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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #20

Updated on May 17, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

The mailman didn't deliver much mail this week; perhaps he was too busy carrying those valentines. Nevertheless, the questions received were some good ones so let's get started.

Quick and Easy Meal Ideas

What are your favorite home meals for quick prep and minimal cleanup? I like to cook, but sometimes I just want it to be easy.

Rochelle, I have had an article on this very topic sitting on the back burner (no pun intended) for quite some time. You've given me the push to finish it, and I will publish it tomorrow.

"One Pan Wonders" will include these hints:

  • Everything in one pot. All you will need to add for a well-balanced meal is a tossed salad.
  • Size matters. The recipes given will explain how to pre-cut meats and vegetables for optimum cooking.
  • Meat will act more as a flavoring rather than being the star of the show.
  • Sauces will be the medium in which other ingredients are cooked.
  • We'll probably go meatless sometimes.
  • Sheet pan cooking is more than a new fad—it's the perfect way to cook foods quickly, concentrate flavors, and keep those veggies crispy-fresh, not mushy.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms

This weeks list was fun to put together. I've tossed in a couple of French terms for your entertainment.

Macerate – To soak fruits or vegetables in wine, liquor or syrup so that they are infused with flavor. Sugar or salt can be used to draw out excess moisture. Sugar added to fresh fruits will cause them to release liquid which that then be thickened (consider for a moment strawberry shortcake, or the process of making jam or jelly). Salting vegetables can draw out bitterness (eggplants or zucchini).

Mandoline – A device used to quickly and thinly slice foods such as potatoes for potato chips. However, if not used with caution (and with the slicing guard) it can also be employed to quickly removed one’s fingertips.

Marble – To swirl one food into another. A marble cake (for example) is made by swirling together vanilla (white) and chocolate (dark) batters.

Marinate- To flavor and moisturize pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade. Dry marinade mixtures composed of salt, pepper, herbs or spices may also be rubbed into meat, poultry or seafood.

Meuniére (muhn-YAIR): A fancy French name for “miller’s wife” and refers to the cooking technique used. In this case, fish is seasoned with salt and pepper and then dredged with flour and sautéed in butter.

Mince - To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.

Mirepoix (mihr-PWAH) - A mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs that have been sautéed in butter or oil and used to season soups and stews. Sometimes mirepoix will contain diced prosciutto or ham to enhance flavor.

mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs): This technique is IMPORTANT and one that’s hardest to get novice cooks to stick with. It’s a French term for having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting you start cooking. That means everything is cleaned, peeled, chopped, diced, measured out, whatever’s necessary to get the ingredients ready prior to preparing your dish. Many of us start cooking and prepping at the same time. A big NO NO. Try to get into the habit of mis en place.

Mother sauces - A French concept that classifies all sauces into five foundation sauces called "mother" or "grand sauces." From these five sauces, all sauces can be made. They are 1. Demiglace or brown; 2. Veloute or blond; 3. Bechamel or white; 4. Hollandaise or butter; 5. Tomato or red. I am working on an article that explains these five sauces. Stay tuned!

Mull – To flavor a beverage, such as cider or wine, by heating it with spices and fruits.

When I Cook a Roast in the Crock Pot, It Comes Out Grey {sad face}

A few weeks ago you mentioned that you made a pork roast in the oven and cooked it slowly, I was wondering if I could do the same in my crockpot. My oven is not accurate and has a mind of its own. However, everything I cook in the crockpot seems to turn out gray! Firstly, what am I doing wrong and could I successfully cook that pork shoulder?

The problem is that crock pots cook low and slow; that's great for tenderizing even the toughest of meats, but it's the high heat that provides that browning that we crave. There's an easy fix.

  • First, blot you roast so that the surface is dry.
  • Next, bring out your favorite saute pan or cast iron skillet. Drizzle in some cooking oil, heat it to almost smoking over medium-high heat and toss in that roast.
  • Brown it on all sides; just a minute or two on each side should be enough.
  • Now you're ready to cook low-and-slow. For a pork or beef roast I'd keep it simple. A bed of sliced onions isn't mandatory, but I think it adds flavor and insulates the roast from the bottom heat element of the crock pot.
  • Place the roast on top of the onions and cover with the contents of one can of cream of "something" soup. My favorite is mushroom, but you could use chicken, celery, or whatever you have available.
  • Don't add any other liquid.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (depending on the size of your roast).

Artichokes 101

Artichokes - I need to know how to pick a good one and just how long to cook/boil it

Eric, last October I wrote an article all about artichokes (this is the link) with their history (it's really quite a story), how to prepare, and recipes. If you don't have the time to read the entire article right now, I'll give you the steps to prepare them here:

  • First chop off the ends - Remove almost all of the stem end (leave an inch). Then remove the first inch or so of the top (about 1/3 of the choke). Make sure your knife is sharp and keep your fingers safe.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil - Add the prepared artichokes, cover, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for about 30 minutes. The chokes are ready when you can easily pierce the stem with a sharp knife. If your chokes are small start checking after 20 minutes of simmering. When tender, remove from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  • Final prep - Slice in half from the top to the stem. Use a small spoon to scoop out the white and purple centers (all the fuzzy stuff).


