Free Range on Food: Thanksgiving planning, pumpkin ice cream, low-fat veggie fare, what to do with a turkey carcass, pie advice, egg-free mayo, appetizers that travel well

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 1:00 PM

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way. The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.

A transcript of this week's chat follows.

Archive of past discussions

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Joe Yonan: Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range. Can you hear the gobbling in the background? That's all those turkeys getting ready to come to your Thanksgiving table, and that's the sound of your guests ready to scarf up what you serve them. (Or perhaps you're going bird-free this year?)

We have a little extra help in the house today: the lovely and talented Stephanie Sedgwick, here to help us give you more recipe ideas and technique tips than you can possibly need for this Thanksgiving and, naturally, any other meal you're dreaming about.

For our favorite posts, naturally, we'll have giveaway books, the identity of which will be a mystery until the end-of-chat announcement. So in the meantime, send us your best questions and comments, and we'll get right to it.

Oh, before I forget, YOU don't forget that Part II of our special Thanksgiving coverage comes this Sunday rather than next Wednesday. We'll have great stuff for you in it: nibble ideas from David Hagedorn, salads from Tony Rosenfeld, mashed potatoes galore from Gastronomer Andreas Viestad. More wine, and spirits...

Next week, you won't be alone, though -- we'll still have our Free Range chat right here at the same time as usual, 1 p.m. on Nov. 25, focused naturally on the last-minute turkey day scramble.

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Washington, DC: Good afternoon Food Section! Thank you once again for an interesting pre-Thanksgiving section. I already have my menu planned out, but I am considering that pecan-date pie. One thing I wanted to ask you about: I often see recipes for carrot side dishes with ginger. What would you think of sauteeing carrots and then glazing them with ginger beer (probably by just cooking them in the beer until it reduces to a nice, thick coating). I searched to see if anyone has tried this and found a recipe on the BBC Web site, but I wanted to seek your second well-informed opinion before proceeding.

Leigh Lambert: That sounds inspired. The trick lies in getting a true ginger beer and steering clear of anything like ginger ale that has high fructose corn syrup. I can almost taste it.

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Washington, DC: I'm charged with bringing some appetizers to a Thanksgiving dinner. Can you suggest some appetizers that not only travel well, but don't need to be reheated necessarily? I was thinking bruschetta or deviled eggs but those seem so pedestrian. Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Are they to be passed around? We have five good retro ideas coming on Sunday from Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn, so you must seek out our special second Thanksgiving issue! It will be Section R, for, uh, Revelatory. And define "travel well"? If you can keep this Green Curry Aioli chilled somehow, people will want to bathe in it. Serve with crackers or vegetables.

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Erie, Pa.: Hello, I'm looking for a new and exciting Thanksgiving dessert. I'd like it to have one of the traditional fall flavors (pumpkin, cranberry, apple, etc) but I don't want to make just a plain old pie. I either want to jazz up a pie or make something different like a cake or tart. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Jane Black: At the risk of repeating myself, make David Guas's sweet potato tart tatin. It's what I'm making. Good fall dessert and just a little bit different.

Joe Yonan: Also, see this collection of dessert recipes from our archives that Leigh put together for our blog. Lots of great options here beyond pies: puddings, cakes, and more...

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Washington, DC: Hi Rangers,

When making chicken stock using bones from a roasted chicken, do I need to remove the backbone?

Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Nope.

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Southern Pines: I just received an ad for free range, local turkeys. $3.50/lb! I am no cheapie but isn't $70 a little high for this kind of food product?

Jane Black: It certainly is more than the 99 cents a pound you pay for a supermarket turkey. But the supermarket turkeys are not local or free-range.

Local turkeys are in huge demand. I ordered mine (and paid about $3.50 per pound) in October -- right before the farmer sold out! It is a lot more expensive for a small farmer to raise a turkey, bring it to market and make a profit than the big industrial guys. And I suppose they charge what the market will bear.

Whether it's worth it is up to you.

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Silver Spring, Md.: We are having a 16 at Thanksgiving this year (all extended family). The issue is that half of our family never saw a stick of butter or a slab of bacon that they didn't like, and the other half wouldn't touch the stuff with a ten foot pole.

We are dealing with the issue by offering a variety of options (healthy and less so) for each course, but I am stuck on a healthy vegetable. Any thoughts for something that will be flavorful and satisfying for those who prefer their veggies without cream and butter?

Thanks!

Jane Black: Brussels sprouts? (Great with bacon too; maybe put some on the side for the unhealthy side to sprinkle on?) Or how about Moroccan spiced carrots?

Bonnie Benwick: We have four very fresh-tasting salad recipes from Tony Rosenfeld in our Sunday issue. And today's Jumbled Greens qualified as healthful -- no butter, bacon or cream. Also, if you peruse our Recipe Finder, you can do an Advanced Search to find side dishes that are healthful. Maybe something with ethnic spice or flavor would shake things up.

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washingtonpost.com: Make sure you check out today's Food section for a bounty of Thanksgiving ideas.

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Arlington, Va.: Could you please give some tips on the proper way to store Thanksgiving leftovers? My in-laws tend to think of Thanksgiving as a holiday to "get over with." They will throw hot food in my Tupperware and toss it in the fridge. Cold cranberries will be sitting on top of hot potatoes. My Tupperware ends up melted because the food's still hot. There must be a better way. Should I allow the food to cool before putting it in the refrigerator? Thank you.

Jane Black: All food should be cooled before throwing into a closed container for safety reasons. (Tell the in-laws that cooling the food will help avoid a "bacterial environment.")

So yes, let it all cool to room temp. Then pack (individually) in containers or bowls and refrigerate.

Bonnie Benwick: Tupperware should not melt!

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Bristow, Va.: A recipe for turkey noodle soup is hard to find. Should you roast/bake the turkey parts before using them for the broth?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I like to roast. The broth is richer tasting if you roast the turkey parts before adding to the soup pot. I roast the parts until they start to brown and develop roasted-turkey aroma. Then it's right into the pot. It doesn't hurt to roast the veggies (carrot, celery and onions) as well. It's an extra step, but since the broth can be made ahead of time, why not? Just remember to cool the finished broth in an ice water bath, then freeze until needed.

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Washington D.C.: Mayo is something I love but can no longer eat due to allergies to eggs.

For tuna salad I've used cream cheese to replace it. In an attempt to get close to the real deal, I've added lemon - but still not there. Any suggestions on how to replicate the mayo taste?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Plain yogurt spiked with Dijon mustard and lemon zest is a good substitute. Heck, it's just good.

