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Is there anything you just can't make, no matter how hard you try? [Moved from General Topics board]

Mine is meatloaf. I love meatloaf, but no matter what I do, no matter what recipe I use, anyone who eats my meatloaf will have a miserable case of indigestion within two hours, and it will last at least a day. I think I've tried at least forty meatloaf recipes. I've even tried wearing rubber gloves when making it in case it's some sort of bizarre chemical interaction with my skin. Nothing helps. <sigh> I make a great beef Wellington. But sometimes the budget just screams "Meatloaf!"

What about you?

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  1. Homemade chocolate cake. I could sift cake flour forever, but I still won't get a light, airy cake like a boxed cake mix. They're tasty and all, but just have the consistency of dry brownies.

    17 Replies
    1. re: charlesbois

      For me it's brownies. Mine are always overcooked on the outside and undercooked inside and taste like they are from a box even if they aren't.

      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        This might be your recipe a, but it possible that you pan is too deep, or the oven is too hot.

        I never make brownies over 3/4 of a inch thick, and the pan should be heavy aluminum or glass. I like 350F for 25-30 minutes.

        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          I've had good results with the recipe on the back of the Fry's Cocoa container. The only time I had it fail was when I tried to make Cheesecake Brownies in my 9x13 insulated pan... and the failure was the same situation you described - overdone on the outside and undercooked in the middle. I've had odd results with the pan before so I'm going to try making the cheesecake brownies one more time in a regular 9x13 and see what happens.... something tells me (in my case anyway) that it's the pan.

          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            I'm glad I'm not alone with the brownies thing. I can't make brownies to save my life...even when they are from a box. Maybe it's the pan, maybe it's the 45 year-old oven, maybe I can't make browines to save my life.

            1. re: MrsT

              a hint that might help: when they're done on the edges but not in the middle, try turning off the oven and leave the brownies in there for another ~15 minutes. I do it with sour cream chocolate cake and it works.

              1. re: MrsT

                Being a scientist, this question comes to mind: have you checked oven temp. with a REALLY ACCURATE thermometer?

                1. re: Joebob

                  It's happened to me with every oven I've had. And other baked items do just fine (cakes, cookies, etc.)..it's just brownies I have trouble with.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    According to some TV commercials I've seen, you can now buy ready-made brownies in a disposable pan all ready to pop in the oven and take bows that they're "home made." I plan to give them a try, and if they turn out nice anc chewy, hey, I don't mind not having to wash the Kitchen Aid...!

                    Also, there's less temptation to bake a double batch! '-)

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      I dunno....I'm scared they will be as nasty as the "biscuits"....*blech*

                2. re: MrsT

                  Good Lord, I think their might be a whole slew of us out there. We could start a support group!

                  "Hi, my name's _____, and I'm incapable of making brownies... even out of a box."

                3. re: Janet from Richmond

                  This is a brownie recipe that is no fail (I hope) that my great grandmother made:

                  2 squares non sweetened chocolate
                  1 cup sugar
                  1 stick butter
                  1 egg
                  1 teaspoon vanilla
                  1/2 cup flour

                  Heat oven to 325

                  Grease small (9 inch or less) cake or square pan

                  Melt chocolate, butter
                  Mix in sugar, vanilla
                  Beat in Egg
                  Add flour

                  Cook 30 mins and check... it is done when the fork comes out clean.

                  1. re: katalina

                    This is pretty close to the recipe I have used, except I use 2 eggs and add a cup of walnuts. Add the eggs one at a time, and I cook at 350. And if I'm doing for a crowd (this is my standard offering at potlucks), I double and do in a 9x13 pan. Yum.

                  2. re: Janet from Richmond

                    I'm with you, Janet. I saw this thread and that was immediately what came to mind for me. It doesn't matter whether they are homemade or from a box - same result. crunchy in the corners gooey in the middle. UGH! A baker I am not... just as jfood admitted in his recent thread!

                    You're not alone.

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      Isn't that how they're supposed to be?

                      1. re: coll

                        In order to get a good crunchy/gooey ratio per brownie, I make them in muffin tins.

                  3. re: charlesbois

                    Charlesbois,
                    This might be a too simple answer. Have you tried cake flour?

                    1. re: charlesbois

                      Funny, the thing I like about homemade chocolate cake is its denseness and dryness. But if you want a lighter cake, maybe try using oil instead of butter? Or use a sponge cake recipe. Or, not to be flip, but seriously, why not stick with a box cake if you prefer it?

                    2. Buttercream frosting like you get from the bakeries. It tastes perfect in the bowl but when I frost it always hardens and becomes more like a glaze than a real frosting.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: L_W

                        I make frosting using a sinful method that is hard to screw up:

                        With electric mixer
                        Cream 2 sticks butter
                        Add powder sugar
                        A little milk (to help mix in the sugar)
                        A drop of vanilla (optional)

                        And just keep mixing and tasting until you get your desired sweetness. If you want chocolate, add cocoa power, for coffee add a little coffee.

                        Hope this works!

                        1. re: katalina

                          Ok, now that this is in Home Cooking, I feel better about asking a follow-up:
                          How MUCH sugar and about how MUCH milk?

                          This is pretty much what I do but it just doesn't ever stay as "thick" and fluffy as it is in cake shops. Does it have to be butter? Crisco?

                          1. re: L_W

                            I start by adding a tablespoon of milk to the mixture, and keep adding until I get the desired consistency. The milk helps to make it more fluffy and mix in the sugar. But the tricky to fluffiness is beating it with an electric mixer very well.
                            I usually end up using about a box of powdered sugar. But add slowly (1/2 cup at a time) and make sure it all mixes in.
                            Crisco would not work because it doesn't taste like butter.

                            1. re: katalina

                              Actually, a lot of "buttercreams" are made with vegetable shortening instead of butter. In traditional wedding cakes (frosted in buttercream with extruded flowers, string work, all that jazz instead of smoothed fondant) vegetable shortening is the ONLY way to get a true white frosting. Then you add butter flavoring to the icing.

                              Here are a couple of recipes from Wilton. I can't say how good they are since they don't have the original Wilton recipe I've used for years because of the trans-fat restrictions. That original recipe used canned milk instead of what is used in these:

                              http://www.wilton.com/recipes/recipes...

                              http://www.wilton.com/recipes/recipes...

                              If you're using a hand mixer, you will have to beat at least twice as long (maybe even 15 to 20 minutes) to come close to the result you would get with a stand mixer, and you may never get the same result. You really do need a stand mixer for "professional" icings and frosting. If you want a thicker icing, add a bit more SIFTED powdered sugar. For thinner icing, dilute with milk or cream, but conservatively! Better to have to thin several times than to have to rethicken with more confectioners sugar. And last of all, always sift your powdered sugar. It will give you lump free icing, and if you're doing any piping at all, such as "Happy Birthday" or whatever, it won't clog your icing tubes.

                              Good luck!

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Thanks! I have never sifted my sugar so that could also be one of my issues....

                              2. re: katalina

                                I am sure that there is a rule about frosting made with butter and powdered sugar. That rule is: You will NEVER get the proportions right and will always be adding a little more butter or a little more sugar or a little more liquid (cream, milk, orange juice, etc.). Actually, you WILL get it right, but only after you have made a gigantic bowlful of frosting.

                                Nothing to do but eat the leftovers.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  That is so true! My dad used to put graham cracker and leftover frosting sandwiches in my bag lunches. Often the frosting was partly blue, partly pink, partly white... That and the egg salad sandwiches made me really popular.

                        2. I can't temper chocolate for the life of me. It always has a tantrum and blooms.

                          1. Indian food. Not looking for something authentic, I just want a decent chana masala or chicken curry recipe that tastes like a boring Indian restaurant made it. I've tried, and after all that work, I've never been satisfied.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: smittys

                              I cannot make Indian or Thai food. My Chinese is improving, but it still has plenty of room for improvement.

                              1. re: smittys

                                If you live near a Trader Joe's, try their simmering sauces and their frozen naan. I also make a raita salad similar to what my Indian co-workers would bring to work (plain yogurt, minced cucumber, sliced radishes, chopped green onions, etc) to go with my curry or masala dish.

                                1. re: meem

                                  the tj's korma simmer sauce is outstanding.

                                2. re: smittys

                                  Smittys, I have a great recipe for you. I have always failed horribly at making Indian food, however I found a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala on RecipeZaar and followed it to the letter with stellar results.

                                  http://www.recipezaar.com/70084

                                  I took care to marinate the chicken for 24 hours (in a zip lock bag) making the chicken tender and incredibly flavorful. Also, preparing the recipe over two days made it less labor intensive; I did the prep one day and cooked it the next. I grilled the chicken on my George Foreman san skewers (not traditional I'm sure, but FAST). I have gotten raves every time I have made this. I've also used half and half instead of cream to cut some calories and it was still nothing less than fantastic.

                                  1. re: MysticYoYo

                                    Thank you Mystic YoYo: CTM is one of my absolute favorite dishes -- not only in Indian cuisine, but all cuisine. I am encouraged to try this right away!

