I'm Italian, so an obsession with cooking is akin to breathing. New recipes, tips and tricks discussions, and help with cracking some tough culinary problems are always welcomed!

  • Location: Queens, NY
  • Favorite foods: Anything my mom cooks, sushi, anything grilled, things made at home that are usually purchased pre-made, peanut butter, VEGGIES, yogurt/sour cream, anything cooked FOR me!
  • Last bite on earth: possibly my grandparents' secret recipe chocolate cake

a little help pls?

I second the milkshake or smoothie idea (especially banana & peach, with fresh peaches). Also nice for making your own tapioca or rice pudding - just cut the sugar in the recipe a little, depending on your sweet tooth. Or really, just over some plain cereal (multigrain Puffins is a fave) is so good too, or a great addition to some homemade hot chocolate.

@Meat Guy and Pavlov - how about I drink a quart of cow's milk and the three of us hang out? Maybe you guys will change your tone a little. What's with the posting purely with intent to criticize?

Lactose alternatives are a lifesaver for many people (not to mention, some are delicious, have better nutritional value than cow's milk, and actually work a little better in recipes). Seriously though, my invite stands.

San Francisco: What to do and see on a college budget?

If you're all drinking age, there's a sake factory in Berkeley, easily reachable by bus. It's free admission to the tasting room and museum, and $5 for your choice of a 5-course tasting with an excellently knowledgable employee. For as much sake as we drink, it was the first time we really were educated about it, and ended up liking the sake so much that we bought some (super inexpensive) great sake to take home. Takara Sake

The Avedon/O'Keefe/Adams exhibits at MoMA were awesome, $9 student general admission + $5 for both exhibits.

Another favorite spot is the Elbo Room on Valencia, with an essentially $3 happy hour every day until 9 and a decent selection of arcade games!

A lip smacking pizza experience

Do they serve...SPAM?

This is why I'm quitting my job.

Yeah, the potlucks at my job consist of people mostly bringing in weird, half-assed attempts, then shunning anyone who doesn't want to participate. For the "healthy dishes" potluck today, I ate my short-grained brown rice risotto with summer vegetables in a serving for one, at my desk.

I'm trying the 21-day challenge

My family is Italian American, so when I found out I needed to follow a gluten-free diet, my worst fear was what to tell my do you live life without bread and pasta, one wonders?

Actually, it's been awesome. Like this clip from Ratatoullie, about 30 seconds in, where he tries good food for the first time and his tastebuds start to dance, that's actually somewhat how it's been. It's not that I ate badly before, by any means, but when life gets hectic, it's easier to grab and chew without a second thought.

I don't know you, but for me, it was a chance to try a whole new approach to cooking and baking, and to experiment with foods and ingredients I didn't even know existed. Not to mention the whole new-lease-on-life physical benefit.

If you don't have a rice cooker, get one. Even a cheap one (mine was $13). There are more types of rice than you can count, and they all taste different and have different potential. Also, I heartily echo quinoa - I was a serious couscous eater before, and this has been the seamless replacement. And, pssst, you don't have to eat "breakfast foods" for breakfast...leftover cold sushi rice with some steamed veggies and/or tofu is awesome for breakfast.

Find yourself a good local organic/healthfood store, or a couple if you can. The staff at my local staple stores have been tremendously helpful. If you live in/near nyc I can make some recs.

My absolute favorite sites are these: g-f Girl and g-f Goddess, for positively excellent recipes and tips. At first I found them a little product driven, but now I understand that when you have any kind of diet restriction, you hold on tight to a good replacement product when you find one. The multigrain sandwich bread recipe on the second site is so incredibly delicious, and it means that you don't have to cut sandwiches out of the diet if only for convenience purposes.

Restaurants are still the real challenge for me. My brother-in-law, who is brutally celiac, recently had a terrible experience at the "International House of Wheat Cross-Contamination" as he calls it. The best plan of attack is, if you must go to a restaurant, know the menu beforehand and make your choices before even stepping inside. Especially considering this is only a limited-time thing for you, it shouldn't be too serious. I sometimes eat at home, then order a salad or some vegan app.

