Archive: December 2008

Greatest Hits, Tastiest Bits of 2008

On this final day of 2008, I’m looking down memory lane and marveling at the way we’ve evolved as cooks -- what we learned at the stove, how we laughed and cried, how much we chopped and fried. (Insert Carol Burnett theme song at any time.) So follow along and humor me with my lil' poem ditty, and weigh in if you so please. Happy New Year! (Kim O'Donnel) You shared your kitchen stories…. About Mom….Saluting Mom: Your Kitchen Stories ….and Dad…. He’s Your Daddy …and family traditions that date to WWII….Baking for the Troops You tried something new… Eat Local Challenge …and shared your tried-and-true… Getting Thrifty: Reader Tricks and Tips Roast Chicken: What’s Your Secret (Kim O'Donnel) You helped each other… Chat Leftovers: Heart-Smart Apps, College Kid Cookbooks... Save the Nancys With Your 30-Minute Specials And when I set off for my cross-country eating adventure this summer, you...

By Kim ODonnel | December 31, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Kid Plus Kitchen Equals Good Eater

Hey Mom and Dad! Are you running out of kid-friendly ideas during Week Two of winter break? Don't overlook the value of the kitchen, as both playground and classroom. Guest blogger Shannon Henry, who's got two little girls (ages 5 ½ and 3) of her own, shares her philosophy (and a kid-friendly recipe) on early-and-often countertop interaction. The way to my kids' stomachs? Let them cook. (Shannon Henry) That's what I tell other parents when the how-do-you-get-them-to-eat topic comes up. Although many variables are at play – from irrational fears of new foods to personal taste buds -- I maintain that the way to get kids to eat well is to include them in the fun process of cooking. Needless to say, this strategy is far from fail-proof; just a few nights ago, while one child was enjoying the unusual chewiness of octopus, the other insisted on a supper of...

By Kim ODonnel | December 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Meatless Monday: Hoppin' John, Hold the Ham Hock

As this financially difficult year comes to a close, we could all use a kitchen elixir to help shake off the 401(k) blues and usher in vibrations of fortune and prosperity for 2009. We all could use a pot of Hoppin' John. Black-eye peas before getting a soak. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never had the pleasure, get thee to the store right away and introduce yourself to a bag of black-eyed peas. Old timers will tell you a pot of Hoppin' John needs the salty smoky bits of a ham hock, salt pork or strips of bacon to make it proper. But this Yankee girl says you can drop the hock and still come up with fine fixins for New Year's Day – and you'll be just as eligible for the proverbial pot o' gold waiting in the wings. Over the years, this bacon lover has done Hoppin' John...

By Kim ODonnel | December 29, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Winter Holiday Help Desk

As mentioned in this space yesterday, a re-booked flight back to Seattle kept me from hosting the final What's Cooking chat of 2008, right smack in the middle of Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Sorry! The last thing I want to do is leave y'all high and dry, so today is my way of making it up to you. Here's your chance to get your last-minute holiday feast questions answered and conundrums resolved. I'll be checking in hourly until 6 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, what's a gal to do about Christmas Eve supper at the 11th hour? Should we scrap our plans to thaw a turkey and make a pizza instead? I await your insight! And if we miss each other today, I'll see you next Monday, Dec. 29 after the long holiday weekend. AMA, as are many other blogs on the site, is going dark for a few days. Happy, merry...

By Kim ODonnel | December 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Baking for the Troops

I’ve got a feel-good story for you today, something we all could use during one of the toughest holiday seasons in recent memory. Let me tell you about AMA reader Louise Skinner, an economist who lives with her husband and two teenagers in Upper Marlboro, Md. For nearly three years, Skinner, who describes her age as “old enough to be retired but too young for Social Security,” has been doing something pretty remarkable in her kitchen. Every month, with the help of her 16-year-old daughter (and her husband and son as taste testers), Skinner bakes several dozen cookies and ships them to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. And every month, Skinner sends a little bit of sugar to a place of war and sweetens someone’s day, somewhere far away, even for just a few bites. For security reasons, the cookies are shipped to known recipients, but Skinner says they are...

