I'm a gardening woman who loves comfort food and new food. I love to cook and eat seasonally. As a young woman I used to make all my own bread, put food by, cooked from scratch. Am returning to that more and more.

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  • Location: Vermont
  • Favorite foods: Tomatoes, potatoes, rice and beans, sour cream, chocolate, apple pie, roast chicken, pizza, cheese, avocados, root beer floats, onions, moxie, pickles, buttered toast with cinnamon sugar, bacon, BLT's, bananas, mushrooms, summer squash, maple syrup
  • Last bite on earth: mushrooms sauteed with butter, salt and pepper

Home gardening?

A warning about compost: I've put many tons of compost on my garden over the years. In 2011 I got some compost contaminated by a persistent herbicide, which severely damaged tomatoes, legumes, and cucurbits. Didn't seem to affect coles or corn (because corn's a grass, and most herbicides used commercially are for broadleaved planst). The purveyor vigorously denied there was a problem, having looked into the manure suppliers he used after I complained.

But then in 2012 a problem cropped up in the largest commercial compost maker in Vermont. It turned out the herbicide, which theoretically cleared after only a month or two, passes through animal guts unharmed (including our own. The state health people said this wasn't a risk to humans, just our gardens).

The herbicide had perhaps come from some horse feed - unsuspected by the horse owners - and probably from some commercial operations like golf courses - and maybe from a few people who had used it illegally on home properties. It did not show up in the registry of herbicides people acknowledged using in the state.

The first compost maker is now assaying his compost to see that peas and cucumbers will germinate in each batch before he sells it, and last year replaced my 2011 compost for free. But I am going to be very wary of commercial compost for a long time.

It would be good to check carefully in your area to see that this hasn't been a problem. The key here is that any manure source may be a problem because of feed.

The chemicals are aminopyralid and related compounds.

Here are articles about the contamination. The first says that the chemical is now effectively banned in the Northeast - but others of you may run into this problem. The second is a Mother Earth News report about the problem.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

Love the bear paw. Pixel is a seriously useful cat. Loved the 28 cute pictures. We all need a dose of cute every day, so I end every morning visit to the intertubes with cute overload:

Simple Pleasures

Toast and butter that melts into it, with nothing else on it. I actually remember the first time I had this, at a friend's house when I was about 6. I more typically add cinnamon sugar, or peanut butter and banana, or jam or jelly. But just plain toast and salty butter is a pleasure.

Home gardening?

Missed this thread when it first came out. It's about to disappear below the front page. Hope it keeps going.

I have 2000 square feet of garden in a community garden where I've gardened for about 15-17 years. I've added many tons of compost and improved the sandy soil a lot. It's a very good deal, as we get all the water we want for free, and pay a modest 35 dollars for a 25x25 foot plot. The soil is tilled for us. I help another coordinator mark off the plots and manage the community relations in the community garden, while doing what I can to teach newcomers and encourage organic approaches to pest control.

I grow just about everything. Don't grow okra, and grow a minimum of things I can get inexpensively in the fall and which take the whole season to grow, like winter squash and potatoes. Also get carrots pretty cheaply so I grow only what I use in the summer or for soup mixes. I'm curious about tomato varieties you're growing pepperhead. This year I'll be growing sun gold, bumble bee, 5 star grape, big mama, mountain magic (late blight resistant and a wonderful tomato), Yellow Bell, amish paste, opalka, green zebra, black krim, marvel, costoluto, cherokee purple, jubilee (my favorite orange), lemon boy. About 40 altogether of these, and then another 40 or so will be large reds - big beef, big boy, supersonic, delicious, and rose (pink).

My biggest new tip is that Green Mountain Coffee (the Keurig people) has burlap coffee bean bags free for the taking (it would be a 30 mile trip, but a friend brings them when he comes to work). They have revolutionized my mulching. If I had a permanent garden I'd leave them in place and let them compost, but unfortunately I have to take them up and return them to the community compost facility. But it's been worth it to me not to have to weed rows.

