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July 16, 2014

12:01
P.M.

Free Range on Food: Smoothies, granitas and more from our No-Cook issue

Total Responses: 77

About the hosts

About the host

Bonnie Benwick

Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor of the Food section; joining us today are editorial aide Becky Krystal and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guests: Food section contributor David Hagedorn; Tess Masters, a.k.a Blender Girl; freelance writer Visi Tilak.

About the topic

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats
Q.

Bonnie Benwick :

So, it's a lovely day outside and you're probably out in it, picnicking on the grass. But soon the real DC weather will return, and you'll be happy we had this chat! Good afternoon, Free Rangers, and welcome to a conversation about all things culinary. Our focus today is no-cook foods, but we can manage to cover subjects that call for heat. Joining us today are guests Tess Masters "The Blender Girl," from her native Australia; David Granita Hagedorn, from somewhere in NW DC; Visi Gazpacho Tilak, from Massachusetts; and Jim Smoke Signals Shahin

 

We've got two new summer cookbooks to give away, so let's get at it. Editor Joe and Tim Carman are on vacation. 

 

Q.

Snack for crowd- no-cook

I am having some friends over this weekend for a casual get together, and hoping the weather will hold out so we can hang out on my roof. I'm trying to save money for a trip coming up, but I also want to provide some snacks and sangria. I got the sangria down, but would appreciate some ideas for snacks. Since we may be on the roof, it would need to be something that I don't need to heat up. I was thinking of various dips and chips, but that can also get boring.
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about a cheese plate with various accouterments? People can't resist when I make goat-cheese stuffed dates (I season the cheese with a little honey and minced fresh thyme). Spiced nuts are another good bet.

– July 16, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

Leftover limes

I bought a large bag of limes at Costco this weekend intending to use them for mojitos at a party. What can I do with the large number of leftovers? Can I freeze them? Can I make a syrup to freeze and use later for drinks? It would be a shame to let this much fruit go to waste. Thanks for your help.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

What lime shortage?

I would first zest them; wrap by the teaspoon in plastic wrap and freeze inside a zip-top bag. (Zest is nice to have on hand for flavoring all sorts of things.) Then juice them; you can freeze the juice straight up in ice cube trays. 

– July 16, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

Trying Veggies In My Smoothies

Hi! Posting early because I am so excited about smoothies! I will admit, I tend to stick to fruit in my smoothies. I have always been a bit fearful of using vegetables, but I would love to try some for the extra vitamins. I like to add my own personal "fizz and jizz" to smoothies with sparkling water and protein, but for somebody who is prettty much stuck on berries and bananas, can you recommend some vegetables to start trying? I know I have some kale at home and I think I still have some cucmbers that are probably a bit bruised but still useable. I have time to stop at the store too. Thanks so much!
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Lettuce is great in smoothies, tomatoes... Avocadoes are wonderful as well. I have several smoothie recipes with vegetables.

– July 16, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

Smoothie stupid

I want to like smoothies; I really do. The problem is this: I hate bananas, don't like avocado, and am allergic to mango. I think (THINK) that if I put enough other flavors that I like, I can maybe drown out the avocado flavor. The other issue is that I don't tend to like fruit smoothies very much -- though that is probably largely because they usually have either banana or mango. If I go to a smoothie place, I'm ordering a mocha. Is there any hope for somebody like me to make a reasonably healthy smoothie I'll actually enjoy?
A.
Tess Masters :

Yes! You can make a lot of smoothies that don't contain banana, avocado, or mango. Try starting with 1 cup water or coconut water, 1 cup of leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, etc), 2 cups frozen fruit like peaches and pineapple (which are creamy instead of the things you don't like) some lime juice and zest. Watermelon, frozen raspberries, and basil is another great creamy combo. You can cream up and thicken smoothies with yogurt, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup tofu, raw cashews or blanched almonds, as well as frozen fruit. Keep experimenting with flavors and you will find a ton of combinations that don't contain those three fruits. 

– July 16, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

German Restaurant

Any recommendation for a good German restaurant? I've looked around online and nothing seems to stand out!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here's a list from the Going Out Guide. Anyone have a favorite?

– July 16, 2014 12:03 PM
Q.

Bean dip

We've been on vacation where the food rules have been relaxed so have been eating bean dip out of the can. My little one loves it! It can't be that hard to recreate at home. Any recipes or suggestions on how to make it?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Don't know what the little one has been eating, but check out this Pink Bean Dip that just ran in Local Living.

Pink Bean Dip

You could probably also use the bean spread from our recipe for Plantain Wraps With Tangy Black Bean Spread.

Plantain Wraps With Tangy Black Bean Spread

– July 16, 2014 12:05 PM
Q.

