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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #100

Updated on September 1, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Three Things

"omne trium perfectum" (Everything that comes in threes is perfect, every set of three is complete).

The Rule of 3: It's a tenet of advertising, a comedic device, a literary tactic, a key to influential speeches, a method of statistical analysis, and a guideline for photographic composition. Have you considered how it might be applied to the food you eat? Let me introduce you to Michael Pollan.

For more than thirty years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in our minds. He is a teacher and writer. His most recent book is How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.

He is the author of seven other books including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire. All of these were New York Times Bestsellers. Pollan teaches writing in the English department at Harvard and at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he has been the John S. and James, L. Knight Professor of Journalism since 2003.

Several of his books have been adapted for television: a series based on Cooked (2015) is streaming on Netflix and both The Botany of Desire and In Defense of Food premiered on PBS. In 2010 Time Magazine named Pollan one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Why am I telling you this? Michael Pollan is a learned man; he knows how to write, he writes well, he knows food, and he is a valuable resource for a common-sense approach to eating and living. His Rule of 3 for eating is so beautiful in its simplicity:

  • Eat food
  • Not too much
  • Mostly plants

Eat food. You're probably thinking "well, what else would I eat?" Processed food isn't food, it's chemicals. Check the labels, skip the packed processed stuff. Get real and eat real.

Not too much. Three months ago I was depressed, I was tired, I was hungry all of the time, and I was indulging my every whim. I'm the master of rationalization . . . and on June 1 I weighed as much as I did 36 years ago when I was in my 42nd week of pregnancy (no, that's not a typo). So I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to make some changes in my eating and in my life. This isn't a diet, it's a life change, and I have not one moment of regret. I'm happy, I feel better, and I can wear skinny jeans that sat in my drawer for 10 years. If I can do it, you can do it.

Mostly plants. This isn't a vegetarian thing, or even a save the planet thing. Plants are your best and purest source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Start with one meal and after a week ask yourself if you feel better, lighter, freer. In the words of Eve Adamson of the Stronger Together Coop:

"Just do a little better than you did yesterday. It’s not so hard when you recognize that you don’t have to be perfect. Michael Pollan doesn’t expect you to be perfect, and he’s not judging you. He can't even see you. I promise. Just try to eat as much real food as you can, and try not to eat too much of it, and try to eat mostly plants. It’s easier than you think and the more you do it, the easier it gets."

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

How to Make a Great Sandwich

Sorry for bugging you so much. I make one mean bologna sandwich (of course my sunnyside-up sandwich is award-winning). But I want to buff up that bologna sandwich. OK, that is part of it but, I am trying to use "whiffs" of things. Is there a general rule to this as I often cook things with too much of one thing.


Eric, you're not bugging me at all. That's what I'm here for. I'll share a few thoughts with you. This will ultimately become an article on its own, so stay tuned!

  • Start with good bread. The best-tasting you can get your hands on.
  • Whatever bread you have, you can improve upon by slathering on some butter and toasting gently on a grill or dry saute pan. You just want to crisp it a bit, not make it brown like for a grilled cheese.
  • Next, lay on a creamy layer to seal the inside of the bread, to keep it from getting soggy. Good old mayo can certainly do this, as can whipped cream cheese or dare I say more (softened) butter?
  • Meats? Many thin layers are better than one thick slab.
  • If you use cheese, choose something that will harmonize with the flavor of the meat. Bold beef or spicy sausage/smoked meats can handle a bold, strongly-flavored cheese. Mild tuna or poultry needs a more gentle, subtle-flavored cheese.
  • Contrast #1. Your creamy needs an alternating crunch. Veggies. Even if they are fresh and washed, wash them again to refresh them.
  • Contrast #2. Want to add some more zip? Once again consider your protein. Beef or smoked meats might want a dash of horseradish, Dijon, spicy German brown mustard, or garlic dill pickles. Chicken and turkey make me think of mango chutney, cranberry relish, or even something innovative like fresh apple slices, grapes, raisins, or nectarines.