I get most of my seeds from Johnny's or from local racks of High Mowing. I'm surprised you've had such good luck with Pinetree. I like their seeds but have had terrible germination problems with them, over several years.

I grow about 120 peppers, and increasingly rely on Carmen, which is a prolific and sweet bullhorn from Johnny's.

Fried Chicken Prep - freezer question

Cook Book n Bead: - Ha - it was the typo in your last sentence, in the post (friend chicken). Amazing how we see what we think is there. Good luck.

What do you guys prefer plastic or wooden

I guess that this is the most relevant quote from that article I just cited above:

"We know of no similar research that has been done anywhere, so we regard it as the best epidemiological evidence available to date that wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be."

What do you guys prefer plastic or wooden

Wooden. I like the feel of a wooden board, and they are at least as safe as or safer than plastic boards.

Surface bacteria on wooden boards do not persist, for reasons that haven't been determined but that bear out in experiments. Plastic boards hold harmful bacteria for longer. Counterintuitive, but apparently true. Google and find a reliable source. Here's one that popped up from UC-Davis. The whole article is very interesting

Paragraph of note:
"We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present. Scanning electron micrographs revealed highly significant damage to plastic surfaces from knife cuts."

Fried Chicken Prep - freezer question

Oh dear. You're going to get a lot of comments about your friend the chicken - or your friends who like chicken - or I'm not an SE-er

I think prepping chicken and maybe freezing with veggies for stir-fried chicken sounds like a great idea, but I've no idea about buttermilk for fried chicken. I'm thinking you'd need to let it soak in the buttermilk before you freeze it?

Don't forget to check out the tab up above for Quick Meals under Topics for some great ideas, too. And there are some wonderful threads both for freezing ahead and for quick prep meals in Talk. Search on google with "site serious eats" at the end, instead of trying the internal search, I think.

Eat More Sodium (Maybe) and More in Food Policy This Week

I'm so fond of salt that I used to keep a box of Maldon Sea Salt on the desk for snacking (better than eating salty snacks, I figured). But I stopped that when I saw how often I could go through a box. Still like my salt.

Eat More Sodium (Maybe) and More in Food Policy This Week

I've gardened in a community garden for 15-20 years. With 60 plots we used to have a few that would go without gardeners, and we were always asking somebody to take them over so we didn't have a weed plot.

A couple of years ago the waiting list had grown unwieldy enough that we added 24 plots, and now we still have a waiting list. But I'd attribute it to the growth of the localvore movement, not to the first lady's garden. It may also be that here in Vermont, where even in the suburbs people have enough ground for a small garden, more people are in condos where they don't have that option. At any rate, it's a good trend.

Not sure about the use of water for gardens in California, but home gardens aren't using other resources for transporting vegetables. And if they're organic and taking advantage of composting, etc, they're enriching the soil and keeping waste out of the landfill. Are they really in the same class as lawns?

Cornmeal Issue Part 2: Less smoke & folded pie

Good catch on the oil issue NYCAnn. JustPizza44 - If you oil the edge of the crust at all before it goes in the oven, make super sure that none seeps over the edge where it could come around to the bottom of the pie, or the peel.

And I don't know that it keeps the crust from charring. Others may have opinions about that; I've never done it. But you can be prepared to run a pastry brush around the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven if you want. Will make that edge crust more pliable. Of course, you may prefer it crunchy.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

I'm curious about Pam on the burgers. You never find it gives a taste? It sure has an odor.

Love the cat photos. And I'm experiencing the truth that time goes faster as we age, because I can't believe Hambone came into our collective lives 3 years ago. Seems so much more recent than that.

What will you make for Easter?

So Zinnia, how about the recipe for your SIL's beans? They sound delicious.

