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Mel Z

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  1. A friend of mine was just diagnosed with membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN), which is a kidney disease without a known treatment. She needs to cut way down on animal protein and salt to keep things under control, and is a bit at a loss for how to do this. She's a college student, so unfortunately she's used to depending on a lot of packaged ingredients that aren't really feasible anymore. Can anyone recommend some basic recipes (she does have a kitchen) that could help her get some tofu/bean/other non-animal protein into her diet without requiring salt? Or any recommended packaged products that are low-sodium? Many thanks!
  2. We do this a fair amount with chicken on the presumption that it'll infuse as you defrost the chicken. It always seems to work pretty well, and although I haven't done a side-by-side comparison with a refrigerated sample, the flavor from memory is comparable.
  3. If you're looking for more insights on the faux sushi, we had a sushi birthday party for my friend. Along with traditional rolls and a few Americanized ones, we did: -a breakfast spin on tamago--make a rectangular thin omelet, fill it with whatever (cheese/veggies) and roll along the short side (you don't want a spiral, just a cylinder). We wrapped some of the rolls in mostly cooked bacon (flexible enough to roll) that we gave a quick sear to finish crisping -pb&j sushi if there will be kids (white bread w/ crusts removed; add a strawberry slice for texture contrast) -and my favorite: Carrot cake sushi! I made a spice sponge cake, spread cream cheese icing on one side, lay a healthy amount of julienned carrots down the roll, rolled up, spread with a little more cc icing, and rolled it in chopped walnuts (looks like the sesame seeds that some put on sushi). Excited to hear what you finally decide!
  4. Can we coax those from the 'burgh out again? I'm moving to PGH in a few months, and would love to hear an update on the places mentioned above. In particular, if you have recommendations for tapas, a wine bar, and any reasonably authentic Asian, I'd love to hear them. Also, I've heard rave reviews of local produce markets. I'm probably going to end up in Squirrel Hill, so if you have any suggestions of easy-access ones in the area, that'd be great. Thanks!
  5. Right now, corned beef brisket ($1.68/lb), assorted chicken parts ($1.69/lb for drumsticks, breasts, thighs), and pork chops (okay, so they're $2.09/lb but I figured that was close enough!). I'm also known to make "after 8" visits to the store to pick up meat that's about to expire...ours will go as low as 2/3 off, and I've gotten steaks and the outlandishly expensive prepared roulades for quite cheap.
  6. I worked in (rather lowbrow) food service for several years and am certified in food safety for my state, so that's the source of my ramblings. Even beyond the health risks of disease (which I do believe are present, though perhaps rare), there's also the worry of cross-contamination, and places with poor practices on gloves/sanitation are likely to have the same issues with food allergies. People with really severe nut/wheat allergies probably know enough to avoid such places, but from a business perspective, you don't want to have to label all of your food "may contain nuts." Different gloves or freshly washed hands for different tasks...it's not that hard. I first worked at a fast food joint with a drive through. Want to know how many women pulled money out of their bras to hand to me? (A lot). I didn't want to touch it myself, and would never have considered touching food before washing up. It's just common courtesy! Those of us who care should voice our opinions to help the market solve...
  7. -Unagi/eel: I remember thinking "it's duck from the sea"--the slippery, rich taste was simultaneously confusing and delightful -Single malt scotch: Not really a food, but it was my first introduction to the complexities of liquor, and the idea that they have as much personality and character as wine...definitely revolutionized my thinking! -Pan-seared anything: I took a culinary skills class in college and we seared seafood, poultry, steak, and vegetables...each dish was more delicious than the one before it, and I was enchanted by the simplicity of the preparation.
  8. Similar pet peeve--at one of my favorite local restaurants, I was stuck between two menu items and asked the server's opinion (on the assumption that the servers have tasted the menu items). She responded with "x item is really popular." I made the mistake of ordering the popular item, which was quite uninspired, and spent the rest of the meal envying my companion's order (which he kindly shared). I love the rest of their menu, but didn't consider the difference between "good" and "popular" until this incident. Also, the tendency to ask a question on the quality of the meal while everyone has just taken a bite. Do people train servers to do this? It stifles the actual response into a quick nod, getting rid of any potential sharing of information.
  9. Along the same lines, I was thinking macarons--does anyone know if pecan flour is a suitable sub for almond flour? And I'm sure you could make a delicious filling using pecan oil...though unfilled cookies are much more portable.
  10. A boiled icing could work too--tastes a lot like marshmallow, and goes well with chocolate cakes. It holds up reasonably well in the heat, but I would keep it inside as long as possible.
  11. Mel Z

    Dinner! 2011

    Curried Pumpkin Soup! I realized after making it that it was vegan (coconut milk), as was the roti I made. For those who have had trouble with roti/chapatti puffing (unless it's just me), press lightly on the bread after it has browned, but still on the skillet. It will quickly puff up and form a beautiful pocket. Recipe is adapted from Gourmet, for those who want to try...a nice warming dish. Will hopefully post pics later.
  12. It also depends on the humidity of where you're serving...the caramelized sugar becomes tacky and less structural as it's exposed to moisture in the air, so if you assemble it several hours in advance, one can pull pieces off with reasonable grace.
  13. My white whale was strudel dough--I haven't tried puff since I don't think my results could come close, but strudel dough was my first laminated dough and it took me FOREVER to finish it. Especially since my first attempt I didn't clearly read the directions about letting the dough rest after each three-fold. That said, eating real Danish made it all worthwhile... Keep on the choux--you'll develop a feel for what's right and once you get your panade texture/moisture down, everything else falls into place. For the macarons--I've had better luck when I've ground my own almonds mixed with some of the sugar in the processor...I've never bothered with a cooked/syrup meringue and they usually turn out well.
  14. I did my first "real" croque this past weekend...I had made a mini one before with maybe 20 puffs, and decided it was time to go full-sized. Heeding others' comments about dipped faces being too much caramelized sugar, I opted for dripping some down the sides, a molten river from the top. I think it just ended up looking sloppy and will keep it on the inside next time! Lessons learned: -Avoid the caramel drip -Even-sized and -shaped puffs are crucial (note the gaping holes) -Have a plan of how many you'll need (I had one puff left over, meaning I couldn't select for uniform shape) -Once the caramel starts to soften, there's no saving it. I had tried to time it for serving but the hosts decided to serve an hour later, and it was heavily tilting by that time...and any attempts to straighten the croque just dislodged more puffs! -The "two fork" technique for wrapping spun sugar around it worked really well -Forming by hand (without a cone) is not as hard as it appears Without further ado, the pictures...I added more spun sugar closer to serving time, but didn't grab a photo. Any additional insights would be most welcome (especially on how to make the photo not sideways)!
  15. I got a slate cheese plate that I had been salivating over...I love to entertain and it's nice to do away with tacky cheese flags (for only slightly tacky chalk marks =p). I also ended up with stocking stuffer syndrome--melon baller (already have), strawberry huller (I have a paring knife), crinkle-cut slicer (cute--we'll see how it works), and cherry pitter.
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