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September 2019

No charcoal chimney necessary when using Tumbleweeds to fire up the grill - Grilling Good Eats

By Mike Thayer

You can start your charcoal several ways, you can use lighter fluid, you can buy those ‘Match Light’ briquettes, or you can do what I think is the best way to go (up to now) and that’s fire up your charcoal using a charcoal chimney. I don’t like lighter fluid for several reasons. I don’t like to store it, I don’t like running out, the smell can get on your hands and clothes, and inexperienced grillers tend to put too much on or start grilling over charcoals that aren’t really ready yet, giving your food that nasty fuel taste. Those ‘Match Light’ briquettes are OK, they’re very convenient, but they are more expensive and like the traditional charcoal/lighter fluid starting method, can put a fuel taste on your food if cooked over before the coals are really ready. Avoid the fuel taste risk completely and start your charcoal WITHOUT resorting to lighter fluid. 

I wrote an article awhile back about using Weber Lighter Cubes to start charcoal, a great product that eliminates the need for newspaper but is still a bit dependent on the use of a chimney.

TumbleweedEnter a game changer, Tumbleweeds, made by Royal Oak.  These things are great, so good in fact, they eliminate the need to use a charcoal chimney.  No more putting on the glove, no more handling a hot metal container, no more worries about some hot ash getting getting loose and hitting your foot causing a bit of pain because you're wearing sandals......

All you have to do when using Tumbleweeds is put a base layer of charcoal or chunks of your favorite wood in the grill (I like to use a basket in my grill), throw a Tumbleweed in, place a few more lumps, briquettes or chunks around it, light the Tumbleweed and let it do it's thing.  One 'weed' has about an 8-10 minute burn time and as that charcoal starts to gray, you can add more if desired.  This can all be done right where you wanted to dump the hot coals from a chimney, but no chimney is required!

Don't get me wrong, there's still the need to have a charcoal chimney on hand, especially for long cooks and adding additional coals to the fire.  But when first firing up the grill, a chimney isn't needed when using Tumbleweeds and they outperform Weber Lighter Cubes.

Tumbleweed lit
Plenty of room to throw some pecan wood chunks on top, no worries of putting out the Tumbleweed fire

For tips on how to use a charcoal chimney if you're not familiar with them, go to

Costing me about $4 for a box of 16 Tumbleweeds, that's 16 grilling events.  They can be used to start camp fires and outdoor fireplaces as well!  Very reasonably priced and outstanding at the task of starting that fire, I'm giving Royal Oak Tumbleweeds 5 out of 5 stars.

5 stars

Related:  Weber Lighter Cubes

Related:  Arranging Your Coals


Pizza Challenge Update: Who has the best pizza in the Wichita Metro area? Is it Po Boy?

By Mike Thayer

Pizza is my favorite food.  Burgers, steaks, lasagna, anything grilled and an assortment of other dishes are high on the list of favorites, but there's nothing quite like a good slice of pizza pie....  That slice of pie has that perfectly baked crust that's flaky/crispy on the outside, but tender and fluffy on the inside.  Then there's the marriage of toppings, the subtle spices of pepperoni and sausage, assorted veggies that are tender-crisp like onion and bell pepper.  The sauce, it's got to be a zesty sauce, providing those notes of garlic and oregano with each bite.  And bringing everything together is a generous portion of melted cheeses, mozzarella, Parmesan, perhaps some cheddar or provolone that bubbles up in the oven to golden, brown, deliciousness!

No national chains will be included in this challenge.  Only the local, regional pizza joints qualify.  Besides, Domino's sucks, Little Caesar's really sucks (sucking SO bad they don't even deserve a link) and Papa John's and Pizza Hut are average tasting pizzas at best.  The fact is, the local/regional joints run circles around the national chains in dishing up high quality, great tasting pizza.

During the course of this challenge I'll consider customer service, time to order, price, appearance and of course, the most important thing, TASTE.

A Thursday taste test:  Po Boy Pizza in Wichita

The pizza 'foundation' for this challenge is a supreme style of pizza - meat and veggie toppings.  In order to do a fair evaluation of all pizza joints, the choice of toppings has to be as similar as possible.  Po Boy's version of a supreme pizza - and they call it that, a supreme - features the classic supreme style of pizza toppings, pepperoni, sausage, green pepper, onion, black olive and mushroom.  I was looking forward to this, not only the pizza, but this was also a date night!  I had talked to my date about this pizza challenge and she asked if she could participate.  Boy am I glad she did, this place was her recommendation and she was spot on with it! 

