Free Range on Food: The 'Magnolia Table' cookbook, caramel sauce tips and tricks, how to make your best pot of chili, and more.

Feb 13, 2019

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

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you've been enjoying what we've been publishing, including:

Bonnie's out today, but she should be able to handle some questions remotely.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR1540 . 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.

 

I honestly would have expected to look for a review of Magnolia Table from book writers rather than food writers, and I found the article fascinating. I had never before realized that I tend to think of food writers more like fashion writers. What's trending and how those things can be made accessible to the public for everyday living, rather than hey, a big name published a book full of meal instructions so let's all stop and see what they did.

Bonnie says: 

The Gaineses put out a design book at about the same time MT was published, and have since done a children's book, I understand. (Watch out, YA authors!) This is definitely a cookbook, composed and photographed and organized in standard cookbook mode. I do believe, from what I was told, that Joanna is comfortable in the kitchen and cooks/has cooked for her family.

ARTICLE: Why did the food media ignore the best-selling cookbook of 2018?

I'm making buttermilk biscuits to bring to a party. What has me stumped is whether I should make some kind of spread to bring with them... I'd rather go savory than sweet. Any ideas?

PIMENTO CHEESE

Smoked Pimento Cheese

RECIPE: Smoked Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

RECIPE: Pimento Cheese

Lightened-Up Pimento Cheese

RECIPE: Lightened-Up Pimento Cheese

Or, did you see Becky's post on making compound butter? That'd be a fun way to go.

Compound butter

I keep the grease from bacon and sausage to keep it out of the sewers (I don't want to contribute to fatbergs!) I remember my mother used bacon grease in cooking--as the fat in the cornbread pan and as flavoring in field peas and beans. I have seen it in German cooking. What else can I use it for?

Anywhere you'd want a hint of meat, really! I add it to otherwise vegetable-heavy dishes when I think they'd benefit from a little fat and that hit of meaty flavor that I lose from not having meat. So: Bean soups, random vegetables cooked on the stove, stews, polenta...

Where else do chatters use it?

I'm trying to get out of a taste rut — this winter's been a bit heavy on oregano and tarragon after a big harvest last year. I recently picked up cardamom and coriander seeds to make falafel (I used Tori Avey's recipe and it turned out great). Now I'm left with a plethora of seeds and wondering what else I can do with each?

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices, and I love coriander too! We have lots of recipes that use them, starting with a chickpea curry that uses both! Just grind small amounts at a time, and keep the rest whole, for long shelf life. (And if you have whole cardamom pods, after you remove the seeds and grind them, stick the empty pods in a jar and cover with sugar, and you'll have beautiful cardamom-scented sugar to use in all sorts of baked goods and drinks.)

Easy Chickpea Curry

Cardamom and Currant Snickerdoodle Skillet Cookie

Bittersweet Chocolate Cardamom Pudding

Trivedi Family Masala Chai

Cardamom Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles

Warm Chipotle Black Bean Dip

Lentil Stuffed Bell Peppers

Coconut Curry Carrot Soup

(sorry if this is a repeat, my computer keeps messing up). Long story short--got some barley in bulk section, is in a tightly lidded container. Opened it up to find a bug fly out (yuck). Can I still use it? Any health issues with using it? thanks!

Ugh, I hate to tell you, but you should probably throw that barley out. (But take your receipt back to the store and ask for a refund.) It sounds like a weevil got in there -- and once that happens, they can infest the whole batch, and even nearby flours and grains.

Thanks, Bonnie, for your article and honesty about Magnolia Table. I also appreciate knowing how carefully your selections are made. These days I admit to reading cookbooks as a guilty pleasure - and too often a great disappointment when I actually make a recipe from many of them. What are your top choices of best, all-time (but still relatively easy to obtain) cookbooks for most of your readers?

Bonnie says: 

This hit some kind of nerve, I think! Those of us who love cookbooks understand how wonderful yet imperfect they can be. I have perhaps too many faves to count. I have fond memories of plowing through the Silver Palate, regardless of quibbles, because it seemed to break ground for cooks of my generation. Here's one that is as good as it gets: Molly Stevens's "All About Braising." She didn't put a foot wrong, and she teaches you all kinds of pay-it-forward skills and lessons. You can bet on any cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, too. She anticipates questions, her recipes have never disappointed me!

