Free Range on Food: DNA diets, new fangled pizza boxes, all about pears, this week's recipes and more!

Oct 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! Today I'm chatting from our Food Lab, because I've got carrots roasting for a great-looking soup that you'll read about soon.

What's cooking in your world?

Here's what we've been up to:

Tamar Haspel wrote about the connection between genetics and obesity ("Do these genes make me look fat?"), in light of these personalized diets. A must-read, as usual.

Carrie Allan did her bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble best to concoct scary-good Halloween cocktails. And she shows you how to, too!

Becky is all OVER pear season, with this great guide to picking and using them.

Emily Heil tested Pizza Hut's new round pizza box, and also the new non-chicken nuggets, led by chicken giant Tyson.

And we have so many other new recipes for you, including my latest for Weeknight Veg (Alison Roman's super-tasty roasted squash) and Ellie Krieger's latest for Nourish (this creamy-without-cream cauliflower soup). 

We'll have a giveaway book for our favorite chatter today -- it's going to be a pick-your-own-adventure situation!

Let's do this.

Is it gone? I was hoping the column would continue on after Bonnie Benwick’s retirement. I could always count on it for quick dinner ideas, although in my hands the “dinner in 25 minutes” usually ended up more like “dinner in 45 minutes.”

It's on hiatus for a short time until we have our new recipes editor in place. In the meantime, pay attention to the other recipes on Voraciously, especially Becky's: She's writing about essential dishes we think everybody needs to know how to make, like her fast French onion soup recently. So good.

But trust that it'll return by, oh, probably mid-December. Thanks for reading!

With the Nats in the world series and winning game 1 we're having some friends over for game 3 and I want to make a nat's theme food/drink event. What are some of the must have's specific to the Nationals? (Alcohol drinks are welcome!!) I thought things like a chili dog but that's not really National's specific.

If you're doing a drink beyond just a stadium beer, the Rickey is a solid choice for a cocktail that reps the city!

One of our readers sent us a photo of pretzels she'd shaped into the Nats' "W" logo! It looked wonderful. 

You have posted three waffle recipes that I want to try. Sadly, I have no waffle iron. Years ago I had a waffle maker that had plates that you could flip over and make pizzelles with at Christmas time. I was so sad when it bit the dust. What make of waffle iron does the Post use in its kitchens? Should I get a regular or Belgian waffle maker? Help - future breakfasts/lunch/breakfast for suppers are waiting for your advice.


ARTICLE: Make your mornings — or evenings — brighter with a week’s worth of waffle recipes

We actually tested out the Cuisinart double-iron for that photo, and I have to say, I loved it. It is America's Test Kitchen's top-rated waffle iron. Being able to do two at once was awesome, and it cooked up the waffles beautifully. (You can choose the degree of doneness you want, too.) It's definitely on the big side, so if you're short on space, a more compact single machine would be better. ATK also likes the Presto Flipside in that category.

I would go Belgian. You get tall, attractive waffles with deep wells for syrup and all your toppings.

Made my own roasted carrot soup last night for supper with the rain- it was tasty! Today is Nats Red Velvet Cupcakes in honor of their win last night (and to prove to myself I can still decorate cakes- the last one fell apart into 4 pieces).


So I bought 2 dozen key limes intending to make pie and then I lost the desire to make the pie. What shall I do with them? (I'm a vegetarian non drinker)... can I juice them and freeze the juice?

You can juice and freeze them, yes! How about making some limeade too? We've got a recipe for Sparkling Limeade if you want something fizzy.

More of an observation than anything: One thing I'm fearing now that the Beyond and Impossible "meat" burgers are appearing more regularly on menus is that some places that had really good veggie/bean burgers will replace them with the meat taste-a-likes. My wife and I discovered this at the BGR in Columbia recently. She's a non-meat eater and thought their bean burger was one of the best she had ever had - especially when so many options are of the dried out Morningstar Farms variety or just a lazy hunk of portobello. I even ordered it occasionally because I enjoyed it as well, but now it's no longer on the menu as an option. While she liked BGR's Beyond Burger just fine, she never particularly loved the taste of meat back when she did eat it - so, she doesn't have much of a reason to seek out the new varieties (when I saw Beyond and Impossible brands in grocery stores afterwards, she declined my offer to pick some up - it's just not her thing). I'm doubtful that it's cost efficient for BGR or similar places to carry both options, so I understand that side of it. It's just unfortunate that it's a choice that's lost to some consumers.

