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March 2022

Food Review: Italian Rose Garlic Spread

Italian Rose Garlic Spread
This stuff ROCKS!

By Mike Thayer

This stuff rocks!

The package says refrigerate after opening but once you taste how good this stuff is I don't know that you'll have any leftover to put in the fridge.  Yes, it's that good!  Spread this stuff on just about anything and it will be AWESOME!

The garlic and herb notes in this spread are FANTASTIC!  It's good in crafting garlic bread, it's great in spreading on a home made pizza crust before applying the sauce.  It's AMAZING in a grilled cheese preparation, it's an ABSOLUTE add in toasting a bun for a burger or ANY kind of toasted bun sandwich, it is EXCELLENT in scrambled eggs!  Melt some down and put it on freshly popped popcorn.  Can you say, "FLAVOR?"  Yes, yes you can.

Italian Rose Garlic Spread
Easily applied, SO many uses

Available at Walmart in the Bakery section, Italian Rose Garlic Spread cost me $2.26 for a 4 ounce container of deliciousness!  I'm giving Italian Rose Garlic Spread 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars!  It is most definitely a repeat buy and needs to be on hand in your kitchen.

 

Garlic Bread
Make delicious garlic bread or...
Grilled roast beef and cheese
A delicious garlic roast beef and cheese!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Grilling Good Eats - Grilling Tips and Essential Tools

Grilling Good Eats

By Mike Thayer

20190720_163657-1Got a craving for a juicy brat? A rack of baby back ribs? How about a perfectly grilled medium rare rib eye steak? Summer time means grill time whether it’s a backyard BBQ or a picnic in the park. Grill up some real crowd pleasing dishes by following these grilling tips for an easier, tastier, more relaxing grilling experience.

Grilling Tips: Whether you’re a novice to grilling or a weekend grilling warrior, the following thirteen tips are essential to putting you on the path to becoming a grill master.

Grilling Tip #1: Take your chicken breast, chops, and/or steak out of the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes prior to grilling to let them air out. This does NOT apply to something you’ve been marinating. This is for something you’re taking directly out of the package from the store, or something you’ve given a dry rub too. Inspect the meat, you want to make sure there is no excess moisture on it, especially if you‘re going to rub some olive oil or the like on that steak, chop, or breast. Even if you’re just applying salt and pepper, that meat should be dry. Pat the meat down with a paper towel if necessary. Letting chicken/chops/steaks and such air out, gives the meat a better sear when it hits the grill. Leaving excess moisture on your meats can cause unnecessary flare ups and the real benefit to a properly prepped cut of ’aired out’ meat is that it’s going to cook more evenly, locking in that flavor and delivering you a much more tender, tastier mouthful. Ground meats are a different story! They should be cold when putting on the grill. If they’re at room temperature, ground meats tend to fall apart or droop through the cooking grate.

Grilling Tip #2: Oil the grilling surface. After your grill is hot, brush (do NOT spray!) some vegetable oil on the cooking grate. I use a squeeze bottle of canola oil, squirting oil on a folded paper towel - cover it well but not to the point of dripping - then I use my long handled steel bristle brush to move the oiled paper towel over the grill surface. This isn’t to add flavor or to keep food from sticking (Tip #5 below), this is to make clean up much, much easier when the grilling is done. When it’s clean up time, brushing the grill surface clean takes half the time if you pre-oiled the grate.

Grilling Tip #3: Generally speaking, the “Presentation side” of any meat or grilled item (how you’ll see the item on the plate) is the first side you put on the grill. Choose the better looking side of the item to put down first. This is the side that needs to have those beautiful grill marks. And with most meats and fish, you only want to flip once. Yep, you read that right, flip it just once.

Grilling Tip #4: Some people like to get fancy grill marks on their food. In fact, some grill manufacturers are even making their grates fancier in design - to include logos - with their upscale models to sear those fancy marks in. If you ask me that kind of takes the mastery and fun out of it, but kudos to the grill makers and successful marketing nonetheless. If you don’t have a fancy grate, here’s what you do. For simple but still a delicious looking presentation of straight line grill marks, leave the item sit in position for at least two to three minutes. Don’t move it, don’t touch it, don’t rearrange it to make room for something else. Once it’s down it’s down, so pick your spot well, let it sit and sear. Depending on your coal stack and temperature, steaks and thick burgers can go a good five minutes, chicken and pork, slightly less. With fish, stick to two minutes. The key is to not touch the meat once you put it down and not until you flip. If you want the ‘diamond’ look (don‘t try this with most fish), give the meat a quarter turn after two - three minutes. Then let it cook for another couple minutes before you flip.

Grilling Tip #5: If you did your coals right, when you go to flip the meat over and it’s sticking to the grate, it’s not ready to flip yet. The meat literally lets you know when to flip. If it’s sticking, try again in another minute or two.

Grilling Tip #6: When grilling those pre-made frozen hamburger patties, the packaged ‘fresh’ ones from the grocery store and for folks that like their hand made burgers well done, you should only flip your burger once. After putting your burgers on, when you see red juices flowing to the top, it’s time to flip. After the flip, when you see the juices running clear, you know the burger is well done, the burger is cooked through. This is especially important for the pre-made stuff purchased at the store, you don’t want to see a strip of pink running through those. And generally speaking, remember Grilling Tip #3, most all meats and fish should only be flipped once, well done or not. It preserves those great grill marks and delivers a juicier, evenly cooked, more flavorful piece of meat.

Grilling Tip #7: Do not press the meat on the grill! Place your meat on the grill and do NOT take your spatula and press it hard into the grate thinking that helps to sear it or give it better grill marks. It does neither. You’re cooking on a grate, not on a flat top like at the diner or in an electric griddle in the house. Pressing meats down into a grill grate means loss of juice, loss of flavor. OH, and it makes it harder to flip. Seeing meat drop through the grate and onto the coals is a grill crime.