Smoothie Dairy Substitute

My daughter loves smoothies, mango pineapple or berries, however she has to take a pill before consumption for lactose intolerance. She doesn't like the aftertaste that she's found with soy or almond or rice dairy products...any other suggestions?
A.
Tess Masters :

Can she tolerate nuts? They bring a great creamy flavor reminiscent of dairy when blended in with plain water or coconut water. Some times you just need 1/4 cup, sometimes 1/2 cup. Also, there are lots of smoothies you can make without any milk at all that taste creamy and delicious. If she loves frozen fruits like pineapple, mango, peaches etc and banana you don't really need milks. 

– July 16, 2014 12:06 PM
Q.

Silly question, but...

Does coconut oil taste like coconuts? Do I use it the same way I'd use another kind of oil? Or only in certain types of dishes?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Coconut oil does have a strong taste of coconuts. It is wonderful when used with the right recipes, does not work for all!

– July 16, 2014 12:06 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I've found it smells more like coconuts than it tastes like 'em! Perhaps it varies among brands....

– July 16, 2014 12:06 PM
Q.

Zucchini-based cold salads?

With all the recent rain, I've been pulling in zucchini from the garden hand-over fist, but I'm running out of things to do with it. Any suggestions for some cold salads using zucchini as a primary ingredient?
Q.

Toxins and cleanses.... oh my

I am dissapointed that the Food section would resort to these woo and quackery catch phrases when discussing smoothies. Fiber is not used to catch various scary toxins. Rather you could have used a more science and reality based approach by discussing how certain fibers can bind to cholesterol or bile salts and help lower cholesterol. using the generic phrase toxins is classic woomongering. Cleanses are also sold by quacks but have no science based rationale or studies behind them.
A.
Tess Masters :

Yes, I understand your frustration at the brief summation of the role of fiber. However, when trying to stick to a low word count for each section, and attempting to keep things interesting and accessible at a quick glance, we opted for a quick phrase analysis. We also weren't talking about cleanses. We were pointing out the importance of maintaining the fiber to help promote heart health (as you point out) and cleanse the colon. 

– July 16, 2014 12:08 PM
Q.

goddess dressing

There is a goddess dressing out there that uses tahini as a base instead of sour cream or yogurt, which I thought would stand up better to Summer picnics. Does anyone have a recipe for it?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

While we're waiting for a reply, maybe check out Joe's Cilantro Goddess Dressing, and consider subbing the tofu?

– July 16, 2014 12:09 PM
Q.

Make-ahead pretzels?

First off, can I just say how bummed I am that my new work schedule doesn't allow me to join you guys live? :( I missed out on the ice cream chat! I made an ice cream last week that was a brown sugar base, with cherries, chocolate chips, and bacon. Holy cow, was it good. Now for the question. I'm hosting a wine-and-snacks party this weekend. I wanted to do soft pretzels with a beer cheese sauce (using Alton Brown's soft pretzel recipe). The only thing is, I'm not sure if I have enough time to let the dough rise beforehand--could I get all the way through the boiling in baking soda & water step the day before? Or should I risk having my husband make the dough? I'm sure he'd do a fine job, but...let's just say he's never made them before. And a bonus question (because this post isn't long enough): do you have a great beer cheese sauce recipe? I used a Williams-Sonoma one and it was both a little grainy (maybe user error?) and a little too heavy on the beer.

A.
Becky Krystal :

Could you stop after you've let the dough rise? I don't know whether putting the pretzels in the refrigerator after they've been boiled would have a detrimental effect. Anyone with experience?

As for a sauce, how about this Cheese and Best Brown Ale Fondue?

Cheese and Best Brown Ale Fondue

– July 16, 2014 12:09 PM
Q.

Those stinkin' ramps again

Hi -- I'm the one who wrote last week to say I'd never had ramps because of an article I read years ago about their affects on the breath. Ms. Benwick reassured me that all would be fine. Well I tracked down that article and it's from your very own newspaper and says this: ** "The most notable thing about them is the smell, and not so much the smell of the leek-like ramp itself but the smell of people who've been eating ramps. "Smell" actually is a small, pale word to use in this context. "Stink" comes closer to it, and "reek" is closer still, but only "stench" does it justice.** So Ms. Benwick, are you saying that your reporter Hank Burchard was, um, stretching the truth??
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Well, aren't you the HighBeam sleuth? Way back in 1994, we even wary of cilantro.

 

Maybe global warming has tamed the modern ramp's charms. Without casting any aspersions on Mr. Burchard, I'd say our palates and noses have become sophisticated and accepting enough to handle the task.  (I'd wager it's not the first time Post writers have disagreed in print.)

– July 16, 2014 12:09 PM
Q.

snack for crowd

deviled eggs! The extras to add in are endless - curried onions, crabmeat ,harissa. . .
Q.

Too much zucchini!

