Cooking and fitness are my passions, along with family and friends. I take every opportunity to pimp cooking real food because boxed, canned and bagged stuff will do a body no good at all. If you love your family, see to it they eat good food.

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  • Location: Florida
  • Favorite foods: All of 'em. (Except rabbit...I had one as a pet for four years. He had the run of the house. If I were to eat rabbit, it would be the equivalent of anyone else eating Fido.)
  • Last bite on earth: Cake.

stock pot size

Here are my criteria for cookware:

* Stainless Steel or Porcelain-Covered Cast Iron
* Riveted Handles (or one piece construction)
* Sandwich construction that includes copper, heavy bottomed for even heat distribution.
* Pourable lip. I don't think any of the All-Clads have this and it drives me crazy to have a saucepan that dribbles food down the side whenever you try to pour out the contents.

I'm not a pan snob nor a knife snob. The Wolfgang Puck set now available in Sam's Club served me very well at my little restaurant and I beat the crap out of it. It does include a somewhat large stockpot.

Budget cuts: Pork Leg instead of Pork Loin

Jerz - Costco? OMG. They have really good meat considering the "bulk" nature of what they sell. Or did you get it at a retail grocery?

Recipe Testing

Wow - this is certainly an esoteric field. I can only suggest you apply at cooking magazines, cookbook publishers and/or any magazine that might include recipes as part of each issue (i.e. Woman's Day - but the food will be a LOT better if you work for Saveur or Gourmet).

Birthday Food: What's your must have item(s)?

It varies from year to year but cavatelli with Sunday gravy is a favorite. And there must be cake.

Local butcher shops beat supermarkets

This doesn't surprise me in the least and I'm very envious of cooks who have relationships with different purveyors (a la my mother). However, in this multi-tasking, one-stop-shopping world, you sometimes need a pound of butter AND a basin wrench - and that's how stores like Wal Mart stay in business.

Possible to Bake Poblano Peppers without Scorching First?

Sorry but I have to vote for charring. I recently moved to a place with gas burners and wouldn't dream of making chile rellenos without the charring step. They will be a whole other animal if you simply fill and bake them. Yield: A stuffed naked pepper that might be soft but will lack some flavor and still have its skin.

Pepsi to Use Real Sugar?

As everyone knows I call bullshit on HFCS.

Jerz - I don't think HFCS is dangerous in and of itself. The problem is that it permeates everything from jarred tomato sauce (which is bleah anyway) to soda to canned soups to you-name-it. There's no way to get "moderate" amounts of it because it shows up in everything.

Pepsi is in enough trouble because of GMA's expose on the Appalachian kids' rotten teeth. The condition is so closely linked to Mountain Dew, they call it "Mountain Dew Mouth."

need help with old dessert

It sounds like you're looking for socca. Here's a recipe. Not sure if this link will work as it's a cached copy but this sounds a lot like what you describe.

Savory Socca - not what you asked about but might be interesting...

Can you use any other descriptors for this dessert - or have pictures you can point to??

Stickiness that won't come off

Have you ever stored them in a top cabinet near the stove? A nasty film usually forms because even if you have a vent hood, grease still rises and attaches itself to pans and dishware in those high cabinets.

For LeCreuset - I spray with EZ Off oven cleaner OUTDOORS and lay the pans on newspaper. An hour or two later, take an gently abrasive scrubber i.e. Dobie (that doesn't scratch), hose off the pans and scrub them. If you do this on the INSIDE of the pan, you need to wash liberally with soapy water multiple times to eliminate traces of EZ Off.

For Glasses, and Dishes - I use straight ammonia on a sponge. I kid you not. The grease comes off instantly. I then run the dishes and/or glasses through an entire dishwasher cycle to remove any and all traces of ammonia. OR hand wash them all. I know this sounds extreme but it works like a charm and if you are very careful to wash everything THOROUGHLY when you're done, there is no danger. WARNING: If using on plates that might have a "stamped" pattern on them, test in an inconspicuous place on the plate to make sure the design is very sound. (i.e. possibly a cup saucer.)

Jello Salad: a regional thing?

Calling any gelatinous mass that happens to suspend morsels of one type or another a "salad" is laughable to me. Call it what it is. Stuff Held In Suspended Animation Within A Blob Of Jell-O.

A friend of mine used to bring this thing to my BBQs and everyone seemed to like it. When I told her my friends enjoyed her "Green Jell-O Thing" she said it was called "Summer Salad." To quote the real men of genius ad for Giant Taco Salad Inventor - I don't see no lettuce.