                                  2. re: smittys

                                    My dad grew up in India as the child of missionaries, and makes what he calls "Mission Curry." It's tasty, but I think it relies on having an Indian grocery store nearby for the spices. Do you have one of those? I will send you the recipe either way, as I'm sure you can get good spices on the internet if they aren't close by. I like his version because it can be very spicy or very mild. Also, he always serves it with cashew-raisin rice made yellow with turmeric. It's also good because it's cheap and it lasts for two meals if you can stand not to eat it all the first day.

                                    1. re: alysonlaurel

                                      Hi Alyson--Yes, I have access to spices and have all the standards in my kitchen already. I would love the recipe! Thank you.

                                      I am going to try that Chicken Tikka Masala recipe this week--thank you, MysticYoYo. I usually try making stuff that doesn't involve cream and I'm definitely still on that quest...but hey, CTM is delicious and I should make some! Thanks!

                                      1. re: smittys

                                        This is my dad's recipe (in his words):
                                        1. From an Indian grocery, get a can of Bolst's curry powder - it's a blue can with orange & white text, a jar of Garam Masala, any brand, and a package of turmeric powder (if you want yellow rice.) Don't use saffron, it's way too expensive & turmeric will do the same thing. DO NOT get any of these ingredients from a regular American grocery store - nothing will taste right.

                                        2. Ingredients -
                                        -1-2 rounded tblspns curry powder
                                        -1 rounded tblspn garam masala
                                        -1 large onion
                                        -1-2 cloves fresh garlic
                                        -1 package frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
                                        -salt & pepper
                                        -vegetable oil
                                        -1 large potato, cut into cubes

                                        -2 cups uncooked long grain rice
                                        -handful of cashews
                                        -handful of raisins
                                        -1 tblspn turmeric powder

                                        3. Preparation -
                                        -thaw chicken, cut away any fat or gristle, then cut chicken into cubes
                                        -pour enough vegetable oil in a large pot, such as a stew pot, to LIBERALLY coat the bottom of the pot
                                        -slice up onion & garlic
                                        -put onion, garlic, & chicken into pot, heat over medium heat
                                        -add salt & pepper liberally
                                        -add curry powder & garam masala, stir so that all pieces of chicken are well coated in oil & spices
                                        -cover pot, lower heat, let cook about 30 min, stirring occasionally
                                        -after chicken is pretty much cooked, add enough water to just cover ingredients
                                        -add cubed potato, ensuring that all ingredients are covered by the water
                                        -let simmer as much of an hour as you can stand to wait
                                        -continue to stir occasionally while it simmers
                                        -add more water as needed to keep ingredients covered

                                        -To prepare the rice, prepare it as you normally would, but add the turmeric, cashews & raisins. After cooking for 20 min., you'll have lovely fluffy yellow rice with cashews & raisins.

                                        -If the curry is too watery, just before serving, mix in a little corn starch to thicken the juice.
                                        -If you want to spice it up a bit, add a dried red chili at the time you first throw in the onion & garlic.

                                        LASTLY, & MOST IMPORTANTLY, all of the above ingredient amounts can be played with until you find the combination that tastes best to you. This should let you make it the first time, then after that you'll want to try a little more of this, a little less of that. Also, I always find that my curry tastes better the 2nd day.

                                        1. re: alysonlaurel

                                          Thanks very much! I'll try it next week (tonight is Chicken Tikka Masala!)

                                          1. re: alysonlaurel

                                            with all due respect, turmeric will not "do the same thing" as saffron.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              I don't think it will do the same thing in every dish, certainly, but rice to throw under some homemade missonary curry doesn't require a lot of finesse, refinement, or expense. I just meant that the turmeric will give it some good color and flavor, which is what we rely on saffron to do. Granted, the color and flavor won't be exactly the same, but it will be close enough for this particular application.

                                      2. re: smittys

                                        Have you made your own spice mixture? Garam Masala or Curry Powder or whatever?

                                        Have you toasted your spices before grinding? That always helps.

                                        Are your spices pretty fresh and are not those that have been lurking around the spice shelf for years?

                                        ALSO, Nigella has a great chicken tikka and salad recipe that's on line. Probably on her website. It's fantastic. It's not chicken tikka masala though, but the non-saucy type...just tikka.

                                      3. Much to my chagrin....it's pie crust. :/

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: shaebones

                                          Pie crust for me too. My grandma and mom both have it down pat, but it seems to have skipped a generation. By hand, in the processor, with butter, with shortening, with both -- nothing ever works!

                                          Although I did try the fool-proof recipe in the new Cooks Illustrated and it was better, but still not great....

                                          1. re: jenhen2

                                            pie (or any pastry) dough here to. Mom and I are the family embarrassment. Her sister, a pastry chef, has given up on us.

                                            Mom can at least make a decent "pat in the pan" pie dough, but even that version comes out with the consistency of shoe leather when I try.

                                              1. re: WCchopper

                                                After cutting in the butter/lard/shortening, touch it as little as possible!! (At the expense of prettiness, if need be - don't want to melt the fat & lose the flakiness!)

                                                Can't do bread, though, for the life of me...

                                                1. re: urbnmns

                                                  I can't get it hold together unless I handle it too much! It just crumbles up on me!

                                                  1. re: WCchopper

                                                    The recipies tend to be a bit "fluid" on how much water you can add (and it should be COLD - I stick mine in the freezer before I start mixing everything) Have you tried sprinkling a little extra (not too much, that seems to toughen it too.) As othervoice mentioned below, cold hands are another good hint (worth the discomfort) - I find it also helps if you work quickly (admittedly hard if your hands are freezing) - again, the key is to make sure the little balls of fat don't melt into the rest of it!

                                                    1. re: urbnmns

                                                      I found that although my crusts were always flaky, they tended to fall apart. I always pieced them together in the plate.

                                                      I took a risk and used more water than I thought I needed to. Lo and behold! I had a crust that held together, was still flaky, and I could actually roll it out.

                                                      I really have to trust myself on the water thing is all.

                                                  2. re: urbnmns

                                                    Even BittLay bread? Using bread flour from King Arthur?

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      Thanks for the info on King Arthur - just checked out their site (I'm in Canada and had never heard of them, but I see they do international orders by phone.) I can manage the "biscuity-types" of breads but as soon as there's kneading involved, I'm toast. (I think pastry v. bread makers are like cooks v. bakers - the "magic" that it takes to be suited to one naturally makes you undisposed to genius at the other...) Saw one of your other posts on Bittlay and will try it. Do you use a heavy cast iron baking dish?

                                              2. re: jenhen2

                                                One trick on pie crust that I learned many years ago, and then recently Martha Stewart reinforced it, was to have everything cold...mixer, bowls, ice water, even the flour. I don't know why, but it works like a charm and the crust are light and flaky. My Mom even ran her hands under cold water before she would mix and roll.

                                                1. re: othervoice

                                                  Yep. I do this - cold everything.

                                                  My cousin and I performed an experiment last year side-by-side in my kitchen. We each measured out everything by weight, started with chilled everything, and timed the "working" of the dough - both the same. Her pie crust turned out flaky. Mine was the usual shoe leather. I gave up. There will be no homemade pie in our house :(

                                                  1. re: odkaty

                                                    I used to make a real leathery crust too, and then I started cutting the chilled fats into pea size amounts before I incorporated them into the flour mixture. Everything got a lot better after that.

                                                    My other question is, have you tried using pastry flour? My dough comes out much more tender when I make the switch.

                                                    1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                      I do the pea-sized bits of fat, but haven't tried pastry flour .. maybe I'll torture my husband some more!

                                              3. re: shaebones

                                                Ive been amazing lucky with pie crust. I learned at my Grandmothers and mothers side, and I seem to have a great recipe to work with. I used to have a problem rolling it out, until I realized I was rolling it too thin.

                                                I have to use a lot of bench flour, and placing it on a sheet of parchment helps to prevent sticking.

                                                1. re: Kelli2006

                                                  I too was fortunate and had a Grandma and Mom to learn from. However, I found that rolling between sheets of plastic wrap really helded (especailly when I had tile counter tops), also, it you live someplace where its dry (like Phoenix), you need to use the maximum amount of water... or a bit more.

                                                2. re: shaebones

                                                  I love making pie crust, and can do it well. As others have said, keep everything cold, don't touch it too much, and then do my secret. When I was a kid and learning to make pie crust from my mom and grandmother, they always told me to brush melted butter on it before baking. I brush it on the whole thing, whether I'm prebaking the crust or not. It helps the flakiness, and the richness covers all kinds of sins. Good luck.

                                                  Oh, if you can find someone who can make crust, ask for lessons. There is nothing like feeling the dough to learn how it should be done. I can't imagine how anyone could make it from a recipe.

                                                  1. re: alysonlaurel

                                                    My mother's advice on piecrust is just keep making it. When she was younger, she made excellent pie crust, because she could feel when it was ready. She says its a skill you have to use or lose.

                                                  2. re: shaebones

                                                    Pie crust is easy. It fails because it knows you're afraid of it. :) Really, though, the trick, as has been stated, is to make sure everything is cold, even your kitchen, if possible. (I use a standard pate brisee recipe, and it never fails, though it is oft fussy in summer times.)

                                                    OR if you're just looking for a reasonable facsimile of pie crust that happens to also be delicious, try looking up a pate sucree recipe. (Just, if you're doing a savoury pie, pate sucree tends to be too sweet for that treatment.) It's ridiculously simple. My friends like it better than traditional pie crust, too, so it makes it easier for me to foist off my creations. All around, a win-win.

