Saturday, February 27, 2010

In 20 Seconds This Video Will Take Over Your Brain! "Whip Somebody's Ass"

Just for giggles and grins today.

OK, now that I have your attention, play this little 23 second video that my daughter sent me yesterday. It's so silly that it'll make you giggle out loud. Then you find that it's gotten in your brain and you'll be singing it all day long. You won't really know why. We all hear about "viral videos" that end up with a gajillion hits. Well this little thing is a viral video that will take hold in you brain. It's addictive!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy

I had the weekend off and it was time to cook some Comfort Food. Friday night I whipped up some Guinea Grinders; Saturday night I did Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy and yesterday I made a big slow cooker full of Chicken and Dumpling Soup.

All 3 of these dinners not only met the Cheap Bastid test but they were really tasty too. I rummaged around in the freezer to see what I had for cooking and pulled out a couple of packages of sirloin. And quite frankly, virtually everything in the freezer was bought on special. I stocked up on sirloin when Stater Bros. had it for $1.99/lb. I won't go out and pick up dead cow or any other meat just because I have a hankering for it unless it's on special. That's the Cheap Bastid Way.

So today we’re going to talk about Chicken Fried Steak. It’s one of the ultimate Southern style comfort foods. I don’t cook it very often because it’s a bit messy but sometimes the mess is worth the effort for the flavor. The flavor is terrific and the steak is tender and tasty. I use real steak rather than cube steak or, as some people do, hamburger. And, with just a bit of practice you can get the breading crispy and golden while cooking your meat to the “doneness” you like—even medium rare.

Cheap Bastid’s Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy
1 ½-2 lb Steak (sirloin or round about ¾-1 inch thick)
1 ½-2 cups flour
1 egg
1/3-1/2 cup cooking oil

Get out a good heavy skillet, cutting board, ½-1 gal. freezer bag, knife and heavy sauce pan—and put on an apron. Cut thawed steak into 2-3 chunks roughly 6 inches square. Put the steak in the freezer bag. Now pound the crap out of the meat using the sauce pan until it’s a uniform thickness of about ½ inch. (Don’t get the meat cut ½ inch thick because the pounding also tenderizes the meat). After I do this step I use a meat mallet to put the “indentations” into the meat which helps further tenderize it but I don’t wallop it, I just mark it. This step also allows you to let go of some of your frustrations by pounding on the steak. You may need to cut the meat after you tenderize it so that the portions are about 6 or 8 inches by about 3 inches.

2 Handed dredging--one for dry and one for wet.

You’re going to “double dredge so get out a couple of bowls or containers which have flat bottoms and are big enough to put the meat into flat. In one bowl dump in your flour (I also like to use some sort of crumb—about 1/3-1/2 cup bread crumbs or just take 10-12 saltines and schmoosh them into little crumbs). Break the egg in the other bowl and add about ¼ cup milk. Then whisk it thoroughly.

Put your skillet on a stove burner, turn the heat to between medium and medium high and let it heat up. Add about 1/4” of oil to the bottom. If it smokes it’s too hot and will instantly burn the breading. Season the meat with salt and pepper. (To me, this works better than seasoning the flour. You have to add to much salt & pepper to the flour to season the meat so just put it right on the meat before you dredge it). Now, you’re going to dredge your meat and lay it in the oil.

Carefully put it in the pan over medium/medium high heat and brown it.

Use 2 hands to dredge your meat—one for dry and one for wet (this is important). With one hand pick up a piece of the meat by an edge and lay it in the flour. Coat it on both sides with the flour. With your other hand lift it out of the flour and put it in the egg/milk mix and coat both sides. Then put it back in the flour still using your “wet hand” and coat both sides of the now wet meat with the flour again. Then gently put the meat into the skillet without flipping the hot oil onto your fingers. Put 2-3 pieces of the steak in the skillet. Make sure that there is space between each piece of meat in the skillet so that it fries rather than steams.

Do it 2-3 batches. As each is done, put on a plate/platter with a double layer of paper towels on it to absorb the oil. Then put the platter into a warm oven (set at 200).

