Living well on a budget, without being truly cheap.

Food Review: Hippeas Organic Chickpeas Puffs Vegan White Cheddar

By Mike Thayer

Hippeas Chickpeas Puffs
A good chip alternative?

To paraphrase AC/DC and the song "Whole Lotta Rosie"..... 

They ain't exactly pretty.....

They ain't exactly delicious.....

So on a whim while shopping at Costco today, I picked up a bag of Hippeas organic chickpeas puffs, white cheddar flavor.

I've been looking for an alternative to chips, something different, something a bit lower in carbs.

In reading the label, these seem to fit the bill.

But do they taste good?

If you're not familiar with chick peas, a.k.a., garbanzo beans, they are quite nutritional, popular in Mediterranean, Indian and Egyptian cuisines and for a plant, are a good source of protein.  When I was in the military and stationed in Turkey, dried/roasted chickpeas were THE snack of choice in bars and parties and if you like and/or have tried hummus, a popular dip typically eaten with pita bread, ground up chickpeas are the main ingredient.  Hummus is fantastic, thanks to other ingredients, such as lemon juice and olive oil.  The problem with chickpeas on their own when dried and/or roasted, they can be quite dry.

The upside to that from a bar owner's perspective is that a dry snack help sells more alcohol......

20190720_113347-1So enough with the chickpea history/tradition lesson, how are the Hippeas you ask?

OK.

They ain't exactly pretty.....

They ain't exactly delicious.....

At first bite, they're quite boring.  You get a nice crunch, the Hippeas live up to a respectable "puff" bite, but the flavor does NOT hit you right away, it's more like a Styrofoam experience, but the white cheddar does kick in on the back end.  Like traditional roasted or dried chickpeas at a Turkish bar, these things are quite DRY.  But at just 130 calories and 17 carbs per serving, if you're looking for a diet alternative, Hippeas chickpeas puffs are a smart choice, they are NOT however going to rock your world.  They're OK.  They are indeed something different from the ordinary chip, they deliver on crunch, but in a diet way, not a flavor way.  Costing me $6.99 for an 18 ounce bag, I'm giving Hippeas Chickpeas Puffs 3 out of 5 stars, they deliver to their target audience, those into organic/diet/low carb.  But are they a repeat buy?  Yes, if on a diet.

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Party Prepping on the cheap

By Mike Thayer

Party Prep
A picnic basket is a festive, space saving way to put plates and plasticware out for a grilling themed party! Thanks Diane!

Throwing a party can be stressful and no, I'm not talking about the impromptu kind of party where you have some buddies over to watch the big game and all you have to do is have cold beer in the fridge and a few bags of chips on hand.  I'm talking about a planned out party, to include a food menu, a drink menu, a variety of guests, perhaps some party favors and a bit of decoration.

The first thought when planning your party should be about the aftermath......  Who wants to wash dishes?  NOBODY.  For a casual party keep it simple!  Buy some inexpensive plastic or paper plates and cups.  You can pick up something a bit more festive than plain 'ol white paper plates at Dollar Tree, various packages of 8-12 plates for just $1 a package.  Check out their party isle!  They've got just about any party need and decor covered, plates, napkins, tablecloths, plasticware, cups, shot glasses, serving trays, serving spoons, you name it.

20190712_100204-1The second thought is the menu.  Jot down menu ideas whether it's simply on a piece of paper or on a white board in the kitchen.  Everything else for the party hinges on what YOU plan to serve.  When inviting guests, ask them to bring a side dish or a dessert and BYOB for drinks.  This cuts down on your meal prep, adds to the food menu and cuts down on your booze expense.  You supply the main dish, the meat for example, let's say, burgers and brats for that casual party.  Guests will provide a wealth of chips, salads (lettuce, pasta, potato), hot potato dishes, bean dishes and more to compliment the main dish.  Most party guests will let you know what they're bringing.  There will be desserts to enjoy as well, and desserts go with everything!  When it comes to drinks, have 20190712_071443some water and a couple of 2 liter bottles of soda handy.  I typically purchase a case of bottled water, some Sprite and Coke.  Many guests will bring a bottle of wine to open up and share which is always fun and conversational.  If you have a bar, open it up to your guests, having beer, wine and spirits on hand for any special requests.   This can be quite fun too, having guests try an adult beverage they've never tried before.  People will respond to, "Come here, I want to give you a shot of something....."  A tip jar on the side to cover bar expenses is optional.

