Friday, January 23, 2015

Swai Creole Style Fish - Deal of the Day

It must be the Golden Age of 99c only Store deals, and nothing epitomizes this so well as with my latest Deal of the Day: Swai Creole Style Fish by Oceanside Cuisine. According to the back label, this is a product of Canada - hey Canada, keep your Keystone Pipeline, instead send more Oceanside Cuisine our way!


Creole Style means a tomato based sauce with some veggies like, onion, bell pepper and garlic, similar to a Cajun Etouffee (like this one.) It's all there plus a healthy dash of Tabasco (hot) sauce. This is probably why my latest Deal of the Day ended up in the 99c only Store frozen deli case. I sometimes like my food spicy, so I'm fine with it. The sauce is not as hearty and deeply flavorful as typical Louisiana fare, but it will do.


The main ingredients is a nice thick fillet of skinless and boneless swai fish. I'm not familiar with this species (click her to read about it.) It's mild, not fishy at all, like cheap and pungent tilapia. While a thick piece of fish, it's still on the small size, as expected for such a cheap price. The texture is like butter, very pleasing. I like that it's not breaded or overseasoned.



You want to check the raw fillet while cooking - when it goes from pink to white, it's done. Fish is best not overcooked. The rice underneath steams to perfection. It's not mushy like so many other cheap frozen dinners I've reviewed.

And it has the most unusual packaging. They have two separate bowls to microwave - a bit overkill. This meal could easily be combined in one bowl. A waste of plastic, but this is a small quibble.


I like that the ingredients list is short, compared to some frozen meal fare. At only 9 ounces, this is like a first course - you won't fill up but you will be happy you tried it.


One bowl holds rice and fish, while the other is the Creole Sauce. The directions call for microwaving about 4-5 minutes. I would start with 3 minutes then check it out. If needed, continue to cook for a minute at a time unitl fish is done to your liking. Finally, you pour on the Creole Sauce over the fish and rice.

So on my cheap$kate Deal of the Day scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best (I think you know the score,) I give  Swai Creole Style Fish by Oceanside Cuisine, a perfect 9!

This is a delicious deal. It's a bit on the spicy side, but all the flavors come together perfectly, and is well worth the price of 99.99 cents. I would even go so far as to purchase it at full price from a regular market! And, I will be on the lookout for more Oceanside seafood cuisine from our Northern, Canadian neighbors.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pasta with Kale

I'm late to the kale craze. My go-to greens for a blast of nutrition are spinach and Southern-style greens. Spinach is quick to tenderize, while collard greens take an hour of slow cooking to get all the bitterness out. Kale looks like mustard greens, but cooks tender quicker.

My favorite spinach recipe is for Saag Paneer, and for collard green, it's, of course, Soul Food Greens with molasses and bacon. Both are so good - just click on the names to get my recipes.

My Pasta with Kale is a light entree, but flavorful. It's simple and quick to make. You just saute the chopped kale in a little olive oil, then add some garlic and pasta water; add the cooked pasta and top with some parmesan cheese - that's it.


Kale shrinks when cooked, but not as much as spinach does. I find the stems are tough, so I removed the largest parts of them. 


Kale can be eaten raw and stays somewhat firm when sauteed for about 5 minutes. I like the texture and taste. It seems to have a light broccoli flavor.


I don't know how much kale cost a couple years ago, but I find it at regular markets priced as cheap as lettuce and at my local Latin market it's even cheaper.


This is a light pasta meal, but filling. I think you will like my Pasta with Kale, especially since it's so nutritious.


Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 1 bunch of kale - clean and remove tough stems. Chop into 2 inch segments.
  • 2/3 to 1 whole package of spaghetti - or any favorite pasta. Cooked according to directions. I used regular spaghetti, but you can use gluten free or whole wheat pasta.
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic - fresh or from a jar.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil - or any favorite tasting oil.
  • Water for boiling pasta - save a quarter cup of pasta water to add to finish recipe.
  • Parmesan cheese - to top finished dish.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Extra ingredients - red pepper flakes, a little white wine or lemon juice. Also a pat of butter, or drizzle on extra tablespoon of olive oil when finished.

Directions
Start the pasta water boiling. Add a tablespoon of salt. When pasta water is boiling then add it and follow package directions. I always cut off a minute of cooking time.


Clean the kale and remove the largest parts of the stems. Roughly chop the kale into about 2 inch segments. Doesn't have to be perfectly chopped. The kale will shrink a little when cooked.


Add tablespoon of oil to a medium heated pan large enough to cook the kale. Add the kale and stir while it cooks and softens. Kale will reduce in size and be tender in about 5 minutes.


When kale is soft move it to one side and add the garlic. Let it cook for 30 seconds while stirring. Don't let it burn though. Mix the garlic into the cooked kale.