Pan Gravy:
Now that the steak is done, it’s time to do the gravy. Pour oil out of the pan so that you have about ¼-1/3 cup remaining. Put pan back on the burner with the heat on medium-medium low. Add an equal amount of the leftover flour to the oil and start to whisk, whisk, whisk this into a roux. It’s going to take about 5 minutes or so of whisking to make a good roux. When you’ve got your roux made up, slowly add a cup of milk (or half a cup each of milk and chicken broth). Turn your heat up just a skosh and whisk, whisk, whisk until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Add some salt and a nice heavy dose of pepper. Add more milk if needed to make the quantity of gravy you want.

Mashed ‘Taters
Now I’m not going to repeat my mashed potato recipe (if you want it, check out Cheap Bastid’s Swiss Steak post). Suffice it to say, that you want mashed ‘taters with your Chicken Fried Steak and Pan Gravy. NO garlic. NO cheese. Just mashed ‘taters. Make sure that you time them so that they’re done about the same time as your gravy—it takes a bit of practice.

Put a mound of Mashed ‘Taters on a plate and add a couple of good hunks of Chicken Fried Steak. Smother the ‘Taters with gravy and put a healthy coat of it on the steak. Salt & pepper to taste and enjoy! Oh man! You’re going to love the stick to your ribs flavor of this dish!

The Cheap Bastid Test: About 1 ½ pounds of sirloin cost me $3 for this recipe. I used maybe $.50 worth of potatoes, $.25 worth of oil and $.10 worth of milk. With the egg and flour, let’s call the whole thing $4.00. We had a hearty, stick to the ribs dinner Saturday night and we’re just about to polish off the left-overs for lunch today. So that comes out to $1 per serving. That’s a terrific value for a Home Cooked, Comfort Food meal!

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good! Eat Cheap! Be Grateful!

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Liveblogging" My Favorite TV Show--"The Hunt for Big Fish"

Wow! I’m excited. It’s time for my favorite TV drama. It’s full of action.

I’m getting ready to settle in right now coffee mug in one hand, remote control in the other. I’m flipping the channel to 60 and cozying my butt down into the couch cushions in anticipation. It’s Saturday morning and I don’t have to work today so I can really enjoy my show. At the first commercial I’ll get a bowl of Cheerios to enjoy while I finish watching.
OK, here it comes. The commercial is about over. It’s for Jack Link’s Jerky, a prime sponsor. I wonder what the show is about today.

Yes! It’s Larry Dahlberg. Bald, short, ropy-muscled arms. Unassuming but he always succeeds in his “Hunt For Big Fish” right here on Versus.

What’s he doing? Oh yeah, he’s standing on the bow of the boat with a huge baitcasting rod. Obviously he’s going after something hefty. What? He’s in Brazil along a tributary of the Amazon. He’s going after really aggressive and huge Amazon River catfish. They eat piranha. He’s got a live piranha hooked through it’s toothy lip and flopping around. He tosses the bait out, reel spinning and throwing a cascade of droplets into the air. You hear the “zing” as the line goes out to plop a good 50 yards away in an eddy.

He’s explaining what he’s doing. “It’s going to be a little bit harder to catch these big fish today. The river level is way up meaning that the holes where these big cats usually hide out have more water running through them. So we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.”

We wait. Larry talks about how he rigged his bait. Then you hear a click. Kind of reminds you of the scene in Jaws where the line makes a single ominous “click” and Robert Shaw suddenly gets a mad glint in his eye. My hand stops halfway to my mouth, milk from my spoonful of Cheerios dripping plop, plop, plop back into the bowl.

Larry scrambles to remove the rod from its holder stubbing his toe on his tackle box. He lifts the rod and his ropy arm muscles come to life as he feels for the fish. He hushes his voice as if the fish can hear him and says “He’s playing with it first. Let’s let him really get it in his mouth,” as he free spools line from the reel. Larry locks the drag down, takes hold of the rod above the reel, drops the tip to his waist level and then, POW! POW! POW! He sets the hook hard 3 times each time jerking the rod up about 2 feet.

