Free Range on Food: Recipes for Christmas breakfast, strawberries in the winter, the future of recipes and more.

Dec 20, 2017

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

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying this week's inspiration, including Kristen Hartke's piece on make-ahead holiday breakfasts; Elizabeth Pennisi's look at efforts to cultivate a year-round strawberry on the East Coast; Maura's report on an app and other efforts that assume (wrongly, perhaps?) that recipes are dead; and more.

Kristen will join us today, so any q's about her holiday carbfest (those orange glazed rolls, oh, my!) will be met with expert a's.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR2552 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

And as always, we'll have giveaway books: "Veganomicon 10th Anniversary Edition" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero; and "Bobby Flay Fit" by, duh, Bobby Flay.

Let's do this!

Hello! I LOVE making popcorn on the stove, but I've never been able to figure out how to make it buttery if I don't have a microwave to melt butter in. Is there a temperature at which I can just use the butter in the pot? Or an oil that tastes buttery? I'll have time to experiment over the holidays.

I use vegetable or olive oil to pop the corn on the stove then drizzle the popped corn with melted butter. Also add plenty of salt (and spices if you want); nutritional yeast is also nice.

You could also take a cue from my dad, who is a master popcorn maker, and brown the butter before you drizzle it on. 

In case you need popcorn inspiration:

Herbed Popcorn

RECIPE: Herbed Popcorn

RECIPE: Garlic Ghee Popcorn


I'm saddened and feeling guilty -- I'm one of probably many who always thought about enrolling in a "recreational" class but never quite got around to it, and the reason given for closing is "We were just not getting the admissions.” Maybe some of the instructors will offer private classes now? Bonnie, you taught there?!

It is a sad story, and I'm working on a follow-up to the news story that we published on Friday.

 

Bottom line: From what I'm hearing, I don't think the main problem was low admissions. That certainly played a role, but it sounds like there were other, larger issues.

 

In short, don't feel guilty!

 

ARTICLE: L'Academie de Cuisine, one of the nation's top culinary schools, abruptly closes after 41 years

Grow Cook Nourish. It is wonderful. I don't have any space to grow my own either, but I can see getting a little more adventurous at the farmers market next year. The only problem is I am having some problems browsing in bed since it is on the large size. But I'm managing. ;)

Great to hear!

I try my best to offer something for most at my upcoming party - it gets a little difficult with the gluten free, vegetarian -lactose intolerant person. Any suggestions? I was hoping to make risotto...maybe leave out the cheese to be added by each person? The lactose is the thing that is the most difficult - most of the vegetarian recipes I can find have cheese/milk/butter.

This recipe from Cathy Barrow is a great option! The chili itself is gluten-free and vegan, but guests can customize with the toppings (and add Ancho-Leek Turkey Meatballs, if they'd like.)

Everybody’s Chili Verde

RECIPE: Everybody’s Chili Verde


Having just made one for a party the other day, one of my favorite things to make for those with dietary restrictions is paella. I made a mushroom-based one, based on a Penelope Casas recipe (but with liberties, natch.) 

Hi team, always look forward to the cookie section! Try to find something new to add to my Xmas repertoire. This year I tried BettyAnne's Florentines. There must a trick that was left out. These were a giant pain. First, I think an easier direction would have been to use a measure to get the "dough" into each muffin cup. Saying to use 1/3 of the "dough" across 12 muffin cups just wasn't very helpful. I ended up portioning out one tablespoon at a time. But getting these out of the muffin cups?? That's where there must be a missing trick. I chiseled and chiseled and chiseled. And cursed and swore and said never again. But in case I want to try these again, I'd love some pointers! Thanks!! The Florentines did taste good. :-)

Bonnie's tied up on a photo shoot, but I shot her your question, and she says:

Nonstick pan, wait till completely cooled. They pop out with a little nudge from a round edged knife. I have prob made 600 of them, at this point. Haven't had to "chip out" a single one. Maybe try paper liners?

Could you suggest another cheese that would work well in place of gruyere? Thank you! 

The closest sub would be another nutty cheese like Emmentaler, Comte or Jarlsberg. But you could also do something like a mild cheddar, combined with an extra sprinkle of grated Parm (which would get crisp).

