Free Range on Food: Baby food, 'Cooking Slow' and more

Oct 09, 2013

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

Good afternoon, Rangers.


As the federal shutdown continues into its second week, I'm hoping some of the furloughed workers will take this unexpected time off to do a little cooking at home. Bonnie Benwick, in her Book Report today, might even have the perfect cookbook for you: "Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More." Or maybe you'd like to take this time to make something special for baby? Food writer Nevin Martell has a fun and informative story on how to feed your children well -- and help expand their palate at the same time. And, finally, food writer Whitney Pipkin offers a glimpse into the future of sustainable fish consumption:  She tells us about a partnership designed to help the Chesaspeake Bay ecosystem while serving up the invasive species known as blue catfish, a surprisingly tasty bite.


We can chat about these subjects or any other kitchen-related topic you'd like to talk about. And remember: We have books to give away to two chatters who submit the best questions (as decided by a jury of one: me).


So let's get this started. Nevin and Tucker Yoder, chef at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, will be here to take your questions. As will the usual suspects: Bonnie, Becky, spirits columnist Carrie Allan and myself. (Joe is out on book tour, alas.)

Seriously? They are just earlier versions of ourselves. As soon as you start to wonder, will s/he eat this? will s/he eat that? you're torpedoing yourself. What you eat is food. What the kid eats is food. Give the kid the same thing you're having. Put the plate in front of them and see what happens. You know what? They'll eat. Just like anyone, some stuff they'll like more than others. You dial back on the items they don't care for, then introduce it again in a few weeks with no mention made of the previous time. Don't tell them what they will like or won't like. I have a friend who said her daughter will never eat mashed potatoes. I cooked dinner one day, put food on the kid's plate, forgetting about the potato dislike. Guess what? Without Mom telling her she didn't like them, she ate everything. Sometimes you just don't realize how much you sabotage your kid's eating habits.

I couldn't agree more, chatter. As soon as you start playing head games with yourself, the gig is up. Just be patient, be persistent, and prepare your kids fresh, healthy meals that you wouldn't mind eating yourself. It must be so aggravating for a kid when the're given a pile of unspiced and uninspired vedge, which they are expected to eat that while the parents tuck into a lovingly crafted three course meal. Of course the kid won't want Brussels sprouts in that moment, they'll want the good stuff that's on their parents' plate!

Completely agree. All of our kids have gone through there moments of not liking something but invairiably they come back around.

To Nevin roasted Brussels sprouts are one of our kids favorite halftime snacks during the Super Bowl:)

What is Tucker's best Mac & Cheese recipe? Thanks, Chuck Smith, Lexington VA

City Councilman Chuck Smith? I can not divulge that recipe

I love the restaurant Teaism and live near the one in North Old Town Alexandria. It's a beautiful space with delicious food but is never crowded like the others in DC. What is wrong with Alexandria? I would hate for this Teaism to close.

It is a very nice location. I've been there and enjoyed it. We like to pair dinner there with shopping at Trader Joe's! But I do think it's a little off the beaten bath. I mean, it's a very residential area, but it's not getting the same kind of foot traffic going by as the rest of Old Town or the chainlet's other locations.

I want to consider making my own baby food. Can you recommend some good resources (book, online) for recipes and food combos. I don't really know what a baby would want to eat, what spices to use, and especially how to incorporate protein. Thank you.

I found Jenny Carenco's Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater to be very useful. I also found great ideas in The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start and the Beaba Babycook Recipe Book. A lot of times though, I will simply start with what's freshest at the market and then let my imagination wander from there. 


We tend to feed our kids whatever it is we are eating so it is easy for us. We would simply mash or puree whatever vegetables we were eating and shred whatever protein was on the plate to managable sized pieces. 

Hi Free Range, at the end of August I submitted a question during the chat, asking for clarification on the banana bread food tip that was emailed on Aug 21st. It said "The next time you make your favorite banana bread, substitute 1 cup of the flour with 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder PLUS "½ cup flour. You'll get a rich, dark, moist loaf destined to please any snacker in your house." If the recipe calls for 1.5 cups of flour, do you add 1/2 cup of flour to the substitution? You said Bonnie was out that week but to email, which I did but never heard back. I know you get a lot of emails each week but I wanted to follow up since baking bread and making substitutions can be finnicky and I want to make sure I'm doing it properly. Thank you!

Is this Vicky? I did e-mail you back! But maybe it got lost. Anyway, the answer is to just substitute half the flour with cocoa powder.

I made this over the weekend and it's delicious! I did make a few changes: I received just a few small turnips in my CSA so I added 2 or 3 extra carrots; I had some beef broth to use up so I used it in place of veg broth; I didn't add olive oil to the roasting vegetables because, well, I forgot it. Oops. I served it over polenta, and it's a great autumn dish.