                                                  3. chocolate mousse, it always separates whatever the recipe, it is embarrassing because i can make many things but this defeats me.

                                                    1. I have a girlfriend who cannot bake brownies. She's tried from scratch, from the box, the spread and bake kind - the always come out terrible!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                        (See other brownie post above) Maybe your girlfriend would have better success with brownies if she tried a different pan.

                                                        1. re: jujuthomas

                                                          I used to have the same trouble with brownies, they always turned out too spongy, more like cake instead of chewy, gooey, confections like brownies should be. That is, until I discovered a fabulous recipe in a cookbook by Green and Blacks (the organic chocolatier). Basically, you melt the butter and chocolate separately, slowly, either in a double boiler, or in a glass bowl suspended above a saucepan of boiling, water, and THEN add it to the flour/sugar/egg mixture. It makes all the difference in the texture. Yum!

                                                          1. re: FoodieKat

                                                            The method in the Green & Blacks recipe sounds similar to the Fry's Cocoa one I've been using although since it's cocoa powder instead of chocolate it doesn't require a double boiler. With the exception of the attempt at Cheesecake Brownies(earlier brownie post) the Fry's recipe always comes out perfectly chewy and dense. I have to be careful to make them when we have company or I'm bound to polish off the whole pan in a few days time... I tried finding the Fry's cocoa recipe online but no luck.

                                                          2. re: jujuthomas

                                                            Try the One-Bowl Brownies on the box of Unsweetened Baker's Chocolate. Also, as others have suggested, make sure to use the right pan.

                                                            Then, when you've mastered that, Google "Ruth Reichl ArtPark Brownies." Divine.

                                                          3. A really good carrot cake. Somehow, it always turns out blah.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: bookwormchef

                                                              My mom used to make a delicious carrot cake. She actually used jars of baby food, Gerber pureed carrots in the batter mixture. It sounds weird, but it made the cake moist and delicious.

                                                              1. re: FoodieKat

                                                                I've heard that! In addition to regular carrots?

                                                                1. re: alysonlaurel

                                                                  Yes. The baby food gives the smoothness and moisture, the 'real' carrots gives it the flavor.

                                                              2. re: bookwormchef

                                                                My secret came from a cousin in New Zealand: extra virgin olive oil instead of canola, and very well ground-up walnuts. Moist and delicious every time. Also, try having the eggs at room temperature. That always helps when baking, and if they're cold and you're in a rush, put them into a tall drinking glass of hot water and they'll come up to usable temperature in about 5-10 minutes.

                                                              3. Well...sort of...I have this fabulous breading recipe for chicken fried steak, but I can't get the breading to stay on about half of the time! Grrrrr!!!

                                                                Oh, and I guess I suck at making homemade cream-style gravy. I hate the stuff unless it's got sausage in it for covering biscuits, but everytime I make it without the sausage it just tastes like flour...no matter how much pepper and onion powder and whatever else I throw in. : I

                                                                It's very frustrating!!

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                  I was given a hint recently by a chef on the bread crumb problem......After breading your steaks, chill them for a bit and they stay on better during cooking. As a reinforcement to his theory, I have also noticed that (my usually) frozen crumbs stick to meats better.

                                                                  1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                    Have you tried cooking the roux (flower/fat combo) for several minutes before you add the milk or cream. That will take out the flour flavor.

                                                                    1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                      Try soaking in buttermilk for 1/2 hour or so, shaking off excess and dry with some paper towels. Dip in flour (seasoned if you want) than the eggs,( mixed with a little water) than whatever you are using as a coating, such as bread crumbs, corn meal, combo, etc.

                                                                      As for the gravy, I agree with the other poster, make sure you "cook" the flour in the butter/oil/fat whatever you use for 2 to 3 minutes to get out the pasty flour flavor. Use chicken broth (Kitchen Basics in the box) or one of the organic versions to make the gravy, than make it creamy with some half & half, whole milk or even heavy cream, depending on your taste..

                                                                    2. I cannot make pancakes. They burn, they come out too thick, too thin, floury, just nasty no matter what I try.

                                                                      23 Replies
                                                                      1. re: irishnyc

                                                                        I am with you on this one. My pancakes are dreadful. Mashed potatoes never work very well for me either.

                                                                        1. re: Hooda_Guest

                                                                          Great mashed potatoes have to do with not overcooking the potatoes, only cook until fork tender, not falling apart, and a huge thing is being sure to return the drained potatoes to the pot that you cooked them in, and put them back on the stove, on the heat, for a minute, shaking the pan, to dry them...then add your butter, sour cream, salt, pepper...no, not a low fat food...don't try skimping on fat for great mashed potatoes...

                                                                          1. re: jinet12

                                                                            actually, if you have to cut down on the fat for health reasons, low-fat sour cream or buttermilk are great options, as is fat free evaporated milk.

                                                                            and in terms of avoiding either gluey or runny mashed potatoes, the other option is to bake the potatoes instead of boiling them. that way you never introduce the excess moisture to begin with, and the potatoes turn out light & fluffy. takes longer, but the result is worth it.

                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                              Also, to avoid "gluey" mashed potatoes, NEVER use a mixer! I use a ricer or a mouli and get great mashed potatoes every time. An old and interesting French nethod is to just rice the potatoes into a cone shaped "mountain" in the middle of a bowl, then top it with a very generous dollop of soft/warm butter, a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, then serve. The effect is sort of like a white volcano with yellow lava in the crater. If people wish, they can doctor the potatoes further "sur le plat." The juices or sauces from the rest of your food add to their flavor.

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                I could never get my mashed potatoes to turn out like my mother's and then she told me her 2 "tricks". Make sure the butter/milk are warmed before adding to potatoes, and she uses cremora (either powder or liquid form) instead of milk/cream/etc... Can you believe that? Cremora!! But it is delicious : )

                                                                                1. re: mtleahy

                                                                                  If you're not worried about calories, a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (instead of milk and butter) and a bit of chopped parsley or chives gives an interesting tang to the potatoes, and curiously, also makes them snowy white.

                                                                                  Another variation is to puree some par-cooked frozen peas in the blender, then stir them into your mashed potatoes. Interesting flavor, fascinating color, and a great side dish for green eggs and ham. '-)

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    i just got a picture in my head of the shepherd's pie malarkey made on top chef...the ramps he pureed into the potatoes turned them bright green and we all referred to it as shrek vomit ;)

                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                      blech! I may never add peas to my mashed potatoes again. But wait! They taste good. So maybe I'll just wear a blind forld. '-)

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        Thanks a bunch for all the potato replies! Do I worry about the calories in my mashed potatoes-well, no! I figure if you are going to eat them, they might as well have good stuff in them. I really appreciate all this advice and will report back on my next attempt.

                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      I use sour cream or yogurt, since it goes with baked potatoes, why not?

                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    Really? My mashed potatoes come out better if I use my mixer. Put the "wire whisk" attachment on the Kitchenaid, kick it up to about 3, add a splash of milk, melted butter, and some garlic powder to have fabulously light and fluffy mashed potatoes in no time! Maybe the trick is to mash them with a ricer first though...I do that to get rid of the "lumps/chunks" and THEN I put them in the mixer. That and I mash them BEFORE I put the milk and butter in--if you add the butter & milk when it's in the mixer it seems to incorporate it better...*shrugs* I don't know...maybe I just have never had good mashed potatoes, but I love the way they get light and fluffy with the mixer.

                                                                                    1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                      This is a big debate in our house: my husband likes his mashed potatoes whipped and I like them chunky, i.e. hand mashed with a ricer. This is definitely a result of what we ate growning up. The only good thing is he likes instant mashed as much as fresh, so I can make them for him all the time, and I'm not tempted to eat any.

                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                        Same thing in my house, but in reverse. I prefer smooth mashed potatoes, but I put them in the food processor. My husband likes 'em lumpy. We both like them with garlic though. Yum!

                                                                                      2. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                        The problem with using a mixer for mashed potatoes is that it's high risk when it comes to releasing the gluten in the potatoes. That results in rubber! But hey, some people like their mashed potatoes that way. My daughter does twice baked potatoes and uses her mixer and the potatoes get so rubbery that you have to be careful of the rubber-band snapping when you try to pry loose a forkful. But... Her husband loves them, so she doesn't use the potato ricer I gave her. It's all a matter of taste. But it sounds like you've got a pretty good method. Whatever works!

                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          Hmm...mine never come out rubbery, so maybe I'm just lucky? Nah...I'm just that good! :-D

                                                                                          Seriously though, I've never had my potatoes come out funky--perhaps they are whipping them too long?? I only do it long enough to mix in the butter/milk which ends up being about 1 minute or so. I would have said to suggest to your daughter to lessen the time with the mixer, but her hubby's happy, it's always best to leave well enough alone! :-)

                                                                                        2. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                          I love my KA whisk for mashed potatoes. I steam them, whisk, and add warm whole milk and a bit of butter. They are quite light and don't have a lot of fat. (My mom does the same but swears by evaporated milk.)

                                                                                          I also hand mash them on occasion when I feel like lumpy one with skins!