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Tucson, Ariz.: I will be making a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I have always made pumpkin pie, including the pie crust, but the crust has never turned out great. I don't think I have the right touch to prepare the perfect pie crust. This year I plan to buy a ready-made pie crust, and then make the pie filling. Do you have suggestions for a good ready-made pie crust I can buy? I will buy it at the local grocery store, so hopefully you can suggest one or two brands that I can find easily. Thanks for your help.

Jane Black: We tasted and rated them for today's section. The short answer is that none of the nearly 20 we tried were great. No crust scored higher than 2.3 out of 5. The top choice was Giant's rollout ready to bake. But I bet yours is better than you think.

Jane Black: Whoops. Here's the link to the story.

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First Apple Pie, Ever!: Hi WP Food!

For the first time ever, I'm planning on making an apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving dessert. Full disclosure: I'm really not much of a cook at all, so I'm pretty intimidated. Any tips/tricks/suggestions? Also, any recipe suggestions? I have to admit that I'm leaning towards that caramel apple pie recipe I saw today...thanks!

Leigh Lambert: Apple pie is my favorite. The one I make (sorry I don't have the recipe with me) is a double-crust and simple. Just apples sliced paper thin, cinnamon sugar, butter and just enough flour to bind it (3 tablespoons or so).

The crust is usually what scares people. Be Zen about it. Just give into the first-time foibles and try it a couple times if need be. Cheap ingredients lessen the pressure. This Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust from Rose Levy Beranbaum will work well with whatever filling you like.

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Herndon, Va.: I need help completing our thanksgiving menu. We're vegetarians so the entree is going to be a lentil shepherd's pie. We're also having dinner rolls, your glazed root vegetable recipe and creamed corn. I feel like the menu needs something green but brussel sprouts have been vetoed and I don't want to do green beans again. Ideas to round out the menu? Thanks for all the help! I love you guys :)

Joe Yonan: You need one of Tony Rosenfeld's salads destined to hit your doorstep in your Sunday paper (or available on line Friday night or, at the latest, Saturday morning). How do these sound?

Shaved fennel, pear and tarragon.

Endive and mache with apple vinaigrette.

Escarole and celery hearts with warm rosemary dressing.

Roasted ginger-beets with ricotta salata.

Yeah, I thought so, too.

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Tomato Pas, TE: I'm guessing this will be an all-Thanksgiving chat, but just in case - last week a chatter asked about dealing with leftover tomato paste. I wanted to throw tomato powder out as a suggestion (such as this one from the Spice House). It makes really good tomato paste in really small amounts. I couldn't believe it when I tried it!

Jane Black: Thanks for this. What a good idea.

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Richmond, Va.: Good day, all!

I want to do shrimp and grits for Thanksgiving Eve but since my move I can't find the recipe for Johnny Half Shell Shrimp and Grits published/posted in the Washington Post years ago. Would the lovely producer provide a link?

My thanksgiving menu: Sandwiches featuring the highest quality turkey available at The Fresh Market. I intend to lay in some top quality bacon, good bread and arugula and baby spinach. I just want sandwiches. Looking forward to four days of reading and movie watching after I clear everyone out on Wednesday. The shrimp and grits will make it easier to kick them out for the weekend.

Bonnie Benwick: Boy this looks good. I applaud your out-of-the-box thinking. We'll try to get this into the database PDQ so you'll be able to look it up in future. (Hang in there -- I threw in the stock recipe as well.)

BARBECUED SHRIMP AND GRITS

6 servings

The Barbecued Shrimp and Grits at Johnny's Half Shell at Dupont Circle (which is owned by Cashion and John Fulchino) pairs a spicy Cajun-style barbecued shrimp with the creamy grits of the Low Country cooking of the South Carolina tidal basin.

Creamy Grits:

2 3/4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

3/4 cup dried grits (don't use instant)

1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

3 tablespoons butter

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons grated Asiago cheese

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and salt to a simmer. Stirring constantly, slowly add the grits and stir until combined. Reduce the heat to low and, cook, stirring frequently, until almost cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until the grits reach the desired consistency, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pan from the heat, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Just before serving, add the cheese to the grits and stir to combine.

Barbecue Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup shrimp stock (recipe follows; may substitute chicken stock or broth)

1/4 cup beer (preferably a lager, such as Beck's)

Watch this recipe carefully so that the dry ingredients (the cayenne in particular) don't burn.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Do not allow the garlic to brown. Add the cayenne, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the stock and beer and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by a third, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside.

Shrimp:

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied*

About 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 tablespoons minced parsley

Preheat the broiler.

Place the butterflied shrimp on the broiler pan, dot with the butter, season with salt and pepper, and broil, without turning, until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.

* Note: To butterfly a shrimp, hold the shrimp with the rounded back facing you. Using a small sharp knife, cut along the length of the shrimp, cutting almost but not completely through the shrimp. Gently press the halves of the shrimp outward to flatten it; it will resemble a butterfly.

To Assemble: Place a spoonful of Creamy Grits in the center of a shallow soup dish. Arrange the shrimp around the grits. Spoon the Barbecue Sauce over the shrimp and sprinkle with parsley.

Per serving (using low-sodium chicken broth): 329 calories, 18 gm protein, 18 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 168 mg cholesterol, 12 gm saturated fat, 634 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Shrimp Stock*

This recipe provides ample stock for both the Barbecued Shrimp and the Shrimp Posole recipe (see the following recipe).

3 quarts shrimp shells with heads

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

About 5 quarts (20 cups) water

1/2 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

3 to 4 sprigs fresh marjoram

Rinse the shrimp shells in several changes of cold water. Drain and dry the shells.

In a large stockpot over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the shrimp shells, celery and onion. Cook until the shells turn pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Add enough cold water to cover the shells (about 5 quarts). Add the garlic and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the marjoram, cover, remove from the heat and set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids.

* Note: You may substitute chicken stock or broth for shrimp stock in the Barbecued Shrimp and Shrimp Posole recipes. For a more authentic flavor, bring the chicken stock or broth to a simmer with as many shrimp shells as available and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture, discard the solids and substitute as is for the shrimp stock.

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Denver: I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time next week. Can you tell me what are the best kinds of potatoes for mashed potatoes? There are several varieties at my store, and I was just stumped. Thanks!

Joe Yonan: You're so in luck. Our Gastronomer columnist, Andreas Viestad, will wax eloquent about mashed potatoes in our special Sunday section, which you should be able to see online by Friday night. All will be made clear then.

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T'giving dessert: Do you know if any of the ice cream folks will be offering seasonal pumpkin ice cream in the stores? My MIL made it one year and it was quite tasty, but I have neither freezer room nor equipment to do this myself.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I already seen in the supermarket. It's around.