By Kim ODonnel | December 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Meatless Monday: Mushroom Holiday

This week’s Meatless Monday post comes from washingtonpost.com colleague Michele Hatty, an avid home cook, and much to my delight, a mushroom enthusiast. As some of you may know, I’m allergic to mushrooms and am therefore unable to test any recipes containing my beloved fungi. Below, her recent recipe find. Fellow 'shroom lovers, don't be shy: share your favorite mushroom treats in the comments area. Before I got married this past May, I rarely cooked for myself. And those times when I did cook, I typically chose vegetarian recipes. My new husband, however, grew up as a meat-and-potatoes Midwestern boy, so most nights some sort of fish, chicken or beef stars in whatever entrée I’m preparing. That’s why I was secretly a bit excited when he was out of town for a business trip last week. Although I knew I would miss him tremendously, it would afford me a...

By Kim ODonnel | December 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Deep-Fried Philosophy

When guest blogger Julia Beizer isn't frying up a storm, she's juggling many balls as food and dining producer at washingtonpost.com. Below, her deep-fried report, which, coincidentally comes just in time for Hanukah (the ultimate tribute to oil), beginning this Sunday, Dec. 21, at sundown. There's something about a deep fryer that turns grown men into boys. Just the thought of throwing food into a pot of sizzling oil takes my husband (and his crew) back to their days of skinned knees, holding a magnifying glass over defenseless insects. Julia's sweet potato fries and onion rings just out of the oil. (Julia Beizer) While visiting a few years ago, one of my husband's fraternity brothers eyed the tiny deep fryer perched over our kitchen cabinets and his face broke into a mischievous grin. "Dude, you guys have a deep fryer? No way!" Off we went to the store, picking up...

By Kim ODonnel | December 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Vacay Vittles: Tropical French Toast

I’m going to be straight with you: While the rest of the country has been enduring a December deep freeze, I’ve been enjoying tropical trade winds and 80-degree temps on Vieques, Puerto Rico, my tropical home away from home. Sorry, but somebody has to do it. Ripe papaya. (Kim O'Donnel) In addition to replenishing my vitamin D supply, I’ve been having great fun cooking in the house we’ve rented up on a hill. The kitchen is well equipped and has a sunset view at dinnertime, with an occasional rainbow emerging after a late afternoon shower. We’re here this week with two other couples, including fellow Post blogger Liz Kelly (Celebritology). Sarah (aka Mrs. Fonz) arrived with a loaf of challah bread from a Jewish bakery in New York. All three gals immediately shouted “French Toast!” and I began to think of the breakfast-y possibilities, what with papaya in the fridge,...

By Kim ODonnel | December 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Baking With Henry

While I'm on vacation, I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Elizabeth Terry, a washingtonpost.com colleague who spends much of her free time in the kitchen. My four-year-old nephew Henry likes to declare himself an “expert” on various topics (sharks, space exploration and the Red Sox are some of his passions). This year he has been interested in adding “baking” to the list, and he’s turning into a very capable sous chef. Last spring, he helped me with banana caramel cupcakes for his little brother’s first birthday (recipe can be found here ), and in August, he and my dad spent a full 30 minutes sitting on the kitchen floor, watching his “Olympic” cake bake through the oven window. (Elizabeth Terry) I’d been keeping an eye out for a yeast bread recipe I could try...

By Kim ODonnel | December 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

The Comfort of Cooking With Strangers

While I'm on vacation, I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Shannon Henry, a former Post technology writer, who has transferred her talents to the kitchen. When I move to a new town (twice now in the past three years), there is one constant: I make lasagna with new friends. (Shannon Henry) It may seem like a funny thing to do, but cooking with someone you hardly know, while you mix sauce and layer noodles, can be a profound experience. After what seemed like a lifetime in Washington (including seven years of writing for The Washington Post), my husband and I moved to Denver, where I started a cooking group. For more than two years, we were a dozen women strong, who gathered in smaller groups to make soups, sauces, breads, appetizers -- you name...