Take the lay out of your buffet line seriously.  It can't be hap hazard, burgers on one end and buns way over on the other....  Lay it out in an organized fashion, imagining how you would fill your plate as you set it up.....  Pick up the plate, napkin, plastic ware, then condiments, meats, sides and so on, consider the possible warming trays, platters, bowls and even a crock pot or two guests might bring (Can you say, "Baked Beans with huge chunks of bacon?"  It's another dose of YUM!).  Provide a power cord or outlet option.  Make it so a line of people have room and won't be bumping into each other, cutting through, excuse me, sorry, pardon me.....

20190712_095454-1(1)Provide an appetizer for guests to snack on until the bulk of the guests arrive or in case your main entree isn't coming along as timely as you had planned.  Keep it simple.  A few small bowls of Pub Mix (Costco $6), pretzels, nuts, etc., dispersed in key places in the party area will go a long way towards keeping folks satisfied - especially those early arrivals - until the buffet line is open.

When it comes to entertainment, it depends on the crowd and if there's a theme to the party.  It could be playing cards or board games on the coffee table; work friends just chilling out to binge watching the latest trendy program or a run of sitcoms; or good old fashioned soft music and conversation.  For a little fun I always like to post a trivia question somewhere and the first person to answer the question correctly gets $1.  At my latest party, I put a bag of ice in an ice chest for drinks (don't forget ice for the party!), and on top of the ice chest was an impromptu sign that read: 

Cold As.....

ICE

Name the rock band for this late 70's era hit and win $1

Play it up, use your imagination, maybe the prize will be different for your party.  And themes for parties are always fun.  Themes can be in the food, Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Mediterranean....  Or themes can be in the entertainment.  Think like as for having a watch party for a big game on TV.  Guys and gals (whether bona fide fans or gals just supporting their guys) typically wear sports jerseys and some even 'sport' face makeup in their favorite team's colors (see what I did there with, 'sport'.....) to watch that big game.  If watching a movie, let's say something Marvel, why not 'sport' Marvel apparel?  Somebody might just show up in an Iron Man mask.....  

As the host of the party, you'll want to have an assortment of aluminum pans and disposable plastic storage containers on hand.  The aluminum pans are for serving up the meats or whatever main dish you planned, possibly using those pans to transport the meats/main dish if grilling.  These are fantastic because there is no clean up involved, throw them away when done and they're cheap.  Get a package of two or four (depending on size) for just $1 at Dollar Tree.  And for when guests would like to take some tasty leftover treats from the party home with them, a small stack of Ziplock or other brand of plastic storage containers/bowls, a.k.a. Tupperware comes in rather handy.  I love it when guests take some food home with them, that means the food was good and party guests are leaving with a party 'favor' of sorts and a smile.  Party success!  If any food remains after that, bonus for the host.

A few little things that sometimes get overlooked when putting together a party are having enough serving spoons ($1 at Dollar Tree), condiments, toothpicks, seating and a trash can on hand.  When guests bring those fantastic side dishes to the party, sometimes they forget the spoon to serve it up with.  That's where you as host, come to the rescue with a serving spoon or a set of tongs (89¢ at Walmart).  When it comes to condiments, this depends on what's being served, but I like to buy small bottles of ketchup, mustard, pickles, mayo, whatever for the party.  They're fresh, smaller bottles that take up less space which is important because you'll want to keep them in a small tray of ice on the buffet table for the duration of the party.  An assortment of toothpicks and appetizer/cocktail picks come in handy as well for grabbing those pickles, olives, etc., and perhaps serving up a mixed drink requiring an olive to two.  Seating can sometimes be an afterthought.  Sure, you've got the couch, loveseat, maybe a Lazyboy (your chair...) and maybe some folding chairs.  But what if your party grows to 15 - 20 people?  Dining table chairs will suffice if they're not in use for playing cards, but don't be afraid to say, "Bring a chair."  Just about everybody these days has some kind of sporting/folding chair.  For parties growing in number beyond that, then it becomes a standing around, rubbing elbows party.  And then perhaps the most overlooked need for a party, is a strategically placed trash can.  While putting it in the middle of the room would be the easiest to find, the "Hey, here I am so don't just leave your frick'n dirty plate on the coffee table!".....  It would be a bit unsightly.   Find a spot that's out-of-the-traffic-path, yet easy to find, like say, on the way to or next to the bar.

