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Using pork instead of beef in stir fry -- tips?

Pork works very well in stir-fries. It will taste a bit different, but the cooking style is very similar. I wouldn't use a very tough cut of meat for a stirfry without marinating, for texture reasons, but pork chop slices shouldn't be a problem.

If you do want to use a tougher cut of meat, very thinly slice it (doing so while partially frozen works well), and marinate for a few hours with a bit of cornstarch and rice wine, which gives a lovely texture to the meat.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

I'm fond of flavoured sparking waters - the kind that just add flavour, no sugar or artificial sweetener. A dash of bitters in sparkling water is nice as well (see note below regarding alcohol content).

For variety, try different types of iced teas. In the summer, we drink a lot of Japanese barley tea, which is toasted barley steeped in hot water, and served hot or cold. It's got a light, slightly nutty flavour, and is caffeine and calorie free. I'm also partial to variety in iced tea. Jasmine + mint makes a very refreshing tea, and iced oolong tea is very good as well (both without sugar).

A mix of green tea and fresh squeezed fruit juice is also quite refreshing - grapefruit, cranberry and passion fruit mix well.

When you want something with dinner that isn't iced tea, juice or soda, I like Chinese sour plum juice. It's a very *different* flavour, but has depth. It's similar in sugar content to juice, but you don't need as much of it.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

They're high in alcohol, but you use so little in the water that, for health purposes rather than religious, it comes out basically a non-alcoholic drink. Angostura bitters are 45% alcohol - if you use half a teaspoon in a 400 ml of water (which is about what I do), that works out to 0.3% alcohol, similar to de-alcoholized beer.

Kimchi: Can I eat it like vegetables?

That's a good point - kimchi was developed as a way of preserving vegetables for winter - they'd do a kimchi making marathon, and store it in big jars buried in the ground to keep it cool. It's also one of the few preservation techniques which doesn't destroy vitamin C.

We've all hit the Pyrex ceiling

I would challenge the combination of "nothing new" and "centuries".

The way people were cooking two hundred years ago, and the way people are cooking now are drastically different in equipment, methods, and ingredients.

Electric stoves started becoming common about 100 years ago. Gas stoves - popular in the late 1900s. Cooking on a fireplace or wood stove is a very different experience.

The foods we are cooking are in some cases substantially different than what was around a couple of centuries ago, both in availability (when my Dad was a young man on the farm, fresh garlic was an exotic and suspicious ingredient), and in substance, due to such factors as breeding for yield and pest resistance. Efficient methods of milling flour were introduced in the late 19th century, significantly changing baking practices. Wide scale pasteurization of milk is a 20th century practice. Meat is fed antibiotics and raised in feedlots. Fish are farmed. Commercial canned food and frozen food are relatively recent introductions. Granulated dried yeast for bread making was developed during WWII.

So a lot of what we take for granted as standard ways of making food are actually relatively new, as in 20th century inventions.

Historical cooks didn't know much about chemistry in a modern sense (nor do most modern cooks). They cooked they way they did because that's what they were taught by more experienced cooks, and because it produced something they liked the taste of, and in practice, a lot of it was more art than scientific measurement, even if there is an underlying scientific principle behind it.

There are two other issues. One is the difference between completely new, which is pretty rare, and being new to someone. The world is a big place, and until recently people could be very isolated from each other. So something could be a centuries long tradition in one area, and totally unknown in another. When I travel, I am frequently exposed to new-to-me foods and preparations, even in cuisines that I am nominally familiar with (at least in their imported to another country version).

There's also variations in both societal and personal taste. Anytime someone tells me there is only *one* proper way to make X, I immediately know that they are full of it. What they mean is that they, personally, prefer a specific way of making X. Other people will disagree with them, sometimes vehemently. Societal tastes vary too - look at historical cookbooks and banquet descriptions, or travel around. As a minor example, in North American cookbooks you'll find lots of information on how to reduce the sliminess of okra when you cook it, and how to tenderize gizzards; the assumption is that slimy is bad, and tough is bad. Go to Japan, and the sliminess and toughness are embraced and enjoyed.

If you want to argue that some chefs approach ridiculousness in their pursuit of novelty and the next fad, I'll definitely agree with that. But not the idea that cooking was perfected a couple of hundred years ago, and there will never be anything new and worthwhile.

What to sub for ramen

If there's an Asian market, look for fresh or dried (ie, not instant) ramen noodles. The instant varieties have to be baked or deep fried so they cook by adding boiling water - the good stuff is made from fresh noodles.

