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Ramen "buffet" for smallish group?

I think I'd do a simple pork based broth, and one with a mushroom base, which will give lot of umami. Provide salt, soy sauce, and miso paste for custom seasoning of the broth (which covers the three main broth types) and some sesame oil.

For toppings - sliced hardboiled eggs, blanched leafy greens (like bok choi), chopped green onions, thinly sliced shitake mushrooms, enoki (straw) mushrooms, some kimchi, julienned ginger, and some nori (the roasted seaweed used in sushi).

I'd let guests flavour their broth, and then cook and add the noodles into it. You want to eat it right away, before the noodles soak up the broth and get soggy.

about 4 hours ago
tastesgoodwhatisit in Home Cooking

Peeling Salted Duck Eggs

I was recently taught how to handle salted duck eggs with zero fuss, unlike the painstaking and messy result of trying to peel them.

Tap the egg to crack it at the end where the air bubble is.

Slice in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.

Scoop out the egg with a small spoon.

It works beautifully.

about 4 hours ago
tastesgoodwhatisit in General Topics

Hello, I am looking for some recommendations for some store bought marinades,sauces, and pre mixed seasonings for chicken.

It's possible to find very good Thai curry pastes and Tom Yum soup paste. Look for ones where the ingredients look like a recipe rather than a chemical experiment.

For the curry pastes, you sautee a package of paste in some oil, add a can of coconut milk, and then your meat and vegetables - chicken and eggplant is classic, but you can improvise. Simmer, and serve over rice. Some fresh basil/lime juice and a bit of fish sauce is nice at the end.

For the Tom Yum paste, you can mix it with water or chicken stock as the basis of a soup.

about 4 hours ago
tastesgoodwhatisit in General Topics

Help needed with clumping seasoning

If it's not too clumped, take a fork or a chopstick and use it to stir/scrape the powder until you can shake some out (you may have to do this repeatedly).

If you can't scrape loose powder off the top with a fork, throw it out.

I get this problem regularly, as I live in a humid climate - garlic powder and paprika are a particular issue. I had to throw out two containers of not at all bargain garlic powder that had turned to a rock recently.

Heating in the oven will probably just make it harder. Rice/desiccants will help keep it from clumping in the first place, but once it's fused together, you have to break it apart. If you can crunch it into fine powder again, and *then* bake it or add desiccant it might help it from clumping again.

Moving a fridge full of food... HELP?!

Your BF's solution sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. The food will stay cold, no problem, but is going bounce around all over the place. And taping a fridge full of stuff into place is going to be more work than packing properly.

What I would do - low spoilage items like mustard, ketchup, hard cheese, pickles, olives etc. go in a box - half an hour in hot weather isn't going to hurt them. Vegetables and eggs will be fine in a box, too - I regularly buy both in an outdoor, 100+ F market.

The rest can go into coolers (borrow some from friends). Pack frozen stuff into a cooler as tightly as possible, put easily spoilable refrigerated stuff like mayonnaise and meat into another cooler with some ice packs on the bottom.

Kids and Allergies - long and a bit of a rant.

For small children (primary and younger) and anaphylactic reactions, I do think a case by case ban on the offending food in the classroom of the child is appropriate, if possible. Kids have to reach a certain age before they are able to self police.

I do not thing banning all potentially serious allergens completely in the schools is appropriate or practical. The list of top anaphylaxis causing foods is nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs and some preservatives - you can see the problems in a blanket ban on eggs and milk, for example.

For a twelve year old an an allergy that is not potentially fatal - the child is old enough to self police. The example list is ridiculous. It is also not possible to make the environment completely safe. You cannot police what people do outside of the school and you cannot inspect every single item that is brought in. Even with people who are trying, there can be honest mistakes. The egg ban will fail, for example, because eggs are an ingredient in so many foods, processed and otherwise.

I can sympathize with parents being overprotective. Having a kid who can die from eating the wrong snack is a horrible thing, and a possibility that is always there. I can empathize with someone who goes overboard a lot more than with a parent who going overboard about something relatively benign. There are also harmful adults - the ones that don't believe in allergies, or think the kid is lying, and will try to force the kid to eat unsafe food, which is hard for a child to stand up to.