                                                                                          Maybe it is the type of potatoes? I use russets when the mixer, yukon gold if I hand mash.

                                                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                            Maybe it is the type of potatoes--we ONLY use russets, because they are the only ones that you are guaranteed to find fresh at the local grocery store. I also buy the big baking potatoes, because I hate buying a 10lb bag only to find that half are mushy, some are moldy, and the rest have varying amounts of eyes growing on them...YUCK!! I like being able to look over EVERY potato and sorting through them to find the good ones--takes longer, but it's worth it.

                                                                                            The only other thing that makes me wonder, is we both mention putting in warm butter/milk....maybe that's the secret???

                                                                                            1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                              That's a really good policy on buying potatoes or anything else. Don't buy ANY pre-bagged produce. There's a very high risk it's transportation to your home for cockroaches! Learned that from a grocer years ago.

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                YUCK! I didn't know that....now I have a reason to tell my hubby to quit bringing home the bags of potatoes....THANK YOU!! ;-)

                                                                                  3. re: irishnyc

                                                                                    Me too, it's the one thing I love to get in a restaurant, I've tried mixes, different recipes, you name it, they come out like rubber.

                                                                                    1. re: irishnyc

                                                                                      To irishnyc .
                                                                                      Try Alton Browns pancake mix. It is fantastic, and always on hand. All you have to do is measure it out when you are ready for pancakes and add the wet ingredients. You can get the recipe on Food Network. Honestly they will be light anf fluffy and wonderful!!

                                                                                      1. re: irishnyc

                                                                                        I think that I already posted this, but with all the posts I will just say it again. Go to Foodnetwork and get Alton Browns recipe for pancakes. You make the dry mix before, keep it on hand, and when you are ready for the pancakes just add the wet ingredients. They are truly wonderful Light, fluffy and easy. Honestly you really can't screw up as he takes you through it step by step. Yep, I guess I did post it!!!

                                                                                      2. No matter how many times I have tried, I cannot get the sour cream sauce on sour cream chicken enchiladas to taste like the kind at my favorite Mexican restaurant...It taste good, but just lacks that "twang"....

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: jinet12

                                                                                          Look on your grocery store shelves in the Mexican/Latin section. You should be able to find small cans of Nestle Crema. It will give you the flavor you are looking for.

                                                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                                                            So if I cannot find Nestle Crema, would any type of Crema work, and is that what should be used instead of sour cream or is it used as an ingredient with the sour cream?

                                                                                            1. re: jinet12

                                                                                              Yeah, but the Nestle Crema is shelf stable in a can. Crema does have a different flavor than sour cream.

                                                                                        2. Caroline 1, tell us how you make your meat loaf. Maybe we can trouble shoot for you. I always saute my vegetables before adding to the ground meat, I usually use a combination of Italian sausage and ground chuck. I don't use fillers (bread crumbs, rice etc) but mix it all well with a couple of eggs and make a free form loaf on a baking sheet which helps to let the grease flow out. Bake at 350F for about an hour. My DH was a meat loaf hater before we were married, now he is a convert.

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                                                            I think you're jousting witth windmills, but here goes... I have used a variety of meat combinations: ground beef, veal, pork, turkey, even game, in variaous ratios and each individually. I have sauteed my vegetables, I have used them raw, I have julienned them, fine diced them and grated them. I have tried a variety of fillers including oatmeal, breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, rice, bulgur, and no filler at all. I have used eggs, canned milk, whipping cream, no milk products, water, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and just plain meat. I have tried baking it in a free formed loaf on foil on a cookie sheet, in a bread pan, in a special meatloaf pan that drains the fat into a reservoir below. I have tried baking it with and without bacon on top. Ive tried baking it slow, baking it fast, baking it with a tray of water in the oven, baking it with convection, baking thermal. I can't think of anything I haven''t tried, but they all result in everyone getting indigestion and rushing off to make voodoo dolls of me! So I've just resigned myself. I really am a good cook. I just cannot make meat loaf. But there is a "gourmet-ish" market here in the DFW area (Central Market) that has ready made meat loafs in foil pans you take home and bake. Those I can bake succesfully! Thanks for your willingness to help. I think I'm a lost cause.

                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              Silly question--has your family ever eaten other people's meatloaf?? Maybe it's all meatloaves, not just yours!

                                                                                              1. re: Cinnamom

                                                                                                Fun (and funny) comment! It's not just family, but friends too. I once had a freind (who had had tried previous meatloaf versions from me) bring me an exorcism kit as a joke. Maybe I should have tried it! Meanwhile, I've concluded there are just certain things the gods don't want certain people to be able to do. For me, it's meatloaf. Could have been worse... '-)

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  I know you didn't mention it, but do you add Liptons Onion Soup mix? The first time I made meatloaf, people told me Ann Landers recipe was the best and it called for a package of that. Gave me such bad indigestion I didn't make meatloaf again for years!

                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                    I think I may have found a recipe that called for it, but I never use mixes simply becaue you lose control over the contents of your food. I do everything from scratch.

                                                                                          2. As Candy said, saute your veggies before you add them to the meat...I use green pepper, garlic, and shallots...sometimes poblanos if I want it really spicey....I always use a mixture of ground sirloin, and as lean as I can get, ground pork...sometimes I throw in some ground veal....I use as little filler as possible..(usually a ground up butter cracker like a Waverly)..one egg, beaten, cubes of sharp cheddar or white cheddar, chili sauce, not catsup, and of course, plenty of spices...usually oregano, cumin, a little chili powder, salt, pepper, but you could use what you like....I top it with a mixture of chili sauce and either grape jelly or jalapeno jelly...yep, sounds weird, but it is really good...Don't cook it for more than an hour at 350 degrees, then let it sit before slicing...

                                                                                            1. Any time I've tried making fried rice, chicken fried rice, etc., it's never as good as Chinese restaurant versions. In fact, it's pretty bad-- the flavor's just not there. I'm not sure why. I use a decent wok, stir-fry oil, quality soy sauce, etc., and follow the recipes, but invariably it looks like fried rice and taste like... Well, you get the idea.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: agentoffortune

                                                                                                To make good fried rice, you have to use a medium or short grain (never long grain) rice and it has to be cooked at least a day ahead of time. Two days is good too. I have no idea what "stir fry oil" is, but use peanut oil inn your wok. Good luck!

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  Yeah, that's true. My southern grandmother always made her rice a day ahead when she made "Chinese" food. I thought she just had to do it for her weird, southern version, but it is a must for any fried rice recipe.

                                                                                                2. re: agentoffortune

                                                                                                  I have the same problem with this too. No matter what I try, it turns into a mushy mess. Whether it's a frozen bag of fried rice or one that I attempt to make from a recipe, it always turns out horrible! The only thing I plan to try to do in the future is to make it with a round bottomed wok.. However, even then I'm not sure if this would make a difference.

                                                                                                3. Roast. I just.can't.do.it. I can make anything in the crockpot. My country style ribs are to die for. But I just can't manage a juicy, tender roast.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: spellweaver16

                                                                                                      Finally!! Something I KNOW I can help with!! ;-) For a tender roast, go to your local meat locker and pick out a large roast (3-5 lbs) with the normal amount of fat on it. Take it home, take it out of the package and throw it in the crockpot. You don't want to do ANYTHING to the meat itself....so fight the urge to cut off the fat!! Take one can of golden mushroom soup (look for the low sodium version) pour the soup into a mixing bowl. To that add about 5 splashes of Teriyaki Sauce, 1/4 cup of Worshchestershire sauce (it helps to put these in the soup can) and then fill the soup can the rest of the way with water. Pour sauce mix/water into the mixing bowl with the soup. Add desired amount of paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to the soup mix. Whisk until smooth and creamy, pour over roast. Set your crock pot on low, and let it cook all day. About 1-2 hours before eating, cut up your potatoes, carrots, & celery and add them to your roast. (I usually turn my crockpot up to High at this point, but I imagine that it's personal preference). It helps to kinda push the veggies in around the meat so that they are submerged in the soup mixture--so that they absorb and trade flavors instead of just steam cooking.

                                                                                                      One major thing about roast that is difficult to do is to avoid opening the lid to peer inside--when the whole family has peeked in at the roast, it dries it out because the moisture is allowed to escape. Assure everyone that the roast will cook just fine without everyone checking on it, and avoid opening the lid until you have all the veggies chopped so that you can quickly drop them in and push them down--before quickly replacing the lid. It takes approximately 30 minutes for a crockpot to get back to cooking temperature after the lid has been removed, which DRASTICALLY increases your cook time--AND dries out your food. When it's done, it will be juicy, and falling apart--I know, because I just did this exact same recipe yesterday morning, and it turned out exactly as stated when we ate it for dinner last night. ;-)

                                                                                                      I hope you enjoy my recipe...it's really good with some homemade biscuits or just plain bread and butter. NOTE: I don't measure ANYTHING so be careful how much stuff you put in to make sure you can eat it--roast is kind of expensive to waste!! :-)

                                                                                                      1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                                        My roasts are so badthat I have given up making them. We had to salvage dinner many times by ordering an emergency pizza. I finally found a pre cooked (gasp!!!) pot roast at Costco that is really good. I make some gravy to go with it and I think I could trick anyone!

