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How do you tell your mother-in-law her dinner parties/family dinners are not fun?

One big point that's not been addressed yet is what happens when the MIL and FIL are no longer hosting. In families where there's been a long-standing tradition to go to the grandparents' house for major holidays, the passing of that oldest generation can mean the end of family gatherings and traditions. I've read advice column letters about this, and saw it in my DH's family. Once his maternal grandparents passed away, that was the end of pretty much any kind of family holiday gathering for his side of the family. No one wanted to pick up the hosting mantle. Or, they just hadn't had any experience hosting a big gathering, and were reluctant to take the plunge. The adult grandchildren weren't as invested in going to an aunt or uncle's house. And so forth.

It's been important to me to have happy memories of my parents celebrating big holidays (T-day, Passover Seders, etc.) with us in our house. I didn't want to have the first Thanksgiving dinner at our house be one where everyone is primarily thinking that the only reason we were there instead of at Grandma and Grandpa's was because someone had died, or was seriously ill. And I want to establish our own traditions, so that my kids in turn will have traditions of their own. Not to mention that someday they will be encouraged to stage a palace coup and insist that it's time for me to pass the baton. :-)

Also, what is this business about "let the daughters and daughters-in-law do the heavy lifting--that is to say, all of the cooking."???? What about the sons and sons-in-law?

Nov 30, 2010
Kochav in Not About Food

Venue for 80th birthday party, Westside or East SFV, (slightly) kid-friendly

Who'd a thunk that yes, the carnivore heaven restaurants are the ones that sound the most attractive? I remember reading one of the original Fogo De Chao reviews back in 2005 and salivating over the salad bar description, so that sounds very enticing. The 'rents might like the idea of Lawry's. My parents and I have happily eaten at Campanile, but it feels a tad cramped and busy for this kind of gathering. Border Grill, maybe. Not sure.

I'll pass these on to the honorees and ask for their impressions, but more suggestions are very very welcome.

Nov 29, 2010
Kochav in Los Angeles Area

Venue for 80th birthday party, Westside or East SFV, (slightly) kid-friendly

My parents will be turning 80 soon, so we are planning on a joint Saturday evening party for about 30 people in February over President's Day weekend. The honorees live on the Westside, so I looked through the board archives and came up with Napa Valley Grille and the Westside Tavern.

The one fly in the ointment is that the group will include 18 month old twins and a 9 year old boy. My parents would feel more comfortable if we could be in a location that had a little space so that the younger ones had a little lebensraum, just some space for them to stretch out, toddle around, and have some toys away from busy waitstaff.

Does anyone have suggestions for a location that might fit the bill, either on the Westside or in the east San Fernando Valley (Sherman Oaks/Encino/Studio City)? We have a tentative budget of $3k though we can go higher. Another option would be to find a place where we can rent a room and have an outside caterer come in, though this might be prohibitively expensive on a holiday weekend. Still, any suggestions for a location along those lines would also be very welcome.

Handicapped accessibility is a must. We also need vegetarian options.

Thanks for any ideas.

Nov 29, 2010
Kochav in Los Angeles Area

Non-cranberry alternative to cranberry sauce?

Thanks CocoaNut. I never seem to print out the recipes, just come back here every year.

Nov 24, 2010
Kochav in Home Cooking

Matzo Brittle

Love the idea of adding fleur de sel.

I've always had an easy time finding kosher for Pesach extract at local supermarkets and kosher stores. Vanilla sugar wouldn't work, since the recipe calls for brown sugar. Or, just leave out the vanilla--the recipe I've used for over a decade doesn't call for it.

Mar 22, 2010
Kochav in Recipes

Unnatural parve desserts

yointle, it really does come out of the pan cleanly. However, I always serve it straight from the pan. It's a very moist cake, I don't glaze it, and I end up making it right before Shabbat rather than the night before, so it doesn't have time to cool much--all factors making me worry it wouldn't survive being removed from the pan in one piece, or not really caring about taking it out of the pan at all.

Mar 11, 2010
Kochav in Kosher

Non-cranberry alternative to cranberry sauce?

I checked back in just before T-day to get last year's recipes, and just saw lolua's cherry sauce. It was scrumptuous, and my non-cranberry-eating guest gave it big thumbs up. Thanks so much for posting this!

Nov 28, 2009
Kochav in Home Cooking

Shochet for hire in Los Angeles?

There's a free range poultry farm in LA where you can pick your own bird and then have one of the employees slaughter it for you. The farm is halal, which is close but no cigar to what I need. I'm hoping I could find a shochet for hire and arrange a shidduch. Does anyone know where I could find a shochet who would be willing to do this?

Thanks for any suggestions. If it makes any difference, we affiliate conservative.

Oct 26, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

chocolate covered frozen bananas

Adding a little vegetable oil to the melted chocolate chips makes it easier to work with. I cut the bananas in halves or even thirds, skewer them with sticks (either popsicle or lollipop sticks), and freeze them before dipping.