I fell behind in harvesting our garden, and now I have 7 8-pound zucchinis sitting on the counter. What are some of your favorite recipes for using giant zucchinis?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

The more mature zucchinis are great for grilling, chopped salads. You can also use a peeler to make pasta (fettucine) like strips and toss with a pesto.

– July 16, 2014 12:10 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

They are also perfect for a zucchini casserole or big veg chili. 

– July 16, 2014 12:10 PM
Q.

Granita with Kahlua

Loved all the fresh looks at granita today! I'd like to make a coffee granita pumped up with a bit of Kahula. How do I adjust the sugar levels to make up for the sugar and alcohol in the granita? thanks

A.
David Hagedorn :

I wouldn't worry too much about the Kahlua; you only need a tablespoon or two for flavoring. With coffee granita, I would use a little less than a cup of sugar for 4 cups of very strong coffee/espresso.

– July 16, 2014 12:10 PM
Q.

Raw beef with a side of safety

I like eating raw beef. But my wife is a little concerned about food safety. So I take an eye of round and sear it quickly on all edges using a cast iron pan on high heat. The sear only goes down about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, but any bacteria on a whole muscle cut would only be on the surface. With this we make tartar, sashimi and sushi. The eye of round is very lean and if sliced thinly across the grain is tender yet not fall apart tender like the tenderloin.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Thanks for sharing! 

– July 16, 2014 12:11 PM
Q.

Cold blackberries

If there are any blackberries left after all the rain we had last night, I'd like to make either blackberry ice cream or granita. Help!
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream, from my ice cream cookbook of choice, "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home"? (You can sub blackberries for the black raspberries.)

– July 16, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

Baby cakes

My daughter is about to turn 1. Do you have any easy cake recipes that don't have a lot of sugar. Maybe using fruit to sweeten the cake? Thanks.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Hmm. There are lots of no-sugar cakes on the Web; the last time I made something with a relatively minimal amount of sugar was Amy's Easy Apple Cake

You might like to try a walnut-olive oil sponge cake, which is definitely not too sweet.  A carrot almond cake might work, perhaps with fresh fruit instead of, or in addition to, its accompanying ricotta cream. 

Chatters?

– July 16, 2014 12:16 PM
Q.

Frozen Veg for smoothies

Can you throw frozen vegetables, like kale, right into your blender for smoothies or is it assumed this item isn't washed and must be used only if cooked?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

I use frozen spinach and kale, but I do run them trough a quick wash before I add them to the blender. I also freeze summer tomatoes and use them with smoothies and gazpachos

– July 16, 2014 12:16 PM
A.
Tess Masters :

Frozen vegetables are just MAGIC in smoothies because our taste buds are temperature sensitive, so we can't taste the full dimension of flavor, making them a fabulous way to sneak extra veggies into kids etc. Try frozen cauliflower and broccoli as well as your frozen greens. Don't thaw them. Throw them in frozen. 

– July 16, 2014 12:16 PM
Q.

Storing cucumbers

I just picked the first two cucumbers from my garden, and it looks like I'm going to have a bumper crop! I've never had a surplus before. Should I refrigerate them right away? How long might they keep? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Our trusty guide, "The New Food Lover's Companion," advises

Store whole cucumbers, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 10 days. Wash thoroughly just before using. Cut cucumbers can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, for up to 5 days.

– July 16, 2014 12:16 PM
Q.

liquid diet

Let me preface my questions by saying that I know you are cooks and not doctors, but I was curious to other people's experiences of liquid diets or detox diets. I've heard that it strains your organs and you only get the vitamins but not the fiber. However, in the documentary, "Fat, Sick and nearly Dead" the liquid diet saved lives. Just curious.
A.
Tess Masters :

Juicing and blending can be beneficial for different reasons. I am not a fan of long term juice diets as juicing shuts down the action of the colon and can spike sugar levels causing acidity and other issues. However, during periods of detox, cleansing, and acute illness juicing allows for a nutrient-dense experience that is very gentle on the digestive system allowing more energy for detoxification and regeneration. At all other times, I prefer smoothies, which retain all of the nutrients in skins, piths, and sometimes seeds. With all of the fiber, this slows down the absorption of sugars, and sweeps out the colon, binding fats, lowering cholesterol, etc. Also, with liquid foods, we can't forget that she should be sipped and "chewed" for proper digestion as the first phase begins in the mouth. This prevents bloating, and other issues. 

– July 16, 2014 12:16 PM
Q.

cooking with coconut oil

I have some, and i even have a spray from TJ's, but I find it makes my pans gunky. Do i just need to cook at a lower heat with it?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Coconut oil has a fairly high smoke point, but not as high as canola oil. You can pretty much do anything with it. The southwestern region of India coconut oil is usedfor deep frying and for all their cooking. It does leave a residue, and I find that it helps to add water and boil it in the pan before cleaning, That usually gets rid of the gunk.