                                                                                                      1. Ravioli. What a disaster..

                                                                                                        1. I have no problem with pie crust, and I can make good noodles and pasta with or without my pasta machine.

                                                                                                          But...

                                                                                                          I can't make jello.

                                                                                                          I can't make cake--from a box OR from scratch.

                                                                                                          And I can't make fried potatoes. I don't know what I'm doing wrong there.

                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                            hehe - the only jello i've made lately includes vodka or coconut rum LOL

                                                                                                              1. re: alysonlaurel

                                                                                                                you can always just replace the cold water with alcohol. If you want more jigglerish consistency (jigglers usually cut the cold water) just halve the hot water, then add the alcohol as the cold.

                                                                                                                I make a layered liquor jello mold.. 5 colors, five flavors of booze:

                                                                                                                Watermelon Vodka -- Watermelon Jello
                                                                                                                Absolut Citron/Mandarin -- Lemon or Orange Jello
                                                                                                                99 Apples -- Green Apple Jello
                                                                                                                99 Blackberries or Blackhaus -- Blue Berry Jello
                                                                                                                Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine -- Grape Jello ( its scary how similar these flavors are!)

                                                                                                                1. re: aletnes

                                                                                                                  what an awesome jello mold. i guess i have to start using the 10-plus copper molds I have to try the booze-y bonanza you have described.

                                                                                                            1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                              Fried potatoes..... parboil them till almost but not quite done. Unfortunately, use only butter and lots of it! Add things to make them interesting, bits of cooked peppers, tomatoes, onion, etc. I add a thin green salsa and let it cook away, leaves the potatoes with a great flavour.

                                                                                                              1. re: Lipant

                                                                                                                The green salsa idea sounds awesome, I'm going to try it. Another key to fried potatoes is to use a hot pan and don't move the potatoes until they're almost burned. Then just flip them over to do the other side. I also parboil them and I use a good paprika along with other spices. Mine always come out better if I use a cast iron pan and cook bacon first and use the pan drippings.

                                                                                                              2. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                I sympathize...Hash browns elude me... :-( I can't make a set of hash browns to save my life. Well...I can make the frozen ones, but not fresh ones.

                                                                                                                1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                  I was going to say Par-boil the potatoes before you fry them. But I've just seen that's already been said. ;-) Here's a link for a guide on how to make hash browns:

                                                                                                                  http://www.ehow.com/how_13821_make-ha...

                                                                                                                2. Soft polenta. I've tried it with broth, milk, water and combinations of those. I've mixed some of the polenta into the liquid first and I've tried pouring in the liquid verrrry slowly while whisking. It still comes out lumpy. Also, it cooks much faster than it's supposed to, getting thick in a matter of minutes. I have the gas down low, too... It's a puzzlement. When it cooks too quickly it tastes kind of raw, almost chalky. Cheese always helps, but isn't particularly healthful. Sometimes when it gets thick too quickly I add liquid and try to cook it longer, but then it gets lumpier. I'm ready to give up.

                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                    An Italian friend told me that her grandmother used to mix the polenta and water and let it sit for a while before cooking -- none of that bring the water to a boil and slowly drizzle in the polenta business for her. I have found that most all my corn needs much more liquid than the standard 4:1 recommended ratio, but perhaps that is because I live in the desert Southwest. (I will admit to the heresy of using Corning Visions cookware and cooking polenta in the microwave when I'm short of time or hands. This works beautifully, BTW)
                                                                                                                    Now ..... if only I could routinely get those leftover pieces to fry perfectly instead of disintegrating!

                                                                                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                      You usually control the texture (soft to firm) of polenta with how much corn meal (or whatever you call it) you put in. IF your poltenta is clumping, it seems most ikely that you're either using more than you need or adding it too fast. And soft polenta will not fry well later. For that, you have to make a fairly firm polenta.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                        Try finishing it in the oven. After you have added all of the cormeal (not using instant anything, just real ground cornmeal), put the lid on and put it in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 min., stirring it every 10 min. Mine comes out great. Either use it right away as soft, or you can spread it in a pan, let it harden and cut it up and saute it. Yum to both ways. Good luck!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                          Are you using the instant kind by accident?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                            I just finished reading Heat, and Bill Buford has a section devoted to Babbo's polenta actually -- inspired me to try it. He recommends basically cooking the hell out of it -- 2-3 hours. Just keep adding water if it gets too thick, keep it at that very low bubbling temperature and stir whenever you pass by it.

                                                                                                                          2. Pie crust.
                                                                                                                            Chili - I guess I cooked everything separately and now mrbuffer won't let me make it.
                                                                                                                            the pasta fazzool that mrbuffer's mother made

                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: mrsbuffer

                                                                                                                              Pie crust for me too. And risotto- GRRRR, risotto...I know it's supposed to be al dente, but mine always sticks in my teeth. That just can't be right.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Cinnamom

                                                                                                                                I could build a rocket ship in my back yard before I cold make an edible pie crust. I don't bake unless it's out of a box, yet my mother was a fabulous baker who made pies that were to die for... flaky crusts that melted in the mouth. We finished every bite of her pies, even that crust edge that so many people leave on the dish because it's dry and overcooked. Oh, and I can't make rice unless it's instant. Thinking about getting a rice cooker but don't want yet another gadget cluttering up the kitchen.

                                                                                                                                1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                                                                                                  My rice cooker is my friend and savior. See above about the pie crust, it's worth trying if you really like pies.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: othervoice

                                                                                                                                    I finally bought a rice cooker...I also did not want another "gadget"...but I am pleased that I did....Fab rice every time!

                                                                                                                                2. re: Cinnamom

                                                                                                                                  PIE CRUST SALVATION - there is a pie crust recipe in Nora Ephron's Heartburn that is super-simple, made in a processor - and IS NOT ROLLED - and is also extra-flaky-tender. Take 1 and a quarter cups flour, a half tsp salt, half cup butter and 2 tbsp sour cream and process in the food processor until it's a ball. Put the ball into a buttered pie tin and pat into shape. put your filling in and bake. you may need to put some foil over the edges to keep them from getting too brown. this really, really works - and it's delicious. good luck.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Alice Letseat

                                                                                                                                    I've heard the sour cream thing before- It works for you?

                                                                                                                              2. Good bread. I've never been able to bake a really great loaf of bread in the style I want... a relatively light loaf with a still-toothsome crust. Mine have always come out pleasant, but too dense, no matter how I alter the recipe / baking method.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: danoots

                                                                                                                                  I can probably help you with the crusty-crust. The texture is up to you. Two ways to get a thick, crunchy "artisan" crust on breads. One is to use a clean spray bottle of cold water, then open the oven door when the bread is still early in the baking and spritz all exposed surface with the water. Don't soak it. Just mist it. One misting should give you the crust you're after on loaf bread, up to three or even four on artisan or pan brigio type breads.

                                                                                                                                  The other method is to put a casserole of water in the oven on the lower shelf during baking, then take it out for the last third of your baking time.

                                                                                                                                  Both methods work just fine for me on everything from sandwich bread to peasant breads. For any bread not baked in a pan or mold, a stone is a great advantage too.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                    Thanks much for your help Caroline. I'll give that a shot.

                                                                                                                                2. What a joy and a laugh to read your question! We all have our strengths and weaknesses, some things more embarrassing than others but by the grace of God and a whole lot of luck we manage. I make the world's worst French Fries. Ask me for my recipe when you invite the in-outlaws over.

                                                                                                                                  1. Biscuits. I can't make fabulous biscuits. Hell, I can't even make them mediocre.

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: pattisue

                                                                                                                                        I hate messing with lard or solid shortening when making biscuits. I also hate cleaning the measuring cups smeared with lard or solid shortening. Finally, I hate dealing with trying to roll out sticky dough. It sticks to my hands, the rolling pin, the board, etc. You have to add more flour to the bread board, making another mess.

                                                                                                                                        This recipe avoids all of that by using canola oil as a shortening. The dough in this recipe is not sticky. It's easy to handle. I don't even use a rolling pin. I just press it flat with my hands. I never seem to have buttermilk on hand. This recipe uses milk and vinegar as a substitute. I always have those in stock.

                                                                                                                                        Even with those shortcuts this recipe makes flaky delicious biscuits.
                                                                                                                                        Give them a try.

                                                                                                                                        No Fail Biscuits

                                                                                                                                        3 cups all purpose flour
                                                                                                                                        4 teaspoons baking powder
                                                                                                                                        3 teaspoons granulated sugar
                                                                                                                                        3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
                                                                                                                                        3/4 teaspoon salt

                                                                                                                                        1/2 cup canola oil
                                                                                                                                        3/4 cup milk
                                                                                                                                        2 teaspoons distilled vinegar

                                                                                                                                        Preheat oven to 400 F.

                                                                                                                                        Measure flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar and salt into a stand mixer. Mix on low for 15-seconds. With mixer on low, add canola oil slowly to dry ingredients. Set mixer to medium and mix for 30-seconds or until mixture looks like dry cornmeal.

                                                                                                                                        Stir vinegar into milk. Add milk/vinegar to flour mixture and mix on medium for
                                                                                                                                        15-seconds.

