Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >

tastesgoodwhatisit's Profile

Title Last Reply

Odd ID situation: when is "Valid" considered not valid enough?

My government health ID (non-US) is a picture ID with a chip, my name and my ID#; I need to hand it over at each point of a doctor's appointment, where it's scanned (checking in with the nurse, at the doctor's office to access records, paying, picking up prescriptions, getting blood drawn, getting an injection).

about 2 hours ago
tastesgoodwhatisit in Not About Food

Odd ID situation: when is "Valid" considered not valid enough?

In the same neighbourhood as the passport denying Vons above, there was a bar that would always ask for ID. I think they had a wall-of-IDs to compare to in the back, because they'd take any oddball ones off with them for about five minutes and return, happy to serve your drink. I did see them take foreign drivers' licenses on more than one occasion (in addition to a lot of J-1 visas, we also had a lot of foreign visitors who liked to drink).

If I'm travelling in the US and I want to order or purchase alcohol somewhere, I take my passport with me. If I'm worried about theft, it stays in a money belt under my clothing until needed. If I don't take it with me, I accept that if I'm carded, I won't be able to drink, and if I'm trying to purchase alcohol in a store, no-one in my group will be allowed to purchase either.

Odd ID situation: when is "Valid" considered not valid enough?

I've run into this before, at grocery stores.

Vons Grocery in Pasadena only accepted California drivers licenses or state ID for alcohol purchases. Passports were not considered valid ID. Oh, and if one person in the group didn't have a California driver's license (even if they had other legal picture ID), they wouldn't sell to anyone in the group.

This drove me absolutely up the wall, as I was living in the US on a J-1 visa and didn't drive. Other nearby stores and bars accepted a variety of IDs.

So did you just wear the stain ?

Topography makes a difference, too. I'm blessed with natural food collecting shelves right below my chin, which conveniently collect the results of my clumsiness.

Ideas for planned leftovers/make ahead meals

For casseroles, you can vary it up a lot by exploring different cuisines - Indian, Thai or Japanese curries, chili, spaghetti sauce, beef and mushroom stew, bean soup, lentils stew, goulash, etc.

For non casserole meat options:

Roast meats on the weekend when you've got a bit of time. Cool, slice, drizzle with a bit of stock, gravy or pan juices, and freeze in one meal portions. The liquid keeps it from drying out in the freezer. You can serve as is.

Make big batches of ground meat patties (beef, pork, etc) with seasonings, bake or pan fry, and freeze, either by themselves, or in a sauce. Changing the spices and sauces gives you a wide variety of different tasting meals - hamburgers in tomato sauce or gravy, Middle Eastern kofta kebabs, Italian sausage patties, breakfast sausages (I do a really nice one based on ancient Roman cuisine). You can do the same thing with lentil patties or falafels, which are great with yoghurt sauce.

For vegetables, prep your salad vegetables and greens on the weekend (wash, trim, peel), and keep in a crisper. Once you've done that, you can put together a good side salad very fast.

Roast vegetables can be done in big batches on the weekend, and freeze pretty well. My dad always baked, mashed and froze loads of winter squash every fall.

I'm actually quite fond of pureed vegetable soups as a vegetable side dish, when the main course isn't too soupy, and they are also easily made in batches and frozen - just add the cream after reheating. Cream of broccoli, tomato soup (classic or spicy), carrot-ginger, curried pumpkin, leek, asparagus, cauliflower, and so on.

For starches - that's something your kids can do easily. Get them to bake or boil potatoes, or start the rice cooker, or boil the pasta.

Skittles are a 'food', correct? Need help!

This is definitely true for clothing - for dried blood stains I soak in cold water, and use a plain bar of handsoap, with cycles of soaking/scrubbing/rinsing. For carpet, I'd use an old cloth to sop up the soaking water.

Do You Use Refrigerator Drawer Liners? Worth it?

Yeah, it depends really strongly on your climate. If I kept a bowl of water in my fridge, I'd probably end up with mildew on the walls.