Here's my checklist for getting started on putting a party together:

List of supplies for a casual party

  • Table cloth(s)
  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Napkins
  • Cups
  • Plasticware
  • Water
  • Complimentary soda
  • Ice, don't forget the bag of ice
  • Condiments and a tray of ice to hold them in
  • Power cord/extension cord, or outlet access for a crock pot or two
  • Aluminum pans
  • Serving spoons & tongs
  • Toothpicks, appetizer/cocktail picks (for picking up small appetizers, mixed drink use or after meal use)
  • Tupperware for guests (the 'party bag', taking home tasty treats!)  TipRepurposed Deli Meat containers work great for this.
  • Seating (do you have enough?)
  • Trash can access
  • Charcoal (if grilling)

You can have a great party without having to spend a lot to make it so.  Besides, it's the people that make the party!   Most of the above list that you don't already have on hand can be purchased at Dollar Tree and/or Walmart for a sum total of about $30 tops.  The bulk of your party cost is going to be in creating the main course and then there's the optional alcohol if you decide to do that.  I recently bought brats, ground meats for burgers, a pork shoulder for pulled pork and the buns and cheeses to go with it all for around $65, so my total expenditure for a casual grilling themed party was less than $100, the cost of some adult beverages not included.....  "Come here, I've got a shot of something for you....."

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Ranking flavored whiskeys from worst to 'first'

Flavored WhiskeysBy Mike Thayer

Blended and flavored whiskeys are red hot right now, consumer demand for brown spirits continues to rise with American Whiskey in particular seeing some phenomenal sales growth.

Regular readers know that I am a fan of flavored whiskey, I've always got a bottle of something in my freezer for a chilled shot or flavored specialty in the liquor cabinet to enjoy on the rocks.

There is a HUGE variety of flavored whiskeys out there to choose from ranging from what arguably started the trend - honey, to perhaps the current popular choice of cinnamon. 

I've sampled quite a few and by no means have I covered them all, but here's a pretty comprehensive list of what in my opinion are what NOT to try and what to buy. 

So here's my list of worst to 'first', OK, best to be grammatically correct, starting off with the worst....

#21 - Evan Williams Peach:  I'm not a fan. It's VERY peach forward, as in too forward, I might as well have been drinking peach schnapps! It's like the makers literally just poured a couple shots of bourbon into a peach schnapps bottle and called it a blended, flavored whiskey. The nose is peach, the taste is peach, the finish is peach with just an ever so slight hint of bourbon. I tried it neat, I tried it on the rocks and I was flat out disappointed with each tasting. It's SO peachy, I think it might be best served over vanilla ice cream. I wanted a peach flavored bourbon, not a peach schnapps with just a hint of bourbon in it.  (2 stars)

#20 - Jesse James Spiced:  This is a straight bourbon whiskey blended with vanilla, cinnamon and clove flavors according to the company website.  They need to go back to the drawing board.  This whiskey is WAY too spice forward.  The nose when you swirl a neat glass is OK, but the taste is sharp and the finish is harsh rather than warm.  I didn't enjoy this whiskey neat, I didn't enjoy it on the rocks, I don't care for it as a chilled shot.  Like the Evan Williams Peach, this is a bad whiskey that will remain in chill status and might - key word 'might' - be used as a topping for some vanilla bean ice cream.  (2 stars)

#19 - Jim Beam Maple:  I sampled this whiskey just as Jim Beam suggested, in a straight shot and on the rocks. It's VERY maple forward. So forward, it comes up more maple than whiskey. It's in the swirl, the swallow and lingers in the finish. As I've mentioned in other flavored whiskey reviews before, I want the flavor to compliment the whiskey, not overpower it. Jim Beam's balance here is maple forward, too much so. It's more liqueur than straight bourbon whiskey. Costing me about $16 for a 750ml bottle, the price is reasonable but I will not buy it again.  (2 stars)

#18 - Old Camp Peach Pecan:  This stuff is overly sweet, coming off as more of a Peach Schnapps rather than a flavored whiskey. You do get the pecan in the finish, a redeeming quality, but overall, I'm regretting buying a fifth of this whiskey. The nose is too fruity, the swirl and swallow is overpowering peach with that hint of pecan in the finish. Costing me about $22 for a 750ml bottle, the price is NOT Bachelor on the Cheap friendly and it is NOT a repeat buy.  (2 stars)

