What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, January 13, 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.

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Kim O'Donnel: Howdy pardners. Another gray day here in Seattle, but the weathercasters are sayin' we'll have some sun for the rest of the week. Compared to what many other parts of the country have been going through -- ice storms, avalanches, blizzards and floods, to name a few -- I've got not a thing to complain about. In fact, today's blog recipe, chicken and rice, is dedicated to my peeps who've been having a tough go of things in the weather department. Besides, we've got a president to swear in next Tuesday. Tell me, how many of you will be attending the festivities? And how many of you will be glued to the tube? Will there be cake and assorted goodies? Curious to hear what kind of inaug chow you're cooking up over the coming days. Now let's do this thing.

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Capitol Hill: Hi Kim!

Hope it's not as gloomy in Seattle as it is here... In order to overcome the winter blues, I made a lamb and quince recipe from my new Israeli cookbook. I loved the lamb, and I loved the quince, but I didn't love them together. I now have some leftover quinces, and I think they'd be really yummy in a dessert - something stewed and syrupy, but I don't really know how to get that started. Any ideas?

Thanks much! :)

Kim O'Donnel: When it's pushing 50 in January, gray doesn't seem so gloomy. I was *just* looking at some quince recipes, coincidentally. But where is what escapes me. As soon as I uncover, will let you know. Meanwhile, who's got quincy ideas?

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chicken and rice: I saw this dish on your blog and wondered -- Have you tried making it in a pressure cooker? That got me through college! Although the rice does get awfully puffy ...

Kim O'Donnel: I don't own a pressure cooker (choice I made due to space limitations), but I'd be curious to hear if fellow pressure cooker-ers have done something along these lines...

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DC: Hi Kim,

Your chicken and rice sounds like the perfect simple comfort food for this chilly weather we're having. I've got brown basmati rice on hand ... could I use that, and if so how would you adjust the amount of liquid, cooking time, etc?

Kim O'Donnel: You most certainly could use brown rice, but in all likelihood, you'll need more liquid and more time. How much more I don't know for sure since I haven't tested it this way. I'd add at least 1/2 cup more liquid and expect at least 15 minutes more cooking time. Good thing, tho, you can add liquid as needed in this recipe. Very forgiving.

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Springfield, VA: Hi Kim! I have no desire to be downtown for the inaugural festivities! I plan to be glued to my couch, in my warm house with multiple bathrooms and readily available food.

Kim O'Donnel: And will you be preparing anything special for your couch-potato extravaganza? Do tell.

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DC: I've been planning an inauguration party and have consulted a wonderful book, called Politics and Pot Roast, by Sarah Hood Salomon, which contains recipes from the White House, along with tidbits about the presidents. Gotta love a recipe by Martha Washington that starts with 40 eggs and 4 lbs. of butter! (My menu will be more modest.)

Kim O'Donnel: How fun! Stay tuned -- I'm going to make a version of Mary Todd Lincoln's vanilla almond cake this week.

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In a rut: Hi Kim

I'm suffering from meal rut. Same old, same old. It's good, family loves it, but I need to try new things.

We only do red meat (including pork) once a week. My cholesterol is a borderline, so I need to watch it.

I've been doing some soups, but need new, fresh ideas that hubby & DD will enjoy as well.

Many thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Check out my piece from a few months ago, Save the Nancys, with tons of ideas to break out of your rut. And if you eat meat just once a week, have you seen my Meatless Monday recipe feature?

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7 degrees in Milwaukee... and dropping: ... unusual even for us.

SO, just sharing some warming ideas on our menu.

For tonight's late dinner will be individual turkey pot pies with barley instead of potatoes (I'm experimenting) and lots of veggies. Must admit I am cheating on the crust, using "heart healthy Bisquick" to make a biscuit topping.

We're trying to be healthier this year, mostly with more rational portions, more exercise, and a tad less wine. But we will celebrate on Tuesday with a slow-simmered stew and a day of festivitiy watching (we're both news junkies and lucky to have the opportunity to take the day to watch it all).