Grilling Tip #8: Don’t cut the meat on the grill to see how done it is! This is a cardinal sin, another grill crime. When you cut it at the grill, the meat’s juices come out, leaving you with a very dry piece of meat to eat and all that great flavor is gone. If you’re following all these tips to the letter, you don’t need to cut the meat to check for ‘doneness‘!

Grilling Tip #9: Do NOT use a fork of any kind to grill! Forks pierce the meat, letting those juices sizzle down into the charcoal and once those juices are gone, they’re gone, leaving you with the same situation as tip #8 - eating a dry piece of meat lacking great flavor. Avoid grill crime.

Grilling Tip #10: If you’re grilling two kinds of meat like chicken and steak for dinner, put your chicken on the grill first. There’s no “medium rare” when it comes to chicken, you’ve GOT to make sure it’s properly cooked all the way through. Put chicken near but not directly over the hot spot of the grill first, get that good sear on the presentation side of the chicken and then move it over to the lower temp side of the grill to finish off. Once you’ve moved your chicken to the lower temp side of the grill, put your steaks on the hot spot. By the time the steaks are done, so is the chicken. This method also works well when preparing meats at varying degrees of “doneness” like steaks or handmade burgers. Put steaks to be well done on the hop spot first, get a good sear and then move them over to the low temp side to finish cooking. You can then put your medium rare steaks on the hot spot and by the time those are done, so are the well done ones. The same thing goes for burgers, some people like a little pink running through the middle of a good home made, hand crafted burger. You want everyone sitting down at the same time to eat, so timing is everything and you’ll come off like a real pro pulling medium rare, medium and well done steaks off the grill, all at the same time. You don’t have to deliver that dreaded line of, “People eating chicken, yours will be done in a few more minutes…… Sorry.” And how do I know that steak is done you ask? Give it the finger. No, not the middle one, well, you can use that one if you want….. Poke the steak with your finger. If the meat is soft to the touch and doesn’t bounce back, it’s still pink inside. If it’s got some give but bounces back a bit, it’s medium. If it’s firm when poking, it’s well done.

Grill Tip #11: When to lid and when not to lid….. Unless you’re grilling in the rain, high winds or in frigid cold weather, you don’t need to use the lid for burgers and hot dogs. The only time you really need to lid is when it’s time to melt the cheese. Burgers and ground meats in general, pick up enough smoky flavor in a no lid preparation due to the high fat content in the meat, absorbing the extra smoke that’s created when those meat juices hit the flames. You can also better monitor flame flare ups with the lid off and there will be fewer of them. Regarding hot dogs, they are a quick cook food, the packaged varieties most folks put on the grill are already pre-cooked from the factory (you can actually eat them right out of the package like bologna but you’d get a scolding from the food police and I’d much rather put them on the fire) and they’ll absorb plenty of charcoal flavor with the lid off. Putting a lid on hot dogs is actually a bad thing. What you’re looking for in the All-American classic are those great grill marks and an even temperature throughout. You want that casing to snap when you bite into it and that bite needs to be juicy. Putting a lid over hot dogs not only fails to deliver more smoky flavor, but can actually shrink and dry out the hot dog because the casing split open spilling all the juices (a.k.a. flavor). Worse yet, a lid-on preparation of hot dogs makes the casing too charred to eat from that flare up you didn’t see going on under the cover. Most folks don’t like ‘blackened’ hot dogs. For other meats and food items, it really becomes a matter of personal preference. How smoky do you like your flavor? Leave the lid on for more smokiness. Fish easily takes on a great smoky flavor in a lid on preparation. Steaks should be lid off to minimize flare ups until you flip them and do the finish cooking on the lower temp side of the grill. Pork chops can be cooked lid on the whole time to get that great smoky flavor and they can handle a lot of it. Chicken needs an almost all lid preparation to ensure it’s cooked all the way through. A key to remember: If that marinade you’re using has a lot of oil in it, that can lead to a lot of flare ups. In that case, a lid is NOT your friend. Bonus tip: If you have a large grill surface and are cooking a variety of meats and don‘t want to cover it all with that one big lid, consider using a smaller lid to cover only those meats that need one. I ‘borrow’ a lid from a small portable grill I use to picnic with, using it on my big grill at home when firing up a batch of meats.

Grilling Tip # 12: Let your meats rest after pulling them off the grill. Yes, really, meat needs to rest before serving and slicing. I know you are tempted to bite into that steak or burger right away, but you want those meats to rest for five minutes after pulling them off the grill to let those flavorful juices redistribute themselves throughout those spice rubbed T-bone steaks, the marinated center cut pork chops, the BBQ sauced chicken breasts or whatever dinner might be. Thicker cuts of meat can rest even longer, up to 10 minutes.

Grilling Tip #13: Don’t wait until the next time you grill to clean the cooking grate. No, putting a lid on things thinking you’ll burn the food off just isn’t enough and if you’re a gas griller, all you’re really doing is wasting fuel. Clean your grilling grate when the grill is still warm. If you’re a gas griller, that would be after you shut the grill off and before you sit down to eat (clean the grate while the meat you prepared is resting). If you’re a charcoal griller, clean the grate after you’ve enjoyed that delicious meal. It’s easier to wire brush the grate clean when it’s warm, vs. trying to brush it clean when it’s cold, when the flame is high or when you just fired the grill up that next time…. And who wants smoke in their eyes right? Besides, a clean grill grate extends the life of it. Leaving the charred remains of burgers, steaks, fish, whatever, on the grate prematurely ages it, leading to rust. Yes, rust, even if you cover your grill or store it in the garage when not in use.

Essential Tools: Assuming you have a gas or charcoal grill to work with, you’ll also need the following items, these are essential, the basics needed for anyone serious about cranking out a great meal from the grill.

Charcoal chimneyThe charcoal chimney: For me, there’s really no better way to light charcoal, lump coals or small chunks of wood for the bigger log fire. They’re easy to use and can be found most anywhere grills and grilling accessories are sold. The best chimneys out there are made by Weber and can be purchased for around $15 to $17. Weber chimneys are better quality with thicker metal construction, to include a heat shield and a two handle grip for safer handling. I recommend having two.

