Free Range on Food

Jan 23, 2019

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! 

Hope you're picking up some of what we've been laying down, including:

  • Sara Franklin's ode to overnight chicken in a pot, the OG set-it-and-forget it recipe. Sara will be here to answer questions about it!
  • Becky's how-to on the great winter staple of chili. There are LOTS of opinions about this dish, especially if you're a purist (as I USED to be), so it's a fun topic.
  • Bonnie's latest DinMin, on chicken with lentils.
  • My latest WV, on spiced lentils and rice -- it's a lentil kind of day at WaPoFood, obviously.
  • Joy Manning's piece on REAL (aka not "neutral") sunflower oil, and how to use it.
  • Derek Brown's accounting of his monthlong social media "diet" -- could he live without food porn? 
  • Alex Witchel's latest installment of profiles of notable food world people and their memories of an important childhood dish, with Anita Lo.
  • So, so much more!


For you PostPoint members, today's code is FR4747 . And don't forget, we'll have a giveaway book for our favorite chatter, so make your comments and questions GOOD.

Let's do this.


Have been reading in multiple places that you should not wash raw chicken as it spreads contamination even up to three ft. from sink. Yet today’s Post contains recipes that say to wash chicken thoroughly inside & out! I’m conflicted but tend to go with not washing chicken decision. Ideas?

Lots of interest and feedback on this one! This was an optional step included in the Overnight Chicken recipe, and done for a specific reason. 


There are thousands of home cooks in America who rinse chickens in their sinks everyday, to no ill effect.  What matters is the condition of the chicken, and how it was packaged -- and I guess, to some extent, how cooks clean their own kitchens.


Thing is, those cooks are not doing it to get rid of bacteria, which rinsing does not do -- cooking can do that most effectively. They might be rinsing to remove the liquid that tends to feel a bit slimy that's  with some of today's vacuum-packed birds, or they might just do it because their mothers did so, and having learned the method, generations have survived since. 


In the case of this author's and her husband's choice to rinse their chicken, it is done to remove traces of that package liquid, inside and out (it is pretty tough to pat dry the inside of a 3-pound chicken with paper towels). It makes for a cleaner flavor result, they say. It works for them, and she was sharing their time-tested recipe.


To be clear, the FDA does not recommend that we rinse chickens at home, due to possible cross contamination. Sometimes I rinse a bird, depending on which recipe I'm tackling. I hold the chicken under a light stream of cool water. Not much splashing, and afterward that sink does not come in contact with another raw food substance before I clean it.  Common sense.


Bottom line, I think: If you are happy with the way your non-rinsed chicken recipes turn  out, and the thought of rinsing makes you uncomfortable, please don't do it! 

I'm in the January doldrums and I have completely run out of ideas for healthy lunches I can bring to work. I've done all the regular sandwiches and salads (last week was smoked turkey and cheese; this week is Greek salads), but I'm looking for some ideas that are a little more inspired. I live alone, so I usually eat the same thing all week, which I don't mind at all, and I usually prep on Sundays. And although I'm an omnivore, I'm trying to eat more plant-based food--turkey sandwiches notwithstanding because I'm feeling blah and they are just SO EASY. I appreciate any and all ideas!

Lunch mailaise, I'm with you! Winter lunches can be rough. One of my favorite really satisfying meals is chickpeas mixed with a little bit of high quality oil-packed tuna and some of its oil and a hard boiled egg that's been sliced. A squeeze of lemon juice adds brightness, as does a sprinkling of sliced green onions and a sprinkle of smoked paprika (pimenton). This salad is really easy to make ahead-- just wait to slice up your egg until you're ready to eat. And while I hear you about wanting to make more plant-based lunches, I'd really suggest trying my overnight chicken recipe from this week's paper as the basis for so many weekday lunches!

with canned mushrooms. I might try that, though I'm skeptical since the texture is so different. Do you have any other suggestions for canned mushrooms? I found a bunch in the back of a cabinet (furlough cleaning) and, well, they got to the back for a reason. I can't remember when I used them last.

I'm not a fan of canned mushrooms generally, but I also think that there are few texture issues that a whirl in the food processor/Vitamix can't fix, and few taste issues that some heavy spices can't fix. SO, how about turning them into this mushroom-lentil pate? Taste, and add some smoked paprika (one of my favorites) if you don't like the taste of the mushrooms.