I feel you! And so does Alicia Kennedy, who wrote a piece for us about this very thing. 

As the Impossible and Beyond burgers take off, will real veggie burgers go extinct?

Used half of it in a stir fry. Now, what to do with the other half?

Make Joe's Okonomiyaki With Smoked Tofu.

And check out my roundup here with 11 different cabbage recipes. 


How do you recommend storing a jar of dry yeast? Some people online suggest the freezer, some say don't freeze, some say put in an airtight container to store, Etc. I was going to just put it in the freezer in the jar it came in, but would love to know what you suggest. Thanks!

I always store mine in the freezer and have never had a problem. Helps it last.

The glass lid of our Cuisinart stock pot shattered the other day while a pot of soup was simmering (at very low heat) on the stove top. No advance warning, just *boom*. The pot was relatively new -- purchased in May -- and it hadn't been exposed to any extreme temperatures. In fact, it had hardly been used at all, since it was intended to be a soup pot and until recently it had been too darn hot to even think about making soup. Has anyone else experienced this? If so, any luck in getting a replacement (non-glass!) lid from Cuisinart? Or a replacement batch of spicy sweet potato soup??

Oh, no!!! This sounds terrifying. I haven't heard of such a thing -- but putting this out to the chatters to see.

Meanwhile, here's a replacement RECIPE if not a full batch of soup.


Help!!! I'm making an old school food court bourbon chicken for dinner tonight. The chicken thighs are already marinating (soy sauce, sugar, hoisin, bourbon and 5 spice) however I accidentally used to much 5 spice. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon and I accidentally did 1 tablespoon. Is there any way to rectify this and still save the dish? I though about just doubling the soy,sugar,hoisin and bourbon but that's going to make WAY to much liquid and I feel that will really over marinate the chicken.

Does the marinade turn into a sauce, or do you discard it? I think you'll be fine, honestly -- just extra-flavorful this time around!

Do you all have any favorite places that you go to for delivery when you're ever sick (God forbid) of cooking? I'm thinking of places that offer a one-of-a-kind DC experiences like Rasa or Astro Doughnuts as opposed to just any pizza or Chinese carryout place. Thanks!

Junction Bakery is on Uber Eats, which is one of my delivery go-tos.

I like to get an order from Masala Story in Brookland. 


Casual Dining: Masala Story restaurant brings powerful North Indian flavors to Brookland

I ALSO order from Masala Story. They're so close, I really should just swing by, but that just means that when I order, it's super fast.

When a recipe involves the oven, it almost always says to place the item on the middle rack. My oven has two adjustable shelves that can go on any of four levels. There are heating coils on the bottom and top (it's electric). If I'm using a Dutch oven or roasting a turkey, it seems obvious to put a rack on the third level down and the pot or bird will reach to the second. But smaller dishes are going to end up closer to one of the heating elements or the other and I don't know which one to choose. For pans of meat and vegetables, and for baking cookies, bread, muffins, pizza, cake, which heat source should the pan be nearer to?

It helps to think where you want the heat. For bread, pizza and roasted vegetables, heat underneath is good, so I guess your middle lower rack would be the spot. The heating element at the bottom will get you a nice crust on the bread/pizza and good caramelization and browning on your vegetables and meat. Cookies, cake and muffins I would do upper-middle. I'd worry about burning and/or overcooking if they were farther down.

I have a custard pie recipe that I want to try, that calls for 2 T of rum. I don't drink, so don't keep any around the house, and don't want to buy any for such a small amount. What can I substitute? It's a pumpkin pie with the usual spices, and maple syrup.

Vanilla! Love it. 

He is trying to figure out how to get a cake he remembers getting at a Jewish bakery in Brooklyn many years ago. He said it was a French nut cake, but he doesn't remember what kind of nuts. And the cake was dark colored. Poking around the internet, I came up with it possibly being a walnut cake called Gâteau aux Noix. Do you have any other possibilities? And if this is the likely suspect, does anyone know a bakery in this area that makes it? My friend lives in Silver Spring. Thanks so much.

I think that's a good guess! Those are wonderful. But I don't know of an area bakery that makes it. Don't see it on the menu at Praline in Bethesda, nor at Paul. Maybe Fresh Baguette, also in Bethesda? Or Panorama in Union Market?

If you wanted to stick with the rum flavor, most ABC stores also sell rum in little travelers, too -- probably just enough for your recipe.