By Kim ODonnel | December 16, 2008; 8:51 AM ET | Comments (1)

Meatless Monday: 'Tis the Season Snack Treats

Oink oink. That sums up how I typically feel at this time of year, the nonstop feeding frenzy that comes with holiday fete-ing and merriment. As an omnivore, I happily wolf down old-school cocktail classics such as pigs in a blanket, rumaki and the perennial classic roast beast, but there is a price to pay for the meat-intensive feasting, including a rapid expansion of the waistline. So when company drops in over the next few weeks, I’ll be thinking of snacks and apps that decidedly take a pass on meat. Below, a handful of faves from the MA recipe vault. Dips for Chips ... and Other Dip Lifters Olive-fig tapenade: A delightful sweet-savory marriage of two unlikely partners. Popping with flavor, fiber and monosaturated fats. Kale pesto: A gorgeous emerald green sauce for either pasta or for dipping. After a quick boil, the kale purees beautifully and feels silky smooth...

By Kim ODonnel | December 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (9)

Geeking Out on Scallops

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Julia Beizer, food and dining producer at washingtonpost.com. "So you're going to try a real scallop, huh?" says fishmonger Scott Weinstein after I introduce myself at the District's BlackSalt fish market last Saturday. I had called Weinstein the day before with a simple scallop question and he unloaded a world of fish geekdom on why my grocery store scallops probably weren't cutting it. Julia's scallops, prepared three ways. (Julia Beizer) I've been geeking out about the mollusks myself lately. For the past several months, I haven't been able to resist the little guys whenever I see them in the seafood case, glistening like plump, white hockey pucks. Since my husband doesn't share my obsession, I indulge with a single woman's...

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2008; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (4)

An Advent Dinner Party

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Elizabeth Terry, a washingtonpost.com colleague who spends much of her free time in the kitchen. One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season is the annual "Advent Lessons & Carols" service at my church, St. Columba's Episcopal in Washington. Elizabeth's gingerbread. (Elizabeth Terry/washingtonpost.com) Advent, a time of preparation for and anticipation of Christmas, begins four Sundays before the holiday. The Lessons and Carols service, which is as much a concert as a worship service, features a series of Old and New Testament readings that foreshadow Christmas -- that is, the fulfillment of the ancient promise of a Messiah. In between the readings, St. C's very fine adult and children's choirs sing not Christmas carols, but hymns and anthems that...

By Kim ODonnel | December 11, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Tales From a Cookie-Baking Extravaganza

Peanut Butter Blossoms. (Nancy Kerr) It started out seven years ago as a simple day of baking. My college roommate Brigid, my sister Cathy and I decided to get together to crank out a bunch of unique Christmas cookies to present as gifts to friends and business associates. We’d congregate at B’s farm-style house with its large, open kitchen and dreamy commercial-quality Wolf stove -- capable of baking six-plus dozen cookies at one time -- and make dough after dough. At the end of the day we’d divvy up bags of cookies and split costs. At home, treats were boxed up in white baker’s boxes with raffia and personalized labels. Sweet success. As years went by, word got out about our box o’ confections. Starting Dec. 1, clients and friends started asking, “So, when are the cookie boxes coming?” Expectation levels and cookie quantities increased. Ingredients were no longer...

By Nancy Kerr | December 10, 2008; 3:00 AM ET | Comments (15)

Edible Gifts

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Shannon Henry, a former Post technology writer, who has transferred her talents into the kitchen. This year, in these times, what I want to give and get most for the holiday is, simply, food. Edible gifts in pretty packages seem just right -- cost-saving, meaningful and most of all, comforting. (Shannon Henry) My friends this holiday will find jars of an Herbes de Provence blend -- several dried spices mixed together to subtly spice chicken, soup and stews -- in their stockings and mailboxes. Some other favorites I’ve given and received include: sugared cranberries, hot chocolate mix, herb-infused oils and vinegars, granola, spiced nuts, Russian tea, and of course, cookies. As you’re thinking about making homemade gifts this year, instead...

By Kim ODonnel | December 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Meatless Monday: Super Cinchy Curried Potatoes

While in DC last week, I cooked dinner with my pal Liz Kelly, who shares my love for all things lentil-y. The gray cold weather last Tuesday had us craving something that would warm our bellies, so we decided to try out a recipe that’s been on my to-do list, from the new “660 Curries” by Raghavan Iyer. In just 45 minutes, we had dinner on the table, but we agreed that if not for our kitchen gabfest, we probably could have pulled it all together in about a half hour. (The trick is to have a pot of lentils going while you prep the taters and the aromatics.) (Kim O'Donnel) I had little idea of what Iyer meant by a red lentil sauce and how it would translate at the table, thinking maybe this would make an interesting side dish. But something magical happens when the creamy lentil...

