Free Range on Food: Adjustments to your diet for the New Year, steaming as a cooking technique, this week's recipes and more.

Jan 02, 2019

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

Happy new year, everyone! Thanks for starting 2019 with us. What are your cooking goals and resolutions? Best answer gets today's TBD prize book, hopefully matched to your interest.

If you're resolving to eat better, be sure you take a look at Ellie Krieger's common-sense advice on skipping fad diets and thinking about what works best for you. Cathy Barrow's bitter (in a good way!), bright and crunchy salad is another strategy for coming off those holiday indulgences. You also might find inspiration in Bonnie's how-to on steaming food, not to mention Joe's socca pizza.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR7436. Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Now let's get started! Special guests Ellie Krieger and Cathy Barrow are in the house to help.

I see recipes that use sprays to oil pans etc. I remember the early years when they'd cause gooey sticky residues. What do you think? Have they improved, how are they best used?

I think they're pretty good. Sticky residue is more likely to happen, I find, when you spray it on places where there doesn't end up being food (like pan edges, etc.). One of the best uses is to spray measuring cups/spatulas/measuring spoons that you'll be using on sticky ingredients, such as honey and molasses. Everything then slips right out. Also under baked goods and cheesy things such as enchiladas.

Any other favorite uses?

I like Ellie's advice on rethinking food, and not diets. I've been doing that for a few years now, but I gotta tell you, I feel like its more about retraining your brain. My brain was trained to like carbs. I know how to rethink about better food, but that doesn't immediately translate to liking them (at least not for me.) I don't know how to get my brain to understand that I shouldn't miss what was for many years the stable of my diet. I am trying to learn to like these new-to-me foods, but it is a slow relearning process, not just a rethinking process. (and pet peeve, I really dislike recipes that try to trick my brain into thinking the new, healthier certain of a certain food tastes just like the old one, like cauliflower tater tots. Squeezing cauliflower into a tater tot shape does not make it taste like that my brain tells me a tater tot tastes like. It tastes like cauliflower.) I try to focus on good foods I already liked and trying out new additions, but I wonder how long my brain will tell me to crave the foods that made such an early impact on my diet and tastes.

I think you are on a great track with your mindful approach here overall. There is a retraining of sorts that comes with time, but it may be more about habits than preferences. In other words, you may always crave starchy, fatty carbs---we are kind of wired to do so as humans---but you can reshape your habits so you eat those foods only on occasion rather than as a regular part of your daily life. Knowing there is room in a healthy diet for tater tots once in a while (real ones-- not a cauliflower facsimile) can liberate your brain from the forbidden-fruit factor which can make them more of a fixation than they need to be.

Honest about what you eat is the best diet. I start writing down every bite BEFORE I eat it. Good grief that stops me and lets me really look at how I mindlessly eat. It's not this or that diet, it's the food I eat and if I am standing up it doesn't count, neither does food or drinks in the car, in front of the tv, out of the Doritos bag, food on my kids' plates, the last sausage from breakfast, the 10 crackers because they look good, the leftover deviled eggs, etc. LOL!!!

This is a wonderful tip. Thanks for sharing! Getting out of the habit of impulsive, mindless eating will go a long way toward being healthier, and journaling is an excellent tool for this. Over time you will likely find a new habit formed of stopping to consider your choices, and you won't even need to write them down any more. 

I've got loads of active yeast to go through, so I thought I'd kick off the year with the traditional French Epiphany cake, Galette des rois, but I'm finding mostly recipes for the more common puff pastry variety and not the yeasted brioche version from southern France. Do you guys have a recipe or source I might be able to use?

I learned to make Galette des rois from Kate Hill at Camont. She doesn't have a recipe on her site, but she might be willing to share if you write to her. 

Happy New Year everyone. Glad to see you all are back. My question is I need some ideas on what to have for breakfast. Unfortunately my parameters are I do not eat bananas, eggs, anything with soy or soy products, avocado and quinoa. Oatmeal does not sustain me for long though. Thanks for any and all suggestions for a healthier new year breakfast.

Happy New Year! I think you should literally go nuts for breakfast. (Sorry, I just love a food pun) You can make your oatmeal more satisfying by putting a handful of nuts in it (and by making it with milk instead of water). Also, consider nut butter and fruit on whole grain toast. And yogurt with fruit and nuts and/or granola is also healthy and satisfying. 

