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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #99

Updated on August 25, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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.

Ta Da!

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 " 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.

Soggy Cookies

"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.

vegan sushi
vegan sushi | Source

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?"

Onion skins

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.

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:

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

© 2019 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, hip bumps when you are the only person in the room are not recommended and I dare not try it with the cat. Do whatever you need to do to release all that happy into the air.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, I am so very happy to hear from you and know that you hadn't given up on me. I do sincerely strive to answer each and every question and somehow yours fell through the cracks.

      I'm so happy that the recipe I found is what you had in mind. In addition to many resources on the internet (I've come to learn who I can trust), I also have over 100 cookbooks, many of them dating back 40 years or more. Have a great day!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      I have a serious question - not. I got some issues with my hands (too much rock climbing and frostbite they say) So be it. But do you do hip bumps and dancing in your kitchen? I am insisting to my wife that it makes food better.

      Maybe that is silly-so be it.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      23 months ago

      The mincemeat recipe is priceless! It has everything I was hoping it would have. You are always the best person to go for authentic recipes.

      Oh, and don't worry about the delay. I realized my question might have got lost somewhere. HP does have a lot of glitches with regards to comments. I just didn't get a chance to ask again. Thanks again and have a great week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lori, I think I'm older than you (by a little), and age is just a number. As long as you think young, you're ageless.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      23 months ago from United States

      My grandmother and great aunts used to make mincemeat pies at holiday time -Blek! No thanks.

      You opening statements about school triggered so many memories. It felt so nostalgic. How did I get old?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Jodah, thanks for your support. My husband strongly dislikes raisins and that might be what is offputting for many people when the subject of mincemeat comes up (I talk about it at least once a week, don't you? hahaha). Real meat pies? I love them and it's time to dust off that old recipe. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      23 months ago from Gondwana Land

      Linda, I love “real meat pies, a real Aussie icon and favourite, but I cannot come at “mincemeat” pies at all. In fact no one in my family likes them. Some people must however as they are always sold at Christmas time. Interesting questions as always"

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I wish we lived near each other. I can just see us spending an afternoon baking little mince tarts in my kitchen.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Sha. I wish that buttermilk was sold in smaller containers (and have no clue why it is not). But, that said, what is sold as buttermilk isn't the "real deal."

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      23 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks for the cookie tips, I'll give it a go if I get another pack that are less than crisp.

      I had my share of mince pies during my time in the UK. I love them. Although a Christmas treat, they are available year round now. I may have to make some, 10 years without a mince pie, is too long!

      Have a great week.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      23 months ago from Central Florida

      I've never had mincemeat pie. I think it's name is what has kept me from trying it.

      Before calling a plumber, try pouring equal parts white vinegar and boiling water down the drain. This is what I do to keep the main line from my house to the septic tank free of clogs.

      I use your vinegar and milk trick all the time when a recipe calls for buttermilk, Linda. Stores don't carry half-pint or pint size containers of buttermilk. I wonder why that is?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, there is a definite chill in the air in the mornings now and the leaves are beginning to turn. Gosh, I'm hungry for a slice of mincemeat pie. T'isn't on my diet though. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I hope you have a great week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I didn't like grade school either. I was bullied (smallest kid always gets picked on) and didn't fit in. But I've worked in and around our school for so long that I get caught up in the excitement even though my kids are adults.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Eric. I don't think you need worry about your "personal pipes" getting clogged with onion skins. As for the mincemeat, I'm certain that what I ate in British Columbia was the real deal.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, it IS good (and what you ate probably didn't include real meat). It's very rich and spicy.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      23 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Happy Monday Linda, As always you answered a variety of questions. I actually grew up eating mincemeat pie around Christmas. I always wondered about meat being in the name, so you have answered the question. Have a good week!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Loved the intro, my friend. I did not like grade school at all. It meant another year of fighting. I did like high school, and loved college, so I can relate to being excited about higher education...but I can't relate to oatmeal cookies or mincemeat. :) Happy Monday my friend!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      I will return! As my Gabe and I said yesterday - "It don't get no better then dat".

      I am all in on the mincemeat. Just a bit of meat will go into mine. My mom said "if you have not eaten it in London, you have not eaten it".

      I wonder if that part of the onion would clog my personal pipes? Seems my wife uses it in Pho'.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      23 months ago from USA

      A long time ago I grabbed a piece of mincemeat pie at a dessert buffet and didn’t know what it was. I had wanted chocolate chip pecan so badly that I convinced myself that’s what it was. It was delicious.


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