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What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

I par nuke potatoes for a number of purposes:
1. Whole, in their jackets, before baking them in the oven when we want to eat in less than 1 hour
2. Cut into large chunks, before coating them in seasoned olive oil and finishing on the grill
3. Sliced and already layered in a casserole before adding cheese sauce and baking for scalloped potatoes.

about 12 hours ago
masha in Home Cooking

Eat-In Tax?

In Maryland, at least in the 70s, the distinction was between the "restaurant tax" -- which applied to customers who ate their meals on site -- and a lesser or possibly no tax for carryout, because carryout was treated as subject to the same tax as food purchases at grocery stores. (Have not lived in MD in years but recall that , at least in the 70s, there was no tax on food bought at grocery stores in MD).

I worked at a Gino's in Baltimore during the early 70s and recall clearly that there were always a few cheapskate customers who would state that their order was "to go," and then would eat it there so as to avoid the tax on eating-in.

Jan 23, 2015
masha in Not About Food

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

I am glad you were not offended by the correction. Given the on-going thread on Site Talk about "sticklers" posting on HC, I did consider not raising the subject as it might have been perceived as a know-it-all post.

I also reworded my original draft of the post, which referred to "oleo" and "margarine" as alternate SHORTENED versions of oleomargarine -- ugh, an awful, unintended pun that I only noted after I wrote it out.

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

You've triggered a thought about an even more egregious, non-foodie short-cut: I typically use packaged tortilla chips, rather than making the tortilla strips from scratch, when I make chicken tortilla soup.

Jan 23, 2015
masha in Home Cooking
1

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

Oleo is margarine. It used to be called "oleomargarine" and both "oleo" and "margarine" became common alternate. short-forms for it.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margarine

When I was growing up, my mother always called it oleo, but that term seems to have fallen out of use.

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

1. I almost invariably use Swanson's fat-free broth, rather than home-made chicken broth or stock in most recipes.

2. Virtually always substitute yellow onions in recipes calling for leeks or shallots.

3. My go-to marinade for quick grilled chicken is bottled Italian dressing -- typically Ken's Tuscan.

4. Use Progresso Italian bread crumbs instead of home-made in a lot of dishes.

5. I still make certain recipes, inherited from my mother, where the key ingredient is condensed Campbell soup.

Steamer ideas?

+1 on a collapsible steamer but beware that there are a lot of junky ones that are worthless. I bought this one at Sur la Table a couple of years ago, http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO..., and it works great. (Replaced a steamer from BBB that fell apart in mere weeks.

)

It is big enough to fill the bottom of a 12" diameter pot or pan -- that's how we steam asparagus, lying flat in a covered skillet -- so you could place it in the bottom of a stock pot or Dutch oven if you need a relatively a deep, wide pot for the food you are steaming.

Jan 20, 2015
masha in Cookware

Ramen

I've not ventured beyond Slurping Turtle, but find their tonkatsu quite good (and a bargain compared to other restaurants in River North).

Jan 20, 2015
masha in Chicago Area

What do you serve for drinks at dinner parties?

I agree. It's not as costly as wine (or even mineral water). I see no reason not to offer it to my guests, if it's their drink of choice, any more than I begrudge them a sweet white wine like Pinot Grigio or gin, even though I don't touch the stuff.

Jan 18, 2015
masha in Not About Food

Pat peeves as a guest at a dinner party?

Context is everything. Here, in Chicago, it is fully understood that, in the winter when it is snowing, guests will remove their shoes (actually boots) at the door and mingle in their stocking feet. If you personally prefer to wear shoes in that context, then you bring a dry pair with you to switch into but I cannot recall the last time when a guest did so at our place.

Jan 18, 2015
masha in Not About Food
1

What do you serve for drinks at dinner parties?

During the seated dinner party, we typically offer wine, tap water, and fizzy water; also always have diet soda and orange juice on hand for the underaged and non-alcoholic drinkers. And, if the party involved a significant number of children, I would typically also buy some sugared soda and apple juice. For a more casual dinner, like a barbecue, we also offer beer.

Jan 18, 2015
masha in Not About Food

How do we feel about microwaving cheese to bring it to room temperature?

I've never used the MW to take the chill off of cheese but I regularly use it, on the defrost setting, for a minimal amount of time, when I've neglected to remove items from the fridge earlier:
1. to soften butter that is too hard to spread (place a pat of butter on a plate and zap for 10 seconds);
2. to bring lemons or limes to room temperature so they yield more juice (about 30 secs.)
3. to liquefy oil that has congealed in homemade vinaigrette (about 30 seconds, placing the cruet of dressing in the MW, and opening the lid); and
4. yes, to take the chill off of red wine -- but only for personal consumption of wine remaining in a partial bottle opened earlier (poured into a mw-safe glass and zapped about 15 seconds). Would never do this for a high quality red that was just opened.
By the same token, I' am not appalled at the idea of briefly zapping cheese of middling quality on low for personal consumption.

