Free Range on Food: Thanksgiving recipes, tips and more.

Nov 16, 2016

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 the chat! Of course, we all have Thanksgiving on our minds, and I'm confident that you probably do, too. We're here to help!

We took a potluck theme with our coverage for this first of two Thanksgiving issues, but of course that doesn't mean you need to be hosting or attending a potluck in order to make use of it. These dishes work just as well if you make them all yourself, of course.

In case you haven't seen it, you MUST go to our Thanksgiving Central page, which can be your one-stop shop for meal planning. Our newest recipes are featured there, plus videos, FAQs, suggested menus, and a raft of other recipe ideas in each category of the meal. Check it out!

Don't forget, btw, that next week we will have a special two-hour chat, with lots of special guests to help us handle those last-minute questions!

Today, we've got lots of great help, too: Our VIP guests are Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence of "The Chubby Vegetarian" book and blog, whose great recipe I adapted for this year's veg main. They know about ALL KINDS of vegetable cookery/sorcery, so ask away. 

We'll be giving away a SIGNED copy of their latest book to a lucky chatter today. We'll also have a copy of "Sicily: Recipes from an Italian Island" by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi.

For you PostPoints members, here's the code to get credit for participating here: FR8685 . Remember, you'll record and enter it into 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.

Let's do this!

Looking to add a new roll to our Thanksgiving dinner and those biscuits might be it. But can I make the dough ahead of time and then freeze it (already cut)? Hoping to just pop them in the oven from the freezer like I do with other biscuits. Thanks!

We didnt test it that way, but that method ought to work. They come together so quickly....

RECIPE Rosemary Biscuits

I like the idea, and method, of warming the made ahead mashed potatoes in your Thanksgiving potluck recipes. However, my family would probably not be happy if i messed with the traditional recipe. They like butter and lots of it. But if I made the standard mashed potatoes (yukon gold potatoes, butter, evaporated milk) ahead of time, do you think that reheating method would also work?

Yes, absolutely! I used to make my mashed potatoes at the last minute which was so difficult, really, what with making the gravy and getting all the pans out of the oven and on to the table. Now, I make them well ahead and reheat over a double boiler for less hassle with all the butter. 

RECIPE: Mashed Potatoes With Manchego and Olive Oil

VIDEO: Make perfect mashed potatoes

I calculate only 6 g of protein per serving from the pine nuts and Gouda in the Vegetarian Roast Beast recipe (might be a tad more from the rest of the ingredients). The "Daily Value" for protein seems to be around 50 g. Any ideas for beefing up (no pun intended, at least at first) the protein content for my millennial vegetarian offspring? 

I don't think you need to worry about protein at Thanksgiving, when there are so many dishes on offer and it's really very easy to rack up what you need with all the grazing. The Roast Beast has 13 grams of protein with the included couscous, and if your offspring ate a serving of that plus a serving of every one of the other dishes we include in our main collection this year, that would get the protein up to 60 grams. (Stuffing with the pecan variation is 5, potatoes 10, soup 2, kale 5, salad 7, veggie nibbles spread 6, biscuit 2, tart 7, pie 3). 

If the Beast were part of a smaller meal, you could certainly add a shower of pecans to it! 

I imagine Justin and Amy might have other thoughts, too...

If it grows, it has protein, but we're all about adding protein to vegetarian dishes whenever we can. I'd say serve the Roast Beast over cooked lentils (or another favorite legume), which are an amazing source of protein. You could also top it with chopped, toasted walnuts. Now we're going to have to try it like this, too! 

For Carrie - we're going to Scotland next summer! Yay! We're not really Scotch drinkers but we plan to go on a few distillery tours. We'd like to know what we were doing while we were there. Question is -- how could prepare ourselves over the next 6-8 months to understand and appreciate scotch? Are there tasting classes in DC area? Silly as it sounds, self-education through articles? Is there a normal progression through different types of scotch for early learners? Thanks!

OK, I'm jealous! So yes -- I would say you should keep an eye on the goings on at Jack Rose (regular whisk(e)y events there) and Southern Efficiency, and you may want to connect with Whisky DC. Picking up one of Dave Broom's books wouldn't hurt either (and if you get a chance to hear him talk, do it -- he's a great speaker). I think you'll learn so much from your trip -- there's an amazing variety in Scotch whiskies that only opens up when you start drinking them and thinking about them. 

I'm going to try to make my own butter! The question is: Do you think it's worth it to try to track down heavy cream from a local source (farmer's market), or will it be just the same if I use store bought heavy cream? Thank you for all you do, lovely people!

Fresh, homemade butter is spectacular and especially lovely on homemade rolls. Any cream, except ultra-pasteurized, will make butter. With delicious, high butterfat, local cream, your yield will be higher. Tracking down local cream isn't that difficult these days. Whole Foods and Mom's both carry cream from local sources. The buttermilk by-product is delicious in biscuits or pancakes!

I have some roasted hatch chiles in my freezer that I would like to use in a bread. Do you have a recipe for a cheesy bread that would work well with these delicious chiles? Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Lucky you. I bet they'd be a good addition to any of these. (I'd also defrost before you add them and pat away any excess liquid.)

