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Everything posted by designchick88

  1. Because there's nothing like looking at something really complicated and delicious - something that belongs in a store window or as a photo in a cooking magazine - and thinking to yourself, "I made that." Because it's wonderful thing to be able to go into your kitchen and make roast chicken or chocolate cake or green chile stew at 3 in the morning on Christmas Day when a blizzard has closed the streets, just because you feel like it. Cooking means never having to go out for breakfast burritos the day after a major alcohol binge; it means being able to make chocolate chip cookies at 2 a.m. and giggle with your sweetheart as you lick the dough off the spoon during the late movie; it means having your spouse open the door to surprise delicious smells and a beautifully set table on your anniversary, when you've made him/her their favorite meal as a treat. Any time you feel like Chinese food, or nouveau cuisine, or a really nice Thai dish, you don't have to worry about finding a decent restaurant, driving there, how you're going to pay for it, putting up with bad service - you can just make it yourself. Because it's a great feeling when you're able to recreate your best friend's treasured memories of a fabulous spice cake her grandma used to make for her birthday. A cake she hadn't tasted in years, that brought tears to her eyes when she put the first bite in her mouth. And, because there's nothing like your husband coming home and telling you all his coworkers were jealous of his lunch, because he got leftover sauteed halibut, couscous, and haricots verts and they all had turkey sandwiches. (Although, like Jinmyo, I also just like knives and fire, two things I was NEVER allowed to play with as a child.) :)
  2. That Take 5 bar sounds good. I just started infertility treatments and am having to do some things that are making my hormones go off the charts. Lately the comfort food has been chocolate-peanut butter ice cream, either Ben and Jerry's or Dreyer's Dreamery. And I have had insatiable cravings for nachos - chicken nachos with lots of goopy cheese and sour cream and hot, hot jalapenos. I imagine if we progress to the point where I am having to stick myself in the butt with needles I am going to need to find something stronger...like vodka tonics. :)
  3. Slightly OT, here - does anyone watch that show on Style Network called Clean House, or the similar show on TLC called Clean Sweep? It features absolutely chaotic homes where people store random items in various rooms (there's usually a packrat in the household somewhere responsible) and they have a crew come in to help the family sort, sell and organize their belongings, and then the crew redecorates one or two of their rooms. It is hysterically funny for someone like me, who was taught about "a place for everything and everything in its place" when I was 3 years old. My mom was a neat freak anyway, but especially before she entertained - we would all be pressed into service and made to clean as though a white-glove inspection team was coming over. Most of the people on the shows readily admit they never, ever entertain, or even invite someone in off the front step if they drop by. The last time we were watching it, I told my husband "this is why I like to have parties - it forces me to clean the house!"
  4. We like to throw parties and do so frequently. I am also a member of Generation X and I was taught (admittedly, by my very traditional Southern mother and grandmothers) that social invitations should always be reciprocated, preferably within one month. (They were also big on hostess gifts, another dying tradition.) When we first started entertaining, I fully expected to receive invitations in kind from our guests. Most of the time they never came. Eventually I learned that some people just do not entertain, even if the entertaining involves one other couple in their home over pizza. Other people would rather reciprocate by taking us out to dinner, which I think is fine. But we have some friends who have been to our house four or five times a year for the past three years, and we have never seen the inside of their homes. That's just a little weird, for me. It's not that big of a deal to me, but in many ways I think the old tradition of reciprocal invitations is a good idea. A. It keeps one or two couples in a social circle from being the "designated party givers." That is the role DH and I and one other couple in our group have fallen into. We give the parties, everyone else comes to them. I enjoy giving parties, but planning them, shopping, cooking food, cleaning the house etc. gets tiresome after awhile. B. It allows for development of a social circle and allows people to get to know each other better, and gives people more opportunities to entertain. If that obligation of returning an invitation within a month was prevalent, people would get together more frequently and there'd be less party congestion around holidays. Last Christmas we didn't get a single invitation between Labor Day and