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littlemissmuffin's Profile

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Rustic garden party ideas needed

For a garden party, I would definitely do something veggielicious! Maybe small squares of carrot cake or zucchini bread topped with a dab of cream cheese? Focaccia topped with oven dried tomatoes and basil leaves? For drinks, lemonade, iced tea with mint, beer and wine should provide something for everyone. At a baby shower I attended, they put berries in ice cubes into the lemonade and it was very pretty, and would be an easy nice touch for your event.

It will be exciting to hear what others bring - keep us posted!

Stretching food with beans

Mix refried black beans into hamburger or ground turkey for tacos, burritos, nachos or to make hamburgers. I use one can per pound, but you could use dried to save much more money and up the bean amount. I stole this idea from a friend with a big family who always uses beans to stretch hamburger - she also likes that the beans make the taco filling stick together so it is less messy with little ones.

Black beans are great in rice bowls too, with lots of fresh veggies on top. We also like corn and black beans sauteed together with some diced red pepper and onion, then topped with chicken strips.

Eating out with people who don't enjoy food

When I think of the people I know who don't enjoy food, I see them in three categories:
1. Really picky people, who have so many things they won't eat that it hijacks the meal - you have to let them pick a restaurant, listen to them quiz the waiter abut what is in foods, and often have them criticize your food choice. One of my former best friends was this person, and the funny thing was that while she had a list a mile long of what she didn't like, she loved to eat out! But she made the experience less than pleasurable for the people she ate with, because she would veto every restaurant suggestion until you finally said, Fine we'll go wherever you want, and then she would control what you ordered- she would eat lobster herself but hated the smell of other fish so no one could order it, she couldn't stand it if anyone ordered something with a bone, the sight of over easy eggs made her gag, etc. Sometimes I miss our friendship but I certainly do not miss her psycho-food antics.
2. People with narrow food experience - they like what they like, and like it a lot, but won't try anything new. The people I know like this usually like burgers, Italian, and steak, and love Applebee's type places. A woman I work with is like this, and we have lunch together once or twice a week, I let her choose where we go and she almost always orders the same thing - salad with no dressing, hamburger well done with heated tomato and bun(?) but she does not care what I eat, so she does not ruin the experience in any way. It is just not as enjoyable as going with a more adventurous friend who tried new places and likes to share tastes.
3. People who just really do not care anything about food. This was my mother-in-law. She was a terrible cook, hated to cook, never cared anything about eating, and didn't understand why anyone else would put any time or money into it. For her food was like gasoline for a car - you have to have it to keep going, but you wait until it's convenient or you're almost on empty to fill up. I remember at a 4th of July party her husband making her a sandwich and saying, "You have to eat, you haven't eaten all day," and she was so irritated with him for wasting her time!

Overall, I think the reason I don't enjoy eating with people who don't enjoy food is that their food issues also show up in other issues. My ex-best friend was controlling and selfish about everything, not just food, my work friend is narrow-minded and intolerant of new ideas about politics, religion, child-rearing, etc in addition to food, and my mother-in-law was a woman who hated taking care of people and being tied down, and for her food = the drudgery of being a wife and mother. But people who do enjoy food are usually are people who enjoy life and new experiences and are sharing in other ways. Maybe that is an over-simplification, but it holds true for most of my dining companions.

Cooking cheap and healthy with gifted food

The jalapeno cheese bread would be great in a Tex-Mex strata, with the green pepper, onion, tomato, cheese and a few eggs. Maybe some sweet potato home fries on the side, spiced with cumin and a little cinnamon. I would use some of the apples to make fried apples and onions to go with the pork chops. Chopped salad, cheese and avocado pita, or use the pita to make pizza with the tomato and cheese and any vegetable you like.

Which cuisines are you into and not into *right* now?

I have been eating Korean as often as possible lately - Saturday I even chose Korean over sushi, and sushi is the #2 love of my life, right after my daughter but well before my husband! (He is ok with it since the feeling is mutual - he would take some nice toro over me any day)

I have been off Mexican food for the past few months, and I have no idea why. There are a few really good little Mexican reastaurants near my workplace that serve such great, fresh, authentic food - and so cheap! My co-worker and I used to go at least once and often twice a week, and I would pick up takeout often too, but lately it just doesn't appeal to me.

Help with planning a meal around Anne Burrell's turnip gratin, please.

I love turnips and duck, so that would be my first choice - either roasted with a wine sauce, or Julia Child's mustard-and-crumbed,and you could make salmon with the same topping. Red meat like steak or short ribs sounds delicious too!