I made these on Sunday and they were amazing. I tweaked the recipe a little by cutting it down to 1/4 (there's only two of us) and by using White Lily self rising flour and buttermilk vice regular. Nice, real nice. I'm going to make a larger batch and bring to work next week. I just have to figure out how to transport them without melting anything in my car.

British Scones

RECIPE: These tender, fluffy scones are so very British

So happy to hear that! The recipe is really close to my heart, and I'm thrilled that readers seem to like it.

Your tweaks sound great. Feel free to pop over to our Recipe Finder to not only rate the recipe, but explain what you did in case other readers were wondering!

The salsa negra for this recipe looks unbearably spicy... 2 cans of chipotles in adobo?? How spicy was it when you made it to test? (I love spicy food, but I made a batch of tacos once with ONE can of chipotles in adobo, and everyone said it was hitting the limit spice-wise)

It is super-fiery, but SO GOOD. The thing is, as I wrote in the headnote, the recipe makes much more sauce than you need for the six servings of the dish, so you're not eating much of it at once (or don't have to). You can always cut the chipotle back if you want!

Spicy Chipotle Eggplant With Black Beans

As I try to cut carbs, our dinners have turned into meat/protein and 2 veggies. It can get repetitive, even when I jazz up the protein in different ways. One tactic I am adding in is different sauces put on the meat/protein, to add another layer of rotation among my meals. Wanted to cask out a free ranger net and ask what people's favorite, not-your-run-of-the-mill sauces are, to add to rotation. (I include a wide definition with sauce, no limits!)

I'll get this thread started. Two very of-the-moment options would be harissa and zhoug, alone or  together. Others we love are chimichurri and romesco

You could definitely use this garlic paste as a base for a sauce, too.

toum

RECIPE: Garlic Paste (Toum)

Friends, other favorites?

I am in need of recommendations for good freezer containers for broth. I've researched and read that many folks like mason jars but no matter how I try they often break when I freeze broth in them. I leave the lid off and plenty of head space but it isn't a reliable method for me. I can't see freezing them flat in zipper bags working well either--leaks before freezing has taken place, etc. Have you tried any particular system or brand that works?

We've started using quart-sized plastic deli containers. It takes up space, but that solves the glass breaking and bags leaking problems. 

Random question: why do the cooking pros on TV always use towels, not potholders, to remove things from the oven? Is it just that potholders are more cumbersome and might block the view of what's inside the dish?

I have no idea, but your theory sounds plausible.

Fry thin-sliced left-over boiled potatoes in it!

When I pour off the fat from cooking ground beef, I pour it in a can and keep it in the freezer until it's full, then put it out with the garbage. I keep bacon grease in a separate container, and use it to saute onions. It seems to work better than olive oil. With olive oil, the onions turn brown before they're completely cooked through.

I keep suitable bacon grease in the freezer for whenever I need it--Brussel sprouts, green beans, grease a pan for eggs or burgers. Just a quick zap in the microwave and I can scoop out a tablespoon without defrosting it. If I can't keep it, I let it harden and then throw it away.

I recently discovered Savoy cabbage at the grocery store. The leaves are more delicate and "wavy" compared to a regular head of cabbage. It cooks very quickly when sliced into ribbons. It's my new go-to veggie for skillet dinners, or roasting on a sheet pan.

It's great for all the things you describe. Also makes killer kimchi.

I'd be cranky if I bought a book on ANY do-it-yourself topic where the directions produced inferior results.

Bonnie says: 

Well . . . sometimes operator and/or equipment error are factors. God knows I have screwed up perfectly acceptable recipes. Which is why we test and retest. I have already heard from a fierce MT defender/owner of said cookbook today who said she had no issues with the very same recipes I detailed. To each his own, and more power to her.

i love the gluten free/vegan harira soup at busboys and poets and would like to make it at home...especially now with this weird winter weather. i can't seem to find a similar recipe on the www. do any of you have one to share?

It's such a good soup!

