What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; 1:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET 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.

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.


Kim O'Donnel: Hello and Happy New Year! It's been a few weeks since our last chit-chat, so we have a lot of catching up to do. How did the holidays treat you? I hope they were as delicious as you wanted. Any New Year's resolutions or determinations to share? In

today's blog space

, I share a handful of themes that are likely to stick with us for much, if not all, of 2009. Speaking of themes, what do you want to get out of your cooking life in this new year? Talk to me.

Kim O'Donnel: P.S. 2009 marks the 10th year of What's Cooking! I got this thing started back in January 1999. Any oldtimers care to chime in about the past decade of hanging out in our virtual kitchen?


Baltimore, MD: Hi Kim!

I have a butternut squash question--how to I cut/peel it without severing an artery?? Last time, I put it in the microwave for a few minutes, but part of it was mushy, and part of it was still hard as a rock. Usually I just take my chances, but I have a good record of cutting myself. I want to cube it so I can season and roast it.


Kim O'Donnel: Balto, the last thing we want is for you to be rushed off to the ER due to a butternut squash. When you put the squash in the mike, did you poke it all around with a fork? And do you have a large/sharp enough knife to plow through it just once, so that the squash is in two halves? That would help things along immensely. Other tips for our squash roaster?


Honolulu, HI: Hey Kim!! About two years ago you were kind enough to share an english muffin recipe that a reader found one a food and wine blog. I had initially book marked the link on my computer, but a couple of months ago my hard drive crashed and I lost the link. Do you or any of the other readers happen to have it? I would dearly love to make the muffins again!!

Kim O'Donnel: Honolulu, good to hear from you. (Mister MA and I are actually thinking of coming to Hawaii this year). Here are the recipe details for those fab English muffins

By the way, the

blog recipe index

has been updated, as in it's finally current! I realize it's a long listy looking kind of thing, but for now, that's what we've got.


Hoppin' John ... hold the meat!: Kim,

On my way to a meeting, but want to THANK YOU for making me "brave" to try Hoppin' John using the "real" black eye peas ... not canned or frozen!

I may now be brave enough to try other beans from the "soaker to the plate!"

I never would have attempted this recipe without the encouragement you and the chatters provide. Thank you for starting us off in 2009 with a chat and some "food for thought" in today's blog.

May everyone celebrate life through food!

Kim O'Donnel: So glad you enjoyed and are finding your way with beans. They are probably my favorite thing to eat, period. I can eat beans every day. I'm thinking about soaking some limas today, as a matter of fact.


Attleboro, MA: Re: BN squash. Cut off both ends and then cut in half across. Peel with an OXO peeler. Then slice, cut into cubes, and roast. Delicious with olive oil, S&P, sage, rosemary, or just some cumin and 5 spice powder. Good as a soup after roasting. Sandie

Kim O'Donnel: Sandie, good to hear from you! I like the peeling idea.


Butternut squash: Here is what I do. Cut the "bulb" off from the "neck" of the squash. Cut the stem end off of the neck. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the "neck." Cut the "neck" into slices and then cube. Cut the blossom end off of the "bulb." Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel (just like an apple). Cut "bulb" in half and scoope out seeds. Cut the "bulb" halves into cubes.

Kim O'Donnel: More peeling tips!


Virginia Beach, VA: Hi Kim. Do you have any experience with making a King's Cake? If so, do you have a recipe for one? I'd like to make one tonight for Epiphany, but can't find a good recipe anywhere!

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, that one slipped off my radar. Indeed it's Ephiphany today. I've never tested it, but I've got a Mardi Gras King Cake recipe that comes from my copy of "Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine" that would do the trick. Are you on Facebook? I could post it there, or you can send me an e-mail at kim.odonnelATwpni.com


San Francisco, Calif: Bought a 14 oz. tub of lite sour cream by mistake instead of cottage cheese. Any suggestions for using it up? No desserts or other fat/calorie-laden concoctions, please. I'm just starting to do penance for all those holiday cookies. Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: I'm kinda stumped. Does this mean homemade onion dip w/caramelized onions is a no-no? Anyone ever work with lite sour cream?