You'd be talking about Joe's delicious recipe. I'm not sure how he'd feel about the beef broth substitute, but I suspect he'd salute your desire to not waste food.

I love beans. I have had terrible luck cooking dried beans. I've tried soaking them overnight, I've tried the quick soak method, I've tried not salting them or adding acidic ingredients until they're done, and I still can't get them tender. I've got a pot of black beans cooking now that had a best buy date five years into the future, so they're presumably not too old, and they're still nowhere near tender after three hours plus the quick soak method. Any advice?

I've never encountered this kind of problem before. What beans are you trying to cook?

Is this thing on?

Yes, we're live. Blame the rookie behind the wheel for our tardy start!

Doc just told me I am anemic. I am willing to eat some red meat, but it is way, way outside my cooking comfort zone which tends toward vegetarian and the occasional chicken breast. I'm pretty sure I have never even purchased hamburger. And one more kicker - not to get overly detailed - but I don't think I digest spinach at all. I can't imagine I'm getting much nutrition out of it. Any recommendations? I've got some supplements, but I'd rather figure out a way to modify my diet since they have unfortunate side effects.

You don't necessarily have to jump into the world of meat to get your iron. Here's a nice list from the Red Cross, as well as more detailed info from a vegetarian organization. Try some leafy greens other than spinach (kale, collards, Swiss chard), soybeans/tofu and other beans.

I was never willing to make separate meals for my kids so I applaud you for starting out right. It does pay off: my 21 year old son, a 2011 graduate of Furman University, travels a great deal for his job. He sent me a note from Los Angeles this week saying "Went to a restaurant called "Animal" and ate: pig ears, pig head, poutine, pork belly, marrow. It was amazing." While his choices are not always mine, I enjoy hearing about his adventures. Keep trying various spices - eventually your little guy will find one he enjoys.

First of all, bravo on your son's journey to becoming an adventurous eater (I'm very jealous that he has dined at Animal; it's on my must-do list). I will definitely continue spicing foods for Zephyr. So far he has liked spices like cinnamon and black pepper, but the hot chilies just aren't his thing yet. We will keep introducing them though. It's all about patience and persistance. 

As someone who recently ate at Animal, I concur that it's a place worth training your palate to savor. But I'd also say that the chefs make it easy. You'd barely notice that you're eating offcuts and offal if they weren't listed on the menu. 

I recently made a thai curry which involved braising the beef (flank steak) in an asian spiced (cilantro stems, cloves, star anise, peppercorn, garlic and black soy) broth of sorts. The recipe mentioned keeping it for another use, which I did (it smells amazing and seemed exceedingly wasteful to throw down the drain), but didn't specify any good suggestions for what to do with it. Any ideas?

Boy, I'd go pho, sort of.  Throw some rice noodles in it, fresh cilantro/tender stems, maybe julienne carrots and daikon. Or bring to a boil and use it to poach chicken breasts. Or use it to dampen round rice paper wrappers, then wrap them around a nice thick piece of cod, then poach the packet in the simmering broth. How 'bout them apples?

Hi, Folks, Despite the news, the show must go on and I am planning my 3rd annual fall champagne party. Could you recommend a decent bubbly for the masses ($10-12/bottle) as well as a knowledgable seller here in the District? Lots of decent wine shops, not so many with a deep champagne/sparkling wine bench. Thanks!

Dave McIntyre says

Champagne for $10-12? No. Sparkling wine? Yes. Cava comes to mind, and Segura Viudas is the best in that price range, though you can find some very nice ones up to about $20. From the U.S., the best inexpensive ones are Piper Sonoma from California and Domaine Ste Michelle from Washington. Gruet from New Mexico is excellent but runs closer to $15.


As for stores, the best for real Champagne is probably Wide World of Wines, but MacArthur and Calvert Woodley will also have deep selections and may be broader in the larger sparkling wine category.

Hi Rangers, I'm hoping you can help me with a dinner party menu for this weekend. We have a pasta and pork tenderloin for the mains, and kale salad and rosemary breadsticks for the sides. I'd like to do one more side, as one of the guests is vegetarian and I want to make sure he has plenty to eat, but I'm blanking. I'm thinking of also making Joe's eggplant "meatballs" from a couple weeks ago, but am worried I won't have enough time. I'd appreciate any ideas you might have--your team is amazing!

Joe has some other recipes that would work well as a side for the meat-eaters, as well as a main for the vegetarian.

