Ask the Patch Pro: Experts Answer Your Cooking Questions

Our panel of experts are waiting in the comments to answer your culinary questions in the latest installment of Ask the Patch Pro.

It's time for another edition of Ask the Patch Pro, where each week we tackle a different topic and open up the comments section for questions. Our team of experts stop in to help you out and answer your questions.

This week we're talking all about food and cooking. Patch wants to help you get your questions answered, but we needed some help.

We've compiled a team of experts to help us out. Meet the experts:

If you have a food/cooking related question, ask below in our comment section and one of our experts will answer! 

If you consider yourself a local expert and would like to be added to the list, let us know! jordan.lanham@patch.com

Heidi L. October 18, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I have been told to let meat sit to bring it to room temperature before grilling, is this a good idea? Is it safe?
Ms.B October 18, 2012 at 02:27 PM
As a new cook I've become overwhelmed with the variety of spices that are available as I walk through the grocery store. What would you recommend would be the perfect "starter spices" that every cook should have?
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Hi Heidi, Yes, bringing meat to room temperature before grilling is safe and will yield optimal results. This process allows your meat to cook evenly. 75-80 degrees is a great starting point. This is especially true when preparing chicken and pork when meat must be cooked completely for safety. When grilling steaks depending on your desire of wellness ex., rare, medium rare the temperature of the steak can vary. The cooler the outside of meat the longer it takes to cook/brown the inside. Colder meat usually requires higher cooking temperatures so be careful not to overcook the outside which can cause dryness/ toughness. Meat that is not being prepped for use should be kept at a temperature of 41 degrees for food safety.
Chef Shelly October 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Hi Ms B! First of all, I recommend shopping for your new spices in a Natural Foods store, or a store with a bulk spice dept, like Whole Foods. A lot of people don't know this, but spices do go stale. You really shouldn't keep spices around for any longer than a year. Bulk departments are constantly restocking their spices and their selections are very fresh. I think you should go there and see which spices inspire you! Maybe you'll recognize some from recipes you've read or shows you've watched. My suggestions are to have a well rounded selection of dried green herbs. also, smoked salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, chipotle, caraway, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, tumeric, curry powder, mustard, cinnamon and allspice. have fun!
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Hi Ms. B., I totally agree. It is my sincere belief that spices can be our friend or our enemy when it comes to seasoning our foods. Too much can mask and change the taste of our food but too little to prevent us from adding a burst of flavor to our meals. I believe that every cook, novice or pro should have the essentials, salt and pepper. When it comes to flavoring for onion, garlic, basil, etc whenever I can I use fresh produce, the taste is much more flavorful. For All Purpose Seasoning I use Simplycookingwithdonna All Purpose Seasoning which is My Line of Specialty Seasoning that has No MSG, No Sugar, it is Low in Sodium and has no additives or dyes and is All Natural. Simplycookingwithdonna All Purpose Specialty Seasoning is available in Original, Spicy, and My All New Sodium Free. Try it today!!! www.simplycookingwithdonna.com
Jordan Lanham October 18, 2012 at 05:10 PM
When I make a salad, I usually have lettuce, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and maybe tuna. What are some other ways to dress up your salad so they don't get boring?
Kim C. October 18, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Jordan, Fruit is always a good way to dress up salads and make them a little different, yet not "weird". We use mandarain oranges, craisins, dried cherries, red grapes and strawberries among other things. Also fresh red bell pepper always adds great flavor and some nice color; Roasted red pepper is a nice substitue for this.
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Hi Jordan, Salads can become boring when we stick to our basic ingredients, however I have found that when you add fruit, and nuts they do come alive. Red onions, and green or red peppers also add a zesty bite to any salad. Traditional Salads usually have iceberg or romaine lettuce but when you add Spinach to your mix not only are you eating a good source of iron but it delicious and adds color. I suggest adding strawberries, grapes, pineapples, apples, raisins and even peas. They add a sweetness and are great for you. Pecans, walnuts, and almonds are also great. I found that when we add less heavy dressings we can also enjoy the natural flavor of our salads! It's sounds so good, I think I'll have one tonight. Enjoy!
Jordan Lanham October 18, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Thanks Kim and Donna!
Kim C. October 18, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Hi Ms. B, I would agree with the suggestions made and I would also add granulated garlic (not garlic salt or garlic powder!). I have nearly quit using salt altogether and use granulated garlic and/or fresh chopped garlic in almost everything. The best thing is just to experiment and see what you like. No matter what you use, add a little bit at a time so your dish isn't overpowered with seasoning.
Katy October 18, 2012 at 05:39 PM
My husband and I eat a lot of chicken for dinner. We are always looking for new ways to cook it or make it more exciting. What are some ways to make chicken taste differently so it doesn't feel like you are always eating the same thing?
Joe Varrone October 18, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I love chili, but too much and I've got a bad case of heartburn. Aside from taking preventative medicine, are there any ingredients I could get away with not putting in my chili to make it milder, while still getting a robust flavor?
Jason Bright October 18, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I'm a novice cook and whenever I try to grill burgers they end up puffing out in the middle and looking like big meatballs. Do you have any suggestions for keeping them flat and any tips for a better tasting burger?
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Hi Katy, one way to add flavor to you chicken is to season it and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1-2 hrs if time allows with my specialty seasoning Simplycookingwithdonna All Purpose Seasoning. I always use fresh green and red peppers with sweet onions on top of my chicken when baking this adds a wonderful flavor and changes ordinary baked chicken to something new. When frying my chicken I always season it with my Simplycookingwithdonna All Purpose Specialty Seasoning. It is All Natural, Low in Sodium and has no MSG, Sugar, or additives. Simplycookingwithdonna is availabe in Original, Spicy and No Sodium the flavor will make you never grow tired of eating chicken again! Try it today!!!
