Thursday, May 17, 2018

Fire Grilled Chicken Pobalano - Deal of the Day Review

A little bit Cuban with black beans and a little bit Mexican with mild poblano chiles, and a whole lot of flavor resides in my latest Latin-style Deal of the Day.

Click on any photo to see larger.

I am always thrilled to see the evol. brand of frozen fare in the deli case of my local 99c only StoreFire Grilled Chicken Poblano by evol. is a hearty and delicious brown rice bowl that is loaded with veggies and topped with white meat chicken and a dollop of cheddar cheese.

Frozen and Defrosted

There is almost too much flavor, but I'm not complaining. The veggie medley contains corn, red and green bell peppers, green poblano chiles, onion, tomato, and cilantro. All cooked just right.

The corn kernels are crunchy and the peppers are soft but not mushy, as is often the case with frozen then defrosted veggies.

The poblano chiles pieces are large enough and what little heat they carry is mild, only becoming apparent by the time you almost get to the bottom of the bowl.

The white meat chicken pieces are plentiful enough. I got one large nugget and about 3 to 5 smaller ones. With grill marks, the chicken meat was not dried out, as is often the case with white meat. This is real chicken, not a processed loaf, thank god.

And melted on top is a small amount of cheddar cheese. I would have liked a bit more cheese, but this is mostly a chicken/veggie/rice bowl. The cheddar is mild, and when mixed with other ingredients, practically disappears into the background. But that's okay.

Finally, you get your fill once forkfuls of brown rice are factored in. The brown rice is tender and done perfectly - not mushy or too toothsome. And a light amount of tomato sauce binds it all together.

evol. prides itself on hormone-free meats and natural veggie ingredients, so you know what you're getting.

Even the microwave bowls are partially made from recycled plastic. Although we are talking plastic here - maybe evol. will evolve to biodegradable paper bowls one day.

The ingredient list is short and this bowl is a lean meal. Although only 9 ounces, the ingredient mix leaves you quite satisfied, for an extra light lunch or dinner.

My latest Deal of the Day is a feel-good and feel-full meal. So how does evol.'s Fire Grilled Chicken Poblano bowl rate on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best?

Oh, I think you can guess by now...this meal rates a perfect 9 ! If you run across this Deal of the Day anytime get a few for your freezer - at almost any price.

The melange of flavors in this Fire Grilled Chicken Poblano bowl are the bomb!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mother's Day Recipe Videos - 83 & 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 videos below to see what I mean.

She grew up in Texas on the Gulf Coast, in a small shrimping town called Port O'Connor. There, I learned to love seafood.

Her father was a shrimp boat captain. So, while we couldn't afford steak, 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.

Mom had movie star looks (like a young Elizabeth Taylor) and smarts, and a scholarship to college if she wanted it, but had no extra help 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 the character and the life of the party, but he was also a little too profligate in the alcohol consumption department.

Mom went back to work as a waitress, so I leaned 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 remarried 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 were 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 Pie, Boudin 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.

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!

During my last visit to Louisiana, 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 get to smoking (wink, nudge.)

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

It's a traditional Southern dish and its cheap, too. Just chicken, sausage and the Cajun veggie trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion. What gives Gumbo it's 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.

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!

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.

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. My last vacation visit 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.

All the easy to follow steps are written out here, and with delish photos, too.

Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely ladies, and especially to my Mom - I love you!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Cinco de Mayo - Mexican & French Recipes Battle Royale

On the 5th of May, 1861, Mexico battled and defeated the French invading army. It became a celebrated holiday started in the United States.

And here in Los Angeles the clashing continues in the Cheap$kate Cocina. For my latest recipe roundup it's Mexican verses the French, redux, and the battlefield is the palate. Can we all get along? Forget about it - bring out the heavy artillery and let's duke it out, plate vs plate.

Skirmish One is a Fried Feud: Tacos Baja Fried Fish Tacos vs Ludo Truck French Fries and Fried Chicken.

