Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cheesecake for the Oscars

So tonight Hollywood slaps itself on the back, and hands out gold statuettes of a naked guy named Oscar.

I love the movies, and I love the cheesy-ness of tinsel town, so I decided to bake a cheese cake!

It was easy -- with a graham cracker crust, 2 packages of Weight Watchers Cream Cheese, eggs, sugar and imitation vanilla from the 99 Cent Only Store.

I was going to decorate it, but it turned out looking just like a full moon, so I just had to leave it alone.

But all this talk about cheesecake made me wonder when the last time some real cheesecake won an Oscar, and I immediately thought of one of the most controversial wins in Oscar history -- Judy Holliday, as best actress in "Born Yesterday". I know I'm going way back here over 60 years, but it gives me an excuse to talk about some of my favorite movies, performances, and actors and actresses.

So indulge me, if you will . . . first the trailer for "Born Yesterday"

As you can see, Judy Holliday plays the archetypical not so dumb blonde chorus girl turned mol. And she did a fine job, but consider if you will the ladies she up against for Best Actress award that year: Gloria Swanson for "Sunset Boulevard", Bette Davis for "All About Eve", Anne Baxter for "All About Eve", and Eleanor Parker for "Caged".

Personally, I think the Academy Award should have gone to Gloria Swanson, or perhaps Bette Davis, but you see I'm a little partial to "Sunset Boulevard". It is simply one of the best, if not the best, movie ever made about Hollywood.

William Holden as the beleaguered script writer, and Gloria Swanson as an aging movie star are superb. Bill Holden co-starred with Judy Holliday in "Born Yesterday", and did not win his Oscar for "Sunset Boulevard," but would receive one a few years later for his role in "Stalag 17".

But "Sunset Boulevard" wasn't the only movie in which Bill Holden played a stressed screenwriter, there was also the underrated comedy "Paris When It Sizzles":

But, I digress . . . we were talking about cheesecake, weren't we? How's about we close with the ultimate cheesecake, Marilyn Monroe, who sadly never won an Oscar, but was a not so dumb blonde in the vein of Judy Holliday. Here she is in one of her first roles, Miss Caswell in "All About Eve". I see her star rising like the sun in the east.

Chinese Chicken Salad -- Too Pretty to Eat!!! Almost . . .

My love of Asian food is pretty evident, and luckily I find everything I need to make many lovely dishes at the Dollar Store.

Now granted, Chinese Chicken Salad is probably an American concoction, but I do enjoy a good one, and when I found this Organic Mandarin Sesame dressing from Maple Grove of Vermont, I knew it was in my near future. The dressing has 0 grams of fat, so I am very happy indeed.

It did take me a little while to collect all the ingredients, but it was definitely worth the wait and effort.

Here is the shopping list:

Asian dressing (you can make one with soy sauce and vinegar and oil, or you might get lucky and find a great one like I did)
cabbage (I used purple and green)
mandarin oranges
green onions
crispy things (Chow mein or rice noodles)

I had a wonderful time assembling my salad, and for extra eye appeal I garnished it with a pansy in complementary colors.

Feel free to experiment and adapt the ingredients to your liking, but remember to make it pretty!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pansies are Pretty, and They are Good Eatin' Too!

Today the 99 Cent Only Store had small pansies, or violas. I love Pansies, they are pretty, they are hardy, and they taste good. So I made a salad and garnished it with the lovely little flowers.

They say first you eat with your eyes, and this was certainly a feast for my peepers.

Welcome Spring!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kikkoman Curry Sauce with Meat and Vegetables Ginza Style

I love curry, and I love the convenience of someone cooking it for me, so I was thrilled to see all three Kikkoman Curry Sauces "Ginza Style" with meat and vegetables on the shelf at the 99 Cent Only Store. I didn't expect too much coming from a can, and honestly my low expectations were not exactly exceeded.

So far I have only tried the chicken, but it tastes kinda like Campbell's beef soup with a little curry added. I'm guessing all the varieties will taste this way. The thing I hate about soups and stews in a can is the mushy vegetables. I love raw carrots, but carrots in a can are a real turn off for me.

That said, these curries in a can aren't that bad. They will do in a pinch, but they will never replace that great Thai place down the street.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Day Late, and a Dollar Short

Well, it seems I am always a day later, and a dollar short. . . and today I am TWO days late (or one depending on whether you are observing the holiday on Monday, February 21st, or George Washington's real birthday, the 22nd), in my Presidents' Day post. Sorry George. Anyways, in honor of our founding father I am highlighting this wonderful Hero brand jar of cherry preserves I got from the 99 Cent Only store.

It has wonderful flavor, texture, and packaging, and is imported from Switzerland. So does that make me unpatriotic? Did George Washington really chop down a Cherry Tree?

I only paid a buck with a picture of George for it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peanut Sauce - 5 (or maybe 6) Ingredients from the Dollar Store

I love peanuts, I love peanut butter, I love peanut sauce. Peanut sauce is usually served with Chicken Satay (which is basically chicken on a stick), and it sounds exotic, but it is really good with anything . . . brown rice, vegetables, bacon (a la Elvis) -- it is peanut sauce, plain and simple, and it is really easy to make.

