What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 17, 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: Hi! Here's what's cooking in today's blog space:

The Ever-Changing Recipe for Marriage

. What do you have cooking in your corners? I've got a lot planned in coming days -- a King Cake recipe (with plastic baby, natch), Oscars-viewing party ideas and next Monday's Meatless feature is all about Gumbo Z'herbes, just in time for Lent. How was Valentine's weekend? Dish with me, why don't you...


Brussel Sprouts: Hi Kim, Any suggestions for ways to make delicious brussel sprouts. Last night I roasted them with olive oil, a dab of butter, salt & pepper. They came out really great (I love the crispy leaves!). Any other simple suggestions? Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: That is probably my favorite way to eat Brussels, but they're also pretty wonderful shredded and quickly pan fried with shredded apple and shallots.


WDC: Just read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - a must read! It inspired me anew for this coming season with my community garden. Several of her recipes included home made yogurt, without a machine. That's something I've wanted to try for a while (to save money, stop using all that plastic, etc), but there was no recipe. Any hints on how to make your own yogurt?

Kim O'Donnel: This is one of those projects I've yet to try, but there's a substantial contingent of readers that does this all the time. Folks -- first-hand tips?


Arlington, VA: Kim!

Thanks to your Veggie chat and Blog (with chat leftovers), I was emboldend to use my fondue pot to fry falafels. It worked like a charm, used less oil (smaller diameter), and was easy to clean.

You provide a wonderful service. Thanks, again!!

Kim O'Donnel: Holy cow! Was wondering if that fondue pot would work! Nice going, dear.


Brussel sprouts: Our new favorite way isn't as healthful but they're really yummy - while the sprouts are steaming, whole, saute some shallot in a little butter, add a few crushed juniper berries, then pour over sprouts with about one tablespoon of cream. Delicious.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting about the juniper berries. Chestnuts and honey and a little lemon also wonderful with sprouts.


Reston, Va.: I'm going to make soup this weekend. I've got a few go-to recipes, but I'd like to try something different and am in the mood for barley. My husband would like meat in the soup--just about any kind is OK by him. Any suggestions? I've found a few beef barley recipes online but they all look very thin in photos--we'd like something really hearty. Thank you!

Kim O'Donnel: I really like using pearl barley for soup. I'm a big fan of adding chickpeas, lots of garlic and the juice of several lemons. Beef gets cook separately and added at end. Onions and/or leeks, scallion for garnish.


Washington, DC: I'm roasting a chicken tonight and want to make stock. I won't have time to make the stock after dinner, so I'm wondering which is my better option: crockpot overnight, or store chicken carcass in a ziploc in the fridge until tomorrow night (possibly Thursday)?

I've never done stock in a crockpot. Any tips/suggestions?

Kim O'Donnel: I'm without a slow cooker here at the Casa, but I bet the slow cookers will share their wisdom. If you want til tomorrow night or Thurs, you'll be fine using properly stored carcass.


Sage : How can I use fresh sage for vegetarian dishes other than stuffing? I have a good sized bunch from my CSA and it's pretty good sprinkled on eggs. Can I use some in a pasta toss or is that weird/yucky?

Kim O'Donnel: Fried sage is just wonderful with pasta, particularly with ravioli. I also love it diced w/white beans.


Not a cooking but a snacking question: I'm in desprite need of some GOOD, TASTY and HEALTHY treats for the afternoon slump I find myself in. I'm getting tired of taking sugar free jello/pudding/yogurt, raw veggies, fruit and I can't do nuts. Is there something I can make and take to the office as a good snack that will tie me over after lunch until dinner?

Kim O'Donnel: What about roasted pumpkin seeds? Or homemade popcorn?


Baltimore, MD: A chicken question: I make a lot of stews. I usually cut up the chicken and saute it in a skillet before tossing it in the stew pot. But the chicken chunks stay firm - how can I make it softer? I want it soft enough to fall apart; I hope I'm explaining this well enough.

Kim O'Donnel: Do you find the breast meat firmer than the dark stuff? What's the temp you're using? Stews should cook on slow/low heat, and there should be ample liquid. Talk to me.