Kim O'Donnel: BRRRRRR. Thanks for checking in, Milwaukee. What kind of stew is on the menu?

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Arlington, VA: Over the weekend, a friend and I made dinner together. We bought a long loaf of french bread to cut up and make croutons. Now I have about half of this bread left, and its going bad quickly. What can I do to avoid wasting the bread? Any good recipes? I'm struggling because I'm not a huge bread eater...

Kim O'Donnel: You can slice, put in a 350 oven to crisp up, rub with a garlic clove, drizzle with oil and have delightful crostini -- or take it another step, adding hummus or your fave spread and call it bruschetta. You can also whiz that loaf in a food processor and make bread crumbs. Place in airtight container, keep in freezer and pull out when you need them...

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Banana Bread: I made the most incredible banana bread over the holidays using a recipe from Cook's Illustrated: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/cookbook/banana_bread.html

It uses a bit of yogurt which really helps keep things moist.

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful. A continuation of the banana thread from last week's blog post.

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Washington, DC: Am submitting this question again (and early this time) but do you have a recipe for creamed spinach that is both delicious and somewhat healthy? I love the stuff and am having a major craving here, but would prefer not to give up on my new year's resolution so soon. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, creamed spinach does contain cream, my dear, about 1 cup of it. If you're dying for the stuff, make it as an occasional treat and cut yourself some slack. But let's ask: anyone who makes creamed spinach without the cream?

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Richmond, VA: While I love the concept of s'mores, I do feel that it is fundamentally flawed. It sometimes works if the marshmallow is so gooey-hot and the chocolate is so melty that they squeeze perfectly between the two graham crackers. But in most cases, attempts to eat them lead to the cracker breaking into bits, resulting in a huge mess.

Does anyone else share my frustration with the delicate nature of the graham cracker? Is there perhaps a less messy but just as tasty substitute?

I fear that it will be like crunchy tacos - if you want that yummy corn tortilla taste, you gotta deal with the mess.

Kim O'Donnel: An interesting question, Richmond. It's been quite some time since my last go-round with s'mores. Isn't the point of the graham to offer a crispy contrast to the gooey marshmallow?

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leftover bread: Cube, pour melted butter with herbs over them and toast. Now THAT'S a crouton.

Kim O'Donnel: The leftover bread ideas are coming in...

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San Luis Obispo, CA, : It's climbing toward 84 today, which is very confusing for January! I use a pressure cooker all the time for making risotto. It takes about 7 minutes under pressure to cook arborio. The pressure develops the starches similarly to the long slow cooking of traditional risotto, so if someone were to make regular rice in the pressure cooker it might get a very different texture.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow -- maybe I can make the next flight down! 84 in January. Crazy. thanks for your pressure cooker tips, good stuff.

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Leftover Bread: Savory bread pudding if the bread is pretty sturdy. I make it with cheese, milk, onions and mushrooms, adapted from a Martha Rose Shulman recipe, I think it's from Fast Vegetarian Feasts.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Quince: I have experimented with a quince and pear pie- toss chopped fruit with raisins, flour, sugar, and whatever spices you have on hand. I like to use lime juice instead of lemon with it.

Kim O'Donnel: Ah, quince and pear sounds lovely...

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attempts to eat them lead to the cracker breaking into bits, resulting in a huge mess. : this is why s'mores are meant to be consumed around a campfire, outdoors. Some things you just can't mess with and trying to bring s'mores inside is one.

Kim O'Donnel: Yeah, think I agree...

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lead to the cracker breaking into bits: that does not happen if your chocolate and marshmellows are melted enough, they act like glue.

Kim O'Donnel: S'more thoughts on s'mores...

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Springfield, VA: I make "creamed spinach" with a can of cream of mushroom soup (not diluted) and a pat of butter. At least my husband THINKS it is creamed spinach, but I'm sure it's not much healthier.

Kim O'Donnel: Right. I'm guessing it may not be, either...