It almost satisfies my 5 basic ingredient rule, only I used 6 tonight. Here they are:

Peanut Butter
Soy Sauce (Lite)
Garlic (minced)
Coconut Milk (Lite)
Cilantro (optional)
Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

I happen to love cilantro, but some people don't so that is on the optional list. Also the balsamic vinegar added some sweetness I found lacking, but it is not necessary. If you don't have Coconut milk or cream, you could probably use sour cream or milk, or even butter and chicken stock, or beer -- you really can't screw this up. It is peanut butter made into a sauce. Get it? Peanut butter sauced. That's it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Holiday COKE from the Dollar Store and a quick sandwich

The New York Times had this article on Coke's secret formula which inspired me to grab one from the fridge. Now normally, you can't get real Coca Cola from the Dollar Store, though you can get plenty of cheaper brands of cola, namely Shasta.

When I was growing up, soda was a treat, not a necessity, and the brand was usually Cragmont -- which was Safeway's store brand. It seems I'm not the only one who thinks Cragmont should still be on the shelves.

I came from a big, thrifty family (one of my mom's favorite sayings was "we're going to eek out a miserable existence until payday"), so a can of Cragmont (or Shasta) was reserved for special occasions like a trip to our cabin. We did however, have Coke from time to time, especially on my Mother's birthday in December when we trimmed the Christmas tree, or when we were on the road, and could buy a bottle from one of those great old dispensers.

I come by my love of Coke naturally, you might say, and I have never trusted anyone who drinks Pepsi.

I work with Coke drinkers, well, Diet Coke drinkers, and one woman can down as many as four or five cans a day without blinking an eye. She doesn't give a hoot, that now they are saying that diet sodas can give you increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cancer. . . but I digress.

Anyways, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Coke issues special Holiday cans each years, and after the festivities, you can usually find the leftovers in the 99 Cent Only Store.

Today, I wanted a quickie lunch, so I threw together a sandwich of salami, cheese, and the herb mayo I featured a while back and downed it with a can of Holiday Coke 2010. Yummy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart Shaped Brownies for Valentines Day

I tried to make these brownies look just like the picture on the side of the package of the foil heart tins.

I didn't exactly succeed, but they sure did taste good.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Green Cauliflower Soup with Capers!

I found capers at the Dollar Store! I found capers at the Dollar Store!! So, I bought two jars, and I also found green cauliflower, which is a favorite of mine.

I made this Green Cauliflower Soup with Capers, but cooking together the cauliflower, onions, capers, and lemon juice.

Puree it all together and you have a yummy concoction.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Freestylin' !

Some nights I just throw together a bunch of stuff and hope it works.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Flavored Mayo from Kraft -- Chipotle and Garlic Herb

Today the 99 Cent Only Store had two kinds of flavored Mayo from Kraft -- Chipotle and Garlic Herb. There expiration dates are March 2011, and they still taste great. I'm a little partial to the Garlic and Herb, and have used it as a dip for Wheat Thins and Butter and Garlic Croutons.

I also like the squeezability and slotted top, and the fact that these are not over 4 grams of fat per serving helps too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fortune Cookies for Chinese New Year!

Okay it's officially Chinese New Year's now . . . here in Vegas the casinos are literally rolling out the red carpet, for giant dragons to dance on, and over there in the mainland they have torched a five star hotel with fireworks.

So things are really rolling along. I'm not going to take such a raucous approach, but merely enjoy the New Year of the Rabbit with some good old fashioned fortune cookies from the Dollar Store.

The 99 Cent Only Store has Twin Dragon brand in a cute pink takeout shaped package. Each fortune cookie is individually wrapped, and they are crunchy and not too sweet, but their fortunes frankly, leave something to be desired.

You see one of my pet peeves, is fortune cookie fortunes that are not really fortunes, but merely advice, or observations. For example, my first cookie of the day bore this fortune: "Someone's kindness will surprise and delight you." Okay, that's a decent fortune -- maybe someone will buy me a winning lottery ticket, or that Cadillac I've always wanted, or leave me a small fortune (not that I'm materialistic or anything, but the recession is really taking its toll). That would be nice, that is something I would look forward to happening.

My second cookie's (I was hungry) fortune said: "At this moment, someone is thinking nice thoughts of you." Well, I hope it is that someone who can afford surprising and delightful gifts. Anyways, I probably should of quit while I was ahead, because this is the kind of fortune which is sort of a let down. Of course it is not as bad as "BE CAREFUL OF EXTRAVAGANCE," or "Work on improving your exercise routine," those are truly awful words to find chastising you in a cookie.

Yes, I do save my fortune cookie fortunes, and I do have proof of  these (anti) fortunes. That said I have been careful of extravagance, and I have worked on improving my exercise routine, but that is beside the point.

Anyways, did you know that fortune cookies are not really of Chinese origin, but were invented right here in the good ole U.S. of A.? They are actually of Japanese descent, by way of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and real Chinese people in China have never warmed up to the treat.

So have some left over Hot 'n Sour soup, and a fortune cookie, or two, and HOPPY New Year! (It's the Year of the Rabbit . . . get it? Oh never mind.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy -- Chinese New Year and Hot 'n Sour Soup!

Okay, Chinese New Year isn't technically until tomorrow, but it is cold, and I am hungry, and I love Hot 'n Sour soup!

I cracked the code to this soup last year, and  it is so easy to make, you won't believe it. . .

So here is the Ancient Chinese Secret.
Chicken stock, vinegar, and hot sauce. Yep, that's it! Then add whatever you like, or recognize (or not) as UFOs (unidentified floating objects) in your soup. That may, or may not be -- tofu, onions, garlic, bamboo shoots, egg, chicken, mushrooms (and the Chinese have so many kinds to choose from), seaweed, carrots, cabbage . . . the list goes on and on, and that is half the fun.

BTW -- nothing is better for the cold, and/or flu than Hot 'n Sour Soup, and there is an especially nasty strain circulating this season.

So cook up a big pot of this soup, and dispense liberally!