Baby Beet Tarte Tatin

Baby Beet Tarte Tatin

Mushroom Popover Pie

Mushroom Popover Pie

Roasted Turnips With Mushrooms and Wine

Roasted Turnips With Mushrooms and Wine

Most recipes I find for slow cookers say either to cook 6-8 hours on low or 10 hours on high. Are there any good 9 or 10 hour recipes, or can you just cook on low an extra 1 or 2 hours? I ask because if I throw everything in the cooker before work, I won't be there to turn it off for another 9 hours (8 hours at work, 30 minute commute each way). I can't use my slow cooker during the week because of the awkward time.

There are certainly some recipes that fit the bill, although it would take longer than I have today to track them down for you.  One answer: A power strip timer. Plug your slow cooker into it, the power shuts off after the allotted cooking time. If the cooked food sits in a warm pot while you commute, I don't think that will hurt. Another answer: Cook in your slow cooker overnight while you sleep. Refrigerate during the day. It's easy/quick enough to heat things up soon as you get home. 

Love the West African peanut soup recipe and it reminds of a question that's been on my mind since I first made West African soup for the first time about 15 years ago. I'd found the recipe thinking it would be similar to another peanut soup I'd had that was just amazing. But it wasn't really anything like it and I've learned that there's something called Virginia peanut soup which more closely mimics what I was expecting (heavier, more peanut-y). Are these two items linked in any way? Can you do a vegetarian Virginia peanut soup for us?!

You could try this Virginia Peanut With Coconut Milk Soup from Domenica Marchetti-- I think you could make it vegetarian by swapping veg broth in for the chicken broth.

A hotel survey hitting the news today found that 78% of those responding "would rather give up alcohol, social media or sex with their spouse for a year rather than forfeit coffee." Yikes, huh? Does that seem credible to you, Rangers? ( I can't help but notice that people were asked about giving up sex with their spouse -- not about giving up sex. H'mmm ... ) 

Hm, indeed.  Let's keep in mind that this survey was conducted for a hotel brand rolling out... new coffee service. Just sayin'.

I suspect 100 percent of spouses would forfeit their partners if she/he admitted to such thing.

Ok, wait. Is there actually any evidence that children whose mothers eat a varied diet and breastfeed are actually less picky than children whose mothers don't do at least one of those two things? I mean, I'm all for breast feeding AND eating a varied and interesting diet, but this argument seems a bit of a stretch to make without some more evidence. And if it's not true, then it's kind of mean to make it when a woman does both of those things and still ends up with a picky eater - you make it sound like it's the mother's fault. Now, if there is evidence, my bad and I take back my complaints. However, the story seems to rely more on anecdotal evidence than actual scientific data about how to get kids to be open to different foods. For all we know, these people just got lucky with their kids. And just to be clear, I definitely support making your kid's own baby food. I just don't know if it actually cures them of or prevents them from being a picky eater.

Hey chatter, there's lots of evidence to support the idea that eating a varied diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding makes a youngster's palate more receptive to a variety of flavors and kinds of tastes. Even more specifically, if a mother eats a lot of say, oranges, during those periods, there's a much higher chance that the child will have predilection for oranges. For the story, I spoke with Julie Mennella at the Monell Center. She studies how we learn and accept flavors, and she has done a number of studies on this very subject that prove this point. All that being said, it's not foolproof by any stretch. You might eat eggplant every day of a pregnancy and your child still may not eat eggplant. Likewise, you may have a very varied diet and your child may have a picky eater stage. There is no blame to be placed in those situations. Sometimes the palate doesn't develop to like something or many things. As with many things in life, luck still does play a role. 

I loved the article on DIY baby food as my first child is due in January and my plan is to make his food when he is ready. We have a garden and I would like to know what vegetables result in better for purees so I can plan what to plant in the spring. I was thinking carrots, squash and peas, but I am interested in other ideas. Also, any tips on freezer storage are appreciated.

Those all sound like great veggies to grow. Again I would grow whatever it is you want to eat and make those things for your child. We grow some beautiful turnips and sweet potatoes for the fall and of course all the various fall squashes and winter root vegetables are all great for pureeing.

Congratulations on your upcoming birth! I would recommend a few simple herbs -- basil, oregano, mint, etc. -- and the root and vine vedges that Tucker recommended, since they have good body and flavor (plus durability once they are harvested and sitting in your larder/fridge/bowl on the dining room table. As far as storage containers go, we like to use individual containers in trays from OXO Tot.

I've just received a shipment of assorted goat cuts: a leg, a shoulder with neck, and two rib racks. Sadly, there's not a single recipe for goat in your archives (though there are a lot for goat cheese). Most of what I find online involves spices and braising; my impression is that it's being treated as extra-lean lamb. Can you or the chatters recommend recipes/cooking methods for these cuts that will highlight the flavor of the goat? Thanks!

