In the acting world, you shy away from performing with children and animals. Why...because there is nothing worse than being upstaged by cuteness.
In The 99 Cent Chef's latest video you'll see what I mean by watching birds and squirrels upstage the Anthropomorphic Chef.
My neighbor feeds the birds and squirrels every morning. So I got the idea to set out some seeds and have them do the work of making an opening title sequence for me. Only a nut would let squirrels and birds do the typography for my videos...well, I'm that Chintzy Nut.
And my front yard critters will work for 99-cent peanuts and birdseed.
For the final video scene, it's a squirrel feeding frenzy when The Doctor Doolittle of chefs scatters lettuce in the most unique way for the tree-dwelling rodents.
It's all in the wristif you want to compost like The 99 Cent Chef. With shovel in hand, the Chintzy Composter shows you a simple method that reduces the garbage you throw away by about half - so that means fewer trips to the dumpster. Plus, if you have a small garden you will never have to buy potting soil again. Just scroll to the end of this post for my Composting Video.
There are many techniques for Composting. Just Google the word and you'll see what I mean. It really just depends on how much you want to deal with. You can start a giant compost pile with everything from veggie table scraps to lawn trimmings, and even newsprint and paper. I live in the city, so composting is best not seen or smelt!
In my household of two, I've come up with an easy-to-do method. Every day my wife and I collect the veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells into a small container with a top. I live in a condo complex with a lot of land per unit and there is an outdoor common area in the corner that is not used. So every 2 to 4 days I take my full compost bin and bury the scraps in a 4 by 4-foot square area. Nobody complains and some of my neighbors offer encouragement and even compliments.
With a minimal amount of compost area to work with, I find it's just enough. I bury my small scrap amounts, and a couple of days later dig a new hole. If you roughly chop up the scraps with the shovel and mix in a little dirt, the decomposition is complete in less than 2 weeks.
So by the time I've filled my 4 food square, it's ready for a new round of veggie scraps. (You'll see black nutrient-rich-looking compost clumps as you work your way around). It takes a month or so until the compost is ready for my garden -- just in time for Fall and Spring planting.
A quick gardening note: composting veggies with seeds, like cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes, means you will get sprouting seedlings popping out all over. I'll prune out most of them as they come up, but I like to keep a few plants just to see how they do. Every year I get some type of squash plant that yields a bouquet of edible squash blossoms -- just type "squash blossoms" into the "Enter Ingredient or Recipe Keyword(s)" search window located at the top right side of this page to see all the recipes I use them for.
The trick is to keep the compost area clean and odorless. Instead of a smelly compost pile, I bury mine. Now, that means I can't compost everything, but it's good enough for Big City living.
So, check out my Composting with The 99 Cent Chef video below. As I mentioned earlier, "It's all in the wrist," and I don't just mean how you handle a shovel, as you will see during the video's outrageous ending.
Composting, Squirrels, and the 99 Cent Chef - VIDEO
Play it here, video runs 3 minutes, 17 seconds.
My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, justclick here.
And 99 thanks to Bob McGuinness, and Amy for shooting the Chef.
The heck with canned chili, my HomemadeTexas-Style Beef Chili is the best way to go. This is an "even better the next day" recipe.
Texas-Style Beef Chili is a Southern staple especially when you are in cattle country. Pull into any truck stop or BBQ joint and you'll find it. Sometimes it's fiery spicy, so make sure to get a tall glass of iced tea.
My favorite version is a chunky and stringy type of Chili you can really sink your teeth into. You get that texture from cheaper cuts of beef steak. It is okay to use ground beef of course.
Click on any photo to see larger.
I've been cooking with beef shank lately. I first tried this cut of beef in an Italian classic pasta dish called Pasta Alla Genovese (just click here to see that recipe.) It is quite lean but in need of braising for a couple hours to break it down into tender bites.
My local Latin market stocks whole sliced shanks for less than three dollars per pound - now that's even cheaper than ground beef these days. The large packages of the beef shank are in the 5-7 pound range.
For my recipe, you will need 2-3 pounds of meat. Of course, add as much beef as you like to suit your budget. Any leftover meat from a large package freezes well.
Any slabs of chea$kate and tough cuts of beef will tenderize using my slow-braising technique.
The main broth comes from tomato sauce. You can use any type, even canned chopped, or whole tomatoes. There is less work using tomato sauce. Whole or chopped tomatoes will need to be broken apart during the cooking process. Canned tomato sauce is cheap anywhere you buy them. Canned tomato sauce labeling is a little confusing as a regular can size is sometimes listed as 14.5 ounces. My recipe calls for 2 cans. If you are in the range of 30 ounces that's close enough.