I could ramble forever, but those are my main points. Approach it as a fun experiment to try some new recipes, and you'll be all set. You may shock yourself, as did I, and find you don't miss the other foods at all.

Cook the Book: Easy Gluten-Free Baking

Karina Allrich's Multigrain Sandwich Bread. It made me forget about wheat flour forever and was the first significant baked good that really helped me to transition to a gluten-free diet. Well, is it really a "diet" if I can eat a half a loaf of this bread over a day? Hmmmm....

Ideas for business? What would you like to see more of?

Before I read your list, I was going to say gluten-free options, especially breads. It can be challenging since they tend to dry out so quickly, but as I learned about the diet, I was shocked (SHOCKED) at how horrible the commercially prepared loaves are in comparison to a homemade/handmade equivalent.

Cupcakes/cakes/wedding is a great angle, absolutely. But everyday things would be awesome too. I like my own, homemade bread, but it would be fun to be able to choose interesting options prepared by someone else, especially at the holidays, like cornbreads, ciabatta loaves, english muffins, rolls, etc.

Gluten Free flours: oh my god, there's SO many!

Instead of messing with the individual flours (unless the recipe specifically says they're required) I used Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free mix. Pamela's baking and pancake flour works well, too. My local grocery carries a ton of options, but I believe they can be ordered online.

These work well for pretty much everything in combo with the right amount of xanthan gum - yeast breads, quick breads, desserts, etc.

Brown rice risotto!

You're on to it too! I like fresh asparagus also, loading it with fresh veggies, then stirring in some good grated parmesan right at the end. The time is well worth it.

What does everyone use as the liquid? I'm a fan of Kitchen Basics veg. stock (umm, broth).

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

Zucchini in quiche is awesome. If I have too much leftover from a purchase and cannot use it soon, I slice lengthwise in half then quarters, then thinly slice and freeze in portions for a quiche/fritata/omlette at a later date.

Cherry etiquette?

I'm not a fan of putting the whole cherry in my mouth and fishing out the pit anyway, so my typical method is to bite off half, grab the pit, eat the other half. This is slightly more graceful than it sounds.

I need a happy, healthly food project

At the risk of sounding a little "let's give to get," is there anyone you know who could benefit from some extra meals or edible pick-me-ups? Without sinking a whole bunch of money into it, of course. Elderly people? Someone who's sick? New baby?

When I have a little extra time, it always makes me feel great to feed other people, especially when they're in a pinch for any number of reasons.

Another idea would be to pick up a few items you've never heard of before or never have cooked with, and figure out what to do with them. Sometimes it turns out great, sometimes scary, but it's usually pretty fun and educational.

And I second cooking through a cookbook, preferably one that has a variety of foods (salads, entrees, desserts, soups) so that you can make a meal. Don't forget to check the library for cookbooks before buying a new one!

A Tour of NYC Italian Ice

Um hellooooo, La Guli in Ditmars! The "trek" to qns would be worth it, for water ice (lemon, spumoni, pom are the best) or delicious gelato.

Farmer's Market Prices, why so much cheaper in Italy?

Yeah, from my experience, the farmers need to subsidize their costs and make it worth the effort of hauling things into the city. It's still generally cheaper than local grocery stores in Manhattan (Queens is a different story), but even if it was more expensive, people would generally rather support a "local" farm than a super corp or large importer/distributor.

All of that said, I once saw bundles of twigs sold at the Union Square greenmarket for $15 a pop. So.

"101 Salads for the Season"

"101 Salads for the Season"

I think there was a little bit of a stretch to reach 101...perhaps finding the 25 best would have been advisable. to share the recipe, or is it a locked-drawer type?

I love _____ but I'm allergic to it!

Strawberries. I don't use emoticons typically, but this is a huge :((((

What is appealing about beer?

Maybe start with a fruit beer, like lindeman's or an apricot ale. Once I started liking those, I could appreciate the way other beer compliments certain foods incredibly well (cheese-heavy pizza, german food, and definitely sushi. Got to have my Sapporo with sushi).

What ingredients do you use for cleaning?