#17 - Bird Dog Strawberry Whiskey:  Of note, this whiskey is 80 proof. Most other flavored whiskeys are 70 proof, so this has a little more 'kick' to it. I served up this whiskey in a straight shot and on the rocks. Bird Dog falls a bit short on this one. Contrary to the company line, this whiskey isn't good for sipping or shots, it's too strawberry forward, with an almost medicinal quality and unfortunately, the strawberry doesn't fade into a subtle warm bourbon finish. The strawberry lingers and not in a good way. (2 stars)

#16 - Jim Beam Peach:  You get a hint of peach in the nose, but the swallow comes off as a bit medicinal, followed nicely however by the classic Jim Beam Bourbon finish. Jim Beam's approach with their flavored whiskeys doesn't seem to be targeted at guys like me and the occasional straight or chilled shot of a good whiskey at the house.... No, their real target is getting bars/restaurants/pubs stocked with the stuff, to be used in over-priced mixed drinks. (3 stars)

#15 - Jim Beam Red Stag:  Their traditional 4-year-old oak aged whiskey infused with black cherry. This is an 80 proof whiskey, giving it a little more kick. Most flavored whiskeys are 70 proof.  As usual, I served this up in a straight shot and on the rocks. You definitely get the cherry sweetness in the nose, but in the swirl and swallow this whiskey came off as a little medicinal for me, a.k.a., cough drop flavored. You do get the warm base bourbon in the finish but I think this whiskey is best used in a cocktail such as a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. I'd rather have a different flavored whiskey in a chilled shot or on the rocks. (3 Stars)

#14 - Jim Beam Honey:  The honey flavor is definitely there and you notice the vanilla note finish.  But I will say this flavored whiskey comes up more honey than whiskey.  As I've mentioned in other flavored whiskey reviews before, I want the flavor to compliment the whiskey, not overpower it.  Jim Beam's balance here is honey forward.  After sampling the shot and on the rocks, I did a mixed drink using my very own creation, the Hillbilly High as a base recipe.  The Jim Beam is pretty darn good in a mixed drink.   (3 stars)

#13 - Jesse James Honey:  I wouldn't call this an incredibly smooth bourbon as the company website claims, but with that honey flavor in the nose and in the swallow, it's a pretty good shot. Not sweet at all, it's almost a bit harsh, but in a good way. The honey flavor is slight, just enough to compliment and take the edge off, providing for a nice, warm, bourbon finish. I'm thinking this is a better shot than just the straight Jesse James bourbon. I'll have to do a taste comparison to be sure, lol.  (3 stars)

#12 - Crown Royal Regal Apple:  I served up this whiskey in a straight shot and on the rocks. You definitely get the apple right off the bat in the nose. The swirl and swallow is smooth but almost bordering on being apple forward and you get some nice undertones of cinnamon and oak. But the most important thing in what you want in a good flavored whiskey, getting the base whiskey in the finish and it's there. Costing me $20 for a 750ml bottle, the price is reasonable and this whiskey is worth a repeat buy but is it as good as other apple flavored whiskeys?  Nope. (4 stars)

#11 - Revel Stoke Roasted Pineapple:  I wasn't sure about this one going in, c'mon, pineapple and whiskey? But I am a sucker for fresh pineapple and since Revel Stoke thought it was a good idea to combine pineapple and whiskey, it must be good and YES it is! Enjoying the whiskey on the rocks, which is the aficionado thing to do, the pineapple notes are nice and mellow, not overpowering at all like I thought it might be and you get the roast in the finish. This is a unique whiskey in a very good way. (4 stars)

#10 - Piehole Apple Pie:  It's not just apple flavored, but apple pie flavored, yes, really. When buying it I feared it might be overly sweet, but it's not. It's got the fruity apple note you expect, but bonus - Piehole kicks things up a notch with a very nicely balanced element of a baked pie, an image of a fresh out-of-the oven pie crust dusted with that touch of cinnamon dances in your head when throwing back a shot of this stuff. This is a very nice flavored whiskey with a smooth, warm finish. No chaser needed. (4 stars)

