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heresy or acceptable shortcut?

serious Sep 6, 2006 10:35 AM

Unorothox methods in the kitchen? I think it's acceptable (and good)to
microwave previously brewed coffee. What are your shortcuts that you
stand by?

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  1. Davwud RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 11:23 AM

    It's absolutely acceptable to microwave your coffee. You're the one who has to drink it. If you like it fine, if not, don't.
    If you mike it to serve to guests, well that's another story. A fresh pot should be made.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Davwud
      Pei RE: Davwud Sep 6, 2006 04:06 PM

      Reheating it in the microwave's way better than letting it sit all day on the coffee maker warming plate.

      1. re: Pei
        DanaB RE: Pei Sep 12, 2006 04:30 AM

        I turn off the coffee as soon as it's brewed. The first two cups are plenty hot, and if I want to drink it later in the day, I drink it cold, over ice, as iced coffee. I hate reheated coffee, even in the microwave.

        As to short-cuts, I think the worst I do is not perfectly prepping vegetables, especially if they are going into a stew/braise/chili -- I even will chop onions in the cuisinart, so long as the whole thing is getting cooked, and the appearance of the size of the veggie bits doesn't matter to presentation.

        I never trim the points off of artichokes, for instance.

        1. re: DanaB
          Caitlin McGrath RE: DanaB Sep 12, 2006 06:45 AM

          I've never once trimmed the points off an artichoke's leaves if I was just going to steam it and pull them off to eat. Jeez, what's the point - tearing the thing apart isn't pretty business anyway.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
            Candy RE: Caitlin McGrath Sep 13, 2006 04:11 PM

            I knew someone who stabbed his finger with an untrimmed artichoke petal. Hed ended up with a very nasty and difficult bone infection. I'll continue to trim.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath
              Ruth Lafler RE: Caitlin McGrath Sep 13, 2006 05:04 PM

              Maybe you can compromise: I rarely cut the points off individually (although it's not that big a deal with a good pair of scissors), but when I don't, I just cut off the whole top of the artichoke just below the tip of the shortest leaf with a thorn (the short leaves around the outside usually don't have thorns). This has the added benefit of allowing me to leave the stem longer and steam them upside down.

      2. Junie D RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 02:26 PM

        I never trim the pointed end from green beans. Stem end, yes, but I don't understand why people bother cutting off the other end.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Junie D
          Kagey RE: Junie D Sep 6, 2006 03:58 PM

          Me too. I thought it was my own dirty little secret.

          1. re: Junie D
            Robert Lauriston RE: Junie D Sep 6, 2006 04:44 PM

            Traditionally, you snapped each end and stripped out the strings. With modern varieties where they've bred out the tough strings, it's a waste of time and food to snap off the tip.

            1. re: Junie D
              Maxmillion RE: Junie D Sep 6, 2006 06:06 PM

              I agree -- not at all necessary to cut off the pointy bits. They taste fine.

              1. re: Maxmillion
                Leslie RE: Maxmillion Sep 6, 2006 08:21 PM

                I agree, too. I do remember, though, serving string beans to my mother-in-law and leaving the pointed ends on, as my mother always did. . When MOL was finished with her dinner, she left all the pointy ends on her plate.

                1. re: Leslie
                  macca RE: Leslie Sep 6, 2006 08:22 PM

                  Sounds like a passive aggressive statement!

                  1. re: Leslie
                    mimolette RE: Leslie Sep 10, 2006 08:28 PM

                    Did you make a special pointy-ends-pickle for her next time she came?

                2. re: Junie D
                  mimolette RE: Junie D Sep 8, 2006 04:52 AM

                  I always leave it on too, it looks cute.

                3. toodie jane RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 03:23 PM

                  heresy: Crisco for butter or lard. ugh

                  1. g
                    gabe RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 04:07 PM

                    I never take the skin off of tomatoes when making sauce.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: gabe
                      cheryl_h RE: gabe Sep 6, 2006 05:59 PM

                      Neither do I when I'm making a slow-simmered sauce. I skin them for quick pasta sauces, but the long, slow cooking of the ragu bolognaise I make regularly breaks down skins very effectively.

                      1. re: cheryl_h
                        oakjoan RE: cheryl_h Sep 6, 2006 09:30 PM

                        Me neither, espec if they're getting chopped up. I understand why one wouldn't want the skin of a whole tomato on their plate, but little bits? Who cares? Not I.

                    2. Robert Lauriston RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 04:44 PM

                      Reheating coffee's why I bought a microwave!

