Cookbook author Sheri Castle recently joined The Washington Post Food staff to discuss all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in our Recipe Finder at

Q: I wondered if you could tweak dumplings to be more like corn bread. I’d love to do corn bread dumplings with chili—should I substitute some of the flour with cornmeal, or perhaps add some jalapeños?

A: Cornmeal dumplings are delicious. You will want to replace at least half of the flour with cornmeal. Adding an egg is optional, but will make them lighter. In my part of North Carolina, cooks like to add cornmeal dumplings to pots of greens and potlikker. They sometimes use some of the potlikker to moisten the batter instead of milk.

- Sheri Castle

Q: A couple years ago we had an incredible meal that included a braised goat shoulder. I’d love to make it, but I haven’t been able to find a goat shoulder at any local markets. Any idea where I might be able to find one?

A: Halal markets are good sources for goat. You may wish to call first and find out when they get their goats for butchering.

- Bonnie S. Benwick

Q: I’d like cocktail suggestions that could help me use up the liquors we currently have, namely Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo and Grand Marnier. I don’t mind buying mixers. We’re having a casual supper of chili, carrot apple soup and grilled cheese.

A: I’m not sure I’d put all that in a single drink, unless you feel like making a punch—which might be a good option if you’re having company. The great thing about making punch is it’s very forgiving (you can usually add more of something to balance it out if you’re not liking the results). You could also make a Margarita with the tequila and Grand Marnier (substitute the latter for the Cointreau). Whichever you pick, you’ll definitely need some fresh citrus.

- M. Carrie Allan

Q: We have a small pumpkin that I want to stuff and bake. The requirements are vegetarian, no soy and gluten-free. I was thinking of a rice and beans combination, but would appreciate any suggestions.

A: Check out Joe Yonan’s Thanksgiving recipe for Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins. You’ll have to scale down the filling for one pumpkin, or just eat the rest of the filling separately.

- Becky Krystal

Q: I have a fish recipe I love from Ina Garten: A sauce of crème fraîche and other ingredients is poured over the filet which is then baked for 10 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees. I can’t find crème fraîche now—can sour cream be substituted and is it able to withstand the high heat?

A: You can DIY it by combining heavy cream and buttermilk; look at the how-to post on Not sure what else is in with crème fraîche; the basic difference between the two is that the latter has more fat and less tang than sour cream.

Is it her Mustard-Roasted Fish, perchance, or something similar? I am betting in that instance the sour cream swap would be fine.

- B.S.B.

Enjoy food? Get dining and recipe ideas sent to your inbox

A: You could also try stirring a pinch of cornstarch into the sour cream, which often prevents it from separating when heated.

- S.C.

Q: I didn’t realize different cake flours could produce such different results. I made the same one egg, one layer spice cake I’ve been making forever using the same techniques, the same pan, and the same oven, but this time I used Bob’s Red Mill cake flour and the cake rose higher than ever. Why would this be?

A: Bob’s Red Mill says it’s unbleached, which according to the informative pieces by King Arthur Flour and Stella Parks (a.k.a. Brave Tart) at Serious Eats should in fact have led to a denser cake. But, if you’d been using a cake flour that had cornstarch in the mix, that also could have led to your previously stouter cakes since Bob’s doesn’t have it.

- B.K.

Q: I bought a bag of frozen raspberries and promptly realized I don’t know how to use them. Can I just let them come up to room temperature and eat them? Or should I be looking for baked goods and such that would be good with frozen fruit? I don’t want something like a smoothie since I want to enjoy the actual raspberries.

A: I think they would be a bit sad and mushy eaten straight up. I would use them in some chocolate-brownie type of situation. Or make a sauce that you can highlight with whatever you want, such as the one in our Double Chocolate Pancakes With Raspberry Sauce.

- B.K.