Not so! Got your goat right here, braised. (Shoulder)

And here, done up African style. (any meat on the bone that you can cut up)

And here, in chops, with bourbon, cherries and cream. (For your rib racks?)

And stuffed goat burgers, which were awesome. (ground goat)

And what might be my favorite, a ragu with pappardelle.

For the latter, I used goat neck (cheap!). I hope you get to experiment with lots of cuts.  Chatters, how about you? 


Stuffed goat burgers: It's the goat equivalent of the Jucy Lucy!

As the weather finally gets colder, all I crave are hearty, comforting meals, like pasta, chili and creamy soups. This summer I made the change to eating better and I want to keep that going so I don't lose step during the impending holidays. Do you have any go-to meals that are comforting, hearty but still healthy? I have a stock pile of soup recipes, but need some other ideas.

I have a bag of frozen pineapple and was thinking of making an upside down cake. Should I defrost the pineapple first or just use it frozen?

I'd defrost. Presumably your cake wouldn't need any extra moisture. 

I tend to react strongly to caffeine, so I try to stick to herbal teas. Forgive me, but I like the fruiter ones, like pomegranate or peach. Sometimes they taste like they have sugar in them, but if that's the case I'd prefer not to drink them. I never see any sugar listed on the ingredients. Is it maybe from the dehydrated fruit? I usually drink Tazo, Stash or Lipton in a pinch.

if the tea is made with real fruit juices, they could contain consider amount of natural sugars.

I hate to waste food and started freezing leftover canned (sorry, I do use canned) chicken stock. Is there anything wrong with that? Also, since some recipes call for fresh lemon juice or lemon zest, is there anything wrong with zesting before juicing and freezing the zest or vice versa? Thanks.

No judging here.  Stay the course; hope you are at least using the no-salt-added variety of broth.  Freezing zest/juice separately's just fine, too. 

Does anyone know why there appears to be an almond butter shortage? My usual sources, TJ's and Whole Foods, are perpetually out.

Happy to make calls and inquire. But as long as you've got almonds and a food processor or a Vitamix (even better), you will never have to experience a shortage again. DIY, baby! It's just that simple. Plus you can customize with flavorings. 

So I made my two loaves (sorry, not three) of English muffin bread last week and they turned out great. I put one right into the freezer to bring to my sis, and sliced the other and then froze it. Last night I took out a slice of my loaf, thawed it and toasted it and it was great! Thanks for giving me the push to go for it and freeze it!

Excellent. Thanks for reporting back.

Do you have any recipes for grilled turkey parts? Not a whole turkey, but perhaps turkey legs--something that wouldn't take all day to cook?

I had been curious about this and asked a family member who's an Ob-gyn if this theory had any merit, and they thought it was hocus-pocus. But they couldn't provide any evidence supporting their view either, so I too would be interested in tracking down the actual studies to find out! Definitely want my future kids to be better eaters than I was at that age!

Some of Monell's studies on these matters have been published online and you can find them here.

There are 7 billion people in the world and half of marriages end in divorce...of course you would choose the coffee!

Coffee is your true and faithful companion? The only problem  is, coffee doesn't listen to your problems very well.

Where is the link to the recipe finder on the Post website? Unless you link to it in the chat, I have a lot of trouble locating it myself. (And yes, I have tried bookmarking it, but obviously need better bookmark organization.) Thanks.

Yes, the Recipe Finder is a little tricky to find. It's always on the Food section home page, in the lower right hand corner. (You have to scroll down a bit.) You can also just click on "This Week's Recipes" link and it will deliver you straight into the recipe database.

Did the person who made the english muffin bread mention the recipe he/she used? I'd love to give it a try!

Baker, it was from King Arthur, right?

Buying a power strip timer is probably more practical than buying a new crock-pot, but my crock-pot automatically switches to the 'warm' setting after the 6, 8, or however many hours on high/low/whatever. VERY handy, as I also have awkward timing issues (8-hour day, 40- to 60-minute commute each way)

Some enterprising cookbook author ought to be taking note of this....the 9-10 Slow Cooker.

Because your child got really tired of eating eggplant while in the womb. ;-)

Zing! :)

Hi Rangers, My son is 3.5. At daycare, he eats all of whatever they put in front of him. At home, not so much. He does love fruit (yay!) and will eat just about anything in that category at home. But when I offer him what we're having in terms of meat and vegetables, he wants nothing of it. What am I doing wrong? I want to avoid this with our second son. Thanks!