We have this recipe; I haven't tried it, but doesn't it look great?

Vegetarian Harira

 

I save it in the fridge then use a little when I make biscuits. Works for me, anyway.

I missed last week's chat, but there were a few people asking about or sharing freezer organization strategies. I use a free app called--wait for it--Freezer. I'm not usually an app person, but it lets you divide things by shelf or container (if you have bins) or even freezer (if you have more than one). Also, you can add pictures (to know what you're searching for), notes (cook time or ingredients still needed), expiration dates, and quantity. The quantity is just a total with an arrow up or down, so easy to update, and you can skip info you don't feel like including. It's also fun scrolling through pictures to decide what I want to eat since the picture from the recipe or from when I first served it is usually more appetizing than the frozen block of whatever. Also, you can use painter's tape on most containers. It doesn't leave residue but will survive the freezer and even the dishwasher, and it comes in different colors.

Thank you!

My recipe for wild rice stuffing starts by sauteeing onions, mushrooms, and celery in bacon grease. I once tried the recipe without using the bacon grease, and it just didn’t taste right. Once a year I fry up a package of thick-cut bacon and save the grease in the freezer for using at Thanksgiving or Christmas if I plan to make this stuffing.

Another place to use it is in bacon, poblano and cheddar cornbread.

I’ve worked in several kitchens, and side towels are the tool of choice for hot stuff, especially on a line. Chefs/cooks often have one on their apron, always at hand. Very hot item by the time the linens are due in! My guess is most TV chefs are either using them by habit or to look more “professional” depending on their background. My stint in kitchens wasn’t super long, or high end, but I still use towels as much as potholders. Drives my husband batty!

How I love Pimento Cheese! Now I have to make some and biscuits.

When someone mentions a dairy allergy, please don't assume she might be discussing an intolerance. They're two different things. The first is possibly life-threatening, while the other's an inconvenience. Someone with an allergy can't eat hard cheese or regular yogurt, while a lactose-intolerant person may be able to do so.

Noted!

In Becky's piece, she quotes someone who recommends - if using beans - to start with dried beans, because they provide a more flavorful broth. Can you please explain exactly how the broth is added into the chili? Is that the water that the beans are cooked in? Sorry if I'm being dense here, but just getting started using dried beans. Thanks much and great article - have lots of new things to try.

chili

ARTICLE: How to make your best pot of chili

Sure! I think what Robb was getting at was that after you soak the dried beans, you'll have this flavorful liquid left over. You'll probably want to use some kind of liquid in your chili, if only to deglaze the pan after you brown the meat, and the bean liquid would be perfect for that (maybe with a little beer, too).

I saw the discussion last week about how people keep track of what's in their freezer and thought I'd share my tip. I keep a running list in a Google spreadsheet - it's organized by categories (meats, vegetables, soups, etc). Since I can access it on my phone, I don't get tempted when chicken is on sale again and I already have a bunch in the freezer.

Nice!

When I make chicken or vegetable broth, I freeze it in one-cup portions in disposable plastic drink cups. After it's frozen, I tear off the cup and put the frozen chunks of broth in a zip-loc bag.

Thanks! I usually use the ice-cube-tray method, transferring the frozen cubes to zip-top bags for storage. You can use just what you want -- even just throw a cube into a pan for sauce -- and so much faster to thaw larger quantities that way, too.

I love making a smoked pesto sauce, particularly on salmon. Use your favorite pesto recipe but add smoked paprika- however much you like to your own tastes. Since I'm a busy working parent, I usually take a massive shortcut and just add it to store bought pesto, maybe with an extra squeeze of lemon too.

Cool tip!

I've been searching for a good recipe for gluten free black forest cakes, and I haven't found anything that looks just right. So I'm thinking of making my own up, with a dark chocolate cupcake poked with holes and brushed with a cherry liquor syrup and topped with a whipped cream-ish frosting, chocolate shavings, and a cherry filling type garnish. To do that though, I need to find a great gluten free basic (preferably dark) chocolate cupcake to start with. Any recommendations?

Here's just the one: Just use a good cup-for-cup gluten-free baking mix instead of the flour, and you'll be good to go.

