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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #150

Updated on August 16, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

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

There's a New Cook in the Neighborhood

I live in the Pacific Northwest (of the United States), home of many celebrities—Dave Matthews, Bill Gates, Ryan Stiles, Kyle Maclachlan, Eddie Vedder, Conan O'Brien, Bill Holland (yes, billybuc!), and author/TV personality/travel expert Rick Steves.

When Rick was 14 years old, he and his family traveled to Europe. They toured piano factories (his father owned a piano store named "Steves Sounds of Music") and visited family members in Oslo, Norway. It was there that Rick came to a realization that would influence the rest of his life:

" This planet must be home to billions of equally lovable children of God."

At 18 years of age, he returned to Europe on his own, journaled his experiences, and then went on to study European history at the University of Washington. Upon graduation, Rick began to work as a tour guide and taught not-for-credit travel classes at the UW; those course outlines became the basis for his first book "Europe Through the Back Door." The rest, as they say, is history. His one-man tour company has expanded to 100 full-time staffers. He has authored more than 50 travel books, hosts a popular travel series on PBS, and writes a weekly syndicated column.

Why am I telling you this? Because of Covid-19, travel to Europe has come to a standstill. Rick's life no longer revolves around tour schedules. He's at home and is become acquainted, or reacquainted with his town.

"For the first time in my life, I’m cooking! I’ve owned my house for 10 years, I’ve never turned on the oven. I’ve never really barbecued before but now I love it. These are new things, these are like travel. But they’re right at home.”

And he confessed that until the COVID quarantine, he'd never sliced an onion.

I'm not feeling threatened (yet). I think my Carb Diva crown is still fitting quite firmly atop my little head. But who knows what could happen if Rick's stay-cation lasts much longer?

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 is from Denise McGill.

Does Garlic Protect Us From Mosquitoes?

"I have a question for you. I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that garlic consumption helps keep away mosquitos... like vampires I guess. I know for me that I have increased the garlic in my diet these past two years after becoming a vegan and I haven't been attacked by those blood-suckers at all. My husband, however, says it's an old wives' tale and that it makes no difference. He claimes he's using lots of garlic in his diet (though not as much as me because he doesn't like my vegan food) and he is plagued all summer. Do I have a leg to stand on with this garlic nonsense? Is it just an old wives' tale after all? I'm looking forward to hearing what you come up with."

Denise, garlic could be your new chemical weapon against mosquitoes. The stinking rose (or any member of the allium family for that matter) releases sulfur compounds when crushed or sliced. Sulfur—that's what gives those onion-family members their pungent taste, causes (some of us to shed) copious tears when we cut them, and, is it a coincidence that it's also a component of gunpowder?

Mosquitoes zero in on their prey by smell. Each of us has our own scent; think of it as an olfactory fingerprint. That's why mosquitoes plague some of us more than others. It's not your blood type (as some have postulated), it's not the heat that your body emits, it's your personal body odor. Perhaps your husband is just more "savory." Garlic could help, but the jury's still out on that topic.

One thing that scientists have discovered though is that mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid. Salty foods or foods high in potassium will increase the amount of lactic acid that you off-gas. That's a bummer, especially if you are vegan, vegetarian, or just simply love produce. I won't go as far as to recommend that you remove potassium-rich foods from your diet, but if you are trying to avoid that mosquito sting you might opt for lower potassium foods such as apples, berries and cucumbers instead of potatoes, spinach, and bananas.

Fresh picked blueberries
Fresh picked blueberries | Source

Are Frozen Berries More Nutritious Than Fresh?

Now I did hear that frozen berries actually keep the nutrients longest compared to fresh"?

Well, Eric, that's a really good question. I think we've been led to believe that fresh is always best, that picked from the field is better than what's in the grocery frozen food aisle. Aah, not so fast. If you eat those berries straight from the bush you're getting some amazing flavors an nutrients for sure. But did you know that:

  • The antioxidants in blueberries come from compounds called anthocyanins. That's what gives blueberries their purple color.
  • The highest amount of those antioxidants can be found in the skin of the berries.
  • The ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen break down the cell walls making the antioxidants easier to absorb/digest.