Dec. 1; then we got inundated and had many more invitations than we could accommodate. It made me feel bad that we couldn't make it to Christmas parties fo people we had entertained, but when you have 4 parties scheduled for the same evening, what can you do? C. I think it is just good manners that if someone has invited you into their home and given you food and drink that you should respond in kind. Giving a party can get expensive and I think it's just common courtesy that if you are given something, you give something back. For example, I was also taught that if you are ever given a gift (for Christmas or a birthday), you MUST give the other person a gift at the next appropriate occasion. That way everything stays fair, and there's not one camp of "givers" and another of "takers." This all may be old, outdated etiquette, but IMO there are solid reasons for a lot of etiquette rules to exist. Although, I really mourn the death of etiquette when it comes to weddings, wedding showers and baby showers. But that's a whole other thread. :)
  5. I admit I do this to other people occasionally. I hate it when people do this to me. For example: The other day I was in Whole Foods. I had been invited to a small impromptu party (like, I got the invite at 2 p.m. for the 6 p.m. party) and the hostess asked me to bring chips and dessert. I had no time to make anything for dessert, so I ducked into Whole Foods and picked a bag of tortilla chips, a jar of salsa, and one of their premade chocolate cakes. I should say here that I am a bit of a fluffy girl, not a lot fluffy, but enough so that you notice. I get in line and who gets in line in back of me? One of those perfectly coiffed, rail thin, prune-faced elderly women wearing a shiny nylon tracksuit. She was carrying two (TWO) large bottles of "all natural laxative," a bunch of celery and a liter bottle of spring water. I knew right then that this wasn't going to end well. She sets her groceries down on the conveyor belt in back of me. I can feel her look. I turn around. She sneers at me. "It's amazing to me what people buy here, when there's all this healthy food around," she said. "I'm attending a party, and this is what the hostess asked me to bring," I say as politely as I can muster. She issues one of those "snort/pfft" noises from her rhinoplastied nose and looks away. I am really close to the edge but I pay, get my bag and prepare to walk away when I hear her mutter something about "fat" and "chocolate cake" to the cashier. I turned around, smiled and said, as loud as I possibly could, "GOOD LUCK WITH THAT CONSTIPATION, I HOPE THOSE LAXATIVES WORK OUT WELL FOR YOU." Then I left the store. So please, if you are a grocery snooper, don't a. make immediate assumptions about who people are just because of what they're buying and b. if you do, don't feel compelled to comment on it. You may end up saying something to someone who is less than appreciative of your insight.
  6. We got the plants in the ground this weekend and I think the enclosure's going to work well. We have two big dogs and one of them loves to dig and chew plants, so if plants are exposed, they're gone. Here's what I planted: Tomatoes: - 2 Brandywine - 3 Roma - 1 Patio Prize - 1 Celebrity - 1 Bush-type Early Girl I try to plant an assortment of tomatoes so we get some variety. I just try to stay away from anything that's going to vine too much, as I don't have that much space. The only thing I won't plant are cherry or grape tomatoes; I did that 3 years ago and the darn things took over the garden patch. We had way, way more cherry and grape tomatoes than we could eat (I was desperately foisting them off on neighbors) and almost no large tomatoes at all. I am hoping to get enough of a tomato crop to put some up over the summer. Marcia, as far as herbs go, I put in: Basil (4 regular, 2 Thai, interplanted with the tomatoes and some marigolds to keep bugs off the tomatoes) Thyme (2 varieties, English and a smaller type) Rosemary (2 varieties, Arp and Tuscan Blue) Marjoram Culinary sage Chives (regular and garlic) Spearmint Lavender (I forget which type) Summer savory I am waiting for my nursery to get in some oregano, tarragon, dill, parsley and cilantro; they were sold out on Saturday morning when I went to get the plants. The nursery was a madhouse when I was in there! Anyone else planting yet? ETA: I do have a question for any herb experts out there. I had a French tarragon plant that I put in a container with some thyme last year. The thyme died over the winter, and I thought the tarragon had too, but in the same place I planted the tarragon I now have a plant growing with long, thin leaves. It kind of looks like tarragon, except the leaves are a lot longer than the leaves I had on the plant last summer. I pulled a leaf off and it smells very aromatic but doesn't taste like much, and I don't have enough of a "flavor memory" to remember what fresh tarragon tastes like since I haven't had it in so long. Does tarragon come back? Or is this a weed? I would hate to pull it up and then find out I had just uprooted a nice healthy tarragon plant.
