Free Range on Food: Vietnamese cooking, granola you can make on your stove, revisions to the dietary guidelines and more.

Feb 27, 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!

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

Andrea Nguyen's fun take on Vietnamese cooking with easy-to-find supermarket ingredients.

Tamar Haspel's deep dive into the question of whether the US Dietary Guidelines contributed to our obesity epidemic.

Carrie Allan's look at the role of wood and fire -- barrel aging! -- in spirits, with some recommended bottles to try.

Becky's fabulous rainbow sprinkle cake, to celebrate a year of eating (and cooking) Voraciously! Plus her latest on a low-and-slow steak technique that really works.

Bonnie's gorgeous carrot soup for a quick dinner!

My look at avocado/coconut noodles, a fun plant-based recipe to shake you out of whatever rut you might be in.

So much more!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR6723 . 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.

We'll also have a cookbook to give to our favorite chatter: It'll be Jessica Elliott Dennison's "Salad Feasts." 

Let's do this!

Your soup recipe from this week looks so delicious-- one catch-- I have a tree nut allergy. Do you think I could replace the pecans with sunflower/pumpkin seeds, or is this recipe a no-go for me?

That sounds like a fine substitution! 

Carrot Soup With Toasted Spices and Pecans

I'm really intrigued by the avocado & coconut noodle recipe--sounds like a great weeknight meal, and I can't wait to try it out. But omg those comments! I don't know how you all deal with it. "It's too many calories, it's too few calories for a meal, why add sweetener, you're trying too hard with that coconut..." I read only a few of them and got so irritated. So, yeah. Thanks to you guys for doing what you do and for putting up with impossible-to-please Internet strangers. <3

Hooboy, I know! I'm not sure what it was about that recipe that caused such different reactions, but, sigh. Sometimes I do have to hold my tongue -- because I want to say, "IT'S JUST A RECIPE, PEOPLE!"

RECIPE: Avocado and Coconut Noodles

Ms. Allan: I'm thinking of a drink that -- in the words of immortal Douglas Addams -- feels like you've been hit on the head with a gold brick wrapped inside a lemon peel. Any suggestions?

You mean if you can't get your hands around a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster? How about a gin martini made with Navy-strength gin (the new one from Ford's spends some time in sherry barrels, so it's even gold-ish) with a big swath of lemon peel expressed across the surface?

Hi Joe: Wondering your thoughts on a hearty veg breakfast suitable after an ambitious workout. Thanks! :) -Rachel

Hi, Rachel! (In case others are wondering, Rachel and I go to the same group fitness gym!)

All I can manage after those workouts is a protein bar, and I did find one I really like: Papa Steve's No Junk Raw Protein Bars. They have ingredients like peanut butter, dates, apples, brown rice puffs, whey protein, spices, chocolate. If you want to make your own, they remind me of these Chewy Cranberry, Millet and Pistachio Bars I've made and loved -- but Papa Steve's puts in more protein, so I'd be tempted to add some protein powder to the mix (perhaps with some water so it doesn't change the texture too much). Give it a try!

RECIPE: Chewy Cranberry, Millet and Pistachio Bars

I just came back from Ireland where I had banoffee pie three times! Does anyone (Food staffer or reader) have a good recipe for making this at home?

We NEED one, so help us out, chatters! Every time I see "Love, Actually" I am reminded to test the recipe.

I would like to try making those ghee biscuits...what kind of flour should be used for them? Thank you for all your recipes, info, suggestions. I am a reasonable but not always confident home cook/baker and have a limited repertoire...you have all helped me widen my baking,, cooking exploration.

Good old all-purpose flour! (Whenever you see just "flour" in a recipe, including one of ours, you can assume a/p...)

Let us know how it goes!

Ghee is the secret to these meltingly tender 5-ingredient cookies

The only skillets I use are iron, originally owned by an uncle, who passed away in 1962, and grandmother in 1974. Needless to say, they are old and well used. I thought they were invincible. Last week one of them fell from the kitchen counter to floor and the handle broke off. Can it be fixed, and if so, how?

