What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us for another edition of What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

A graduate of Peter Kump's New York Cooking School, Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cook book.

Catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

The transcript follows.

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Kim O'Donnel: Greetings from another planet, where it's so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. (I really sho uld go outside and test this presumption) Ayyy! Are you baking yet? I think it may be time for a popsicle. Share your cool ideas her e. A few program notes: Next week, I'm checking out of society for some rest, so no chat. Blog will be live on, sprinkled with pos ts from a guest blogger, plus I'll check in to say hello every few days as well. Then I'm off to Gilroy, Calif., for its 28th annual garlic festival. I'll be blogging from there, and then on Tues, Aug 2, chatting to you from San Francisco. Should be wild and wack y. Now, seriously, how are you cooling off? (Don't tell me you're locking yourself in a meat locker.)

Kim O'Donnel: I meant to say Tues., Aug. 1, for chat from San Francisco.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim! I'm stumped...every time I visit the new Whole Foods in Old Town, Alexandria, they have an Emu Egg in the egg stand. It sel ls for approximately $19. What does one do with an egg of this size? Have you ever cooked with something like this? The thing is huge! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Funny that you ask. I was in possession of not one -- but two-- emu eggs in early May. My colleagu e Bonnie Benwick at the Food section and I were scheming a grand plan for something in the paper, but alas, we discovered that emu e gg season was coming to a close, so we decided to hold the thought til next year. Unfortunately, my emu egg, which stayed in the cri sper for a few weeks, ended up getting damaged, so I did not have the opportunity to cook with it. My goal was to make an gigantic e mu omelette. I'm told it would serve at least 12 people. Anyone with emu egg experience?

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Springfield, Va.: It's so hot outside, the last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen by cooking. Do you have any suggestions for simple meals tha t don't require using the stove?

Kim O'Donnel: I literally just got off the phone with Hillary Howard, morning anchor on Washington Post Radio. W e were talking about summer rolls, which are one of the best things to make on such a hot day. I have uncooked details in my blog. Gazpacho would also make my list for u ncooked items today. Just whiz those veggies in a food processor and let them talk to each other in the fridge.

Alexandria, Va.: Hi Kim! I'm stumped...every time I visit the new Whole Foods in Old Town, Alexandria, they have an Emu Egg in the egg stand. It sel ls for approximately $19. What does one do with an egg of this size? Have you ever cooked with something like this? The thing is h uge! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Funny that you ask. I was in possession of not one -- but two-- emu eggs in early May. My colleagu e Bonnie Benwick at the Food section and I were scheming a grand plan for something in the paper, but alas, we discovered that emu e gg season was coming to a close, so we decided to hold the thought til next year. Unfortunately, my emu egg, which stayed in the cri sper for a few weeks, ended up getting damaged, so I did not have the opportunity to cook with it. My goal was to make an gigantic e mu omelette. I'm told it would serve at least 12 people. Anyone with emu egg experience?

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Kim O'Donnel: I literally just got off the phone with Hillary Howard, morning anchor on Washington Post Radio. W e were talking about summer rolls, which are one of the best things to make on such a hot day. I have uncooked details in my blog. Gazpacho would also make my list for u ncooked items today. Just whiz those veggies in a food processor and let them talk to each other in the fridge.

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Vienna, Va.: I caught your interview on WAPO radio yesterday morning, while en route on Rt. 66. You made some excellent hot weather suggestions f or soups and salads. Unfortunately, due to driving, I couldn't write it down. Could you repeat them here?

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, I was on this morning, not yesterday (I think yesterday's guest was Candy Sagon from Foo d section) Details to summer rolls just posted, so have a look. And tomorrow at 1, the Food section is online, so shoot them a quest ion for those details.

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Boston, Mass.: I have too many beautful red, yellow and orange peppers. Any ideas for a weight watchers friendly main course -- maybe with chicken or fish? Thanks very much.

Kim O'Donnel: I've been hankering for bell peppers, and I've beent thinking about stuffing them with rice that's studded with herbs, chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic. You could use ground turkey here if you want a little meat. Meatless would be grand, though. Also you could roast some, then mix with feta cheese, olives and fresh oregano and thyme for a luscious Mediterranea n-style spread.

