What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, December 5, 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 the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

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

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Kim O'Donnel: Greetings of the season! How do you do? Already we are in the midst of the holiday rush. I've only just polished up Thanksgiving leftovers. What have you got cooking over these next few weeks? There are are parties to go, parties to throw, dreidels to spin, stockings to fill, mistletoe to hang. I'm exhausted already. Let's see what we can do to make it as delicious as possible. Onward...

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Fruit for the lunchbag: Kim -- I'm totally turned off by what I see in the fruit in the produce section this time of year. The pears are mushy, the apples are hit-and-miss. Oranges are nice, but two of them a day, every day at lunchtime get boring very quickly. Even the melons and papayas are disappointing. What can you suggest for packing with my lunch so I can get my 5-a-day for fruits? Should I just suck it up and make a fruit salad from the frozen fruits at TJs? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Those apples and pears will be nicer at your neighborhood farm market, by the way. Just a thought. As for citrus, explore the gamut -- there's clementines, satsumas, tangerines, Minneolas, blood oranges, pomelos and grapefruits (I wrote about my love for the Ruby red yesterday, fyi). Pomegranates are a good bet this time of year and can be part of a salad. Pineapples tend to be good when weather turns cold here, so have a looksee.

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Arlington, Va.: I need to make a chocolate meringue pie one day before it is served. It has a cooked filling (Basic Betty Crocker). Does the pie need to be refrigerated? Does refrigeration hurt the meringue?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, it needs to be kept in fridge. Meringue will be okay chilled, don't worry bout that. Keep it covered.

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Chambersburg, Pa.: Hi Kim, Do you have any unusual recipes that call for oats? My cholesterol needs a tuneup.

Thanks, and happy holidays.

Kim O'Donnel: Unusual and oats? Hmm. Well, there's always haggis, dear. You can make your own granola. You can do a oat topping for a fruit crisp. Other foods that have been studied for their cholesterol-reducing properties include cinnamon and red grapefruit.

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Atlanta, Ga.: What kind of kitchen gadgets are you hoping to receive or give as gifts? I'm always looking for ideas for myself and others ...

Kim O'Donnel: I'm not really asking for gifts this year (getting married in March!), but if I were, I'd probably ask for a straight edge carving knife and fork. I'm fresh out of these items. I'm in the market for a one-quart saucepan (Le Creuset would be fab) and new baking sheets, which have seen better days. I do need a new colander, which is coming apart....

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Cookie question: Do you have a good cut out gingerbread cookie recipe -- not gingersnaps but something chewier? I am on a quest.

Kim O'Donnel: Try this recipe for Gingerbread Cut-outs. I have had good luck with it over the past few years, and it's very forgiving, easy to work with.

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Falls Church, Va.: Help! I made three times as much quinoa and wild rice as I needed for my turkey dish. What can I do with the two Tupperware containers of cooked quinoa and wild rice in my fridge? The more vegetarian and in season the better! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: both the quinoa and wild rice can be used to stuff an acorn squash. You can enhance both with chopped scallions, herbs, garlic, leek, sauteed mushrooms, dried cranberries, nuts of choice for a salad. Lemon vinaigrette, or one with pomegranate seeds would be lovely atop the quinoa. Other thoughts for leftover quinoa and wild rice?

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Woodbridge, Va.: On the gift question -- do you have any ideas on gifts for a couple who are moving in together and love to cook? We're guessing that they have the basics, what would be a useful but "luxury" item for a young couple who don't splurge on such things for themselves?

Kim O'Donnel: A handheld, immersion blender is a great tool for making soups and purees right in a pot of cooked veg. Lovely. I also have become quite fond of my food mill, which takes purees to a whole new silky level. A couple of bowl/chopstick combos are such a treat, particularly those with chopstick rests. A real wok is a wonderful gift.

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Louisville, Ky.: How do I correctly estimate how much food for a party? I held a brunch Sunday and have tons of leftover food. I had 11 people total and did a Southern Brunch -- fried chicken, cheese grits, eggs, french toast, biscuits, and bacon. All of my servings were for 12 so why do I have half of the food leftover? -- The brunch was great however and everyone had a lot of fun.

Also any creative ideas for cheese grits? I'm thinking of using them as a crust of some kind for pizza or a casserole.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Louisville, when you have that many items on the menu, it's key to reduce "serving" amount as suggested in a recipe. I see that you have six items on menu. Instead of 2-3 pieces of French toast, maybe I would have estimated 1-2 pieces instead, particularly that you generously offered biscuits and grits, oh my! Usually what I do when I plan food for a party is estimate ounces per person per dish. Then I convert that to yield of a recipe and start doing the math. It usually work sout. As for leftover cheese grits, a crust would be good. I might also heat up some stewed tomatoes and pour it over reheated grits and maybe serve with cooked greens or okra.

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Washington, D.C.: Although the thermometer said the temp was right and the juices ran clear, the dark meat on my Thanksgiving turkey was definitely pinkish. We ate the white meat and I stuck the pink dark meat in a pot of water to boil for an hour with some seasoning. Then I froze it. Is it okay to use for soup or will I die?

