Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quick and Easy Bagel Spread

Wow, July has been a busy month. Not even a single blog post yet. So sorry! But I'm still continuing to weave new cheapskate paths into my life and storing knowledge to share. This recipe pictured above for Toasted Bagels with Avocado Cilantro Spread is one definitely worth posting. Click on the link for the full recipe. Not only is it a meatless dish which always leads to big savings, but it makes an excellent portable picnic lunch or appetizer. I picked this recipe out for a camping trip last weekend when I was looking for recipes that transported well and required minimal refrigeration. Boy were these a treat to devour around the campfire in the morning with a cup of hot cocoa. They were also quite satisfying. The recipe makes enough for four to five half bagels and goes great with a few sliced tomatoes on top. Spread is a mixture of cream cheese, fresh mashed avocado, cilantro, lime juice and salt. But it is the few additional drops of tobasco sauce that really marries the flavor and brings it to the next level. Don't be disuaded if you do not like spice. It doesn't add much heat, just a little smoky tanginess that would be incomplete without it.

The recipe is from and is called

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My first time with a chicken

I've always been a little intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole bird. As adventurous as I am in the kitchen, there are still a few things I've yet to try and cooking a whole chicken/turkey/bird is one of them. I'm not sure why I find it so intimidating either. Maybe it's a guilt thing of not being able to distance myself between food and animal. Maybe it's that I'm not actually a huge fan of roasted chickens. Of course, that's because I've never cooked my own before and the deli counter ones do NOT compare. Maybe it's a fact of it being so much food for just two people and not sure what to do with the leftovers. Well, the intimidation factor was finally laid aside this week when I looked in the paper and saw whole roasting chickens on sale at Ralph's for only 59 cents a pound! At that price, even if it was a failed experiment, it was too cheap not to try. All I had to do was select a recipe. I was leaning toward one with rosemary and potatoes until this one caught my eye - Roast Chicken with Balsamic Peaches. Can you say yum? Besides, peaches also happened to be on sale this week as well so it was really no contest. Off I went to Ralphs to pick up my 4.5 pound bird for only $2.60.

I started my chicken prep with step by step instructions but immediately out of the bag ran into problems. The neck was still attached to my chicken! I wasn't counting on this and had no idea how to remove it so after a few panicky phone calls to my mom and my friend Katy, I finally found a How To Butcher a Chicken Blog that explained how to remove the neck. Simply pull on the kneck until you find where the neck attaches to the spine. Make a few small incisions in the flesh around the joint and then holding firmly in one hand, twist the body of the chicken around until it snaps freely. Not too difficult. This proved to be the biggest challenge of the evening, and the rest of the chicken roasting process went very smoothly.

The recipe for dressing the bird is quite simple. After rinsing the bird inside and out under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels. Then rub the flesh with olive oil, salt and pepper.

The fun part of this recipe is the peachy pan sauce. In a medium bowl, mix together quartered peaches (about 4), halved shallots (about 4), whole time sprigs, salt & pepper. Drizzle with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then toss together with your hands. (It's quicker and easier than using a spoon, just make sure your hands are clean.) Spread the peach mixture out around the roasting pan surrounding the bird. Then bake all together at 400 degrees until meat thermometer reads 180 degrees when insterted into the thickest part of the thigh. Mine took a little over an hour and a half.

After the chicken is done cooking, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving to let the juices redistribute so that the meat will retain it's moisture. Serve the chicken with the peachy pan sauce.

The chicken on it's own was moist and delicious, but the pan sauce is out of this world when combined with the chicken. The balsamic peaches mixed together with the pan juices and sweet carmelized shallots just melt in your mouth. This was a delicious dinner and especially tasty when peaches are at their prime, however, I think it would really hit the spot even more as a delicous fall or winter dish with it's hearty flavors. I am sooooooooo looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow. Now that I have lost my chicken roasting virginity, I can't wait to do it again. What a delicious and rewarding experience!

Greek-Flavored Turkey Burgers

What is a girl to do when Jennie-O Turkey goes on sale for $1.99/lb? Make Turkey Burgers of course! In searching the various turkey burger recipes on I gravitated to the Greek-Flavored Turkey Burgers first of all because it was given the highest reader rating review - five out of five stars. Also, since I've recently decided that we were not getting enough fruits and veggies in our diet, the fact that it incorporated red onions, fresh mint, dill and lemon juice into the patty mixture was a huge bonus. I thought the use of Roasted Red Peppers as a burger condiment as opposed to your standard lettuce and tomato was also a nice touch. Finally, the thing that really sold me from the reviews was how the egg white mixture really helped to bind everything together and allowed the patties stand up to the grill. Anyone who has ever cooked turkey burgers knows what a crumbly dry mess they can become as they cook. These mediterranean inspired turkey burgers were not only delicious and bursting with flavor, but also remained moist and juicy without undercooking. The recommended cook time of 8 minutes per side sounds like a lot, but this recipe is spot on. Eight minutes per side is just enough time to cook the meat all the way through while giving the onions a nice grilled softness and a slight crispy brownness to the outer layer of the burger. Don and I served these on Trader Joes Whole Wheat Buns with a little bit of mayo and dijon mustard. Some leftover corn on the cob with a pat of butter that we had picked up last week at 25 cents a piece was our only required accompiniment to this super easy, super quick weeknight dinner. According to the recipe these burgers freeze quite well also so now we have two additional patties in the freezer for a convenient meal sometime in the near future. To freeze burgers, simply wrap the shaped uncooked patties individually in clear plastic wrap being sure to squeeze out all the air. Then cover in foil. The patties will keep frozen for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, thaw completely in the refrigerator (about 24 hours) and then cook as directed. Will I make this again? You bet your Hamburger Buns!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bargains of the Week