Po Boy's is a classic Mom & Pop shop, there's nothing fancy about it and there are no adult beverages on the menu but that's more than OK, because you can tell their focus is on the real prize, crafting excellent pizzas, sandwiches and pizza rolls.... Yes, pizza rolls!  The mark of a great pizza joint is getting that whiff of pizza parlor when you open the door, I love that smell and Po Boys has it!  The slowly simmering sauce, the oven baking that crust, the combined aromas of meats, cheeses, veggies and spices all working together in harmony to further induce pangs of pizza hunger.

This place has a reputation for making fantastic Pizza Rolls and that's what my date and I both ordered.  I went with the Supreme Pizza Roll, keeping in line with the foundation of ingredients for this challenge.   Enjoying good conversation and sipping on some sodas, it didn't take long at all for our pizza rolls to be delivered to our table.  They looked fantastic, smelled fantastic and I couldn't wait to dig in!  In full disclosure however, I took pictures, I really did, but I was so pleasantly distracted by my date that I didn't take the time to check and see if those pics turned out....  they didn't, they were blurry and in the name of "food science" (a'hem, cough), I am obligated to do the food and the restaurant justice with decent pics.

Po Boy Pizza Rolls
Image courtesy of Po Boy

The pizza rolls not only looked and smelled fantastic, they were indeed delicious!  The Po Boy crust is excellent (an image borrowed from the restaurant's Facebook page on the right and yes, our rolls looked that good), baked to golden, brown perfection, the roll wrapping those Supreme ingredients in a blanket of crispy on the outside, tender flakiness on the inside bite of pizza goodness.  Served with a side of a Mediterranean inspired Marinara, it's kind of food fun, dunking that next bite of roll in the sauce, as much or as little as you like.  The meats and veggies were all good quality ingredients and generous in portion.  Adding to the food fun, the cheese provided that ooey-gooey, stringy pull away look with each bite, I was using my napkin quite a bit. 

Here's how good Po Boy's food is.....  Because my pictures didn't turn out, I returned the next day for lunch, ordering a small Supreme pizza, taking better pics so I could complete this article.   The things I do in the name of "Food Science"....... 

Poor Boy Supreme Pizza
Cheese melted to perfection...

The Po Boy Supreme Pizza is some of the best I've had so far in this challenge.  The crust on both the roll and the traditional pizza is TOP NOTCH!  This is no run-of-the-mill dough, Po Boy puts some flavor in their product.  And while that crust is an awesome, perfectly baked foundation, what put this pizza over-the-top for me was the sauce.  Different from the sauce-on-the-side paired with the roll, the pizza sauce has some zest, delivering big time on the garlic and oregano notes. 

Po Boy Crust
A perfectly baked crust

The small Supreme Pizza cost me $9.50, a very reasonable price for some of the best pizza I've had so far in this challenge.  I'm giving Po Boy Pizza 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, this place is definitely getting a repeat visit.....  Ooops, it already did!   And a tip of the hat to my date, providing the awesome recommendation!  :)

5 stars

Po Boy Pizza is located at:  5619 E Lincoln St, Wichita, KS 67218

PH: 316-687-3737


Predicting NFL Game Outcomes by Mascot

By Mike Thayer

NFLFootball is my favorite sport. On Saturday's, Sunday's, Monday nights and Thursday nights, you most likely will find me in front of a TV watching games or at the very least paying close attention to game updates on a tablet or cell phone.

Week three of the 2019 NFL season is now in the history books and my Bears, yes, I'm a Bears fan, took care of the Redskins 31-15 on Monday Night Football. 

Surprises of the season so far

Who thought the 49'ers would be 3-0?  Same for Buffalo, also 3-0. The Colts are 2-1 without Andrew Luck.  The Lions are 2-0-1.  Huh?  Most of the so-called experts had all those teams sitting at around 1-2 after week 3.

As expected:  The Patriots are 3-0.  Same for the Kansas City Chiefs, also at 3-0.   But these are the only two teams really, where the so-called experts were spot on.  An argument could be made for the Cowboys at 3-0, but that's an early season prediction made every year by most, using the line, they've got the talent.....