                      If the coffee's stale, you should throw it out, but if you don't leave it baking on a hot plate it gets cold while it's still fresh.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        a_and_w RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2006 06:25 PM

                        Robert, I have this problem regularly since I don't use a coffee maker. After brewing, try putting the coffee into a thermos or insulated tumbler that's been washed out a few times with hot water. Then serve yourself from the tumbler/thermos -- keeps the coffee warm w/o a hotplate for a bit longer. I typically can use the same tumbler/thermos all week long before washing.

                        1. re: a_and_w
                          Robert Lauriston RE: a_and_w Sep 6, 2006 07:12 PM

                          My coffeemaker has a vacuum carafe, and I scald it before I brew a pot. The last cup or two are still not hot enough.

                          I'm planning to replace it with a Technivorm, maybe that'll be better-insulated.

                          1. re: a_and_w
                            toodie jane RE: a_and_w Sep 8, 2006 02:23 AM

                            I just bought a 16 oz. Zojirushi thermos and that baby keeps coffee piping hot! Best $35 I've spent in ages! And it tastes as fresh at 2:30 pm as it does at 5:30 am! The only drawback is the cup/lid is sort of petite. Preheat the thermos and the coffee says hot.


                            1. re: toodie jane
                              macca RE: toodie jane Sep 8, 2006 01:49 PM

                              I have the Zojirushi bread maker. Only use it to make the dough ( I know, I am lazy). Have never baked a loaf of bread in it- b ut I have had it for more than 10 years, and it is still going strong. Great products.

                            2. re: a_and_w
                              uman RE: a_and_w Sep 12, 2006 03:37 PM

                              That is disgusting.

                          2. macca RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 04:46 PM

                            I keep my leftover coffee in a mason jar in my refigerator to use for iced coffee.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: macca
                              Davwud RE: macca Sep 7, 2006 11:06 AM

                              Try making red eye gravy with it.


                              1. re: Davwud
                                macca RE: Davwud Sep 7, 2006 11:11 AM

                                Well- call me strange, but as a born and bred Northerner, I have never had red eye gravy. Funny- have traveled all around the world, and tried most non american cuisine, but my foray into American food culture is sadly lacking! Would love a recipe, though!

                                1. re: macca
                                  Davwud RE: macca Sep 8, 2006 11:15 AM

                                  I guess the easiest way to do it is get yourself a nice piece of country ham. Fry it up in a skillet (Cast iron is best). Salt and pepper it then throw in some left over coffee (it should be no more than an inch deep). Let it simmer for about 15 minutes or so. The ham should start to separate where the fat is. Serve it with grits or scrambled eggs or something like that. I usually add a wedge of onion to it. Gives it a really nice flavour.


                                  1. re: Davwud
                                    macca RE: Davwud Sep 8, 2006 01:50 PM

                                    Thanks for the recipe. Will have to try it. Never knew what red eye gravy was!

                                    1. re: Davwud
                                      danna RE: Davwud Sep 13, 2006 04:08 PM

                                      Then throw away the country ham. GAWD, I don't know how people eat that stuff. And I'm Southern. But red-eye gravy on grits is pretty nice.

                                2. re: macca
                                  MuppetGrrl RE: macca Sep 8, 2006 04:24 PM

                                  I make it into ice cubes for said iced coffee. As I live in SF, though, it's usually not hot enough for iced coffee.

                                  1. re: MuppetGrrl
                                    macca RE: MuppetGrrl Sep 8, 2006 05:08 PM

                                    Good idea! I live in Boston area- and around here- iced coffee is a year round drink- no matter the season. I drink a cup of hot coffee at home before work, and then make a big cup of iced coffee "to go"- no matter if it is snowing or hot!

                                3. thenurse RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 04:56 PM

                                  I never salt eggplant as the recipe says, as per the reason above.... eggplants are now bred not to be bitter. I've never tasted a bitter eggplant.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: thenurse
                                    LT from LF RE: thenurse Sep 6, 2006 05:24 PM

                                    The salt's not really needed for bitterness, but it does help sweat extra liquid from slices to be fried; this results in less oil absorption and a better overall texture.

                                    1. re: LT from LF
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: LT from LF Sep 6, 2006 05:57 PM

                                      Yeah, for some recipes you need to get the liquid out first.

                                  2. byrd RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 05:07 PM

                                    when making tomato sauce microwave tomatoes for five minutes, saves a couple of hours of cooking time, just make sure you cover well otherwise you will paint your microwave red.

                                    1. k
                                      KTinNYC RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 06:11 PM

                                      When making polenta I start with cold water. No lumps. Never made sense to me to start with boiling water and then having to whisk like mad.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: KTinNYC
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: KTinNYC Sep 6, 2006 07:16 PM

                                        Same here.

