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Sunny Simmons Steincamp

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Everything posted by Sunny Simmons Steincamp

  1. My experience with our new convection oven has been that it takes a little trial and error to figure out what temperature and for how long anything will bake! With bread, the biggest trouble I was having for a while was that the tops browned too much before the loaves were baked all the way through. To be fair, the only change I was making was to decrease the temperature 25° and the baking time by roughly 30%... but when I made my "everyday bread" (which I bake in heavy commercial Pullman pans, sans the tops,) the loaves kept coming out nearly burned on top and all doughy in the middle. After much trial and error, I found that I had to decrease the temperature by an *additional* 25°F (down to 400° from 450°F) and the loaves come out perfect in about 15-18 minutes (rather than the original 20-25.) You probably know this (although I was ignorant of the facts before I got my oven and started doing some research,) but there are two kinds of convection ovens widely available for home use... some have the normal two elements and a fan to circulate the air already heated in the oven. Others (like mine) have a third element behind the circulating fan, so the oven is actually blowing *heated* air around. I'm not sure if this has something to do with why I have drop the temperature twice what is recommended for most ovens & converted recipes... but I'll bet someone around here could provide some insight!
  2. I'm going to attempt strudel, using K8memphis' wonderful instructions. I'm a little intimidated, but have decided to give it a try this year, and hope all goes well!
  3. Dorie, I just have to tell you that after I read your post, I thought I'd make a batch for the college kids' retreat this weekend, and take pictures, since last time I made them they disappeared before I could snap a photo. (Luckily I had packed hubby's dinner before the rest of the horde descended, so he & his co-workers got some!) This weekend I was almost too slow, again. By the time I had a second to grab the camera, they were GONE, and I thought I'd missed out... but tonight I discovered two hiding at the bottom of the (nearly) empty cookie jar. My daughter & daughter in law just polished them off, but I managed to get you a picture, such as it is. <img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1192408733/gallery_38722_5277_18201.jpg">
  4. Got any friends who're on a gluten-free diet? (Or kids that are?) You can make them gluten-free cookies with <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_37255,00.html">Alton Brown's recipe</a> (which calls for Xanthan Gum.)
  5. Just had to tell you all that I, too made the World Peace Cookies for my husband to take to work. Everyone raved (no surprise there, after reading about these!) but the really cool part was that my husband, who is not a big chocolate fan, couldn't stop eating them. Now it'll be even more fun to see how they come out when I have a real oven again to cook them in!!
  6. I've just wasted half a morning after discovering this thread... great, great stuff! It's timely, too... I just posted a request recently for potluck theme ideas, because I've been feeding a crowd of people every Friday night for, wow... well over a year now... and my husband sort of put his foot down about spending up to $200 a week fort this endeavor. These people aren't exactly gourmands, mind you... but most of them cook for themselves, I happen to know. The crazy part is I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't go back to the Sunny-and-Cat-going-broke dinners... no WONDER these people eat like they're starving every week when they're here! I didn't know you could screw up Kraft Mac & Cheese... or potato salad... or (shudder) the more industrious things they've brought so far! The story that sticks out most in my mind while reading this thread was a meal not endured by myself, but by my children. I have five, and they're stairsteps (the youngest was born just after the oldest's 6th birthday,) and when they were in the elementary/preschool age range, a friend of mine (who also had five kids) kept them overnight so my ex and I could have a "date night." You'd think that someone with a big family and a limited budget would learn to cook, right? Apparently not... they came home furious with me, saying that there was nothing edible the entire time. Their particular gripe was sausage gravy and biscuits. She made the gravy by pouring (undiluted) cream of mushroom soup into a pot with (uncooked) el-cheapo sausage and cooking it until it was gloppy and the sausage was gray, and served it over Bisquick biscuits made with water that were, as my son described them, "like bumpy pieces of white dirt." Dinner the night before had been pinto beans cooked from dry in unseasoned tomato sauce, but not *quite* to an al dente stage, them poured over mashed potatoes that my daughter said tasted like plastic. Poor kids. But seriously, how do you mess up sausage milk gravy? My *least* skilled child can do it in his sleep!!