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G-Burg: Do you know of any good cake decorating classes in DC (or Bethesda)? I am considering this as a gift for my wife--so preferably something nice and maybe with a little flair! Thanks!!!

Jane Black: L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda offers cake decorating classes. They fill up fast though. The next one is this Saturday -- probably too soon -- but check their calendar.

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Pit-cooking: I bet that turkey is fabulous, both after reading the description and 'cause I've had "cochinita pibil," a Mexican suckling pig that I think cooks for over a day.

A traditional Hawaiian luau also includes pit-cooking, doesn't it?

But it does sound like a whole lot of work.

Joe Yonan: Yep, pit cooking happens lots of places -- and the setup is intense but the results succulent...

Joe Yonan: For those of you who don't know what we're talking about, it's this story by Candy Sagon today on TITH (turkey in the hole).

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Pie article?: Tried to post this last week...trying again. Last year the Post Magazine published winners of the holiday pie contest on Thanksgiving Day, which was too late to make any of the lovely pies for the holiday. I made the Caramel Apple Pie a couple of times, and it is fantastic. Could you post a link again, for those who might want to try something new?

washingtonpost.com: Slices of Life: We asked for tempting variations on that seasonal favorite, the holiday pie. Dozens of you responded with treasured family recipes. Here are the most irresistible. (Post, Nov. 27, 2008)

Jane Black: Here you go!

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Flavorful veggies we can all love: For that poster with the divided family, why not simply roast some fall veggies drizzled with olive oil, salt and maybe some rosemary -- try any combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, fresh green beans, onions, garlic. Roast at 400 for 45 minutes. Delicious!

Joe Yonan: Yes!

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DC: A chatter said he/she is serving glazed root vegetables. I couldn't find the recipe in your Recipe Finder, can you help?

washingtonpost.com: Apple Cider-Glazed Root Vegetables (Washington Post Recipe Database)

Glazing Root Vegetables (Post, Dec. 5, 2007)

Joe Yonan: Bingo.

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Washington, DC: Any suggestions for what I should do with my post-TG leftover turkey carcass? I usually throw it away, but I know it can be re-used to make a really great soup, right? How would I do that?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Okay here it goes, DO NOT THROW THAT CARCASS AWAY. The morning after Thanksgiving, trim the useable meat off of it and refrigerate the meat for sandwiches or to add to your soup when it's done. Stuff that carcass in a large pot with cut up carrots, celery and onion. If you've got fresh herbs, add a handful. Fill the pot with cold water to cover all. Add a few teaspoons of salt, some peppercorns, a bay leaf and dried thyme if you got it. Cook at a low boil for about 1 1/2 hours. Strain and discard the vegetables and carcass. Taste the broth. If it's too weak, return to a clean pot and boil until the flavor intensifies. Adjust seasoning as needed. You can now use this as the base for any soup you want.

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Pepper storage: I have more than a dozen (Spicy!) jalapenos I got at the farmers market a week ago. What can I do to preserve/store them? Freeze? How? Thanks.

Bonnie Benwick: Freezing's the way to go. Discard stem, seeds and ribs. Wrap in plastic wrap and then place the wrapped peppers in a freezer-safe resealable plastic food storage bag.

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Washington, DC: Can I offer some unsolicited pie crust advice? (I just won an office pie-making contest!) Use cold butter and substitute it for shortening (shortening doesn't taste like anything). Use ice water when bringing the dough together. Don't overwork the dough here, but be sure to fully moisten the flour/salt/butter/sugar mixture (use a little more water if needed--better to do that than have dry lumps of flour in the mix). If the dough breaks when rolling it, don't worry, it's okay to "patch" it, as no one will notice once its in the pie plate.

Leigh Lambert: Thanks for that. What kind of pie did you make that took top honors?

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Chat fan: I love your chat, but I am so tired of this kind of dull unsatisfying answer "Our Gastronomer columnist, Andreas Viestad, will wax eloquent about mashed potatoes in our special Sunday section." Is the chat no more than an ad for upcoming stories? If the story is coming out anyway, why not skip that question and take a different one with a more interesting answer?

Joe Yonan: Oh, give us a break. We're answering many, many questions here -- with lots of links and recipe ideas and tips -- but it just so happens that several questions have been perfect for some of our upcoming content. I want to make sure people know it's coming, especially since it's coming on Sunday, a once-a-year thing for us.

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Pie: I'm planning to make several pies next week, including Leigh's pumpkin and apple butter pie. But I would also like to make a sweet potato pie. (I had never had a homemade one until a few years ago when a coworker's grandmother made me one, but she doesn't have a written recipe.) I'm not looking for anything with pecans, which is the only thing listed in your recipe index. Do you have any other recipes?

Thanks!!!

Joe Yonan: Today's John Shields pie has pecans but only as an optional topping. Leave em out; the pie's great with or without.

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Alexandria, Va.: Well, I took it upon myself to provide nearly all of Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family. Now it's only about a week away, and I'm at a loss as to how I'm going to be able to feed 10 people! I'm planning on baking a turkey, making mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, ham, and a pie, but that's a lot of work and so much time! If I had to cut something from the menu, which one should I cut?

Jane Black: Ham? Is that with the green beans? If not, cut it. Otherwise, I'd cut the mashed potatoes. But you've got all the basics there so hard to know which one people will miss most.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: My co-cook and I just axed the mashed potatoes from our menu after we decided one really starchy thing (the stuffing) was enough. I'm going with that line and recommending you cut the same from your menu.

Joe Yonan: I am going to be the lone defender of the poor mashed potatoes? I say cut the green beans.

Bonnie Benwick: Cut nothing! Everything can be made in advance -- including the turkey, if you do it in parts. Or buy the darn pie.

Jane Black: You can't cut the green beans. You need something green!

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Food Gifts?: I loved the Thanksgiving articles today but my question is focused on Christmas gift giving. I've struck out many times with the In-Law's (including homemade goodies) and I'm ready to throw my hands up in defeat. I was thinking Omaha Steaks this year, any experience with them regarding quality or other mail order food? Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: My favorite all-time food gift is....Honeybells from Florida. The best oranges (actually a cross of a tangerine with a grapefruit but don't tell anybody) you'll ever have. Sweet, dripping with juice and distinctly bell-shaped at the navel. Just type honeybells into a search engine and many grower/shippers will pop up. I'm especially fond of the mini-bells

Joe Yonan: I have two favorites: Rancho Gordo beans and the best dried fruit ever from Meduri. Although I also have started giving charitable donations in lieu of gifts...

