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Ask Kirstin


Welcome to our new “Ask Kirstin” column! Please come into our kitchen, stand by my side and let us find the answer to any cooking questions you have. No question is so simple that I haven’t wondered it myself. Luckily growing up I was surrounded by mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who were able to give me the answers. And now as a seasoned family chef I am bursting with lots of tips, knowledge and fun facts that I would love to share with you! So ask away, about ingredients, recipes and techniques. We are starting with a few questions friends and family have asked me…I am looking forward to answering yours!


Hi Kirstin! In your pasta recipes you often say cook the pasta in water as salty as the sea, what do you mean and why? — John P.

First of all, if your pasta already tastes good before it even has sauce on it you are already on your way to a great dish and salting the pasta water generously does just that, because you are flavoring it from the inside out!

Fill your pasta cooking pot with water. You want enough water so your noodles really can dance while boiling, this prevents your pasta from getting sticky and starchy. Cover the pot. Once the water begins to simmer add a couple of tablespoons of salt, then taste the water, it should taste like the sea on a rainy day. Pleasantly salty. When the water is at a rolling boil add the pasta and cook according to the packages directions, but start tasting it a few minutes before the time is up, just to make sure it doesn’t overcook. See that salt made a difference didn’t it?.

Green tip: If I am using blanched vegetables in the pasta dish I will throw them in the pot with the pasta to save time and energy.


In your Oven Grains Greens and Cheese Please recipe, you suggest Swiss chard and kale. Would it be O.K. if I used frozen spinach instead? — Jennifer S.

Of course! Not only would it be delicious, but it would also save you a step in the recipe since the spinach already has been steamed. Just make sure it is completely defrosted and really squeeeeeeze out any moisture in it. I would count on using about 3 10-ounce boxes. I have noticed you can get other greens like kale and collards frozen too, hurrah!


Hi! When searing meat in a pan — what is the best way to keep it from sticking to the pan. (I’m not using a non-stick pan.) Should I use butter, canola oil or olive oil. Regardless of what I use the meat usually sticks. What am I doing wrong? — Lina H.

Oh yes we are all familiar with your sticky tricky problem! First you need a kind pan. Stainless steel is not kind. My favorites are our grandmothers’ cast iron pans, they have family dinner history in them, have been treated with love, are non-stick and last forever. But there are also great pre-seasoned ones available at any cookware store.

Then read this NY Times article (“Ever So Humble, Cast Iron Outshines the Fancy Pan”) by Mark Bittman on how to treat it.

Now you will discover that patience is your best sous chef…your meat or fish must be patted dry. This a is very important step to developing a crust.
Get the pan nice and hot, (patience!) then add the oil. I suggest trying grape seed oil, as it has a higher smoking point. (You can always throw in a pat of butter or drizzle with a tasty olive oil at the very end if you are looking for that flavor).

Put your meat on the pan when the oil is hot and shimmering. And now (yet again patience) let it lie comfortably without touching it, until your meat develops a crust. When you can slide you spatula under a corner with ease, flip and do a little proud dance.


Are brown eggs healthier than white ones? — Dawn W.

Not one bit! It is the feathers of the chicken that determine the color of the eggs, brown egg = brown chicken, white egg = white chicken, (tie-dye egg = Easter bunny). Brown eggs cost more because they are more expensive to produce (apparently brown-egg variety chickens eat more), not because they are healthier. So instead of just going by color, look for free range organic eggs from humanely treated chickens. Healthier and happier.


Want to Ask Kirstin questions about preparing your own family dinners? Email your questions to


Join the Discussion

3 Responses

  1. Lora B says:

    How do you go about getting those with a limited palate to expand their taste bud horizons without pressuring them? Is it possible?!

    • Kirstin says:

      Dearest Lora!
      You are being kind to not pressure, you are right that it might not get you far.
      Why not try this sweet idea we were given by Kristen from the “Schell cafe” Each time something new is served, everyone shows kindness and respect by taking one “thank you bite”. One bite will hopefully lead to more, it is said it takes a child (or adult) a few times trying something new, before they discover (or admit) they like it.

  2. Maria says:

    Great Q& A’s! Sending mine in and looking forward to getting some answers from someone who really knows home cooking. Thanks Kirstin, you are a real gem.

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