Kim O'Donnel: Geez, I hope you don't die. Wait, so you cooked the dark meat til it was done, then you froze it. What does that mean exactly? On the bone? If you cooked it til meat was done ,why are you worried about food poisoning? Talk to me.

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RE: Pomegranates: This is a bit of an etiquette question. Seeds ... spit them out or swallow?

Kim O'Donnel: Depends on company you keep. It's lots of fun to spit them into a bowl, but really you can eat those pom seeds. Seriously.

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Christmas gift: I love to give food/baked goods as Christmas gifts to people: cookies, breads, that sort of thing. My boyfriend's mom, however, is a cookie diva, and bakes several dozen of about six different kinds of cookies during the holiday season. What can I give that would complement a housefull of baked goods? I can always buy something or other at the store, but I prefer to make the gifts myself if possible. Any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: You can do spiced nuts, which are great to put out when people drop by during the season. Yeah, I'd lay off the baked goods, sounds like she's got that covered. Candy is an impressive option -- choc truffles, lollipops, brittle, marshmallows, caramels...tell me what fancies you.

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Oats: Put those oats in a blender to make a flour, then use to bread chicken or fish (baked, of course!). I know there's a "risotto" to be made from oats as well. And don't forget that other whole grains are also good for the cholesterol levels!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for all the great ideas...and reminder that other grains are heart-healthy, too!

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Kim,

I have a suggestion and a question for you. First the suggestion: last night I made the easiest most delicious dish. I friend some polenta slices, heated up a tomato basil sauce, threw some spinich in, and topped the sauce with two eggs and let them simmer til poached. Put the sauce and eggs on the polenta slices with a little cheese on top. Such amazing comfort food, and relatively heathy too! Took me 15 minutes tops.

Question: this Saturday we're having around 30 people over for a holiday party. This is not a formal party, but a casual holiday decorating party. I'm going to make a big batch of chili to serve, but want to make about 4-5 different kinds of finger foods. Any suggestions for budget friendly, not too time consuming hors d'ouevres?

Thanks!!

Kim O'Donnel: Dinner sounds good, dear. Kudos for the improv. I love when that happens. Re: your soiree: Stuffed mushrooms are a cheapie party snack, as are bruschette with a white bean puree. I might do cornbread and cut into shapes to work with chili theme, or you could do polenta, cut into circles, top with a smidge of garlicky broccoli rabe or spinach and a smidge of parm.

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Baked goods:"choc truffles, lollipops, brittle, marshmallows, caramels..."

WOW! Do give us some recipes ...!

Kim O'Donnel: I will resurrect a blog post I did last year at this time on candy treats that are so much fun to make and to give as gifts. stay tuned this week.

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Washington, D.C.: Turkey soup cont'. The dark meat wasn't done when the turkey came out of the oven. The white meat was, so we carved it off and ate it, then I boiled the not-quite-done dark meat. I froze the broth/meat because I was heading out of town. I'm assuming the hour of boiling finished the job, but I'm worried about the two-tiered cooking process.

Kim O'Donnel: Nope, you should be fine. Thaw in fridge before using.

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RE: Pomegranites: Wait, people don't eat the seeds? What else can you eat? The weird white flesh? I've always just eaten the seeds, which are really fun to eat and pop in your mouth.

Kim O'Donnel: Precisely!

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Lamb pot pie?: My fiance and I made a rack of lamb last weekend and roasted fall veggies (delish!). We have a lot of leftovers, though, so I was thinking of making a pot pie. How would I go about it (the sauce, in particular)? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: You can make a roux of equal parts flour and fat (butter or oil), and cook it in a small saucepan. When it starts to come together, that's when you'd add a little stock, of your choice. Stir until you've got a nice thick mixture. Add more liquid, as you think you'll need, and simmer and let reduce a bit. You can add herbs, too. I might add a few more veg to freshen things up as well.

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Colorado: I was thinking of doing a goose for Christmas dinner: Are they fatty like ducks, and are there any perils for a decidedly average cook?

Kim O'Donnel: Colorado, I made a goose with a friend one year in New York, and it was disappointing, to say the least. We seriously underestimated the weight per serving -- used turkey estimates -- and had very little meat to share for six people. There's a lot of fat on a goose, and meat ratio is paltry, so you may have to roast a few. It's been several years since I've done it, but I am happy to do some digging and get back to you in the blog space.

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Veggie marshmallows: I just discovered that store-bought marshmallows are not vegeterian. I was going to send some marshmallow fudge to the family for christmas, but one set of in-laws don't eat marshmallows (but aren't vegan either, as they eat eggs, cheese, milk, and wear leather). Does anyone know of a place that sells veggie marshmallows? Or a way to make them?

Kim O'Donnel: Most store-bought marshmallows are indeed unfriendly to vegetarians. There is a brand out there, as vegan readers have shared in the past. Anyone remember the brand name?

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Oats variations:

For Pancakes

1 part oats one part pancake mix + nuts for pancake

For a savoryy version

Saute 1 cup diced onion, salt

Add 0-3 jalapenos

add chopped tomatoes and 1 cup frozen peas

Add oats and cook it in the tomato juices

Add chopped cilantro/parsley & serve

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you!