Oh, no! Did the handle break in two, or did it break off the skillet where it is/was riveted/attached? You might be able to find a metalworker who could solder it back together or on...

Hi. My husband who is always trying healthier ways to cook meat recently set a round wire cooling rack in a skillet, placed salted and peppered boneless skinless chicken breasts on the rack, added a tablespoon or so of oil to the skillet, put a tight-fitting glass lid on, and cooked it on low for about 30-40 minutes, until the temperature of the chicken reached 170-175. The chicken was wonderfully moist and delicious. He then tried it with bone-in chicken thighs, but the results weren't nearly as good. Is there a name for his method? It's not braising, and it's not steaming, or is it? Just wanted to share what he did. Thanks for hosting this food chat which I look forward to every week.

Sounds like he created his own air fryer! To be clear, the oil's in the pan but it's not touching the chicken, because that's on the rack above? 

The chat headline reads 'Vietnamese cooking, granola you can make on your stove, revisions to the dietary guidelines and more.' As an online subscriber, I see several recipes for Spanish items / tapas, and nothing Vietnamese. And despite multiple Spanish recipes I don't see an article explaining the Spanish theme. Is this an online vs. print problem? I often feel like I'm reading a different section then you describe in the chat. Thanks for helping me understand.

We tend to title the chat with the subjects that were in that day's print section, which were published online over the last couple of weeks, and there are usually some newer pieces that have published online since then. We're here to talk about anything that you want, though, so feel free to ask about anything that's not covered in that headline! If you want to read anything mentioned, I link to them all in the intro. As for the Spanish article, it's there -- and linked to from every one of those recipes, too! Here it is for easy finding.

but I'm not positive the turkey will fit. Do you have any suggestions? I guess I could cut the breast in half and still use the pot if it turns out to be too big? I'm mostly looking for protein to add to lunch salads, so something simple would be fine. I just need to be sure to get some seasoning into the meat.

I know that 4 lbs' worth will fit, but the thing to do is test-fit your turkey breast while it's still in its package. If it's a 7-pounder, say, maybe you would want to split it in half, down the breastbone, which is easy to do (a la spatchcock, press down till it cracks, then cut with a chef's knife). 

 

I was very impressed with Ann Mah's IP turkey recipe that she shared with us for Thanksgiving -- maybe a few pointers there?

I bought a package of lavash a couple of days ago and it tasted good but was quite dry. How do I treat it so that it comes out tender and warm the way it does at restaurants? I'm afraid the microwave will just dry it out.

The key is in wrapping it before heating. You can wrap in foil and reheat in a 250-degree oven, which should keep it tender -- if not, try sprinkling it with a little water before you wrap. The microwave can work fine, too -- if you wrap it first. Don't use foil, obviously, but damp paper towels should do the trick.

If you live near a historic district you might be able to find a blacksmith who would probably be delighted at the challenge. (My mother-in-law did this in Haiti in 1967 when one of the house staff pretended that her cast-iron skillet had broken all by itself, but there were blacksmiths readily available.)

A friend recently gave me a dozen eggs from chickens he keeps on his property. They were just a couple of days old, and they had not been refrigerated. This is my first experience with eggs right off the farm, and I was skeptical about their condition. He said that they had some sort of coating that's associated with the laying process and that the eggs don't need to be refrigerated until the coating is washed off. So, is this accurate? How should these eggs be handled/washed/stored? I still have them, but I don't want to actually eat them until I better understand the food safety issues. Thanks.

You definitely don't need to refrigerate them before they're washed, and you probably don't need to refrigerate them after. If you google "should I refrigerate my eggs?" you'll see a transoceanic debate (Europeans don't). The reason to refrigerate isn't to protect them from spoilage, it's to prevent any bacteria that are already in there from proliferating. (About 1 in 20,000 commercial eggs has salmonella.) So make something delicious with those eggs! (Although I will issue my regular reminder that all eggs, even the ones from your neighbor's well-kept chickens, taste the same.) Enjoy.