The tip starts sawing back and forth as the lunker lunges from side to side in its desperate tug of war with the foreign hunk of steel attached to heavy mono line jabbing him through his lip.

The fight is on. Man versus fish. Who’s going to win? Larry’s fights tend to be short. He’s after big fi
sh and he uses big tackle. He’s tremendously skilled and experienced. He shifts the rod from side to side keeping up with the struggling fish’s furious frenzy. Suddenly, we can see the gargantuan Amazon River catfish. It’s longer than Larry is tall. It’s a behemoth. Larry is breathing hard. He whispers hoarsely, “This is a monster. It’s got to go close to 300 pounds! Let’s land him and take a look.”

Larry and the guide struggle to get hands on the fish. They grunt as they heave the monster aboard. The camera zooms to get a close up of the lunker. Larry doesn’t gloat or exclaim or shout when he catches a fish. It’s as though he is far more respectful of the creature which to him is both a challenge and a science project to discover more about these animals and how they’ve managed to grow so large. The monster is gently released back into the river to continue to grow. Larry offers his bag of Jack Link’s jerky to the native guide who plops a handful in his mouth and proceeds to merrily gum it. The jerky is always present as a sponsor’s prop reminding us of the need to pay the bills.

More commercials. And then it’s time for this week’s show to end with a promise of more action in another exotic location next week as he goes on his next “Hunt for Big Fish”.

Wow! Maybe next week I’ll liveblog my other favorite show, “Antiques Roadshow” or “Ask This Old House”. This could be a whole new trend and, at least to my way of thinking, more enjoyable than recaps of “Lost” or “American Idol”. But who knows, my mind conjures up all sorts of goofy stuff.

My apologies to Larry Dahlberg if it seems as though I were poking fun at him. I’m not. This is one of my favorite fishing shows. He’s far more enjoyable than most of the other guys like Babe Winkelman or Bill Dance or Roland Martin who are little more than commercial shills for their sponsors and are tired caricatures of Gadabout Gaddis. And “hoooooooey boy!” he can sure catch him some fish.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The News is Goofy Today--Or Is My Mind Warped?

For some reason today, several short articles in my morning paper the, “North County Times” here in the northern reaches of San Diego County, caught my attention.

Maybe it’s my own interpretation or the fact that I wasn’t finished with my first cup of coffee yet, but some of this stuff is just plain goofy.

Here’s one:
“Port-a-Potty fire ‘suspicious’”
“A fire broke out in a lone port-a-potty at a construction site Tuesday night, and it’s far from certain it was a natural function. ‘It’s definitely suspicious,’ said Escondido fire Capt. Andre Paredes.”

To quote George Carlin: “Thank you Captain Obvious”.

Are we talking spontaneous combustion here? Or are we talking extremely toxic burritos which were eaten for lunch? Should we be humming “Smoking in the Boys Room”? Is there a “biffy burner” on the loose in North County? What a great name, by the way “The Biffy Burning Bandit”. Is the local TV news going to do a story on it complete with video? I’d love to see the perfectly coiffed news lady who gets tasked with that assignment, standing in front of the ashes, overemphasizing her vowels as she puts all the drama of a major catastrophe into the story.

Another new article on the paper’s Back Page which is a daily compendium of short and often odd pieces said this:

“Dickens’ dog collar fetches $11K”
“A dog collar that belonged to Charles Dickens has fetched $11,590 at a New York City auction.
The leather and brass collar is inscribed with Dickens’ name.”

Apparently, Dickens was, as the article said in its last sentence, “fond of dogs”.

Well damn, when I first saw the headline, I got the insane impression that Dickens had a fetish for wearing dog collars. Victorians were known for their closeted kinkiness and I was fully prepared to accept this about the author and was disappointed to learn that it was, indeed, a pooches collar and not a fashion accessory.

And last but certainly not least was this little tidbit under the heading of “Weird News”:

“Otter Mistaken for Snowmobiler”
This one really made me sit up and say, “Huh?”—well actually it was “WTF”??

