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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.

French Press Coffee: How do I keep it warm?

I have this, which I think I got at Ikea. It's a French press, but with double metal walls, thermos like, and it keeps the coffee nice and hot - it makes two very large mugs worth of coffee, or 4 smaller cups.

As a bonus, it's lasted longer than any French Press I've had because I can't break it, and it's easy to clean.

Your most delicious and uncanny ways to eat Spam?

Spam stuffed bitter melon.

Saute some chopped onions, mix with spam and some breadcrumbs. Stuff a whole bitter melon (Chinese variety), wrap in foil, and bake until tender. Let it sit for a little bit, and then slice. It's good with rice.

What to make with giblets

Embrace the chewiness and make yakitori (works for hearts, too).

Things You Eat Frozen (or Thawed and Uncooked)

Cooked bacon.

5 course meal

I would strongly recommend food that you can make mostly ahead of time - it's not very romantic if you're in the kitchen, and he is in the dining room.

I'm a fan of Italy Italian for multi course meals for a good combination of delicious and simple.

For example

Antipasti - marinated olives and feta cheese with good bread (make ahead of time, bring to room temperature)

Primi - homemade ravioli with simple tomato sauce (small portions, make the sauce ahead of time, the ravioli cooks quickly.

Secondi - Ensalata del mare (seafood salad) with scallops, mussels, clams, squid etc. Made ahead of time. [I know this is usually listed as a salad, but I find it hearty enough for a main]. Serve with a side of lightly dressed steamed green beans (make ahead, serve at room temperature).

Ensalata - simple salad with good greens like rocket, with a basic oil and vinegar dressing. Make ahead.

Dessert - good quality vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit, or go all out and make tiramisu. Serve with coffee.

Finish with a small glass of limoncello, and have wine with the meal itself.

How The Coffee Shop Has Ruined Customer Service

I remember drinking a lot of really bad coffee before the Starbucks empire took over. Maxwell House sitting on the burner for an hour level of bad coffee. But free refills!

I actually patronize Starbucks these days because where I live it's the only coffee shop that actually sells plain, drip coffee. There are three or four other chains (Dante, Ikari, Mr Brown, etc) plus convenience stores, plus independent stores, but they don't serve drip, and I'm left with an Americano, which is not the same.

Need ideas for cooking meals without a kitchen

I agree with other posters that this will be a lot easier with a few other appliances. But with what you've got...

You can do meats in the microwave - I've had decent ginger chicken and miso pork that way. Thinly sliced beef can be used in hot soups and will cook in the soup broth. You can poach eggs in the microwave.

Couscous just needs boiling water, some ramen noodles and glass noodles don't need a stove. You can buy fresh Chinese noodles that are ready to use - add broth and leafy green vegetables for a soup, or refresh with boiling water to use in a cold noodle salad. You can bake potatoes in the microwave.

With the grill, cook up a bunch of meat, and store extras in the freezer. Then you can use it in simple soups, to top salads, in sandwiches, etc.

Does anybody else miss chicken skin?

I was at a Japanese izakaya recently that served chicken skin chips. Flat, palm sized pieces of chicken skin, cooked until crispy and seasoned with pepper salt.


Eva Airlines - has anyone had their food?

I fly EVA regularly - the food is generally decent by airline standards, nothing to write home about but edible. You'll get two meals and a snack on the trans-Pacific flight, and another light meal on the Taipei-Bangkok leg. Wine and beer are offered with dinner at no extra charge. I always go for the Chinese breakfast - congee, pickles, fish floss.

Service is generally very good by economy standards. The attendants are helpful and easy to find, and come around regularly during the flight with glasses of water and juice to offer and there are often complementary slippers provided on overnight flights. When I fly out of Vancouver the flight leaves at ~2am, and the airline provides complementary tea, coffee and ginger tea during the last few hours of the wait.

Given a choice, I'll take EVA over North American based airlines any day. Fortunately, when I fly for work I'm supposed to take Taiwanese airlines if possible.

