Friday, September 29, 2023

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 extra energy burst out the door. I've left those sugar bombs behind.

As high schoolers, we had half coffee and half milk with a lot of sugar. Of course, we were plied with more sugary cereals and pop-tarts, too.

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 20s 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 burnt-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 more 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 26, 2023

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 and 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 be 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 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 them 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 the 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.

I'm late to Persimmons. It took living in Little Armenia in Los Angeles to come around. They sell them in the neighborhood mini-mall markets. 

Persimmons are ripe when soft and the flesh is like pudding. And they pair perfectly with pancake batter.

Go ahead and flip your own fruity Pancakes this auspiciously delicious day.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Cottage Pie - Video Recipe

 This International  Poor Man's Chef brings a traditional English dish from across the pond to these cheapskate shores -- a hearty Cottage Pie that will leave you gobsmacked. Also called a Shepherd's Pie (when using lamb or Ovis aries,) it's a thick top crust of squidgy (mashed) potatoes covering a rich beef sauce loaded with carrots, onion, peas, and ground poultry. You may think I'm off my trolley,  but I guarantee you will be begging for seconds!

This one-pot meal is the Mutt's and absolutely fabulous on a cloudy and parky winter's day. Plus it's cheap, just the way this threepenny bit pinching bloke likes it. You could even bring this as a potluck dish to your next do.

I'm not codswalloping when I say it's really so easy peasy to do: just saute some ground meat, onion, carrots, and green peas, then add a cracking rich broth of beef stock and tomato paste flavored with Worcestershire sauce. This luscious filling is thick like a chicken pot pie. You finish it with a topping of your favorite mashed potato recipe, bake for half an hour, and Bob's your uncle!

A Cottage Pie is similar to a traditional Shepherd's Pie that is made with leftover meat, usually lamb. You can make this recipe low-fat using ground turkey or chicken -- but don't worry it's still scrummy.

I get beef shank because it is the cheapest cut of beef I could find. These days even ground beef is more expensive!

You can't get cheaper than onions, carrots and potatoes. Frozen packages of carrots, corn, and green peas are an easy way to go.

There's more to British food than popular Fish and Chips (of course I have my own recipe version here) -- so, if you fancy, do give my latest entree a butcher's hook. You will happily devour The 99 Cent Chef's savory Cottage Pie, it's the bees' knees.

Click here to translate all the italicized British slang that I used.

Cottage Pie - Video

               Play it here, video runs 4 minutes, 24 seconds.

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

    Ingredients (about 4 - 6 servings)

    • 1 pound Beef Steak, cubed - Okay to use ground beef for a faster cooking version.
    • 4-6 medium-size Potatoes - about 3 pounds. At least 2 cups total when mashed. I used russet, but okay to use any type you like, even sweet potato.
    • 1 cup Carrots - roughly chopped
    • 1 cup frozen Peas - thawed. Canned peas are too mushy, but go ahead and use a drained can if that's all you've got. Okay to use fresh peas or even peas in their pods.
    • 1 Onion - chopped.
    • 2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste - If you use tomato sauce, about 1/2 cup.
    • 2 tablespoons of  Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 cups Water - or favorite stock.
    • 1 cup Red Wine - optional. Okay to use white wine.
    • 1 tablespoon of Oil - to saute veggies and meat.
    • 3 tablespoons of Flour - to thicken the sauce.
    • 1/2 cup of Milk - for mashed potatoes. Add more milk or cream to suit your taste and mashed potato texture. Okay to use half and half or whipping cream.
    • 2 tablespoons of Butter - optional.
    • Salt and Pepper to taste. You can leave out the salt if you use a salty bouillon cube.
    • Water to cover and boil potatoes.

                                    Start potatoes boiling. Should take about 1 hour, depending on how large they are. Done when a fork pierces the potato easily.

                                    Peel boiled potatoes when cool enough to handle. Add milk or cream with butter.

                                      Mash potatoes to desired creaminess. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until final assembly for baking.

                                      You should get about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of mashed potatoes. If you have a favorite mashed potato recipe then use that.
                                        Slice beef into bite sizes. Add to pot at medium/high heat. For fatty beef, no oil is needed. Add oil for lean beef. For ground beef no oil is needed, as it has enough fat. 

                                            Add flour and mix well. Saute for 5 minutes to take out the raw flour flavor.

                                              Next, add the chopped onion. Stir and saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

                                                  Now it's time to make the sauce. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, water, or stock to sauting veggies and meat.

                                                    Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

                                                        If you are cooking with ground meat, it will be quicker to cook, about 45 minutes.
                                                                When meat is tender add chopped carrots and cook another 20 minutes to tenderize to your taste. 

                                                                    Finally, add the fresh or fresh frozen peas. They only need about 10 minutes of cooking.
                                                                        Now time to assemble it all. In a deep baking dish add the meat and veggie filling - don't fill it up all the way, leave about an inch clearance. Now spoon on the mashed potatoes to cover the top of the meat and veggie filling. You can carefully smooth out the mashed potatoes to cover the top. 

                                                                            Place the uncovered dish of Cottage Pie in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. You may want to place a large cookie sheet pan underneath the dish in case some of the beef stew liquid bubbles out.

                                                                              Remove from oven and allow to cool down for a few minutes, this will also allow the sauce to thicken. 

                                                                              For a more diet-friendly and healthier topping (I know spuds are too carb-heavy for some) try boiled or microwaved sweet potatoes. You could use steamed and mashed cauliflower, squash (butternut or acorn,) carrots, pumpkin, turnips, or any favorite veggie that you can mash.

                                                                              You could also substitute green peas with shelled edamame (soybeans) or green beans. Sometimes, I'll add a few sauteed sliced mushrooms.

                                                                              Instead of peas and carrots, you can just use a bag of your favorite frozen veggie blend. For frozen veggies allow to defrost in the heating of the sauce (after the meat is done.)

                                                                              If you like a saucy filling, then add more stock - you may need a larger (or an extra) baking dish or pot.

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