• Location: Hudson Valley, NY
  • Last bite on earth: Good bread, good wine, and my family to share it with me.

Summer is Arriving...What Are You Craving?

Ice cold watermelon.

Sweet corn with butter.

Blueberries, for pie.

Tomato Schenectady, NY!

Hinerwadels' Salt Potatoes.....(may have misspelled it a bit) add a few pieces of fresh corn on the cob, a charcoal-grilled burger and a cold one....oh man.....

As for the tomato pie, I must be living under a rock - never heard of it, and I'm a Syracuse native now living just south of Albany. Will check it out...

Baking Inspiration

Add my voice to the "savory" crowd. How about herb breads or rolls, or even bags of herbed salad croutons? (Tie them up with an herb sprig and ribbon.)

Don't isolate your products from other vendors - try mutual endorsements. Team up with someone selling herbs, cheeses or jams - and offer some samples of herb butters (with their herbs ) as lubricant for your bread samples. They in turn can use your breads to promote their wares, be it jams or whatever.

First Bacon, now Eggs.

The idea of topping things with a fried egg never occurred to me. My fried eggs belong on a clean plate with a side of bacon and some toast. Simplicity itself.

Having said that, what other people want to put under their eggs is their own choice. I prefer to look away (runny yolk oozing all over warm salad greens? gah!..), but it's their choice. You gotta accept and support people's preferences for what makes their tummies happy.

Cookbook for a Wedding Guestbook

Why limit it to one cookbook? Choose two and let guests decide which one to sign. Maybe a dinner one and maybe a baking one featuring desserts. With two options, you have even more space for signatures and well-wishes.

One other suggestion - make sure you provide the guests with a Sharpie or some other waterproof ink pen. The last thing you want is for someone's words to smear or run if the page gets wet.

How Particular Are You About Pasta?

I have no discerning palate when it comes to pasta. I'm usually satisfied with whatever (disclaimer: I grew up in a Polish-Czech household). I am always more interested in the sauce or topping anyway than the pasta itself.

One-handed cooking

You say he won't let you put him down "when he doesn't feel well". Yeah...they get like that, poor things! The key is to do your food prep proactively, when he does feel ok or is otherwise asleep. Don't wait til 4 or 5 pm to start dinner prep - that's guaranteeing you'll both have meltdowns - do it as early in the day as you can.

Try making some sandwiches first thing in the morning for yourself, before he opens his eyes. Cut them in sections and wrap, then during the day when your hands are full all you have to do is grab a section and eat. Slice up some cheese and fruit - apples sprinkled with lemon or lime juice are good, loose grapes are handy- and keep in a container in the fridge. Make up a big ziploc of trail mix for yourself. Grill a few boneless chicken breasts (when your arms are empty), slice them and chill, then dip into dressing with some baby carrots. Especially if you're nursing him, you want to make sure you have some decent meals to keep you going. Keep a jug of water or diluted juice in the fridge so you've got something to refresh and hydrate you.

With a little one, it's critical to rethink the way you may be used to preparing your food. Try to do it at odd times, as early in the day as you can, so your attention can go to that little guy without feeling frustrated. My first baby was colicky, and takes a real toll on you as a new mom. I promise it will get better soon!

Snacking vices!

I am all about virtue in the store, avoiding bringing home obvious snacky foods, but when I get home and start the sugar-salt craving, this is my favorite homemade crack:

1 bag milk chocolate chips (that I was saving for cookies, natch)
1 jar salted peanuts

Pour a blend of both into open palm and pop into mouth. Repeat as needed.

Disappointment in a Wrapper

Actually, yes - this morning I finally had time to read the nutrition side of the Fiber One Cereal box, and about fell over. It's got aspartame in it - who knew? I had started buying it as a quick way grab breakfast and still get the high fiber (which it delivers) but wow....aspartame? In cereal? I am not happy.

Unless it's touted for diabetics... but still, it felt wrong, that's all.

Chowder or Bisque: which do you savor most?