“Greenville, Maine—State officials in Maine say witnesses who reported seeing a drowning snowmobiler on a lake were probably looking at an otter enjoying a snack.
On Thursday, three people reported seeing a snowmobiler wearing all black and a black helmet struggling in Moosehead Lake. Officials used an airboat and flew overhead on Thursday and Friday, but found no evidence that a person had gone through the ice.”
So, the upshot of this story is that rather than this:

They saw, this:

Maybe it’s because the “witnesses” had been out doing too much of this:

And to quote Dave Barry, “I’m not making this up!”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Chimichurri and Tri-Tip

Cheap Bastid got up this morning knowing that there was a post to write. But man, I’m pooped. The last 4 days have been long with most of them spent on my feet. My feet don’t hurt—but my glutes do. Which reminds me of beef. Which reminds me of today’s topic. Which reminds me that this is a tasty, delicious meal.

Originally I was going to do this as 2 posts but I’m rolling it all into one. What we’re doing today is Chimichurri and Santa Maria style Tri-Tip.

If you’re not familiar with Chimichurri, it’s arguably the Argentinean national dish. Chimichurri is an incredible flavorful sauce and marinade. You can use it on beef, pork, chicken but it’s most often associated with beef. You might have to first get past the idea of a green sauce on top of your beef, but once you taste it, you won’t have a problem dipping into it or slathering it on your food. (It might look a bit like a sinus infection but it tastes incredible!) We like it so much we use it for a chip dip.

I first learned about Chimichurri from a guy I used to sell cars with right next to the Mexican border in Chula Vista, CA. Jorge (J.C.) Carranza is Argentinean and a terrific car sales guy and we’d talk about our mutual love of good food during the frequent down time. Did I say “talk”? J.C. is like me and loves to debate and argue so some of our conversations would get pretty spirited.

Now, let’s talk tri-tip for a bit. This is a terrific cut of meat. It’s from the bottom sirloin and is triangular in shape. It’s flavorful and cooked properly is tender and juicy. Santa Maria style tri-tip is usually cooked coated in a seasoning blend of black pepper, garlic and coarse salt and is a fantastic way to prepare the meat. This time, I used Chimichurri as a marinade as well as a sauce. “True” Santa Maria Tri-tip is served with a salsa but who says the salsa has to be red! And, Santa Maria style is also a cooking technique where the meat generally is seared over a red oak fire then cooked indirectly by raising the grill surface until the desired “doneness” is achieved.

OK, so my mouth is now watering with the memory of this tasty dinner I made recently. So, now it’s time to share these 2 simple recipes with you.


4-6 garlic cloves peeled and minced (I used jarred Gilroy garlic)
1-2 jalapenos seeded
1 “bunch” parsley
1 “bunch” cilantro
¼ cup (appx) chopped onion
2 tbsp lime juice (fresh squeezed is best—add some of the zest too)
¼ cup (appx.) Red wine vinegar
1 cup oil (EVOO or Canola)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat (Tabasco, cayenne, chipotle, habenero) to taste (optional)

Get out your food processer. Strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley (you don’t have to be perfect just make sure that the larger stems at the bottom are pulled free or chopped off) and put into the processer. Add about a tablespoon of oil to start and run the processer to chop up the leaves. Add more oil as needed then add the jalapenos, onion, garlic, salt & pepper and process some more. Taste, taste, taste! If you want some more heat, add some Tabasco, cayenne, etc. to taste. This will make a couple of cups or so. You want your Chimichurri to be able to be poured—not too thick but not runny either—just a nice viscous sauce.

Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip
1 lb Tri-tip (they’re usually 2 ½ to 3 lbs)

Put the Tri-tip in a large plastic freezer bag with about 1 cup or so of the Chimichurri. Shake & squeeze until the Tri-tip is well coated. Put the bag of Tri-tip in the refrigerator on a plate for about 4-6 hours (or even overnight) to marinade.

Set up your grill with a 2-zone fire (hotter on one side than the other). You can do this on a multiple burner gas grill by having one side on high and the other either on low or off depending on the heat your grill throws off. If you’re using charcoal put all the coals on one side. Take the Tri-tip out of the bag and scrape off some most of the marinade with your finger (don’t worry, you can wash your hand—you have to get “intimate” with your food as you cook).