 

– July 16, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Serving containers

Are the containers in the pictures ice? If so, where did you get them and how much did they cost? They look sharp!!! Thanks, JAH
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

They are indeed made of ice. Casey Conner at Ice Lab Ice Sculptures made them for us. He seems up for just about anything. Even with lights and a warm room, they held up for a good hour. Contact them here

– July 16, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Veggies for smoothies

Cucumber, Carrot, Leafy Green Vegetables, and leafy herbs as well. The key for me is making it creamy. So, whether that includes yogurt, almond milk, or dairy milk, I think that also helps. Also, if you're using the smoothie as a meal replacement, I'd be sure to add some protein and a fat (Avocado, Nut Butter, Flax or Coconut oil, etc.).
A.
Tess Masters :

Great tips! Yes. I love making savory vegetable-based smoothies that are loaded with nutrients and are alkalizing. I also love adding avocado to make it creamy, and boosting the flavor of the leafy greens and veggies with herbs and spices. Chile, cayenne, basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary , mint are just magic. 

– July 16, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Help w/ spare ribs

Hi there, hopefully a question the Smokemaster can help with! I have a package of pork center-cut spare ribs (frozen right now). I've never made ribs before...so have no idea where to start. If I was going to grill them, what would be your recommendations? Thanks so much!
A.
Jim Shahin :

     You picked a gorgeous day for your first ribs grilling! 

     Easiest, and some would say, best thing to do is the 3-2-1 method. It works like this: start an indirect fire (fire on one side of the grill, no fire on the other). Season your ribs with a favorite commercial or homemade dry rub. 

      Place the ribs bone-side down on the side of the grill without fire for three hours. Pull off and wrap in foil for two hours. Then remove the foil and grill for another hour. 

      You'll want a hinged grate in order to feed the fire with charcoal as needed. For a smoky flavor, add a cup of soaked hardwood chips to the fire about five minutes before putting the ribs on. Add another cup about two hours into the cooking process.

       For the final hour, you might spritz the ribs with apple juice to moisten. During the last 10 minutes, add sauce if you're using. Also in the last 10 minutes, for some crispiness, cook the ribs, meat-side down, directly over the coals.

        Cook with the lid on throughout the process, except for the last 10-minute direct grilling.   

– July 16, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

No Sugar please

I would like to make granitas for my family however we have some diabetics in the house. Can you use splenda? Will the granita freeze properly? Thank you
A.
David Hagedorn :

You need sugar in some form to make granita, because of the nature of crystals that form when sugar interferes with water molecules bonding while freezing. Without sugar,  you just have ice. What you could try to do is make a granita with very ripe fruit which is naturally sweet and use some artificial sweetener. That means no added sugar, but sugar nonetheless, so not ideal for diabetics unless levels are such that a little treat can be endured.

– July 16, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

Freezer jam

I made some sour cherry freezer (no-cook) jam using Sure-Jell according to the directions and it didn't set. Is there some way to save it, or should I just call it cherry syrup instead?
A.
Becky Krystal :

I go with door No. 2. I'm sure it will still taste good! Swirl it into yogurt, put it on ice cream, eat it by the spoon, mix it into sparkling water, whatever.

– July 16, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

vegetarian visiting NYC

We're off to NYC to celebrate our anniversary and wondering if anyone knows of a fab restaurant to try that's vegetarian but not vegan and over the top hippie. I like my food cooked.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here's a Travel story Editor Joe did on vegetarian dining in NYC. 

– July 16, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

mature zucchnni

I hvae this problem as well. I first seed the zucchini and then do a variety of things with the flesh. You can blanch and freeze to save in the winter for stewed squash when you want a reminder of summer. You can shred the zucchini for use in any number of quick bread recipes such as zucchini blueberry bread. I also will saute and then steam by placing a lid of the pan. Just a pinch of salt and pepper makes for a good vegetable dish.

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

It does freeze well. Good tips, all. Love our chatters. 

– July 16, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

Bean dip

My guess is it is the frito stuff-- the way I have made it is: 1 can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed), a teaspoon on minced garlic (or a clove or two of fresh), and some chili powder. Blend in a food processor or blender.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sounds like a good start, thanks!

– July 16, 2014 12:21 PM
Q.

barley in smoothies

I quite like barley, but have to eat it in very small quantities or my stomach is unhappy. Could I use cooked barley in a smoothie to thicken it?
A.
Tess Masters :

If your stomach is unhappy when you eat it, you may have a gluten intolerance? You can use 1/4 cup cooked barley or other grains like quinoa to thicken smoothies. They can make smoothies quite starchy with a gluggy sticky mouth feel. You could also try avocado, 1/4 cup tofu, 1/4 to 1/2 cup raw cashews or blanched almonds, and creamy frozen fruits like peaches, mango, and pineapple. 