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

RECIPE: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Greek Feta Corn Bread

RECIPE: Greek Feta Corn Bread

Work group has a meeting and I need to bring a sugar and grain free dessert. I cant add many fruits either due to the high sugar content. I was thinking of doing a dessert with almond flour, and use swerve instead of splenda, but not sure what exactly I can prepare.

We love this type of question since we're always trying to include everyone and look out for their needs so that everybody can enjoy the same dish. We have a Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Pie in our new cookbook, and it's everything you need. It's vegan, too! We also make Spicy Banana and Almond Date Bites, which would be a good small dessert after a big meal, and it's easily portable. We pack these in a container and then set them out in mini muffin cups on a pretty tray. 

Hmm, no or little fruit? That's tough!
Tomorrow, we'll be publishing a piece by cookbook author Julia Turshen about keeping it simple at Thanksgiving -- and cooking for a group with lots of dietary restrictions, too -- and one of her great recipes she shared with us might fit the bill, depending on that fruit restriction: It's Roasted Gingery Pears, with no sugar added, so the total sugar is 15 grams per serving. Is that too much?

I am in the market for a new pizza pan for the oven. Do you prefer stone? cast iron? other? Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

I've long been happy with my stones (yeah, I have two, don't judge), but I also know people who swear by their pizza steels.

We love our pizza stone. If you leave it in your oven all the time, it helps keep a constant temperature, so it's great for more than just pizza baking. It adds some thermal mass to your oven and makes it a better tool for baking and roasting.

I love my stone, but I also LOVE my baking steel! And I know which one will last longer...

I dutifully blind baked pie crusts for pumpkin pies until I had to bake a gluten-free pie and found this King Arthur Flour recipe. It didn't call for blind baking the crust and I was suspicious, but the pie came out perfect without a soggy crust. (Highly recommend this recipe to anyone that needs a gluten-free pie; it was delicious.) Could the gluten-free ingredients really make that much of a difference? Do we REALLY need to take that extra step to blind bake the crusts?

Now we'll definitely have to check out this recipe! We love using a gluten-free crust in order to be inclusive of everyone. (And we also skip blind-baking it -- it has worked well in the past for pumpkin pie and caused no issues.)

If it works for you, and for this crust, definitely skip it! I often blind bake, which I appreciate for preventing that soggy bottom, to get all Mary Berry on you, but I've made plenty of pie recipes that don't call for that, and they can be great.

How many dishes should I serve for a small family Thanksgiving for 3 people, two adults and one teen? I don't care for more than one meal of leftovers and I always feel like I err on the side of not making enough food. Thanks in advance for any help!

Just because you've got a small guest list doesn't mean you each can't still have lots of dishes, if you'd like! You could, say, make the Vegetarian Roast Beast with three or four sides: Mashed Potatoes With Manchego and Olive Oil, Slow-Cooked Tuscan Kale, Curried Squash Salad With Quinoa and Crispy Kale (or pick between those last two if you don't want more than one dish with kale), and Rosemary Biscuits. Or browse the offerings in the right column in each category at our Thanksgiving Central menu-planner page.

Don't forget you can use the scaling function in our Recipe Finder: I'd say you should scale things to, say, 6 or 8 servings, which would give you enough for a round of leftovers.

Oh, and don't forget the pie! Both the recipes Becky is offering this year are fantastic: Pumpkin Caramel Tart and Cranberry Apple Lattice Pie.

We'd suggest an appetizer, a main dish, a couple of favorite sides, and definitely a pie. (And we're usually not too afraid to halve recipes in cases like this!) If you include a sweet potato side dish, you could make one of our favorites, a chocolate meringue pie, for dessert in lieu of the usual pumpkin pie.

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies? AWESOME! Since last Wed? Second batch already firming up in the frig. These are moving into my permanent repertoire! Thanks!!

A winner, yes! I linked to those last week when one post-election chatter asked about a food to restore their faith in humanity...

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

Hi Cathy - I've been making homemade applesauce in the crock pot. It turns out perfectly and is very delicious. I'm wondering if I can can this sauce? The only ingredients are apples, lemon juice (half a lemon or so), and pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon. Thanks!

Applesauce is a great canned product for the pantry, especially now, with all the varieties available. Here's a link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation recipe and instructions.

Where can we find pasteurized eggs in Northern Virginia? Harris Teeter, our former and only source, recently discontinued carrying Davidson's brand due to low demand. We'd buy a case, any brand, if that's what it would take. Thanks!

Bummer re Harris Teeter! Did you happen to ask the manager of  your local store to find out why? I'm curious. Looks like Fresh Market in Alexandria carries them, altho I just called that store to check and they're out of stock today. 


Eggland's Best, a widely available brand, pasteurizes its liquid egg whites product, if that helps.

What will be your centerpiece dish this year?

Our vegetarian centerpiece this year will for sure be the 'Roast Beast' from our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian. Joe was nice enough to feature it earlier this week in this very publication, and people we know just might be expecting us to bring it! The Roast Beast features an array of vegetables like portobello mushroom caps, eggplant slices, onions, and roasted red peppers, all flavored with pesto and cheese and then threaded onto a spit. It's like making one huge vegetable kabob. The result is roasted on the grill or in the oven for about an hour. It's spectacular when presented to the table and will give any turkey a run for its money.