I don't use shelf liners, but I do pull out the drawers periodically and wash them, and let them dry thoroughly before putting them back.

Caramelized Onions - would like more ways to eat them

I like them on a pizza crust, with some feta or blue cheese.

As the basis of French onion soup.

I also like it as creamed soup - carmelized onions (lots), stock, dry sherry, rosemary and some heavy cream to finish after pureeing, and a good grinding of black pepper.

The same flavour profile works as a pasta sauce - some dry sherry and chopped fresh rosemary near the end of cooking, and reduce it. Toss with grilled chicken and serve on pasta.

Dinner and a movie

I suppose Soylent Green is not an option....

You could have serious fun with Auntie Mame - flaming cocktails with bootleg gin, "fish-jam" (aka caviar), sushi, pickled rattlesnake. Not to mention crackers with tuna and peanut butter.

At what point would you not pay?

I wouldn't not pay, but I would be willing to make myself pretty obnoxious in order to get the bill after exhausting reasonable methods.

With a group, say, standing right in the path where servers come from the kitchen to the dining room, coats on and bags in hand, and getting in the way until we get the bill. Or, as a single diner, following the server around the restaurant until the bill appeared.

I haven't had this problem very often - it helps that I live in an area where you generally go up to the cash to pay, rather than waiting for the bill. I can think of two cases where it was an issue - once, in Kona, where we had to get up from the table and very conspicuously gather our stuff and head to the entrance before the now indignant server would finally bring us the bill after we had been trying for about 20 minutes. The other was at an Indian place in Toronto where the server tried to withhold the bill to get us to order desert - after pushing really hard to get us to order more food than we needed and not taking no for an answer. There, the host ended up complaining to the manager the next day, and informing them that we would no longer be bringing them any business dinners.


I like it fried. Bitter melon stuffed with spam is also surprisingly good.

I stayed in a ryokan in Okinawa where we were gifted with cans of Spam.

How squeeze dry spinach

I hadn't thought of that - I've made that particular dish, but I usually do the squeezing handfuls method.

As an aside - when I'm making tatziki, I grate the onion and cucumber, toss with a bit of salt, then do the same squeezing handful method before adding it to the yoghurt. I find that it gives a nice thick flavourful tatziki without needing Greek yoghurt, or having to go through the mess of straining regular yoghurt.

Our perception of "authenticity"

I find that for a lot of people, 'authentic' refers to a particular snapshot in time of a cuisine - it doesn't account for the fact that local cuisine is constantly changing, absorbing new influences, discarding old ones, bringing back forgotten ones.

I recently made Korean fire-chicken with cheese. Very tasty and very modern Korean, in spite of the handfuls of grated cheese on top.

I can, however, understand the frustration of not being able to find a cuisine prepared the way it is in its home environment because it's been so heavily adapted to local tastes.

Stretching food with beans

My parents used to buy flour by the 50 pound bag, and store it in their clothes closet - it kept well for a long time. SW Canada (humid winters, but heated house).

General rules re: freezing cooked dishes

My generally experience -

Saucy things, like soups and stews, tend to freeze pretty well. An exception is dairy based sauces, which tend to separate when frozen. If you're adding cream at the end of cooking (say, for a soup), simply freeze it without the cream, and add when you're reheating. I tend not to put noodles in soups I'm freezing, because they go kind of mushy, and if I'm freezing something with potatoes in it, I start with the potatoes barely cooked, because freezing makes them mushier.

I find plain meat tends to dry out a bit, particularly smaller pieces. If I'm cooking meat to freeze, I tend to poach it, or to roast, slice, and drizzle with a bit of gravy or broth before freezing.

Rice and beans freeze beautifully, I'm not fond of pasta

Freezing tends to affect texture - the ice crystals expand, and disrupt the cell walls, resulting in a mushier texture than you started with. The more water in something, the stronger the effect. For stewed dishes, which are soft to begin with, it's minor.