Jan 18, 2015
masha in Cheese

Master Shopping List

We always have canned tuna on hand and usually canned clams and anchovies also.

Jan 17, 2015
masha in General Topics
1

Master Shopping List

This is our low-tech approach too. During the week, as we deplete our supplies, we write down what we need on a pad kept in a drawer in the kitchen. In addition, on Saturday morning, I walk through the kitchen, opening every cabinet, the fridge, and freezer to determine what else we need, and add it to the list. I have a very standard list, maintained mentally, of what shelf-stable, refrigerated, and frozen items are staples that we try to always have on hand; I don't need to consult a typed list, especially as each is stored in a particular place in the cabinets, fridge, or freezer so it is pretty obvious when we are out or low.

What is the best SS sauce pan 11/2 to 2 QT Question

I've owned the Cuisinart 2 qt saucepan for about 10 years and am quite satisfied with it, although I have no idea how it compares in materials and construction to what is currently on the market. In terms of appearance it is identical to the product linked here:http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-719-1....

The lid makes a tight seal so it works well in cooking rice, which is one of our principal uses for it, in addition to cooking small quantities of vegetables or to reheat soups or sauces (ETA: also to make cheese sauce). In fact, it is probably one of the "workhorse" pieces of cookware in our kitchen; I bet we use it 5 days out of every 7 in a week.

I cannot imagine spending more than $100 for a 1-2 qt saucepan.

Edited to Add: My Cuisinart 2 qt has a reasonably thick bottom, conducts heat well, and the handle, although metal, does not get hot.

Jan 15, 2015
masha in Cookware

Quick Simple Asian

Asian style stir fry with noodles. I posted the recipe recently on a thread relating to leftover pork, linked here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1000...

Jan 14, 2015
masha in Home Cooking

When do you plan dinner?

Actually, it's pretty unusual that I make a new recipe during the week, as the goal is to get dinner on the table within 45 minutes. New recipes are usually reserved for weekends. But I'd remembered that I'd saved some sort of simple recipe for salmon on the NYT Cooking app and was tired of broiling and pan frying, so I checked the app and discovered that it would also use the mushrooms too. I did not really need a recipe on how to make a 'srhoom sauce with white wine -- it was more the cooking technique for the salmon that was of interest. Meal prep was definitely slower last night than usual because I kept having to refer back to the recipe.

Jan 14, 2015
masha in General Topics

Home Cooks - How do you minimize food waste?

True enough. I live in Chicago, in a drafty house that we heat at 68 degrees during the day when we are there, and 60 degrees during weekdays when we work and overnight. The kitchen is probably a few degrees colder except when we are running the oven. So, except for heat spells in the summer, leaving the fruit on the counter doesn't promote spoilage (at least, not any more spoilage than refrigerating and forgetting it).

Jan 14, 2015
masha in Home Cooking

Is It Just Me...

Any chance that it's a phishing scheme from a counterfeit W-S site to get you to place the order and divulge credit card info?

Jan 14, 2015
masha in Not About Food

Unglazed ham

Glad it worked (and thanks for reporting back).

Jan 14, 2015
masha in Home Cooking

Home Cooks - How do you minimize food waste?

I try to leave pieces of whole fruit in a bowl on the counter, unless it is something that absolutely needs to be refrigerated. It's much more likely to be consumed if you see it when you walk into the kitchen, rather than if it's stored in one of the bins in the fridge. As to cut-up fruits, I store them in transparent containers on shelves to make it more likely that we remember them. And, because we generally take our lunch to work (see down-thread), we are typically foraging on the shelves in the morning, see the cut-up fruit, and take some in a container for lunch.

Jan 14, 2015
masha in Home Cooking

When do you plan dinner?

No meal-planning for the week. My husband and I both work outside the home, so weekday meal planning comes in 2 parts: (a) Before we leave for work, we typically take some sort of meat, poultry, or fish out of the freezer for dinner that evening. Occasionally, the morning discussion may also include a discussion of how that meat/poultry/fish will be prepared but not usually.(b) In the evening, on the way home in the car (we commute together) we confer on which one of us is going to cook, and may discuss the actual menu. Often, however, it's not until we've gotten home that the designated cook decides exactly what is on the menu. Dinner is typically on the table within 1 hour or less from walking in the door.