If your going on vacation or a business trip here are two things you should do right before you leave.1) Dump out all the ice in the ice maker. If you never empty your ice drawer that ice can get kinda funky. Come home to fresh, clean ice. 2) put a heavy coat of Mineral oil on your cutting board. If you will be gone for more then 3 or 4 days oil it so much that the oil is slick on top. While your gone it will absorb into the wood conditioning it beautifully.

Well, damp! ;-)

Ha! Those damn paper towels! Too funny.

I got "end cap" suckered into a bag of tvp at the grocery store, after having heard about it for a while but not having tried it. I see a bunch of recipes where it's used seemingly as a texture/filler but don't see much where it is the "star". Is this because it has not much (or a meh) flavor on it's own? If not, can you recommend a good recipe where it can really shine so I can get a sense of it's qualities? Thanks!

Yeah, it doesn't have much flavor. I'd say look for recipes that use ground turkey, which also doesn't have all that much flavor, really. Here's a good one from Bonnie that I think would take well to the sub of TVP.

RECIPE: Turkey Tortilla Skillet

I have these beautiful citrus fruits (pomelo and tangerine hybrid I think) with a thick and aromatic rind. I candied some of them and turned out very good but, would like to know which other recipes I can do with citrus rinds besides candying & zesting them. I thought I could use the candied ones in scones or maybe add to granola, but I was wondering which other ways I can use them (vegetarian savory will be a plus).

You could drop a few wide strips of the zest into a pot of beans (or maybe even the whole rind?), or a pot of something tomato-based (borrowing that trick from this recipe for Cod Stew With Fennel, Olives and Orange Essence).

Any Citrus Tea Cake

For something else sweet, add zest to a simple syrup , as in the Any Citrus Tea Cake, and drizzle that over baked goods or mix it with bubbly water. Also thinking zest would make a nice addition to a shrub.

Northern VA and MD are horsey areas. Google for a farrier and he/she can fix your skillet handle, no problem.

I use TVP in my vegetarian chili, which is my favorite use. I also sometimes use it in black bean burgers, for an extra hit of protein.

In search of a low alcohol weekday cocktail, I've been wanting to try a Vermouth Spritz! Unfortunately, my local liquor store seemed to only stock Martini & Rossi. Do you know where I can find some nicer vermouths (preferably in the Dupont/Georgetown area)? Would also appreciate any recommendations for a specific brand - thanks!

Hey, great idea. And yes, absolutely: It's been a while since I hit the shops down there, but pretty sure there's a decent selection at Connecticut Ave Wine and Liquor and Georgetown Wine & Spirits. Outside those areas, my go-tos tend to be Ace, Batch 13 and Schneider's, which all have a good selection. Some of my favorite brands: Cocchi (their Americano, especially, makes a really nice spritz), Dolin, Carpano. I also really like Vermouth del Professore and our local Capitoline.

What is for breakfast in Spain? Since it seems (according to the article), that it isn't eggs.

Author Jeff Koehler says:

Café con leche… 
Toasted bread with marmalade. Or with olive oil and cured ham or some cheese.
Churros…
Pastries.
Cookies.

Hi, can this be made as one, large potpie, in a shallow casserole? Also, I'd rather use boneless thighs, for flavor. I assume that is ok (and yes, I know it changes the nutritional profile). Thanks.

Ellie Krieger says: Yes and yes!

 

Chicken Potpies With Crumble Crust

 

parenting chat was cancelled, but they posted a Post Points code anyway, but it doesn't work. If it isn't a bother, could you ask the points people to work their magic and turn it on? OP3152. Thanks so much. Yours is fine.

I pinged the parenting chat folks about this!

