What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, January 22, 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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washingtonpost.com: Kim will be along momentarily. Please stand by. Thank you.

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washingtonpost.com: Kim is still delayed, please stand by.

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Kim O'Donnel: Hi guys! Sorry for the delay. I was having a ton of technical problems, both with my blog and then the computer decided to get cranky. Let's go!

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Grill pan: Hi Kim,

I was thinking about getting a grill pan or griddle for home (one that fits across the burners). But our stove is electric and it's also a flat-top (so burners are also different circumferences). Am I correct in thinking they won't work with this type of stove?

Kim O'Donnel: It won't be ideal. Can work, but you may never get equal heat on all sides of the griddle. A grill pan that fits on one burner, though, would work.

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va: I am in the process of ridding my kitchen of non-stick cookware, and I'm trying to decide what to do for a skillet- either plain stainless steel, or enamled-coated cast iron (I have a plain cast iron one already). Any thoughts? I have never cooked on enamel before, and have no idea how non-sticky the surface really is. I'm heading to the Williams Sonoma outlet this afternoon, and would love your input!

Kim O'Donnel: I love enamel coasted cast iron. You'll kick yourself for having waited so long. Truly does have a non-sticky surface. The stuff lasts for years. By the way, folks, today's blog is up: Kim's 20. Have a look, add to the list.

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Chicago: Kim,

Belated Happy New Year! Can you recommend a decent veggie broth in powdered form? I buy the big boxes of veggie stock if I'm making soup or something, but recently I've come across several recipes that call for only a small amount (a cup or less), and I hate to open a big box for that. I don't like the canned stuff.

There was one powder I bought a few years ago that was really gross (can't remember the name). It had this horrible artificial yellowish color and it just tasted like salt.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Chicago, how are the temps there? The one brand of veggie bouillon cubes that finds a home in my pantry is Rapunzel. Very good, no salt, doesn't taste gross.

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Terp in the Kitchen: Kim, I'm trying to keep my young family's sugar intake low(er), and am wondering about some of the natural sweeteners that have gotten "press" lately, like agave nectar. I know you've written some about it here, but a couple of questions:

1) did you do a blog post about it? if so, can you post a link

2) is the actual sugar content on some of these (if there are others) lower?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Terp, here's a post from last year about agave. It is purported to have a lower glycemic index, and it's a "cleaner" taste than honey, find it a little bit more versatile. I'd try it once, see what you think.

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Slow roasted tomatoes: Hi Kim,

I slow roasted whole cherry tomoatoes with a little bit of olive oil and small pinch of salt in a 250 oven for 5 hours. I've done this before to fab results. This time, the roasted tomatoes were a little bitter (the raw tomatoes tasted fine, if a bit like winter ones). Any thoughts on what I may have done that resulted in bitterness? Thx

Kim O'Donnel: So the raw tomatoes tasted fine, or not so sweet? Also, taste your oil when you get home tonight. Has it turned rancid?

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Washington, D.C.: For veggie boullion, try the "Better than Boullion" brand. It's actually a jar of paste -- I think you use 1 tsp per cup of water. I like it better than any dried form I've found. I doubt I'd try it on its own, but in soups and gravies, it's been excellent.

Kim O'Donnel: Cool. Thanks for adding to the bouillon bath...

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Falls Church, VA: Serendipitous discovery: Setting the oven to clean makes some nice pizza.

My wife and I purchased a fixer-upper home recently and the oven portion of the stove decided to join the choir invisible last night (with the exception of the broiler/cleaner element). While I'm an avid bread baker, I like the convenience of TJ's pizza dough (it's hard to scoff at a $.99 solution to a problem not much more expensive). I had already defrosted the dough and set it out on the counter for cooking when I discovered the oven's partial death. I cranked the oven up, placed just the dough on the pan, and put it on the oven on the lowest rack with the oven light on to let the dough get a bit of a head start on cooking. I took it out after about a minute or so (after it bubbled/rose rather a bit), and then added the toppings. After another 2 minutes, we had dinner. The thermometer I have in the oven (as opposed to what the dial says) had this at 600 deg F the entire time.

The crust was actually crispy on the outside, unlike when I've followed the instructions calling for 450 deg F. I may have overdone it with the toppings, so the middle will probably get a crisper crust next time. The two-stage cooking process wasn't all that much of a problem given the rapid cooking time.