For us, a vegetarian centerpiece is always key. In the past, we've done this great acorn squash stuffed with chanterelle mushrooms and dried apricots from our first book, The Southern Vegetarian. One year, we made a killer vegetarian cassoulet with mock duck from the Asian market and flageolet beans. We always try to figure out what might possibly rival the turkey.

This is a perennial favorite on our table and predates the Roast Beast. It's a little fancier, but the preparation is easy. The gravy works on mashed potatoes or anything.

Chanterelle and Apricot Stuffed Acorn Squash with Miracle Mushroom Gravy

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced white onion (about 1 small)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/4 cup white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
1 cup chanterelles, torn into strips
1/4 cup finely diced dried apricots
Sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)
2 cups brioche or good-quality white bread, torn into pieces
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 large acorn squash (or two small)
1 tablespoons olive oil
Miracle Mushroom Gravy (to garnish; recipe follows)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then sauté the celery, onion, and bouillon cube until lightly browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the chanterelles and apricots to the pan and warm through. Add salt and pepper. Chill the mushroom mixture thoroughly. In a large bowl, mix the bread, eggs, and the cooled vegetable mixture

Using a sharp kitchen knife (and plenty of caution), trim the stem end off of the squash and cut the squash into 3/4 inch rings. You should be able to get 4 rings out of a large acorn squash. Discard the stem end and bottom piece. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds and membrane out of the squash and discard. Lay the squash rings out on a large parchment-lined baking sheet drizzle slices of squash with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove squash from the oven and press the stuffing into the center of each squash ring. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the stuffing has set and starting to brown. Add Miracle Mushroom Gravy to garnish.

Miracle Mushroom Gravy

1 (10-ounce) package crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup diced shallot
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 tablespoon soy sauce (like Bragg’s)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
smoked paprika (to garnish)

Slice mushrooms about 1/4-inch thick. You will blend them later, so there’s no need to be overly precise. In a medium frying pan over high heat, sauté the mushrooms until browned. Add the shallot to the pan and continue to cook for another minute until the rawness has been cooked out of the shallot and it's translucent.

Place the mushrooms and shallot into the work bowl of your food processor and add the sage, red pepper flakes, clove powder, soy sauce, and maple syrup. In the same pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk mixture until fragrant (about five minutes.) Whisk in the whole milk and heat mixture until slightly thick. Add milk mixture to the food processor that contains the mushroom mixture. Pulse until mushrooms are finely chopped and well incorporated into the milk, but leave some chunkiness for a nice texture. Return the mixture to the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. If gets too thick, add some milk or stock to thin it out.

I know I harp on this, but why sugar in those savory biscuits?

The sugar gives a gentle boost to the rosemary, and they're not overly sweet. And you may have seen in Fritz's article, the biscuit recipe originally called for more sugar (double the amount, actually), but it was cut back. 

FWIW, when I made the biscuits once I accidentally omitted the sugar altogether -- they were still good, but missing that boost from the sugar. 

ARTICLE: A tender biscuit easy enough for the non-baker, and perfect for Thanksgiving

Rosemary Biscuits

RECIPE: Rosemary Biscuits

Can you freeze it? I usually have turkey around Christmas as well as Thanksgiving. From the article today, "For Boden, the biggest sacrifice in making gravy in advance is building the roux with butter instead of the fat rendered from the turkey while it roasts." Would saving some fat from Thanksgiving solve this for the Christmas meal?

I think freezing it would be just fine. I have a jar of chicken fat -- skimmed from the top of chicken soup or homemade chicken stock -- in my freezer, so I'd think turkey would be fine, too.

Hi! I hosted a friendsgiving where turnout was a bit lower than planned for and have a copious amount of cooked turkey breast leftover. Do you have any creative ways to use this up? I'm not big on sandwiches or creamy dishes. I've already made a turkey hash and turkey risotto and don't really want to resort to soup. Appreciate any suggestions you have!

How about enchiladas? Here's a roadmap.

Chubby Veg experts - do you have any new ideas for sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving? I've been less than impressed with sweet potato casserole and want something different to try. Thanks!

We totally agree! One Thanksgiving potluck we attended featured no less than 6 mashed sweet potato dishes! This elicited a heated critique of each person's creation and a ranking by one person of favorite iteration to least favorite, and well, it led to some mildly crestfallen feelings at the table. It's good to do something different so your dish stands out and becomes a new tradition. Use sweet potatoes as grilled slices mounded with buttery almonds, lemon zest, and fresh parsley. We call it Sweet Potato Almondine. Here's the link:

That's my problem. What do you eat while working like crazy to get the big meal together?

I find that I 'm usually tasting enough stuff along the way that I'm never that hungry by mealtime, but pizza makes for good counter-programming. 

Last week I asked for recommendations on how to use some extra pork shoulder. Tried one of the recipe she recommended - Beer-Braised Pork and Carrot Stew. I admit, I was a bit skeptical, but all of you have never steered me wrong. Served it to my band of picky eaters, and SUCCESS! They loved it. So in the spirit of the season, thank you!