RECIPE: Mushroom Lentil Pate

I think canned mushrooms are fine in a soup, stew or braise, where they'll improve even more in flavor and texture. One of my go-to early cooking dishes was this chicken and mushroom combo that I got from my mom -- breaded breasts basically braised in wine with mushrooms in a covered casserole dish. Eventually I made the switch to fresh, but my mom still makes it with canned, and it works just fine.

I just invested in a not-cheap Boos cutting board. I've used it twice now and as I'm chopping, say, onions, the board slips a little with each cut. I'm worried the next slice will be my finger. Any suggestions? Thank you!!

Wet a thin cotton kitchen towel, wring it out, and lay it under your board -- that helps keep it from slipping. (You can also use a paper towel for this, but I like to avoid the waste.) Bonus: You can use the moist towel to wipe up your countertop after cooking!

And after you are done, it might be good to turn over the board so the bottom can dry thoroughly. 

Hi, My mother gave me a can of pigeon peas (that my grandmother gave her...) Do you have any recipe suggestions? Thank you!

Rice and peas! Rice and peas!

You could use them instead of kidney beans in this recipe:

Rice and Peas

RECIPE: Rice and Peas

I'm trying to expand my repertoire of quick / mainly pantry based meals - because of my work travel schedule, I'm often getting home and trying to put something together based on what I have on hand. My issue is that so many of my go to's are based around pasta or rice - and while I love to those, I am also trying to balance not eating quite as many carbs. So my question is - what pantry / easy go to ideas do you have for me that aren't based around carbs?

I'd recommend thinking about legumes as a base for your meals (salads, soups, stews, etc.) rather than rice or pasta. You'll get that same hearty texture and filling satisfaction without the carb burst. For example, think a tomato-ey stew with chickpeas, or beluga lentils topped with some steamed or sauteed vegetables and a fried egg for a quick lunch (like you would over rice).

I heartily support this idea!

We got an electric countertop pressure cooker over the holidays, and I used it for the first time this past weekend to make a pork chile verde recipe. I have been under the impression that things like stews were better using a natural pressure release--which basically means waiting for the pressure to drop. However, after 30 minutes of cooking at pressure, another 30 minutes went by and the pot still had pressure. (I gave up and did a manual release at that point.) Is there a rule of thumb for when to use natural release vs manual release? And does natural release always mean waiting however long it takes, or is there a point at which it doesn't make a difference if you finish it off with a manual release?

A natural release is especially good for large cuts of meat, which can seize up in a quick release. Quick release is good for delicate foods you don't want to overcook, such as chicken breasts, or foods that foam (oats, beans) or are primarily liquid (soups, stews) that can bubble up in the rapid pressure change. As I mentioned in my guide to pressure cookers, America's Test Kitchen will limit natural release to 15 minutes and then do a quick release to eliminate the remaining pressure. So I think you were on the right track!


ARTICLE: A Complete Guide to Instant Pots and Other Multicookers

A food safety question: if I make pork, and then a few days later incorporate some of the pork into a red sauce that gets simmered, should I treat the sauce as if it had been cooked on the day the pork was originally cooked? Or is the cooking of the sauce sufficient to "re-set the clock"?

If the pork was thoroughly and properly cooked through the first time around, and you can monitor it in your simmeriing sauce so that its internal temp reaches 165 degrees F, I think you can consider its leftovers clock "reset."

I start my chili base with a jar of store brand salsa (Safeway- lots of onions, bell peppers and corn), cook and add some well seasoned ground beef, add chili powder and cumin to taste, squirt of sriracha, plus a can of well rinsed beans. Stir and heat. Done.

How to make your best pot of chili

ARTICLE: How to make your best pot of chili

Sounds like a plan to me!

two things: please tell me where I can find a 3 to 3-1/2 lb. chicken (insert rant here -- remember when "fryers" were 2-1/2 lbs?) Second, could this be done with pieces instead of a whole chicken?

Try a farmers market for smaller chickens, or a healthfood store. Conventional chickens do tend to run a little larger. You can absolutely still use the recipe with a larger bird, though, I'd just recommend dry-roasting it for a little longer 40-55 minutes (or until it turns a very pale straw brown and becomes fragrant) and be sure you use a large enough pot, and enough water, to accommodate the larger chicken!

I'm interested in making the easy chickpea curry recipe, but my boyfriend doesn't like chickpeas (I know - crazy!). Do you have another bean you'd recommend for this recipe? Also, is there another bean in general you'd substitute for chickpeas in recipes? FWIW, he says it's a textural thing and he likes them in hummus.....

