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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #13

Updated on May 17, 2018
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

The Start of a New Year

This is the time of year when many of us become thoughtful, reflective, mentally reviewing the highs and lows of the past year, and looking forward to a second chance. We figuratively hit the reset button, do a control-alt-delete and begin with a clean slate.

I typically don't pen an actual list of New Year's resolutions, but I found this quotation a few weeks ago (of course, it has to do with food), and thought I would share it with you:

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico, and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald's? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

— Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Who is Anthony Bourdain? He was born in New York City, raised in Jersey, the son of a Catholic executive for Columbia Records and Jewish staff editor for the New York Times. After two years at Vassar Anthony dropped out. A passion for cooking led him to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America; he graduated in 1978. From there he went on to run various restaurants in New York City. In 2000 his nonfiction book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” was a New York Times bestseller. He is an unrepentant drinker, smoker, and has not been bashful about his former use of mind-altering substances. He has vocal disdain for vegetarianism (except for religious reasons).

I don’t admire him (he is more than a bit rough around the edges) but I do find him refreshingly honest. He is unapologetic for his past sins, acknowledging that they formed the person he is today. He speaks his mind, and he is decidedly unafraid of consuming exotic local specialty dishes. Do I want to emulate him by eating sheep testicles or ant eggs? Absolutely not. But I also don’t want to live the remainder of my days in a safe cocoon of familiarity, nor should you. Try new things. Challenge yourself. And, it isn’t all about the food.


This is Week No. 13 of this series—I don't believe in bad luck (or luck at all), so I'm not going to let that number spook me. Let's begin with a question from Kristen in NE Ohio.

How to Cook Cornish Game Hens

My father suggested cooking Cornish game hens to me since he loves to cook. I never had one before. Any recipes, advice or both on how to try them out? Thanks.

What Are They?

First, what exactly is a Cornish game hen? Yes, it is small (1.5 to 2 pounds), and it is young (5 to 6 weeks old). But it is not merely a "baby chicken". The Cornish game hen, also known as a Rock Cornish hen, is a cross breed of White Rock and Cornish chickens.

Because they are younger and smaller, they have a less assertive taste and less fat. While older, larger chickens (roasters or stewers) can be sold whole, or in parts, or boneless, Cornish game hens are only sold whole--they are much too small to sell as parts or to debone. (By the way, the name "hen" is a bit of a misnomer. A Cornish game hen can actually be male or female).

What Is The Best Way To Prepare Them?

There are so many ways to cook a Cornish Hen. A quick hop over to YouTube showed them being spatchcocked, deep fried, smoked, grilled, simmered in a crockpot, and even de-boned (why?). This blog post holds a bit more promise as a "beginner recipe." Keep in mind that it requires (strongly suggests) that the bird(s) be brined before roasting. I'm a big advocate of brining. It does wonderful things to meats, making them more moist and tender.

And What If You Want A Gourmet, Jaw-Dropping Presentation?

Well, for that we need look no further than to Curtis Stone. He presented this dish for Tandoori Platter on his Food Network cooking show "Take Home Chef" (Episode 63), and then subsequently published it in his cookbook "Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone." It does take a bit more time and effort, but your patience will be rewarded.

Preserving the Nutrients in Vegetables

You are a spark of fun in my kitchen. My boy and I just love our veggies from carrot to broccoli, spinach, tomato, cauliflower, kale raw. (maybe I should make sure that most the time they are cooked in acid) So tonight we will go for blanched. I understand that most of the above actually provide more nutrients blanched.Could you fill me in on that concept, you know; about heat, especially with fluid actually releasing some more readily available nutrients.

Eric, the biggest culprit in the loss of nutrients in vegetables is water and most at risk are Vitamin C and the B vitamins. Why? Because they are water soluble. For that reason steaming and roasting are the best choices.

What about blanching? Blanching DOES serve a purpose. It removes the raw taste of vegetables while at the same time not only preserving but enhancing the color.