Deviled eggs

I usually use just mayo and yellow mustard, with a sprinkle of paprika on top. I'm leaning toward a Miracle Whip type of house brand Salad Dressing (from Shur Fine) which I've come to like a lot - been buying because it's less expensive than mayo. It's got a more pronounced vinegar flavor than mayo. Sometimes I've used a little pickle juice too.

I have yet to perfect my egg-peeling skills though. I use eggs that are adequately old. Their peelability has improved by leaving them in ice water for longer than I used to, but I'm still so amazed when I see video of people on tv peeling perfect eggs.

What will you make for Easter?

I often make jello eggs cut into tulips. Got to have something like that on Easter.

Also may make Easter egg nests. You surround raw eggs with a ring of dough, and the eggs bake and come out hard boiled after you bake the bread. Sometimes I decorate the eggs, but it's not necessary:

ANd here's the post for decorating the eggs Ukrainian style. If you use paraffin or plain beeswax and food safe dyes you can do really simple designs for boiled eggs, or for the egg nests.

Traveling Mac and Cheese questions

Dandbuilder: Sounds like a good plan, but I don't have a crockpot. I would not use it a lot, have too many assorted pots and pans anyway. I'll keep it in mind though as one more good reason to get one.

Behind the Scenes in Nick's Home Kitchen

Denis Lee - please take the cast iron skillet from off the top of the fridge, especially if you have children or pets. Not compatible with falling chunks of iron, and accidents do happen.

Nick - Always nice to see a fridge that's as overstuffed as mine.

The Food Lab: 11 Essential Tips for Better Pizza

Kenji - I went to look for this this morning and found it wasn't in pizza lab, which surprised me. Is that defunct?

SlideSF - increase your utility bill. Really? I agree with the pleasure of making dough by hand, and I made it that way for 10-15 years or so. Still do on rare occasions. But I appreciate the control and speed I have with a processor, and with some arthritis in my hands I would have a lot less homemade bread now without a machine to help me along.

My grandmother never bought a loaf of bread for the first 17 years of her marriage, with 6 children and a job outside the home. Expect she would cry tears of joy for a little mechanical help.

Perfect Quick-and-Easy French Toast

Daniel - I find the key with using just eggs is not to let the bread soak in it too long. As long as the whole surface of the slice has egg, it's time to turn it over and coat the other side, then remove and cook. Not a version that tolerates leaving the bread to soak. But that means the soft interior is just bread soft, not custard soft. Will have to try your version and call it pain perdu custard, not French toast :0)

Taste Test: The Best Frozen Veggie Burgers

JGrieg: Why not healthy? The cheese and eggs? Food doesn't get much healthier than walnuts, so they sound fine to me. Haven't seen them locally, or I'd try one.

Taste Test: The Best Frozen Veggie Burgers

Really like veggie burgers but haven't had a commercial one in a long time. I'm wondering if I think I don't like them because my tastes were different when I first tried them. Will give them another whirl, since it's a pain to make veggie burgers - definitely not a spur of the moment thing. But they freeze well so I make extras.

14 Things You Might Not Know About Ben & Jerry's

Yes, Unilever now owns Ben and Jerry's, and a lot of us are sad about that, but not as much has changed as could have been possible once taken over by a megacompany. A lot of the quirky stuff, and mission, are part of what is appealing about the brand, so it would have been stupid marketing to change it.

And speaking of marketing: Ben and Jerry first opened an ice cream shop in an abandoned gas station in Burlington in the late 70's. I remember going in there when the scoopers had scales rigged so they could put a loaded cone onto the scale to see what it weighed - and if it was a little too much they would take a little spoon and remove some from the scoop. Penny wise pound foolish, and it didn't take long for that to be abandoned.

cosgrovecook: Hah! I think it's not the cow that's confused. Another fun fact: Woody Jackson sued another artist for using cows that looked a lot like his, and lost. As I recall, the artist used a picture from a book published some time in the 1800's. Woody has a lot at stake with these cows, as he puts them on flags (instead of the stars), t-shirts, prints, etc.