A helpful feature of many recipe websites is the ability to read comments by other home cooks who have tried a recipe you’re considering. It was months before I realized I can leave comments on Washington Post recipes, because your Recipe Finder is not helpful in this regard. Regular WP news stories have a comments box at the bottom, but the recipes don’t. Instead, there’s a tiny thought bubble at the top of the page that most people don’t even notice, judging from the scarcity of comments. The star ratings are there, but without explanatory comments the stars are not useful. WP: Please make it easier to leave recipe comments! And fellow cooks: Please start leaving comments on the recipes you try! Even if it’s just “I made this with no changes and it was great,” that will help others!

The same comments box format is on the bottom of recipes as in regular stories. But I agree it can be hard to locate if you don't know to scroll down and look for it. It's a very good point, and will keep it in mind if we are ever given the opportunity to update the Finder.

And yes, I agree, we would love for more people to leave comments! I know we sometimes sound like a broken record here on the chat when we get a report back and ask folks to rate and comment, but there's a reason other than us wanting to feel good. :)

I can't believe I'm going to challenge Ellie Krieger, who is one of my food idols. The dish looks great, but please use accurate descriptions. The head note reads 'Whole grains keep you fuller longer, help keep your blood sugar steady and have more antioxidants and other nutrients than refined grains.' Quinoa is a seed - NOT a grain.

I actually appreciate being challenged, because I often learn something in the process, so thank you. Yes, I know quinoa is botanically a seed, but we eat it like a whole grain, so from a culinary POV it is considered one. There are other so-called pseudo-grains--buckwheat is another that is actually a seed.

I think sprays that have ingredients other than oil (e.g. propellants) are also more likely to leave behind residue.

I find that if I just spray it on it is likely to leave a sticky residue. But if I spray and then spread the oil with either a brush, piece of paper towel, or my fingers - there is no residue. Not sure what the scientific explanation is, but it's been working well.

Don't forget: Cooking sprays are bad for nonstick pans!

I use cooking sprays on my cast iron pans, but not on the non-stick pans. I also have recipes which call for the cooking spray to be sprayed directly on food - e.g. my recipe for breaded chicken cutlets. Spray them before baking in the oven. I will also spray brussel sprouts with olive oil spray before roasting them.

I love Molly Stevens' recipe for Braised shallot confit, and I've made it about 8 times. You sauté shallots in butter, add some cognac and set the whole thing on fire, add red wine and braise for 40 minutes, checking often for dryness along the way. Then they tell you to take the cover off and boil down any liquid "until a glaze forms on the shallots." Seems to me that I begin to get a "glaze on the shallots" much earlier, maybe halfway through the 40 minute braise. The liquid in the pan is thicker and shinier than when we started. Does that mean I'm not adding enough wine during the whole cooking process? And by the end should I not have any liquid/glaze in the pan, just covering the shallots?

It sounds like you may need more wine at the beginning, or you may want to lower the heat to a more gentle burble, not a big boil, for the last bit. The final result should be soft but not mushy shallots coated, not swimming, in a shiny, thick sauce.

I went to use my vanilla beans and they are hard. I don’t have any vodka around to soak them. Could I just pour some of my store bought liquid vanilla extract over them to soak to soften them?

I would never have thought of that, but that could probably work. And this tip from the Detroit Free Press:

You can easily rehydrate dried vanilla bean pods in hot (not boiling) water and other liquids to soften for use or reuse (more on this later). To rehydrate, put the whole vanilla bean pods in a pie dish or other bowl. Add the water so it covers the beans and let it sit about 10 minutes or until the pods soften.

You also can add vanilla beans to warm milk, cream or half-and-half to soften them. Use them in recipes or hot drinks or for making pastry cream or custard. It’s best not to let the whole beans simmer in the hot liquid too long because they will lose their strength.

I was looking online for information about non-stick pans and came across multiple cautions against using spray oil. Oh, someone else beat me to it ... But also, I find a lot of the spray bounces off the pan and goes all over.