The oven will get replaced, but it's nice to know that not all is lost in the interim...

Kim O'Donnel: Holy smokes, Falls Church! I'm glad, tho, that you've got yourself a thermometer inside the oven while you go oven shopping...

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Arlington Gay: Hey, Kim, you missed a heckuva party here Tuesday. You probably heard about it.

My Inaugural Brunch was a hit! I made my usual egg casserole, but with a twist. (Very basic: line casserole with croutons, add cheese, ham, cheese, then fill with egg...). Instead of the ham, I sauteed two packages of sliced baby portabello mushrooms with garlic, basil, and Mrs. Dash spicy. Served with bacon and sausage on the side to keep the carnivores happy. A good time was had by all.

Kim O'Donnel: Glad you had fun, GAFF! Wondering what other folks did for chow on that day as well....

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Lincoln, Neb.: Wouldn't cooking peanut butter in baked goods, etc., kill the salmonella? I can see why it would be bad raw, like in the crackers or raw cookie dough. But doesn't cooking kill the germs? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Lincoln: This afternoon, I'm meeting with a food safety expert on the peanut butter scare/debacle. Hang tight with those questions. Hoping to get something up on blog tomorrow.

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Re: Grill pan: I have the same kind of stove and I bought a cast iron (I think it was Lodge) griddle/grill pan that would fit over two burners. It was about an eighth of an inch too long so it wouldn't lay flat. I ended up exchanging it for the round, cast iron grill pan for one burner and it works great, but it is a lot smaller.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent first-hand report. Thanks!

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Enamel: A follow-on question to the person looking to rid kitchen of non-stick?

I assume this is for health reasons?

And what exactly is enameled cast iron? exactly what it sounds like?

What would I use to, say, make crepes, if I wanted non-non-stick?

Kim O'Donnel: Yep, enamel-coated cast iron is more accurate wording. The expensive brand is Le Creuset, but there are lots more options these days. It's heavy, durable and versatile. For crepes, you want a very shallow, thin pan. Anyone have recommendations?

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Prince Georges County, MD: Just wanted to say that I made your veggie pot pie recipe and it was delicious, particularly the crust. Definitely took some time but was worth it! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: So glad you enjoyed. That recipe has made a lot of folks very happy.

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Washington, DC: Hi Kim,

I recently found out that I am pre-diabetic, and I am doing all that I can to eat smarter. I am vegetarian and it's protein that I need help with. Any ideas for me beyond stir-fry and lentil soup? Thanks!!

Kim O'Donnel: Try tempeh. You can marinate it to give it some flavor then pan fry it to make it crispy. It's loaded with protein and magnesium and can figure into salads, by itself. Now, what's the doc saying about pasta? Do you need to explore lower glycemic index grains?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, Kim. This is probably a really basic question, but I've only made chicken and turkey broths before, so... I have a bunch of mushroom stems left over from a recipe that called for 2 pounds of cremini mushrooms. I thought that a broth would be a good use for them, but the recipes I've found have all been overly-flavored (using ginger or such), and I'd really like a more basic vegetable broth base. Do I just do like with chicken or turkey and cover, add onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, bay and boil to a simmer? Or is there a more precise way of doing it? And is this actually a good use for the stems? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Silver. Throw those stems into pot with the onion, celery, etc. Carrots will make it sweet, so adjust accordingly. This is def. a good use for the stems. Nice thinking. Simmer for about 45 min, 1 hour.

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Laurel, MD: I love to cook and am determined to do more cooking & experimenting this year -- I can cook one dinner from every cookbook I own and it'll be close to March before I repeat (hey...that's not a bad idea!) but I can't seem to figure out how to meal plan.

My week probably looks as busy as everyone else's so I really do need to be organized, but at this point, I'm still hitting the cereal bowl at least twice a week.

Can you give me hints on how to plan for lunch (for 1) and dinner (for 2) for a week? I wind up cooking the same old things because I'm suddenly lost for time or ingredients.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Laurel, kudos for getting back on the bus. Meal planning is definitely key to keeping the momentum. I highly recommend making a few things over the weekend that can stretch into midweek. A roast chicken for example on Sunday night, can morph into chicken enchiladas...or chicken stock...or a casserole...Make a curry, then have leftovers one night...whip up a quickie marinara for a quickie bowl of penne...or what about pizza! A pot of beans can stretch over the week and we start doing fun things over the week, from quesadillas, to beans n' rice, to huevos rancheros...certainly we can come up w/something more structured, thinking this may be fun for blog...