Easy Chickpea Curry

ARTICLE: Anyone can make Indian food at home, and this chickpea curry is how to start

Bummer! I'm tempted to say that maybe this is the recipe that could change is mind... but I'm also not into making people eat food they really don't like. I feel like cannellini beans would be a decent substitute, if not the exact same. Keep in mind that other beans might soften a little faster than the chickpeas.

You could also go another direction by using small cubes of firm tofu. Or keep it Indian and use paneer.

Good luck!

Dried fava beans or frozen lima beans might also sub nicely!

I was forced to move a few months ago and my new place has an induction range. I have been cooking on a gas range for 25+ years. It seems the hob is either too cool or too hot. Also, it seems to take a long time to cool off (goodbye simmer). Any tips on how to adjust? Tx from NorCal

This is strange, because one of the main benefits of induction, which I used to have at home and which we have here at the Post, is the responsiveness -- it should come down immediately when you reduce the heat, and at the lowest setting you certainly shouldn't have trouble simmering. I think that's worth reporting to the manufacturer.

I do think the high power takes some getting used to. I rarely use 9 or HIGH unless I'm setting a pot of water to boil, because otherwise it does seem too hot. I think of low to high as basically between 1 and 7 or maybe 8, and anything higher as BLASTOFF.

Nothing showing up...

It is! If you're not seeing anything still, I would say email us at, and we'll report -- but you wouldn't see this message, either!

I'd like to bake something tasty and vegetarian for a get together for 20 people. Any recs? Considering this, but is there something I can sub for the Pernod? Will be using frozen puff.

We devoured these Delicata Squash Nachos in the Food Lab after testing. Seems like they'd be easier to make for that many people rather than the individual empanadas (although those are good). You could speed things up by using a prepared cheese sauce, too!

As for the Pernod sub, you could try anisette, sambuca, ouzo or pastis.

The WaPo of 1/18/19 had a feature by Sara Franklin called "Overnight Chicken". It tells how to roast a chicken overnight to have it finished by the morning. This sounds like a wonderful useful technique, however, we do not eat chicken at our house. How could I adapt this recipe for a piece of beef, like bottom round, rump roast, or chuck roast, or perhaps pork?

I am not sure that it would be easy to just use a hunk of meat in some broth in the exact same fashion as the Overnight Chicken. (And hats off to the intrepid Googlers who find something similar and post it here before 1 p.m.!)


But overnight and long cooking? Check out this recipe for Slow-Roasted Beef, which I have used on eye round and boneless chuck roasts. Also, this Sweet and Salty Roast Pork goes for 6 hours (after overnight marinating in the refrigerator). I have made them both several times, and can attest to their success! 

You can also have the best of both worlds by investigating bean pasta! I highly recommend Explorer Cuisine chickpea pasta and the Tolerant red lentil pasta. I've heard Banza is good too but can't personally vouch. They are a bit more expensive BUT worth it IMO. I find I eat less of the bean pasta than wheat pasta it due to the higher fiber and protein content.

I recently made a cake recipe from Christina Tossi that was published in Oprah. It made me think of a question that I have never seen the answer to. It was a marble cake recipe and it turned out good but I didn't think the recipe was very clear. A direction to alternate the flour and milk additions made me wonder, is there a rule for alternating? Do you always start and end with the flour? Do you alternate three times for each or does it not matter.

Such a good question! Not sure there's an "always" answer, but here is some expert guidance:

Cooks's Illustrated

With thick pancake batter, we got perfectly acceptable results either way. But for baked goods made from drier doughs, like yeast breads, biscuits, scones, quick breads, and muffins, the order was crucial. When we added the wet ingredients to the dry ones, we got pockets of flour and a messy, crusted mixing bowl. Mixing the dry ingredients into the wet was far more successful. Following this order made for a more supple dough that was easier to combine thoroughly without overmixing (which can overdevelop gluten), so it turned out more delicate, finely textured results. It also made cleanup easier.


 alternating the addition of wet and dry ingredients "preserves a network of tiny bubbles created by several minutes of beating butter and sugar together in the first stage of mixing." 


any advice on cleaning cutting boards, plastic bowls, and even my hands?

You could try soaking the stain with lemon juice and/or a baking soda and vinegar solution, or, depending on the surface, try the trusty Bar Keepers Friend

Or...I know this doesn't work for everyone, but with food stains -- especially turmeric and beets and the like  -- I usually let time fade them away. You cook, stains happen. It'll fade eventually, or maybe it won't! Either way, you've eaten well. 

