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Christmas Dinner: in charge of turkey and ham and mashed potato -- but traveling 5 hours to get there, arriving just 2 hours before scheduled dinner time

I'd cook the meat thoroughly, carve, and pack the carved meat in a well chilled cooler. Then I'd arrange it on baking trays, drizzled with a bit of stock and covered with foil to reheat in a reasonable time without it drying up. You'll have to give up nice crispy skin.

Actually, I think I'd poach the breast and roast the hind quarters for maximum juiciness, as you're going to carve it in advance. The wings, neck and giblets along with the poaching liquid will give you gravy plus drizzling stock.

For mashed potatoes, I'd make them ahead, and add a bit more liquid than I would normally do, as the texture of mashed potatoes tends to stiffen up by the next day.

At what point does a recipe become "yours"?

I think it depends a bit on how unique the original recipe is, and what you mean by "my".

Take something like tomato sauce - there are hundreds of ways to make it, and if I give you 'my' recipe I'm telling you how I personally make that particular dish, rather than giving you a recipe I've developed myself. I may not even remember where I got it from originally because I've made it so often.

On the other end of things, you have strikingly unique recipes. If you're making chocolate and shrimp stuffed cornish game hen with truffle glaze and pickled strawberries out of a cookbook from your favourite celebrity chef, then you should probably keep the attribution, or even an 'adapted from' if you've changed things a bit. Part of that is just to keep yourself from looking foolish - if a friend passed around 'their' recipe for the above, and I came across the original recipe and realized they were copying it verbatim, I'll roll my eyes, and chalk that person up as a bit of a pretentious twit.

Super Easy Few Ingredient Holiday Cookies and Candy

One good white chocolate one.

500 g white chocolate coating compound, chopped
300 g dried cranberries
300 g chopped walnuts
finely grated zest of a lemon

Put chocolate and zest in the top of a double boiler and melt. Remove from heat, add cranberries and walnuts and mix well. Cool to room temperature but still liquidy, and spoon onto a wax paper or foil in clumps to dry.

Oysters

It tastes like the soul of the ocean.

To me, a raw oyster tastes like a cool fall day down by the waterfront, with a brisk raw breeze, and an oceanside scent of salt water and seaweed. It tends to make me homesick.

Christmas Day Dinner

Option 1 - tell your husband that it's his year to cook. I suspect that new arrangements will quickly be made.

Option 2 - make plans to go out of town for Christmas, and see what happens.

Option 3 - Roast a ham, and serve it at room temperature with a couple of mustards. Bake potatoes on the day of, and serve with toppings on the side - butter, sour cream, chopped chives, parmesan cheese, bacon bits. Buy some bagged salads for a big garden salad, and steam green beans with butter and a bit of lemon juice. Get some deli olives and pickles as accompaniments. Buy a big chocolate cake for dessert, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

What can I do with roasted beets??

A good salad - grate or finely dice the beets. Make a dressing of yoghurt, cumin, a bit of lemon juice, and either fresh dill, parsley or mint (finely chopped), with salt and pepper to taste.

Or use as the basis of borscht.

Cumin

Pretty much everything - it's my favourite spice!

Sprinkled on chicken with paprika before baking. With garlic and salt on Bejing style lamb skewers. As a main component of curry spicing. In yoghurt with lemon juice as a dressing for a vegetable salad.

Whole cumin in cumin rice, with butter, lemon, curry leaves and tumeric. Whole and toasted in grated carrot salad, with lemon juice and olive oil. On roasted cauliflower. In tomato soup, with garlic, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Dungeons & Dragons food theme/RPG session menu/food for geeks :)

If the guys normally order junk food, I wouldn't go too far in the healthy direction - binging on junk can be part of the fun of a gaming session.

I might go with a medieval pub style meal. Things like individual steak and mushroom pies with a beer based gravy, quiche, dark bread, pickles, grilled meat and vegetables on a stick, sausages, stewed fruit.