Jul 23, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Chocolate Coconut Sherbet

You can also search for kosher pareve bittersweet chocolate, which has no milk in it.

Jul 22, 2009
Kochav in Recipes

Sherman Oaks: is there any place worth crossing the hills for?

People (especially, but not only vegans) drive from all over LA to eat at Vin Loi Tofu in Reseda. I think a branch may be opening in Silverlake soon.

Second the Israeli recommendations, though wouldn't drive over the hill to go to Golan. Also agree with getting sushi on Ventura Blvd in Studio City.

El Katracho is a great Honduran place.

Call me shallow, but I adore Senor Fred's for the rich dessert hot chocolate with cookies.

Jun 29, 2009
Kochav in Los Angeles Area

Would you serve a seriously ugly cake to guests?

I'm still hoping to see the picture of the cake, silvergirl... :-)

Another solution that just came to mind is to get a pretty but possibly awful-tasting cake from a local store, light the candles on that one, and then tell people that it is indeed possible to eat your cake and have it, too. Then slice up the ugly but yummy cake, and tell people to look at the pretty cake while eating the delicious one. If you tell your MIL the whole story, she'll probably be even more touched that you went to the effort of getting her two cakes.

Many years ago, one of my children wanted a 3-d shaped animal cake. I had a book with directions on how to make all sorts of cakes shaped like elephants, dogs, t-rex, etc. Each cake was covered in rolled fondant icing. It was a fair bit of work, but my kid was delighted with the result. Unfortunately, overnight, the animal's head dropped off. I couldn't figure out a way to re-attach the head to the body. When I served the cake, I told the children some elaborate tale about how there was a battle between two different cake animals and this particular one was a little hurt, but still wanted to be at the party. I wonder if I scarred anyone for life.

Jun 23, 2009
Kochav in Not About Food

Kosher Catering L.A.

We recently did a Friday night buffet dinner using carryout from Sassi in Encino. We paid under $20 a head, and it was still way, way, way too much food. I should really know better, I eat there and I know what their portion sizes are like! This was a vegetarian meal, so possibly slightly less expensive than serving meat. If you are careful with the amounts you order, you could definitely do well.

Jun 22, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Roasted Red Pepper–Feta Dip

I've made a version of this for years using an old Bon Appetit recipe, and it's definitely a winner. That version uses less cheese and includes garlic sauteed in the olive oil and cayenne. It's got a real kick; I see that the epicurious version omits the cayenne. It's fairly runny right out of the blender, but thickens up with time, especially when chilled.

May 26, 2009
Kochav in Recipes

Kosher L'Pesach Margarine

From personal experience, I can say that it will still be good, quote unquote, for at least a couple of years.

I generally write myself notes every year at the end of pesach about what I already have in stock so I don't have to buy it next year, and what I overbought/underbought. I bought three blocks of margarine but only used two, so that goes in the notes. I'll use up the remainder making a huge batch of the matzo buttercrunch toffee to bring in to my (nonJewish) coworkers, who wait eagerly for it each year.

Apr 14, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Kosher L'Pesach Margarine

Not so bad. It's easy enough to divide up the blocks into sticks. Compared to last year, when my only option in Southern California was tub margarine, being able to find anything in a rectangular shape is sheer bliss! The first year of the klp margarine crisis, the only thing that saved me was my mother unearthing a mother's KLP package in the freezer from the previous year.

Apr 02, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Pesedik, easy birthday party for 3 year old

If people aren't fancy, how about a "make your own" matza pizza bar? Put out cookie sheets with matza, then have tomato sauce, cheeses, and cut up vegetables. Another option: grilled salmon, baked potatoes, salad or some other vegetable. Not exciting, but then pizza isn't too exciting, either. You might also try to convince your relatives to join those of us who have gone over to the kitniyot dark side :-)

You could make your own cupcakes from pesadik cake mixes to save some $$$, or, better yet, get a recipe for a good flourless chocolate cake. The best pesadik cake I ever made was a raspberry-chocolate marjolaine from Bon Appetit, layers of hazelnut meringue with a chocolate/raspberry ganache. Nontrivial effort, but the most amazingly rich and wonderful dessert ever.

Make sure that your daughter's bat mitzvah does NOT take place during Pesach! :-)

Mar 24, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Best Tasting Brand of Matzoh

We're also a Streits family. I'll give Yehuda a try, but it would be awfully hard to give up those pink boxes.

Who is it who does the bran matzah? Osem? That was the first box to disappear.

Mar 23, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Chicken Pot Pie recipe?

That sounds divine. Got a recipe? Searching on salmon pot pie turns up recipes that sound right, until I get to the clam juice.

Mar 12, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

mishloach manot themes

We did "Yes We Can". Contents:

Canada Dry beverage
Can of cannollini beans
Sweet-Spicy pecans (homemade)
Candy
hamentashen, of course (also homemade)

We also included pictures of things we couldn't or didn't include: canapes, canola oil, cantaloupe, cannabis, can-can dancers. Oh, and canadian bacon.