Vinegar/baking soda combo to clean EVERYTHING, including ring-around-the-toilet bowl (with a few squirts of an old lemon, to add a nice scent). Also for regular drain maintenance in the kitchen/bath sinks and tub. Vinegar diluted with water in an old spray bottle makes great, cheap glass cleaner. I use free and clear dish detergent, and keeping a few slices of lemon and a splash of vinegar in the basin while washing keeps the dishes streak-free and smelling nice.

The Bottom of the Bag: Stale junk/snack foods remnant uses?

Leftover plain crackers or even cornflakes, smashed up, make awesome breading for baked chicken and pork.

Paying for someone else's party?

Yeah, especially since you had no say in planning the event, asking for money is completely tacky. Then again, how much would you spend on bringing food and a good bottle(s) of alcohol to a party? If it really bothers you, I'd stay decline the invite and have your friend over for dinner or take them out for a drink to celebrate instead.

A friend once had a sit-down, three-course birthday celebration at a swanky restaurant for his girlfriend, also a friend. Some people offered money, which he accepted, but he didn't ask for it. I found that fine, since people would have spent at least $20-30 dollars to bring food or alcohol to a smaller gathering anyway.

I eat ______ out of the tin/jar/bottle...

Garbanzos. Pickles, though I rarely buy jarred anymore. Peanut butter. Pumpkin butter.

Vegan plus Gluten-Free Diet

Mexican food is also her friend. Tortillas are corn-based, and the good ones have few other ingredients. Black or kidney bean tacos with chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, and corn mixed in, topped with the soy equivalent of sour cream and some avocado slices/cilantro would be a satisfying meal.

I also recently saw a simple meal of marinated, grilled tofu kebabs over seasoned brown rice that looked delicious.

Dips and corn chips are also great - hummus, guacamole, salsa.

It's kind of you to support your friend like this - my bro-in-law has a similar diet requirement, and after a couple of years, he's still having a bit of a tough time adjusting. I think, rather than always trying to find fake equivalents of the foods he used to eat, it's been more helpful to focus on the whole foods he can safely eat, and learn to prepare them in new ways rather than eating salad and mashed potatoes for days on end.

how much would you pay for a pot pie?

Is your market mostly singles/young couples, or families? If families, then I would make the pies a tiny bit larger (enough for 4 comfortable servings) and charge at least $14ish (if a family of 4 serves it with a side salad, they could get away with spending $4/person for the meal, which is a great price point). Maybe consider offering a single serving size (5" round, $5) and a family size? See if there's a clearly better seller.

Also, work the advertising. Don't just list the ingredients, but name the source (farm, dairy, etc) where they're from. Have detailed ingredient lists available for allergy/dietary purposes, too.

Greek Yogurt - Recommendations?

Chobani! Love it, but it must be on sale for me to buy it. Great texture, not insane on the sugar content.

Gluten-free baked goods/snacks and beer in NYC?

Looking for your suggestions of good places to find both fresh, gluten-free baked goods/snacks and beer. Bonus points if you keep a gluten-free diet due to health concerns, so you can verify that the establishment(s) are careful with their baking methods.

My bro-in-law is a sensitive celiac. With the 4th coming up but not much time between now and then, I'd like to buy some delicious food and beers for him so he doesn't have to spend another holiday drooling over things he can't eat.

Preferably Manhattan and Queens, but any suggestions are greatly appreciated! Price isn't too much of an issue, so long as the place doesn't exclusively offer $50 gold-leafed brownies or something like that.

What's Your Favorite 'Vegetarian' Dish?

It can include milk/eggs, but no meat, chicken, or fish.

In my house, we're trying to be more creative without using meat. Organic stuff is outrageously expensive in the neighborhood, and the cheaper chicken breasts the size of basketballs just do not seem right.

Recipes/prep descriptions are helpful! Thanks!

I WON A KITCHEN AID. Now, what do I do with it?

It's true. I entered a silly magazine mini-essay contest, and won a 5 qt Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I have wanted my whole life but am to cheap to ever buy. It's coming with three pasta attachements, and a ravioli attachment.

Now, what do you do with yours? What would you probably never bother to make without it? What is this magical appliance essential for?

Links/recipes will earn bonus points!

Great dessert to bring to work?

My officemates alternate bringing in desserts, especially during the holiday season. What's a tasty, impressive dessert that's not too fussy to travel from home to work, and feed a group?