Forever on lists of best taco joints in Los Angeles, Tacos Baja makes one of the most delicious Fish Tacos in town. These battered deep fried filet torpedos of perfection are also one of the best deals around, especially on Wednesdays, when they are sold for only 99 cents!

The Fish Taco is loaded with a Mexican machete chopped tomato/cabbage slaw that is topped with cream and chile sauce. When you try to pick up the taco half of the slaw is left on the plate, so be sure to get a forked slaw detector and sweep over the plate to get all that spilled.

The deep fried batter is well-seasoned and cooked to perfection. The fillet has a thick seasoned crust and the bass fish filet is flaky and moist - a detonated depth charge of flavor.

This Mexican pescado taco is a winner, even at the regular price of $1.69 per taco. Your strafed taste buds happily surrender to such crunchy deliciousness. To see what I'm writing about just check out my video review below. (And click here to see my cheap$kate recipe you can make in your own foxhole.)

16032 Whittier Blvd.
Whittier, CA 90603
ph: (323) 887-1980For Tacos Baja website, click here.

The French return fire with Top Chef star Ludo Lefebvre's fried chicken fastfood truck. How does the Ludo Fried Chicken Truck compare to Tacos Baja Fried Fish Tacos?

You would think Chef Ludo has all the culinary training to deliver a coup de grace with his fried poultry ordnance. Not so quick mon ami, fried chicken is an Southern staple so you better have a toothsome battle plan. 

Compared to the Colonel's KFC, the Ludo Truck's Chicken Strips ranks a Private. Fried chicken, when done right, has moist meat with a brightly seasoned crunchy coating. While Ludo's Chicken Strips meet the first requirement, it deserves a blindfold and firing squad for an under-seasoned coating. Chicken Strips start with a handicap -- the skin is usually removed, so the crust has to be exceptional. 

Chef Ludo needs to bone up on Southern fried chicken seasonings, especially if Chicken Strips are the ordnance of choice -- or take your fried chicken strips in a more original and delectable direction.

Now the white meat tenders are moist, and is a generous portion, even at $5.50 for two. While the coating is crunchy enough and not objectionable, it's just bland and boring. I expect more from a Top Chef contestant.

Another item I have tried from Ludo Truck is the French Fries -- and I hate to say it, but no improvement here. Chef Ludo should just wave a white flag and surrender.

You would think French Fries from Frenchman Ludo Lefebvre would be a direct bullseye hit, wiping out other fries contenders, but they are more of a warhead dud. These French fries are limp and under-seasoned. Maybe because I am more of a Belgian double-fried crispy fries type. (Chef Ludo, you can checkout my recipe video for a better French fry by clicking here.)

Even though the Ludo Truck fries seem fresh, and thick cut, almost any fast food burger joint makes them better, even when made from frozen pre-cut spuds. Don't fill your mess kit with this meal, stick to MRE's. Okay, at ease... now check out my video below to get all the so-so tasty details.

So in this battle royale, Mexico blows the French out of the water, and not because it's cheaper, it's just tastier.

Sortie two is War of the Soup recipes: Calabasita vs French Onion Soup.

Calabasitas is a Mexican veggie stew made with a bunker-full of summer squash. It's spicy comfort food, a dish often ordered by my wife at a local Hollywood Mexican restaurant, and shared over a happy hour of frosty margaritas.

Along with squash, you 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 grilled sandwich).

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

So how does Calabasitas stand up to French Onion Soup?

Sweet caramelized onions in a broth of red wine and beef flavor is a full-on invasion of savoriness. It takes a lot of slow cooking sliced onions to make a French Onion Soup. But the time invested is worth it. And when you add a thick slice of toasted French bread and a slab of melted cheese, well you have to succumb to this flavor bomb.

So in the battle of the soups the white flag of surrender is waved by Mexico - France gets the win, but just barely. There, you have your revenge for the last culinary resounding defeat.

 Finally, clash three is a Battle of the Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros vs a French Cheese Omelet.

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 grĂ¢ce with your favorite salsa, either fresh or from the jar.