  7. We built a garden enclosure last weekend and I tilled in some manure. I am waiting until this weekend to plant anything because we've had some wacky weather in Albuquerque lately. I'll just do tomatoes and herbs, but I can't wait to get started.
  8. Amen to that. My family has the same hangups and there was an inordinate amount of focus on weight and dieting for young females in my family. All I'll say about that is that the end results of that focus are not fun and not pretty. I have my own therapist bills to prove it.
  9. Of course, every expense is built into the price. But if you want to save your restaurant-owning friends an expense that might go to better serving YOU than the banks, pay cash. People stopped carrying cash because with cards you can't get robbed of your cash. Guess what? ID theft and cloning of credit cards is a thousand times more likely to hurt you than losing some cash. If you wallet is stolen, you might lose a couple of dollars. If your CC #'s are stolen, it could be thousands. BTW, the most common way for your CC #'s to get cloned is at a restaurant. Cash is King! ← Sorry. Cash is not king for me. I rarely ever carry it. I hate it. I hate counting it, I hate small bills, I hate loose change. I hate that it's hard to keep track of what you spent it on. Whereas when I use my debit card, at the end of the month I can download all my transactions into Quicken and see exactly how we spent our money that month. I am one of those people who feels that a. the sooner we get to cashless society, the better; b. if someone at a restaurant is ripping off my credit card, that's the restaurant's responsibility to rectify - not mine; and c. if a business doesn't take credit cards, they're not getting my business. If someone rips off my credit card, according to my bank's rules I'm only responsible for $50 of the fraudulent charges (and the one time DH had his debit card number stolen, the amount of the charge was $50 and the bank wrote it off anyway). If I am carrying $500 in cash because that's the day I'm buying groceries, picking up the dry cleaning, paying the electric bill and going out to eat, and my wallet gets stolen, that $500 is gone - period. There's no way to get it back. No thanks. I'll stick to credit/debit cards.
  10. I cook for myself only a lot of the time, when my husband is away on business. He is very much into simple food and does not like anything eggy or anything with beans in it. So I usually take advantage of his being gone to make quiche, omelets, onion tarts, red beans and rice (like my gramma used to make) and all the other things he won't eat. I love cooking by myself - no pressure to get the meal on the table by a certain time, if I screw something up I can throw it out and start over. It's luxurious to cook a great meal for yourself, open up a bottle of wine, and spend time enjoying your meal alone, IMO.
  11. I have a Waring that I bought used when I was in college, about 8 years ago. Don't know how old it was then (probably a few years) but the thing still works like a champ and can crush or blend anything in a matter of seconds. We've used it almost daily for 8 years for protein shakes and it keeps on going. Some of the plastic parts are getting a little scungy and I keep eyeing the stainless-steel ones at Amazon, but I don't really see a need to replace until it goes belly-up, which may be never.
  12. My parents are big fans of Martha's Black Dog and stop there whenever they're traveling I-25 between Las Cruces and Albuquerque. Not far from Socorro is San Antonio and the Original Owl Bar, which should be a must-see for anyone traveling in that area of the state. Great food; great dark, seedy bar.