– July 16, 2014 12:21 PM
Q.

pretzels

I could stop after I let the dough rise--would I just put it in the fridge at that point? Did that with pizza crust once and the "slow rise" wasn't so slow--the dough escaped its plastic wrap covering. It turned out fine, but made for a funny story about the dough with a mind of its own.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Yes, into the fridge with it. I had the same thing happen with pizza dough once (photo below). I would think pretzel dough won't be as active in the rising department. Just leave it in a big enough bowl to allow for growth.

pizza dough

– July 16, 2014 12:22 PM
Q.

Tahini - separating

I bought tahini for the first time last week to make some yogurt sauces for a leg of lamb I fixed. I did not know how much tahini would separate. I then stirred the top half and got the liquid back into a very thin paste. After I used what I needed, I noticed the bottom half of the jar was extremely thick and I had not stirred that deeply. Any suggestions on how I can save this jar of very thick tahini. Do all brands separate like this?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Separation's to be expected. Some people like to store their containers upside down, or invert them every now and then. So, just remember to stir well. 

– July 16, 2014 12:23 PM
Q.

No Cook Meals

My go-to for no cook meals when it's hot is a Greek salad. Always so tasty and refreshing! I've started omitting the lettuce and just do cucumber, tomato, kalamata olives and feta. I've even started making my own simple Greek vinaigrette. I want one now!
A.
David Hagedorn :

I am mad about Greek salads and so wrote this piece about them last year, which includes recipes you might enjoy. There is something so appealing in the summer about chunks of cool cucumber, ripe tomatoes, zesty red onion and salty feta cheese cohabiting in a luscious olive oil and vinegar dressing. I love adding radishes and jalapeño slices and Kalamata and cured Moroccan olives.

– July 16, 2014 12:25 PM
Q.

re: no cook snack

I thought about the cheese plate, but my concerns are 1) the cheese will get super sweaty, and people are staggering times, not everyone coming and once, and 2) I do it for almost every party, so I'm looking for something new. :)
A.
Becky Krystal :

Well, I still suggested stuffed dates and candied nuts! Check out our awesome nutty roundup from earlier this year. 

– July 16, 2014 12:26 PM
Q.

Re Baby Cakes

There's always this lovely idea from Not Without Salt - watermelon-peach-fresh-fruit-cake/ Fruit in the shape of a cake!

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Nice! 

– July 16, 2014 12:26 PM
Q.

smoothies at work

Has anyone had luck bringing smoothies to the office? I wonder if they separate while sitting in the fridge for a few hours.
A.
Tess Masters :

You can absolutely take smoothies to the office with you. Blend up your smoothie, transfer it to a glass mason jar, take it to work, and just give it a quick shake to revive the prize before enjoying. There will be some separation with most blends (particularly fruit based) but they easily shake back together. 

– July 16, 2014 12:26 PM
Q.

Giant Zucchini

If you're into canning, find a good zucchini relish recipe (I use the one from Putting Food By, but there are tons of variations out there). Delicious!
Q.

Bean dip addendum

Forgot to say that I add cumin to bean dip. though not to guacamole.
Q.

Raw Beef

Allegedly according to the experts raw ground beef is more of health safety issue than raw beef sliced from a roast etc. When I make a burger depending on mood iit is cooked anywhere between Pittsburged to rare to medium rare. Anything more than medium rare goes to the dogs who may or may not it eat since its overcooked.

Q.

re: beer cheese

Instead of hot beer cheese, you could do a cold beer cheese spread with hard pretzels, for almost the same taste. I made one a while back for St. Pat's with Guiness, cheese and chives (went the traditional Irish route...)
Q.

Mangoes

How do I pick a good mango? They're on sale for $1 at my grocery store - but I felt paralyzed trying to pick one! -Thanks
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

The way I pick a good mango is  a combination of senses. First pick the ones that are the most orange and they have to give very slightly when you use thumb pressure. The final and most important is the smell. When you smell near the stem it should have a good fragrance. Also mango varieties don't fail you. The best ones are alphonso, kesar... The mexican versions are pretty good too.

– July 16, 2014 12:29 PM
Q.

re: extra cucumbers

Or, make them into pickles, and that way they'll keep for a really long time!
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Grated and frozen cucumbers are excellent for use in smoothies, tzatzikis and raitas. I grate them in small packages and use each package right away. For smoothies, I just throw them in as is. For tzatzikis and raita, you add them to the thick yoghurt and mix well, let it thaw in the yoghurt if you want a thiner sauce. If you want a really stiff and thick sauce, thaw and squeeze out the juice/water before use.

– July 16, 2014 12:33 PM
Q.

the last time I made something with a relatively minimal amount of sugar was Amy's Easy Apple Cake.