The thaw/cook/refreeze rules for meat is pretty universal, although multiple heating cycles for something delicate like shrimp might make the final result tough.

I personally wouldn't freeze vegetable stir-fry for the texture issues. Even next day stir-fry is not nearly as good as freshly cooked, and making it even mushier would not be appealing.

In general, keep air out of your freezing container to prevent freezer burn.

Vegetables like green beans usually need to be blanched before freezing, or they'll go mushy and gross (it's an enzyme thing). Fruit like strawberries will go mushy when thawed - great for smoothies, not so good for eating straight. Raw vegetables are generally not freezable.

Crispy stuff doesn't freeze well - don't bother with fried chicken, for example. Things like breadcrumb toppings will go soggy, too.

Stretching food with beans

Some ideas -

Bean based stews and soups, like chickpea curry, dhal (cooked lentils), split pea soup, bean soup, classic minestrone, broad beans with tomato, baked beans, etc.

You can also do bean + meat based stews/soups, to stretch the meat further. Chili, for example, or a beef barley soup. I quite like Moroccan lamb/beef and chickpea stew.

Bean based salads are another option. Chickpea salad with tomato, onion and mint, black beans with corn and cilantro, classic three bean salad, etc. I did a chicken salad over the weekend that had lots of vegetables, kidney beans, and a yoghurt pesto dressing.

You can make pan fried patties with beans or lentils - soaked dried chickpeas or broad beans, ground up with onion and seasonings give you falafels; red lentils and black beans work quite well too. I like these served with a yoghurt based sauce.

As an aside on grains - if you want nutritious, filling grains, look at things like brown or rice which haven't been hulled. They are more nutritious and filling than white rice, and can go well with beans. Think fried beans and rice, or dhal or chana masala served over rice. I also use other whole grains like buckwheat, whole oats, and millet.

Personal cooking habits, would you turn your passion into something further? (research)

I love to cook, but I have zero interest in doing it as a business, even part time.


- It's easy for a passion to become a chore when it has to be done on someone else's schedule.

- People are picky and demanding and unreasonable. If I'm cooking as a business, I have to cook for what people want to eat, not what I want to cook, or it won't be a successful business.

- Food based business tend to be risky, prone to failure, and require absurd amounts of work to break even.

If you're thinking of some sort of Uber-like business for cooking, I personally wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole, from either side of the process. Even if you exclude legal issues involving selling home cooking without appropriate licenses, it's very unlikely that such a setup would pay enough money, after labour and cost of ingredients, to even make minimum wage.

Non-alcoholic mixology

I've started using virgin Bloody Marys variations as a cold soup on hot summer days. A bit of wasabi along with a dash some Worcestershire sauce was quite nice.

I would be really interested in ideas for less sweet non-alcoholic drinks. I tend to find cocktails in general to be either too sweet or too strong, and the non alcoholic alternatives tend to all be on the sweet side.

What about experimenting with cold tea as a base - I'm thinking of something like jasmine, or Chinese style green or oolong. One of my favourite summer drinks is green tea with fresh passion fruit juice and a bit of sugar.

So you are moving away

I've made a couple of major moves over the years. I'm a good cook, and good at improvising, so I can reproduce a lot of stuff at home.

In my current location, I miss seasonal berries, cherries, grapes, apples, peaches and pears, plus zucchini and artichokes. From Toronto, I still miss the Szechuan shredded beef at Chung King in Toronto's main Chinatown and Ethiopian food in general. From LA I miss Mexican food (American Mexican and Mexican regional cuisine).

The shredded beef was just such an amazing, unique version of the food, that I haven't found anywhere else. Ethiopian and Mexican ingredients are hard for me to find, so making it myself has limited possibilities (unlike Indian, which I can manage quite well). Imported fruit just doesn't cut it. I still miss good bagels, but I'm really picky when it comes to them.

If I were to move back to North America, I would really miss good, regional, frighteningly authentic Chinese food, and grocery shopping at the wet markets. I'd probably stop eating most tropical fruits (see imported food above).

