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Menu ideas needed

Thanks for the suggestions - I think we are going to do a caprese salad for sure (they have garden tomatoes) and then see what looks tasty at the store. Some grill action is definitely in order though!

Sep 17, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Menu ideas needed

My husband and I are going to visit some friends in the Twin Cities this weekend, and are looking for ideas for a Saturday night menu. These are very good friends who we used to cook with all the time when we lived in the same city, and we're celebrating both the visit and the fact that I recently passed the bar and have become a real, live lawyer (watch out, world)! We've been all over the place trying to plan our Saturday evening meal, so I thought I would put it to the Chowhounds!

The items need to be obtained in a grocery store - no time to mail-order. We have three very skilled cooks, one excellent assistant to chop things and wash dishes, and two more friends to bring the dessert and wine.

So what do y'all think we should make? What would you make?

Sep 14, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

10 Vegan Lunch Recipes

I haven't been able to load the tomato soup recipe several times today - I know the site has been buggy, but it seems really bad to have a feature article which includes links that don't work. Is there a workaround I'm not aware of for this issue?

Sep 13, 2008
jnstarla in Features

Salad Dressing

I make this dressing to serve over a cucumber/tomato/feta salad (sorry the quantities are a little inexact... I usually just add things, taste, add some more, taste again etc. until it tastes good to me):

1 - 2 cloves crushed garlic
juice of one or two lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh oregano, thyme, mint, and/or basil

Jul 21, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Do you ever like the crappy better than the excellent?

You can compost Wonder Bread? I just squish it until it is microscopic! Lol.

Jul 17, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

Do you ever like the crappy better than the excellent?

I prefer Kraft American slices on grilled cheese. Preferably on white bread that is mostly air - the only time I eat white bread at all, in fact. Perhaps with canned Campbell's tomato soup on the side.

Blue box mac & cheese is just the ticket sometimes, though I do love baked mac & cheese too. Just in a different way.

Soy "chick'n" nuggets, corndogs, and hotdogs - I just find them so much less greasy than the real thing. But if I had a Portillo's nearby I would change the tune on the 'dogs.

Jul 15, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

catering client expectation too high!!

I bet they do. People who make requests like this often have no clue what goes into the services a professional vendor provides.

coastie, have you heard from them again since your OP?

Jul 06, 2008
jnstarla in Not About Food

Kimchi -after midnight

I just finished having some steamed veggie dumplings topped with kimchi. Best late-night snack EVER.

Jul 05, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

catering client expectation too high!!

It sounds like you have likely already spent too much time on this, but if you feel you must respond further - create an actual proposal. People planning weddings have a hard time understanding the problem scale creates sometimes.

Send them a final proposal, maybe with a variety of menus, that show realistic prices. Do not try to soften the edges, and enclose with it a letter that explains that this is your final proposal, and that if they are unable to create a contract at those prices you apologize but they will have to seek another catering service.

Good luck. They sound like they have no idea how much catering costs!

Jul 05, 2008
jnstarla in Not About Food

Novice cook in search of! :-)

Alton Brown's book "I'm Just Here For The Food" is great at teaching some fundamental techniques, and I use it as a reference again and again.

Other than that, just keep doing what you're doing. Experience is the best teacher in the kitchen. And if you occasionally run into a real clunker and have to order pizza or take-out Chinese, that is ok too! Some of our best memories were the meals we never ate, like the Great Cabbage Braising of '04...

Jun 20, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Your best recipes using scotch, whiskey, or bourbon

I hope you like it! I have added a bit of orange zest too, and done a whole side of salmon in the marinade (flesh-side down for the "soaking") rather than fillets. It's a really solid recipe that we have enjoyed many, many times.