Pizza Poll: How Do You Like Your Sausage?

Pebbles smaller than the ones in the picture, when I have commercial pizza, which I don't often do. I'm still working on making satisfactory sausage of my own for homemade pies, but really like keilbasa too.

Cornmeal Issue Part 2: Less smoke & folded pie

"Although I lost half the pie, the half that was saved was actually excellent" Good attitude!

Agree that you should not be putting anything on the stone, and that you absolutely need to make sure the pizza slides on the peel before you open the door to slide it onto the stone, which you should do quickly after you know the pizza slides.

Do you have a gas oven? I don't, but I know there is moisture in a gas oven from the combustion of the gas, and I wonder if it would combine with the flour on the stone to make it stick before you ever got the pizza on there. (I sometimes wonder if gas ovens are one of the problems people have getting crisp poultry skin, as I never have that problem in an electric oven and don't do anything in particular to get crisp skin)

How do you like your hummus?

I like Sabra pine nut so well I seldom make hummus myself. When I do, I prefer it smooth, little enough tahini so I don't know it's there, enough garlic so I know it's there but it doesn't overwhelm. Also like black beans blended in. A little heat is fine.

Traveling Mac and Cheese questions

Need to know how you prepare mac and cheese when you have to travel with it.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to wait long after I get to my destination, and it's only about 20-30 minutes that it will be out of the oven before it's eaten, so it won't get warmed up when I arrive. (If I had longer once I arrived, I would bring the elbows undressed, heat the sauce and pour it over, and stick in the oven - but I won't have time for that unless I alter my plans).

I tend to like my mac and cheese either stove-top or right from the oven, and have found in the past that the mac and cheese absorbs too much sauce if it sits or has to be reheated. And if I heat it too long I've had it break.

Do you use a bechamel, or evaporated milk, or cream, to mix with the cheeses in this case?

I tend to use cheddar and muenster, but could add some american if it will help keep it creamy.

I also usually mix the cheese sauce with the elbows, and layer it with a little grated cheese between the layers, which comes out nice and stringy.

I've read through a lot of the past threads, and don't see this particular topic addressed.

What say you? What's the best way/recipe to deal with pot luck mac and cheese?

Did you Plan how your kitchen is organized, or did it evolve?.

I'm living in the house I grew up in, and therefore inherited the kitchen organization. Having been used to the sugar in this cabinet, canned beans in this one, spices here, and dishes there, I haven't ever really stopped to ask myself, "How would I organize this kitchen from scratch?" Some things are in different places than they used to be, but not a lot.

Seeing the kitchen slide shows has renewed my interest in starting over, taking everything out of my cupboards and off the bookcases, and seeing what makes sense. In particular, I have some difficult-to-get-to space in corners, which tends to end up with canned or boxed goods that don't get used before they are too old to be edible, and the space should really be filled with seldom used bowls, etc.

I have very tall kitchen cabinets, and I am Not Tall. I loved Kenji's kitchen where the dishes are all on the lower shelves of several cabinets, instead of stacked up in one cabinet. Never thought of that, and I need to redo my kitchen for that reason alone.

How about you? How did you organize your kitchen?

Any good tips, like Kenji's with the dishes?

What do I need from the Korean grocery store?

I asked a friend in DC to get me some Korean crushed red pepper for making kimchi, and she sent me 3 pounds (!!) of Foodcell coarse red pepper powder.

She's offered to send me some more stuff and I don't know what to ask for. I don't have a Korean grocery store here, and other than bulgogi I haven't made a lot of Korean food. I expect there are other Asian ingredients too, and I'm just wondering what might be useful. I've looked at recipes here on site and I think I can get most things locally.

What would you suggest I ask for? I'm thinking dry ingredients, since she's mailing them. And if you know of any great dry prepared foods, that would be good too. (She sent a couple of dry miso soup mixes. haven't tried them yet).

