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frederika

Cleaning Coffee Grinders

I heard that raw rice will work, also.

Banana Oatmeal Muffin/Bread recipe needed

Banana-Oatmeal Bread

2 c ap flour
3 rounded t bp
1 t salt
1/2 t bs
1/2-3/4 c sugar (personal pref)
1 c rolled oats
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil (or melted butter)
1/2 c milk
1 c mashed bananas
1 t vanilla
1/2 c walnuts (if desired)
additional oats or streusel for topping

Mix dry ingred together. Make a well in center and stir in combined wet ingred. Pour into a greased 9"x5" loaf pan. Bake @ 350 F for about an hour.

I have made this recipe for more years than I can remember and have done many, many variations on it. It works very well for muffins also. Raise the temp to about 400 F and bake for about 20 min.

What to do with nonfat yogurt

I completely agree with you on the taste. I do buy nonfat flavored yogurt, which I find to be very palatable. I buy the giant size nonfat plain, however, to give my dogs - great for their digestive tracts. Inevitably, I have had to find other uses for some of the rest of it. I tried it for a dip - yuck... on baked potatoes - had to scrape it off and replace it with sour cream - sigh... One of the best successes so far is to use it in a Tandoori style marinade for chicken. I also use quite a bit in baking. I have a Lemon-Poppy-Yogurt muffin and a Whole Earth Wheat Germ muffin recipe; they are both great. It is a healthful way to add dairy to baked goods with less fat and I've found the flavor differential is negligible. I also make homemade dog treats for my spoiled hounds. No complaints so far. lol...

I am very interested in future responses to this topic. It is difficult to find nonfat plain yogurt in smaller sizes so it looks like I'll always have an excess of the stuff. I'd like a recipe that makes it taste like sour cream, please...

Ice Cream Maker

@AuntJone - shhhhhhh.... what hubs doesn't know won't hurt him:-)

Ice Cream Maker

I have the Cuisinart version from Costco also and when we purchased it there was a special that gave you a second canister free. So watch for precial promotions. I had it before I got my KA, or I would have tried that first. I've noticed that Ina uses the same inexpensive Cuisinart model. It's very reliable and sturdy for the price. You don't have to store both of the empty canisters in the freezer at one time - that is purely optional. If you are short on freezer space, just freeze the canister the night before you intend to use it - that is quite sufficient.
The Williams-Sonoma Ice Cream book has awesome recipes, as well as The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein.

Homemade liqueurs

@KarynMC- You know, I was told the same thing, but I could tell the difference in my finished product. I guess it's sort of like when chefs tell you to cook with wine you would like to drink. If you use swill, you won't be fooling anybody. If you use Absolut, you should be fine though. I love Absolut! I've made blackberry brandy for my SO and used inexpensive vodka and grain alcohol. It turned out great. Maybe you could do an eau de vie for sipping rather than an infusion to be used for cocktails. But don't discount infusions for cooking purposes either! Use them for marinades and dressings... I used the hot chile vodka for a Bloody Mary steak marinade that was the bomb.

Difference between various types of cream

@iz - you are deliciously naughty :-)

Ronnybrook may be a regional brand ?- I've never seen it in my area (MI).

@MeganCochran - What exactly is the difference between pasturized and ultra-pasturized? And how does the differently processed cream affect the finished product? As I mentioned, many of my ice cream recipes specify using cream that has not been ultra-pasturized, but they don't say why.

Homemade liqueurs

Check your local bookstore or Amazon for a cookbook by John Rose called The Vodka Cookbook. I've made a good many of his recipes for infusions and food, all good.

I have to be honest though - when you use really cheap vodka (it can be a bit harsh), your results can be iffy. I just don't want to invest a lot of time or ingredients on a process that could produce something that is only OK. I guess if I had a jug of the stuff, I would use something to infuse that would be very flavorful. I've done a whole variety of hot peppers for a Chile Vodka and it works just great in Bloody Marys where you've got a lot of other flavors going on.

