Our Top 50 Conversation-Starting Recipes

Ever wonder if you can substitute brown sugar in your favorite brownie recipe? Whether or not skim milk will do the trick when making gravy? Never fear, that's why the activity feed is here — ask, answer and become a better cook, one question at a time.

Dutch Apple Pie

Q: What kinds of apples are best for this recipe?

A: Honeycrisp, Jonathans, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are all good options. Don't use apples like MacIntosh because they cook down and disintegrate.

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

Q: Why are there no eggs in this recipe?

A: The combination of oil and vinegar replaces the need for eggs. I can't really explain the chemistry, but it works similarly, as a binding ingredient, and the taste is as good.

Electric Roaster Turkey

Q: How do I brine an 18-pound turkey?

A: Your basic rule of thumb is equal parts sugar and salt. Use a big stock pot, add about 1/2 of cup sugar and 1/2 cup salt, dissolve in cold water, then add your turkey and cover with water for 24 hours. Be sure to refrigerate your turkey during this time.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Q: The crust and filling became stuck to the bottom of my springform pan. Any suggestions on how to fix this?

A: Try using a water bath. Wrap the pan in foil after filling, then place on a high-rimmed cookie sheet and add as much water as you can without overflowing the cookie sheet. This will help the crust stay soft and keep the cake less dense.

Perfect Rump Roast

Q: Does the rump roast get cooked fat side up or down?

A: Roast the rump fat side up. That way, the fat will render and drip down the meat as it cooks, keeping things moist and juicy.

Best Banana Bread

Q: Can you use honey instead of sugar?

A: Unfortunately, no. Honey is a liquid and will set the formula off, making the cake a different consistency. If you really want to use honey, you'll have to adjust other ingredients in the recipe.

Southern Pecan Pie

Q: When I pour the syrup mixture into the eggs, it almost immediately hardens to the point where I can't mix it. What am I doing wrong?

A: Your syrup mixture is most likely too hot. Don’t let the syrup mixture get over 160 degrees, just let it get warm enough to dissolve the sugar.

Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

Q: Do you have to use cream of tartar in this recipe?

A: You can replace the cream of tartar and baking soda with three teaspoons of baking powder. Be sure to omit BOTH the cream of tartar and baking soda when using baking powder method.

7-Day Soup Diet

Q: I don't like bell peppers, do you have any suggestions for substitutes?

A: How about some diced zucchini? If you quickly cook the zucchini, it will have a similar texture.

Banana Nut Bread

Q: If I were to make this recipe into muffins, how long should I bake them?

A: For muffins cook for 20-25 minutes, then test with a toothpick to make sure they are done!

Cloud Bread

Q: What is the reason for the artificial sweetener? Can it be left out or substituted?

A: It's not necessary. I make this all the time with no sweetener. They can be made savory with unsweetened cream cheese and a tiny dash of salt.

Award-Winning Chili

Q: Can I make this in a crockpot and if so how long will that take?

A: Yes! Cook for 6-8 hours on low or until the meat is tender.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Q: My cookies didn’t spread at all, just sat like rocks on the baking sheet. Any ideas as to why this happened or how to fix it?

A: Make sure your baking soda and baking powder are still fresh, as they may be expired!

Fresh Salsa for Canning

Q: Can I use canned tomatoes?

A: I really wouldn't. It's far better with fresh tomatoes, the flavor of vine-ripened or hothouse tomatoes it what makes this salsa.

Baked Ham

Q: Can you use a cooked spiral ham? I’m looking for a good glaze, to replace the glaze that comes with my pre-cooked ham.

A: This glaze should work with any ham. Just follow cooking directions on the package for the type and quantity of ham you are using.

Tender Turkey

Q: Do you cover the turkey at all? Do you periodically baste?

A: No to both questions. Because of the low temperature, the juices stay in the bird rather than being forced out.