                                        I do a similar thing with flour-thickened sauces: melt the butter, take it off the heat, whisk in the flour until smooth, whisk in the cold liquid, then back on the heat. Works fine.

                                        Actually, come to think of it, these days I usually make polenta in the oven using the recipe from Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Grains and Greens--which she got off a package of California polenta.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          Junie D RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2006 07:24 PM

                                          And risotto. If my stock is room temp or cold, I just add it slowly.

                                          Want to share the oven polenta recipe?

                                        2. re: KTinNYC
                                          NYchowcook RE: KTinNYC Sep 7, 2006 12:02 PM

                                          I've been doing the virtually no-stir method of polenta making. Either on stove top and stir for one minute each ten-minute period, or pop into the oven for entire time and just stir at the very end. I think it turns out fine, it's not such a Big Chore to make as side dish, and frees you up for something else for oh, 40 minutes!

                                        3. mielimato RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 08:03 PM

                                          I never de-seed tomatoes or cucumbers or run sauces/liquids through sieves. Why throw all that good stuff away? I'd rather eat it chunky.

                                          When I make sauces or stir-fry, I don't bother to cut off the tops of garlic. Also, I don't take the skin off of carrots or potatoes (unless they are really dirty).

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: mielimato
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: mielimato Sep 6, 2006 08:14 PM

                                            What do you mean by "tops of garlic"? You mean your garlic has sprouted?

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              mielimato RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2006 08:21 PM

                                              No worst. The brown tops from the other end. If it is really think and knobby, I cut it off but often I don't.

                                              1. re: mielimato
                                                Robert Lauriston RE: mielimato Sep 6, 2006 09:06 PM

                                                You mean the roots?

                                                1. re: mielimato
                                                  mielimato RE: mielimato Sep 7, 2006 08:50 AM

                                                  I meant "worse." Yup, the roots.

                                                  1. re: mielimato
                                                    Das Ubergeek RE: mielimato Sep 8, 2006 03:34 AM

                                                    I don't either, particularly if I'm going to pound it into something like curry paste.

                                              2. re: mielimato
                                                Sharuf RE: mielimato Sep 7, 2006 09:28 AM

                                                Cooked carrot skins can be bitter.

                                              3. LoDega RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 09:22 PM

                                                I scrub, rather than peel, most cucumbers.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: LoDega
                                                  serious RE: LoDega Sep 6, 2006 10:08 PM

                                                  all you skin eaters: carrots, potatoes, cucumbers..if they are
                                                  washed, the skins are good for you.

                                                  1. re: serious
                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 10:12 PM

                                                    Some cucumber varieties have really bitter skins. The ones that don't, there's usually no reason to peel them.

                                                2. Alice Patis RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 11:41 PM

                                                  I microwave corn on the cob. Not really heresy, but haven't gone back to boiling ever since.

                                                  I use mayo instead of coddled egg and fish sauce instead of anchovies in my caesar salad dressing. Ok. Calling it caesar salad dressing is really a stretch. I mean in my RealLemon-EVOO-mayo-fish sauce-garlic-salt dressing.

                                                  Actually I'm the queen of taking the long cut to do everything when I'm really cooking. It's that anal retentive obsessive compulsive thing. So for daily meals I rely on semi-homemade. When I really cook, it's hours to do even the simplest things.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Alice Patis
                                                    Emme RE: Alice Patis Sep 7, 2006 02:03 AM

                                                    We microwave corn and other vegetables to par-cook them, then grill them to crisp and add more complex flavor.

                                                    1. re: Emme
                                                      coll RE: Emme Sep 8, 2006 01:58 PM

                                                      I always microwave asparagus, 4 or 5 minutes, tastes like poached to me.

                                                      1. re: coll
                                                        serious RE: coll Sep 8, 2006 03:45 PM

                                                        roast aspargus in 450 oven, turning once, for a few minutes.
                                                        Use small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper b4 roasting..you'll never
                                                        prepare it any other way.

                                                        1. re: serious
                                                          coll RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 05:03 PM

                                                          You're right, I do it that way also and add some parmesan and garlic powder. I use the microwave method for when I want to top with sauce, although I think my husband prefers them roasted (especially when I wrap proscuitto around them before baking!)

                                                          1. re: serious
                                                            Ruth Lafler RE: serious Sep 13, 2006 05:13 PM

                                                            When ever I read a "never prepared it another way" comment, I think "that person has all the time in the world to cook."

                                                            I love roasted veggies, but waiting for the oven to heat to 450 just to roast some veggies is too time consuming for a work day, not to mention a huge waste of energy. The microwave definitely has its place, and that place is helping me get dinner on the table 20 minutes after I walk in the door.