RECIPE: Scalloped Potatoes and Mushrooms

The cheese and the restaurant aren't related - there was actually a whole lawsuit a few years back around whether the restaurant could start selling meat products in grocery stores under the branding Cracker Barrel, or if that would infringe on the trademark rights Kraft has around the Cracker Barrel cheese brand and create confusion among customers about the brand. Spoiler alert: the cheese won. It's one of the more random tidbits I learned in business school... 

Thanks for the clarification!

(Insert a joke about the cheese standing alone here)

When the other paper still had forums, someone from Valencia posted her paella tip: before adding rice and water, grate a tomato into the pan. When you grate it, all that will be left in your hand is the peel.

Yes, I do this. A good tip with tomatoes for all sorts of uses. Start with a halved tomato, and press the cut half onto the grater, in case that's not clear to anyone!

 

I usually make these but this year I won't have time. Is there any place, preferably in Bethesda, that makes good ones? I'm not keen on a packaged version....

Hmm, haven't seen these for sale anywhere. Chatters, ideas?

Thank you for the make-ahead breakfast ideas. I'll definitely be making the rolls, but I'd like to add in a cheesy, eggy, bready casserole, per family tradition. My husband is a vegetarian, but I love me some sausage or bacon in my breakfast casseroles. A recipe that could be divided and baked separately would be ideal. Thank you for any ideas you have!

You really can't go wrong with a strata, which you can put together the night before so that the custard really soaks into the bread to create a soufflé-like texture when baked. Although you could certainly make two stratas, I also think that using some smoky ingredients, like an applewood smoked cheddar, sundried tomatoes, and a little smoked paprika,  can give you the best of both worlds and then you don't have to make two dishes! There are also a lot of good commercial "meaty" vegetarian sausage substitutes out there that you might consider, or you can whip up Joe Yonan's super tasty vegan chorizo -- it's so good!

RECIPE: Breakfast Strata Primavera

RECIPE: Tofu Chorizo

RECIPE: Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls

I didn't get an answer to my question last week so I'm trying one more time. I made and loved Ellie's breakfast cookies but now I have a half a bag of leftover cranberries. Any thoughts on savory uses for them?

Pickle 'em! Then add them to salads, such as this one:

Brussels Sprout Petals With Coriander Vinaigrette and Pickled Cranberries

RECIPE: Brussels Sprout Petals With Coriander Vinaigrette and Pickled Cranberries

Or dice them up to make a pickled cranberry relish, to be used as a condiment with roast beef or chicken or pork, or a spread with cheese and crackers. 


Happy holidays, all! What is your favorite cheese straw recipe?

Haven't made them myself, but hear very good things about these:

John Martin Taylor's Blue Cheese Straws

RECIPE: John Martin Taylor's Blue Cheese Straws

Sorry, only now just read the 12/6 article re Tyler Florence and the ostensible death of the cookbook. I disagree. I will happily spend $25 on a cookbook just for a single perfect-to-me recipe. Yes, I may riff on it after making it the first few times, but I want a ~truly~ tested recipe for my guide. Like a ~printed~ AAA or Rand-McNally (others are available) map, it is tested and trustworthy. (Have we not all read the horror stories of GPS disasters?) Also, I enjoy simply reading the recipes, the accompanying stories and contemplating the photos (hoping my attempt looks at least 25% as good). Tx for letting me rant.

There is plenty of disagreement for Florence's point of view! Some people are always going to be cookbook die-hards, and some people are naturally drawn to the newest thing. Worth noting: the Innit app, in its current iteration, is geared towards reducing the monotony of weeknight cooking, and its recipes are more geared towards novice millennial cooks. So until these apps become a little more sophisticated in terms of the flavors and techniques they use, seasoned cooks are going to be bored by them. 

ARTICLE: 'Recipes are dead': What the future of cooking might look like

I love the idea, but loathe eating sweets in the morning (#teamsavory 24/7, really) so 2/3 of the recipes you suggest are non-starters for me. Do you have any almost-made-the-cut 'make ahead' options in the savory side of the breakfast table? Christmas breakfast growing up was always a big frittata with a side of scrapple -the only time of the year we got it!- but now I rarely make "hot christmas breakfast", as I start making Christmas dinner a few hours later.