Now time to bring it all together. Pasta should be done. Drain it but save some of the pasta water.


Add 1/4 cup of pasta water to kale. Mix well and add the cooked pasta. You can add the parmesan cheese now, or add it when the Pasta with Kale is served.


Also add any extra ingredients listed above: like a splash of white wine or lemon juice.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Culinary Coming Attractions for 2015

Would you like steaming bowl of Split Pea Soup on a cold and overcast winter's day?


How about a cool Korean style Cucumber Salad, or an old school party time Warm Artichoke Dip?


2015 is going to be one delicious year in my cheap$kate kitchen. I have some sumptuous eye candy for you, but you'll have to satiate your appetite with these digital bytes, until the real recipes soon show up, here.

 And I have plenty of recipe videos on the way, too. Most unusual is my Pozole video. It's an old world Mexican dish that is made with rehydrated spicy red chile pods, and slow cooked with pork and hominy. It is an intense one pot meal I know you will like - and it's not that hard to make, either.


I go extra cheap once again with my version of Chicken Parmesan. Usually expensive white meat breast is used. You can do it that way or try my version with boneless and skinless cheaper dark meat. And I break the rules again with a better way to keep the chicken moist. Check back for that one, it's a good one, and I'm sure the recipe will stir up a hornet's nest of comments.


And most outrageously, I hook up with my long lost brother from another mother, The Swamp Chef. My dad got around and now you have to suffer the consequences of his indiscretions in my wacky recipe video from Louisiana.


My Mom just turned 80 and is still cooking and I shot a video of her sweet and nutty candy Praline recipe.


All these cooking videos and blog post recipes are in various stages of completion and will be showing up in the next few months, along with a bunch of other food themed blog posts, including my latest arty nighttime exploration of the Los Angeles dining scene, Restaurant Nocturnes XIV.


So do check back for a lot of informative, creative, appetizing, entertaining, and  original food content -- coming at ya!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fettuccine Alfredo - Video Recipe

Crazy creamy and too rich for words, this chef has a new favorite pasta dish, and it's Fettuccine Alfredo. So easy and quick to make, this is instant gratification.


Fettuccini Alfredo is from a Rome, Italy restaurant called Alfredo in 1914, and the ingredients originally were just a lot of melted butter and cooked fettuccini. That recipe has be Americanized with the addition of cream, but less butter.

I can see why flat noodle fettucine is used - more surface for the thick savory sauce to cling to. I used to cook Spaghetti alla Carbonara, made with eggs yokes mixed into crispy bacon, the most (for my video recipe, click here); but it's time to set it aside -- a new luscious pasta entree has taken it's place.


I've had this recipe compared to Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo. Well, you'll have to make it and let me know if it passes muster.

And boy is it cheap, just the way this Chintzy Chef likes it. A package of fettuccine, a small pint carton of half and half or cream, a pat of butter, and half a plastic shaker container of grated parmesan, can all be had for around a buck each, and you'll get several servings, too.


This is a dish best made with whole milk, half and half, or cream. You can go easy on the butter with all this high fat content floating around, but do use a little, the flavor is worth the calorie count.


Now, I use dried grated parmesan cheese that has probably been on the grocery shelf since the last century, not the best I know, but I look at it as "extra" dry aged! It has a grainy texture when used to sprinkle over pasta, but it actually breaks down and melts into the heating cream to thicken and  flavor the sauce.


Of course, if this is a special meal for date night then go all out and use fresh shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

So for a quick, cheap, indulgent, and scrumptious entree, try out The 99 Cent Chef's minimalist masterpiece, Fettuccine Alfredo -- go ahead you deserve it.

Fettuccine Alfredo  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minutes, 53 seconds.

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

Ingredients (about 2-4 servings)
  • 12 to 16 ounce package of fettuccini pasta - or, any pasta type is delish covered in Alfredo sauce!
  •  2 cups of half and half, or cream - if you must, it's okay to use regular or low fat milk.
  • 1 pat of butter - make it a big slice! Okay to use your favorite butter substitute.
  • 3-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese - of course, you can use fresh grated. Go ahead and use as much as you want, too.
  • Pepper to taste - optional. I don't add salt, as I find parmesan cheese is salty enough.


Directions
Start cooking pasta according to package directions - I usually shave off a minute or two for al dente (taste for amount of chewiness). Best to get water boiling then add pasta. Carefully stir for the first minute to separate strands of fettuccini. I don't add salt to the water, as the parmesan cheese has plenty of salt for my taste.


While pasta water heats up, in a large pan add milk or cream over a medium heat. Bring cream to a low simmer and stir for about 5 minutes.


This will reduce and thicken the cream sauce (especially when the pasta is added.) You want to scrape along the edges of pan too, as the cream may stick to the pan and get a little gummy.