Glad to hear that! And thanks for the thanks. 

I had some left over ginger vodka that was awfully sweet and put in cinnamon sticks and topped off with plain Vodka. It is now a deep red color. So now I have my cinnamon vodka what do I do with it?

Assuming it's still pretty sweet, I'd use it sparingly as a "spice" in whiskey, applejack, and other apple-y seasonal cocktails. It may end up serving almost the same function as a flavored syrup. Maybe try it in a good spicy ginger beer, or a dry apple cider. Balance is the thing!

No matter whether one selects 8 biscuits, 16, 32 or 48, the recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons of sugar. That can't be correct, can it?

No Sugar Policing intentioned....just a system glitch. Should be fixed now, thanks for alerting us.

Hello, I was wondering what is the difference between cream of crab soup vs crab bisque. Also, would have a recipe for crab bisque? Recently, I had eaten at Jerry's Seafood & they have a bisque that is truly fantastic!!!!!! I'm am hoping to find a recipe which I can make at home that is similar to Jerry's. Thanks for your time.

A crab chowder or soup can be chunky, thin or creamy and contain dairy (or not); a bisque is typically made with a roux or cream and a puree of seafood and/or vegetables. The latter often can have a splash of sherry or brandy. 


Is this the recipe from Jerry's you seek? We do not seem to have a crab bisque in our Recipe Finder...I will rectify that asap! 

I was hoping to make this for myself one day and knowing that you always give substitutions for vegan, etc. I was wondering if you would recommend an alteration for a garlic allergy? Would shallots serve the same purpose in this recipe, or would you substitute something else? Or just leave the garlic out altogether? (I’ve found a wonderful Osso Bucco recipe by Giada de Laurentiis that uses no garlic, and it is quite flavorful-I was wondering if adding tomato paste, white wine, bay leaf, etc. might help bring out the herb flavors.) Btw, soy sauce is also out as an option. Thanks in advance!

Great question! I've met folks who are allergic to all alliums, including garlic and all varieties of onions, which would be much more challenging! For this, I'd consider chopping up some fennel bulb to replace the garlic. I think that would go nicely with the other flavors. Just make sure you taste and feel free to adjust other seasonings as you go. 

RECIPE: Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

I can't wait to check out Amy & Justin's blog. Want to try the Roast Beast, but I was a little confused on the recipe instructions - so you put the veggies on the main skewer, then you add two other skewers - so one on each side of the kebab with the main skewer in the middle?

Yes! You've got it. The three skewers just help to keep everything in place. Joe used one big, flat skewer which works just as well. You just want to keep the vegetables close so that they pick up flavor from one another. It also keeps the moisture sealed in. You'll love it!

I had a volunteer plant grow out of my compost pile that yielded eight big squash. I would like to use some for Thanksgiving, but, truth be told, I am not a big fan of the stuff. Any recipes you can suggest to change my mind?

Great question! We love butternut squash so much that we put it on the cover of our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian. We cut it into steaks, hit it with some Montreal steak seasoning, grill it on the outdoor grill or in a cast-iron grill pan on the stove top, and top it with a flavorful chimichurri. Everyone will love it!

My son is taking German in high school and they are having a party Friday. He needs a recipe for typical German food to share. Because of his schedule, it probably needs to be a baked good so it doesn't need to be kept hot or cold. And no nuts. Do you have any suggestions?

How about pretzels? One of my favorite bloggers is Luisa Weiss, the Wednesday Chef. Her new book on German Baking has become an obsession! I just might have to bake everything in it. She has a terrific pretzel recipe

Any suggestions on a good Italian entree dish that I could make ahead of time and bring to an Italian themed potluck? I could do my go to baked ziti or lasagna, but I kind of want to try something different. Also no pork.

It takes some work, but arancini are a terrific addition to an Italian themed potluck spread. Basically, think of these delicious crispy spheres as risotto formed into a ball, breaded and fried until crunchy. I made them recently with leftovers from this Dorie Greenspan cheesy rice recipe.

I would like to serve duck at Thanksgiving. I would like to cook it on the grill somewhat quickly, so no smoking recipes for me. Any recommendations on a recipe? I was planning to use duck breasts, but I will take any recommendations.

      I absolutely love grilled duck breasts. This is pretty foolproof: Set up your grill for indirect heat - fire on one side only. Prick the skin with a fork  or sharp knife. Season with a dry rub that you like. When the fire is hot, place the duck breasts directly over the fire for about 5 minutes, until they get a little char.  Turn them over and repeat. Move the breasts to the cool side of the grill, put the lid down, and let them cook for about 40 minutes, maybe an hour. Oh, and make sure you put a drip pan beneath the the breasts on the cool side. The drippings will be great for roasting potatoes later. 

We have a gluten-sensitive person at our table this year. Do folks have any suggestions about dressings that aren't (real) bread based? We tried a GF loaf a couple years back and I was not fond of the texture, but perhaps they have improved?

Cornbread dressing is a staple at our Thanksgiving table! We have one recipe that uses oyster mushrooms:

All you do is make the cornbread with all cornmeal which is naturally gluten-free.