Hey chatter, I'd love a little more info. What do they feed him at daycare? Is it wildly different than his home meals? For example, is he getting a lot of processed foods at daycare, which are a contrast to the homecooked ones?

Where do you find replacement bulbs for the refrigerator? Mine burned out, I guess, as it no longer goes on when the refrigerator door is opened. It's like an early Halloween every time I stick my hand into the gloom to try to tell by feel what's in the back .

Do you have the owner's manual, or can you look it up online? It may specify the type of bulb you need, and then you can check with a hardware store. Or online. I had a hard time finding a new water filter for my fridge in stores, so I just ordered it from the other company owned by our new overlord, a.k.a. Amazon.

Just a word of caution -- my baby/toddler would eat anything. I spiced his foods from the get-go, gave him things like kale and lentils which he loved. I thought I had done so well. However, your baby good eater may turn into a picky kid. My son now only eats variations on about five things, and won't even touch a chicken nugget or bread. Thankfully one of the things he likes is variations on ratatouille, so we gets it over pasta, with meatballs, etc. So he's getting his vegetables but that's it.

Duly warned! Thanks for sharing your story.

Hey Tucker - what do you feel about using honey instead of sugar when a recipe calls for a sweetner? And speaking of sweets - you seem very healthy, do you let your kids have once vice - like a soda?

We do substitute honey for sugar frequently but not for infants and our kids have been know to have a soda from time to time and we generally have dessert everynight

Oh please. If you want to know if you can raise an adventurous eater by serving fancy homemade purees, write the article when the child is 5 and has tasted all that hated beige food and wants nothing else. Children are people too and as a parent you're better off learning that lesson early enough to realize you can't control all of their preferences through life. And that goes double for the child who figures out early on that there is no better way to annoy his parents than to insist on the food they don't want him to eat. You'll find yourself ordering plain noodles with butter in a restuarant too just in order to avoid the scene that will errupt if you insist on ordering him something else. I speak from experience here. My youngest started declaring whole categories of foods (soup for example) off limits starting at the age of 4 notwithstanding all the homemade varieties of food she had as an infant. I tried to never let it become a battle and to serve her what she wanted without making her separate meals. A few months ago we were out to dinner at Rasika and she asked why we never brought her to restaurants like that while she was growing up. I pointed out she the only thing she would have eaten would have been the plain white rice. She agreed and we flipped a coin to see who would get the last bite of the Black Cod.

Morning, chatter! I certainly don't have a crystal ball and can't look into the future to see what my child's peccadilloes and preferences will be in the future. And I am well aware that I will not be able to control them. However, I will be working as hard as I can to ensure that my son continues to enjoy a variety of foods and doesn't fall into the beige diet trap. If we feel like he's sliding that way, we'll reasses our approach and options and go from there. If we get to the point where he will only eat noodles and fries -- and my editor is willing -- I'd be happy to write another story documenting that experience. 

Bonnie - sorry I didn't call last week, I decided to just get an extra bag of chocolate and go wing it. It ended up working out perfectly! I layered a mix of milk and dark chocolate, followed by chopped up snickers bars and pretzel sticks, and drizzled orange white chocolate on top. Eazy peezy and I had a lot of happy coworkers and friends on Friday!

Glad it worked for you!

Might you get hold of the cranberry-walnut-citrus relish recipe from Chicken Out Rotisserie? It's not clear if the restaurant will reopen its Spring Valley branch and I love that stuff. If you happen to have access to their chicken recipe, that'd be nice, too! Thanks!

We'll see what we can do.

I'm looking for a recipe for gingersnap cookies to make next week. I want a cookie that fairly small and more on the crunchy side. Any suggestions? in general, what makes for crunchy cookies vs. chewy ones? Is it just more time in the oven or does the butter/sugar/flour ratio also play a role? Thanks.

These Gingerbread Straws are quite crisp, kinda rustic. 

And this basic recipe (minus the fab decoration by Raeanne Hytone) might be just the thing you're looking for. 

Can I defer to others on answering the second part? It can be complicated, and deserves the expert thoughtfulness of say, Lisa Yockelson. I've gotta scoot to a photo shoot. Have a good day, all! 

Hi there, loved the article on "slow food" -- esp. in winter, I think cooking like this makes a lot of sense! My question is, if I had to purchase one (or two, max) pieces of equipment (pots, etc.) that would be most versatile for slow cooking for a family, what would you suggest? Any favorites of yours? Thanks!

Enamaled cast-iron Dutch oven, Le Creuset or similar. It will last a lifetime and you'll find many uses for it.