A complete and total failure. I baked it for an hour at 350 in a pyrex loaf pan, and the outside started burning whilst the inside was still raw banana goo. What should I have done? Turned the temperature down? I threw the whole miserable mess into the trash and sulked for the rest of the afternoon.

which recipe?

Last night, I made a montage of veggies for dinner: mushrooms sauteed with onions and grape tomatoes, made saucy with vermouth, soy sauce, and dijon, served over steamed spinach with a side of roasted cauliflower. It was totally yum, and I really liked breaking from the standard protein-vegetable-carb construct. So, any creative ideas for something different tonight using those ingredients? I'd rather keep it veg and reasonably healthy. Thanks!

Sounds great! So tonight, you could do something like, puree that cauliflower and spinach, heat it on the stovetop, season, and stir in the sauteed mushroom/onion/tomato mix from the day before for a soup. Or you could try changing up the spices and reheat the mushroom mixture with some ground chipotle, toss the cold cauliflower in some vinegar, and eat them as tacos! Or puree the cauliflower with some smoked paprika and a little tahini, slasher it on toasted pita, and pile the mushrooms on top. And a million other things I'm not thinking of!

The handle broke at an angle near where it was attached, and thank you for the welder suggestion! If Rachel wants something other than an energy bar w/o cooking she could nuke a breakfast burrito. I buy Amy's or Whole Foods brand. Amy's also makes frozen breakfast tofu scrambles. Those are my go-to's when I don't have time to cook. Also, veggie tamales, which I am having this morning.

And I got a little over enthusiastic. But, hey, it's broccoli so it isn't like it is bad for you. When I have more than I am going to be able to eat quickly, I usually roast it with just olive oil and some salt, but this bounty could be more than one batch. Any suggestions of some spices/combinations that would kick things up a notch?

Try:
-- nigella seed + salt + pepper

-- ground cumin + ground coriander + ground turmeric + salt + pepper

-- fennel seed + ground spicy chile + salt

-- whatever spice you want to use up in your pantry + salt + pepper 

-- roasted plain, then tossed with nutritional yeast, or hot sauce, or tons of chopped fresh herbs, or capers, or diced preserved lemon, or chopped up anchovies (with a little oil to help things stick, if needed)

Also if you need a spot to nestle that plain roasted broccoli, highly recommend these Roast Broccoli Hero Sandwiches:

Roast Broccoli Hero Sandwiches

And did you see Joe's comment last week, about broccoli and miso? Sounds great to me! Here it is:

I roasted a head's worth of broccoli florets (tossed with olive oil and a little salt -- less than I'd usually use because of what would follow), and while it was roasting, I scooped a couple tablespoons of my favorite miso (a chickpea variety, akin to white miso, from South River) into a large bowl, along with a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast. And when the broccoli came out, while it was still warm, I fairly vigorously tossed it with that mixture, adding a little more olive oil, and it was ... amazing.

Becky's steak technique is similar to Alton Brown's reverse sear, something my brother has recently embraced to massive success. I, too, have been previously stymied by steaks and am very intimidated, but my bro (and Alton) insist that this method is nigh on foolproof. I guess I'm going to have to break down and try this recipe at this point.

Seared, Slow-Roasted Steak

RECIPE: For beautifully cooked steak, take it low and slow in the oven

Yup, kinda similar, except reverse sear means you put it on the stove top after roasting, instead of before, as you do with mine. I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's reverse sear technique when I did pork chops, and it was very nice.

Reverse-Seared Pork Chops With Apple Cider Pan Sauce

RECIPE: For juicy pork chops that won’t dry out, take those thick cuts from the oven to the skillet

I know I'm not the only one to struggle with steak, which is why I was such a huge fan of this recipe. But of course I've already had at least one commenter call it "stupid," so we'll see how that goes. ;)

My family doesn’t like jasmine rice. Would the substitution of regular long grain rice be equally good, would I still need to rinse it? (I never rinse regular long grain). In the last steps of simmering and resting do you leave pot on burner the entire time or remove from heat at very end (10 to 30 minutes)?

Vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice

 

Cookbook author Andrea Nguyen says:

Definitely, you can sub a favorite white long grain rice. Always rinse rice to rid the grains of some of the surface starch and thereby give it a bright flavor. The pot can sit on the same burner all the way through. There's no need to move it. You're using residual heat to very gently cook.  

Missed this recipe, so thanks for mentioning it. OMG are they great! And so darn easy. Can't say enough good things. If you like Snickerdoodles, try them. I renamed them, "Better than Snickerdoodles," if that is even possible. Rave reviews from Snickerdoodle loyalists.

Yes! These were an early fave among our Holiday Cookie taste testers (positions already filled for 2020, fyi).

 

Made this for the Oscars. First note, check the package on the puff. They didn't have the recommended brand where I was and I ended up with a smaller rectangle than anticipated. Second, I wasn't entirely clear on how the shallots were to be cut. Seems to be quartered, length-wise, but cut through the root each time, or cut parallel for the second cut. Everyone loved it, but I cut my shallots too thick. Can't wait to play with the recipe.

Great to hear! Yes, I mentioned that with Pepperidge Farm, it'll be smaller than with Dufour. As for cutting the shallots, I cut each in half lengthwise, and then cut each one of those halves in half again, lengthwise.

Frozen puff pastry is the key to the quick cheese and onion tart of your dreams

I made an amateur mistake. I made some pierogis, and after boiling them I put them on paper towels on cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer. As you might imagine, they are now frozen to the paper towels and the cookie sheet. Is there any easy way to get them off? Can I defrost and then refreeze them?

Seems like pouring some hot or warm water on the baking sheet and letting it soak the paper ought to help with detach. 

Re defrosting/refreezing -- what are they filled with? 

My mom received some beautiful copper pots as a gift over 30 years ago AND NEVER USED THEM. not even once. She handed them down to me and now I want to use them and not just keep them as display pieces. They seem to be pristine minus some major tarnish and even some oxidation around the handles. Not sure what the lining is but they are very heavy so I assume stainless. The internet says use salt and vinegar to clean.... and that even tomatoes can be used because of the acid? Please help - I need a primer on how to clean and subsequently cook with and care for them!

Salt and vinegar does the trick, beautifully!

I hadn't made focaccia in some time and made this recipe, which is endorsed by the food section and adapted from a reputable cookbook. It sticks to the pan. I use plenty of oil and I've tried two different pans, one square and one round. It's stuck both times, worse with the round pan. The bread itself is nice, but the sticking is frustrating. Any ideas for a fix?

Hm! That is a bit perplexing, because every time I've made it, it has released beautifully from the pan. I know a ton of readers have made it, and I haven't gotten any notes about it sticking either. What type of pan are you using (i.e. material, finish)? Is there a possibility your oven is running hot? Where in the oven were you baking it?

Fast Focaccia

RECIPE: This fast, no-knead focaccia is a gateway into the world of baking bread

So, the chat code worked, but today's quiz was from Carrie's article on aged spirits. I got the answer right and it told me I was wrong. I wrote to the points folks about it, but this is just one of a number of recent issues with the points thing. They need to straighten up!

Hmm, when I try it and enter the correct answer -- 40 to 70 percent -- it tells me I'm right!

Due to budget and counter/cabinet space restrictions, I can buy one of the following: an insta whatever pressure cooker, a high-powered blender or an air fryer. All have been recommended as I try to do more plant-based cooking. Know not all same price, but would really like to hear from anyone with recommendations. OR do I not need any? Never bought a spiralizer, and still eating a lot of zucc.

I vote high-powered blender!

Without knowing more from you about your lifestyle and needs, I'd agree with Bonnie. Vita-Mix and its ilk are amazing. But maybe you want to auto-pressure-cook beans on any given weeknight? Then I'd say Instant Pot. Or you love fried foods but want to make them less caloric/fatty? Obviously the air fryer.