Hot Pockets vs. Calzone dough question

I'm looking to make some hot pockets to freeze, and not having made either hot pockets or calzones, or frozen burritos, I'm not sure what sort of dough works best. My assumption is that for a calzone I'd use a basic pizza dough, and for a hot pocket I might use a dough with more oil, or maybe even butter cut in so it's more like a pastry dough. (And if I cut in butter would I leave out yeast?) I make my own tortillas, and wonder if that dough would be fine - basically flour, oil or butter, and water.

I'm curious about your experience making any of these. How would you differentiate between them?

I did find this hot pocket recipe from "A beautiful ruckus." which doesn't have fat but is a fairly sweet dough. Opinions? I'd like a dough I can roll out pretty thin.

3 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Dry Milk
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 1/2 Tbsp Yeast
1 Cup Warm Water

Can I refrigerate chocolate buttercream to use tomorrow?

I'm not in the habit of making buttercream frosting, and when I have I've made it the day I use it. But I'm hoping to make some chocolate buttercream today to frost cupcakes tomorrow. Not a meringue buttercream. cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, milk, and butter.

Can I make it today, refrigerate it overnight, and take it out of the fridge early to warm up?

And if anyone knows what the missing step 2 is on this recipe, please let me know for sure. I assume I just need to add slightly soft butter in pieces once I've mixed the other ingredients.

Need point cut brisket help asap

Am cooking my first brisket, previously frozen. boiling per instructions on the pkg, which said a 3 pound brisket would take about 3 hours, and should reach 166 degrees. I had a 4 pound brisket

I've been away so I cooked in oven at 210, covered with water, for about 3 3/4 hours Came home and the temperature was more like 170-176 (not a good thermometer). I assumed it was done. Took it out. Cut some off to sample and it's a little tough, so I thought it might be overdone But the internal fat/collagen has not rendered, so I'm wondering if it's underdone. Have put it back in the hot water.

Any advice? Do I let it simmer longer in a 210 oven? Take it out, cool, cook slices more when I eat it? Take it out, cool, bake it tomorrow? It's not particularly edible at the moment.

What do you put in macaroni salad?

I have to make a dish for a potluck brunch tomorrow. It's hot enough here so I don't want a cooked dish. Think I'm going with macaroni salad.

My usual mac salad dressing is slightly sweet, more like a coleslaw dressing - mayo, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, black pepper and either sugar or sweet relish.

I like something sweet as an add-in too, preferably red grapes, frozen peas, or diced apple, along with the usual scallions and celery. Right now I've got snap peas from the garden which I'll blanch and cut, and I think I'll use chard stems instead of celery.

What do you add to your macaroni salad - just a few things or does the macaroni end up being incidental? What sort of dressing?

What Tomato varieties are you growing?

I'm not sure there are many places that have ideal gardening weather right now, but I'm sure many of you have planted or at least planned. (Here in Northern Vermont it's 80+ and my very sandy soil is baking. But I'd rather be here than in Minnesota).

For hybrids I'm growing Sun Gold cherries, Mountain Magic (late blight resistant), Big Mama, Super Sauce, Big Boy, and Lemon Boy.

For yellow or orange heirlooms I'm growing Yellow Bell (a favorite bell shaped paste from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), Kellogg's Breakfast (orange beefsteak), and Jubilee, a great orange.

Also growing Rutgers, Delicious, Rose (a Brandywine type from Johnny's Seeds), a mix of heirlooms so I don't know what I'll get, and Cherokee Purple

The Cherokee is new to me, and I'm growing it on a friend's recommendation. I'd be interested to know your experience with it. I can still adjust numbers.

How has Serious Eats changed what you eat?

Over time what I eat has been changing subtly, and it's clear some of that is from reading Serious Eats every day, several times a day.

1) There are so many great vegetarian recipes here, and blogs that get linked to, that I'm eating vegetarian more of the time (I've resolved to be vegetarian at least half the days this year). It gets easier all the time.