But being too protective does a disservice to the kid. They need to learn how to manage their allergy on their own, from as young an age as possible. This includes learning not to swap lunch items, saying no even to yummy snacks, taking their own safe food when appropriate, inquiring about the contents of food, and how to use an epi-pen. Focussing on totally controlling the environment of the child instead leaves the child without the coping skills they need, and can give a false sense of security, if they've been restricted to safe environments when most places in the larger world have risks.

So in summary - it's appropriate to have bans on foods on a case by case basis in the classrooms of small children. Kids trained from as young an age as possible about understanding and managing their own allergies. General education about allergies and not sharing lunches, training for school personal in the use of epi-pens and the identification of the kids who might need them.

Not appropriate - attempts to 100% control the environment of an allergic child, banning foods related to allergies that do not cause anaphylaxis, bans on what people eat or do outside the school.

Signs of a NOT Authentic Chinese Restaurant

There's a dish I've had repeatedly in Taiwan that consists of breaded deep fried shrimp, pineapple, Asian mayonnaise and sprinkles.

Wheat/Dairy Free Wedding Guest Ettiquette

With a family member or close friend, I'd ask about the details of what they were serving - I'd know them well enough to know how they'd take the question, and they'd know me well enough to know I was asking for information, not fishing for special accommodation.

With a coworker I didn't know, I wouldn't ask, and I certainly wouldn't start offering suggestions about how they could give me the meal I want. I would have a snack before going, eat what I could at the meal, push what I couldn't around the plate, and take some discreet snacks in my purse if I needed them (a few granola bars, for example, or some dried fruit), which I could slip off and quickly eat if I were getting hungry.

I can understand why they didn't ask, because if they ask it's basically an offer to accommodate whatever people respond with, which can get unmanageable with multiple, conflicting requests.

For anyone with serious dietary restrictions, learning the art of moving stuff around the plate is essential, particularly at large events like this.

Zucchini bread: why?

The zucchini makes it nice and moist, and, as you said "I have a lot of garden zucchini here". I'd guess it was initially a variation on carrot cake, by someone who had too many zucchinis.

Cooked Green and Wax Beans -- Need Your Ideas!

My three favourite dressings for beans

- butter and fresh herbs
- fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
- Japanese roasted sesame dressing

Does it HAVE to be "pretty"?!?

I adore beet greens, so I'd probably have gone for the small bunches in season, and gotten two separate dishes out of it.

For me, I find it varies. Pretty is not necessary, but if it's something that's being sold cheap because it's starting to go off, then it depends on when I'll be able to cook it. Bruised apples are great for applesauce, but will rot before I work my way through a bag of them for eating.

Restaurants and 'Presold' dinners

I'd be wary about this sort of offered deal, for the reasons mentioned above.

From a basic financial perspective, it's a risk for the customer, much like buying a long term membership for a gym. The business sells a bunch of stuff in advance, which gives them an influx of cash. But they have to pay out over an extended period. If they've already spent the income from the pre-sales, they're risking not having enough money to run the business.

When it comes to trading services for extended-term goods like that, I'd also be wary. Are they paying in kind because they don't have the cash, and do I risk not getting paid because they go out of business.

Ideas for side dishes for Thanksgiving?

Carmelized onion tart with a sharp cheese would be a great side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Cookbooks or recipes for jaded, time-constrained mom

You might look more to Asian cuisines for variety.

One slowcooker recipe I love, that's definitely different, is Okinawan pork belly.

A couple of strips of pork belly
1 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dashi
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 green onions, whole
2 inch piece of ginger, thickly sliced (you don't need to peel).

Put everything in the slow cooker, add enough water to cover the meat, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. I finish it by cutting the pork into chopstick size pieces and removing the skin, and then cooking in a pan with some of the marinade to get a nice glaze.

Serve with steamed rice, a side of blanched green beans or spinach with roasted sesame dressing, and salad with a sesame and rice vinegar based dressing.