                                                                                                                                        Turn dough out onto bread board and knead several times. Roll dough out to 1/2 to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter and place on baking sheet.

                                                                                                                                        Bake on middle oven rack at 400 F. for 20-minutes.

                                                                                                                                        Makes 1-dozen, 2-1/2 inch diameter biscuits.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pattisue

                                                                                                                                          Try the Betty Crocker recipe for biscuits...they are FABULOUS!! And super easy to make! ;-)

                                                                                                                                        2. I can't bake bread. I've tried on more than one occasion, but it just ends up still raw in the middle and overcooked almost to the point of being burned on the outside.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: FoodieKat

                                                                                                                                            My mother had magic pastry fingers - not me.

                                                                                                                                            For those struggling with brownies:
                                                                                                                                            http://lick-the-spoon.blogspot.com/20...

                                                                                                                                            I use a le creuset saucepan so the butter and chocolate melt slowly and evenly, then it's just a matter of beating the rest of the ingredients in. I also line a glass pyrex with parchment paper (tinfoil will work too).

                                                                                                                                            1. re: FoodieKat

                                                                                                                                              Try reducing your oven temperature. Then, the most reliable way to check whether bread is done is to "thump" it with the back of a soupspoon. If it doesn't sound hollow, it ain't done yet! If you don't want the bread to brown anymore, just reduce the heat and leave it in the oven until it thumps hollow.

                                                                                                                                            2. Rice!

                                                                                                                                              Even in a rice maker my rice comes out wrong. The only kind I can make that comes out okay is instant Uncle Ben's.

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: katalina

                                                                                                                                                An Asian friend gave me instructions for rice:

                                                                                                                                                Get a rice cooker! ;)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: katalina

                                                                                                                                                  I hate to keep harping on Alton Brown, but his recipe for Brown Rice in the oven is wonderful. It is on Food network.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: katalina

                                                                                                                                                    Rice: me too! I can make the most complex intricate dishes, but rice beats me every time I get bold and try making it on the stove.

                                                                                                                                                    My savior: my rice cooker. God I love that thing.

                                                                                                                                                  2. Banana bread. Can't produce one without the gooey peak. Tried every pan, every temperature. It must be me.

                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: fickle

                                                                                                                                                      Since this is my recipe, I think that I am allowed to post this, if not Chowhounds jail here I come. It really is no fail and so good. The problem is getting the old bananas, as my husband eats them up so fast.
                                                                                                                                                      BANANA BREAD

                                                                                                                                                      1 ½ CUPS SUGAR
                                                                                                                                                      ½ CUP SHORTING (I STICK OF BUTTER OR MARG.)
                                                                                                                                                      2 EGGS
                                                                                                                                                      ½ CUP SOUR MILK (MILK + ½ t VINEGAR)
                                                                                                                                                      2 CUPS FLOUR
                                                                                                                                                      1t BAKING SODA
                                                                                                                                                      3/4Tsalt
                                                                                                                                                      1 cup very ripe mashed bananas
                                                                                                                                                      12 cup chopped nuts

                                                                                                                                                      Cream sugar and shorting. Add eggs and milk
                                                                                                                                                      Sift flour, soda, salt
                                                                                                                                                      Add to egg mixture
                                                                                                                                                      Add bananas, nuts, and vanilla
                                                                                                                                                      Pour into 5 small pans, sprayed with Pam
                                                                                                                                                      Bake 35-40 min.
                                                                                                                                                      Poke holes in top of warm bread.
                                                                                                                                                      Spread melted butter and sprinkle cinn. /sugar mixture

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                                                                                        Hi Mother of Four,
                                                                                                                                                        Do you mean 1/2 cup of nuts? I think 12 cups might not fit in the 5 small pans! And what temperature do you bake them at? Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                    2. delicious tuna salad. i have albacore in a can, with water, with oil, with olive oil, whatever. i have celery seed, chopped celery, mayo, pickle bits, mustard, onion flakes, you name it. WHAT is the secret? i love it and cannot make it!

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                        replace the onion flakes with chopped fresh red or sweet onion.
                                                                                                                                                        add some finely chopped capers.
                                                                                                                                                        enhance with different herbs to complement your mood & the other flavors you're serving it with. when using mayo, try fresh dill or tarragon. if binding with olive oil instead of mayo, add balsamic or sherry vinegar and chopped fresh basil, oregano or thyme.
                                                                                                                                                        i also do a great curried tuna salad with chopped apples & raisins.
                                                                                                                                                        oh, and don't forget plenty of fresh cracked black pepper!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                          Use Bumble Bee tuna in water...Use Hellman's...don't overdo the mustard...just a scant amt...forget the onion flakes...I find that the very best tuna salad is simple, non complicated, and chilled properly....

                                                                                                                                                        2. For those working on pie crust, we have had great success with this:

                                                                                                                                                          Perfect Pie Crust (modifed from epicurious.com)

                                                                                                                                                          This will make a double crust. I've used many different recipes but I've settled on this one because it makes the flakiest crust. It's almost like puff pastry.

                                                                                                                                                          2 sticks + 2 tablespoons of butter

                                                                                                                                                          (at least 1 stick of butter should be frozen)

                                                                                                                                                          2 ½ cups flour

                                                                                                                                                          1 teaspoon salt

                                                                                                                                                          1 tablespoon sugar

                                                                                                                                                          ¼ cup of water

                                                                                                                                                          2 tablespoons rice wine or cider vinegar

                                                                                                                                                          Cut butter into tablespoon size slices. Place into a cold food processor. Add the flour, salt, and sugar. Process on high until the butter is the size of peas. Mix water, a few cubes of ice, and the vinegar in a measuring cup. Slowly pour the water in by tablespoons and then blend on high. The way I did it starting out was to count to three pouring the water in and then blend for a short time by counting to five. Do that until the mixture has come together but is not too wet.

                                                                                                                                                          Refrigerate for at least a half an hour before using. When you roll it out for use, roll it out to about a ¼ inch thickness.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Oh-- and doughnuts are our downfall. Too greasy, too weird, every time.

                                                                                                                                                            1. I CANT MAKE HAMENTASCHEN!!!! they always taste great, but no matter what i use, they always unravel, no matter how gooey the inside is

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kingofchow

                                                                                                                                                                Wow, it's been years since I made hamentashen - they're easier to buy!

                                                                                                                                                                Anyway, I had the same trouble. I followed the recipe on the prune filling jar (used other fillings too). I dabbed the 3 corners with a drop of water, to glue them together. Some still came apart, but more stayed stuck.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Injera--the Ethiopian bread. I've been told by natives that it is incredibly difficult, but I thought I could handle it with a good recipe. But after fermenting for the requisite 3 days, the dough smelled and tasted awful. I've tried the Westernized version with club soda, but would really like to master the authentic version...

                                                                                                                                                                1. No matter what I do, i cant make chili. Evenn if i used premade oness, they always sweet, never spicy!!!

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kingofchow

                                                                                                                                                                    What are you putting in your chili? The sweetness might have something to do with the tomatoes you're using. I usually used crushed tomatoes in puree. When my mom made it when I was growing up, she would get a #10 can of Hunt's "Angela Mia" crushed tomatoes from the cafeteria.

                                                                                                                                                                    My chili recipe is nothing more than ground beef, onion and garlic, tomatoes, chili powder and a little salt. If I find it bland I add some pureed chipotle in adobo. But it's never sweet. (I have posted the recipe in other places on Chowhound in the past.)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kingofchow

                                                                                                                                                                      More chili powder (preferable organic), cumin seeds, crushed, a bit of garlic...add these to your mix...It might require a bit more water if you add these additions.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. Pork. No matter how I try- baked, broiled, grilled or crock-pot, it is always overcooked. I've given up on it.

                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                                                        I just made pork chops tonight, and also have a wonderful recipe for a pork loin - will link to it tomorrow. One thing to keep in mind - pork is (a) much leaner that it used to be and (b) the concern over trichinosis (sp?) is much reduced these days and it is highly unlikely that one would contract it from undercooked pork. If you are using "older" recipes, they won't be adjusting for those two factors and will basically call for cooking pork to death! I now make a point of undercooking my pork, so that there is still a little pink in the middle.

                                                                                                                                                                        What kind of recipes are you trying?

                                                                                                                                                                        Edit - actually - here's a link to that pork loin - a couple of photos, and then the recipes is a couple of posts down: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44002...

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                                                          Stick a thermometer in it, so that you know the temperature as it cooks. Pork needs to be at like 140*F or something like that, and if you keep a close eye on it, you won't overcook it. Try to remember too, that it will still "cook" itself a bit AFTER it's removed from the oven/broiler/crockpot/etc. Not enough to increase the temp 20* or anything, but it will cook a bit, so if you are like 5*F away from what is adequate, you could probably take it out and it will be fine. Pork is such a good food, I'd hate for you to not be able to cook it! :-(

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                                                            I feel the same way about pork chops..Unless they are smothered with some gloppy type sauce, they are always dry, to me as well...I just don't cook them anymore...

                                                                                                                                                                          2. There is also a great pie crust recipe on the Williams Sonoma website - it's the Basic Pie Dough and it's wonderful. It's the only dough that I ever make and it comes out perfect every time.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. "Is there anything you just can't make, no matter how hard you try?"

