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Everything posted by designchick88

  1. This was my mom too. She had skills, particularly when it came to baking, but she worked full-time and often came home too tired to whip up something unique for dinner. It didn't help that my brother and I were actually pretty picky, and my dad had overly high expectations (my dad's mom was renowned for cooking a full three-course meal every night when Dad was growing up, complete with dessert. A tough act to follow, particularly for my feminist mom.) Now that both my brother and I are grown and, as she puts it, "the pressure is off" she has gotten into cooking and is quite adventurous. As a kid in my house I ate a lot of spaghetti that came from the green and white box - I am not sure they still have it any more. Spaghetti noodles and a packet of seasoning powder you mixed with tomato paste to make marinara. Not so good. The other standby staple meal was frozen fish fillets cooked in the toaster oven, with Kraft macaroni and cheese and nuked frozen broccoli. I loved it as a small child but got sick of it as I got older. The twisted thing is that now sometimes I get an undeniable craving for this meal, and I make it for myself when my husband's out of town. My two least favorite Mom-dishes were: Beef stew - this was not the hearty, creamy, meaty beef stew many people ate; this was an entirely different animal totally composed of tough stew-beef chunks, cooked onion and cooked celery in a watery broth. I hated it with a passion. Looking back, I realized we probably ate this when money was tight but my parents kept those kinds of details from the kids, so I complained about it heartily. Vegetable lasagna - this was before ricotta was widely available or affordable, so Mom used cottage cheese as filling. Unspiced tomato sauce, cooked celery (to this day I cannot stand the taste of cooked celery in anything, it appeared in so many childhood dishes), maybe some zucchini if it was in season. Very little mozzarella as my mom jumped on the "low fat" bandwagon pretty early. Just vile. I actually thought I disliked lasagna until I had some at a friend's house, prepared by her mother who had lived in Italy for a time. But I cut my mom a lot of slack - she was a young mom with two kids very close in age, had to work a full-time job, was in school herself and helping my dad finish his degrees. She always made us eat our vegetables, and tried to feed us balanced meals. I'm sure when I'm a mom there will be times I break out the fish sticks too, but I hope I give my kids the same foundation in nutrition my mom gave me. I have to give props where they're due. :)
  2. What did they serve at your wedding for the guests? Our wedding was at a bed and breakfast that also served high tea. We got married at 2 p.m. and had a tea reception - as I recall (it's been 5 years) the menu was: Finger sandwiches Scones and clotted cream 2 types of iced tea and 2 types of hot tea Chocolate-dipped strawberries Crudites Mini quiches (the B&B owner made them in-house, just like the scones, and they were good) Wedding cake Do you actually remember the meal itself? Very little of it, but then again I don't remember very much of the wedding at all. I mostly remember the profound relief of it being over. Would you have the same meal today after however many years of marriage? After 5 years - no. We were extremely broke at the time and had considered a Vegas elopement but my parents wanted to do something for us so my grandparents could be there - all 4 were still alive at the time. As DH's parents didn't make any offer of cash it was up to my parents to pay for our reception, and I didn't want them to spend a lot. They had a small wedding fund for me that totaled about $2,000 - I think our entire shebang, including my dress, cost less than that. (I wore a fancy ivory bridesmaid's dress and no one could tell it wasn't a wedding dress. I think it cost about $150.) Now, if we had it to do over again, we would rent out the banquet room at Seasons, which is kind of our crowd's hangout (nice but not too upscale bar/restaurant here in Abq., good food) and do a plated reception with the food we like most: roasted chicken, roast beef, garlic mashed potatoes, yummy veggies, etc. Open bar instead of just a champagne toast. But I wouldn't change the cake - we splurged on that and it was dark chocolate with Kahlua filling and fondant icing, which was extremely hip at the time (is it still?). DH hated the fondant frosting but I loved how the cake looked. If prices of food for such an event have escalated, would you scale-down the meal? No - as mentioned above. We could scale up because our own financial situation has improved significantly. We had about 45 people at our wedding - I would up that to maybe 60 or so and give everyone a good, casual meal and have a lot of fun. Not to say I have regrets about my wedding - it was a great time and I loved it, though it was small and far from fancy. It was the last time we ever saw my FIL alive so that has meaning above and beyond any of the wedding "trimmings."
  3. Yes. My grandparents made okra of some kind every week for Sunday dinner, which is where I developed my taste for it. Okra properly breaded and fried is heavenly, and one of the things I crave on a regular basis.