2) Kenji's vegan months have inspired me, and I'm choosing to eat more vegan meals, even when that means just leaving out the cheese I would have otherwise included in a vegetarian meal. Easier all the time.

3) I'm more conscious of adding new dishes and combinations to my repertoire, rather than sticking with the group I've been pretty happy with.

4) I've been happy to rediscover the worth of some food and ways of eating I grew up with, as more Serious Eaters are attracted to making preserves, pickles, sweets from scratch, etc. I'm freezing and canning again.

5) I treasure my garden even more, and recognize that being able to eat ripe tomatoes warm from the plant is a privilege I've taken for granted.

How about you? How has Serious Eats changed the way you eat or what you eat?

How do I cook pork for fried rice?

I love commercial pork fried rice with the pinkish pork. Don't think it's ham as it has the texture of pork loin, but it sure isn't plain pork. What do I do to the pork to get that effect? Cook it with a sweet and sour sauce? Ah so sauce?

Merry Christmas. What's for Dinner?

Good Christmas morning all.

What's on your Christmas Dinner menu?
Other Christmas food traditions?

Ours is pot luck, and will start with a Beef Roast and Yorkshire pudding, the principal reason we have the roast. Then green salad, carrot salad, roast root veggies, potatoes,relishes, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cookies, and whatever else people bring.

If you win Powerball today...

What food related things will you spend some of those millions on - and how will you endow Serious Eats?

I'd need a new kitchen in a new house for starters. Probably hire a private chef - or better yet, hire a pile of chefs for a week at a time in exchange for a healthy donation to a charity of their choice.

Vermont is moving in some interesting directions in the food world, and I'd want to spend to encourage more of that - growing cooperatives, communal cheese caves, sustainability, etc.

I'd want to find a way to pay for pet food for some of those who suddenly find they can't support their pets.

And for all those currently registered on Serious Eats, a copy of Kenji's book when it comes out.

How about you?

Did you lay in food for the storm?

Here in Northwest Vermont I've been a little more casual about this storm than I probably should have been. Went to get water today and of course there weren't any gallons. I don't lose water without electricity, but there's always the unlikely possibility that the supply would become contaminated.

I figured I'd open canned goods if we're without any electricity for any length of time. (I'm more concerned about an unsteady elm tree that looms over the garage)

How about you?

Any of you being evacuated?

Do you eat off the back of the fork? Why?

I think I'd never encountered this until watching the food network. I always figured the front of the fork is sort of like a spoon and holds the food better.

Did you grow up eating off the back of the fork? How do you decide which things to eat off the back of the fork, and which off the front?

Are there some circumstances when you do one or the other?

Questions about sauce for borek

A year ago a local restaurant came to our farmer's market and sold borek, (they might have called it boreg) a meat/onion mix rolled up in hand-made phyllo dough.

It was very good, but the dipping sauce that came with it was dynamite, and I can't find anything that sounds like it when I google (and the restaurant, the Euro, doesn't list borek on their menu.)

The sauce was clearly dairy based, but had an additional sharpness. Might even have been yogurt and mayo mixed with something else. Had a bit of a yellow cast. Was the texture and thickness of sour cream. Was definitely not just yogurt, which is what seems to be what's listed when I search for "dairy sauce for borek."

I don't have any idea whether it was the chef's recipe, or if it's traditional somewhere. Any ideas?

Can I use tomatillos instead of green tomatoes for this?

I'm planning to make some green tomato mincemeat, but don't really have enough green tomatoes left, at least not enough for all that I'd like to make.

I have oodles of tomatillos though, but not a lot of experience using them.

The only things I've ever done with green tomatoes is make green tomato mincemeat and use them in a relish that combines red tomatoes and green tomatoes. So I don't have any idea if they behave the same way in recipes.