I would not lighten the recipe the first time I made it. I would make it just like the recipe says and enjoy it, then maybe experiment next time. In fact, I plan to try the gratin recipe this weekend too!

Quick Simple Asian

We do a lot of meals that have Asian flavors, and while none are authentic in any way we enjoy them!

The easiest is a piece of grilled fish or chicken brushed with a sauce like teriyaki, peanut sauce, sesame honey soy blend, etc, served with stir fried broccoli or cabbage and rice from the rice cooker. Since my husband prefers read meat sometimes we do this meal with steak with soy sauce mixed with a little butter (I said it was not authentic, remember!)

You can make curry with anything with jarred curry paste and a can of coconut milk. Just add meat and some vegetables - my favorite is chicken and spinach in green curry. So easy!

Our version of peanut noodles are almost as easy - boil soba, udon or even spaghetti, add sauteed chicken or shrimp and whatever vegetables are on hand (we usually add red pepper, broccoli, shredded carrot, mushroom) and bottled peanut sauce, a little sesame oil, a shake of red pepper and ginger...just doctor to your tastes.

My daughter makes rice bowls often and they are the easiest of all - just make some rice, put in a bowl and layer in whatever you feel like! Most of the time ours are sushi-centric and include nori and wasabi with raw fish if we just went to the butcher or seared if not, or a "Calafornia roll" style with crab, avocado, cucumber. Sometimes she does Korean with seared beef, kimchi, some chopped fresh veg and herbs and a soft egg, and of course gochugang. She really enjoys assembling these, we love eating them because they are so tasty, and I like a night off from cooking.

Overall I think all you need to do to cook with Asian flavors is have a bunch of various condiments and use them in your everyday cooking.

What's for Dinner #342- The Return of the Polar Vortex Edition! [through Jan. 10, 2015]

Thank you! We have gochujang, my daughter uses it when she makes bibimbap and noodle bowls, so I know she will enjoy this. Can't wait to try it!

Jan 09, 2015
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner #342- The Return of the Polar Vortex Edition! [through Jan. 10, 2015]

I would love to try this over the weekend - could you give me details on the paste? Pork steak is very inexpensive where I live, and my husband loves it fried and smothered, but I don't make it that often because my daughter doesn't usually like pork. She would love this though!

Jan 09, 2015
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

please critique my menu

What a delicious menu! I am going to use some of these in an upcoming party I am having. For something fresh in the fall, my sister makes Sweet Potato Salsa and I believe the recipe is from Martha Stewart. It is really good - the sweet potatoes are baked (I think)but still crunchy, and it tastes very fresh from the avocado and cilantro. Also, I have made apple salsa a few times to put on pork chops or grilled chicken and it might be a nice addition with crackers. Here is the recipe:

Oct 30, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

4 cheeses, 4 courses

I loved "Pushing Daisies" and remember that pie! I generally do not care for fruit pie but pear with gruyere sounded so delicious. Thank you for posting the link - I am going to give it a try.

Oct 18, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

"I Don't Cook"

I know many many people who don't cook. Several of my single friends never cook, and the only food they have at home is cereal and Diet Coke. And when I was single I didn't cook - I ate out or microwaved Lean Cuisines. So to me that does not seem strange. It's a lifestyle choice, and only affects the person who made the choice.

What always surprises me is families where no no one cooks. So many of my daughter's friends are amazed that I cook everyday, and say, 'My mom doesn't cook" or "My parents can't cook." I want to know - what do they eat???? How are these children surviving - on school lunches and Pop Tarts? I have tried to subtly pry to find out the answer: "So, what do you usually have for dinner at your house?" And the answer is usually pizza, whether takeout, frozen, or just pizza rolls that the kids microwave themselves.

And then there is my daughter's boyfriends family - they eat out every night. Mom, dad, son, daughter, and often grandma, aunts, and assorted cousins will join them. The boyfriend told me that since his mom and dad work they don't have time to cook dinner. But they have time to drive 45 minutes one way to get to a restaurant! By the time they order and eat, that's about 2.5 hours - much longer than it would take to make spaghetti or grill chops and toss a salad.

"I Don't Cook"

My father loved his Ensure! This was a man who had been fed delicious, hearty home cooking for 80+ years, first by his mother, then for 50 years by his wife, then after he was widowed by his 4 daughters. But in the last 5 years of his life he was ill and on many medications and lost his appetite, and many foods made him sick. So he began drinking Ensure, and he thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread! A triumph of science, all the nutrition and calories you can hold in one little can.

I know many older people who drink Ensure due to digestion/health reasons. I don't think drinking it has anything to do with not liking to cook - after all, a package of baloney and loaf of bread is just as easy and much cheaper.

