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    Fredericksburg, VA
  1. I haven't made the mac and cheese yet (as my initial foray & the wife of a mac & cheese lover) but following advice from various threads here, I got the iota carageenan in a home-appropriate size from Modernist Pantry and citric acid from amazon. I spent some time shopping price and quantity, and that was the best combo. Because MP has free shipping on your first order, I also got agar for pate de fruit as well. I'll try to post links later this evening, but I've got a sleeping infant in my right arm and I'm not a lefty.
  2. The Smitten Kitchen graham cracker recipe has worked well for me for both crusts and general eating.
  3. Re my post post above, I actually won't be reducing the sugar in the tres leches cake next time. The flavors & sweetness are really well balanced straight out of the refrigerator.
  4. I'm another one of those who avoids disposable paper/plastic products when I can. Another option at Target/Wal-Mart type places are 6" or 7" glass plates (I can't remember which) that work well for buffet parties. The ones I have come twelve plates to a box, which doesn't have any extra packing material so it's quite compact. (That was pretty important as I lived for nearly a decade in a small pre-WWII condo without much storage space. Maybe larger than NYC, I'm not sure, but still...) I second borrowing from a guest--one of my neighbors routinely borrowed my flatware and stemware for her parties, and it was no trouble at all. (She was a good enough friend that she borrowed even for work & various other parties to which I was not invited, & it was still no trouble at all.)
  5. No photo, but I made the tres leches cake from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion for my better half's birthday yesterday. It's got a meringue icing rather than whipped cream. We both enjoyed it quite a bit, but I'll reduce the sugar in the icing by about a quarter the next time I make it. And just as good, I've got four left over egg yolks (when does that ever happen?) so I'm making ice cream today.
  6. Phat Burrito in Charlotte, even though I don't live there any more. (I pass through a lot because of work.) I've been going there for more than 10 years, first for work-day lunches. It then became my go-to place when I wasn't in the mood to cook dinner--I'd go through stages. A bad work week could see me there three times; and then I wouldn't go for weeks. It was a long walk from my apartment, but great with the dog on a nice evening or weekend. Benefits? Food's good, and I always like the salsa. (They don't sell it separately; I asked before I moved, and they said they investigated, but it was going to be too much of a pain. They then told me about former Charlotteans who bring a cooler in to stock up on their way back to Charleston, so I'm not the only one who still returns.) But the best perk is the staff, some of whom have been around for longer than I've been going there. I always order the same thing (yes, for a decade, though it evolved a little over time), and if there's not a crowd, it's ready by the time I've paid. They don't have to ask my name to write out on the slip, which is a little thing but nice, and it was the only place where I wanted to walk my dog & eat when I needed to force myself to get food a few hours after my second dog died.
  7. faith

    Tuna Salad

    I like it better as a plated salad, but I've never been much of a sandwich person (unless it's peanut butter. go figure). I've served the tuna salad at lunch meetings as a sandwich component, and most people other than me seem to eat it with bread. For contrast, I do something similar with cranberry relish and turkey after Thanksgiving; I think that goes further toward defaulting as a plated salad rather than a sandwich (even when other people are eating it).
  8. faith