This wasn't a bulging mailbox, but the answers took some research (which I love). Thanks for another fun one. Keep those questions coming (you can leave them in the comments below, or write to me at lindalum52@gmail.com).

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, you are so right. Not only does it lock in the flavor, it also helps create those yummy bits in the bottom of the pan (fond) that help create a delicious pan sauce.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      Some of these terms I've not come across before, but still do them anyway, I like to have any 'prep' done before I start simply because then I don't burn stuff!

      I think what you describe with the meat for the roast is called 'searing the meat' and a lot of chefs say it locks the flavour in.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, it is good to hear from you. I provide the lexicon not so that one can toss a fanciful word into conversation, but so that if one encounters the term in a recipe the thought is not panic, but "Oh, I've heard that before. I know what it means and I can do that!"

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 months ago from london

      Your lexicon of cooking is cool. Yes, looking for quick and nutritious meals also.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, "Mother Sauces" will appear early next week. As for potato recipes, I've been thinking of doing an "Exploring Potatoes" but that won't be ready in time for St. Patricks Day.

      In the meantime, you'll have to find comfort in my articles on "Carb Diva's Colcannon, Or Irish Mashed Potatoes" and "The Famine in Ireland: How a Simple Crop Changed a Nation's History"

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 months ago from USA

      The mother sauces really have me intrigued. I’m looking forward to that article. I’m wondering what your favorite potato recipes are. My greatgrandfather was Irish (fresh off the boat) and we love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with potato recipes as well as green colored food.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, is that a real question for the mailbox or a bit of humor for the day?

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      I almost got it but the purple were like a mushy yam with no fiber. We will do your concept tonight. Sounds real good I bet they will be just what the doctor ordered. Another question later about chicken soup and if it really does heal.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Linda, I publish this Q&A each Monday, so if you like what you found here I hope you'll come back next Monday (and there are 19 others waiting for your perusal).

      I enjoy doing these and am glad that you found this one useful.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and useful article. I love all the details that you've shared. Thank you for the education!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, I had to remove the link for the article on quick-fix meals because it was deemed "overly promotional". But I promise that it will be published tomorrow morning (or perhaps late this evening). The article on mother sauces will be ready for the following week, fingers crossed. (Although admittedly that makes it more difficult to type).

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, instead of merely baking those baby potatoes, I would toss them with some olive oil (a tablespoon or two), season with salt and pepper and some fresh minced rosemary, and then roast on a foil-lined pan at 425 for about 45 minutes, shaking the pan a time or two so that they don't stick. They will be crispy outside and creamy inside.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Watcha talk'n bout girl, this was an awesome edition. I need to make tiny baked potatoes. I done got these purple ones and white and brown. I am talking bout baby things but I want to have fun with them. I am just going to do them baked with little notice. but that sounds weak. What do you have my Diva.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      I usually mis en place, but occasionally I start cooking so I am cooking and cutting at the same time. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's hub. I'm also interested to see the mother sauces. :)

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks for that recipe. I will bookmark it.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, dry soup plus just half of the water might end up being too salty. Here is a way to make your own condensed cream of mushroom soup:

      1/4 cup Butter

      6 ounces, weight Mushrooms, Finely Chopped

      1/4 cup Finely Diced Onion

      1 clove Garlic, Minced

      Salt And Pepper, to taste

      1/4 cup All-purpose Flour

      1/2 cup Heavy Cream

      1/2 cup Chicken Broth

      Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

      Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add flour and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Quickly whisk in cream and chicken broth until smooth. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

      Allow it to cool slightly before transferring to a jar or freezer-safe container. Once soup is completely cool, you can store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

      To reconstitute, add 1 1/2 cups of liquid, such as chicken broth, milk, water, or a combination.

      Note: A 10 3/4-ounce can of condensed mushroom soup is about 1 1/4 cups. This recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of condensed soup.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks Linda,

      I will dust off the crockpot and give it a go.

      Just a quick verification. I can't get canned soup, if I use dry and only add half the liquid, would that be about right since you normally add a can of additional liquid to a canned soup?

      Several of those cooking words I hadn't heard of before. I need to work them into a conversation now.

      Artichokes, I love them alas it has been some time since I've had them.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill that's easy, unless I'm trying to cook for you. I'll query you for a few more specifics and will provide a detailed answer in the next mailbox.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm laughing at the artichoke section...no way!

      Our son gave us five pounds of spareribs...I don't like spareribs....any way to make them that might make me happy?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Rochelle. Yes, I'll have an article devoted to quick-fix meals on Tuesday.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      5 months ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Diva! I was just about ready to tackle this subject myself, but I knew you would have a much wider perspective on the quick and easy meals. Looking forward . . .

      Your advice on avoiding the crockpotgrey is right on.

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