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Upstate New York: For leftover quinoa and wild rice, stir them into some soup! Could be vegetable or meaty. Could even stir them into some veggie chili. Very warm and filling for these wintery days.

Kim O'Donnel: This is a great idea. Thanks, Upstate.

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Risotto help!: Everytime I try to make it, it seems to take too long (45 min - 1 hr) and too much liquid -- What am I doing wrong? How dry should the risotto be before adding the next batch of broth? Should it simmer briskly the whole time?

Kim O'Donnel: Risotto need not be totally dry before adding next batch of broth, but maybe you're adding too much liquid at each interval? But it does take that long; risotto is a labor of love, no question.

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HoCo, Md.: Question about homemade marshmallows. Saw them on Barefoot Contessa. Have tried making them using her recipe and consistently have trouble getting the mixture out of my bowl. BC seeemed to be able to get it out with no problem but I fight with messy, stringy, goo. Any thoughts? My mix seems to come together well short of the 15 minutes she says to beat the mixture. Could I maybe not be mixing long enough?

Kim O'Donnel: I guess I need to pull out my marshmallow recipe. Stay tuned this week, my friends.

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Kitchen gifts: LOVE my microplaner, for zesting citrus and preparing ginger.

A high-quality garlic squisher (I think grown-ups call it a garlic press) really is better than a cheapie.

I also love my digital probe thermometer. I haven't overcooked a roast since I got it.

And for the big ticket, check out a kitchen hydronponic garden. Aerogrow is the one that's in all the catalogs at the moment, and I can say from personal experience that it's super cool. And easy, and fool-proof, and attractive ...

Since I have all the cool stuff mentioned above, you can get me add-ons for things I already have: new blades for the food processor you gave as a college graduation present, a nice block or magnetic strip to hold the nice knives you put under the tree last year, or seed kits for my hydroponic garden!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for the gift list, dear. I'll be checking it twice...

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Goose: Geese are even fattier than ducks are. Although if you cook the goose the right way, and render the fat drippings, they make the best fried potatoes you've ever had in your life. Not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but knock-your-socks-off good.

Kim O'Donnel: I agree about the goose-fat fried potatoes. Heaven.

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Alexandria, Va.: For the Colorado goose person ... take the breasts, season them with salt and pepper, and put them in a crockpot with some potatoes, onions, fennel, carrots, garlic cloves, a bay leaf or two, and red wine ... you'll be very delighted!

Kim O'Donnel: More thoughts on goose...

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Whenever I have leftover rice, quinoa, couscous, etc., it's time to make stuffed veggies: peppers, eggplant, or cabbage are my usual choices. In fact, I usually make extra whenever I cook a starch just so I can have an excuse to make stuffed peppers or something. I'd also suggest making a soup like lentil and adding some of the starch, but almost any veggie or chicken soup can be enhanced with rice or quinoa I'm sure.

Kim O'Donnel: And more ideas on using up that extra quinoa and wild rice...

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Arlington, Va.: Veggie marshmellows can sometimes be found at the My Organic Market in Alexandria.

The problem is that regular marshmallows have gelatin in them (made from animal bones).

Kim O'Donnel: good sleuth...

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Washington, D.C.: I made the pumpkin upside down cake, but I only had an 8 inch pan, and it was taking forever and ever to get done in the middle. Could I make it in a tube pan instead?

Kim O'Donnel: You know, I wondered that, too. But the topping is what worries me with a tube pan...

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Vegan Marshmallows: You can always buy them online. One good site is www.VeganEssentials.com.

Kim O'Donnel: Vegan marshmallow source to the rescue!

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Pomegranates: If you're not eating the seeds, what are you eating? I'm confused!

BTW, I second your suggestion of the handheld immersion blender for a gift. I got one for Christmas last year and LOVE it. For those of with us small kitchens, it more than earns its storage space!

Happy Holidays from icy St. Louis

Kim O'Donnel: Hey St. Louis, stay warm, adn thanks for your thoughts...

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Re: XMAS Goose: We did this a couple of years ago, following a recipe in Saveur for a Viennese Christmas. The bird is hugely fatty - I took off more than 2 punds before cooking and then had to drain the roasting pan frequently.

However, we had a meaty bird (ordered from a local guy in VT), and it was heavenly. Lots of tender meat, crisp (almost hard) skin, and the most wonderful stock (made with the carcass) ever.

Kim O'Donnel: More goose notes...

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Goose: I cooked goose a couple of times years ago. The first on I basted with wine - big mistake. It was dry as a bone. The second I did with the potato and apple in the middle and basically left it alone - it was like rare roast beef.

Kim O'Donnel: And another...

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi, Kim.

Not a cooking question, but important nonetheless. How's your brother doing? I know from past blogs that he was ill. Hopefully things are looking up.

Kim O'Donnel: Tim is slowly mending, thanks for asking. He will go home soon.

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Kim O'Donnel: Already time to run. Lots of great questions that I didn't get to, but I'm going to try to answer many of them in an upcoming blog, partic. if they relate to the holidays. Well, stay warm, stay calm, stay swell. Til next time.

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