That's what I answered, at about 7 this morning. Guess they fixed it!

Hi- we are expanding a vegan supper club in our neighborhood. I chose to do a main dish- can you give me an idea of something that would serve 6-8 people and that I could put together in under 2-3 hours? By the way for our first meeting(only 4 of us- we did the Hoisen Tofu/peanut noodles. TERRIFIC

Fried Hoisin Tofu With Peanut Noodles

RECIPE: It’s time you mastered the dark art of tofu. This noodle dish will help you.

I love salad. Not just the taste but the crunch. Sometimes I think it's mostly the crunch. If popcorn and chips weren't crunchy, would they be so popular? What I don't understand is why loud, crunchy food is sold at movie theaters. I could hardly hear the beautiful sounds of Roma because people seated nearby were munching popcorn. I'm also wondering, what do you suggest eating when trying to listen to broadcast hearings like Michael Cohen's appearance right now?

I feel your pain. I just try to spin my extreme annoyance into being impressed that a person can eat so enthusiastically and with such abandon. It doesn't usually work. Alas.

(Did you watch Phantom Thread? Did the loud buttering of toast and pouring of liquid scenes strike a chord with you too?)

For hearing eats, something that won't make too much of a mess if you happen to spew it out due to shock or surprise? Something that goes down easily, such as a smoothie, in case you're crying and are afraid you'll choke? Chocolate? 

in your favorite dip. Mine is a green goddess dressing a local deli chain makes.

They don't last forever and ever. I soaked a piece and tasted it. Still had a bite, but absolutely no flavor, except something reminiscent of dust. Tossed them.

I know Joe hates to hear this, but I am not a big veggie fan. (grew up with soggy, mushy nasty ones). I have been getting better at putting veggies in pureed soups. Wanted to ask about the urban myth that cooking veggies a long time, to the point they puree very smooth, cooks out the healthy vitamins. Is there any general rule of thumb to cooking veggies to the point where its not worth it anymore?

There's been lots written about which cooking methods result in the least loss of nutrients from vegetables, and it's kind of a mixed bag, so the consensus is that you should eat vegetables cooked a variety of ways. As for cooking vegetables so long you "cook out" the vitamins, I think that would be the case only with something like boiling, where the nutrients leach out into the water. But you can use the water!

If a recipe calls for extra large, but only have large, what's a lazy cook, who doesn't want to run to the store, to do?

Depends on what kind of recipe, really. For a frittata, no real prob. For baking, liquid volume would make a difference, so check conversion charts like this one

It depends on how many eggs are called for in the recipe, and what the recipe is. If it's a baking recipe, and it calls for more than four eggs, I'd use an equivalency chart to try to get you closer. If you're using fewer eggs, don't sweat it.

My life partner's wheelchair frame was broken, and he went to a muffler shop to get it welded back together. They were so tickled, they didn't even charge him!

Where can I get paczki locally? I'm from Detroit and can get them any and everywhere. Here in DC, it's like a treasure hunt.

Might need to take a trip to Baltimore. Chatters, any tips?

Hey chatter pals, I need your help for a recipe project. Pls send answers NOT TO THIS CHAT RIGHT NOW but to me via email: bonnie.benwick@washpost.com. In the subject field, write RECIPE ISSUES. Thanks in advance! Here's the question:

 

What is your biggest pet peeve/least-favorite feature of the way recipes are written?

From the recipe link on the reverse cook pork chops - one question. I use a cast iron grill pan, instead of a skillet. Given the less direct contact (the raised grilled, versus the flat skillet surface), could I ask your thoughts on how to finish the pork chops (or steak for that matter). I assume I would have to cook them longer on the grill pan, but any ideas on the difference?

