Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #59
Taking the Chill Off
As I write this there is a 19-pound turkey residing in my refrigerator. This is Day Number 4 of his respite from the frosty walls of the full-size freezer. On Tuesday evening Mr. Tom will find himself upside down in a roasting pan for a low and slow sacrifice for the Carb Diva family.
My modus operandi is that I cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving which
- Allows me a stress- and pressure-free roasting experience.
- Frees up the oven for other duties on T-Day.
- Gives me ample time to let the turkey rest so that those precious juices redistribute. (If you slice too soon you are guaranteed to have a dry turkey).
- I can totally de-fat the pan drippings for gravy.
- I have time to simmer the turkey carcass and make wonderful, flavorful, rich turkey stock which can be used in the main meal and stored in the freezer for future soups and stews.
I'll try to remember to take a few photos for you.
But in the meantime, let's take a look at what popped into the mailbox this week.
Does Anyone Else Have Problems with Glass Cook-tops?
Linda, I have a question regarding cook-tops. I know you have one, as does my mom. I have an electric stove/oven with raised burners and have no trouble keeping my cookware in place while stirring, mixing, etc.
I recently spent a few days with my folks and made them my Best Damn Philly Cheesesteak (recipe posted on Delishibly). It requires a cast iron skillet. At least that's what I use when I make them. The skillet was sliding all over the cook-top while I was breaking apart the meat. My mom had to hold it in place for me while I worked my magic. She mentioned that she has special cookware made specifically for cook-tops. Although I don't have one, I've cooked at other people's houses who do. How do you keep your cookware from sliding all over the place? Because of this nuance (annoyance) I'm not a fan of the sleek, aesthetically pleasing cook-tops.
Shauna, last week I mentioned to you that I have a glass cooktop, but it also has grates because it is gas, not electric. So, it's the best and worst of both worlds. I'm sorry that I (unintentionally) mislead you on cooking in my kitchen. From my perspective, these are the ins and outs of cooktops:
- Pros - easy to keep clean
- Cons - scratch easily (especially with cast iron); may require special cookware
Cooktop with grates
- Pros - can accommodate any type of cookware
- Cons - grates can become greasy and difficult to clean
I'm not sure why your cast iron pan posed such a problem. I wonder if perhaps it is not perfectly flat? I read through some FAQ's on websites that pertain to smooth-top cooking surfaces and this comment caught my attention:
I also have some problems with my Calphalon anodized aluminum skillets, as these don't sit flat once heated, and tend to "spin" around on the burners much too easily.
I'm sorry that I can't be of more help. My younger daughter has a glass (but not induction) cooktop. The next time I have occasion to cook in her kitchen, I will take my cast iron Dutch oven with me and see if I have the same problem that you encountered.
(By the way, I just read your recipe and am dying for one of your sandwiches).
Do You Have a Non-Alcohol Eggnog Recipe?
With the holiday season fast approaching, do you have a non-alcoholic eggnog recipe? It is one of the things I miss about the festive season in the US.
Mary, I thought this would be an easy task, but . . . not so much.
- Most homemade eggnog recipes include a bit of booze because the alcohol eliminates the worries of using raw eggs.
- Unless you have a source for pasteurized eggs, a non-alcohol nog might pose problems for you.
So I finally found a recipe that uses no alcohol and begins with raw eggs, but they are tempered with hot milk and then simmered in a saucepan. Think of it is a thin custard. Here's the link from the blog LivingOnADime.
P.S. - After writing this, I received in the mail my final issue of Cooking Light magazine. One of their featured recipes was a vegan eggnog which sounds really yummy.
- 4 cups unsweetened cashew milk
- 2/3 cup well-shaken and stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (such as Thai kitchen)
- 6 pitted Medjool dates
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- Place cashew milk, coconut milk, and dates in a blender; let stand 30 minutes.
- Add vanilla bean paste and nutmeg to blender. Process on high until smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
- Pour mixture through a fine wire mesh strainer into a pitcher; discard solids. Chill at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
How to Present a Good Food Blog
There's one question I have for you. It's not exactly food related but about writing on food. Do you have any beginner's tips on how to write a good food blog? I plan to start a very niche recipe blog that will cater to a narrow audience. Not sure if I will do it on HP or somewhere else, but if you have any tips on how to make it most appealing so readers would return for future parts of the blog, would be great if you can share. If you want to take this offline instead of including in your next hub, please let me know and I can email you. Thanks in advance.