Put the roast on the hottest part of the grill. Sear it for about 4 minutes per side then move it over to the cool side. It’ll be medium rare in about 12 minutes and well done in about 25. (You know your grill and how long stuff takes. This is about a 3 inch thick cut so you have to be a bit patient). I have learned that cooking based on time works best for me on the grill. Flip your meat about every 5-6 minutes for even cooking. Use tongs! Don’t peek, poke or jab between flips. Let it cook.

When done, remove from the grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes and preferably 10. Then slice, put on a platter or plate and drizzle Chimichurri over it—and have some available “on the side” for dipping.

(At the request of Mrs. Cheap Bastid, here's what I would do if I didn't have a grill and were going to do it in the oven--put the marinaded, "scraped" roast in a skillet on the stove top heated to medium high. Sear on each side for about 2 minutes until you get a bit of a crust. Then transfer to a roasting pan (preferrably on a rack & I use foil disposable pans) and put into the oven at 350 degrees. Check at 45 minutes and then every 15 minutes after until you're half a notch from your desired doneness. Remove and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing).

Have a side of “frijoles” and a salad and some French bread along with it and you’ve got some fantastic eating “Santa Maria style”.

Cheap Bastid Test: You have to look for specials on your meat! The last Tri-tips I bought were on special for $1.99/lb and I got the 2 biggest ones they had. The fixings for Chimichurri are cheap. A bunch of cilantro or parsley is about $.50 each and the other ingredients should be on hand. Total for the whole thing was about $5 for the meat and $1.50 for the Chimichurri sauce. It’s fantastic eating and will feed 4 easily. Assuming 4 for dinner, the cost of this is about $1.75 per person. And we had left-overs for sandwiches too!

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hooray! It Stopped Snowing, Now Everybody Has the "Runs"!

You might think that sitting out here in Southern California, I would be feeling kind of smug right now about all the folks in the eastern states who are slowly digging out from the double wallop of blizzards that have smacked them the last couple of weeks.

Of course the good news is that the Federal Government has been shut down in Washington, D.C. pretty much all week. The net result has been, I would suspect, an actual increase in efficiency.

But, the weather took me back to my years of living in the Upper Midwest and all the many times I’ve had to dig out. What is a somewhat pleasant experience in November or December because it’s the first snow, is a huge pain in the keyster in February. By February you’re ready to be done with winter even though deep inside you know you’re going to get nailed at least once more.

We got talking about this recently. One of the things we were talking about was having to go on “runs” to make sure you’re stocked up before you get socked in. Carolyn has never really had to contend with blizzard induced potential shortages but, like all of us, she’s had to go on “emergency runs”. So we started a list.

I’ve only had a couple of memorable blizzard induced runs (one I made, the other by fraternity brothers in college). I recall a blizzard approaching in Bismarck, North Dakota and as a preparation I strapped on my cross-country skis and skied to a convenience store about a mile or so away to make sure that I had enough cigarettes to last several days. It was about 8 at night and was actually not bad (for one thing I was 26 and was in good shape and did a lot of cross country skiing back then) except for the wind and heavy snowfall—at least it wasn’t too cold, only about 0.

Several years before, during a blizzard which shut down the University of North Dakota for several days, 4 fraternity brothers took off pulling a toboggan behind them to bring back enough beer to last a couple of dozen thirsty guys through the storm. It took one to pull the toboggan on the way to Frenchies and all 4 to pull it on the way back. But we had cold ones to keep us warm d
uring the storm.

So what we’ve got in our lives are a series of “runs”. It seems as though we’re always dashing off for something forgotten or that we’ve run out of. There’s bread runs and bun runs, and of course hot dog runs, milk runs and egg runs.

And then there are special purpose runs. There’s pet food runs. Have you ever noticed that if you run out of dog food, you could conceivably get by until tomorrow (or even the next day) with left over pizza crusts, uneaten cereal, a can of cold soup, potato chips—just about anything. Old Fido just isn’t that picky—he’s hungry (and also that holds true for those of you who have to own those yappy, prissy, foo-foo dogs that you want to take everywhere a la Paris Hilton).

