What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 2, 2008; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at noon for 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.

You may submit a question before or during the show.

For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite. You may catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hello, September! Can you believe it's already here? There's so much to talk about today. As many of you already know, I was in San Francisco over the long holiday weekend attending Slow Food Nation, a four-day mega food and politics of the plate event organized by Slow Food USA. The original plan was to put together snippets from the weekend for today's blog space, but then Hurricane Gustav came ashore the Gulf Coast, and I just had to put everything aside to share one chef's evacuation efforts out of New Orleans. Do you know anyone who's been personally affected by Gustav this weekend? Send your stories this way. School is back in session for the kiddies, and life will be swinging back into a much busier direction for so many of us. Let's talk!

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Cupcake Nirvana: Kim, just wanted to let you know that your Heart Healthy Cake can easily be adapted to cupcakes, just bake for 20 minutes. Your recipe makes 24 of them, which I plan to use for my 2-year-old's play group tomorrow (used decaf coffee, natch). I'd like to put some kind of simple icing on them -- do you have a suggestion? I thought I'd mash up 2 tbsp. soft butter with a drop of milk and a whole lotta powdered sugar to make a really stiff icing I could pipe on as letters...?

Kim O'Donnel: Wow! Great to know these translate well as cupcakes. Here's the recipe, for those interested: Kind-Hearted Cake.

re: icing: good question: My preference is cream cheese icing, but I doubt you'd be able to get it really stiff. Let's ask icing veterans out there....

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Centre of Nowhere: Ciao Kim!

Eager to read about your Slow Food experience, I was awed to find your exchange with Chef Brigtsen in your blog. I know that it's early, but any update on his return to N.O.? And, thank goodness Gustav petered out!

washingtonpost.com: Hurricane Evac Breadcrumb Trail ( A Mighty Appetite, Sept. 2)

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Centre: I have not heard from Chef Brigtsen since yesterday, which leads me to believe he's without power. Natchez, Miss., where he's holed up, did meet Gustav, and power outages were in effect as of yesterday afternoon, according to the local newspaper there. As soon as I have word, I'll share with y'all. I also am trying to line up a q&a with a Times-Picayune reporter who stayed in NOLA during the storm. Stay tuned.

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Northern Virginia: Hi Kim,

Where can I buy feta cheese and other Greek specialty products in larger sizes? The grocery stores sell 4 oz packages of feta, but I need a couple pounds for some recipes. Please help!

Kim O'Donnel: I would probably try smaller ethnic markets. Try a place like Mediterranean Market in Alexandria or Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington.

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Mickey's House! Florida: Good Morning Kim,

We are moving to the House of the Mouse, aka Orlando, Florida, within the next six weeks. Based on your recent experience, what is the most important, but not so obvious, piece of advice you can share?

I have begun the great purge and parted with little used cooking implements and am going through a food cabinet/pantry shelf each week to divest of items that either cannot transported by the movers or have gone past their prime.

Thanks for allowing us to tag along on your cross-country journey. It was wonderful to experience each food festival or event.

May you find happiness in Seattle!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey there: The great purge is an important part of the process -- you will be thankful you did it when you get to the other side, as I am now. If you've got the energy, consider an Iron Chef kind of game at home, using what you've got in the pantry for supper. Who knows, it might be fun, and you'll use up your inventory. That said, go easy on yourself. This is one of the most stressful experiences, this moving thing. Give yourself plenty of time, allow yourself time out in the fresh air, cook when the mood strikes but don't let it drive you nuts.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm expecting a baby next month and would like to stock up my freezer with moderately ... heathly homemade dinners. I'm having a mental block after lasagna/shells, and meatloaf. Do you have any recommendations?

Kim O'Donnel: Soup!! A lentil puree is a wonderful thing to pull out of the freezer...as is tomato rice, potato/leek, squash puree....such a treat, and so nourishing.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim, a while ago I posed a question re a mild fish I could substitute for tilapia. Now that I know it is not a heart healthy fish I am looking to substitute another mild, sustainable, healthy fish. I am not a lover of salmon and other strong tasting fish. Thanks

Kim O'Donnel: Hi Silver: With all of my moving, I had to put my reporting on hold about the tilapia story, but here's what I can tell you at this point: Tilapia is a lean white fish. It does not contain those heart-healthy Omega-3s because it is not an oily fish like salmon or tuna. It never has and never will. That said, it's a lean type of protein and when eaten in moderation (like a chicken breast) is part of a healthy, diverse diet. The comparison made to a doughnut earlier this summer was misleading. So just remember: Omega-3s come from oily fish with a stronger flavor; mild, white fish have other health benefits but not the Omega-3s.

