Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lemon & Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts

Just to get things started off right, the grilling season has begun anew, and nothing goes better with firing up the grill and tossing some meat onto the fire than an ice cold beer. I like to start my grilling off with something from the many options brewed by the last standing true American brewing company left, The Boston Beer Company and their fabulous Sam Adams beers.

Today I am cooking up my Lemon & Pepper Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts, which is delicious to say the least, and a breeze to whip together. No lemon and pepper seasoning required for this one. At least not the shakable kind.

For this recipe you will need:
  • 2 large chicken breasts cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 ounce apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of pepper
For the chicken breasts, try to find the largest ones you possibly can. If they are a smaller variety, just use more of them. But I always like to find the chicken breasts that seem like they have put the chickens on a full steroid diet. For whatever reason, there are times I buy chicken breasts from Walmart that I swear must be the size of turkeys before they reach the slaughterhouse.

Just saying.

For the marinade, simply whisk together the lemon juicer, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper, then add in the chicken breasts. Get those bad boys nice and coated, and I like to end the coating with the breasts top side down. Let them marinate for about 1-3 hours, turning the breasts often.

For the grill, simply fire it up, and of course crack open a Sam Adams beer, and keep the temperature somewhere between 350 degrees and 375 degrees, shooting for the low end of that spectrum. Season the breasts very nominally with just a little bit of Adobo seasoning (I like  Goya) and cook until done.

I served mine with a bit of my special potato salad which I may one day share, and some corn mixed with okra and diced tomatoes.

Most of all, simply enjoy the beer, enjoy the grilling process, and of course enjoy the great flavor cooked up into this chicken breast recipe. I like lemon and pepper seasoning, and so why not simply make a marinade out of this popular way to season chicken breasts? Want to try this recipe with other cuts of chicken? I say why not. I certainly will. I may even try this with some fish while we're at it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hilary Fails To Explain Emails Fully

Sometimes secrets, when it comes to the government, need to be kept. Anyone who really thinks about the consequences of certain kinds of information falling into the wrong hands can understand that some things simply do need to be kept quiet.

Still, it is also important to have a government that is as transparent as is possible without compromising national security. Too often what we wind up with are elected officials, or appointed government officials who forget that their boss ultimately happens to be the American people.

Enter Hilary Clinton.

Regardless of what email she used, or where any server was kept (although I do not like the idea of her server being in her complete control), the fact is that any correspondence that she had in an official capacity, whether or not personal emails were sent using the same email address, no correspondence should ever have been deleted. It is the property of the American people, and it should not be up to the official to decide which emails are relevant, and which ones are not. That can leave quite a bit of room to hide things from the American people, and potentially leaves no recourse for anyone to dig into what could be very important details.

Were the 30,000 emails Hilary Clinton deleted just about yoga and wedding plans? Or was there something else in those emails? Perhaps details about Benghazi? We may never know since according to the most recent report her server may have been wiped clean, meaning we may never be able to recover what she deleted. She's not turning over her servers either for anyone to take a closer look at, which seems to continue to suggest there may be something to hide.

She could have ended this whole affair in one fell swoop, but she chose not to, and there has to be a reason for that unless she truly believes herself to be an elite who is entitled to a level of privacy that no one else is entitled to. How can we simply take her at her word?

Whether or not this entire affair will have any impact on her hopes to win the White House is anyone's guess. In past history her failure in Benghazi, and the lack of transparency regarding that issue alone would have precluded her from ever even being considered. But these days too many people are either not paying attention, or are being spoon fed their information through a cipher.

Either way, I think it is a very serious and important matter and the American people should be concerned. All we want are answers, and unfortunately those are something hard to come by from our government officials. Even when we do get answers, it's only usually a half-truth anyway. Our only hope is that the news networks—even the liberal mainstream media—want to get to the bottom of this as well.

The emails could contain nothing of interest at all. But until we have access to that, all we can do is speculate. And with so many questions unanswered throughout her tenure as Secretary of State, that leaves a lot of wiggle room for speculation.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Will Like Aldi Stores

Really, there are many things to like about Aldi stores. A couple of things you notice right off the bat are parking lots devoid of shopping carts lying around in cart corrals or worse, rested up against your front quarter panel on your shiny new car. Aldi has the unique system of a "cart deposit." In other words, you have to insert a quarter to get your cart, and return the cart to the corral at the front of the building to get your quarter back.

Everyone goes back for their quarter and I have never seen anyone leave their cart behind. Not once.

Another thing you notice right off the bat are clean and bright stores, albeit small and compact, but loaded up with all of the normal household items you may be buying already on a regular basis. I have always encountered helpful and friendly staff, and have to be honest when I say I have never had a bad experience at an Aldi store and I have been shopping there for years.

Sure. It's a German company. But one thing that is also worth noting about Aldi Stores is that they pay their employees very well, and I think this helps to ensure that customer service is top notch. Employees are happy, willing to hustle, willing to be helpful, and that makes a world of difference in
my opinion. It is also partly why I think I have never encountered a bad experience there. The average starting wage for a cashier is $12.50 per hour, and rather than force their employees to stand on their feet all day, cashiers are situated comfortably in a chair.