Depends on the weather. Chowder for rainy days, chowder from August to May, chowder when the sun shines, chowder when you're stressed, chowder from June to July, chowder when you're chilled to the bone, chowder whenever it's available...

I suck at making...

Frosting layer cakes. For me it's a patience issue. I just can't seem to get the inner layer of frosting right, and the thickness of the top and sides is never right. And there's the crumbs... it's always a mess, but I eat it anyway.

Appetizers: 2 days ahead/last in a cooler for a 400 mile drive?

You could also just volunteer to get flowers instead of food. Order ahead, have them delivered, then you place them where you want them when you get there. Flowers for the table, flowers for a corsage, maybe an arrangement for her to take home. Tell your sister that your SE foodie friends said it was ok!

Appetizers: 2 days ahead/last in a cooler for a 400 mile drive?

Homemade chutney or relish - cook it, pack into canning jars and refrigerate. Add to cream cheese for a spread, or serve alone with crackers.

Spiced or glazed nuts.

Bruschettas...they'd be easy to assemble once you get there. Make or buy some interesting jarred tapenades and you're all set.

What's on the Easter table?

@Amish Berkeleyite, are you for real? Where do you all get together?

We had the requisite ham with wine-and-peach glaze and roasted pineapple, potato salad, buttermilk coleslaw, a layered strawberry gelatin salad, two kinds of babka bread (one with rum), asparagus, a white sangria that made me very happy - and assorted cupcakes for dessert. (lots o' little kids and the adults were happy with boozy coffee and Easter candy).

"not your grandma's cookies"

Ok to the old-fashioned vs. "modern", but also....innocent simplicity vs. decadent indulgence.

Neither of my grandmothers had the money to spend on high-end chocolate or fancy ingredients. Their baked goods were plain, sturdy, and delicious because they were literally baked with love, as kitschy as that sounds. (What money they saved was for us, "for college", as they were fond of reminding us. )

Looking for opinions on lobster being mostly hype

Lobster is wonderful, but honestly, if I had to choose between that and a basket of hot, fried, full-belly clams....

the clams win.

Healthiest (or healthier) bread out there

@gargupie - I think so, especially if it's fresh. Try it with a really good extra sharp cheddar and some fruit; or cold sliced chicken, sprouts and mustard.

Healthiest (or healthier) bread out there

I like the Ezekiel 4:9 line of sprouted grain breads. Only down side is they cost $5000 a loaf, but now and then it's nice to have on hand something well-made and healthy.

When that's not available I like the Heidelberg breads out of Herkimer, NY. The French Peasant bread is especially good, but it lasts about 3.5 hours in my house before it's gone.

Do utensils affect taste?

Plastic cutlery and utensils make me think of institutional foods, plus they depress me, so for home use I avoid them when I can. Even if the extended family's here for a big outdoor picnic meal bash thing, I will hunt and gather all the metal utensils I can find, both for individual use and for serving. Look- you simply cannot cut a pierogi with a plastic fork. Sacrilege!

However...when I'm at the neighborhood DQ I happily lap up a Blizzard with whatever they have available.

Hot Cross Buns

Oh.. I thought the recipe title meant you could make the dough the night before and then get up in the morning and do the last part, cutting down on all the rising time. Is there a way to do that with these? At what point could I leave the dough overnight?

What kitchen tools have you barely used?

I propose a Serious Eats Swap Section. You know, like they have in Yankee Magazine. (or used to...)

"I've got a brand-new circa 1992 vintage tortilla bowl basket maker - what have you?"


"Looking for a (name your dream gadget) - am willing to trade a (name your expensive dust-gatherer)."

Don't Forget to Share Your Sweets!

I'm going to be watching this space. Last year I made a flan and my kids took one look at it, jiggled it with their forks and dismissively called it "Flab." This year they're getting just the usual Easter candy crap from CVS unless I get inspired again.

What's YOUR favorite Easter candy?

Black jellybeans and the malted milk eggs.

Overworked and undernourished

Maybe start with some grilled boneless chicken breasts. Add sliced meat to a salad with some hardboiled eggs and veggies. Tote dressing and croutons on the side.