Grill gloves: Even if you don’t use a charcoal chimney start to light your coals, you still need a mitt or grill gloves. You may need a mitt to lift a hot lid (some of those handles do get hot to the touch!), lift or reposition a grill grate, move a warming basket of food, or maybe you left a spatula a little too close to the fire and the handle got a bit warm. Get a mitt or gloves that are made for grilling. That oven mitt your wife or mother has in the kitchen with the pretty little flowers on it won’t cut it. Some gas grills can heat up to 600 degrees at grate level with all burners on high and grills equipped with infra-red for searing and my preference - the charcoal grill - can get even hotter. Weber makes an OK mitt with a heat resistant liner for about $10. Good grill gloves go for $25 and up.

Tongs: You can grill without them, but you really shouldn’t. NO grill master is without a good pair of metal tongs. Buy what suits your grilling needs. If you have a small portable grill, you don’t need long handled tongs. It’s not like you’re having to reach through of wall of flame to flip burgers when using a small grill, so buy a size that suits the grill. A 9” pair of tongs works fine for small grills, a 12” pair performs well with medium grills and for larger grills, get a 16” pair, that’s when you’ll need the reach. Anything larger than that can’t be handled well. The smaller pairs of tongs give you greater control than the longer pairs do, especially with big steaks and things like baked potatoes. For added control and gripping power, be sure to buy a pair with some kind of scalloped edge in the tip end, a pair that can grip something as small as a scallop or as large as a rack of ribs. Stay away from ‘scissor’ style tongs with the loopy ends, they’re practically worthless for grilling anything besides hot dogs. Don’t bother with the oversized but fancy looking wood handled varieties - the varnish on the wood wears off from the heat and the soap and water used to clean them…. and who wants that varnish stuff flaking off onto the food? You want locking metal tongs with spring action. When unlocked they naturally stay open to grab items easily and can be locked in a closed position for easy storage.

A good spatula: A metal spatula for the grill is a MUST have. And the same thing applies here for spatulas as they do with tongs. Size matters. Get something appropriate for your grill. You don’t need a 16” spatula for a 15” patio grill. Pay the extra buck or two for quality, a metal spatula with a rubber or silicone grip. Some folks like to have two spatulas on hand, one that’s stiff for things like burgers or to aid the tongs to flip a bigger cut of meat. Having a second spatula that is flexible and with holes or slots is useful when flipping more delicate items like fish or for stacking those all beef patties to create that mouthwatering double cheeseburger on a garlic butter toasted bun.

A basting brush: This is a must have if you like to add a little more flavor to the meat, like a garlic butter sauce for a big thick steak or a BBQ sauce for a chop or a piece of chicken. Stay away from the wood handles and the traditional boar’s hair brushes. The varnish wears off and with use/age the brush hair falls out, most of the time falling out in the food. Get the newest brushes made out of dishwasher safe silicone. They don’t grab as much sauce like the traditional brushes do but they last longer, the brush ‘hairs’ don’t fall out and they clean up much easier. You’ll have to do a little more dipping, but that’s OK.

Meat thermometer: An instant-read meat thermometer is a good thing to have, especially if you want reassurance that what you've prepared for family or guests has hit the right temperature. Safe eats are good eats. Insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat, stay away from the bone if it has them. Recommended temperatures are as follows: Beef should be at least 145 degrees; poultry at least 165 degrees; pork at least 160 degrees; and lamb at least 145º. Check the temp near the end of the cooking time and away from direct flame.

A good quality wire brush: It’s simply the best tool for keeping your grilling surface clean. I wrote earlier that a clean grate extends the life of the grate and that bears repeating. Get one made for grilling, one that has a scraper blade on it. Brushes with short, stiff, compact bristles are better than brushes with the longer, stringy type bristles.

A good quality cast iron skillet: It can take the heat, they’re versatile and a well seasoned skillet, like charcoal, delivers another layer of flavor. You can use your skillet to sauté veggies, scramble eggs, make corn bread or create a fantastic grilled dessert like an apple crisp or peach cobbler!

Tools you don’t need:
NO FORKS! I’ve already covered why. Don’t bother with grilling tool sets that include forks, most of them are overpriced for what you get and educate your wife to prevent a bad gifting idea.

Squeeze bottles: You don’t need a squeeze bottle if you’re filling it up with water to put out flare ups. If you stack your coals right all you have to do is move the meat to the lower temp side of the grill and the flare ups cease. Squeeze bottles of water are for rookies and prematurely age your grill. Water and high heat = rust, quickly. If you’re putting oil or marinade in a squeeze bottle, that’s OK.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Dairy Queen Unveils New Line of Signature Stackburgers

New menu rollout is the most extensive in two decades

American Dairy Queen Corporation (ADQ), a leader in iconic treats and food, today announced the new Signature Stackburgers menu. Centered on cheeseburgers that deliver on consumer demand for big flavor and variety, this new menu is the most significant product rollout for ADQ in the past 20 years.

American Dairy Queen Unveils New Line of Signature Stackburgers (Photo: Business Wire)

American Dairy Queen Unveils New Line of Signature Stackburgers (Photo: Business Wire)

“Our hot food menu, served at our DQ® Grill & Chill® restaurants, is key to our business goal to become a balanced leader in both food and treat items. We know that means innovating and expanding our everyday food offerings, and the new Signature Stackburgers go beyond typical cheeseburgers that you find at quick service restaurants,” said Troy Bader, president and chief executive officer at International Dairy Queen. “Offered in five flavor varieties, our new Signature Stackburgers deliver on everything fans want, and we are confident these new cheeseburgers will keep our fans coming back for more.”

Created as an everyday offering to defeat burger boredom, the Signature Stackburgers menu comes in five flavor varieties in the U.S. Offered as one-third pound doubles and one-half pound triples, each cheeseburger is made with 100-percent seasoned real beef and served on a soft and toasted bun with a wide array of delicious toppings.