I have a tasty appetizer recipe for little corn cakes that I plan to make for an upcoming party. The heft comes from masa harina, but it does call for 2T of all purpose flour. If I wanted to go gluten free for guests, could I sub in chickpea flour since it's what I have on hand? It seems like such a small amount can hurt, right?

Yeah, I think that would probably be fine.

I have a lot of halos getting oldish and I need suggestions for using them up. Thank you.

You could juice them and turn the juice into a granita or make ice pops for a healthy treat

I have recently acquired a multifunction cooker (Crock-Pot Express). I have used a stove top pressure cooker in the past. I decided to make a vegetable broth. I used onions carrots and celery. The broth came by out watery. Tried again added mushrooms and some kale to onions carrots and celery and used less water. Broth richer but slightly bitter. I have not been collecting scraps. Can you suggest a good recipe to try before I have a bag of scraps.

When cooking with an Instant Pot, you need to keep in mind that it is a closed environment. You're not going to get the same evaporation and reduction as you would if you were, say, cooking broth uncovered in a pot on the stovetop. So that is probably why your broth came out watery, and you were definitely on the right track in reducing the water. Probably the kale did make that other batch bitter. Here's a recipe from Bon Appetit for the Instant Pot that sounds pretty good. If you're into scraps, you could try Joe's Scrappy Vegetable Broth but reduce the water.

Scrappy Vegetable Broth

RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth

I am getting a romanesco cauliflower in my box from the farmer -- I've never cooked one. Any suggestions for cooking it? Can I rice it?

Yes, you could rice it but it won't be as pretty as using it in florets! They're very sculptural. I like to use romanesco cauliflower in Giardiniera

One for strong-tasting olive oil for savory dishes, one for neutral-tasting oils. The dishwasher gets them fairly clean -- clean enough not to go rancid -- and I don't have to worry about propellant in my cooking spray or getting it all over the kitchen.

Clever. I have a silicone pastry brush that I really like, and it cleans up quite well in the dishwasher.

I'm having some trouble making breaded pork and chicken that's baked, not fried. I just can't seem to get them brown enough without insanely overcooking them. Last night I pounded a chicken breast thinly and baked at 400, and when it was done, the breading was still blond and falling off. So I broiled it for a while, which resulted in uneven browning and way dry meat. I've tried other methods too, including not pounding it, and as for the breading falling off, I've tried both egg then breading (panko) and flour then egg then breading. Obviously, winging it (ha) isn't working for me. Can you give me direction?

I would suggest NOT pounding, but leaving the chicken in it's plump state. It will take longer to cook, giving the breading more time to brown.

Do you have any idea why I never see Tamar’s articles when I read the food section on line? I don’t know that she has an article until I see it referenced in the weekly chat, at which time I can link to it and read it.

You mean at I suspect it might be a matter of timing. All our content, including Voraciously, flows onto that page. Only a certain number of stories can show up at once on that page, so if you catch it at the wrong moment after it's been pushed off the page, you might not see it. There is a load more button at the bottom there, but it's not working at the moment...

Always feel free to go to Tamar's author page to see the latest. She's also good at sharing her pieces (and more) on Twitter.

This year, I couldn't find individual ice cream cups at the store. We bought a pint and threw out the rest....which is both expensive and wasteful. Or, is this just a decision by the people who buy for the chain and I should look elsewhere?

I still feel like I see them around, but worth asking your store, sure. Just curious why you threw it out, though! Were you somewhere you couldn't put it back in the freezer?

I have a bunch of roasted vegetables - carrots, parsnips, zucchini - that need to be eaten tonight. I'm thinking about adding some stock and whirring them up as a soup. Any ideas how to make it work better?

Add some zip -- consider harissa or tomato paste, fish sauce or pesto. One of the above.... not all.

What is the best way to roast garlic? It seems so easy but I seem to mess it up.

Take an entire head of garlic and slice off the top. Drizzle the open cut with a scant teaspoon of olive or grapeseed oil and place on a piece of foil. Drizzle a tablespoon of water into the mix (this steams the garlic as it roasts and keeps it moist.) Make a snug little package and roast at 350 for about 40 minutes. I use the toaster oven. When it's done and before it cools (it's hot! this is hard!) squeeze out the soft garlic. Expect about 2 tablespoons. Whenever I come across beautiful garlic, I'll roast a few heads at once and freeze the results in one tablespoon bits!