  7. Soo... I don't have to feel silly that one day a couple of weeks ago when we had a cool snap, I made my oatmeal with curry powder & brown sugar? Next time I'll take achevres' tip and sprinkle that with toasted coconut... mmm.
  8. I like steel cut or regular (not instant or quick) oats, cooked in water with a splash of milk and a bit of butter in the water. For stir-ins, I tend to favor more butter, a bit of brown sugar, and buttermilk (not the icky nonfat kind, though!) My husband likes golden raisins in his, and while I agree, it makes for a too-sweet breakfast and I get a tummy ache.
  9. Ok, that I understand... but what about the recipes that call for turning the chicken into a paste? There's part of one <a href="http://recipes.egullet.org/recipes/r763.html">here</a> in recipe gullet, and a more fleshed out version <a href="http://chinesefood.about.com/od/poultryrecad/r/chickenvelvet.htm">here</a>. Didn't know about "velveting," though... guess what I made tonight was Velvet Pork. *grin* Thanks for the info!
  10. Awww, that sucks... I feel for ya. Last year, during a VERY busy weekend with over a dozen people at our home, I squeezed in the time to make a key lime cheesecake for a friend's daughter's 8th birthday. Stressed already, you can imagine how I reacted when the cheesecake slid unexpectedly (and inexplicably) off the platter and fairly FLEW across the kitchen, landing upside down on the floor. Still not sure how that happened, and we laugh about it to this day. (I wasn't exactly laughing when it happened, however!) At least you had the crumbs! Better luck with the cookies.
  11. There is a Chinese restaurant in Richmond where I always order Chicken Velvet. I never could figure out how on earth the delicate, almost dumpling-like chicken squares were made, and finally decided to look up a recipe for the dish. I found several that seem to be similar - basically, you place chopped chicken breast in a food processor to mince it, adding chicken stock to achieve a kind of paste, then fold in beaten egg whites and, in some recipes, cornstarch. The problem is, I have yet to find a recipe that actually described forming this mixture into the square shapes that I get when I order it... most just say to stir fry the chicken mixture, using chopsticks to "separate the individual pieces" (which makes little sense to me, since after mincing the chicken into a paste, what on earth kind of pieces are there to separate?) I'll try this anyway, maybe experiment with rolling them out dumpling-style and cutting them, or something similar, but thought I'd check here to see if anyone knows what I'm talking about and has any advice or suggestions. TIA!
  12. I've been retired from the bartending biz for about five years, and admittedly, the cities I worked in weren't exactly glitzy... but I can tell you that there are different strokes for different folks. I drink martinis when I'm out & about, and the *best* of them I get are the ones where the bartender takes fifteen seconds while getting my order to ask how I like mine... which is what I always did when my customers ordered cocktails. I mean, seriously... do you know how many martini recipes there are floating around out there (in many in-house recipe guides!) that call for so much vermouth in martinis that it really does NOT matter what kind of gin or vodka you use? Granted, in the markets where I worked, classic cocktails were not the majority of what I made... so when I had someone order one, I took a bit of time to see how my guests preferred to have them fixed. An attentive, guest service-oriented bartender will always be my preference over a by-the-book, "This. Is. How. It's. Done." type. I did once get hired on to a much better job on the merits of my margaritas, after serving the manager of another bar, but I'll still say that watching how a bartender reads his/her guests and noticing if he/she takes some time to care about those guests is a much better way to tell if you're going to be happy shelling out your hard-earned cash for drinks in that bar than any one-drink litmus test. I've no illusions that the joke about my being lured away from a long-term gig on the basis of one drink wasn't just a great in-house story; I firmly believe that guest service was what made the difference in moving to a bar where my clientele was far better and my pay exceedingly more conducive to raising my five kids. For the record, I am one of those Snowy is dead just complained about... I like uber-dry martnis. I can drink them otherwise, but I do NOT want 1/4 ounce of vermouth. In my experience, tastes for martinis vary widely, so... if I did have to pick a litmus test drink for a bartender... yeah, it would be a Manhattan.