And they are fast. Super fast. Very much unlike when you go to Walmart and swear that the cashiers are paid bonuses for checking people out as slowly as possible.

Another interesting observation about Aldi Stores is that the shelves are always full. And I mean always. The people who work at Aldi Stores are constantly moving things through the aisles to make sure that anything in stock is stocked and readily available to the customer. I have never had to track someone down and ask, "Do you have any more of 'these' in the back?" Never.

What strikes me the most are the prices. Granted, if you are buying meats at Aldi Stores on a regular basis, I cannot understand why. Their meat prices are nothing to write home about. In fact, they are horribly high compared to other supermarkets and even Walmart for that matter. By the way, Walmart meat prices are also almost always higher than anyone else. Keep that in mind if you are a loyal Walmart customer.

The average price for a can of vegetables? About 40 cents. You cannot buy canned vegetables anywhere cheaper than Aldi Stores, period. Even their canned tomato sauces and diced tomatoes are the cheapest I have found anywhere, and I have to tell you.

The quality is as good as anyone.

Even when it comes to my creamed soups, I buy these almost exclusively at Aldi Stores. I also almost exclusively buy cans of tuna and canned mushrooms there. They literally have the best prices I have found anywhere on these items. And again, the quality is as good as anyone.

A fan of mac and cheese? They have the best price I have found for that too, averaging out to about 39 cents a box, and it is as good as any mac and cheese you can buy unless you are a die-hard Kraft fan.

As far as their produce goes, this is impressive as well. Not only are the prices of Aldi Stores' produce fantastic, the quality of their produce is as good as anyone as well. On my last trip I bought a 3 pound bag of yellow onions for 99 cents, and even bought two 5 pound bags of red potatoes for $1.99 each. When it comes to red potatoes, that's a steal. Hell, it was a steal compared to even regular russets.

Another thing that readily becomes visible is the amount of food you can stuff in your cart, that when you checkout would probably cost you three times what it costs you at an Aldi Store. A $50 cart of food from Aldi adds up to bags and bags and bags of stuff. You cannot say that about Walmart, or even the lowest priced discount supermarket in your neighborhood.

Aldi Stores is definitely a place to check out if you have never been. I am liking Aldi, and I think you will too.

Think Aldi is only for poor people? Think again. If you aren't shopping at Aldi not only are you probably wildly overpaying for many of the items you generally keep in your pantry. You may well be making yourself poor in the process without even realizing it.

Another last minute observation about Aldi Stores parking lots? You will find few late model cars parked in them. Instead you see BMW's, Jaguar's, Cadillac's, Lincoln's, and newer model regular makes. Aldi Stores are not stores for the poor. They are stores for smart shoppers who enjoy excellent customer service, excellent quality products, and who choose to keep the money they save there for more important things.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

President Obama Has the NCAA Covered, But the Rest of the World Is Screwed

Normally I would have no problem with the President of the United States taking a vacation, going to play golf, or picking the brackets for the NCAA. Let's face it. Being President of the United States is a tough job, and if anyone has followed presidents through the ages, one thing is definite.

These guys always look much older when they leave office than when they take office.

But with President Obama it has always been something done at the wrong time, in the wrong context, and it seems to me that his priorities are simply not in the right place. Ever. The man misses many of his daily intelligence briefings according to most reports, did not show up for a conference after France had one of its publishers attacked by extremist Muslim supporters, and left for a fundraiser in Las Vegas the day after an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi which left four Americans, including the ambassador, dead. He went to play golf the next day after journalist's heads were chopped off by ISIS. And he and his wife have taken extravagant vacations during the worst economic times in our history since the Great Depression. Some of that even on the taxpayers' dime.

Not to mention the fact that while the economy is improving, albeit slowly, and not due to any of his economic policies, it is still in the tank for the most part due to his lack of any sound economic policies, Israel remains under serious threat, Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons, and ISIS has grown in strength and numbers with no strategy to speak of from this president on really any of these issues. And quite frankly, no leadership.

The world has always looked to the United States, for better or for worse, for leadership and a firm handle on world issues. Despite a significant reduction in power the world over since Obama took office, we are still the superpower. And so the world looks to the President of the United States as sort of a leader of the free world by proxy. Obama is turning a blind eye to everything that is pertinent and important, and seems to always focus on what is trivial.

Like announcing his brackets for the NCAA.

Who cares? Who cares about the NCAA and who cares what President Obama thinks about that? Who should care? And with all of this turmoil and violence and angst the world over what message does this send again to the rest of the world about where his priorities are? And since he is the man who "leads" this country, what does it tell the rest of the world about where our (the United States') priorities are? Moreover, what does it tell our enemies?

Our president is asleep at the wheel. The people of the United States are also asleep at the wheel. No one is paying attention to the world. The people of the United States are paying attention to trivial stuff like the NCAA and are infatuated with a man who cares little about being president, and cares all too much about being the coolest guy in the room.

