Tag Archives: reader questions

Reader Questions and Feedback: Angry Vegans, Punked by a Reader, and More!

Gentle Readers, the questions just keep getting more interesting. First, I’ll address the most common question I get.

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

1. How do you eat all of that food and not die/have diabetes/weigh x pounds?

I do not consume every bite of every piece of food I photograph. This applies to whole cakes especially. Sometimes the people I’m eating with have prettier plates, or I spot something cool. I do my best to indicate whether I made it, ate it, or just admired it.

Pickled Beets, Walnuts, Sartori Cheese and Herb Salad Mix. Divine.

Pickled Beets, Walnuts, Sartori Cheese and Herb Salad Mix. Divine.

Also, I realize that I don’t photograph the endless amount of salad/oatmeal/carrot sticks that I eat, because it’s not as interesting. Perhaps I’ll do a blog dedicated to the oatmeals I’ve loved while on business trips.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

However, in the interest of full disclosure, I eat a whole lot of healthy food in between bacon benders. I encourage people to make good food choices based on their particular dietary needs, and to strive to enjoy what they eat and to try new things. As long as they aren’t full of hazelnuts. I can’t advocate for that.

2. Punked by a reader.

My favorite photo received after tweeting about making corned beef hash comes from vTeen. Yes, you have all of the ingredients (double points for the Easter eggs), go forth and fire up your Easy Bake Oven.

Corned beef hash ingredients. Well played.

Corned beef hash ingredients. Well played.

3. “Want to go to dinner with us?” “Sure, I’m a vegan.” “We’re going to a BBQ place.” “I’ll make it work.”

The Smoking Pig: Someone please start a band called Angry Vegans and use this as the cover.

The Smoking Pig: Someone please start a band called Angry Vegans and use this as the cover.

It’s now a running joke that I won’t go try any restaurant without an Angry Vegan in the car with me. Courtesy of my amazing photographer friend Ashley, I got to eat real BBQ in San Jose, CA, on a recent business trip, and as happens at business conferences, we invited people along. Full review on the food later, major props to my new vegan friend for not only making it work but making it hilarious.

Chicken Lollipop from the Smoking Pig in San Jose.

Chicken Lollipop from the Smoking Pig in San Jose.

Moral of this story: nothing is impossible. Good BBQ exists everywhere if you look, and vegans are people too. Only snarkier.

Send me your questions. All material considered. Post a comment below, or Tweet my way.

Send your questions, snark, and good ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Friday, Waffle Substitution, Cereal to the Rescue!

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Gentle Reader Questions Answered: Picky Eaters Unite!

Gentle Readers, there are few things more irksome than the way one’s gentle offspring can try one’s nerves at the dining table. This week’s mailbag features two such challenges. For everyone who has sworn they wouldn’t say things about the starving children in Africa, this post is for you.

The Hippie Answer to Lucky Charms: Marshmallow Oaties

The Hippie Answer to Lucky Charms: Marshmallow Oaties

Question 1: What would be the best sugary, decadent cereal, which is actually healthier than regular cereals like Special K or regular Cheerios? I need something that will fool the kids into thinking they’re getting something traditionally off limits in our household. –Virtual Cook

The Practical Cook Answers: Great question, and it depends on what you consider healthy. Sometimes you want a cereal the kids will actually eat, sometimes you want low salt and sugar, high fiber, etc. I believe in letting some sweet cereals in the house on occasion (like the small boxes Santa delivers into the stocking, or the experimental one above), because it demystifies them. They are not always delicious every morning.

Relying on my team of experts, The Practical Cooks Junior, here are three faves that will hopefully suit the bill:

Frosted Mini-Wheats, Grape-Nuts, Autumn Wheat

Frosted Mini-Wheats, Grape-Nuts, Autumn Wheat

Frosted wheat cereals are not the worst, and they look like forbidden fruit. The shredded wheat underneath is pretty darn healthy. Grape-Nuts is not overly sweet, but The Youngest eats it by the metric ton. It has a great crunch and a lot of umami for a cereal. It’s more salty/malty and pairs incredibly well with fruit. If your offspring are fruit fans and anti-soggy, it’s a great choice.