Someone wrote a few weeks ago that it’s too hard to leave comments on your Recipe Finder recipes because there’s no clear way to do so at the end of the recipe. You responded that there is a comments box at the bottom of every recipe, just as there is for news stories. Well, that is not true for recipes called up by cellphone — at least not on my cellphone! That would be a good thing to change if you can manage it.

Oh, dang, I think you're right. It doesn't look like the box shows up automatically at the end. But you can call it up by clicking on the little speech bubble button at the top of the page. That will bring you to the whole comment apparatus.

What can I do to prolong the life of a can of Baker's Joy? The last three cans I've bought have quit spraying when the can is still at least half full. They just ooze a white blob that runs down the can despite despite heroic resuscitation attempts such as rinsing off the push button at the top after each use. Thanks!

Cooking oil spray can do more than you think. Here’s how to get the most out of it.

ARTICLE: Cooking oil spray can do more than you think. Here’s how to get the most out of it.

A familiar issue! I have been known to insert a thin needle in hopes of clearing things directly after each use. So you must have seen what Baker's Joy FAQs recommend:

Rinse the spray button under warm running water and dry thoroughly. When spraying, try to keep the bottle in an upright position to prevent clogging.

I am the OP of the canned mushroom substitution suggestion. Since they go into a blender/food processor, I just squeezed them dry and put them in. I used a 4 ounce can instead of 8 ounces of fresh. The texture was moist but not soggy. I also subbed panko bread crumbs for the flour, which might have made a difference. Even with these substitutions, the mixture was easy to roll into a ball, and held its shape. No worries!

So good to hear, thanks!

RECIPE: Mushroom Walnut 'Meatballs'

First, any ETA on Joe's bean book? Second, in prep for its arrival, I'm going to take a deeper dive into beans and finally order some Rancho Gordo beans (yes, I know, long time coming). What do you recommend for first order and first recipe? I'm a household of one, unless dogs can eat beans. Thank you.

One of the best things about dried beans is they freeze fabulously in their cooking liquid. When you're ready to use, just defrost and drain (or don't, if you're making something soupy/stewy). Rancho Gordo beans are exceptionally flavorful, so they don't take a whole lot of seasoning to be delicious!

Thanks for asking about the book -- not out for another year, can you believe it? These things take so long! Manuscript is in, and we're making photo/design plans soon!

As for Rancho Gordo first order/first recipe, you can't go wrong with any of their beans, but I'd get some Royal Coronas first. You'll see why they're such a best-seller there. And cook them very simply, just with onion, garlic, bay leaf and a strip of dried kombu (it helps soften the skins and even out the cooking, just like soaking!), and -- YES, don't @ me about the following, a tablespoon of salt! And water to cover by a few inches.

I think they're fine with onions as a sauteed accompaniment to a steak or other meat, but I also chop them and cook them up a little and add them to my baba ganouj.

I like that baba ganouj idea! Thanks!

Had extra sour cream to use up and found a great sour cream blueberry muffin recipe - it was a revelation! So much better than the usual butter-based muffins that dry out in a day. Nice crumb and still moist, three days later. Why don't we bake more with yogurt and sour cream?

I got a tub of parmesan rinds last week, and used a couple in a pot of soup I made over the weekend. How long will the remaining rinds last in the fridge, and are there any other uses for them besides soup and stews?

For at least a couple of months in the refrigerator, and for at least a year or two in the freezer.  A couple weeks ago I made a broth using Parm rinds and some dried herbs and spices -- my plan is to use it as a base for risotto!

I can't wait to try the overnight chicken. I'd say to tell your husband he's a genius, but if it weren't for you, I'd never have known about it. You gave him enough credit in the article, so here's a pat on the back to your for sharing it with all of us.

That's very kind of you, but I'd never tell my husband (or any other pro chef) that they're a genius! The profession is already far too full of inflated egos!



I know there's be quite the conversations re: soaking vs not soaking beans on here but I'm asking anyway. I plan on making a bean chili in my crockpot - and using tempeh to mimic the ground beef (please don't @ me purists...). Should I soak my dry black and red beans before throwing everything in the crockpot? I'm concerned about everything else (tomatoes, veg, tempeh, etc) turning entirely into mush.

Here's the basic truth about soaking: You don't HAVE to do it, but there are reasons you might want to, and reasons you might not. Pros include: It speeds up the cooking somewhat and can reduce the gaseous effects and make them more digestible. Cons include: It takes time/planning, and particularly for thinner-skinned beans like black turtle beans, you'll definitely notice a loss in flavor/color intensity. 

