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Last question about water..Do you drink from the tap or bottled?

In Southern California the tap water is so bad it even tasts bad after filtering. I use it for washing and cooking, but when I drink water alone I like bottled distilled.

Help me clean my pot!

Activated charcoal works best to remove odors from the air. You can get some in pet stores. Buy lots and leave it all over the house in containers. Do not allow it to come in contact with fabric, it might leave a black stain. Do not use any abrasives or metal implements to scrape a non-stick pot or you can damage the non-stick stuff. I like the idea of boiling vinegar water, but keep the fan running or you will have the stink of vinegar to deal with.

Cook the Book: Fig and Honey Cream Galette

@cickert -- I live in Southern California and my dad has a fig tree in his back yard. The fruit can be eaten whole, just cut off the stem and pop it into your mouth. The flavor is uique; very sweet. It is hard to describe the flavor, but to me it comes close to pear. The texture is very soft, not really juicy, more like jello, with lots of tiny seeds that you eat, like the seeds in kiwifruit. There are several varieties, but my dad's tree is mission figs; they are the dark purple, almost black kind. I think it's very soft and tender nature might be the reason that the fresh figs are not shipped all over the US. They might crush too easily. Also they must be fully ripe with picked; they won't continue to ripen off the tree, so they must be cooked/used/consumed within a few days of picking.

This belly would burst

@seriousb -- I hate to be difficult, but in California, if you don't make your baked goods in a "certified commercial kitchen" you cannot sell them, at risk of jail time, and an in-home kitchen cannot be certified. Just another way that California's excessive regulation makes starting a small business nearly impossible, and why so many businesses have gone out of state. In all fairness, I have to admit that California's egg farms were not included in the recent recall and salmonella scare, but it might be a good idea to check local licensing requirements before entering into a plan to sell any food.

Movie night menu needs help!

Bake a couple different loaves of bread the day before, make your chili, and another soup -- bread and soup for dinner. How about some small apple or pear crostata for dessert? They can be made in the morning and simply served.

What's your favorite bread?

A really sharp sourdough
A crackly french baguette
Macaroni Grill's Italian Rosemary bread (I developed my own version of this one)

Silly coffee question, Cream first or last?

I am of the cream-in-first crowd. It mixes instantly, requires no spoon, and does make cream that is "on the turn" curdle. I would rather see the curdles and throw out a cup of coffee than take the first sip of souring cream before the curdles appear.

Which KitchenAid mixer is best?

I should have mentioned. I have one area of cabinetry with no upper at all, so I can accommodate any height. Thanks for your comment though. Good to know that even the lower power of an artisan mixer can do frequent batches of bread.

Looking for a simple food processor sauce

Mix mayonaise and garam masala in the food processor and use as a dressing for a curried chicken salad with maybe some cashews and a few raisins.

Help me spice up my hummus

It's not authentically middle eastern, but I like to add chipotle and cayenne to mine. It really adds some zing.


Pancakes topped with peach pie filling (homemade, of course!)

a Trader Joe's Disappointment

I love their ginger cashew granola; it's my favorite midnight snack.
They have the best pasta at the best price.
I like to keep a jar of their Indian curry simmer sauce on hand in the pantry for days when I just don't know what to cook.
Their chocolate can't be beat at the same price anywhere.
Two buck Chuck is my go-to table wine.
Nieman Ranch pork products -- no where else near me has bacon of the same quality.

what is the best cocoa powder?

I am lucky to have a Trader Joe's nearby. Some time back, I was shopping around the holidays for my baking supplies and I found Scharfen Berger's unsweetened cocoa:

It was the most wonderful cocoa I ever found. Beats Hershey's by a mile. It was smoother by far and mixed much better.

Unique Hometown Foods

My Canadian grandmother used to make butter tarts. They are a Canadian specialty and really delicious. Think of a pecan pie, only with raisins instead of pecans, and made into tiny little tartlets. I found a really good recipe online at the Ottawa Citizen that uses maple syrup, but when I tested it I found it to be a little runny, so I would add an extra egg to the filling next time.

1/4 cup (50 mL) currants, raisins or chopped nuts
1/4 cup (50 mL) soft butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
Pinch, nutmeg

Fill the cups of a muffin pan with short-crust pastry and sprinkle in the raisins. Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, pour over the raisins and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes until golden brown and just set.

Tomato Sauce

I like to cook the onions in olive oil until brown; then saute the garlic. I use tomato puree and I add a can of chicken stock. The stock seems to take the acidic edge off the tomato without adding sweetness.

hotnpopin's Quick buscuit-mix

Thanks @hotnpopin! I've been looking for a homemade version of Bisquick for ages. I guess that one would use buttermilk to make the biscuits? Or could I add some buttermilk powder and then add regular milk?

How to use lots of corn tortillas?

I sometimes find that corn tortillas are brittle after thawing. They don't roll into taco shells or enchiladas or taquitos very well; so I like to make an enchilada casserole. It uses the same ingredients as enchiladas, but is layered flat instead of rolled up. I find that it saves a lot of mess and frustration. Put a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish that is well sprayed with non-stick stuff. Add a layer of tortillas, then filling, more tortillas and more sauce. You can make this several layers deep. Make the last layers of tortillas and sauce, top with jack cheese and sliced green onions and bake at 350 until bubbly.

Food/Herbal remedies that work to cure what ails you? Got One?

I never heard anyone mention it before, but I like strong black tea, hot or iced, for a headache. It has worked for me for years.

What to do with a bunch of egg whites?

Make little meringue shells to serve the ice cream in

Half the Salt - Double the Pepper

My father is 80. His doctor recently put him on a diet that restricts his salt intake to no more than 1200 mg per day. That is a very tiny amount indeed! He has congestive heart failure and the doctor wanted to reduce his fluid retention by restricting his salt. He is one of the very few people who really took the doctor's order seriously. He cut his salt to almost nothing, and in a follow-up blood test his potassium was found to be too high. It is all about balancing electrolytes -- sodium and potassium are only two of a whole group of minerals that are necessary to the healthy functioning of the human body. Now my dad can't stand the flavor of anything that is really high in salt like sausage. He says that after becoming accustomed to the low sodium diet everything tastes saltier to him than it did before.

Do touristy places ever have good food?

Those who feel that German food is not good might want to try Black Forest Ham. It is my favorite, and nothing at all like the cheap junk that domestic meat curing houses call Black Forest Ham. That stuff is just pickled pork leg with black spray paint on the outside. Real Black Forest Ham is dry cured and smoked for a very long time and adds a ton of flavor in very small quantities. It is also much leaner than any hams I ever ate in the US.

Watermelon: *Way* or *No Way*


Sorry all you watermelon lovers out there, but all melons and uncooked cucumbers cause a serious problem with me. The inside of my mouth breaks out in a rash that looks like I gargled with battery acid. I cannot tolerate them.

Best kitchen advice to pass a long to others.

I have found, in these difficult economic times, that I actually enjoy getting back to the basics of cooking from scratch with simple, inexpensive ingredients. Much of the world's most famous and revered cuisines got their start from peasants who had to make the best of the bits that the upper classes rejected. I started baking my own bread from scratch when bread hit $4.69 a loaf at the grocery store. I buy bread flour in bulk from a warehouse store and I can put together a delicious loaf for about $1.00. Now that the summer heat has really set in, I started buying bread again because I don't want to run the oven and the air conditioner at the same time, and my husband has complained that store-bought bread tastes like cardboard compared to fresh baked at home. The moral of the story is that one need not be a food snob to enjoy delicious eats at home.


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