Ralphs June 24 - June 30

Whole Fresh Chicken Sanderson Farms Grade A
$.59 Lb. Limit 3

Jennie-O Turkey Store Ground Turkey
Selected Varieties 20 oz
$1.99 Each

Ripe Red Raspberries
4 to 6 oz
$1.50 each

Fresh Blueberries
4 to 6 oz
$1.50 Each

Ralphs Gallon Nonfat Milk
$1.89 each

Select varieties of boxes of Popsicle Treats
6 to 12 oz
$1.00 each

Inexpensive Cocktails

Running low on beer money? Watch your grocery flyers for juice sales instead. I picked up a carton of Minute Maid Pink Lemonade on sale for only 99 cents this week. Pour over ice and mix with one or two shots of vodka. It doesn't have to be top shelf, you're only mixing it with sugar water! If you're serving for guests, class it up with a couple of sliced fresh strawberries, also on sale this week for only 99 cents! If you figure $10 for a cheap bottle of vodka, it breaks down to only about 75 cents a drink. If you want to splurge for a little nicer bottle of vodka, look out, you may spend up to a whole dollar! This drink works with just about any juice. Bottoms up!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Millard Canyon Waterfalls

One of California's greatest assets to a cheapskate looking for free things to do, is it's extensive network of parks and hiking trails. I'm hoping to get out and explore as many as possible to review for the blog. Yesterday, my friend Paige and I trekked out to Millard Canyon Waterfall for a little hiking and exploration. Of course we brought Cordy & Seumas too for a canine friendly perspective as well.

The trail to the falls is an easy hike itself. You actually start at the crest of the hill and then switch back down to the base of the falls at Millard Canyon Camp Ground, then hike up along the river bed. The falls are more of a gentle down flowing stream than a niagra rush of water that a former Pacific Northwesterner like myself might be used to, but it's a pleasant hike. You can walk up the river bed about a half a mile. There are lots of areas where you cross back and forth over the stream balancing on rocks so it's a good idea to bring your sports sandals that you don't mind getting wet.

Speaking of getting wet, the hike wasn't exactly what we imagined it was going to be since we showed up and there were huge clouds of mist hovering in the sky. We literally ended up hiking THROUGH a rain cloud.

We could have called it quits and headed home but we decided not to let that ruin our fun. Once we determined that we weren't opposed to getting a little wet and muddy, the cool damp weather actually added an element of refreshing ruggedness to our outdoor experience. If the dogs who are only 4 inches tall were willing to forge rivers and slosh through mud than we were game too!

Here is a quick packing list of recommended items to bring with you to the Millard Canyon Waterfalls Hike: Waterproof hiking shoes and/or sports sandles, sunscreen, water, energy bar, camera, sunglasses/hat, towels for drying off afterwards, blankets for the wet dogs to sit on in the car, dog leash, extra change of cry clothes for the ride home.

Normally we see lizards on our hikes in the California desert. On this rare rainy day, we spotted a couple of salamanders. Cordy was very curious about the creatures.

What happens when wiener dogs try to climb a big wet slippery rock.

The hike itself is pretty simple. According to the Hiking Group I follow on, it's about a 1000 foot elevation gain, 2.5 mile trail, or 5 miles roud trip, and only 4 out of 10 difficulty. If you are looking for a little extra challenge, there are also a couple of fire roads that weave through the mountains for some extra elevation and distance. This one takes you past a beekeepers farm with a whole series of hives up on the hill.

Directions: On the 210 freeway in Pasadena, exit Lake and head North towards the mountains. Take Lake Ave until it ends at LOMA ALTA Drive. Make a left on Loma Alta Drive. Stay on it until you get to Chaney Trail. Chaney Trail is a small side street and it is hard to see the sign, but you know you are there when you see a flashing yellow light above the middle of the street.

Finally, you do need an Adventure Pass to park at the trail head. Passes are only $5 a day or you can get a $30 pass for the whole year. Second vehicle pass is only $5 as well so Paige and I bought two passes and split the difference. Now we are set for a whole year for only $17.50 a piece. Additionally, the passes are not marked identifiably for any specific car so you can loan them out or switch to another car depending on who is driving. Passes are good in the Angeles, Cleveland, San Bernardino, and Los Padres National Forests. You can buy them online here or at various local sporting goods stores such as REI or Big 5.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's Not Delivery ....

It's not Digorno's either. It's my homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza.

This dish was inspired by a sale recently on BBQ Sauce at Ralph's for 99 cents. I used Fresh & Easy's refrigerated pizza dough marked down to 99 cents also. Let the refrigerated dough rest for about 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop so it can come to room temperature. This will make it much easiery to work with. Bake the crust for about 5 minutes on 450 degrees before adding toppings, otherwise it's difficult to get the dough totally cooked through before the toppings burn. Next, cook a single boneless skinless chicken breast on the stove top in a little bit of olive oil. Slice breast thinly and mix with a couple tablespoons of your favorite Barbecue sauce.

Spread some extra BBQ sauce down in place of tomato sauce. Top with BBQ chicken mixture, thin slices of red onion, copious amounts of grated mozzarella and gouda cheeses, and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro. Bake at 450 degrees for another 5 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is golden brown. For a full printable recipe, try Barbecue Chicken Pizza from Served here with a tasty chilled Viognier called Honey Moon from Trader Joes for only $4.99 a bottle. Don declared the meal, "Awesomeness." When I described this recipe to a coworker today she mentioned a similar gourmet pizza from her local pizzaria that uses buffalo sauce on the chicken instead of barbecue sauce and in addition to the sliced red onions also has chopped celery and ranch dressing for dipping. Now that sounds like a version I'd like to give a try also! If anyone beats me to it, let me know how it turns out.