It's possible to get really good Thai curry pastes, which makes doing a curry very simple. Vegetables and meat of your choice, curry paste, coconut milk, and you've got a good one pot main course. Add steamed rice and a salad, and you've got a good meal.

A lot of Indian curries are well suited to being made ahead, either the night before, or when you have time, and then frozen for later.

sugar??

If you're subbing powdered for granulated, you'll need to weigh the sugar rather than using volume measurements, otherwise the amount can be very different.

For delicate baking - cakes, pastries - I wouldn't sub, because it could change the end result unpredictably. As others have said, in cookies it affects the crispy vs chewy texture. To sweeten a liquid where the sugar dissolves (like a cooked custard) you might change the flavour, but the recipe should work.

Subbing granulated for powdered usually *doesn't* work, because for recipes that call for powdered sugar, you'll usually end up with something very grainy. Think of the difference between icing made with icing sugar, and what you get when you beat butter and sugar for a cake. In a pinch, you can use a coffee grinder or food processor to make powdered sugar from white granulated.

Lard, Beautiful Lard!

I make my own. It's easier to find pig fat than prepared lard, so occasionally I buy some chunks of fat and render it down.

What do you mean by - 2 cups half-and-half?

In North America this refers to cream that is ~12% fat - it's often the standard for putting into coffee. If you don't have it where you are (which is quite possible, if you're in Europe or Asia) you can combine your local milk and cream to make an equivalent milk fat mixture.

Need Some Advice?

Honestly, if you've got dependents, and your spouse is not on board, you need to consider your family first. And quitting your job to go into chef-related work is *not* going to be good for your family. The pay is crappy, the hours erratic (if your kid is in school, you'll rarely see them), the benefits non existing, and it's hard physical labour. If your spouse is against it, it can easily destroy the marriage, because it's your spouse who is going to have to pick up the slack, both financially and with the home and kids.

That doesn't mean you're stuck with a job you hate forever, but it does mean you'll have to look in a different direction to find something that you don't hate doing, but keeps your and your family fed and housed.

Small town restaurant + Bad experience = Would you go back?

It depends on how much you want to go out.

If the only options for food are places that have mediocre food and/or bad service (and in small towns it's not hard to hit that threshold), then your choice is to try again, or to eat at home.

Ideas needed: beets for someone who hates beets

HOw about raw beet salad? Good, but tastes nothing like cooked beets.

Peel and grate, toss with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, toasted cumin seeds, salt and pepper. Better if it sits for a while before eating. You can mix carrot and beet if you want.

I've never been a *Quick* Cook

What I mean is that a lot of those cookbooks and blogs claiming "30 minute meals" are usually misrepresenting the amount of time it actually takes to produce the meal, particularly for a non-expert cook.

I agree that the modern work day and two job family makes efficient cooking a necessity if you want to eat home-cooked food. But a single cook getting a from scratch dinner on the table in 30 minutes from a standing start is not an easy task - it requires a fair amount of cooking skill and experience, a high degree of efficiency, and a fairly limited selection of foods.

Fascinating cooking tips and advice

For hard boiled eggs, this seems overly complicated. But you can make onsen tamago (hotspring eggs) in the oven, which is something that doesn't work very well in a pot.

You need to keep the water at a steady 65 C for about 45 minutes (not easy on the stove), and the end result is an egg with a solid but creamy yolk, and a white the texture of a delicate custard.

Fascinating cooking tips and advice

I freeze tomato paste very flat in a plastic freezer bag (about 1cm thick). That way, it's easy to break off just as much as I need as I'm cooking. I do the same with things like pesto or romesco sauce, so I can toss a little bit into a soup or a dressing.

I've never been a *Quick* Cook

The 30 minutes meal thing is way overblown, I agree. I can get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, from scratch and a standing start, but that's with years of cooking experience, and fairly specific types of preparations - grilled or pan fried meat or fish, rice or a simple pasta dish, salad, microwaved vegetables.

I find that a lot of the fast dinner cooking time estimates involved assume 1) you're making it with maximum efficiency - you know the recipe so well you can make it without thinking, 2) that this is the only dish you are making for dinner, and 3) you don't have to clean anything as you cook.