My advice is to look in an older cookbook. I think modern recipes have far more sugar in them than in our parents' generation.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Interesting. 

– July 16, 2014 12:33 PM
Q.

re: Chew juices?

I'm not sure I understand. Are you supposed to swish the juice around first? Or include some of the stuff that was discarded in the juicer back in the juice, to chew that?
A.
Tess Masters :

Yes, just swish it around your mouth just a few times to allow the saliva and their enzymes to start breaking down the food to prepare it for digestion. 

– July 16, 2014 12:34 PM
A.
Tess Masters :

That is for smoothies. For juices, you can throw some of the pulp back into the blender. But, it's still best to swish. All food needs to be partially digested in the mouth for proper assimilation. 

– July 16, 2014 12:34 PM
Q.

So, just remember to stir well.

The first thing I do when I get home with a jar of tahini, or of natural peanut butter, is to scrape out the entire jar into the food processor and run for a few seconds. It seems to require far less stirring after this.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

So many good tips today! 

– July 16, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

soy linked to cancer

My friend mentioned to me this weekend that soy has been linked to breast cancer, which shocked me. I usually eat it in the forms of tofu or edamame. Is this a gimmick issue or is it a real concern?
A.
Tess Masters :

Soy is getting a bad rap for the phytoestrogens which have, indeed been linked to breast cancer in both men and women in some studies. I believe soy should be consumed in moderation, and always organic, sprouted, and non gmo. Having said that, a small amount here and there could be tolerated by most I would think. Huge amounts of lots of foods can cause cell degradation and increase abnormal cell development. 

– July 16, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

Bean dip

A really easy way to make bean dip is with canned refried beans. I mix in a spoonful of sour cream to make it creamier. Season with any spices you might want, or a dash of hot sauce. I once discovered this when I had extra refried beans in the refrigerator and couldn't believe how long it took me to discover something so simple.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Simple is good, thank you.

– July 16, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

Bean dip

Bean dip (with black or pinto beans) is what I call "poor person's guacamole" made with beans in place of avocado. Put a can of rinsed and well-drained beans into a food processor with 1/4 of an onion--Vidalia-type or white onion, a clove of garlic, 1/2 of a medium ripe red tomato, a tomatillo (optional), a seeded jalapeño, 1/4 tsp. of salt, small handful of cilantro and the juice of 1/2 of a lime--add all the juice if the lime is "dry." Blend until smooth and check to see if it needs more salt before removing the bowl from the base of the processor. Add a few drops of hot sauce if you want it spicier.
Q.

Woo and quackery redux

"However, during periods of detox, cleansing, and acute illness juicing allows for a nutrient-dense experience that is very gentle on the digestive system allowing more energy for detoxification and regeneration." Seriously with more of this woo and quackery? i expect better from the Washington Post.
A.
Tess Masters :

I honestly don't know what to say to you. A quick look at mainstream medical articles not written by quacks will support this reality with the digestive system. 

– July 16, 2014 12:38 PM
Q.

Bean dip lament

You printed my addendum about cumin, but not my original post, where I provided a method for "poor man's guacamole"--subbing canned beans for the avocado. <sniff>
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Flying fingers. I think we're back on track now. <unsniff>

– July 16, 2014 12:38 PM
Q.

For Too Much Zucchini

I do like the larger ones for stuffing. I loved a good stuffed zucchini but you need the larger ones for that purpose. I make a stuffing with ground beef, onions, green peppers, rice and crushed tomatoes but you can make up whatever you like. Then top with cheese and bake in the oven.
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

That sounds lovely! Zuchini lasagnas are also wonderful and the freeze very well, if you want to make them ahead. Just make sure that the slices are slightly thick for layering in the pan.

– July 16, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

I find that it helps to add water and boil it in the pan before cleaning, That usually gets rid of the gunk.

I too have found that a surprising amount of baked-on gunk disappears completely with boiling water. Sometimes I just put on heavy rubber gloves and pour boiling water onto my stovetop after deep-frying anything. Works like a charm.
A.
Becky Krystal :

I guess that's why they call it the universal solvent!

– July 16, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

Making Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas at Home

Have you ever had the very crunchy pre-packaged chickpeas from The Good Bean or local company Two Armadillos? I love them and want to replicate them at home. How do they get the beans so crunchy? I have tried many internet recipes for roasted chickpeas that recommend coating the chickpeas in oil and seasoning and then roasting for 30-45 mins at a fairly high temp (have seen a range of 350-450). This yields a tasty but still pretty soft chickpea, at least in the center. Do you think roasting them on a low temp for a longer time (effectively dehydrating them) would work better? What about dry roasting them instead of coating with oil before baking? Thanks in advance for the advice!
A.
Becky Krystal :

We have sample 2Armadillos and enjoyed them. I haven't tried making something similar at home. Anyone have tips? I feel like this has come up before here!