Star-themed hors d'oeuvres

You could do a really authentic observatory meal....

A slightly squashed sandwich, an apple or an orange, and some cookies, a bag of salty snack food of choice, and a four litre jug of water.

This is pretty typical for what astronomers will eat as a night lunch while taking data. If you're not at high altitude, you can swap the four litres of water for endless cups of coffee or caffeinated soft drink of your choice.

Herbal tea

I don't know if it works for your area, but the Carrefour grocery store brands are pretty good (I'm not a fan of a lot of the Celestial Seasonings type ones). They do a good blackcurrant-peach, a licorice mint, and a linden flower and honey.

Food for mama while she cares for newborn twins: strategies?

Do roast or braised meats (which take time but little effort). Cool, slice, and package into one or two meal portions, drizzled with a bit of the pan juices. This works well with cheap/tough cuts of meat.

Ground meat things freeze well and are easy to make in big batches - I'm thinking about things like meatballs, sausage patties, koftas, meatloaf, hamburger patties in tomato sauce or gravy, etc. I would freeze them cooked, so you just need to re-heat. I have an extremely simple lentil patty recipe that freezes well, if you want that.

Beans and rice freeze well.

Curries - look at chickpea and lentil curries for economical options. I really like a Moroccan style meat and chickpea stew, which is basically a meal in a bowl, and freezes well.

A rice cooker, if you don't have one, could help - go for a simple, cheap on that has cook/warm settings and nothing more. The advantage is that it needs no attention once you turn it on, and will automatically go to warm setting when the rice is finished.

bottled roasted red peppers

The other jarred peppers I'm familiar with are pickled, so the acid and salt keeps them for a long period of time. Roasted red peppers would be more like a jar of tomato sauce for pasta in terms of staying good in the fridge.

How many different appetizers should I serve for a party of 40 for 4 hours?

Personally, I would do 6-8 types, and count on at least 10 pieces per person for a dinner hour party, unless the pieces are fairly large. I'm a non-heavy eater in my 40s, and 6 small appetizers would be too little for a party over dinner hour, but perfectly fine for a pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Other things I'd consider

- make sure that no one ingredient dominates, so that people with food issues have something to choose from. I'd do half the items naturally vegan (for vegetarians, plus dairy/egg issues), half naturally gluten free, make sure not everything is spicy or salty or tomato based or garlicky, for example.

- no more than two hot apps, for logistical reasons. And pretty much everything should be able to be made ahead of tim.

What I would probably do is 5 or 6 piece type appetizers, and then round it out with a cheese tray (with crackers, and maybe a pate), a crudite tray with two dips (one dairy, one vegan), and maybe crackers/bread and spreads (tapenade, flavoured cream cheese, onion and tomato jam). Those are quick to prepare, can be done ahead of time, and aren't fussy.

Plus beverages, including something nice in the non-alcoholic line,

Need a good cooling dip for Korean fried chicken.

Miso mayo?

Name a dish that you cannot find anywhere in town that you have to make yourself???

Proper stinky tofu smells like an open sewer. On a hot day, you can smell it from across 8 lanes of traffic. I mean, I've learned to kind of like the smell, but it's definitely still there.

Jul 28, 2015
tastesgoodwhatisit in Manhattan

Your food world and computers

Pre-computer, you'd often buy a good travel guide like the Lonely Planet guide. If you wanted to make hotel reservations, you'd do so by phoning one of the hotels in the guide. Quite often you'd find a place to stay after you got there, by using a local phone book, or asking at the tourist information centre. In addition, public libraries had copies of phone books for some major cities, so you could look up numbers that way in advance. For younger travellers, you could get youth hostel listings for international settings, and if you were going through a particular chain, you could book through a local branch. Or, you dealt with a travel agent who had a greater knowledge of options in the area you were going.

For food, you read travel guides or the Michelin guide or travel columns in newspapers, or asked your hotel lobby for suggestions, or just go out and wander. I had an absolutely lovely meal in Frankfurt, after asking the hotel reception for recommendations.