                                                            1. re: serious
                                                              Das Ubergeek RE: serious Sep 13, 2006 05:30 PM

                                                              The taste IS different and, I think, superior; but you know what? I find that my handy-dandy toaster oven heats up a LOT faster than my regular oven and works great for asparagus.

                                                              1. re: serious
                                                                MuppetGrrl RE: serious Sep 13, 2006 05:36 PM

                                                                I use the toaster oven for roasting asparagus, as well! Takes only 20 minutes, tops. Usually less.

                                                        2. sgb RE: serious Sep 6, 2006 11:48 PM

                                                          I use the microwave to cook rice instead of a rice cooker. A 2-1, water to rice(jasmine)ratio and the microwave on 1/2 power for 35 to 40 minutes.

                                                          1. k
                                                            Kagey RE: serious Sep 7, 2006 08:32 AM

                                                            Wow I do lots of these things: never peel carrots, cucumbers, or tomatoes (ok, rarely tomatoes), don't salt eggplant, don't cut the pointy bits off string beans, make "hands-free" polenta in the oven (thanks to the Chowhound who gave me that tip).

                                                            If they sold already-peeled garlic cloves in a plastic container in any of the shops near me (like they do in NYC), I'd probably buy them, too. Mark Bittman said it was ok. But to date they don't, so I'm out of danger for now.

                                                            1. silverbear RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 02:30 AM

                                                              I alway use canned beans. Lots of purists recommend using dried beans purchased in bulk, but I never have time to soak and cook them. Beside, they never turn out as good as canned beans with the salty juice rinsed off.

                                                              It amazes me how many articles I read about how to improve one's diet with bean and legumes. The same articles, usually in general publications for non-cooks, then say that only dried beans will do, effectively guaranteeing that almost no readers will eat more beans because using dried is just too much of a hassle.

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: silverbear
                                                                DanielleM RE: silverbear Sep 8, 2006 02:38 AM

                                                                Yes -- I do this too. I eat canned beans at least twice a week. If I had to cook them, I NEVER would eat beans. They taste great out of a can; I could not agree more.

                                                                1. re: DanielleM
                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: DanielleM Sep 8, 2006 03:36 AM

                                                                  I can count the number of times I've soaked and cooked dried beans on one hand and still have enough fingers free to give the purists a British "up yours" gesture.

                                                                  Canned beans are one of those things that are so good (once you find the right kind and the right brand) that there's absolutely no reason to do it yourself -- and I say this as an almost-but-not-quite-Alice-Patis-level long-cut person, who whips cream by hand using a whip because I'm convinced that it tastes different.

                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                    Sharuf RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 8, 2006 08:23 AM

                                                                    A&W garbanzos are always on hand here for sudden hummus productions. However, when I want refried black beans, which is frequently, I cook my own - from scratch - and make enough for several meals. Just dump the beans into a pot, cover with water, and put on a slow simmer and forget about them for 1-1/2 or 2 hours. Mash them and there you are. Homemade black beans are way better than Rosarita's.

                                                                2. re: silverbear
                                                                  julesrules RE: silverbear Sep 11, 2006 01:21 PM

                                                                  shhhh... don't tell but depending on what I'm doing with the canned beans, I don't always even rinse them! For a salad, sure, but for chili or bean dip - I drain them lightly just by pressing the lid down, and then throw them in the pot. Then I adjust how much I salt the recipe, it's not brain surgery!

                                                                  And um, I actually buy hummus. I am embarrassed about that one. I know how to make it, hell my mom was making it 25 years ago before you could buy it in any grocery store. But I just find it so convenient to have it ready in the fridge, it's a healthy and filling snack that both my husband and I enjoy. The 9-month old chowpup seems to like it too!
                                                                  My personal pet nutrition-media peeve is when they extol canola and olive oil in the same sentence. Canola has no flavour, it isn't going to provide the same satisfaction and could turn a person off healthy eating pretty quick.

                                                                  1. re: julesrules
                                                                    silverbear RE: julesrules Sep 11, 2006 01:29 PM

                                                                    Hummus is not difficult to make, but we eat so much of it and like the Trader Joe's brand so much, that we always use store bought as well.

                                                                    Regarding canola oil, I agree that it is certainly not appropriate for salad dressings and other situations in which you wish for the oil to add flavor. Nevertheless, there are situations in which the oil should not add flavor. Baking comes to mind. Likewise, I would generally avoid olive oil in most Asian cooking. I think the flavor of olive oil would clash with the spices and flavors in most Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.

                                                                    1. re: silverbear
                                                                      julesrules RE: silverbear Sep 11, 2006 01:35 PM

                                                                      Sure canola has its place, I agree, I guess the point is that they aren't interchangeable just because they're both healthy.

