Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #99
Think what a better world it would be if we all–the whole world–had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.— Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
Let's Get (Just a Little Bit) Excited
Today we begin with that quote because, in my little corner of the world, a new school year has begun. The excitement is almost tangible. Do you remember? You were happy and sad and excited and nervous—just a bundle of emotions up and down.
You were happy to be seeing old classmates once again and making new friends. Where would your classroom be, and what subjects would you have? Did you already know your teacher?
All of your senses were stimulated—the sight of new displays on the bulletin boards, the feel of new textbooks, the sound of excited chatter in the hallways, the smell of a new box of crayons.
Is there anything about today that is even one-tenth that exciting? No, not even close, and why is that? More often than not, being an adult just isn't fun. We plod through the days, day after predictable day, doing the same thing, seeing the same people, driving the same route to work each day, drinking from the same coffee cup, and on and on and on.
I'm determined, just for a few minutes (depending on how many words per minute you read) to put just a smidgen of "something new" in your day.
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.
Is There Meat in Mincemeat?
"I never tried my hand at a traditional English minced meat pie, so I looked up the recipe. Call me dumb, but I didn't know till now that there is actually no meat in minced meat pie! I was looking forward to adding some meat, though. Is there a recipe where that's possible? Also, how different would it taste if I used any animal fat instead of sticking to suet (it is not widely available where I live.) Thanks a bunch!"
Rinita, actually long ago mincemeat did include meat. The first recipe in print was on a scroll. In 1390 "A Forme of Cury" instructed the home cook to make "tartes of flesh" by combining ground pork, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, spices, saffron, and sugar. (Sounds dreadful, doesn't it?)
The recipe in Markham's "The English Huswife" (1615) included "...an entire leg of mutton, three pounds of suet, salt, cloves, mace, currants, raisins, prunes, dates, and orange peel."
There is no mention made in either of those recipes of alcohol, but at some point in time, these meaty treats were associated with the Christmas holiday and became slightly boozy. During Prohibition in the 1920's the amount of alcohol in canned mincemeat filling went up to more than 14 percent. Merry Christmas indeed.
Most recipes today use dried fruits only but if you want to be authentic, you'll want to include minced beef and suet along with dried fruits. Food-grade suet is difficult to find, so I looked for a recipe that doesn't rely on solid beef fat as one of the ingredients. This old-fashioned mincemeat by Lori Elliott is a perfect balance of dried fruits, apple cider vinegar, and warm ground spices. She uses butter or coconut oil in place of the suet.
"This week I bought some oat-type cookies and when we opened the pack they were soft (normally these are crisp). Is there a way to make them crispy again?"
Mary (Blond Logic) since you live in a humid climate, I'm not surprised that you have a problem with crisp things going limp. They just grab onto that damp air and soak up the moisture like a sponge. The best way I know of re-crisping is to use your oven. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, set the cookies on top of the rack, and heat for a few minutes in a 300°F oven. Storing the cookies in a sealed container with a slice of bread should also help keep them staying crisp.
Can I Make My Own Buttermilk?
"I want to make homemade buttermilk. Is that crazy?"
Eric, that's not crazy at all. If you are using it for baking, a substitute is to add 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to every 1 cup of whole milk. But you wouldn't want to drink that and I'm assuming that is what you want.
Yes, you can make your own buttermilk; it might be a little expensive, but I'm certain that the end result will taste amazing. Buttermilk is the byproduct of making butter, and here's how to do it.
- If you want a small amount (just a serving or two) pour some heavy cream into a jar with a screw-on lid. (A canning jar would be great for this). Shake like crazy. At first, it will just thicken (whipped cream?) and you'll be ready to give up. But be patient and eventually, it will "break" leaving you with solid butter and buttermilk.
- If you want a larger quantity, place the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until it forms whipped cream, and then beat some more. Eventually, it will separate (as described above) into butter and buttermilk.
- Don't throw that butter away! Rinse it with cold water (to get rid of any lingering buttermilk) and then add a pinch of salt.
- Use the fresh buttermilk and butter in a few days—with no preservatives, it will spoil quickly, but it will taste so good that perhaps leftovers will not be a problem. Make sure to have on hand a loaf of really good-quality bread, or some hot-from-the-oven scones. You'll be in Heaven.
More Vegan Options
In episode #96 of this series, I provided Denise McGill (Paintdrips) some vegan recipes. I recently stumbled upon an article on the Serious Eats website that can provide Denise and all of my vegan friends with additional ideas for adding umami flavor to your meals without using animal products—seaweed. No, not the slimy stuff that washes up on the beach. I'm referring to nori (the sushi wrap) and kombu (dashi), for example.
A link to the Serious Eats seaweed primer is here.
I received "a little help from my friends" (thanks for the line Ringo) this week. Eric Dierker asked, "are onion skins bad for disposals too?"
He asks this question because for the past several weeks I have been writing about things that you should not do in your kitchen. I scolded about eggshells (don't put them in your garbage disposal), and so he wondered about onions as well.
Eric, your instincts are correct, although the papery skins are actually not the culprit; what lies just beneath is the problem. There is a thin membrane which can adhere to the inside of your drain pipe. When enough of those add up you'll have a blockage and, as (I hope) you know, Drano and other caustic drain cleaners are a no-no in the garbage disposal. So, clogs usually mean an expensive housecall by your friendly plumber person.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2019 Linda Lum