For seasoning - I think the dish won't be the same in a low salt version. But if you want to make your own, fresh ramen noodle seasoning tends to be based on either miso, soy sauce, or broth.

chickpea salad

I'm fond of chickpeas, very thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced celery, chopped fresh tomatoes and shredded mint, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic.

Do I need to blanch baby kale for this lasagna recipe?

I would definitely blanch. Spinach and kale both reduce a *lot* in volume when cooked - 1 pound of spinach is about 10-12 cups raw, but about 1 cup after cooking! You might have difficulty managing to mix in that volume of raw leaves. In this recipe, you mix the spinach into the bechamel, which is probably not hot enough to properly blanch the spinach, so you'll end up with a layer that becomes lumpy and very watery as the lasagne cooks and the leaves release the water.

Lasagna with fresh pasta

The structure of the lasagna is actually pretty similar - it may end up being a bit less starchy with thinner noodles, but I don't do more than 3 layers, alternating the meat sauce, creamy sauce and noodles.

I roll the noodles fairly thin and very briefly parboil. Parboil vs not depends on what sort of sauce you are using - I use a classic bolognese, which is a fairly dry, not particularly soupy sauce, layered with bechamel sauce, so I need to parboil or the final product ends up too dry. If you're using a more liquidy tomato sauce, then you wouldn't need the par-boiling.

dinner host responsibilities

I think that a single, reasonably priced alcoholic drink is well within the range of polite ordering. Keep in mind that the math is not the difference between ordering a beer and drinking tap water, but between ordering a beer and ordering a soft-drink, which is a much smaller price difference.

With entrees, if my host ordered something from the bottom of the menu, price wise, I'd follow, but I wouldn't necessarily order the cheapest item, even if they had themselves. So if they order something that's $20, I wouldn't go for $50, but I would go for $25 without feeling guilty. If the host orders a coke, I wouldn't feel bad ordering a beer, unless I know the host has moral objections to the consumption of alcohol (as opposed to simply not drinking much).

In general, it is up to the host to pick a place where they can afford to host people reasonably from the menu - if they can afford it only if their guests order the cheapest pasta item and drink water, they've picked the wrong place, although it is reasonable to expect that their guests won't order the most expensive entree, appetizer and dessert, plus multiple drinks without prompting from the host.

Why do most food blog recipes suck?

I think that people underestimate how challenging it is to write a recipe well - that there's a big difference between jotting down approximately what you do for a recipe, and giving solid, robust recipes with clear, easy to follow instructions that work reliably. In general, recipes are not just written for accomplished cooks who can adjust amounts/times/procedures as needed, but for people who will follow the recipe exactly without modification, or who will almost get it right but not quite. Not to mention things like differences in ingredients between brands and locations, cooking on different types of stoves, etc.

I'm a good home cook, but I tend to be hesitant about posting detailed recipes because I tend to cook by feel. If I'm going to post something, I need to cook it step by step, measuring each step carefully, and do it more than once to make sure the recipe is reproducible.

I'm not a huge fan of food porn pictures with recipes - I tend to avoid cookbooks with tons of pictures in favour of ones with good instructions, lots of background information, and illustrations only when they serve a useful purpose.

The best first date spot, especially for foodies: the Sushi Bar. Agree or Disagree?

I love sushi, and am quite conversant with authentic/traditional vs American style rolls. (I just got back from a week in Hokkaido - uni/ikura sashimi don and fresh hairy crab sashimi!) But I wouldn't consider it a good first date.

One is the price. Decent sushi bars aren't cheap. If you're the one paying, it's a lot to shell out for a first date, particularly if you're actively dating around. One time, maybe, but 10 or 15 first dates? If you're the one being treated - I know I'd be acutely uncomfortable at being taken somewhere high end on a first date, and very wary about what my date would be expecting in return, or how he would respond if he didn't get what he was expecting.

For me, personally, if I'm going to eat good sushi, I'm concentrating on the food, not my date, and the conversation is going to be pretty sparse while I savour the food.

On the other hand, if you are willing to pay for high end sushi on a first date, are not going to get miffed if you don't get a second date or any action on the first one, and regard disliking uni as a relationship breaker, then go for it. But I'd chalk that up as a highly personal idiosyncrasy, rather than a generalization.

I regard going out for coffee or a casual meal as a good first date. It's fairly short, so you aren't stuck with a lingering bad date, it's cheap enough to sustain over multiple first dates, and you don't have to worry about fending off or ditching someone who has had too much to drink.