The microwave is underrated for steaming/cooking vegetables - so so much easier and faster than doing them on the stove. Green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower - a few splashes of water, cover with plate or plastic wrap, and a couple of minutes later you have a tender crisp versions of both ready to go. Also great for cutting the cooking time of baked potatoes. 5 or 10 minutes depending on how many you're cooking and then finish in the oven for a crisp skin for a total of 20 minutes cooking time instead of an hour. I'm not saying everything needs to be microwaved but it's a much more versatile than just for heating up leftovers.

So true. People tend to scoff at "microwave cooking," but they shouldn't!


ARTICLE: The one cooking technique that won’t steer you wrong

I got some fun culinary presents for Christmas and I was hoping you all could point me in a good direction to use them. I'd love to find the right uses that show them off. I got: Blood Orange Fused Olive Oil Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt Thanks for any hints/tips/recipes you can point me to!

The olive oil and vinegar I would use in vinaigrettes. Or for dipping bread. The oil would be nice for "finishing" a dish, such as a drizzle over pasta or roasted vegetables. Those salts would be good as a last finishing touch on dishes, too, including grilled meats.

Becky, no offense intended. I haven't been able to participate in the chat for several months - just curious. Love hearing from all of you.

None taken! :) They are in our Food Lab for a photo shoot.

I’ve seen the individual Ben&Jerry’s in my store recently, they still exist!

Yes, those are the ones I've seen, too.

I also do wonder if they're losing market share or whatever to those "diet" ice creams that claim you can eat the whole pint. Ick. But I guess some people are thinking more in terms of volume than quality.

I really like the idea of smoothies for a fast, healthy breakfast, but I hate hate HATE bananas. Any suggestions for how to add that creaminess and hint of sweetness without a lot of added fat or additional sugar?

I have a few tips for this. If you use frozen fruit of any kind instead of ice, you will get a frothy thickness without diluting the smoothie. For extra body you could blend in some oats as well. As for sweetness without added sugar, I often use dried dates for this purpose. I suggest soaking them in hot water so they soften a bit before blending. 

Ellie's tips are A+ of course. But do feel free to check out our smoothie graphic for more ideas. Even silken tofu and a bit of honey could work.

GRAPHIC: How to make a smoothie

Uh, full pints are a whole lot less wasteful than individual cups, which, for an equivalent amount of ice cream, use at least triple the packaging for double the price. The only thing that makes pints wasteful is if you throw them out! My heavens...

When I eat at Middle Eastern places like Moby Dick, I'm enthralled by the length of the long-grain rice. I normally shop the chains (Safeway, HT, TJs) in the Annandale/Falls Church area, and the long-grain rice I find there isn't all that long. Is there a source for the long thready rice for us mere mortals, or is it limited to restaurants?

What varieties have you tried? I suspect basmati is pretty typical at those types of places. That's my favorite variety, anyway. Long, a little fragrant and cooks up not clumpy.

What is your recipe for Rum Balls .

Hi and happy new year! Do you have a trick to share that makes it easy to turn over lots of small, oven-hot things a bunch at a time? I wanted to make your maple nuts recipe but was out of maple syrup so turned to a different recipe that said to turn over the nuts half-way through the baking. This took a ridiculously long time as only a few I picked up with a spatula landed with the other side up so I did the rest with a teaspoon and my fingers. Then I reread your recipe and saw you said to stir the nuts, which would have been so much easier and faster. Hahaha on me. Anyway, I'm betting you have a better way to do this when it is necessary to flip small things.

It's not too scientific, but I grab the pan (wearing an oven mitt of course) from the short end and kinda shake it back and forth so the nuts roll around and over. And a stir helps, too. You've got better things to do than flipping nuts one by one!

I would love to comment on the recipes I've tried, which are many, but I agree - finding the comments section is tough. I try diligently, but usually just give up. I'll try more, but please ask the powers that be to fix it if they can.


I've done a pretty good job with trying new recipes every week, incorporating farmer's market items as much as possible, attempting things like breads that I used to be afraid of pursuing...but this year I would love to do a better job at prepping components of dishes in advance. The hour of mise en place that seems to happen most weeknights usually yields dinner on the table way later than I'd like to admit, but I still prefer it to the alternative of eating out.

