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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #113

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

Welcome to My Kitchen

The holiday season is in full swing. In the United States, we've just finished up with Thanksgiving Day, followed by Black Friday when we go crazy shopping to sweep up (at bargain prices) even more things for which to be thankful.

I prefer a less intense approach. Perhaps some of my "restraint" comes from not having wee little ones in my house. My girls are adults and there are no grandbabies to over-indulge. The packages under the tree will be few, but the love in the house will be immense. I am happily looking forward to the month of December. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, or (in the words of Frank Costanza a 'Festivus for the Rest of Us') I hope the next few weeks for you can be heavy on joy and light on stress.

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.

The first question today comes from Rinita.

The Best Blondie

Hi Linda, happy Monday. Do you have a tried and tested blondie recipe? I made this: https://sugarspunrun.com/blondies-recipe/, followed it exactly, but the blondies came out harder and chewier than the blondies you get at bakeries. Thanks in advance. I want it to be something in between a cookie and a cake. Is that hard to achieve? Mine became more cookie-like. The last time I made brownies they were more cake-like. Help!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dinner at the Zoo BlondiesPear Tree Kitchen Blondies
Dinner at the Zoo Blondies
Dinner at the Zoo Blondies | Source
Pear Tree Kitchen Blondies
Pear Tree Kitchen Blondies | Source

Hi Rinita, I'm happy to help you with this one. First, for those uninitiated, a blondie is a pale, golden vanilla bar cookie. But it's not merely a brownie minus the chocolate, and it's not a chocolate chip cookie dough smooshed into a baking pan.

A real, honest-to-goodness blondie will be invitingly blonde and buttery, not hard and dense, but soft and chewy. You can add (on a whim) chocolate chunks or nuts, or white chocolate chips, or whatever your little heart pleases.

I poked around the internet for the "perfect blondie." Everyone thinks their's is the best, but there are several things you should look for (demand) in your blondie:

  • Butter. Lots of butter, but melted, not creamed into the sugar (as is standard practice for most cookie doughs).
  • Brown sugar. I prefer light brown, but you could use dark brown but recognize that it will impart a smokier rich flavor.
  • Pure vanilla extract and more than you think is reasonable.
  • Eggs. Don't be shy. They help form that tender crumb of your desires.

Not to toss anyone under the bus, but I did a comparison of the recipe you mentioned versus two others, a side-by-side view of ingredients and proportions, and here's what I found.

Ingredients
SugarSpun (Rinita's recipe from the internet)
Dinner at the Zoo recipe (my pick)
Pear Tree Kitchen
Butter, melted
1 cup, unsalted
1 1/2 cups, unsalted
1 cup salted
Brown sugar
1 1/4 cups
1 1/2 cups
2 cups
White sugar
1/2 cup
--
--
Eggs
2 large + 1 yolk
2
2 eggs
Vanilla
2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon
All-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups
2 cups
Cornstarch
2 teaspoons
--
--
Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons
Salt
1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon
--
Oven temp.
350 degrees F.
350 degrees F.
375 degrees F.
Size of pan
13x9-inch, lined with parchment paper
9- or 10-inch square
13x9-inch, lined with parchment paper
Baking time
25-30 minutes
20-25 minutes
20-25 minutes

You can obtain the recipes by clicking on the links on the photographs.

Can I Make Rich Sauces Without Butter?

"I was wondering what I should use in place of butter in recipes or do I need to forgo all rich sauces? I'm asking for my cholesterol."

Kari, it's hard to resist the luxurious mouth-feel of a sauce loaded with creamy butter, right? (Darn those French chefs!) But one minute on the lips is 10 years on the hips, and can certainly be a subtract a few years on our heart health.

What to do?

Source

Well, part of the solution is that there is not just one solution. It kinda depends on what type of sauce you are making.

