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Ask Kirstin: Chile or Chili; Fresh Testing Eggs; Pantry Suggestions


Do you know the difference between chili powder and chile powder? Know how to tell if your eggs are still fresh? Want some recommendations for stocking a new pantry?

What is the difference between chili powder and chile powder? Do I need both? — T. J.

Chili powder is usually what you use when you are making a big pot of chili — it is a mix of ground chile pods and other spices like cumin, pepper, sometimes cinnamon, coriander and salt.

Chile powder is usually just one type of chile pod ground up, and usually the package will tell you what kind. It can be a bit confusing, because sometimes you will see the pure powder spelled “chili” in the U.S. (or spelled “chilli” in England). So it is always a good idea to read the ingredient label to make sure you are getting what you came for. If you have a well stocked spice cabinet you do not need both, with chile powder you could make up your own chili spice blend. There are plenty of recipes online, and you would end up being plenty proud of yourself too.


My eggs don’t have expiration dates on them, how do I know they are still tasty? — H.D.

Eggs have a built in freshness gauge: a perfectly fresh egg, when submerged in water, will lie down on its side. As it grows older it will slowly take air onboard, so an egg that stands up is telling you it’s still edible, but its time is running short. And if it floats, there is no hope — it’s time to say bye bye eggy. By the way, the “stand up egg” is the easiest one to peel, so if you plan on making 100 deviled eggs, buy your eggs a few days in advance.


I am about to move into my own place, with my own kitchen! What should I stock my completely empty cupboards with? — D.W.

Congratulations, and I hope the first thing you put in there is a bottle of champagne. It is always good to be prepared for life’s festivities and unexpected guests.

* With eggs, butter, a good parmesan cheese and a bunch of lettuce you are never more than 15 minutes away from an omelet dinner… so French!

* With boxes of pasta, broccoli, garlic and lemons, you can whip up a pasta dish in a flash.

* Tomato sauce, and a few jars of whole tomatoes are always good to have on hand, as are a few cans of beans in any color with which you can make a quick bean soup or stew in no time.

*Onions and potatoes last so long in the fridge, as does a bunch of kale.

* A good extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on salads, and a simple olive oil for cooking with.

* A nice vinegar for vinaigrettes.

* Peanut butter for a quick snack with apples.

* Honey to sweeten your life everyday, and perhaps a small bar of good chocolate.

*Quinoa and brown rice, couscous, grits or polenta.

* A few cans of tuna; a frozen turkey sausage.

* Salt and pepper belong together, cumin and vanilla, cayenne and cinnamon too.

These are just a few suggestions to get your started. The sugar you borrow from the neighbors.


Want to “Ask Kirstin” for help in the kitchen? Send your questions to And check out the “Ask Kirstin” Archive.

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