Re: Butternut squash: I have had good luck using a large, sharp, butcher knife and cutting the neck of the squash in 1 to 1 1/2 inch disks. Then I turn the discs on their side and peel them by slicing off the rind. I turn the bulb end cut side down and halve it, scoop out the seeds and then slice into disks, and cut off the rind.

Kim O'Donnel: Another idea for breaking down butternut...


Old timer lvie here: Hi and great New Year wishes, Kim and chatters! Hard to believe it has been 10 years! I think the 2 things this chat has given me are Roasted Veges and an awareness of the joys and virtues of eating seasonally and local. Now I'm out of the DC area, but can garden and grow oysters, catch crabs & fish (well the fish in theory so far) at our dock, so I didn't even enter your 100-mile challenge --it seemed unfair, y'know? Hope Seattle is all you wished! --lvie

Kim O'Donnel: Lvie! So wonderful to hear from you. I too have been living and learning the joys and virtues of eating seasonally and locally. I've been right there by y'all as we figure this thing out. It's been very much of a personal journey, and I'm so glad you're still along for the ride.


lite sour cream: use it to thicken up a pasta dish? a lite alfredo?

Kim O'Donnel: That's a thought. A mushroom stroganoff vision keeps coming to mind...


Searching your blog index: Kim, THanks from all of us for the work to update the recipe index. Just a reminder to all the MA-ers that you can search the page by just clicking CTRL+F and entering the search term. Makes it much easier to find things whose recipes may not begin with the name of the food (e.g., "Pot pie" is actually filed in the K's as "Kims Ad Hoc Pot Pie" but a search on "pot pie" would find it. Likewise, a search on "cookie" would find all recipes with that word in the title.)

Just a hint. The page-search something a lot of people don't know you can do on a Web page just as on a document or other file.

Happy cooking in 2009!

Kim O'Donnel: You da best, babydoll. Great Web techie tip!


Butternut : I learned from a wonderful recipe from Runner's World, and subsequently several from Veg Times, that b'nut skin is entirely edible. I now eat most squash skins after cooking. A lot of the new varieties od sweet potatoes are the same way. For squash, just hack in half, if you can (believe it or not, a serrated bread knife works well), then roast until lovely, soft, and almost caramelized. For soup, I puree the skins, flesh, and seeds. I am not crazy, really! (a side note, I always use organic produce, and root veggies are ones where it really matters)

Kim O'Donnel: On a similar note, I love the skin on delicata squash. Thanks for chiming in!


King Cake: Unfortunately, I've discarded the recipe for King Cake that I used years ago for a Mardi Gras recipe. But perhaps your reader would want to know that most of these are yeast cakes (at least the ones I've seen and found). My guests liked the cake, but I was less thrilled with it --hence the tossed recipe. But if the person wants to make if for tonight perhaps he or she would want to make a simple cake they already enjoy --coffeecake, fruit-ish cake or whatever, and use that. I think the real key is the buried item that some lucky person finds in order to earn the "crown."

Just a suggestion.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed, they are yeasty, time-consuming cakes. I like the idea of improv-ing with a coffee cake and burying the trinket.


Alexandria, VA: Kim, just wanted to say thanks for both the red-lentil curried potatoes, and the chile shrimp recipes you posted links to recently. They both have quickly moved into the rotation of favorites in our kitchen.

Kim O'Donnel: These also rank high in Mister MA's world, Alexandria. When he's having a bad day, I make him those shrimps which are his culinary salve.


Washington, D.C.: Kim, just a comment about the 10-year anniversary. I've been reading this space since it started, and have been very interested in the paths it has taken. For me, someone who gave up eating most meat 13 years ago, I was very happy to see you start to explore meatless food more thoroughly. I always enjoyed reading your writing, and you were always friendly to vegetarians (that doesn't sound quite right, but I hope you know what I mean), but featuring Meatless Monday and having monthly veggie chats has meant a lot to me. Some of my favorite recipes from the last year include your black bean burgers and pasta a la carbonara (with veggie bacon, of course). Keep up the great work!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for your comments. As you know, I'm a meat eater but have come to embrace a more diverse diet, and offering a weekly meatless feature was one way of sticking to it, for myself and for readers. It means so much to me that you've been around since the beginning!