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Boulder, Colo.: Hello from sunny, record-breaking temperatures, Boulder! I have a Le Creuset cast iron skillet and love it. I had originally purchased a LC non-stick skillet from their outlet -- the non-stick started to flake off. They don't make that type of skillet anymore so they exchanged it for the cast iron. I only had to pay shipping. I gotta say..even though their products are expensive it's worth it for both the quality and the customer service!

Kim O'Donnel: Thanks for chiming in, Boulder. I agree, those LC pots/pans last a lifetime.

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Bethesda, Md.: I have a grill/griddle pan that I use on my gas stove over burners of different size and it works really well. I just adjust the burners so that they are approximately the same heat (the large on medium low and the small on medium high, for example). I actually used this set up on Tuesday to make your fabulous English muffins -- wonderful!

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Another way to handle the griddle pan...

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Washington, D.C.: Hola, Kim. A comment, then a question. For stainless vs. enamel debate, I have and love both, but for a skillet, I would definitely go with the stainless. You can turn the heat up higher without things sticking, and the enamel can discolor at higer temps.

I'm trying to eat more beans and would am looking for a simple spread/dip recipe. Got anything for me? Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: And here's a vote for the stainless skillet...

Re: bean dip: Start with hummus. It takes about seven minutes. Innerested?

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Washington, DC: Dear Kim,

I am a decently good cook, and I enjoy it, but there is one area which daunts me. I have tried cooking a roast several times and it always comes out a little tough. How does one keep the meat moist and tender? Marinade? Low heat? Covering? Not covering? Please help me succeed at this fairly basic meal! Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I think roasts do well in confined environments, like a Dutch oven or stew pot with a lid. Needs a little liquid in the bottom of the pan, and yes, low heat. Sounds like we might have to make a roast beast for the blog...stay tuned!

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Richmond, Va.: Make a list. I have a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle on the right I write what I want to eat for the next week or so. On the left I write the shopping list. Each addition to the right triggers additions to the left and I can see the relation. Also, I can see how the big items (roast chicken, big pot of soup) can play out in the following week.

Kim O'Donnel: Lists are great for visualizing meal plans. Nice going, Richmond!

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Dadwannabe: Another kudo for your veggie pot pie. I made it a couple of weeks ago for a gathering and it got rave reviews. Even my wife (who is a very devoted carnivore) loved it.

I didn't take the time to make the crust, I used Betty Crocker boxed pie crust but made my own veggie stock (mirepoix, parsley, herbs, and one small potato) and followed the recipe. It worked out great! Thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Dadwannabe, thanks for checking in. One of these days I'm sure you'll get around to making the crust, maybe you and the missus can do together next time?

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Protein suggestion for pre-diabetic vegetarian: Quinoa is an excellent "grain" (not sure it is, technically, a grain) that can be used similarly to rice or couscous. It is high in protein and fiber. Per 100g of uncooked quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) it has 7g of fiber and 14g of protein. It's tasty too!

Kim O'Donnel: Quinoa is a grass that acts like a grain, and it's an excellent suggestion. A great flavor chameleon, too.

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Crepe pan: Lodge makes a cast iron hoe cake pan. That would probably work. It's flat, round and very shallow.

Kim O'Donnel: Wow, Lodge makes a hoe cake pan? Interesting. You're right, prob. would work.

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Sounds like we might have to make a roast beast for the blog: I was just going to ask! My finicky husband asked me to make roast beef, so I want THE. PERFECT. RECIPE.

Kim O'Donnel: perfect. that's a lot of pressure. I'll speak to Mister MA; I seriously doubt he'd turn his nose up at roast beast.

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South Dakota: For the chatter trying to plan meals for the week... Believe it or not, I was most organized when I lived in D.C. I took advantage of my metro commute to write a grocery list, five meals for the week, knowing I would eat leftovers (or eat out) at least two nights a week. If you have everything, and I mean everything -- down to the last bottle of capers, etc. -- in the kitchen to make dinner you will likely do so, rather than do the cereal/Chinese take-out thing. And planning for more than a few meals at a time means you have choices each day, you aren't stuck with a meal that you are not in the mood for, or don't have time to prepare on harried nights.