And of course, you know I love Autumn Wheat. It’s actually very sweet, but extremely simple. You’ll note a trend here, whole wheat cereals are naturally sweet tasting. Opt for those first.

One last thought, I am also a fan of the Barbara’s line of cereals, especially the Puffins, but only eaten dry. Oftentimes cereals are less appealing (texture and flavor) in milk. The Eldest used to eat dry cereal exclusively with a milk chaser. Give that a try for something different. The slightly sweet cereals taste that much sweeter.

Beautifully varied snack saves the day.

Beautifully varied snack saves the day.

Question 2: My 3-year-old is currently asserting her independence and says she doesn’t want to eat her food. This  would be fine, but then she wants a treat (either something she really likes, such as grapes, or a dessert), which takes me to the “you don’t get that if you don’t eat your dinner” conversation, which seems to negate the whole what/when/if/how much thing because it puts  me right where I don’t want to be–negotiating over food. –Blended Familia

The Practical Cook Answers: I would suggest putting a reasonable amount of a favorite item, like grapes, on the table with dinner. Dessert isn’t even discussed as a regular option, and that way you’re always able to choose to serve it at the end of a successful meal or not.

Hungry people eat, and I feel sure your child will. Perhaps she gets to pick a favorite dinner once a week as part of the meal plan?

So there you have it, problems solved. I am coming to see the difference between picky eaters and discerning. I was a picky eater for a long time, and I became a discerning ones. I’m discerning that I won’t eat eels in Barcelona, for instance. 🙂

But that is a blog for a different day. What food challenges do you have with your kids? Any other helpful advice for our Gentle Readers? Post a comment below!

Send your dilemmas, freshly baked pies, and tapas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus from Barcelona.

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Gentle Reader Questions Answered: Mailbag Time!

Gentle Readers, having just attended another fabulous At-Home (veggie chili edition), The Practical Cook is inspired and ready for a slew of new posts in 2012. However, we must tend to the end of year business, so let’s close out with answers to a few lingering questions, and a share on some suggestions received.

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

Smile, You've Got Simplified French Toast

Without further delay, Gentle Readers, take it away:

1. Brussels Sprouts Recipe for Haters. Lots of feedback on this one, including a great reader picture of the little veggie that could. Both RockStar and Tri-Awesome (photo credit) added a bit of chopped shallot to this recipe, an addition I’ll make the next go round. Tri-Awesome also swapped in pancetta for bacon, the recipe will flex to meet you! And they ate them, and they liked them. Resolve to try some new veggies people, give them a chance.

Brussels Sprouts for Haters, as Made by a Gentle Reader!

Brussels Sprouts for Haters, as Made by a Gentle Reader!

2. Pork Chops. My friend Blended Familia asked for guidance beyond Shake-N-Bake. A few things there, first being, you can re-create the texture with bread crumbs and dried herbs (thyme, sage, black pepper come to mind). Second, depending on the thickness of the chop, pan-fry or roast and use a fruit conserve as the topping. If you’ve got an interesting jam in your fridge, that will do it, mix it with something spicy for kick, or balsamic for balance. Simplicity and avoid overcooking: that’s the key with pork chops. Will do a full blog on chops in 2012.

Awesome preserves from my cousin (thank you). You'll see these in the test kitchen soon.

Awesome preserves from my cousin (thank you). You'll see these in the test kitchen soon.

3. Fave Ingredient of 2011. This question comes from CptCranky. The answer is bacon. A review of the tapes indicates a borderline obsession with the pig, but having just read this awesome NYT article on Southern Farming, I am justified. For the veggies out there, one can often sub Parmesan if you need salt, pecans if you need crunch, or a rich olive oil or butter if you need tasty fat.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

When in doubt: bacon is the answer.

