I love to cook, and especially, eat what I cook. Besides being obsessed with cooking, I also grow much of the food I eat, esp. things I can't get.

  • Location: pepperhead212
  • Favorite foods: Garlic, hot peppers, tomatoes, and chocolate. I cook more SE Asian food than any other.
  • Last bite on earth: A delicious mole, since it is one of the best foods, and combines all of my favorite ingredients.

How do you avoid overspending?

This is related to a recent thread - price comparing. I do this all the time, and tonight, while watching some things I had recorded, I cut out all the coupons I wanted (really, not many, considering how many sections I had!), then gave the rest to my sister. I depend on her to check all the circulars for me, and she knows what I buy, so she tell me when they are on sale. Nice to have somebody like that - in return, she gets all my coupons I don't use - about 98% of them! I rarely go out with a particular main course item in mind, unless, of course, it is on sale. LOL Only for a special dinner for somebody, or a holiday meal, but still, almost everything is on sale. Then, there is growing much of my own food, and there's where I have to watch what I spend (on seeds)! So I do a lot of trading, and just today I traded a lady across the country a bunch of basil varieties for some brassicas. Only cost each of us envelopes and a stamp.

I am amazed at how much food I see wasted in friends homes and my Mom's (she's got an excuse - she's 83! LOL). I waste very little from my fridge or freezer - occasionally a fruit or something will freeze in the fridge, but I've got that pretty well under control. One thing I have not been able to figure out is how to keep cilantro (I've tried everything), and I do end up tossing some of that, and buying extra, as a result. And I can't grow it here, either, so I just end up buying another batch when I know I'm making something that calls for it (like the guac, tonight), so I won't find the stuff I just bought turned into that black slime.

How often do you price compare when you shop?

Almost always! While some things vary greatly when buying generics, most don't, and are often made by the same company. And I never buy meats, poultry, and seafood at regular prices, which are double or triple the sale prices in this area. There is simply nothing I ever need that badly to pay $3.00 or more for, when it will be $1.39 for on sale some day. I'll just cook something else!

Stainless steel bowls

I have many SS bowls, from 1 pt up to 12 qts, of various guages. The lighter ones have many tiny dents in them, but none have gone through, so nothing to worry about. And despite the salt and acid often in them, I have never had any get the slightest bit of rust on them, unlike some cheap SS cutlery I have seen

When Breakfast Gets "Weird"

I'm another of the many here that eat leftover foods for breakfast, and sometimes I even add some more heat in them, to help wake me up! And many times they are eaten cold, but some things need warmed up, due to the fats in them.

what are your favorite DIY kitchen hacks?

I'm another one that keeps spices in drawers, with the tops labeled, for looking down on them. And early on, to make them easier to organize, I highlighted the sweet spices in orange, herbs in green, and savory spices in yellow. And later I changed all of the 3/4 extension drawer slides to full extension, to be able to see the back better.

Home gardening?

I know what you mean about the seed prices, Hydra! Many places I used to shop from have doubled (or more!) their prices, then, on top of it, the shipping price is a rip-off, for something as small as seeds! However, there are some very good places out there that sell small packs, which we really don't need much more than, esp. when the seeds are small, like greens and herbs. Here are a couple sources I have found for small packets for very low prices: This is PINETREE GARDENS, which I have been ordering from for many years, and they were the first (that I know of) to market "mixes", for things like cabbage and lettuce, which makes it MUCH cheaper than planting several different varieties to ripen at different times. Now, almost everyone has those. This is THE SAMPLE SEED SHOP, which is much more recent, but also has small packets for very low prices. Some of the seed counts are actually the same as the high priced packs sold for 3 times as much elsewhere!

And here are some links to forums for gardening that I check out daily. You will find others in your area, so you can find what time of the year to plant what, and what varieties do best in your area.

And another thing you will like on these forums - SEED TRADING! Your mention of the greens made me think of a lady in FL, whom I traded some greens seeds to (in return for any tomatoes that resist heat, since we have had HORRIBLE heat waves the last two summers), and she just pulled up all her greens the same day I was planting mine! Not sure if it is too late in your area for kohlrabi, since that is a brassica, but kolibri (a purple hybrid) is my favorite variety, as it grows quickly, and doesn't turn woody when overgrown, like many varieties seem to. Grand Duke is a good green variety, though it will get a little hard if left in too long.