Kim O'Donnel: Great insights, South Dakota. I agree, having choices makes it a lot easier when you're harried. I've been there how many zilions of times?

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Thanks: for answering all our questions. I'm sure I speak for others when I say I wish you were online all the time -- just in time Kim.

My problem is that I read transcripts (can rarely be online for the chat), and come up with more questions to the questions!

Kim O'Donnel: Sweet. That's why I try to do some chat leftovers day after the chat, and I do check queue after the hour, so keep that in mind. You can always post your question in blog, too...

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South Dakota : For the person wanting to make a pot roast, it all depends on the cut of meat. Use the WaPo slow-raosted beef recipe for chuck and shoulder roasts, it's terrific, and you can add/delete from the recipe as you like. For eye roasts and rump roasts -- go for Beef Love, one roast in a crock on low for 8 to 24 hours, one hour before serving add one package dry ranch salad dressing mix, and a tablespoon of vinegar.

Kim O'Donnel: Very good point about the cut of meat!

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Love my All-Clad skillet: Got a huge All-Clad cookware set for our wedding many years ago and I love the skillet. When I need bigger, I have a Calphalon paella pan that works great (anodized non-stick surface) and has lasted much longer than other non-stick surfaces.

Re: All-clad stainless...good enough for ATK, good enough for me.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, I'm having a brain-is-sieve moment. Who's ATK?

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Washington, DC: Kim,

I need help with recipe ideas that are simple and inexpensive. My church sponsors a food pantry and I made the suggestion that a cooking demonstration of how to make dishes that utilize the food that we distribute would be helpful. Everyone thought it was a good idea and now I get to do this. I thought that along with samples of the dish, I would make recipe cards and package up the ingredients for the dish. We have lots of rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, and various beans. Any ideas?

Kim O'Donnel: I love this idea. Let me think more on this today and I'll follow up in blog space tomorrow. Cool?

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Kim! I have a 1/2 sheet of roasted veggie lasagne I made over the weekend. It has roasted butternut squash, onions, sweet potatoes, garlic and tomatoes layered with a light cream sauce. It's really tasty, but I am looking for something else to do with it as I am getting a little tired of it. Do you have any suggestions for things it could be converted to? Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Converting lasagna into something else...hmm. I'm stumped.

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Roast Beef: America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country has had a couple of recipes on making a good roast beef. If you subscribe to their Web site, it might be a good place to start. Their recipes tend to be easy to execute.

Kim O'Donnel: Right on. More ideas for roast beast. I can't remember the last time I had one...

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All-Clad lover: ATK = America's Test Kitchen

Kim O'Donnel: Ah. Yes.

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Dadwannabe, again.: Yeah...I thought about making the crust with whole wheat flower, but didn't want to take the time (any tips on adjustments needed to sub WW flour?). I was making three entries, several sides and appetizers in about 7 hours and so I tried to cut corners timewise where I could. I made the stock because I forgot to buy and it was fast anyways (about 5 min prep, and then boil/simmer while I was doing other work).

Also, for the pre-diabetic...many nuts and peanuts (which are not nuts) are high in protein. If you are willing to do eggs, add egg whites (where the protein is) without th yolks. There's a good list at: Vegetarian Protein Guide (Happy Cow)

Kim O'Donnel: Wow. You've been busy. Thanks for suggestions for pre-diabetic,and the thing about subbing whole wheat flour is trial and error. Although less error if you use white wheat flour -- works much like AP flour. Ever use?

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Cooking Demo: Such a good idea. Lots of folks grew up on fast food and don't know how to make inexpensive healthy meals. Obviously, beans and rice with tomatoes is an easy one. Cowboy stew: tomatoes, corn, 1 lb. broiled chicken breasts or groud beef, hominy, peppers.

Kim O'Donnel: It is. And I love the community aspect of this project. More on that tomorrow! Okay, I've got to skedaddle. Thanks for checking in, folks. See what you think of the "20' List and add your picks in the blog space: A Mighty Appetite. All best.

p.s. yes, there will be something for Asian New Year next week, and yes, a veggie chat next Thurs the 29th. Bye!

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