I'm wishing I had thought of the Stimulus package and the Birkat Hachama.

Mar 12, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Chicken Pot Pie recipe?

I've always made it with just a top "crust", not a bottom. Crust is in quote marks because I use a biscuit topping flavored with herbs, soy milk rather than the milk the recipe calls for. That gets dropped by spoonfuls on top of the filling. Since the filling isn't entirely covered, steam can escape and the biscuits don't get especially soggy on the bottom, just comfortingly melty.

Mar 12, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Chow Kids. Are you raising one?

I love this topic.

Two kids, same type of background (lots of home cooking, mostly vegetarian, farmer's market, variety of restaurants, cook's walk trips to local ethnic enclaves to eat our way up and down the street, lots of food ethics talk and politics), two slightly different results to date.

D1, 15, is the picky one by family standards, but not when compared to her peers. She's a baker, happiest with very specific directions in the kitchen, unhappy with approximations.

D2, 12, is definitely a chowkid. She's the one who picks out what we're getting at the cheesemonger's, the one who at age 9 turned to me after having truffled potatoes to say it was the best thing she'd ever had in her life (and who then saw the chef and went up to him to tell him how much she enjoyed her meal). We just had a tasting from the caterer we'll be using for D2's bat mitzvah, and D2 was raving about the contrast of textures and flavors in different dishes and quizzing the caterer about ingredients. She's the cook, happy to experiment and not hung up on exactitude.

Their peer group frightens me. Their friends come over for dinner and say that they are amazed about how good vegetables can taste, or how something I've made for dinner that I regard as rather utilitarian is one of the best things they've ever had to eat. And then there's my niece and nephew, 10 and 7, who are so picky that they needed to be bribed to try the (four) different pies I'd made for T-day dessert. The angels wept.

Mar 02, 2009
Kochav in Not About Food

Best kosher restaurant

Another vote for Tierra Sur. We first learned about it from a very positive LA Times review. When even the non-kosher world seeks out a kosher restaurant, you know you've really got something special.

Jan 27, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Is Smokin', well, smokin'?

"As an example, we're not really a good place to take a group which includes vegetarians (although given enough prior notice, we can generally whip something up for them)."

That's definitely a problem for us--we have one vegetarian in our family. Just saying!

Jan 27, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Is Smokin', well, smokin'?

Well, it's no Tierra Sur :) but then, few things are.

We've eaten there once, and were satisfied. It reminded us and our friend (who'd moved from the area to NYC) of Smokey Joe's in Teaneck--same brown paper covered table casual vibe, similar menu, though a smaller menu and smaller portion sizes (which we think is a positive).

Jan 26, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Los Angeles pizza places that do pasta?

Thanks, I'll look into Brami's--the Victory and Coldwater location would work well for us. We like Cafe Del Mar, but they don't seem to do a lot of pasta. I'll check back with them.

How many friends? A lot, far more than would fit in the kitchen. And it's girls and boys. And they'll be swimming, so we want them to stay outside as much as possible! We've done parties in the past where the guests are in the kitchen helping out, but in this case it would be a disaster!

Jan 13, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Los Angeles pizza places that do pasta?

My daughter would like to have a dairy pasta bar at the Sunday party for her friends following her bat mitzvah. We live in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, and will be hosting the event in our backyard. Daughter has been happy in the past with mom making large pots of pasta and providing a variety of sauce options, but that's not going to work for a larger group of kids. My husband suggested that our best bet is to look at kosher pizza places. Can anyone recommend any in the valley area that do a variety of pasta?

Jan 12, 2009
Kochav in Kosher

Vegetarian Restaurants

Margarita Cantina is in your general area. It's not vegetarian, but it does have veggie dishes that are reasonably priced. You then exceed your budget on the margaritas. The decor is a hoot.

Out of your area: Vinh Loi Tofu Factory in Reseda. Vegan vietnamese, tiny hole-in-the-wall. People drive across LA County to eat here.

Jan 12, 2009
Kochav in Los Angeles Area

To Box or not

Agree with Miss Needle's option of giving it to someone homeless.

givemecarbs' story about Neiman Marcus makes me realize how that urban legend about N-M charging an unsuspecting customer thousands of dollars for the N-M cookie recipe must have arisen.

Jan 07, 2009
Kochav in Not About Food

Hazon Food Conference

It wasn't a science experiment, it was dinner :-)

I remember how for IIRC Israel's 50th birthday there was a huge fancy dinner in Israel where outstanding chefs from around the world cooked for a special fundraiser multicourse meal. There was a public tv documentary about the meal and the preparations. I remember the chefs were incredulous about two things in particular: not being able to use butter and cream (it was a fleischig meal; the french chefs were particularly annoyed), and being asked to work with meat that had been drained of blood, soaked, and salted.

Jan 02, 2009
Kochav in Kosher