World-Famous Spaghetti

Q: Would leaving the sausage in casings, cut in half, really mess up this recipe? I have some folks who don't want to eat the sausage meat but are ok with the flavor.

A: You can leave the sausage in its casing. Spices in Italian sausage will infuse with the sauce. Simmering longer, on low heat, will help bring out these flavors even more.

Broccoli & Cheese Soup

Q: Can I use pre-shredded cheese? I'm also curious about using mixed veggies instead of broccoli only, is that advisable?

A: Yes you can use pre-shredded cheese and mixed veggies. Be sure to stick with 1/2 lb of mixed vegetables or your soup might come out chunkier than the photo.

Banana Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Q: My cake is very dense at the bottom. Do you know what may have gone wrong?

A: How long and vigorously you beat your cake batter can make a big difference in the final texture. Beat it at a lower speed and stop mixing once all the ingredients are just mixed together.

Gingerbread Cookies

Q: Can I substitute the molasses with something else?

A: You can substitute an equal quantity of maple syrup or dark corn syrup in place of the molasses. The flavor will be different, but just as good!

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

Q: My fork marks never show up after baking. Does anyone know what I could be doing wrong?

A: Put your fork in the freezer for five minutes then try to make the criss-cross.

Perfect Pork Tenderloin

Q: I am making a 10-pound boneless pork loin tomorrow, and I am going to use this cooking method. Advice on if this will work?

A: This technique will work well with a pork loin. Try cutting the loin into two equal-sized pieces, and use the cooking time for the weight of one of the half loins.

5-Ingredient Corn Casserole

Q: I would like to prepare this a day ahead. Would I need to refrigerate it and then reheat or can it be left out at room temperature like cornbread?

A: If you prepare this ahead don't bake it. Keep refrigerated then bake just before serving.

Buttery Sugar Cookies

Q: Can I make these in advance, freeze them and decorate near Christmas? Do they freeze well?

A: Sure, but the texture of the cookie will be a little softer, I suggest making the dough, freezing the dough, and then baking the cookies when you're ready to decorate.

Roast Beef

Q: Do I have to use a roasting pan for this? I don't have one, is there something else I can do?

A: If you have a pyrex baking dish, that should do the trick. Otherwise, you can buy single-use aluminum roasting trays in most supermarkets.

Devil's Food Cake

Q: Does the coffee affect the taste of the cake?

A: It brings out the richness of the chocolate, but it won't make the cake taste like coffee. You can use water or milk instead if you don't want to use coffee.

Easy Sugar Cookies

Q: What does "cream butter and sugar" mean?

A: It means beating the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Using room-temperature butter is advisable.

Perfect Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

Q: What type of beef roast is recommended for this recipe?

A: Chuck roast or similar affordable cuts with some fat will be great for this recipe. They will be able to cook in a slow cooker without getting dry or tough.

The Best Brownies

Q: What can I substitute for vanilla? I don't have any.

A: You could try rum or another liquor that you enjoy the flavor of, or simply leave it out.

Easy Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry

Q: Can shrimp be added to make a surf and turf stir fry?

A: Adding shrimp sounds like a great idea. Keep in mind that shrimp cook very quickly, so you'll want to add them towards the end of the process.

Extremely Soft White Bread

Q: Can I make this without a bread machine?

A: Yes, just follow the method you'd normally use for yeast doughs, using these ingredients.

Scalloped Potatoes

Q: Can I use cornstarch instead of flour to make the roux?

A: If you have flour on hand, I suggest flour. The cornstarch would be a fine replacement, but it may clump up or cook slightly differently.

Oven Barbecue Ribs

Q: Can you make this recipe in a slow cooker?

A: You certainly could do these ribs in the slow cooker. You may want to still put them under the broiler for a few minutes to get that barbecue crust.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Q: What would be some good substitutions for the peanut butter in the recipe to avoid a peanut allergy?

