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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.

Best wording to offer chef services as a gift to bride & groom

I agree that it's better to either give it as a full gift - you pay for the food and the services - or give something else entirely. No matter how you word it, it's going to come off as very strange.

eggplant?

I'd bread and fry it first, and freeze it after cooking, and then heat it up in the oven.

If you want to freeze it before frying, blanch the eggplant slices before breading. You have to blanch vegetables before freezing, or they'll go bad in the freezer (blanching deactivates various enzymes, and stops the ripening process).

Wine in MArinara Sauce

You could add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar instead of the wine.

Freezing cauliflower

That's my understanding too - enzymes, not bacteria. If the enzymes are still active, the vegetables may continue to ripen in the freezer.

Clarified butter or ghee

Yes - the salt ends up with the milk solids - salt is not soluble in pure fat.

I do use unsalted butter because I like to eat the toasted milk solids afterwards, and the ones produced by salted butter are too salty.

No carb snacks for child

How are chickpeas as far as carbs go? Roasted chickpeas make a nice snack, and homemade can be quite cheap (cook dried chickpeas, then roast in a low oven tossed with a bit of oil and spices of your choice until crispy).

Pickles, and pickled stuff - lots of flavour there.

Beef jerky, pepperoni sticks.

Celery sticks filled with peanut butter.

What about vegetable sticks with some yoghurt based dip - you can do tatziki style dip, or spicy Indian (mix yoghurt and Indian lime pickle), or spinach dip, or lemon and herb. If beans are okay, I like refried beans thinned out with a bit of water as a dip, or homemade black bean dip (with lime juice, cilantro and garlic).

For granola bars, you're probably better off making your own, so you can control the contents - stick to nuts, seeds and shredded coconut, and maybe use peanut butter to help them stick together (normally, it's the sugar that does this).

do you cook with hot tap water?

I don't.

I have a Brita filter on the tap, and you're not supposed to run hot water through that. I don't trust the pipes inside the apartment all that much, but we do have an on demand gas water heater (standard here).

I use the unfiltered water for washing stuff, but the filtered for tea/coffee/pasta/rice etc.

Welcome Home Dinner

Based on my experiences travelling, lots and lots of vegetables. Nothing cheesy, or heavy on dairy, nothing deep fried, no heavy pasta and sauce dishes.

Given that's it's summer, I might go with grilled salmon with lemon butter, a fresh tomato salad, a salad of new lettuce with a homemade vinegar and cream dressing, grilled corn salsa, and maybe some good bread on the side. Lots of sparkling water or lemonade. Fresh fruit for dessert.

Everything except the salmon can be made ahead, and the salmon is fast.

Personally, I'd be tempted to do sauteed squid with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with good french bread to mop up the juices, but that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Jam and ?

Honey and chevre is a lovely combination.

Chipotle is going seatless...

There's one near work that's just a takeout window. The kitchen is upstairs, and there's a clever conveyer belt-like thing that delivers the filled bags to the cashier.

Aug 02, 2014
tastesgoodwhatisit in Chains

What would be in your perfect picnic basket?

Really good bread. A chunk of oka cheese, a chunk of limburger, and some sliced Bruce Packer's summer sausage. A bit of cream cheese, and my dad's homemade smoked salmon. Sliced onion for the limburger. Some spiced olives, pickled onions, pickled peperoncinos, dilled green beans. A tomato salad made with perfectly ripe local tomatoes. Some fresh, local fruit - maybe peaches, or cherries. A bottle or two of a nice, moderately hoppy beer, and some black cherry soda water for rehydration.

And, to make it perfect, a large bag of chili-lime Spitz sunflower seeds, some more beer, a good book, and a picnic blanket for afterwards.

other 1 pan dinner ideas?

Chicken breasts or thighs (skinless, but bone in is fine), mushrooms, a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, some seasonings, any other vegetables you like. Mix, and bake until the chicken is tender. Stick in some potatoes to bake, and you've got a complete meal.