Another thing I've done is just infuse it with a bag of frozen (unsweetened) raspberries and let it sit for a week, then strain it. Easy peasy. Makes a wonderful combo with cranberry juice and slice of lime or orange. The other flavors will help cut the bitter or harsh notes of the inexpensive vodka.

@coltsfanchris - What a great idea to filter the vodka! Thanks!

Difference between various types of cream

@Traveller - I feel your pain! I, too, love the cheeses and creams but my tummy sometimes rebels. When I was taking a course of anti-biotics last year my Dr. strongly suggested taking a probiotic called Culturelle, which not only helped with the issues in the digestive tract that come with taking medication, but I found also that it helped my system process lactose. Amazing stuff. Super Acidophilus is also very good.

And where, pray tell, can a person get heavy cream these days that is not "ultra-pasturized"? It is called for in so many recipes, particularly ice cream recipes, and I seriously doubt whether we can even get it in the states, because of FDA regulations. I just can't find it. To my knowledge, double cream, heavy cream and whipping cream are all the same. They are the heaviest in milk fat, approx. 36% - 40%. The term "double cream" is used in Britain and across Europe and refers to what Americans label heavy or whipping cream.

My confusion usually comes in when half & half is called for. You can get 1/2 & 1/2 or table cream (sometimes sold as coffee cream), but I have been known to substitute heavy cream cut with milk to replace it.

I heard someone mention rice cheese last week and have been trying to find it. Is anyone familiar with it? Also, I don't know what the melting factor is with the product or what it can be used to replace.

Twice-Baked Snack Goods

Always! Pretzels are my favorite. Saltines or oyster crackers, rice/corn tortilla chips, potato chips - all 110% better double-toasted! Even graham crackers...and I always oven roast nuts - so much yummier and crispier to snack on.

A lo-cal tip - if you have leftover flour tortillas, cut them into triangles or rectangular pieces and bake off in the oven on cookie sheets to use with salsa. No oil required and they are delicious. Also,they keep really well in a tin.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Blues

@nosillak - That is exactly what I do, also. Why only roast one bird, when you can nestle another one in the pan and have extra chicken for all those other dishes us chicken-lovers want on other nights. It takes the same amount of time and not much more effort. I just usually pop wedges of lemon and shallots, parsley, thyme (or a variety of whatever fresh herbs I have) and lots of sea salt and fresh pepper inside. And I love Thomas Keller's recipe from Bouchon..

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu - For boneless breasts (skin on or off), I make a pocket and stuff some proscuitto or ham and Gruyere cheese inside. Criss-cross some oil-soaked toothpick halves, sealing the pocket together. Drizzle with EVOO, s&p, and grill. Most times, I do a Mornay sauce with some Gruyere & Parmesan, but you certainly could "rough it" and enjoy them bare naked! We like to grill up asparagus to have alongside and it's especially good with the sauce accompaniment.

We stopped eating beef a while back, so we consume chicken about 3x a week. I never get tired of experimenting with new chix recipes. I also made up a Margarita chix marinade for the grill, if you're interested... Grilling time IS coming!

Spaetzle!

@dmcavanagh - I must say that I don't make it often anymore. I just cook so differently than my parents and grandparents cooked. We try to be much more health conscious than they ever were. I can't remember my mom being concerned about using too much butter or sour cream in anything! In my family repetoire though, it does require homemade dumplings/spaeztle with chicken or veal paprikas - but I only make it about once a year to please the SO. If I were to make spaetzle as a side with a milder tasting protein (maybe like pork?), I might try it with the nutmeg - sounds good!

Spaetzle!

@dmcavanagh - Our dumpling/spaeztle recipe was from old middle European cooks; grandmothers, great grandmothers - from Czech and Hungarian descent. Nutmeg was a flavor that I'm sure would have been totally lost when serving them with a dish such as Chicken Paprikas. I have to be honest - I've never heard of adding nutmeg, however it could be prevalent in other European cooking origins.

Spaetzle!

