CHEAP EATS: Restaurant Specials to Save You Some Lettuce

We all love a good deal. We love 'em even better when we're on a limited income and have to watch our cash flow like a hawk. One thing we've noticed is the date and time sensitive specials restaurants will run from time-to-time.

Dining out is an expensive proposition, so these deals really come in handy's a few that we've notice.

The 5th Day at Philly's Best. Philly's Best is a local Southern California chain that specialized in cheesesteak sandwiches. Yeah, they're not Geno's or Pat's, but they're still pretty good.

On any date that ends in a "5," you can get any sandwich on their menu for $5.55. That means Tim and I can get their cheesesteak sandwich, which is easily enough for both of us, for almost two dollars off. Other sandwiches that are normally $8.49 (such as the Buffalo chicken sandwich) are also only $5.55.

At Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, you can pick up two pieces of chicken for around two bucks on Tuesddays (two on Tuesday). Delicious, too.

Church's Chicken, not to be outdone, will give you a thigh, two drumsticks, and a biscuit for $2.99 but this is available pretty much all the time.

Carl's Jr. has a sliders happy hour from 2-5pm each day where the little burgers are available for a buck each.

If you're a fan of the drive-in at Sonic, Tuesday nights after 5pm are Family Night with half-price cheeseburgers.

You can also get half-price drinks and slushes plus 99 cent corn dogs every day from 2-4pm during their happy hour.

Of course, there's always the buck fifty hot dog and soda at the Costco food court everyday but, if you're trying to go healthy, their $4.99 acai bowl is hard to beat.

Finally, we need some desert, so show up any 31st day of the month at Baskin Robbins to get their delicious ice cream for only $1.50 a scoop.

Happy (and cheap) eating!

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Baked Pork Chops

This week, I'm pulling out some pork chops from our freezer. Hmm..fry them? Barbecue? I think I'll bake them, sort of like a home made 'shake 'n bake.'

They're frozen and I want to make them for dinner so I have a quick way to prepare them and defrost the the same time. I'm making some brine, which I'll put in the ziploc bag the chops are in to make them tasty, tendy, juicy, and thawed at the same time.

For the brine, I put half a liter of water into a sauce pan. Two heaping tablespoons of Kosher salt, a teaspoon each of marjoram, terragon, and sage go into the water, which I bring to a boil. When it does boil, I stir it vigorously, let boil for another minute and then remove from heat.

Let that sit for 10 minutes before adding into the bag with the chops. Let that marinate for 4-6 hours.

I have some leftover roasted potatoes from last week's chicken dinner. There's also a zucchini in the fridge that I can use for the side.

I coat a baking pan with olive oil.  The chops go into a plastic bowl where I pour some half and half on them. I sprinkle with black pepper and then bread crumbs. Turn them over and do the same thing.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes. Then remove from oven.

Remove the pork chops and put the potatoes on the bottom of the pan (if you're using uncooked potatoes, put them in at the beginning - see last week's recipe on how to prepare them). Put the chops back in on top of the potatoes with the cooked side down.

Dice up the zucchini.

Fill in the spaces in between the chops with the zucchini. Sprinkle some Kosher salt on them. 

Drizzle a little quality olive oil on the zucchini.

Put back in the oven for 25 minutes.

At the end of 25 minutes, increase temperature to 475 and cook for 15 more minutes for browning. After this, you're ready to serve.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Lemon Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

We have a lot of chicken thighs frozen in our freezer. Letty had some leftover lemon garlic marinade. Taylor made for a quick, easy, and delicious dinner.

First, I better give you the marinade. I used leftover but use the juice of a lemon, 6 garlic cloves minced, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and pepper.  Use this as a rub on your chicken and, when you cook it, save the drippings...that's how we ended up with leftover marinade.

Take three thighs, put in a ziploc bag with the marinade (fresh or leftover...only difference is that the leftover also has chicken stock), and let sit in the fridge for 6 hours.

Dice up some yellow potatoes.

Put in a ziploc bag, sprinkle in about a quarter teaspoon of Kosher salt, a few sprinkles of black pepper, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Shake well in sealed bag.

Smear olive oil on a baking pan, put the potatoes in the bottom of the pan.

Put the thighs on top of the potatoes, skin side up. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

I'm also cooking a little broccoli for the side. Prepare the same way as the potatoes and wrap in foil with a little opening at the top.

Put the baking dish with the potatoes and chicken in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Turn chicken, put back in oven for another 30 minutes. Put the broccoli in the oven at this time, also.

At the end of the second 30 minutes, turn the chicken skin side up again. Increase heat to 475 and cook for another 15 minutes to crisp the skin.

It should look like the picture above when done.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

BETTER BREAKFAST: Scrambling for Even More Leftovers

Hmm...still trying to make a decent meal out of our refrigerator leftovers.

Last night, my wife made sopes with some chile pork that she cooks up now and again (it's her secret recipe but basically, cook up some stew pork with hot chiles). They were delicious but we had a little more pork than we had sopes for.

This morning, I'm scrambling that up into some eggs and cheese. For the two of us, I start with 4 eggs, a splash of half and half, and a sprinkle of salt.

I warm up the left over pork in a skillet.

Add the eggs and sprinkle on some shredded cheese.