  4. Sorry, but I have to disagree here. I have many goals, but cooking every single one of my meals from scratch is not one of them. Frankly, I don't think of cooking as a "journey" or a "state of being" or whatever. I don't focus on the "ideal direction" of my cooking. Cooking is my hobby. It's fun. I like it. I feel a great deal of satisfaction when I get to the end of a complicated or time-consuming recipe and can reap the reward of eating what I've prepared. I love cooking for friends and seeing their reactions when they eat my homemade pecan pie or Chinese potstickers. I enjoy making my own stock because it makes what I cook taste better. But I also get satisfaction out of reading a letter from a hungry child my volunteer work at the food bank helped feed, or finishing a creative project at work, or taking long walks with my husband and our dogs on Sundays. I'm not saying there aren't people on here who do aspire to "greater heights" with their cooking or feel they are on a journey. But I am not one of them. So, I don't think this is about "stages in a journey," no offense. I think the issue is: there are obviously people on this board who have varying degrees of commitment to food and cooking. Are all of them welcome here? Or is this board for a certain stripe of "foodie" only? I certainly don't feel, as you said: I don't feel like I've "arrived" anywhere, certainly not to a perch from which I can judge other people and their cooking. I don't see from-scratch people as snobs and elitists. I admire the commitment to cooking I see on eGullet and sometimes wish I had the time and energy to devote to cooking that way. But other than that I don't spend any time thinking about it - I have other things to think about. I don't think this is about "us vs. them." It's not anywhere near that dramatic. The other issue for me is that, quite frankly, I don't live my life to impress other people. Don't like the way I dress, how I decorate my house, how I trained my dogs or the fact that I ran short on time and had to use premade piecrust for the pecan pie this time? Wow, that's a shame. Anyone who feels that way and has the gall to tell me about it never gets invited to my house a second time. I don't need friends or even associates who will judge me over stuff like that. I'm not on eGullet to "wow" anyone. I'm here to learn things and get ideas and read about a topic that interests me. That's all. I think one of the most dangerous things humans do is make assumptions about other humans' motivations. My motivations aren't your motivations, and our motivations may be completely different from another person's. But hopefully there's room for all of them here.
  5. My perspective on this topic: I love to cook but I have other things to do too. Like many other people on eGullet I work full-time (which now seems to mean 50 hours a week, plus commuting time), I'm married, I have pets that require attention, I try to make my other family members a priority, and I try to exercise 4-5 times a week because for me, it literally keeps me from going crazy. Plus I also do a lot of charity work because giving back to my community is important to me. That work is incredibly rewarding, but it takes up a lot of my time. As much as I would like to go all-out every night and make a great meal from scratch and take the leftovers for work the next day, by the time I have worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (through lunch most days), gone to a charity meeting, gone to the gym, and come home, sometimes cookin' just ain't happenin'. We make a concerted effort to cook from-scratch meals as often as we can, but when we can't do that, eating out constantly is not a cost-effective or healthy option. And eating salad all the time gets boring (tried it, believe me). That's when we break out the frozen spanikopita. I can see the argument of "well, it only takes a minute to come home and put together such-and-such or throw blah-blah on the stove." I can't disagree with that. Except sometimes I just don't have the energy for it. I'd rather spend 30 minutes playing with my dogs, or talking on the phone with my mom - doing something just for me, that feeds me emotionally. (I am not one of those people who can focus on cooking while I'm talking on the phone.) There are days, honestly, when figuring out what to cook and cooking it just feels like one more problem I have to solve, rather than the exciting challenge it seems to be on other days. Those are the days when I eat pre-made whatever. Until they figure out how to lengthen the day past 24 hours (God forbid!) I only have so much time, and sometimes there are things that take priority over cooking. I love to cook when I can, and I spend most weekends cooking new recipes I've discovered. I am always interested to hear about new ingredients, new recipes, etc. But for me it's a hobby, not a way of life. Maybe that means I shouldn't be here?