My impression is that writing for reservations wasn't particularly common, even before telephones, unless you were booking something unusual. It was much more likely that you'd just try your luck once you got there, or stay at a standard hotel.

The internet has increased options, but I don't think it has necessarily reduced the effort and time spent in planning. I know I spend a lot more time poring over TripAdvisor rankings to figure out the best hotel for my price range than I ever spent on figuring out hotels before internet booking and reviews were common.

What is worth making from scratch to save money?

For things that aren't worth making...

Jams, jellies and pickles are generally not worth making yourself unless you have access to very cheap or free fruits and vegetables (your own garden, for example, or picking wild blackberries). You also need to do it enough years in a row to make the initial purchase of jars and canning equipment worthwhile.

Condiments like ketchup, mustard, hot-sauce, mayo, plus things like peanut butter. They're so cheap that the savings are minimal, and they take a fair amount of time and effort to do well.

Bread is a bit iffy. If you normally buy cheap bread from the grocery store, making at home can actually cost more. And if you like really nice bread, it can take time to get good enough at bread making to match what you buy. If you're committed to making it, and you eat it daily, a bread-maker can give you reliably decent bread with little effort.

Pasta isn't generally worth it - it takes time and skill to make well, and dried pasta is quite cheap.

Ice cream - it's generally going to cost more to make than buying it at the grocery store, and it requires purchasing equipment.

Cheese is not generally worth it, by the time you factor in the time/skill and the cost of milk. Yoghurt can be, if you use the previous batch as a starter, and get milk in large quantities.

I personally don't think pizza is worth it at home - producing really good pizza at home isn't particularly easy, and pizza is a fairly cheap occasional indulgence.

Pesto can be either way. If you can get big bunches of cheap basil, it's cheaper than storebought. If it costs $2 for a tiny bunch, it's more expensive to make it.


In general, skipping convenience foods can save a lot of money. Skip the pre-washed greens, baby carrots, marinated meat, grated cheese, flavoured cream cheese, instant oatmeal, noodle and sauce packets, canned soups, etc. Frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes, however, can often save money.

For things that are easy to do and have a significant cost savings over the store-bought version - salad dressings, simple crackers, dried beans/chickpeas/lentils, marinades, breadcrumbs/croutons, instant oatmeal, flavoured cream cheese, etc.

Granola is much cheaper if you've got a good source of bulk nuts and oats.

I'd leave things like making your own sauerkraut or beer until you've figured out how much energy and time you have with your baby - they can save money, but do take time and a fair bit of mental energy to get right.

Cooking Classes in Taiwan?

I don't know about Taichung, but I do know some good teachers in Taipei, with excellent English instruction. I took a group class with them and really enjoyed it - hands on practice, and lots of detailed explanations about how and why.

Beloved picky guests

I make less effort than I would for a reasonable guest.

For someone whose company I truly enjoy, who is otherwise a lovely person except for this quirk, I might serve a default dinner that I know they like.

For someone who I have to invite (family, for example, or part of a group that I'm hosting), I'll make sure there is something that they can eat, but won't re-arrange the entire meal. So I'll leave a serving unsauced, make them a baked potato - that kind of thing.

For the flaky type (random changes in food fads, declare allergies when it's a preference, emphatically declare that they are X, but will eat the food when it suits them), I'll do my best to socialize with them in non hosted-food situations. Have them over for coffee where I can serve simple food, and a sudden refusal to eat what I've provided isn't a problem. Meet them somewhere they can order what they want. If they're part of a group, I might pre-emptively suggest that they bring their own portion of safe food, as I'm not comfortable handling their food issues.

For rude guests - people who make ewwww noises, lecture my other guests, make outrageous demands, get offended or insulting if I haven't done exactly what they want. Those ones don't get invited back.

To be honest, if someone is really, really picky and I don't thoroughly enjoy their company otherwise, it does make me reluctant to host them, and it can push someone from being a friend to an acquaintance.