                                                                    2. re: julesrules
                                                                      Sharuf RE: julesrules Sep 12, 2006 09:32 AM

                                                                      When someone's expected to drop by, I will literally whip up (in my blender) some hummus. There's that fresh garlic hit and the fresh lemon tang, and I get my Martha Stewart Kitchen Queen moment. Plus, at just under $2 for a pound's worth it's cost effective.

                                                                      1. re: Sharuf
                                                                        julesrules RE: Sharuf Sep 12, 2006 10:18 AM

                                                                        Oh, you hit me where it hurts! I know, it's easy, it does taste better, and it's cheaper. Just the other day I was eating my Dad's and noting the fresh garlic and lemon flavours. But we agreed that cleaning the blender is a b*tch. Also when I was doing my own I couldn't leave well enough alone and kept trying variations - wasabi, etc - and they never turned out well (I hate to follow a recipe). They have several variations at the grocery so we can switch it up.
                                                                        I have an idea I haven't seen at the store though - chipotle baba ganough Wouldn't the smokey flavours work well together?

                                                                  2. Dominus RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 02:49 AM

                                                                    Mushrooms: I used to quickly rinse them and quickly dry them up using paper towel, and no change in texture, flavor, whatever, but it wasn't getting as thoroughly cleaned as I wanted. Now, I damp up some paper towel sheets, most of the water squeezed out, then use it to wipe the mushrooms--easier, quicker, cleaner. Still no change in texture and flavor and whatever.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Dominus
                                                                      LoDega RE: Dominus Sep 8, 2006 06:13 PM

                                                                      This is reputed to be the better way to clean mushrooms, although I don't remember why. So you're actually ahead of the curve here. I'm still a rinser.

                                                                      1. re: Dominus
                                                                        DanaB RE: Dominus Sep 12, 2006 04:38 AM

                                                                        That's not heresy, that's the proper way to treat a mushroom. Mushrooms get waterlogged if you wash them too thoroughly. I do a variant; quick rinse under light spray to get off any big pieces of dirt, then wipe dry (and clean).

                                                                      2. Das Ubergeek RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 03:44 AM

                                                                        I don't peel apples for pie, sauce or crisp. I buy from organic farmers who don't use pesticides (GOD, I love living in California!) and all the flavour's two millimetres under the skin and gets cast off when you peel.

                                                                        I never salt eggplant. Ever.

                                                                        I never heat up the stock or broth I use for cooking. It just isn't necessary and it's another pan to wash.

                                                                        I save strained bacon grease in a sealed container in the fridge so I don't have to waste time rendering bacon just for the pork fat.

                                                                        I make pie crust and biscuits with my hand because I cut myself every time I clean the pastry blender, and I've never mastered the art of two knives.

                                                                        I use fish sauce in unexpected places (pan gravy, for example) because it lends that particular depth of flavour, but I won't tell anyone about it, because it freaks them out.

                                                                        My embarrassing secret is that I've played up how elegant and wonderful zabaglione is to our friends and relatives, because I want them to think that I've made this concoction specially for them, when in reality it means I finished cooking and realised I didn't have a dessert...I always have eggs, sugar and Marsala wine on hand.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                          Lono37 RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 8, 2006 03:31 PM

                                                                          I totally use fish sauce in my bolognese sauce every time, and my wife loves it but would absolutely freak if I told her it was in there.

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                            Maxmillion RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 9, 2006 07:43 PM

                                                                            I probably don't need to tell you to be careful with your fish sauce tricks and guests. I have a friend who goes into anaphalactic shock if his steak is cooked in a pan that recently held fish... Poor guy has never eaten Thai nor Vietnamese cuisine.

                                                                            1. re: Maxmillion
                                                                              Das Ubergeek RE: Maxmillion Sep 11, 2006 02:58 PM

                                                                              Right, I'm aware of the fish problem. Fortunately nobody's allergic to fish... seafood, yes, but not fish.

                                                                            2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                              danna RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 13, 2006 04:13 PM

                                                                              I don't peel apples for pie and sauce either. (grow my own organically...willing to share w/ the bees) BUT...I just learned last week, if you are going to cook it down to apple butter...the peels really do take away from the product. I suppose the smooth "buttery" texture is part of the appeal of apple butter.

                                                                            3. p
                                                                              pws RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 06:58 AM

                                                                              Dirty little secret: I never boil syrup when I need a simple syrup for cocktails, just shake. If it's for a sorbet however, I boil.

                                                                              All you people who dont peel tomatoes or dont salt eggplant are nuts, but the bean-end-leaver-oners are okay.

