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lil_brown_bat

We Try Everything On Taco Bell's New Breakfast Menu

So, basically this is sad tired scrambled eggs, gristly sausage, and bacon consisting of fat, MSG and salt...all rolled up in Taco Bell's stale tortilla wraps? Hold me back.

Brave New World: Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake

So, Boston Pizza is sort of like New York Fried Chicken?

The Food Lab: How to Pick and Cook a Holiday Ham

To all this good advice, I would add that if you decide to get a smokehouse ham for a big holiday like Easter or Christmas, or any other kind of ham with a relatively small production (i.e., not Hormel or the like), you should probably order well in advance. I get hams from a local smokehouse, and I can pretty much guarantee if I were to go there now and ask for a ham, I'd be told that they've been out for a while. They can make more, but the process takes time, so I've learned not to hope on buying a tasty smoked pork product off the rack within a couple weeks of a major holiday.

Home gardening?

I have a good-sized vegetable garden in my side yard, which I enlarged every year by ripping strips out of the lawn until I really couldn't go any further -- also a herb garden and a bunch of flower gardens.

"Do you grow stuff and then figure out what to do with it later, or do you grow to meet a known need (ie: plant okra because you love it and can't buy locally)?" - I don't think there's any point in growing stuff unless you love it (exception: if your soil/location is really unsuited to it, but there's something you can grow and trade). Start with the list of what you like to eat. Then, if you're a first-timer, narrow it down to stuff that's fairly easy to grow -- you don't want a frustrating failure your first year to put you off gardening together. Consider your location, space needs, the quality of your soil, and the time you have to spend on it (some plants are more high maintenance than others). Then make your "final cut" list.

"Got any labor-saving tips to share?" Too many to mention in this spot, but I'll stick to my most important fundamental: the work you put into your soil will pay you back a hundred times, so put the effort in here. My whole garden is hand-tilled, I plant green manure crops and turn them over to rejuvenate the soil, I haul and spread compost, I mix and spread my own fertilizer...and it pays off every year. Plants grow better in well-tended soil, water/rain is absorbed properly, pests and weeds are easier to control. Put the work into the soil to save work later.

"Do you save your seeds or buy new?" Some of each. It's important to remember that seed-saving only makes sense if you're going to start from seed. I live in New England, and without a greenhouse, raising tomatoes from seed is kind of nutty. I grow a lot of garlic and shallots, and every year I save the best of the crop for next year's seed (they're fall-planted). I also trade with others, with excellent results (I have about 8 varieties of garlic growing now, and the champ is a Siberian softneck that I traded for last summer). And I also save scarlet runner beans and some other beans -- that's about it.

"Garden in containers, community plot, or the back forty?" Side yard. Nothing says it has to be a lawn. I'm hopeless with containers -- I baby my plants, harden them off, prepare good soil, and when it's time I put them in the ground and say, "Good luck!" I'll water and weed as needed, but at that point I leave it mostly up to Mother Nature.

"Do you preserve your harvest, or gobble it down in a frenzy of seasonal eating?" Who says I can't do both? The reward for growing tomatoes is Tomato Orgy, but unless you have just a couple of plants, you'll have extra. Mine get turned into recipe-ready puree and sun-drieds. The shallot harvest is occasion for risotto alla milanese, garlic ends up in triple garlic soup (scapes, green garlic and mature bulbs), hot peppers are eaten fresh in all possible combinations, and yet there's always plenty to dry and put up for winter.

'Tis The Season... For SMOOTHIES

I don't do the yogurt and milk thing. Just frozen mixed berries, add as much orange juice as needed, blend.

How to Make Sprinkles Ice Cream (and Set Your Inner Child Free)

Sorry, this doesn't even have nostalgia value for me. I love the idea of sprinkles ice cream, but unfortunately I hated those cereals as a kid, and find them just as revolting as an adult.

Moving from SoCal to New England

My brother and sister-in-law live in Stonington, not far from where you will be. They took me out to lunch once at a place where they do hearth cooking, which you should try sometime -- it's pretty amazing to see someone prepare a delicious meal with nothing but an open fire and chimney!

Seafood, yes indeed. I'm sure you've had lobster before, but you may not know that lobsters don't eat in captivity, and certainly don't thrive. If you get a lobster that's really recently out of the ocean, it'll be a whole different experience than one that's been hanging around in a tank for a while. Stonington has a fishing fleet and there is a market on the wharf -- I've not bought from there, but seems like a good place to go.

WHOLE BELLY CLAMS. Eat them. That is all.