Homemade is really very easy. I am of Hungarian descent, so we had dumplings and spaetzle at our house all the time and we never used milk. Four ingredients only - flour, egg, salt and water. Start with 1 cup of ap flour and about 1/2 t salt. In a measuring cup beat 1 egg and the egg shell half full of water (I would say a scant 1/4 c). Blend the wet mixture into the dry mixture and adjust by adding more water or flour in 1 T increments if necessary until it is the consistancy of thick pancake batter. I hope I didn't make it sound too complicated because it truly only takes 5 minutes.

For spaetzle, have a pot of salted water at the boil. Push tablespoonsful of batter through a colander with a large spoon or spatula. When the spaetzle come up to the top, fish them out with a spider or slotted spoon. Voila - spaetzle!

almond biscotti

I definitely concur with dmcavanagh. Check to make sure you have the pure extract. I might suggest also besides the extract and almonds, to consider adding almond paste, amaretto, or ground almond meal (available at Trader Joe's - just bought some today, in fact!). Experiment!

Perfect Pudding, Please? Rice, that is...

@megannesta - Duh!!! That was the first article I read in the magazine - primarily to check out the recipe. And I intended to make it! Thank you for refreshing my memory. I get way too many food/cooking magazines...:-(

Perfect Pudding, Please? Rice, that is...

@dbcurrie - That's kind of what I gathered it was or something similar. Think it would work in a double boiler as well? I have a gas cook-top and heavy duty All-Clad pans that conduct very well.

Perfect Pudding, Please? Rice, that is...

@cybercita - What's a flame tamer?

Chilli and Chocolate - Love it or hate it?

love, Love, LOVE!!!

I particularly like the combo of dark chocolate/chille or cayenne/cinnamon. It's just got everything going on. It makes an incredible cup of hot chocolate. I got a package of hot chocolate mix from The Cocoa Bar in Park Slope called "I Like It Spicy" that is incredible. Zingerman's also has one with cocoa nibs called Aztc Elixir. POW! You can reconstitute some with a little boiling water and add to brownies or chocolate cake. nummy, nummy...

Oh, look what you did! I had to get my last two squares of Vosges Red Fire Bar out of the back of the cupboard (that I have been hoarding!) melting on my tongue right now...mmmmmm

Rachel Ray dog food? WTF ... now I've seen it all!

@Pavlov - Right on! lol...

If RR is cooking up dog chow these days, what do you suppose Sandra Lee is making? Weasel kibble?

On the Hunt for Cocoa Peeps

Torching a Peep sounds a bit like animal cruelty. Where's a PETA rep when you need one?

Top Chef Result: What Do You Think? (Spoilers Ahead)

@brooke - Sorry! I guess I didn't have my cockeyed optimist glasses on last night! lol... My husband and I just looked at each other and went - "oh, give me a break!" Neither Stefan or Hosea seem like really genuine little sweethearts, though... All in the heat of the competition, I guess.
And I think Carla would have done much better by herself, rather than with Casey's "help". We can console ourselves with the fact that Top Chef didn't hurt her catering business.:)

Top Chef Result: What Do You Think? (Spoilers Ahead)

I feel quite badly for Carla - I was definitely rooting for her because she was so passionate about her food. Maybe if she had meditated longer before the competition, she would have felt stronger and more centered. Enough that she could have gone with her heart on preparing her dish, rather than letting Casey derail her with the sous vide preparation. What a shame...

I think she also was overwhelmed and a bit confused when they threw in another course. She seemed very scattered and somewhat lost her focus. When Casey suggested the sous vide, it just took a big decision off her shoulders. Even if the tarts had turned out perfectly, I don't think it would have overcome the sous vide fiasco with the judges.

Stefan and Hosea? Don't care...I'm still mad about Carla. And what was with the overatures from Stefan to hug and console Carla? Not only arrogant, but phony, too.

What is your foolproof, fallback dessert?

@buffy - Oooooh, those chocolate cherry brownies are speaking to me!