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Cupcake Icing: Just found a buttercream icing recipe, haven't tried it but it may work: Buttercream Icing ( Wilton)

Kim O'Donnel: Cool. Thanks much!

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Chocolate Guinness Cake: Hi Kim -- your Chocolate Guinness Cake has become my staple cake for all occasions, and people just love it! But one thing I have noticed is that the center of my cake sags a bit after it's cooled. Could this be a problem with the baking soda, or something else I've overlooked? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Good question. I've not seen this with my Guinness Cakes -- anyone else out there who's had this experience?

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi Kim! Do you have any advice for a new bride who will be hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time for her in-laws and parents? Suggestions for books or other resources to help with planning? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: The simpler the better. Don't try to do the whole meal by yourself. Delegate a few pieces of the meal to your guests. Here's something to get you started: Thanksgiving: A Mighty Appetite Archive. I also have written a book, A Mighty Appetite for the Holidays that you can find on blurb.com.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Kim --

The farmers market was so glorious this week, I couldn't resist and bought a 1/2 bushel of beautiful peaches. I'd love to freeze some (most) for colder months. Do you or any of the chatters have any experience doing this? Do I just peel, cut and freeze or is it a more involved process?

Thanks so much.

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, a group of readers was just talking about this. There is another step involved -- can someone refresh my memory?

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Stuffed Peppers: Hi Kim! I bought my first local meat this weekend at the farmers market. I got a pound of ground beef, but I'm not used to cooking with meat. I also have some red peppers, so I was thinking about making stuffed peppers. The recipes that I've found all call for green peppers, do you think its okay to substitute? And do you have any experience with stuffed pepper recipes you could recommend? Or any other ideas, besides chili, that I could use the beef for. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Red peppers are actually my preference, as they're sweeter than green peppers. Live it up! I love adding rice that's been seasoned with herbs, onions, lemon; quinoa is lovely here too. Don't know how many peppers you plan to stuff, but the filling can be re-purposed and added to pasta or mixed in with eggs, thrownn into a corn tortilla....

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Kim -- I'm a big fan of cooking something once and then making multiple meals from it (usually some goes to the freezer too for a later lunch/dinner). I've even done this for breakfast -- making several eggs on Sunday night to save time in the mornings. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut. Do you know of any cookbooks that would help me to expand my repertoire?

Kim O'Donnel: Where to begin? I guess you want to ask yourself in which direction do you want to expand your repertoire. Are you curious about other cuisines? Do you want a seasonal/local focus? Are you an omnivore or vegetarian?

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Peaches: The discussion related to the need for something like lemon juice or Fruit Freeze to keep the peaches from browning. I just froze a bunch using lemon juice. Hopefully it works and I can enjoy delicious peaches this winter!

Kim O'Donnel: That's right. Keep me posted on your adventures, please!

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Freezer Stocking: We did this a few months ago when we were getting ready for a kitchen remodel -- you can freeze almost anything you like to eat. Things we froze included -- healty casserole (chicken/veggies); tuna burgers; ground turkey that had been stir-fried with taco sauce (in small, two serving bags). We also supplemented with some of the healthy frozen dinners. Served with a salad and a piece of fruit (or an ear of corn if there is any left), they work very well.

Kim O'Donnel: Some ideas for the mom-to-be who's keen to get a head start on her freezer pantry...

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Baltimore, Md.: For large quantities of cheeses: I may be wrong but I could swear the last time I went to BJ's I saw large size containers of specialty cheeses like feta, fresh mozzarella, etc.

Kim O'Donnel: Another option....

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Ribs...: So I had this great recipe from The Bitten Word (love that blog) for baby back ribs only to find I purchased spareribs. I am looking for a smokey/sexy marinade (husband tends not to like sweet as much) -- any suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: For smoky, I like to add a lil' chipotle chile in adobo sauce -- it adds both smoke and heat. But don't worry if you've got spareribs -- go on and do what you were planning to do. It's all good.

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Bethesda Mom: I've gotten a large container of crumbled Feta at Costco, and I believe that they have large solid blocks as well. The Pentagon City Costco seems to have a particularly well-stocked cheese department, often with "road shows" of speciality cheeses not usually found.

Kim O'Donnel: And now we've got a confirmation on bulk cheese....

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Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for stopping by! Come say hello during the week: A Mighty Appetite. Get outside and enjoy these last few weeks of summer! All best.

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