The New Signature Stackburgers menu includes:

  • FlameThrower® with fiery FlameThrower sauce, perfectly melted Pepper Jack*, jalapeno bacon, tomato and lettuce
  • Loaded A.1.® with A.1. Thick & Hearty Steak Sauce, creamy peppercorn sauce, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, perfectly melted Sharp American* and crunchy onion rings
  • Bacon Two Cheese Deluxe with perfectly melted Sharp American* and White Cheddar*, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, tomato, onion, lettuce, pickles, ketchup and mayo
  • Two Cheese Deluxe with perfectly melted Sharp American* and White Cheddar*, tomato, onion, lettuce, pickles, ketchup and mayo
  • Original Cheeseburger with perfectly melted Sharp American*, pickles, ketchup and mustard

“We know our fans are looking for cheeseburgers that offer big flavor and premium ingredients that keep them coming back for more, and the Signature Stackburgers menu was designed to meet that craving,” said Kelly Kenny, vice president of brand and product marketing at ADQ. “We now are offering five different cheeseburgers that bring flavor variety to our everyday menu, each made with perfectly melted cheese, seasoned beef and a host of creative toppings, all served on a perfectly soft and airy bun.”

The Signature Stackburgers menu is available at all DQ Grill & Chill restaurants across the U.S. To find the nearest DQ® restaurant in the U.S, please visit dairyqueen.com/en-us/locations/

To learn more about the Signature Stackburgers menu and other DQ food and treat offerings, please visit dairyqueen.com.

Editor’s Note: The Signature Stackburgers menu is not available in Texas.

*Pasteurized process

About International Dairy Queen, Inc.

International Dairy Queen, Inc., (IDQ) based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the parent company of American Dairy Queen Corporation and Dairy Queen Canada, Inc. Through its subsidiaries, IDQ develops, licenses and services a system of more than 7,000 restaurants in the United States, Canada and more than 20 other countries. IDQ is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Berkshire), which is led by Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire. For more information, visit dairyqueen.com.


Food Review: Burger King's Bacon Whopper Melt

Burger King Bacon Whopper Melt
Nice toast on the toast

Mike Thayer

Burger King's newest sandwich, the Whopper Melt, packs a junior punch.

Innovating with their Whopper, Burger King does a play on the classic patty melt, with their new Whopper Melt featuring toasted bread layered with two Whopper Jr. patties for a total of 1/4 pound of beef, melted American cheese, caramelized onions and BK's signature "Stacker Sauce."

I'm a Patty Melt fan, so I've been wanting to try this new offering since it was released earlier this month.  For those of you who don't know what a classic Patty Melt is, it's a burger topped with grilled onions, a slice of melted Swiss cheese, served on grilled Rye Bread.  Variations include the use of American cheese instead of Swiss and Texas Toast replacing the Rye.

BK Bacon Whopper Melt
It's not a big sandwich, it should be called a Whopper Melt Jr. and not the best meat to bun ratio either...

Now when I hear "Whopper," I automatically think of BK's regular, Whopper sandwich and a full size quarter pound patty.  So when this new Whopper Melt with two patties was first announced, I was thinking this was going to be a GI-NORMOUS sandwich with not one, but TWO quarter pound Whopper patties!  Fantastic!  But no, in reading the menu description after that initial announcement WHOPPER MELT marketing hype, there it was in the small print...  Two Whopper Jr. Patties - 1/8 pound each - make up the sandwich.  Note however, the sandwich is NOT called a Whopper Melt Jr.  If you don't read the description before ordering one, you might come away disappointed.

Burger King gives you three Whopper Melt options, The original Whopper Melt as described above, along with a Bacon Whopper Melt and a Spicy Whopper Melt featuring jalapenos and a 'creamy spicy' sauce rather than the stacker sauce. 

BK Whopper Melt
A look under the lid

Hitting my neighborhood BK drive through at about 11am, I ordered the Whopper Melt with bacon.  I could have gone with the original, but then again, everything is better with bacon.  I received my sandwich in a fair amount of time and the aroma emanating from the BK bag on the drive home was pretty intense.  Once home and after taking a few pics, I took that first bite...  The meat was prepared properly and delivered that classic BK grilled flavor, the toast was nicely toasted, the cheese was on point melted but the onions could have used a bit more cook time.  As far as the stacker sauce goes, too sweet! And so is the toast.  All that sweetness overpowers all the savory flavors in this sandwich.  I don't want a sweet burger experience, I want savory!  Even the savory bacon was overwhelmed by the sweetness of that toast and sauce, sweet toast and sauce flavors lingered on the tongue, NOT burger and onion!  I was looking forward to this sandwich, but came away disappointed.  Silver lining, I wasn't craving anything sweet for dessert!

Costing me $6.23 for just the sandwich, I'm giving the Burger King Bacon Whopper Melt 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  This really isn't a Whopper Melt without the classic quarter pound patty, it's a Whopper Melt Jr., shame on BK for the marketing ploy.  More importantly, the savory notes of grilled burger, bacon, onions and melted cheese are overpowered by a bread and sauce that are just too sweet.  This isn't a patty melt sandwich, this is a patty sweet sandwich, a junior one at that and it is NOT worthy of a repeat buy.  This is a limited time sandwich offer and that's a good thing.  I won't be sad to see this item dropped from the menu. 

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Quench Your Thirst at Scooter’s Coffee with Invigorating New Fruit Flavors

Scooter's coffeeOMAHA, Neb., – Scooter’s Coffee is making a splash this spring with the return of invigorating Quenchers – in both new and customer-favorite fruit flavor combinations. A thirst-quenching, water-based drink, Quenchers are infused with green coffee extract for the perfect natural energy pick-me-up. For even more fruity fun, customers can substitute water for coconut milk, iced tea or Scooter’s Coffee delicious new, all-natural lemonade.

Strawberry Acai Quencher – This popular and returning Quencher features fresh strawberry and super-food acai juice for a sweet, healthful and happy taste. Coconut milk can provide a refreshingly sweet starter to this Quencher.

