Q+A with Sara Moulton

— -- CoolJules1965: Sara, What is the best way to keep cilantro from the produce section fresh. It seems to go bad within a couple of days after buying it. Thanks! Julie B Rock Hill, SC

Sara_Moulton: Julie, When you get the cilantro home take it out of the plastic bag and put it stems side down into a glass or measuring cup filled with water. Put a platic bag over the leafy top of the cilantro like a tent and keep it in the fridge. Change the water every so often. It should last 5 days to a week like this. The same principle applies to basil, parsley and dill. Best, sara

GildaKB: Sara-

No matter how many recipes I try, I can't seem to make a really good marinara sauce that's not too acidic nor too thick or thin. I've just about given up trying and I can't believe that something so simple could be so difficult. Do you have a recipe that can put a smile on my family's face when I cook Italian? Thanks, Gilda B. Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Sara_Moulton: Gilda, Not being Italian I can't vouch for my suggestions but here goes - the trouble is that tomatoes, especially ripe in season ones and canned ones (which are canned at the height of their ripeness) have a high acidity. Some people add sugar - I prefer to add a fair amount of onions and cook them well to bring out their natural sugar. In terms of too thick or too thin that is just a matter of the water content. It is the same with any sauce -- if it is too thin, just simmer it gently until it has reached the right consistency, if it is to thick, just add water. I hope that is helpful. Meanwhile, check out one of Lydia Bastianich's books or Marcella Hazan. I bet they both have a fullproof marinara sauce. Best, sara

BrynMom: Sara, when can you substitute low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.) and still have the recipes work? Is there a rule of thumb?


Sara_Moulton: Helene, First of all I would recommend using only low fat dairy products, not no fat. I think no fat has no flavor and no texture. The recipes should work just fine although they might not be as rich. I routinely use low fat dairy products and have never had a problem. One thing to keep in mind is that milk, sour cream and yogurt, even when they are full fat cannot be boiled or they will curdle. They do not have a high enough butterfat content. The only two things you can boil are heavy cream and creme fraiche. If you add binder to a sauce such as a roux or a slurry, you can boil milk, yogurt or sour cream. Best, Sara

CoolJules1965: Sara, What is the shelf life for self-rising flour and or cake flour?

Julie Rock Hill, South Carolina

Sara_Moulton: Julie, Self-rising flour has baking powder and soda added which only have a shelf life of about 6 months. Cake flour, I think should last a year. All flour should be stored in a cool dry dark place. I put all my flours in plastic bags so no little critters can get in. -Sara

Catlady802: Sara,

If a recipe calls for brown sugar, how do you know which one to use or does it make any difference?

Rosemary K Trumbull, CT

Sara_Moulton: Rosemary, Brown sugar is simply a mixture of white granulated sugar and molasses. Dark brown has more molasses than white. If the recipe doesn't specify either one will do. The dark brown sugar, depending on how much is called for, will give you more of a depth of flavor and hint of molasses. -Sara

Earthhorn: Sara, I love to make desserts and often they have beaten egg whites in them. Is it true that you can't make a good meringue when it is damp outside or the humidity is up? I would like to make lemon meringue pie in the winter because I have a good tree and my family loves it but I have been concerned that it wouldn't hold up.

Melinda W. California

Sara_Moulton: Melinda, I am not a baker but it is my understanding that humidy is the biggest issue when you are trying to make crisp meringues such as a vacherin. (meringue shell) Check out Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise" which is a good book on kitchen science. Or Harold Magee's book on kitchen science and they might be able to help you. -Sara

Jacmom123: Please reply with the recipe for snack mix you had on today's show. I have watched your shows for years and really appreciate all the ideas you have given me for feeding my family. Thanks

Sara_Moulton: I am writing this from memory but I think it is correct:

5 cups air popped popcorn

3/4 cup each cashews, peanuts, almonds (you can decide it you want the roasted variety or if you want the blanched almonds)

1 cup whole wheat cereal such as wheat chex

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

I like to add some cayenned too but I left it out since this was a recipe for kids

Toss all the ingredients together, spread out on a lightly oiled sheet pan and bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp. -Sara

Judy49080: Sara, can sugar subitutes such as Splenda, be used in all recipes? Judy-Plainwell Mi

Sara_Moulton: Judy, I don't know the answer and I feel reasonable sure that each substitute will behave differently. I would recommend going to their websites. I am sure they address the issue. Best, Sara

Jebcom: Sara,

I have heard many people talk about changing out your spices often. How often should do this and which spices have the shorted shelf life.

Thank you, Barbara T. California

Sara_Moulton: Barbara, The general rule is 6 months. The trouble is that you will not know how long it sat on the grocery shelf. It is not that the spices go bad after 6 months, it is just that they lose their potency so you will need to use more. The best way to tell how fresh they are is to look at their color. Dried green herbs go from green to grey when they age. Paprika, cayenne, etc goes from red to drab brown. Take a whiff too. I think they are basically all in the 6 month shelf life range. -sara

rose_mary88: I am brand new to this, so I don't know if I'm in the right place for this question. I want to ask Sara a question about using whole wheat flour instead of white flour, both in baking pies and cakes and in coating for frying. Can it be substituted without making any type of recipe adjustments? Thank you.

Sara_Moulton: Rosemary, Whole wheat flour does not have the same gluten content as white flour which means that whole wheat flour will not hold up in many recipes, will not provide the necessary structure. Usually a baking recipe will recommend adding some white flour to whole wheat flour for that reason. I think you should check out some baking books to see if there is an exact ratio. -sara

Parentof1: Hi Sara,

We just learned that our 6-year old son is highly allergic to all forms of the following: nuts, soy, dairy, eggs, and beef. We are having a hard time coming up with lunch options he can take to school that he can eat and that also taste good and look appetizing. For those who are allergic to dairy only, the straightforward subsitute is soy milk, cheese, etc. However, the options become very limited when you are trying to feed a child who can eat no forms or derivitives of soy, dairy, eggs, nuts, and beef. Can you please help us with some options for lunches we can send to school that avoid these foods and still taste good?

Sara_Moulton: Wow, What a bummer! I think you should consult a nutritionist for the answer. I do not know enough about it. -Sara

Cbms2244: Sara, I just wanted to let you know that you are the reason that I love to cook! In December 1998, I was home from work sick. You were on GMA. You made a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake that looked delicious. I decided to make it for my family that Christmas. I was so excited that every step of the cheesecake making process looked like it was supposed to! It was the first dessert to disappear that holiday. Your recipe was one of my first to try and I have been cooking ever since. Thanks again. You have been a great teacher to me.

CoolJules1965: I agree you are a great teacher, and I love to watch your programs, and the guest chefs that you have had on them. Could you please tell me the chef's name Mama ?, who has been on your show, and has a restraunt in North Carolina. She is a tall African-American lady, and I loved to watch her cook on your show. I would like to visit her restraunt with my family. Is it in Durham, NC? Thanks! Julie SC

Sara_Moulton: Thank you for the kind words. I am not a fan of cheesecake in general but that is one killer dessert!

Sara_Moulton: It has been a pleasure chatting with you all but now I have to get back to midterm studying madness with my kids. Best, Sara

BrynMom: Thanks for stopping by, Sara! Come back again soon!


CoolJules1965: Thank you for your time and wisdom!