Bread Machine Multigrain Woes

The gradient in texture is interesting - maybe the cereal part is settling to the bottom and clumping, and therefore not getting evenly mixed into the dough? If the bottom of the dough has more multi-grains in it than the top, that would fit with a denser to lighter mix.

So maybe give the cereal and liquid a thorough mixing, add the dry ingredients, and start the bake cycle immediately.

Frozen Dinners aka TV Dinners: Why are they so Popular?

I'm not a big fan myself, but I can see the appeal. They are generally cheaper than take-out. There is a wide variety of different products available - pasta+sauce+steamed vegetables is easy, but gets boring after a while. All you need is a microwave - no pots needed. And they come in one meal sizes, so you don't have to figure out what to do with all the leftover ingredients, or have fresh stuff go bad on you.

I did a quick check on the lean cuisine site, and while cooking their offerings from scratch would taste much better, most of the dishes in their meal line would involve at least a half dozen main ingredients.

I also know a fair number of people who don't really eat them for regular meals, but keep a few in the freezer for convenience. They're late getting home from work, and want something to eat fast, they're a quick dose of extra calories for high energy burners, they need to leave early for an evening activity.

My equivalent behaviour would be grabbing an onigiri and a garden salad from 7-11, but that doesn't work so well in in the US.

Does anyone love their slow cooker?

Newer slow cookers cook at a higher temperature than older ones. That means that you generally need less time to cook the food, but it also means that if you want to set it up in the morning and have dinner when you return you either need one with a timer (and be willing to let things sit for a few hours before and/or after cooking), or the food will almost always be over cooked and mushy. A lot of recipes call for around 5-6 hours of cooking, while for me, it's generally at least 9, sometimes 10 between leaving home and getting back.

I tend to use mine for overnight cooking. Set it going right before I go to bed, and my husband, an early riser, turns it off when he wakes up. Then it's cool enough to shove in the fridge before going to work. I also find it useful for cooking dried beans and chickpeas, and rice porridge.

But if you're home, and have no problem with braising or stewing times, and aren't fond of slowcooker food in general, I wouldn't recommend getting one.

Feb 09, 2015
tastesgoodwhatisit in Cookware

Move Over Kale: The Next Super Food is Okra!!

I love okra, and pig out on it when it's in season.

I like it stir fried, whole, on high heat until it starts to brown, and seasoned with salt and lemon juice. Strung on skewers, brushed with oil, salt and cumin and grilled is also very good. Stewed with tomatoes and onions.

And, of course, raw, sliced, on rice, with tororo, natto, some tuna sashimi and a raw egg to top it off.

Move Over Kale: The Next Super Food is Okra!!

Never travel to Japan, then.

Asian Frozen Dumplings: Are They Equivalent to Microwaveable Frozen Dinners?

I think frozen dumplings are a step up from an average TV dinner. Making dumplings from scratch takes a fair amount of time and effort to make, even for a practised cook, and it's only really worth doing if you've got the freezer space to make a big batch and freeze them.

I don't usually buy them myself, but that's solely because I live in an environment that's got dumpling shops the way Seattle has Starbucks - I can walk ten minutes from my home or work, and get freshly made pan fried or boiled dumplings, with hot and sour soup and some pickled cabbage on the side, take out or eat in.

One advantage of dumplings is that you can adjust the serving size easily, which is harder to do with microwaved meals.

Eating frozen dumplings for half your meals, on the other hand, doesn't strike me as a great choice diet wise, but it's still better than some of the alternatives.

Is it okay to...

I see you're in Canada. :-)

Canadian iced tea is generally made from a powdered mix, and is basically tea and lemon flavoured Kool-Aid. It does not pair well with food.

Given that you're already buying sparkling water, I think that discreetly mixing it in to your drink would be fine.

I can sympathize with your boredom with plain water. I tend to avoid sweet drinks in general, mainly because of the excess calories, and pop or juice aren't necessarily a great match with a nice dinner. I went through a period when for medical reasons I also had to avoid all caffeine and alcohol, and even if I liked diet pop, the only variety available where I live is Coke Zero (which has caffeine). I got really tired of plain water. I'd have been happy to order something else if there had been anything else to order.

ASIAN DUMPLINGS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month (February 2015)

My husband is the gyoza maker in our household - he does a pork and vegetable filled version, and I dip them in black rice vinegar. We buy fresh skins ready made from the stand in the traditional market - cheap, and made earlier that morning.