Peach Mango Quencher – Peach mixes with mango to quench your thirst happily ever after. A black tea base makes the Peach Mango Quencher amazingly rejuvenating.

Kiwi-Lime Prickly Pear Quencher – Tangy lime intertwines with its sweet counterparts, kiwi and melon-esque prickly pear juice. Lemonade is the perfect starter for the Kiwi-Lime Prickly Pear Quencher.

Sip back and smile this spring with other chilled favorites from Scooter’s Coffee.

Lemonade – A pure, naturally flavored juicy burst of lemony sunshine blends the perfect amount of tart and sweet into a cup. Take your lemonade to the next level by adding prickly pear or raspberry flavoring.

Red Bull Infusion – Red Bull is infused with delicious flavors for a refreshingly crisp drink. Red Bull Infusions are available in prickly pear, coconut and raspberry flavors.

Smoothies – Sweet, creamy and refreshing, smoothies are blended and chilled to perfection in strawberry, wild berry, strawberry banana, mango, peach, matcha green tea, peachy-tart and peanut butter flavors. Add Red Bull to make a Vertigo Smoothie or try a Fruit-N’-Ice version for a lighter fruit drink. Lemonade can be added to any fruit smoothie, upon request.

View Scooter’s Coffee menu at https://www.scooterscoffee.com/menu/. 

About Scooter’s Coffee

Founded in 1998 by Don and Linda Eckles in Bellevue, Nebraska, Scooter’s Coffee roasts only the finest coffee beans in the world at its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. In more than two decades of business, Scooter’s Coffee’s success is simple: stay committed to the original business principles and company’s four core values, which are Integrity, Love, Humility and Courage. The Scooter’s Coffee Brand Promise, often recited to franchisees, customers and employees is: “Amazing People, Amazing Drinks… Amazingly Fast!®” It represents the company’s business origins and reflects a steady commitment to providing an unforgettable experience to loyal and new customers.

Scooter’s Coffee is at the dawn of a strategic growth phase nationwide, approaching 450 stores in 23 states. The U.S. coffee market is an estimated $48 billion a year recession-resistant industry, and Scooter’s Coffee is striving to become the #1 drive-thru coffee franchise in the nation.

For more information, visit, scooterscoffee.com, facebook.com/scooterscoffee,

ownascooters.com or call 877-494-7004.


Creating a "Salad Bar" with an old coffee table

Shade Garden
Apartment patio

By Mike Thayer

Two years ago, I turned an old coffee table into a shade garden for my apartment patio.

What do you do with an old coffee table that had a tile or slate top and a bunch of those pieces got broken rendering it unusable?  OH NO, a topless table!  And don't ask what happened to make the table topless, I'm not telling.

And sure, you could TRY to save the table by going to the Big Box store and hope to find tiles or slate that matches what you had - good luck with that.....   Or you could buy all new tiles or slate and hope the store has all the right sizes for your coffee table to make it like new again - good luck with that too......

So screw that headache, I say repurpose that topless coffee table and make it a planter!

But I've since moved from that apartment, to a house and a lot less shade.

So what used to be a shade garden, is now a "Salad Bar" - it's repurposing a coffee table x2!

The back patio of my house gets a lot of sun, so it was pretty much a no brainer converting this table from a shade garden containing coleus, begonias, and caladiums into a "Salad Bar" containing a variety of lettuces, onions, cucumber and radishes!

20220329_165438(1)Come harvest time, it won't get any fresher than that!  Just step onto my back patio and pick what I need for a salad or side dish!

YUM!

The beauty of having a repurposed item like this is the mobility.  It's light, so I can transport this table to just about any space in my yard I want.  And it's flexible.  I could leave this in the shade if I wanted to and have that shade garden, very visually appealing, but that sunny space on the back patio was calling me out, "Create a salad bar!"

This project didn't really cost me anything other than a bag of fresh potting soil, as I already had the table on hand and set up for plants.  But check out the original article on "how to":

Related: Repurposing an old coffee table into a shade garden for the patio

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Using a plastic drawer set as a cold frame for the garden

Plastic Drawer Set
Use this in your garden

By Mike Thayer

I live in Kansas, so the temps vary big time.  In the spring months it could be 70 degrees one day and 32 degrees the next until Mother's Day, the last day on the Farmer's Almanac Calendar of when the danger of frost has passed.

Creating a cold frame can be intimidating though, the construction of wood frames, the use of plastics, perhaps an old storm window.  And the downside to building a cold frame such as this is it's set in a certain place in the yard.  Having a cold frame in an apartment or patio setting is not an easy thing to do.  Or is it...

Enter a cheat, the plastic drawer Cold Frame

Inexpensive Cold Frame
Seeds you start indoors can easily be hardened outside

Do you have one of those plastic drawer set on wheels that you no longer use?  Turn it into a cold frame.  Even if you don't have one of those on hand, they are inexpensive.  I picked one up today at Walmart for $20 for the sole purpose of using it as a cold frame, no construction required!   I've put all my starter pots that I started from seed indoors in it.  The drawers can be opened up during the day for ventilation and getting the starter plants acclimated to the great outdoors, then I can easily shut the drawers at night if there is a frost warning.  The top of the drawer set serves as a work surface.  On wheels, the 'cold frame' is mobile.  I can move it around to maximize sun exposure, or protect it from stormy weather (plus shutting the drawers).

Instant Cold Frame
Open the drawers by day, close at night

I could NOT have built a cold frame this mobile and easy to use for $20.  I've been able to house tomatoes, brussel sprouts, cucumbers and a variety of flowers in this easy peasy cold frame.  The three drawers provide ample space for all the seeds I've started indoors and will provide great protection from any frost warning, all I have to do is shut the drawers.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Easy Peasy Cold Frame
Ample storage

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Food Review: Cheez-It Puff'd

20220327_154955By Mike Thayer

I love Cheeze-It crackers!  Drawn by that intense cheddar flavor, Cheeze-it crackers are often found in my pantry.

So when shopping in Walmart the other day and seeing a display of the "New!" Cheeze-It Puff'd, I 'had' to have some...  Yes, the marketing display worked on me...