  6. I like almost all of the Amy's frozen organic meals except for most of the enchilada ones - some of those are just nasty. The last time I was at Costco they were selling packs of pesto tortellini bowls and stuffed shell bowls - those were good. The only problem is most of the tastier ones are not terribly healthy. TJ's frozen spanikopita and frozen individual quiches are good too. We found a couple of their frozen pizzas we like, but we'd still rather have homemade - which I make with thawed pre-made frozen dough, thanks. I like some frozen pasta - tortellini comes to mind - but I've tried other kinds that were vile. We got some chicken ravioli from TJs that was so bad we couldn't even eat them. In the non-frozen arena, some of the dried cup soups by Incredible Foods (I think that's the name - organic food company) are actually really good. I keep cups of the dry black bean soup in my office for days when I get slammed and can't get away from my desk for lunch. It's spicy and good. TJ's soups that come in the kettle-shaped can are not bad either. Mostly what I use frozen meals for is lunch. I am not a morning person and also a chronic late riser, so sometimes all I can manage to do before I dash out the door for work is grab a frozen meal, a piece of fruit and a yogurt to eat during the day. Making lunch, or sometimes even just transferring leftovers into Tupperware, is more than I can manage in the nanosecond I have between when I come downstairs and when I have to be out the door. Sad, but true.
  7. I was a vegetarian for 3 years in high school and college. For the most part it was the result of an incident where I was making meatballs for dinner with my mom one night and for some reason, the meat smelled really - I don't know - dead, I guess. I started gagging and it was a long, long time until I touched raw hamburger again. I only lasted as an ovo-lacto vegetarian for three years - after that I went back to eating chicken, mainly because it made life eating in the dining hall at college a lot easier. I stuck with poultry and fish only, no beef or pork. Over time more and more meat products have crept back into my diet. I eat bacon pretty regularly now, because bacon is delicious, and that's all there is to it. Two years ago, when we were in Europe I ate serrano ham and some really amazing pork paprika sausage in Spain - it was totally worth it. I have thought a lot about going back to eating meat. Every once in awhile when my husband makes himself a steak or a burger I get really tempted to take a bite because it smells sooooo good. But I don't know if I would get sick from it - maybe the old "dead meat" smell or taste would come back once I had it in my mouth and I wouldn't be able to handle it. It gets more and more tempting all the time, though. On the other hand, I am pretty happy most days eating almost no meat. I order vegetarian entrees in restaurants pretty regularly. II guess I'm one of those people who could be happy either way.
  8. I have the Rival Crock-Pot 4-Quart Round Slow Cooker, which was rated #2 on her list. (I have another larger one, almost identical to this, that can hold a whole chicken, but I rarely use it - with just 2 people, the 4-quart is fine most of the time. The large one was a wedding gift and I've never had the heart to get rid of it.) The pot works fine. Never had a problem with it. Frankly I had never really thought about it - I guess that means it was working well. The funny thing was that I had actually considered upgrading to a crock-pot with a timer but seeing those reviews, I think I'll just stick to the one I have. I can't see spending $100 on a slow cooker, we don't use it that often, and I already have 2.
  9. "I think they take themselves a little bit too seriously." "The food is just too plain vanilla... too… yankee." This is how I feel too. I subscribed to the magazine for awhile, and I have a couple of the Cook's Illustrated cookbooks - they're good reference-type books. But eventually their approach to recipes really started to bother me. I remember reading an article about some dish - can't remember exactly what it was - that was one of my grandma's signature dishes. The tone of the article was basically "We did all this testing and this is the number-one way to make it." But I think since taste is subjective, that can't be true. For me, macaroni and cheese (for example) doesn't taste "right" unless I make it the way my grandma made it, which is not the way Cook's Illustrated makes it. It's hard for me to articulate but the tone of "this is the ONLY recipe you should EVER use for this" gets on my nerves. I understand that the test cooks made 20,000 batches of macaroni and cheese using 12 different types of cheese, 14 types of breadcrumbs, 8 types of macaroni etc. etc. But that still doesn't mean that the recipe that tasted best to them will taste best to me. Plus, part of the joy of cooking for me is taking an "old favorite" recipe and tinkering with it. The tone of CI seems to discourage tinkering. Maybe I dislike it because I have a general problem with authority (thanks, hippie parents!). Plus, I do think most of the recipes are way too white-bread for me. We eat some kind of "ethnic" food 90 percent of the time and the recipes in CI just weren't diverse enough. I do think the methodical testing CI does is good but the magazine and recipes just seem kind of joyless, and I cook for fun. Just my $.02.
  10. I also cannot stand fresh cilantro. Around here it's a common salsa fresca ingredient and most people go way overboard when they add it into their recipes - I've had salsa fresca that had more cilantro in it than peppers. There's something about the taste of it that is just unbearable for me. It's gag-inducing. That's the only herb I've run across that does that to me, though.