I canned several jars of salsa on Saturday and left them sitting on the counter to cool. It took me until Tuesday morning to test the lids and two of them didn't seal. I refrigerated them right after I discovered that, but I wonder if they had been sitting out too long. Should I try boiling them again just to be safe or is the acid content high enough with salsa that the extra couple days sitting out are not a concern?

I think they were sitting out too long, as you're supposed to check the seal after 24 hours. I wouldn't want to take any chances. You can check with the people at Ball (800-240-3340) to see what they think, but I'm skeptical.

I finally figured out what I was doing wrong - the temperature was too low. I was trying to cook beans on a very low simmer. Once I bumped up the heat, they cooked beautifully.

Home cook, heal thyself!

Have you tried Rancho Gordo beans? I know it would seem like a hassle to order your beans online, but right now they are the only beans I will buy. No need to soak, just put them on a large enough pot with plenty of water, bring to a boil, then simmer until they are tender. In a skillet saute, onions, tomato, garlic and bell pepper. Add to the beans and salt as you see fit.

I second the Rancho Gordo recommendation. You can order them here.

Coffee can't nod its head and go mhmm while keeping its eyes on the newspaper or the dinner plate?

Your spouse still reads a newspaper! :)

I've noticed the almond butter shortage too! Would love to hear what you find out.

I was delighted to see Joe in the Boston Globe this morning!

Hi, Is there a non-dairy cream or half-and-half that you would recommend for cooking? If not non-dairy, maybe lactose-free? My lactose-intolerant friend wants rice pudding and I don't know what dairy substitute to use, or where to get it. Thank you!

Coconut or almond milk would be nice, I think.


I can't find frozen organic lima beans anywhere. At WF in Fair Lakes I was told they lost their distributor and hadn't been able to find a replacement and I've looked at several other stores and nothing. I noticed that combinations that traditionally have limas now have edamame in them. Is there a lima bean shortage?

The Takoma Park Silver Spring Coop has organic baby lima beans in stock, in the bulk section. You can get them for $1.99 a pound.

I made pad thai last night. Soaked the medium-sized rice nooodles in cold water for half an hour, but they were still chewy. Do I need to use hot water for soaking?

Maybe try for longer next time, perhaps an hour. I've even seen some web chatter suggesting overnight works too. You could try room temperature or warm water, but be careful -- you don't want noodles for pad thai getting too mushy.

maybe you're salting too early. Cook them unsalted, salt late in the process.

Can you give advice how best to keep a cut bell pepper? Is it better to remove the seeds and ribs or not. I usually use about a third to half the pepper and put the remainder in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. But I can't figure out whether it keeps better with or without the stem/seeds/ribs and within a day the pepper seems to get slimy. Thanks.

Here's a good video on how to cut a bell pepper.

Yes, we are old. We read newspapers and use email and have a landline along with our cell phones. And we cook dinner at home nearly every night.

My kind of people!

They seem to feed him a variety of foods and they don't seem too processed. I haven't seen them make the food, though. But he'll eat tacos there, for example, and they offer a pretty good variety of vegetables which he eats willingly. At home, with two working parents, it's a mixed bag in terms of what we do. There's usually a home cooked meat/main dish, with some type of steamed vegetables from a bag. Sometimes fresh, if it's available. Ironically, he loves canned green beans, though, which I don't!

Hmmm... I'd have to put on my deerstalker, pick up my pipe and head over your way to get a real sense of his diet. However, I'd say keep being persistent and patient. Keep trying to feed him new, interesting foods, even though he may only take one bite at first. One bite is a starting point. 

Wow! The slow cooker is perfect for it. The lentil based gravy simmers overnight to give it the real taste. Perfect for winters...

Yep, King Arthur! I just doubled the recipe exactly and made it in the kitchenaid. It doesn't taste like you're eating an english muffin, but close, and they even say it makes the best toasting bread, which I concur! One thing though - the dough was super sticky right after mixing. They even put a note on the recipe. I thought about adding more flour but just went with it and turns out KA knew what they were doing.

Thanks for confirming.

Anything you can think to do with some plums that are looking a little sad. Not unusable, just not grab and eat fresh.

I was having this same dilemma. Try poaching them. That will give them some plumpness and sweetness.

Or the baby smells the parent's food between being born and starting to eat and smell and taste are closely related so the baby is going to be familiar with those smells/tastes whether it was a pre-birth thing or not. Or it is mostly just the milk thing. I've had friends tell me that their kids sometimes reject milk after they have eaten a meal with a lot of new flavors.

Hey chatter, I'm not a scientist and am not fully educated on the finer points of these studies. If you'd like to read more, check out some of the studies on Monell's website. As I've said, some of what a kid likes does come down to luck and all the science in the world goes out the window.