  13. I buy wine for big parties so I've been where you're at...you don't want to serve people crap but spending a fortune isn't an option either. My favorite low-budget party wines are: The aforementioned Rancho Zabaco Red Zinfandel, this is just about my favorite everyday red. It goes with almost every kind of food. I can usually find it for $8.99 per bottle. The Bonny Doon Ca D' Solo Big House Red is quite good. Even non-red-wine-loving guests drink this and like it. I like most of Bonny Doon's wines, though. I like their Vin Gris de Cigare and their Pacific Rim Riesling also. Cline Cellars' Red Truck red wine is a new favorite in our crowd. The Bella Sera Pinot Grigio is also popular. I don't like it as much as I like some other grigios I've had, none of which come to mind at the moment. I've been drinking a lot of Callahan Hill Chardonnay lately as an everyday wine. I like it; the flavors are nicely balanced and it's very drinkable. I have tried the Yellow Tail Chardonnay. I just didn't like it as much as the Callahan Hill, but many people love it. If you serve that, it will definitely be familiar to people, at least. Clos du Bois Chardonnay is fine, sometimes you can find good discounts on it also. Viognier is a great option for white wine and sometimes you can find good deals on that - Yalumba Y Series is a good one I've had. Hope this helps...if you have a helpful wine store staff, you also might try asking them. Whenever I'm having a big party and I go in to buy wine, the guy at my store will point out some great bargains and helps me pick out what I get so I end up with a balanced mix of wines - something for everyone. I've discovered some great cheap wines that way. Here's an article Food and Wine Magazine did about inexpensive wines: Cheap wine And even if you are going budget on the wine for your guests, please splurge on yourself and your new husband and buy yourselves some really nice champagne to enjoy after the wedding, when the two of you are finally by yourselves. One of my most treasured memories is opening a bottle of champagne together at midnight in the woods outside our honeymoon cabin. It was freezing cold and everything seemed so crisp - the air, the stars, the champagne. It was fantastic. Best of luck to you.
  14. Patrick S, I'm going to go waaaayyy out on a limb and ask you why you seem so hostile/defensive about this subject. Do you know this woman or something?
  15. I gave this some thought; I think it's a good question. For me, the difference between cooking and the other activities is that people need to eat to live, so I think it would be in someone's best interests to learn how to prepare nutritious, balanced meals for themselves. You can live without painting or repairing your car or cutting your grass or sewing your own clothes. You can't live without eating. So why not learn the rudimentary skills of preparing things for yourself to eat? The other issue here is that as a collective, we have gotten unhealthier the more processed and "instant" crap we've put into our diets. The rise in obesity and heart disease directly coincides with the popularity of fast and packaged food. At some point I think every person has to weigh their personal health against their wish for convenience and ease. This woman may or may not be thin, but I really question whether she is healthy. Based on the explanation of her eating habits, her diet seems to consist of a lot of low-nutrient foods. I wish people could realize that it's not just about the amount of food you eat, it's about the quality. Drinking Diet Cokes and eating Lean Cuisines may make you thin, but we don't know a lot about some of the chemicals in those foods and what they may be doing to human bodies long-term. That article made me sad, because I know a lot of older women who are like this woman. Enjoyment of food is a bad thing, and they eat very little and what they do consume is horrible and processed, but they believe that since it's "diet" it's okay. I guess I just get sad about people who can't give themselves permission to eat something really delicious because they're so worried about their weight. Weight should be a concern, but so should eating nutritive things - and some things that are very nutritious have a lot of calories or fat (like nuts, for example). Again, I think it goes back to the pathological relationships Americans have with food, as far as more=better. It's better to drink 8 diet Cokes a day than to have one cappuccino and really enjoy that one drink.
  16. I was told one time that it's bad to eat and then go to sleep because you digest your food more efficiently while you're awake and moving, and also upright. Lying down and sleeping means your body has to work harder to push the food through your system, and that can lead to acid reflux, etc. etc. I don't eat big meals within 2 hours of bedtime because I gain weight if I do. Also large meals before bed give me nightmares, and as someone with a fussy stomach I seem to develop nausea a lot easier at night if I eat right before bedtime. I'm a light eater at night anyway, I much prefer to eat my largest meal of the day at lunchtime, but I quit eating after 7 p.m. long ago. On rare occasions if my stomach is acting up I'll have 1/2 cup of cereal with milk to calm it down, but that's it. And I've never, ever eaten a "midnight snack."