U street, DC: Hi Kim,

Last night I was broiling some chicken thighs in my oven, on a baking sheet, with the rack set about a third of the way up the oven. I had trimmed the excess fat from the thighs, but left the skin on (I love me some crispy skin). I nearly had a heart attack when a small fire started in my oven because even though I thought the chicken was far enough away from the flame, apparently with the spatter some of the rendered fat in the baking sheet caught on fire. I turned the broiler off, kept the oven door closed, opened the windows, and even though the smoke detector went off (as it should have), the fire went out on its own in 30 seconds or so.

After feeling like I was on Iron Chef, I gotta ask, is there a way to minimize this ever happening? I've broiled chicken in a similar matter I don't know how many times and never had a problem. Any advice would be appreciated.

Kim O'Donnel: Could it be that the oven needs cleaning, darling? Next time, you might also try browning chicken on top of stove (or on oven-bake setting for a while) BEFORE cranking up the broiler. Sounds like broiler was just reacting to a fresh piece of raw meat, like timber.


lunch and snacks: If it's possible at your office why not have half your lunch at lunch time and finish in the afternoon? By eating smaller amounts at a time you might not get such a post-lunch slump and even if you do, you'll have the rest of your healthy lunch to eat instead of snacks.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. Hummus is a good inbetween snack, as is yogurt.


Afternoon snack: For the person asking about a mid-afternoon snack, try bean sprouts. Don't buy them in the store, but just sprout them yourself (they will be fresher). It takes a few days, so you have to plan ahead, but it's virtually no hands-on time. They are filling and crunchy, and you can mix them with chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, for an interesting and satisfying snack. I like mung bean sprouts myself, but you can experiment.

Kim O'Donnel: More good snacky ideas coming in...


afternoon snack: How about a small cup of soup?

Kim O'Donnel: And more...


Oak Park, IL: Kim, How are you going to make your Mardi Gras king cake? I grew up on them... actually really can't stand them anymore. I have friends back in NOLA who actually make them with cinnamon buns, put frosting on top and purple, green and gold sprinkles. I don't really like the ones they make now with all the fillings, if I do eat one it has to be plain and from Haydel's bakery. Laissez bontemps roulez!

Kim O'Donnel: Lucille, I will likely make my own cinn. buns, yes indeedy. There's a groovy place here in Seattle called Archie McPhees, where I intend to get le bebe...


chicken stock solution: I make chicken stock all the time. You can refrigerate the carcass for a couple days (or freeze it indefinitely). The best way I've found is to break up the bones into 3-4" pieces and put on high heat , stir constantly till marrow starts to come out and is a bit fragrant. Then turn heat down to low/med-low and allow the bones to "sweat" for 20-ish minutes. Add sauteed onions, bay leaf and water and let simmer for another 20-40 minutes (or longer - no problem with that) and you're all set.

I've also found that freezing it in muffin tins yields a perfect 1/2 cup portion or in mini-loaf pans yields 2c portions. Pop out one or two when you need them makes it super easy.

Kim O'Donnel: Tasty tips here...


snacks!: Hummus and pita chips will give you some healthy fats, protein and carbs. How about guac and tortilla chips? Or better yet, avocado smushed on whole wheat toast with some seasonings (salt/pepper, tabasco, lime juice, paprika, etc).

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, a fresh avo smushed on toast is a dandy idea!


Arlington Gay: Kim, last night I made crab cakes from scratch for the first time. I googled the recipe and had everything on hand, except I was out of Worcestershire sauce. I subbed a tsp of fish sauce instead. They turned out GREAT. The recipe only used a 1/2 cup of bread crumbs per pound of crab. No more pre-made store crab cakes for me!


Kim O'Donnel: Way to go with the improv, GAFF. You did good. See how it easy it all can be?


Sprouts: Heat about 2 T butter in a cast iron skillot and toss in a spoonful of brown sugar. While the butter melts, half your sprouts. Toss them in the butter/sugar mixture and allow them to brown, just a few minutes. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Last throw in a hefty splash of vinegar (I usually mix sherry vinegar with a bit of balsamic) and toss in the oven until the sprouts soften and the glaze sets on them. They're stinking awesome.

Kim O'Donnel: You've whetted my whistle...


more on chicken stock...: And if you want your broth to be darker in color, add the onion skins with the water. Doesn't do much for the taste but does impart a lovely brown colour.