And there is a trend to "raw eating." In theory, it sounds like the perfect choice--what could be better for you than a carrot newly plucked from the soil? The answer is...a cooked vegetable. Cooking breaks down the cell walls releasing more of the nutrients bound to those cell walls. Cooked vegetables supply more antioxidants, (including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) than they do when raw. And, according to "The Globe"

Cooked vegetables also deliver more minerals. Spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard are high in calcium, but a compound called oxalic acid binds with calcium. Heating releases bound calcium, making more of the mineral available for the body to absorb. Cooking vegetables also increases the amount of magnesium and iron that are available to the body.

There is one important exception. Cruciferous vegetables (everything in the cabbage family*) contain an enzyme called myrosinase. When you chop (or chew) these vegetables, myrosinase converts the phytochemicals in these vegetables to anti-cancer compounds. But myrosinase is destroyed by heat.

*arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, daikon, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, turnips, watercress

The Pro's and Con's of Olive OIl

What are the advantages of using olive oil for cooking? Is it simply a matter of better health, or is there some chemical property in olive oil which improves the cooking process?

Olive oil—the fair-haired child of heart healthy fats and the workhorse of the healthy kitchen. It raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. But olive oil is also calorie-dense. That means that it needs to be used sparingly.

Olive oil is amazingly complex. While other oils can be bland or non-descript, olive oil imparts a rich green, fruity flavor. Where you might normally add a pat of butter, why not try a drizzle of good-quality olive oil? You might just be surprised at the result—and your heart will thank you.

But there is a down-side to cooking with olive oil. It has a low smoke point.

In the words of Martin Luther "what does this mean?" Simply put, olive oil burns at a lower temperature than other oils. It's great for sauteing, but if you wan to sear a piece of meat or create an Asian stir fry, olive oil not a good choice. Soybean, canola, or peanut oil are all good options. I hope that helps.

How to Select and Store Fresh Carrots

When I buy carrots, I can keep them about 2 days before they become bendy. I keep mine in the fridge but not sure why it occurs here in Brazil because I don't recall it happening in the UK.

Mary, one of the biggest culprits in keeping root vegetables crisp is humidity, or rather than lack of humidity. If you are purchasing carrots with tops, slice off the greens (even if you plan on using them in your cooking. The tops and roots should be separated).

The second thing is to keep those carrots moist. I did some research. Some bloggers recommend storing the de-topped carrots in a plastic bag punched with holes, and a dampened paper towel placed beneath. Others go full-on baptism, storing the roots in a covered container of water. I hope one of these methods proves successful for you.

Cooking Lexicon

I'm going to break the "5-at-a-time" rule because these are quite brief. (We're delving into the "C's"--ooh, how exciting!)

Braise - A cooking method where meat or vegetables are first browned in butter and/or oil, then cooked in a covered pot in a small amount of cooking liquid at low heat for a long period of time. This slow cooking process both tenderizes the food by breaking down the fibers and creates a full flavored dish. This is how we typically prepare a stew.

Bread – To coat the surface of a food with a mixture of flour or breadcrumbs before cooking or frying to achieve a crunchy coating.

Break – A broken sauce is one in which the components have separated and will not reunite into a smooth mixture. It’s another way of saying that the sauce has curdled.

Brine – A salt-water solution.

Brochette – Food cooked on a skewer.

Brodo – (Italian) broth.

Broil – To cook close to a direct heat source.

Caramelize - The process through which natural sugars in foods become browned and flavorful while cooking. This is usually done over a constant heat of low to medium-low. Caramelization can be quickened with the addition of a little sugar. Either way, be careful not to burn.


Well, It's That Time Again

I sincerely appreciate all of your support in keeping this mailbox going. I truly could not do it without you. Let's have a great 2018!