Have any idea if I could make the substitution>

This is like the recipe I use:

Horse manure can lead to herbicides in your compost

May affect you in other states:

This year Vermont has been dealing with a problem with persistent herbicides in compost, which cause a tight curling of tomato leaves, but also poor germination, stunting, and low productivity in some other vegetables.

There have actually been 3 herbicides found, including Clopyralid and Picloram. Nobody had registered with the Ag Dept that they were using these herbicides. Horse farms were one of the sources, and it turned out that some Purina feed included the Clopyralid.

The herbicide is not harmful to humans (in theory, and according to the VT Dept of Health). It passes right through the body, which is the problem for compost. The herbicide in the feed ended up in the manure, and survived the composting process.

The herbicides have a half life of 1-2 years. It affects plants in very, very small amounts, much less than the amount allowed in human foods. The use of this compost is not going to affect organic certification, but it sure messes up the garden.

I got some bad compost last year, from a different company than produced most of this year's problems. (The UVM and state plant pathologists thought my tomato problem was herbicides, but it wasn't confirmed, and because no one had registered its use it was a mystery.)

THE POINT OF ALL THIS IS, if you're using horse manure in your compost, or buying compost, it's really, really, important to pursue this, and particularly to find out if the horse feed being used is Purina.

Some federal agency or other is pursuing this nationally, because it may prove to be a national problem.

The problem here was actually identified by the principal seller of compost, the Chittenden Solid Waste District, which collects a wide variety of organic wastes from the Burlington area. Their web site has a lot of information:

And a link to an article on the local WCAX news:

What's the most decadent thing you've eaten at a fair?

This article in the NYTimes - "State-Fair calories: Do They Really Count?" actually has David Kessler endorsing the one-time indulgence of things like deep fried butter, at the fair.

I look forward every year to a fresh blackberry ice cream cone, made from the milk of cows at the fair. And I once had a beautiful piece of fried dough. Otherwise, I can never quite bring myself to eat the blooming onions or sausage with peppers and onions. That doesn't keep me from coming home and eating potato chips with onion dip though.

I feel like my horizons need broadening. What do you indulge in when you go to the state fair?

Need help making blackberry cordial

Made blackberry jam yesterday, and have 6 cups of pulpy juice left to do something else with. Might just make a syrup with it, but I'm interested in making a blackberry cordial

Online I find many recipes start with soaking berries in vodka, but that's out since I already have the juice. Some use brandy, some use vodka.

Can I make syrup first and then just add vodka to it when I want to make a cordial - in other words just use it as a flavoring for a drink?

Anybody had any experience with this, or something similar? Would appreciate any ideas/advice you can give me, including the amount of sugar to use.

What are you planting in your garden this year?

It's finally a nice warm sunny day, and I've been out getting some seeds planted. The poor seedlings I've been nursing through cold and cloudy weather (some in the greenhouse of my car, on the back shelf) are basking in the warmth and a couple of hours of sun while they start their journey to toughen up for the real world.

What are you planting in the garden this year? Anything you're trying for the first time - or is this your first year? What are you doing differently from last year?

What are you looking forward to the most?

I'm planting more tomatoes (about 84, 12-13 varieties) so I can can or freeze more, and make more salsa. I froze so many peppers I haven't yet bought any since last summer, but I'm planning on even more. And I'm hoping to find a good recipe for kosher dills that will stay crisp once canned. I found I don't like frozen kale all that much so I'm growing more chard.

Can't wait for the first sun-warmed, ripe beefsteak How about you?

Desperately seeking steak help

Cooking for a client (who needs to put on weight, no less) and he wants a steak - a sirloin. I tend to think of sirloin as pretty dry. But then I practically never cook a steak for myself. If I want a steak I go to a steakhouse.

What kind of sirloin am I looking for? I think I'll probably manage to not overcook the steak, which seems the only danger, but I'm concerned that the meat won't have enough fat to stay moist.

Am I wrong about that? Give me any hints. I'm buying the steak as well as cooking it.

Can I use Marmite instead of Shiitakes?