I have both of your books, and cook from them daily. Have you been approached by the food network to host a vegetarian series? I think there is a need for that type cooking series.

Wow, thank you so much! We would absolutely LOVE to do something like that in the future.

Hello! I have converted to veganism this year and I know I am going to miss my holiday favorite - Egg Nog. Is there a good vegan substitute I can either purchase or make on my own at home????

Bet you could try it with a can or two of full-fat coconut milk and add the usual spices. Sounds like we just might need to develop this recipe soon for our vegan friends!

I am hosting our family's channukah party for the first time this year. I think I need to make about 4 dozen latkes, and don't want to spend the whole party in the kitchen over a frying pan. Does anyone have experience with frying, freezing, then reheating in the oven? It is possible to get a crispy exterior this way? Thanks!

I'm going to disappoint you. I've tried every way under the sun to reheat latkes and the fact is, the freshly fried are just so much better. One option is to think along different potato-y lines. Like rösti or kugel, but again... this is not a crispy salty fried potato. Think hard before you start messing with tradition!

I have just gotten off the phone from somehow being now in charge of the Thanksgiving turkey. It should be around 18 lbs.; that's all the guidance I got. It is too late to order a heritage bird? That seems big for one anyway. Can I get a grocery store bird and thaw it? When should I get it? What brand? How long to let it thaw... Chickens I am familiar with; turkeys make me nervous. Any insight greatly appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving in advance.

Are you in the area? You might try ordering a local fresh bird from Maryland, Virginia or Pennsylvania (check out our list, below). Various farms offer breeds like Broad-Breasted Whites or Bronzes, which can be larger. (I got an 18-pounder from Maple Lawn for a friendsgiving last weekend, actually.)

ARTICLE: It’s time to order local turkeys for Thanksgiving

Hello, We are hosting Thanksgiving for 8 people (five adults and three kids). We have never cooked a turkey before, but we've roasted chickens. Should we be buying a turkey this week? How can we get an affordable turkey that's been humanely raised? Do we need a meat thermometer? Any other tips to make this as easy as humanely possible? In other words, HELP!!!!

A 12- to 14-pound turkey should be fairly easy to find if you buy a frozen one and allow enough time for defrosting OR call and place an order at your local store or farmers market (online) for a fresh one. 


Turkeys will be available now through the end of the year, but smaller sizes (say 12-pounders) are harder to come by the closer you get to the big day. 


Expect to pay less than $2 per pound for a grocery store  bird, more for a locally raised one. 


Yes, you do need a thermometer; you can spend a lot ($100) or a little ($10), but make sure it's instant-read/digital for  your own ease of use. 


Rather than try to figure out flavors you like or what might work best for you, pls send an email with your particulars to and we'll get back to you asap. Or just call me! 202 334 7543. I've prepared turkeys just about every which way.... here's this year's. And be sure to check out our turkey FAQs and carving video.



WaPo Happy Thanksgiving - the best part of November especially this year and thank you for being the one part of the paper I can still enjoy. Question oh gurus: For yeasted rolls, I would like to make them in advance and freeze. Should they be frozen after baking or before, and if before when and then how to bake.

Either freeze the rolls after shaping but before the final rise, or bake them and freeze them after they have cooled. With unbaked rolls, defrost in the fridge overnight and take them out about an hour before baking as usual. With baked rolls, defrost and reconstitute in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes.

Can't wait to try veggie dishes on your Thanksgiving Central page, which I like a lot, but it is missing my favorite go to Thanksgiving recipes,: Joe's Brussels Sprouts, (I buy frozen Brussels Sprouts imported from Belgium at TJ's, so there is almost no prep time) and Bonnie's made in the microwave apple sauce. By the way, there is a problem with both recipes, they are difficult to find on WaPo's recipe finder. Apple Sauce tastes great made with any jam or preserves one has at home, but the recipe is listed as "Cherry.....". For Joe's recipe you have to look for "Tamari-roasted...." even though they come our perfect with various different types of say sauce.. mentioning because most people who taste them ask for the recipe and have a hard time finding them. Just saying.

Thanks for weighing in. We'll def add the Tamari-Roasted Brussels Sprouts to Thanksgiving Central! Appreciate the love. Bonnie's cherry-applesauce is part of a pork tenderloin dinner, so that's why it's hard to find, cause it's not separate. (That is the one you mean, yes?) But we'll take under advisement! (BTW, the Brussels sprouts come up on the first page if you type "brussels sprouts" into our Recipe Finder main search at


RECIPE: Tamari-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

RECIPE: Pork Tenderloin With 5-Minute Cherry Applesauce

I'm a bit old school and I always put the yeast in warm water with a bit of sugar to get it foamy then add to dry ingredients. A lot of recipes simply add the yeast as part of the dry ingredients then add the liquid. Is there any noticeable difference between the two in the bread?

The reason many recipes start with blooming the yeast in warm water is to test the strength of the yeast. If it doesn't foam, it shouldn't be used and this test avoids wasting all that flour. I'm like you. I always bloom my yeast regardless of the recipe's instructions. 