I, of course, love a sweet roll, although only really indulge in them at Christmas, but I will definitely suggest that you give the stollen a try -- I don't personally dust mine with powdered sugar because that's way too sweet for my taste, and the bread itself is only lightly sweet, and you could pull back on the sugar even more if you wanted to. However, as I just suggested to someone else, a strata is a really great option, because it is best to assemble and refrigerate it the day before, so that the custard really soaks into the bread, and then bake it in the morning.

RECIPE: Cozy Strata

RECIPE: Caprese Strata

Don't forget Kristen's delightful Mini Christmas Frittatas!

Hi! Tis the season for traveling. Any suggestions for food to take on a long haul flight? I bought some tupperware with compartments thinking I could pack an assortment of things to take with us for a flight overseas, but I'm blanking on how to fill those compartments. I was thinking cubed cheese, olives, but what suggestions do you have? Nothing too messy or too stinky, and we'd be sure to finish whatever we bring on the plane to avoid customs issues. Thanks.

I'm a fan of good crusty sandwiches, simple and lightly dressed. Like sliced Italian salumi with fresh mozz and olive oil on a baguette or ciabatta. 

 

I'm also a fan of dried fruits and healthier snacks, like kale chips. Nuts and fresh fruit are also a good option. Baby carrots and a small 3.4-ounce container of your favorite dipping sauce would also help to pass the time.  Remember, TSA will take any liquid item from your carry-0n bag, if it is larger than 3.4 ounces.

 

Chatters, what are your favorite carry-on foods?

The Mini Christmas Frittatas sound delicious--and easy for Christmas morning, but my brother is allergic to dairy. Any suggestions to substitute for the milk and mozzarella balls? Thanks!

Absolutely! I usually make mine with dairy-free almond or soy milk, because I like the little bit of nuttiness that it adds to the flavor. Also, you can use a dairy-free mozzarella (Miyoko's Kitchen makes a good one), or just omit the cheese altogether. I'd consider chopping up some mushrooms and sautéing them down with some olive oil and thyme, to get out all the liquid, then add a little dollop of those to each muffin cup before pouring in the egg mixture, just to add a little extra richness. I don't think you'll miss the cheese!

Hi! Thanks for taking the question--but I was hoping you'd have suggestions for melting the butter. I don't have a microwave. I've put some in a mug and put it in the oven before, but hoped there might be a way to avoid having the oven on at the same time.

I just melt the butter in a small saucepan on the stove. Easy peasy.

I bought a plain goat cheese log/roll and want to dress it up for my cheese plate. What are some options - rolled in dried herbs, finely chopped nuts, or dried fruit? I have bleu cheese, Swiss cheese, and Kerrygold cheddar with Irish whiskey as the other cheeses.

All your ideas sound great! Maybe a combo of a few things -- chopped dried apricots + pecans + flaky salt; dried dill + lemon zest + chopped pistachios; dried cranberries + ground almonds + chopped fresh parsley... mix and match flavors that you like, and you'll be golden.

I had purchased two recreational classes in January and February, to the tune of about $400. I've emailed and called for a refund multiple times and no response. Any suggestions on getting through to them? - A very dissatisfied customer

Yes, that would be extremely frustrating. I don't have any good answers for you right now. 

 

But email me at tim.carman@washpost.com, and I can keep the channel open if I hear anything about refunds.

I last saw blini for sale (frozen) at Wagshal's in Spring Valley - but I would bet that Dean and Deluca in Georgetown also carries them.

I got a bread mixer this year from a well meaning friend, a mixer with bread hooks. Now I will never have to knead again. I'm a bit sad, there is something comforting about the rocking back and forth and feeling the dough get smoother and smoother. Can I cop out and use the mixer to blend the dough and still turn it out and knead it? Friend lives in house and I think got me this because I complained that I'm too short to get the leverage and often stand on my toes.

I know plenty of bread makers who ALWAYS finish the bread by hand, even if they start it in a stand mixer, so do what makes you feel good! (Plenty of people do this with a bread machine, even!)

What am I doing wrong? It still tastes great, but so disappointing. Any ideas?

No ideas until we know more about your recipe. Link or describe in more detail, please?

1. Does Bonnie (or anyone) have recommendations for kids' cookbooks? 2. Is it safe to assume apple brandy is gluten-free? Thanks!