Looking forward to lots more Q and A in the new year. Keep those questions and photos coming. I’ll be here cooking, researching, and chasing you down to photograph your food. What has been your favorite ingredient of 2011?

Send questions, answers, deep thoughts, and blog requests for 2012 to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, New Year’s Resolutions: In the Kitchen and Beyond!

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Reader Questions Answered: Vanilla Beans and Zucchini (Just Not Together)

Gentle Readers, when will The Practical Cook learn to be careful what she asks for? In trying to find the perfect questions to answer, she called her mother. What follows is what passes for conversation between TPC and TPC’sM:

TPC: Do you have any burning cooking questions?

TPCM: Yes, what do I do with a vanilla bean?

TPC: Slice it, scrape it, and use it in frosting. Not to drop hints, but I do have a birthday coming up shortly, and I do adore cream cheese frosting. (Hint Hint).

TPCM: The whole thing?

TPC: Yes, the whole guts of it, but save the hull. Use that for vanilla sugar. Just bury it in a jar of sugar.

Vanilla Bean Buried in a Jar of Sugar, Voila, Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Bean Buried in a Jar of Sugar, Voila, Vanilla Sugar

TPCM: Do you have a good recipe for zucchini bread, because I think you’ll need one soon.

TPC: What are you saying?

TPCM: How about good recipes for zucchini? How about “how do I hide zucchini?”

TPC: I’m not liking the sounds of this.

TPCM: The zucchini that The Practical Cooks Junior watered did really well this year.

Abrupt disconnection of the call. Be afraid, be very afraid of the zucchini fairy.

Top 3 Ways to Use Zucchini:

1. Fry it. Substitute in zucchini in the fried squash recipe.

Golden-Brown Fried Squash with Soda Cracker Crumbs

Golden-Brown Fried Squash with Soda Cracker Crumbs

2. Stewed with tomatoes. I love zucchini sliced with garlic and tomatoes and oregano, all simmered until it’s a nice stew. Simple, season with salt and pepper.

3. Zucchini casserole. Substitute for squash. Slice, saute with onion, add a can of cream of celery soup, 3/4 a soup can of milk, and stir. Crumble in 1 or 2 pieces of hard, stale bread. (Thanks to Perfect Pregunta for that question!) Simmer until zucchini is soft, season with thyme, salt and pepper.  Top with crushed soda crackers and parmesan cheese, bake at 400 degrees until bubbly.

Squash Casserole with Soda Cracker and Parmesan Topping

Squash Casserole with Soda Cracker and Parmesan Topping

I’ll be locking my doors tonight, and do let me know if you need any zucchini. Something tells me I’ll have it in abundance very shortly.

Post your questions here in the comments section, or Tweet!

Send your non-zucchini-related questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Marinated Vegetable Salad Recipe. Perfect hot-weather fare!

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How Not to Bore Vegetarians at a Cookout

What better to do than cook outside for the Fourth of July festivities? But what if you’re hosting a flock of vegetarians? Do not hit the panic button, The Practical Cook is here to help. There are a few ways you can host mixed company and not just go the burgers and dogs (veggie, of course) route.

How Not to Bore Vegetarians at a Cookout

1. Do not offer to grill them. Completely socially unacceptable. This includes actual cooking and a quiz about why they just won’t eat the burger.

Veg-in-a-Box

Veg-in-a-Box

2. Think outside the box. Seriously, I love a veggie burger from the freezer, I won’t lie. It’s easy, fast protein, and convenient. But if you’ve ever spent time as a vegetarian (I was full on for 7 years), you’ve eaten aplenty of these.

Grilled Corn

Grilled Corn

3. BYOV(egetable). Request that they bring something to grill. Perhaps you provide the grill and the beer, and they bring the plants.