I forgot, sometimes I add a handful of dried cherries (sometimes soaked in kirsch or cherry brandy!) and chocolate chunks to my basic brownie recipe. I always do cappucino brownies to have on hand over the holidays for quick desserts. Add some espresso powder and cinnamon to the batter; walnuts and choc chunks, if you dare. Just heat one in the micro, top with ice cream and a splash of Kahlua. A consistantly reliable and impressive "quick dessert".

I love this topic! Thank you!!! (now I have to go eat something chocolate...)

Paula Deen is pantsless

@jikuu - Maybe that's the 13th step in the phobia recovery process! :) Drunk and disorderly!!!

Perfect Pudding, Please? Rice, that is...

I have been craving a really creamy version of rice pudding, and have tried several recipes over the years, never to have achieved the perfection I desired. What I am looking for is a rice pudding that is similar to the one they serve at the Greek restaurants, like Coney Island. Mine never turns out like the pudding that they have in those flat plastic containers . What I want is more white than the pale yellow that seems redolent of a custard. And of course it must have the requisite dusting of cinnamon on top. Raisins are optional.

When I was growing up, we always made the "baked" style, using several eggs and raisins. Mom would add a squeeze of lemon juice (I didn't understand it then), a pretty generous splash of vanilla and then nutmeg on top - never cinnamon! I didn't care if it was hot, warm or ice cold from the fridge. Don't get me wrong - I still love it baked that way - but I am on the search for the perfect stove-top cooked version.

Judging from over 30 responses to the post last December on how you like your rice pudding, I would have to assume some of you out there have great recipes. You know who you are! Would you be so kind as to share your secrets?

When Costco hands you lemons...

I forgot I bought a bag of lemons at Costco to use over the holidays because they were in the crisper drawer of our "mostly beverage" refrigerator in the garage. They are still good, but need to be used. I intend to make a lemon-poppy bread, and I can zest and juice some to freeze for later use, but my SO says he LOVES Lemon-Chicken.
Does anyone have a great recipe for Lemon-Chicken or perhaps some other entree using a goodly amount of lemon? I have about a dozen to dispense of in short order.
BTW, last year when I did the same stupid thing, I made preserved lemons and citrus vodka. How complicated is limoncello to make?
I appreciate any puckery suggestions!

I have an addiction to Tim Horton's 12 grain bagels

Someone from my office recently brought Tim Horton's coffee and bagels in. I must admit to never having gone there myself. I know, I sound like I live under a rock, but I have just never made a habit of frequenting any "fast food" type places. Being an admitted coffee snob, I was shocked that their coffee was quite acceptable. My problem is that I may need a 12 step program to get off their 12 (or 13 or some teen) grain bagels. To me, they are sublime. Plain, almond butter, honey - it's all good.

Has anyone ever encountered a commercial brand available in grocery stores that compares?

Your Favorite Thing to Do with Leftover Rotisserie Chicken?

It's my day off, there's a jillion inches of snow out there, and it's toasty in here by the fire. I've got a half of a very plump leftover rotisserie chicken that I got at Costco on a whim and it was really the largest rotisserie chicken I've ever seen. So, I have an ample amount of chicken (to serve two) and want to make something yummy using what I have at home without making a grocery run. Given a pretty well stocked pantry, does anyone have a seriously delicious idea for dinner?

Is Copper River Salmon worth its weight in gold?

We have purchased the infamous Copper River salmon several times and, granted, it is amazing. However, the most we ever paid for it was around $35 per pound. We have been waiting for it's appearance in the market and last weekend we thought we scored. At one of our local gourmet markets the chalkboard announcing daily specials heralded the first of the season. We high-fived and raced in to the seafood counter only to discover in horror that the price per pound was $69.99. Disheartened and deflated, we left without our precious red "gold".
I'm quite certain I embarassed my husband by gaping into the seafood case with my jaw unhinged for several minutes before he drug me away.
Does anyone else feel that is way ridiculous? It's not foie gras or Iberico, for crying out loud!

The price of rice - not so nice!