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Virginia: Hi Kim! Love your chats and the blog, I've learned so much.

I have what may be a tacky question. I bought peaches at my local farm market last week. The "farmer" told me they were swe et as honey, and some of the best peaches around. So, I bought SEVEN pounds of them, planning to make pies and peach ice cream, and to just slice up and eat. Well, they are completely inedible. Soooo tart, and slightly sour. I even cooked some with tons of sugar and butter to put over vanilla ice cream, and they still made your mouth pucker.

I guess my question is, can you return fruit? I know Kramer did on Seinfeld and ended up banned from buying fruit, but I had to throw out nearly seven pounds of peaches! As a side note, everything else I bought from him was amazing, including some of the s weetest, most delicious corn ever.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh my. Seven pounds of bad peaches. I would definitely talk to the farmer who sold them to you. Be firm but don't act like Kramer. A good farmer who wants your business will be accommodating. I don't know if you'll get your money back but you'll probably be able to pick out some new fruit. Let us know what happens.

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Freeform tart: I was thinking of trying your freeform tart recipe from the blog, but wanted to use some of the smorgasborg of delicious peac hes that I got at the farmers market recently.

Do you think it'd work okay or would I have to make adjustments, or are the peaches too juicy and should just be enjoyed eate n over the sink?

Kim O'Donnel: yes to peaches, but you will need to do some draining before adding. I'd add some crystallized gin ger and nutmeg to those peaches.

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Washington, D.C.: How do you pick out fresh figs?

Kim O'Donnel: You mean, from your tree? Or at the store? Good question because it's difficult to know if they're ready under those plastic container veils. However, figs continue to ripen once you get them home. You want them soft, tender like the place between you thumb and forefinger.

By the way, Ben, the herb guy at Clarendon farmer's market (Wed 3-7pm) will have figs next week, he tells me.

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Alrington, Va.: Cooling off: Lots of sorbet. Plus, I haven't stopped using the oven altogether, but I've been making cold bean salads to go along with dinner --a ccomplishing my goal of eating more protein and cooling down a bit. A couple examples: white beans with red onion, tomato, oil and v inegar, and whatever herbs are on hand. Chickpeas with red pepper, cucumber, the same combo as above, and feta cheese. I serve these with easy meals like gratins or quick zucchini patties.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks dear. I am a big fan of cukes in one bowl, rice in another and some other raw veg in a thir d bowl. Maybe sungold cherry tomatoes with salt and basil. Mix them all up and I'm very happy.

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Airplane Picnic: Kim, you may have covered this already, but what sort of things work well for a cross-country plane ride besides carrot sticks and a pples? Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: It's been a while since we discussed airplane vittles. Carrot sticks and apples love hummus, and i t will keep for a few hours during your journey. I also like to bring a yogurt for early in the trip before it liquefies. What else: Raisins. Dark chocolate. If it's gonna be a long day, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If I'm feeling glam, a piece of smoked fi sh sandwiched between two slices of bread to minimize smell. Other thoughts?

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Apricots: Picked up some fresh apricots at a farmers' market this weekend. They don't have much flavor; did I get bum apricots, or is that why people mostly don't eat them fresh?

Kim O'Donnel: I was talking to a farmer the other day about apricots. We both agreed that the 'cots haven't been so great this year. The few times I've tried they were kinda mealy and flavorless, a big disappointment.

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Washington, D.C.: I bought some frozen shrimp at Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago. I noticed last night that the shrimp in the bag have quite a bit of ice on them. Can I still use them?

Kim O'Donnel: Sure you can. But you need to completely thaw. When you get home tonight, run bag under some cold water and then drain your shrimp really well in a colander. Let some cold water run over them again. ice becomes water and the last thing you want is water in those shrimps when you cook'em.