We crave Italian 'Speck'. Do you?

You can totally find speck in Costco or Sam's - I always have a hard time remembering in which one I found what. I remember it being right near the prosciutto.

What's So Weird About That?

Ricotta and Jelly (Dad worked for Polly-O for 38 years)
Cottage Cheese and Jelly (Mom was perpetually on a diet and we actually liked cottage cheese)
And honestly, Cream Cheese and Jelly is not such a stretch :D

Mackerel & Onions with Vinegar (got a lot of WTF looks for that one)
Canned Salmon Salad (think tunafish) Sandwiches
Broccoli Stems (Bro and I favored the stems v. the florets and mom used to say she felt like Morticia Adams who'd buy roses for the thorns.)
Romaine lettuce in salads - before it was chic. The rest of my friends' moms were serving iceberg.

In the "it doesn't sound nasty now but did as a kid" department, bro and I looooved mom's Liver & Onions. She was the only one in the neighborhood who would cook the onions to within an inch of their lives but only briefly saute the liver. It was delicious and to this day, I love it that way.

Possible to make thick crust pizza at home?

When I make thick pizza, I bake it almost all the way without the mozzie. I really despise burned mozzie and those conveyor ovens are the worst thing to happen to pizza since the opening of Dominoes.

Here's my recipe for Spinach Pizza and the dynamic behind par-cooking it before adding mozzie.

Gourmet Style Chocolate Chip Cookies anyone?

My SIL and I made these last night. Neiman Marcus Urban Legend Cookies. I think they very closely resemble the type of thick-ish rich cooky you need. I will say they're a little closer to crunchy than chewy but slightly underbaking them might give you chewier results. It's a strange recipe as they are baked for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Outstanding flavor.

I heart stuffed ________

Crap! My answer didn't post! :(

I love stuffed anything.

Help! Cookie Dough in check-in luggage?

The main concern would be (as said above) customs. Not so much trying to get it through security. I've brought food through security - notably a Pizza Grano at Easter time. The security guard threatened to tell everyone I had it unless I agreed to share it with him. It was nice to see a security officer with a sense of humor during a hellacious travel day.

Your most surprising cookbook?

Woman's Day Encyclopaedia of Cookery. But I have a good excuse.

Growing up, in my teen, culinary-formative years, it was my mother's main source of "cooking reference." Whatever she didn't know from her head, she grabbed from WD.

I now have my mother's WD collection and, every now and again, I'll whip something together from it.

Another one that would surprise people is the Friends cookbook (you know, after the show). It's got stuff in it like Cheesecake ("Could this dessert HAVE more calories??"). I don't remember buying it so I must have gotten it as a gift.

A fun, sort of "fluffy" cookbook I have is by Vogue. Sometimes like, food through the ages... or something like that. What I like about it is that the recipes are in chrono order - like what was popular in the 30's, 40's, etc. It's fun to thumb through, if only for the culinary history lesson.

Hand-held foods?

I will eat a doorknob wrapped in a tortilla.

In the absence of a doorknob...

* Gyro. It's a party wrapped in a pita. A messy party.
* Burrito. And it doesn't have to be a belly buster to be great.
* Summer rolls. It's the only really "light" food I can think of that's surrounded by a wrapper.

As for stuff like BBQ chix and ribs, I really have to be in the mood to get messy.

LOVE the Crabs Cantonese at Hop Kee (21 Mott Street). Friggin' black bean sauce down to my elbows!

Movies on Food

Yes!!! Sorry, Remy...Didn't mean to omit you - add Ratatouille to my list!

The 20 Dishes you need to know

Ragu (long-simmered gravy with meatballs, sausage, et al)
Roast Chicken
Chicken Soup
Bread Stuffing
Good Vinaigrette
Mac & Cheese
Chocolate Cake
Pound Cake
Chocolate Pudding
Apple Crisp
Roast Beef
Shrimp Scampi
Properly Cooked Rice (this is the one I don't know)
Eggs O/E
Some form of Eggs Benedict
Some decent lunch sandwich, i.e. Roast turkey breast, sliced brie, roasted peppers on crusty semolina bread
As for muscles, I like mine sweated and pumped... (Sorry couldn't resist.) Mussels - marinara, fra diavolo or Thai with coconut milk or French with shallots, wine and chopped parsley.

Cooking for your Valentine?

I don't do restaurants on Mother's Day or Val Day. The first Val Day I spent with my present BF, he insisted we go out. I relented. Favorite restaurant. Entree served not-so-piping-hot. He admitted that less-than-perfect entree at a generally top notch restaurant proved my point. At least I know I won't get any arguments!!