Definitely a worthy goal.

With a new baby on the way, I want to be better about prepping healthy, satisfying meals in advance with minimal work during the weeknights. I like the idea of putting together some "dump" meals in the freezer for the instant pot/slow cooker. I've also found pre-marinating some of my entrees also help get me on track for quicker dinners too, so I definitely want to continue doing that!

You sound like you've got it together! As a mom of a little one, I can attest to the fact that anything prepped/made ahead/easy is definitely a lifesaver.

I already cook my own meals as I just don't like eating out. But I want to up my technique repertoire. I can saute. I can bake (as in meatloaf), but I'm not really skilled enough to do other things. I want to be able to poach. I want to be able to figure out how to really roast vegetables. And my sister-in-law decided I needed an instant pot for the holidays, so I now have one. They assure me it is great for cooking meat so that it doesn't dry out (my biggest issue with roasting). And they assure me that it works for sous vide which honestly sounds really intimidating. So I want to up my techniques because that might get me past the same 5 or 6 things that I always make and like, but get a bit boring.

Can you suggest smoothies that are healthy that does not require milk?

There are many good plant milks you can use---such as almond or oat milk. But cow's milk generally has a lot more protein than plant milks, so when making vegan smoothies I make sure to include a big dollop of nut butter and/or chopped nuts to make it more balanced.

I regularly eat boxed cereals for breakfast and would like to move to something healthier, so I am looking for suggestions. I'd strongly prefer their be no eggs and also do not want it to be liquid/blended. I'd really like something that has some crunch.

I love a morning toast which has a great crunch to it--whole grain bread toasted and spread with avocado and a scattering of pumpkin and chia seeds and tomato, or nut butter and fruit. 

My resolution is to bake more bread. I've succeeded with "Artisan in 5", but I'd like to expand to include "fancier" baking....longer rises, doing some actual kneading, just really get good at baking bread!

Would a knife skills class help? I found if of great value in reducing my prep time! And I keep trying to hone my skills at this (pun intended).

Very good suggestion.

I had the same reaction. OP, if you ever have ice cream to throw out because the container is too big, plz give me a call.

Happy New Year, Tim! Please don't beat yourself up with a wet noodle or anything else! I'm latin@ and never, ever felt my heritage was belittled or dissed by you because of the name of your column. I also never noticed that you left out French food until about an hour ago when you asked us to look for what was missing. If anything, French bistros should complain that you never mention them and their less-expensive options! Plus, there are plenty of latin@ food places where you can't get out for under $20 a person unless you only each order an appetizer. If you want to change the title, maybe try something like "Great finds under $20." In any case, I hope your column won't become harder to find!!

$20 diner

ARTICLE: My column’s name does a disservice to the immigrants whose food I celebrate. So I’m dropping it.

Tim isn't here today, but I'm sure he will appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

Tim, I loved your column. It's refreshing to see introspective, thought-provoking writing, self-challenging, then action taken. Thank you! Looking forward to seeing more overlooked restaurant reviews.

Or a hearty soup. You don't have to have toast, or bacon & eggs, just because it's the first meal of the day.

Yes! I agree. Why limit yourself to traditional "breakfast" food? 

I'd like to jump in here and make the claim that the Cube Rule has a critical flaw in it. And that it fails to recognized that a taco is a sandwich. My evidence comes from the depression era Works Projects Administration article that can be found in The Food of a Younger Land (Mark Kurlansky) called (IIRC): A Los Angeles Sandwich Called a Taco. Therefore, a hot dog is a sandwich. Please do not publish my real name. :)

Hello! I regret to inform you that a taco is not a sandwich, it is in a category of its own. It's OK, living your Cube Life according to the Cube Rule takes some adjusting, but I promise you will come to like it when you realize that you can call a chocolate bar a salad (an actual Cube Rule verdict). Also, no one is taking any of this very seriously. 