I typically use kombu instead of soaking when I know the age of my beans (like when they're Rancho Gordo, and haven't been dried for too long), but when I don't, and I remember/plan, I'll often soak in order to give myself a little insurance that the beans won't take forever to cook.

Now, here's a more important question for you: By red beans, do you mean red kidney beans? If so, you really should boil them for 10 minutes before putting them in the slow cooker -- they have a much higher quantity of lectins , which can be toxic if they're undercooked, than other beans, and the slow cooker alone doesn't get hot enough to reduce it. People have gotten sick!

Joe's recipe today says we can marinate the tofu overnight. Does that mean removing it from the marinade in the morning for cooking in the evening, or can it stay in the marinade all day, too?

Joe can chime in for this specific marinade, but I recently marinated tofu cubes for two days (in mole poblano!) and they were perfect. (Moral of the story being: Tofu can handle a long marinade in most cases. I'm only using the word "most" because I can't think of any time tofu wouldn't be fine in a long marinade, but that doesn't mean such a marinade doesn't exist.)

Fried Hoisin Tofu With Peanut Noodles

RECIPE: Fried Hoisin Tofu With Peanut Noodles

Yes, that's exactly right. Tofu can take it! Especially in the fridge, of course. I wouldn't go longer than three days, but up to that...

I've been doing this for decades, since sooner or later all of our cutting boards, no matter what the material, warp -- just as our cork-backed placemats do. They all bow, or turn up slightly at the ends, leaving the middle as a fulcrum to rock or spin on. It's very frustrating. But the damp towel takes care of it and you've also got a cleaner counter...

Is it possible the OP is confusing the two?


A member of my family recalls reading an article warning of hazards from leftover cooked rice...she says it mentioned toxins and so on. Could you folks address the issue, including best way to store leftover cooked rice (fridge, of course, but freezer?), and how long it's safe to eat? Thanks.

What's most important about cooked rice might be how you cooled it afterward -- leave it out for more than 2 hours and the moist environment may breed bad things that even subsequent cooking can't kill. So chill it down quickly/refrigerate for up to 5 days or so. Better yet -- freeze it, for up 6 months. 

I'd like some ideas for food that does need to be made right before you eat it. My regular cooking tends towards, "needs 44 seconds in the microwave to be ready to eat and will keep in the fridge for a few days for a repeat," but I'm much more likely to be home before dinner (or lunch if I decide to make that the big meal for the day) right now, so any suggestions? I live alone, so I'm not likely to spend 3 hours to make one serving for myself, but I've been eating a lot of salsa omelettes and could use a switch up. I've been exploring my pantry, but it doesn't have to be mostly pantry items. I am fortunate enough to have plenty of savings, so it doesn't have to be ultra cheap, but "currency efficient" wouldn't go amiss. Thanks so much.

Take a look at this week's overnight chicken recipe--the chicken can be made ahead, and there lots of ideas in the piece for how to use it (soups, shredded for enchiladas, cubed and tossed into salads, over a mound of rice with a fried egg and a little drizzle of sesame oil and soy sauce...).

I'd like to send cookies to two deserving young men. They don't/can't eat chocolate or nuts. They've evolved - at least they aren't eating only food that is white. My go-to, Snickerdoodles, don't seem to mail well - they dry out quickly. Sending to close places in VA, but I'm at a loss - I've searched a lot, every "mail-able" cookie has choc or nuts. Thank you

Biscotti should hold up well. Easy to leave the nuts out of this Fig and Fennel Spice recipe. Shortbread cookies would work too -- these simple ginger ones are a longtime fave of my older son, and they are quite sturdy.


You also might find inspiration in Becky Krystal's roundup of cookies good for shipping; link here

I'd suggest shortbread! There are so many variations, but a classic butter shortbread is one of the most delicious, and longest-lasting cookies I can think of. Bars also tend to be quite moist, and are usually cut into sturdier chunks, which makes them easy to wrap and pack. Deb of Smitten Kitchen has a superb list

Use two silicone pot holders under your chopping board. I say two because then the board is evenly balanced. Works like a charm.

I think many of us want to add comments to recipes. I've tried and given up. I know it's up to the IT gods to fix this, not you, but I think if it were easier to comment - meaning we don't have to hunt around to figure out how to do it - you'd get more. Yeah, singing to the choir, but us readers would love to see others' comments.

Whenever I have beets, I handle them with rubber gloves and on a rarely used cutting board that I keep in a cabinet (rather than on my countertop). I love beets, but I'd never make them if I had to deal with the mess and days of stained hands.