We really enjoyed our Chinese special fried rice this evening. I used jasmine. but often use basmati, as well. Then I became very depressed when I read the newspaper about the "rationing" at Costco and Sam's Clubs of the rice and the inflated prices we will be paying for it. I know that rice is not the only commodity that is affected and the thing that really gets my dander up is that it appears to be all politically motivated. It is apparently not because of adverse weather conditions, disease or insect infestation, to my understanding.

It's not just that my pocketbook is going to personally take a big hit, but am I the only one who just doesn't get why literally millions of people are going to starve because of the political games that are being played?

And to be honest, are you going to grab a 20 lb. bag of rice tomorrow?

Your best gourmet burger recipe?

We have three burger cookbooks plus like a jillion other bbq, grilling and various other books which include gourmet burgers. We just can't seem to get enough. My husband has even gone so far as to designate one night a week to his favorite entree. Last week it was tuna burgers w/ wasabi aoili and pickled ginger; tonight it was lamb kafta burgers w/ feta, arugula and scallion mayo. Another favorite is Tyler Florence's big juicy beef burgers w/ chives and fresh horseradish topped with dill havarti.

So, we only have to have 52 burger recipes for the year and we're up for anything. Especially now since the weather has turned for the better and real grilling season is upon us. Can we get your favorite recipe? I'm afraid we may run out of ideas by November!

What prepared food is "as good as it gets"?

While munching on a mini-Snickers the other evening, it occurred to me that it was a nearly perfect food. Not nutritionally, of course, but there is literally nothing I could think of to improve on it's chocolately, peanutty, caramely goodness. I guess that's why it is promoted as being so "satisfying".
What food do you think needs absolutely no alteration to make your life complete?

In your estimation

Can bread starter be frozen?

Approximately one week ago, my SO arrived home from the office bearing a small bag of goo. We had apparently been gifted with Amish Friendship Bread starter (friendship being the questionable term) and after several days of squishing the bag, I felt somewhat committed to the project. Tomorrow will mark the entire fermentation period and today I now have quite a large bag of bubbling goo.

Long story short - I know one person who may be interested in receiving a bag of starter, but what do I do with all the rest? Can it be successfully frozen in time or should I just bake up loaves and freeze them? I can't just throw it away - it's ALIVE!

Awww... Nuts!

We really love all nuts and they are so good for you. I make nutty granola, snack and trail mixes, spicy and savory roasted nuts. We embellish salads, pastas and grain dishes, and certainly try to add them to many types of baked goods. I've made pesto using almonds, cashews, macadamias and walnuts, as well as the traditional pine nuts. I have thought about making my own nut butters, but haven't attempted to as yet.
Any suggestions for new nut treatments? Recipes for any favorite dishes featuring nuts? We are not vegetarians, however normally go meat-free a day or two a week. I'd appreciate any of your special recs for this great protein source. Thanks!

What one famous chef would you choose to emulate?

I have so been waiting for the Julia Child Chefography. I'm watching it as I type. Everything I have read and watched about Julia has enthralled and intrigued me over so many years. A passionate food lover who blazed the trail for women in the culinary arts, particularly French cuisine, she is the epitomy of femme chef perfection. I would dare to guess that Julie Powell, author of "Julie and Julia", an extremely entertaining and hilarious relating of 365 days to prepare all the dishes in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, may agree.

I choose Julia. Who is your "personal chef" alter ego?

I want a soft focaccia bread recipe

I've made focaccia bread many times and always thought it turned out pretty well. However, my husband wants a softer, moister one like the focaccia they have at Biaggi's restaurant ( a chain, but so excellent!). Theirs has bits of caramelized onions in the dough and is just ever so slightly browned on top and bottom. It seems slightly sweeter than my standard recipe, which I can fix with additional sugar, and does not have the usual sea salt and rosemary on top either. Does anyone have a recipe for a focaccia that sounds similar to the one I am describing? The recipes I normally use are from Nick Malgierri's How to Bake or WS Bread and I believe them to be quite traditional Italian recipes.

When you really have the hungries, does Naughty trump Nice?