All the dried spices for this recipe are easy to get at budget prices. The main flavor is from dried chiles. You can get them whole in a bag, but there is a bit of work to shake out the seeds and remove stems. I like Chile Powder for its convenience. You can substitute powdered Paprika.
Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and Dried Oregano add a depth of flavor to the Beef Chili. Cumin is a strong spice so I only use a teaspoon.
Go ahead and use dried onion and garlic instead of fresh chopped. While in most cases fresh is best, for slow-cooking you will not notice much difference and it's so much easier using dried.
For the slow-cooking phase, I didn't brown the beef in the beginning because toward the end of simmering the sauce thickens and over time the meat will brown naturally. You can brown the beef first if you like.
All I do is slice up the beef and assemble the ingredients in a large pot, then cover and simmer until the meat is tender. This is an easy recipe anyone can make.
Toppings for your steaming bowl of meaty Chili can include raw chopped onion and shredded cheese, especially sharp cheddar cheese.
A Tex-Mex version has a scoop of Fritos Corn Chips out of the bag. I know it sounds weird, but the extra salty fried corn chip crunch kicks this lowdown cowboy cuisine into high gear. Go ahead and get a small bag of Fritos (I like the lightly salted variety) and see what I'm talking about.
The aroma of my slow-cooking HomemadeTexas-Style Beef Chili will draw a crowd. So keep the doors and windows closed if you don't want unwanted visitors! Hey, add an extra pound of beef and this recipe will feed a family plus friends, so don't be stingy -- go ahead and throw a Chili Party and invite the neighbors. And don't forget to get a large bag of Frito Corn Chips.
Beef Shank - 2 to 3 pounds - Beef Shank has bone and extra fat, so you need a bit more, depending on how lean the beef is. You can use any cheap cut of beef on sale, bone and all - hey, that's extra flavor. Okay to use 2 pounds of a lean cut of beef like top round, stew meat, and sirloin. Okay to use 2 pounds of ground beef.
Tomato Sauce - 2 cans 16 ounces each. Okay to use a large 1 pound, 12 ounce can. You can use canned whole tomatoes, any pasta tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes. Also one small can of tomato paste (just add 4 cups of water or broth with tomato paste.) Canned tomatoes come in regular sizes from 14.5 ounces to 16 ounces, either can is close enough.
Chili Powder - 2 tablespoons. Okay to substitute with dried paprika.
Cumin - 1 teaspoon
Onion Powder - 2 tablespoons. Okay to use one whole chopped onion.
Garlic Powder - 2 tablespoons. Okay to use 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped garlic.
Oregano - 1 tablespoon dried. Okay to use 1 tablespoon of the fresh herb.
Water - 2 cups
Red Wine - 1 cup. Okay to use your favorite broth instead or add water.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Slice beef into chunks. The beef will break down during slow-cooking, so okay to have large pieces. You can just leave the beef whole - after a couple of hours, you should be able to start to break apart the beef into smaller pieces.
In a large pot add beef over medium to high heat.
Pour in canned tomato sauce. Okay to use any type of canned tomato. Tomato chunks will break down over a few hours of simmering. You can break them apart further the longer Chili cooks.
Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of wine (or substitute the wine with broth or just more water.)
Finally add dried oregano and dried spices including chili, onion, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Stir ingredients.
(If you cannot find Chili Powder, it's okay to use a can of Enchilada Sauce or Red Chili Sauce.)
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat until a low simmer. Cover and cook until beef is tender, usually about 3 to 4 hours.
Check water levels after an hour or two. It's okay for some liquid to cook out so the sauce will thicken. Just don't let it all cook away. Stir occasionally as the meat may stick to the bottom of the pot.
If Chili is too watery it's easy enough to uncover and cook away some liquid to thicken the sauce to your liking. You can also add a little water if the Chili is too thick.
When done remove bones and any chunks of fat if necessary. If the beef is very fatty it's okay to remove some before starting the recipe, but do leave a little fat as that is extra flavor!
If you use ground beef you can reduce cooking time to a couple of hours total as the meat will tenderize quickly. Of course, let the Ground Beef Chili cook as long as you like. Chili is the kind of stew you can keep on the stovetop slow-cooking for hours.
I like to serve a bowl of Beef Chili with chopped onion, and sometimes a bit of grated Cheddar cheese. Cooked rice is a filling addition, too.
My HomemadeTexas-Style Beef Chili will freeze well and reheat later, so you can makeChili Dogs or Chili Burgers on any game day down the road.
