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Progresso canned tomatoes

They're also super-expensive compared w/Progresso. Boo!

Nov 19, 2010
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Strawberries have no flavor anymore. Agree or disagree?

I'm from Ventura, Ca, which is at the center of some of the best strawberry growing country in the world. I also write a farmers market column & go to all the farmers markets in Ventura County, so I regularly get to taste all of the wonderful varieties of strawberries we grow around here. The taste of the strawberry comes from a variety of factors. For example, we had a wet rainy winter, so the winter berries, which are generally less flavorful than the summer berries, developed what is called "white shoulder," where the tops by the stems are white. They still sell these berries, but any grower will tell you they're not very good.
Sadly though, the best, most flavorful berry varieties are too fragile to stand shipping. Most of the time you have to eat the fresh berries the day you buy them. You can actually watch them rot on the kitchen counter over an 8-hour period in the summer. Sweetness also varies by variety, and most of the farmers will let you taste the berry to see if it's the kind you prefer.
But for the rest of the country, you guys tend to get the giant, durable varieties that ship well, and you're right, they aren't as good. I'm by no means a strawberry expert, but I'm told that they are trying to create big, flavorful berries. I'd suggest checking out your local farmers when they're in season and using the grocery store varieties for jams.

May 03, 2010
Fuser in General Topics

Asparagus Mimosa

Me too :-)

Mar 25, 2010
Fuser in Recipes

The Basics: How to Make an Icebox Cake

Bon Appetit had a version of this that they made into an easy Christmas log, using Dutch cocoa, espresso powder and powdered sugar. It was the hit of our Christmas. BTW, this was also a staple of my mom's repertoire in the 60s and you have to slice it on the diagonal, as stated and illustrated and cookies look just like the picture, which is just how they look when I cut mine. Also one cup of heavy cream isn't enough IMO. In fact, I used 3 cups of cream to make my mocha log. And the whole thing has to sit 6 hours at the very least to work effectively.

Dec 26, 2009
Fuser in Features

anyone making candy for the holidays? What are you making?

I'll be making everyone's favorite: buckeyes -- chocolate covered peanut butter balls. These are HUGE in Ohio and everyone had a favorite recipe. Many call for adding paraffin to the chocolate, but it's much better without it. I also make that easy Kraft furge that is derided by many. Of course I never use margarine and have been know to flavor it with bourbon.

Dec 15, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

T-Day Postmortem: the good, the bad, and the ugly

For me the good was the locally grown, free range organic turkey, which was great. It was a lot bigger than I wanted, almost 25 pounds, but we ended up with more people, so alls well... The cranberry sauce made with merlot was really quite delicious. I made well over 7 pounds of potatoes and people were fighting over them. Amazing. They're clamoring for more.
The bad: I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour for my pie crusts and it was a battle the whole way. I had to resort to wax paper to even get them to stick together when I rolled them out. Then they looked really dark to the point of being burnt when they cooked. The taste, however was very good and they weren't burnt. The pie filling was the Cooks Illustrated pumpkin pie recipe with sweet potato, which I doubled, and I don't blind-bake the crusts as recommended because I'm not very good at it. They came out amazing, even though Cooks Illustrated recipes are written by people who have never had to wash their own dishes -- seriously could they make you take more steps with more bowls? We had a young man from Australia here who had his first pumpkin pie ever and he scarfed the whole slice. My nephew, who professes to hate pie (how can you hate pie? It's like saying you hate sunshine?) was converted by my apple pie ala mode (had to give him a familiar taste to bridge to the pie. I used pink lady and granny smith locally grown organic apples and they were amazing.
The ugly: creamed onions started well but ended up brown looking. They tasted OK if you didn't look too hard.

Nov 29, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

Best dinner rolls for Thanksgiving?

It's too late now, but you should have stopped at My Florist Cafe, which has a bakery in back (yes, the name is odd) 76 S. Oak St., Ventura. Fantastic bread, croissants and more, Plus it's a nice stop on the trip north.

Nov 27, 2009
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Stuffing from a box -- best brand and how to spruce up?

I'm a big fan of Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing, to which I add fresh sage, chopped celery, pecans or almonds, depending on my mood, and currants and dried cranberries. My daughter adds sausage to hers and says it's amazing.

Nov 21, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

Where can i pick up an unusual apple pie (fondant topping, crumb, or caramel) for thurs?

Believe it or not, our local Vons today in Ventura had a square pie with a caramel/nut top that looked pretty interesting. Maybe they have them as far south as LA.