Speaking of photos, here's my photobucket library, with almost every photo on it food related! If anything looks interesting to grow, let me know.

'Tis The Season... For SMOOTHIES

Isn't every season smoothie season? I keep bananas in the freezer for smoothies - my Mom can't stand bananas with even a few ripe spots on them, so every time I visit, I take her ripe bananas, bring them home and peel them, dry the peel on a platter I keep in my oven with the pilot light, and freeze all the halves in a ziploc bag. When I want a smoothie it almost always has at least half a banana in it.

My most frequently made smoothie has banana, pineapple, and orange (I peel the orange part of the peel, the zest, from the skin in large slices, and dry it, for later use, and keep the pith, to grind up), and maybe other fruits I have extras of, and some coconut, if I have it on hand. I blend these in the Vitamix (with a little water, if necessary) until somewhat smooth, then I add some chia seeds. I then turn it on lowest speed, and turn it up just enough to suck the chia seeds under, then I let it sit for 10 min. or so, to gel the seeds (I usually just do this while cleaning up the mess from the fruits). Then, I turn it back on, and increase the speed to high, and blend until totally smooth. Then I add a generous amount of ice, and blend again, until it circulates well, and it is totally smooth again. Any leftovers with the chia seeds gel up in the fridge, instead of thinning out, like most smoothies do when there is a bunch of ice in them.

Home gardening?

I grow a LOT of things in the garden, much of it not available, and the rest not available at reasonable prices from local sources. If I had a lot more space, I would be growing so much that I would not have time to cook it or eat it!

This is the time of year I am very busy with all this - planting seeds indoors and mapping out what I am planting where, which takes longer than actually planting them, usually. Right now, I have garlic and shallots that are growing, which I planted in early Nov., plus the end of the greens, which I had growing under cover all winter, even with the wicked winter we had here. And 4 days ago the spring greens went out, covered with fabric - 3 types of lettuce, 2 kohlrabi, bok choy, yu choy, tatsoi, Zen tatsoi hybrid, a purple savoy cabbage, senposai, komatsuna, and mitzuna. And many perennial herbs are coming up now - mint, thyme, spicy oregano, marjoram, sage, garlic chives, chives, and later on I'll get the epazote. And all that stuff just grows like weeds! Speaking of herbs, the basils are some I still have to start from seed, and I just started rooting some lemongrass stalks today, as it is just about ready in three weeks, if started now, and that's when it gets put out.

I have 15 varieties of tomatoes growing for this year - 11 new ones - and 21 varieties of hot peppers - 10 new ones. And an old favorite eggplant, which disappeared from the market for several years - Ichiban - along with the Thai pea eggplant, which is not commonly found, even in the seed catalogs.

Most of the tomatoes I gobble down when I can, because there is nothing like a freshly picked tomato! How can one person eat 45 plants worth of tomatoes, you ask? I may share a FEW of them, but I do eat most. The few years I have had a great excess of them, I have dried them, since the varieties I grow aren't the kind that can well. And last season I had a huge number of tomatillos, which I also dried, and they make some delicious salsas!

Most of the chiles get dried, though I do freeze some varieties (some thai red and greens, larger greens for Indian food, and Hanoi market, along with various habaneros). Many years ago I found myself throwing away way too many frozen peppers at the beginning of the harvest time, so I weighed the peppers I froze for a few years, and how many I had left each year, and I took those amounts I had used, added 10%, and now that's what I freeze. Red Thai peppers can be dehydrated after a winter of freezing, and they are still good!

When fall comes, I start some hydroponics for basil and other herbs, but before that I used to grind basil and Thai basil up into a paste, and make pop-sicles out of them. One 4 oz. pop-sicle was just right for a batch of Thai curry that calls for a cup of basil, and when I wanted just a little basil in a tomato sauce, I would swirl one in the sauce until the flavor was right. But now, I just snip off what I want, even in the middle of winter! I also bring in my kaffir lime tree and curry leaf tree - two plants that are almost ready to go out, and both have a generous number of new growth areas on the stems.

Though I have never used them before, this season I am growing peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini in them, after I got a deal on them, and a seed trading friend in FL told me how good things grow in them (she HAS to use them, due to nematodes). I'll report on my experiences with them here. I am trying the zuke in them because SVB attack my squash no matter what I do, so I got a pathenocarpic variety, and I will totally enclose the box in fabric, to keep out the bugs...hopefully.