Georgetown Cupcake's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

I tried to add my comments but comments are closed.

Yes, alas, the comments close on article pages after two weeks (still hoping we can change that for recipes), but the Recipe Finder version comments are open indefinitely.

Thanks!

I'm 19 years into sobriety. I think Ann Bauer needs to have a Come to Jesus Talk with her friends. Why not ask for hot tea while you are waiting for the husband to show up? Better yet the host needs to step up and offer nonalcoholic choices. Club soda and bitters or juice - not that hard to supply. Guests could be permanent abstainers (like me) or temporary (pregnancy, meds) and should be offered something more than tap water.

Here are some options to help with that! Lots of great non-alc drinks available these days, whether you want to go to the trouble of making them or just unscrewing a cap.

I know this would have been a better question for last week's chat, but was out of pocket and thought I'd try anyway. When I went to buy commercial Za'atar at the Mediterranean Bakery, among several bags I found one labelled "Palestinian Za'atar". I asked the store staff what the difference was versus other mixes, but they seemed to have no idea. Do you folks have any intel along these lines?

There are lots of regional and even family variations on za'atar, which is the name for both the mix and the wild herb at the center of it. Ottolenghi sells "Palestinian za'atar" that includes dried thyme, sesame, sumac, salt and oil.

That cardamon skillet cookie that you link to sound amazing---trouble is i dont have a cast iron skillet (i have an electric stove)---how else can i make this? would it work in a normal 9 inch cake pan?

Yep, it would -- the recipe is designed for an 8-inch skillet, so it would be a little thinner in the 9-inch pan, and you should check for doneness after about 30 minutes, since it should go faster.

They often have a tea towel tucked into their waistband so the flow isn't interrupted at all. This is what I do.

Baked potato! Rub the potato lightly all over with the grease, sprinkle with coarse salt and bake 400 until done. Skin gets nice and crispy, good flavor throughout. So much better than microwave 'baked' version.

Wow - they are great. Seriously folks, find the recipe and make it - wonderful combination of flavors and easy to prepare.

Super! Here's that recipe, for those who didn't catch it last time.

Delicata Squash Nachos

I learn so much from these sessions, of course from the WaPo staff, but also from everyone who chimes in. If you try a WaPo recipe, can you please add your comments and suggestions on the Recipe Finder site? They are so helpful on other recipe sites, and you are such knowledgeable cooks - would love to hear what you have to say. Even if it's an old recipe, please add it. I need your help! Thanks.

Thank you for this suggestion -- I second the motion!

The NY Times has a fabulous recipe for bacon fat gingersnaps. Rich and addictive.

My father used to slather some on really crunchy toast, topped with a sprinkling of paprika - he was Hungarian. I used to love it. Somehow, though I'm a vegetarian!

So I had been thinking about this, but seeing the cardamom pod sugar got me to asking, can we infuse dry whole spices into sugar the way vanilla pods work? Specifically, I was thinking of cinnamon sticks, but any of them. Cinnamon sugar is usually powdered spices mixed with sugar.

Yes you can -- whole cinnamon sticks in sugar will definitely scent the sugar. But it won't be as cinnamon-y as ground cinnamon mixed with the sugar. It's lovely, really.

...is decidely MORE than an inconvenience. It may not be life threatening, but it's absolutely miserable and can be excrutiating.

When I find a recipe with flavors that I like, that recipe is the basis for a sauce. For example the chickpea tikka masala sauce is my go to "I feel like indian food tonight" sauce and the Egg Roll bowls sauce is my "how about asian" sauce. I make up batches and freeze both of these, (along with romesco) 

Wow, triple gold star for you. Thanks!

Hi all! I need a last minute idea for what to make for dinner on Valentine's Day. Ideally it would take under an hour and a half to make. I was thinking about making beet ravioli, getting a head start by making the dough tonight, but there really aren't too many recipes for it out there. Thanks for any suggestions!

I think beet would sub nicely for the sweet potato in this recipe.