For a non-casserole but easy oven meal, shove in some not-so-big potatoes to bake. Then take bone in, skin on chicken pieces, and season with cumin, paprika, garlic powder and salt, and put them in on a baking sheet. Finally, cut some tomatoes in half, season with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them in to bake. If you time it right, it's all done at the same time - meat, vegetable and starch. I've also baked the chicken over cut up potatoes tossed in olive oil, and/or whole mushrooms and chunks of onion.

A faster one is fish in papillon - a piece of fish topped with some vegetables (shitake, a bit of green onion, sliced carrots, etc), wrapped in parchment paper or foil and cooked in the oven. Good served over rice.

Lay's Potato Chips' New Flavors -- Seen or Tried Them?

I've had wasabi flavoured chips before - seaweed wasabi is a very nice combination. But the versions I've had were generally not at all subtle!

Possible Double Standard Regarding Dietary Needs/Preferences

I think there are a number of reasons.

One is cultural mingling. In the past, people were more likely to stick to their own group, so a non-Kosher person having a Kosher person over for dinner wouldn't be very likely.

Another is a combination of a genuine rise in allergies and an increase in the diagnoses of allergies and sensitivities. Plus, increased visibility leading some people to self diagnose sensitivities.

A third is the rise of stringent 'personal' diets - ie, dietary choices that are individual rather than cultural, often health or ethically based - vegetarian, organic/free range food only, carb free, low glycemic index, paleo, raw foods, gluten free, and so on.

An finally, I think there is definitely a cultural shift towards the accommodation of personal choice over conforming to cultural norms (or refusing to inconvenience people.) So in the past, where someone would either choke it down or be discreet about avoiding it and eat before or after, now they email the host with a list of requirements.

Dried Mushrooms, OMG!!

Squeeze out the liquid, pan fry in lots of butter until they start to brown, and season with salt. Eat while hot.

I do this with small dried shitakes, and it's wonderful.

Boyfriends birthday/moving in dinner

I'm a fan of Italy Italian food for a wow factor without being too complex, and if you've just moved in, you probably don't have a kitchen stocked with a ton of ingredients yet.

Something simple like some spiced olives and feta cheese for an appetizer.

First course - a good soup, or homemade gnocci or fresh pasta with Marcella Hazan's simple tomato sauce recipe, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Second course - chicken alla diavolo (basically, bone in skin on chicken marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and tons of freshly ground pepper), with a room temperature asparagus or green bean dish on the side.

Salad course - a simple mixed argrula salad with white wine vinegar and oil.

Dessert - tiramisu, if you're feeling ambitious, or a good vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit.

The tomato sauce, appetizer, asparagus, salad and dessert can be made in advance. If you're making gnocci, they can be made a bit ahead of time, and cook quickly. You can time the chicken so it finishes about the time you finish your first course, and let it stay warm in the oven while you eat.

Another good option is the simple and hearty. My husband always chooses a home cooked steak dinner for his birthday - homemade tomato soup, good steak, pan fried to medium, served with a mushroom and brandy cream sauce, baked potatoes with sour cream and green onions on the side, creamed corn (Mark Bittmant's recipe), romaine salad with blue cheese and walnuts (another Hazan recipe). The salad, corn and soup can be made ahead, the potatoes don't require much attention, and the sauce can be made right before you fry the steaks.

cantaloupe puree??

I second this.

I make fresh fruit granita all the time. If the fruit is good, simply puree it and pour it into a container to freeze - you don't need anything else.

You can also pour it into moulds to make popsicles.

Possible Double Standard Regarding Dietary Needs/Preferences

I can think of three reasons.

One is that both these people have recently *added* new restrictions to the mix. They used to eat non-Halal meat and wheat happily, and have suddenly switched to a much harder to cook for diets.

The second is that I find that the attitude of the person with the restrictions makes a big difference - some people are polite, apologetic, and keep demands to a minimum, while others email you a detailed list of what they consider acceptable. So maybe these two are particularly vocal about their new diets.

Or, it may just be a straw and camel's back thing - it sounds like you've got a lot of dietary restrictions going on in your social group. Your friend loves to host, but has found that over time hosting has gotten less and less enjoyable, as she desperately tries to come up with something that her guests will be willing to eat.