Anything - cookies, bars, pie, etc. Lemon bars, cheesecake, and pumpkin bars have been done already.

Also, no nuts! (allergies)


How do YOU quiche?

Whether it's what you put in your homemade quiche, what your bff puts in his/hers, or that restaurant or grocery you go to simply for the quiche...what do you like? Fillings? Crust? Topping? On the side?

My default homemade quiche has onions, garlic, spinach, and mozz/cheddar cheese. Some new inspiration would be nice, however exotic or not.

What is the most vile dish you have ever created?

Maybe it was a recipe printing error, your preparation mistake, or just a downright disgusting combination that didn't seem so until you made it. Tell me!

I ask because last night, in an attempt to try a new, quick recipe, I made something even my most open-minded taste-tester refused after a bite. It was a simple sauteeing of red cabbage and onions with some balsamic vinegar, s&p, and corn. It was gross! And smelled bad! I needed white vinegar just to get the smell out of the pan. Never again.

What do YOU do with apples?

It's that lovely time of year again when apples in my neighborhood actually come from somewhere nearby, and the price drops below $1/pound. It's hard to resist those 5lb sacks.

But when making one more apple pie might push you over the edge, what do you do with your in-season apples of choice?

Help me pack my lunch, please - a Super Challenge.

I am in desperate need of easy ideas for lunches for me + bf, but this is a special challenge. We work full-time days and are full-time students at night, so:

1) No fuss! I get home at 11pm, and get up for work at 7am.
2) Travels somewhat well - especially smashed under a 1500 page textbook in my book bag.
3) Reasonable cost - it must justify taking the time to pack lunch instead of buying.
4) This can include a meal I make on Sundays to portion out for the week, but it has to be something that keeps well and fits in a TINY fridge.
5) I live in Queens, so I have access to all possible produce/goods. Go light on the meat, though.

I am INCREDIBLY tired of pasta salad and PBJs, and I don't cook dinners anymore, so no tasty leftovers from the night before.


What's your go-to dinner for one?

I am so sorry that my boyfriend has a cold, but it means that while I'm busy stuffing him full of comfort foods and hot tea, I can whip up strange yet delightful concoctions of food that I might not prepare for the both of us.

My body was craving nutrition last night so I made a bowl of sliced red beets, fresh spinach sauteed in garlic and butter, and some garbanzos in a serving for one.

Since most recipies are built for multiple servings, what do you put together when you want something a little simpler? What's your default dinner for yourself?

How to Cope with the NYC Rental Kitchen?

Your wisdom is greatly requested, SEers!

I've lived (rented) in the NYC for a decade now but have struck it relatively lucky with decent kitchens/appliances for most of that time. Until now. Tomorrow I am moving into a beautiful, cheap apartment close to the train in a great neighborhood, top floor, sun-drenched, you name it. Then there's the kitchen.

It's not the size of the kitchen that perplexes me so much as the My-First-Appliances -- easily the smallest refrigerator and stove I have ever seen. The stove is the 20" Summit model with no hood and one rack, and I am losing sleep over wondering if I can fit a standard size cookie sheet in and close the oven door at the same time.

In this particular neighborhood, and given my desperate need to move and compromise with my boyfriend, it would have been silly to pass up an apartment like this. But since it is a rental and I can't really purchase new major appliances, I'm going to have to reach into the depths of my creative self to cope.

Have you had a similar compromise to make? How did you deal? What gadgets helped? What's your sage advice?

What side dish to serve with lamb?

I'm making a simple recipe for lamb shoulders - a rub of curry powder, s&p, browned, then baked for a few minutes.

In the past, I've prepared it with a side of smashed peas (peas, shallots, mint, lemon juice, etc), but I'm looking for something new and easy.

What do you eat with your lamb?

Help keep my bread fresh!

So about last November, I swore off commercially produced bread and started only making my own, suspicious of ingredients and in an effort to be more thrifty. It's been wonderful -- the smell of fresh bread baking is incentive enough. I make mostly bread for lunch sandwiches, a combo of wheat and white bread flour, agave nectar, olive oil, water, yeast, and salt. I usually enhance it with some ground flaxseed and vital gluten.