– July 16, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

No cook

I was hoping that you might have a no-cook preserving article when I saw the food section, but no luck. I'll be making some sour pickles soon enough if the garden goes well. Can you recommend any favorites fermentables that you make? (sour cucumbers, kimchi, curtido, other?). For Joe - assuming that for the ingredients in your no-cook grain salads, when you call for cooked ingredients you're recommending canned/packaged goods for the beets, beans, broth? If so, can you recommend where you get them (salad bar? a specific canned brand?)
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Here's a quick. no-cook relish that calls for cukes. I think  daikon or fennel would be good. Re Joe q: Whole Foods and some Safeways are carrying the Love Beets brand, which I've used with success. 

– July 16, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

French cooking

I just returned from a trip to France and would like to try my hand at some basic french cooking. Can you recommend a cookbook or website for recipes? I am not interested in anything too difficult or exotic. Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about "Simple French Cooking" by Richard Olney? There's a new edition just released for its 40th anniversary.

– July 16, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

Stirring tahini and peanut butter

Be brave. Place your open jar on a tacky surface then use one beater in a hand electric mixer. HOLD ON, DON"TLET GO. If you have a KitchenAid hand mixer, the twisty beater works well.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Yikes. You speak from experience, we hope?

– July 16, 2014 12:42 PM
Q.

Digestion in the mouth

all foods do not need to be "chewed" for propper "assimilation." Saliva contains amylase. That can break down long complex carbohydrates. It does nothing for "assimilating" other nutrients. But then as soon as the bolus of food is in the stomach, the low pH turns off the amylase. A preblended food with little complex carbohydrate will not be digested by chewing in the mouth.
A.
Tess Masters :

I was using "chewing" as a word for swishing in the mouth as opposed to glugging down juices and smoothies within the context of the previous question. But, thank you for clarifying to avoid confusion with others. It was meant to be a play on the old adage of "drinking your liquids and chewing your solids." 

– July 16, 2014 12:42 PM
Q.

Summer no-cook salad

I always enjoy watermelon, mint, and feta together for something refreshing!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Here's a good one. Or two. Or three.

– July 16, 2014 12:45 PM
Q.

Anti-science quackery

there is no evidence that organic, pre-sprouted, non GMO soy is any better for people to eat. The issue with soy is natural phytoestrogens which are present whether or not the soy is organic or GMO. Espousing these anti-science views diminishes the Washington Post.

A.
Tess Masters :

Yes, you are correct, and I did mention the phytoestrogens being the source of the issue. I was pointing out that if one does choose to consume soy products, the non gmo, sprouted, and organic variety are the safest. I was not suggesting that it reduced the phytoestrogenic effect. And, actually, there are some studies that have researched the effects of genetically modified soy being more problematic than organic soy. The jury is still out on whether GM foods are totally safe for consumption. It is still a very controversial issue, and so I always choose and recommend organic soy products. 

– July 16, 2014 12:45 PM
Q.

crunchy chickpea

Are you drying them very, very well before coating in oil? I dry mine with paper towels, then mix the spices/seasonings with oil, then toss the chickpeas in there. Bake for at least 40 minutes at 400-450. They've gotten crunchy for me that way. I imagine you could maybe fry them to get that crunchy texture, too.
Q.

Storing cucumbers

IMO it's best to leave just picked cukes at room temp for 2-3 days, then refrigerate if there are any left. They keep a little longer that way.
Q.

The soy question

I've read that the problem is of soy extracts in so many processed foods (even herb teas!) these days, and the solution is to eat it "whole" as in edamame and tofu, and of course in moderate amounts.
A.
Tess Masters :

No, whole soy products can also cause issues if consumed in large amounts due to the phytoestrogens which can interfere with the body's hormonal balance, and contribute to abnormal cell growth. Consume them in moderation. 

– July 16, 2014 12:48 PM
Q.

Stirring tahini

Yes, I speak from experience. I've only let go once. (g)
Q.

Granita making

I've never made granita before, but am encouraged by your article today to give it a try. After you've done the scratching every 30 minutes for 2 hours thing, do you have to serve it right away? Or can it stay in the freezer for awhile? I'd be afraid you'd just end up with a solid mass if it's left in there, but I wasn't sure.
A.
David Hagedorn :

Great question. I happen to know for sure that the granitas last at least a week and a half, because that is how long they were in my freezer before we photographed them. I was worried about how they would be, but they were fine. You will find that once you have achieved the correct crystals, they stay pretty much intact and only require a quick fluffing with a fork before serving. I will say, however, that they are at their best right when you make them and the flavor, especially of fresh fruit, diminishes little by little as time passes.

– July 16, 2014 12:53 PM
Q.

Ramps? Say It Ain't So!

