HCl's Profile

Display Name: HCl
Member Since: 11/23/10

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In case no one else has, I just wanted to point out that, while your budget looks correct for a city, there are a lot of minimum wage earners in rural America, too. That can be a very different situation.
In my part of the country, there is no public transportation. None. I live in a town of about 900 people, with about 3 businesses and a county grade school. Everyone else either works on the nearby military base or in the next largest town, both of which are a 30 minute drive on the highway. If you don't have a car: You can't work, you can't get groceries, you can't go to a doctor's office, etc...
Rent is cheaper here than in a city, but the quality of rental housing is terrible as there is no regulation. All utilities are more expensive. There is no gas service in our town, so either you have electric heat (avg. $350 a month in winter for me) or you have a propane tank, which is fine if you have enough saved up to fill it when it's empty. Many people have trouble coming up with the cash to buy a winter's worth supply of gas all at once.
I'm currently making a decent amount over minimum wage, but I've been there before. (Lower, actually, because it was full-time at near minimum, but only 9 months out of the year because it was in a school.) We have roommates. We carpool to work in the next town over, and buy our groceries once a week on the way home. (We can't afford to live in the larger town where we work, housing is waaay to expensive there. It's actually cheaper to commute.) We don't have tv: cable is too expensive and we're too far out for any over-the-air reception. We are choosing not to have children yet, because there's no way we could afford them now. We keep the house hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We don't buy clothes. We eat at home and take our lunches. Most of the groceries we buy are on manager's special/clearance.
I know there are many, many people who make significantly less than we do, and work significantly harder to make it work. There are many things my household could sacrifice if we found ourselves in a worse financial situation, and I try not to take that for granted.

Budget Living: Living On Minimum Wage
7/25/14 01:33 PM

That shaggy bed.... wow.

Style Time Capsule: Decorating Advice from 1981
7/17/14 03:10 PM

Spaghetti carbonara.
Quiche Lorraine.
Wrap it around just about anything: veggies, dates, hot dogs, whole chickens, etc...
Chop it and add to a skillet full of any of these green things: sauteed cabbage, green beans, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts.
Crisp it up and dip in dark chocolate (but a little of that goes a looong way.)
Bacon jam.
If you have some ground pork to use up as well, you can grind bacon with it 1:1 in a food processor to make porcon burger. It's good.

Ideas For Using Up a Lot of Bacon? Good Questions
7/17/14 09:52 AM

The problem with grocery store peaches is that they are picked and refrigerated before they're ripe. I learned from my days working at a small farm-market store that once peaches are refrigerated, they won't properly ripen. They'll get soft if you let them sit out, but they'll be mealy and un-flavorful. Our customers drove hours to buy our peaches by the lug, because we had peach suppliers that agreed to ship to us in non-refrigerated trucks, and we kept the peaches out of the cooler until they were properly ripe. Yes, we had to charge more than the supermarket because we lost more product to spoilage, but wow is it worth it.

The Best Way to Pick a Perfect Peach Ingredient Intelligence
7/8/14 09:42 AM

How to boil eggs: boil the water first, then add cold eggs. They peel like magic.

Mashed potatoes: swap out half the potatoes for cauliflower. Doesn't noticeably taste like cauliflower, keeps the same texture, but is much less heavy.

Nom Nom Paleo's Damn Fine Chicken.

What Was Your Game-Changer of a Cooking Discovery? Reader Intelligence Request
6/23/14 11:51 AM

Coconut flour. For me, it works really well in things like pancakes and brownies.

What Are Some High-Fiber Foods and Recipes? Good Questions
6/19/14 05:20 PM

I didn't have cable growing up, and we don't have it now. We pay $50/month for upgraded internet with our current local company, and $8 for Netflix. Our basement-renter also has Amazon Prime and lets us use his account occasionally. We would be getting our TV over the air through an antenna... if there were any channels to pick up out here. But there aren't, so we just get stuff over the internet or from the library.
We're actually thinking of switching to another company (also local, no national companies want to lay cables out to our rural community) because we are thinking of adding a home phone and with our current setup it would be an extra $25, while the other company bundles them in a $65 package with faster internet service.
The other people in my house like to play online games, so faster is better for us because if I start watching a movie and it slows down their game then it can get ugly...

Tell Us: How Do You Save Money on TV & Internet
6/5/14 11:18 AM

My mother is the only on in our family who loves rhubarb, and she has a few plants in her garden. She uses it in pies, crisps, she even just cooks it down into rhubarb sauce (like applesauce) and eats it by the bowlful. She made a pie recently, after learning that my sister's boyfriend had never had rhubarb pie. Upon trying it for the first time, he said:
"This would be my favorite pie, if I'd never had any other kind of pie."
Poor guy was trying to be polite, but it was just so funny that it's going to be a while before my mom hears the end of it.
(P.S. It's the rhubarb, not the baking. My mother makes wonderful pies.)

It's Rhubarb Season, So Here's What You Need to Know! Ingredient Intelligence
5/19/14 12:10 PM

What about people who wash their hands a lot when they're cooking?

Don't Want to Get Your Cookbook Dirty? Temporary Recipe Tattoos Are the Answer
5/14/14 03:16 PM

We're having a small wedding in early September, and we knew from the beginning that we wanted to roast a whole pig. It's something I've wanted to do forever, but this is probably the only time we'll have enough people around to justify it. I was originally planning on doing the pig ourselves and having a pot luck for all the side dishes, but with almost all of the guests having to travel it just wouldn't work. Luckily, we found a really great bbq restaurant/food truck that also caters! He's going to be smoking our whole pig on site, and we picked a few bbq/picnic side dishes from his catering menu. We're not having any entree options other than the pork. We're also planning on having some cheese and fruit to snack on before the ceremony, and then cake of course.