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Washington DC: I was getting ready to make banana bread when I found that the ripe bananas I'd been saving had sort-of liquefied in their skins! I threw them out but now I'm wondering if I could've used the non-liquid parts, or maybe even the liquid bananas, too. What do you think? Thanks!

Leigh Lambert: Hmmm... liquefied bananas. I have to smile because in cleaning out our freezer the other night my husband found what he thought were breakfast sausages. They were frozen bananas I was keeping for smoothies. Not good when things have been stored for so long they actually morph into other food groups.

But to answer your question, I would go ahead and bake with them, perhaps adding a couple more tablespoons of flour. Banana bread is pretty forgiving.

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Tell the in-laws that cooling the food will help avoid a "bacterial environment.": Uh, yeah, right, this will work. Send this one to Hax or Prudie!

Jane Black: I just thought that sounded official and would get them off our questioner's back. I only give food advice. On the in-laws, I defer to Carolyn Hax. IMHO: The greatest advice columnist ever.

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Squash seeds and other trimmings...: I know pumpkin seeds can be roasted for snacks. What about the seeds from butternut, acorn and other delicious squashes? Any uses for those guys? Also, can the trimmings (peels) from squash, rutabaga, etc. be used in vegetable stock? Thanks!

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I've never tried the seeds from other squashes so I'm skipping that one...but as for root vegetables it depends on the type. Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut turn broths orange, lend their flavor and tend to break down making it difficult to strain out. If you're okay with a pumpkin broth, go ahead. White roots like turnips and rutabagas are fine in moderation but use too much and you'll have a similar infusion of flavor.

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Frederick, Md.: How can I recreate Stove Top stuffing from scratch? I love the simplicity of it and can usually only find recipes for fancy stuffing with sausage, chestnuts, oysters, etc. Got a simple recipe? Thanks!

Leigh Lambert: Moving right past the mystery of why you wouldn't just buy the original, I'll provide the link to this recipe I found on Recipezaar.com. I can't vouch for it, never having tasted it (or Stove top. I'm a Pepperidge Farm girl myself).

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Thanks!: Just wanted to thank you for your usual excellent job today. I am one of the few folks who has no turkey angst -- because my in-laws are joining us this year and FIL is allergic to poultry. So I'll be doing your slow-cooked roast beef instead. Unless you have a better idea...? Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Joe Yonan: Oh, that Slow-Roasted Beef is amazing. Go for it.

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Washington, DC: I've got a great new recipe for a fennel orange cranberry sauce that I found while cruising some recipe websites. There is no information about making this ahead but I assume that, if I let it cool completely after it's requisite time on the stove, I can safely store it in the fridge in a sealed container for a couple of days before turkey day, right? Thanks--loved your T-giving section today!

Jane Black: I think that would be fine.

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Pumpkin ice cream: MOM's in Alexandria (so I assume the others) has several, and one is Moorenko's which is local.

Leigh Lambert: Yes, I've seen this at the Takoma Park and Silver Spring Co-op as well.

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Northern Virginia: Pumpkin Ice Cream: Edy's Light Pumpkin Ice Cream -- very creamy, lower fat. Nice subtle pumpkin taste. Limited time edition. Was on sale earlier this month for 2 for $6.00.

Leigh Lambert: And that sounds much more available.

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Richmond: Somehow I missed the Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie link? I just made homemade apple butter (crazy good, if I may say so myself), so I'd love to try that!

washingtonpost.com: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie (Washington Post Recipe Finder)

Joe Yonan: It's a keeper.

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Ricotta cheesecake question: My mom likes cheesecake made w/ricotta, and I have her recipe, which is quite plain - no lemon, etc that I've seen in on-line recipes. Issue is finding a 'tasty' ricotta... whatever that is. Might you or chatters have recommendations for brands? Many thanks.

Leigh Lambert: Tasty ricotta? Most of the ricotta I'm familiar with is notable for its lack of distinct flavor. It serves well as a creamy backdrop for other flavors (thus the addition of lemon peel or almond extract). Maybe I'm missing something and true aficionados can give better insight.

Jane Black: I adore ricotta. Cowgirl Creamery always has cow's milk ricotta (the brand is Calabro) and sometimes stocks a richer sheep's milk ricotta from Bellwether Farms out in California. Call to make sure they have it before heading over.

Cowgirl is at 919 F St NW, 202-393-6880

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Indianapolis: Those Man Crepes look perfect! Not making any turkey myself, so I'll have to be sure to grab some from my aunt.

Separate question: I just got the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. They offer various pie crust recipes that seem to be split between two categories - double crust and single crust. What the heck is the difference between the two? Are they interchangeable or should double crust be used for only certain pies and vice versa? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: And so easy. We must not fear the making of crepes and soufflés. They are our friends.

Bonnie Benwick: Oh, and double crust and single crust just means the difference between, say, an apple pie with crust on top (double) and a pumpkin pie (just the crust underneath).

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Butternut squash soup -- spicy: I made a butternut squash soup last night that was OK but not great. We're interested in trying again, but I need advice on making it either more savory (I used dried sage, as well as a seasoned, home made veg stock) or spicy. One of us would not be fond of a prominent cinnamon or ginger direction, but a "heat" spice might work. I thought about cumin but am unsure.

I'd appreciate your thoughts. (The color of the soup last night was great, and I was VERY proud of my creme fraiche "flower" in the center, as well as the herbed bread crumbs along the rim.)

Bonnie Benwick: Not everybody likes cumin. A little cayenne or smoked paprika does wonders in an underlying way. You could also experiment with a little vermouth.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: Curry's always great with butternut squash. Buy a fresh jar, curry powders lose flavor fast in the spice cabinet.

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Bosque Farms, N.M.: Hi, the link for John Shields Pie isn't working. Can that be fixed?

As a person who can't get the paper edition (at least in a timely manner), I'm glad you are letting us know about Sunday's food section. Thanks for your efforts in behalf of your readers!

washingtonpost.com: Sorry about that. Here's the link: From John Shields, here's a political pie we can all get behind (Post, Nov. 18)

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Upstate, NY: How interesting that at this time last year in this chat, when I wrote in about making Julia Childs' laid back turkey (deboned and roasted on top of the stuffing) you laughed and made a snide comment about how it was too much trouble. But now you're featuring a very similar recipe from Julia and Jacques, one that actually seems a bit more difficult since you have to stuff the legs and wrap them up. I guess I'll chalk this one up to "don't knock it till you've tried it".

Bonnie Benwick: We laughed? We made a snide comment? That does not sound familiar -- especially concerning a Julia recipe! The recipe today is time-consuming at the start but really not so difficult -- faster to roast, easier to carve. I promise. We have tried it, and we're not knocking it.