There are actually three categories of berries to consider:

  • Fresh, just picked from the bush moments ago.
  • Fresh, harvested days ago and each day between harvest and being consumed the nutritional value declines.
  • Flash-frozen within an hour of being picked from the bush to preserve the nutrients.

Now do you see how frozen might be better?

Source:

Food Pairing

And, another question from Eric:

"Now about "pairing". Not just wine. but everything from cookies to spaghetti. To a filet mignon, and of course seafood."

What a fun question. If you want to simply discuss which foods taste good together, I would suggest that you look at the work of James Briscione, former director of Culinary Research at the New York campus of the ICE (Institute of Culinary Education). In 2018 he authored the book The Flavor Matrix, wherein he analyzed the chemical makeup of 58 food items. He isolated their aromatic compounds and, with the help of IBM's Watson computer, developed a flavor matrix for each one.

But, I'm not a scientist. When I conceptualize a dish, I think about more than just flavor. Color, texture, and even temperature are also key components to consider when planning a meal. Take for example this meal plan:

Imagine (if you can)

  • a silky smooth soup of sweet butternut squash with just a touch of heat from chili powder and cumin.
  • creamy macaroni and cheese flavored with aged Gouda and sharp Cheddar cheeses.
  • a rich rice pudding fragrant with cinnamon and vanilla bean and studded with plump rum-soaked raisins.

Each one on its own sounds great but put them together—all of them are yellow/beige, warm, and lack any texture or crunch (baby food?).

When planning a meal you need to consider contrast—what I call the “four T’s”—taste, texture, temperature, and tone.

Taste: create a balance of flavors (sour, salt, bitter, sweet, umami)

Texture: vary the textures of the foods (creamy, silky, crunchy)

Temperature: hot/steamy and crisp/cool

Tone: Monochromatic might be a great look in black and white photography, but not on the dinner plate. Aim for a variety of colors—this is where fruits and vegetables can come to the rescue (and we usually don’t eat enough of them, do we?)

And More Info on Game Meat

Last week I wrote about game meat, specifically venison in answer to a question from Eric Dierker. That prompted Denise McGill (Paintdrips) to tell me that her mother had a way of marinating venison in a mixture of Worcestershire sauce and garlic that really cut that gamy taste (and she offered to get that recipe from her mom). Well, here it is:

Marinade for Venison

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (other oils bring out the gamy flavor and you don't want that)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder or minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Marinate the venison steak at least 2 hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.

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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

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

© 2020 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Denise, I really like using liquid smoke, but a little goes a long way. We enjoy tofu so I'll definitely try that marinade. Thanks

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda,

      I totally agree. I would leave out the peppermint and maybe even the oregano. But to each his own. It's all a matter of taste. On non-game meat, I would even add about a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Gives it a nice smokey flavor even without a charcoal grill. I even use this marinade (sans the peppermint and with liquid smoke) on tofu and grilled veggies like zucchini. You can't imagine the lovely meaty flavor it gives to tofu!

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      John, I would be glad to add your question to the Q&A series. The one for tomorrow is already in the can, ready to go, but I'll have an answer for you in a week, OK?

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 months ago from Gondwana Land

      Linda, can you please educate this ignorant Aussie on what exactly is “biscuits and gravy” that I see mentioned everywhere American? “Biscuits” to us are “cookies” to you good people, and “gravy” is something your pour over meat dishes.

      Am I right to think that “biscuits” in America are the equivalent to what we call “scones?” If so, we would never consider putting “gravy” on them. With scones we usually have butter, or jam (your jelly) and cream. Though I like butter and Vegemite on mine lol.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Denise, I've been asked if the marinade could be used for non-game meat (i.e. pork or beef). I replied that my instincts told me it would be fine but if not using on game meat I would omit the peppermint. What do you think?