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S'mores: I think s'mores are meant to be messy. You need a slowly toasted marshmallow so that the inside is -completely- melty by the time it's toasted outside, the chocolate should be sitting on the fire ring while the marshmallow toasts to begin to melt (MUST be milk-chocolate, not gourmet 70+% cocoa, in order to melt properly) and the graham cracker is ready straight out of the box. When you bite into it, you should end up with about 7 pieces of cracker and marshmallow and chocolate all over your face and hands. Yum.

Kim O'Donnel: And s'more commentary...

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Washington, DC: On cold winter days such as these, for comfort my wife likes to whip up some chicken and rice as well, though because she's Pakistani it's chicken biryani, but the idea is the same. I find it a perfect cure for winter blues. The chilies and tamarind almost make me forget how cold it is outside.

Luckily, others can enjoy it at home as well. All you have to do is head to any Indian or Pakistani store and pick up a box of Shan Biryani mix for about a dollar and follow the directions on the back. It's really not as complicated as one would think. Though, my wife does have her special "additions," but she'd kill me if I spilled her family secrets.

Kim O'Donnel: Aw, maybe you can twist her arm for those Pakistani secrets? We'd be so grateful!

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Spinach: I have a recipe that doesn't use -much- cream, and it tastes great. Took it to a buffet over the holidays at my son's preschool and it was GONE! Will have to post later to the blog as I'm not home, but at least it's not TOO bad!...

Kim O'Donnel: Cool. Please send it on. Would love to share with the crew.

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Upstate, NY: Hi Kim. I know you don't have a pressure cooker or slow cooker due to space limiations, so I wanted to tell you about the neat appliance I just got. It's the Fagor 3-in-1 multicooker. It's an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker: http://www.amazon.com/Fagor-Electric-Multi-Cooker-pressure-cooker/dp/B001A62O1G/ It's 6 quarts, but it's pretty tall so it doesn't have too big of a footprint. And it does the work of 3 machines. Mine just came last night, so I haven't had the chance to use it. I'll be using it this weekend, though!

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting. Keep us posted on your adventures, Upstate.

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Arlington, VA: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/creamed_spinach.html for healthier creamed spinach. Or even creamed spinach gratin: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/creamed_spinach_gratin.html?utm_source=EWDNL

The french bread leftovers would make nice french toast.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, creamed spinach gratin sounds dreamy...bring on the nutmeg! And yes, french toast is a grand idea...

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Creamed Spinach Morph: I always think of palak paneer as creamy. I don't normally have the yogurt cheese, but I hang the non-fat yogurt in cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours to make it thicker like the full fat kind. Saute the minced onion and garlic, bloom the curry powder or your own mix, toss in the chopped drained spinach, heat, then stir in yogurt off heat. I use just a small container for a box of frozen spinach.

Kim O'Donnel: You beat me to it -- yes, palak paneer is most def. creamy...

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Atlanta, GA: Kim,

I am so excited to FINALLY be here for the live chat. Lately I have been in class or working.

As a follow up to last week's discussion about MA's 10th anniversary, I just wanted to tell you that I have been reading and participating in this chat for many years. Thanks to you for:

-so many postings and quick replies in the chats

-always having something pleasant and encouraging to say

-helping me to try new cooking and kitchen things boldly

By the way, roasted kale really IS delicious. And I think you are awesome.

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for the love, Atlanta. The chat would not have survived for a decade if it weren't for devoted readers such as yourself, so you deserve at least half the credit for its longevity. Glad you are aboard the roasted kale train!

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pea pesto: Hi Kim & chatters. I finally made pea pesto over the weekend, following a recipe shared in this forum. I'm not loving it. Maybe because it really doesn't taste at all like pesto to me. And it's too sweet. I was going to sub for traditional pesto in a chicken/spinach/orzo salad recipe, but now I'm thinking that's not a good idea. Any other uses for pea pesto? FYI, recipe was thawed peas, olive oil, toasted pine nuts & garlic, parmesan, salt. I think that's it.

Kim O'Donnel: Use it as a garnish atop minestrone or other bean soup. You can get some use out if it..

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Alexandria, VA: Kim, I made the chile shrimp recipe this weekend and loved it! I would like to try serving the sauce with another protein - maybe tofu? Any recommendations on how to best cook tofu and other meats that would work well with the wonderful chile sauce?

Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Mister MA would agree with you on your tofu idea, and I would also consider tempeh...if you did chicken, I'd do chicken tenders (remember quick-cooking sauce)...

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Milwaukee stew: Probably a beef stew, and if I get really industrious, homemade rye bread. I'd love to find a way to make individual apple pies or a smaller pie --so we can have an "all American" dessert but not a lot of tempting leftovers.

As to the stew, I've done a lot of experimentation and come up with a method that plays to great reviews. It makes use of the slowcooker, which is nice as I can leave it be on days I have to be out of the house. This time, though, I might try it in the oven on very low temp for a long time. As to ingredients, one of the keys I've found is to cut up a chuck roast instead of buying precut "stew meat" which has never worked well for me. I toss the chunks with s&p (but no flour), sear very well, then put them in the slow cooker with a blend of broth and a good red wine, and a bit of a flour slurry to slowly thicken the gravy. Potato chunks, turnips or rutabega, carrots, celery, onion, and a generous amount of herbs de Provence.

Now, I have to go find some soup for lunch b/c I've made myself hungry talking about this!

Kim O'Donnel: Keep us posted Milwaukee. Hmm...wonder if next Tuesday's blog should be all about Inauguration recipes on the stove? Or should we do it Friday so people have a chance to plan? Send me your thoughts.

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40 eggs and 4 lbs. of butter!: How big a pan do you need to bake that in?? And how many does it feed?

Kim O'Donnel: Seriously. Inquiring minds want to know!

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Creamed Spinach: Would fat-free half and half work instead of all or some of the cream?

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, it probably would...here come more suggestions...

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Creamed spinach: This may not help the other poster, but it made me think of my college roommate of German heritage who would mix powdered krauter sauce with skim milk and cook until it thickened, then added frozen spinach. It was pretty good! I have no idea how fattening the powdered mix was, but it's worth checking out.

Kim O'Donnel: And more...

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Creamed spinach: I know I've seen and tried recipes that call for cream cheese or even ricotta as heavy cream alternatives. Though not low fat, I would think those ingredients are lighter than heavy cream.

Kim O'Donnel: And another...

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Chile Shrimp: Could you please post a link? It sounds so good but I can't find it in the MA archive. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Chile Shrimp details.

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Quinoa: Hi Kim a few weeks ago I had quinoa as a side dish for the first time. I have only ever eaten it in soups. Well this had corn and avacodo mixed in but I don't know what seasoning was used to help with the flavoring. Any ideas. It was light so maybe oil, salt and ... any clue? I would really love to make something like this at home as it was sooo good.

Kim O'Donnel: One of the greatest things about quinoa is its ability to play with all kinds of flavors. You can season this stuff with practically anything. It's quite fun to toast it, too, either before or after it's been cooked. Great extra nutty layer.

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Inauguration blog: Yes, please do an MA post on inauguration celebrating ideas... and Friday would be super so we can plan. I know you would give us great ideas!

I have been trying to think about things that would appropriate to celebrate--but no great flashes of inspiration yet.

Kim O'Donnel: What I'm thinking is that readers can share their menus, and I'll offer up some ideas as well...

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Chocolate Overdose Cake: My birthday is this Friday and I've asked hubby to help me make a wicked chocolate cake. I've found this chocolate overdose cake and I wanted to see if othes had similar chocolate layers cakes to share. http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/?p=858

Kim O'Donnel: Here's my vote for the killerest chocolate layer cake with choc icing.

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Martha W's cake, complete qith photo: http://www.mountvernon.org/learn/explore_mv/index.cfm/pid/289/

Kim O'Donnel: Great! I love this stuff...

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40 eggs: Remember, there were always visitors to Mt. Vernon, so there were lots of people to feed! (It is a rich cake, cut down for modern proportions it uses 10 eggs.)

Question on roasted kale -- do you chop the leaves or just use the whole trimmed leaves?

Kim O'Donnel: I like to remove stems, then depending on size of leaves, will either leave them whole or simply tear them in half.