#9 - Jim Beam Apple:  You definitely get the apple sweetness in the nose, the aroma is quite noticeable as soon as the cap comes off the bottle. In the swirl and swallow the apple is pleasantly green apple tart but sweet. You also get the classic Jim Beam warm base bourbon in the finish. This whiskey is done right, with the apple complimenting the whiskey, rather than overpowering it. Best enjoyed as a chilled shot, this whiskey is quite good. (4 stars)

#8 - Black Velvet Toasted Caramel:  The nose is a pleasant whiff of caramel and while it's a tad bit caramel forward, the website description is pretty accurate. You get toasted caramel in the swirl, the swallow and in the finish. It's a bit on the sweet side and as I've mentioned in other flavored whiskey reviews before, I want the flavor to compliment the whiskey, not overpower it. Black Velvet has done a fair job with this flavor. It's best as a chilled shot. Costing me about $12 for a 750ml bottle, the price is very reasonable and it's worth a repeat buy.  (4 stars)

#7 - Revel Stoke Smoked Vanilla:  Vanilla is an appealing pairing because it's strongly aromatic but yet has a warm and gentle flavor that simply compliments whatever it's paired with and that's what Revel Stoke has done expertly here with their Smoked Vanilla Whiskey. Enjoying the whiskey on the rocks, which is the aficionado thing to do, the vanilla notes are unmistakably present but subtle at the same time, actually enhancing the flavor of the whiskey. It finishes nice with a slight hint of smoke. This is a very good whiskey and most definitely deserves a spot in your liquor cabinet.  (4 stars)

#6 - Bird Dog Blackberry:  The nose is fruity, the color is inviting and you get all as advertised in the swirl and swallow. The best thing about this whiskey though is the finish, it's spot on. That slight sweetness says blackberry, yet BOURBON. That's exactly what you want in a flavored whiskey, a compliment.  (4 stars)

#5 - Bird Dog Apple:  This whiskey delivers as advertised 'Sweet apple fades into bourbon with a lingering warm, cinnamon zest.'   The cinnamon notes come through on the back end and along with the base bourbon, it's a very nice finish.  In my humble opinion, this is Bird Dog's best offering, definitely worth a repeat buy.  Nice as a chilled shot, on-the-rocks, neat or served in a mixed drink. (4 stars)

#4 - Revel Stoke Roasted Pecan:  Wow what a whiskey! Revel Stoke Pecan Whisky hits you with the essence of roasted pecan immediately, as soon as you screw off the cap. Enjoying this unique whiskey on the rocks, it goes down smooth and those roasted pecan notes linger warmly and finish nicely with a sweet hint of praline. I would call this a dessert whiskey, something to really enjoy after a fine meal. This is a whiskey you hold in reserve, for special occasions or when that sweet tooth gets the better of you.  (4 stars)

#3 - Revel Stoke Roasted Apple:  The roasted apple notes are in your face in a very good way. Like the Revel Stoke Spiced, the Revel Stoke Roasted Apple is also very smooooooooth..... The so smooth it's kind of dangerous kind of smooth.... Apple and whiskey is a great pairing, so good in fact, if you're not into whiskey, you will be if you try this apple flavored variety. (4 stars)

#2 - Revel Stoke Spiced:   This was the first flavored whiskey I ever tried and the first time ever sampling the Revel Stoke brand.  Revel Stoke Spiced is fantastic! It's a winner of the Spirits International Prestige Award and features hints of vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom. It was smooth and all those flavor notes made for a very nice finish.  It's this whiskey, that got me into trying more flavored whiskeys and without question, I started doing so by tasting the entire Revel Stoke lineup. (5 stars)

#1 - Yukon Jack Jacapple:  A blended whiskey with apple, spice and other natural flavors, Yukon Jack Jacapple is smoothly delicious. It's got the elements of a great cider, yet it's not too apple forward. There's that definite apple and spice nose when you swirl the glass and you also get those cider notes in the taste, but the finish and this is where Yukon Jack Jacapple is superior to Revel Stoke's Roasted Apple - It's a VERY smooooooooth and warm bourbon finish.  (5 stars)

Of the 21 flavored whiskeys sampled, I have to say that in my humble tasting opinion neither peach or strawberry are good flavor pairings with whiskey.  Of the fruits, apple is the best, with those whiskeys overall ranking pretty high on the list.  And while Yukon Jack Jacapple is my overall favorite, the Revel Stoke lineup of whiskeys all ranked really well, you can't go wrong with any of those.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Giving Mac & Cheese another dose of YUM!

