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

Updated on February 2, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring 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?

Source

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
Properties
Strength
wine vinegar
made from yeast-fermented grape juice. Winey character
6-7%
cider vinegar
has some of the characteristic aroma components of apples
5%
malt vinegar
made from unhopped beer. Has barley malt overtones
5%
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
7%
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.
6%
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
Balsamic
White Vinegar
Malt Vinegar
Red Wine
Rice Wine
Calories
5
25
6
11
5
0
Sodium
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
Sugars
0 g
4 g
0 g
4 mg
0 g
0 g
Manganese
3% of RDI (recommended dietary intake)
2% of RDI
0%
0%
1%
0%
Potassium
1% of RDI
1% of RDI
0%
0%
1%
0%
Calcium
0% of RDI
1% of RDI
0%
0%
0%
0%
Iron
0% of RDI
1% of RDI
0%
0%
1%
0%
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.

Source

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.”

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  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
Calories
120
130
140
Saturated fat
2.5 g
3.5 g
4 g
Trans fat
0 g
0 g
0
Cholesterol
3.5 mg
0 mg
0
Sodium
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.

Source

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, crisp bread (knäckebröd) has been created for hundreds of years. The website Scandinavian Cooks has all the history you could ever want on the origins of this bread, the rolling pins that were designed to make it, lots of photographs, and 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?

Source

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 lindalum52@gmail.com. I'll answer your question and protect your identity.

Have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I was hoping to hear from you, and wondered if your daughter would be home for Christmas. So happy for you!!

      May you have a blessed holiday!!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 months ago from USA

      I loved this, from your tree to your humor about pie crusts to your suggestions for stocking stuffers for cooks and that recipe for soup. Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas season. I'm not making many cookies yet, but my daughter will be home from college soon and let the baking commence.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      2 months ago from london

      Awesome! You're going to sing too. Ha ha.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, dear Manatita. I have looked at photos of the Winter Wonderland display at Hyde Park. Beautiful. When I was a small child it was traditional for families to pile into the car and drive to neighborhoods that were known to have beautiful light displays at Christmastime. I don't think families do that anymore. There may be an occasional house that is "decked out" but I'm not aware of lighting as in the 1950's.

      Yes, Christmas love abounds in the CD house. I attended an amazing pipe organ concert one week ago--audience participation. It was wonderful to be able to sing with a large group. I might just take you up on that suggestion of including more Christmas spirit in the next installment.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      2 months ago from london

      Excellent work! I feel the Spirit of Christmas and loved your tree. Gorgeous whites! I went to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park! Absolutely amazing! Some say that there is an American connection. Possibly so.

      Throw in some carols and colour in your next one. Higher blessings.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I have an entire article on thumbprint cookies (I think there are 25 different flavor/filling combinations). Sorry to hear about your wrist. My arthritis is making me grumpy.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 months ago from Central Florida

      Great questions and answers this week, Linda. I'm backing off on the cooking baking this year as well. My son wanted me to make three recipes (one from each grandmother and my tried and true thumbprint cookies from The Joy of Cooking). With only two of us in the house, that's just way too much sweet stuff to have in the house. Plus, two of the recipes call for lots of pushing and/or rolling of the dough. I hurt my wrist pretty badly last weekend, so the labor-intensive recipes will have to wait until next year. So, thumbprints it is!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, thanks so much for your kind words and friendship. I can't reveal my secret. If I did that you wouldn't need me anymore LOL.

      I love knäckebröd, but I don't think I'd want to make nachos with it. However, give me some good lox and a schmeer on top and I'll be a happy Shiksa.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I don't have a cleaver so will not be able to give you first-hand knowledge on employing one, but I'll have an answer for you next week (I think this one will be fun).

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      There you go peaking my interest again. You mentioned sauerkraut to Bill. Spill the beans on a cabbage treat! I get Libby's crispy. Other than it just being fun to make Libby's is always better than my feeble attempts at homemade. (and my son and I can read the ingredients easy) Mom being a second gen German gal made it by the gallon it seemed. Grandpa Maier had like five varieties.

      Linda I get good and paid for my ability to investigate/research matters. Food should be easy compared to drafting a complaint against the DEA.

      But it is not. Foodie stuff is just plain cantankerous to an inquiring mind. You knocked several home runs today. What is your trick to researching cooking and foods? Or is it magic you just can't reveal?

      Hmm. knäckebröd as opposed to Tortilla chips?

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for answering my questions. I'll check out that crispbread site.

      Great ideas for the stocking stuffers as well.

      Your tables and explanations about various types of vinegar was interesting, it's a great resource.

      Do you have any help about cutting up chicken with a cleaver. I seem to send chicken bits flying. I spend more time cleaning up than cooking the chicken.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Peggy, I find it horrifying that so much food is being destroyed out of caution, and people are starving. So much waste. I can understand the problem with romaine, but just before Thanksgiving thousands of pounds of turkey were discarded because salmonella had been detected. Proper food handling would take care of that problem {{sigh}}.

      Thanks for the kind words.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      What an interesting series you are doing as it relates to food and cooking. Everyone should be interested in this topic.

      All Romaine lettuce and any packages of lettuce mixes that might have had Romaine lettuce as one of the ingredients have been removed from all grocery store shelves in our area. It is a shame that it hurts all Romaine lettuce growers. It is great that the Yuma growing area is safe, but that kind of news is slow to be broadcast. Kudos to you for doing that!

      Your information about the various kinds of vinegar was most interesting. We keep a wide variety of them in our pantry.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen, I can honestly say that writing this weekly series isn't work. Hunting down the answers to your questions is a learning experience for me. Thank you to all of you who contribute.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, it is my pleasure. The lettuce industry is slowly coming back, but two weeks ago at our local grocery store that section of the produce stand was absolutely decimated--not a bag of lettuce to be found.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Bill. You've stumped me. I have never heard of "sipping vinegar" but it figures since everyone and his cousin is on a probiotics thing right now. Vinegar and sauerkraut are the in thing. I'll get back to you next week on this (it should be an interesting journey).

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, that's an excellent question, and I don't have an answer but you know that I will. Same time, same place, next week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      John, that's horrifying. I am glad they caught the person responsible; what a sick, twisted thing to do. Harming innocent people over a grudge. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      2 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag, Card Diva. So full of useful questions and great ideas for stocking stuffers too.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      At the Market this year we had a woman who sold sipping vinegar at $15 a bottle...it was delicious and she sold a ton of it. Who knew, right? I didn't think it was possible to like sipping vinegar. lol What is so different with sipping vinegar as opposed to regular vinegar?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      2 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Interesting topics today. I am concerned about the lettuce also. I like the soup recipe you posted and the vinegar explanation was helpful to me. Thanks for answering all these questions.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      2 months ago

      Wow, full bag this week, and an interesting one. The vinegar topic was especially helpful, and I've got a related question for you. I regularly use white vinegar for marinades and for soaking raw vegetables to remove pesticides. As organic versions of the vinegar are not available here, I decided to switch to homemade lemon juice for the same uses. Do you think that's appropriate? If so, could you share tips on the best way to store homemade lemon juice? How long does it last in the refridgerator? Could we freeze it?

      Thanks in advance, and the little tree looks great!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Another great question and answer article Linda. This may not be related but the Romaine lettuce controversy reminded me. Recently in Australia, all strawberries were withdrawn from store shelves as needles had been found inside strawberries in a number of punnets.

      It brought the strawberry farmers to there knees. They since caught the perpetrator who worked at a strawberry farm but had a grudge against the owner so was trying to destroy his business.

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