Unfortunately, we will not be in the same place on Val Day this year :( :( :(. I'm in Clearwater continuing to pack and he's in ATL working like a demon. He did send me this beautiful bouquet yesterday. Pardon the makeshift "display" it's a quilt thrown over a humongous roll of bubble wrap.

Slivering almonds

Slivered almonds are one of those things I let the nut manufacturers do.

I heart stuffed ________

Movies on Food

I have a long list and am always on the lookout for more.

American Cuisine
Who Is Killing The Great Chefs Of Europe
Big Night
Babette's Feast
Eat Drink Man Woman
Pieces of April
Like Water For Chocolate
Mostly Martha/No Reservations

Never saw/heard of The Cook/Thief/Wife/Lover - but now I'll BOLO. I have a feeling I need to join Netflix...

Salsa Verde Potato Salad

Chorizo is going to make it a meat dish so you might want to think about that.

I think a dice of red onion, maybe some diced poblano or red bell (or both) but not much more than that :D.

Major Holiday Meals at Restaurants: Way or No Way?

Frankly, I think it's heresy to dine anyplace but home (mine or a family member's or a friend's) on a major holiday like T-Giving or (perish the thought) Christmas. New Year's Eve - not so much, but I'd rather be at a house party than at a bar or restaurant.

I know people do it but it doesn't make sense to me how someone could opt for a meal that doesn't seem...personal at such times. Home is like a magnet to me on holidays and I find it hard to even consider a restaurant meal for these days of familial significance.


Preview for Topic Creation?

Is there a way to preview a talk topic before you click Start a Talk Topic? If I'm including links and formatting text, I have to trust that my fingers aren't half asleep or daydreaming about kneading bread or something.


"Local" the newest advertising hook

I found this story in the NYT very interesting.

It's about time. When I was a kid, there was "peach season, tomato season, artichoke season" and "asparagus season." I hate to sound like an old fogey ("We had to walk 23 miles to school, uphill, in the snow!") kids today have no idea what's in season and even less of a sense of what's local. I live in FL and it's extremely frustrating to see citrus in supermarkets from every other country with an orange tree given so much of it grows here.

While a global economy might be nice (and I'm not completely convinced about that, either) it will do us all good to remember what comes from where and when...naturally. It seems like modern transport gave us the ability to pay a lower price for something grown halfway around the world during the off-season, we lost our grasp of what happens in our own backyards.

Stick Blenders...

OK, I'm ready to get serious about stick blenders. I gave one away many years ago because I didn't find a need for it very often.

I'm out west at Canyon Ranch and I tell you, these chefs have stick blenders growing out of their arms.

Do you have a favorite brand? Is there any difference in RPMs or anything? BF has one by Cuisinart that comes apart which is nice for storage and cleaning but not so much when you're using it. If we were going to invest in one, I'd like to get it right the first time.

Any thoughts? TIA.

One If By Land... I don't get it.

Last night, I enjoyed yet another perfect meal at One If By Land TIBS. Now guys, I'm hardly a Kennedy or Madonna, so I don't think any of the staff were put on "best behaviour" for my sake. Still, I have yet to have a bad meal there; nor have I experienced lackluster service. One of our party was disabled and they were very accommodating with his wheelchair and our seating.

I've been going to OIBL since (IMS) somewhere around the mid 80's. I've been there for business dinners and romantic suppers alike. I don't ever remember being treated shabbily or having one morsel of food that wasn't picture perfect.

Until such time as I receive the "horrible" service about which I've read, I will continue to pimp them as a favorite and a relatively risk-free, higher end NYC restaurant.

Can someone who has written them off tell me what happened when you dined there?? What went so horribly wrong??

Happy Independence Day...

Wanted to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th. We're doing salsa, queso, guacamole, pulled pork, baked (well, crocked) beans and a fruit crisp for dessert. Whatever you do - enjoy your weekend and be safe. And make a toast to our freedom!!

Anyone watching this new TVFN show?

Chic and Easy - I've only seen one ep, it was kind of playing in the background.

My personal opinion = She's trying out to be the new Sandra Lee. Not so much in the "instant food" category but in that Yeah, I know I'm too cute to really cook! vein.

My primary complaint = She's got that babble thing going on. She feels she has to fill every second of air time with some repetitive, fluff-riddled gibberish.

I couldn't get past that stream of John Moschitta fast talking to really form an opinion of her cooking technique but I did hear her say more than once, "I'm going to turn this down" after adding food to a way too hot pan.

