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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes, #79

Updated on April 8, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

If One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

... this article will top out at over 11,000 words. My friend Bill (billybuc) writes such inspiring introductions to his Mailbag each week. I know I could never thumb-wrestle him and win in that category, so I'll cheat and toss in a few recent pics from my (finally!) springtime garden as an introduction to today's Mailbox. Spring is my favorite season. It makes me happy, my spirits are lifted, and I write with a smile on my face.

So, let's open the mailbox.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
All of the ferns are cut down to the base, removing all of the old, spent fronds. In just a week or two new fresh fronts will spring forth. (Yes that is a bridge over a dry creek).The shade garden in the front of the house is showing off its Springtime blooms. I use the cut fern fronds to line the paths. In a few weeks they will be brown and look and work just like beauty bark.Hellebores are the first flowers to bloom, sometimes popping up in the midst of the snow.  They are slug- and deer-proof.Who doesn't love daffodils? They return each Spring, and as the years pass they multiply.Pulmonaria is a shade garden loving perennial. It is often called Boy-Girl plant because one plant will have both pink and blue blossoms.anemone
All of the ferns are cut down to the base, removing all of the old, spent fronds. In just a week or two new fresh fronts will spring forth. (Yes that is a bridge over a dry creek).
All of the ferns are cut down to the base, removing all of the old, spent fronds. In just a week or two new fresh fronts will spring forth. (Yes that is a bridge over a dry creek). | Source
The shade garden in the front of the house is showing off its Springtime blooms. I use the cut fern fronds to line the paths. In a few weeks they will be brown and look and work just like beauty bark.
The shade garden in the front of the house is showing off its Springtime blooms. I use the cut fern fronds to line the paths. In a few weeks they will be brown and look and work just like beauty bark. | Source
Hellebores are the first flowers to bloom, sometimes popping up in the midst of the snow.  They are slug- and deer-proof.
Hellebores are the first flowers to bloom, sometimes popping up in the midst of the snow. They are slug- and deer-proof. | Source
Who doesn't love daffodils? They return each Spring, and as the years pass they multiply.
Who doesn't love daffodils? They return each Spring, and as the years pass they multiply. | Source
Pulmonaria is a shade garden loving perennial. It is often called Boy-Girl plant because one plant will have both pink and blue blossoms.
Pulmonaria is a shade garden loving perennial. It is often called Boy-Girl plant because one plant will have both pink and blue blossoms. | Source
anemone
anemone | Source

Why Does My Bread Dough Collapse?

The first question came to me anonymously on my article "How to Make a Perfect Loaf of Bread."

"Why does my dough deflate when it goes into the oven?"

Without knowing more (for example, what type of flour are you using, how long did you knead the dough, etc.) it is difficult to troubleshoot your problem. My guess is that the dough was allowed to proof (rise) for too long.

Has the dough risen enough? Gently poke two fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready. If the indentation fills in quickly, the dough needs to rise a little more.
Has the dough risen enough? Gently poke two fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready. If the indentation fills in quickly, the dough needs to rise a little more. | Source

Think of the raw dough as a balloon that needs to be inflated. The yeast gives off gas which inflates the dough, but it is possible to allow TOO much gas, creating an environment that stretches the gluten strands beyond what they can reasonably support. Be sure to use the two-finger method of testing your proofed dough. If the dough has been allowed to proof for too long (I understand, sometimes life happens), gently punch down the risen dough and start over, allowing it to proof a second time.

Our second question is from Shauna Bowling (Brave Warrior).

How Does Lemon Juice Work As a Substitute for Cream of Tartar?

I knew you could substitute corn syrup for cream of tartar, but had no idea lemon juice is also an option. How does the lemon juice act as a thickener?

Shauna, cream of tartar isn't really a thickener, it's a stabilizer. Cream of tartar is an acid, specifically tartaric acid, a byproduct of wine production, a residue left in the barrels. When added to egg whites, it boosts the strength of the individual air bubbles and slows down their tendency to deflate. When added to simple syrup, it prevents sugar’s natural tendency to re-bond and form crystals.

But in baking, when combined with baking soda, it creates carbon dioxide gas. It's the acid/soda experiment of our middle school days (remember the vinegar + baking soda volcano?).

How to Clean off Gummy Latex Residue

I've got a bit of a sticky question for you. Literally! I have a sapodilla tree here at my house. It has now replaced bananas as my favorite fruit. The problem is the latex gummy goo that is left behind on my knife when I cut it. I know this used to be an ingredient in chewing gum but is there a way to remove the peel without gumming up utensils?

fruit in sapodilla tree
fruit in sapodilla tree | Source

Mary, your question is one of the many reasons that I love writing this weekly column. Just when I think I've seen it all, heard it all, answered it all, someone (often you) comes up with a new challenge.

I learned that the sapodilla tree (Manikara zapota) originated in the Yucatan where it was originally favored for its sap. It's that sap (chicle) that puts the chew in chewing gum. But the Mayans used it not as gum, but to clean their teeth and to act as a filling for dental cavities.