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      11 months ago from Fresno CA

      Thanks for the answer to the garlic/mosquito question. I really appreciate knowing that. I hope you have good feedback from anyone trying the venison marinade recipe.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, you reminded me of something my daughter's Kindergarten teacher told her students -- "Eat a rainbow."

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      11 months ago from Central Florida

      Interesting information on the travel writer who took to cooking due to COVID shutdown, Linda. It seems many people have upped their cooking game to compensate for restaurants being closed and just looking for something creative to do while stuck at home.

      As far as creating balanced meals, my mom always says to color co-oridinate your meals. What she means is to have various colors on your plate. This ensures a balance of nutrients and provides interest to the taste buds. Texture plays a big part as well, as you mentioned.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, yours is the very first comment I read today. How very sweet you are. I simply write the way I talk. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you have a wonderful day (but boy is it hot out there!)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      11 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      "I am not eating that!"...love it! Great going, Linda. Your style of writing is like a hit song...I could read your articles repeatedly. Garlic in gun powder? Well, I guess that's better than gun powder in your garlic.

      Another hit and thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      MizB, I have no idea if the marinade will work on non-game. You'll have to check with Denise McGill (Paintdrips) who got it from her mother. My instincts tell me to go with it except leave out the peppermint extract

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      11 months ago from Beautiful South

      That marinade recipe looks really good. We are always looking for new ones. Will it work for beef or pork because we don't deer hunt, and my source of venison (my cousin) no longer lives here? I can buy beefalo at the farmer's market though.

      Have you noticed (maybe not so in your area) that this years crops of corn and watermelons are lacking in both quality and quantity? It has really affected my dinner table. In fact, I haven't made my favorite watermelon sorbet at all this year. Makes me sad. Have a great rest of the week, Linda.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      11 months ago from SW England

      Thank you!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Linda I did eggs for breakfast today. Gabe likes them "omelette" style which he means a fluffed up with no ingredient save some milk. Now I am sure you have this covered in your index but please direct me.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Mary, I think I can help you with your pumpkin pie question. And, it's time to start thinking about autumn treats. Well, at least in my part of the world there is a definite change in the atmosphere. We can tell when the season is changing, and it has nothing to do with the actual date on the calendar. I'll have an answer for you soon (probably in two weeks).

      I hope you are doing well.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, at least as much. Heck, I don't want to argue with you. Let's call it a draw.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      11 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      I agree about wanting something colorful on a plate. I have prepared meals that were all one color. As I recall one was a chicken and rice dish in a cream sauce. Although tasty, it sure was lacking in the visual category. Perhaps some chopped red pepper, or even sprinkled with chopped parsley would have helped.

      I think pumpkin pie falls into the same category. It's rather bland looking. Any suggestions to make it POP on the plate? I've got the taste right, just not the wow factor for looks.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just came back to ask you if you are having as much fun as me today.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, Happy Monday to you as well. Good for you for eating those blueberries. They're a super-food. I'll never have venison again, so if you have some let me know and I'll try to enjoy it vicariously.

      COVID has really changed the dynamic. I'm thankful that my husband and I are both retired. We would have been "essentials". My daughter and her future husband are also essential, but have the types of jobs that they can work from home (two computers and separate offices). But I have several nieces and great nieces who are in the medical profession and I worry about them.

      Have a wonderful week. I'll have another topic for your entertainment tomorrow.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Happy Monday, Linda!

      This is a very good, interesting article today. I always thought fresh was the best for you, but apparently not always. I love blue berries and just ate two boxes of them last week.

      The pairing of food is a very interesting topic also. I had not heard of the four Ts before. The marinade sounds good also. We have not had any venison for a long time.