New England is the heartland of local grown, and you'll find many great farmers' markets and local producers. I have friends that sell at the Ledyard market near where you will be (http://www.ledyardfresh.com/).

Maple syrup is the first crop of the season in New England, and is a traditional ingredient. You aren't going to be in maple country, but it's a short trip to a sugarhouse (http://www.ctmaple.org/).

You are close as the crow flies from NYC and Boston, but it can take some time with the traffic. For a trip into the city, you may prefer to drive part way and take the train.

Welcome to New England!

Meet the Chinese Food Issue of the Serious Eats Magazine!

With you there, Regrettable. iTunes is just plain hard to use.

Meet the Chinese Food Issue of the Serious Eats Magazine!

Hi Kenji,

Thanks for the response. By the way, I didn't say or suggest that YOU made up the data. My point, rather, is that "100 to 1" is both suspiciously round (why not 133 to 1, or 78 to 1?) and suspiciously large (100 to 1 = no discussion to be had here, move along). Real life numbers don't typically break down that easily or stack up that overwhelmingly. And when you look at figures of smartphone penetration, Android is a long way from 1% of iOS in both sales and ownership, so that makes the number even more questionable.

Obviously you'll make whatever business decisions you see fit. But if you are doing so based on a belief that your ratio of iOS to Android users is 100 to 1, I think that premise is shaky.

Meet the Chinese Food Issue of the Serious Eats Magazine!

"Our mobile readers on iOS outnumber out android users by over 100 to 1"

This sounds like a made-up "statistic", to be honest, but on the off chance that it isn't, what was your methodology? As in, are you actually collecting data on the user agent from your mobile site, and does it actually show 100-1 ratio of iOS unique users (as opposed to visits) to android users? I'm curious because I visit the site on my android device all the time.

Paleo Diet Craze- Love it or leave it?

I think there's a lot to be said for traditional diets, but 1)they need to be understood in context (as in, what did the rest of the lifestyle look like), and 2)there's an enormous difference between "traditional" (which to me means "prior to globalized and industrialized food") and "paleo" (which means pre-agricultural). I also don't like pseudoscientific justifications. It's fine with me if you say, "I eat the following diet because I like the color of the packaging, and I feel better when I eat this way." I don't need to know why or even if it works for you. But when people put forth some half-digested pseudoscientific codswallop as evidence that the such-and-such diet is THE natural diet for humanity, well...

Food-related deal breakers when dating?

My biggest dealbreaker in a new relationship is anytime I run into a behavior that someone should have been trained out of as a child -- or at least, been made aware that there are times to rein it in. Using table manners as an example, we're told not to put our elbows on the table, but we've all done it in a casual setting when the meal is basically finished and we're having a conversation. If someone has this awareness of the basic rules, they know how to behave in a situationally appropriate way: they're not going to shovel food in their mouth like a hog with hands, but they're also not going to insist on a fork and knife to eat fried chicken at Popeye's. Similarly with pickiness: I think it's fine for people to have preferences as strong and narrow as they want, but if they had the kind of upbringing that failed to teach them that sometimes you simply eat what's in front of you (or find a way to politely do without), rather than insisting on your Special Snowflake meal, I want nothing to do with them. It goes beyond food: someone who is this self-centered about what they eat will likely be equally self-centered about other things as well.

As for allergies, as someone who is allergic to tree nuts, I find that it's fairly common that I have to decline food because nuts are present, and fortunately very rare that someone tries to insist that I eat 'em anyway (and mercifully VERY rare that someone's tried to slip me nuts out of some insane belief that I'm not REALLY allergic). More often, the person feels really bad about it, if they don't have something without nuts (in which case I just say, "Please don't feel bad, you couldn't have known, they look lovely", and it's all good).

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Didn't measure by weight, didn't use a stand mixer (sorry, I love to cook, but I've got better things for several hundred dollars to be doing, such as paying the heating bill so I don't die)...did end up with some amazing cookies. Perfectly round, crispy at the edges, delicious rich browned-butter flavor, saltysweet yum. But having that cookie dough sitting in the fridge is a PROBLEM.

One-Pot Wonders: Curried Coconut Noodles With Shrimp

You know what I love about this recipe? Minus the shrimp, it uses things that I pretty much always have in my pantry. And it's fast. And it's one pot. And, coconut and curry paste and rice noodles.

What's Your Biggest Gripe About New York Restaurants?

People with first world problems insisting that the whole world care deeply and FIX IT RIGHT NOW.

The Best Budget Irish Whiskeys

Knappogue Castle! I've only had the 12 year, but I'm a fan.