Another night, add sliced or cubed grilled meat to a pilaf, couscous or kasha, with some steamed asparagus or broccoli and toasted nuts/dried fruit mixed in.

Strombolis are also good; make ahead and reheat with a bring-along salad or fruit. Actually hand pies of any kind are really convenient and you can eat while you drive.

-Wraps of all kinds
-Pasta salads with mix-in proteins like garbanzos and salami and cheese --Chili - either turkey or beef - make a batch of cornmeal muffins to go with and cheese to sprinkle over the chili when you reheat it.
-Cold salmon cakes over a mixed greens salad with cubed boiled potatoes; add ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Sliced Mushroom RAGE!

@Mr Nick: all looks about the same!

amping up waffles for dinner

Now and then I get a craving for homey comfort food for supper, like waffles or just eggs, but my DH, who often has skipped lunch, comes home needing more. What can I do to amp up homemade waffles for supper, either as sides or in the waffle batter itself, to increase protein and and make it a more substantial meal? I can always just add some sausage, bacon, or a ham steak, but I'm imagining more a sauce or something.... any ideas?

side dishes for baked ham

Looking for some inspiration for side dishes to go with the baked ham for Easter dinner. I'll have guests who range from very young families with little ones to very elderly who can't manage exotic or hard-to-eat. Not many of them can contribute much due to travel or health so most all the cooking's done right here, in one oven.

Ideas? What works in your house for a diverse crowd of relatives?

dining etiquette conundrum

You are dining with an aquaintance or business associate you aren't that close with. During the meal they manage to get food - be it parsley, spinach or a poppy seed - stuck resolutely between their teeth in an obvious location.

Do you say something out of courtesy - and how do you say it without causing embarrassment - - or, do you stay silent only to have them discover the offending item later when they're alone? If it's a family member or close friend I have no problem saying something, but what about if it's not someone you know well?

I've been on both sides of this situation - been the observer of and also the sufferer of the misappropriated green food remnant discovered only too late - when it then causes great humiliation to realize it was in your front teeth aaalll that time when you were speaking. Ack.

Anyone have any advice as to how to handle this gracefully?

ways to use Chartreuse

I've had a bottle of green and a bottle of yellow Chartreuse in the back of my pantry for a while now and want to make more use of them. I have one recipe for figs and Chartreuse that's good - you halve them, drizzle them with green Chartreuse and honey, and broil for 10-15 minutes. Plate with juices and dollop with creme fraiche.

Well, that's all very nice, but I don't often have figs or creme fraiche as pantry staples here. I'm looking for an interesting winter drink or dessert thing that I can whip up quickly. What's your favorite way to drink or use this lovely liqueur?

Trader Joe's coming to Albany, NY

Wow...pinch me. After years of reading your posts about the goods at Trader Joe's in other markets, and feeling like the poor old country cousin up here, I am soo looking forward to checking this place out when it opens here in a few months. It's still a 40-minute drive for me but sooo worth it.

Question: What items are worth getting.... what are your favorites? What would YOU drive 40 minutes to get?

subbing coconut oil for vegetable oil in baking recipes

I've been curious about substituting coconut oil for the Wesson vegetable oil in my baking. The health benefits are amazing, though you have to melt the oil before using it, adding an extra step to things. But after an apple cake got destroyed by a bundt pan over the weekend, I'm now wondering if coconut oil has any effect on recipes that might change their consistency or structure in any way. Do any of you use it regularly and have any knowledge or tips?

grating fresh ginger

This has to be my #1 least favorite task. I use my 4-sided grater and just accept that I'm going to shred my fingers in the process. I tried the microplane but that was a disaster- the rasp things are way too small. Much as there are different ways to peel garlic, are there easier ways to grate ginger that I don't know about?

lament for France's ketchup ban in schools,0,1095831.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

I am not campaigning for a new SE column entitled "NannyPlate Watch", but maybe we need one. And there's enough news out there to stuff a column every week! France has decided to allow the use of ketchup once a week, and ONLY for use on French fries, to help French kids learn to upgrade their palate. The quotes in the article above are among the most arrogant and ridiculous I've ever heard.