Once a year I go through the effort of making zongzi, but that's for the dragon boat festival, usually in June. These are large dumplings with a glutinous rice based filling, wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed or boiled.

I do a very rich Taiwanese style which contain the glutinous rice, soy and rice wine braised pork belly, boiled peanuts, salted duck egg yolks, dried chestnuts, dried shitake, dried radish, dried shrimp, spring onions, garlic and spices.

This recipe


is pretty close. They freeze and microwave very well, and are, as you might guess, very filling.

fried tofu

Three cup tofu is very nice. "Three cup" is a common preparation in Taiwan - chicken or other ingredients (mushroom, squid, frog) cooked with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame, as well as fresh basil, ginger slices, whole cloves of garlic and hot peppers.

Would you buy your neighbors' home cooked food

Personally, no, I wouldn't use a service like this, for several reasons. One, as has been extensively discussed, is the food safety/random stranger factor. Another is logistics and convenience. I buy pre-prepared meals in two situations - one is going out to a restaurant, where the setting, and having someone serve and clean up, is part of the experience. The second is when I'm feeling lazy and pick up takeout on the way home. Doing the latter is spontaneous, I want it now - for your idea, I'm going to have to decide to order far enough in advance for the person to get ingredients, prepare the food, and deliver it. I can cook a meal faster than that.

The first thing you need to do if you want to set up this idea is to talk to a lawyer to see if it is 1) legal 2) semi-legal (ie, depends on how you set it up/interpret the laws or 3) illegal. My understanding is that preparing foods at home for commercial sale is general not legal, or the requirements are well beyond the casual cook's means.

If it is legal, you need to thoroughly understand the regulations, and know exactly what your personal liability is.

The second is to do some research and planning. Questions to answer

- If this is intended as a business for you, how will you make money? Charging membership fees? Taking a cut of the sales? Advertising? How will you collect the money?

- What sort of guarantee will you provide for the customers? Is there a secure payment system with protections (like eBay) or is it everyone for themselves? How do you handle refunds or complaints, or buyers/sellers who renege on an agreement? What about legal problems - suing for food poisoning, for example.

- What is your market? How many customers in a given area do you need for this to become convenient/profitable? How long will people be willing to drive to pickup/deliver? If someone goes to the site and the only people offering to buy or sell at that time are 45 minutes by car away, you're not going to build up market.

- What is your quality control? You mention reviews, but it is a chicken and egg situation - someone needs to sell multiple meals to build up reviews, but people are reluctant to buy before there are reviews.

I cannot see the 'I have some extra food - want to buy it?' model working. There's the ick factor of buying a stranger's leftovers, and it would be foolish to prepare a meal hoping that someone on-line wants to buy that exact food at that exact time. For purchasers, the random factor could be a turnoff - they'll be faced with whatever is being offered at that time, rather than what they want to eat. It might work as a catering arrangement, with the expectation that the negotiation will take place a few days before you actually want the food.

I think the biggest challenge (legality aside) would be building up a customer base. For something like this to be useful, you would need a large number of participants, so that food is available when people want it, close to where they live, with reviews. But until you've got that, the service isn't particularly appealing.

As far as the special diet market goes - if I had serious diet restrictions, I would not be trusting food made by a random person I found on the internet, even if they claimed to have the same needs themselves.

How have you used oats in a savory way?

I use whole oats (like steel cut but not cut) as a savory grain - they work well in pilafs and casseroles.

Dried Squid edible? Difference between Korean and Thailand dried squid?

I think the snacky one is not only dried but roasted, which gives it a chewy but edible texture.

Would like your opinion on what coffee supplies to provide for a nicer end vacation rental

I think I'd go with a stainless steel French Press (I have one from Ikea that's great), a simple coffee grinder, and a vacuum sealed bag of decent quality (non flavoured) coffee beans, and a pack or two of sealed ground coffee. I find a French press is better for small amounts of coffee than a drip machine, and a metal one is pretty sturdy and long lasting.

For cream - powdered creamer is pretty nasty. If you stock the kitchen before the guests arrive, I'd put in a small container of half and half; they can get more if they use it all. If you don't stock perishables, then a container of UHT cream would be better than creamer.

The Keruig and similar brands are convenient, but expensive, and you're restricted to their coffee pods, which are okay but not up to coffee snob standards. With a press, a casual drinker won't have to go through a lot of effort to get a cup, but it produces pretty good coffee for more hard core drinkers.