I would draw a distinction between being a fast cook, and being an efficient meal planner, though. Often we don't have the luxury of unlimited (or even reasonable) time between getting home and needing to eat. I do complicated time consuming stuff only on the weekends, because I want to eat before 10 pm, and we both work full time.

But fast cooking isn't the only solution - you can prep stuff in advance, have things in the freezer ready to add to a meal, use convenience foods that cut down on prep time, use a slow cooker, cook things the evening before or on the weekend, and so on. And the difference between 30 minutes and 60 minutes is a huge one in what foods you can do, even if you aren't cooking the whole hour.

If you were trying to impress, what would your dinner party menu look like?

I would move the emphasis away from fancy techniques, or really expensive ingredients, because you're not going to be able to top what they've eaten elsewhere.

I would go for something that emphasizes whatever is local and fresh where you are, and given the time of year, there should be good options.

For example, if I were in my home town, I'd go with fresh sockeye salmon, either grilled or, if I can get my hands on the right sized fish, stuffed and barbecued whole with my Dad's special stuffing recipe. Roasted new potatoes with butter and herbs, fresh butter lettuce salad with vinegar cream dressing, a salad of local, vine ripened tomatoes, roasted corn salad made with local sweet corn. A light, summery white wine or a good local pale ale to accompany it. For dessert, homemade wild blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream, coffee and tea.

rice cooker or crock pot or pressure cooker

It sounds like what would work best for you is a rice cooker with a steamer basket.

Lots of wild blackberries

Jam making is not too hard - for a first time jam maker I would recommend a thermometer, though, to take out some of the guess work.

Botulism is *not* generally a problem with jam - it's acidic enough that this isn't an issue (which is why you don't need a pressure canner). If jam goes off it tends to go mouldy. If you're making jam for room temperature storage you need a recipe that is at least 2/3 sugar by weight - lower sugar recipes need to be refrigerated.

A canning kit is probably not necessary. You need a large pot for the boiling, and I would recommend a thermometer (as above) and a jar lifter, because lifting boiling hot jars full of jam out of a pot of boiling water is kind of tricky. You can also look up freezer jam recipes, which are quite easy.

For other things - how about homemade blackberry liqueur?

music to chowhound by

Dinner Bell - They Might Be Giants
Green Eggs and Ham - Moxy Fruvous
Peaches Presidents of the United STates of America
Lollipop - Aqua
Carrot Juice is Murder, The Coffee Song - The Arrogant Worms
Peel Me a Grape - Diana Krall
The Spam Song - Monty Python
I Love Rocky Road, Lasagna, Taco Grande - Weird Al
Food, Glorious Food - Soundtrack of Oliver!
I Want Candy -various
Mashed Potato Time - Dee Dee Sharp
I LIke Bread and Butter - the Newbeats

Please help with (specific) ideas for frozen dinners?

For all of the below, you can add a simple vegetable on the side. Lightly parboil (broccoli, green beans, snow peas, peas, baby corn, etc) or roast (carrots, beets, cauliflower, etc), season (butter, or garlic butter, or a bit of lemon juice and herbs, or sesame oil, or a soy sauce) and freeze in the container next to the meat and starch. Undercook the blanched vegetables slightly, so they don't go mushy.

For meat + starch...

Chicken cooked with tomatoes, onions and mushrooms, tossed with a chunky pasta (cook the pasta al dente or it will turn to mush in the freezer).

Cooked filet served with double baked potatoes.

Chicken with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, served over rice.

Fillet served with mushroom sauce and served over mashed potatoes.

Grilled chicken served with spanish rice.

Fillet cooked with cumin and garlic and a bit of lime juice, served over fried rice and beans.

Chicken stew with tomatoes, corn, onion, beans, cilantro, lime juice and rice.

Filet served over roast root vegetables and potatoes, seasoned with herbs and garlic.

Use for mashed avocado (besides guacamole)

Soup!

Avocado, chicken stock, a tiny bit of garlic, lime juice, pureed and served cold.