You have found that the trees also produce an incredibly sweet, fuzzy brown (like a kiwi) fruit. Here's what I learned about the tree and its fruits:

  • A mature tree produces about 2,000 (8 bushels) of fruit.
  • They are evergreen (they don't lose their leaves).
  • Sapodillas are saltspray-, wind-, and drought-tolerant.
  • They have a lifespan of 100 years or more.
  • DON'T EAT THE SEEDS OR SKIN
  • The fruits are full of vitamins A and C, low in calories (83 per fruit), and rich in dietary fiber.
  • Sapodilla fruit is also a great source of nutrients including potassium, copper, iron, folate, and niacin.
  • They are reported to help lower blood pressure
  • The fruit must not be picked until it is very ripe (when ripe the latex level is very low)

I wonder if that last item on the list might be part of the problem? It sounds as though the amount of goo goes down when the sugars go up.

I could not locate any information on cleaning up after dissecting sapodilla fruit, but there are several articles online about coping with the latex mess from jackfruit. Could they be the same, or at least have enough similarities that the jackfruit methods might help? How to Clean Stuff suggests using coconut oil to remove the stickiness, and even applying some to the knife and cutting board as a preventative.

Sources:

If all else fails, watch this video on how to open the fruit without using a knife.

Homemade Potato Chips

You also raised an idea of potatoes. I don't buy stuff as potato chips. I hear tell that baking/frying them and other good things is quite healthy and fun. Mine are burnt or mushy. Bend my ear on this would you.

Source

Eric, you are on the right track. Store-bought potato chips (our friends across the pond call them crisps) are fried in oil and over-salted. They don't really taste like potatoes at all. Yes, we can all do better than that, and yes you can make them at home. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Use russet potatoes. Not Yukon golds, not white or red or fingerling. Russets only. (They might also be called baking potatoes or Idaho potatoes).
  2. Don't peel the potatoes.
  3. Slice them VERY thinly. Each slice must be no more than 1/8-inch in width. If you have patience and a sharp knife you can do this by hand. Cut your potato in half (so that you have a flat surface to place on the cutting board) and then start slicing. Carefully.

    Or, you can run them through a food processor with a slicing blade.

    Or, you can use a mandoline. No, not the stringed musical instrument. In this case, a mandoline is an adjustable slicer across which you horizontally slide your potatoes. They are extremely sharp and even more dangerous. I have one and it scares me half to death. I do use it on rare occasions but most of the time it hides in the back of my utensil drawer.

  4. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. and line one or more large rimmed baking sheets (I use a 15x10-inch jellyroll pan) with parchment paper.
  5. Toss the potato slices with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per large potato.
  6. Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Season as desired.

Eric, I've read that you can also prepare potato chips in the microwave. Obviously, you are limited to probably 6 to 8 chips per "batch" but they cook pretty quickly—2 1/2 to 4 minutes is the guestimate. Here's a link to the recipe.

How to Dry Meat and Veggies without a Dehydrator

Do you know anything about dehydrating veggies/meat without a dehydrator, for camping or other outdoor activities? How long does it take, best practices, is it possible to dehydrate cooked meat/veggies, etc.?

dried tomato slices
dried tomato slices | Source

Hi Rinita, and welcome back. You've been missed. Coincidently, I'm in the midst of writing an article on jerky and dehydrating meats. And I'm happy to tell you that you don't need a dehydrator to preserve your foods. Although it takes a bit longer, you can achieve almost identical results with your oven. Here's how:

  • Set your oven to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 170ºF).
  • The optimal temperature for dehydrating is 120°F-140°F for fruits and vegetables and 140°F-160°F for meats. This means that you will need to keep your oven door slightly ajar to (1) maintain a lower oven temperature and (2) allow moisture to escape.
  • Slice your food (fruit, vegetables, or meat) about 1/4-inch thick.
  • Your goal is to work with foods that are all about the same size. If there are great variations from small to large the pieces will not all dry at the same time.
  • Use a large, shallow pan. A rimmed cookie sheet or jellyroll pan works great for this!
  • Prepare your pan by lining it with parchment paper or paper towels.
  • Place a cooling rack (cake rack) on the pan to elevate your food. You want air circulation around all sides.
  • If you are drying fruit, it is best to give it a quick soak in a citric acid solution. Use 3 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice to 1 quart of water. This will keep your fruit from browning (apples, pears, and bananas always turn brown when sliced).
  • Most foods will take from 6-12 hours to fully dehydrate (depending on moisture content). When dried, remove from the oven and leave to cool and dry fully for 24 hours.

I was not able to find any information on safely dehydrating food that has been cooked.


Source

Last week I announced that we would begin a new series on the topic "Don't Throw That Away." My good Hub Pages friend Flourish Anyway is the genius behind this idea. As she explained it, we will look at

"... leftover things in the kitchen that we’d ordinarily toss out as trash. Are there alternative uses (in or out of the kitchen)? For example, one week consider used coffee grounds, another week consider leftover egg shells, etc."

I LOVE this idea. It totally fits in with my "let nothing go to waste" upbringing. We'll begin with:

Vegetable “tops"

It’s Still Alive – Did you know that some of the groceries you brought home today might still be alive? I’m not talking about a lobster, crab, or sack of clams from the fishmonger. Some of the vegetables that are lingering in your produce bin have the potential to give you more than you thought.