Joe Yonan: Us? Snide? Snarky? Sarcastic? I've never heard something so ridiculous. ;-)

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Some help perhaps?: I'd like a critique of this menu if you would. I will have a mix of meat eaters and vegetarians, so I've made an effort to include hearty non meat items.

Butternut squash soup with parm/sage tuile, Charcoal grilled duck breast with confit gravy, Creamy Polenta with porcini mushrooms, Mashed potatoes with blue cheese and chives, Green beans almandine, Spinach with roasted pine nuts, Room temp asparagus with lemon zest, TBD Relish, Cheese plate, TBD sweets, Ambulance

Jane Black: Holy moly. That sounds amazing. I don't think you need to change a thing. The only possibility is to add something red/orange to the main-course spread. Beets? Wow. Enjoy.

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Thanksgiving hostess gift: Hi, I'm driving from DC to upstate NY (apple country) for the holiday and wondered if you can suggest any local foods, fresh or bottled, that will survive the long trip and make a nice gift?

Jane Black: Virginia Chutney has a nice selection of, you guessed it, chutneys. They are available at a lot of local stores, including Cowgirl Creamery, I believe. If you have the ability to hit a farmers market this week (maybe not given the holiday etc), I like Toigo's brandied peaches.

Any other ideas, chatter?

Joe Yonan: Copper Pot Food Co.'s jams and sauces, too.

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Boulder, Colo.: I'd like to make a savory sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving this year. I checked your recipe archive and nothing jumped out at me. Any recommendations?

Bonnie Benwick: Editor Joe said he watched Jacques Pepin make the simplest pumpkin gratin the other day on "More Fast Food My Way." Here's a link that's close to what he made; you could sub cooked, mashed sweet potato.

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To Silver Spring, with the family divided over fat/non-fat: How about a huge serving platter of steamed leafy greens (Swiss chard or kale are my faves), soaked in the non-fat broth of your choice (beef, chicken or vegetable)?

Joe Yonan: Um, yum?

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University Park, Md.: Just wanted to let you (and everyone) know that the Asian-Style Short Ribs (Sept. 4 Post) were the most insanely delicious thing I ever made from a WaPo recipe. I cooked them all day on High in a slow cooker, and then reduced the strained cooking liquid by about half, thickening it slightly with a slurry of 1/2 Tbs cornstarch. They were absolutely amazing! I found they go really well with a puree of cooked celery root, made with a bit of EVOO, some half-and-half, and just a hint of nutmeg. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Jane Black: Hoorah! Glad you liked it.

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Office pie contest: It was an apple pie contest--I made a pretty traditional one with granny smith and honeycrisp apples and a lattice crust. My partner actually wrote into this chat the week before seeking your assistance in encouraging me to make 2 pies so he could have one too. I obliged of course.

Jane Black: Glad you made two. Did you win? Did I miss that?

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Alexandria, Va.: My husband has requested a cranberry/orange relish this year and I usually make the sauce with cranberries, I seem to remember that someone here was talking about a really good recipe for this?

Bonnie Benwick: Yep. Cranberry-Citrus Relish.

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Thanks-giving: Thank you to all the Food staff (including the ones we know nothing about who do behind-the-scenes work) for your generosity of spirit all year long. You create an online community once a week to help people make good food for their families and friends, to help people learn about and share cultural and culinary ideas that are new to them, and to help people foster creativity and adventure in one of our most basic human activities.

You handle the basic and the advanced questions with equal care and encouragement. You handle compliments with humor and aplomb and grousing (or weirdness) with grace.

Thank you for sharing your talents and your joy of life.

Joe Yonan: ((air kiss))

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Washington, DC: Hi, I was looking through your recipe archives for a side-dish to bring to Thanksgiving. I found a butternut squash recipe that I'd like to make, but the roasting temperature is left out. I assume it's probably around 400, does that sound right to you?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: In my kitchen, when in doubt the rule is to go with 375 degrees. I think your vegetables will be fine at either temp, just make sure to keep an eye on them. The size of your pieces will determine how fast they cook more than a difference of 25 degrees in cooking temp.

Joe Yonan: We're fixing that recipe, btw... Thanks for mentioning.

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Columbia Heights, D.C.: I've received several heads of chicory in my CSA basket recently. I've tried eating it raw in a salad and cooking it with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. In both instances, the chicory was way too bitter for my palate. Any suggestions for how to tame that bitterness?

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick: I have to be straight-some of the greens in CSAs baskets (or just generally) are so bitter that the amount of oil/fat or dressing you have to put on them isn't worth it. Finding things in my CSA basket I could not learn love was my least favorite part of belonging to a CSA. Maybe you could ask them to leave out the chicory in the future or suggest a trading basket. My CSA had a table in the pickup area for trading items people didn't like.

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Crepes recipe: Oh, my, the "man crepes" in today's food section look mouth-wateringly good. Any chance I can make them with something gluten-free? Gluten-free and whole grain?

Bonnie Benwick: You could sub with the same amount of rice flour. Whole grain -- you're on your own. Or chatters?

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Bethesda, Md.: I am the winner of DamGoodSweet last month. I just wanted to say thank you for the book and to tell you how wonderful my first attempts have been. I asked my question about Red Velvet cake -- and this is the best rendition I've tried. Thank you again. I can't wait to try out more recipes soon.

Jane Black: So glad you're enjoying it. We'll pass the praise on to David.

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San Francisco: Molasses muffins: In the chat leftovers, there is a link to Paul Prudhomme's molasses muffins. They sound perfect for the bread basket. One question, though: the recipe says it makes about 18 muffins, but the directions call for a 12 cup muffin pan?

Jane Black: Gotta love recipes, right? Lots of errors. I'd have an extra six-muffin pan handy in case it makes enough batter for the advertised 18. But my bet is it makes 12. Recipes like that are usually for a dozen.

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Pie crust: OK, so I've been thoroughly embarrassed by today's paper, thinking all along my store-bought pie crusts were plenty good enough for my go-to apple pie (which, just to prove I'm not a complete idiot, is a huge hit no matter whom I make it for -- I guess the filling is to thank for that). I'm willing to admit I'm wrong and try making my own crust next time. But oh, that cream cheese crust recipe looks really time-consuming. (Cubing and freezing the butter?)

So here's my question: the crust for the date-pecan pie looks much simpler; is there a reason why one wouldn't use that for any kind of pie? or, more broadly, are different crust recipes better for different pies, and if so, why?

Thanks!

