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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes & Cooking, #2

Updated on October 15, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

Here's the Next Chapter

I began this (what I hope will be a) series one week ago. In case you missed it, a link to that first article is here. Please note that this isn't a tutorial; each week I will be responding to questions from readers like you, so please feel free to jump in at any time.

We'll start today with two questions from Bill Holland (billybuc):

Fair Scones

I love the Washington State Fair (always known as the Puyallup Fair)....anyway, one of the reasons I love it is because of the scones. I've never tasted scones as good as those found at the Fair. Is it possible to make scones at home which can rival those at the fair and if so, how?

Bill, I have good news for you. Yes, you can make a scone that tastes just as good as the fair scone, and it won't cost you $1.75 each! (Goodness, I can remember when they sold for 25 cents, but then, as you know, I'm as old as dirt). I have two recipes to offer:

Easy-Peasy Cheater Scones

I almost never recommend specific products, but this time I'm going to make an exception. Purchase a package of Jiffy Mix—not Bisquick, or Krusteaz, or even the "Fisher Fair Scone" mix. Only Jiffy mix will do. The back of the package has a recipe for "shortcakes." Use that. Or, you could do this.

Homemade (and Even Better) Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (not margarine)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly grease with cooking oil.
  3. Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine
  4. Melt butter (I place it in a liquid measuring cup and zap in the microwave). Set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
  5. Add milk and vanilla to melted (cooled) butter; whisk together quickly and then stir into dry ingredients.
  6. Use a rubber scraper to quickly but gently fold the ingredients together. You want all of the dry mixture to be coated but you will not have a firm ball of dough. It will be loose and "shaggy."
  7. Turn dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Knead about 4 to 6 strokes to achieve a smooth ball. Shape ball into a round disk, a bit higher in the center than on the edges. Cut into 6 wedges.
  8. Place the wedges of dough on the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

How to Cook Quail

And a second question, if I may: as you know,we raise quail. We have tried eating some of them in the past but quite frankly, we have found them to be bland at best. What are we doing wrong? They always seem dry and tasteless with a pinch of game-taste to them. Help!

Bill, I will be the first to admit that I have never cooked quail, but I'm not one to give up that easily. I looked through my cookbooks and did a Google search on the topic. Yes, they are a bit gamey and you can't cook them like chicken (They'll become tough and chewy). Here's how to get a great-tasting (not dry) quail. The amounts of brine and marinade are for 4 quail (which should be enough for 2 people).

Tame the Game With:

Brine

  • 1/4 cup of salt dissolved in
  • 4 cups of water plus
  • 4 bay leaves.

OR Marinade

  • 3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) minced garlic
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh parsley

NOTE: You are using either the brine or the marinade. Not both (take your pick). The quail should be brined or marinated for two hours.

Then Get Ready to Roast:

  1. Drain the quail and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Allow quail to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Tie the legs together. (Really, this is important. It makes them more compact and cook more evenly.)
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Brush the quail with oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Place breast side down in an oven-safe baking dish. I think cast iron would be great for this. Roast about 20 minutes.
  7. When done the meat should be firm to the touch and the juices should run clear. Don't let the presence of "pink" scare you. Because this is a dark-fleshed game bird the flesh will never turn white like chicken.
  8. Remove from the oven. Tent loosely with foil and allow to sit for 10 minutes before carving.

And here's a question from Ann:

Homemade Bread Crumbs

What I'd like to know is about making breadcrumbs. I tried to make my own fishcakes and followed a recipe religiously. My breadcrumbs ended up as a solid mass that was impossible to use to coat anything, except as a lining for the dustbin. Where did I go wrong?

Ann, since I don't know if your recipe called for fresh or dried bread crumbs, I will give you instructions for how to make both.

Fresh Bread Crumbs

It is best to use a sturdy loaf (Italian or French bread) rather than sliced sandwich bread. If preparing a small amount, you can use a hand grater (the type you would use for shredding cheese). Remove the crusts before you proceed, but watch your fingers.If more is needed, a food processor will do the job nicely.

Break the bread into small pieces. Process in small batches. (Too much processed at one time will result in the bread closest to the blade packing down and becoming a dense mass rather than fluffy crumbles).

Dry Bread Crumbs

The process for making dry crumbs is much the same as above. However, the bread will need to be dry. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F. (That's 150 degrees C. or Gas Mark 2). Bake for 15 minutes, turning over once (so about 7 1/2 minutes per side). Allow the bread to cool completely before proceeding.


My mother always made her own bread crumbs, but this was years before food processors were invented. She ground her bread by running it through the meat grinder (see illustration below).

Cooking Fresh Salmon

Last week I furnished some information on how to avoid that white seepage that comes out of fresh fish (especially salmon). I mentioned using a salt brine for about 10 minutes. My friend Eric offers this suggestion as well:

I use a lemon juice "soak" for my salmon which we eat a lot of. About 5 minutes per side and then a total rinse.

