Friday, March 13, 2009

The Frugal Maven Knows Cars

I am a car girl. I love driving cars and looking at cars and talking about cars. When I was ten I could give a list on demand of my top ten cars if money and availability were no object. I make my living servicing cars, which is a perfect and obvious use for my English degree. All day long I talk to people about what their cars need and how they should spend their money. All this, mind you, while the environmental side of me believes that we'll all be on the light rail and cycling everywhere sooner rather than later. Still, I am a veritable fount of information. If you want to know about Hondas I can recite 10 years worth of knowledge until your ears bleed and you beg for mercy. I can tell you about Lexus and Infiniti and Mercedes. If you want to know about timing belts I'm your girl. So I figure I can share some of this titillating cocktail party banter with you, my readers, who surely drive and buy cars with some regular frequency, even in these dark days. If you have car questions please feel free to ask at any time. Even during posts about laundry detergent or muffins or Indian food recipes. If I don't know the answer I'll make an honest stab at finding out before just telling you an outright lie.
So, in the interest of spreading knowledge and sharing the wealth, I will be doing tips weekly on items such as how to buy a used car, the ins and outs of warranties, and how to maintain your huge investments. First up, an accessory to never buy unless you want to be miserable:

Chrome wheels. I know, some of you would rather die than be seen with a set and some of you are dying to put a set on the car. They are obviously popular because they are everywhere. Here's what they don't tell you, though. Chrome wheels are dipped to get the chrome finish. This means it's very hard to get them weighted properly and that makes them hard to balance. You may put a set on only to find that your gorgeous automobile feels like a turnip truck on the road and there's nothing you can do about it. They also chip and pit easily. If you need to have one rechromed it usually has to be sent out to be done. Ours go to California and take about three weeks to come back. EPA regualations have caused most mom and pop chroming shops to fold and that means you are beholden to the few who still do repairs whereever they may be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fantasy Travel Thursdays - Chili Dogs Galore!

Today is Fantasy Travel Thursday, that magic time when we can take a little tour of somewhere that in reality we're not likely to visit anytime soon. The Ides of March are coming and along with it the reopening of hot dog and ice cream stands for the spring and summer season. I am a huge fan of chili dogs and am very specific about my toppings. I do not approve of cheese or mustard on the weenie. You can have yours however you like but leave that crap off of mine. I'll just take onions and chili. Without further ado, a gastronomical fantasy tour of the nation's finer weenie joints:
Nathan's of Coney Island. Weenies that are big and beefy even though he appears to be carrying a purse on the sign. Other than the occasional splurge at the grocery, I haven't had one of these since Spring Break 1983. Next up:
Mustard's Last Stand, Melbourne, Florida. This is a couple of miles from our house in Florida and I love any place that lets me bring the dogs and gives me a discount for doing it! Third on the list:

The Varsity in Atlanta, Georgia. This place is huge, crowded, the employees are snarly and the food's mediocre. I love it! You have to stand in different lines for each item which is a huge pain and is best done with a tag team of friends. No matter how truly bad the experience, you'll want to go back anyway. And last but not least: Polly's Freeze in Georgetown, Indiana, across the Ohio River and just a few miles from home. Polly's sits on the very edge of the road in the middle of nowhere and serves up ice cream and chili dogs and fantastic fried mushrooms. They will be embarking on their 57th year and the business is still in the family.

If you are in the mood to cook up some coney sauce, here's the recipe I use. The key, I have learned after years of making inferior sauce, is to boil the ground beef. If you have a recipe you swear by, please share it! Hope your fantasy tour was fun!

Detroit Coney Sauce

2 pounds extra lean ground beef

1 quart water (boiling)

4 small onions, minced

4 teaspoons chili powder

2 small whole red peppers (or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 teaspoons cumin

5 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar

1 8 ounce can tomato paste

Add raw beef to boiling water and stir until beef separates to a fine texture. Add remaining ingredients. Stir and simmer uncovered for at least 3 hours. Last hour, pan may be covered after desired consistency is reached. Take out bay leaves and red peppers. Chili can be made in advance and refrigerated in order to lift fat from top before reheating.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Makhani Chicken That's Almost As Good As Kashmir's But Not Quite