Emblematic of L.A.is its grand boulevards lined with palm trees. This month a purple upstart enters the scene -- the blossomingJacaranda 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 its 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 trees 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. Ingredients
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 the jar.
2 tablespoons of lemon juice - fresh or concentrate from a 99-cent plastic lemon.
Pita bread slices - or favorite sliced raw veggies.
Directions Drain a can of garbanzo beans.
Add all ingredients (including oil from marinated eggplant) to a 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 the 99-cent olive oil blend.
Hindsight 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.
I owe it all to Mom, at least where I get my cooking chops (and any good sense I have). Just check out our cooking videos below to see what I mean.
She grew up in Texas on the Gulf Coast, in a small shrimping and fishing town called Port O'Connor. There, I learned to love seafood.
Her father was a shrimp boat captain, so we had all the fresh-caught seafood Big Daddy would skim off the top of the catch. Shrimp season was short, but crab and oyster season soon followed. And you could always cast a line into the warm Gulf waters and marshes for bountiful fishing.
Big Daddy & Big Mama
The following recipe comes from her parent's kitchen, Shrimp and Rice. It uses locally caught shrimp, cheap canned tomato paste and rice. We always had creamy pinto beans, and flour tortillas to scoop up all the deliciousness. Our family seldom had steak as it was too expensive, but we had all the Gulf seafood we could eat. Looking back I didn't realize how good we had it !
Mom's Shrimp & Rice - VIDEO
Mom had movie-star looks (like a young Elizabeth Taylor) and smarts, and a scholarship to college if she wanted it, but had no encouragement from her parents.
So after high school graduation, she was soon married and I arrived on the scene, followed by my brother and sister.
Billy, Berry, and Brenda
My Dad was in the military so we moved around. Mom and us kids eventually settled back in Port O'Connor, after a divorce. Dad was quite a character and the life of the party, but he was also a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.
Billy Doyle Robinson
Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I learned how to literally pinch pennies when she poured handfuls of customer tips on the kitchen table for us kids to separate and count.
Mom got back on her feet and found love again with this shuffleboard-playing fellow below, Ken.
And here's our first video we made together in my Los Angeles kitchen - and my late wife, Amy, even makes an appearance at the very end of the video. You'll get a kick out of Mom rockin' the cast-iron kettle. I make her CajunJambalaya more than any other recipe - it's simply delicious.
It's a traditional Southern dish and it's cheap, too. Just chicken, sausage, and the Cajun veggie trinity of bell pepper, celery, and onion. What gives Gumbo its unique taste is a dark brown roux, which is flour cooked in oil until chocolate brown.
Just check out the video below - Mom will take you through the steps. And, as an added bonus, my oldest sister Brenda makes a nagging appearance a few minutes in.
Gumbo - Recipe Video
Click here to read all about making Mom's homemade Gumbo, from roux to rice!
My Mom'sCajun Potato Saladis the perfect side to her Gumbo and Jambalaya. When she visited me in Los Angeles I got her to do it on camera. I couldn't help but give her a hard time about the recipe. I called it Cajun Mashed Potatoes and she called itCajun Potato Salad - well, I guess you'll have to watch the video below to see who wins that argument!
Mom's Cajun Potato Salad - Recipe Video
I satiate my sweet tooth during visits with Mom. And the best of her pastry delights areMini-Pecan Pies. If I couldn't make it for the Christmas holiday, then she would send a shoe-boxed size package with a dozen of these tasty pies.
Mom attracts a kitchen full of hungry relatives when these pies come hot out of the oven. And it's a miracle they were done right because this Chef de Shutterbug was shoving a camera in her face (and a hot oven) during the whole procedure. We butted heads a few times, but fortunately, it all turned out fine.
I even came up with a way to dodge the high prices for pecans - so check out the video below to learn my budget secrets.
Mom has lived half her life in Gonzales, Louisiana. One of my visits there fell on Christmas, and she pulled out all the stops with a huge holiday spread, that included Pumpkin Pie. I got her on video making it, and it turned out perfect, as you will see below.
The recipe is a traditional one made with simple ingredients. The pumpkin came from a can, but the crust was handmade with wheat flour.
Now, Mom is no angel -- hey, who is? Recently my brother from another daddy, the Swamp Chef, with his Spanish moss and all.
Me, Mom & Swamp Chef
When I asked Mom: "Who's the Swamp Chef's daddy?" Her reply was: "That's a very good question!" I guess Mom will spill the beans one day, until then, check out the video below for a dessert good enough to cajole the Swamp Chefout of the bayou!
Cherry Pie - Recipe Video
Happy Mother's Day to all of you lovely ladies, and especially to my Mom - I love you!