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: pws
                                                                                serious RE: pws Sep 8, 2006 09:29 AM

                                                                                nuts? add those people who think it's too much trouble to soak
                                                                                beans. It's a pretty passive activity and a much better tasting
                                                                                result. Canned beans are too mushy and the variety of dried beans
                                                                                is greater and more interesting. Plus..what's more tasty than beans
                                                                                marinated while still warm?

                                                                                1. re: serious
                                                                                  NYchowcook RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 11:21 AM

                                                                                  Canned beans are fine if you're going to cook them, IMHO. It's in salads when you want a less mushy bean that cooked rather than canned is really best. But I keep a good supply of several types of organic canned beans in my pantry.

                                                                                  1. re: NYchowcook
                                                                                    serious RE: NYchowcook Sep 8, 2006 11:56 AM

                                                                                    Any particular brand you recommend?

                                                                                    1. re: serious
                                                                                      silverbear RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 12:44 PM

                                                                                      I'm the orignal "nut" (at least in this thread) who strongly prefers canned beans and finds soaking to be a pointless ordeal. Trader Joe's stocks canned organic kidney beans, chick peas, pinto beans, and black beans. I buy all four varieties regularly and find the quality uniformly good without too much mushiness.

                                                                                      1. re: serious
                                                                                        NYchowcook RE: serious Sep 9, 2006 02:03 AM

                                                                                        I like Eden and Westbrae (both organic) in cans.

                                                                                        (But I must confess I am very happy to have some fresh cranberry beans in my refrigerator!)

                                                                                    2. re: serious
                                                                                      Das Ubergeek RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 03:19 PM

                                                                                      Soaking beans requires more forethought than I'm willing to give a weeknight dinner, and I hate eating leftovers, so I'm not about to make them at the weekend and warm them over later in the week.

                                                                                      1. re: serious
                                                                                        rabaja RE: serious Sep 11, 2006 11:36 PM

                                                                                        I'm totally with you on this one, dressed warm beans are the best!

                                                                                      2. re: pws
                                                                                        Das Ubergeek RE: pws Sep 8, 2006 03:15 PM

                                                                                        I buy eggplants that are not bitter -- very, very rarely will you find the large globe eggplants in my kitchen, unless I'm making babaghannouj, in which case the smoking kills the bitter flavour anyway.

                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                          LoDega RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 8, 2006 06:15 PM

                                                                                          I have never in my life salted an eggplant and don't intend to start. And they taste great to me as is.

                                                                                      3. m
                                                                                        MuppetGrrl RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 04:27 PM

                                                                                        I rarely soak beans, unless I'm planning to make a soup a few days ahead. And even then, I've only done it twice.

                                                                                        My dirty li'l secrets: lowfat or fat-free sour cream; nonfat yogurt in place of mayo in tuna or egg salad; and I use 2% milk for most recipes, including white sauce.

                                                                                        I never, nevereverever, use anything but pure-bred delicious butter, though!

                                                                                        1. w
                                                                                          wolive RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 04:33 PM

                                                                                          I almost never cook rice anymore. I use Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice and jasmine rice. Three and a half minutes in the microwave, and it's ready to serve. I cannot tell the difference and the price is not bad, either.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: wolive
                                                                                            NeNePie RE: wolive Sep 12, 2006 03:20 AM

                                                                                            Yeah, isn't it terrific? We made a brown rice salad with it last week. Mmm, lemon, a variety of curry spices, apples, poached raisins, and a little mayo. Dang! My husband makes a quick salad of TJ's brown rice, red onions, toasted pine nuts, feta, olive oil, tomato, s& p. The texture is just great and my goodness brown rice is such a pain otherwise I won't make it.

                                                                                          2. s
                                                                                            Sam Ottawa RE: serious Sep 8, 2006 05:32 PM

                                                                                            I put corn on the cob in pot with cold water, & turn it off when it comes to a boil, leave it for a few minutes while I finish whatever else needs doing and then eat the corn. Never have overcooked corn, and saves time and energy.

                                                                                            When really in a rush for boiling water, boil it in an electric kettle while element is heating, and then pour it into the pot.

                                                                                            Many others already mentioned: If cooking just for myself, never trim any king of bean. If I can avoid it I try not to peel veggies or fruit(besides the fibre is good for you).

                                                                                            Cut cheese into rough cubes for homemade pizza rather than shredding, or drop on a couple of spoonfuls of chèvre instead.

                                                                                            1. Jennalynn RE: serious Sep 9, 2006 02:51 AM

                                                                                              Wow... none of you have mentioned the biggest shortcut of all.

                                                                                              My amazingly moist legendary chocolate cake starts with a box mix... unbeknownst to all but one friend who has been sworn to secrecy.