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Cherry Pie Anxiety: Hi Kim! A week ago, I was at the farmers market and came across gorgeous sour cherries. I asked how much longer they would be comin g to the market and was told that this might indeed be the last haul. But the woman kindly advised me that I could pit them and fre eze them. Frightened that I would miss the opportunity (like I did with scapes) I snatched them up. When I got home, I landed on e arth and remembered - although I love to bake, I've never made a pie because I'm DEATHLY afraid of the task of making a crust, and s tore bought just seems so WRONG for fresh sour cherries. Can you save my cherry pie with a dynamite recipe and an easy crust? I wil l be forever grateful.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, take it easy. Deep breath. Today is NOT a good day to make pie dough. Nor is tomorrow. Wait til temp goes down at least 10 or more degrees. Just too dang hot, even in A/C condtions. That said, I do have pie dough and cherry filling ideas. Can you e-mail me so I'll remember to dig up?

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Travel food: I always take a couple of Luna bars. I recently got some great trail mix at Target (their brand - cranberries, pepitas, golden raisi ns and almonds). I also always take a plastic baggie for trash (especially when I take something like pistachios) and some hand wipe s.

Kim O'Donnel: More traveling snackers...

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Plane ride: I'm a big fan of making my own trail mix. I pick which dried fruits and nuts (and chocolate) I like from Trader Joe's and make a cus tom mix packed in a baggie (or a few).

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Washington, D.C.: I was thinking about joining one of those produce co-ops where you get a basket of produce weekly or bi-weekly, but I can't seem to find any information about them! Does anyone have any information about how much food you get and whether they are worth it? Thank s!

Kim O'Donnel: You're thinking of CSAs -- which means community supported agriculture. You can join one in the wi nter for next growing season. Typically you subscribe for the duration of a growing season, which begins in May. Although I just le arned that evenstarfarm in southern Md is doing a year-round CSA. You may want to check that out.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi. I want to get my husband a "grilling" cookbook, but I don't eat red meat or chicken. Can you suggest a comprehensive grill book that has lots of recipes for fish, tofu and vegetables? I'd like him to make dinners we can both eat. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I think there is something called the "Vegetarian Grill." Author is escaping me at the moment. For fish, check titles by James Peterson. I think Mark Bittman has one on fish that would be worth a looksee as well.

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Arlington, Va.: What do you do with figs? I've seen figs at whole foods. Do they get peeled? What types of recipes can I use them for? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: No peeling necessary. Slice in half, lengthwise. I like them with a little blue cheese, a basil le af and if I'm feeling carnivorous, a little prosciutto. Figs are also luscious with honey. They are wonderful with vanilla ice cream and baked in a tart shell.

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Airplane Pinic: I recently did a juice fast with a gradual reintroduction of food. For our trip home besides the carrots and celery we were given a cold backed sweet potato. This is very good could and travels very well. It is now on my list as a travel treat.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting. Never would have thought to pack a cold sweet potato, but this is something you find in bento boxes, so yeah, it makes sense.

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Vienna Mom: I think I've seen this question asked before, but can't recall the answer. My daughter, who will be 9 in September, loves to cook, and wants to have a cooking party for her birthday. While I could probably do some very basic things, I'd love to find someone who would teach them a little class, preferably somthing that she hasn't done before.

Kim O'Donnel: E-mail me Mom. We'll tawk.

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Kim! It's a heat wave up north too! I have a salmon fillet thawing in my fridge and I had planned to bake it like I usually do but with this heat I'm a bit hesitant. But the salmon has been thawing since last night. Can it wait another day?

Kim O'Donnel: What about a grill, Boston? And can you get your hands on a cedar plank this afternoon? This is my fave new way to eat salmon.

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Washington, D.C. : Hi Kim,

I am in a club at work where each week a different person brings in treats to share. Most people, as you can imagine, stop a nd get the value-pack muffins. I insist on trying to expand people's palates.

I am looking for ideas for next week. So far, I have done pitas and toppings, different bruschetta, and various artisan brea ds with topings. So now I am looking for ideas that celebrate summer. I need snacks for about 20 people, with the only limitation that I need to be able to transport it on Metro, so nothing too messy or heavy. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there, wanna blow them away with a breakfast treat? Check out today's blog on raspberry corn muffins.

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Vienna Mom: Just to chime in on the fig question, one of our neighbors has a fig tree. We have an annual block party Labor Day weekend, and the y brought some figs and grilled them. Sounds gross, but they were great!