By Mike Thayer

A scratch made Mac & Cheese is always the best, but there are times when one of those boxed varieties will satisfy the craving for some classic cheesy pasta.

Kicking those boxed varieties up a notch in flavor is easy.

20190709_202551Tip One:  If you've got the time, always include some oven baking time for your Mac & Cheese.  Stove top is good, but oven baked is SOOOOOOO much better.  All you have to do is add a little more liquid, to keep those noodles from getting too dry while baking in the oven until golden, brown and delicious on the edges.  Add some more milk, or better yet, use cream!

Tip Two:  Bacon makes everything better!  Crumbled bacon sprinkled on top of a creamy Mac & Cheese is killer!

Tip Three:  Something crispy on top.  Who doesn't LOVE some crushed up crackers or chips layered on top of an oven baked Mac & Cheese? Perhaps your mom used bread crumbs on top?  Growing up as a kid, my mom used those stale remnants at the bottom of the chip bag, you know, those small pieces leftover, no crushing required.  And if there were no chips available, she would crush up some saltine crackers.  That added texture makes for a more satisfying Mac & Cheese bite.  Don't settle for plain 'ol chips, crackers or ordinary bread crumbs though, go flavored with 'em!  Any cheese flavored cracker or chip is a no-brainer but there are so many flavored varieties of chips and crackers out there these days you can hardly go wrong.  Jalapeno flavored, BBQ flavored, Sea Salt & Vinegar flavored....  The list is almost endless!  And here's a chip tip.... Kettle cooked chips rock it better than regular varieties.   Using your imagination and some creative flavor pairings will give you a whole new appreciation for Mac & Cheese, even the boxed varieties!  Alternative:  Those french fried onions in a can.....  YUM!

Easy Peasy Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • One box of Mac & Cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (instead of milk)
  • 3 tabs of butter
  • A couple handfuls of Kettle Cooked BBQ flavored chips, crushed

Directions

Prepare the macaroni per the box instructions, but take a minute off the boiling time.  After draining the noodles (do NOT rinse), re-introduce them to the pot, add the butter, heavy cream and the cheese mix, stir to incorporate.  You don't need to do this over any heat, the remaining heat in the pot/pan will be enough.  Transfer the mac & cheese to the baking dish and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.  Top the mac & cheese with the crushed potato chips and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the dish is golden-brown and delicious!  It's another dose of YUM!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


A disappointing Spangles breakfast

By Mike Thayer

It was a day off, a Friday morning, I needed to get busy running errands to prep for a party later that night and so my plans for the day didn't include the luxury of cooking a nice breakfast and the clean up afterwards. 

That left me with fast food options for breakfast, but who to choose from in my neck of the woods?  McDonald's, Starbucks, Sonic, Spangles?

I went with Spangles.

Oops!  Bad choice.

20190705_074318-1I ordered the Ham & Cheese Omelette on Sourdough, getting a Value Pack which includes hash brown nuggets and a choice of an Orange Juice Slush or Coffee.  I went with the OJ.

I love sandwiches made with sourdough bread, when toasted golden, brown and delicious it's that perfect combination of a buttery, crispy crunch on the outside and a light, 'pillowy' bite on the inside.   The cook at Spangles screwed this up.  The sourdough on my sandwich was way over-toasted, almost to the point of being burned and leaning towards a bitter flavor.  The portion of ham was less than generous and the hash brown nuggets were under-cooked, lacking that exterior potato crunch.

I'll chalk this less-than-stellar visit to my neighborhood Spangles as an anomaly, I usually get good food in my orders but on this occasion, not so much.

20190705_074710The Spangles visited on this occasion is located at 1240 S. Rock Road, Wichita, KS.  Arriving at the drive-thru lane and ordering at 7:30 in the morning, I received my order at the window at 7:35.  The service was courteous enough, but not smiling and friendly. 

My Ham & Cheese Omelette on Sourdough Value Pack only cost me $5.15, so the price was right, but the food was wrong.  This Spangles breakfast gets just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. 

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Bachelor on the Cheap Tip: Keep ice on hand

By Mike Thayer

IceSo you're having a party, you think you've got it all covered with everything you need.....  And then it hits you - NOT ENOUGH ICE!  And your ice maker, if you have one, can't keep up with demand......