I have some bags of expired flour that weren't expired when they went in the refrigerator a year ago -- but they've been out of the refrigerator for about a month now (I needed the space). How do I tell if they're okay to use? One is self-rising, the other is all-purpose.

The nose knows -- if the flour has gone bad (tonight on Lifetime: "When Good Flour Goes Bad"), it'll smell musty and old. 

I live in northeast NY and am also seeing great restaurant-made veggie burgers quickly being replaced by Impossible and Beyond burgers. If I want those, I can make them at home (at least the Beyond ones). I like a good bean burger or quinoa burger and often don't want to bother with making my own. I'm sad to see them disappear from restaurants.

Why do the words "crackers" "bananas" and "nuts," all foods I like, also mean "crazy?"

Because you are crazy about them, obvi.

I received the Downton Abbey cookbook that I won here a few weeks ago, and it is gorgeous! My sister and I are going to use recipes for it when we settle in to watch the movie at home.


It is kind of a shame that the name "burger" has to be attached to these various meatless sandwiches. "Burger" conjures up the traditional ground beef version, but really, bean "burgers," or my husband's insanely delicious mushroom "burgers," are not substitutes, but terrific round-shaped melanges of their own. Have to maybe find a better name?

I see where you're coming from, but I think this is a losing battle! 

...are you not going to share how your husband makes these insanely delicious mushroom burgers?

My money is on almonds.

On Gardenburgers website they say they're available at Target. Has anybody seen them? I have not and I think they're just mocking me. Gardenburger was always my favorite veggie burger. I miss them.

I organize office "pot lucks" as team building events, but I have found that people don't always like to bring in complete individual dishes - so I have adapted the idea of "(blank) bar" themes - as in salad bar where everyone bring in single ingredients and we set up a make it yourself salad bar. I've also done a sandwich bar and a taco bar (same idea, everyone bring in one thing and people then make their own meal). gives lots of flexibility and adapts nicely to different food concerns. Problem is I'm running out of "bar" themes. Looking for ideas. (no cooking equipment available, its an office, but have a fridge and microwave). Would love other people ideas for "bar" or "assembly line" type themes


. . .and four out of five photos are visible -- vast improvement!

Four out of five dentists recommend not using Safari on this chat.

Hi Rangers! I use the Pepperplate app to store recipes. I really like it. But lately it seems like the photos attached to your recipes won't save in Pepperplate. Other website photos do, so it's not a Pepperplate problem. Did you recently (maybe a month or two ago) start using a different file format for your recipe photos online? Can you go back to the old way? Thanks!

Can you email us at, and we'll forward this to engineering.

I'm the OP and the 5 spice that's being used as a marrinate is going to be thrown out once the chicken is ready to be cooked. At that time that's when another sauce get's made and also has 5 spice.

Oh, I wouldn't worry about it at all then.

Cold like achoo, cough-cough. What would you do if your check-out person repeatedly coughed and sneezed while handling your groceries and standing just inches from you? By the time I heard and saw her coughing and sneezing at the person in front of me, it was too late to change to a different check-out -- my things were on the conveyor belt and there was a growing line behind me. I said I hoped she’d feel better soon. I also hoped she had an allergy, not something contagious. My silent guess was that she was only at work because she couldn’t afford to take a sick day. I thought briefly of stopping at customer service to tell them to take her off the line as a public health matter but she was stationed almost directly in front of them so it’s not like they didn’t know - and I didn’t want to get her in trouble, considering she was too poor to take a sick day. Also there was a line at customer service. I know this isn’t exactly a food question ...

Clearly you just have to wear a mask when you go to the store. That's what we've come to.

My grandmother has a Douglas pear tree which is probably 100 years old. The tree is about gone yet it continues to produce the most amazing fruit. I've googled Douglas pears and nobody appears to sell them anymore. Have you heard of this variety? It's very good.

I haven't! Anybody else?

Have mine from Costco in the coldest part of the fridge. It was a huge amount, and I've probably had it for several years. It still seems to work, but I've taken to using about half again as much as is called for in recipes. Suggestions for knowing whether I should be doing that?

Several years in the fridge? Yeah, I might be slightly worried about how effective it is at that point. Red Star, for example, says a few months after open in the refrigerator. I keep for longer in the freezer.

I guess you could always try proofing in warm water, but how much to increase if it's dying? Not worth it if your bread falls flat. I would just buy new yeast and keep in the freezer. 