Vegetarian entree?: Oy. I am not used to making vegetarian entrees, but I need to for an upcoming dinner party. The reason I am having a difficult time is because there are constraints around it . . . they are: no tofu; not Italian; and no squash/eggplant/those types of vegetables. I personally am not a big fan of beans, so I would prefer that not be the focus of the dish.

Is there any hope?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes! Have a look at the

Meatless Monday archives

. Take a look at the veggie pot pie with cheddar crust!


sour cream recipe: You could make a Chicken Paprikash with sour cream. If that doesn't appeal then check out other hungarian dishes - many of them use sour cream.

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH SOUR CREAM Recipe Type:Non Veg. Difficulty:Average Ingredients: 1/2 kg Boneless chicken-breasts, cut in bite sized pieces 2 tbsp of Extra virgin olive oil 2 Medium onions, diced finely 2 tbsp Garlic, minced 1/4 Cup sweet hungarian paprika 2 Bay leaves Salt and pepper to taste 1 Can chicken stock 1 Can sour cream 3 tbsp of flour, mixed with 1/4 cup of ice cold water (to make paste) Cooking Instructions: Saute minced onions in oil until golden. Add chicken breasts and cook till brown. Add all the ingredients and chicken stock, except sour cream and flour mixture. Cover and simmer for 1 hour on low heat. Add sour cream and bring back to boil. Whisk flour mixture until smooth and add to pan. Continue to whisk, until mixture is completely mixed and thickens. Immediately remove from heat and put in a serving bowl. Hungarian Chicken Paprikash Sour Cream is ready.

Kim O'Donnel: Fab. Now we're talking.


Seattle, WA: Not quite a ten year old timer, but 9 years at least! I've been following you since I was fresh out of undergrad, doing the DC non-profit thing, to now as a thirty something adult(?) across the country. And I can say that this chat has probably been the biggest influence on my cooking over the years and I feel like I've grown up through it! Because of your chats and blogs and general cooking attitude, I have no fear in the kitchen to experiment with new ingredients, techniques, and cuisines. It has made me a better home cook and cooking is probably the most relaxing and enjoyable way for me to spend downtime now. My latest kitchen foray was a kabocha squash soup that included thai red curry paste (I got it in my head because of your sweet potato recipe).

So, many many thanks Kim for all of your suggestions, support, and joie de vivre over the years.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, and now we're neighbors! I am really touched. Fear be gone, what an amazing and empowering place to be, my dear. Keep the spirit of cooking alive!


Chantilly, VA: I love this recipe for mushroom stroganoff and I always use light sour cream. Meat eaters could sub beef tips for the veggie steak tips (I usually just use unseasoned seitan) or just double the mushrooms http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/8997?section=

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent -- I knew someone would come through with a 'shroomy stroggie!


Washington, DC: Happy New Year, Kim. At the end of the summer, I froze a bunch of peaches (peeled, cubed and tossed with lemon juice) and now I want to eat them! Other than making smoothies, any suggestions on what to do with them?

Kim O'Donnel: I believe a cobbler is in order. With biscuit crust. You game?


Re: Light Sour Cream: I have not had good luck with it in recipes where it would have to be heated. Works great for dips though.

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, this is a useful tip...


Reston, Va.: My mom sent me home from Christmas with some past-their-prime bananas. Since they've been sitting on my counter for a week, they're now REALLY past thir prime, which means I'm making banana bread tonight. All the recipes I'm finding online have complaints in the comments (I know, there are ALWAYS complaints), so I'm hoping you or another chatter has a fantastic recipe up a virtual sleeve. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I have a really old banana bread recipe. Never have shared it via the blog, but it really is a nice one. Hmm....I'm making a note here. NOW. I did test a recipe for vegan banana bread made with silken tofu. Some folks loved it, others thought it too dense. Here are the recipe details. One caveat: you need to keep refrigerated b/c of the tofu.


that veggie pot pie: sounds completely delicious, and I probably eat that amount of vegetables in a year! (Well not quite -- you know what I mean.)