Leftover smoked bbq pork loin

I love that idea! We have the bags of Asian Salad frequently, and I usually serve with grilled glazed salmon or thin pork chops, but we do get bored with it sometimes. Next time I am going to follow your lead and add the pork into the salad!

Aug 26, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

Picky eaters are the bane of my existence...and now I live with them

I think that is the perfect way to deal with it. It lets her be in control(very important to a 15 year old!), and makes meal time about togetherness rather than the food. We had a similar issue a few years ago with a foster child who was super-picky and had control and food issues. At her group home there were constant quarrels about food and she would steal food, hide food, gorge on snacks, refuse to eat at meals, etc. They responded by locking up all the food and requiring her to eat what everyone else ate, and it just increased her problems. When she stayed with us they wanted us to be very strict and lock our pantry and make her eat the family meal, but I took the exact opposite approach: Here's the food, eat what you want, this is what is for dinner, if you don't like it make a sandwich and join us at the table, if you're not hungry at least sit and talk with us. The first few days she was touchy and suspicious at meal time, then when she realized it was a non-issue she was fine and often just ate what we were all having.

Cheap Beef Meals

When I make tacos I frequently add mashed black beans to the meat. It blends in nicely and adds a smoky flavor. As an added plus, it makes the meat thicker and it sticks together better on the taco - less messy!

Aug 19, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

When you were starting out in the kitchen what did you make?

My mother was a good cook, but she cooked plain farm food - meat and potatoes, beans and cornbread, vegetables she canned, lots of baking from scratch. I learned to cook all those things at a young age, but when I left home for college I did not cook again until I got married.

Then when I started cooking on my own, at age 25, I made the exact opposite kind of food, and because it wasn't something I had ever learned to make, it wasn't very good. For example, I made a lot of pasta (which we never had at my parents - my dad considered it "foreign food") but I always either over or under cooked it, and never seasoned my pasta water, and frequently burned my sauce. I couldn't cook rice either, somehow it was mushy but undercooked at the same time. I made London broil in Italian dressing, and I cooked it to death. I bought a fancy spice box at a pretentious gourmet grocery and proceeded to put cumin and tarragon in things that cumin and tarragon were never intended to be in. And I remember I made "impossible pie" all the time, because my husband liked it and the Bisquick box had a bunch of different ones on it. I quit making that when I tried the recipe for taco impossible pie and microwaved the hamburger, forgot to drain it, then mixed with taco sauce and baked and when I served it we couldn't decide if the disgusting pink juice in the pan was blood or taco sauce!

Soon after that I became a Martha Stewart fan (it was the 90's!) and bought one of her cookbooks and it was a revelation for me. My mother had never used a cookbook and while I owned some, I had primarily just read the ingredient lists then winged it. I realized there were rules to cooking, and once I learned them my cooking improved greatly. Then I started watching Food Network (on maternity leave) and at that time, they actually taught cooking, so I am now a MUCH better cook. I still cook very different food than my mom, much lighter and lots of ethnic food, but I do occasionally make some of her dishes and enjoy them.

what can i use to "raise" food off the ground on a picnic. Like a cake plate but not breakabe

A metal washtub. You can pack everything in it, it has handles on either side so two people can pack it between them, then you flip it, cover with a tablecloth and have a table! I do this often because the tub fits right in my trunk.

So annoyed with dinner guest

I am so sorry this is happening to you! I can understand how you feel - in fact I know people just like him, unfortunately. I think people who always complain about the food others fix or the restaurants others chose fall into two camps:
1, People who use food as a way to be in control. They usually have special diets or allergies of are just ridiculously picky, and they preface every meal with "I hope it's not..." or "I don't eat that," etc.
2. People who are immature. They act like a spoiled 5 year old, and cannot reason that this is not their last meal so it doesn't have to be their favorite food, and have not been taught it's rude to criticize a meal someone has specially prepared.
One of my best friends falls into both categories, and eating with her is hell on earth. She makes faces when food is served, says things like, "That looks like an autopsy" when someone orders rare meat, picks things apart on her plate looking for offending ingredients, will say, "This is disgusting" when tasting something a friend has cooked, etc. One of our other friends gets furious when this friend pulls her shenanigans, but I just shrug and ignore it. It's her issue, not mine, and I am not going to let it ruin my good time and good meal!

What's your summer guilty pleasure?

That. Sounds. Amazing. Lemon Meringue is my favorite dessert ever. Is Turkey Hill Farms a commercial brand, or an ice cream shop?

Do you cook when you're down?

