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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #62

Updated on September 20, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The trees (yes, more than one) are up, the halls are decked, and I've swept the cinders out of the fireplace so Santa's whiskers won't get sooty.

The little tabletop tree in my kitchen (yes, I even have a tree in the kitchen).
The little tabletop tree in my kitchen (yes, I even have a tree in the kitchen).

What hasn't happened in the Carb Diva home is the usual circus of cookie baking and candy making.

I have found, much to my dismay, that once you pass the half-century mark those sweet treats last a minute on the lips and years on the hips.

What about you? Are you ready for the holidays? Looking for a special recipe or need recommendations on how to plan your menu? I'm here to help.

But for now, let's start with a question I received last week about . . .

I have a time-sensitive question. Can you recommend stocking stuffers for those who cook or are just moving into their first place and need cooking items?

Mary, thanks for the easy (and timely question). Depending on your budget (and the size of the Christmas stocking) you can spend a little or a lot. Some of these items might even be available at the Dollar Store (I know that you don't have one of those in Brazil, but readers in the United States probably do).

  • Bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • Colander
  • Cotton dish towels
  • Cutting board (not wood)
  • Good-quality paring knife
  • Good-quality Chef's knife
  • Kitchen timer
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Ladle
  • Large slotted spoon
  • Large stirring spoon
  • Pot holders
  • Potato masher
  • Roll of baking parchment
  • Silicone scrapers
  • Spatulas (at least 2)
  • Tongs
  • Trivets
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Whisk
  • Wire-mesh strainer

You might also consider a cookbook which covers basic cooking instructions and recipes for everyday items. My go-to books for novice cooks are the red Betty Crocker book and the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Compare to Other Vinegars?


Eric, vinegar is an ancient ingredient. Around 4,000 B.C. the Babylonians were making vinegar from beer, raisin wine, and date wine. They flavored it with herbs and spices and used it to pickle vegetables, preserve meat, and make water potable.

Are you inquiring about vinegar because you recognize that they are not all the same? If vinegar is a prominent ingredient in a recipe, it's important to pay attention not only to the flavor of the vinegar but also the strength (amount of acidity). Here's a table that might help.

Type of Vinegar
wine vinegar
made from yeast-fermented grape juice. Winey character
cider vinegar
has some of the characteristic aroma components of apples
malt vinegar
made from unhopped beer. Has barley malt overtones
Asian vinegar
can be especially flavorful and savory because they are made from roasted grains
4% or less
white vinegar
the purest form of acetic acid. Has few or no aromatics. Most often used in the United States for the manufacture of pickles, salad dressings, and mustards
Balsamic vinegar
Aged 6 to 25 years in a succession of casks made from a variety of woods, such as chestnut, mulberry, oak, juniper, and cherry. Each producer has its own formula for the order in which the vinegar is moved to the different casks. Thus, the flavors are complex, rich, sweet, and subtly woody.
Sherry vinegar
blended with older batches and matured for years in barrels
10% or more

However, if your question is not related to the flavor of vinegar, but to the medicinal uses of apple cider vinegar (ACV), well that's a different thing altogether. Vinegar (especially ACV) is touted as having many health benefits, some proven, and others not so much. It is a powerful antioxidant and has antimicrobial properties. But it's not a magic bullet. Let's look at AVC and its relatives.

Apple Cider Vinegar
White Vinegar
Malt Vinegar
Red Wine
Rice Wine
1 mg
6 mg
0 mg
0 mg
2 mg
0 mg
Total Carbohydrates
0 g
5 g
0 g
4 mg
0 g
0 g
0 g
4 g
0 g
4 mg
0 g
0 g
3% of RDI (recommended dietary intake)
2% of RDI
1% of RDI
1% of RDI
0% of RDI
1% of RDI
0% of RDI
1% of RDI

Nutritional Information for Vinegar per Ounce (28 grams). Source: Health Wholeness

Which vinegar should you choose for health benefits? According to the website Health Wholeness:

If you are using it for its health benefits, you want to choose organic, unfiltered, unprocessed vinegar. It will look murky, but in the murk is where most of the nutrients hide! The cobweb-type substance floating around in a bottle of unfiltered vinegar is known as ‘mother’, and that’s what you should be looking for.

Note that ACV should always be diluted, never used full-strength (erosion of stomach lining, the esophagus, and tooth enamel could happen).