I just finished a bottle of Red Boat fish sauce and was surprised that there were crystals at the bottom. Thoughts on what they were?

The crystals are, very likely, salt. When a fish sauce begins to degrade, as laid out in this explainer, the liquid will "become darker and more opaque. Its flavor will degrade, and sediment and salt crystals will appear at the bottom of the bottle."

My mother used to tell me that if I baked a potato and then left it out (still wrapped in foil) that I was risking getting botulism. I like to bake a potato and then take it work for my lunch the next day. I've been unwrapping the potato to cool it then I put the foil back on it and refrigerate it. Is that risky or is that ok?

You mom was right. See this.

What about an antipasto bar? Or a spread of spreads for breads?

Your article SO nailed my problem with pears - if I get a good and ripe one, it's sublime, but I can never tell when it's good and ripe, so I usually just pass on them. The pairing suggestions were great. But: do you think they can be frozen? Also, do they discolor like apples? I'm guessing not since you suggested putting them on a cheese board, but?

Looks like you can freeze pears. Here's one guide.

They do discolor like apples, which I mentioned at some point. Using some water mixed with lemon juice can help. Or just not caring whether they turn. :) Still edible!

I'm not the original poster but how does the Rickey equate to Nationals? I can see the pretzel made into a W but in my mind you need more than just pretzels and a drink especially if the poster is doing a theme dinner/appitizers.

The Rickey has ties to DC.

On other dishes, how about shark fin soup?  (No, please don't do this; sharks are overfished.)

Here's some background on the Rickey, thought to have been created in the mid-1880s at Shoomaker's on E Street NW.

On the oven racks, your explanation of what to do is pretty much what I've done for years. Of course, it does feel weird to see recipes continually call for the middle rack. Do they actually make ovens with three levels rather than four? I just replaced my oven and haven't thought about the lower oven, which is smaller, so maybe it has three levels. Feels silly that I might just have answered my own questions.

Not sure about 3. Looks like we have 5 levels in our Food Lab ovens, which makes the middle easy to find. I think my home oven can also have a rack in dead center.

My grandmother had a recipe for a really thin layer of cake in a 9 x 13 pan that had gooey pears topped with cinnamon sugar only and hardly any cake layer (I remember adding milk to an egg to make either a third or a half cup of liquid). I can't find a similar recipe and I wonder if there is a different name for such a thin amount of cake? Thanks.

Hmmm. I mean it sounds like a pear upside down cake, even a little bit like a tarte tatin. Any one else have ideas?

Hi Carrie, can you recommend my next whiskey/bourbon? I drink it straight, sometimes with one small ice cube. Would like to keep it under $100. My last bottle was Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, which I liked. Wouldn't mind branching out to something unique/more interesting, but don't want it to be too hard to find! Multiple ideas welcome - thanks!

Hmm, if you want bourbon specifically, you might try Old Forester 1920 or an Elijah Craig Small Batch. I really like some of the whiskeys coming out of Koval in Chicago, too. If you're willing to go wider and try a rye, Pikesville Straight Rye and Taylor are two that I like.

Put five spice on your popcorn. So good.

I absolutely loved the Made In America story (also great layout - scrolling through was such a pleasure and really gave the piece it's own distinct feel) about dishes that sound international but are actually American (or come from immigrants but were developed in America). Anyways, my question is to flip this - what are some dishes that sound American (or from another culture) in other countries but aren't actually? This came up after I was listening to a podcast (The Splendid Table) that talked about the origins of Japanese comfort food, curries in particular, and how those came from Western origins but are very much a part of Japanese culture. Anything else come to mind?

Thank you! The project was a joint effort on behalf of a lot of talented people at the paper.


To answer your question, I suspect there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes that are identified with a country, but have origins in other regions. Right now, I'm thinking specifically of pasta, which everyone equates to Italy, right? But the first noodles were, very likely, produced in central Asia and migrated westward into Europe.


Made in America: How four dishes with roots in other lands tell a story of immigration and transformation.

I just returned from Greece where I bought a yeast-raised roll with a cinnamon center. It seemed as if the dough in the middle was seasoned with a huge amount of cinnamon. The effect was not gooey (i.e. cinnamon, sugar, butter) like a sticky roll and there was no seam as if the dough had been divided into two parts and the cinnamon center enclosed in the standard dough. Do you or the chatters know what this is called and how to replicate it? Efcharisto!