Come to think of it - anyone got an opinions on any of the newer TVFN shows? Clear winners? Turkeys?

Cutting Boards...

I'm strictly a wooden cutting board type of girl. I clean them thoroughly after each use (no matter what's chopped, sliced or diced on them). Lately I've come to love the bamboo boards as well. Just can't warm up to poly.

Do SEers have a preference?

The NYT published an article many years ago that had me just about dancing in the streets. Wood v. Plastic Cutting Boards

I'm curious to know - any preference?
Reason for preference?
Feel of the knife on the board?
Sanitary issues?

Mother's Day and the Restaurant Experience...

Does anyone here make a conscious effort not to eat out on Mother's Day? When my brother and I were kids, we used to take my mom out but quit doing it. The last MD dinner we had out really convinced us to find another way to entertain mom.

1) Reservation meant nothing - We waited anyway along with a throng of other patrons.
2) Limited Menu - That "favorite dish" to which we were looking forward wasn't even offered that day.
3) Quality falters - I remember being served FROZEN cheesecake.
4) You get rushed out - It's all about turnover.

One year my mother didn't feel well so bro and I prepared dinner for her. Even feeling ill, she had a better time that MD than at any prior MD "restaurant" dinner. That was in the early 80's and we never again went to a restaurant on MD.

Now that I'm a mother, I demand the same - Spoil me - YES! But no restaurants, please. Thoughts?

El Meson De Pepe's - Key West...

BF and I are enjoying some R&R in Key West. Loving the crazy chickens that have the run of the place and will do some touristy things over the next 10 days or so.

With the dazzling array of restaurants in Key West, we certainly weren't hurting for choices. A bit of serendipity brought us to El Meson De Pepe. For an appetizer, we enjoyed Calamares a la Criolla with the absolute best creole sauce I have ever put in my mouth.

I had Pan con Lechon - Pressed pork sandwich. The pork was marinated in mojo and we asked the waitress for extra mojo. She brought us not only the mojo but a wonderful hot sauce that tasted like "home-made" tabasco - kicked into high gear. BF had the Pan con Bistek (steak) and we both had a side of the plantains.

You can hardly judge a restaurant on three dishes but I'd recommend this cavernous, historic restaurant for its delicious food, excellent atmosphere and local Key West flavor (a chicken walked right past our table!). Patrons at the next table had dessert (which looked divine) but we're pacing ourselves... :D

Whole Foods Customer Service...

...Boggles the mind. We went to Wild Oats (which was purchased by Whole Foods but the store front has not yet been changed). The sausage we got was...less than perfect.

I sent them this e-mail at about 9:00 a.m. today:

Whenever we get to the Tampa WF (still Wild Oats) we grab a selection of the sausage. This is the first time I need to tell you that it was not satisfactory. We purchased two kinds of chicken sausage - Apple and one with Mexican flavors on Friday, 4.18. The meat was ground way too fine and did not include enough dark meat or fat. When grilled, these sausages turned into hard logs. Worse, when we tried to grill off the remaining sausage only two days after purchase (Sunday, 4.20), they were definitely off. We wound up discarding about 6 links of sausage.

We absolutely love Wild Oats/Whole Foods but I wanted to let you know about this.

At 9:25 a.m., my cell rang. It was the Team leader and he fell on his sword so hard, I thought his pancreas would come through the phone. Long story short, next time I go in, I am to request three or four pounds of the sausage of my choice on the house.

They didn't have to work that hard but it was nice they did!

Passover NYT Article...

I'm not Jewish but I found this article profoundly moving. The ingenuity necessary to survive the experience notwithstanding, some even found ways to make matzo and keep the Passover holiday. I wish the article had been longer.

Love the new categories!

...Not that I don't check everything when I come to SE. :D It's nice to know where to "file" things that might be broadly categorized. Looking forward to e-mail alerts of comment additions.

Did I mention this site rules? Well permit me to do so now.

Pizza Hut and their pasta...

Some might not even think this worth mentioning but it drives me absolutely nuts. Pizza Hut is advertising something called Tuscani Pasta with (breathe...) "Meaty Marinara." This is impossible because there is no such thing! It's the equivalent of saying "meaty hot fudge sundae." Marinara, or in the style of the mariner, was taken on ships because it would not spoil as quickly as sauce containing meat. That's where it gets its name. I could scream every time I hear that commercial! Thanks for letting me vent...LOL.

Last Bite?