Kim O'Donnel: Great idea -- and less waste to go into the can...


almond butter, redux: A quick thanks to the person or people who answered my question a few weeks ago about uses for almond butter-nice flavor but weird mouthfeel. Someone suggested stirring it into yogurt with a tad of honey... and I have to say, I am in loooove! My new fave breakfast. Works great with drained, plain yogurt and makes my morning happy(any ideas on what to do with the liquid that drains off?) Might be a good option for the mid-day snack seeker.

Kim O'Donnel: Wonderful! Thanks for checking in, dear.


afternoon snacks: Hommade hummus for really healthy, so you can control the amount of tahini.

Speaking of tahini - she said she can't do nuts ... .

Kim O'Donnel: Tahini made from sesame seeds, so reader should be okay...


homemade yogurt: Here's the recipe -

Get 1/2 cup of FRESH (check date) plain yogurt, and 1/2 gallon milk, and a thermometer, and two clean quart jars, and a small cooler the right size for the jars.

Fill a pot with enough water to fill the cooler up to the level of the jars.

Heat milk to 185 F. Turn off the heat and let it cool back down to 120 F. Heat the water to 120. When the milk gets to 120, whisk in the yogurt. You can whisk some of the warm milk into the yogurt in a bowl first if the yogurt might be lumpy. Pour it into the jars, set the jars in the cooler and pour the 120 degree water around the jars. Close cooler and leave for several hours. Important: First thing when it is done, take out 1/2 cup into a small, clean container to reserve for next batch.

If you start with a yogurt culture powder instead of yogurt, you can cool milk to 110 or 115. The cold yogurt starter cools the 120-degree milk.

Kim O'Donnel: Terrific. I really need to make my own one of these days...


How long for leftovers?: I am not a big leftovers person in general so typically I use them up within 2 days or so. However, I messed up and made 2 chocolate mousse cakes for a dinner party sunday night since the recipe said it served 6 in realtity it served about 10 each( I had 8 for dinner). It contained no raw eggs but lots of cream whipped and marcapone cheese. I live alone and have about 8 slices of cake left and should not be eating this constantly so how long will it be good for?

Kim O'Donnel: Given its high dairy content, it won't last much longer, dear. Maybe another day. Can you share it with a neighbor?


Reston, Va.: Afternoon snack: how about a handful of cooked shrimp with a tablespoon or two of cocktail sauce? Shrimp are low-cal and protein; the sauce has a little sugar, but you probably wouldn't use enough for that to derail your healthy-eating goals.

Also, lean lunchmeat/lettuce wraps, with a little mustard for dipping? Kinda like a breadless, deconstructed sandwich. Or wrap some lunchmeat around celery or cucumber sticks with the mustard. Protein, crunch, and spices to keep it interesting.

And I second (third? eighth?) the hummus suggestion. I like mine with red bell pepper strips for dipping.

Kim O'Donnel: Nice ideas, Reston. Or a lettuce roll, Vietnamese style, perhaps?


homemade yogurt: How long will the homemade yougurt hold? ANd what is its texture?


Kim O'Donnel: Let's ask the nice person who shared the recipe...


U street, DC: Hey Kim, thanks for the tips. The thing is, the chicken didn't catch on fire, it was actually perfectly fine, strangely enough. it was the rendered fat on the pan that caught on fire. Your suggestion to start baking or on the stovetop makes sense though, thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: gotcha...then yes, try Plan B next time 'round! Keep me posted.


don't add powdered milk: I've heard tips to add powdered milk to make it thicker, but to me, I like the looser texture without. My tip is, try it a few times w/o thickener, similar to the organic yogurts instead of the guar gum thickened kind, and it will really grow on you. Delicious with fresh fruit, defrosted frozen berries, or cereal!

Kim O'Donnel: More thoughts on DIY yo-yo...


Alexandria: Hi Kim - Any ideas for an eggless dessert? I love to bake, so this has me stumped. So far my ideas have been fruit salads or granitas, but those seem so summer-y. Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: What about a cobbler?


Salmon Cakes: Kim, thanks to your chatter from last week that offered a recipe for salmon cakes. I also had a can of salmon I had no idea what to do with. I decided I could get the kids to eat it if I doctored it up and this was the perfect solution. Husband and I had salmon fillets and I made the salmon cakes for the kids. Of course, they are teenagers, so they had to complain about something. But, this time it was that there weren't enough! I'm definitely making it again (and more of them each time!).