Actually, I don't think you'd have to make that much of an adjustment. Those things get pretty hot anyway, ridges or not. Just keep an eye on it. The good thing with both those recipes is that you're not worrying about the state of the inside of the meat. All you're looking for is color, at the end with the pork and at the beginning with the steak.

RESOUNDING PRAISE FOR THIS RECIPE. I thought I had made a mistake though, when I used American Black walnuts because WOAH those things are pungent. But after cooking, the black walnuts lent an amazing woody, gamey flavor reminiscent of wild boar - felt very gourmet in a simple marinara sauce. Would highly recommend rangers try subbing black walnuts for some or all of regular walnuts.

Thanks for this! Yes, black walnuts are so different -- AND, warning: They go rancid much more quickly than conventional walnuts. But when they're fresh and/or stored well, the flavor is great. Good to know they work well here!

Mushroom-walnut ‘meatballs’ add a plant-based dose of retro comfort to your pasta game

I made the coconut rice with coconut water. Instead of white jasmine rice I used brown jasmine rice. I found that following the recipe the rice was not cooked through. I had to add more water and cook slowly. Did using brown jasmine rice make the difference in cooking time?

Yes it did -- brown rice, jasmine or not, takes a lot longer to cook than white rice.

Read last week’s chat after it ended. You recommended this recipe as an option for hard boiled eggs.  The photo makes them look yummy and I plan to try the recipe soon. I love pickled eggs. My super quick and easy recipe for pickled eggs is to save the juice from jars of pickled beets (homemade or store-bought) and just pop the eggs into the pickling juice for a day or so. I learned this growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country where the Amish and Mennonites are very thrifty. They’ve reuse everything, even pickling juice!

Can't wait to try your recipes. Grew up in NoVa and remember when many Vietnamese moved here, but was too young to understand. Now live close to Eden Center (lucky me) and have many Vietnamese friends. All I can say is the stories of how many got here are amazing. Belated welcome. Your culture is fascinating, but food even better.

She'll be delighted to hear this!

Devil's food bundt cake+Cool Whip.

Just learned - the hard-ish way - the difference between Saigon Cinnamon (that's what McCormick's call it) and regular cinnamon. Made some potent cookies - good, but had no idea how potent Saigon cinnamon is - any ideas how to best use it?

I like Saigon's spicy, loud cinnamon notes in sweets, as opposed to the more mellow Ceylon, which I add to savory things. Use less next time!

I bought a package of 7-grain cereal on impulse because I love oatmeal and cornmeal mush, but it just didn't appeal to me as a hot cereal. I'm experimenting with baking my own bread, so can I substitute the cereal for part of the whole-grain flour? Should I whiz it in a blender first and weigh it or measure it by volume?

That's a fun idea -- go forth and try it! Yes, try to get it fine in a blender, and measure by weight.

I, too, grew up hating vegetables because my mother cooked them until they were mushy, tasteless, and almost colorless. I have since learned to love lots of veggies, including brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc. Most of them are delicious if you chop them up and roast them, drizzled with some olive oil, salt and pepper. You don't have to hide them!

Kielbasa Factory in Rockville and Polka Deli in Silver Spring. I know they have them on the weekends.

I haven't made this *specific* focaccia recipe but I've found that after letting the dough rest in the oiled pan, gently lifting the dough from the bottom of the pan to ensure some oil can run back under the dough before putting it in the oven has eliminated all my sticking issues.

Hey, nice tip!

Oh God. How quickly are we talking here? I may be storing said black walnuts incorrectly. They are currently in an air tight jar in the pantry. Should I freeze them?

YES. Run!

Black walnuts are delicious in hermit cookies. That is all. :)

I think the Kielbasa Factory in Rockville usually has them. (Which reminds me that I need to go stock up on their stuffed cabbage....)