I'm all about inspiring kids to eat well, but not by government writ.

So here's my question: What do YOU put ketchup on besides fries?

Denmark's "fat tax": please weigh in

Well, this sure caught my attention. In the interest of public health, Denmark's decided to impose an additional tax on food items that exceed a certain percentage of saturated fats. Butter, meats, oils, etc all will cost more in an effort to help consumers slim down. Pols in Britain are listening; this may be a trend.

Here's the link:

Would you welcome this type of "benevolency" here?

ways to improve brewed decaf iced tea

I swore off relying on the powdered instant tea this summer, and began brewing my own iced tea. Since I can't handle caffeine, I've been using decaf tea bags,but it's somewhat lame, bland, and flat. I usually use 8 bags per 2-quart pitcher, about 1/2 c sugar and the juice of two lemons. Occasionally I'll pour in about 1/4 orange juice just for interest, lacks that bite of caffeinated iced tea. I'm willing to try other teas... Anybody got any recipes or methods they'd like to share?


Confession: Chicken wings don't excite me. My family likes them, so I do the usual bake-at-375-then-coat-with-Frank's wing sauce and they're sort of happy. But I can't help wondering if there are ways to improve them - not so much for added heat but instead added interest. So tell me, what do you do to jazz it up a bit? Any tips?

dinner ideas for when it's stinking hot

I love to cook, but absolutely hate having to come up with dinner ideas for my family during heat waves, coming this week. I'd be happy with watermelon and a bowl of cold cereal, but my family needs a bit more nutrition than that. Looking for refreshing but filling ideas... (Make aheads are a big plus.)

menu help for a 4-day reunion

I have family -lots of 'em -coming in next week from out of state for 4 days- which means food for all 3 meals each day for 18 people. The group includes 10 children ages 2-18, though they're not picky eaters (thank God). Everyone's willing to pitch in, but I want to leave time to do things besides cook all day while they're here.

To say I am panicked is an understatement. Breakfast and lunch I'm ok - big boxes of cereal and fresh fruit, togurt, bagels, hot dogs, egg salad, etc - but it's coming up with 4 dinner menus that aren't fussy or will break the bank, but are filling and enjoyable. So far I'm thinking hot meatball subs & potato salad, the obvious hamburgers and hot dog combo, maybe pulled pork in a few crockpots, Texas sheet cake, etc but after that I get brain freeze. My big trip to BJ's in Albany will be Saturday morning...probably a two-carter.

Any ideas..? Thanks in advance.

paperless waitstaff: how do you feel about memorization?

Just curious here. How do you feel about waitstaff that memorizes your dinner order (and I mean when you're in a party of anywhere from 4 or more) instead of writing it down? Does this impress you or leave you anxious? Have you received your memorized order correctly?

(For my own part, I am not impressed and fret until what I ordered actually materializes, correctly. I don't feel it adds anything worthwhile and is unnecessary showmanship.)


how do you store your spices?

I cook for an ever-growing extended family out of a small, less-than-ideal kitchen. I have those dinky little McCormick jars stacked on top of each other on the counter against the side wall of the fridge, and others taking up two shelves in an upper cabinet. I can't afford dedicated drawer space anywhere, but am desperately trying to rethink how to store lots of varying-sized spice containers in an accessible way.

How do you manage this in your kitchens? I'm trying to avoid the leaning towers of spices that I both need and want, yet can't seem to corral into order...

summer party meal no-no's

So far this summer we've been to a few family gatherings (birthdays, 4th of July, etc) and I've noticed some things (avoidable) that could've gone a long way to taking the meal experience from "survivable" to "well, that was pretty much ok".