  13. I MUST do this one ! One of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas is RED SQUARE, where their tag line is "Join the Party!" next to a (duh) red square........... ← Both ideas, or variations thereof... priceless. (And you'd be surprised what a group of hippie heathens will wind up enjoying!) Thanks!
  14. Very good point. It's a church group (the hippie heathen type) and as I said, none of them really cook to any great degree. We try to keep things simple, since we meet every week for one thing, and also because many of these people drive over an hour to get out here to our place. They have really enjoyed trying new things, but they'd be intimidated by any overzealous assignments, for sure. Definitely something to keep in mind, so I don't get too carried away!
  15. Nope, it's a great idea... and always a favorite here. And I think stir fry could work for our group. They're good about "signing up" for specific things... and they do like stir fry when I make it. Thanks again!
  16. This is a great idea, and one of my "go to's." Even though I want to branch out, we'll still probably do pizza night pretty regularly. There are just SO many permutations... and really none of my guests are cooks, themselves, so they just love trying different sauces, different types of pizza dough, etc. We're actually doing "Greek Pizza Night" next week, since in ages past, this weekend would mark the beginning of the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis! Thanks!
  17. Wow, thanks for all the great ideas so far! rooftop1000, I've searched and searched but can't find the thread you mentioned... any ideas? I'm dying to see how a tortellini kabob was made! amccomb, breakfast is a GREAT hit when we do it... haven't done so in a while, so thanks for the reminder. As a switcheroo, sometimes we cheat and have peach cobbler for breakfast, too! (Lots of times, we have overnight guests, as we live so far out in the country.) pontormo -- woo! Lots of good ideas here. Some of 'em, I'd have to think real hard about to put into practice! Where on earth did you come up with all of these? Thanks! And Peter... *doh* I LOVE curries and have never even thought of doing this. Thanks! PS: Last night we had a build-your-own panini party. I made several different breads and put together a sandwich assembly bar with some homemade spreads & a lot of different condiments. My guests brought meat(s) and cheese(s), enough for themselves plus a little extra to share/swap, and then everyone got to design their sandwich(es!) and grill them. Quite fun and tasty!
  18. We have a gathering of people at our home every week, and usually I make dinner, but lately it's gotten so that there are so many people that my husband has laid down the law, so to speak, on the expenditure. We have, in the past, done the occasional potluck dinner instead (usually when I have something else pressing going on that keeps me from spending the whole day in the kitchen!) but it's going to have to become the exception rather than the rule for a while. Thing is, I want to keep up the tradition I started of having a "theme" each week for the food, so I need help coming up with a bunch of ideas in this respect. Outside of the usual suspects (specific ethnic cuisines, holiday-specific foods, all-appetizer suppers - a big favorite - bring-your-own cookouts, etc.) I could really use some inspiration! Generally, even with a potluck scenario, I make bread and dessert. Our gatherings vary in attendance from 12-15 to 40ish, with most nights seeing an average of 20-25. We range in age from toddlers to 60-somethings and come from all walks of life. There are some vegetarians & vegans lurking in our midst, but they're not the militant types so we're cool with meat dishes, but any theme should be able to incorporate at least some vegan offerings as well. We often grill, even in the winter, and people are just as happy to bring raw or marinated things to cook that way. We also have a bonfire every week, weather permitting, and sometimes even cook over that! (Last week we did a "weenie roast" with potluck sides.) One thing to keep in mind is that the average degree of palate sophistication is not terribly high... so no "Ode to Offal" nights or anything. I will say, however, that everyone has been willing to try new things when I make them... I've introduced people to lots of new foods over the past few years. I'm just running out of original ideas! Any suggestions would really be appreciated!
