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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #26

Updated on July 21, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

I went for a walk today, and could not help but notice that the Symplocarpus foetidus is blooming. You’ve probably not heard of it by the botanical name, but the foetidus (“fetid”) should be a clue. You might better know my flowery friend as skunk cabbage.

There’s no question that they are pretty—the shocking yellow is neon bright but outperformed only by its smell. To say that the odor resembles a road-kill skunk is being kindly. I would say that it is more akin to a rotting deer carcass.

A glance in the Peterson Field Guide reveals that they were used by Native Americans for “cramps, convulsions, whooping cough, toothaches, poulticed for wounds, and as an underarm deodorant.” (I’ll just let that sink in for a moment).


OK, that’s our natural history lesson for today. Let’s talk about something I enjoy more—cooking, specifically answering your questions about recipes, techniques, terminology, and everything food-related. There were good questions this past week, so let’s get started.

Do You Have a Recipe For Green Chili?

I really want to make green chili. The soupy kind, with ground beef. What say you?


Eric, this one took a fair amount of hunting. Most (99 percent?) of green chili recipes use pork or chicken as the protein of choice. "Fine Cooking" magazine (Issue #113) presented a ground beef version that I hope comes close to your mother's creation. This Texas-style (no bean) chili features several varieties of peppers and generous amounts of onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano.

Homemade Pet Food

Have you ever made your own dog food, or cat food, for your pets?

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Bill, I couldn't limit the photo to just one. I'm an equal opportunity pet lover. We have a cat in our household, and I know that you have Maggie, your pup.

The topic of how best to feed our animals is complex. First, let me say that dogs and cats cannot, must not eat the same foods. Their nutritional needs are completely different. So, today I will focus solely on foods for dogs. Next week I will write a separate article for feeding our feline friends.

Some veterinarians say that we should purchase the best-quality food that we can for our pets, avoiding grains and fillers. I'm fine with that, but some recommend a raw diet, saying that this is the most "natural" way to feed our furry friends. Not every canine tummy can handle that. Let's address some of the considerations:

  1. Nutrition - This should be the primary reason for opting to give your dog homemade rather than store-bought food. If you are trying to save money homemade might not be the better choice. When you consider how much (or little) your friend consumes every day, compared to humans, you will recognize that every ounce must provide the best supply of minerals and vitamins, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
  2. Quality - When looking at store-bought foods, quality is not always determined by price. Look at the list of ingredients. The top 3 will be the primary components. Protein should come from real meat sources, not "bone" or "meal".
  3. Variety - There's no question that if you are creating the meal for your pet, you can interject different tastes each day. Perhaps on Monday some sweet potato, and the next day peas or broccoli. And I haven't met the dog that doesn't love cheese, but just like us, be mindful of the amount consumed every day. (Cottage cheese has always been a special treat for my best friend's pup.)
  4. Dangers - There are some foods that we enjoy that are dangerous or even lethal to furry people. Here's a list of things that should NEVER be fed to your dog:
      • Chocolate
      • Raisins, grapes, currants
      • Onions and garlic
      • Macadamia nuts
      • Bread dough (unbaked)
      • Mushrooms
      • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  5. I asked our family friend and Veterinarian, Dr. Shawna Wedde, for her thoughts on homemade vs. store-bought pet food. She said that she recommends the website Benefit for her patients. A link to their site is here. "Benefit" provides the critical nutrients (a supplement that you stir into homemade food) that can't be obtained in "human" foods, or can't be provided in the amounts needed for your pet's health.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


We're nearing the end of this series. I don't know what the final entry will be. Zatar? Zest? Zucchini?

We begin this week with a disclaimer--oops, I left out an important term last week, so if you've been following along you will find these a bit out of order. My apologies.

Sachet - A sachet is a small bag made out of cloth or cheesecloth that is filled with various herbs and spices and used to add flavor to soup, stews, stocks, and sauces. The combination of herbs and spices can vary depending on what you are cooking but typically include bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley, and thyme.

Fresh herbs and spices are better but dried will do nicely if you don’t have access to fresh. You can use kitchen string (I have a roll of kite string in our kitchen) to tie the bundle together or even tie the four corners to themselves. I have even seen these nifty disposable cloth bags you can buy at kitchen supply stores.

Scoville scale - Think of this scale as a way to measure the hotness of peppers. We can't use Fahrenheit or Celcius because the heat is not real; it's merely a perception. The measurement of heat that your lips and tongue "perceive" is measured in heat units called Scovilles. It basically measures the capsaicin concentration which gives peppers their hotness. It is named after its founder Wilbur Scoville who devised the Scoville Organoleptic test back in 1912.


Sear – To brown the surface of a food, usually meat, quickly over high heat to seal in juices.

Sift - To put one or more dry ingredients through a sieve or sifter. This not only removes lumps and impurities but also aids in blending dry ingredients together.

Simmer - To cook slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 180°F. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.

How to Remove White Membrane from Citrus Fruits

Is there an easy way to "peel" the white stuff off the inside of a grapefruit, Pomelo or Champagne?


Eric, like you I love grapefruit, but the white pith (the soft flesh that sits between the rind and the fruit) and the membrane (the thin skin that encases each segment) are both quite bitter.

In a perfect world, someone will develop a grapefruit that can be peeled and sectioned as easily as a tangerine. Until that happens, you need to have a cutting board, a sharp knife, a bowl to catch all of the drips and dribbles, and this video:

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Do you have a recipe for Ranch dressing? I am getting tired of my vinegar and oil mixture.


Mary, your question prompted me to get out of my careless rut and make a homemade salad dressing rather than lazily rely on the stuff in a bottle.

What a difference!


  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Stir together milk and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes. (The milk will thicken. It may look a bit curdled, but don't worry).
  2. Combine milk mixture and sour cream in a medium-sized bowl, whisking until smooth.
  3. Add dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Transfer dressing to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.

Great questions and I hope the answers lived up to your expectations. Leave new queries in the comments below, or you can email me at

Have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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