Sweet Potato Ravioli With Sage Brown Butter

I'm afraid I don't have an orange juice question for Carrie, so I'm resubmitting a question I tried to send last week, perhaps too late in the chat. A book I'm reading by Lew Bryson on whisky tells me that the way he became expert enough on whisky to write about it was, per the advice of his newsletter editor, to scale The Wall. That meant that he tried a different whisky each night over a few weeks, until he could eventually get past the burn and taste the subtle differences between different types of whiskies, as well as flavor notes. "Fudge" was one taste characteristic he learned to distinguish. My question is, Do a lot of whisky drinkers try to scale this Wall? Do they even know what it is? Is it part of whisky culture? And most important, Do I need to scale the whisky wall, Carrie?

Ha! Heavens, the Wall is everywhere these days. (I have to admit I prefer this wall than the one most in the news.) I love that Lew Bryson book (I assume you're talking about "Tasting Whiskey"), and when I originally read that segment about how to become a more educated whiskey drinker, I thought it was super-smart -- you learn by practice, after all, and sipping spirits neat is no different. I've tried to keep up a regular practice of tasting spirits neat, but I have to admit that doing so with the degree of regularity he recommends in that book is a tough sell for me, primarily because I don't actually want to drink that much, and since I want to sample cocktails as well, I feel like I have to make lots of choices to avoid sliding into debauchery and ill health. But I think the basic idea -- that you'll understand more about whiskey and spirits as you try more of them -- is sound. Whether you yourself need to scale that particular Wall ... I think that's a question that depends on how well-versed you want to get in this area, and how fond you are of your liver and mental faculties. 

Great article Bonnie - thank you. I'm relieved to know that when recipes fail, it's not always my clumsy cooking. A neighbor swears by Junior League cookbooks, as tried and true recipes (healthy, not so much). The recipes she's shared are things I've made time and time again. Anyone know Sunshine Slaw?

From Bonnie: 

Thanks! I am a sucker for spiral-bound community type cookbooks.

If I were to prepare ravioli tonight to have for dinner tomorrow (Valentines Day :) ) what would be the best way to store it? I thought it would be okay in the fridge but most sites are recommending freezing it. Would that make the final product worse? I could just make the dough tonight and finish it tomorrow, but that would be less ideal. Thanks.

You can refrigerate the filled ravioli for a day, and them cook them tomorrow.

She sounds like a "dry drunk" who still needs to work on herself, perhaps with a therapist. I'm more than 40 years sober, and believe me, even while declining alcohol I'm still a good guest.

I think by the end of the article, she was coming to a good place, realizing what she needed to do, actually.

I read this with interest. I don't think they are a drag. It just sounds like they're outgrowing their friends. It happens.

Would love to use up some extra shredded coconut in a non-sweet, non-dessert dish, but not a soup. A rice dish would be great.

Rice is what I was going to suggest! I like to toss in up to 1/4 cup-ish whenever I'm making a batch. (I do the toasting the rice in oil thing first, then add water and salt and coconut if I'm using. I use basmati and do a ratio of one part rice to just shy of two parts water, because that's what works best on my stove.) You can also add spices, such as cumin seed, turmeric, whatever you want. (Add that when you're toasting the rice.)

See Becky's piece on making a better pot of rice for more tips/ratios

For whatever reason (partly spiciness, also the eggplant), my family wasn't fond of the base recipe. I had a lot of the sauce left-over as Joe said. I froze it all in ice cube trays and the other night I pulled out a few and used them mixed with canned tomato as a base sauce for black bean and queso fresco enchiladas. They were a HIT, so don't despair of that extra sauce or worry about making it.

Great!

My German grandmother used bacon grease in everything. Warm German potato salad, muffins, fried potatoes, sauteed greens, etc. etc. etc.

Thank goodness my dogs can't read! I will make and report back on how many paws up that recipe gets.

First, applaud anyone who can use a towel to remove things from the oven - it looks good. I once pulled something out of the oven with a towel, while something was on the stove. The towel caught on fire. Towels burn fast! No disaster, and I was home alone, so no one shamed me. Yeah, so no towels for me.

There's also the risk that if the towel is WET it just transmits that heat right to your skin. I'm with you on this.