Dungeons & Dragons food theme/RPG session menu/food for geeks :)

For dessert, break out the jello moulds and serve gelatinous cubes. Embed gummy figures in them for the remains of digested adventurers.

How can we say no to a dinner invitation? We don't want to appear ungracious even though we don't really like the boyfriend!

How about "our schedule is absolutely packed up until Christmas - it looks like we'll have to wait until the new year".

It has the benefit of being true - you've got two nights between now and Christmas which are free, which is an insanely full schedule, and you need those nights for your own mental health.

Uses for chestnuts

A Japanese desert - sweet potato puree with candied chestnuts.

Cheaper to Eat In or Out?

I live in Taipei and you can easily eat out for less than it costs to cook, without resorting to fast food, if you go to the right places. Outside Taipei it's even cheaper.

Pre-packaged lunch boxes (similar to bento) which have rice, meat and vegetables are very cheap (less than $3, on campus I can get one for less than $2). Rice or noodle bowls with meat and vegetables, dumplings, soup, individual hot pot (a bit of meat, lots of vegetables, some tofu and mushrooms, and rice on the side). Xiao cai are ubiquitous, which are small, cold side dishes, typically about $1 each, which can round out the vegetable side of a cheap meal, with things like fermented cabbage, or cucumbers in vinegar´╝îseaweed salad, edamame, marinated bamboo shoots, eggplant.

I asked a friend who works in restaurants how they can sell stuff so cheaply compared to cooking at home, and they said it's the lack of overhead. If you want to set up a restaurant, you need to rent a space and buy equipment. Insurance, inspections, licenses, are all pretty much optional, particularly for tiny shops.

Of course, if you do want to cook at home, getting a decent kitchen is non trivial, particularly if you're single. Most small apartments don't have kitchens, and your cooking facilities are at best an electric hotplate and a microwave. Even for three bedroom apartments, you can easily find places with no more than that.

Is it rude to criticize meal value when someone else is paying?

I think it's a good way to ensure that it's the last time the hosts will buy you a meal.

The Crockpot Holiday Dinner? First Timer Needs Help!

It's not a carryover of the previous meal. I just find that the majority of crockpot recipes I come across don't really taste all that good compared to a similar dish made on the stove, and have a flavour/texture I think of as "crock pot taste".

There are exceptions, but they have to be searched for and tested before using for guests, and a lot of the exceptions aren't the easy dump and cook recipes; they're the ones that involve browning the meat and sauteeing the onions before starting, and adding different ingredients at different times.

I do know a few complete exceptions that are easy and actually better than the stove - stewed pork belly is one of them, and rice porridge another.

Which foods do you wish were more popular?

I order my beef noodle soup (which comes with hand pulled noodles) with half beef shank, half tendons. It's wonderful.

Of course, where I live you can buy jumbo packs of beef tendons at Costco.

Pumpkin Schmumpkin: What About Cranberries?

Take white chocolate, and melt it with some finely grated lemon zest. Mix with walnuts and dried cranberries. Spoon onto wax paper, and let dry.

I made these as a quick improvisation to fill out a cookie tray, and people absolutely love them.

The Crockpot Holiday Dinner? First Timer Needs Help!

I find that a lot of crock-pot recipes end up with a 'generic crock pot meal' taste. It's usually not terrible, but it's not great either, and it tastes a lot like the last thing you made in the crockpot.

And as others have said, crockpots let you shift the timing, but still require a fair amount of work, particularly for good results - for example, you still need to sautee onions and brown meat before it goes in. That work would end up happening on the 24th, or the the morning of the 25th.

What I would do instead is go for a meal that's tasty but streamlined. You could make a creamy squash or carrot soup as a starter - you can make it ahead, and just add the cream after heating. Have a good quality beef roast for the centrepiece - get a couple of mustards and horseradish to serve with it, so you don't need to worry about making gravy. Baked potatoes cooked in the same oven - provide butter, sour cream, and diced green onions for toppings. A salad of bagged, pre-washed greens. Steamed green beans with herbed butter (make the butter ahead of time). Buy your dessert from a good bakery.