Nov 21, 2009
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Death of a cookbook

I'm an Internet person. When I first moved to California I pretty much had to shed the bulk of my possessions. So what did I spend my time, energy and money to ship out to the West Coast in 1997? My collection of Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines. A few years later, the collection was rendered useless by Epicurious. Now I make liberal use of online recipes. The trick is to read the comments, where people will post corrections and additions, and which acts as a vetting process of sorts. Plus the Internet is great for unique and unusual items, like uni, and you don't have to go out a buy a bunch of books to learn how to prepare it. I still love my cookbooks, but I've always used them -- as I do the Internet -- as a source for inspiration. Another great aspect of the Internet is that you can compare numerous recipes. When I was honing in on the best chocolate chip recipe, I scoured through all kinds of online resources, Epicurious, allrecipes, Food Network,, comparing and taking notes. I was able to get a good basis of comparison to create my own balance of ingredients. It's kind of a waste of time to trash the Internet and digital age. It's an incredible resource for the avid cook who should always be searching for as much information as possible about food IMO. For me the resources online are just to varied and rich to pass up. I believe there's always a place for cookbooks, but now I think they are more works of art, with lush photography and maybe some good writing added.

Sep 17, 2009
Fuser in Food Media & News

need restaurant in ventura/oxnard for anniversary

Actually the restaurant scene is alive and vibrant in Ventura. For those who haven't been here in a while, it's worth a trip. There are also some pretty good places to eat in nearby Ojai. A lovely place to try that has Italian food and doesn't cost too much is the Garden Terrace in Ojai. Get a patio seat overlooking Soule Park at sunset and enjoy a pink moment with great food. More expensive, but worth is is Suzanne's, with a creative and finely executed menu. Azu along Ojai Ave is also great. In Ventura, I'm not a big fan of Capriccios. I WANT to like it, but I'm always disappointed. However, there are so many other great restaurants to try. While Brooks is great, there's also the Sidecar restaurant, which can be very good, as long as you avoid breakfast there. Cafe Fiore is also good, although a bit expensive. Ranch House is as expensive as it gets. People rave about the Watermark, but I haven't tried it yet. I've always enjoyed Jonathan's. For soul food with a twist try Charlene's. There's a whole slew of good restaurants in downtown Ventura these days. Ventura has come alive in the past five years, so for those who haven't been here for a wile, it's worth a visit. You won't recognize it.

Sep 12, 2009
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Sick in bed comfort food

When I'm ill my favorite comfort food is Knorr's chicken noodle soup with a boneless, skinless chicken breast chopped up and added and cooked in, along with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Sep 12, 2009
Fuser in General Topics

Most Overrated Dishes

My nomination is cedar planked salmon. I spent the better part of a summer searching for a cedar plank. Prepared it by soaking it and had my salmon with fresh dill rubbed with olive oil, grilled it and it tasted like -- salmon that had been kept in a cedar chest, like salmon combined with summer lake house. I'm not sure what I was expecting. I love wood-smoked food in general, but cedar reminds me of moth repellents, which it's used for.
As for chicken marbella, I never used the brown sugar called for in the chicken marbella recipe b/c I tend to avoid sugar except when it's necessary (like in baking), and it's not so bad.

Sep 12, 2009
Fuser in General Topics

Your Morning Cocktail

When you start needing morning cocktails it's not a sign of "advancing age," it's a sign of alcoholism.

Aug 06, 2009
Fuser in Features

Ladybugs on a Raft

Peanut butter and celery is a time-tested classic peanut butter and banana. Delicious. The salty nutty peanut butter contrasts nicely with the crisp, slightly sweet celery.

Aug 06, 2009
Fuser in Recipes

Can I use a Dutch oven to make Bolognese?

I make my Bolognese all the time in my Staub La Cocotte and it comes out wonderfully. A Dutch oven was made for Bolognese sauce. I find that rendering the pancetta or bacon (depending on what I have on hand) and then wilting my veggies goes really well and then it holds a steady low temp for the long simmer. You can boil water in a Dutch oven if need be, but it's really best suited for braises and slow cooking IMO.

Jul 08, 2009
Fuser in Cookware

McDonald's Angus Burger??

Ewwww "butter-flavored seasoning" in other words, artificial nastiness, which is what it tastes like.

Jul 01, 2009
Fuser in Chains

4th of July Ice Cream Flavors

Turtles are always delicious -- vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce and toasted, lightly salted pecans. You could toy with other flavors of ice cream, but I just love the simple homespun vanilla against the richness of the caramel and hot fudge toped with the salty pecans. Whip some cream, and there you go.

Jun 29, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

Indian Spices

Penzey's makes some really nice mixes. Plus they have most of the ingredients if you want to toast and make your own.

Jun 29, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

Is there any food considered "biker food"

Back when I hung out with bikers, one thing they had was wild meat. I remember a venison pot roast that was the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner. There was also turkey and all the trimmin's, as the cliche goes. Our big biker hangout, which attracts bikers of all stripes outside of Ojai, CA, is The Deer Lodge, which serves gourmet barbecue, alongside wild meats.

The Deer Lodge - duplicate
Ojai CA, Ojai, CA

Mar 27, 2009
Fuser in General Topics

how to prepare fresh chick peas ?