      There are so many businesse that are closed down right now and Rick is not alone. It is a difficult time for so many. I guess this virus is going to hang around until we get a vaccine. Have a good week, Linda.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I have written (but not yet published) an article on fondue. I'd be glad to move it up to the top of the list (i.e. tomorrow?).

      How can I help you with your sour cream/cucumber salad? I would be glad to cobble together a recipe for you.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Ann, I absolutely LOVE doing the research. I'm somewhat of a food/food history nerd. I will have your answer in two weeks.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mrs. Diva this has made me think too much so would you lay my weary brain to rest. I get fondue and love it. I should not eat so much bread. But I made a lousy chili on Thursday and Gabe and I looked disturbed over it for dinner.

      But I will be all darned. The Sourdough dipping was just the ticket. We dipped and laughed and threw out the chili.

      Of course the cucumber sour cream side helped. But I need help with that also.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      11 months ago from SW England

      It makes sense to my palate too. I'm looking forward to your answer on that, Linda; hope I haven't given you too much to do but you're so good at all this research, it saves me doing it!!

      Ann

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, you deserve every bit of those 15 seconds, so please enjoy every one of them. I don't know if I survived or simply didn't perish. It was close. But the tomatoes are loving it.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I think you shipped your weather up to me and Bill yesterday. We hit a high of 97 degrees yesterday. I'm melting.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good day John. I could have mentioned more names but chose the ones I thought people would most recognize. Several cast members of Gilligans Island have lived here as well as the star of the movie Amadeus (about the life of Mozart). And, of course Bing Crosby was born in my home town.

      Enough of that, we've here for food, aren't we? I wonder if it's time to talk a little about safety in the kitchen?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Ann. Yes, the French are famous for their knowledge of "what tastes best." I know that although I tend to "drink what I like" the pairing of heavy beef with hearty foods and light refreshing whites with delicate fish and poultry DOES taste good and it makes sense--at least on paper.

      I've written an article on red wines, and will soon have one completed on whites, but didn't delve into the food-pairing aspect. That's a great question and I'll work on that. Thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, he's a really neat guy (we've met), and our trips to Europe would not have been as fun without his advice. We didn't go on one of his tours but relied on his books and recommendations which are spot-on. Have a great week and stop back tomorrow for another article.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My fifteen seconds of fame just came and went. Thanks for the mention. I'll try not to grow too big a head during the day, but no promises.

      It's good to see you survived the heat. Yesterday was no fun at all.

      Happy Monday, my friend!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I feel almost guilty taking up so much of your time -- NOT. I took way too long reading this before our West Coast sun has even greeted us. What a great intro this week.

      Well I have to get to chores before the 100 degree heat today. So I will be back. I must pair some activity ;-)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      11 months ago from Gondwana Land

      Another interesting mailbox, Linda. You certainly share your location with some well-known celebrities, Linda. Thanks for introducing me to Rick Steve’s. It surprises me the number of people I have Read or heard say they had never used an oven until this Covid-19 pandemic started. I guess that is one good thing about it...But paramedics report a spate of burn injuries due to the same. That’s a worry. Maybe using and oven and common sense are related.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      11 months ago from SW England

      Great questions and answers again today.

      I guess food pairing is also a little like choosing a drink to go with the food - it depends what works well together. The French are good at that. I think because they have become so famous for their cuisine, culinary expertise and wonderful wines, that they have established a basis of knowledge on that score.

      There's an age-old argument here that you should drink the wine you prefer rather than sticking to the French premise that 'full-bodied wine goes with beef', white wine with fish, approach. The thing is, if they've tried and tested all the mixtures then it's all been done for us, hasn't it? What do you think, Linda? I'd be interested in your approach to this argument.

      Ann

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      11 months ago from USA

      Blueberries are my favorite berry and my dad recently picked a bunch. We immediately froze them for freshness and I have made several recipes of a blueberry streusel coffee cake (it’s that good!). you make me think about pie now! Have a good week. Hey, it’s awesome Rick Steves is from your area.

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