My peas came up very late this year, probably because of the cold ground. It's another 3-4 weeks before my beans go out - all pole beans, so I don't have to lean over much to harvest.

While it looks like I like to garden, it's really the eating that I like the most! LOL

what are your favorite DIY kitchen hacks?

I'm another who makes up boxes (size 16 shoeboxes are too big for me LOL) of like items, for using in the fridge, freezer, and elsewhere, to make it easier to find things. I have boxes in the freezer for nuts (and other baking items I freeze), SE Asian ingredients, and excess spices. I also made up three small boxes for spices specifically for when I'm making Indian foods - one for the mixes, one for the most used items, and another for things I don't use much, but I don't have to freeze to keep fresh.

For DIY'ers, that have some cabinet space wasted, here are some photos showing how I made up some shelves that slide out on drawer slides, to make use of the space back in the corners, way up high, and under the sink, where it is traditionally not east to access.

Culinary land mines

There aren't many things I abhor in foods, though I still will not eat anything with commercial mayo or miracle whip (my Mom was shocked when I began making it myself, back in the 70's!)...I must have gotten sick on it at one time. I couldn't really think of much that turns me off, until something in work today happened that reminded me - that flavor that a brownie, cake, cookie, or any other store-bought mix gives to a food, even if it is doctored up, by adding a bunch more chocolate or other flavors. The flavor is there the instant I bite into the food; I used to think it was artificial vanilla, but when artificial vanilla scored higher than natural in some baked goods years ago, I figured that it had to be another chemical used in just about everything. The only time I ever had something made with a mix that did not have this flavor was when a friend made some brownies with a Ghirardelli mix.

The things I dislike the most is when a dish is made WITHOUT an essential ingredient - cilantro in guacamole, lime leaves and Thai basil in Thai curries, the first two that come to mind.

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

When I bought my house (just over 30 years ago), I had already bought the range, and had to find a house it would fit into, with a kitchen large enough to hold the "toys" I had then, which has increased greatly. I started with a totally empty kitchen, and I was lucky - my Mom was great at designing kitchens (I always wondered how, since she didn't like to cook! LOL). I actually had to cut a wider door, to fit the range in, then put everything back together - fortunately, the range (a 5 ft long Wolf, with two ovens) will outlive me, so I'll never have to replace it. I have a 4' wide countertop that cuts the room in half, so to speak, and people can sit on one side of that, while I work on the other side (or put them to work!), and the range is on their left, and behind them, to the left of the entrance door, is a wall with all of my pots and pans hanging (well, maybe not ALL of them! LOL), so I don't have to dig through cupboards to get them, as in most kitchens. And another thing I figured out quickly - the best way to store large numbers of spices is not in a cupboard, but in a drawer, and label the tops, so I can look down on them to identify them. Again, much better than rooting around in a cupboard, to find one in 50 jars.

Not much has really changed, though I have made some improvements, using my woodworking shop (now there's something that has evolved greatly, through the years), such as adding full extension drawer slides (standard, now, in many cupboards, but not then), and a shelf on drawer slides, to go back into a blind cupboard by the sink, and another shelf on slides under the sink. And the cupboards going up to the ceiling were not very "reachable", even for me, at 6'6", so I added some shelves on drawer extensions, to make them useable.

One thing that has evolved is what is in my dining room - storage furniture! Besides the usual funiture for dishes, I also had to build a large one for holding liquor bottles, and two large bookcases for cookbooks (with another on its way). And to think I started out with just a 3 ft. shelf of those things!!! The kitchen hasn't changed much, but the dining room definitely has.

Substitution for Korean chili powder in Kimchee

That's a tough one, as the korean pepper, even though it is so mild (though when I grew it, it wasn't as mild as they say!), is closer to the hotter peppers, in color and flavor. Numex, ancho, pasilla, and cascabel all have that "dark pepper" flavor, almost mike being roasted w/o being roasted. So the heat would be closer, but not the flavor. If you could find some, Indian Kashmiri pepper is closer, but usually this is only available powdered. I got some whole ones from Kalustyan's, but I'm not sure if they still have them.

Cookie-Cutter Cookie Dough Recipe Suggestions

Of all the cookies I make, the only ones I roll out and cut to shape are shortbreads. They aren't rolled too thin, and I bake them a little less time than usually called for. They don't hold exact shapes, but you can't get a much more flavorful cookie.