  19. I have had the same experience with a couple of different dishes. I quit using "cream of ...." soups years ago, and every now and then one of my kids will request jalapeno chicken, pot pies, or some other dish to be made "the old fashioned way," meaning with those condensed soups instead of whatever I've updated it to include instead. Some of my other attempts at "getting all fancy" with old standby recipes have netted me disappointment from others, too. It's probably kinda like your own Mom's meatloaf vs. some updated "gourmet" recipe... it may be good (even *really* good,) but it's "just not the same." Even for folks with adventurous palates, there's still nothing like good old comfort foods, sometimes!
  20. This is how I do my fried chicken (like my grandma from Birmingham, AL by way of Welch, WV taught me.) It's a double-dip process, where I soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk (spiked with Tabasco, I should mention) overnight. After a shake over the sink to get rid of excess buttermilk droplets, I pat each piece in seasoned flour (again, we like spicy fried chicken, so that means a good dose of black & cayenne pepper along with the usual suspects,) and set them on a cake rack until all are coated. Then I take the buttermilk/Tabasco "marinade" (never thought of it as that, oddly enough) and beat in an egg or two (depending on how big a crowd I'm cooking for.) After giving the chicken pieces 10 minutes or so to rest, I then dip them into the egg-augmented buttermilk again, and give them another dredge in the seasoned flour. This time... as lots of folks have suggested... the kit & kaboodle are let to rest for half an hour, before frying in my cast-iron skillet, in a mixture of fats which I am too embarrassed to detail in this forward-thinking community, heated to exactly 325°. My grandma used an electric skillet for her fried chicken by the time I was old enough to notice, but I like my cast iron... I do religiously monitor the temperature, though. Not sure if this impacts the breading or what, but I also cook on the first side for around 15 minutes, then turn the pieces over and put a lid on the skillet for the first five minutes or so of the second side's cooking period. I've never managed to be able to get the chicken pieces done all the way through by timing or by look, however; I *have* to use a meat thermometer, or else I wind up with undercooked meat! For the record, this coating/breading/whatever *is* thick... but we think pleasantly so. If all goes well, it's crispy, crunchy, not overly oily, and not gooey in between the breading and the skin/meat. (I use this for chicken tenders, too.) Totally different experience in the mouth, though, than something like panko (which I also love.)
  21. Whoooooah. (Said Joey Lawrence-style.) That. Looks. AMAZING! My mouth is, quite literally, watering...
  22. This is timely for me, as well... we're having another festival at our place July 5-8, and one of the things I want to make for snacks is a batch of pickles! When I mentioned this at our planning meeting the other day, everyone was really up for it... and they requested pickled eggs in addition to cucumber dills. I was going to go in search of good recipes after I am shed of grandbabysitting duties next week... but now I have a jumping off point! Mine will probably be late, but I'll post my methods & pics when I'm done. Have been missing this forum since spring rolled around and made me too insanely busy to be here... I sure am glad I decided to pop back in at "nap time" today!
  23. I'm with ya. I only "discovered" wild salmon a couple of years ago when I was eating at a seafood place in White Plains, NY, and was completely wowed by the difference. I am anxiously waiting for its appearance here, too!
  24. I crave ingredients more, too... all year long I pine for the goodies grown in my own garden, but a few items are especially irreplaceable... okra, tomatoes, watermelon & canteloupes, berries, peas, and blackeyed peas, which I *will* eat dried during the winter, but which are FAR superior when fresh, as opposed to dried, canned, or frozen. Won't be long, now, though...
  25. While I'll happily eat aubergines/eggplant any way you set it in front of me, my absolute favorite way is to take thin, battered, fried slices and use them as the "noodles" in a chunky veggie lasagna. Mmm, mmm, good.
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