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      7 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, I really like that salad and it seems that it's popular with Lutherans (LOL). It makes an appearance at every potluck dinner. I'm not a huge fan of raisins, but I like the sweetness that they add. In my book, anything with cheese is a winner! Thanks for stopping by.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      7 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Broccoli Salad is always a winner in our house, it's raw Broccoli with Cheddar cheese (grated), raisins and whatever else you want to put in.

      And with the cancer fighting properties of Broccoli, now I know why!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, they are so good for you. I love them all, but (in my humble opinion), roasted Brussels sprouts are the best--think of them as healthy candy. (Well, OK they aren't THAT sweet, but they taste nothing like steamed sprouts. So glad you stopped by.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      8 months ago from Ohio

      As always, very interesting! I did not know that about cooked vegetables releasing more vitamins and minerals. However, many of my favorite vegetable are cruciferous.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, good questions both and I will find the answers for you. Ohmygoodness, Monday isn't that far away. I best start researching NOW. The weather is no longer frightful; we are hovering just above freezing, but there is no precipitation, so the roads are clear and dry.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Now I have two questions for you to bring me up to date. My assumptions are 20 years old and beyond.

      Shouldn't beef be aged until purple -Butcher at large grocery store "manager's special"?

      And why do people think that seafood caught at sea is still not frozen which it very well is on the boat on the way home to the market?

      Sorry if those are too outre.

      I hope weather is good on ya up north.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      8 months ago from USA

      I used to make Cornish game hens but my aunt would never eat them because they reminded her of baby chickens (thanks for clarifying above). I guess she’s good with eating their mamas but just not the babies. Crazy. They do make for an elegant presentation, especially with a side of stuffing.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      8 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for answering my question about carrots.

      Well, I never thought of keeping them in water. I'll give both methods a try.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, you have given me the chuckle of the day. A chicken in the lotus position indeed. This day should be a good one; I will be taking my daughter out to the movies and then returning home to make a stir-fry with tofu and all the veggies we can find in the crisper. Yum. I hope you have a great day as well.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, good to hear that you and your family take advantage of the availability of fresh veggies. We love them. Hope you are having a great day.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      8 months ago from london

      Good to see you working away my Dear. My mails were sparse for a week or so but they are picking up.

      Happy New Year!! I thought that hear destroyed some essential nutrients but you say differently. Partially of course.

      Your hen chicken is meditating. It sits in the lotus posture. So I guess it will have a higher rebirth.

      Your man is interesting but honest as you say. Cool! Have a great day!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Wonderful.

      For some reason you reminded of a Patron Saint of cooking: St. Martha. I always have thought that Jesus's comment to her was really one of admiration.

      I really thank you for this series. Looking stuff up is so filled with commercialism selling an idea so that we buy their stuff.

      Your advice on veggies is great.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, it has a bad rep. but I wrote a rather lengthy article about tilapia a few years ago. Some people think that tilapia is what Jesus fed the 5,000. So, share THAT with your Facebook nay-sayers.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The notifications are back and all is right in my world.

      Thanks for answering my question. Now I am informed and feeling quite smart.

      Have a great week, dear friend. I posted on Facebook last night I loved Tilapia and man alive,a couple ladies thought I was crazy for eating a swimming rat. LOL To each his own.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      8 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Aww thanks Linda, maybe I've missed it. I would have to check it out this week and stop by to comment tomorrow. So far so good my friend.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen, "Exploring Tuna Casserole" is the most recent one, published late last week. You didn't comment so perhaps you were unaware of its existence. A funny history--you might enjoy it (even if you don't like tuna casserole).

      Hope you are enjoying the holiday.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      8 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Linda, you're very welcome. I hope you're right on the HP notification issue. I look forward to read more of your hubs, old and new, for new recipe ideas.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kristen - Thank you, and glad you found me this morning. Please know that I'll always be here on Monday. BTW, I hope that Hub Pages fixes the notifications glitch very soon.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      8 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Linda, thanks for answering my cornish game hen cooking question. Great mailbag as always with helpful and useful knowledgable tips.

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