mhays's Profile

Display Name: mhays
Member Since: 8/16/10

Latest Comments...

LOL, I'm surprised nobody mentioned my favorite - flat-fold diapers (the ones that are like 27" square) They're the most similar cloth to paper towels I know, and they're easily boiled/bleached after doing tasks that might make re-using unsanitary, that's their job :-)

Seriously. Best kitchen tool ever.


What Is the Best Replacement for Paper Towels in the Kitchen? Good Questions
4/18/14 10:02 PM

Yup, we did a dump cake for a friend once - actually, the cake wasn't near as difficult as the icing. (You bake it in a skillet with a lid over the coals, with more coals on the lid for even heat) We used this system - the recipe is only OK, find a real dump cake recipe instead: http://www.trails.com/how_989_birthday-cake-over-campfire.html

We did our banana boat s'mores with crumbles of graham cracker - really turned it up a notch. Do it with dark chocolate and pour-over rum & set on fire a la bananas foster for extra fun!

BTW, pre-made homemade marshmallows are a gift from heaven. Anything you make with them will be good. You'll need to keep them cold, though (they're just gelatin and sugar; they melt.) You can flavor them, too, and then you can kick the whole 'smores thing up a notch: http://www.chicagonow.com/quips-travails-braised-oxtails/2013/07/sundays-with-sparky-neapolitan-marshmallows/


Ideas for Birthday Desserts That I Can Make While Camping? Good Questions
4/17/14 08:18 PM

I remember! My heartburn lasted beyond pregnancy - and then my son was intolerant of many foods when I was breastfeeding! I had to cut out dairy completely, and avoid all kinds of foods like onions and beans and garlic...I subsisted on fried chicken (somehow didn't bother me) and almond milk. The one good thing was that most of my bad food habits revolved around dairy, so I lost the baby weight right on schedule!

I did, on the good advice of my physician, switch my high-iron prenatal vitamin to one that had no iron and added a slow-release iron pill to supplement it: ask your doctor, iron supplements often cause heartburn, but they're important (I quit taking it and developed anemia, so I know from experience.)

Rice is great - and though you'll need fiber, I was better off with white foods during this time. I got fiber from artichokes and other high-fiber vegetables instead. I found that white rice and white bread kind of "absorbed" things better. You can stir all kinds of things into rice or make maki or omsubi...in fact, see if a kind of Japanese-style diet (minus the uncoooked fish, of course) will work for you both flavor-wise and heartburn-wise.

Tortilla de patatas in small portions might also work, as long as you go easy on the fat - you can make a big one ahead of time and eat pieces cold for lunch. I think risottos are a great idea, and they can easily be made vegan, or with chicken stock alone. Lentils have a ton of iron, add them to rice or make lentil soup with carrots instead of tomatoes.


Quick, Healthy Meals That Won't Trigger Pregnancy Heartburn? Good Questions
4/14/14 08:11 PM

Interesting that many of the glowingly positive reviews of this product have only one review to their name, and registered on the day they made it.

Makes me somewhat suspicious of the company...


Good Questions: Experience with LoveSac's Modular Sofas?
3/16/14 08:57 PM

Low and Slow by Gary Wivviot and Colleen Rush - you can get a lot of information just off the website http://www.lowslowbbq.com/

Gary owns a local BBQ restaurant on the northside of Chicago.


Tools, Cookbooks & Other Resources for Using a Smoker? Good Questions
2/11/14 10:27 AM

Anybody else having trouble accessing the original site? I love going to blogs like this for ideas - my own blog isn't about austerity cooking, but it has a related theme.

I agree that this woman should be lauded for what she was able to do. That said, I do often worry that these kinds of stories are held up as an example of "how to overcome poverty." Simply put, there's more to it: Jack Monroe of A Girl Called Jack, mentioned in earlier comments, has two excellent essays about hunger and government support on her site that I'd recommend.

BTW, 100g of bacon is 4 strips, which have over 10 grams of protein, approximately 20% of the day's recommendation for adult women. Keep in mind in the course of that day, there's also protein in the bread and fritters (in the form of gluten) and also in the lentils (16 g of protein in a cup.) It looks to me like a fairly healthy menu.


How Lesley Cooper Fed Her Family for Less Than $2 a Day
2/9/14 12:22 PM

Our usual tongue-in-cheek valentines' dish is anticuchos (a Peruvian beef heart dish; it's delicious but the prep isn't exactly romantic...)