I've also had them stuffed with blue cheese as an appetizer.

Kim O'Donnel: Grilled figs are marvelous. Thanks for the reminder!

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim - I made frest peach ice cream this weekend, using a recipe from "Passion for Ice Cream" by Emily Luchetti (which is a very c ool book). Delicious! I'm off to the next ice cream adventure, and it's all because of your chat and blog making me dream of an ice cream maker!

Kim O'Donnel: I love Luchetti's books. Haven't gotten my hand on her ice cream title, so I'm very envious! So gl ad you are enjoying your icey adventures! Please keep us posted.

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Re: figs: On a cooler day, brush with balsamic and pop under the broiler. When out (take about 5 minutes, but check that they don't overcarme lize) dab with herbed goat cheese.

Kim O'Donnel: Fab. Lovely idea!

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Vienna, Va.: What was the recipe for the peanut butter and sessame oil etc? I was driving and it sounded like the thing for my husband who is a p eanut butter addict. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for listening, Vienna! Take 2 tablespoons creamy, unsweetened peanut butter, 1 tablespoon s esame oil, 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic and 1 teaspoon sugar. Gradually add water (up to 1/4 cup) until sauce is cake-batter consistency. If you don't have the chili paste w/ garlic (which you can find in Asian groceries), use a little red curry paste or in a pinch, some hot sauce. Stir and it's done. That's it!

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Southern Md. Mom: Hi Kim, have fun while away and enjoy some rest and relaxation along with great food. Just had to share,last week, while in South C arolina, popped into a little sandwich shop ("The Tresstle Stop") and had the best, THE BEST plate of fried green tomatoes.

What a great treat on a summer day in smalltown U.S.A.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey, thanks Mom. Been thinking of fried green tomatoes myself. Actually, I've been dreaming about fried chicken and fried green tomatoes if you really must know. Where in South Carolina can people get these goodies?

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Arlington, Va.: Kim - I made your tandoori chicken on Sunday for dinner with my parents, and they practically licked the platter clean! This is unusual for my mother, who can be a pretty picky eater. My variation on cooking it was to sear it in my cast iron pan on the stove top, then move it to a 400 degree oven to finish cooking. I served it with a brown rice pilaf (from a box - but hey, I made a lot of oth er things) and a roasted beet, greens, and goat cheese salad.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice improv, Arlington. I find that chicken cooked on grill or stovetop needs a little help with s ome time in the oven for finishing off and thorough cooking. So glad your mom expanded her horizons, too.

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McLean , Va.: Kim: Okay, here's the challenge. My group of girls is putting together the post-service brunch this Sunday, and we've all been charg ed with bringing "light, tasty, summery foods for both kids and adults, bonus if they're healthy." The challenge part is - I'll be o ut of town so I'll be giving my contribution tomorrow. What can I make that will still taste yummy on Sunday? (The lemon cookies wer e a big hit last time.) Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: McLean, this is tough given that Wednesday and Sunday are four days apart. Were you thinking of de ssert for freezing? Holler if you can.

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Washington, D.C.: Kim, For the first time ever, I bought purslane, from the Dupont farmer's market. Made a delish little salad with it last night. But, uh, my gut is not happy with me. Do many people have digestive problems with purslane? Or could it be the miserable weather affecting m e?

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting. I don't know the answer to that. But for diagnostics, did you wash the purslane befor e using?

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Peach Ice Cream!: Peach ice cream sounds great. Does anyone have a recipe to share? Thank you.

Kim O'Donnel: I have a peach frozen yogurt recipe, if that appeals. Straight from my guru, Mr. Ice Cream.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What is the peanut butter sauce to be used with? The sauce itself sounds good, and maybe to go with a chicken satay?