Have any free rangers purchased the cookbook or read through it? I honestly don't understand the hype and genuinely am interested in a "fan" perspective

Just wow. I thought it was going to tell me I'd be interested in it, but it wasn't even the gobs of butter that turned me off. It seemed like every recipe mentioned included the tons of butter AND bacon/pork. Definitely not a cookbook for everyone. Also, I'm not an HGTV viewer, so while I had heard of her, I didn't really know much about her.

From Bonnie: 

Let me be clear -- not every recipe is like that in the book. Lots of standards. Just nothing we tested that grabbed me as being a standout. I included the baked chicken casserole recipe with the article solely on the basis of how it was received/eaten by my newsroom colleagues. I could see where it could be improved using the same ingredients (maybe less butter, more onions and seasoning)....

1 large jar of salsa (regular store brand with lots of onions and bell peppers in it) 1 15 oz can of beans (rinsed) black, kidney, your choice 1 lb ground beef Cook beef and season with black pepper, garlic and onion powder, cumin, chili powder, and a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Drain meat and place in larger pot. Rinse off bean and add to the pot. Pour in salsa and stir. Turn on heat and stir. Add more chili powder and cumin if necessary. For extra heat add a squirt of Siracha. Real cheatin' when you are having folks over. Make a double batch and put it in the crockpot so the aroma will make your guests think you have been working all day on your chili. I have used this chili over tortilla chips,cover it with cheddar cheese and melt the cheese in the broiler. Sometimes the best pot of chili is the one you can make the fastest.

Sounds reasonable!

I made some chili a couple weeks ago with chunks of chuck beef. The chili had great flavor, but the beef was tough. I didn't cook too long or high. I was thinking the beef wasn't marbled enough. Any thoughts? I have had this issue before with meat in stews.

Without knowing your recipe, it's hard to diagnose, but I'm wondering if maybe you didn't cook it long enough! Part of what makes chili chili is often the long and low cook time, for the meat to really soften. Not sure you want or need something very marbled, because the fat could make it too greasy.

This recipe is my go to. I just use decaf coffee instead of water and Bob Red Mill's cup for a cup flour.

I have a friend who is recently gluten free and missing chococlate chip cookies. can i get the gluten free one to one flour from Bobs and substitute for regular flour in most recipes?

Yep!

I love this one. I just leave out the egg and flour

It's definitely chili season, so thank you for the article, and thanks as well for the black bean and sweet potato chili recipe you published a couple of years ago. It is my go-to recipe, sometimes with the addition of ground turkey breast. And it freezes beautifully.

Great to hear!

I appreciate everyone asking how to make GF items for their friends! Remember, though, that it is critical to avoid cross contamination in a non-GF dedicated kitchen (utensils, counters, etc.)

Hi, What's the best way to store fresh cilantro? Over and over again I buy fresh cilantro at the store and can't use it all before it goes bad.

Lots of proponents of standing it up in a glass or jar of water and loosely covering with a plastic bag, such as from the produce department. I usually am too short on fridge space for that, so I wrap the bunch in a lightly damp paper towel and put it in a similar bag. Works pretty well.

There are a range of south Asian vegetable dishes to make with that coconut! One really straightforward one is basically a hot cabbage slaw (I think cabbage thoran) that uses some coconut sauteed with the thinly sliced cabbage. I use coconut oil to up the coconut flavor and there's a bit of heat in it too, if I remember correctly.

Did any of you actually eat those Necco candy hearts with sayings that are suddenly discontinued? I tasted them once, then thought of them more as tiny toys.

Yeah, they're cute but not tasty. Maura Judkis is writing about other brands' candy hearts soon, so keep an eye out for that.

So glad you mentioned her, her Nantucket Open House Cookbook and her Cold Weather Cookbook are favorites of mine - good recipes and a pleasure to read as well.

Other than pesto what can I do with an abundance of basil?

Make Basil Paste, and freeze it!

Hi, Do you have any suggestions for a (somewhat) nutritious brunch casserole?

This one from Ellie Krieger!

Breakfast Strata Primavera

RECIPE: Breakfast Strata Primavera

Toss it on the compost heap.

Rude.

Pizza Margherita. Either homemade, or doctor a bought pizza.