Kim O'Donnel: Nice. Love it when readers help each other. What did you add -- potato? Egg? Bread crumbs?


Re homemade yogurt: It will keep surprisingly long - at least a week. Texture: it is loose, like organic yogurt, not like guar gum thickened Dannon or like the drained high-fat Greek yogurt. I've heard tips to add powdered milk to make it thicker, and I have tried this, but I much prefer as is. I would suggest, try it a few times w/o thickener, if what you want is to eat with fresh fruit, defrosted frozen berries, or cereal.

Kim O'Donnel: And more on yogurt making....


Crock Pot Stock: Chicken stock definitely works in the slow cooker. Adding onions definitely improves the flavor. I generally let it go for 8-9 hours on low.

Kim O'Donnel: An affirmative from crock pot stock land...


Brussel sprouts...: For the reader looking for a new way to make her sprouts: Saute up some chopped bacon, drain and set aside. Saute chopped garlic and thinly sliced onion until translucent. Add in halved sprouts and saute for 5 minutes, add the bacon back in and then cover and simmer for about 15 mins or until the sprouts are tender. I like to drizzle some aged balsamic over them right before serving.

Great. Now I'm hungry!

Kim O'Donnel: Ah yes, bacon makes everything better....I really like the idea of sweet vinegar on top. Nice touch.


eggless dessert: Everyone loves PIE!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, indeed. No eggs needed in dough or in fruit filling.


embarassing question: I have been wondering this for ages, but am too embarrased to ask anyone irl... how do I use my broiler? This is the little drawer below my lower oven, right? Is there a trick to using it?

Kim O'Donnel: Don't be embarrassed -- all questions are good ones. In older ovens, yes, it's that little drawer below the the oven. Depends what you'd like to broil -- what's on your mind?


easy homemade yoghurt: hi kim! i'm indian and we make yoghurt at home weekly. no need for a thermometer and stuff...here's the easy "eyeballing" way to do it. turns out perfect every time:

-find a bowl that is big enough for the amount of yoghurt you want to make. i sometimes do it in a small tupperware container, sometimes in a large casserolle dish - add milk to within 2 inches of the top of container (note.....i've done this with whole, 2% and skim milk, works great either way!) - microwave the milk for 10 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn't boil over and spill (you want the film on top though) - take the milk out of the microwave and cool until it is lukewarm. if it gets too cold, warm it up again for a couple minutes. - take two tablespoons of culture (either from leftover homemade yoghurt, or the boxed kind like Dannon) and mix into the lukewarm milk. if you can do this without breaking the "skin" on top of the boiled milk, you get a much better result. -cover the milk container -turn on the light in your oven and put the container as close to the light as possible. leave it in there for 4 to 5 hours. check on it and see if it has set. if not, put it back into the oven for more time. if it's set, put it in the fridge.

we've kept ours in the fridge for weeks and aside from getting slightly sour, nothing bad happens to it.

Kim O'Donnel: And another method for DIY yogurt -- love it!


Arlington, VA: Not the original poster, but I make yogurt (with a heated yogurt maker hotplate instead of the cooler idea, which looks fab!)

Anyhow: Homemade yogurt keeps a week and the texture will depend on your starter yogurt, but will generally be thinner than store-bought. For thicker, American style yogurty, you boil the milk (210degrees) then cool down. Additionally, you can mix in 1/4 cup powdered skim milk as a thickener (when you mix in the yogurt).

Kim O'Donnel: The experts are coming out in full force -- much appreciated.


Chicken pan on fire: She mentioned the chicken was on a rack in the pan. I put water in the bottom of the pan below the rack) to prevent burning...it can also prevent fires. Start with a cup, and just add a little as it evaporates during cooking.

Kim O'Donnel: I might even go less than 1 cup, as you don't want to "steam" the chicken...but yes, good tip.


Eggless chocolate cake: I know there are recipes for eggless chocolate cake (like the one from my grandmother that's sitting in my kitchen--and not at my office, otherwise I'd supply it). They're generally pretty dense, so lighten it up with vanilla frosting, or whipped cream and berries?