And Audrey had this question.

I love baked salmon. What's the tastiest way to season this fish? Does the skin have any nutritional value? I'm excited about this new series. Thanks.

Audrey, I typically just season my salmon with salt and pepper. If baking fillets in the oven a glaze of brown sugar and soy sauce gives it a teriyaki flavor. A brush of orange marmalade is also good. I don't eat the skin. I know it's high in Omega-3 (which is good) but depending on the source of your fresh fish (and how often you eat it) consuming the skin might not be a good idea.

And this from Kristen:

Pasta on the Bottom of the Crock Pot (Slow Cooker) Burns

I do have a quick question to ask you for next week's batch, anonymous or not. Why is it, when I cook any pasta dish in my crockpot, it's also burnt at the bottom of the food? Just wondering.

Kristin, I wish you and I could talk face-to-face so that I can get a bit more information from you. Allow me to provide a few suggestions, based on various scenarios:

  1. According to research by America's Test Kitchen, there are significant differences in the pre-set temperatures of crock-pots and some also have "hot spots" (the heat on the bottom portion of the pot is not consistent). So "high" or "low" on a recipe you are following might not be the same as the "high" or "low" that is provided by your particular crock pot.
  2. Pasta cannot stand up to the long cooking times of typical crock-pot recipes, even at the low setting. Uncooked pasta should be stirred into the final dish not more than 30 minutes before the end of cooking time.
  3. Dense casserole-like dishes are more likely to scorch because there is not enough liquid to insulate the solids from the bottom heating element, especially if your particular crock-pot tends to be on the high-side of temperatures (see Comment 1 above).

I hope that helps. If I've totally missed the boat, please write again. I truly want to help you.

And FlourishAnyway asks:

How to Make Good Gravy

When it comes to gravy, I often end up with something that resembles tasteless paste ... too thick, sticky, bland. Judging from all the packets and jars of gravy that grocers sell, I would bet I’m not alone. Help us gravy-challenged cooks!

I love gravy. You may have the turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. Just give me a pile of mashed potatoes and some good gravy and I'm a happy girl. Rather than write a thousand words to explain gravy basics, I'm going to let one picture (or, in this case, a video) do the work for me.

One thing that I feel is crucial to making good gravy is separating the fat from the drippings, and the easiest way to do that is with a fat separator. I bought this one for myself a few years ago and it's one of the best pieces of equipment in my kitchen!

That's It for Today

I already have a few questions in the queue for next week. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

© 2017 Linda Lum

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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thanks Linda! Have a Happy week. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks Kari - After reading your comment, I paid your page a visit. I hope we can learn from each other. Have a fantastic week!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      I really enjoyed this, Linda! I love to cook and while I do not have any questions at the moment, all information is good information. I love learning new tricks. :)

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, the scone dough should be shaped into a disk about an inch high in the middle, and tapering to about 1/2 inch at the edges. If you are having a problem with leavening, you might try using buttermilk or sour milk--it helps activate the baking soda part of baking powder.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      Thanks Linda for addressing my questions about salmon. I'm loving this new series. Very helpful.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 weeks ago from Brazil

      Looking forward to trying your recipe for scones, how thick do I roll it?

      My scones are always short even though my baking powder is well in date so I needed a change of recipe.

      Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen - Two years ago I "discovered" plastic liner bags made specifically for the crock pot. They are a lifesaver; a bit pricey but I think they are worth every penny. You can find them at the grocery store near the aluminum foil, saran wrap, etc. As for your pasta sauce burning and sticking, I am guessing that it is simply too thick. Tomato sauce is funny that way (it's all the sugars).

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, in the past week I've found out just how time-consuming this mailbag gig is. How have you managed to do 172 of them? Bravo to you.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, good morning to you. I am working on a solution to the problem you posed last week. Stay tuned.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Ann, I would love to give your fish cakes recipe a try.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish - Thank you for your support and encouragement. Now, I just need a fresh batch of questions.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 4 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Linda, great questions to your first mailbag. I mostly referred to the pasta sauce not the pasta itself. My small crockpot has only two main settings-low and high. I would also love to make a scone someday.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Look at you! Great second installment with some great questions and answers. Thanks for answering my questions. Well done, dear friend!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Outstanding Linda. I very much enjoyed this.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 weeks ago from SW England

      Some great advice here and thanks for answering my query. The recipe I had involved mixing them with egg white so I guess it's best just to let them stick of their own accord!

      Thank you!

      Ann

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This is going to be a wonderful series, Linda. I love food so am sure to have a few questions at some stage. Now off to check part one. Great job.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

      I already know this series of yours is going to be fabulous! I hope they all end up on delishably where they merit the recognition they deserve. My Thanksgiving has been improved with the gravy help.