By Kim ODonnel | December 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (17)

The Year in Wine: Highs, Lows, Bargains & Holiday Picks

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in this space, I’ve been on a mission of sleuthing out cheap wines, particularly with holiday entertaining in mind. For an extra hand, I sought the advice of Steven Kolpan, a wine professor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. Lucky for us, Kolpan shares our love for cheap wine, which is given special treatment in “WineWise,” his latest book, co-written with CIA colleagues Brian Smith and Michael Weiss. Wine expert Steven Kolpan. In addition to his cheap thrills, below, Kolpan reviews the year in wine and -- extra bonus -- serves up some tasty sipping ideas to go with some of your favorite holiday dishes. Steven, Can you share your top three picks for great value, at any price? Vintage and “Prestige” Cava from Spain -- extraordinary bubbly for under $25 (most under $20). Some to try: “Reserva...

By Kim ODonnel | December 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

Celebrating the Pomegranate

(Kim O'Donnel) November may have been National Pomegranate Month, but there’s still plenty of time to get your pom on (it’s in season til January). In fact, I think of the pomegranate -- with its glistening ruby red jewel-like seeds (also known as arils) -- as a December fruit, bringing to mind Christmas tree lights and big globe ornaments hanging from the boughs of a Douglas fir. In a word, she’s stunning. But the pomegranate isn’t just a beauty contest winner in the produce aisle; she’s also one of the most nutritious (polyphenol antioxidants galore, beating out red wine) and ancient (dating to prehistoric times -- was it a pom instead of an apple that tempted Adam and Eve?) fruits on the planet. Most first-timers are flummoxed by the seemingly off-putting rind, slicing through to the juicy aril network and navigating the fibrous membranes -- without painting you and...

By Kim ODonnel | December 4, 2008; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (13)

Chat Leftovers: Runny Fruit Pie, Inauguration Treats

Fruit pie issues - help!: Hi Kim, I found a recipe for a cranberry meringue pie (supposedly a Martha Stewart recipe) that calls for boiling the fruit and setting it with corn starch. First time I made it it was gorgeous. It took hours to set, but was a huge hit. Second time, it didn't set at all and we had lovely "soup"(we poured over vanilla ice cream and ditched the crusts) Third time, it set in the pan and was rubber and inedible. As far as I know, I followed the recipe each time. So what are the hazards of such a recipe? What kinds of things go wrong - so I know what to watch for? I've been asked to make a batch of these for a party this weekend. I'm a bit leery given my record with it, but when it works it is both delicious and...

By Kim ODonnel | December 3, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Food-Loving Gifts

With Thanksgiving leftovers still lingering in the fridge, the holiday gifting season is officially underway. And if you think I’m pulling your turkey leg, have a sip of this wake-up juice: Hanukah is less than three weeks away and Christmas is three weeks from Thursday. Hey, how did it get to be December, anyway? Setting up for a round of Foodie Fight. (Kim O'Donnel) With the economy in the garbage pail, it’s a tough year to feel merry and jolly and to dole out the dough for high-ticket items as in years past. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share gift ideas as they hit my desk, particularly if they’re fun to eat or play with (and even better if they’re easy on the wallet). If you come across something tasty, groovy and thrifty that would jingle-bell rock someone’s world this holiday season, please share your finds in the comments...

By Kim ODonnel | December 2, 2008; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (7)

A Turkey of a Thanksgiving

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Meatless Monday feature for a little ditty about a Thanksgiving feast that almost didn’t happen. That would be the feast at Casa Appetite. The day began on a bright and tranquil note, with many components of the meal already underway. The cranberry sauce, a blend of Washington state cranberries and Alaskan tundra berries, was already prepared. The turkey, a girl-hen from nearby Gig Harbor (a Puget Sound village southwest of Seattle) that dined on apples, Asian pears and grass, had been bathing in an aromatic brine for two days and would need just a few hours in the oven. Mister MA had his stuffing well under control (alas, he did not opt for a cornbread-baguette concoction) and dessert, an upside down pumpkin cake with a cranberry-pecan topping, was sitting pretty on a cake plate. In fact, preparations were going so smoothly there was time for...

By Kim ODonnel | December 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (17)

 

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