But if we were to take it seriously, calling a taco a sandwich is pretty bold and still incorrect! It's really less ambiguous than whether or not a hot dog is a taco or a sandwich, which is the typical silly internet argument we all love to get into. For one thing, there already are sandwiches in Mexican and Latin American food culture: They're called tortas, and they're pretty distinct from tacos. Also, I'm not sure we should really be adhering to the long-ago ruling of a WPA document, when we had a much less sophisticated understanding of other cultures' foods, and would thus use Eurocentric words to categorize them. The Cube Rule has many, many flaws -- because it is a silly chart from Twitter designed to rile people up -- but its categorization of tacos is not one of them! 


We’re at our lake house this week and I decided to make the brandied cherry chocolate cake for our New Year’s Day dinner yesterday. I brought all the ingredients but realized I didn’t have a hand mixer. My husband dug out his mother’s 45-yr old sunbeam stand mixer and after a learning curve I got the cake made. I didn’t realize how spoiled I am. If I’d put some muscle behind it could I have gotten the butter creamed enough just by using a fork? I just wasn’t sure. It turned out great, btw.

Brandied Cherry Chocolate Cake

RECIPE: Brandied Cherry Chocolate Cake

You'd probably want a sturdy wooden spoon to beat the butter and sugar together! But what a treasure that Sunbeam mixer is. That's what my grandmother had, and what I used when I was learning to bake. You've made me very nostalgic!

Of course they take longer to cook, but you can soak them the night before, or make up a big batch and reheat single portions as needed.

I plan to find more friends who like cookies, so I can bake more cookies without our small family having to eat them all.

Love this, haha.

I got a couple off mister bottles and I use them for my oils. One for vegetable and one for olive oils. Works great and saves money.

I've been (I hope temporarily) taken off wheat, corn, and soy, and I keep chick-pea flour around for Indian recipes, so socca pizza is on the menu until my sinuses clear up.

Channeling Joe: You're welcome!

You might try adjusting your cooking style. I had a similar experience, e.g."WHY CAN'T I GET MY LONG GRAIN RICE TO LOOK PRETTY AND THREADY LIKE THAT". Once I embraced the pilaf-method of toasting/cooking in oil before boiling instead of just straight boiling I SWEAR the rice got longer.

Saw you mention dates as a thickener for a smoothie. Out where they grow dates (we vacationed in Palm Springs last month), there are places that make a date (milk) shake, and it's really the greatest. Not exactly a breakfast smoothie, but now I want one.

Have heard of those, would love to try them out there some day.

Don't think "breakfast" think "what will get me started in the morning?" I eat a small sandwich for breakfast. Then, I scale from there during the day. If you like it, it doesn't have to be a traditional breakfast food, and I find some protein works wonders for me in the AM.

"Leftover ice cream" is a foreign concept to me, but for heaven's sake, scrape the stuff into a smaller container and put it back in the freezer!

I think we are all waiting for an explanation on this one!

I actually do a lot of meal prep on the weekends, so I can make a quick skillet dinner on weeknights. I will brown a pound of hamburger or ground turkey and freeze it in half-pound quantities. I chop up onions and mushrooms, saute them and freeze them in small containers. Then I just need to throw in something fresh (broccoli, squash, etc.) for a weeknight dinner.


Long overdue praise for $20 Diner - read it and mourn when it doesn't appear.

On behalf of Tim, thank you!

Have you considered hash brown potatoes or baked potatoes with sour cream or cheese? Hash browns can be frozen from a bag, or bake a handful of potatoes once a week. You can also do sweet potatoes.

One of my best techniques when faced with deviations from sticking to foods that I know are healthy is to envision my goal and then question whether something is worth it before I put it into my mouth. So if my goal is to be a size 12 by July, and I see the leftover candies someone has left in the workplace pantry, I stop and ask myself that question. And most of the time the answer is nope, that candy isn't really that good, and I want to be a size 12. On the other hand, if I'm at a restaurant and they offer a passionfruit pavlova - yes, that IS worth it. (Then the next item is: I did NOT ruin "everything" - this was a planned deviation; it does not mean I might as well eat a double portion of poutine for a late-night snack.)

Or as Oscar Wilde put it: The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden... "Knowing there is room in a healthy diet for tater tots once in a while (real ones-- not a cauliflower facsimile) can liberate your brain from the forbidden-fruit factor which can make them more of a fixation than they need to be."Or as Oscar Wilde put it: The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden...