Taipei airport isn't great for food options, although I think they're trying to improve it. Not bad or expensive, just not a lot of choice. However, it provides all the duty free and luxury gift shopping you could possibly want.

What brands of whole dried shiitake mushrooms -- from online sites -- do you recommend?

I trust Taiwanese grown mushrooms much more than Chinese, as well.

Winter Emergency Stock-Up

I'm not a huge canned vegetable person, so I'll only list canned products I'd be willing to eat - for me, canned corn is fine, but canned green beans are nasty, for example.

For shelf-stable stuff, I'd add a few tetra packs of shelf stable milk, dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, some canned corn, a few cans of soup (tomato, cream of mushroom), a jar of artichoke hearts, a jar of sauerkraut, a can of baby corn, maybe some pickled asparagus, some nuts. Plus, being sure to always be well stocked on pasta, rice, baking supplies, oatmeal and parmesan.

For the freezer - a bag or two of frozen vegetables, like green beans, peas and spinach. And root vegetables (beets, carrots, turnips, onions, potatoes) and cabbage all keep quite well, so making sure you've got these in your normal food rotation would help.

As a friend of mine said once about a winters as a child in rural Poland - potatoes and cabbage were what we had, so potatoes and cabbage were what we ate.

What brands of whole dried shiitake mushrooms -- from online sites -- do you recommend?

My experience is that the very pretty mushrooms, like the ones in the middle of the photo, are a lot more expensive than the others, but that it's mainly an appearance thing.

For cooking, I vastly prefer the smaller, thinner dried mushrooms. I don't particularly like the gummy texture that the larger mushrooms give when rehydrated, and they take a long time to rehydrate. With the smaller ones, I can snap off the stems when dried (and even break up into pieces before soaking), or use whole, and they're quick to use.

I do carefully avoid China origin mushrooms due to pesticides, because I like to use the soaking liquid. I tend to buy locally grown ones (probably not an option for you, though, as I'm in Asia). I do give a rinse with cold water before soaking, to rinse off any dust or grit.

One of my favourite dried shitake preparations is to take the small ones, trim the stems, and soak. Then I squeeze out all the water, and pan fry in butter until they start to brown, season with a bit of salt, and serve immediately. I learned this one on a cultural video about shitakes on a Japanese airline.

"Natural" color stains?

For fabrics, you use a mordant - a substance used to fix the dye into the fibres. It can be alkaline or acidic, depending on the dye, and getting a good mordant for each dye and fabric type can be quite complicated.

I think it's similar with the wood, fixing the dye to the wood fibres.

Are you focussed on using plant based dyes, or would you be interested in other substances?

My Dressing Has Too Much of a Bite

I suspect the garlic might be the problem. Raw garlic is very strong, and 7-8 cloves in about a cup of dressing is an awful lot.

I'm a total garlic fiend, and for that much dressing, I'd use maybe half a clove of crushed garlic at most, or more likely would smash two cloves with the side of a knife, let them marinate, and fish them out before dressing the salad. If the garlic were cooked, I'd happily double the amount.

Maybe cooking the dressing? The taste will be different, but it will mellow the garlic.

Salsa canning - oops!

I would say that if you're canning something other than jam (with a tested recipe from a reliable source, intended for room temperature storage) or vinegar based pickles, if you have to ask if it's safe you shouldn't be doing it.

If you're canning salsa in a water bath, and you can't tell me the pH of your final product, you shouldn't be doing it.

The basic rules for sugar/acid content and temperature of processing aren't that complicated, but if you don't understand them and don't know if you're doing it right, you can really get into trouble. I'll eat leftovers that sat out over night, cool my chicken stock on the stove, and I'll happily chow down on unidentifiable Asian night market food, but canning is not something I take risks with.

Food mythbusters . What's your belief or not ?

I find cheese mould depends on the type of cheese. Harder cheeses - something like parmesan or even cheddar, I'll happily grim off the mould. Something like brie, on the other hand, I'll pitch because the mould flavour get all through the cheese.

Searing meat makes it taste better, but doesn't keep in juices. Resting meat after taking out of the pan but before cutting it does, however.