Kim O'Donnel: That veggie pot pie seems to win everyone over. It is so darn satisfying. Let's get cooking!


light sour cream: mix it with light mayo, and a grated cucumber and serve over poached salmon or other fish

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, yes. More of these ideas, please!


Austin, Tx: Kim,

Just wanted to say Happy New Year and a bit shout out for the spiced nuts recipe. My family munched on them over the holidays and we shared them with all our neighbors.

Everyone RAVED about how delicious they were and I must say that the rosemary is a great secret ingredient.

Kim O'Donnel: Actually, I'm just the messenger -- the credit for those fab spiced nuts goes to Union Square Cafe in New York. A friend in the Bay area also made a big batch over the holidays and gave them as gifts. Glad the nuts are going over big time in your neck of the woods -- and my mouth is watering over the idea of Texas pecans.


ithaca ny: Light sour cream - if it is reduced fat (vs fat free), I use it interchangeably with regular sour cream. The fat free sour cream really doesn't heat well at all (in addition to not tasting very good).

Kim O'Donnel: More specs on the lite sour cream....


Reine de Saba: Yes, I've been around pretty much from the beginning! In 1999, I was working in a podunk office whose only internet access was dial-up (ahem, and only one line for the whole office), and we used to compete to see who could get onto washingtonpost.com first. I was a What's Cooking? addict from the get-go. Thanks for being here all these years, Kim, and congratulations!

Kim O'Donnel: Aw, Reine de Saba! You people are like family, I'll tell ya...


Arlington, VA: Kim, my wonderful boyfriend granted my wish and gave me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas! We've been on the road since then but now I'm back and wondering what I should make for my maiden mixer voyage. I've wanted one for years and always thought "if I just had a mixer, I could make..." and now I'm drawing a blank! The boyfriend prefers savory to sweet so I'm thinking a bread recipe?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, m'am, get out that dough hook and let's start baking. Would this be your maiden bread voyage? Maybe we should start basic. Ever make pizza before?


Banana Bread: There's a great recipe for banana in the Jane Brody "Good Food" cook book (her first one). Unfortunately, I'm at work and don't have it with me to give the recipe. Its "secret" ingredient is Grape Nuts cereal, which gives is the crunch of nuts without any real nuts for those allergic. I've always gotten compliments on it.

Kim O'Donnel: Cool.. Send it over when you can. Maybe we can post it on my Facebook page?


Almond butter?: I bought a jar of almond butter a month or so ago. My sister had raved about it as an alternative spread- on pancakes, as a sub for PB&J, etc. I am a bit meh on it- it seems very "dry" in my mouth. It is not dry in reality-- it has the same liquidity as natural PB, which I like, but it has an odd taste/texture effect for me. However, I did find that I liked it stirred into a leftover veg stirfry for some protien. Any other suggestions for using it? Not cheap stuff, and I am sure it is a relatively good protien...

Kim O'Donnel: Good idea to add it to your stirfry. I agree, it is a little "dry." Wonder how it would work in a sesame noodle-y kind of thing, with some sesame oil?


San Luis Obispo, CA: I had the serendipitous experience of overripe bananas and peaches at the same time last summer and baked peach banana bread that was sublime. I think I mostly adapted a banana bread recipe to include peach, and probably changed the spice to include a little nutmeg. Maybe the peach and banana people can get together.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice! Now I REALLY am craving banana bread...


Agar Agar: Where can I find agar agar? I'm not close to Whole Foods. No luck at Wegmans or Penzeys (per their website).

Kim O'Donnel: Are you in DC area? Give a call to My Organic Market (MOM). I might also try Yes! health food store.


