Archive for the 'Polls' Category

Help me Find A Wafflemaker! (Please!)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I love waffles.

They’re great sweet—topped with pure maple syrup, of course.  My favorite inclusions are blueberries and pecans.  I also once made a terrific gingerbread waffle topped with a peach caramel sauce.

They’re great savory—my go to is a black pepper waffle topped with sauteed vegetables in a mustard cream sauce, but a sauce to match the waffle flavor is all you really need: dill waffle topped with smoked salmon and a yogurt sauce; cumin waffle topped with chili; allspice and cayenne pepper waffle topped with creamed turkey… I’m salivating just thinking about the possibilities.

Problem is, I have no way to cook waffles at my house right now.  I’ve got a beautiful antique cast iron waffle maker, and it worked great with my old stove.  But for the past two years, since I upgraded, I’ve gone pretty much waffleless because the waffle iron is just incompatible with the new burners.

Which is a shame because I know it can produce such beautiful specimens.

So, I need your help!  Please, please, please, please: go to your cupboard, dig out your wafflemaker, and leave a comment letting me know about it (please!).  Please (please!) let me know: the brand, the model number, whether it makes traditional or Belgian waffles, and how much you like it (do the waffles stick or do they come off easily?  Are they evenly browned or are there hot spots?  Is it easy to clean or do you fight with it after every time you use it?  Is there anything else I should know about it if I’m considering whether to purchase a model to match yours?) (Please!)

Thank you in advance for your assistance!  I’m willing to drop a wad of cash on a nice wafflemaker if it’s worth the investment, but I’d hate to come home with a model that never lives up to the promises made on its packaging.

Not Every Turkey Sandwich is the Same

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I don’t like The Family Circus.  Most of the time, I’m content to mutter under my breath about its stupidity or to mock it in the comfort of my own home.  Most of the time, though, its vapidity doesn’t deal with culinary matters.

Today, for anyone who is clever enough to skip over its single pane of vacuousness, Billy is returning his lunchbox to the counter as he tells his mother that nobody at school traded lunches because EVERYBODY (sic) had turkey sandwiches.  I suppose in Bill (and Jeff) Keane-Land, every turkey sandwich is the same: made with only breast meat, on Wonder Bread, with mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce. But, then again, in their world, Eisenhower is still the president.

In the real world, though, there are myriad options for how that turkey sandwich can stand out from the crowd.

Bread choice plays a key role.  Leftover dinner rolls make a great base for a post-Thanksgiving sandwich.  Or, if those are all gone, I like to go for a nice, hearty multi-grain bread that can stand up to the many fillings that might go inside.  Next choice: to toast or not to toast.  I tend to toast.

Condiments?  Yes, please.  Mayo and mustard are okay, and will make a serviceable sandwich… but for a truly remarkable sandwich, I have taken to spreading the bread with cold gravy and cranberry jelly.

Who needs to limit a sammich to breast meat?  Go ahead and use some thigh meat in there.  It’s moister and more flavorful.

But where the opportunity for sandwich creativity really presents itself is in what else goes on it with the turkey.  A variety of lettuces makes a nice touch, of course; but why stop there?  I have been known to put mashed potatoes (irish or sweet); olives; stuffing; cheese; shredded Brussels sprouts; roasted broccoli and cauliflower; and more on my turkey sandwiches.

Of course, once I go through that sort of effort, you can be sure I wouldn’t trade it to some punk kid like Billy Keane.

What sorts of delicacies do you add between your bread to make your turkey sandwiches stand out from the crowd?

Worst. Sandwich. Ever.

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I often have people ask me to identify the best dish I ever made.  Never have I had anyone ask me the worst.  Too bad, because it’s a much easier question to answer.  By far the worst thing I ever made was a peanut butter, bacon, and toasted garlic sandwich.  It was terrible.

I know what you’re thinking—it sounds terrible, I should have been able to know it would be bad without going through the agony of eating it.  But, I lured myself into thinking it might be good: I like peanut butter and bacon sandwiches; I like bacon and toasted garlic together; why not unite all three?

As it turns out, sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

So, what’s the worst meal/ dish you ever created?

Guilty Pleasures

Friday, January 16th, 2009

We’ve all got ‘em.  And I don’t want to pry too deep to find out all of them, but a conversation I had with Justin as we ate the goose I’ve been writing about lately got me thinking about what mine are: foods that I know are crap but just can’t help but to love.  I’m sure I have others, and if I think of them in the next couple of days, I’ll add them to the list, but for the time being here are the five that most readily came to my mind:

  1. Frosties from Wendy’s.  I don’t know what kinds of emulsifiers and syrups and preservatives go into them, and frankly, it doesn’t even matter.  I like ‘em.  But only the chocolate ones (as if there were another kind!)  When they ask me which flavor I want, I think I’ll always respond  with, “What do you mean which flavor?  There’s only one!”
  2. Tootsie Rolls.  I’ll eat ‘em by the handful.  If I have the chance, i’ll load up my pockets with them and absentmindedly chew throughout the day.
  3. Toaster Strudels from Pillsbury.  But only certain flavors: I don’t want anything too colorful.  I usually stick to apple or raspberry (I don’t want anything toxic blue or green), but that little packet of icing is such fun to doodle with before I devour the sticky sweetness.  I don’t usually go for the cheese flavor because…
  4. Enteman’s cream cheese coffee cake.  I mean, yeah, I’ll take a cream cheese danish from Dozen over it anytime (that, by the way, is a pleasure I will never feel guilty about–it’s one of the best d–ned pastries I’ve ever had, so flaky and rich, and at the same price as one of their cupcakes).  But for a supermarket pastry, one of those preservative-laden Entemann’s coffee cakes hits the spot anytime.
  5. On the savory end of things, I love me a taco from Taco Bell, especially if it’s a double-decker supreme.  I don’t care if the meat does come in a bag and the sour cream comes from a caulking gun, I’ll take three or four of those bad boys and call it lunch any day of the week.

So, I’ve fessed up–now it’s your turn.

Top 3 Meats

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I roasted a goose the other night.  It was my first goose ever, and I really enjoyed it.  In fact, i liked it enough that goose now enjoys a spot in my top 3 favorite meats:

1) Prosciutto, specifically from Parma Sausage on Penn Avenue, where the hams are aged for a minimum of 16 months and it’s sliced to order and it melts in your mouth.

2) Goose–which is an accomplishment, as it jumped right into the #2 spot out of nowhere.  I suggested roasting goose for Thanksgiving next year.  Aurora said it doesn’t feed as many people as turkey does.  I said that we’d just have to invite fewer people.  She shot me a dirty look.

3) Lamb–pretty much any preparation, so long as it’s medium rare if roasted and falling apart if braised.  In particular for braised lamb, I enjoy a mediterranean-style preparation with good green olives and pistachios in with the stewed meat.  But so long as it’s been well-prepared, you can’t go wrong with lamb in my book.

Duck had previously held the number 3 spot, but was edged out of my rankings by the tastiness of the goose.

While everyone who was dining with me enjoyed the goose, I was the only one among us for whom goose ranked in the top 3.

Aurora’s top 3:

  1. Rabbit
  2. Duck
  3. Seared Ahi Tuna

Justin’s top 3:

  1. Corned Beef
  2. Lamb
  3. Seared Ahi Tuna

Ji Eun’s Top 3:

  1. Spicy Pork
  2. Tandoori Chicken
  3. Cephalapod (either octopus or squid will do)–but only if it’s spicy!

Your top 3?

Pie Survey/ Grasshopper Pie

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

With Thanksgiving quick approaching, I’m starting to think about my menu for the day. All in attendance will help with the food, of course, bringing a dish that their families think essential for a Thanksgiving feast. But come the end of the meal, it’s essential that there’s more than enough pie to go around. One pie for every two people is the ideal ratio, I think; though if the feast gets quite large, I’d settle for a pie per three.

The advantage to having so many pies is that every individual has a different idea of which pies are need-to-have, which are nice-to-have, and which are worth ignoring. For instance, I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without a pecan pie; whereas my sister can’t imagine taking a bite of one.

The first four pies that I make (or sign up a volunteer to make) are easy to determine: pumpkin or sweet potato, pecan, apple, and grasshopper. Beyond that, cherry would probably sneak in for number five. I’m open to lots of other pies to fill in any additional spots, but the one that I will never invite to dinner is mincemeat. I’ve never had a mincepeat pie that I have enjoyed, though every time I happen across one, I’ll take a sliver to see if this one is any better than the rest that I’ve sampled.

I’m curious, though, as to what anyone else has to say about which pies are essential and which are less than welcome.

And for anyone who is interested about the grasshopper pie, you should have started harvesting your insects in July, when they were plentiful. You’ll be hard pressed to find any still breathing at this point. Just kidding. It’s creme de menthe and marshmallow in a chocolate cookie crust, and it’s delectable. Here’s the recipe for it, courtesy my mother. Don’t pay attention to any of her blasphemous talk of purchasing a pre-made chocolate cookie crust. I don’t believe she actually means it, and to my knowledge she’s never actually followed that advice. Certainly not when she’s cooking for me, anyway!

Grasshopper Pie

Chocolate crust (you can buy these in the grocery store)

If you want to make one, check your Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It has the recipe. I usually bake mine for 8 minutes at 375 degrees. This book says not to so take your pick.

Grasshopper Filling:

  • 32 large marshmallows or 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup green crème de menthe
  • 3 Tablespoons white crème de cacao
  • 1 ½ cups chilled whipping cream

Heat marshmallows and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until marshmallows melt. Chill until thickened; blend in liqueurs.

Beat the cream until stiff. Be sure the marshmallow mixture is cooled or it will melt the cream. Fold the marshmallow mixture into the whipped cream.

Pour this into the crust. If desired, sprinkle with grated semi-sweet chocolate. Chill at least 3 hours or until set. Serve with additional whipped cream, if desired. [trust me, it's desired...]