I made the following recipe with some fresh chickpeas I bought a while back:
Fresh garbanzo and roasted garlic linguine

1 pound whole wheat pasta (not the "whole grain" stuff), cooked al dente
1 cup reserved liquid from cooking the pasta
2 cups fresh garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches scallions, cut into small pieces
1 head roasted garlic (drizzle head of garlic with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Put in 350 degree oven for 1 hour)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet. Add garbanzo beans and scallions and cook, tossing. Taste the beans and when they're warmed through and a little crusty, stop. Toss with the pasta. Add cheese and squeeze the garlic cloves out on the pasta. Toss everything together and add some of the reserved liquid to loosen it up a bit, use liquid to desired consistency. Serve.

Feb 04, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

Recovering alcoholic frustrated foodie....

I've gotten to the point in my recovery that it doesn't bother me to have some wine around the house and I never liked beer anyway so I don't mind having it around. There are just some flavors you can't achieve in cooking without using wine or beer. Make sure to cook your food long enough for the majority of the alcohol to cook out. You can never cook it all out, but then you get minute amounts of alcohol when you put vanilla flavoring in food. If the amount is minuscule, the average body won't even register the alcohol with any effect. I do avoid keeping stronger spirits around, however, and I will send them home with people (have them put the opened bottle in the trunk of the car to avoid open container violations).
In early recovery I found the small 1-glass bottles of wine were great to use. You can buy them one at a time and pour out leftovers. The same applies to stronger spirits, for example Cooks Illustrated has started adding vodka to pie crusts and it really makes for a flaky crust and you don't taste the vodka at all. I buy those tiny airline bottles, which are available at some liquor stores and pour out anything I have that's leftover.
It's really up to you what you can tolerate having around and you have to be brutally honest with yourself about that. If there's any doubt at all, pour it out because losing your sobriety would be much more of a shame than pouring out a bottle of good wine, no matter how expensive it is.

Jan 23, 2009
Fuser in Home Cooking

At restaurants alone with bags/packages/belongings: bathroom trip?

Always take your things with you and never count on strangers to "watch" your things. True story: My daughter was a college student at the library. She was studying and the guy next to her said, "hey could you watch my stuff. I need to go to the bathroom?" When he came back my daughter said, "Hey I need to go too, could you watch my stuff?" When she got back everything was gone so was the "nice" guy.
And although I think the book trick is kind of pathetic when one dines alone, it is a good tool for marking your place and I use it often, even if I do feel like a sad cliche.

Jan 16, 2009
Fuser in Not About Food

"Dirty" recipes that are crowd pleasers

On the nachos note, I made some cheese dip with one loaf of Velveeta and 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese. I added some chipotle in adobo, pureed and some chopped red peppers. It got thick, so I thinned it with cream. I just put it in a CrockPot and everyone loved it.
I've also been revisiting dips, to everyone's delight. The old-fashioned Lipton soup onion with sour cream dip is enormously popular -- especially with my 2-year-old grandson. and the tried-and-true Knorr's vegetable soup with soup cream and clams was delicious. Next time, I'm bringing out the old spinach, water chestnut Knorr's vegetable soup.
People do love the old stuff.

Dec 03, 2008
Fuser in Home Cooking

Are there no good eats in Ventura County?

The locals still call it Busters, and it is the best. One day I was there and I asked Mrs. Buster what happened with the name. She told me she and Mr. Buster got divorced and he was going to make her pay to use his name. She said she had "no intention of giving that (beeping bleep) one thin dime." I said, "I notice you also took down his picture." She said she thought it was bad for business having something that ugly on the wall and she smiled. I still smile at the name Just BBQ.

Nov 27, 2008
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Are there no good eats in Ventura County?

Cool! I'm going to have to try it out. I pass it each day. Did they just change ownership? I've noticed the parking lot is packed these days and before it didn't seem to do much business.

Nov 27, 2008
Fuser in Los Angeles Area

Favorite part of the turkey?

I love, love, love the turkey wings. I never tuck them behind the bird. I let them sit out there cooking to a lovely golden crispness. I eat them sprinkled with Lawry's seasoned salt with cranberry orange relish. If I have to reheat them, I do so in a moderately hot oven -- around 400 for about 20 minutes. My second favorite part is the skin. I strip all of the leftover skin off and set it aside. Then I put the skin on an old cake tin I use just for this purpose at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or so, until the skin is all crispy. I dip the pieces of crispy skin into cranberry-orange relish. My third favorite part would be giblets made into a delicious giblet gravy.

Nov 27, 2008
Fuser in General Topics

Rachael Ray scares us, er, announces again she plans to open a burger restaurant

Or as my husband says, "It's that little thing in the background that makes people go hmmmm, this tastes like eggnog:-)

Oct 12, 2008
Fuser in Food Media & News

Ming Tsai...

I'm from Dayton and still don't know which restaurant his parents owned.

Aug 25, 2008
Fuser in Food Media & News

Ming Tsai...

Ming Tsai has always been one of my all-time favorite chefs. He's so knowledgeable about food and he explains things so well. He's always going on about tasting the food -- really getting in there each step of the way and checking what you're doing. It's really too bad we don't see more of him on TV.

Aug 24, 2008
Fuser in Food Media & News