I suspect the real reason you don't see some TV chefs using potholders is that often the food is precooked and not hot. They prep the dish, then switch it out for a finished version. So they just pick the dish up with a towel, unconcerned with any potentially harmful heat.

One of your recipes calls for a tsp of cumin seed. I assume that means whole seeds? If I'm substituting cumin powder, do I need to reduce the amount?

Maybe by a pinch.

I love everything about chili - eating out of bowls (or my preferred large mugs), freezes wonderfully, full of flavor, infinitely adaptable for all diets, and can help clean out a pantry or freezer. Since I love it so much, wondering if you had any ideas on how to make it more of a year-round dish rather than just winter. What summer/spring veggies would be great to highlight instead of squash or root veggies? Any alternative spices or fresh herbs to highlight?

Green chili always feels fresh and light for non-winter seasons. I feel like corn, zucchini and okra would all be nice.

I like to serve tahini sauce over roasted chicken and vegetables (some combo of red pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onion) - just tahini, plain greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, Aleppo or Maras pepper if you have it, and maybe minced garlic, depending on the mood.

Have a bunch, in a glass on the counter, but probably won't use soon. Any way to save it longer? Freezing it? If so, how? Thanks

The fridge might extend it a bit, but fresh herbs on their own don't freeze well. You could do a paste that would work in cold storage.

I have been gluten free for years. Look to the celiac community for recipes that don't rely on special mixes. Rice flour is sometimes a good substitute. Old cornbread recipes are just cornmeal and GF baking powder (Rumford for example). We made the Restaurant Eve cake with white rice flour and liked it. Recently, we've used BRM 1 to 1 a lot, but the results in Victoria Sponge are grainy. King Arthur makes wonderful muffin and cake mixes that have a step that calls for 10 minutes wait between portioning out the batter and baking it (gives the flour time to hydrate--something I'd not thought about). I admit to being lazy and using the commercial mixes--Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies and brownies are better than many others.

I have just been diagnosed with diabetes and trying to figure out how to lower my refined carbs and learn about Keto and Paleo diets to figure out what will work best for me. For now, I need to figure out how to make hearty breakfasts that will last me a few hours without the sugar and carbs. Any suggestions would be helpful please.

Eggs with avocado, salsa and pumpkin seeds. And try spooning some of that Toum that Becky linked to earlier -- so great on fried eggs.

Also double check any other ingredients - not all chocolate chips are gluten free (same with vanilla).

I make a lot of chili each fall/winter because my spouse could eat it every day (me, not so much), and because I'm always on the hunt for my next chili cook-off entry. By the end of each season it feels like I've made just about every variation on chili out there! One of this year's most interesting experiments was turkey bloody mary chili (tasty and easy but missing that special something). I am always messing around with "complicated" recipes like Kenji Alt's, with unexpected flavor additions like fish sauce and marmite, along with his great chili paste sub for powder. The big stinker this season was an extremely well-reviewed online recipe (400+ reviews) that I swear was so bland that it barely qualified as tomato soup, much less chili! Still not sure what happened there. And after all of that, my spouse and I still end up back to my dad's old chili recipe as our go-to fav, which has such fancy ingredients as Campbell's Tomato Soup! Sigh. . .

You sound like an excellent spouse. :)

It is interesting - what stood out for me was that different testers independently had trouble with quite a few of the recipes. That's not the best look ... . I think my feeling is that I was left wondering if their 'brand' is all about the look and brand and less about depth and passion. I mean - they're doing everything!

In the review of "The Magnolia Table", it was mentioned several times about the amount of butter in some recipes. What is a rule of thumb for reducing fat in a recipe- cut it by a third, or a quarter? I am not asking about subbing in other ingredients to replace the fat, just a sensible way to reduce the fat. Nobody really wants extra calories or the greasy burned on mess from spills.

It certainly depends on the recipe, but for these, I think could start by cutting it in half. (And realizing that you may need to test a few times to get everything else to work out right.)

Everyone is talking about reusable straws. What about reusable juice boxes? I've been trying to look for something that is 4-6oz that can fit in my daughter's lunch box. I am going to use it for water. But there is nothing available. Ideally, it would be stainless steel and the only thing I can think of are flasks. But that will look sketchy at an elementary school. Help!