Soft Foods for Thanksgiving

Mashed potatoes with lots of turkey gravy.

Curried pumpkin soup. I like to run it through a food mill or sieve after pureeing, which results in a wonderful velvety texture.

Sweet potatoes mashed with butter and parmesan cheese.

A very soft savoury bread pudding with a turkey stuffing flavour profile (onion, sage, thyme).

Creamed spinach, with the spinach either diced very fine, or pureed.

Cooking around allergies

What I would do is go for very simple. The more ingredients (particularly anything pre-made) that go into it, the bigger the chances that you'll accidentally include an allergen.

Marinate skin on bone in chicken pieces in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Grill. Serve with cumin rice or roast potato wedges, steamed vegetables with herbed butter, and a salad of bitter greens with a simple vinaigrette. For dessert fresh fruit with whipped cream.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving ideas - for one...

What about mixed sauteed mushrooms cooked with a a bit of onion and garlic in a brandy-cream sauce? With a good mix of mushrooms it would be hearty and rich, and excellent over mashed potatoes.

When OK to Skip Butter in Baked Goods Recipe

If the butter is added while melted, oil can often be used as a decent substitute. If it's used while solid (like a pie crust, or a typical cookie recipe), the substitution will generally produce a completely different result, and you need a recipe that's specifically designed for oil.

In general, the bigger the amount of butter, the larger the effect of a substitution.

If it's a lactose issue, you might try clarified butter, where the milk solids have been removed and you're just left with the fat.

Help with packed salad lunches+

Do you dress the salads in advance? I find that dressing the salad right before I eat it works best, and leaving dressed salad for more than a couple of hours always give soggy lettuce. Salty dressings act faster.

Parents of Adult Children: When should kids start picking up the check?

Adult child here - I started picking up the cheque periodically when I was out of school and had an income, and my parents really appreciated it.

My sister and brother in law had to be poked - they would go out to dinner with my parents and sit back calmly waiting for them to pick up the tab (at this point, they had no kids and were making more with their two full incomes than my one income, soon to retire parents). My mom had a word with my sister pointing out that they didn't mind treating, but they objected to being *expected* to always pay, and it would be really nice if they took the lead for things like Mother's day dinner, or Dad's birthday. Of course, this is the same couple where my Mom doesn't offer to pay until after the meal is done, otherwise my brother in law will order the expensive stuff.

ISO Christmas cocktail party recommendations

Who is preparing the food, and how many people do you have to do the work? A four hour event should provide 12-15 pieces of hors d'oeuvres per person, which give you a total of about 1200 items. So non fiddly items are a good idea (ie, don't try to make 200 stuffed mushrooms). Stuff like bruschetta probably won't work, as it goes soggy fairly quickly.

With a good budget, I'd go with simple but high quality.

Cheese platter - a spiced havarti, brie, creamy chevre, a blue cheese, maybe some Manchego. Add a flavoured cream cheese or two (I like doing a sun dried tomato and roasted garlic one, and a lemon herb one).

Meaty tray - some good quality cured meats, a pate or two, smoked salmon, maybe some pickled fish like herring. Maybe cold sliced roast beef with horseradish and mustard? Have a vegetarian pate-equivalent, or something tofu (on a separate tray).

Pickle/antipasto trays - two types of pickles, spiced green olives, marinated feta cheese and black olives, pickled asparagus, pickled baby corn, dilled green beans, marinated button mushrooms, artichoke hearts, quick pickled cauliflower and carrots, grilled red peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes.

Shrimp cocktail.

For dips, maybe go more classy than the usual tortilla chips and salsa - say, baked pita wedges, with hummus, tatziki, and a spinach dip. Or if you do tortilla chips, have some interesting gourmet salsas (corn salsa, mango salsa).