  11. I am very appreciative of this thread also. We are tightening belts to try to adjust to a lifestyle change and the days of wine and roses (or wine, artisan bread from Whole Foods and fresh tuna steaks) are over for us for now. I will be following this with interest.
  12. Barbara's Bakery Puffins, original variety. They are almost exactly like Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran, which I loved as a kid. I never really liked most sugary cereals, probably because my mom never, ever bought them for us - not even a stray box of Lucky Charms here and there.
  13. I feel for you. My late FIL was notorious for wanting to go to places that featured young, attractive female waitstaff and then hitting on our waitperson relentlessly and without shame. He never did anything truly egregious like groping, but the flirting started the moment we sat down and continued without cease until the end of the meal, and usually included gratuitous comments about the waitperson's physical attributes, request for her phone number, etc. At the time my FIL was late 50s and not what you'd call attractive, so even if the poor women weren't working I'm sure the advances would have been most unwelcome. After this happened a few times, much to my and my husband's embarrassment (most times we could actually see the waitresses talking indignantly to their coworkers across the room about the lecherous old bastard), I did start pre-tipping waitresses. After we were seated I would excuse myself to the restroom, find the waitress, explain the situation and throw her some extra bucks. I don't know if it ever prevented our food from being spat in but it made me feel better. Just my $.02.
  14. We recently got back from Tokyo. I think I ate Pocky of some kind every single day while we were over there. Mostly the standard chocolate kind but I did try some other kinds while we were there: - Chocolate Mousse Pocky - it was OK. I didn't like it as much as the original. - Banana-Chocolate Pocky - sooooo good. We ate probably 4 metric tons of banana-chocolate rolled crepes on the street while we were there, I think these Pocky are meant to evoke those flavors. - Milk Tea Pocky - this was weird to me. I fell in love with the hot canned Royal Milk Tea from the vending machines but this Pocky didn't taste like that to me. Maybe I didn't like it because it felt weird eating something solid that tasted like something that was usually liquid. Who knows. - Strawberry Pocky - it was very strawberry, but not my fave. I kept looking for the inside-out Pocky I never could find it. The other kind we had was "Men's Pocky" which I haven't seen here in the states. It's just regular Pocky with a dark chocolate coating. That was excellent. The only thing better than Pocky are Pocky commercials, which are just hilarious - but then most Japanese commercials we saw were hilarious.
  15. We just got back from Japan, where we took it upon ourselves to eat types of sushi we'd never eaten before, because hey, where else are you going to try it if not in Japan? The "gender sushi preference" thing doesn't fit me because I looooooove tuna but salmon I can take or leave. I ate more tuna in Tokyo than I actually think is safe, but who cares. :) As for the new stuff we tried, we had some awesome halibut and something else that I'm pretty sure was snapper of some kind - whatever it was, it was AMAZING. We tried eel - I wasn't a fan. Ditto with the octopus and squid we tried - just wasn't my thing. We also tried some stuff that we had no idea about - I didn't like any of it enough to ask what it was. My favorite types are - in this order: Ebi (shrimp) Amaebi (sweet shrimp) Kani (crab) Maguro (tuna) Halibut I am not really a big "roll" person - but I do like shrimp tempura rolls on occasion.
  16. Hi Miss Tenacity, Another Albuquerque eGullet member here...thanks for posting the great photos of the Souper Bowl, I am on the event committee for that and it's great that people in other parts of the country can see what a fantastic event it is and what good work Roadrunner Food Bank does in the community. Looking forward to reading more of your blog this week and seeing which great local favorites you highlight! :)
  17. Got some new cookbooks today...it was time to clean out some of my other books anyway, so I took them to the used bookstore, got $60 in trade and spent it all in one shot! (and then some :) ) I got: Staff Meals at Chanterelle by David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman The Olives Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum How to Cook by Delia Smith The Essential Cook Book by Caroline Conran
  18. This may seem weird, but... If you are looking for a good set of sterling silver flatware and don't mind getting it used, you might want to check pawnshops. The pawnshop we buy used DVD's from has a beautiful set of Wallace Grand Baroque (see an example here), I think it's a place setting for 12, for $1,200. They have it stored in tarnish-resistant cloth in a display case and even though I usually don't go for ornate patterns like that, it is just gorgeous. They have the original purchase receipts, etc. so it is the real thing. I have been trying for years to convince DH that we NEED that set, but so far to no avail. On the other hand, I am probably inheriting a set of sterling that belongs to my grandmother, so I probably don't NEED the Wallace set like I think I do. ETA - I was wrong on the price - DH said the last time he was in there the set is at $1,200.