Jun 08, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Your best recipes using scotch, whiskey, or bourbon

From Cooking Light:

Grilled Orange-and-Bourbon Salmon
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag, and add salmon to bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning bag occasionally.
Prepare grill or broiler.
Remove salmon from bag, reserving marinade. Place salmon on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Cook 6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, basting frequently with reserved marinade.
4 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 365(35% from fat); FAT 14.1g (sat 2.5g,mono 6.8g,poly 3.1g); PROTEIN 36g; CHOLESTEROL 111mg; CALCIUM 34mg; SODIUM 575mg; FIBER 0.3g; IRON 1.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 18g

Jun 08, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Looking for a low(er) fat scone - is the search worth it?

We made the Cooking Light recipe for sun-dried tomato & cheese scones. I thought they were delicious - we used them as the bread for egg sandwiches.

If you search for recipes from the Cooking Light homepage, it should restrict your search to recipes that were published in Cooking Light only, not Southern Living or whatever else they publish. If you're doing a search from, use the advanced search option to restrict your results to Cooking Light only.

Also, I have noticed that many older recipes from Cooking Light use weird extracts and substitutions. More recent recipes tend to use more fresh herbs and smaller quantities of butter, rather than butter flavoring and Crisco. If you are looking at a recipe from pre-2002 I would read it carefully for strange ingredients.

Jun 08, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Favourite Bundt Pan Recipes

The spiced-up honey cake in the "Staff Meals from Chanterelle" is great, and calls for a bundt pan...

May 24, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Open Table - Always a Bad Table

If the place is busy, probably only the "bad" tables are left...

The restaurant can't tell how you booked your reservation if they use OpenTable's software.

May 23, 2008
jnstarla in Not About Food

Rice...what you got?

There is Japanese brown rice? Must find.

I have black Japonica rice, a California blend of black and brown rice, some red rice from Bhutan, medium grain white rice, glutinous rice, basmati rice, arborio rice, an organic rice blend from CostCo that has a whole bunch of different kinds in it, and some plain old brown rice. I love rice.

Also some wild rice that Alton Brown says is really grass, so maybe it doesn't count?

May 20, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

Weekly menus

We do what some others have mentioned - planning a few meals at the beginning of the week to make a "menu" of sorts that we can pick from for the week. We do this to keep from looking at a fairly full cupboard, concluding that there is nothing to eat, and ordering a pizza. I am a student, so we are on a fairly tight budget and eating out messes up our budget quite a bit. Most of the stuff we eat isn't very complicated, but it is filling and tasty and generally nutritious.

I go to Costco every other week, and keep a running list of things as we run out. There are quite a few staples we always, always, always have, and I supplement with fresh produce & herbs. Most of our recipes come from Cooking Light, because I am trying to lose a bunch of weight I gained after starting law school...

This week's menu:

Salmon burgers on whole wheat buns with steamed snap peas
Hot brown sandwiches with spicy sauteed broccoli
Chicken tortilla soup
Yogurt/oregano marinated grilled chicken in tortillas with hummus and celery salad
Spicy coconut shrimp soup

May 14, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

how to get crispy skin on underside of whole chicken

This is the "beer can chicken" holder we have. The name alone is totally worth the price.

May 12, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

$10 meal for four

I wonder if there wasn't enough time to make a really good chili? I don't remember how long they had, but I've always found that chili is much better the next day when the flavors have more time to "meld."

May 02, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

$10 meal for four

On the latest episode of Top Chef (Wednesday nights on Bravo, 9 pm CST), the elimination challenge was to cook a healthy meal for four with a budget of $10. There was quite a bit of grumbling about the size of the budget, and my husband and I looked at each other and just shrugged. $10 a meal is probably high for us most nights, actually! But we are big pantry/freezer cookers...

I was wondering what was the Chowhound's best idea for a $10 meal for four. No limit on cooking time, so braising or slow-cookers are ok.

My thoughts:

*Buy a cup of bulk polenta, some chicken thighs, some tomatoes (probably canned), and a small amount of cheese. Use the polenta as the base of a cacciatore-inspired casserole.