On the downside and unexpected:  The Steelers are 0-3.  The Falcons are 1-2.  The Redskins weren't predicted to be undefeated, but NOT 0-3.

The accuracy of "professional" predictions of game outcomes this season is all over the place!

So with the season not really playing out as predicted after just week 3, I said to myself, "What the heck, I'm throwing all football analysis, Vegas odds, so-called guru expertise, scheduling, home/away, injury lists, insider information and commentary, etc., for picking games out the window."

For the rest of the season, I'm picking game winners by what mascot would logically kick the other mascot's butt.  Surely it can't be any worse than the guessing game that is NFL game prognostication.

Week 4 Schedule:

Thursday Night Game, 09/26:  Eagles vs. Packers - Eagles have talons, Packers have boxes, box cutters and tape.  Packers box up the Eagles and ship them out of town.

Sunday Games, 09/29:

Redskins vs. Giants: Redskins have arrows, war clubs and tomahawks, Giants are huge.  The arrows and tomahawks have no effect, Giants squash the Redskins.

Chiefs vs. Lions:  Another arsenal of arrows, war clubs, tomahawks and even some lances and knives, but this warrior tribe is up against lions.  Fangs and claws however, are not enough to overcome the weapons of the Chiefs.

Titans vs. Falcons:  Although Titans are menacing, Falcons rip their eyes out rendering them blind.

Browns vs. Ravens:  The Browns don't have a real mascot and I don't care how good a coach Paul Brown was, they need to get a real name.  The Ravens have their way with the not-really-a-name 'Browns.' 

Raiders vs. Colts:  Swords, muskets and cannons vs. a kicking horse........  Raiders take the treasure.

Patriots vs. Bills:  Minutemen take down the herd.

Panthers vs. Texans:  Don't mess with Texas.

Chargers vs. Dolphins:  Getting hit by lighting can mess you up, especially if you're in the water.

Buccaneers vs. Rams:  The Bucs enjoy rum more than winning, get butted by the Rams.

Seahawks vs. Cardinals:  OK, there's no such thing as a "Seahawk" but then, naming your football team after a lame little red bird that flies away when threatened?  Hawks over lame birds.

Vikings vs. Bears:  This is a partisan pick, 'da Bears being my team and all......  Vikings are tough, armed with weapons such as axes, spears and swords, but bears are relentless and SO angry when provoked!  'da Bears in a close one.

Jaguars vs. Broncos:  This one is kind of a no-brainer, a big predator cat vs. a bucking horse.....  Cats have horse meat for dinner.

Cowboys vs. Saints:  Pistols, rifles and roping vs. praying.....  hmmm.....   The Saints don't go marching and the Cowboys yell "Yee-haw!"

Monday Night Football, 09/30:  Bengals vs. Steelers - The big cats finally break out the claws and take down some metal workers without a fire.

This could be fun!  If I have a winning record at the conclusion of week 4, I might be on to something!

Enjoy the games my friends!

McDonald's Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich is a poor choice of weapon in Chicken Sandwich war

By Mike Thayer

There's a chicken sandwich war going on in fast food.

Shots fired!  Chick-fil-A made headlines earlier this year becoming the third largest fast food chain.  Popeyes reacted by putting a new chicken sandwich on the menu and consumers went crazy over it, so crazy in fact, Popeyes ran out of ammo. Already armed with a spicy chicken sandwich, Wendy's entered the battlefield by bringing back their spicy chicken nuggets, fans of the item went in a Twitter frenzy.  Showing up late to this war is McDonald's with a 'new' Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich and Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders.

McDonald's Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Typical fast food 'assembly' of a sandwich

Today, I'm reviewing the chicken sandwich:

Here's the description from the McDonald's website:  Our Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich is full of flavor that makes you go “woo!” It's a crispy buttermilk chicken fillet made with juicy all white meat chicken and served with slivered onions, pickles and a mouthwatering, smoky barbecue sauce, all on a sesame seed bun.

A sandwich that makes you go, "Woo!" huh?

OK McDonald's, "Woo!, it's not very good!"

McDonald's has armed themselves with a pea-shooter.