And rice is a grass product, and tomato is a fruit, but we don't regard these scientific descriptions as useful for everyday cooking. As you say, the culinary POV is what this chat is about.

Yes! Thank you. I have gotten several comments over the years complaining that I called a tomato a vegetable when it is botanically a fruit. Actually a tomato is both botanically a fruit and nutritionally (designated by the USDA and others) a vegetable.

There are a lot of options that have a nozzle that gives you that wide, light spray, but don't contain any of the questionable ingredients in the aerosol can variety. I often buy an olive oil one from Whole Foods, with olive oil as the only ingredient, though have also seen other oil options, both there and at other supermarkets. This isn't any different than spreading around oil from a bottle. You can also buy a spray dispenser. Mine got clogged almost immediately, hence the switch to store bought.

I always think I can buy a whole bag or box of something and only eat a few. I always eat maybe three times more than I intended, even if that means going back into the kitchen and getting the package again. So my diet resolution is to stop buying those things in the first place! Even though that probably means avoiding entire aisles and not looking at the end units featuring the reduced-price items that usually include my weaknesses.

How long does it last? And if mine may still be good, any suggestions on how to use it? Can I sub it for vanilla in recipes? Thanks for any advice

Oh, I think it could last quite a long time. Definitely use in place of vanilla extract, one for one swap. Especially nice in dishes where you can see the flecks -- ice cream, creme brulee, custards, cookies or shortbread.

How about legumes? You could go bean burrito or there are a lot of Indian breakfast dal type things. There's also an Asian rice porridge type thing called congee that I love and ate a lot of in Vietnam. This only works if you're ok going with food that is not very American breakfasty

A good solution for nonstick pans is to use one of those pump-action olive oil (or any oil) sprayers. That way, you're only spraying oil and not propellants or whatever.

was probably using extreme portion control and binge avoidance strategies.

It's possible.

I love your article and am so glad we're finally talking about this. I've long been concerned about how we view our food: it's either good or bad - in the end, we're either 'good' or 'bad'. This approach does not lead to a healthy relationship with food. It is unhelpful to be conformational with our food. And I think it goes to how we view meals - we should get through them as quickly as possible to do the more important things. I look at tubes of yoghurt to 'have on the go' and I shake my head. My parents are European and we also spent a lot of time in Europe during my childhood (I still do) and long, enjoyable meals with conversation and great variety of food are strong in my memory. Food as part of a social time tends to create better relationships with food.

Yes! Good nutrition is not just about WHAT we eat it is HOW we eat. We could all use to take more time to savor our meals in the company of others. A good start for many would simply be to step away from the computer for lunch.

I've been using a basic stir-fry recipe that calls for first mixing the raw ingredients in a combination of ingredients that includes corn starch and egg whites. At one such meal per day, this has resulted in four unused egg yolks so far. How should I store them and how long will they stay good?

Egg yolks are a lot harder to hold. They don't freeze well and they won't hold more than a day, safely. Some cultures preserve egg yolks in salt, and I've loved the results from those experiments, but it's not a solution for a lot of egg yolks. You'll end up asking a chat question in a few weeks -- what to do with dozens of preserved egg yolks! I suggest making homemade pasta! Extra egg yolks are a welcome addition to pasta dough.

Happy New Year Food team! I was eyeing your stir-fry pork with celery recipe from last week as something I'd like to make soon. I saw Sichuan peppercorns on the ingredient list and wanted to ask about them. I bought some awhile ago, but I don't use them much, as I find them annoying to prep. They have a little black seed in the middle, which I think you're supposed to remove, since it's bitter and gritty. Is it possible to buy them without the seed? I've seen that recipes (like yours) don't mention having to do this prep, so maybe I bought something that isn't quite right. Any thoughts? Thanks.

It sounds like you bought the right thing. Peppercorns is actually a bit of a misnomer. They're more like berries. But you don't have to take anything out. Just use the whole thing! They'll kind of get crushed and broken up in cooking usually anyway.