                                                                                                                                                                              No

                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                                                                                                                                Wow! You mean everything that you have ever tried has come out with great success? Amazing...

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Spaghetti Carbonara - I've tried several times, including a recipe for the best i've ever tasted - Cafe Venezia in Berkeley CA. (got it from the chef after much pleading and begging) I can never get it just right - usually one huge greesy clump of pasta, egg and bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't think I'm alone, even overpriced New York restaurants screw it up, ordered it last week and it was dry dry dry, sent it back twice, all the extra cream in the world won't have helped that mess, ended up eating my friend's burger instead. Also in NYC, many places add frozen peas and too much cream, it ends up being more like alfrado with crappy freezer burned peas.

                                                                                                                                                                                Venizia does it right, it's thick, soft eggy goodness, with delicious and slightly chewy bacon bits and a good kick of red pepper flakes. They twist it to a perfect mound on the plate and garnish with some parsley - DELISH! Why can't I duplicate this? Or do have to toss in the towel and travel 3000 miles every time i get the craving?

                                                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RalphBub

                                                                                                                                                                                  If you like - post the recipe and I'll take a look - I actually find it pretty straightforward - maybe something about the order in which you are adding the ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RalphBub

                                                                                                                                                                                    Try the recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Carbonara really doesn't need cream at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Megiac

                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree - just thought of this thread as I just made myself some for dinner. Basic technique - saute mashed garlic cloves in some olive oil - remove when golden, add pancetta and cook until a bit crispy. Add some white wine, boil for a minute or two, cook spaghetti. Add raw eggs to serving bowl, break up with a fork, add parmesan and romano cheeses (grated) and some chopped parsley and lots of ground pepper. When pasta is done, drain and toss with this mixture, while briefly reading pancetta. Then add pancetta/bacon fat/wine mixture, toss well, and add more ground pepper as needed. It was silky smooth - I wonder if mixing the egg w/ the cheese helps prevent the gloppy mess.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh - and never add cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: RalphBub

                                                                                                                                                                                      Try Nigella Lawson's version: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15017886/...

                                                                                                                                                                                      Everyone's taste is different of course, but this is the favourite at my house.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: RalphBub

                                                                                                                                                                                        Pasta water is your friend, I make this classic all the time, add the water till you get the proper consist. no cream needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Cheers

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Mayonnaise. No matter how "room temperature" all my ingredients are, no matter how "drop-by-drop" I add the oil, I cannot emulsify oil into eggs. By hand, or in the Cuisinart, I have the same horrendous results. I've probably tried it 100 times, and every time I have to start over with a new egg, adding the loose oil-egg combo from the previous attempt, and every time I throw it all away, take out the Hellmann's, add some good extra virgin and some garlic and call it a day. It's the most frustrating reality! I can cook just about everything else, and pretty well, I think. The worst part of it is that my mother is a truly terrible cook and yet she made her own mayo once a week while I was growing up. She can do it. I cannot. Is it me? Or are there other, similarly-afflicted non-emulsifiers out there?

                                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: porcospino

                                                                                                                                                                                          Look at Julia Child's recipe for mayo. After it she talks about how to fix may that never comes together. It's easy, involves a bit of mustard, and works every time.

                                                                                                                                                                                          It's in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Other books, including Bittman's How to Cook Everythign, probably have it as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: porcospino

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, as oakjoan says, check out Julia. And have you ever tried a blender instead of a food processor? If I want a rich stand-alone texture (a la Hellmann's) I use the blender. If I'm making something like an aioli, then the food processor works okay. But I can never get a stand-up mayonnaise in my Cuisinart.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I also make hollandaise in my blender. Hey! It's just mayonnaise made with butter instead of oil. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: porcospino

                                                                                                                                                                                              use only egg yolks, not whole eggs (it works better and is what mayonnaise is SUPPOSED to be), and blend/mix/beat them for a while until they start to turn lemon yellow BEFORE you add the oil - also try adding like a teaspoon of sugar to the eggyolks before adding the oil, and/or the mustard/mustard powder

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: peanuttree

                                                                                                                                                                                                Thank you all -- I will try both the blender and the lemon-yellowing of the yolks... as well as a revisiting of my Julia books. She does always come through in a pinch, doesn't she? I have some lovely local eggs I'll (be brave and) try it out on this weekend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: porcospino

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I usually use the JC TWC food processor method. Good luck!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: porcospino

                                                                                                                                                                                                I find it much easier to control the oil using my KA and whisk attachment. I never see this as a method but it works. It seems to be more gentle way to incorporate the oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. For the long time it was rice. It was either too soggy or too dry and stuck to the bottom of the pan. Suddenly, this year I had a rice epiphany with some basmati rice that was imported from India and I can now make rice (even the non-imported-from-India kind).

                                                                                                                                                                                                Add me to the list of people who cannot make pancakes with a uniform golden brown color.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Recently, I tried to make the "potato candies" from Batali's Molto Italiano book and was completely and horribly unsuccessful. After destroying two sheets of pasta, I broke down and made raviolis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sarahbartos

                                                                                                                                                                                                      That reminds me, I've tried to make taffy a couple times. I buttered my hands and tried to kneed the hot candy. Ouch! Didn't work at all. It just burned me and turned into a mess. I think candy-making in general is beyond me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                                                                                                        You need to pull taffy, not knead it. And let it cool a bit more. Candy burns are no fun. When I was a kid, I once had a birthday slumber party/taffy pull. The taffy was terrific, except for all of the pieces that "friends" put in hidden places all over my bedroom, including between the slats on my venetian blinds. Last slumber party. Ever. <sigh> Anyway, it's a fun party activity. You butter your hands, then stretch the taffy, fold and stretch again and again until it's cold. Then you roll it into a tube, cut it and wrap the pieces in wax paper. Kids love it. Adults love it. And it's good. Try again and enjoy!..

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                          We did this a few times growing up, and it was great fun, but the taffy always turned out hard. So we ate hard candy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Discoethan

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sounds as if the taffy was cooked just a tad too long. Ours came out really chewy. It could suck the fillings right out of your teeth! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I can't make anything in my slow cooker without it turning to wallpaper paste. I've read the cookbooks, followed the recipes, and it all just turns to sludge. My MIL laughs at me, because I can do roasted chicken and homemade pasta, no problem, but the slow cooker mocks me every time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. falafel from scratch... it never stays together... i don't know what's wrong with me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        but the fried chickpea mush that results is actually pretty tasty at least!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: missfunkysoul

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'd love to know a good hummus recipe - what is the chickpea to tahini ratio? sigh......mine was grainy and tasteless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: stellamystar

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The one time I had tasteless hummus, it was because my friend who made it didnt put in enough lemon juice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: stellamystar

                                                                                                                                                                                                              check the boards for hummus threads. there are plenty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: stellamystar

                                                                                                                                                                                                                My ratio is two cans of peas, one drained and one undrained to 6 tablespoons of tahini. However, I think it depends on the tahini. The tahini I was using was in a can with a mustached guy on the front. When I moved, I couldn't find that brand so I went with another. It was so flavorless, my hummus wasn't good. I also keep tasting and adding salt and lemon until I gets where I want it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: stellamystar

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I find that the more Tahini, the better...Also, there will be those that tell you that if you make your own chickpeas, they will not be as grainy...I will tell you to add more Tahini, and process, process, process...You may have to thin with a little water of chicken broth..not much, or you could add a bit more olive oil to thin....As far as ratios go, I go by the recipe, and add more Tahini than it says....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: missfunkysoul

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Would it help to chill it first, before frying?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TSQ75