Kim O'Donnel: The poster was referring to my pre-chat radio segment on Vietnamese summer rolls, which get dipped into a zesty little peanut sauce. Check out links earlier in the hour for details. And yes, chicken sate would love peanut sauce a s well.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim, I've recently begun making my own pizzas from scratch, dough included. They turn out wonderfully for the most part, but ther e's one small problem I'm having. In order for the edge crusts to be done well, the bottom inner crust always ends up a bit tough. I s there any easy way to remedy this? I've been cooking on just a regular pan, with some butter to prevent sticking (we never have Pa m or the like in the house). Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: If you don't want to invest in a pizza stone, use the bottom side of a baking sheet, not the top s ide, where side ridges will get in way. Also, to minimize sticking, use cornmeal instead of butter, which will increase chances of b urning bottomside of dough.

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Purslane: Yup, I washed it.

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. I don't know enough about purslane to give you a more definitive answer. I would also try eat ing some more and see if you have same reaction. Could be an allergy?

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New York, N.Y.: Report from the field--fried chicken! We did your fried chicken recipe for July 4 (yes, I'm a little late getting this in), combined with some methodology tips from the great Joy of Cooking, and it was the most amazingly tender, crispy miracle. Here's the secret: after you dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, let them rest on cooling racks for fifteen minutes. And put them on the s ame racks when you finish them off in the oven. The first step dries 'em out, the second step keeps them crispy. You wouldn't BELIEV E the crunch we were getting out of our chicken--we were all reminded of those old Wesson Oil commercials starring Mrs. Brady! Thank s for all the great ideas.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey New York, that is a brilliant idea. And now you're getting me all worked up for some fried chi cken....

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Figs are delicious: Italians love their figs. I can tell you that most of us eat them right off the tree...no dressing up necessary. But, we also love t o make cookies with them (NOT fig newtons, please). One specialty is called Cuccidatti, which are basically a shortbread type of coo kie filled with a mixture of figs, chocolate, and nuts. I don't have the family recipe on hand, but you can find some sites online w ith versions of it.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, we need a recipe. Sounds wonderful.

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Fig Fanatic: I'm eating figs right now--dipped into mascarpone cheese (which could be sweetened but not necessary). I can't wait to seek out loca l ones, as I've seen trees all over town but never found them at markets.

Martha Stewart has some great fig recipes on her site. Epicurious.com is also a good source. Fig-banana smoothies are also fantastic!

Kim O'Donnel: Fig-banana smoothies are da bomb. Totally agree.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you have any good recipes for baked peaches, preferably with cinnamon?

Kim O'Donnel: I would peel them, mix with a tablespoon of flour (maybe even more), add a little lemon, bourbon ( if you like), diced crystallized ginger and that cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 until fork tender.

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Re: Fried Green Tomatoes: In Conway, SC - about 30 minutes outside of Myrtle Beach. Right in the downtown section my daughters and I saw the lunch spot and c hecked it out.

Exceptional iced "sweet" tea (so southern) and those tomatoes, if they had fried chicken, it would have been a fab-o meal.

Hmm, makes me think about dinner tonite - well maybe later in the week when it's cool enough to heat up the kitchen. Tonite - it's got to be spinach-strawberry-walnut salad w/light vinegarette and a glass of sangria.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you; this could be helpful for those on the road. A glas of sangria sounds just about right at the moment!

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Sterling, Va.: I've heard that you can freeze chicken broth? Is that correct? If so, what type of container or just a baggie? This would be great for me because I rarely need to use a whole container at once and am always throwing it away.

Kim O'Donnel: You most certainly can freeze chix broth. I would do small ontainers over bags, and you may want t o do the chicken broth ice cube trick. When cubes freeze, plop those into a freezer bag.

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Flying Vittles: I use those nice left over takeout containers and make a grilled chicken sandwich with grape tomatoes and regular grapes on the side and a few chunks of cheese. Freeze a water bottle with lemons inside. Apples travel well. We take a deck of cards whenever we fly .

Kim O'Donnel: Flying Vittles: Great band name. I love the idea of a grilled chix sandwich. Nice going, dear. And I forgot to mention a hunk o' cheese. Almonds would be nice, too.

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Kim O'Donnel: Shucks, already time to run. So, next Tuesday, I'm offline, but I'll be posting blogs during the w eek. And then Tuesday, Aug. 1, I'll be chatting to you from San Francisco. Stay cool and take good care. Bye!

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