But cat owners on the other hand, if you tried to feed the cat left over pizza crust or pepperoni the cat would look at it then turn away with a WTF type of attitude. Not only do you have to make a run NOW but you have to get exactly the right food. You better go get that food or that cat is going to punish you (a dog on the other hand will just sigh and give you a guilt trip but a cat is going to be out for revenge).

Real men will go out in the middle of the night, if necessary, to pick up feminine hygiene products for their wife or their daughter. You just better know exactly and precisely which product, which brand and which level of absorbency or you’re in trouble. And do you want to know what a wife will do if you get the wrong kind? Read the paragraph above about what a cat will do if you get it wrong—same thing.

Another thing real men do—they’ll go on a diaper run. What’s even worse is when you have to go on a diaper run AND feminine hygiene product run at the same time. I fact I once had to do that even one better—take those 2 items and add Preparation H. At midnight. In a small town.

Why is it that you never get ice cream on that list? If your wife and daughter are shipping you off the grocery store at 11 p.m. for tampons someone could at least include some ice cream. We’ve done emergency ice cream runs at our place. Often! We get about 3 days out of a carton. And then if there’s nothing else around for dessert (we’ll even settle for pretzels) we make an emergency run so we can slurp it down while watching Top Chef.

I went through 2 pregnancies with my second wife. Her “Jones” was for “Hostess Ho-Hos”. It had to be Ho-Hos. Not Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Not Ding-Dongs. I would be summarily shipped off to Hy Vee at all hours although they closed at 10 in our small Iowa town. They came 10 to a box and she’d put down a box in an evening. So I was constantly off to HyVee. When I started going in for Ho-Hos during the second pregnancy, the checkers who were longtime employees knew immediately that we were expecting again. And if they were out of Ho-Hos, I was in big trouble.

And have you ever made a Home Depot or Lowe’s run to get some wood or something else for a project? You get home and get started then discover you forgot something so you have to make another trip. Then you get home again and find out you got the wrong widget and have to go back again. You make a total of 6 trips and your Saturday project has now lengthened out to a weekend project and has now increased in price for $50 to $200 but the good news is that you made some new friends who now know you by name.

So we all make runs. Many people are just now getting out and about in Philly or Baltimore or D.C. You got a ton of snow but what the hell, go out and make another snow angel anyway.

I used to be one of the first who was able to get out after the snow let up or stopped. My old 1980 Pontiac Sunbird was great in the snow. It was rear-wheel drive and heavy with a manual transmission. Plus, it was made before electronic fuel injection. What I’d do is pop the hood and set the idle on the carburetor up just a hair (so it would idle on dry pavement at about 10 mph). Then I’d let the clutch out easy and lift my foot from the gas.

That car would idle through nearly a foot of snow at 5 mph. And I’d be able to get up to about 15 in the snow and drive in 2nd gear. But at least I was moving. This was back in the day before every testosterone wannabe had to have a 4x4. So, I’d be able to get to the store for milk and cereal and dog and cat food while others were just starting to scrape the snow off the top of their cars and wonder when the snow plows would get through. Anything to keep the cat happy and to get the Ho-Hos.

And now I’ve got to go. I need a pack of cigarettes and we’re out of ice cream.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Wieners Wellington

Well, I’ve been threatening to do a post on Wieners Wellington for a while now. It is a prominent recipe in the cookbook I wrote for my kids a couple of years ago—“Dad’s Everyday Cookbook and Kitchen Survival Guide”.

Chef Gordon Ramsey judges “cheftestants” on “Hell’s Kitchen” based on how well they can execute his recipe for Beef Wellington. Now, Cheap Bastid doesn’t have the budget for beef tenderloin and puff pastry so I’ve had to make do all these years with Crescent rolls and hot dogs.