Described as cheesy, airy & puffy, I was looking forward to trying these.  I like Cheez-it crackers a lot, I like cheese puffs, so this combination intrigued me.

Cheez-It has packaged these into three varieties, Double Cheese, Scorchin' Hot Cheddar and White Cheddar.  Checking over the display, I went with the double cheese.

These are not worthy of a repeat buy.  They are cheese puff-like in texture, kind of shaped to resemble the classic cracker yet airy and puffy (a true meaning in empty calories but I don't care, it's a snack), but they lack the same intense cheddar flavor as the original Cheeze-It cracker.  The product looses some of that robust cheddar cheesy goodness morphing into the puff form I guess, and I bought the "Double Cheese" variety!  Given the puff texture, the 'chip' lacks a real crunch, it's more of a light crisp at the beginning of each snack bite.  But you know how Cheetos Cheese Puffs kind of melt away in your mouth, almost like cotton candy but in a very good cheesy way?  Not so much with these...  And depending on your cheese puff outlook and if you like finger licking good, these don't leave behind near as much of a neon orange residue that a Cheetos Cheese Puff does. 

Costing me $3.18 at Walmart for a 5.75 ounce bag, they are reasonably priced - perhaps an introductory price - but lacking the same robust cheddar flavor as the original cracker, Cheez-It Puff'd are NOT worthy of a repeat buy.  I'm giving them 3 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  At six servings per bag, that breaks down to 53¢ per serving, not bad, but not good enough to buy again, it's an "eh" chip snack and I'm not going to bother sampling the other flavors.  I'd much rather have the original cracker and if I'm going to go for puffs, it's Cheetos Cheese Puffs.

3 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas

By Mike Thayer

Got a hankering for fajitas? Flank steak is a great cut of meat to use in fajitas. Like the skirt steak, it’s a less expensive cut of meat, a tougher cut of meat, yet packs a lot of flavor when prepared correctly. Try this the next time you fix fajitas or when tacos sound boring:

Ingredients

  • Two pounds of flank steak Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • The juice of a lime
  • 2 healthy tablespoons of your favorite store bought fajita seasoning
  • A few drizzles of canola oil
  • Medium onion, large slices
  • Green pepper, large slices

Directions
Mix the olive oil, tequila, lime juice and fajita seasoning in a measuring cup or small bowl. Pour over the top of the flank steak in a zip lock bag or plastic container. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, four hours is better, but NOT overnight, there‘s alcohol in this marinade and alcohol can tend to give meat that mushy texture if over-marinated. Grill over high heat, about five minutes on each side (for a medium rare) first five minutes lid off, last five minutes lid on. Pull the steaks off the grill, let them rest for five minutes. While the meat is resting, coat the sliced onion and pepper with canola oil and season with the fajita mix. Grill over direct heat until you get a bit of a char on both sides. Warm the tortillas on the low temp side of the grill, pull and stack. Slice the flank steak across the grain, plate and serve with the veggies. These are great of course, with Margaritas.

This meal is not all that expensive to prepare, with the most pricey ingredient being the flank steak of course.  You should be able to get flank steak anywhere from $10 - $15/lb depending on the store and any sales, this is one of the cheaper cuts of beef you're going to find.  TIP:  When you find meat on sale, grab more than one if you can and stash it in the freezer!  The rest of this great meal is pennies on the dollar, with a few veggies, some tortillas and shredded cheese.  The nice thing, there will be leftovers!

I take great pleasure in Grilling Good Eats!

Download Mike's Flank Steak Fajitas

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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If you appreciate the article you just read and want to support more great content on BachelorontheCheap.com, you can help keep this site going with a one-time or a monthly donation.  Thank you so much for your support! ~ Mike

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Grilling Good Eats - Setting up your grill for success

Grilling Good Eats 2Grilling Good Eats

by Mike Thayer

How much charcoal should I use? How long does charcoal stay hot? What kind of grill should I buy? Which is better, gas or charcoal? Do I put the lid on or leave it off? Are those wood pellets any good?

These are all great questions. Whether you’re new to grilling or are looking to expand on your grilling expertise, you’re reading the right source. The answers are here.

Any kind of grill is better than no grill. A grill can be a piece of scrap metal and two cinder blocks standing over a small pile of charcoal, or it can be the latest stainless steel propane gas model with infra-red heat for searing and two side burners. Grills vary greatly in size, shape, fuel source, cost and most importantly, the ability to deliver flavor.

That last reason - flavor - is why I’m a charcoal grill enthusiast and this ‘how to‘ grilling book is written with that in mind. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of useful information, recipes and tips from this book if you’re a gas griller, but I’m here to tell you, charcoal grills deliver better flavor every time. Don’t get me wrong, gas grills have their place, but along with the great flavor charcoal delivers, charcoal has other advantages like the flexibility of using it to give big steaks that high heat sear, or using it to cook ribs low and slow. Another advantage charcoal grills have over gas is that you can easily add wood to the fire, putting another layer of flavor on that great looking piece of meat. You can add wood to a gas grill, but you’re pretty much restricted to using wood chips and you have to keep those chips away from the gas burners, almost forcing you to buy one of those gas grill accessories - the wood chip box. In my experience, the gas grill and those little wood chip boxes just don’t measure up to the flavors you can add using a charcoal grill setup. Here are some more advantages to the charcoal grill:
Grill advantage
You may have noticed, I left out electric grills in that breakdown. That’s because electric grills suck. Don’t buy one. They don’t deliver the heat they promise, you’re restricted to where you can plug it in and like the gas grill, they don’t deliver any flavor. Durability with electric grills is also an issue. I used to have an electric grill, I converted it over to charcoal after the element burned out.

“What about smokers?” you ask. This book focuses on grilling, smoking is a whole different level of backyard-cooking-meat-with-fire-experience. I’ll be covering smokers, pit BBQ and those green egg shaped contraptions in my next book. Yep, you read that right, a teaser for a second book.