Oooops...

You've GOT to have ice for those drinks, right?  And then there's the ice needed to keep foods on the party buffet trays chilled.....

ALWAYS keep a bag of ice (if not two) in the freezer.  It doesn't matter if it's store bought, or something you broke ice for and filled some Ziplocks or plastic grocery store bags with.  Keeping a bag or two of ice in the freezer means being prepared for a party, planned or impromptu.  It can mean not having to stop somewhere to get ice for the cooler for a fishing and/or other kind of road trip.   And hey, cracking your own ice saves a few bucks.  Some convenience stores charge way too much money for a frick'n bag of ice.  Save yourself the impromptu bag of ice price gouge.

And here's the bonus.  When there's that power outage - and that WILL happen - having that stash of ice in the freezer will help keep your frozen foods in good shape during the outage, extending the number of hours your freezer can safely hold food before it starts to suffer, leading to spoilage.  General rule of thumb, a full freezer can go about 48 hours, a freezer half full is good for about 24 hours, that is, provided you don't open it up!

Always have extra ice on hand.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Food Review: Breakfast Best brand sausage, egg & cheese croissant sandwiches

By Mike Thayer

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and my go-to meal is a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg & cheese croissant sandwich and a cup of coffee.  It's a convenient, simple, but pleasurable hot breakfast to start my work day. 

20190610_080018I can pick up a box of 12 Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches at Costco for about $12, that's $1 per sandwich, that's cheap but tasty eats!  But when shopping at Aldi one day, I happened across their discount brand version, the Breakfast Best sausage, egg & cheese croissant.  At only $3.99 for a box of four sandwiches, I thought I would give them a try.  Would they be as good as Jimmy Dean's?

Similar in almost every way to the Jimmy Deans, I removed the sandwich from the wrapper, put it on a paper plate (easy clean up!) and microwaved it according to the box instructions.  About three minutes later, I was enjoying breakfast and a cup of hazelnut coffee with cream.

The sandwich hit the spot.  It microwaved well, the sausage had a hint of smoke to it, the egg was fluffy enough, the cheese melted nicely and most importantly, that croissant was flaky.  Sometimes when you nuke a sandwich, the bread can get a bit of a hard, too crispy edge to it.  Not so here.  Overall, this is a good knock-off of the Jimmy Dean sandwich.  The only real difference is in the sausage, while having that hint of smoke, it's not as nicely seasoned as the Jimmy Dean. 

20190610_080004-1With both brands pricing out at $1 per sandwich, it comes down to which sandwich I would prefer to eat.  Jimmy Dean.  The Breakfast Best is a nice Plan B though.

I'm giving Breakfast Best sausage, egg & cheese croissant sandwiches 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The price is right and they taste good, just not quite as good as Jimmy Dean's.

4 stars

 


IHOP's Country Omelette = Delicious

By Mike Thayer

IHOPI did a bit of traveling through the Midwest recently and having some time for a sit-down breakfast, I ventured into an IHOP in Coralville, Iowa.

It's been awhile since I've eaten at an IHOP, in fact since I did a review of their Bacon Temptation Omelette, which was fantastic!  Tempted to have that again (you see what I did there?....) I opted for their Country Omelette.  

"What, an omelette instead of pancakes or waffles when dining at the International House of Pancakes?"....  You say.

That's right, I'm not a big pancake or waffle kind of guy.  I don't like sweet for breakfast, I have to go savory, eggs, meat and cheese fits the bill for me.

I was seated without wait after entering the establishment at about 9am.  The restaurant wasn't busy as I took a seat but it wasn't empty either, with a sprinkling of folks enjoying their first meal of the day and a few more trickling in as I opened the menu.  The waiter asked what I wanted to drink.  "Coffee please," I replied and off he went to fill up that IHOP traditional tableside pot of java. 

The waiter returned with the pot of coffee, took my Country Omelette order and I then proceeded to doctor up my cup of Joe with some cream and sugar.  Shortly after stirring and enjoying a few slugs, my order arrived.

20190601_090414Here's the description from the IHOP website:  Our delicious blend of ham, cheese, fresh onions and hash browns is topped off just right — with a dollop of sour cream. Then we serve your omelette with your choice of one delicious side: three buttermilk pancakes, hash browns, toast or fresh seasonal mixed fruit.