Heat up some flour tortillas on a griddle, wrap it up and serve as breakfast burritos (top).  Very delicious.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

BETTER BREAKFASTS: A Scramble for Leftovers

We all tend to ignore our refrigerators and their crispers until the produce inside goes bad. Then, we're in the unenviable state of throwing out what was once perfectly good food, simply because we forgot it was there.

That's why from time to time, I like to look inside, see what we have, and then see if I can make a dish out of it.

This morning, I'm looking for something I can mash together for breakfast...let's see what's inside.  Here's some mild Italian sausage from Trader Joe's that I used for a pizza once. It was too mild for the pizza but I think it's make a good breakfast sausage.  Here's half a zucchini, some asparagus, and some corn tortillas.

I think I can work with this.

I chop up the zucchini, three spears of asparagus, and one link of the sausage. In a pan with one tablespoon of olive oil on high heat.

I put all that in and cook it up for 5-6 minutes and set aside in a bowl.

Next, I cut up three tortillas into eighths. I fry them till they're starting to get crispy. Then I add the sausage and veggie mixture back in.

Four eggs, a half a teaspoon of cream, a pinch of salt and pepper all go into a bowl.

I scramble this all up with a fork.

Pour the mixture in the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and scramble until the eggs are set and serve.

I like to add some hot sauce and a little heavy cream on top. Now, I've got breakfast for two.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

CHEAP EATS: The American Fast Food Lunch Box Challenge

Now that I'm unemployed (retired) and living on a fixed income, I have to watch how much I spend on food. It's always affordable to eat at home but sometimes you just want to break out and let someone else to it for you.

Enter the challenge of eating out cheaply. Not an easy thing to do here in high-cost-of-living Southern California but we're going to give it a go.

This week, we're going to do the fast food lunch box challenge.  Many quick eating establishments now have lunch box meals with a complete lunch going in the range of $4-6.  Tim is going to be my taster.

We'll rate on these three much food to you get for the money? How good does it taste? and does it fill you up or leave you wanting more?

First, we'll try Taco Bell. Tim's having the nacho fries combo box with comes with a beefy burrito, taco, nacho fries with queso dipping sauce, and a drink. We're mixing it up with Taco Bell's Fire and Diablo salsa.

The taco is a Doritos loco taco, with the shell made out of Doritos, and has beef, lettuce, and cheese.

Tim liked the meal a lot. Everything tasted good and he liked the spicy taste of Taco Bell's beef. The nacho fries were the star of the show, next the taco...but he didn't care for how it fell apart so quickly...then the burrito.

It's a messy lunch so an apron was in order to keep everything neat and clean. Tim could only eat about two thirds of the meal, leaving half of the burrito and some fries, so it's very filling.

We got in on special for $5 but the regular price is $5.99. They have several combos but usually only one at a time is on sale for $5.

Tim liked the taste very much and he got more food than he could eat, so the price is pretty can actually feed two people on this if you wanted to.

Next up is Carl's Jr. For $5, we got a fiery chicken sandwich (chicken tenders is the other option), fries, drink, and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.

Tim didn't think the fries were as good as Taco Bell. Let's see what he thinks of the chicken...

He likes it! He really likes it! 

Tim loved the taste of the sandwich. "I thought those were pickles in the sandwich but they were jalapenos," he says. "They were very fresh and spicy."

The cookie for dessert was also very good. Tim rates the taste very high on this meal. He thought it was filling and didn't want any more but he did finish it and not leave any leftovers. Great deal for the money.

Wendy's has a meal for a buck less. They're 4 for 4 meal features a 4 piece order of chicken nuggets, medium fries, drink, and your choice from about half a dozen sandwiches such as chicken sandwich, cheeseburger, and more. Tim's choosing the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger.

Tim says the burger is better than the Taco Bell offerings but not quite as good as Carl's Jr.

The nuggets come with two dipping sauces, we have ranch and barbecue sauce.

Tim says the nuggets are very good. The fries are good, too, maybe a bit better than Carl's but not as good as Taco Bell's nacho fries.

Finally we're going to finish with Popeye's Louisiana Chicken's entry into the $5 arena.

At Popeyes, five dollars will get you six boneless wings (basically chicken tenders), spiced fries, and a biscuit. Drink is extra here so Tim just grabs a can of diet Sunkist from the fridge.

You get a choice of dipping sauces, Tim's going with the Cajun Buffalo sauce.

Popeye's gets poinst for serving food Tim can feed himself (something to think about when you're disabled). The fries were the best of the bunch, even besting Taco Bell's nacho fries which Tim didn't think was possible.

The chicken was better than Taco Bell's entrees but he still likes the offerings from Carls Jr. and Wendy's better. Tim liked the spiciness of the chicken but felt it could have been even stronger.

He got plenty of food for his five dollars but, other than water, a drink would have blown the budget.

Here's how they stacked up for Tim...

1. Carl's Jr. Tastiest overall.

2. Wendy's. Good food, best value for the money.

3. Popeye's. Best fries of the bunch.

4. Taco Bell. Food was good but not as good as the others. Fries were better than Carls Jr. or Wendy's.

Next time you're looking for a cheap lunch away from home, keep Tim's tips in mind for a good, filling lunch.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

CHEAP EATS: Restaurant Specials to Save You Some Lettuce

We all love a good deal. We love 'em even better when we're on a limited income and have to watch our cash flow like a hawk. One ...