Justin and Amy, love the blog! Following on the protein theme, my daughter is a 12-year-old vegetarian who loves pasta but isn't so fond of beans or chick peas (darn it). Can you recommend other ways to boost the protein in pasta dishes?

We do a topping with toasted pine nuts and garlic that she might like! Nuts are always a great answer to the protein question. They are easily available and tasty. Cheese as a filling in ravioli also ups the protein content. 

(We're also here debating with each other right now if she might like crumbled tempeh sautéed in olive oil as a topping, even though it's basically soybeans, but it really has a different texture when it's cooked this way. We love it as a topping for pasta along with pine nuts.)

When dry-brining a turkey: to rinse or not to rinse afterwards? This seems to be a huge debate. Everyone is in agreement that you pat the bird dry before doing whatever comes next, but should the just-brined turkey be rinsed? And if there are different schools of thought among you folks, can we get the pros/cons for either argument?

     I don't rinse. Not rinsing helps to flavor the bird while creating a great, crispy skin. 

Neither do I. Can't think of a pro for rinsing beyond the possibility that it might create salty drippings; patting the bird dry with paper towels and letting it air-dry in the refrigerator does the trick. Arguments against rinsing include creating a bacteria contamination zone, and possibly wrenching your back (with hoisting a big turkey in and out of the sink). If you felt the need to rinse, you could pat down the turkey's exterior with damp paper towels.

I loved all the recipes in today's Food section, but didn't see any appetizers. Our group will eat around 8:00 pm, so I need a make-ahead appetizer for the folks who will be watching 4-6 hours of football before dinner.

We added a Nibbles section to Thanksgiving Central for just this kind of question.

I think dips are an excellent way to go here, and two of my favorites are listed below. But other ideas, too, so check it out.

RECIPE: Carrot Hummus

RECIPE: Pepita Tomatillo Dip

This may be obvious, but you can use them with or instead of white potatoes in a gratin. Alternating slices makes a nice presentation, especially with a healthy sprinkling of chives or parsley on top.

Mmm, yes. My mom does this. It's so, so good.

We have our own version, here:

RECIPE: Two-Potato Gratin

I was looking to switch to a different brand of cocoa powder or trying a different type of cocoa powder to see if it'd help improve a recipe that I keep having trouble with. It's the chocolate flavor that I'm having problems with. The recipe is for chocolate swiss rolls. The cake is what I'm having trouble with. It calls for cocoa powder but doesn't say what kind. I know they have natural, dutch and unsweetened cocoa powder. Natural is what I am assuming is unsweetend? I had only unsweetened cocoa powder so I added a slightly more amount of sugar, I believe around 1/3 to 1/4 cup but it still doesn't taste chocolately. I've looked at other swiss roll recipes and some calls for melted chocolate added to the batter. Would I be more successful if I used dutch cocoa powder instead? Also, what's the best pan size to use when you need to make one large sheet of sponge cake?

There are two types of cocoa powder, Dutch process (appropriate for recipes that use baking powder) and natural which is used for all other recipes. Neither one is ever sweetened, so adding more sugar may have detracted from the chocolate flavor. I think most grocery store cocoa doesn't carry a big wallop of chocolate flavor. It's worth it to try better quality cocoa powders. I especially like the very dark and rich powders sold by King Arthur.

We don't really feel the tortilla love in enchiladas, so I make a 'Mexican bake' - it's very easy and something you can do with the turkey. Make your fav enchilada sauce, spread a bit on the bottom of the pan, layer your turkey (or other protein) and your favorite veg - just raw, cover with enchilada sauce, top off with sour cream and grated cheese, cilantro and or parsley. Cover and cook in a 400 oven for 25-30 mins, you might or might not take off the cover for the last few mins. Serve with rice - preferably Mexican rice. Very low maintenance and delish

I have a relative coming who is a graduate of a culinary institute. Last week she told me my roasted Brussels sprouts were good but she would come show me how to do it right. How do you deflect other experts from giving criticism in the form of a compliment.

Oh, we certainly have all been there! We would say to listen to her advice with all the patience you are able to muster while it's being given, and then either press on and do it your own way OR invite her to come cook the sprouts with you this year! Sometimes certain comments or approaches by others can reveal how to gracefully frame our own responses to others in a similar situation. :)

I no longer chop them. I roast and serve them whole. yam!!!!

Set up a rota. Everyone takes turns spending ten-minute stretches at that frying pan.

While I agree that freshly-fried latkes are best, I find that reheating them in an ungreased sauté pan is the least-bad way to fix leftover ones.

I'm a big fan of veggies and dip (for everyone!). I'm in favor of eating more veggies any way I can. Because when dinner comes, I'm all about the stuffing and potatoes.

I'm cooking Thanksgiving for a small group (5) this year. Most of us are omnivores, but there is also a vegan coming. Since she's obviously not having turkey, I'd like to have a nice alternative for her--something I can scale appropriately. In the past, I've done a marinated broiled tempeh, but I'm interested in other good ideas.

In the spirit of being inclusive, it's so nice to consider everyone at your table when preparing the classics. Vegan marshmallows for topping your sweet potato casserole are readily available now at places like Whole Foods, and simply swapping vegetable stock in for the chicken stock in things like dressing will keep everyone happy and going back for seconds. We like to think about who's vegan and who's gluten-free as we plan for Thanksgiving, and we always offer a separate dish without nuts if we have one with them.

novice here. What is blind baking?