McDonald's Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich unveilIn taking that first bite, this sandwich is quite, "eh".....  The fillet isn't all that crispy, the barbecue sauce is quite average and not all that smoky or spicy and while there were plenty of slivered onions which I truly appreciated, there weren't near enough pickles on this sandwich.  Pickles are a perfect flavor combination with crispy chicken, they deliver that nice tartness that goes so well with a juicy, but crunchy chicken bite.  Pickles are also a great marriage with barbecue sauce.  I got like three pickles on my sandwich.  This sandwich won't win the chicken sandwich war for McDonald's.  Given how very average this sandwich is, I'm not sure I'll even try their Spicy BBQ Glazed Chicken Tenders.    There's no "Woo!" in what McDonald's put together here.

Costing me $4.50, the McDonald's Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich gets just 2 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The price is reasonable but the sandwich is unremarkable and is NOT a repeat buy.

2 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....




Hotel Review: Red Roof Inn

By Mike Thayer

Red Roof InnI recently treated myself to a vacation, a few days of fishing fun on a lake in Missouri. It's my favorite kind of vacation, just the sounds of the great outdoors, appreciating the natural beauty, catching a few fish....

That being said, while roughing it in a tent had its appeal and saved me money on many a fishing trip, I've determined I'm really not into the camping thing anymore.  I've been there and done that, the camp fire, the tent, air mattress, all meals coming out of a cooler or cooked over the coals.  But in the heat of the summer and after being outdoors all day on the water, come nightfall, I want the comforts of air conditioning, the TV on and a good bed to sleep in.  These days when on vacation, the tent and camping gear stays at home.  I'm a hotel guy. 

There were several budget-minded hotel chains to choose from in the Cameron, Missouri area I was vacationing in and after doing some online homework, I went with the Red Roof Inn. It's been quite awhile since I've stayed at a Red Rood Inn, the online reviews were positive, the amenities looked great and the most important thing, the price was reasonable.

Red Roof Inn roomThis particular Red Roof has been recently remodeled.  Everything was new, to include vinyl floors instead of carpeting.  I got a room with a king size bed and the room itself was spacious, with nice desk space.  The amenities you come to expect in a decent hotel were all available and working, the Wi-Fi, a cable TV package with a good selection of channels and what I like about the room is something that often gets overlooked, PLENTY of outlets so I didn't have to hunt for any to plug my devices/chargers into.

The bed itself was quite comfortable and the linens were higher end.  This Red Roof - franchise operated - didn't cut any corners in the remodel.

There was an ice machine just down the hall from my room and the stay included the typical complimentary breakfast consisting of cereals, waffles, donuts, biscuits and sausage gravy, assorted yogurts, fruits, juices and coffee. I could also make coffee in my room with one of those one cup coffee makers and there was a mini-fridge as well.  The maid service was also top notch.  This wasn't a noisy hotel either, I slept well, no noise distractions.

Costing me $65 a night, I enjoyed my stay at the Red Roof Inn and I'm giving them 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  The room was comfortable and the price was reasonable. 

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

The Red Roof Inn visited on this occasion is located at: 

501 Northland Dr, Cameron, MO 64429

PH: (816) 632-6623

Winner, Winner, Taco Bell's Toasted Cheddar Chalupa Dinner

By Mike Thayer

Taco Bell Toasted Cheddar ChalupaUnveiled at participating Taco Bell restaurants on September 12th, this new menu item is being featured in a combo that pairs one Toasted Cheddar Chalupa with two crunch tacos and a drink for $5.

The price is right!

The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa includes seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and kicking this thing up a notch is 6-month-aged cheddar toasted right into that classic Chalupa shell!  THIS THING ROCKS!  This shell is SO good, I would eat it by itself.  The texture is perfect, giving you a bit of a crunch on the outside, a soft/fluffy quality on the inside and that nice note of aged cheddar with each bite. 

Toasted Cheddar ChalupaI didn't put any sauce on it in taking that first bite, I wanted to see just what kind of flavor this thing had and it did not disappoint.  The seasoned beef, the fresh lettuce, tomato, sour cream, shredded cheese, all classic Taco Bell flavors, but what makes this thing great is that shell!  I couldn't put it down and there was no need to doctor it up with any sauce.  To repeat, it's so good, I would eat the shell by itself.  Completing my dinner were those two crunchy tacos after inhaling the Chalupa.  Now those, got sauced....

Nicely done Taco Bell!  The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa tastes great and gets 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars and the combo price of $5 is wallet friendly too! 

OK folks, now get out there and buy yourself a winner, winner Taco Bell Toasted Chalupa dinner!  Tasty, tasty!

5 stars