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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes #74

Updated on March 4, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

It's Almost Here!

I don't really have an introduction to today's article. We are just eighteen days until Spring and for my friends in the Midwest, Montana, and even as near as eastern Washington, it can't come soon enough. God, there just isn't room for any more snow!

Let's just hope that the saying "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb holds true" because Punxsutawney Phil can no longer be trusted.

Let's discuss happier things, like food.

Time Management in the Kitchen

I have a question about planning. Now, I don't worry about it but when I first began cooking I was so worried about everything finishing at the same time. For example, if a steak is done and the potatoes are still hard, you've got problems. I don't fret about such things now but I used to. My sister gave me a cookbook (which I still have) that told me which pans to use and the order to do things in. I guess it is the fine art of menu planning. Have you got any tips for people who may be venturing out on their own and worried about planning so everything comes together in a timely manner?


Mary, like you, this is something that I don't give much thought to anymore. Pacing the timing of the elements of my meals is a muscle-twitch reflex rather than an intellectual process. But that was not always the case. So, to answer your question I gave some serious consideration to what I would tell a novice cook.

  1. New (to you) recipes will always take longer the first time you try them. If cooking for company, stick with something you've done before and are comfortable with.
  2. Be kind to yourself. You don't have to make everything from scratch. Give yourself permission to use bottled salad dressing, a loaf of bread from the bakery, or to pour that homemade spaghetti sauce onto store-bought pasta.
  3. Count backward. Plan when you want your meal to be ready to serve, then think about the cooking/baking time for each dish, the time that will be needed to get the food(s) oven-ready, and so on.
  4. Learn how to "mise en place" and do it every time. If you are one of my regular readers, you are probably familiar with that term. If you're new, here's a French phrase you can use to impress your friends and relatives. "Mise en place" (meez ahn PLAWZ) is getting all of your ingredients lined up, measuring them out, and doing all of the slicing and dicing ahead of time.
  5. Get a good timer that you can rely on. Don't try to just keep all of the numbers in your head. Trust me, a pot will boil over or something will burn and your carefully laid plans will be dashed to pieces. I have a digital timer that is inexpensive, idiot-proof to set, and will manage the timing of up to 3 dishes at once. If you have a smart-phone, there is probably an app that will do the same thing.
  6. One-pot meals are a lifesaver. They are called "one pot" for a reason; everything cooks in the same pot (or on the same rimmed baking sheet). Less worry about all of the elements being done at the same time, less mess in your kitchen, and a finished dish with multiple layers of flavor and texture. You will WOW your family. Google "One-Pan Wonders: From Pantry to Plate in 30 Minutes or Less." That's an article I wrote last year with 17 meal suggestions. Some are beef or chicken, some are vegetarian. There should be something for everyone. If you don't like those suggestions, simply do a search on one-pot meals. You can do this!

Here's an Example of How to Plan a Dinner

Your guests will be arriving at 7 pm for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. You plan to also serve steamed green beans, a loaf of crusty Italian bread, and gelato for dessert. Sounds pretty easy, right?

How Long it Takes
When to Start
Set the table
5 minutes
Make the spaghetti sauce
10 minutes to prepare, and 1 hour to simmer
Slice the bread and place in bread basket
5 minutes
Wash and slice the green beans; steam till crisp-tender
15 minutes
Cook the spaghetti
12 minutes
Drain spaghetti, toss with sauce
3 minutes

This soup is adapted from a recipe I received from my dear friend Marge, a Minnesota native.


  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 medium onion (1 cup), diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons sherry


  1. Combine water, wild rice, and brown rice in a saucepan. Simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute onion, celery, and mushrooms in butter in a large saute pan about 3 minutes or just until vegetables soften.
  3. Stir in flour, cooking and stirring until flour is mixed in, but do not let it begin to brown. Slowly add hot chicken broth, stirring until all veg-flour mixture is well blended.
  4. Stir in drained cooked rice and chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat thoroughly. Stir in half and half. Add sherry and heat gently but do not boil.

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.

I hope that we can continue share in this food journey together. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum


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