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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, and Cooking, #29

Updated on February 2, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Spring has sprung, and so have the weeds. We are "blessed" with a lovely little gift called artillery weed. (It has several aliases. The ones I can repeat in polite company are rocket weed and shot weed).

Artillery-, rocket-, shot-weed, or *%$#@!!
Artillery-, rocket-, shot-weed, or *%$#@!! | Source

See those pretty little white blossoms? Each one of those (of course) becomes a cluster of seeds. The "rocket" part is that when you touch the plant once the heads have formed, the seeds shoot off in all directions. We have almost 2 acres and at last glance, it appears that every square food contains at least one of these darlings.

Needless to say, I have job security. But one cannot spend an entire day on their hands and knees. When I feel the need to be more upright, I'm here writing. Thank you for rescuing my knees and back.

Here's what came into the mailbox this past week.

How To Survive (and Enjoy) a Low Cholesterol Diet

Amazingly, or not so, everything I absolutely adore to eat is bad for me. LOL My God, will all of my happiness be taken away from me??? Fine, fine, you win, oats it is!!!

Heart healthy
Heart healthy | Source


Bill, believe it or not, you can maintain a heart-healthy diet AND still enjoy life. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has put together a web page devoted to dietary guidelines. There is a WEALTH of information on their "MyPlate" page. Low-budget cooking suggestions, menu plans, recipes, preparation videos, and much, much more. I will summarize and provide some additional information here (because I love you!).

Let's Do the Math

Think about your dinner plate in a new way. I know that you were a History teacher, but you're a smart guy, so am pretty sure you can do basic Math as well. Fifty percent of your plate should be devoted to fruits and/or vegetables. That's easy. However, resist the temptation to douse them with cream sauce, grated cheese, or butter. You can pep up those veggies with any of these:

  • A splash of lemon juice or a grating of lemon zest. (If you are eating a "Tex/Mex" meal you might switch out the lemon for some lime).
  • A combination of orange juice and olive oil makes a tangy dressing.
  • Instead of sauteing, you can simmer your vegetables in broth.
  • Flavored vinegar (especially balsamic) is a great way to add a big pop of flavor with no calories.
  • Fresh herbs.
  • Sturdy vegetables (beets, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower) take on new flavors and textures when roasted in a hot oven. Caramelization is the key.
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt is a perfect substitute for cream or sour cream.

One-fourth of your plate should be a carbohydrate. I hate to deflate your balloon, but again, it's time to rethink what goes on your plate and into YOU. Avoid white. White rice, white potatoes, white pasta. When you think about it, they really don't have much flavor, they just feel good. You can get that same "feel good" with whole grain options. Brown rice, sweet potatoes (or potatoes with the skins left on), whole grain pasta. I must admit that when 'whole grain pasta' first became a thing at natural food markets 20 years ago, it was nutritious, but tasted and felt more like cardboard than real food. We've come a long way baby.

That leaves 25 percent of your plate for the protein. Years ago in American households, this was the "star of the show." Now, meat needs to take a back seat. However, you needn't spend the remainder of your sad days eating boneless, skinless (flavorless) chicken breasts. There are plenty of yummy yet healthy options. I think the best plan is to opt for a protein that is rich Omega-3s. (They lower your triglyceride levels).

Fish and Seafood
Chia seeds
Canola and soybean oil
Brussels sprouts

Best Sources of Omega 3's

But I love butter (and mayo, and sour cream, and...)!

What is your golden breakfast toast without a pat of creamy butter? Can you envision your midday sandwich without mayonnaise? And what about that baked potato without rivulets of butter running down the side (along with melting sour cream and crumbled bacon)?

I can fix this for you. Here are some substitutes that are heart-healthy but still taste great, and feel rich and satisfying.

  • Mashed avocado can be as creamy as butter, but it's filled with healthy fats.
  • Apple butter isn't butter at all, but it's extremely flavorful. A little goes a long way. Spread it on your morning toast or stir it into that less-than-satisfying bowl of oatmeal.
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt will replace that sour cream on your baked potato.
  • Hummus. Yes, it's a dip but it works great as a sandwich spread too. Hummus with tomato and cucumber (or tuna, or chicken).
  • Low-fat margarine - Not all margarine is evil. Look for spreads that boast of Omega 3's.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


Continuing with our alphabetical look at strange, obscure, unusual and just plain puzzling cooking terms.