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What is it that your biscuits do? If they don't raise but resemble hockey pucks, you could be putting too much fat in or too little baking powder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Another thing NOT to do is knead the dough. Biscuits are like pie crust; they come out better if you handle them as little as possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here's my recipe (these are baking powder biscuits, not buttermilk; personally I don't get the appeal of buttermilk biscuits, but that's probably because these are what I grew up with):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 c. flour
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 t. sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 t. baking powder
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3/4 t. salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1/3 c. shortening
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1/2 c. milk (or as needed)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mix dry ingredients, then cut in fat as for pie. Stir in enough milk to allow dough to come off sides of bowl and form into a ball. Turn out onto a well-floured counter and pat out to between three-quarters and an inch thick. Cut out with a biscuit cutter (if you have one) or the rim of a glass or tin can. Place on baking sheet (they can be touching), and bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes, until they raise and tops are nice and brown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is pretty much foolproof--the only time I've found it difficult is if I am out of shortening and use oil instead. Then they don't raise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Fried chicken. For the life of me, I can't get a non-greasy product with a crisp crust. I've even tried making it along side my mother, step by step. Her fried chicken is wonderful and mine is worse than the stuff in the school cafeteria line. I'm convinced that you have to be: (a) a mother and (b) born below the Mason-Dixon line to successfully make fried chicken. I don't met either criteria!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: redbird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      LOL! I made excellent fried chicken BEFORE I was a mother, and I've never been anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line. However, it does take some practice--my main problem is getting the breading to stick, but since I bake it instead of frying it, I don't have that problem as much anymore.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Remember to flour the chicken before putting it in the egg wash. Also, are you creating a proper egg wash?? I didn't know how to for the longest time (I'm a self-taught cook...my mothers were/are horrible cooks!) and so it never worked like it should have.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also for a more intense flavor, make a rub to put on the chicken BEFORE you bread it....if you want the more simplistic "southern" fried chicken, put your seasoning in the flour/crushed cracker mix (I use crushed Ritz for the best flavor, but you can use Saltines). I hope it gets better for you!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The easiest -- and also best -- fried chicken recipe I've ever used doesn't use egg wash or breadcrumbs. You just soak the dried chicken pieces in buttermilk for a minute or so, then dredge it in well seasoned flour, back into the buttermilk, into the flour one more time and into the pan. For a lighter crust, you can achieve that with the one dunk/one dredge method. It's critical to have your oil/shortening/fat hot enough to crisp the batter, even if that calls for finishing the chicken in the oven. I use peanut oil. If the cooking fat isn't hot enough, you absolutely will have greasy chicken, no matter how you coat it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You can also pound skinless/boneless breasts and do "chicken fried chicken" with this method.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh, and it makes great onion rings... But for onion rings I do sometimes use undilluted canned milk instead of buttermilk. And double dip for a really crunchy coating. Easy, easy, easy, and delicious. Enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Omelletes!! I always end up with scrambled eggs/cheese/ham!! UGH!! I just want to make a good omelette, and not screw it up when I try to flip it!! I tried the methods that "america's test kitchen" provided, and it just doesn't work out for me.....GRRRRRR!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OK, attack over with now....guess I'll just save my omelette cravings for when I go to a restaurant. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To make good omelletes consult either julia child or alton brown--- and practice. Having the properly sized pan is also important.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I personally have never been able to flip a pancake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Farmgirl22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          How are you doing it? I pull the edges of the omelette in and tilt the pan to let the uncooked egg run down. When it's almost done, take half the omelette on the spatula, then lift up the pan sideways to flip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I'm not good at fried eggs or omlets.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I make horrible latkes. They're always heavy and greasy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Stir fries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Custard! My best friend refuses to take any part in my efforts anymore, after five years of trying. It either never sets, is eggy, grainy, or is otherwise absolutely unfit for human consumption :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: link_930

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Strudel. I last made a strudel at my mother's knee. She and I failed, and neither one of us ever tried again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I thought of something else I struggle with...CINNAMON ROLLS!! I use the same recipe as my step-grandmother, and when I use the same dough to make dinner rolls it comes out like it's supposed to, but on the cinnamon rolls, it's coarse instead of smooth and dense--and that's not counting that my cinnamon rolls are NEVER gooey in the middle from the sugar!! They always taste fine, but they don't have the texture I want.... :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I WANT GOOEY, SMOOTH, DENSE, CINNAMON ROLLS!!! WAAAAAAA!!! :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. poached eggs (if, miraculously, my egg whites don't go stringy away in every directionbs, I still muck it up by totally overcooking the yolk).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                and risotto...I always ends up too mushy on the outside and too grainy in the centre.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chicapea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An egg poacher is your friend. I've seen Mike make poached eggs successfully without it, but I'm pretty sure it would become Egg Drop Soup if I tried it. So I bought an egg poacher. (Now I have two, having inherited another one from my aunt Edna last spring.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chicapea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You have to put a dash of vinegar into the simmering water before poaching, that keeps the egg whites from spreading all over. (Thanks, Grandma!) You can do that too when you're hard boiling eggs: if they crack, not much white escapes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Steak. Unless I stay outside with the grill, I just can't get the timing right. My husband and daughter like theirs medium or medium well, which I can do. I like mine rare, but cooked on the outside. Sometimes I get it, sometimes it's too well done. Steak is one of the few foods I will not do for family barbeques (including other family or friends), because I just can't time the everybody's wellness properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: amymsmom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My husband and I used to fight about his grilling. We solved the under/overdone problem with an electronic meat thermometer. You stick it in the meat and set it for the temp you want; the alarm goes off when the meat gets to right temp. I also use it for grilled pork chops and salmon, when I broil in my convection oven. Since meat continues to cook off the grill or broiler, I like to pull it off just before the target temp is reached. These thermometers come with a list of temps for all kinds of meat. Using this might simplify your life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Caroline, I so feel your pain on the meatloaf! I can do bernaise with my eyes closed, but my meatloaf implodes every time no matter how long I let it cool or what the liquid to dry ratio is. The closest to meatloaf nirvana I've gotten is with Paul Prudhomme's recipe that I found here on the Chow boards. Have to go back to that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kwe730

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Roast Chicken and baked chicken. I know it seems so simple. No matter what recipe I try, I never love it when I make it. The flavors are never what I wanted and I just can't get it. Incidentally, I make a great Thanksgiving Turkey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kwe730

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          They must have taken down the Prudhomme meatloaf recipe. Either that or I'm not searching right, but I did do a general search and then went through all of the main course recipes just to give it a look and see if it sounded feasible for me. I do appreciate the commiseration...! :-) Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            http://casualkitchen.blogspot.com/200...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            is this the prudhomme recipe? "cajun meatloaf"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            photos are good in this rendition

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I suspect that's the one. Wow! Looking it over, and considering my very long history of inducing long-term indigesion with every meatloaf I've ever made, I think if I made this one, it wouldn't induce "long term" indigestion. It would be terminal! Looks like a recipe for me to avoid. But I might talk a friend into making it and give it a try... Thanks! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Donuts (cake or raised). The dough never rises. Yet I used to make whole wheat bread in college all the time. I thought maybe I was buying old yeast at the supermarket, but I've tried making donuts three times now with new yeast each time and it seems like not everyone could have old yeast. Or could they?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KateC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            dream...Try this recipe! I use it all the time and it's awesome. I have a friend who was also roast chicken impaired and she says this is the only recipe that works for her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. An over-easy egg. Pathetic, I know, but I always either overcook or break the yolk. Pisses me off - I love over-easy eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, my rice is nothing to write home about, and I make a lousy cup of coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: curiousbaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For the eggs, first bring them to room temperature, then fill a bowl with hot water and let them rest in it for at least three minutes, THEN fry them. Today's supermarket eggs are treated with a wax/oil coating that give them the shelf life of Methusalah, but it doesn't do a whole lot to keep the whites from breaking down with time. Warming them for three minutes in hot (not boiling, just a bowl of hot) water does for the egg inside the shell what acidulated water does for an egg when you poack it. It helps the white hold together and the yolk stand tall. See if that helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For coffee... My original coffee making method I learned from a very old chef when I was very young... Make the coffee the same way you would tea. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, THEN grind the coffee beans, pour theim into a warmed china pot, pour boiling water over them, stir and let the coffee sit until the beans settle to the bottom of the pot. You may still need to use a strainer when you pour to catch any stray grounds. Even though I use an exotic does-everything espresso machine for my coffee now, every once in a while I just have to have a pot of this original recipe coffee. It makes even bad coffee beans taste good, and if you start with great beans, well... you end up with truly great coffee...! Oh. And the quality of the water is important too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Rice? Try short or medium grain. Most supermarkets sell long grain and almost all of it sucks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Caroline...That is indeed the Paul Prudhomme recipe I use, but it's not as intense as it sounds given the ratio of meat/spices. I use half ground sirloin and half ground round and regular milk instead of evaporated. You can always cut back on the spices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kwe730

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks. I'm working on building up a reserve of nerve to give it a try. Or family will be gathering at my house for several days at Thanksgiving... hmmm... Can't eat turkey every day. Volunteer cooks! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. for hours on hours, days on days, I have tried to make a true authentic Bavarian Pretzel, forget it !! Go to Munich is what I say now. I even made it to the point of a Natrium Hydroxide Lye bath which is what they use to get the brown crisp coating, got that, but not the correct flavor, tried many of flours....FAILURE...it just proves to me that execution has alot to do with recipes as much as the proper ingredients. Prost to the Bavarians !!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. For me, it's Sweet Potatoe Pie...No matter what I do, it comes out too soft. If I cook it long enough so that it's firm, then the crust is a scary shade of BURNT!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fooddiva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Have you tried adding another egg to firm it up? Might not work, but there's a fair chance it will.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: fooddiva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This reminds me of my ex-husband. He decided he wanted to learn to make sweet potato pie. As to why, I'm not really sure, since he never baked. But he found a recipe from a favorite jazz musician and wanted to make it. Of course, he had no interest in learning to make the crust, so I did that part. He made the filling, and he had this idea that the way to make it really great was to add lots of sweet potato, far more than the recipe called for. Plus a ton of bourbon and extra cream. The filling tasted great, but was very, very wet, so the pie came out like yours - set filling, burnt crust. I would ask him again and again to stop improvising with the filling, but he wouldn't. So we would bring this thing to events and he would place it proudly on the table, handsome but for the nasty hard, black crust and say, "I made this - oh but K. made the crust." Um, thanks a lot, dear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You might check your proportions, add an egg, or protect the crust by using a ceramic pie plate, baking the pie on a baking sheet, and putting the pie on a higher rack (essentially inverting all the usual rules for making sure your bottom crust is properly cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: fooddiva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Put some aluminum foil on the outside crust to keep it from burning. They make aluminum forms that you can put over them too, but the aluminum foil is cheaper--even if it's less convenient.