    Tuna Salad

    Mine's tuna, apples, celery, a few currants, mayo, Worcestershire, salt & pepper, parsley, maybe a little relish or chopped capers, maybe lemon zest. I think that's the universe. And as dry as possible while still holding together.
  9. From my mom, more kitchen customs or approaches than actual dishes: to clean up as I go. There was a Girl Scout cooking badge, and that was one of the elements. She refused to sign off until she was convinced. It took a while. I'm another one who had dinner every night at the table with the entire family (it was anywhere between about six & eight-thirty depending on schedules that day). It's still my vast preference, and I ate sitting at the table in the dining room for the decade & a half that I lived alone (& in fact specifically selected places to live with separate dining rooms). Tolerance. I was the picky eater in our house (as in not mixing spaghetti & sauce till I was in college, when I was too embarrassed to ask for sauce on the side. Turns out it wasn't so bad after all.). Apparently, my mom was too as a kid, and was miserable at meal times, but she grew out of it as an adult. She knew I would, too. That having been said, there was always one meal, and we were all expected to eat the same thing; my parents just made sure it was something everyone would eat in some fashion. I now live in a household where there are both allergies & preferences, and cannot say enough how glad I am that my mom already worked out that whole dynamic for me. Making pancakes & waffles from scratch & my mom's way of serving them. I don't use her recipes (which were from whatever Joy of Cooking you could buy in the late 60s)--there's nothing wrong with them--it's just that I love The Breakfast Book. But it was never on my radar to make them from a mix--and that carried over into pretty much my whole approach to cooking. We always had pancakes, waffles or French toast on Saturday mornings, & we never sat & ate them all at the same time. When a batch came off the stove, somebody got them. Edited to switch link from 13-digit ISBN (which didn't work) to 10-digit (which does)....
  10. There's a recipe from epicurious for an egg-white buttercream that comes out white that's part of a birthday cake recipe. It was the cover photo of Gourmet one month, and they got hate mail for doctoring the photo to make it look that white--but they hadn't--it really is that white. It tastes good, too. Edited to add: I just noticed you wanted smoother and easier than a classic buttercream. This won't get you that--whoops--sorry.
  11. About 20 years ago, I was a journalist for a weekly publication just outside of DC with Friday night deadlines. We had dinner served on Thursday and Friday nights, and the fridge on those nights (including the vegetable bins) was stocked with good beer. There didn't seem to be any issue with people going too far--not surprising given the competing incentive of the deadline (& getting home as early as possible on Friday nights). If I had to guess, I'd bet that has stopped--when I worked there, it was a family-owned company (best benefits I ever had, not even counting the beer), but right about the time I was leaving, it was bought out by a huge international media conglomerate.
  12. faith

    Your best cheap dish

    This may be temporary, but oxtail. I go to a farm to pick up beef about once a month. My beef guy has never sold his oxtail--and only has it packaged because one of his long-time customers will take it off his hands. I became customer number two who will do him this "favor." Last night was oxtail braised with tomatoes and celery (based on the recipe in The Essential New York Times Cookbook). The other ingredients are all things a lot of people keep on hand. As I was making it I wasn't expecting much, thinking it was probably just one more way to combine beef, tomatoes, and a few other things (which is not a combination I can eat forever). But the taste definitely went beyond the standard tomato sauce profile--even though, really, the only difference between this and many other one-pot beef dishes is the cut of meat and the stepped-up amount of celery. It's also got two cups of wine in it, but that can still count as frugal if you're as cheap about wine as I am and your meat is free. (Given the clear lack of demand around here, I'm hoping that oxtail remains cheap when it becomes, inevitably, not free. It seems to me that would be a win-win situation.) And the oxtail certainly was excellent accompanied with only rice--enough so that it has now jumped into my short dinner rotation.
  13. I recently made Dorie Greenspan's cheesecake from Baking. The crust is a basic graham cracker & butter version that comes halfway or so up the sides. For graham crackers, I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The crust definitely held together, and it caramelized more intensely than any graham cracker crust I've ever made. I'm not sure whether to attribute that to the graham crackers or to any part of the crust recipe--it was my first time with both variables--but it's my new standard.
  14. A staple remover works as a bottle opener, too...
  15. Quaker Oats' meatloaf recipe is great! (But now that I eat thick rolled oats in the morning, I have to stock thinner oats for meatloaf.) How about the fudge made with Marshmallow Kreme? A woman in my neighborhood growing up used to give fudge to neighbors every Christmas but refused to share her secret recipe. My mom was at a potluck in north Africa about 15 years ago and somebody brought the very same fudge. My mom couldn't believe it was from the Marshmallow Kreme label, and the woman who brought it was amazed my mom didn't know what it was. I seldom make it, but when I do I can hardly get enough.
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