I have a Makhani (Butter) Chicken recipe that is quite tasty but also a bit of work. I do that ten hours a day and really want something easy most nights when I get home. Recently I was introduced to A Year of Crockpotting. Even thought it's so 2008 I am loving rooting through her recipes. Her Butter Chicken recipe sounded good and I decided to give it a try. It looked like this in the crockpot:
Which is some nasty looking funk. But take it from me, when all you have to do is pitch a bunch of frozen chicken in with some onions and spices and a can of coconut milk and tomatoes and butter and turn it on and then come home to the smell I came home to, you'll be thrilled with this recipe. There is nothing like coming through the door to the smell of Indian food cooking. Now if I had a minion to make fresh naan life would be perfect. You can access the recipe here and you'll have to look at her finished product because once I stuck my fingers in ours and started picking out pieces to munch on I forgot all about taking a picture. I also did not string together a big wad of cardamom pods. If I was going to do that I'd just take the time to make the regular recipe. I did up the amount of garam masala and ginger and will try it with lamb at some point. This recipe, and most of her others, fulfill the tenets of frugality and looking harder than they are. Her recipes are also gluten-free. We ate on this for two days, I took it once for lunch and stenched up the office, and we froze some for later. This is a keeper.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Good Music and Old Friends For Cheap

For all of you Louisvillians on the list, here's a must-see for tomorrow night. On March 10, Spirits of the Red City will do a show at the 930 Art Center, located in Sojourn church in Smoketown/Germantown (depending on which way you look at it). Go here for the info. This group is led by Will Garrison, an extremely talented musician originally from Louisville but best of all it features Jason Overby, a dear friend of ours who can play any instrument you put in his hands. He is currently based in his home state of Alaska so we relish the chance to see him when we can. Plus, this show is $5. And all ages. If you miss them on Tuesday they will also be at ear x-tacy on Wednesday during the day.
So, you know how you said on January 1 you were going to do more new things? And how you swear you like to support the local arts venues? And you've been planning to turn off that tv because Idol really does suck this year? Well, here's your chance. A partially home-grown music collective for a cheap price in a location that caters relentlessly to new and emerging talent and puts its' money where its' mouth is. What more could you ask? See you there!

Get Thee To The Goodwill

I have blogged before about buying books at the Goodwill. That post was a little long and serious, though, so for those of you who didn't make it through the whole thing here's the gist. Books are .50 at the Goodwill. All books. None of the random pricing like they do for the glassware where florist vases, the bane of everyone's life, are apt to be $5.00. Cause you always need another one of those. And they are so hard to find.
One thing on our very short shopping list has been a blue striped t-shirt for Travis McGee. He has one that is approximately twenty years old and has a big rip across the shoulder. He loved it because, I assume, it was worn in just like he liked it. I loved it because he looked like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief minus the kerchief. Or something like that. Anyway, he found one at the goodwill that was a fairly close approximation to his beloved and purchased it for $4. And it looks like this: See, even Lucille likes it. She loves a bargain because she knows we cut corners so she can enjoy the most expensive food money can buy to keep her coat glossy and her little toes as pink and unused to work as the day she was born.

The moral to this story is that if thrifting is not on your list, you might want to give it a try. There are good bargains to be had, people. My new Goodwill books include The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, a literary vampire novel (yes, it's possible to be both) that was just published in 2005 and a collection of Cheever short stories. We also got Travis McGee a french blue Tom James custom-made (for someone else obviously) dress shirt for $2.50 that fits like a glove. If you've never been thrifting, visit The Thrifty Chicks. They have got it on the ball on all things thriftworthy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Daylight Savings Time

Good morning to you all!

We have sprung forward this morning and I am nursing slight discomforts from being slightly overserved last evening. We were celebrating with friends because Travis McGee had finished a potrait of one of our guests, the Treehouse Chef. We were also celebrating the happy fact that it was 75 degrees here yesterday which is slightly better than the 20 degrees we had last week. And that we all have what at this point seem to be relatively stable jobs. Who knows, though, just like the weather that could change tomorrow.

We were presented with a bottle of champagne by one friend in honor of our recent wedding anniversary. He of the fantastic cajun pork roast recipe I've talked about before. He works in government as the king of prison industries and so procured these for us:

Mine of course says Frugal Maven. It's nice to be loved by dear friends.
And the Treehouse Chef, who was in charge of dessert, brought a mandarin orange bundt cakey thing with orangecello glaze and it looked like this:
And was vulgarly good. I mean put your face in the plate good. It was a madeup recipe of hers so she'll probably blog about it and divulge the recipe and I hope she does. TC loved her portrait. She has been wanting one since Travis McGee did a portrait of our friend Susan who is a follower here and has been a friend for years.
We also made pomegranhattans. Which were excellent. We have been making cranhattans for months now and branched on out due to pomegranate juice being on clearance at Kroger. We were trying out Four Roses bourbon (made in my hometown along with Wild Turkey) that was a gift from another guest as a pickmeup for me dealing with my dad in the hospital the last couple of weeks. Again, nice to be loved.
I made a lasagna (thank you Ina Garten for your idea of goat cheese in the ricotta) which was quite good but paled next to portraits and prison scrubs and mandarin cakes and mellow bourbon and good, festive buzzes. So happy Sunday to you all.