Leigh Lambert: You can completely mix and match pie crusts for different fillings with my blessing. So much of what people want in a crust is up to taste that you should trust yourself. I'll admit to loving my all shortening crust even though I hear that's blasphemy (and it gets rave reviews as your pie does). If it aint broke...

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Alexandria, Va.: For the love of God, don't cut the mashed potatoes!!! I live for turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving is my 'white food' holiday. If anything cut the green beans and open a bag of fresh salad mix instead.

Joe Yonan: Hear, hear.

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Tuna salad mayo replacement - avocado: I am a tried and true mayo lover in tuna, but I tried mixing in some avocado and olive oil this summer...it was fabulous. It doesn't taste exactly like mayo, but the creaminess is spot on and it doesn't have the tang of yogurt. Little lemon juice too and call it a day.

Bonnie Benwick: I like the sound of that.

Leigh Lambert: I like that idea. Better to make it something different and good than try to replicate and miss the mark.

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Eastern Market: Ok, I'm holding off my questions - because I -think- I have my whole meal planned out, except for the nibbles and salads! Thanks for thinking of those for Sunday! Looking forward to a double dose of food section this week!

Joe Yonan: And thank YOU for not griping at us!

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Freezing chilies: Just wondering what happens if you freeze the seeds, too? Do they get even hotter than when the chilies are fresh? I am a big fan of spicy, and I eat the fresh seeds, but I don't want to o.d. accidentally! Oh, and can I just freeze the whole chili without cutting it up?

Bonnie Benwick: Advice from jalapeno experts seems to recommend deseeding before freezing the peppers. The seeds would need to be dried out thoroughly before freezing, if you're up for that extra step.

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Turkey stressing!: Food staffers, I have a Thanksgiving crisis. My uncle, who is the expert carver in the family, won't be at Thanksgiving dinner this year, and so I have to learn how to carve the turkey. Any great tips for this daunting task? Things to keep in mind? I've done a chicken more or less well, but never a turkey, and not even a chicken for more than two people (so I didn't have to worry about getting the slices carved nicely). Thanks for any help!

Joe Yonan: But of course. You should watch this video we did with yours truly, Kim O'Donnel and BroVo East (my "Top Chef" Twitter nickname for him) himself, Bryan Voltaggio, from a couple years back. Great carving primer.

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Washington, DC: Re: butternut squash soup - We made the pumpkin soup from Martha Stewart's new cookbook and loved the flavor of the roasted pumpkin, roasted onions and shitake mushrooms. I think it would be good with squash, too.

Bonnie Benwick: Mushrooms is a GREAT idea. You could add some dried mushroom powder and that soup would rock. Very earthy.

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NW, DC: I need to stock up on some kitchen supplies. Is there a good restaurant supply store you would recommend in the area (preferably DC)?

Bonnie Benwick: Best Equipment in NE DC. (202-544-2525). I love going there.

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Fresh turkey: Maple Lawn Farm's has fresh hens for $1.95/lb. Toms are $1.75. Get one every year.

Jane Black: For bargain turkey hunters.

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Deviled eggs seem so pedestrian. : Soak the boiled eggs in pickled beet juice 8 hours to make the whites beet red (and tangy tasting). Use the yolks to make your deviled filling as usual.

Jane Black: Fun! And very bedeviling.

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Easiest pie for Thanksgiving: Pecan pie. If you don't like to make crust, just purchase pre-made ones in the shell. Filling is quick to mix in a single bowl with a portable electric mixer. Recipe actually benefits from being baked the night before. Just slice, then serve with a high quality commercial vanilla ice cream.

Joe Yonan: I will (respectfully) disagree with the pre-made shell idea, especially after we tested them. And can I remind people of last year's Mama's Pecan Pie from Virginia Willis? Best I've made.

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Ginger Beer Carrots: I'd be using Regatta, which is the brand Calvert-Woodley sells. Not sure if it has HFCS, but it makes great dark-n-stormies.

Leigh Lambert: If it's good in a mixed drink, chances are it's quality enough for your carrots.

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Arlington, Va.: Thanksgiving Hostess gift,

You could bring them real apples from VA or WVA ie gourmet apples from Summit Point or another upscale provider. Or real non pasteurized apple cider which is available in VA but not in NY because of their food police. Big difference in taste. VA and WVA apples beat NY and WA apples any day. There is no comparison.

Joe Yonan: Great ideas...

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that orange cranberry relish is GREAT: Make it a few days ahead of time, the flavor REALLY increases over time.

Bonnie Benwick: It does indeed.

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Washington, DC: Hello Rangers, can you please give me an idea for a Thanksgiving dinner for one that will not leave me with almost no leftovers. I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving and while unable to join my family I still want to rejoice. Thank you.

Leigh Lambert: It may sound cliché, but I would look for a church or soup kitchen where you can volunteer and break bread with others.

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Food gifts: Thank you!: I'd never heard of Copper Pot Food Co but it looks fantastic! And I was at Cowgirl Creamery last week but somehow overlooked the local foods. So, thank you, I think you've solved my hostess-gift problem!

Joe Yonan: Excellent!

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San Francisco: That RLB Cream cheese pie crust is the BEST pie crust, and super easy! Genuine question: how is cutting and freezing the butter time consuming? It takes about 3 minutes, and then you just combine everything in a food processor (if you have it). I'm doing that tonight so I can prepare my Thanksgiving pie crusts in advance and have them in the freezer! I'm currently making pumpkin and pecan, and am thinking about a pear crisp, any other great pie suggestions?

Joe Yonan: I agree on both. I've made the CC crust for years (among other crusts), and cut-up butter freezes in just a few mins, really...

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You guys, awesome!: Thank u so much for all the side dish recipes. Save my you-know-what. Also, TITH -- what a kick! The whole section started off my holiday on a fun note.

Bonnie Benwick: You're welcome. It's the most wonderful time of the year (after back to school, that is).

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Tip for the apple pie maker: Use the right apples! Any apple that would make your lips pucker eating it raw (such as Granny Smith). The tart juice mixes with the sugar and cinnamon and is heavenly! We picked some York apples last month that were almost inedible when we bit into them, but they made a fantastic pie.

Leigh Lambert: Very true.

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DC Appetizers Girl: Hi there, by travel well, I mean minimal things to carry via the train/bus I have to catch to the party...I cannot bear the idea of traumatizing people with multiple plastic containers and bags on a holiday! Thanks

Bonnie Benwick: This is one little container you could put in a bag that keeps food cold for several hours. You'll be set. You could always go the spiced nuts route....

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Alexandria, Va. (on cutting my menu): Thanks for the suggestions, guys! I'm taking your advice to heart. I'll be cutting the ham, and keeping everything else. If I find myself extremely pressed for time...well, I'll just have to buy a pie. Any recommendations for DC pie shops, since Dangerously Delicious Pies isn't open yet?