However, one year we made Flaming Hearts Endive with Apples, a kind of composed warm salad - delicious, beautiful, romantic and something you could definitely make together as there are several different steps to it. It's not a meal in itself, but a beautiful side dish or appetizer.


Help Me Find Something New and Challenging to Make for Valentine's Dinner! Good Questions
1/26/14 12:45 AM

I don't ordinarily recommend a brand, but I use a combination of a good brand of whole peeled tomatoes (or diced tomatoes if I want chunks that don't dissolve) and Pomi's Strained Tomatoes in the box. It's got nothing but tomatoes in it - no salt, no calcium, just tomatoes - but they've clearly been reduced a bit because it is thick and smooth. (I've also used La Bella San Marzano strained tomatoes, but it's thinner and requires a bit more cooking.)

I sometimes can my own tomato sauce in the summer - basically, a chunky sauce turns into a smooth, thick one if you leave it to reduce over low heat for a LONG TIME if you're using fresh tomatoes (or canned peeled ones without additives.)


How Can I Make Thicker Tomato Sauce? Good Questions
1/11/14 10:38 AM

Wow. Folks here are a lot cleaner and more organized than I am! First of all, and I think most importantly - if I'm cooking for other people, I ask them to help with cleanup. Least they can do - especially if they live with you. Insist. Really.

Second, I clean before I cook. That way, I can rinse & stack dishes in the sink, and sometimes I leave them until morning. It's not ideal - make sure you don't leave food residue around or you'll attract mice or bugs - but I figure as long as dishes get cleaned up within a day, I'm OK. Sometimes, just taking a break between eating and cleanup is enough. Cooking is tiring, so is cleanup!

Cooking one-pot meals will help, but remember, at minimum you will have to clean a knife, a cutting board, a cooking vessel of some sort and a cooking utensil of some sort as well as the things you use to eat. (You can always eat on disposables if it's that big of a deal to you!)

If you're only cooking for yourself, be minimalist about it. You can also cook everything by turns in the same pan (e.g. sautee potatoes, plate them, sautee meat and mushrooms/onions, plate them, sautee spinach/garlic plate them.) Plate them directly onto what you're eating off of and put that in the oven or microwave to keep warm. Put the pan to soak while you eat. Another of my tricks when I was single: I bought pre-cut veggies from the salad bar (no knife/cutting board!)

Some of it: lower your standards a little! Cooking is messy, and Martha Stewart and her ilk have legions of minions to do the cleanup! Do the minimum you need to do to keep your kitchen safe from pests and use a sanitizing cleaner so you don't have to worry about food residue you might have missed.


How Can I Cook Without Making a Huge Mess? Good Questions
1/9/14 11:00 AM

Kedgeree. I wrote a recipe for my blog that uses canned tuna, but traditionally it's made with smoked kippers. Fish that's already preserved, like smoked, canned or salted fish, will probably do better in a reheating situation. For instance, salt cod recipes usually keep for a while, like Brandade and Baccalao. (You can make them with fresh cod, but they aren't as good; salt cod stays firmer after it is rehydrated.) There's lots of delicious Caribbean recipes for salt cod.


Can You Suggest Any Make-Ahead Fish or Seafood Recipes? Good Questions
1/8/14 03:49 PM

I love using cranberry sauce in Linzer cookies. Beats the heck out of the traditional raspberry jam.


What Are Some Awesome Ways to Use Up My Homemade Cranberry Sauce? Good Questions
12/29/13 12:00 PM

Spanish tortilla (the potato one.) Can be served hot or cold, in big wedges as a meal or in small squares for an appetizer, it's easy to make (see Serious Eats for a potato chip version that's a snap.) Not vegan-friendly, but it works for just about everyone else.

Soup "shooters" in shot glasses or demitasse cups - vegetarian soup is pretty easy: minestrone, potato-leek, red lentil are some options.

Check out the cookbook "Plenty" for some terrific vegetarian ideas. I've made the mushroom ragout (I didn't make it with the flatbreads, but instead served it with polenta) and they were substantial and had a nice, umami depth to them that I often miss in vegetarian meals. (I used canned Indian preserved-lemon chutney, which I recommend over the plain preserved lemon in the recipe.)


Ideas for Festive Vegetarian Appetizers for Christmas Day? Good Questions
12/22/13 05:48 PM

We camp, and coffee is an important part of camping. I've since figured out that systems that require hot water to be heated separately are a pain in the butt.