*A tortilla soup in the crock pot - my husband always calls it "soup of can" because everything is pre-made. Not the fanciest dish by any means, but tasty and hearty. Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts, one can of beans (rinsed), one can of diced tomatoes (drained), one cup of salsa (we use the home-canned from our garden), two cups frozen corn, chili powder, and some cumin & other herbs/spices to round it out. Cook all day on low.

Anyone else?

May 02, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Breakfast for dinner

I am a big fan of leftovers for breakfast. Especially Thai or Chinese. Leftover steamed rice with some sriracha and a poached or fried egg on top is the food of the gods in the morning. My husband thought I was nuts until he tried it. Sooooo good!

We will do eggs of all sorts, homefries, or oatmeal for dinner, but I will never voluntarily eat a bowl of cold cereal. I can't stand the stuff.

May 01, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

Very silly topic, maybe: can you use the self cleaning oven cycle for cooking?

No problem! That article is seriously one of my favorite pieces of food writing of all time.

On topic, I think he eventually had success achieving very high temperatures on a charcoal grill of some sort. Maybe try and roast your chicken in that? Grilled chicken is never great for skin though. IMHO, it gets too burny to eat.

Apr 28, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Very silly topic, maybe: can you use the self cleaning oven cycle for cooking?

The result was initially successful, in that his pizza cooked beautifully. But then he was unable to cancel the cleaning cycle and watched his perfectly done pizza incinerate into ash. Brilliant article, originally appeared in Vogue's August 2000 issue. It is reproduced in "It Must've Been Something I Ate," Random House, 2002.

Apr 28, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking


The problem is often not that the restaurant doesn't know how long most of their tables stay. The problem is that table 6 is having a reunion and has been lingering over coffee for almost an hour since finishing their desserts, or that table 18 ordered a cheese plate after their dessert course and no one expected it, or that table 10 had one person who was really, really, really late and they just ordered. Restaurant customers are human beings and as such are unpredictable. On average, tables might take 2 hours to turn. But every single table isn't going to take 2 hours to turn.

Apr 21, 2008
jnstarla in Not About Food

Strategic Eating

I am always trying for the one perfect bite for each plate. Sometimes that means a combination of things - tiny bits of turkey, dressing (not stuffing! dressing!), mashed potatoes, and cranberries on a fork on Thanksgiving, for example. Other times, the perfect bite is just the nicest chunk of apple from the pie, or the most perfectly browned bit from the topping on the cobbler.

My husband thinks this habit is weird.

Apr 21, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

Simple Syrup with Splenda

Now I am curious about this too - is Splenda sweeter than sugar? I know it weighs much less than sugar because of its different chemical structure... When I make simple syrup, I make it 1:1 sugar to water, but I measure by volume (cups) not weight (ounces or grams). Recipes seem to call for substituting Splenda for sugar in exact volume.

Please try it and report back!

Apr 16, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

Need a new direction for cauliflower

A guy I knew in college rubbed halved cauliflower with a mix of dijon mustard, honey, s&p, and some cayenne. Smear on in a layer, and roast until the cauliflower is tender. We used to call it "roasting the brain." Ah, college.

Apr 06, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

It makes me happy when...

It makes me happy when someone says "I never liked X until I tasted this!"

Apr 04, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics

Fancy mashed potatoes

Use a tuna can - cut off both ends.

Or you can buy biscuit cutters - they come in many sizes.

What is an egg ring?

Mar 31, 2008
jnstarla in Home Cooking

What do you have for lunch at home? (moved from Outer Boroughs board)

If we don't have leftovers (rare), I will usually make a bowl of tomato soup and a sandwich. Turkey and avocado is my favorite, though we don't often have the stuff for it. Toasted cheese is more common. For some reason, eating just a sandwich makes me grumpy but adding the soup turns it into "real food."

Also, veggie dumplings with some sriracha and hoisin are great and quick. We buy big bags of them at the Asian market.

Mar 29, 2008
jnstarla in General Topics