Jane Black: I really like the pies at Baked and Wired in Georgetown. And this isn't in DC but I also like the ones at Community Canteen in Reston, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello, I'm making a simple salad for our vegetable dish (lettuce, walnuts, raisins, cherry tomatoes). I'd like to add a cheese, but am not sure which one. Any recommendations? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: Quick -- what's your dressing plan?

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Egg-free mayo: I think the soy mayos, like "Nayonnaise" (sp?), are pretty good, especially for something like tuna salad.

Bonnie Benwick: Eh, not so good. Did someone mention olive oil mayo?

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What does "grass fed" mean?: I recently saw a cooking show where someone was carrying on about how great this certain butter tasted because the cows were grass fed. I mentioned this to my wife, and she said aren't all cows grass fed?

I couldn't answer that. What do cows eat if they are not eating grass!?!?

Thanks!

Jane Black: Oh dear. Cows *should* be fed grass, you are right. But in today's world, most cows are fed grain. It makes them gain weight more quickly so they can be slaughtered earlier and creates a fattier meat that Americans like for steak.

Grass-fed is now back in vogue. Mostly you find the meat and butter/milk at farmers market but it's also in some stores. Be careful though: The labeling can be tricky. Some say they are grass-fed, which means they are fed grass most of their lives but "finished" on corn. Which means they get grain at the end of their lives. If you want all grass-fed, look for something called grass-finished.

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Please help me choose a wine for a table of non-wine drinkers: Thanks for taking my question. Please help -- I am the only person in my family who enjoys learning about wine and drinking interesting bottles. I don't know so much but I like reading and talking to people and trying grapes that are new to me. I have been charged with bringing the wine for the holiday. Here's my problem: My family is just not interested in wine or spending more than $10 a bottle. I don't think I've ever seen my brother drink a glass of wine and care what he's drinking, my mother buys what is in Publix, and my 80-something father likes sweet wines so much that he (wait for it) MIXES his Manishevitz with whatever my mother buys -- usually white zinfandel.

Please help me choose something that will be interesting for me, and easy-sipping enough for them and sweet enough for my father. Out of a table of 6 adults we will open 2 bottles but not finish them. I'm willing to spend up to $15 a bottle.

Please help you are my only hope.

My palate thanks you!

Jane Black: Sounds like you need a Riesling. Go for something off-dry, which will add enough sweetness for Dad, but not too much for you to enjoy. If $15 is your price limit, I'd go to Best Cellars. All their wines are under $15 and divided into easy categories (soft, luscious etc; I think rieslings come under "soft.")

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Silver Spring, Md.: I'm pretty good at making a buttercream icing that looks perfect and has a nice consistency. But no matter the recipe I use (Alton Brown, Wilton, etc), that typical stereotypical icing tastes like 100% butter. Do you have a buttercream recipe you can recommend that will give me great taste and texture for spreading?

Leigh Lambert: You ask a good question. Part of the problem lies in the word "buttercream." If you look for an icing or frosting instead, you're likely to get something less like a stick of butter (and, for what it's worth, I completely agree with you about wanting more taste). This recipe for Orange Buttercream Frosting plays fast and loose with the term. It's not a true buttercream, as it includes cream cheese - but that is precisely why I think you'll like it. You can alter the flavor by subbing in different extracts.

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Bethesda, Md.: Not sure about the other squashes, but butternut squash seeds roast/toast really well and make an excellent garnish for butternut squash soup. Smaller than pumpkin seeds and not as tough.

Bonnie Benwick: True. Good to salt them well.

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Bosque Farms, N.M.: For Frederick, MD: Here's a recipe for a good, simple stuffing that we've been making for years from scratch. It is based on an old Betty Crocker cookbook recipe, but I don't have time to figure out which one. We find that the quality of the bread has everything to do with how good this simple stuffing turns out. As you may gather from reading the recipe, we do our turkey on a Weber grill but the stuffing would work anywhere.

Dad's Old Fashioned Turkey Stuffing

Dad usually doubles this for an 18 pound turkey. He cooks about half on the grill (or in the oven) rather than in the turkey.

9 cups torn bread pieces, preferably sour dough or fairly dense bread; 3/4 c chopped onion; 1 1/2 c chopped celery; 1/2 c butter; 1/2 teas salt; 1 1/2 teas sage; 1 teas thyme; 1/2 teas pepper

Melt butter and cook onion and celery in it until translucent. Add seasonings. Add bread. Toss. Stuff turkey lightly. Make foil pans for extra and cook on top of grill (or in oven) during last hour of cooking turkey.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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20016--Red or white?: I'm making a French onion gravy for the first time. For the vegetarians at the table. Caramelized onions, roux, veg broth. I'd like to add a splash of wine -- would you go red or white? Thanks!

Bonnie Benwick: I'd go for vermouth.

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Us? Snide? Snarky? Sarcastic? : Sounds like us peanut gallerites, not the helpful hosts.

Joe Yonan: :-)

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Chevy Chase, Md.: My daughter made a wonderful butternut squash and kale recipe from the WAPO last year and I'm not able to find the recipe. Can you help? Thanks. A chevychase cook

Jane Black: Here you are: Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin

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Bonnie Benwick: Last week, a chatter asked about switching out goat cheese for cream cheese in a Christmas cookie recipe, and I said I'd test things and come back with thoughts about the substitution.

And here they are: I wouldn't recommend it, unless the cookie dough was going to be made savory somehow. I chose a random cream-cheese dough cookie recipe online, with butter, flour, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract. I made two doughs, one with the goat cheese instead of cream cheese.

I found the goat cheese made for a nice firm dough, easy to cut out shapes. But the cookies baked up with pockmarks on the surface, and the goat cheese flavor was very, very pronounced. I baked the doughs straight away and baked some dough that had rested in the fridge overnight: same baked results. So there you have it.

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Seasoned Seaweed Salad: Please help! I love the seasoned seaweed salad that you get in Japanese restaurants and at the deli counter in the Safeway on Maui. It's so flavorful and full of healthy vitamins. But I cannot figure out how to make it. Everything I've found uses seaweed that turns out dark green instead of the wonderful brighter green and has a much different texture. My guess is that I just haven't found the right type of seaweed. Any ideas?

Jane Black: I think the kind you want is Wakame seaweed. (I did the same thing once; bought Hijiki which is curly, black and not what I had in mind.) You can find it at health food stores and maybe Whole Foods, but I'm not sure.