I know just the thing: Rolo Kanelas! 

OK, I confess I just put "cinnamon roll" through Google translate. Can any chatters do better?


form when you store it in the refrigerator, so I've learned. And that's no necessary.

ice cream sundae bar; soup bar, if you can bring in a slow-cooker to keep broth warm (think asian style, with different additions, like veggies, proteins); antipasto is a good idea, but you can mix it up, like a Mediterranean bar with hummus, dolmas, etc. or something more spanish with serrano ham, manchego, marcona almonds. wish I worked in your office!


Made the Maple Sour Cream cake for a meeting today. I have some happy co-workers! I used a 8x8 pan and just adjusted baking time. Nice and moist, no center falling. It's a keeper.

Just learned on the Today show that when you check a product’s number of grams per serving, you divide that gram number by four and it gives you the number of teaspoons of sugar in a serving! Am I the only one who never knew this? Very helpful.

I think you're missing the word "sugar" in that first part, yes? When you know the number of grams of sugar per serving, yes? This is because 1 teaspoon of sugar weighs ... 4 grams!

TJ's has my new favorite seasoning blend. It's Mushroom Umami seasoning blend. I've been putting it on eggs, potatoes, etc. Way good.

Do they work in a buckle?

Survey says yes! Lots of recipes online.

If I were to buy a waffle iron, what else can I do with it? Alternatively, is there a way to cook waffle batter without a waffle iron (other than making pancakes, which are, of course, different)?

There are all kinds of ideas out there. I just read a recipe in Erin McDowell's first book, which has you make cookies(!) in the iron. Other people cook shredded potatoes for a kind of tater waffle. There was a thread on the story about using leftover stuffing, too. You can also do fun things with puff pastry.

I found the Impossible Burger just okay. For my money and calories I prefer the original vegan Boca burger. Impossible and Beyond do not fit the nutritional profile I aim for either, while the Boca does, at 80-100 calories per patty.

Looks pretty simple to make, too

Baked acorn squash recently earned 8 year old disapproval. Struggling to come up with Fall veg dishes that will expand her options from broccoli, carrots and kale- that will also appeal to us adults.

No 8-year-old says no to sweet potatoes, right? And pot pie?

Try these!

RECIPE: Vegetable and Bean Pot Pies With Sweet Potato Crusts

What about half smokes and chicken wings with mumbo sauce? If you're not averse to acknowledging franchise history (fraught subject) some poutine as well.

personally, i don't see the big deal. But, please, don't replace it with "patty." As someone who was called by this name growing up, I am permanently scarred by "2 all-beef patties" taunts. Not to mention jokes about cow patties, flatty patty, etc.

I am very curious about these. I reached out to Greek friends to see if they can name it!

My oven runs hot so I bought a thermometer that hangs or stands on an oven shelf. Is there a proper place to position it, like maybe half-way back? I saw a cooking segment where a similar thermometer was positioned very close to the oven door, where I'd expect the temperature to register lower.

Middle of the center rack would seem to be a good idea!

Thanks for the Okonomiyaki recipe. Looks like it might be great to try with Just Egg, which I had for the first time at Silver Diner this weekend. For the OP, I make a quick slaw with walnuts, raisons or other dried fruit, some lemon juice, a little stevia and some hot sauce. Easily varied to suit your taste. For the office party, I'll add Asian noodle bowl bar. (Sorry if it's been posted. Joined late and had to skim.)

My friend is recently widowed and I really would like to help him with this. I might even be persuaded to try to make it myself. Though I doubt I would match the memories from when he and his wife were young and new immigrants to the US.

Sounds like kuchen. I made a peach one that was great...very easy too.

Could be, yes!

Kohlrabi! Tastes very similar to broccoli, so start there. Maybe some lightly cooked cabbage, sautéed with apple. Or apple and sweet potatoes in a skillet?

The one at Woodmont Grill is fabulous- also Sweetwater has a great one.

Well, you've ladled us into bowls, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Our cookbook giveaway today goes to the chatter who wrote in about making Becky's sour cream maple cake! Send your info to, and she'll tell you about all the options -- it's like shopping, except free!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables," "Serve Yourself" and the upcoming "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, writes The Post's Unearthed column. She's the author of four books, including Dreaded Broccoli (Scribner, 1999), and writes about harvesting food first-hand at
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
Emily Heil
Emily is a staff food writer at The Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
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