What about this? It's not stainless steel, but it's BPA-free plastic.

There's also these, although none are quite as small as you mention (unless you go for the baby bottle, which would probably not be appreciated, either).

This weekend i made madelines from joyofbaking.com and they were good but felt dense to me--do you have a go to recipe for these tasty cakes? what about banana bread?

We have this lovely one from Dorie Greenspan.

Dorie Greenspan's Cappuccino Madeleines

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Cappuccino Madeleines

And

Banana Bread With Chocolate Drizzle

RECIPE: Banana Bread With Chocolate Drizzle

Other banana bread recipes in our archives, if you care to search.

I love the snickerdoodle blondies you featured in the holiday cookie issue. The flavor is great, but so is the texture, so I'd like to experiment with other flavors. Would they be too plain if I just left out the cinnamon but maybe used browned butter and/or Stella Park's toasted sugar for the granulated sugar? What about chocolate chunks? Any thoughts or suggestions? Thank you!

Those sound like nice swaps! Could also try cardamom, citrus zest, infusing the butter with bay leaves (a la Bay Leaf Pound Cake With Orange Glaze)... Report back, please. 


Snickerdoodle Blondies

I generally am wary of celebrity cookbooks, but this from the article confuses me. "plus 18 whole eggs, 8 egg yolks, 3 cups of dairy, 12 English muffins and 10 ounces of Canadian bacon. The dish serves 12 to 14." It reads as "Holy cow that's a lot!" For 12 to 14 servings it's not a ton of food per person. And can probably be scaled if you have less people to feed....Am I missing something?

From Bonnie: 

Those amounts of ingredients are substantially more than used in other/similar casseroles I have tested and make occasionally. It was so dense, and as it cooled, the fat in each bite tended to coat the mouth. And the amount of hollandaise sauce was, to my mind, way too much for even this number of servings. (For the record, I think 14 servings is a stretch for this size casserole and the suggested portion shown in the book.)

Wondering if this actually works, and it any of you have tried it?

More details? Like to get it to rise faster? On first blush, this is raising all kinds of alarms with me, but maybe I'm missing something. I prefer something safer like a microwave (off, but after you've nuked some water) or a barely warm but off oven, or even just a warm spot in the kitchen.

For reducing fat, etc., in recipes, I'll look up several recipes for the same dish online, and see what the consensus is. That way, if one recipe calls for an excess of an ingredient (like fat), I'll know that it's probably not necessary.

Soup. I'm a big fan of soup in the morning. Filling and a nice, comfortable start to the day. Just avoid potatoes and noodles as required, but that leaves you a whole range of options for minestrone or chickpea soup or even chili. Good luck!

I'm just glad cilantro isn't very expensive because it just doesn't keep. I've tried all the tips (in a glass of water, on the counter, etc) and none of them have panned out. I just pitch it and buy more. I've rolled over on this one. I tried growing it but that didn't go well either. It's a problem child herb.

When I buy a bunch of fresh cilantro, I usually divide it in half and chop it for use. One of the halves goes right into whatever I am making and the other goes into the freezer. The frozen cilantro seems to work just as well as fresh in recipes where it’s cooked.

Keep calm and add butter.

My friend's husband is bats about the Gaines and they even went to Waco in hopes of seeing them somewhere in their empire. My reaction? Waco needed something to divert attention from the Baylor football sex scandal or the memories of the Branch Dividians or the Applebee's motorcycle gang fights and the Gaines are just so wholesome.

Yep. Except it's "Gaineses." Sorry.

So what are all of you cooking or eating for Valentine's Day? Even after the fact would be interested.

Probably Indian spinach and potatoes my husband is making from the Rasika book (yes, he's the best) and leftover cake from today's photo shoot. :)

Well, you've finished us by whisking in some butter, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie for helping with the a's!

Now for a cookbook winner: The chatter who asked about finding a vegan harira will get "Great Vegan Meals for the Carnivorous Family" by Amanda Logan, source of my recent Porcini Risotto recipe. Send your info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll 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.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
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