However, I've had a tricky problem. The reason I avoid store-bought bread is primarily because of preservatives, but darn, they do serve a purpose. I store my bread in a plastic Zip-loc bag once cooled, and it only seems to last for a couple of days, max.

Has anyone had any luck keeping bread fresh longer? A storage contraption or method that is exceptionally air-tight? A secret (natural) ingredient that gives you a few extra days with your lovingly made loaf?

Breadmaking Secrets

So I've recently become obsessed with baking my own bread -- I've been store-bought-free for three weeks. Naturally, there is still a lot of experimenting going on with types, flours, and those little tips and tricks of the trade.

What are your tricks and pieces of advice? And also, what's the best way to kick up the fiber content?

Help Me Eat My Way Through Germany!

I will need so much exercise after all the meats and beers. However, if you have any favorite spots in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Nuremberg, or Salzburg (Austria), let me know so I can at least have a game plan.


Menu Planning Challenge...Impressive, yet Kid-Friendly Dessert!

This weekend I'll be visiting the fam. As has become the custom, I'll cook lunch on Sunday for three adults and four children, ages 6-17, who are somewhat picky eaters. On the menu are fancy grilled chicken burgers with all the fixings, roasted yam fries (some russet fries for the pickies) and a veggie/salad.

My challenge is a tasty, not-too-calorie-laden dessert that will wow the adults and satisfy the kids' palate, that also matches the "Burgers and Fries" theme. Any ideas?

There Will Be Pesto...

For days, and days, and days. I went overboard, thanks to a bunch of beautiful, fresh basil the size of Daniel Plainview's ego.

But what to do with it now? What do YOU brilliant and culinarily gifted people do with your pesto? What other manifestations do your large bunches of basil take? Bonus points for creativity and flourish!

Bread maker recommendations?

Tired of paying $4/loaf for organic sandwich bread, I'd like to invest in a bread machine. I've never used one before, and there are so many on the market that I don't even know where to begin.

I would use it for loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread, and occasionally some fruit/nut breads. Preferably something on the fast side, not too bulky, and does not easily overheat.

What do you use? Is there one that fits these specs? Thanks!

Shortcut Secrets...

What are your secret (or, not so secret) shortcuts in cooking? Do you do everything from scratch except for that one little trick? What is it?

Mine is Annie Chun's Pad Thai experimentation of my own with the million different possible ingredients has ever made home cooked pad thai taste so good.

I know you have them!

Calling All At-Home Sushi Experts...

Please tell me where and what you buy to make your sushi at home, and share your secret tricks. Fresh fish? Nori? Good crab stick? Rice tricks? Rolling technique? Special rolls? Veggie rolls?

My only attempt involved cheap ingredients that produced edible, nicely-rolled maki, but certainly not something I'd serve to guests, or even bother making again instead of ordering out. The nori was too chewy and salty, the crab stick was funky, and I had trouble perfecting the rice without a rice cooker.

S.O.S, people...Save Our Sushi!

Challenge: Dinner Party for Picky Eaters

So I am in the spirit to host a dinner party for 8-10 to beat the winter blahs. However, this particular group of people has an extremely varied palate - some vegetarians, some fish allergies, some gourmet foodies, and some generally fussy eaters.

If presented with this challenge, what would your menu look like? Bonus points for creativity and flourish!

Good (basic) cooking classes in NYC?

For the holidays, I'd like to surprise my boyfriend with a comprehensive cooking class for beginners/intermediate skills (he can boil water...but wants more practice in the kitchen). Any suggestions in the NYC area (Manhattan and Brooklyn preferred).


Ever been to brunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon?

I'd like to take my boyfriend to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons NYC for Sunday brunch. For some reason, I've had an impossible time finding anything about brunch there online--pricing, variety, whether it's worth it, etc. Have you been there and/or can report on the experience? Do you know where I can find a menu or listing online? Thanks!

Easy, tasty, healthy chicken recipes?

My boyfriend and I don't eat red meat, and I am allergic to most seafood. For some serious protein, this leaves us with chicken. What is your favorite (easy, healthy) way to prepare boneless/skinless chicken?

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