  19. I had never heard of people taking the cash tips off other tables before the waiters could get to them. If I ever saw someone doing this I would start screaming at them at the top of my lungs. That is low. Really, really low. I think the whole problem of pilfering really does boil down to character. Just like the very rich society ladies who get busted for shoplifting at Bergdorf's. I worked for a nonprofit for three years where I came into contact with many of the so-called "pillars of the community" who were rich, powerful etc. Because most of them considered us, the peasants they worked with, to be about as intelligent as patio furniture they would sometimes get a little loose-lipped about their personal habits after a few drinks at the end of a charity event. I once sat and listened to an entire conversation about how one man's wife, having greatly admired the Frette sheets and fine crystal glasses and vases in a luxury hotel room they were staying in, broke into an adjoining room and stole everything that wasn't nailed down and some things that were. Then she found the maid's cart and stole more stuff off of it. She stole so much she had to ship everything home in a box, couldn't fit it in her suitcase. The man, who easily made $250K per year (which is a lot around here) was proud of his wife's grand larceny and thought it was quite funny. He thought it was even funnier that he and his wife would get compliments on their beautiful crystal and fine sheets when they had houseguests. For some people, theft is a way of life. Sad but true. But after my very first experience with five-finger discount, an incident at age 5 in which I was marched back into the store and made to give back the candy bar I had stolen and give a full apology to the store manager and all the checkout clerks, I lost my taste for stealing. I guess maybe other people never had that same kind of correction at an early age.
  20. Agreed. DH and I were commenting on that the other day. The first thing my mama ever taught me to make, when I was about 6 years old, was chocolate-chip cookies. DH said it was the same with him (he still makes a mean batch of chocolate-chip cookies). I remember asking my mom for a tube of the slice-and-bake cookie dough when I was a kid and she looked at me and said, "why would we need that when we could make our own cookie dough?" I thought that was a good point, still do. Now, you don't even need to get out the knife and possibly get your hands dirty holding on to the cookie-dough log. I really don't think the "lasting memories" a child will have of placing dough pellets on a cookie sheet could possible match the memories I have of baking cookies with my mom from scratch. Everything I know about cooking started with that experience that day.
  21. I am a lightweight. I have one each of a 4-cup, 2-cup and 1-cup Pyrex liquid measure, two sets of metal measuring cups and two sets of metal measuring spoons. Does anyone have one of those OXO slanted liquid measuring cups? The ones where they claim you don't have to bend down to read the measurement? They keep showing up in my Amazon gold box for $5.98, and I have been wondering if it's a useful piece of equipment or if it would get shoved to the back of the cabinet, never to be seen again. My grandma gave me the Pyrex liquid measures so those are here to stay, but I figure you could always use another 2-cup liquid measure.
  22. No kidding. We went all over Italy last year and I can't think of a single BAD meal I had there, and we weren't eating in places that I would consider to be fancy or well-known. That would have floored me too. Maybe she and her husband are the kind of people who go overseas and only eat at the same chain restaurants you can find over here. Aren't you glad you don't have to work with this woman?
  23. Good idea. I need to go out and turn the compost pile anyway. I hope I can find our axe in the trash heap we call our garage. :)
  24. I'm floored by those new meals that you pour from the plastic packet into the crockpot. I guess to eliminate the tedious minimal chopping and, um...ingredient measuring? that go into crockpot meals. To me there is nothing simpler than throwing some crap (not literally) in the crockpot, turning it on and when you come home, voila, dinner. Why would you purposely spend more money than the fresh, unadulterated ingredients would cost you to buy something gross and processed to put into your crockpot? Do people really think that's good for them? If something comes out of a plastic packet fully assembled and dosed with chemicals and salt, no amount of crockpot cooking is going to make it healthy. Sorry if anyone here uses those things, don't mean to offend. I just saw the commercial the other day and thought, well, yet another horseman of the apocalypse is upon us. The Homestyle Bakes things were bad enough, this I just don't get.
  25. We ended up with a couple extra pumpkins that we got as gifts from a nice old man down the street who grows them in his backyard. We accepted them graciously, but we had already gotten a couple and had carved them, and didn't really want to make more jack-o'-lanterns. They are not "pie pumpkins" from what I can tell. They're big pumpkins. I had heard that you can't cook with the jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, they taste terrible and you need to buy "pie pumpkins" to be able to cook with them. Is there anything I can do with these pumpkins, or should I trash 'em? TIA
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