  17. We have a fire extinguisher that specifically says it is for use in the kitchen on grease fires. So they're out there. My grandmother used to fry a lot of stuff (we're from Texas) so grease fires were a pretty common thing in her kitchen. Popping a lid over something works as long as the grease that is on fire is still in a pan; sometimes it ends up on the stovetop flaming. She used to use baking soda to extinguish stovetop grease fires. Worked like a charm and made cleanup easier too.
  18. I hate plastic glasses too. I bought a supply of glass ones a few years ago because of it. They're kind of a pain to store, but they've come in handy pretty often. Sources for cheap glasses... Crate and Barrel always has relatively inexpensive glasses. Bed, Bath and Beyond/Linens N Things in our city used to have "party packs" of differently shaped wineglasses, $12 for 12. I used to see those packs around the stores a lot during November and December. I got my inexpensive party wineglasses (and plates) at Big Lots. I am not sure if they have Big Lots everywhere. I think I got several 12-packs of cheap wineglasses for about $25, no joke. If there's a Big Lots anywhere convenient to you, check it out.
  19. We cruised on Celebrity's Constellation in October 2003 around the Mediterranean. To be fair, we didn't eat all that many meals on board. Those that we did eat on board, though, were good. Not on-par with the best onshore meal I've ever had, but considering how many meals they were turning out each night I thought the quality was good and the selection of foods was far from pedestrian. We didn't eat in the onboard high-end restaurant, which charged an additional fee, but everyone we talked to said the food there was really excellent. The ship had a nice wine list and a good espresso bar on-board.
  20. designchick88

    Make and Take

    That is the weirdest concept I have ever heard of. You pay someone to cook food, but then you can't take home what you've cooked, you have to pay again to take home someone else's food? WTF? That makes NO sense. How long did that last before they switched to the other concept? Did anyone actually pay them to participate in that scheme? Speaking of "playing" in professional kitchens, I took a cooking class through our university continuing ed program that had a great concept, and I'm going to take it again as soon as I can. It was held in the professional kitchen of a local catering company. The instructors (the chefs that owned the catering company) had bought a whole bunch of cool, interesting ingredients - black rice, celeriac, bulgur, etc. i.e., stuff that most people wouldn't usually go out of their way to buy. The kitchen was also fully stocked with "staple" ingredients and fresh herbs, and we each had two raw chicken breasts to use. The whole class was this: choose a few ingredients, come up with a dish to make in less than 10 minutes, then use the rest of the class time and make it. It was totally free-form. The instructors didn't do any demonstration and they didn't pass out recipes. They just walked around and helped people with cooking techniques and ideas, but if you asked them a question, they'd ask you what you thought before they would give you a suggestion. At the end, people had come up with some really tasty, innovative dishes, and we all had a fabulous time. It was loads of fun to get to "play" in the professional kitchen with the professional equipment, and I learned a lot too.
  21. Are you kidding? If the restaurant is making money off of the rest of the people in the party who ARE ordering food, what does it matter if one person is sitting there sipping a Sprite? Surely the other people at the table will make up for it, and if not those people, then the people at the next table who are going hog-wild ordering appetizers, drinks, entrees and desserts? It's simple mathematics - some tables are going to be high-yield and some will be low-yield, and if you have upselling, friendly servers and good food, most likely the high will outnumber the low and you will still come out ahead. Charging someone who can't or won't eat an entree a premium just so they can sit at a table with their companions is just reprehensible, in my view. It goes back to seeing each patron as a dollar sign and not as a customer. I realize restaurants are in business to make money, but I believe it's good business to treat people well, and charging someone a "food minimum" is NOT treating people well. Unless a restaurant is overrun by patrons only ordering coffee who then take up tables for 4 hours (which I do agree is irksome), I don't see how allowing an occasional patron to split entrees or order appetizers instead of an entree is going to drive a place out of business. If the restaurant is on that shaky of financial ground, there are other problems wholly unrelated to what food their customers are ordering. I'm actually amazed this practice exists. The only places I've ever heard of that charge a consumption minimum are strip clubs. And they're obviously offering something in addition to the food and drink to entice their customers to spend money.