It seems to me like what sort of got us into a bit of trouble back during Pearl Harbor when the Japanese thought that we were an easy target, just sitting back and enjoying the American dream with little regard to everything else horrific happening around the world around us. Back then it was quipped that a sleeping giant had been awakened. These days I am not so sure that there is any sleeping giant at all. We are simply a country of people who have no idea where the country is, what the world is doing, and what the issues of the world are.

The fact that we are not calling our president out on these issues is very telling of the mindset of many Americans. Ask someone on the streets about Benghazi, for example, and the response you will get is something like, "Is that a band?" or "Ben who?"

The president can do all of the fun stuff when the times dictate that it is possible to do so. He can be a man with the people when it serves the times. But the fact is that we are not in a peaceful world, and the entire world (at least the free world) is under threat, ISIS is acting like the Nazi regime, we have real and present dangers before us, Netanyahu is left with virtually no U.S. support from serious threats, and more dangers become more and more apparent each and every day. The president should not have the time to focus on the fun stuff with the world in such a state. He should be focused on leading the country, and leading the free world, letting terrorists know that the United States will not stand idle, will support its allies to the full extent it can, and will hunker down and do the work that the president should be doing.

Like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin often said regarding national politics when asked, he said he had to focus on his own state's affairs first and foremost. That was his focus. That was his priority. If the President of the United States is asked about his NCAA bracket picks, his response should be something akin to Jim Mora. "Playoffs?"

There are much bigger issues the world over to deal with, worry about, and focus on. And right now that is where President Obama needs to have his head. Not on basketball. If we want to know how sports will fare we can ask Mike & Mike or Boomer & Carton. The president needs to be focused on how the world will fare and how the United States will fare. And if the NCAA is the top of the news as it applies to the president, we should all be worried. Very worried.

It's great he's told us about his brackets. But we still don't know what his strategy is to defeat ISIS, nor what really happened with the IRS scandal, and most especially what happened in Benghazi...among the short list of course.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Plummeting McDonald's Sales May Be An Economic Signal

A couple of years ago I wrote that one thing about downturns in the economy is that it causes people to, of course, scale back their purchases, and that means low-end retailers such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Walmart, and even thrift stores like Goodwill will tend to do very well since consumers are more concerned about value than necessarily quality, or customer service. That is not to disparage any of those companies on either quality of product, or quality of service, but simply to suggest that price becomes king in that kind of an environment. In that commentary I suggested that when the economy begins to fire up a bit, retailers to look at to buy shares in are slightly higher end, or steps up from the deep discounters. Places like Target and Kohl's, for example.

During the same period I also wrote about how well McDonald's stock performed throughout the entire recessionary period. To put it literally the stock was on fire, and that was because people were flocking to McDonald's stores, particularly interested in their value menu which offered consumers the best bang for their buck when it came to dining out. Even when it came to coffee, a cheap cup of what is arguably a noteworthy brew was just what the hurting consumer needed to get their coffee fix at a price that went easy on their wheezing wallets.

Interestingly enough, Starbucks did not fare all too poorly during the recession either, but that's another story. There's a different dynamic going on there.

McDonald's sales have taken a turn for the worst, having seen percentage decreases for nine straight months, and even Walmart has been seeing some declining sales.

With gas prices lower and jobs numbers higher, the shortfall in sales at McDonald's may actually be a lagging indicator of better times ahead. What it suggests is that people may be stepping up to slightly
higher end operators like Wendy's, Chipotle, and Panera Bread to name a few. Five Guys burgers are a strong competitor in this sector as well, and have been one of the fastest growing quick serve hamburger chains for some time now.  My gosh, if they went public, I would be one of the first guys in line.

Shake Shack may shake things up a bit as well for McDonald's. And actually Wendy's stock has been seeing new highs, so to my mind these are very clear signs that there is a paradigm shift in where consumers are spending their dollars.

And the begging question? Could it be that with lower gas prices and better job prospects, consumer confidence may be rising, and consumers are now willing to spend a little more elsewhere?

If that's the case, it could well be a signal that the economy may be getting better. I think it is too soon to tell for sure. Certainly I am not going to use hamburger sales alone as any indicator in the macro-economic picture. But in the micro it seems to at least make a suggestion which I think is worth taking a close look at.

People are beginning to make a shift in their spending, and McDonald's horrible sales numbers are making that all too clear. Stocks that I think are ripe for this environment are Wendy's and Chipotle (I'd stay away from Shake Shack), Whole Foods, Target, and I will go ahead and throw Darden Restaurants into the mix as well. These are companies I want to own right now. I think these companies are primed to benefit from any improvement in the economy, and I think stocks to avoid right now are stocks like Dollar Tree, Walmart, and yes. McDonald's. But do watch the company very closely. McDonald's has historically been able to weather many storms and has an uncanny ability to right its ship eventually. I do not recommend writing it off completely in the short term. But these other companies, I think, have a lot more going for them as it currently stands, and that is where I would put my investment dollars.

We're up for a ride, and the ones who will win are those who are treats to the American consumer if it becomes all too clear that we are headed for better times. In this case playing the value play is not as good a bet as playing the upgrade play.