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  1. I think it depends also upon what you're making. The cookie you're making is a pretty simple, straight-up cookie, and it would somewhat seem wrong to me to "fancify" it by using cocoa that is a class above the recipe. I see nothing wrong at all with using common ingredients in a common recipe. In fact, if any of your recipients had been known to bake these cookies themselves, they might taste a little "wrong" to them due to the different cocoa. If it's a recipe where the ingredient is the star, though, I will definitely use the good stuff. In general, if I'm going to spend my time making something nice, I'm not going to drag down the quality by not using the good stuff.
  2. Did you roll them in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar?
  3. Google "silicone pan handle." A number of manufacturers make silicone sleeves that you can slip over the handles of cast iron pans; it shouldn't be too difficult to find one that would work reasonably well for any pan.
  4. If I'm not using muffin papers, I normally spray the pan with Pam. I leave them in the pan for about 5-10 minutes or so before removing. If they look as if they're going to stick to the pan (which is especially likely in the muffins I make with fruit chunks in them), I take a toothpick and trace around the circle to loosen any stuck spots before inverting the pan to remove them. If the muffin tops overshot the top of the muffin wells and look as if that is going to stick them to the pan, you can also use the toothpick to loosen underneath that. I don't like to let muffins in papers cool completely within the pan, as I feel like that encourages moisture to condense on the papers, which is just gross.
  5. We frequently have volunteer blackberry bushes pop up in our back yard. Since I generally try to keep these cleared out, I rarely get a whole lot of berries out of them. I don't like eating them out of hand, and I never have enough to make jam. My favorite use for them is to throw them in with some fresh peaches to make a peach cobbler. The pairing of the two fruits is wonderful.
  6. When I was dipping chocolates at Christmas and had just a bit of tempered chocolate leftover, I dipped some of the Trader Joe's version of Biscoff. I was using milk chocolate at the time, and found the combination wonderful, but I think they would be equally as good in dark chocolate. They made for a nice crunchy, mildly spiced interior.
  7. I always just use a potato peeler.
  8. Well, he *IS* the guy who was able to write his own cookbook in just 3-1/2 weeks, you know. He obviously does everything faster.
  9. Thanks very much for the perspective. I was just wondering "What sane person would rather spend 20 minutes wrestling it into submission, when the nice KitchenAid mixer will do that for you?" However, as Chocolot noted, since it's all going to dissolve anyway, it looks like I can go ahead and take the easy way out.
  10. I'm planning on making some chocolate covered cherries for my Dad. For starters, I need to make some fondant. I've been looking at Peter Greweling's Chocolates and Confections and Chocolates and Confections at Home as my reference. In Chocolates and Confections, he specifies tabling the fondant and agitating it with a scraper after cooking. In Chocolates and Confections at Home, he suggests that you pour the heated syrup in the bowl of your mixer and beat it with a paddle attachment. Is one of these methods preferable to the other in terms of the finished product? Is it just the scale of the two recipe in Chocolates and Confections (which makes 53 oz of fondant) makes it impractical to use the mixer?
  11. Does the Vietnamese place serve Banh mi? I really, really miss Sweet Basil down in Holly Springs that did a wonderful banh mi. Have you tried the Lime Rickey at Goodberry's? I've been taking my kids to Goodberry's for about 16 years now, and I've never actually tried the custard because I always go for the lime rickey (freshly squeezed limeade.) Also worth trying is Stick Boy Bread Company down in Fuquay-Varina. Their summer stollen is excellent.
  12. Bullock's Barbecue? It's something of an institution around here. I'm another NCSU Alum living in Apex.
  13. At the engineering firm where I used to work, a Ruud Lighting representative came to visit and brought us a kringle fresh from Wisconsin, which is where the firm is based. Better sill, he Fed-Exed us another one a month later.
  14. My Dad has a Montmorency cherry tree, and it makes the most heavenly cherry jam. I used to make an orange and honey jelly that was really good, but I haven't made that in years. When that's not available, I like blackberry or raspberry jam. (Seeded or seedless; I'm not choosy.) I really enjoy apple butter, too. As for my jam/jelly vehicle: Cherry jam is wonderful on a nice, hot Bojangles biscuit. I also like toasted english muffins or sourdough bread beneath my jam/jelly.
  15. YWalker

    Chick-Fil-A 2011

    I love their diet lemonade. It's made with Splenda rather than aspartame, so I can drink it. My kids absolutely love their sandwiches. Chick-fil-A franchises tend to be very good corporate citizens. They are great about helping out schools and community groups with fundraisers, sending out their cow mascots with coupons and giveaways and giving freebies or discounted food. My favorite brush with the courtesy of Chick-fil-A was when I was moving some huge props for a marching band performance across the campus to the football field for a halftime show performance. A couple of the cows joined me and helped me roll the props down a steep hill to the ball field. I do remember that when my kids were younger, they had a tendency to have really variable kids meal "toys." One time you might get a toy with real play value, and the next time you might get a real kid-pleaser like a book lecturing them on a character trait.
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