Just check out my video below to see my cheap$kate version.

It's Guerilla vs Classic Warfare. Technique is paramount to make a French-style Omelettte. I took me a several counter-offensives to finally conquer it. 

Mainly you gently stir the omelet until it is almost done but still lightly moist, then add the cheese and fold the egg. It's served with a damp interior. Oh, and you fry the omelet in butter; so in your own battle of the bulge, fitting into your fighting gear will be a lost cause.

Once you've tried my version of a French Omelette, you will never surrender to any other kind. Check out my video recipe below and start you own cooking maneuvers.

So who won the War of Breakfasts? Man it's a tough decision...I can't decide, so I'll call a truce in this kitchen combat zone - both recipes are victorious!

Everyone is a winner in this war of appetites, so don't wait to be drafted, just volunteer from my recipe boot camp and give any of the above battle-tested recipes a try. 

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Easy Breakfast Burrito - Video Recipe

Got leftovers? Then I have a recipe for you for a simple Breakfast Burrito made with scrambled eggs. If you have some leftover pinto beans, a bit of Mexican rice, and don't forget the jar of cheap salsa - then that's all you need for this cheap$kate recipe. So check out the recipe video below to see how it all comes together.
Easy Breakfast Burrito - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 35 seconds.

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

Cans of pinto beans are cheap anywhere you shop for them. I get mine from my local 99c only Stores.

Make a fresh pot of pinto beans and you will have leftovers. I like to freeze a few single serving ziploc bags for breakfasts that feature this legume. 

You can mash them for Refried Beans, or leave them whole. You can add beans right into the scrambling eggs, or add them separately.

My Mom's Mexican Rice is a standby for me - click here for her recipe. First, saute rice in a couple tablespoons of oil for a few minutes, this gives rice a nice texture and extra nutty flavor.

Add a little onion and garlic and cook until soft. Then finally add water and a tablespoon or two of tomato sauce or paste. Cover it, and when done spoon some on a heated tortilla; the red-hued fluffy rice is the bed your beans and eggs will reside on.

And I always have an opened jar of cheap salsa to spice up the Breakfast Burrito. What's your favorite jarred salsa? I have a few and get them when they are on sale.

If you are flour averse then use smaller corn tortillas for Breakfast Tacos.

I've published a Breakfast Burrito before, but I made it with Mexican Eggs (a combination of chopped tomato, onion, jalapeno) I often saute veggie Chorizo then scramble in some eggs for a spicy breakfast burrito or tacos.

As you can see, there are a hundred ways to make my easy-to-build Breakfast Burrito. All you need to do is freeze some leftovers and go from there.

Ingredients (about 2 burritos)
  • 2 flour tortillas - okay to use wheat tortillas. Substitute with corn tortillas for Breakfast Tacos.
  • 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans - fresh-made or from a can. Okay to use whole beans, or mash for Refried Beans.
  • 1/2 cup Mexican Rice - okay to use regular rice, or just leave it out.
  • 3 eggs - I used medium size eggs. Okay to add more eggs or less, to suit your taste.
  • Salsa - I used store bought. Up to you how much to use.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 2 tablespoons oil - one for refried beans and one for scrambling eggs.
Extra toppings: sauteed chorizo, potato, and cheese.
*Adjust topping amounts, including beans and rice, to suit your tastes.

Scramble eggs. While eggs scramble, heat up beans and rice in a microwave or in a pan on the stove top.

If you like chorizo then saute that first, then go to scrambling eggs. You can mix eggs into chorizo, or keep it separate.

You can make Refried Beans by mashing them with a fork in a tablespoon of oil and some bean sauce. Mash until desired creaminess is reached.

While eggs finish up, heat tortillas for a couple of minutes to soften and make folding easier. Also bring salsa to room temperature.

Just make the Breakfast Burrito any way you like. If you like a lot of egg then load it on. If beans are your thing, then leave out some egg and stuff the burrito with pinto beans. And don't forget the salsa!

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