                                                                                              (I draw the line however at canned frosting and always top it with a homemade ganache using really good chocolate).

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Jennalynn
                                                                                                serious RE: Jennalynn Sep 9, 2006 08:25 AM

                                                                                                uh oh..heresy! (The truth is I've never tried a box mix - but I've
                                                                                                read those boxes.)

                                                                                                1. re: Jennalynn
                                                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: Jennalynn Sep 9, 2006 02:41 PM

                                                                                                  I suppose that's OK depending on the box... there are some very good "natural" boxed cake mixes at Whole Paycheque or our local co-op. If it's Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinies or any of that ilk, where the ingredients include things you'd find in a chemistry lab (or worse yet, HFCS in the little pudding packet), though, it's heresy.

                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                    Jennalynn RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 11, 2006 09:22 PM

                                                                                                    Then it's a good thing I'm hiding behind this nom de plate!

                                                                                                    ; )

                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                      Kelli2006 RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 13, 2006 04:44 PM

                                                                                                      I have worked the pastry station professionally and I have used good quality boxed cakes mixes when I am rushed at home on occasion. They are 95% as good as a scratch cake and occasionally they are better. They have access to ingredients that you and i would have to search for years to find, and with a few quality add-ins (Penzeys spices and vanilla or Ghirdella cacao powder)I have served them to very discriminating friends and they cant tell the difference. I always make my frostings, ganache or mousse to ice/garnish them with.

                                                                                                      I was shocked when Alton Brown mentioned the same technique when he did his cake/icing episodes.

                                                                                                      Baking brownies are a different matter , as I can make them from scratch with top shelf ingredients just as fast as a boxed mix and there is no comparison in the finished taste.

                                                                                                      If you ever in the weeds (rushed) for icing, I learned to use a bag of bittersweet/semisweet chocolate chips and 2 TB of cream or 1/2-1/2 melted in the nuke box and then whisked briskly for a few minutes. Simply spread chocolate baking chips on a sheet cake/brownies will be even faster and most people rave about the richness.

                                                                                                      I used to feel guilty when I left the tips of green beans on, I don't feel so bad now.

                                                                                                      1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                        Das Ubergeek RE: Kelli2006 Sep 13, 2006 04:54 PM

                                                                                                        I've done the exact same thing with the melted chocolate for icing -- I usually add a little bit of oil to it, and I usually temper it for the effect ("Oooooh, SHINY!").

                                                                                                        What are your go-to good-quality bake mixes? I have to admit that I generally hate making fiddly cakes, so if there are boxed shortcuts that are good (and not full of disgusting chemicals), I'd love to hear about it!

                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                          Kelli2006 RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 13, 2006 05:57 PM

                                                                                                          I have used King Arthur's, www.bakerscatalogue.com cake mixes with great results and even Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker mixes are possible if I am rushed. I know they have a lot of unpronounceable ingredients, but most are there to make sure that the home cook does not develop excessive gluten and to guarantee proper texture, moisture, and crumb. It's fashionable to attack them but they are predictable and should be a pantry staple. Boxed mixes aren't a excuse for proper technique, but they work well and have saved me when I am rushed.

                                                                                                          I love King Arthur's Round Table pastry flour, but it can be difficult for the home cook to find at a reasonable price. I buy a 25Lb bag per year from the food service distributor and split it among 2 friends.

                                                                                                  2. TexasToast RE: serious Sep 9, 2006 05:52 PM

                                                                                                    Canned chickpeas. Why would you ever soak them?


                                                                                                    1. h
                                                                                                      HillJ RE: serious Sep 10, 2006 08:36 PM

                                                                                                      I doctor up frozen cheese pizza with fresh veggies when I'm pressed for time.

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                        TexasToast RE: HillJ Sep 11, 2006 11:48 PM

                                                                                                        I do that all the time. COSTCO has these great 3-pack, plain cheese, thin-crust, frozen pizzas that you can easily jazz up!


                                                                                                        1. re: TexasToast
                                                                                                          HillJ RE: TexasToast Sep 12, 2006 05:56 PM

                                                                                                          that's it, TT-the secrets out :)
                                                                                                          and now I'm learning to use truffle oil on the pizza thanks to CHow!

                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                            TexasToast RE: HillJ Sep 13, 2006 04:42 PM

                                                                                                            I thought I was the only person to do that? And it started because it was the easiest way to get only the toppings I liked and none that I didn't! The truffle oil came from Chef Nick Badovinus at Dallas' Fireside Pies.