A: Almond butter or sunflower seed butter are good options. You can also leave it out altogether, and you'll have chocolate oatmeal drops.

Bacardi Rum Cake

Q: The cake has trouble absorbing the glaze, so it tends to sit on top and create a crust. Any tips to fix this?

A: I use a flavor injector and poke holes in the cake to fill the cake with the glaze. That way the cake can soak in the glaze without becoming soggy.

Belgian Waffles

Q: I would like to use it as a base for making churro waffles. Has anyone tried this?

A: Add a little bit of cinnamon to the batter and increase the vanilla extract. Then, once cooked, brush the waffles with melted butter and shake cinnamon and sugar over the top.

Dutch Apple Pie

Q: What kinds of apples are best for this recipe?

A: Honeycrisp, Jonathans, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith are all good options. Don't use apples like MacIntosh because they cook down and disintegrate.

Zuppa Toscana

Q: I forgot to buy potatoes for this recipe. Is there something I can substitute or can I leave them out?

A: Sure, you can leave them out. You could always add a bit more of the other veggies to compensate.

Butter Cookies

Q: Do these cookies keep their shape when using a cookie cutter?

A: To make sure cookies keep their shape, chill the dough for several hours before rolling it out, which is best done between two sheets of parchment paper.

Traditional Cornbread Dressing

Q: Does this make enough dressing to stuff a large roasting chicken?

A: I wouldn't recommend stuffing the bird. The result is either an overcooked bird or undercooked stuffing. Instead, bake it in a separate dish and serve alongside the bird at the table.

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

Q: How much cocoa powder should you add to make these chocolate cupcakes?

A: Add as much cocoa powder as vanilla.

Bread & Butter Pickles

Q: I would like to spice the pickles up with jalapeño peppers. When should I add them?

A: Add them in at the very beginning, in rings about the thickness of the cucumbers. I add one jalapeño for each cucumber.

Healthy Cabbage Soup

Q: Would I be able to add quinoa to this? Or would it get too mushy?

A: You could add some quinoa, uncooked, to the recipe. The quinoa will cook as the soup cooks. I also like to add beans.

Classic Turkey Stuffing

Q: Do you dry the bread cubes out first?

A: If you like softer stuffing you don't need to dry out the bread cubes. If however, you want your stuffing a bit crunchier, let the bread cubes go stale first.

Quick Yeast Bread

Q: I don't have any bread pans. Any ideas on improvising a bread pan?

A: You can use a cookie sheet, and your bread will come out in an oblong shape like an artisanal loaf.

Sugar Cookie Icing

Q: Can leftover frosting be frozen for future use?

A: You can definitely freeze leftover frosting. All you have to do is put the frosting in an airtight container and pop it in the freezer. Use the frosting within two months for best results.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Q: My soup seems to be a little bit too watery, how do I thicken it up?

A: Have you mashed the potatoes a bit yet? If yes, stirring in some instant mashed potatoes would also help. If you don't have any on hand, you can make a roux and add that for added thickness.

Pickled Eggs

Q: How long do you pickle the eggs before eating?

A: It depends on the amount of pickling you desire. Ideally, let them pickle in the fridge for about a week, but they can be eaten the day they’re made too.

Honey & Garlic Chicken Thighs

Q: Has anyone tried this recipe with pork chops?

A: I would suggest using a cut of pork that has some fat marbling. The cooking time will need to be adjusted as pork tends to toughen.

Meatloaf

Q: The recipe never slices like the picture. We always end up eating yummy loose ground beef in the pan. Any tips to help it bind better?

A: The meatloaf needs resting time. I always line my meatloaf pan with either foil or parchment paper, let it sit for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Slow Cooked Ham Bone & Beans

Q: Can I use a leftover spiral cut ham in this recipe or will the cook time be too long for the meat?

A: Bones can go in at the start. Then add the ham towards the end of cook time, just enough to warm it, so it doesn't become dry or lose flavor.

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