Cook the Book: 'Kitchen Confidence' by Kelsey Nixon

Dark chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. It's a "back of the box" recipe from Herskey's cocoa that is always requested when I'm bringing something to a potluck!

Are Shooter's Sandwiches Really Worth a Damn?

Bears are attracted to tasty meaty things, and we got a lot of 'em around here...not always well behaved because stupid people go camping and don't police their food, so the bears aren't afraid to go near people in search of food. This sandwich is definitely bear-bait.

Are Shooter's Sandwiches Really Worth a Damn?

From the potato in the hills of Western Massachusetts, I never heard of it either. And as tasty as the pictures look...I don't like it. No, I don't like it. Cold steak is edible. It is also inferior to hot freshly-cooked steak in every way. And taking it hiking? Maybe if your idea of "hiking" is Central Park. If I took that thing hiking, I'd expect to get eaten by a bear.

Trader Joe's is Like a Bad Boyfriend...

TJ's is like a bad boyfriend because it'll break your heart, over and over again (by discontinuing that amazing product that you love). And then you go back, and there's something else, pretty amazing too, not quite as amazing, but still pretty good...and then they discontinue that. And so on and so forth. Unsalted blister peanuts! Chicken pierogies! Chili lime peanuts! Where will it end? In a store full of insipid products, that's where. If I could junk-punch the head of TJ's purchasing once for every product I loved that was discontinued, I'd wear out my knuckles.

Which Cocktails Do You Think Are Overrated?

As someone who has always found the term "craft cocktails" to be unbelievably pretentious and laughable, I find a whole lot of cocktails overrated. I like pisco sours (but that may be the nostalgia talking), my aunt's streamlined take on an old fashioned, and a dark and stormy (or darker and stormier, made with Green River Ambrosia's Ginger Libation or any other alcoholic ginger beer).

How to Order Cider in a Restaurant or Bar

If I ever found a restaurant or bar with a long cider list, I'd be pretty sure I was hallucinating.

Easy Chocolate Rugelach

Easy, delicious and really handy -- you can freeze the rolls and thaw in the refrigerator.

Basic Hummus from 'Jerusalem'

Well hell, I love tahini and I used it all and it was fabulous.

Chicken Massaman Curry (Kaeng Matsaman Kai)

Oh wow is that ever good. Don't skip the star anise and cinnamon if you can help it!

Make your own smoothie mix?

Has anyone experimented with making your own smoothie mix or concentrate, for the sake of convenience? My idea is, you do all the measuring/chopping/peeling/whatever at once, blend it up, portion and freeze it, and then it's ready to use in a more convenient fashion. Thoughts on this?

Cake house?

I've never made a gingerbread house because, from what I understand, in order to get structural integrity, the "gingerbread" basically has to be like spiced drywall. It's kind of like those awful weaponized decorated cookies that corporate clients send in "thank-you" baskets, and that poison half the support staff (the only ones silly enough to try and eat them).

But I digress. Wanting to make something festive and yet edible, I thought: why not make a house out of cake? Just make some rectangular layers, cut 'em, stack 'em, make a roof, cover with icing and festoon with candies. Woohoo! That would work, right? Has anybody actually done it? Any tips, gotchas, etc.?

TIA,

Unexpectedly Large Turkey

My insane co-Thanksgivingers had requested a 20 pound turkey. I succeeded in talking them down to 16 pounds (still way too large, but you choose your battles), and that is what I ordered, but you get what you get with these special-order fresh local all-volunteer turkeys. Now I've got this 22 pound ornithopter masquerading as a turkey sitting in my refrigerator. Do I a)go with my original plan (stuff it and roast it, however long it takes), b)do something insane like attempt to spatchcock it (with no prior experience and no poultry shears and a strong doubt that I'll have a pan big enough to go under it), or c)something altogether different? Debate. Discuss.

Pomegranate arils in dark chocolate - how to?

Being a fan of both pomegranate and dark chocolate, I tried combining them, with pretty good results. I extracted the apils and did the standard trick with the bowl of water to get rid of the pith, then drained them, then spread them out and air-dried them as best I could with a fan. Then I melted the chocolate (Callebaut 70% bittersweet) in a double boiler until almost melted, removed from heat and stirred smooth. Then I added the apils.

I was trying to avoid having the chocolate seize, and things looked pretty good for a bit, but then, ZAP! Seized chocolate. I returned the double boiler to the pan and very gently warmed it until things loosened up, then spread on parchment. Results were good*, but I'm wondering if I could have done anything else to avoid having the chocolate seize. Any ideas?

*By "good", I mean that it was a reasonably good execution, above and beyond the inherent awesomeness of pomegranate and dark chocolate.

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