Chat Leftovers: Reader-to-Reader Assists

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There wasn't just a big pile of leftover questions in this week's What's Cooking queue; there were reader tips galore, random acts of online kindness that keep this chat going strong, now nearly 10 years old.

Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens: See link to decidedly un-sweet recipe further down on this page. (Kim O'Donnel)

Natural food coloring
: You can find them on the web, but they're more expensive. Here's one source.

Mashed 'Taters for company
: Make your mashed potatoes ahead and keep them warm in a crockpot on low. Works great, and keeps oven space for something else.

Cupcake Recipe: For the reader looking for a cupcake recipe with cream cheese icing, try this one from Ina Garten. It's a fairly basic white cake, but really moist because of the sour cream. So good that even the dog stole some.

From Madera, Calif., the recipe for her much-discussed pumpkin cookies and why they won’t store well:

Pumpkin Gobs

2 cups pumpkin
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup oil or use 1 cup applesauce (I use applesauce to help cut the fat )
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Gob Filling

1 8 ounce block cream cheese
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. in a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. Add the flour and all spices, and mix well. Dough will be VERY're gonna think that you need more flour, but resist the urge to add more. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and use a 1 tablespoon cookie dough baller to drop dough onto sheets. Bake for +/- 15 minutes, or until slightly firm. Cool completely. I leave cookies on the parchment paper until they are cool, and have a second set of parchment lined cookie sheets ready to go for the next round of baking.

Gob Filling: mix all ingredients together. Take two gobs, placing the icing on one gob and placing other half on top.

Makes three dozen gobs.

Now, if you recall, Madera reported the following dilemma:
Gobs do not hold up well overnight/in the fridge. The top of the cookie gets very sticky, and aren't so much fun to eat. Best to make the day that you're going to eat them.

Some thoughts: Although a nice fat replacer, the applesauce will definitely contribute to the sticky ickies, as you’re adding moisture. I agree with the reader who suggested draining the pumpkin puree before using. Ah, now that I can see the recipe, two cups of brown sugar could be the culprit! Essentially, brown sugar is refined sugar with molasses, which contains water, which lends more moisture. And two cups of all that moisture, methinks, is what’s causing you to have sticky sweets. Here’s a great explainer on the science of brown sugar:

Here’s what I propose: Try reducing total sugar to 1 ½ cups, then split that between granulated and brown sugar -- ¾ cup each. That, my dear Watson, may solve the mystery. And re: the frosting: Try reducing the amount of confectioners' sugar by half as well, just for kicks. I think you'll find the results still sweet but keep you from falling into a sugar coma.

McLean, Va.: Your Meatless Monday blog post reminded me of the sweet potato recipe you often link to that includes curry (I think) and coconut milk (I know). Could you link to it again -- I have a craving for sweet potatoes and I'm not a huge soup fan.

Oh yes, this one is a goodie – even Mister MA, who claims not to like sweet potatoes, lapped these up last year at Thanksgiving.

The recipe, from Martha Stewart mag, is just right for Maryland, who writes: My father, along with a few other guests are diabetic and can eat sweet potatoes but not with all of the sugary sweetness that usually goes along with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We all love "heat."

(By the way, Maryland, I’ve got an extra copy of the new “Betty Crocker 30 Minute Meals for Diabetes,“ if you’re interested. E-mail me at with your or your father’s mailing info, and I’ll send it pronto.)

And another thing -- from our friend in McLean, Va:
Re: Halloween -- Years ago (back when I had my fantastic 21-year-old figure) I donned a blue unitard with clumps of cotton balls glued to it. I was partly cloudy. I think this year I want to be Julia Child. I'm going to buy huge platform shoes, wear slacks, carry around a bottle of wine and secretly take notes about all the people at the party. (Obviously I'm shooting for her spy era.)

I love this! Is anyone else going as a food celebrity this year? A pair of baggy Bermuda shorts and orange Crocs will get you on your way to a Mario Batali costume...

By Kim ODonnel |  October 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Chat Leftovers
Previous: These Onions Are Jammin' | Next: From the Recipe Crypt: Halloween-y Treats


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I've also noticed that my pumpkin-based baked goods tend to sweat a lot. One thing that I've found helps with pumpkin bread is to turn the oven off, maybe let it cool down a little, and leave the bread in overnight. This dries it out without overbaking it.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2008 11:19 AM

could I use green curry with the sw potatoes?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2008 11:21 AM

Yes on the green curry paste -- but results will be milder/mellower. The main difference between red and green curry paste is that red has dried chiles and green has fresh green peppers. Green curry loves veggies, so I see no reason why not.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2008 11:35 AM

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think the person with the pumpkin cookies should try to change the recipe to make them last longer. I think that trying to dry them out so they won't get sticky after storage is defeating the purpose. She said that they are great cookies when they are fresh. Changing the recipe will most likely change the result when they are fresh as well. I would not trade really good fresh cookies for just okay cookies that last a couple days. I think that the pumpkin cookies should just be saved for an occasion when she is able to make them the same day and instead make something that will not be compromised by making the day before. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2008 11:37 AM

another sweet potato idea -- not mine -- from Bobby Flay -- with nice heat is

Red Chile Rubbed Sweet Potatoes with Green Onion Vinaigrette

Green Onion Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup freshly chopped green onion, green parts only
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Spice-Rubbed Sweet Potatoes:
6 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, par-cooked and slice into 1-inch thick slices, skin left on
Canola oil

Special equipment: 6-inch wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

For the vinaigrette:

Blend the vinegar, water, onion, cilantro, honey, salt and pepper, to taste, in a blender until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified.

For the potatoes:

Whisk together the chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper, to taste, in a small bowl.

Heat the grill over medium-high heat.

Brush the potato slices with oil on both sides and season with the spice rub on one side. Skewer 2 slices of the potatoes onto 2 skewers (so the potatoes lay flat) and place on the grill, rub side down and cook until golden brown and a crust has formed, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the skewers over and continue grilling until the second side is golden brown and the potatoes are just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Remove to a platter and immediately drizzle with green onion vinaigrette, green onions and chopped cilantro.

i've done them outside and inside both on a grill pan and in the oven on baking sheet covered with foil.


Posted by: dccooks | October 23, 2008 12:11 PM

I've often wondered what is in both green curry and red curry pastes? Cooking Thai food is problomatic for me since I am allergic to seafood, so I can't use any fish sauce. Any recipes with papaya or mango are also out due to allergies.

Posted by: sholamith1 | October 24, 2008 8:37 AM

Here's a sweet potato recipe that was a huge hit last Christmas!

Rosemary Roasted SweetPotatoes


2 lbs. SweetPotatoes, roughly cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 large Cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp. Chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1/4 cup Toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. Chopped parsley
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Coarsely ground black pepper


In roasting pan, combine SweetPotatoes, garlic, rosemary and oil. Toss to blend well. Roast at 375 degrees F. for 50 minutes, turning SweetPotatoes occasionally. Just before serving, season with pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings

Posted by: tresa_mie | October 25, 2008 2:11 PM

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