Good morning everyone. Here we are again, it's Monday and we're all starting a new week, fighting the traffic and the rain all the way to the office. I hope you have all had a relaxing weekend and have taken the time to be with family. Our blog had its most active weekend to date and I want to thank all of you for having made that possible. We broke the daily on Friday, broke that record on Saturday, and nearly matched that record on Sunday. You must have been busy preparing some of the recipes I posted because your questions were on the lite side this week. I urge you to submit any question, concern, and suggestions to nicknpdx@gmail.com. I will answer all of them by Sunday evening and post them every Monday.

We had a lot of activity regarding several recipes that I posted this week. Among them, split pea soup, lentil stew, and the sesame noodle salad. I am delighted that you found these to your liking. All are wonderful dishes, very easy to make, and are sure to please your guests and family members. I will be posting more of these types of recipes as the cold weather gradually settles in for the season. Until then, here are your questions and my answers.

Nick, can you tell me what you like most about the art of cooking and what you dislike the most? (Bette, Santa Cruz, CA.)

Bette, what I like the most about cooking is the creation of the recipes. It's a constant learning experience. Some are good and some are bad; however, I never give up if something didn't turn out as expected. I love the challenge of figuring out what went wrong and make the corrections. Then I can pass them on to you. The thing I hate most about cooking? Two simple words come to mind, CLEANING UP! I hate that part, but if I don't do it, nobody else will. So I grin and do it. Sometimes it's put off to the next day.

Nonchefnick, can you suggest what cuts of meat are best for making pot roast? I want pot roast that will retain its flavor and moisture. (Tracy in AZ.)

Tracy, I have found that what you want to remember when selecting a cut of meat for pot roast is to stay away from the high end cuts and lean cuts. What makes a pot roast meat juicy, flavorful, and tender, is a good fat content. That is why I use beef chuck roast. It's got the right amount of fat tissue. When buying it, make sure it's a good 3 or 4 inches thick. Another thing to remember is this is not fast food. Pot roast is slow cooked at lower oven temperatures. It's a form of braising, which is slow cooking meat in some liquid with the lid on. I will soon be posting a very good recipe for pot roast. It's the way I've been making it for years.

Nick, for those of us that are calorie watchers, will you please suggest some recipes and dishes that are low calorie? (Jody in OR.)

Yes, I will certainly come up with some good recipes with limited calories. I am also planning to list the calorie count per serving on certain recipes that I think would interest those who are keeping track of calorie intake. I will try to do this as time permits.

I am a beef eater and love a good steak. I am a novice when it comes to cooking. I love a nice steak that is medium rare, but nice and charred on the outside. When do I know how long to fry it to achieve this? I seem to always get it charred but then it's too done for me. Please help! (David P., Raymond, WA)

David, the secret in achieving what you are looking for in your steak is a very hot frying pan to begin with. I too, like that charred outside and rare to medium rare inside. You want to heat your pan on high heat for a couple of minutes before adding anything to it. If you add your oil before heating your pan, you'll get a lot of smoking and burning, so add your oil when the is hot enough that a drop of water will sizzle and bounce around. Then add your oil and make sure the pan is coated nicely. Drop your steak and cook on high for about 3 minutes on each side for a medium rare doneness (steak should be one inch thick). When you turn it over, salt and pepper it. If you need to, add a little more oil. I think it'll turn out nice if you do it this way.

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