I "liberated" my mother's Moka from the basement and we're going to try that - now you guys tell me how you are going to find hot water in the circumstances you describe (half the reason motel coffee is weak is that motel coffeemakers don't really heat the water.)


Humble Cup: Make a Great Cup of Pour-Over Coffee Anywhere You Go
12/12/13 05:19 PM

There are two types of Japanese cheesecake - one is fluffy and cake-like, the other is kind of like a fruity version of the Jell-O cheesecakes that come in a mix. The latter is called Rare Cheesecake, and despite my description can be delicious and easy to make.

Japanese Rare Cheesecake recipes use agar-agar (kanten) as a thickener, but most people just substitute Knox unflavored gelatin. A quick google of the phrase will turn up dozens of recipes, it's easy and delicious and will appeal to all kinds of palates.


What Dessert Should I Make for a Japanese Dinner Party? Good Questions
12/11/13 06:12 PM

I second the chili - I actually keep a can just to add to my chili!

You can also make a lot of Persian dishes with pumpkin - I've made Bolani Kadu, a savory pumpkin turnover that's kind of like a Quesadilla with pumpkin instead of cheese.

You can make an easy and delicious pumpkin soup by combining the pumpkin with the juice and zest of an orange, a little bit of ginger and some coconut milk. Thin with stock as needed.


What Are Some Easy, Healthy Ways to Use Up Leftover Pumpkin Puree? Good Questions
12/10/13 08:23 PM

Polenta or Grits make a great base for all kinds of stuff: sauteed mushrooms duxelle, peppers and onions, asparagus, spinach. You could easily do a polenta bar - just put the polenta in a slow cooker and the toppings around it (this also makes it easy for anyone else with allergies - you can make your polenta dairy-free and offer cheeses as a topping in case some of your guests are vegan.)

You could do the same with a baked-potato bar, or with DIY fruit salad and yogurt (I love "top your own" parties, they're a great way to keep everybody happy and make sure all food issues are addressed; I recommend them here often!)


Veggie-Heavy Brunch Recipes Without Eggs or Tomatoes? Good Questions
12/10/13 01:23 PM

Just made cocoa spice pear chips for my son's classroom holiday party - we offer them as a vegan option for cookies, but they'd work really well as a party nosh. I got the recipe from the A&M blog.

Any kind of homemade veggie chips are easily made vegan: kale chips, beet chips. If you're baking anyway, throw in a tray of almost any thin veggie coated in olive oil!


Vegan Appetizer Ideas for a Cocktail Party? Good Questions
12/2/13 10:12 PM

Having switched a few years ago from a hand mixer to the cheapest KitchenAid, I will say this: the tilt-head versions have enough power to do a lot of stuff, but I am seeing parts that would wear out if I, for instance, made bread every day. The bolt holding the head to the stand, for instance, doesn't seem well secured.

I also have trouble with small batches, in particular whipping egg whites, despite adjusting the head. Frankly, the KitchenAid is S.L.O.W. when it comes to small whipping jobs - it's a mixer, not a whisker. However, I've found that if I use the whisk attachment on my immersion blender and the KitchenAid for everything else it works out fine. I don't like giving up the counter space for it, but I do like being able to mix something with both hands free.

If I made bread or stiff batters frequently I would probably use my food processor, or buy the more expensive, heavier stand mixer.


What Wattage Stand Mixer Should I Buy? Good Questions
11/21/13 05:45 PM

I like The Stone Soup, both a blog and several ecookbooks - she specializes in 5-ingredient quick meals that are delicious and simple. http://thestonesoup.com/blog/books/


Cookbook Recommendations for a Student Living in a Dorm? Good Questions
11/15/13 05:59 PM

I'm not sure when the tide turned on carrageenan, but it's just the starch from irish moss (a red seaweed that is commonly eaten all over the world.) It isn't that different from cornstarch, and it works about the same way.

I suppose there are people who are intolerant of seaweed (just like some are intolerant of lactose) but it isn't a "dangerous additive" any more than any other starch-based thickener. Japanese gelatin (kanten) is made from it as well.

I drink almond milk because I DO get stomach cramps from milk - although my lactose intolerance does not extend to processed or cooked milks like yogurt or cheese. I would prefer to drink regular milk only because it has more calcium and protein, but I'm glad for the option.


Why I Stopped Drinking Almond Milk & Went Back to Regular Milk Instead
11/12/13 08:41 PM