Rinita, first may I say that I am happy but humbled that you would ask me this question. I'm not sure that what I do here on Hub Pages can qualify as a "blog." The people of HP have done much of the heavy-lifting for me. They provide the design and the platform, they have a team of editors, and they embed the advertising. But you are asking more about content than structure.
So, how does one create a page that people will want to visit and revisit again and again? What works for me might not work for you because although we both love food, our tastes and experiences are probably as different as can be.
I'll present for you my thoughts on what works for me, and what I have seen on other blogs that impresses (and inspires) me, and what I have seen that I dislike. Here goes:
How You Say It
- Give some strong thought about your unique "voice". What is your style? To come across as authentic, I believe that you should write much the same way that you speak with friends. Anything else will sound stuffy, pompous, or just simply bland.
- I am somewhat quiet. I'm not the one who stands out in a crowd. I would rather stand back and listen. But, I'm not a wallflower. I am friendly and I want everyone who enters my home to feel welcome. That's how I approach my writing.
- I write to you with the same voice that I use with my next door neighbor. However, I also have a rather dry wit. If you have read any of my food history articles, you will see a bit of biting humor, a pinch of sarcasm (my daughters call it snarky). Too much and you will come across as flippant or silly. It's a fine line. But, if this is who you are it will sound true.
- You have probably noticed that I do not include a lot of photographs in my writing. Although "one picture is worth a thousand words," ask yourself if you are a writer or a photographer.
- A few really great photos are a necessary part of any writing on the internet but don't allow photos to be a crutch, to take the place of solid descriptions. In truth, when I read other blogs I become impatient when I have to scroll through photo, after photo, after photo.
- You mentioned that your writing might be narrow in scope and/or enjoyed by a specific audience. Give some thought to your introduction, not just your author bio and introduction on the home page. Each time someone clicks on an article, it might be the first time that they have "found you." If you can, state your purpose in the first sentence (or two) of each post.
In 1995 Marjorie Druker was finally able to live a long-sought dream and opened the first "New England Soup Factory" in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was so successful that three years later she and her husband opened a second establishment in nearby Newton. Since then they have served thousands of customers and have been recognized in Restaurants & Institutions magazine, Nation's Restaurant News, Restaurant & Business magazine, and even Newsweek.
In 2007 she shared her passion, and her recipes, in the New England Soup Factory Cookbook. This recipe is an adaptation of the one presented in her book.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 rib of celery, sliced (about ¾ cup)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 1 16-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1/4 cup uncooked white rice
- 1 tablespoon basil pesto
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Heat stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, stock, tomato juice, kidney beans, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and rice. Return to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium and simmer an additional 25 minutes or until rice is completely cooked. Add the pesto, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and cook until thoroughly heated. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
An Omega-3 Diet for Vegetarians
For two decades I have had problems with sleep disorder, anxiety, and depression. I recently switched general practitioners and am now seeing a naturopath. She has suggested that it might not be a coincidence that my mental problems began at about the same time that I changed my diet to vegetarian.
I am going to (reluctantly) try fish-oil supplements, but can you suggest any menu plans that would offer me the Omega-3 rich diet I need without eating fish or taking fish oil capsules?
There is research that confirms your naturopath's theory. In March 2016 a journal article by a team of Dutch scientists was published by the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). Their clinical studies concluded that depressive symptoms were improved by those who took fish oil supplements. The positive results were comparable to those of patients who took antidepressants. And, the most significant results were recognized in those who took fish-oil supplements in concert with antidepressants, in particular, supplements that contain high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The Netherlands researchers theorized that EPA could affect serotonin levels and serotonin receptors in the brain.
So, what does this mean in simple layman terms? We know that sleep disorders and emotional health are not character flaws or a weakness. They are physical ailments which stem from a chemical imbalance. Our bodies and brains need certain specific nutrients; when those are lacking or not at optimum levels, our brains and bodies suffer.
The good news is that there are numerous vegetarian foods that supply Omega-3's. But Omega-3's are a set of several types of fatty acids. The particular fatty acid that affects brain chemistry is EPA. The bad news is that EPA is found in fish only, not plant foods. The best food source of EPA is cold water fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and tuna. So, look for fish-oil caplets that are derived from those types of fish. It's also important to check the purity rating of the caplets (wild coldwater fish live in a polluted environment).
My administrative assistant, Miss Kitty, has returned from her vacation and, as you can see, she is well rested and refreshed. She especially appreciated the question about fish-oil supplements.
If you have a question please write to me in the comments below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you have a wonderful week. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving Day, may your turkey be moist and your mashed potatoes fluffy.
© 2018 Linda Lum