KEEPING IT REAL
Q: What's the most valuable thing to remember when you're trying to balance work and personal relationships? -- Dariane Dunn, Gorham, ME
A: Be flexible. If you want to have dinner with your husband, you have to realize it may be at 10 at night. If you have one vacation a year, make it good. If you work hard, make time for yourself.
Q: What are the personal rewards of being a chef? -- Kathryn Crossen, Wooster, OH
A: I'm not a chef, but cooking in general calms me down and helps me focus. If you like to cook, then you don't worry about what to make for dinner.
Q: You're always so upbeat and positive. What's your source of inspiration, in addition to your husband and family? -- Celeste Miller, St. Petersburg, FL
A: There is nothing in life that isn't inspiring to me: my dog, a great meal, a beautiful view...
KEEP AT IT!
Q: How did you keep your dreams alive? Sometimes I just feel like giving up. -- Enola Jones, La Rue, OH
A: Whatever it is you want to do, take a job in that field. You will learn by experience and, slow and steady, you'll get it done!
Q: Would you have a tip or two on how to make dreams come true? -- Carmen Rios, Sacramento, CA
A: Work hard. Laugh when you feel like crying. Keep an open mind, open eyes and an open spirit.
Q: What has helped you get through the challenging times in your life? -- Sharon Meiri Fox, New York City
A: Food, hard work and family have helped me get through everything!
GOOD FOR YOU
Q: I know fish is good for me, but I just don't like it. What easy-cooking, mild-tasting fish would you suggest? -- Melissa Schwartz, Indio, CA
A: Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia tastes just like chicken parm; you flour the tilapia like you would chicken. Also, my recipe for My Oh Mahi, That's a Good Fish Taco is great -- the fish has a mild flavor, and you can shove it in a tortilla with your favorite toppings.
Q: What's your regimen for a healthy lifestyle? -- Rashmi Chugh, Lombard, IL
A: Laugh more than you cry. Work hard and play hard. Eat well and you can eat more.
Q: I'm a college student struggling with expenses. Any advice on how to eat healthfully? -- Edith Matthews, Coward, SC
A: Make big pots of soups, stews and chilis -- they stretch a buck, and you can live off them for days!
Q: My boyfriend and I love kielbasa and are looking for different dinner ideas. What's your favorite kielbasa recipe? -- Stefanie Hupp, Darlington, PA
A: Stir-fry sliced kielbasa with cabbage and onions, then pile it over pierogies and sprinkle with chives. Yum!
Q: I'm a college student. What can I make for dinner when I've got a long night of studying to do? -- Alex Davis, Clive, IA
A: If you have a panini press or sandwich maker in your dorm, make a bunch of panini. Or microwave broccoli, then top with shredded cheddar for a great baked-potato stuffing.
Q: My boyfriend likes to cook as much as I do -- so much so that supper is done every night when I get home. I barely get to cook! How do I get him out of my kitchen? –Sherry Kujawa, Wittenberg, WI
A: I guess you're gonna have to get home earlier! Truthfully, start planning meals together.
Q: I love to cook, but my girlfriend just doesn't have the "bug" for it. How can I get her interested in cooking? -- Eric Gonzalez, Colton, CA
A: You can't, really. Just cook for her -- she can do the dishes!
Q: My daughter loves to help me cook, but I want her to be safe. What are age-appropriate tasks for a 5-year-old? -- Amy Arg, Haleyville, AL
A: My mom would hold me up to stir soup and pasta sauce with a wooden spoon even before I could walk. At 5, your girl can do just about anything -- even help at the stove -- as long as you're watching and helping her take charge. She can stir, roll out dough and toss salads. She can be a real culinary wonder!
Q: Do you have any tips for someone with a tiny kitchen? -- Michelle Morrison, Middletown, OH
A: Buy a big cutting board and place it over your sink -- it'll double your counter space! Streamline your collection of pots and pans, too. All you need is a pasta pot and a big, deep nonstick skillet.
ADVICE FOR TEENS
Q: My friend and I are starting a cooking club at my high school. We feel a little geeky about it, but everyone sounds really interested! How do we not let them down? -- Maren, Age 16, Neosho, MO
A: That's not geeky at all -- you'll be the most popular kids when you get to college, and you'll always have dates! Try picking a different style each week: maybe Tex-Mex, then healthy pizza, then burgers. Check out yum-o.org for more ideas.
Q: What advice do you have for teens who like to cook or bake and want to take it to the next level? -- Lisa Wright, Dallas
A: Take it to the next level! Start working in a restaurant. If you work hard, you'll always get noticed. But don't take food too seriously. Have a sense of humor about things -- your food will taste better.
Q: I want to move to New York City one day. What advice can you give to someone who wants to live there? -- Lauren, age 16, Hanover, PA
A: Make sure you have a job here before you move. Visit often and get to know the neighborhoods first -- build up your street smarts!
Q: I'm 14 and thinking about becoming a chef when I'm older. Do you have any tips for me? -- Robert Young, New Bremen, OH
A: Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet -- the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheese makers. Ask questions, try everything and eat up!
PACKED WITH LOVE
Q: I have friends in the military in Iraq. What foods do you recommend for a care package? -- Judy Robinson, Greeley, PA
A: Send their favorites: Homemade goodies would be great, but if they love Cheetos, send Cheetos! I'd want my sister's chocolate chip cookies.