Happy anniversary, Voraciously! I've never really used it because I'm a fairly experienced cook, BUT: when I made that delicious cinnamon cake (highly recommend adding apples, and yes, I rated it!), the batter seemed awfully thick to me, and I was wondering if I'd done something wrong or if I should add more milk. Then--bing!--hey, I could pop over to the Voraciously video and check! And I did, and it was supposed to be that way, and I ended up with a delicious cake. I know some folks poo-poo it, but it serves a pretty good purpose. Thanks!

Thanks for the well wishes! We definitely want to capture that beginning-intermediate level of cook, but I like to think we have content that appeals to everyone. Especially the recipes, like you mention!

Love, love, love that coffee cake. It's been a reader favorite.

Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

RECIPE: This classic coffee cake is what good mornings are made of

I have chicken (bonless skinless breasts and thighs), a jar of harissa, and not a ton of time. Could you recommend an easy dinner dish involving these components? I have never cooked with harissa before and could use some advice. Thanks!!

Whisk a few tablespoons of the harissa into a cup or two of yogurt. Salt and pepper the chicken. Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the chicken in the yogurt mixture, lay out on a roasting pan, and cover with foil. Bake until done! (You can also uncover and broil for a few minutes to brown.)

I think you just began an avalanche. How we cranky cooks love to complain. Seriously, this is a great idea. Can't wait to see the results. Thanks

If you play, you get the 5 points, even when your answer is wrong (or Post Points incorrectly tells you that it is wrong.) Click on “Points Available”, then on “View All Transactions” to see your 5 points. But, yes, Post Points has been having issues lately with codes that do not work (Daily Codes, Express Codes, Chat Codes,) Almost too much trouble to bother with it any more!

Mega raves for the Choc. Bread recipe from last weeks chat. Made it and everyone loved it. Sent the recipe to my sister and she made it and got the same enthusiastic responses. A real winner and would make a great hostess gift.

Awesome! Have always wanted to make that.

Chocolate Bread

RECIPE: Chocolate Bread

What do you think? Worth it to buy the pre-cut? Is flavor lost? My knives are dull, so b-nut squash is a challenge. Advice welcome.

Spend the money you would save by buying whole butternut squash, and get those knives sharpened!

(And if you reject this advice, know that if the pre-cut looks fresh, flavor shouldn't be lost.)

I didn't see Pepperidge Farm either, for the record. But I was kind of rushed. Having never used puff before, I was also really surprised to see it had to thaw for 2 hours after I'd already done all the shallot chopping and cheese grating. Put the slab on the oven while it heated to try and hurry up the process.

HI Food Friends! My husband and I just built a new home and our friends are excited to see it. We are planning an open house to accommodate everyone (perhaps 50-60 guests), and brunch seemed like a fun option. Any easy, delicious menu ideas to serve a group this big? Perhaps ham and biscuits and sides with vegetarian options? Targeting April/spring for the open house. Thanks for your help!

That sounds lovely! Becky will have a very good biscuit recipe publishing soon, in case you need one. 

Nectarine and Fennel Salad

To round that out, a few salads that are good at room temp are always nice. A take on this nectarine salad, perhaps? (But use citrus or mango or something else that's more in season than nectarines will be at that time of year!)

I baked it on the middle rack on a pizza stone, as the recipe called for. The first pan was square and ceramic; the second was round and metal. I hadn't been able to locate the metal pan when I made the first batch, which is why I used the ceramic one. I figured the sticking was because of the pan, but then the second was done with the pan I figured the recipe was calling for and was worse than the first one. All I can figure is adding more olive oil.

Yes, would definitely go with the metal over ceramic. If it's consistently sticking, for sure try more oil and maybe that chatter's suggestion about lifting it up a bit before baking. Thank you for your persistence! If you continue to have issues, feel free to email me.

Well, you've lets us crisp as we cool, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks to Carrie for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about CRUNCH and movie theaters will get "Salad Feasts." Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book. And make it fast, because, sadly, this is Kara's last week with us... although she'll be contributing pieces hopefully regularly.

Until next week, 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.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
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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