Can we list some no-no's/tips concerning food serving, cooking, etc?
Some simple starters:

1. Trash receptacles that are easily accessible and GET EMPTIED before they overfill, attracting cousin Bev's dogs, the grandkid toddlers, and bees.
2. Please remove from sight the cream cheese appetizer concoction once the dinner food's ready. The chips that go stale in the humidity, the salsa at room temp... the browning guacamole...the wilted lettuce...agh.
3. Kindly remember to supply tongs -or something! -for the ice. Please?
4. Blackened (as in, burned) hot dogs are, frankly, inedible.
5. Plastic knives are decorative. They do not cut, except maybe plain Jello. If you're serving meat that needs to be cut, please, if possible, provide something sharp.

That's just a start. What say you all...?

Why do cakes fall in the center?

I just baked a cake for a funeral potluck - pulled it out and my heart sank as I saw the center - a perfect sink hole. I debated filling it in with frosting but it was even too deep for that, and I thought the center might by a horribly thick or gummy texture. As it cooled it sank even further, so I ended up making something else to take instead.

Anyone know why this happens, and how to avoid it in the future? I followed the recipe and my oven's calibrated fine. What's the science here that I'm missing?

basic mac salad

Every now and then I just want a basic, satisfying elbow macaroni salad. No fancy pasta-y salad stuff, just a down home, mayo-dressed elbow mac salad as a simple side. The problem is the dressing. Too often I try to wing it and end up "doctoring" it until it's ..bleh. How do you make yours, what do you throw in there, and what about the dressing...?

(I use Hellman's thinned with vinegar, a touch of sugar and salt, and a bit of dijon, grated carrots and maybe celery,'s still...iffy. Maybe that's the nature of a mac salad...?

your best Italian meatballs

I didn't grow up Italian, and am still searching for the best way to prepare meatballs for spaghetti sauce. I was in my 30's when I learned that you aren't supposed to pack the meat tightly, that the fewer ingredients the better, and that yes, pan-frying was the way to good taste, instead of baking them in the oven. Every time I make them I try another recipe, and am getting closer, but haven't found one that's "signature" worthy. What are your methods? your ingredients? do you fry? and in what kind of oil?, and so on.

Best Woks...any suggestions?

We've been cooking a lot of chinese stir-fry lately and we just can't seem to find a sturdy, deep wok. Any help on which would be a nice one to cook with would be greatly appreciated!

mashed potato help

Tonight I'm frustrated. We followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for
"olive oil mash" which involved mashing potatoes with olive oil, butter, some grated Parm and sea salt. The photo in the recipe showed this lovely, creamy, very smooth mound of potatoes, so I (stupidly) whipped out my electric beaters and got busy. Well, they turned to glue. We kept adding more olive oil and butter, then finally some water, but they were too far gone. We ate them, but obviously I did something wrong to get that stiff, dry texture.

Here's what I'd like to know. I adore mashed potatoes, and usually make them with butter and milk, occasionally beating/whipping them with a handheld mixer. How do you make yours, what do you add, and how does the beating tool affect the texture of the end product? (and what did I do wrong tonight?)

ways to use farmer's cheese?

I picked up a pound recently and used only a little for a recipe, now have quite a bit left, and am looking for interesting uses for it. (Besides spreading it on crackers and eating it between meals like I'm not supposed to.)

Any ideas...?

crud. major snowstorm ahead: what to cook w/o power?

Lots of other things going on here and I'm blanking out. Since this snowstorm (74 mph winds...) is due to hit most of NY, PA and New England Thursday and Friday, let's review some food ideas for when the power goes out. probably will. I can use my stovetop (propane) but that's about it. What meals are your go to's during times like this?

dipping sauce help for spring rolls

Ack...I'm making spring rolls for a party Sunday (assuming we all still have power after this impending snowstorm coming up the east coast) and the recipe I'm using calls for tamarind concentrate or cherry juice concentrate, neither of which my local stores carry. I'm looking for a dipping sauce recipe that calls for semi-normal ingredients- something somewhat sweet, fairly mild (not too hot) and pleasant. This is my first time handling rice paper rounds - I'm excited to try it and really want this to work out. Does anyone have any recipes they could share?

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