  • If you are making pasta, and want a "thicker" feel to the end-result red sauce, first toss out all that you know or think you know about cooking pasta. Despite what you've read or your mom taught you, use less water. Yes, you will need to be more diligent in stirring (and stirring, and stirring) your pasta, but you will be left with pasta water that is more starchy. Cook your sauce (I'm thinking a simmer of tomatoes and herbs with or without meat), plop in the al dente pasta and allow it to finish cooking in the sauce. Then add a few spoonfuls of that starch-rich water to loosen the sauce and make it creamy.
  • Craving a creamy sauce? Here's a secret that vegans have known for years—nuts can make an amazing faux cream sauce. This cashew cream sauce takes only 5 minutes.
  • Avocado can make a thick, rich dressing for salads, as a veggie dip, or drizzle on top of a bowl of soup or chili. Use extra virgin olive oil and you have zero cholesterol. Blend together 1 1/4 cups EVO, 2 avocados, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3/4 cup water, a dash of garlic powder and salt to taste. Makes 2 cups.

Want more ideas? Follow this link to find dozens of low-cholesterol sauce and condiment recipes.

How Much is "One Clove of Garlic" and a Recipe for Sriracha

The next question is from Mary (Blond Logic).

"Ian wanted me to ask you a question about garlic. Is there a standard size with regards to recipes? We get garlic that has what I would consider a normal-sized clove and then some much smaller. He is wanting to make his own Sriracha sauce as close to the original (Thai)? as possible."

Mary, this is really two questions in one. First, is there a standard size for garlic cloves? No; next question. OK, seriously it's frustrating to read (almost every) recipe and find that they call for "one clove of garlic." Like Ian, I've found cloves that are a mere sliver and others that are the size of a walnut. That's why, when it really matters, I specify the amount (in teaspoons or tablespoons) of minced/slived/sliced garlic needed.

According to Food.com's kitchen dictionary, 1 clove of garlic should yield 1 teaspoon chopped garlic. If finely minced, it's 1/2 teaspoon.

Now, for a sriracha recipe—I included this one in my article on "Exploring Asian Condiments." It calls for 9 cloves of garlic and delivers a hefty punch.

Natural Remedies for an Upset Stomach

"My tummy has been playing up for about three days. It's not heartburn, more like something just didn't agree with me. So here's the question, what kind of foods and medicines (Natural) do you feel is useful for upset tummy?"

Manatita, I'm sorry you are feeling under the weather. There are plenty of things you can add to (and subtract from) your diet to help your stomach feel better.

  • Peppermint tea
  • Tea steeped with fresh ginger root
  • A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water
  • Fennel contains an ingredient that helps with nausea
  • Make sure you stay hydrated
  • Bananas - you might be low on potassium, and bananas are high in it AND are easy to digest
  • Bland foods--my girls' pediatrician told us to rely on the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). Bland foods, not rich or spicy
  • Broth - when my stomach is upset I like a hot broth. I know you are vegetarian, so make a hot broth with miso
  • Chamomile tea

Stay away from acidic foods, spicy, greasy, caffeine, dairy, raw veggies. You are vegetarian, but those who are not should, when dealing with a queasy tummy, should not eat meat until they are feeling better. Look for foods that are easy to digest.

Help with Gluten Free

And, finally here's a question from Ruby Jean Richert that was posted on one of Eric Dierker's articles.

"I'm sitting at my desk, eating gluten-free ham and cheese, green beans, and a half banana. Since I found out I was gluten intolerant, my diet has changed drastically. Maybe she knows a good recipe with no gluten."

Ruby, I could try to bluff my way through a section on gluten-free baking and cooking, but I don't have any first-hand experience with that type of recipe. You deserve the best, and for that, I direct you to a fellow hubber Doris James (aka Miz Bejabbers). She is a talented writer, someone who performs miracles in the kitchen to make yummy food without gluten, and she's an all-around nice person too.

Here's a link to her profile page so that you can contact her.

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.

Source

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: 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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