OK, say you get off work early, SO's going to be late and dinner won't be until eight. You want something "good", but you don't feel like being very good. Yogurt or fruit just won't do it. So you decide to be bad - how do you reward yourself after a not-so-great day in the salt mines and you really feel like you deserve a little somthin'-somthin'?

This afternoon my brain was turned on to a dopa espresso and the dark lord needed an accompaniment. Since I was already in front of the deli, my vehicle quite naturally swung into a parking space. At that point, it was out of my control. I stood in front of one of the bakery cases just gazing nonchalantly when lo and behold, a rugelach tugged at my sleeve. It wasn't just any rugelach; it was the "epitomy of Jewish goodness" rugelach. So devastingly delicious it was, it made me weak in the knees.

Espresso and a pastry - sigh... that did it for me. Not always, but today, yes. Can you feel sated by a "good for you" snack or do you dance with the devil, as well?

Is anyone involved with a gourmet cooking group?

My SO and I have been thinking about this for quite some time, but are not exactly sure how to go about it. We just moved last year and don't really have a lot of social contacts or dining companions as yet. We would, however, enjoy meeting some folks who are also passionate about cooking and have some of the same culinary predilections as ourselves. Any suggestions?

Urgent! Recs for wine pairing with ham...

Red or white? Drink what you like? We've done chards and sav blancs with ham (honey-baked style) for so many years in the past, I'm thinking of doing a pinot noir or merlot this time. Is that too radical? We have a decent wine cellar, so I can pretty much grab anything at this point. We love wine, but are definitely not in the "wine snob" group.

With the kind of sweet/spicy flavors on a honeybaked ham, am I right-on or way-off with what I am proposing to pair with it? What else would you oenophiles recommend?

What to cook/eat when you're tired and stressed?

A new job, demanding and stressful, has left me feeling depleted and quite drained most days. On the home-drive, ideas run through my head for dinner, full well knowing SO will also be expecting some sort of sustenance for the evening dining experience. In my head, I create a wonderful meal. Something homemade would be great, but just not from "my" home. Yet, I find myself too down to even drag myself into the grocery I'm driving by to grab something from the ready-to-go entree section. The next thing I know, I'm in my driveway and now I'm too tired to think about cooking.

What do you do when you're a little depressed and need a food fix? We've eaten a lot of eggs and that's OK, but someone else in this house may be getting a bit tired of that. This isn't really like me; I need some ideas to help get "over the hump" (other than the obvious choices of mood altering medications or alcohol). On the weekends I cook, but I am not motivated. Not only does nothing sound good; I find I'm not really getting the joy from cooking and eating.

I'm in a food slump and feeling kind of weepy. help...me...

I love brunch! Do you brunch out or in?

I love brunch at home or out. Whoever invented it was a veritable genius. Who doesn't it appeal to? You can have it all! Also ,there is something luxurious about being served that meal out at a restaurant. Somehow, though, it always feels like I should be enjoying it in my jammies. At-home brunch dining is certainly the better option for the more casual morning attire.

Where do you like to brunch? What are your favorite brunch dishes; more breakfasty or lunchy? Maybe those of you with more savory buds prefer dunch or linner foods. Do you go for the waffle bar or the prime rib station?

Your favorite bread to bake?

What is your current or all-time favorite loaf to bake? I just happen to be on a brioche kick right now since I took a class last month. I have been trying to achieve ultimate "Brioche-ocity" for the last several years and I thought I had it knocked with the French CIA book my hubby got me for Christmas, until I took this class. I'm lucky to live close to a premier bakery/deli that has all kinds of baking classes. I know depending on many mitigating factors, it may not always come out with the same results, but today was kismet. Hubby is still smiling; he's a little carboholic

Challah and French have always been my favorites, because I've made them so many times, they normally turn out well for me. They are dependable standards at our house. Also,I love to bake a nice hearty whole grain loaf and throw in whatever grains, seeds, nuts, etc. I happen to have around.

Do you have a particular type of bread you enjoy making? Is it from a newer cookbook or a family heirloom recipe? Yeast or quick bread?