1. Jaques Pepin's "A Grandfather's Lessons."

2. Yes.

I like to make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and would ideally love to let them bake while we open gifts. However, when I make the rolls the night before and allow them to rise in the fridge overnight, inevitably the filling liquifies and spills into the bottom of the pan. I end up with a sticky bun-type bottom of the roll and no filling in the middle. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? I really don't want to have to wake up even earlier than my 7 year old gets me up to make the rolls in the morning! Making sticky rolls isn't an option. :) We REALLY like cinnamon rolls, and it still doesn't solve the problem of having little to no cinnamon/sugar in the actual rolls.

My best guess is that maybe there is too much filling being added before you roll them up, or you are rolling too tightly. For my cinnamon rolls, I use the same recipe for the Orange Glazed Sweet Rolls, just swap out the marmalade for the cinnamon sugar filling. I brush the rolled out dough with about 1 tablespoon of melted butter, then sprinkle about  3 tablespoons of cinnamon mixed with maple sugar over the top. When I start rolling them, I'm careful to not roll tightly, but to make sure that I keep tucking the roll lightly so that it holds the filling in but also gives it room to expand during that final rise. If you start to see that the filling is spilling out while you are rolling, that's a good indicator that it's probably being rolled too tightly!

We'll be flying internationally with our 8 year old on Christmas morning, and I'd love ideas for a portable yet festive Christmas breakfast for our flight that can be made the day before. Hopefully something that's not too complicated to make, since we'll be busy packing leading up to the trip. Thank you!

I've gotta make a plug for the Holiday Stollen -- the recipe is really easy and it packs up like a dream (which is why people make it and pop it in a box to send to family)! 

It's not Christmas without gingerbread men. Do you have a favorite recipe?

When my 5-ft Nonna made bread she always kneaded it in a very large bowl placed on a chair.

Love this image!

I love sausage in my casserole too, but when I replace it with a can of chopped green chilies, I don't really miss it. Flavorful!

For the past week my husband has been at our lake house. He's not a cook and survived on Costco frozen pizza and whatever else he could scrounge up. He got back last night and I made your mushroom popover pie. He was so happy. He said, "This is the first decent thing I've eaten in a week. I could eat the whole thing." This recipe never fails. I wish I had some right now. Thank you!

So glad to hear this! I haven't made this in awhile, and you've reminded me that I'm overdue.

BTW, regular visitors to the chat might know what I'm going to ask: Have you rated and commented on the recipe online? If not, please do -- it helps other readers find good stuff to make, and if you adapt it in any way they always like hearing how that went, too.

 

RECIPE: Mushroom Popover Pie

I bought a pouch of these at Trader Joe's and wonder how they might work in banana muffins? I'm thinking use them in addition to mashed bananas, cut into little pieces instead of nuts. Could this be a bad idea?

They *could* turn tooth-breaking hard, is my only thought. But maybe the dried bananas are crispy and light to begin with so it wouldn't be an issue? 

Another thought -- what if you pulsed the dried bananas into a powder and worked that into a crumb topping of some sort? Use your favorite crumb topping ratios, or check out these for inspiration: 

Whole-Grain Apple Crumb Muffins

RECIPE: Whole-Grain Apple Crumb Muffins

Pear Crumble

RECIPE: Pear Crumble

RECIPE: Almond and Oat Apple-Cranberry Crumble

Winter strawberries would be wonderful. One farmer at our farmers' market grows a variety that produces throughout the season, but they really aren't as good as June berries. However, they're infinitely better than the shipped winter berries that look beautiful but lack the taste and texture of June berries. Good luck!

I noticed that recent recipes in the Food section call for removing the gills of portobello mushrooms before roasting. I have not done that in the past and was wondering what the rationale was.

It depends on the recipe. The gills can discolor a dish. I don't do it all the time, but sometimes I do.

Any suggestions on what to do with 7 pounds of Boston butt that isn't a variation on pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas or stew? I went to Costco and got the smallest package at 15 pounds and have already made pulled pork and chili. I need some other ideas. Help please. By the way, LOVE you gals and guys!

Boy, have you come to the right place. We have some great ideas for Boston butt that go well beyond pulled pork and stews. (One thing to keep in mind: Boston butt is another name for pork shoulder. You can always search for recipes that feature pork shoulder. Just don't mistake pork shoulder for WHOLE pork shoulder, which includes the picnic ham. Yes, butchering is SO CONFUSING!)