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely. I have fun ideas in Vegan/Veg archive of blog -- batters using silken tofu instead of eggs or dairy...


chicken stew: the original poster seems to be cooking the chicken in a pan prior to throwing into the stew - I have never heard of browning or precooking chicken for a chicken stew, and that could be what the meat isn't getting super tender. I brown beef and veal and lamb, but never chicken.

Kim O'Donnel: Interesting...I usually brown chicken before stewing it, but admittedly, it's thighs, not breasts....


Chicago - Spaghetti & Meatballs: Hi Kim - My husband was the one who wrote in last week asking for advice on how to make a Valentine's Day dinner of spaghetti & meatballs extra special. Our dinner was delicious and I loved it! He ended up serving mussels in a white wine/parsley/butter sauce as a 1st course, then followed by the delicious spaghetti and meatballs, with a side of brocolli rabe sauteed in garlic. We also had chocoloate peanut butter brownies for dessert. So thank you to all your chatters for giving him all the great tips. I had a wonderful VDay dinner!

Kim O'Donnel: WOW! So touched that you wrote in w/a report. What a guy you have! Sounds like you two lovebirds had a delicious evening.


fish and chips: I am finding the frozen battered tilapia a bit expensive. How can I make fried fish at home, and is there a way to pan fry rather than deep fry?

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely you can make it at home: Rediscovering Tilapia; Southern Fish Fry


Salmon cakes again: I pretty much followed the recipe, which called for one egg, but instead of the cracker crumbs, I used panko and it worked out fine. The one problem I had was that I didn't have time for it to sit in the fridge to firm up, so they were a bit loose, but the kids didn't seem to mind. Oh, and some of the fractions in the post showed up at ?, so I had to kind of figure that part out on my own. I see you've fixed it in the archives - thanks.

Kim O'Donnel: Keep plugging away, dear. You're doing great.


Archie McPhee's!: Not food related, but Archie rocks!

And for those of us in Seattle, they carry on the tradition of their cheeky paper catalogues on their web site.

Kim O'Donnel: While my kid brother is here, I need to go so he can have the Archie experience. thanks for checking in, neighbor!


Chicago, IL: Hi Kim! I absolutely love your chats.

This weekend, my husband and I are having our parents over to our new home for dinner. We want to make a dinner that will impress, is vegetarian but not too "out there" for my father, and can be made ahead so we're not working away in the kitchen while our parents are there.

We are planning to make hummus, a couscous salad with tomato, herbs and cucumber, baba ghanoush and have feta, olives, pita and other like items for a Mediterranean-y meal.

My questions are: 1) Is there anything you'd add to round out our menu? and 2) any ideas for dessert?

Thanks in advance!

Kim O'Donnel: What if you did a soup to start things off before the buffet spread? Something with lentils, perhaps? Did you check out the recent post for falafel? What about something orangey for dessert -- thinking of olive oil-orange-y cake. Holler if that interests.


garlic tip: Hello, hello. Posting early so that I have no more excuses before I settle in for a long day of writing (really, I am going to be very productive today...).

Wanted to know what you thought of a process I sort of stumbled on. Had a pass-along copy of Rachael-EVOO-Ray's magazine, wherein I found a tip suggesting that garlic cloves are easier to peel if tossed in the microwave for 10 seconds. Turns out it is true (separate the cloves and put them in a single layer, not in a bowl, I discovered on my own). It does make the skins slip right off without all the papery clingy wisps. Also makes it MUCH easier to mash them into a sort of paste.

Question: does this harm the garlic in any way for cooking? Doesn't seem to have affected the flavor, but I am curious if it partly cooks the garlic and would make it problematic for recipes.

Love the chats, especially the community of ideas.


Kim O'Donnel: I suppose this is helpful when you're peeling many, many cloves of garlic, but what's wrong with placing one's knife against a garlic clove and smashing down? Peel gives way. Don't think it'd cook after 10 seconds in mike, so no worries...


I had a wonderful VDay dinner!: awww that makes me cry (the good way and the bad way)

Kim O'Donnel: I know! It's sweet. See what you guys do for each other? Love it!!! on this very cheery -- and teary -- note, I'm signing off. Be well, and don't forget to eat your vegetables! All best.


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