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McNormal

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How to Make Great Refried Beans

It's a great use for the fat trimmings from pork chops or the fat lobes from the tail of a chicken.

I put a bit of ground cumin and a bit of chipotle chili powder in mine. Not too much, I don't want to overwhelm the bean flavor.

I don't have a....

Reminds me of this PBS show I've been watching, "Martha Bakes". It's a really good show, quite informative and to the point. But it's a bit annoying watching Martha Stewart in her fabulous kitchen with all this super high end equipment, whipping out perfect cakes and pastries like la-di-dah. I mean I respect Martha, and people tend to forget what an accomplished cook she is, but good grief, she just assumes we all have $100,000 worth of baking gear lying around and if we don't, well, that's not her problem :)

Stainless steel bowls

Some steel is more stainless than other steel. But I agree there is no reason to spend more as long as they don't rust.

TV cooking shows, food contamination

I would never do that with salt no matter how self-sterilizing it may be. I was taught the one-clean-hand method years ago and now it's automatic. Also, it's not enough to just wipe your chickeny hands on a waist towel like a lot of TV cooks do. The best thing is to have a tub of soapy water nearby that you can immediately go to with your hands, knife, board, etc. without having to grab the faucet handles.

I don't have a....

I don't have a decent non-stick skillet. The old one is worn out and I've been procrastinating about getting a new one.

I don't have gas to cook with. The oven/range is a 60 year old GE that I've learned to live with and it looks cool, but gas sure would be nice. I don't have any capability to cook outdoors over charcoal or smoke either and that sucks.

Things I don't have and don't miss in any way: dishwasher, slow cooker, rice cooker, coffee machine, just to name a few.

Getting high on Cinnabon?

Sounds like another way to market crappy alcohol to underage drinkers.

Pie Place in South Bay/Monterey Bay Area?

Beckmann's Bakery in Santa Cruz specializes in pie. Their pecan pie is outstanding. Full disclosure: my nephew works there.

Kelly's in Santa Cruz is also very good although they lean more towards croissants and french pastry.

Ask a Cicerone: Which is Better, Draft or Bottled Beer?

I stop reading when I get to "consulting clients" and "beer programs".

Taste Test: The Best Frozen Veggie Burgers

I see a lot of people bringing them to tailgate or backyard parties and trying to cook them plain over charcoal or gas. That never works out well. If you're going to grill them you need to paint them with some oil or melted butter or margarine first.

Moving from SoCal to New England

The apples are way better and so are all apple products such as pie, cider, cider donuts, etc.

The clams on the CT shore are unlike anywhere else. There are varieties of steamers and quahogs that can only be found there. You can harvest them yourself (but be sure to understand the rules and get a permit).

Many CT rivers and streams have annual herring and shad runs. Shad roe is delicious.

Grinder shops.

You will quickly learn to keep your screen door closed and keep bug spray handy.

Where can I buy Carl Rossi Wine Burgandy Online

Last year I bought a 4 liter jug for like $7.99 on sale. I was more interested in the glass bottle, which I use for homebrewing projects, than I was in the wine, which I used for cooking. I'm sorry it's not available retail where you live because it's a pretty good value here.

Paleo Diet Craze- Love it or leave it?

Everyone is entitled to pursue whatever diet plan they choose. I think for certain people, who find it difficult to metabolize refined carbohydrates, it is probably a reasonable option at least to try out. Better than "cleansing" or other reward-regret-cycle diets. But I don't like how these fad programs are sold by fitness trainers, yoga instructors, massage therapists, hairdressers, fashion magazines, etc. who are motivated only by profit. No one should ever be taking dietary advice from anyone other than their doctor.

In search of: Popcorn Popper

I grew up with one from the 70's that worked great but I don't think that style is even sold anymore. It was an Oster or Black & Decker or something. They went out of fashion when popcorn became a diet food and everyone switched to air poppers, then eventually to microwave.

These days Oster makes one that is like a mini movie theater popper but it's pretty expensive. I just use a dutch oven.

Surviving Vegas

Breakfast at the Peppermill. It's 24 hours so breakfast can be whenever you want it to be. They have all the other classic diner food too.

Good Pizza near Fairmont Hotel SF

Blondie's is a block away and it definitely fills you up.

Chicken for a Crowd

For holidays we do a variation of chicken cordon bleu where we don't bother with rolling or breading. We just take thinly pounded chicken breast portions, dredged in flour and quickly pan seared in butter and olive oil, then arrange on sheet pans topped with slices of prosciutto and emmentaler cheese. A splash of white wine and chicken stock, then bake until melty. We can serve a big crowd easily that way.

To Eat or not to Eat: Duck Breast Skin/Fat

I would have asked for a to-go container and taken the fat home to render out and fry something in.

Squeezing 15lbs of spinach?

Take a clean 5 gal. foodservice bucket and drill a bunch of small holes in the bottom. Place a layer of cloth in it and then the spinach. Use a second bucket to press down on the spinach and squeeze out the liquid.

You can also switch the position of the two buckets and use them to wash and drain fresh spinach, lettuce, etc.

Cheese like brie without the rind?

Making people pay for the weight of the rind on expensive wedges of cheese is one of the greatest ripoffs in the food industry.

Eating Well When You're Broke

If you have the space and money available, buy nonperishable staples in the largest size you can. I buy rice and flour in 20 or 25 lb. bags, once or twice a year, and store them in tight-sealing buckets. The same with dried legumes in 10 lb. bags. I go through a lot of sugar in my home brewing projects so I get the 25 lb. bags. I get russet potatoes in 10 pound bags, then wash and inspect them carefully (one bad potato can ruin the rest). If properly stored they last a long time and are much much cheaper than by-the-pound.

Science and Fruit Cake

Fruitcake got a bad rap when people started putting those weird candied fruits in it. The waxy artificially green and red dyed cherries, the candied orange and lemon peel, etc. Just use good quality natural dried fruit and it's fine.

Where can I get good salted-in-the-shell peanuts?

From my experience they tend to freshest during baseball season (here in San Francisco anyway). The supermarkets sell the same team-branded peanuts as the ballpark. They're from North Carolina. Once the season ends they disappear and are replaced with the stale generic ones.

Cake house?

You could make it solid in the middle with layers of ice cream or nougat or whatever. Like those Baskin Robbins cakes. I guess it would have to be kept chilled though, you couldn't display it at room temperature for very long.

Thankgiving recap

I spent the morning helping my stepmom make pumpkin pies with cheesecake infill. They turned out great but it was way too large a recipe. We ended up with four huge pies, about 10 pounds total, of which only a fraction was eaten. Lesson learned: next time make half of each filling.

dishwasher vs. hand-washing dishes?

We may need to organize a grand wash-off, wherein I can demonstrate that hand washing is faster, more energy efficient, uses less water and actually gets things clean. I'm feeling pretty confident.

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