It's always beets.

Do NOT feed dogs beans, especially if they sleep with you in your bed. Trust me on this.

Do you have any suggestions for a good recipe using date syrup? I use it in this recipe, but there is a lot left in the can.

Love the stuff. it is sweeter than, say, pomegranate molasses, so I tend to use it dessert recipes. But I also have been known to drizzle it over roasted vegetables and dishes similar to this Ottolenghi recipe. 


Check out Halvah Fudge Bars and the #GBBS/Becky Krystal fabulous Caramel Sticky Toffee Cake!

After I brown the chicken could I remove it to a crockpot and cook it that way? Isn't it kind of the same thing as cooking low and slow in the oven all day? I guess I'm reluctant to have the oven on all day when I'm at work.

I suppose you could, yes. But it will officially become a 2-pot meal (rather than 1) if you do! One thing to note is that you'll lose all the flavor off the browned bits and fat in the pot you use for dry-roasting, so you'll likely lose some flavor. But you will still end up with a tender, delicious bird. 

I plan to try this recipe but don't like hominy. Could corn be subbed? If so, is there a particular type that would work best?

The best type of corn for this would be Mexican field corn that's been dried and then nixtamalized. WAIT, that's hominy! 

Seriously, I'd say, for this you could use good old frozen corn. You might look for frozen grilled corn -- we've been using that in the Food Lab a lot, and I like the flavor.

RECIPE: Chili Verde

Is the water added room temp? Or hot or cold from the tap?

We generally use cool water from the tap, but as long as it's not super hot, it doesn't much matter.

should've been more specific - dried red chili beans, not red kidney beans.

You're good to go! No soaking required.

A roll of this is very handy. Put a piece of it under a board and it will hold it in place. Put a small piece of it under a bowl and it won't slide off a plate underneath it. Use a piece of it to grip a jar lid that's tough to open. Set a jar of natural peanut butter on top of it, hold on tight, and stir the contents with a hand-held electric mixer fitted with only one of the beaters.

I made meringues with egg whites over the weekend (your mocha chocolate recipe--delish! and yes, I rated it!) and decided to try with aquafaba this weekend to see how they compare. How long can aquafaba keep in the fridge? Would a week be a problem?

Great! So good to hear!

Yes, you can keep aquafaba in the fridge for a week, no problem.

RECIPE: Mocha Chip Meringues

I really liked the article on Anita Lo and mean to check out her book on cooking for one, but maybe I misunderstood the recipe at the end: it calls for one pound of asparagus and feeds 2-4. This is from the book, or this is a favorite recipe that isn't necessarily in the book?

Right, it's not from the book! A family favorite, as described in the story.

The book is super-fun, though: Recommend.

For this top New York chef, an asparagus dish that ‘didn’t make sense’ led to a career without borders

I've got marching/baking orders and will report back - they both have many roommates, so maybe I'll get one text from someone. Hope springs eternal.

My baby is hopefully outgrowing a dairy allergy and I have to get him to eat something with butter or a small amount of cheese that has been baked at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes. The only thing I can think of are desserts, but I'd prefer not to give him a lot of sugar. Do you have any suggestions for savory recipe ideas? My mind is completely blank on this.

I feel ya, momma! My little guy didn't eat dairy for about his first year and boy was it a relief when he could. Now he eats tons of it.

How about lasagna? Nice and soft and cheesy, and heck can have some veggies to boot.

What does this mean? large cuts of meat, which can seize up in a quick release

The meat can dry out when the moisture evaporates too quickly, which is a risk when you do a quick release.

I am hosting a brunch. We have croissants, with jam and butter, fruit salad, salad, a frittata and a cake. Do you have a recommendation for another, easy, finger food? Bonus if it's vegetarian friendly. Thanks.

That sounds like a good spread! Maybe something snack-like (hummus, carrot hummus, Green Apple Relish) or spicy (Spicy, Sweet and Sour Pineapple-Jalapeño Relish)?

Or something cheesy:

Marinated Farmstead Feta

RECIPE: Marinated Farmstead Feta

Spring Toasts With Labneh

RECIPE: Spring Toasts With Labneh

I always rinse the inside to wash away the remnants of the organs that are inevitably sticking to the chicken spine. I pull them away with my hands as much as I can but need to rinse the bits away. Maybe I should be wiping it with paper towels instead?