Tempura – A Japanese technique of batter dipping and deep frying foods, particularly fish and vegetables.

Thickening – The culinary process used to give body to a liquid. The French word for thickening is "liaison". There are several methods depending on the ingredients used.

  • starch (cornstarch, arrowroot, or ground rice)
  • egg yolk, blood, cream, or liver.
  • a roux.
  • a mixture of egg and flour.
  • whipped cream or butter just before serving.

Thin – To add a liquid to a preparation in order to make it less thick.

Thread stage – The stage in cooked sugar when a soft thread is produced when immersed in water. This occurs between 230 – 234 degrees F.

Tonnato – An Italian word referring to dishes comprised or accompanied by tuna.

(Healthy) Foods to Perk You Up or Make You Drowsy

Rather than eating too much to be sleepy relaxed or sugar rush and caffeine. Are there great foods for doing the same in a healthy way? Or is that question kinda little too far adrift?

Eric, this was such a fun topic to research. Here are a few suggestions for foods that can bolster your day, or blanket you in a cocoon of sleep-readiness.

BOLSTER (These Will Pump You Up!)

  • Brown Rice – This food is rich in manganese (don’t get that confused with magnesium), a mineral that helps your body produce energy from protein and carbs.
  • Eggs – At one time eggs were viewed as “evil”, loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol. It turns out that eggs are NOT the bad guys in a low-cholesterol diet. They are high in protein, and so have what it takes to carry you through the morning or afternoon.
  • Oranges – Instead of a quick sugar rush, these little power-packed rations of potassium, folate, and Vitamin C will carry you throughout the morning.
  • Peppermint – Years ago my husband, baby girls, and I embarked on a long-distance car trip to Disneyland. Pile the kids in the back seat in the middle of the night, drive and drive, and by the grace of God get to your destination by the middle of the next day. The one thing that kept the two adults “going” was Altoid mints. Trust me.
  • Salmon – Maybe the Scandinavians have a good idea. Omega-3 rich fish appears in their diets at every meal. It’s what’s for breakfast, or lunch and dinner too. A bit of cooked or smoked salmon atop half of a whole-wheat English muffin, in that spinach salad, or on top of a baked sweet potato.
  • Spinach – Want something to carry you through the afternoon? Make a spinach salad. Toss in some cooked beans or lentils. Or perhaps pair it with some of that brown rice and a few orange segments.
  • Yams, Sweet Potatoes, and Carrots – Foods high in beta-carotene (Vitamin A) will give you a boost.

COCOON (These Will Lull You Into Slumber)

  • Almond Butter and Banana – Here’s another way of putting some magnesium and Vitamin B6 in your diet. Just make sure you don’t use more than a tablespoon of almond butter. If you feel too “stuffed” you’ll have trouble falling asleep.
  • Cereal and Skim Milk – You’ve probably heard that the tryptophan in turkey causes us to fall into a somewhat comatose state post-Thanksgiving meal. Actually, turkey isn’t high in tryptophan, but the combination of a cup of low-sugar dry cereal plus a half cup of skim milk is just the ticket to lull you to sleep and help you to stay asleep. Plus milk is loaded with calcium and magnesium, both which help your body to produce melatonin.
  • Cheese and Crackers – This is a spin-off of the cereal and milk theory. A few whole grain crackers and one part-skim string cheese is the ticket to that trifecta of calcium+magnesium+tryptophan.
  • Dark Chocolate – This wonder food contains serotonin and, if you’re like me, it makes you SMILE.
  • Melon and Greek yogurt – Did you know that being dehydrated can impact your sleep pattern? A high-water fruit (such as melon) will help hydrate you, and the protein in the yogurt will, as with the skim milk, get those melatonin juices flowing.
  • Passion Fruit Juice - My friend Mary who lives in Brazil says this is very popular. I've not attempted to source it locally. If any of you know about it, please let me know.

I would love to keep this series going. Send me your questions (in the comments section below, or in the Q&A which is now available for published articles). Or, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can always send me your queries at

Let's do this again next Monday!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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