I'd be wary of a fancy machine - expensive, easy to break, hard to use. I also wouldn't worry too much about serious snobs, because you won't be able to guess what their particular snobbishness is. Get three coffee snobs in a room, and they'll all have different opinions about how to make a good cup of coffee.

Some good quality tea bags would be a nice touch, as well, or a small container of loose tea, a tea pot, and a strainer.

What is the best way to invite guests online to casual gatherings at your home? Evite, Facebook, or some other way?

I find an email or personal Facebook message (if that's how I primarily communicate with someone) to be the easiest on-line invitation to see and respond to.

Facebook can be really easy to miss if it's not a personal message - a day or two of not checking, and stuff goes straight past me.

My understanding is that with both Evite and Facebook invitations, everyone else can see whether or not I'm coming. That can discourage some people (me included) from responding. I'm happy to RSVP, but not so thrilled about doing it in front of your whole Facebook friend list. It can also be hard to tell on Facebook at first glance if an event is a personal one (you, specifically, are being invited to a social event) or a general one (someone is advertising to their whole Facebook list).

To improve responses, I find that an initial email, followed by one later saying "Let me know by X time if you're coming or not, so I know how much food to prepare" improves the response rate. It won't help the people who have no intention of RSVPing, but it will help those who are just swamped in media messages.

How to eat healthy as a picky adult

It is possible to train your palate to enjoy new foods, but you need to stick with it, and eat the food multiple times in order to get used to it.

Work your way out from the foods you do like. If you like broccoli, for example, try gai lan (Chinese broccoli), or broccoflower, and then work from broccoflower to cauliflower.

Try mixing a vegetable you like with one you are less familiar with - saute broccoli with onion, for example, or with chopped red pepper. Mix corn with green peas. Make a salad that incorporates fruit - apple, walnut and celery, for example, or sliced apples and spinach, or avocado and tomato.

Try different preparations and seasonings, particularly if you're used to trying vegetables cooked in a single way, like boiled. You can eat them raw, you can have them lightly steamed with lemon or butter, or sauteed with garlic, or pureed in a soup, or roasted.

Do the kid trick, and sneak vegetables into other food. Add grated carrot or zucchini to a hamburger patty (think mini-meatloaf), and keep increasing the amount each time you make it, until the vegetables are really noticeable. Make homemade tacos, and mix some diced tomatoes with the meat. Mash cauliflower with potatoes (google sneaking vegetables into kid's food for other ideas).

Start with small amounts of new vegetables, and force yourself to eat it all.

In order to have a healthy diet you really do need to expand the vegetables you will eat - as others have said, corn is more a starch than a vegetable, and fruits are in general fairly high in sugar.

Think of this not just as being for health, but for your professional and personal development. Travel is much harder when you're a picky eater, and it can hurt you professionally if you work at a job where business meals are part of the package.

Ultimately, you will need to increase the variety of foods you like, and it will take effort. But you can train yourself to like unfamiliar foods. The fact that you like broccoli is actually encouraging - broccoli is on the bitter side compared to a lot of vegetables.

Dried Kidney Bean preparation

I think they are right that there isn't a tested way of pressure canning dairy or noodles at home. The USDA guidelines (which are pretty comprehensive) give no instructions on how to do so, and specifically say that you should not add dairy or starches to home canned soups.

Noodles or other starches will basically disintegrate during the 60-75 minutes pressure cooking processing time, which affects the heat transfer through the food (as will other starches or thickeners) in an unpredictable way.

College Kid Blues

I think what I would do is to try to microwave lean ground beef and grated onion until the beef is cooked, then add canned tomatoes, rinsed canned beans, and chili powder, and cook until heated through.

Onions are tricky, because they generally need to be sauteed for a good texture and taste. Grating the onions would give you some of the onion flavour, without the texture issue, and cooking with the ground beef might bring out the flavour.

It won't be gourmet chili, by any means, but it should be edible and reasonably healthy...

If you're a reasonably good cook to start with, you could offer a trade with non-dorm classmates. You get to use their kitchen to make a batch of chili, you split the costs, and they get half the food.

I can't really blame universities for banning hot-plates in the dorm rooms, though, due to the fire risk. When I was in undergrad they ended up banning hot air popcorn poppers because they kept setting off the heat alarms, usually at about 10 or 11 pm.

recs for teas/juices/soups/drinks/other foods that act as decongestants

Get a jar of Thai hot and sour soup paste. Mix with hot chicken stock and/or water, and drink.