When I'm eating meals, I find that about halfway through I decide what will be the last thing I eat. What morsel will be the final thing to pass my lips - the item on the plate that will be responsible for leaving the lasting impression.

e.g. During today's leftover homemade chix pot pie with leftover kale, I ate all around the crust of the pot pie until the crust was the only thing left in the plate. I savored it at the end of my lunch.

Do you do this? If so, what are some "save the best for last" items you find yourself reserving until the very last bite?

Most Romantic Valentine's Dinner?

If I had to elect one Valentine's Dinner as Most Fab - it would be the year I prepared beautiful Filets Mignon with port sauce and mushrooms, potato gratin for the side. Also a raspberry marzipan cake for dessert. Naturally, champagne was served.

Memorable Love-Day Feasts? Either prepared or served at restaurants. Dessert-Only courses may certainly apply ;)

Pregnancy Cravings?

OK, I'm unabashedly treading on Aunt Jone's coat tails but did anyone have weird pregnancy cravings?

For me it was - Kraft Blue Box Mac & Cheese (not even the one with the liquid cheese, the powdery crap!); Frozen Blintzes...and here's the kicker...Canned Ravioli. Remember, I'm Italian and that's sacrilege!!

I love lamb but couldn't go near it while pregnant - and the smell of bacon which is usually perfume to me made me dash from the room.

Pickles & Ice Cream anyone? Midnight runs for strange food?

'Fess up! :D

I hate it when __________.

We all have those things happen in the kitchen that leave us "#*@^@!!!!" For me, it's when my expensive LeCreuset rubber spatula gets ripped because I used it to scrape out my FP. The thing is heat proof to eleventy jillion degrees but one swipe on that blade and it's toast!!!

You hate it when.......?

Transmografied Christmas Leftovers...

During T-Giving, what we do with our leftovers starts just as many topics as how we prepare our turkeys or what sides we choose.

Did anyone do anything with Christmas Leftovers?

I made December 26th Lobster Risotto which has become almost as strong a tradition as Christmas Eve seafood. I usually do it with mixed seafood but this year I had all the lobster claws from Christmas Eve so it was lobster only.

Today I'm crocking Great Northern Beans with the ham bone from Christmas Day. There was plenty of ham left so that will be warmed and served alongside the beans.


Holiday Price Gouging...

I called a local seafood place (**cough, cough Ward's Seafood**) to make my Christmas Eve fish order. They have been around FOREVER and most locals swear by them.

Q: "I need 14 whole, live lobsters. How much do you get for lobster?"
A: "$18.99 a pound."
Me: "That's obscene."
Clerk: "That's been the price for six months and it's not even locked in for the holiday."
Me: "So I can show up on Monday morning and it can be more?
Clerk: "Yes."

Go online... Superpages "Fish Market, Clearwater."
Find another place: Harr's Surf & Turf.
Call Harr's.

Q: "What do you get for lobster?"
A: "$12.99 a pound."
Me: Get someone on the phone who can take an order.

I escaped gouging by the skin of my teeth. You?

What will you have on Christmas Morning?

Every year on Christmas Morning, we have cinnamon rolls. It's the one day of the year we awake to a calorie-laden, unapologetically sugary breakfast. After the gift unwrapping, hugging, shouts of glee and sugar fest, we usually crash into naps at around 10:30 a.m.

Traditional Christmas breakfast for you?

Links not opening in a new browser window...

On most pages I visit, clicking a link on the page will result in a new browser window opening to display the new link. I notice here at SE, clicking a link navigates the user away from SE instead of opening an independent browser window. Was this done by design? Just curious... :D

Company Holiday Party...

My company Holiday Party was last night. I got this party exactly eight days before it was to happen, as the original girl planning it unceremoniously quit.

# of Employees - Approximately 200.

Well, the whole thing came off without a hitch and I'm so tired, I feel like I ran a marathon. The hotel where the party was held did an amazing job with the party location and the food - and the 3 bars kept the good cheer flowing. Main courses were Beef Wellington and Roast Turkey. One of the hits of the evening was an incredible mushroom bisque. Starbucks coffee bar and rich desserts followed the meal.

The higher-ups decided things were going so well, they extended the party an hour - it went on till after midnight. The band was a real find and cranked music that kept the dance floor packed all night. The hotel staff was stellar.

I gave all employees and guests a gift. It was a beautiful fine coffee mug with artisan chocolates and a single truffle - all in a cello bag tied with a gold bow.

Everyone had a great time but I must confess, I'm glad it's over. What's your employer doing in the way of a holiday shindig???

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