Blind baking is when you partially bake the crust without any filling in it, usually with pie weights or something else to hold it down. It helps the crust set and not get soggy, particularly with a liquidy filling.

Hi all, thanks for these weekly chats!! Always look forward to them. I am bringing pecan pie to a pre-Thanksgiving meal this weekend. I LOVE pecan pie (the gooier the better) and can make a decent one from the recipe on the Karo bottle... but any tips for how to step it up into awesome territory?

We love this version!

and have never made one before. Poking around the interwebs, I found two main approaches - high heat (400 and thereabouts) and lower heat (325 usually and for much longer times). Can you explain the whys and hows of the different techniques? Do you rub butter on both? On the skin? Under the skin? And I've seen recommendations that you use a bed of celery if you don't have a roasting rack. Does that make delicious, turkey fat braised celery? Or just really, really soggy celery that needs to be tossed, but allows the bottom of the turkey breast to not soak in its own juices all through cooking? Sorry about all the questions. I'm a real newbie at this. Idea is to have some for now and some for "leftovers" (sandwiches and salads) since I am travelling quite far for T-day and wont be able to bring much, if anything, back with me.

This is the best method I've come across: Exremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast. You rub the bird and let it cure/air-dry in the refrigerator -- doesn't need anything under the skin and only a small amount of oil on the skin. 


IMHO, the bed of celery is typically so liquid-logged that it's not good for much else. 

How about something with eggplant? You could make a baked eggplant. But this is what is difficult for you, it really has to be baked or it will not stand up so well to the travel - or do a couple of more antipasti type things for variety ... .

I love the idea of your veggie roast beast; however, my family (myself included) is not fond of eggplant. As the only vegetarian with a family of meat-and-potatoes men, do you have any other suggestions for a hearty veg main course that would satisfy? I usually do cook them meat for dinner, but I really would like to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with them this year rather than just picking at side dishes. Thank you so much for your chats and your wonderful columns!

Double up on the mushrooms for sure! You can take the idea and make it out of all your favorite vegetables. We love that Joe added delicata squash when he made it.

Any suggestions for interesting Thanksgiving appetizers that aren't too closely related to typical holidays mains? Vegetarian options preferred! Thanks.

I mentioned two dips that would qualify, but here's another idea:

RECIPE: Veggie Buffalo Spread

Our brining experience has been that the wings are way too salty. Suppose you just rinse them instead of the whole turkey?

Well, they don't really need brining at all. Why not remove the wings from the bird beforehand and roast them separately, when you're roasting necks and parts for make-ahead gravy?

Does she like quinoa - it's a complete protein.

My dad was always the latke cook. As the family got older he set up a second frying pan and had different cousins and uncles take turns cooking with him. They got to visit and everyone got to pitch in.

Imagine, if chocolate were made from meat, there might not be so many vegetarians! Thank goodness many desserts are meat-productless.

Amen! Chocolate is an everyday staple at our house. We even add it to our chili and our mushroom paté. We also love to make at least one chocolate dessert every Thanksgiving,

Help, I have a vegan Thanksgiving guest! I can swing vegetarian cooking, but I'm finding that butter is the deal-breaker in numerous almost-vegan recipes. Do you have any experience cooking with vegan butter substitutes? Are they comparable or just sad and gross?

We sub in olive oil for almost everything. I hardly touch butter when cooking, but you can use Earth Balance vegan margarine for great results.

can you give me the actual recepie. video doesn't cut it cause no exact measurements.

Trader Joe's is pretty good.

In regards to pizza pans - is there a certain pizza stone or steel that you have and love? Also, with leaving a stone in the oven at all times (this is probably dumb) do you mean literally all the time, even if you are baking a lasagna or cake? Thank you!

I'm crazy about my baking steel and leave it in the oven all the time. It's only adding to the ambient heat - there's nothing bad about having it in the oven. 

I have yet to find a decent recipe. What do you make?

I used to think that stuffing had to have meat in it, but I've come around since marrying a vegetarian. Check out this recipe -- I've included the celery, apple, pecan stuffing that is our go-to. 

Tell me it ain't so. . . . .the Chubby Vegetarian does not come in kindle. I download all my cookbooks on my phone so that I can read them while I commute and have them at hand on the iPad when I am ready to see what ingredients I have and when I am ready to cook.

Thanks for the heads up -- we'll work on it this week!

I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week! Feels like it came fast this year (probably b/c of the election). I'm looking for a good ice cream recipe to serve with pumpkin pie. I'm thinking maybe something with buttermilk and bourbon. Have you come across anything similar that you'd recommend?

Well that sounds just about perfect. One of these could do the trick, or there's this recipe for Brown Sugar-Bourbon Ice Cream from Bon Appetit. 