 

Anyway, sorry. Here are your recipes:

BBQ Pork Skewers

 

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Choucroute With Pork Shoulder, Sausages and Stout

 

Hoppin' John Cassoulet (which, incidentally, is perfect for the New Year!)

 

And many more ideas here.

 

Can you get Patricia Hartke to share her mother's recipe for corn cakes?

Those corn cakes are so good! The basic recipe is 3/4 cup cornmeal with 3/4 cup AP flour, then a cup of milk (buttermilk is nice, but it's also really good with a nutmilk), 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, plus a smidgen of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix it all up so that it's still a little lumpy and let it sit for 10 minutes before cooking them in a nice hot skillet. I get goosebumps thinking about those crispy edges!

My husband fell in love and bought an over 20 lb blue hubbard squash. I love winter squash but I am not sure it will even fit in the oven. I have been thinking of quartering it and baking separately. Is there a best way to do this? I will want to freeze some. How should I do this? I am going looking forward to having squash through the winter. Any good recipe suggestions? Do you think I can stuff a quarter squash?

Just get a sharp knife, and go to town. Stab it once like you're in the "Psycho" shower, and then carefully but firmly pull the handle down so you continue cutting. That should give you a good enough start to keep hacking at it. Quarter it, remove the seeds, and roast the quarters after drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt until they're fork tender. Don't bother peeling. Scoop out the flesh, use it in soups, put it in tacos, make pasta sauce out of it, and so on. You can freeze it in zip-top bags with as much air pressed out as possible.

You could stuff those quarters, too, sure -- try something like the "stuffing" in this recipe:

Roasted and Stuffed Squash Rings

Put the popped corn in the bowl you're going to eat it out of, melt the butter in the pot you used to pop the corn, and pour it over the popcorn. Not rocket science!

This year I felt there were a lot of cookbooks out there that took a unique spin on the classic recipe. You've got Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that takes a look at the four key components of recipes. There's Cook Korean! (from 2016) that uses illustrations to demonstrate cooking techniques. And of course Feed The Resistance that puts social justice at the forefront of the dinner table. I was wondering what you think the Future of Recipes will do to the Future of Cookbooks? What trends do you think we'll see in the next few years (not talking about the odes to Instant Pots or adaptogens)?

The trend in the publishing industry right now is that cookbooks are getting, as publisher Rux Martin said in the story and as you note here, "More cookbooky." More tactile, more beautiful, more giftable and keepsake-worthy. What I'd be interested to see is if someone in Silicon Valley can crack the e-cookbook curse. No one likes e-cookbooks right now, but that's because they're mostly an afterthought. I'd like to see someone create a type of digital cookbook/app that is also beautiful and stimulating and a pleasure to work with. But also something practical that can interact with your Alexa and control your smart oven and your wifi enabled sous vide circulator and whatnot if you're inclined to have those things. Sarah Smith from the Institute for the Future often talks about how we  imbue our automated technology with our value systems, and the value that often wins is efficiency or cost -- which is why some people complain that food tech innovations suck the fun out of cooking. And we may see many more apps that do exactly that. But we could imbue our future digital cooking apps/cookbooks/experiences with the values of environmentalism (to prevent food waste), or diversity, or just fun, and maybe that would get us closer to the joy we get out of printed cookbooks. 

I melt the butter in the same pot I used to pop my popcorn. The pot is still nice and hot and I don't have to wash one more dish! Love your chat - even though a lot of the products aren't available in SW Ontario.

It's a little bit of a pain to wash two pots, true, but I prefer to add the warm, melted butter to the warm, freshly popped corn right away. (Speaking from about 27 years experience of eating popcorn prepared this way, I think it does make a difference. But I'm biased. :))

For the person trying to get a refund: If you paid by credit card, contact your CC company to report the matter. They might consider it fraud.

Good advice.

When my mom taught me to knead dough, I also got the bowl on a chair!

No need to add "it's not rocket science" commentary. This is a place for people to ask questions without getting snarked at.

I've been tasked with bring breakfast drinks (coffee and juice) to my sister-in-law's Christmas breakfast. She prides herself on her dishes and I don't want to overshadow her by bringing something I've baked when she's got the menu all set, but drinks are so boring... Any suggestions to liven up the drinks beyond the store-bought juices (preferably no alcohol/kid friendly)?