Has anyone tried osmotolerant yeast?

I tried it, but found no improvement over the same brand of regular instant yeast. I thought that maybe it was for much sweeter dougb than what I made, which were moderately sweet loaf breads.

What's your favorite way to prepare cauliflower?

For many years I was always asked to make a cauloflower au gratin for family get-togethers, and even my uncle, who hated cauliflower, would eat it, and I had to make it, no matter what else was on the menu. It was simply steamed CF in a mornay sauce, made with gruyere cheese, and reheated in a fairly shallow gratin pan, so there was a lot of crust!

Here's a tip for making the right amount of sauce for this, and similar dishes: I put the cut up pieces of CF in the pan(s), then pour in water to just cover it, as I would the sauce, noting how much water it took to cover it. Then I add an extra cup to that amout, and make that much sauce. Works great, and I never run short, or have a bunch of extra sauce.

From the Archives: Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers Documentary

My garlic is coming up now - a sign of spring! I planted 123 cloves of 3 different varieties, and, from what I can see, only 2 are not coming up. Great percentage!

Also have shallots, in the remainder of the row - about 40 of those.

Food-related deal breakers when dating?

She has to like garlic, hot peppers, and chocolate (not necessarily in the same dish, though mole is fantastic) to ever be around me for any length of time. And be willing to TRY NEW THINGS! And, though I go through long periods of time eating only vegetables (mostly when all that stuff is coming out of my garden), when I want some Texas chili, there is no substitute! And going out to eat (at restaurants, that is) is not something I like to do, unless it's out of necessity (as on a trip).

Many women I have met seem to have been intimidated as soon as they stepped into my kitchen, and would not want to cook anything for me. That's OK, sort of, yet the best relationship I have had was with a lady who cooked simple, but delicious food, and was always trying new things, using me as her guinea pig! That took courage.

I have often said, only half jokingly, that any lady will have to realize that she is my second love - food is my first love. And this is probably why I am still living alone!

Worth the wait?

There are too many things to list here that I am willing to wait for, though many have been listed above.

Here's another, probably on the top of my list: BREAD. There is nothing like homemade bread, esp. sourdough, and taking shortcuts (including buying bread in a supermarket) just is not worth it.

Tamales...warning rant follows

I have always said that, while I love Mexican food, it is probably the most labor intensive cuisine of the ones I make, at least for making the best dishes, given all the work with the dried peppers, grinding up and frying the sauces, and making the various things with masa (ever make masa from scratch? LOL). Some of my favorite tamales have been those wrapped in banana leaves, which I get at the Asian market.

Crack that curry! But why?

I have found it faster to add some coconut oil to the 1/3c or so of milk I am cracking - does it faster, and has more oil to fry the paste in.

Anyone who has made Mexican dishes in which you "fry" the chile paste you make in the blender (not as thick as the curry paste, but it gets very thick by the end) knows how this intensifies the flavor. Rick Bayless stated that in his restaurants, since they can't fry these huge amounts of the chili paste up, he simply simmers it for several hours in large stockpots. It does the same for the Thai curry paste, though it is not fried for as long (usually 6-7 min. at med-high heat in a Mexican dish), or at as high a temp., probably because there are some things that would burn more easily in the curry paste.

Let's vent, shall we?

This thread is really good!! I see I'm not the only one with food pet pieves. What's really pathetic is when they do these kind of things and sell them, either in supermarkets or restaurants.

And if somebody is going to use one of those pre-mixed sauces (many Thai sauces, and Szechwan, vindaloo, creole, and many others we all see out there), label it with the brand name - don't try to pass it off as the real thing.

Sprouting chia seeds

It's now been 72 hrs. and most of the seeds have sprouts at least as long as the seed, and many are double the length. Yet looking at it, there has been little growth in mass, so to speak, as happens even sooner with most other seeds. And it's still all gelled up.

So why were you wanting to sprout these? Something about the nutrients increasing, as with beans? It obviously isn't to serve them on or with something!