Honey Buttermilk Gelato

RECIPE: Honey Buttermilk Gelato

RECIPE: Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

RECIPE: Brown Sugar Ice Cream

I made a thumbprint cookie which called for melting choc chips with some butter and putting that in the hole. The recipe called for: 4 oz of chips (1 cup) I know 4 oz of chips isn't a cup so I weighed it and it was approx. 2/3 of a cup. I had to make a command decision as to which measurement to use. Kind of frustrating but it wasn't a critical component. Maybe I'm just cranky but this seems like sloppy recipe writing to me. What would you have done in this situation?

This comes up in our recipe editing quite often, as weight and volume are so easy to confuse. Instead of making command decisions, spend 30 seconds on the Web to visit or a baking site you trust to find the correct answer for how many chips per cup.


And as far as estimating the filling in ANY thumbprint cookie recipe, I have yet to find one that doesn't call for more than you need! So in your case, I'd use the lesser amount, i.e., 4 ounces instead of 1 cup (6.2 ounces). 

What is a good travelling cocktail that is impressive to take to a friend's home for thanksgiving? Something cool but easy to transport or to put together once there?

I mean, I'm biased here because it's my favorite drink, but I think a Negroni is a great option and easy to transport -- or you could go with Jeff Faile's marvelous variation, the Negroni d'Amore. It's an appetite stimulant, which obviously makes it Thanksgiving-appropriate. But you could also go for a more low-alcohol aperitif such as an Americano, Negroni Sbagliato or an Aperol spritz, which have the same palate-opening qualities and won't knock your guests out. (Do you want to knock your guests out? Post-election, it may be a needed option at some tables.) If you do one of the versions with a carbonated element, save that component to add when you serve it rather than pre-mixing prior to transport.

My mom always handles Thanksgiving single-handedly, and while her superhuman effort results in an amazing meal, I'd like to do something to make life a little easier for her this year. All the traditional dishes are set in stone--she's got untouchable recipes for turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, salad, and dessert--so I'm a bit stuck on what to offer to make, and when I ask her what she'd like me to make, she just asks what I want to make. I'd like to come up with a few ideas she can pick from--can you guys think of anything? I'd like to cook all or most of it ahead of time, so I don't take up her kitchen space, and I'll have to travel a few hours with it. The extended family also tends to be traditional/picky, which is making it even harder!

Don't be afraid to go outside the bounds of traditional Thanksgiving food. There so many amazing dishes that are in the spirit of Thanksgiving classics but feature international flavors. In The Chubby Vegetarian cookbook, we have a curried acorn squash salad with apples and raita dressing that would be a great starter.

Cathy, Ghirardelli cocoa powder was what I used for the swiss roll recipe. I brought it from the local Harris Tetter store. The bag says '100% unsweetened cocoa'. Is that same as dutch cocoa? I had thought about throwing it away and replacing it.

Dutch cocoa powder refers to a process called Dutching. The Ghiradelli is NOT Dutched.

Hi - Jumping in late, but wanted to share my personal tip which is - the crock pot. I reheat my mashed in a buttered crock pot for our pot luck, and it works great - also saves space on the stove/in the oven for other food items.

Hello Free Rangers! So it's the first Thanksgiving I'm spending with my boyfriend (our second as a couple) and we are trying to combine food traditions. For what it's worth: I'm from a New York/New England Italian/Polish background and that totally influences what I cook. And I'm from a make everything from scratch even if it takes all night because it tastes better and is usually cheaper family. He's got a mid-Western, corn-fed and sometimes convenience food orientation. Any suggestions on how to combine traditions that don't clash? We figured out so far that my sausage stuffing will be complimented by his frog-eye salad (though he won't tell me what's in it).

This is sounding very much in the spirit of the holiday. Combined traditions make for a sweet new tradition that y'all are building together! We like to think of it as doing Thanksgiving our way each year.

How easy is it to bake a stuffed turkey breast without the breast drying out? What are the tricks to keeping it juicy instead of just doing a whole turkey.

I was very happy with this one, stuffed with pears, fennel and hazelnuts.Bonus: The accompanying video that shows you how to do it. 

I have a recipe for a cherry pie that uses a small amount of brandy in the filling. Not being a brandy aficionado, when I went to the liquor store, there were approximately 47389479234 types and flavors of brandy. Which is the type to add to the pie?

With this little amount and in a baking recipe, it really won't matter very much. I'd buy one of the mini bottles -- unless, of course, you want to have something left over to drink or cocktail with later. In which case, I'd get a decent Courvoisier or a Spanish Brandy de Jerez. 

Made it this weekend from your recipe and really enjoyed it. Thank you. But I realized the chef has an alternative version on her website with more ingredients (onion, bay leaf, etc). Did you leave this out because you didn't like it, or was it not in her book version? Thanks.

We saw that! We tested the recipe she chose to feature in her cookbook, which Jane Black recently reviewed.

Well, you've transferred us to a platter of couscous, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Jim, Cathy, Carrie and especially Justin and Amy for the great a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about upping the protein in the Beast will get a SIGNED copy of Justin and Amy's "The Chubby Vegetarian." The one who asked about a dish for an Italian dinner will get, natch, "Sicily." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading! And don't forget our special TWO-HOUR chat next Wednesday!


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.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence
Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence are the authors of "The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Vegetable Recipes for the Modern Table," (Susan Schadt Press, 2016).
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