We were just in West Virginia, where we bought some mustard and sauces that feature ramps. We've never had ramps and are hoping for something uniquely tasty, but now I'm worried that any upside will be canceled out by the post-ramp reek.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Boy, what's a notch or two above #firstWorldproblems? 

– July 16, 2014 12:55 PM
Q.

Greens

Thanks for the tip to blend a variety of greens because I was stuck for a while on just beet greens. I didn't notice parsley mentioned. Is that another good green to blend? And after blending up these greens can I make them into ice cubes to use later?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Herbs are wonderful in smoothies and lassis. Parsley, mint, cilantro, basil all of them freeze beautifully, chopped fine or ground up,  and work great in most recipes when thawed. I do it all the time.

– July 16, 2014 12:55 PM
A.
Tess Masters :

Yes, rotating greens is so important. I do love to use parsley in fruit and vegetable based smoothies. I add it to a mix of tomatoes, carrot, chile, onion, lime juice, and salt. YUM! Or try adding parsley to lemon and grape and mint for a quick delicious lemonade smoothie. Pregnant women should avoid huge amounts of parsley as it can induce premature labor.  

– July 16, 2014 12:55 PM
Q.

I've only let go once. (g)

Still sounds too chancy. The food processor works and is a lot safer.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Seems like a lot of cleanup. I'll stick with the occasional jar inversion. 

– July 16, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

CSA question

I got a CSA share this year, after considering it for many years. It is amazing! I love not knowing what I will get, and always being surprised. It's been fun finding recipes. And the summer things are starting to come out now which has been even more exciting. One thing I have come across in my search for new ways to cook foods, or how to cook new food, is something that Huffington Post did for a while called "WTF, CSA?" It was a weekly thing, I believe, and each week they would focus on a new, strange CSA item. Have you all ever thought of doing something similar? I would love if you did sometime like that, and you could pick some of the more unusual veggies and provide several recipes. I know people can always submit a question here, but I often miss these chats (and forget to submit ahead of time), so being able to read something after the fact would be great.
A.
Tess Masters :

That is such an awesome idea! 

– July 16, 2014 1:01 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

In 2008 we ran The CSA Chronicles, in which former columnist Stephanie Sedgwick offered stories and recipes that used what she was getting from her weekly basket.

– July 16, 2014 1:01 PM
Q.

re: zuchini lasagna

Do you roast the zucchini first, or just assemble and bake together?
A.
Visi R. Tilak :

Just assemble and bake together. Zuchini parmesan is wonderful as well.

– July 16, 2014 1:01 PM
Q.

so sorry

Hi Tess, Sorry these folks are giving you such a hard time today. And you can't even blame the heat. I didn't think you were being woo or quacky.
A.
Tess Masters :

Oh, you are so sweet. Thanks for the support. I find spirited discussion fun. I am sticking to my guns! Have a great day :) 

– July 16, 2014 1:01 PM
Q.

"what's a notch or two above #firstWorldproblems"

Did Bonnie not notice that my anecdote had to do with WEST Virginia? (Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Apologies to my West Virginia friends).

Q.

hope i make it for non-dairy smoothie daughter

I use plain soy or almond yogurt in smoothies instead of dairy. It works fine.
Q.

Retarding dough in the fridge

...since the pretzel poster is wary of having her husband make the dough, give him the fun job -- punching down the dough if it rises too much! I've had my husband do that many times, and he likes the anger management aspect...
Q.

Crunchy roasted chickpeas

I've never had luck at making mine crunchy until recently. Until the last two times, I'd used parchment or foil to line the pan. The last couple of times, I've just put the oiled/seasoned chickpeas directly on the pan (nonstick, though I think it shouldn't matter a ton if your chickpeas are oiled) and have had way more luck. Makes for a little more cleanup, but it's worth it. I always roast at least at 400 degrees, preferably higher.
Q.

Easy "roasted" chickpeas

Dump a can of rinsed (or soaked & cooked) chickpeas into a slow-cooker. Season to taste. Vent the lid with a wooden spoon or chopstick. Cook for several hours, stirring whenever you happen to think of it. This often takes all day, but does not require any effort. I've done it overnight, too, if we were going to bed on the late side.
Q.

Bonnie Benwick :

Well, you've blended us into a totally chill state, so you know what that means....we're done! Thanks to Tess, Visi, David and Jim today, for a super-informative and civil discussion. 

 

Re today's cookbook prizes: The chatter who linked to NotWithoutSalt's answer for a no-sugar b-day cake gets "A Lighter Way to Bake" by Lorraine Pascale, and the chatter who offered the followup on baking chickpeas for a snack gets a copy of "The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking" by Martha Rose Shulman. Send your mailing info to becky.krystal@washpost.com and she'll get those right out to you.  Till next week, happy cooking and eating! 

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