Asian Vegetables in Non-Asian Dishes

Since much of what I grow is Asian, I use a lot of it in non-Asian dishes. Many of the greens may be substituted for broccoli rabe, and I have found some people that prefer some of the milder ones in place of rabe. I often use the greens from bok choy and similar vegetables, and use them in soups, while stir-frying the stalks, which can be done in some olive oil and garlic, or in butter, and maybe some caraway seeds, like what you would do with cabbage. And I have made countless slaws and other salads using many of the greens, like napa, mizuna, komatsuna, senposai, and others I have grown in the past. Shogoin in a combination of greens and a large, turnip-like vegetable that grows half in and half above ground, that is like a very mild turnip, and is delicious braised in butter. I have also grown wax melon, and used it in recipes I would use winter squash in, though that is mostly something I use in Asian recipes, as a rule. Then there are the herbs I have used and gotten others hooked on, such as Thai basil, which goes very well with many Italian dishes, given it's strong anise flavor, and lemongrass, with a similar flavor to lemon zest, but a more complex flavor.

I also use many of these greens in Asian dishes, but not where they are traditionally found. FI, I use many of those bok choy greens in place of spinach in Indian curries, in which the spinach is just a minor component. And I use the stalks a lot in Thai curries or stir-fries; even though these don't grow so much in those warmer areas, they still go well with the foods! And that's the way you have to look at them when thinking of other regions, as well.

Sprouting chia seeds

Now, almost 17 hrs later (after I checked them with the eye loupe) around 80% of those seeds have sprouted! I can see the little white specks on them with no magnification, but with my eye loupe, the sprouts are just showing up. And most of the water drains out of the tray overnight, despite being clogged - it just does it drop by drop.

Sprouting chia seeds

No luck here - the seeds clogged the drains in the flat sprouter. At first I could get the water to go out by just turning that white thing on top, but it is totally clogged now, after just over 48 hours. And no sign of sprouting yet

What greens are you growing this year?

And what kinds do you like to cook with the most?

I know a lot of you are past the greens, due to your heat, but I just uncovered mine, and will be harvesting some of them soon - leaf lettuce, bok choy, tatsoi, komatsuna, and senposai (a cross of cabbage and komatsuna). All these are cut and come again, and will keep coming, until they bolt. Kohlrabi isn't far behind, and the rest are flowering brassicas, so they will be about another month or more - cauliflowers, hon-tsai tai, and yu choy. Here is a slideshow of the uncovered greens:

Anyone have any favorites they grow in the spring? I have really gotten to like the komatsuna and senposai, since they are incredibly productive, mild in flavor, and last well into the summer here. I had senposai last into August, with many 90+ days, before bolting, and even after bolting, they are still good, unlike lettuce, and some other greens.

Science question for Kenji, regarding thickening with starches.

I've wondered about this for many years, and you're just the person that can answer this...I hope.

Why do all starches thin out, after thickening a liquid? They all vary, with potato starch being the worst, in my experience, thinning within minutes, while still hot, while wheat starch (not flour) seems to stay thick longer, and even re-heat some, though it will still be thinner. Arrowroot also thins out, and I've seen conflicting statements in CBs, one saying it reheats well, another saying it will have to be added again if reheated. Tapioca starch, which I use the most, is in between, as far as keeping its thickness. I made a soup in a friend's kitchen recently than brought this to mind again - CI's mushroom/wild rice soup, with corn starch (which I never use because of this), which had thinned out considerably by the time it had cooled, and after chilling overnight, it looked like it was made without thickener at all.

Is there a chemical(s) in mushrooms, meats, or other foods, that causes this thinning out? And why doesn't it do it with flour, which gets thicker as it cools, and you almost always have to add some liquid when reheating, or it is too thick! Is it more the non-starch compounds in flour that thicken things, and keep it that way? I realize that the actual starches from one plant to another vary, thus they behave differently, but they all do thin out, at least some, and it seems that mushrooms thin them out more than any other ingredient, in my experience (or maybe I just make more mushroom soup than the others).

Anybody know what this "special" offal is, in the Asian market?

I was in the Asian market the other day, and I saw the usual things in the meat aisle, including "pork uteri". Next to them, however, were "special pork uteri", a little larger, and priced a little more. First time I have seen this, in all the years I have been going there. The only thing I could think of is that these things are fertilized! I googled them, out of curiosity, but got nothing. Anybody know what these are?

Thai Foods

Have you ever eaten Thai foods? Hello, I'm Belle. I come from Thailand. I want to suggest many kind of Thai dishes to everybody. Nice to meet you all. :)... More