  22. I think this has more to do with it than whether or not someone wants to have children. I know plenty of women who don't have children for a variety of reasons (lack of desire, infertility, aren't married and don't want to do the single-mom thing) but many of them also don't want to be married to their job 80 hours a week. That takes a tremendous amount of commitment and for many people it is not worth it. For some people, working their job 80 hours a week is fulfilling and invigorating; for others it's like prison. I think that kind of approach cuts across gender lines. I think in many respects this might be a gender-role stereotyping issue, from another angle. Maybe fewer women are executive chefs because as a society, it's more acceptable for a woman to work an easier schedule and live a more modest lifestyle than it is for a man to do the same thing. If a woman chooses an easier way of making a living - one that doesn't require her to work long hours and climb a ladder - she has "balanced priorities;" if a man does the same thing, he's lazy and has no ambition. Maybe there's a culture that makes it more uncomfortable for a man to be a chef if he's not constantly striving upwards for more responsibility?
  23. My parents do this all the time. My mom eats like a bird and always has, so it's pretty much a waste for them to order two entrees. As someone else pointed out, they usually order drinks and dessert or an appetizer also, so they definitely spend as much or more than someone just ordering two entrees and two iced teas. If the plate-splitting fee is under $5 they have no problem paying it. If it's over that, they never go back to that restaurant again. My husband and I never split plates at restaurants because if the serving size is too big, we'd rather take it home and eat it for lunch the next day. We have very different tastes and I don't know if we'd ever be able to agree on an entree to split. I would personally never split a plate in a high-end restaurant, but at most casual places I don't see what the big deal is. I feel the same way. I don't go out to eat to be told what to do. I have episodic stomach problems and sometimes I don't feel like eating an entree, I just want an small appetizer to be served to me at the same time my husband is getting his entree. If I walked into a restaurant and saw a "mandatory" dinner charge, or anything on the menu insisting that I order an entree, I would walk back out and never return. There are all kinds of reasons why someone might walk into a restaurant with other people but not want their own entree. Maybe they are newly pregnant and coping with nausea and food aversions. Maybe they are on chemotherapy and can't eat. Maybe they have severe acid reflux and can only eat certain things. Maybe they've just had gastric bypass and are only going to be able to eat a tablespoon of food. Does that mean that because they aren't going to be good for the restaurant's profit margin, they should be banned from sitting with their family and friends while the other people eat? To me that is the height of insensitivity and disrespect, and any restaurant who rigidly enforces an entree-ordering policy for everyone deserves whatever bad things they get. I don't get this concept of I as the customer should always let the chef dictate to me what I'm going to eat and how I'm going to eat it. If I am at a high-end restaurant and I know that's what the concept is, and I'm there for a tasting menu, I understand it. Any other time, it makes me feel like I'm 6 years old and my mom is ordering me clean my plate. And as a grown, tax-paying, independent adult you can imagine what my reaction is to that.
  24. I was home last Tuesday and caught two episodes of Sandra Lee's show. I really, really don't get it. Most of the "recipes" she presented were nothing an even marginally intelligent person couldn't have figured out on their own, like her "delicious strawberry champagne punch" recipe. It's really complicated! Add strawberry juice to champagne, and stir. Huh? There was also some recipe for which you needed to buy some specific kind of chile-lime dressing. What if you couldn't find that dressing? Could you not make the dish? There was nothing on the shows that looked really awful, but it was the kind of stuff I used to make for parties when I was in college - easy to put together, not a lot of complicated flavors. I don't get why people need an instructional show about how to put together those kinds of meals. It seems pretty self-explanatory to me - buy some premade stuff, add some other premade stuff to it. I watch a lot of PBS cooking shows and have actually always preferred most of what PBS has to what's on the Food Network. The peppy exuberance of a lot of the Food Network "personalities" gets on my nerves. I'm not saying celebrity chefs need to be joyless, but turning the cutesy-cheerleadery stuff down to a 5 from a 10 would make the shows a lot more enjoyable for me. I guess I just prefer the more matter-of-fact approach.
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