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Ricotta: Calabro hand-dipped ricotta is AMAZING but I don't know if you can get it around here. Sorry, I know this is the worst type of post. I used to get it at the Cheese Board in Berkeley. Yummmm

Jane Black: That's the kind they have at Cowgirl.

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Clifton, Va.: Why no a champagne taste testing of vintage champagnes? Under a $100, $100 to $200, and price no object? Come on guys you can sell this to your editors. And the winner will not Cristal or Dom? The only two names most folks can say.

Don't forget to include a Comte D Comte, a Winnie, a nice Tattinger etc.

Bonnie Benwick: Usually the bubbly stuff is assayed closer to year's end.

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Newton, Mass.: Help! Asking early because of work. How many pies/desserts should we make for 12 people? I'm planning 1 pecan and 1 pumpkin, but am worried if that's enough. Should I also make the pumpkin pudding cake for those who can't make up their mind?

Also a suggestion for squash, since oven/stove space is always at a premium I take it whole, jab it with a knife several times and cook it in the microwave. All you need do then is cut it open &remove seeds. It peels easily and is ready for pureeing spices etc..

Joe Yonan: In my dog park the other day, a friend was saying that she plans on half a pie per person, which seems extreme ... until you think about how many people love to eat pie, and love leftover pie... I'd say you could definitely do with another dessert.

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Washington, DC: Happy Hump Day! I am going to a Thanksgiving potluck and want to bring baked veggie empanadas that I've made for parties before and have been a big hit. My concern is that it is about a two-hour drive to the potluck, and there won't be any opportunity to bake or reheat when I get there. They taste great room temp, so that isn't a big deal, but I'm concerned about the best way to package them. Do I need to let them cool completely first, or is there a way to package them while hot and won't result in them being soggy two hours later? Thanks!

Jane Black: Definitely let them cool first. Then I'd layer them in a container with wax paper between the layers. You can also put them on a cookie sheet and cover with foil.

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Alexandria, Va.: Love the Thanksgiving ideas this week! My question is not Thanksgiving-related. A while ago I bought a bag of millet on a whim, thinking I could use it like rice or quinoa. I still haven't gotten around to using it. Do you have any seasonal or traditional ethnic ideas on how to use this millet? Thanks!

Leigh Lambert: This recipe we published for Millet Timbales could be made seasonal by adding chunks of pumpkin and cranberries to the salsa/sauce.

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Ocean View: For pumpkin ice cream head for Giffords! Their's is the best!

Joe Yonan: Sounds like you know of which you speak.

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Thanksgiving for two: Forgive me if you've already covered this, as I haven't had internet access at home for a few weeks. I want Thanksgiving to be special, tasty, low-key, and for two. So I don't want a turkey to last me weeks, in fact, I'm OK to give up the turkey all together. But I want not your everyday fare, either. Ooh, and I want lots and lots of flavor... we do lots of Indian at home, so I want to stay away from that to make this less "everyday" food. Any suggestions for a Thanksgiving menu?

Joe Yonan: We did a scaled-down Thanksgiving in 2007 that might fit your bill perfectly: Here are recipes for Brined Roast Turkey Breast With White Wine Pan Sauce, Butternut Squash Soup With Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Tart Apple, Crushed Sweet Potatoes With Roasted Garlic and Ginger and more... Tons of flavor here.

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Maryland: Ideas for Hachiya (soft) persimmons other than baking? If I can resist just breaking into them and eating them all plain with a spoon, that is.

Bonnie Benwick: Pureeing's a good way to go, with a touch of lemon juice. You'd be able to freeze and use for sauces sweet and savory, or add to smoothies. Or seed, coarsely chop and throw into a bread pudding.

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The hole bird!: Hi foodies. Even though I don't plan on digging a giant hole in my backyard to make my turkey this year, that was such a fun story to read! My only question is, does the turkey skin get browned at all? Was wondering if it really looked too sickly to even show us a photo.

Joe Yonan: Yeah, not really browned...

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First time turkey maker....: I have a recipe for dry rubbed turkey, but it doesn't specify whether to buy a brined or unbrined turkey. The recipe doesn't call for salt. I'd rather go for brined - who wants dry turkey.... Does that sound ok?

Bonnie Benwick: It does.

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Baking question for Leigh: True or false: I can sub apple sauce or pureed pears one-for-one for oil in baking? I'd like to bake some loaves of apple bread (Penzey's), carrot bread and others to freeze for Christmas gifts.

Thanks.

Leigh Lambert: Technically, yes. But I have had more success subbing only half the oil with apple sauce.

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Huntington, N.Y.: I'm having a pre-Thanksgiving luncheon gathering this weekend for people I won't get to see on Thanksgiving. Suggestions for a light, anti-Turkey Day but seasonal menu?

Jane Black: I'd say anything but the usual Thanksgiving items. How about roast pork, polenta (with or without mushrooms), a bitter green salad. Or you could do the kale and butternut squash gratin we just posted.

Possibilities are endless. I love fall eating.

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Boston: Love your weekly food section. I'm noting there's a recipe today for 'man crepes', and for a while now people have been raving about the 'mancatcher brownies'. The food is great, but these names seem something of an unpleasant throwback. If as delicious as promised, those brownies would be just as good at catching a woman, but I find the name off-putting.

Not sure if you name the recipes or not, but this reader would prefer both cooking and eating were not ascribed or targeted to a single gender.

washingtonpost.com: Man Crepes

Bonnie Benwick: Don't be offended by recipe titles; life's too short. The recipe author called them Man Crepes, but if you read the recipe you'll see we describe them as egalitarian. They are from a book about feeding men and boys.

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NoVA: This is a basic microwave cooking question, but the answer might help when preparing large quantities of Thanksgiving food.

When the directions say 'let it stand in the microwave' for a period of time, does it really have to stay in the microwave? Or can the dish be put elsewhere, freeing up the microwave for the next item?

Bonnie Benwick: It might say that either because it will stay fairly warm in the enclosed space or because the container gets so hot that it's better to let it cool down a bit.

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Joe Yonan: Well, you've arranged our legs in natural positions on the platter; then, you've spooned some of the warm gravy over us before taking us to the table, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today -- and don't forget to check out our special Sunday content for more Thanksgiving ideas.

And there's another interesting chat happening here tomorrow:

Jonathan Safran Foer will be online to discuss his new book, "Eating Animals."

Now for the book winners: The Alexandria chatter who asked us what to cut from the meal will get a signed copy of "Mad Hungry" by Lucinda Scala Quinn. And the chatter asking about food gifts for difficult in-laws will get "Kitchen Knife Skills" by Marianne Lumb. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get you your prize(s)...

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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