Try this mocktail -- it'd make for a nice brunch drink. You could also do something with a good, elegant tea, hot or cold (I really like the Cream Earl Grey from Capital Teas). And if you're looking for ease, the draft coffees from La Colombe are very good over ice.

My mother used to take the big squashes outdoors and drop them on the patio, resulting in non-uniform pieces.

FTW.

I'm allergic to penicillin. The last time I took it, my body turned into one big hive. When I googled, the answers were "no" or "yes" or "maybe". Do you know the definitive answer?

No, but your doctor should!

Hi. I am due with our first baby in early January and want to get a jump on stocking our freezer so we will be well fed in the first few weeks. Any suggestions on what’s best to make?? Thanks.

Congratulations! I'd suggest that making some big batches of soup and freezing them into individual servings will be a real lifesaver -- that's what I did before my daughter was born, also a wintertime baby -- and the soup really hit the spot with very little effort. Beyond that, I will say that friends and neighbors really pitched in to provide us with plenty of casseroles, and we were so busy being enthralled with the new member of our family, that we didn't really care what we ate :)

RECIPE: Lentil and Macaroni Soup With Swiss Chard

RECIPE: Onion Soup With Porcini and Thyme

I have a couple of vegetarians coming to xmas dinner and I want to give them something for themselves since they won't be having any turkey. There are several kinds of dried beans from my garden lingering in my pantry that I can make or I could buy some from the store. What bean dish do you recommend with a menu of smoked turkey, gingered carrots, parsnip souffle and green salad? Much thanks for all you do for us and very happy holidays to you all!

This is a nice one!

Bean and Winter Squash Gratin

RECIPE: Bean and Winter Squash Gratin

 

I’m having some friends over for brunch between Christmas and New Year's and need help with the menu. I’m starting with a champagne cocktail and serving sausage, cheese, and mushroom strata, and a fresh fruit salad of strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, and kiwi. Dessert will be a red velvet cake. I believe I need something else with the entrée, perhaps a green salad or vegetable of some sort (maybe roasted broccoli or carrots). Do you have a suggestion? Thanks.

How about this? I think it'd be a gorgeous addition. You could leave out the flowering cilantro, of course! (Just replace w/parsley or cilantro leaves.)

RECIPE: Caramelized Carrots With Lentils, Labneh and Flowering Cilantro 

falling in love with a 20 pound squash, especially if it is too big to fit in their oven. If were a writer (I'm not) I would feel a short story coming on.

Is there something wrong with the comments sections on chats? Also, your last post is showing a timestamp of 11:20 am, when it's 12:50 right now. Thanks.

Uh-oh! We thought this was working. Sigh.

I'm sure they are being swamped by similar requests. I would persist until I got through.

I need to do a healthy and meat free dinner for a 4 year old who can be a bit picky. I was thinking beans and rice, or maybe roasted potatoes but with what!? He is not very fond of greens, unfortunately. Also, would you recommend a cookie recipe that I could do with him? Something that uses almond or oatmeal flour would be best.

Beans and rice are a good choice for sure, and so are burritos with refried or black beans -- which can also give him the option to add his own toppings. If he likes mac-and-cheese, then this Vegan Sweet Potato version is a real crowd-pleaser.

For cookies, these banana cookies are easy and tasty.

 

I have been looking for a recipe for homemade stuffing for holiday dinners rather than the usual commercial brands. Any recipes you can recommend?

Boy, have you come to the right place. (Wait, did I say that earlier?)

 

For Thanksgiving this year, I wrote about the great wide world of American stuffings/dressings, from the potato filling of Pennsylvania Dutch country to the dirty rice dressing of Charleston. (Both of which are really tasty! I should know: I made them both.)

 

Take a look at the story and see if any of the recipes included appeal to you.

 

ARTICLE: Thanksgiving stuffing (or dressing) is the dish that best reflects America's diversity 


 

I love the idea of "thousands of permutations of meals" --- that's why I have a recipe book that tells me how to adapt a basic mix to make many variations of cupcakes and another one for sauces and another for cold pasta. But the basic, printed recipe is still vital. And it doesn't depend on my internet connection not going down! Have you seen the bookstore sticker "books without batteries?" Like that! Plus I get to see my mother's scribbled notes in the books I inherited from her. Nothing beats that!