So, the bottom line is that if you are using vinegar as a cooking ingredient choose the one that fits the flavor profile of your dish. Keep in mind that some are more "acid-tasting" than others. If you are using vinegar for health benefits, unfiltered, organic ACV is your best choice.

Massaging vs. Kneading: What's the Difference?

Eric, we seldom think of "massage" as a culinary term, but it does have its place in the kitchen and it's different from kneading. Kneading is a rolling and thrusting movement made with the heel of one's hand to coax a loose, shaggy mound of dough into a smooth, cohesive mass. Here's a video to show you how.

We started using the term "massage" in the kitchen when someone discovered that a few minutes of tender touch would render tough raw kale leaves pliable and sweeter. Here's how to do it.

  • Remove the center rib from each kale leaf (a quick slice with the knife will do).
  • Dribble on a tiny amount of good-quality olive oil and sprinkle on some kosher salt.
  • Rub the kale between your thumb and fingers. In moments it will begin to change color and will soften.
  • Don't overdo it. You want slightly-wilted kale, not kale mush.

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.


For the letter “L” I briefly considered a soup made with lentils, but those will be appearing a few weeks from now in another Carb Diva recipe. So, to create a bit more diversity I chose instead my adaptation of a soup by our favorite French Chef Julia Child in her book “The Way to Cook.”


  • 4 cups sliced leeks—the white part and a bit of the tender green
  • 4 cups diced russet potatoes
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced chives (optional)
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)


  1. Bring the leeks, potatoes, and broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.
  2. Puree the soup with a food processor, blender, or immersion (stick) blender.
  3. Whisk in cream and stir in chives. Garnish with cheese if desired.

Is Healthy Piecrust an Oxymoron?

Is there a good yet healthy premade pie crust?

Hi Eric. Thanks for the question. The answer is "no."

Next question?

I'm kidding but there really is no "healthy" pie crust. It's flour, salt, and fat. However, some are better than others. Here's a brief comparison of the top three sellers:

Pillsbury (frozen or ready pie crust)
Mrs. Smith's
Marie Callender
Saturated fat
2.5 g
3.5 g
4 g
Trans fat
0 g
0 g
3.5 mg
0 mg
110 mg
135 mg
55 mg

The good news is that manufacturers now recognize that transfats, although luscious, are not good for us and so those are no longer found in commercially made pie crusts.

Swedish Crispbread Recipe

My husband used to live in Sweden and would love some Swedish crispbread. Have you got any secrets I can share with him about making it? When I have looked at properties in Sweden, they will often have it hanging on a horizontal pole in the kitchen.


Mary, when I first read your question I thought to myself "I've never eaten Swedish crispbread." But on second thought, yes I have, and it was one of my favorite snacks to have on hand at my desk when I was working for the Federal Government. Let's just say that the hours were long and an hour (or even 30-minute) lunch break was nearly impossible. The snack that kept me alive was Rye Krisp and (sadly) it is no longer manufactured in the United States.

I miss Rye Crisp.

In Sweden, crispbread (knäckebröd) has been created for hundreds of years. The website Edible San Francisco has a profoundly easy recipe.

The Romaine Lettuce Controversy

We just had a scare about Romaine lettuce. But FDA, using "traceback," says that ours from Yuma is just fine. How do you get that across to others?


Eric, another great question. Because some of our readers might not be familiar with the term "traceback" may I take a moment to explain? When a suspected food contamination event occurs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiates a professional investigation. They go all CSI on every aspect of the food in question, examining every step in its processing from in-field production and harvest, to warehousing, distribution, shipment to POS, inventory, and handling. A traceback investigation may be conducted for several reasons:

  • to identify the source and distribution of the implicated food and remove the contaminated product from the marketplace.
  • to distinguish between two or more implicated food products.
  • to determine potential routes and/or sources of contamination in order to prevent future illnesses.

Yuma romaine needs a press secretary. Unfortunately, the illnesses and investigation are exciting news points. The retraction of the alert is not nearly as sexy, and so doesn't get the press it deserves or needs.

A few people have read it here, and I also post on Facebook. May the truth spread.

Another Week


If you enjoy this series, please share it with your friends. If you have a question, please ask in the comments below. Or, if you're feeling a bit shy and don't want your name mentioned, write to me at I'll answer your question and protect your identity.

Have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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