If I may offer a suggestion, Gruet is fabulous, especially their Blanc de Noir. The amazing thing is that this is a sparkler from New Mexico, of all places! And it retails locally for about $15. A great value, IMHO.

Thanks for chiming in!

...can I use that recipe for my holiday gingerbread monument construction?

Hard to say, since we never built anything with those. You could also look at this Gingerbread Cookie Tree recipe, which we did put together our cookie project with the other year.Gingerbread Cookie Tree

Cream of Wheat is another surprisingly good source of iron.

Have you tried adding some baking soda to the soaking or cooking water? It is recommended for garbanzos, which are notoriously tough to cook, and will work for other beans, as well. Other option: pressure cooker.

The pressure cooker is a good idea, but the chatter figured out the problem. The heat was too low.

Kids are very visual, as are we, so it could be presentation, as silly as that sounds. Maybe try to make it look more kid-friendly and not "adult food."

We definitely try to make Zephyr's purees have beautiful colors and a smooth texture, which makes them eye-catching and easy to consume (also very easy to splatter all over the place). As they say, you eat with your eyes first, so I believe a plate should always look attractive, even if it's just pureed spinach.

I'm a new mom and LOVED this week's stories! I'll put the slow stuff and baby stuff to use. However, I'm also exhausted and forgetful and sometimes need something I can cook straight from the freezer since I forget thaw the casseroles we freeze. Any ideas? All commercial stuff has soy (even mayo!), which the baby /and therefor I / can't have.

If we're in a pinch or on the go without access to a kitchen, we'll feed Zephyr a Happy Baby squeeze pack.

For the chatter asking about cookie texture, here's the answer from Friend of Food and ace baker/cookbook author Lisa Yockelson: 

The structure of the batter -- that is, its internal composition -- determines a cookie dough's texture in tandem (to a lesser degree) to the oven temperature. The amount and type of leavening, type of sugar used, amount and type of flour, in addition to the method of preparation and temperature of the dough (chilled versus freshly mixed and used) are all factors as well. 

And the poster was asking about frozen not dried. I've been buying farm stand limas, but I live in Anne Arundel County....Don't know if they're organic, but they certainly are fresh and local.

Thank you. I'm moving too fast here. I need to take a page from Bonnie's Book Report today.

When cooking beans try a strip of kombu in the soaking/cooking water and they will soften the beans in less time.

Any chance you guys have some thoughts on a fall dessert that can please a crowd, including a few kids? Also needs to be transported for two hours without refrigeration. I have a go-to pumpkin cookie recipe but am otherwise feeling uninspired. Thanks!!

I always gravitate towards recipes featuring maple syrup at this time of year. 

It made me hungry!! Would the chatterer share where the recipe or at least the source?

Chatter, how about it? Can you send it over?

Can we use a flour other than KA for this, or will only KA make it come out properly?

The protein in King Arthur is a little higher than other all-purpose flours (11.7 percent versus Pillsbury and Gold Medal at 10.5 -- hat tip to Cook's Illustrated), but that shouldn't matter. I've used whatever APF I've had on hand with their recipes and never had a problem.

I didn't get the response back in my email (so it's lost in the interwebs) and appreciate you responding in the chat. I'll try it and let you know how it goes!

No problem. Good luck!

Make barbacoa de cabrito--marinated goat wrapped in banana leaf. One of my favorite Mexican dishes--sometimes it is stewed in a red chile sauce.


Try using bottle spring water (not distilled or purified--Spring). I read something a few years ago about quality of water affecting bean cookery but since I don't have a problem with beans the details didn't stick in my mind.

Wow, those look great! I'm off to start some defrosting action.

We aim to please!

This is called loo or lu. You can keep it going near to forever if you boil it after every use. Directions for looing or luuing food are in some older Chinese cookbooks that don't limit themselves to stir fry or spicy food.

Sounds like the chatter will need to do further research!

I second the pressure cooker recommendation -- my beans always turn out perfect. Something about that extra pressure does it.

I made a cinnamon plum jelly! It was delicious.

I have some sour cream that got pushed to the far back of my fridge and froze. Will it defrost and be useable (I'm thinking about in a baking recipe), or should I just toss it?

Some online forum was discussing your very problem. They have solutions.

Is this something you attach to a power strip, or are there power strips with built-in timers? Should any local hardware store have it? I'd love to get one. Thanks!!

Yes, it's a power strip with built-in timers. You should be able to find them at the bigger hardware stores at least.