Right! The apps are definitely not for everyone, but I think they're an interesting example of how Silicon Valley is approaching cooking, especially as our kitchens grow smarter and smarter (you may not have a smart oven now, but depending on how often you replace appliances, there's a good chance your next one will be). Especially in re: my previous answer about how the values we automate for are too often efficiency, rather than pleasure. Having worked with more than a dozen smart kitchen appliances this year, I see the both sides -- for example, I love a little bit of automation like in the June Oven, but I chafe at tech trying to solve problems that aren't actually problems, like the start-up Bodega. The people who read this chat -- who are excellent cooks! -- are not necessarily the audience that these companies are going for. There are people would be thrilled to have their fridge and their app tell them what to have for dinner. And there are people who think that's the worst thing ever. (And, like you, I cherish hand-written recipes, and will defend them from our robot overlords when the uprising comes.)

I like to make the WaPo's Lemon Dill Havarti Wafers. They're a little fragile for travel but the crumbs taste pretty good too.

And here they are:

RECIPE: Lemon, Dill and Havarti Wafers

Some of the great pleasures, foodwise, are fruits/vegetables at the height of their season. Not sure how I feel about "fixing" that. On another note, I'm really tired of non-West Coasters dissing California (or Washington or Oregon) strawberries. Come out here when they're in season and you just might be surprised to find incredible tasting berries. But get them at farmers markets, not the ones grown for shipping.

I don't think we ever kneaded bread, but Darrell, Jon and I tended to use the table to do prep work instead of the counter. (The other two groups were the boys group and the girls group. Short was the only co-ed one.)

I gave frozen French toast to a new mother, and she RAVED about it. Just prepare and cook it like usual and then freeze individually on a cookie sheet. Reheat in a pan or the oven. While she loved all of the lasagne, soups, stews, etc., this was a nice change of pace from all that.

Debbie Downer here ... I seem to be coming down with flu symptoms including upset stomach. So I want to get some cartons of broths that only need to be heated. Please recommend your favorite pre-made broths that are easily available -- I don't want to wait for stuff to be shipped. Vegetarian or not is fine, but if it's chicken broth, please one that doesn't taste gamey like the last one I bought. As I get better, I'll add frozen veggies already in the freezer and maybe noodles. Thank you lots!

Pacific Foods is a good, reliable brand and also have lower sodium versions. Stock up and feel better soon!

Stovetop popcorn is my favorite snack. I quit adding butter to mine years ago because I hated how the popcorn deflated when melted butter was poured over it. Now I just pop my popcorn in either ghee or coconut oil, adding about an extra tablespoon more to the pot than would be needed just to pop the kernels. That takes the place of butter for me. Perfect with a sprinkling of salt.

That's fair; there's definitely a trick to adding melted butter without making the popcorn soggy (gotta drizzle slowly with a spoon from one hand, while using your other impeccably clean hand or a large spoon to stir/keep everything moving). But hey! Whatever works for ya. 

Very early on, I learned never to voice a complaint to my husband unless I truly wanted a new [whatever] on my birthday, Christmas, anniversary, etc.

I hear you! 27 years married has definitely taught me that lesson too!

I get so confused by the labeling of meat. Why do they label it so differently?

That's a good question. I wish I had a good answer!

And yet, if you go to their web site, you can still enroll in any of the 3 programs with multiple start dates! Perhaps the problems were larger than simply low enrollments or bad finances.

Yes, I would highly encourage everyone to NOT enroll in the $30,000 professional program at L'Academie.

Should they be thin like pancakes? Or thick like cornbread, even like muffins?

Corn cakes are basically just pancakes made with cornmeal, but they'll be a bit thicker and heartier than a typical pancake.

Thanks for taking my question! I appreciate the suggestion to try the stollen in a less sweet iteration but though dark chocolate is the only chocolate I'll eat, it's a hard No in a breakfast item. But the strata is a great idea, as is the mini frittatas, and I may make the stollen to give away as a gift to family that likes breakfast sweets. Will report back on how they go!

Great, please let me know how it all worked out! And, although I didn't mention it in my article, the reason I've added dark chocolate to my version of my mom's stollen is because we used to sometimes have pain au chocolate on Christmas morning, in addition to the stollen, and I wanted to add that flavor into the stollen. All I can say is that it's REALLY tasty!

I gave someone a Cinnamon gift box for Christmas, but it turns out they don't bake. Any suggestions for savory, healthy recipes using cinnamon? Thanks for all you do, and happy holidays!