I've got a vegetarian chili recipe that calls for 2-3 dried shiitakes to be ground with spices. I'm thinking it must be to add some umami, and I'm wondering if I could substitute marmite, and how much I'd use.

I know Kenji said he uses it for soups. I've never used it in anything, though there's a jar sitting in my cupboard. I tasted a tiny amount and thought it was vile, so I'm not going to be joining the marmite on toast crowd.

What do you think of this, and do you use Marmite and how?

Fooproof way to remove hot pepper from your hands!

I've thought about trying this method for awhile, because I know capsaicin binds to oil. It's pretty logical, but I haven't heard anyone mention it before. I licked some tomato off my finger today when making sweet potato black bean chili. I'd chopped jalapenos for it, and of course my lips burned.

I washed my hands in vegetable oil (a couple of tablespoons), wiped off as much oil as I could, and then washed the remaining oil off my hands with hand soap. No burning on my lip. Rather cautiously, I then touched the inner corner of my eye. No burning! I guess I might not advise that if chopping habaneros, but nonetheless, this removed enough capsaicin so there was no burning.

I make Ukrainian Easter eggs, and to finish them I roll them in polyurethane in my hands. The polyurethane doesn't penetrate the skin, but there's a problem getting rid of the polyurethane. (Mineral spirits or turpentine are toxic). The magical thing to do is wash my hands in oil, wipe them off, and then wash with soap. No more sticky polyurethane. So if you find yourself with polyurethane on your hands know this works for that too (probably for oil paints as well). Originally read this tip in a craft magazine.

Here's the sweet potato black bean chili recipe, btw:

Sometimes it really is a smile, not a chicken or a banana.

We've talked about the serious eats logo some time ago, but I noticed the other day that beside the "start a topic!" balloon it's been turned slightly so it's definitely a smile!

I was one of those who instantly thought banana when I first saw it. And was it ever yellow? That's how I remember it.

What was your first impression?

(Have already said on another thread that I'm without my part time job as of today. Too much time on my hands, evidently.)

How did you do with 2011's New Year's Food Resolutions?

Mine was to eat meat no more than half the days of the year. I lasted until mid-summer, keeping track every day of where I stood. Then I just sort of lost interest, and definitely ended the year eating meat more than half the days.

I think I'll probably make the same resolution again this year. All the reasons of health and ethics I made that resolution still hold for me.

How about you?

Joyyy's breakfast burritos

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Santa-themed Character Bento

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Video: How to Preheat Your Pan

You might have learned how to tell when your pan is hot enough in home-ec class: just observe a water droplet or two on the pan's surface and wait for it to bead up and roll across the hot pan. But did you know this trick has a name? It's called the Leidenfrost Effect. Ideally, you want a mercury-like ball of water to hover over the pan, which happens at 320°F or the Leidenfrost point. The water should evaporate more slowly than it would at lower temperatures but if many tiny bubbles form, that means the pan is too hot. This neato two-minute video from Rouxbe, the online cooking school, explains the very good life knowledge. Watch it, after... More

The Perfect Jelly Doughnut

With Hanukkah starting tonight, it's time to talk jelly doughnuts. The Jewish holiday is all about fried foods since the oil symbolizes the miracle of the Temple oil that burned for eight nights. But unfortunately, jelly doughnuts can get eclipsed by the latke—maybe because they usually suck. They seem great in theory but are often a tasteless wad of dough filled with stop sign red slime. But the half-Jewish side of me squealed when I found this perfect jelly doughnut at Almondine bakery in Brooklyn. After the jump, a little spin on the jelly doughnut. Hint: bunnies are involved.... More

Need Ideas for Grapefruit

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C is for Christmas Candy, too

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Pumpkin Pie Alternatives for Thanksgiving

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Changing E-Mail address

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How to Make Edible Salad Tossers

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Video: Chez Pim's Super Easy Pie or Tart Dough

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Bread Shoes

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