I describe the process as "Chopped" without the weird ingredients. For example, before we left yesterday morning, we took out some salmon fillets for dinner. On the way home, we agreed that I was cooking but no further discussion was had on the menu, beyond the fact that we'd have salad as our "green" side, as we did not have much else in the fridge in terms of vegetables. Typically I would have either broiled or pan-seared the salmon but I was tired of those preparations and I knew we had some aging mushrooms that needed to be used. When I got home, I checked my "Recipe" file on the NYT Cooking App for ideas on using both the salmon and mushrooms, and found a very easy recipe for roasted salmon (really steamed in the oven), topped with a sauce featuring sautéed mushrooms -- bonus points as the recipe called for some white wine and we had an open bottle leftover from NYE that I wanted to use as well. I also decided pretty quickly to make rice pilaf as our "starch" side -- based on what ingredients we had on hand, that it would complement the fish, and that it needed minimal attention at the end, when I'd be busy preparing the sauce.

Home Cooks - How do you minimize food waste?

Yes to Rubbermaid containers. They are sturdy, transparent, and come in all sizes. I try to use the smallest container necessary, both because food keeps better if there is not a lot of air and to maximize storage space in the fridge. And, we use them a lot for transporting our lunches given, as noted downthread, that is how we use up most of our leftovers. Again, because they are bpa-free, Rubbermaid containers are safely microwaved, making them the perfect vessel for transporting leftover soups, stews, curries, etc. for lunch at work.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Home Cooking

People who bring their own food

Just to correct my own post, I realize that the girl in question must be about 13 or 14. OP describes her as a young teen. I was thinking that OP was 13, but she's obviously aged (haven't we all?) since she first started posting on this Board. But my view is the same; the girl may have issues that go beyond picky eating and bad manners. We will never know. Regardless, the OP should just suck it up and, when this girl must be included, try to plan events that don't involve food.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Not About Food

Home Cooks - How do you minimize food waste?

My husband and I both bring our lunches to work most days, which uses up a lot of leftovers.

I don't meal plan but I shop only once a week, and then we cook using the ingredients on hand. I have a fairly standard list of foods that we keep on hand -- not just in terms of pantry staples, but also vegetables, meats, etc -- and we cook dinners based on those ingredients. With the exception of meats (i.e., "proteins" -- so fish and poultry too) to be consumed the day that I shop or the next, they all go into the freezer as soon as purchased, in portions appropriate for one meal, and then are defrosted the day we plan to use them. We try to use up the most perishable vegetables first, saving the least perishable for later in the week -- so for example, I typically buy a head of red leaf lettuce that we use in the beginning of the week and a head of romaine for later; asparagus gets consumed earlier than cabbage.

In addition to eating up left-overs as lunches, we try to repurpose them for dinner before they go bad. So leftover red sauce from spaghetti and meatballs, is used in meat loaf; leftover rice into fried rice, etc. Leftovers that are not likely to be eaten within a week go into the freezer immediately.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Home Cooking
1

Coppervine Report

Thanks, Chicgail. Having read your review and looked at the menu, I tend to doubt that we will try Coppervine. Not much into "small plates," and the menu is very limited with respect to "large plates." We just prefer a more traditional meal of appetizer, entrée (and dessert if there is room), perhaps sharing a bite or 2 with each other, but otherwise each consuming what we ordered ourselves.

But I am sure there are many readers of the Board who may find Coppervine's approach appealing, and hope that they will work the kinks out once they are more established.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Chicago Area

Is Chowhound dead?

I agree that demand for $$$-$$$$ restaurants is waning, based on the number of closures and "re-concepting" of highend restaurants here in Chicago. Not clear to me if this is a question of what diners can afford or changes in lifestyles. My anecdotal observations are that people are eating out as much as ever, but have shifted to more casual, less expensive restos.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Site Talk

Is Chowhound dead?

When we became empty nesters, we actually started cooking at home more because our schedule became so much more flexible. No sports practices and games to work around; no need to get dinner on the table by a set time so that there would be time after dinner for homework.

Jan 13, 2015
masha in Site Talk

People who bring their own food

Most 11 year olds (not yet a "teen") are old enough and mature enough to be left home alone for a few hours. But we really don't know the facts here. At the risk of reprising the Maltese Falcon thread, she may have other problems that make it inappropriate to leave her home alone. I've had friends with teens in this situation because of emotional/mental health issues, and believe me, the parents have enough on their plate dealing with their daughter without being lectured from near-strangers that their daughter lacks social skills. I assure you, they already know it.

As many have said, it's not the OP's place to say anything. Just grin and bear it, and try to find non-food activities when this girl must be included.

Jan 12, 2015
masha in Not About Food
1

Is Chowhound dead?

It's really hard to generalize from personal, anecdotal data. I've not looked at your profile, so I don't know much about you personally. But, aside from the economics, shifts in patterns of home-cooking vs. eating out can be influenced by changes in family situation, age, job demands, other household changes or factors -- e.g., the decision to start saving disposable income for a down payment on a home. And, if most of your friends are of the same generational cohort as you, you may perceive a similar shift in their habits, which just reflects a common denominator among all of you, rather than a more generalized shift in the population as a whole.

Jan 12, 2015
masha in Site Talk