For dessert - an assortment of squares, maybe some fresh fruit with cream cheese and/or chocolate dip on the side.

For drinks - I'd go fairly simple here as well. Red wine, white wine, a few choices of good local beer, a variety of fancy sodas (including some diet choices), flavoured sparkling water, cranberry cocktail, coffee and tea (including herbal tea).

Tell me what you think about a website that tells you the best thing on the menu

There are two questions that I think you might be trying to answer with this proposed site. One is "What is this restaurant known for?". The other is "What you would recommend that I order when I eat here".

The first could probably be answered by the type of site you are proposing, because it's not going for a judgement of quality, just of presence. But it doesn't really provide anything that a quick google search would.

The second - that's going to depend strongly on how much effort you put into curating the information that goes into the site. I come to Chowhound for recommendations because I know the style - I get thoughtful recommendations from people who are able to describe why they recommend it, so I can judge if my tastes would align with theirs. Yelp reviews are considerably less useful, because of the wide range of tastes and opinions.

From a technical perspective, I don't think you can easily do this for "any restaurant". An automated algorithm will likely pick up the most common item, not necessarily the best, and will be highly subject to the GIGO principle. A hand-selected summary would be more useful (but would depend strongly on your own judgement), but would require a significant amount of work, even for a single large city. The amount of personal labour required for even just US restaurants would be prohibitive. For example, NYC has about 24,000 restaurants. Even at a brief 20 minutes per restaurant, you'd be looking at a full time job simply to collect the information.

A really really difficult vegan thanksgiving challenge

I've had some seitan based fake beef that was surprisingly good - I have no idea what the product was called, but it had a very stewing beef like texture, and a taste that was not like meat, but fit well with meat based dishes. [I'm really hard to impress with fake meat products, generally].

If you can get ahold of that, I'd make a stew with the seitan, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and a mushroom broth and stout based gravy.

If you can't, then do the stew with a mushroom base. Look for king oyster mushrooms - they're big, with a firm texture, and stand up well to stewing.

Guest Calling the Shots

I vote for not appropriate.

Ordering a round of appetizers to share, or a round of shots for the table, is something you do when you're the host, and are paying the bill, or when it's a pay your own way situation, and you're paying for it yourself.

Doing so on someone else's dime is usurping the role of the host, and is not something that is included under an "order what you like" directive from the host. "Order what you like" should be taken to mean "order drinks and food from the appetizer that you plan to eat and drink, yourself, at this event". Ordering food for other people, or ordering more than you can eat so that you can get leftovers, is not included.

As you're the boss, you get the easy solution. Take the employee aside before the dinner, and tell them that they are welcome to order what they, personally, are going to eat and drink, but ordering rounds for everyone else is not appropriate.

Why drink chicken soup when you are sick? What so special?

In older literature, you can find references to beef tea - a concentrated beef broth that was specifically intended for invalids, so other meats have been used.

Chicken does have the advantage of producing a nice carcass for making stock as a by product - roast the chicken, make stock with what's left - unlike beef or pork, which tends to use bones that aren't part of the cooking process.

In east Asian countries, rice porridge is the go-to when sick. When my husband's got a cold or digestive illness, that's what he gravitates towards.

What appliance or gadget for making ginger-garlic paste? Maybe also for grinding whole spices?

For the ginger garlic paste, I use my garlic press. I dice the ginger first, and press it through, alternating with the garlic cloves.

My press is an old one - it's got to be about 30 years old - and is sturdy enough to stand up to this.

Oct 30, 2014
tastesgoodwhatisit in Cookware

Boneless skinless chicken breasts in slow cooker?

I find chicken breasts over cook very fast in the slow cooker - cooking for hours is going to give you dry breasts, no matter how much liquid you use.

I'd recommend using thighs or legs, which have more connective tissue and will stand up better to slow cooking. Bone in will increase cooking time as well. As a bonus, they're usually cheaper than boneless skinless breasts.