If you come up with a paper towel technique that works, send photos! :)

Hi! I've made Ellie's recipe for roasted cauliflower, carrots and red peppers almost 10 times already in the new year. The spices are great and it's super easy to prep. I made it for a dinner party on Sunday and everyone raved about it. Thanks for the great recipe!

Happy to hear that!

Roasted Vegetable Trio

RECIPE: Roasted Vegetable Trio

I just moved and ended up clearing out the refrigerator of staples and most pantry items. Yikes! Starting over is going to be $$$, but I'm a bit excited (and also overwhelmed) to rethink what ought to be staples. Any recommendation on where to start?

I'd start with your favorite in each of the basic categories. For example, pick your favorite rice, favorite oil for salad dressing, favorite pasta style, favorite brand of canned tomatoes, favorite coconut milk, on and on. A single container of each. Same goes for spices and dried herbs. If you don't bake often, hold off on baking supplies until you really need them. Also, if you can buy in bulk from a co-op or buying club, you can save yourself a LOT of money on basic pantry items! Especially right after a move you're probably unlikely to be doing majorly adventurous cooking (you'll be spending all that "free" time unpacking or hanging things on walls or splayed out, exhausted, on your couch). Keep it simple, and go for items that last.

Can confirm that shortbread cookies ship well and don't go stale quickly. Smitten Kitchen has several suggestions. The cran-orange are fabulous (especially with some melted white chocolate drizzled over them). I'm planning to make a mocha version next with espresso powder and chocolate bits.

Spoiler alert - I'm not great using "new kitchen" appliances. I want to try this recipe, and I have an immersion blender (at least I think that is what it is , but can't seem to get it to work - this is true). So question - besides can one of you come to my house and teach me - is there another way to make this recipe without an immersion thing?

Can you describe your difficulties, and we can troubleshoot from here?

Last year about this time we all grouched about our impending resolution diets. I actually had some success. 10 lbs and not back after the holidays either! My secret? A big pile of vegetables at each meal. Instead of insta whatever or left overs, I started keeping frozen vegies in the freezer at work. I pop them in the microwave, sauce them with salad dressing, mix in some nuts and voila. This on top of Bob's meusili with my coffee first thing. I feel like my grandma, but I'm regular as heck and I think in the end that is the difference. Ha, I am a grandma, so there!

You're an inspiration! Thanks for letting us know.

I received a sous vide device for Christmas and am struck by how long all the recipes take (4 hours for a boneless pork chop). Are there quicker recipes out there that I'm not finding? Is there a sous vide guru I should be following?

Here are some ideas for sous-vide recipes that take an hour or a little less.

I have a recipe that calls for a 500 gram jar of passata. I assumed that was pasta sauce. Apparently it’s not, but it’s not tomato sauce either. I can’t find anything in my grocery store called passata. Is there another name, or is there a substitute? Thanks!

It's a seasoned strained tomato sauce. I actually found Mutti brand at my Safeway, which was a surprise, when I needed it for a recipe the other week. Does your store have regular strained tomatoes in a carton? Pomi brand, maybe? That should work, though you may need to season it up a bit more.

A classic passata di pomodoro is typically a strained/uncooked puree, right? The Pomi brand that Becky mentioned is what I use when recipes call for passata. 

I haven't tried the overnight chicken recipe yet, so . . .

FYI, more than half the time I try to load chats it takes me to an error/reload page and I have to refresh or go to a new tab several times to get it to load. I use Chrome. It wasn't a problem this morning when I tried on IE, but really. IE? [Shudder]

Can you send your info to, and we'll forward to our IT team?

Lazy novice chef here. This may be irrational (in addition to being lazy), but I really dislike having to wash quinoa before cooking it. Does it actually matter? And does anyone sell pre-washed quinoa? (Pre-washed rice would be nice, too.)

You don't happen to work for Ancient Grains brand, do you? Which does not need rinsing? (It's RINSE cycle @ Free Range today!) Look for "pre-rinsed" on the packaging, and you will skip the step you dislike. 


That rinsing is recommended to get rid of a bitter note caused by coating on the quinoa, fyi. 

Bonus points for flavoring the yolk filling differently: try curry powder instea of the usual pickle relish & mustard, or roasted red peppers.

Dating myself, but I think Tabasco sauce used to have a white label - or maybe my mom used a different kind of hot sauce too. Anyone remember this? Talking 70's.

Can also use a silpat.

THANK YOU for giving me permission (and rationale) to NOT wash chicken. On a visit to my sister's home, I offered to cook dinner while she looked after her young son; she agreed, but she would not allow me to place chicken into a pot to cook it, so afraid was she that I would not do it to her specifications and poison her family. I can't wait to tell her I'm not doing it wrong!