What a delicious breakfast!  The omelette was perfectly prepared, the eggs were fluffy and I got the ham, cheese, fresh onion and hash brown in every bite.  Just look at all that cheese!  Dipped into that dollop of sour cream, every forkful of omelette was a dose of YUM!  Ordered with a side of yes, more hash browns, the bill for my breakfast came to about $13.  That's not exactly Bachelor on the Cheap friendly, but on this occasion, I'm OK with it.  You just won't get something like this at a fast food joint.  It's OK to splurge once in awhile.  IHOP's Country Omelette was tasty, tasty, tasty!

The restaurant was clean, the service was friendly and fast, and most importantly the food was excellent!

IHOP gets 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap Stars

4 stars

Spend Wisely My Friends.....


A home remedy for garden pests - insecticidal soap

By Mike Thayer

20190628_142020-1I'm one of those playing-in-the-dirt loving people. Gardening is a simple pleasure for me, from creating veggie or flower beds, to planting, to weeding, to the harvest, from start to finish it's all good. And it doesn't get any fresher than going out to the backyard, patio or balcony and picking fresh produce for dinner.

But it doesn't matter how well maintained your garden is, at some point, you'll have to deal with pests. 

This is the third year for my patio garden and this season is the best it's ever performed, but today in harvesting a few green onions, I came across a couple of bugs I didn't care to see.  I've been invaded by stink bugs.

Stink bugs are sap suckers, they have a voracious appetite and will feed on just about any kind of plant.  They prefer fruit over foliage, but they're NOT picky.  They'll eat just about anything in the garden.

After squashing the two that I saw - and yes, they do stink when squashing hence the name - I began looking at the underside of leaves, focusing on cucumber plants (a garden pest favorite) and sure enough, MORE stink bugs!  Sigh, these things do like to hang out in groups....

AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH!

Time to break out the insecticidal soap.  You can purchase insecticidal soap at Lowe's, Ace Hardware, Walmart, etc., but you'll be paying way too much for it, even at Walmart.  Many insecticidal soap brands also contain unwanted chemicals which if you're into organic, is a no-no and some of those commercial soaps can affect your harvest time too, pushing it back.  Here's a home made recipe, it's cheap and NOT toxic.  Most importantly, it performs just as well as the commercial stuff.  It messes with those pests, but NOT your garden! 

  • 1 Tablespoon of Dawn dish soap
  • 1 Tablespoon of Hydrogen Peroxide (optional)
  • 1 quart of water
  • Spray bottle

Stink BugIf you don't have Dawn dish soap, just make sure to use a pure soap, to mean, not dish washing detergent or any soap with bleach or perfumes in it.  Such things are harmful to the plants you'll be spraying.  The optional Hydrogen Peroxide in the recipe kind of acts like a booster and serves a dual purpose.  If there are any pest bug larvae lurking in the roots of your plants, they won't like this concoction hitting them.

This stuff works because while stink bugs have a harder shell-like back, they have a soft underside and that's where the soap does its job.  The soap penetrates that soft underside, ultimately suffocating and drying out the pest. 

When spraying, be sure to turn the leaves of your plants, hitting the underside.  You should have seen all the stink bugs coming out of hiding when I started spraying!  And with that, here's the key to insecticidal soap, it only works when coming in direct contact with the pest.   Hit those bugs with the spray!

Don't buy the commercial stuff, make your own.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

 


Food Review: Home Style Select Tortilla Chips

By Mike Thayer

Tostitos
Don't buy this....

Don't pay too much for tortilla chips!

If you're stuck on buying the name brand, stop it.  You're throwing money away.  Why pay over $3 maybe $4 for a name brand when you can get a discount brand of tortilla chips that are every bit as good for less than $2?

Regular readers know that I like to shop at Aldi and their discount brand of Home Style Select Tortilla chips are indeed every bit as good as Tostitos and cost less than $2.   That's a savings of $1 - $2 for something you're going to dip in some queso, guacamole or make nachos with. 

20190613_135310The Home Style Select chips can do everything the Tostitos can do, dipping, topping, and in eating them straight out of the bag there's no difference in taste or texture.  The chip breakage at the bottom of the bag is about the same too. 

So why spend more money for essentially the same thing?

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Home Style Select Tortilla Chips
Buy this instead....