I hope these tips give you some good inspiration.

The next question comes from Blond Logic.

Butter Paper vs. Parchment

I thought you could shed some light on this. Today I was making bread rolls. Wholemeal/white combination. I put this on what they call here 'butter paper', not quite wax paper, more like greaseproof paper (UK term). The rolls stuck to it. I mean so much so I will have to cut the bottom crust off. Or eat paper.

I had a look on the internet, it says I don't have to grease it. What went wrong do you think? You would think at my age, I would have sorted this whole 'cooking' thing out by now. LOL

Mary, I'm sorry you had a problem with your baking. I'm sure the rolls taste wonderful. But here's the deal:

Butter paper is sometimes called sandwich paper. It doesn’t have a non-stick surface. It’s meant for packaging, wrapping moist foods and separating layers of things put in the freezer. Baking paper (aka parchment paper in the USA) is heat-resistant and non-stick. I use it just about every day.

Easy-Peasy Dessert Ideas

Hi Linda, thanks for all you do. I am changing my diet to low carb and trying to get off sugar (and doing well). I guess this is Keto. I have my sweet tooth sated by plain yogurt, berries, and a touch of unsweetened coconut milk or Truvia. I am looking for an easy dessert to share with others that don't require a lot of extra hassle and ingredients. Do you have anything in your little treasure trove?

Apple Kuchen
Apple Kuchen | Source

Lori Colbo (lambservant), good for you for making changes in your diet to reduce sugars. And, how sweet (no pun intended) of you to be willing to make dessert for your family and friends. Since it's summer, desserts can be pretty easy. I'll give you a few ideas for summertime sweet treats, and then some others that you can use any time of year:

Fresh fruit parfaits - layer fresh berries, peaches, or nectarines with whipped cream, mascarpone (with a drizzle of honey), or vanilla ice cream

Shortcakes - place those same fresh fruits (mix with a few tablespoons of sugar an allow to sit for 15 minutes to make them juicy) and then layer with whipped cream on shortbread (scones) or sliced pound cake (you can find ready-made in the freezer section at your grocer or your local bakery).

Rainbow fruit parfait - this is a recipe I created years and years ago using instant pudding mix and cream cheese and layering with fresh and/or canned fruit.

Quick and easy sour cream apple kuchen - Don't let the name of this dessert make you think that it's complicated and time-consuming. It couldn't be easier. A box of yellow cake mix and a can of apple pie filling (or fresh apples if you have them) make this an easy-to-put-together dessert. I've been using this for ages (it was originally published by Better Crocker). Click on the name to go to my recipe which also includes ideas for other cake mix flavor/fruit combinations.

For the past few weeks, we've been exploring things you simply must NOT do in the kitchen. I've warned about the hazards from washing raw chicken and putting eggshells, produce stickers, and onion skins down the drain.

This one is perhaps the most serious of all

Cooking Oil Down the Drain

If the world's sewers were undergoing an annual health exam, the lab results of the cholesterol readings would be in the danger zone. Commercial kitchens are required by law to use grease traps to deal with the disposal of cooking fats, but home kitchens have no such regulations. And that's why I'm waving a red flag.

If you discard cooking oil down your drain the least that can occur is a clogged kitchen sink. That's the best possible outcome. "What could be worse," you ask? If by chance, that fat slides past your household pipes and solidifies in your local sewage system, it can and will pick up other debris, join with other clogs from other households and create a 'fatberg' of epic proportions.

So, what is the home cook to do with that used grease and oil?

  • Strain and re-use the oil (store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator). Don't try to store it while it is still hot!
  • Solidified grease can be used in place of lard or shortening.
  • Dip pine cones in the grease or oil, roll in seeds and hang in your yard to feed the birds during the winter.
  • A small amount can be added to the compost pile.
  • When all else fails, pour the oil onto an absorbent material (flour, kitty litter, etc.), allow to solidify, and then place in the garbage. That isn't the best choice for the environment, but it beats pouring it down the drain.

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.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Let's do this again next week. 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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