So now that I’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages of the two main grill types and you now know that charcoal is the way to go, let’s talk about the charcoal grill setup.

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 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 by using a charcoal chimney.

Charcoal chimneys are fairly inexpensive and all you need are a few sheets of newspaper to get those charcoals heated up. They’re easy to use:

Step 1: Turn the chimney upside down, crinkle up about three double-wide sheets of old newspaper into three softball sized rounds and stuff them into the bottom of the chimney.
Step 2: Turn the chimney right-side up and fill with the amount of charcoal you need. TIP: If you’re only grilling like eight burgers, depending on your grill size, you don’t need to fill the chimney to the top, try half-full, even less for small portable type grills.
Step 3: Ideally, you’ve got your charcoal chimney placed where your coals are eventually going to be placed for grilling, the bottom of the grill, cooking grate off. Light the newspaper, stay in one spot with your flame, count to 10 and watch for smoke to come out of the top of the chimney. Holding the starter flame (butane wands with the flame setting on high work great for this) in one place on the newspaper ensures the newspaper gets lit and stays lit. Lighting the newspaper in more than one spot can prematurely flame out the newspaper before the coals catch that fire.
Charcoal chimneyStep 4: Check your chimney after about 2 minutes, it should be building up heat. Depending on conditions like the quality of your charcoal, how much of it you put in the chimney and if it’s windy or not, your coals should be ready in 10 - 15 minutes.
Step 5: When you see an orange glow coming from the bottom of the chimney, flames coming out the top and the edges of some of the coals starting to turn gray, your charcoal is ready. Because you’re not using lighter fluid, you don’t have to worry about a fuel taste, these coals are just about ready to cook with!
Step 6: Using a grilling mitt, dump your coals into the grill. Place your chimney somewhere ‘heat safe’ to let it cool down, these babies stay hot for a bit after dumping the coals.
Step 7: Place the cooking grate on the grill to get it heated up, about five minutes is all it takes, then you’re ready to throw the meat on!

TIP: On windy days, lightly coat the newspaper with some cooking spray before stuffing it in the charcoal chimney. This will extend the burn time of the paper and prevent those little ashes from blowing around.

Arranging your coals matters
This may sound trivial to somebody new to grilling and even to some ‘experienced‘ grillers…… How you stack your coals, matters! Do NOT spread your charcoal out evenly. That’s right, you read that correctly, do NOT lay the coals out evenly. Doing so kills the life span of the heat. Your fire simply won’t last as long. Another reason not to spread your charcoal out evenly is flare ups. If you get flare ups - and you will - especially if you’re doing burgers, you’ll have no ‘cool spot’ on the grill for the meat to escape to. Flare ups with no escape often lead to burnt food, or food that’s crispy on the outside and not done on the inside.

Recommended stacking:

Charcoal center stackCenter Stack: You can stack your coals higher in the middle of the grill, a pyramid or mountain shaped pile, creating a center stage hot spot for searing. The center stack arrangement of coals concentrates all the high heat and possible flare ups in the middle, leaving all the sides of the grill at a lower temperature. No big flare ups everywhere on your grill, there’s plenty of space on all sides for your meats to escape to. Sear your meats in the hot spot, let them finish cooking or keep them warm in the lower temp side areas. This stack style works best in Weber kettle grills, or other circular shaped grills.

Charcoal back stackBack Stack: You can stack the bulk of your coals in the back of the grill, leaving the front of the grill only sparsely covered with coals. This keeps the high heat and the flare ups in the back of the grill, away from you, making the turning and flipping of meats a little easier. The low temp front of the grill gives your meats a place to escape to in the event of a flare up. You can also use this space to finish cook meats or keep them warm. If you’re new to charcoal grilling, this might be the way to go. This method and the Left/Right Stack highlighted next, also work well when party grilling, when guests arrive and eat at various times. It allows you to cook and ‘hold’ the good grilled eats.

Charcoal left right stackLeft/Right Stack: This is my preferred method of stacking coals. I personally like to have a hot side of the grill and a “Keep it warm” side. I stack my coals tall on the left for giving meats that really good sear. On the right, I have just enough coals to cook meats through or keep warm. This arrangement works especially well in square, rectangular shaped or shallow basin grills. The same thing can be done on gas grills with two burners. High or medium flame is used on one side, low flame or even no flame is used on the other side.

As you gain experience in grilling, how you stack your coals (or use your burners if you’re a gas griller) becomes a personal preference thing. The key is having a hot section and a warm section on your grill, some people call this ‘zone grilling‘ or ‘zone cooking.’ Here’s an added plus to using one of the three stack styles mentioned above: Having your coals ‘stacked’ rather than evenly laid out really comes in handy when you’re grilling two or three different kinds of meat for dinner. You’ll be praised by family and friends for your grilling prowess because you had a hot spot and a lower temp area on your grill. I’ll provide details on that later in the book as well as stacking your coals for indirect heat zone cooking such as for smoking and real BBQ.

“Mike, how much charcoal should I use and how long is it going to stay hot?” Most people use way more charcoal than they really need to. If you’re grilling for one or two people and using a smaller, portable type grill, try a quarter chimney of charcoal. This will provide more than enough fire for grilling four cheeseburgers, a dozen hot dogs and then smores if you want for dessert! I use a half-chimney amount quite a bit, satisfying the hunger needs of my three boys and I usually have enough heat leftover after doing steaks or chicken to do some lower and slower cooking like a dessert pizza. Having guests over for a party? Fire up two chimneys. On a Weber kettle grill that will get you through a box of frozen ¼ pound hamburger patties (40 count) and 36 hot dogs. You can toast the buns too! If conditions are right (not too much wind) and you stacked your coals well, you can cook for hours. I’ve gone back to my grill the next day after grilling to clean the charcoal ashes out and have carelessly burned myself. A good grill and quality charcoal can really retain some heat so be careful.