What is your left-over rule?

With all the large batches of soups, stews and comfort foods we've been making, there is so much left over. In fact, we plan it that way. When those flavors meld, at least overnight, the dish actually seems richer and so much more satisfying.

How long do you keep food viable in the refrigerator? I once worked with a girl who had a 1 day rule on left-overs. If it wasn't consumed in 24 hours, it got pitched. One time I took left-over Chinese takeout for lunch 3 days after the original lunch and she was purely convinced that I would die. Well, I showed her - I survived.

Do you have a strict rule for holding over food? Do you play fast and loose with your health and that of your loved ones by serving them 3 day old left-overs? Isn't that why God created refrigerators? Or GE; I don't know...


Do you cook untried and untrue dishes for guests?

Call it bold, foolhearty or just plain nuts, but I find myself doing this more often than cooking dishes that have been tested in my kitchen several times, to very favorable reviews. I can't really explain why I have this fascination, but I must admit, I've had tremendous dumb luck. Maybe I just get so excited about food, that I put more emphasis on the creation than the appreciation. But I hope not. I have a couple of bread recipes that are the gold standard for dinner, so family has come to expect fresh French or Challah. Other than that, the rest of the meal can be an adventure.

Have you tried out a brand new recipe on guests that was "the" bomb? Or was it a real bomb?

Sunday, Bloody Sunday - U 2?

Sunday brunch, Bloody Marys; you get the drift? Someone mentioned Bloody Marys the other day and I realized there hadn't been one at a brunch here since Super Bowl Sunday. We usually infuse own own chili vodka for our special concoction and this past summers' was quite good. I had difficulty finding serrano peppers at the farmers market, but did get Purihra peppers, which the perveyor promised to be XXXXXXX hot. (Does anyone know anything about them?) Nonetheless, the pepper vodka infususion kicked butt.

Are you a Bloody Mary specialist? A secret ingredient you wish to divulge? I recently became aware of a version in Leland,MI at The Cove, that uses a 6" chub as the swizzle stick and is called the "Chubby Mary". Are Bloodys a tradition at your house for a special occasion? (like Super Bowl or a Sunday?) How about the garnish - celery, hot pickled string bean (New Orleans style), olive, caper berry? It seems as though the garnish is indigenous to particular regions, no?

It's Cocktail Time!

No, it's not SL, it's only me. We're deep into the cocktail hour here and have invented a new and perfectly luscious libation. It's 3/4 oz. Grey Goose, 3/4 oz. Cointreau, 3/4 oz. peach brandy and 1 oz. blood orange juice. Shake with crushed ice and pour into a chilled martini glass, garnishing with a blood orange slice rolled in granulated sugar. (We are all about the flair) You have my permission to call it "Frederika's Freak On" and you will thank me at some point in time. Trust me, this really rocks it. And she is sooo pretty.

Do you adore martinis; classic or otherwise? Have you invented your own special "signature" martini or wish to share one of your classic favorite recipes? Do you consider all these exotic ingredients an abomination of the martini or do you go crazy out of the box, like me?

Do you do "Extreme Chili"?

This is a subject that is taken extremely seriously by hoards of folks. You have the red chili diehards and the white chili devotees. Myself, I particularly like black bean veggie chili. Just today I received a new magazine with a recipe for Cherry Chili . It basically is a white chili with chicken and cannellini beans and calls for Cherry Republic Hot Cherry Salsa, which appears to replace the usual green chiles.

Is there a standard at your house re: ground meat versus diced, shredded or chunks? What is your best or most unusual recipe for chili? Maybe one or two esoteric ingredients that sets yours apart? Chocolate? Cinnamon? And does your concoction taste different every time? Have you ever competed in a chili cook-off?

What was your top dollar gourmet splurge?

We just spent $10.00 per ounce (choke!) for Jamon Iberico. Of course there had to be Garrotxa cheese and a bottle of Jumilla to accompany it. You may ask, "Was it worth it"? Oh, yes, it was...

What has been your biggest (secret shame) splurge at your up-scale market?

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