I don't cook, but I sure eat! Last week I was tired, had a sinus headache, worried about various things, and I ate a bag of cheesy puffs and half a roll of cookie dough for dinner. And the other half for breakfast.

Bloomington Indiana Trip Report – Vegetarian

I always find it funny that a restaurant named "Farm" serves so few vegetables - their menu, especially the entrees, are very meat-heavy. You are lucky the service was good - it can be downright awful at times. Regulars just accepted that Farm had great food, terrible waitstaff, but I think they are trying to get a better reputation for service now. Breakfast is where they really shine.

I agree with all your other observations: Laughing Planet has great burritos and ditzy staff, Scholar's is over-rated, ALL the Indian food in town is bland, and everyone is friendly. I will not comment on Mother Bear's, it is a Bloomington tradition!

Next time you're here try Finch's, they usually have or will make vegetarian options and Jeff Finch is an amazing chef.

Mar 21, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Great Lakes

What's in your slow cooker today

I made the Moroccan Chicken using the Campbell's slow cooker packet and it was okay, but I will probably not make it again. I used frozen boneless skinless thighs and the meat had a good texture, but the sauce was bland and very thin. I don't know if the frozen meat released so much liquid it watered it down? Even if it had been thicker I don't think I would have liked it - to me "Morrocan" means lots of spices, a little sweetness, some heat, and this had none of that.

Feb 05, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

Apparently it is World Nutella Day

The easiest Nutella recipe ever: 1 cup Nutella, 1 cup flour, 1 egg. Mix (it is dry so I squish it with my hands.) Make into small balls and bake at 350 til set but still gooey in the middle. Mmmmmm!

(My sister flattens her cookie balls and bakes til crispy, and they are good too, but I like melty better)

Feb 05, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

What's in your slow cooker today

I have used a few of the Campbell's slow cooker packets - my sister is a big couponer and got some cheap but her husband is super-picky so she gave them to me.So far I've tried the Korean beef and the luau.

I like that you don't have to brown the meat, yet when it is done there is a nice crispy-ish crust. I think this is because there is a lot of sugar that creates the browning - and I mean a LOT of sugar. The luau was sickeningly sweet to me, but the Korean beef was not bad.

My daughter loved the Korean beef so I have made it three more times. After the first time I added extra spices (ginger, chile, garlic) and some soy sauce to cut down the sweetness. I use chuck roast and the first night we have it with rice and crispy broccoli, then the leftovers become Korean tacos.

I have the Moroccan chicken one I plan to use this week and I will report on how it is.

Jan 18, 2014
littlemissmuffin in Home Cooking

Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #13 - 01/08/14 (Spoilers)

But Carlos is faring better than Nick, or at least just as well. Carlos and Nick have both had 2 Elimination wins, but Carlos has been in the top group 5 times and the bottom group twice, while Nick has been in the top group only 2 times and the bottom group 4 times. And Carlos may have not known what etouffee was, and thus been in the bottom 4, but Nicholas knew what it was and was in the bottom too.

Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #13 - 01/08/14 (Spoilers)

But it might not have been the concept of the dish but the execution that was flawed. I mean, it sounded wack to me, but what do I know?

I believe if Chef Crenn recommended using the corn silk, then it can be done and done successfully. (I bet Richard Blaid could do it!) Nick did not do it well, and Stephanie expressed her concern - and he rudely brushed her opinions aside. He chose to put it on the plate.

Also, the chicken was dry and the chocolate sauce bad, and the flan grainy. I am not a chef or even very skilled home cook, but I can make moist chicken, a good chocolate adobe sauce and a smooth flan. Those are execution errors, plain and simple.

Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #13 - 01/08/14 (Spoilers)

I also am irritated by the comments about Carlos' Mexican cooking. A real chef has a style, and as a Mexican chef with a Mexican restaurant, yes, Carlos puts a Mexican spin on his dishes. They are certainly not all classic Mexican (which they easily could be - Mexican cuisine has a huge range) but even if they were, so what? No one would be bothered by a chef using classic French technique and flavors in every challenge.

NYTimes: 103-year-old dines out every night on fish says, "It’s my therapy, it lifts my spirits.”

How funny - I have done the opposite. I used to salivate over couture, now I just ogle charcuterie.

Do you have trouble eating when you are home alone?

Since I am NEVER home alone I can't answer for certain, but in my imagination, if I could get the house to myself I would do nothing but eat! Cheese, chocolate, repeat - all day long.

But sometimes I am hungry and nothing sounds good, and lately at times like that I have been having pita/garlicky hummus/olives. I like the tanginess and acidity.