My preferred brand of charcoal is Kingsford and I buy the competition briquettes when it’s available. They tend to burn a little hotter and a little longer. I like briquettes because they also deliver a more consistent burn vs. lump coal which comes in different shapes and sizes, doesn’t stack as well and perhaps most importantly, quality lump coal tends to run a bit higher in price. Pro-lump coal enthusiasts say it provides better flavor, but if that’s the case, then you might as well just throw the real wood log on the fire.

Wood: You can really add a whole other dimension of flavor by using wood in your grilling. Fruit woods are excellent for adding some sweetness to meats, and all woods suitable for grilling give you that nice smoke ring of flavor that is craved by grill masters, weekend grillers and food enthusiasts alike. Some woods are better with certain meats than others, experiment with different woods and have fun with it. Below is a list of the more commonly used woods. You can use logs to grill or smoke with exclusively, or mix them with charcoal briquettes or lump coal. I like to use a combination of charcoal briquettes and wood logs when grilling low and slow for bigger cuts of meat, and a combination of charcoal and wood chunks when grilling thinner cuts over direct heat, lid-on preparations.

Apple and Cherry woods: Probably the most popular of all the fruit woods, both giving off a mild sweetness. Excellent for poultry and pork, with cherry being particularly good when grilling or smoking ham.

Hickory: The most popular wood for smoking meats, delivering a strong flavor. Don’t overdo it if you haven’t grilled with it before and use with the bigger cuts of meat, it can be overpowering. Good for all meats, but better with beef and lamb.

Mesquite: The trendy wood right now. It burns hotter and faster than hickory so it’s an excellent choice for the weekend griller. It delivers a nice, lightly sweet flavor. Good for all meats, fish, vegetables, especially good with ribs.

Oak: The second most popular all purpose wood. Like hickory, it delivers a strong smoky flavor but not as overpowering. It’s good with beef, fish and pork butt.

Pecan Smoked Brats
Pecan Smoked Brats

Pecan: Doesn’t burn as hot as other woods, delivering a more subtle smoky flavor. Excellent for all meats, good with just about anything you want to grill or smoke.  On a personal note, if I had to grab just one type of wood, this would be it - pecan is my go-to.

Other woods to consider: You really can’t go wrong with just about any fruit wood, most of them are mild and sweet. Citrus woods are all good, don‘t hesitate to use them. Peach, pear and mulberry all deliver another dimension of flavor. Maple, birch and ash are nice changes of pace and even seasoned grape vines or lilac branches are nice flavor enhancements for the grill.

Woods to AVOID: Anything in the Pine family (terrible flavor, burns too fast and hot), walnut (heavy, bitter smoke flavor, can be used with other woods but why bother…), elm, cypress, redwood.

TIP: The best smoke comes from the coals of the wood, so when grilling, let the log or logs burn down. Wood in smokers is a different story.

Wood chips and chunks: Wood chips and chunks are great because not everybody has a big backyard to store a cord of wood in. You can store a smaller size bag of wood chips or chunks on an apartment balcony, you can mix chips/chunks in with charcoal briquettes and they are readily available most anywhere grills and grill accessories are sold. Many of the wood flavors previously mentioned are available, apple, cherry, oak, hickory, mesquite and my personal favorite, pecan.  TIP: If you're a gas griller, go with the wood chips, this is what those smoker box accessories are designed for.   If you're a charcoal griller, then go with the chunks, throw a couple chunks on your pile of charcoal.  DO NOT SOAK either fuel type in water!  Soaked wood can smother your fire and reduce heat.  Besides, you want clean smoke in your cook, a good smoke is thin, blue and almost invisible, this is what puts quality flavor in your food.  Soaking wood, wet wood, generates a thick, white smoke and that's not a good smoke, or a good taste for your food.  White smoke is a bitter smoke, wait for a clean smoke before putting your food on the grill.

Wood pellets: I love these things. They are truly versatile, add another layer of flavor and they’re so easy to use. They are an excellent addition to charcoal briquettes, or mixing with wood logs, kicking that great taste level up another notch. You can add a handful, or two depending on how heavy you like smoke flavor.  Pellets last longer than wood chips - another plus - but also like wood chips, you’re not going to want to try and cook with pellets as your lone fuel source (you'll burn through them too quickly) in a typical patio grill setup if you‘re just doing a couple burgers or hot dogs. They‘re best used in a mixed fuel source preparation. TIP: If you only have one type of log wood to grill or smoke with, say, oak, pick up some apple wood pellets to add to the fire. Layers of flavor! I really like this mix when grilling pork, cherry is excellent as well.

Venting: No, I’m not talking about being able to rant at someone about how bad your day went……. I’m talking about giving your charcoal grill set up a chance to breathe. This is believe it or not one of the most under performed but vital task in grilling. It impacts the heat, the level of smoke (and hence affecting the flavor of the food), and the burn time. Whether you are using charcoal, wood, or a mix of fuel types, don’t forget to vent your grill properly. You’re creating a fire, and fires need to breathe. Vents are your friend. Most grills have at least two sets of vents. There’s typically a set in the lid and a set, if not two, in the base. The vents in the base are essential for letting your fire breathe, the vent in the lid is there for two reasons, to regulate smoke and to work as a draw. Opening that lid vent lets the hot air escape, allowing the lower vents to draw in the cooler outside air with fresh oxygen for the coals to breathe. I’ve seen guys grilling with all the vents closed and they wonder why their fire never really got hot enough, the food took longer to cook and in some cases, the fire prematurely burned out. They didn’t let the coals breathe, the only oxygen the fire got was when the lid was off or opened. If there’s no wind and you’re just grilling burgers and hot dogs, leave your vents wide open. I personally like to leave the lid off in that case until it’s time to melt the cheese for the burgers. If it’s windy, you want to shut your vents a bit, perhaps nearly closed all the way depending on just how windy it is, but never completely closed. If you want a little more smoky flavor on whatever you’re grilling, shut the lid vent a bit. If it’s raining and you don‘t have the luxury of being in a covered area, you may want to close that lid vent a bit. If it’s raining a lot, get out the umbrella. If you don’t have an umbrella, it sucks to be you.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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