Meat Kebabs and Salad

Meat Kebabs and Salad

4. Kebabs. If you’re going to do the cooking, this is the simplest way to do a single prep that will serve most in a mixed crowd. Use peppers, onions, mushrooms, fruit, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, you name it, and thread some of the skewers with steak, chicken, or shrimp (just don’t serve me the shrimp one). The Farmer’s Market runneth over right now and will be open on Saturday in most places. Go there  and run wild. Be sure to buy some corn, too, because it’s awesome on the grill.

Grilled Pineapple

Grilled Pineapple

5. Pineapple. If there’s one thing you can do to impress anyone with your grilling skills, it’s grilled pineapple rings. They’re different, simple, and versatile. Try dipping them in coconut milk, brown sugar, rum, coconut flavored-rum, whatever. Slice into 1/2-inch rings, core them, and do not skimp here–use fresh. (Or consider fruit kebabs. Great info over at BarbecueBible.com, which I once worked on.)

Thanks to  VeggieMacabre for the question, be sure to send in some pictures! Also, thanks to Miss Clairol for the kebab photos. Blogging is seriously a tag-team sport.

What do you like to grill? Let’s hear some more ideas from the veggies out there, post your comments here.

What’s your burning question? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For Sunday, Weekly Menus from a remote location. Perhaps I’ll read my list as a video blog? We shall see.

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This Week’s Top 3 Questions

Gentle readers, the Practical Cook is looking forward to addressing your questions, and tackling the controversial issues of the day. She has discovered in weeks upon weeks of working on recipes, that the public is most interested in the Fry Wars or Burger Preference. Yes, statistics don’t lie (fine, they tell fibs all the time), but popularity demands the questions be answered.

Most Asked Question: What was wrong with the fries at In-N-Out Burger?

The Practical Cook: Nothing was wrong with them per se, I just didn’t love them. Perhaps they got cold too fast, lacked salt, weren’t as crunchy as my heart desired. I love fries (though I may love tater tots and sweet potato fries more), but I only love PERFECT fries. I like them fairly well-done, as in crisp, pretty salty, and as a “sauce vector” (handily borrowing that phrase from a comrade I hope to go on a fry hunt with soon!).

Geer Street Garden Fries with Garlic Aioli and Srirachanaise

Geer Street Garden Fries with Garlic Aioli and Srirachanaise

Whose fries do I love most this week? Geer Street Garden. That Andy McGowan knows fries. I haven’t been able to go and eat the infamous “Pile” (check the menu). Once I do, I’ll do a full review. Anyone brave enough to join me? These are crunchy, salty, full of fabulous fries, and I just won’t eat a pile of anything less.

Second Most Asked Question: How will you try all the burgers in America?

Pimento Cheese Burger at Bull City Burger

Pimento Cheese Burger at Bull City Burger

The Practical Cook: Fine, I ask myself that question. But the real answer, Gentle Readers, is I need your help. Be it indie-chain or local shop, I’ll be looking to you all for some assistance in sampling food across America. Believe you me, I’ll show up and help when I can, camera in hand. So go out and eat thoughtfully, the bean burgers, hamburgers, whateverburgers, take a picture, and let us all know what is most delicious.

Last, But Not Least Asked Question: How do you eat all of that food? (or some derivation thereof)

The Practical Cook: Since I make no bones about eating a vast variety of things, including plenty in the fried category (and I am not anti-mayo for the record, check out the dips with the fries above), I am often asked how I do this and not keel over. Rewind the tape to my Love of Grapefruit.

The Practical Salad

The Practical Salad

I don’t eat fries every day. I don’t eat meat every day. And the above picture is 1/2 of my lunch most days. Soup and salad for lunch unless I’m traveling, doing field research, or dragging one of my Gentle Readers out to some place “they just have to try.”

If you had to choose, would you pick fries, tater tots, or sweet potato fries with that? Post your comments today!

Send your queries and compliments to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook gospel. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On deck, Weekly Menus, Summer Style (aka, Punt!fest 2011).

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