Journal of Taco-Building Science, vol. I issue 1

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I’ve had two great leaps in my understanding of the best way to build a taco.

The first came in 1999, when I was on Semester at Sea and the cafeteria had a taco day for either lunch or dinner pretty much every 2-3 weeks.  It was one of the most popular menus that they produced, and people would line up around 2 corners for it.  You’d brace yourself against the wall if the seas were rough, or just rock with your knees against the gentle swells if they weren’t, and look forward to getting your tacos.  But when you got to the front, you realized what the hold up had been: everyone was trying to assemble their tacos at the buffet line.  And because, of course, everyone has their own understanding of what order the ingredients ought to  be stacked and why, traffic jams could develop as everyone tried to get the cheese or the tomatoes or what have you all at the same time.

After going through this ordeal once or twice, I realized how to circumvent the log jam and still be particular about how I built my tacos.  When I got to the front of the line, I’d fill several small dishes each with one of the components.  Then, I’d have a miniature version of the taco bar at my seat, where I could build each taco to order.  Not only that, but I eliminated the problem of taco-spillage: an inevitability if you set a finished taco on your plate.  It was a two-fer: shorter wait and better tacos, all in one blow!

My second epiphany came today as I finished my 4-taco lunch.

My order of taco assemblage has been the same for years: meat first, then cheese so it might melt over the hot meat.  Lettuce next, with sour cream following if it’s available; the two of them serve as an insulator layer to keep the liquid from the tomatoes (if they look good) and/or salsa from draining through the meat and making it chill too quickly.  Olives, avocados, and any other nice-to-have ingredients also go in the top layer.  They might be crowned with a second layer of cheese, on occasion.

Today, though, as I polished off my fourth taco, I started thinking: the delay between putting the meat into the shell and adding the cheese causes some inevitable cooling of the taco meat.  And I thought, what if the meat didn’t have to go in the shell first? I mean, seriously…we all do it without even thinking about it.  But what if we put the cheese in first?  Then, the meat would be at its hottest possible temperature when it hit the cheese, and the cheese would experience a higher degree of melting.  The melted cheese might even be able to serve as an insulator layer between the meat and the taco shell to help retard taco shell sogginess.  We have the potential to achieve a higher level of taco quality on two levels, simply through making one small change to how we stack our layers!

This is a development that I predict could rival the development of using caulk guns as sour cream squirters….

Reader Poll:

How do you stack your tacos?  Why do you follow this order?  What’s need-to-have, and what’s nice-to-have when it’s taco night in your house?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Hints/ Reader Poll

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I just made a batch of cookies last night, and so was reminded of the many variations on the theme that are possible.  And, as it’s getting to be cookie baking time of year again, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorites.

  • The type of sugar you use is negotiable.  The recipe on the back of the chocolate chips calls for 1/2 granulated and 1/2 brown, but as long as you keep your total sugar to the guidelines (1 1/2 cups per batch of cookies or thereabouts), you can use dark brown, light brown, turbinado, maple sugar, or whatever else you enjoy.
  • Add finely grated orange zest into the mix.  If you happen to have a microplane zester, it’s very easy to get the zest from the orange.  Otherwise, try putting some plastic wrap over the thing on the side of your cheese grater, so that it comes between the grater and the orange.  It’ll catch the zest and make it a lot easier for you to gather it.  The zest of one orange is about right for one batch of cookies.
  • Don’t feel obligated to use vanilla extract for the ‘vanilla extract’ slot on the recipe.  Switch it up by adding the equivalent amount of your favorite liqueur.
  • Add some spices.  Cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg all work well with most desserts, including chocolate chip cookies.  If you’re feeling spicy, add a little bit of chili powder–but not too much.  You want it to serve as an accent in the background, not the defining taste of the cookie.
  • Switch it up a bit with the nuts.  I used cashews in the batch that I made last night, and they are tasty!
  • Quick oats are another great inclusion for cookies.  Use about a cup of quick oats for one batch of cookies.
  • I’ve heard that some people add coconut to their cookies.  That’s not really my thing, but if you like coconut, give it a shot and you’ll probably enjoy it.
  • Aurora says that she’s heard of people putting sunflower seeds or dried cranberries in their cookies.  These aren’t variations I’m familiar with, but they sound like they might be interesting.

How do you usually make your cookies?  Let me know what you do differently than the recipe says and I’ll put together a bar graph that charts the popularity of any particular twist on the old favorite.

Pop Quiz: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

How many mistakes can you find? Why is each malpractice detrimental?

Odiferous Tinkles

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Though we ate asparagus fairly often in my house while I was growing up, and though I noticed that occasionally my urine would smell funny, it wasn’t until I was 20 years old and on Semester At Sea that I finally put the pieces together. I remember the circumstances well: the lunch buffet featured cream of asparagus soup and the bathrooms stank to high heaven. I finally realized that asparagus makes your pee smell funny.

Today, several hours after I had tuna for lunch, I noticed that my urine had a definite tuna aroma. Which led me to wonder two things: how many other foods have an impact on urine odor, and by what means do these foods have this effect?