                                                                                                      2. Covert Ops RE: serious Sep 11, 2006 03:05 PM

                                                                                                        I make my alfredo sauce with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. :-)

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Covert Ops
                                                                                                          MuppetGrrl RE: Covert Ops Sep 11, 2006 10:00 PM

                                                                                                          I think that's the first thing I've read in here that I would actually qualify as heresy! :)

                                                                                                          1. re: Covert Ops
                                                                                                            Das Ubergeek RE: Covert Ops Sep 12, 2006 12:50 AM




                                                                                                            ...are you taking the mickey? You don't really do that.

                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                              Covert Ops RE: Das Ubergeek Sep 12, 2006 02:50 PM

                                                                                                              Yes, I do.

                                                                                                              Warm the soup, add milk, parmesan cheese, some black pepper, simmer until thick.

                                                                                                              I didn't come up with this on my own, y'know. . .I think the recipe actually came off the can!

                                                                                                              It's not "real" alfredo sauce, which I appreciate as much as the next person. . .but it's quick, easy, a way to sneak in mushrooms when the dear stepkids hate them, and pretty yummy!

                                                                                                            2. re: Covert Ops
                                                                                                              gloriousfood RE: Covert Ops Sep 12, 2006 03:04 PM

                                                                                                              Take 2 cans of Cream of Mushroom soup (prepare as directed), 2 cans of creamy corn, stir them together, put in loads of tomatos (fresh!), potatoes, or chives, cilantro, Italian parsley, and diced cubed ham if you desire, and you'll get a pretty decent "corn chowder."

                                                                                                              Believe me, more people make this than you would imagine...how do you think I found out?

                                                                                                            3. phofiend RE: serious Sep 12, 2006 02:21 AM

                                                                                                              Bags of peeled garlic cloves, vacuum sealed, 4 cloves to a pack, about 8 packs per bag. Hard to find, but when I see them, I buy 3 or 4 bags. They stay fresh several weeks in the fridge.

                                                                                                              1. krissywats RE: serious Sep 12, 2006 05:32 AM

                                                                                                                I buy already peeled garlic and pre-prepped veggies (in NYC...FreshDirect ROCKS!!).

                                                                                                                My biggest secret is that the soup I make in the winter that has gotten raves (smokey bacon, veggies, beans, beautiful broth) is all made in the microwave in about 20 minutes total (Gasp!) and the broth is not homemade. The soup tastes amazingly complex and like it simmered all day.

                                                                                                                And the WORST one that really gets people is that my favorite, favorite, favorite broth is from a cube made by a Mexican company that sells them for $1.99 a box. The most chickeny, rich flavor of any broth I've tried - including my own homemade.

                                                                                                                I use Miracle Whip in my devilled eggs. Nothing else tastes the same.

                                                                                                                I think you people now know quite enough of my secrets....

                                                                                                                1. d
                                                                                                                  dee lannon RE: serious Sep 12, 2006 02:55 PM

                                                                                                                  WHAT Mexican company!?!?!?

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: dee lannon
                                                                                                                    krissywats RE: dee lannon Sep 12, 2006 03:30 PM

                                                                                                                    Sorry - according to the package made in Venezeula - Maggi (underneath says "Tu Sabor Latino!"). Looks like it is distributed in the US by Nestle. Had to parse it out because the package isn't english and i'm not bi-lingual.

                                                                                                                    1. re: krissywats
                                                                                                                      dee lannon RE: krissywats Sep 13, 2006 07:02 PM

                                                                                                                      Thanks - always looking for a quality quick buillion for when my freezer is empty of my stock!

                                                                                                                  2. s
                                                                                                                    serotonin RE: serious Sep 12, 2006 03:23 PM

                                                                                                                    ooh. soup recipe, please? shorthand is fine.

                                                                                                                    I pregrate expensive parmesan and gruyere cheeses and keep them in plastic containers in the freezer for doling out over a couple of months. My cheese guy would yell at me if he found out, as he likes to talk about how cheese is still alive. Heresy to some, I guess.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: serotonin
                                                                                                                      krissywats RE: serotonin Sep 12, 2006 03:33 PM

                                                                                                                      I thought I had it in my online file, but I don't. I'll try to find it in my recipes today (I don't remember enough to shorthand even) and post it.

                                                                                                                    2. Marge RE: serious Sep 12, 2006 03:26 PM

                                                                                                                      Not necessarily an unacceptable shortcut, but heresy considering the source (ok, I admit it, Rachael Ray)...to perfectly cook a plaintain for mashing (i.e for mangu, mofongo, etc), cut a slit along the side of the plantain, wrap in waxed paper, twisting the ends shut, and nuke for 90 seconds-2 min.

                                                                                                                      1. k
                                                                                                                        keencook1 RE: serious Sep 13, 2006 05:40 PM

                                                                                                                        Can't stand reheated coffee. Prefer to drink it cold.

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