 Please be aware that the information attributed to a pediatrician in this article is in contradiction with the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. There is also no medical evidence to suggest that iron fortified cereals should be a first food - indeed, there is research that indicates that cereals might be a poor first food choice. Further, there is no citation by the pediatrician in the article for her assertion that breast milk does not provide sufficient iron for a baby post 6 months - and given the tremendous amount of research (and potential dangers of over supplementation) about absorption rates, the reader should be cautioned to do their own research and talk to their own doctor. Mr. Martell seems like a great guy and a great Dad, but the FAQs really should not be published in this form in the Washington Post - it simply states one doctor's personal opinions without any citation, and further those personal opinions are not the standard of care.

Thanks for the note, chatter. Given space constraints in a story -- and the fact that this is a lifestyle story, not a scientific journal -- we can't have every expert give full citation of where their information comes from. The information was not presented as anything more than our pediatrician's advice for our son. What works for our family and our belief system may not work for everyone else and I completely understand and respect that.

Thanks, Becky, But don't you think a milk substitute would be too light to use as a cream substitute?

I think coconut milk would be a reasonable sub for cream. It's got more to it than some other non-dairy beverages, I'd say. But look around the internet for vegan rice puddings. We haven't run any.

I had the same problem--a quart of plums too soft to eat fresh. I made a plum upside down cake with them.

Yes another article on how all you have to do is expose your baby to different foods, offer it multiple times, etc., etc. and they will not be picky. And you kid is what, 8-9 months old? Write an update when your kid is 3, 4, or 5. That's when the pickiness starts. Almost all babies will eat whatever is in front of them. My kids know we all eat the same dinner, we eat as a family, and there's no alternative until breakfast. Yet my 6 year old, who must have been served brocolli no fewer than 50+ times - all different ways, has yet to try it.

Hey chatter, I am by no means guaranteeing that  anyone's child -- including my own -- will not be a picky eater if they follow the course we have chosen to take. I am simply trying to tilt the odds in favor of an adventurous eater as much as possible. If the Post will publish the story, I will happily update you on Zephyr's eating habits a few years down the line. 

at our house we have gone through some picky eting Phases but for the most part our kids 2,7,9 and 11 will eat whatever is on there plates. Our 9 year old will literally eat anything or 7 year old is a little more selective. There is no sure fire way to make a non picky eater but I think it is great to expose your kids to as much variety as possible so they can form thier own opinions.

From F&W, We added some extra vegetables to the curry at the end to make it more substantial and subbed in the flank steak bc I was unable to find hanger steak. It was fantastic.

This sounds delicious, will you post the recipe?

Bark maker? Maybe come back next week? Or if both parties e-mail us at, we can try to forward.

By only giving our children 'kids food' we're creating picky eaters. Obviously that's an oversimplification - but it seems that's often all children are offered. No wonder Americans have food issues.

Have too many ripe avocados. Can they be used like bananas in a quick bread? Found one recipe, but it contained lots of butter and buttermilk and avocado. Any other alternatives to guacamole?

What is it like to be the best chef in Charlottesville?

There are lots of very talented chefs and cooks in Charlottesville. I hope to be considered one of them. We at the Clifton certainly strive to cook great food everyday

Maybe we're keeping it all to ourselves? California girl here. But, seriously, assuming it's USA grown, I think the almond harvest is just finishing, so maybe in a couple of weeks you'll have your almond butter. If you want some thousands of times better than Trader Joe's or WF's, google Massa Farms. Greag Massa has the best almond butter EVER, plus you'll never find better brown rice than his. (no affiliation, just a happy customer)

Thanks for the tip.

And for those who like tea. . . . .

Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times has a slow cooking in the oven technique that works really well. And, you salt the beans! You can probably find it via google.

You can also get them at aquarium/pet stores. People that keep fish tanks or terrariums often need to be able to control when lights turn on in multiple tanks, so they make strips specially designed so you can make different plugs turn on at different times.

1) Give them what you eat, to the greatest extent possible 2) Keep it in perspective; food is important but so are other aspects of parenting 3) Accept that this is something over which you have limited control, especially as they grow older. Tomorrow, junior may not like what he gobbled down yesterday. 4) Recognize kids are different. Kid #1 may eat everything in sight but then #2 may be picky as heck, despite your best efforts. That's my take on it. Two teens, two very different eaters, same parenting strategies.

Well, you've turned us into organic pureed baby food. We're out of time today.


The book winners this week are the chatter who had trouble cooking beans (you get a much-needed copy of "The Washington Post Cookbook") and the chatter who asked about good sources for baby food recipes (you get a copy of "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron).


Please send your contact information to Becky Krystal at


Chat with you all next week!

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guests: Tucker Yoder, executive chef of the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville; Washington food writer Nevin Martell, author of this week's piece on baby food.
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