just shred it and add as much as you like to the chopped veggies and cilantro. Now I know that real Mexican Ceviche uses "citrus-cooked" raw fish and/or shellfish, but I'm a Cheap$kate Internet Chef, right? So you will have to grant me amnesty for this recipe! But I make up for any shortcomings with the addition of creamy avocado and flavorful black beans. Give my recipe a shot and let me know if it's a successful maneuver.

So do celebrate Mexican Independence Day with me today now that I've shown you an ammunition dump of taco recipes you can make easily and cheaply. I guarantee your family or guest will light up the sky with praise!

And, what the heck, I'll end with a queasy taco review, from Jack In The Box with its 2 for 99 cent tacos (the price has risen since I made the video, but the taste is the same)...ugh, whoever came up with this abomination should face a firing squad!!

Hey, I know these tacos are affordable and actually liked, so skip the firing squad, just put the chef-inventor in solitary confinement...please.

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