Expert Answers to Your Cooking Questions

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese Ham Bake
Chef Britt Kurent uses her culinary expertise and the skills she's gained from creating and running her own boutique catering company to answer your toughest cooking questions.
Courtesy of Britt Kurent
Courtesy of Britt Kurent

Welcome Chef Britt Kurent

We recently asked our Facebook friends to post their cooking and party planning questions on our page and we solicited Chef Britt Kurent to join the Parents team and provide them with answers. We received so many queries we decided to add Britt to our panel of experts here on Britt is a trained chef and caterer with a passion for planning perfect events from soup to nuts.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Lighter Batter

Q: How do you make a good light batter for fish and seafood, such as fried clams? -Janice Houle Ziegler

A: Look for a batter recipe that calls for baking powder or baking soda, plus club soda. These ingredients together really aerate the batter for a crisp, light coating. Another light alternative is cornmeal. Although not a wet batter, cornmeal goes well with all types of seafood and creates a great crispy coating.

Chicken Safety

Q: After a frozen chicken has been defrosted in the fridge how long is it good? My husband is very picky and says it goes bad the 3rd day. I always have to cook it the same day it is defrosted or else my husband won't eat it. He claims he'll get food poisoning. Is he right or is he just being a big baby, Help! -Alica Luna

A: One thing about chicken is that when it goes bad you can tell immediately by the smell. Give it the sniff test -- if it doesn't smell fresh, then definitely throw it away. That being said, your husband is right -- 3 days is probably the longest you should wait before cooking chicken after it is fully defrosted. Of all proteins, chicken is definitely one that you don't want to risk eating if spoiled.

Leftover Purees

Q: Any ideas what I can make with the 80 jars of pureed chicken/turkey/beef in my pantry? My 1 yr. old refuses to eat purees now and I hate to waste all of it. The fruits and veggies I can incorporate into cakes or stews. I just don't know what to do with the pureed meats. -Andrea Arsaga

A: Your leftover meat-based baby food purees are also perfect to add to soups. Make a creamy chicken soup and add a few jars to thicken it up. Pureed meats can also liven up a batch of plain mashed potatoes. Add some finely diced veggies to add texture and some extra nutrition and you've got a delicious, well-balanced side.

Blaine Moats
Blaine Moats

Pumpkin Recipes

Q: I need a good variety of pumpkin recipes. Any thoughts? -Shekinah Cook

A: Pumpkin is incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Some favorites of mine are pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin waffles and pumpkin ravioli. Pumpkin puree can also be used to make an incredibly easy and delicious pasta sauce. Combine pumpkin puree, chopped walnuts, parmesan and pine nuts to make a sweet and salty sauce to toss your favorite pasta in. Adding a few crushed amaretto cookie crumbs to the finished dish takes it over the top.

Thayer Allyson Gowdy
Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Texture Troubles

Q: My almost 2 yr old seems to be texture sensitive with foods. He loves crunchy foods but hates soft/mushy foods. He'll eat things like egg rolls but won't touch any type of pasta. How can I get him past this? -Tiffany Adams

A: Kids need to try new foods up to 10 or 15 times to get used to different flavors and textures. If you keep trying and be persistent, your child will ease up to the idea and maybe eventually find an unexpected new favorite food!

Fancy Photography/Veer
Fancy Photography/Veer

Stop a Sweet Tooth

Q: My 1 year old has a sweet tooth and has basically refused all vegetables. What are some ways to hide veggies? -Ashley Utz

A: Be persistent -- while it may seem like the easiest fix, hiding veggies isn't necessarily the best route to go in the long run. I know it's hard to watch your child shun your cooking, but it's important that kids try new foods. Even if they don't necessarily like them at first, they will learn that veggies aren't a weird thing. Institute a 2-Try Rule: They need to try all new vegetables at least 2 times before they can say they don't like it. Rather than hide the veggies, keep trying different preparations and textures -- they will eventually warm up to the idea and find a couple that they like.

Frances Janisch
Frances Janisch

Egg-Free Breakfasts

Q: My 2 yr old daughter is allergic to eggs and it's so hard to think of something new for breakfast to give her that doesn't contain eggs. She has the same old cereal or oatmeal with fruit (or sometimes dinner leftovers). What other new and healthy breakfast ideas do you have for an egg allergy toddler? -Truc

A: I would suggest going into the vegan/organic section of your specialty grocery store. There are some great vegan granolas, pancake and waffle mixes available these days. You can also try making fruit smoothies and adding a little avocado to the mix. Avocados are loaded with protein, so they are a great egg substitute in your child's diet, plus the creamy texture and mild taste make them perfect for smoothies.

Rita Maas
Rita Maas

Elegant One-Pot Dinner Party

Q: I'd like to host my first dinner party, but I'm usually a one-pot meal kind of girl. Do I really need both an appetizer and a main course (I'll definitely do dessert)? Can I get away with cheese and crackers instead of a cooked appetizer? -Jade

A: One pot meals are great! Just make sure it has a little of everything -- protein, carbs, and veggies -- and you are good to go. Try a Moroccan chicken tagine, or set up a top-your-own chili bar with all the fixings. If you do decide to go the extra mile, appetizers don't have to be complicated or time consuming to be tasty. If you've got crackers, some great cheese and any type of preserves, you can throw together great tasting bites that look impressive but won't waste valuable prep time.

Marcus Nilsson
Marcus Nilsson

Fun Breakfast Food

Q: I'm hosting a party for my two year old and it's a breakfast time event. Any cute ideas for adult and kid breakfast/brunch food that's not the typical bagels and cream cheese?? -Karina Spillman

A: Make-your-own waffle or pancake bars are always a big hit with the kids (and can be fun for parents, too). If you don't have the time to make waffles from scratch, there are some great frozen waffles on the market that will do the trick. Put out bowls of delicious toppings, such as whipped cream, maple syrup, caramelized apples and bananas, and fresh berries and let guests build their own breakfast.

Crowd-Pleasing Dinner Idea

Q: We are having a dinner party for people with young children. We would like to feed the children first, and then later have a sophisticated adult dinner. Can you suggest a menu that will be simple for the children that we can jazz up for the adults? I would like to use similar ingredients and prep, if possible. -Sue

A: Macaroni and cheese is a great staple that can be jazzed up for the adults in the group. First and foremost don't use a boxed mix. It's super easy to make your own cheese sauce and it elevates the dish to dinner-party fare. Once the pasta is mixed with the cheese sauce you can separate it into two batches. Keep one as is for the kids and gussy up the remaining batch with things like chipotle peppers, truffle oil, or even lobster pieces.

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