But that’s OK. My kids always loved them. They could pick them up and drag them through their ketchup and snarf down as many as they wanted (subject to the limits of a tube of Crescent rolls, of course). And, kids still love ‘em. Even better, Carolyn and I love ‘em too. The only down side is that Crescent rolls are at least 2bucks a tube (store brand or Pillsbury on special).

So, it’s not the cheapest of Cheap Bastid meals—but it’s still only $3 including the wieners (that’s if you buy the cheapies on special made with pork, chicken and turkey (gaaaaaack!). The downside of hot dogs is that the good ones (all beef) now cost at least $4 for a 1 lb. package. For 4 bucks a pound I expect steak not wieners!

Wieners Wellington
Hot Dogs (however many you want)
Crescent rolls (either store brand or Pillsbury)
Cheese slices (American, or cut slices off a block of cheddar)

Take out a cookie sheet. Pre-heat oven to 375. Open the tube of crescent rolls and remove the dough (let the dough sit out for about 10 minutes to warm to room temperature).

Slit each hot dog you’re going to cook lengthwise about 2/3 of the way through. Slice the cheese into strips about ½” wide and put 2 pieces into each hot dog (enough to go from end-to-end). (Skip this step if you’re not doing cheese wiener wellington).

Starting at the short end of the triangle of dough, wrap the hot dog (what you want to do is totally encase the hot dog in the crescent roll). The first time you ever do this, you may make a bit of a mess.

Then roll the dough covered wiener gently between the palms of your hands to smooth the dough over the entire dog. You just have to practice a bit and get it right through trial and error. (I have made some pretty ugly “Wieners Wellington” in my day).

Put into oven for about 10-12 minutes (golden brown).

This dish is perfect when accompanied with the Home Fries that I posted last week. Add a small salad and you’ve got a full meal of 2-3 wieners per person and a couple of extra crescent rolls.

The Cheap Bastid Test: For such a simple meal with simple ingredients, this is kind of marginal for the Cheap Bastid Test. You’ve got at least $3 in ingredients for a maxiumum of 8 Wieners Wellington. OK, that’s $.37 each so it’s not all that bad. But the price can go up quickly if you use pricier hot dogs which many people will do. However, this is a pretty good and simple family meal (or couples meal or even just kids meal) and in its own way is a treat.

So give it a try. You could even “gussy it up” with wine or milk served in a wine glass and candlelight for just that hint of romantic ambiance. In other words, you can have just a little bit of fun with it.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Ask; Don't Tell...What Would Gunny Highway Do?

“Improvise, adapt, overcome.” That was Gunny Highway’s raspy mantra in one of my all time favorite Clint Eastwood movies, “Heartbreak Ridge”. It seems to me that President Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense could benefit from some of that wisdom as they review “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

I was flipping through the news channels yesterday morning and came across a couple of reports about a review of this now infamous policy. One of the news stories said that the Department of Defense will now spend a year studying the repeal of this policy.

They’ll study it to death. They’ll ask questions about “good order and discipline”, “unit cohesion”, etc. Senator McCain and others will continue his cantankerous ways in opposition. Why can’t Pres. Obama just do what Harry Truman did on February 2, 1948 and send a message to Congress. Truman’s message said that he had “instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed forces eliminated as rapidly as possible.”

That would be a good start. Except, like in Truman’s case, it would take several years to fully implement the change. But it would be a good start. Then Fox News, neo-cons and all the arch conservative pundits could have a hey-day criticizing it and we could see just how much mettle the president has in taking the right course of action and “sticking to his guns”.

I thought the comments from Lt. Dan Choi were interesting this morning. He said that shortly after he came out, he was cleaning his weapon after a firing range training session. A young trooper from his platoon asked him if he were the officer he had seen on the Rachel Maddow show talking about his homosexuality. Choi said that he was. After a couple of minutes, the young trooper said, “Cool, when can we meet your boyfriend?” And according to Choi the young trooper was OK with it.

Maybe that’s the crux of this whole matter. Today’s 18-25 year olds have grown up in an intensely politically correct educational and social environment. They tend to be pretty blasé about sexuality. If someone is gay, so what? They are far more accepting than those of us who grew up 20, 30 or 40 years ago—or should I say than society was 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

What that might suggest is that now is the time to make this change. If the “command structure” (the senior officers and senior NCOs) don’t like it, well maybe they should either change their own attitude or retire.