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Hello Joe, as a nurse I understand your concerns. I would suggest when making your chili, use ground turkey instead of beef to decrease the amount of fat in your chili which can cause heartburn. Always completely drain all the drippings from your cooked meat. Instead of using Chili Powder Mix, try using natural ingredients for flavor. Again green peppers, onions, garlic, and of course my All Purpose Specialty Seasoning. Simplycookingwithdonna, it's available in Original, and No Sodium. I also recommend not eating late and allowing your food to digest at least 1 hr before laying down. And of course.....everything in moderation! Good Luck!!!
Ashlie October 18, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Help!! Thanksgiving at my house for the first time this year. What are some pointers on making the Turkey?
Ashlie October 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Also what suggestions do have for expanding the types of food I cook. I love the recipes I've grown up with but don't want to limit myself.
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Hi Jason, grilling can be tricky! I would recommend for flavor, that you prep your burgers prior to grilling by using Simplycookingwithdonna All Purpose Specialty Seasong and blend about 1/4 teaspoon to each patty. You can also add chopped peppers onions, and mushrooms. To prevent puffing preshape your patties, and allow them to rest in the refrigerator if time allows. This can be done the day before or they can be frozen and pulled out when ready to use. Use a spatula if puffing starts and monitor the heat. If grill is too hot this will cause the meat to swell. Good Luck!
Chef Shelly October 18, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Hi Ashlie, I think its great that you want to expand from some of the traditional Thanksgiving favorites. My advice is to spend time focusing on each dish separately. You want to have a green bean casserole.. with a new twist? There are 1000s of recipes on the web. Spend 10minutes searching for new ideas and jot down a few. Do the same with corn, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes... I guarantee you can take the meal this year up a notch or two. Sweet Corn souffle, sweet potato fries with a cumin marshmallow sauce, mashed potatoes studded with chives,roasted garlic & stilton cheese... Your options are endless! Keep a list of recipe concepts that interest you and by the end of November... you'll know what to do!
Donna Vickers October 18, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Hi Ashlie Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time can be overwhelming. But I say if you make sure you check your recipes and make sure you have all your needed ingredients, and make sure you have enough time to prepare them it will be a lot easier to bare. Nothing is worse than running around the kitchen with time against you!!! Believe me I know! Make sure your turkey is safely and completely defrosted. You can defrost your turkey in the refrigerator on the lowest shelf. You can also defrost it if it's emerged in cold water with a consistent stream of water over it. You must check the wt. of your turkey to see how long it should cook. II usually allow my turkey to cook 15 mins per pound to prevent drying. Always remove the turkey parts from inside the cavity of the turkey before cooking. To prevent your turkey from becoming dry after thoroughly washing it, apply seasoning and butter on the the turkey and wrap the entire turkey in Aluminum foil. During the last 30 minutes remove foil to allow browning. This allows for a moist Turkey with beautiful browning of the skin. As it relates to breaking tradition create your own, whatever your family love make it!!! Many people Barbeque, fry chicken, cook fish etc. it's up to you!!! Reminder: Never stuff your turkey with dressing, while it sits in the cavity many times it goes sour giving it's partakers a case of upset stomach( food poisoning). I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!
Kim C. October 18, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Hi Joe, I don't know for sure, but it could be the tomatoes that are giving you the problem. I know some people who have suddenly started having problems when they eat cooked tomatoes. You might want to try cutting back out the tomatoes and adding some beef or vegetable broth in it's place. See if that helps, if not try cutting down on the cumin before you get rid of it entirely. Do you put molasses in your chili? If not, that is a good ingredient that will give it some deeper flavor as you cut out ingredients one by one to see what is giving you heartburn. If you want to go a little different, I have some great recipes for black bean chili and white bean chicken chili; you can e-mail me if interested: kim@extrathymecatering.com
Kim C. October 18, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Katy, You might want to try experimenting with different marinades, spice rubs or salsas. There are a lot of easy ways to dress up chicken- don't even get me started on making soup with it! You can buy pre-made marinades or make your own by pairing vinaigrette salad dressings with various juices (orange or cranberry are my favorite) and marinate the chicken in either a ziploc bag or a bowl in your refrigerator for at least an hour; if you marinate them for 2-3+ hours, you'll get a better flavor. Baked or grilled chicken with fresh salsas (try mango salsa!) are really great option while keeping fat and calories down. You can make soup, chili and stew with chicken in a crock pot too. Varying what you serve the chicken with is always an easy fix: different pastas, sauces, brown or wild rice mixed with grilled vegetables, etc... also, sometimes you can trick yourself into thinking you are eating something different just by slicing or dicing the chicken rather than serving the whole breast on the plate.
Kim C. October 18, 2012 at 08:06 PM
HI Ashlie, When you roast the turkey, lay down whole stalks of celery along the bottom of the pan and then lay the Turkey (breast side up) on top of the celery stalks. Also keep a little water in the bottom of the roasting pan to keep the turkey moist. This will make the pan easier to clean at the end too.
Lany October 19, 2012 at 12:23 AM
How do you stop the shell from sticking with a boiled egg?
Lany October 19, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Hi Lany, to hard cook eggs( hard boil) place the egg in cold Water, bring to boil. Turn off and cover, set pot to the side for 15-20 mins. You should have a perfectly cooked hard cooked egg. Happy Peeling!
Oneita Murphy November 02, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Hi Donna, you make the best bake chicken. What is your secret?
Annie - Florida November 28, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Some recipes call for "scalded milk" - why scalding? What is the proper procedure for scalding milk?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something