  • Green onions – This one is ridiculously easy. Cut off the bottom of your green onions, leaving a little of the white part intact. Place in a container of water in a sunny spot. Change the water every other day and you will be rewarded with new green sprouts that you can harvest again and again.
  • Cilantro – Take a stem or stems about 4 inches in length. Place in a glass of water with the leaves well above the waterline. Roots should begin to form in about a week. Once you have good root growth you can plant your baby cilantro into a pot.
  • Celery – The bottom of your bunch of celery was attached to a tangle of roots not long ago. Simply place it in a bowl with a tiny bit of water in the bottom. Keep the bowl in direct sunlight. In about a week you should see leaves sprouting from the base.
  • Lettuce – If you buy whole lettuce (not bagged prewashed) save the bottom (root end) and place it in a bowl of water. Change the water every few days and within 2 weeks you should see new leaves sprouting on top. You won’t be able to regrow an entire head of lettuce, but you’ll have a few more leaves to enjoy.

OK, so these aren't life-altering suggestions, but if you have little children in your house, they might enjoy seeing a new "garden" springing from things that would have otherwise been discarded.

We're Organized

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.

The alphabetical soups are listed there as well.

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 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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

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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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      The anemone truly lives up to its pseudonym of "wind flower". It isn't a ground cover. Lone blooms pop up here and there and everywhere. On closer inspection I also found that there are wild violets in our lawn as well. (Actually lawn is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. It's more weed and moss than actual blades of grass).

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, I will need to research this for you, but my instincts tell me that a dehydrator would use far less energy than using one's oven, especially if you have to prop open the door a bit to allow heat and moisture to escape. I hope to have an answer for you next week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Dianna, I'm glad to know that perhaps I'm on the right track for Mary's "sticky" problem. Thanks for stopping by.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I don't blame you for not wanting to mow. The anemone is beautiful. Is it a ground cover?

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      5 weeks ago

      Thank you, Linda, for as usual answering my question so beautifully. Let me see if I can successfully dehydrate. I'm worried about the energy consumption, though. My electricity bill shoots up drastically even with 1 hour of oven usage, so if I use it for 12 hours.....

      Do you think there might be sufficient difference in the energy consumption of an oven and a dehydrator?

      Thanks again, and I love the new leftover section.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 weeks ago

      I am going to have to try a batch of homemade potato chips after reading through your article. I recently made a sapodilla pie and I found using coconut oil on the knife to help with the residue but because I had ripened the fruit on counter the residue may have been considerably less.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks, Shauna. There are windflowers (also known as anemone) popping up in the lawn. I know we need to mow, but just don't have the heart to destroy those lovely blooms. I've added a photo to this article so that you can see what they look like.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Linda, thanks for answering my question and setting me straight about the function of cream of tartar in recipes.

      I also enjoyed your first "Don't Throw That Away" installment. I wasn't aware you can grow veggies from the bottoms. I'll keep that in mind when I start up my hugelkulture bed again.

      Love the pictures of your garden. Beautiful!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, just when I think the world has run out of questions for me, you come to the rescue. I'm on this and hope to have an answer for you next Monday.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks, Pamela. It was a fun mailbox for sure. Just wait till you see what happens next week!!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Hi Linda, I am looking forward to your new series to not waste anything. I didn't know green onion would do that, but I am going to try it. You had several interesting questions today, and I always enjoy your articles.

      Have a wonderful week!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 weeks ago from Brazil

      Your plants are beautiful. I miss having seasons. I must mention, when you said, everyone loves daffodils, that's not entirely correct. My husband doesn't! Can you believe it? He says they are akin to weeds. It's okay, because I love daffodils enough for two people.

      That's good to know about the sapodilla. I also like the video, and can see myself eating them way in the garden.

      Regarding the potato chips, that is a definite one for me to try. My husband has been eating bags of chips since his surgery and I am looking for a way to save money on that.

      I didn't realize that about bread, that I could save a fallen loaf. It's good to know.

      I was making croissants over the weekend. I was having heart palpitations with the amount of butter being used.

      I also didn't realize I could use corn syrup or lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. Good to know.

      I don't know if you have an answer to this but I have a bog standard 6 burner gas stove. It uses bottled gas. The heating element (flames) are at the bottom . I have problems getting things golden. Sometimes the bottoms burn. Is there some gizmo that I could use to move the heat around in there? Or do you have any tips to improve my results?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, although the garden is calling to me, I'm sticking my fingers in my ears today so that I can't hear her. I have just about enough sense to stay out of the rain, and that's the plan for today. A clean house and pasta fagioli for dinner.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, I think you hold your own in the writing category, my friend. Besides, my thumbs are old and tired. :) Enjoy your Monday despite the rain.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I thank you for the idea. As for the bread, there is nothing better than that aroma.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 weeks ago from USA

      I’m loving the new “Don’t Throw That Away” series! Gonna grow me some celery! You’ve also put the bread baking notion in my head for tomorrow. There’s nothing like homemade bread!

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