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Seattle, WA: Hi Kim! I just wanted to let you know that I made your Veggie Pot Pie recipe over the holidays - it was such a hit we made it twice! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks neighbor! I have received many raves on that recipe -- it's a keeper.

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Green Curry: A coworker brought me some lovely green curry paste from a Thai market in Takoma park. I want to make tofu curry tonight with coconut and have on hand zucchini, tomotoes and mushrooms and cilantro as a garnish. Anything else I should add? Also what's the best way to store leftover coconut milk and curry paste?

Kim O'Donnel: Shallots, garlic, 1/2 fresh chile...Put leftover coco milk and paste in airtight containers. Paste freezes well, fyi.

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Arlington Gay: Kim, as promised, here's my new bacon recipe. Sorry I wasn't around last week to share.

1.5 lb boneless chicken breast 1 small butternut squash 1 package thick slab bacon 1 bottle Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipolte sauce

Cube the squash and chicken (about 1 inch pieces). Marinate the chicken in about half the bottls of Mrs. Dash. Cut the bacon in half. Pierce piece of squash with a toothpick, add a piece of chicken, then wrap with bacon. Repeat until out of pieces.

Place all in sprayed glass baking dish. Add a few teaspoons of water to the Mrs. Dash bottle then pour over contents of dish.

Slow bake at 350 for about an hour. (My oven is slow so baking time likely to vary.) Turn up to 425 and watch for bacon to crisp.

The first time I made this, it was looking done except for the bacon so I finished it with a few minutes in the broiler.

Question: Do you have any great breakfast casseroles for next Tuesday? We're staying out of DC and having some Nova friends over to watch the festivities. Looking for breakfast ideas that go well with mimosas and bloody mary.

Kim O'Donnel: GAFF back in the kitchen getting busy...breakfast casseroles, hmmm...you could do a strata. Have you ever made a frittata? Coffee cake seems appropriate. I'll keep thinking.

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Allison, DC: I have never figured out the smore thing - for my tastes there is never enough chocolate and i never am able to get it melted enough - one reader said to place it near the fire - on a piece of tin foil? or in the package? and how to transfer that gooey mess toe the cracker. I have been stuffing one slice into the middle of my mallow while it roasts, but this makes it kind of heavy on the stick (sometimes ihe weight makes it fall into the fire)

Also for those that don't like the cracker - I usually do open faced because i don't like graham crackers that much.

Kim O'Donnel: I've been thinking about making my own graham crackers. Perhaps we can take s'mores to a new level?

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Springfield, VA: Hello. I was given some homemade fig chutney. What can I do with it?

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful with cheese and crackers. Try a Spanish manchego, a pungent goat cheese...great on French toast or waffles...

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Arlington Gay: Nope, never made 'em. I make a great casserole, but it's been seen before. Can you follow up in the blog?

Kim O'Donnel: perhaps the inaug post on Friday *should* be all about breakfast, given the early hour of the festivities...

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Fig chutney: I bet this would go well with ham, too.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, yes! Or a roast pork...

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Green Curry and Tomatoes: Do tomatoes work with green curry?

Kim O'Donnel: At the end before serving, they'd be okay. Not my first choice, but I've seen them in Thai curries.

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For Arlington Gay - breakfast casserole: Hope this isn't too late! I made a simple and delicious breakfast casserole this past Sunday. I sprayed a casserole dish with cooking spray, then ripped up pieces of cheese bread in the bottom. Halve some grape tomatoes and add to the dish. Whisk eggs and some milk/cream, and add some cheese (I used swiss, but anything will do); season with salt and pepper and pour into dish. This can all be done the night before. When ready to bake, tear up some fresh basil and add to the dish, but wait until the last minute or it will turn brown. Bake until eggs are set. Delicious!

Kim O'Donnel: Well, that my dear, is a take on a strata...good job.

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Kim O'Donnel: Rats, time to go. Thanks for stopping by. I'm taking your inauguration vittles suggestion to heart and will follow up, and there will be chat leftovers tomorrow. Be well, see you here: A Mighty Appetite.

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