Cinnamon is used in lots of savory dishes around the world, so there are plenty of ways to use it -- as a dry rub on meat, in chicken dishes, and in chili. Here are a few ideas for your friend:

Lemon and Apricot Cinnamon Chicken

RECIPE: Lemon and Apricot Cinnamon Chicken

Cincinnati Chili Over Spaghetti Squash

RECIPE: Cincinnati Chili Over Spaghetti Squash

RECIPE: Cinnamon-Spice Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Root Vegetables


I can't find the packaged ones in a store anywhere in Northern Va. Any ideas why stores don't stock them. I will order online today, but wondering why they are so difficult to find.

If you haven't checked Trader Joe's, I'd suggest that -- they usually have chestnuts in stock now.

Thank you for redeeming my tastebuds! I've always been a fan of McDonald's biscuits but dared not tell anyone since, as a Northerner, I don't have biscuits in my blood (don't get me started on what Southerners say when I try to opine on cornbread). One point for me!

Yes, I was surprised that I liked McDonald's the best. My knee-jerk answer has always been that Popeyes makes the best chain biscuits. Chalk one up to the clown.

 

ARTICLE: We taste tested six fast-food biscuits and were genuinely surprised by our favorite

How long will egg-free chocolate pudding keep in the refrigerator? I made a batch (serves 6) this morning and I'm wondering if it will be ok on Monday.

I'm guessing it will be fine if kept well-wrapped, and I'd store it in the back of the refrigerator.

Any suggestions on good guide books?

I've got just the thought -- wait until our prize announcement!

If you've got a Vietnamese place in the neighborhood, they usually sell pho broth--best medicine ever.

Hi. I am having a holiday brunch and am coordinating a number of food allergies and intolerances. I think I've got enough options to cover the various food needs but would like to have a coffee cake that everyone can eat. I think the easiest way to address this is to have a vegan coffee cake (nuts are ok) but I can't find a recipe that sounds really delicious. Do you have any suggestions?

Definitely try the Holiday Stollen recipe in today's edition, because it is totally vegan and really delicious! In general, however, you can totally try any coffee cake recipe and simply substitute non-dairy milk and butter and a vegan egg substitute, and it'll work -- I do it all the time!

RECIPE: Holiday Stollen

At Whole Foods in Clarendon--bags and jars (dried fruit aisle last time I saw them, this week)

I's an avid cook and I asked Santa for a Sous Vide cooker (Anova brand) based on the recommendation of an old college friend. Am I going to get something that changes the way I cook or just a gimmick that I will experiment with a few times and then relegate to the back of the pantry?

I had a lot of fun experimenting with sous vide for this story in the spring, and all signs point to it growing more and more prevalent and convenient. But it depends on your preferences! Worth noting that while sous videing meat gets the most attention, you can do more interesting things -- bitters, custards, pickles, not just giant hunks of beef.

I was really excited to try out the shortbread jam bars recipe to bring to my work holiday party. I followed the recipe closely, as I always do when making a new recipe. I made the crust the night before, chilled it in the refrigerator overnight, and finished the prep in the morning, thinking I would bring them to our party the next day. Alas, the top never cooked properly. It was still floury all over and didn't look cooked at all in some parts, while other sections looked gluey. The topping barely browned at all, even with extra time. I have an oven thermometer because my oven is often off by a few degrees here and there, so I know the temperature was correct. Eventually, I gave up because I had to leave for work. When I got home, I threw the bars out because they looked so unappetizing. I'm a very seasoned baker and have never had a problem like this before. I used a Pyrex 9x13" pan, and am unsure whether this might have worked better with a different pan. Otherwise, I have no idea what happened. What do you think went wrong?

I feel you! I baked up a batch of sweet rolls the other night and had to use a different pan than usual and they didn't work out as well as usual. It's hard to know exactly what went wrong, but does sound like maybe there was a problem with the oven temperature, although a metal pan might have distributed the heat more evenly. It happens to all of us!

We're out of time! Thanks, everybody!

For cookbook winners: The original popcorn/butter chatter will get "Bobby Flay Fit." The one who just asked about a guide to plant-based eating will get "Veganomicon." Send your info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading -- Oh, and happy holidays!

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.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Maura Judkis
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
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