Dec. 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM ET
Celeb chef and beloved TODAY contributor Giada De Laurentiis answered some of our readers' last-minute holiday cooking questions on our TODAY Food Facebook page this morning. Check out her answers and links to many of her favorite recipes (hopefully they will inspire you too as you prepare your holiday feast)!
Q: So, if I'm making a holiday dessert what is the average time I can make it in advance? --Ben Williams
A: Hi Ben! Most desserts you can make ahead of time, but it really depends on the dessert that you choose. My panettone trifle and cookies can be made ahead. Most cakes can also be made ahead, you just have to seal them well so they don't go stale
Q: Giada, which is better to use for thickening arrowroot or cornstarch and why? --Jean McClain
A: You can use either arrowroot or cornstarch, but I like arrowroot because it’s natural.
Q: On one of your shows, you made shrimp in egg roll wrappers. Where can I find this recipe? --Elizabeth Ciaci
A: Hi Elizabeth! Here is the recipe for shrimp siu mai
Q: Hi Giada, if I can't find mascapone cheese for the roasted beef tenderloin, is there any other cheese that I can use? Grazie!
--Nunzia Brancaccio Stark
A: You should be able to find mascarpone at most grocery stores. If not, you can try using Greek yogurt.
Q: I'm tired of the same old leg-of-lamb recipe using garlic and rosemary. While it's tasty and easy, I want something new. What would you suggest? --Patrick Rizzo
A: Try my honey balsamic lamb chops -- it's my daughter Jade's favorite
Q: My meatballs always end up falling apart in the sauce no matter if I fry or bake them! Any tips? --Silvia Romano Hoyle
A: Silvia, to prevent meatballs from falling apart, try putting another egg in the mixture, a quarter cup of breadcrumbs, and refrigerate 30 minutes before cooking. Good luck!
Q: When making a beef tenderloin, I like it cooked medium. What do you do when guests like it well done? --Letty Fregoso Peña Blanchard
A: With tenderloin, the ends usually cook more than the center, so give your guests the ends and keep the center for yourself!
Q: I got some endive bunch. I want to cook something other than salads, any recipe for me?--Manojna Pathi
A: I like to grill it or braise it or use it with dips; for example, instead of pita chips, I use endive leaves.
Q: In your pannetone french toast, can I substitute 2% milk for the whole milk? Or should I just give up and say, "It's Christmas"? --Lucinda Larson Callaway
A: I say give up and say It’s Christmas, but yes, 2% milk can be used in place of whole milk.
Q: I love to make your holiday biscotti for my family. I have done it a few times already. I was wondering if I could use olive oil instead of butter when preparing it? --Corinna Nazmi
A: I think the olive oil will be too strong a flavor and will compete with the rest of the ingredients.
Q: I need to learn how to cook salmon. My husband loves it, however I truly, from the bottom of my stomach, dislike fish but he wants to have that for dinner now and then! Help! -- Shoesana McConnell
Q: Hi Giada. We do secret Santa gift opening on the 23rd and wanted to know if you have interesting ideas for cocktail snacks. --Pashayan Mariam
A: Try one of these: I love my red pepper cheesecake, it's great because you can make it ahead of time (2 days) and it travels beautifully; and my crab bruschetta, and pea pesto crostini (I made this one for Prince William and Kate).
Q: My Italian Torrone was very "soft" and sticky? I don't know what to do to ensure this doesn't happen again. I boiled the sugar/corn syrup mixture to 260 oF like the recipe said? what went wrong?--Lynn Sorbara
A: The weather, unfortunately, has a lot to do with those types of candies. It's best to make them when it's dry out -- not when it's humid or wet, simmilar to making meringues. If it is humid, cook the sugar/cornstarch mixture to 280 instead of 260
Q: I'm making the usual seafood feast for Christmas eve, but I am bored with the usual side dishes, any suggestions? Making mussels in wine and garlic sauce, zuppa di pesce and fried shrimp and calamari. --Sabrina Caporuscio VanderKuyp