Centre of Nowhere: My Mom's Banana Bread:

1/3 c. butter, softened 2/3 c. sugar 2 ripe bananas 1 egg 1 tsp. vanilla (I use almond extract - yum!) 1/2 tsp. salt 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder 1 3/4 c. flour

Method: preheat oven to 350, and grease a loaf pan. Cream butter with sugar, add banana pulp, beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in salt, baking powder, and mix in flour until all is moistened - do not overmix.

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

I'm a long-timer; I remember printing off the first question/response that I had in the chat! Where's Olive Guy? His vodka sauce is still in my recipe book!

All best, Centre

Kim O'Donnel: Centre! Thank you so much for sharing the 'nana bread. This should make a whole bunch of folks across America happy today. Olive Guy, I know, where the heck is he? And Fancy Toast? And Sticks? Thank you for being here all these years.


Chile Shrimp: Do you think I could sub in chicken? My boyfriend does not eat shellfish of any sort.

Kim O'Donnel: I do. However, I'd probably do boneless tenders or strips of thigh meat. This might take some tinkering, but give it a whirl and keep notes.


State College, PA: Hi Kim, I love the chats, thanks for bringing such good info to us!

Question for you: I wanted to make the spinach (pie) you had posted. It calls for "sumac", but I can't find it anywhere. I'm not in an area I can easily find it--can I substitute anything? Or just leave it out?


Kim O'Donnel: Hmm. Sumac, which comes from a berry and is kinda purple when ground, has a tangy flavor that's kinda hard to describe. I think I might substitue some grated lemon zest in its place. Have you looked online to see if you can order it?


Newton, MA: Almond Butter- NYTimes had recipes in 2007 (search their website) substituting nut butters and other fats in pie crusts. I have tried it with a combo of butter and almond butter and thought it came out quite well. I recall using it in a fruit pie. Happy new year everyone

Kim O'Donnel: Cool! That's a brilliant idea. Thanks so much, Newton.


almond butter: stir into plain yogurt for healthy breakfast, maybe add a little cinnomon (cholesterol lowering). With all that flavor, you don't need sugar.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice idea. You guys are brilliant.


PIZZA!!!: I've never made pizza before and also received a KitchenAid mixer. Oh tell me, tell me! My mouth is watering! :)

Kim O'Donnel: go here and your life will change! Keep me posted.


Almond Butter: First...for those who don't or can't do peanuts...try Sunbutter, made from Sunflower seeds. My wife is allergic to peanuts and PB and so I keep PB for myself, but we have Sunbutter for her. One of the best PB alternatives we've found.

As for the almond butter...I think it would be good for making a peanut alternative sauce for satay myself...

And although I'm a relative newcomer (only about 3 years), I've loved this chat. And thanks for the idea of the veggie pot pie. I am having a dinner party for about 20 this weekend and one of the guests is vegetarian. I was trying to come up with an idea for a veggie entree and this one looks great, so I'll probably do that. Fortunately, I just checked and he can eat dairy, so I don't have to make a special effort to get EB...butter will work.

Kim O'Donnel: I've not had sunbutter, thanks for the idea. And I love using the almond butter for satay! You're far from a newcomer, my dear, you're part of the furniture!


Sumac: I have bought it from Penzey's.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Thanks for following up.


Georgetown, DC: I've been a faithful reader of your chats and blog for the last five years, when I first sought your advice in cooking my first Thanksgiving meal. (And every Thanksgiving I reference your turkey guide and other materials)! But what keeps me reading the chats is that I always find inspiration to try new ingredients or recipes. Some of my new staples are your dairy-free broccoli soup and Chocolate Guinness cake. In 2009, my goal is more fruits and veggies, more ways. Thanks for all you do!

Kim O'Donnel: And thanks for sticking around, Georgetown. It is so very heartening. I'll try to keep the inspiration coming, she says out loud so her muses can hear! It's way past the hour, so I'm going to sign off. What a fun hour. Back in the blog space tomorrow, and type to you next week, same time. All best, and here's to the tastiest year of all!


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