I don’t think that Gunny Highway would have much of a problem, just as long as the guy next to him can be trusted to “have his back”. Like Gunny Highway said a couple of times in the movie, “just because you saved my ass doesn’t mean we’re going to take warm showers together.”

Until this policy is changed—hopefully by order of the Commander in Chief--the military will continue to be, in Gunny Highway's words, a “clusterflub” (actual word changed like the movie censors did).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Taters on the Cheap

So, last week I’m checking the grocery specials for Stater Brothers. I do that every week as I’m planning the week’s round of grocery shopping and potential meal ideas. London Broil was on special for $1.88/lb and that was good. But, no soda was on 3 for $10 so Carolyn is going to have to ration her remaining Pepsi products (have you noticed a big spike in soda prices lately? Geez, it’s gotten ridiculous and I’m glad that I rarely drink it).

What got my attention was the special for Ore Ida frozen fries. The ad was offering 20 to 32 ounce bags of Ore Ida fries for $2.99--$1.00 off. Now wait a minute. I buy a 10 lb. bag of potatoes for $2.49. That’s a quarter a pound. These frozen fries are $1.50 a pound—on special. Now, if I go by prices at fast food places, their fries are probably more like $8.00 a pound (I’m guessing that the fries on the dollar menu fries are 2 ounces).

I make roasted fries all the time—mainly because they taste better. In my life I’ve tossed lots of frozen fries onto a cookie sheet and popped them in the oven. So, do you want to save some money? Make your own fries. It’s really easy.

These oven fries (and I like the big, wedgie ones) are really tasty. I do them in the oven and I do them in a pan on my grill too. Your basic frozen fry takes about 20 minutes in a 400-425 degree oven. These take 20-30 minutes at 425—and if you cut them the size of regular fries they’ll be done in 20 minutes or less too. There’s 5 minutes of prep rather than the 30 seconds to cut open the bag and dump the frozen fry on the cookie sheet. But…

The “but” is the big thing. I’m talking 25 cents a pound not $1.50. Do the math. If you make these once a week for a year—a pound each time (and that’s conservative) you can save
$65 a year. That’s real money. For us, it’s a week’s groceries—free. Saving money on your food bill isn’t hard—it’s just common sense.

Cheap Bastid’s Oven Fries (for 2)

3 medium potatoes—about 1 lb
A couple of good glugs of cooking oil
Medium bowl
Cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 425. Rinse potatoes well and pick off any “eyes” that are sprouting (I just use my thumbnail). Pat dry with a paper towel. Cut each potato (using a good chef’s knife with a bit of heft) into 4 quarters--lengthwise once, then rotate 90 degrees and lengthwise again. That’s 4 big wedges, then cut each wedge for a total of 8. If you want regular size fries cut the potato into thirds then cut each of those into about 3/8” strips.
Put cut potatoes into the bowl. Pour a couple of good glugs of oil over them—2 to 3 tablespoons worth. Season the potatoes. Use kosher salt or salt and pepper or some garlic powder and dried parsley or salt and cayenne/chipotle for a bit more kick (I like that hint of heat that cayenne gives). Reach into the bowl with your hand and thoroughly mix potatoes so that they have a light coating of the oil. Now, dump the whole shebang onto a cookie sheet (preheat the sheet of you want but it’s not really necessary) and spread into one layer. Pop into the oven for about 12 minutes if you’re making wedges or about 8 if you’re making fries. Remove from oven and flip the fries over then put them back in for another 8-10 minutes until golden or medium brown.

This is going to make wedge or steak fries that have a crisp outside and are puffy and hot inside. They’re delicious. It might take you a couple of times to get your timing down so they come out the way you want them and not overdone. But, you’ll enjoy the taste. If your kids don’t want them because they’re neither MickyDees nor frozen that’s OK! That means more for you. But, they’ll like them too.

And that’s the Cheap Bastid way: Eat Good, Eat Cheap, Be Grateful.