Monday, May 29, 2023

National Composting Day - Video

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 wrist if 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, just click here.

And 99 thanks to Bob McGuinness, and Amy for shooting the Chef.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tuna Melt Sandwich - Recipe

I don't make gooey, cheesy, Tuna Melts nearly enough. Maybe it's just too much of a good thing. 

A Tuna Melt is basically Grilled Cheese with Tuna Salad. My Tuna Melt recipe uses a simple Tuna Salad of drained canned tuna, mayo, pickle relish, and chopped onion. I have a great Loaded Tuna Salad a click away here (it has the addition of a chopped boiled egg and olives.) 

Tuna Salad ingredients are still cheap to get at my 99c only Store and Dollar Tree. Even regular grocery stores sell cans of tuna and pickle relish at bargain prices. Mayo is more expensive these days, but I often find small jars at my Dollar Tree.

I add American Cheese to my grilling Tuna Salad Sandwich. You can use any favorite slices of cheese. 

Experiment with any favorite bread for toasting. I get mine from the bakery bargain bin at Ralphs Grocery store. 


I toast the bread with a small pat of butter. You can use a butter substitute or no butter at all.

Making a Tuna Melt is simply delicious when you do it the 99 Cent Chef way.

                                                  Tuna Melt - VIDEO                               Play it here, video runs 3 minutes and 3 seconds.

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

Ingredients (about 2 sandwiches)

  • 1 can tuna - a 5-ounce can "chunk." Drain the tuna of liquid. I press down the tuna with the can lid to squeeze out water - be careful as the can lid can be sharp. 
  • American Cheese - 1 slice per sandwich. Okay to use any favorite including cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, or pepper Jack.
  • Onion - 1 tablespoon chopped. Purple, white, green, or yellow onion.
  • Sweet Pickle Relish - 1 tablespoon. okay to use chopped pickle.
  • Mayonnaise - 1 Tablespoon. Add more or less to suit your taste.
  • Pepper to taste - about half a teaspoon. I find canned tuna salty enough, so I leave out the salt.

*For a can of "Solid" tuna double the amounts of onion, relish, and mayonnaise.


Fine-chop onion. It's okay to leave out the onion if you don't like it.

Drain one can of tuna. "Chunk" tuna which is loosely packed. If you use "Solid" tuna you will get twice as much in a can so you should almost double the amounts of chopped onion, pickle relish, and mayo. 

To a bowl add drained tuna and chopped onion.

Add one tablespoon of mayo. Okay to add a teaspoon at a time to reach desired creaminess. Mix all ingredients and taste. 

Add more mayonnaise if needed. I like to add black pepper but no salt, as I find canned tuna is salty enough.

Store Tuna Salad in the refrigerator until ready to use in a Tuna Melt

Grilling a Tuna Melt

To complete the recipe build and grill the Tuna Melt. I start with a pat of butter in a frying pan or stovetop grill over medium heat. It's okay to just toast bread without butter or oil.

When the butter is melted drag the bread slices through the butter. Now assemble the Tuna Melt.

With the buttered side down, I like to add a slice of cheese to the bread first. Next, I pile on some Tuna Salad. Finally, top it all with another lightly buttered slice of bread. 

Having the cheese on the bottom nearest the flame gets it to start melting-- that's what makes a Tuna Melt so special.

It only takes a few minutes to toast the bread, so peek under it as it cooks so you don't burn the sandwich. 

You may find Tuna Salad breaking down a little bit during toasting as it warms, so be careful when turning the sandwich during toasting as some Tuna Salad may spill out.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Color Purple - Eggplant Hummus & Jacaranda

Emblematic of 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 its blue for blocks. 

To keep the purple theme going I add cooked purple eggplant to a Hummus recipe. I used to find 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.

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. If you can't find sesame seeds or tahini, it's okay to use a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter.

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.

  • 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. Okay to substitute with 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter.
  • 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.
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.

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.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

🌹Mother's Day Recipe Videos - 88 & Still Cooking 💖

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 bring home, including shrimp that fell off the big boat's conveyer belt while unloading his 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.

After a couple years, Mom married Ken and a final sister was born (catch up with youngest sister Denise's Eggplant Recipe, video here).

We moved to neighboring Louisiana the year I enrolled in Junior High School. There she picked up a whole other way of cooking, Cajun-style.

My high school daze was spent in Gonzales, Louisiana, the self-professed Jambalaya Capital of the World. So you know this town is serious about chow. Click here to see a culinary video tour of some local Cajun cuisine at the weekend Flea Market, including Crawfish PieBoudin Balls, and, of course, Jambalaya.

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 Cajun Jambalaya more than any other recipe - it's simply delicious.

Jambalaya - Recipe Video

Here is a link to her Jambalaya recipe with text and yummy photos.

Mom was always popular with my high school buddies, especially during lunch or dinner time. She brought her Tex-Mex Enchiladas to Cajun Country, and my Louisiana friend Marvin ate them up!

Me, Marvin & Dennis

During a recent Louisiana visit, I had him over when I filmed Mom making Tex-Mex Enchilidas. Marvin liked the Enchiladas so much, he had a flashback to our high school daze.

Make sure to watch my wacky recipe video to the end, that's when our flashback hijinx really gets smoking (wink, nudge).

Mom's Chili Cheese Enchiladas - Recipe Video

Mom takes a star turn with her next video recipe, her popular Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

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's Cajun Potato Salad is 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 it Cajun 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 are Mini-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.

Mini-Pecan Pie - Recipe Video

And click here to see Mom's Mini-Pecan Pies recipe with text and tasty photos.

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.

Pumpkin Pie - Recipe Video 
All the easy-to-follow steps are written out here, and with delish photos, too.

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 Chef out 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!

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