#rinse/no-rinse ;)

Throughout fall and winter, I make a batch of soup on the weekend and then put what I want that week in the fridge, the rest in the freezer. (No one wants to eat the same soup every day). Eventually I have a selection of soups to grab/thaw overnight, and microwave at work. Straight-sided mason jars with plastic lids make this a breeze, and there are so many types of soup, you are bound to find some you like (I'm partial to beans and roasted veg). A large pot of soup makes about six servings.

Hello all, I'm trying to up my vegetable game, and at this time of year, soups are a great way to do it. Any recipes for seemingly indulgent vegetable soups that are on the healthier side? I think you have printed some that are creamy without the cream (maybe with cashews?). I'm hoping for some that are mostly vegetables, not a ton of added fat. Thank you!

Hoping the team will add to the pile here, but I am hooked on Ellie Krieger's Family Favorite Minestrone.  Freezes well.  Kinda loving this #DinnerInMinutes Spinach Soup With Dill and Basil, too,  because it is the greenest thing I eat. 

I've got two for you, both using cashews: Creamy Potato Chowder and Cream of Broccoli Soup Concentrate. The latter is a from-scratch way to set yourself up for easy weeknight soup later, but you can also make it all the way through, of course!


Deborah Madison's Hearty Lentil Minestrone in her latest book "In my Kitchen," has quickly become one of my favorite soup recipes of all time! The secret seems to be in adding a good dollop of tomato paste and smashing it against your pot as you cook it, as well as adding nutritional yeast, all before any liquid goes in. It's hearty, satisfying, and totally delicious.

Loved this Apricot and Red Lentil Soup from a few years ago. 

Apricot and Red Lentil Soup


Roasted Pepper and Orzo Soup

RECIPE: Roasted Pepper and Orzo Soup

How could I forget that Apricot and Red Lentil Soup? These young'uns have much longer memories than I, but yes, I second that recommendation: It's a surprisingly delicious combination.

Because I do want to make the Coconut Chicken Soup recipe, I will re-read the immersion contraption instruction manual again and try, but imagine an episode of "I Love Lucy" in the kitchen, making Coconut Chicken soup, that is likely to be me. I'll try to remember to wear a shower cap.

I like a cook w a good sense of humor! Shower cap can also be placed directly over the container #asyouwhir. 


A commenter on my #DinMins column suggested using a whisk instead of the immersion blender -- the low-tech, possibly less-splashing way (It's SPLASHING day @ Free Range!)

I don't mind the idea of rinsing, but uncooked quinoa grains are so teensy that it's really hard to keep half of them from washing down the sink drain. What's your secret?

Fine-mesh strainer lined with paper towel should do the trick.

I plan on making this tonight since I have the ingredients. The cauliflower is some from a farm stand that I blanched and froze. Should I par-boil or thaw before making this dish?

Just thaw, and you'll be good to go.

I virtuously bought a rockfish fillet at my local market after reading about eating locally and all that, and it was just incredibly bland -- I found a recipe calling for searing it on both sides and then roasting in the oven for five to eight minutes, in a combination of butter, oil, salt, & pepper. But it was just so meh. Any suggestions for the next time i want to eat locally caught fish?

Here's a good one!

Rockfish, Bacon, Kale and Parsnip Salad

RECIPE: Rockfish, Bacon, Kale and Parsnip Salad

I use Chrome, only problem is that when someone submits a question, and if I'm trying to submit, it takes me back to top of page, but no reload needed. For what it's worth.

Definitely rinse! The coating can give you horrible stomach pain that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

I have never heard that  before!

Make sure you totally immerse the blender into the food, otherwise mayhem will ensue! Some have a safety button that you must hold simultaneously to operate it--that could be the hiccup.

It's probably my favorite kitchen tool, next to my microplane.

I like corn kernels (and cheddar) in potato chowder. Also Potage (puréed potato-green pea soup, easy-peasy using a 1-lb. bag of frozen peas!). And this WaPo recipe is also delicious using frozen chopped spinach plus a little black pepper instead of watercress.

Well, we've cooled to a warm, noninjurious temperature, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks to Sara Franklin for help with the a's!

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about stabilizing a cutting board will get "The Washington Post Cookbook"! Send your mailing info to, and she will get it to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Sara Franklin
Sara Franklin is a food historian and writer based in Kingston, N.Y.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
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