Honestly, the most menu-related trouble we've had has been with the drinks. We're not having a bar, but we thought it'd be nice to have some kind of champagne punch, and finding a punch recipe that we both liked has been nearly impossible.

How Did You Plan Your Wedding Menu? It's Trickier Than I Expected
5/14/14 10:15 AM

About $600. 7 years ago, from Nebraska Furniture Mart. It was my first 'big' purchase, on credit, after graduating from college. I know it won't last forever, but amazingly enough the suede-y microfiber is about the only thing my cat WON'T scratch, and with regular rotation the back cushions are only now starting to look a little squished. It's survived 5 moves, various roommates' cats, a toddler, and being slept on by numerous house-guests. And it's going to be several more years before we even think about replacing it.

Tell Us: What's the Most You've Ever Spent on a Sofa?
5/13/14 11:25 AM

Now that I look again, I think my mom's Osterizer was the same as the one in the photo up top. Is it possible that this was the only brand that was intended to fit a mason jar?

Video: Do You Know This Trick With a Mason Jar and a Blender? Video Tips from The Kitchn
5/13/14 09:45 AM

Older blenders (like the Osterizer my mom had when I was growing up) were made with this feature in mind. The instructions that came with the thing had a whole section on using mason jars with your blender.

I'm skeptical about doing this with the newer blenders though, as there are so many different varieties and sizes and blade designs. I also think the level of mason jar quality has decreased, with the new ones being more likely to shatter.

Video: Do You Know This Trick With a Mason Jar and a Blender? Video Tips from The Kitchn
5/13/14 09:43 AM

The book "Pretzel Making at Home" by Andrea Slonecker gives a really good explanation of why and how the lye bath is used in making traditional pretzels, which I imagine translates directly to making bagels as well. Though she discusses the baking soda alternative, she says that you can use lye in a much lower concentration and still get the effect you want without it being so toxic to work with. Makes it sound like the lye is really worth it.

Expert Bagel Maker Confirms: You Don't Need Lye To Make a Good Bagel Maker Tour
5/8/14 11:28 AM

The middle of rural Kansas isn't exactly a goldmine of quality antiques, instead we have flea markets full of overpriced "antique" mass-produced dining sets from the 1970s and random cutesy wall shelves made from barn wood. With cut out heart designs. Oh, and rusted out farm tools, because now they're decorative for some reason. Ugh.

The closest thing to an antique I have is the set of Pyrex mixing bowls I inherited. But again, they're not over 100 years old.

My grandparents have told me that their piano (a gorgeous upright that's been in the family since 1925, when it was bought used) and a pie cabinet (that was handmade by my grandfather's grandfather) are mine for the taking just as soon as I can figure out a cost-effective way to get them from halfway across the country. I may end up spending $2000 just in transportation, as cross-country piano movers are not cheap.

Much of the furniture in our house growing up was made by my father. My grandfather had a woodshop and used to build all kinds of things. For me, the homemade stuff is so much more valuable (and worthy of being passed down in the family) than anything we might find in an antique store.

Tell Us: What's the Most You've Ever Spent on an Antique?
5/6/14 03:37 PM

Ranchers out here burn the dead grass off their pastures every spring. For the past month, off and on, there's been so much smoke and ash in the air that it's a visible haze, and asthma sufferers have to wear masks to go outside. It happens every year, and but it's a short season and once they're done burning we get to watch the bright green new growth come up, which is beautiful and worth it.

The manure smells don't bother me any more, and the wind changes often enough that it's not a problem for very long.

Possibly the worst thing I've ever smelled, though I didn't have to live with it, was the alcohol plant in Atchison, KS. I can't imagine living in any of the houses on that side of that town, because it was unbreathable.

Unwelcome Neighbors: Manure Slurry and Other Stinky Stuff
5/1/14 10:25 AM

In my family these are called "ice cream spoons." I didn't know they were ever used for anything else until I was in my 20s.

Why the Sterling Silver Iced Tea Spoon Is Good for So Much More Than Tea
4/18/14 02:26 PM

Though liquid from the cabbage is the main culprit, wouldn't leaving out the milk help a little?

How Can I Make My Coleslaw Dressing Thicker (Without Changing the Taste)? Good Questions
4/9/14 05:22 PM

One of my first cookbooks as a child was The Little House Cookbook, with "authentic" recipes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.

I can't ever read Robin McKinley's "Sunshine" without having to stop and make cinnamon rolls.

And as a cataloger in a library with a crazy-large cookbook collection, I have all kinds of cookbooks based on all kinds of fiction. For example: both the official and unofficial Game of Thrones cookbooks, and a chicken cookbook (spoof?) modeled from 50 Shades of Grey.

When Reading a Great Novel Makes Me Want to Cook Kitchen Diary: Anne in South Carolina
4/7/14 02:35 PM

Instead of buying coconut milk and trying to skim the cream off the top, why not just buy cans of coconut cream? It should be easy to find at most Asian markets, or even some national chains, and you get more with less hassle. To be clear, this is NOT the stuff you find in the cocktail mixer aisle.

For example, this is the brand I've been buying:

How Can I Make Coconut Ice Cream Kosher for Passover? Good Questions
4/7/14 09:50 AM