Finally add grated parmesan and butter. Use a large fork or whisk to smooth out the Alfredo Sauce. Lightly whisk and stir another minute or so.


The pasta should be ready about now (if it finishes early then cool to stop cooking and set aside.) Drain the pasta (I usually just lift it out of the boiling water,) mixing it into the heated Alfredo Sauce. Sprinkle with pepper if you like, and serve hot and immediately!


Hindsight
This recipe makes a lot of Fettuccini Alfredo, enough for 3-4 servings. Surprisingly it reheats the next day fine. The sauce thickens, but you can drizzle on a tablespoon of regular milk to bring it back, close to normal.

For this recipe I normally use Half and Half, but in the video I used Whipping Cream - that's what I found on sale this time.

Half and Half is equal amounts of cream and regular milk - just a lighter version of whole cream. Make your own Half and Half by mixing a half pint of Whipping Cream to a half pint of regular milk (that is, one cup each for a total of 2 cups.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 9 Recipes of 2014

Living high on the hog  was dirt cheap this year and here are my Top 9 Recipes of 2014 to prove it! While there were fewer recipes to choose from, my picks this year are still top shelf. (I took off the summer from posting food recipes, and instead posted a video series on my enlightening and entertaining Indian Summer Vacation.) And click on any recipe name to see what I'm talking about.

To start with I made an earthy Vegetarian Mushroom Soup using crimini, white button and portabella mushrooms, that I purchashed from my local 99c only Store. I also bought pungent veggie broth and some cheap white wine to simmer the fungus in. I brought some to my workplace for my vegetarian friends and they raved about it.


I've been making Old School Hash Browns for breakfast all year long. I like to pair them with 2 sunny side up eggs, so the warm yoke soaks and flavors the crisp and tender sauteed potatoes - it's a perfect combination. Some hash browns are chunky; I like mine grated with some added onion, and grilled until a hard crisp shell is formed, but the center is still moist. You definitely want to try my recipe out - it's so simple but so delicious.


Probably some of my craziest recipes are from my Sushi Video Series. Yup, you read right, raw fish. Of course I couldn't have done it without being friends with my neighbor Don the fisherman. Most summers he goes off the coast of Baja, Mexico and brings back slabs of yellowtail and bluefin tuna, that he hands out for free!


Now, I know this is a cheat for cheap$kate ingredients. But I made an exception and went ahead and did a sushi recipe series anyway. If you make friends with a fisherman then you're in luck. But, I have a few inexpensive shortcuts you can use.

It's funny how persnickety and intimidating sushi chefs are. Chat a bit with one and they are really pleasant. As for making sushi, it's not that hard, if you just roll with it. I give you easy GIFs and illustrated photos to get you through the hard parts - believe me it's not that hard to do, and don't worry if the end result is not perfect - it will still taste good. Start with a hand roll, that's easiest to do.


Also, I did include a few cheap$kate ingredients anyone can get, like krab. You definitely want to try out my California Roll that's made with avocado, cucumber and krab (it's fake crab, but I think it's an inexpensive and tasty substitution over the real thing.)



My favorite 2 sushi recipes from the video series are: Spicy Tuna Hand Roll and a California Roll.



My wife picked up some ceramic ramekins this year so I had to make use of them. What I came up with is a luscious Baked Eggs Florentine. So good, just spinach in a cream sauce with a fresh broken egg on top. It's a handsome dish that's made to impress, but still simple to make.


And I close out with the final three recipes using cheap chicken. My wife loves Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad with cashews and raisins, and so do I. Trader Joe's is a great local market here in Los Angeles. They make a lot of prepared food to take home. There curried chicken salad is exceptional, so much so that they run out of it by the time I get off work, so that's why I made my ripoff (I mean homage) recipe. It's wife approved, so I know you will like it too.


Chicken Caccaitore
is a one pot meal, easy on the pocketbook and tasty, just the way I like it. Serve it with a little pasta or rice.


And this year I tried my hand at Fried Chicken. Almost everyone has their own favorite recipe, well here's mine. And if you are a newbie at it, then start with this recipe. I made a Fried Chicken Sandwich recipe video that's easy to follow. I use boneless and skinless chicken, but you can use any whole chicken pieces you find on sale. I also throw in a cheap$kate Homemade Buttermilk recipe.



Roasted Chicken with Peaches & Herbs is a great combination - one of my favorite recipes of the year. It's sweet with caramelized fruit and succulent roast chicken, and the herbs take it all to another level. Plus it's another one-pot meal that is so easy to assemble. Just check out my recipe video below to see how it's done.



Well that's it. I had a delicious year of cooking and I hope you did too, especially if you've tried any of my Top 9 Recipes of 2014.

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