Celery and Pork Stir-Fry

RECIPE: Celery and Pork Stir-Fry

My resolution is to start a blog. This year I stepped up my instagram game and have loved having a creative outlet and getting much better at photography, but it can be kind of limiting. Even though I'm about a decade behind the trend, I'd love to have a place to share my recipes, do non-work writing, and talk about my baking adventurous. Even if no one reads it, I'm looking forward to having a place to put all this stuff down and sharing the amazingness that is home baking with others.

Last year’s resolution was to eat more beans. So I started making beans every week and I got into a good pattern: soak 'em Friday night, cook 'em Saturday, eat 'em all week. Until my husband asked plaintively whether we could please have a break from beans. Maybe the problem was that, although I used different beans and different vegetables each week, the basic method was the same: beans, canned tomatoes, and chopped veg. Still mulling what to do this year. Mulling! There's my answer: drink more mulled wine.

Wait just a little longer (well, a year) and Joe Yonan will be publishing his BEAN BOOK! In the meantime, check the Recipe Finder for some of the recipes he's already shared, like this amazing Bean Burger

Made my first pavlova for New Year's Eve, and loved it. How long can the shell be kept in an airtight container before being used? It's such a versatile dessert, with different in season fruits, that I can see making it often.

Pavlovas don't like humidity, so if you live in a very dry climate, they will last for a couple of days. Otherwise, eat 'em up!

An ad just came on the TV (I have the news on in the background) that shows a shopper touching fruits and vegetables to her face and eyes to determine if it's fresh - until another shopper assures her that ALL the fruits and vegetables in that store (ALDI) are fresh. I never heard of a face-check for freshness. Is it real?

Ummmmmm, I think they were taking liberties and being facetious.

I got a pasta roller/cutter attachment for my Kitchen Aid for Christmas (thanks Santa!) I made some pretty great fettuccine for NYE but I'm looking for some must-know tips/advice. Can my egg+flour dough last overnight in the fridge before rolling out? How long can the rolled out sheets sit out or be stored in the fridge before cutting? Is there a secret to sealing the ravioli edges? Speaking of ravioli, I don't meat so what are some good veggie filling options? Thanks yall! (PS I know I can Google all of this but I am overwhelmed by the prospect...)

The dough will last overnight in the refrigerator, but more than that and it might turn gray. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to your dough and it will hold for up to 4 days. Dust the rolled out sheets with semolina flour and cover tightly to hold before cutting, no more than an hour. Once cut, toss the noodles with semolina to keep them from sticking and form nests to keep them from drying out. Use water to seal the ravioli. Consider cheese, cheese and greens as fillings. And buy Domenica Marchetti's book The Glorious Pastas of Italy for all the information you could possibly need and glorious! recipes.

Have you seen's article on how Food Writers Lie about the time it takes to caramelize onions? "Onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will—yet recipe writers have never stopped pretending that they will." Do they pretend because otherwise people would be frightened off by the time it actually takes?

I do remember that. I think maybe people play a little fast and loose, too, with "caramelized" when maybe they just mean soft and brown, rather than all the way caramelized.

Yeasted breads & oil frying are basically the only two home cooking things that still intimidate me so much I've never tried them. I know it's a mental block because I can do some fancy kitchen things & regularly cook and bake complex things but still. However. Before spring, I'm going to make sure oil frying is the only thing on the list.

This needn't be a problem - but bear in mind that once something is frozen it takes on water. There can a texture question.

How do you answer questions so quickly?

With plenty of typos. ;)

Echoing the thanks to Tim for his column - and assuring him that it's okay to review inexpensive restaurants. I read Tom Sietsema regularly and have been to some of the expensive places he recommends; I also read Tim and have found new, less expensive places. It doesn't follow that cheap=ethnic. French food is ethnic. What he wants to do is focus on less expensive places, something we all appreciate. If many of those places happen to be Central American or other, then denying them coverage is also a problem. Throw in an inexpensive French place if you can find one (Au Bon Pain?) and you're good.

Well, thanks for joining us for a very busy hour! You all have lots of great food resolutions. Hard to pick a favorite, but I'm going to play the mom bias and go with the chatter planning ahead for baby. Please send me your name and address, and I'll hook you up with something good.

Until next week, happy cooking!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Ellie Krieger
Ellie Krieger is the Post's Nourish columnist. Her most recent cookbook is "Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
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