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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #34

Updated on February 19, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

Today

Daffodils are a long-ago memory, their flowers decayed and the stems beginning to wither. The vinca minor holds its evergreen leaves, but the periwinkle blue flowers are no more. The lily of the valley have faded (those that were not consumed by the deer). The lilac flowers are now brown and dry. Even the stately rhododendrons are losing their bright blooms.

But in their place, we have new arrays of blossoms and fragrances. Sweet woodruff and downy green moss carpet the flower beds. Foxgloves stand proud and tall, many reaching 5 feet or more in height. Luminaria are blossoming, and will soon be joined by the vibrant hues of the sweet Williams.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
foxglove at edge of the forestluminaria in the wildflower gardensweet woodruff
foxglove at edge of the forest
foxglove at edge of the forest
luminaria in the wildflower garden
luminaria in the wildflower garden
sweet woodruff
sweet woodruff

Flowers change. Seasons change. But loves abides, and I feel surrounded by love. My husband and younger daughter were gone for a week, on a great, grand adventure of their own. That left me with our older daughter, the one who lives with us. Girl time. Just the two of us, and what fun we had.

Blessed.

Because of this great "love fest" I must admit that I've not done much writing. This article is being cobbled together at the 11th hour.

Let's get started.

How To Use Lemon Balm

My dad also grows a fantastic garden but one thing I can’t figure out is lemon balm. Is it used for food or beverage?

Source

Flourish, lemon balm is a perennial (that means it comes back every year) herb in the mint family. When crushed, the leaves emit a wonderful fresh lemon scent.

Lemon balm loses much of its flavor when dried, so if you are adding it to a food or beverage it is best used fresh. But dried it still imparts a lovely fragrance in potpourri.

Here are some ideas on how to use it in the kitchen:

  • Vinegar - fill a jar 3/4 full with leaves. Cover with apple cider vinegar. Cap and store in a cool, dark place for several weeks. Strain and use in cooking or salad dressing.
  • Cold Beverage - add lemon balm and lemon slices to a pitcher of ice water for a refreshing summertime drink
  • Hot Tea - steep a heaping tablespoon of fresh leaves in hot water for a tummy-soothing drink.
  • Condiment - Add a tablespoon of fresh leaves to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise for a tangy accompaniment to cooked fish or seafood.
  • Fruit Salad - Add minced leaves to your favorite fruit salad (fresh berries, peaches, nectarines, etc.)

Lexicon of Cooking Terms

Source

We are nearing the end of the alphabet. When this topic comes to its end (next week, I think) I plan to replace it with a section on "My Favorite Things"--items I have in my kitchen equipment/gadgets drawer that I just can't live without. I'll focus on one per week.

Water Bath - (also known as a Bain Mairie) A pan of hot water used to gently cook foods, commonly used when baking cheesecake or custard. (It can also be used to keep foods warm.) To make a water bath, use a roasting pan large enough to hold the dish(es) being baked.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and then pour the water into the roasting pan. Be careful to not get any water in the cheesecake or custard. The water should come about halfway up the sides of the dish (ramekin) being baked. I find it easiest to do this last step with the roasting pan in the oven already. By pulling out the oven rack and filling the pan with water right there, we avoid the danger of splashing hot water into the custards (or on ourselves!) when transferring the dish to the oven.

Well - A hole made in the middle of a heap of flour to which the liquids or semi-solid ingredients of dough are added.

Whetstone - A stone slab used to sharpen knives.

Whip - To beat ingredients vigorously to incorporate air. This produces expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.

Whisk - A kitchen utensil consisting of a series of wires around a handle used to whip or mix ingredients.

Wok - A round-bottomed cooking vessel used for stir-frying, steaming, or poaching.

Friendship Bread

What's the story behind friendship bread and how do you start it? What if you just want a batch and don't want to pass it on? Does that make it antisocial bread?

Source

First, I love the name you created for this if you keep it to yourself.

Friendship bread is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. The concept is that you create a "starter" (much like the concept of sourdough starter) and after 10 days bake your loaves of bread. Give a loaf to a friend, along with some starter so that your friend can make the own loaves and pass the starter along to another person, and so on, and so on.

There are several problems with this theory

  1. who wants to wait 10 days?
  2. although friendship bread is tasty, do you want to keep that starter going forever and ever, and be destined to bake bread from now until eternity?
  3. you run out of friends (or when they see you coming, they close the drapes, turn out the lights, and pretend that they aren't at home).

Here's a solution to all of those problems, and a recipe for your 'anti-social bread.'

How Long Should Coleslaw "Marinate"?

How long should the mayo dressing sit on a coleslaw before serving?

Source

Mary, the answer lies in how you want that coleslaw to taste and "feel" when you bite into it.

  • Crisp/Bitter - As soon as a mayonnaise-based coleslaw is prepared, it can be served. The vegetables will be crisp, but there is a slight "bitterness" to fresh cabbage. Adding (naturally sweet) shredded carrots to the mix will offset some of that bitter taste.
  • Softened/Sweeter - Coleslaw can be held up to 48 hours, covered, in the refrigerator. If allowed to spend a "time out" the vegetables contained therein will soften a bit, and the taste of the raw cabbage will mellow.

I have also seen recipes from some cooks that suggest covering the raw shredded cabbage with boiling water for a minute to soften the shreds and to tame the bitter taste of the cabbage. If a more mellow slaw is your goal, you might give that method a try, but I have not tested it myself so can't testify to how it works in the final product.

Shortening vs. Oil for Frying

Why is a solid shortening, such as Crisco, better for frying than oil?

Source

Mary, there is shortening (and for the sake of brevity, let's just assume that we are talking about Crisco which has zero trans fats), and then there is everything else.

Not all oils are created equal. Some have very low (unforgiving) smoke points. That means that at low temperatures they will smoke and turn bitter. Some (vegetable, canola, corn, peanut) have really no discernable flavor at all. But others (rich olive oil, walnut, sesame) have very distinct and wonderful flavors.

The wee amount of research I've done on shortening vs. cooking oil has revealed that professional cooks who deep fry pastries (OK, those who make donuts) prefer shortening rather than vegetable oil. And the reason is this--foods fried in shortening don't feel oily in your mouth; food fried in liquid oil absorbs more of the fat and so they "feel" oilier.

And there is also the issue of shelf-life. At home, doughnuts fried in vegetable oil are acceptable because they're likely to be eaten right away before the oil seeps into the sugar coating. Shortening provides a more stable base for the sugars and glazes for commercial products.

Here's a table to help explain the pros and cons of shortening vs. cooking oil.

 
Shortening
Oil
State at room temperature
solid
liquid
Taste
neutral
can vary (neutral to intense)
Smoke point
370 degree F.
olive oil 375, canola 400, corn 410, peanut 450

So, you don't need to use Crisco for home frying. It is neutral tasting and is easy to find--those are the pluses. However, it maxes out at about 350 degrees F. If the food you are cooking requires a higher temperature for frying, you might want to consider another oil.

Here are some basic deep-frying tips from Better Homes and Garden magazine.

That's All Folks

Got a question? I'm happy (almost giddy) to help. Leave your question in the comments section below, or you can email me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

Have a great week.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, I don't know but I'll find out and report back to you (and the rest) next Monday. Stay tuned.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      11 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      Right now, I could enjoy a doughnut or two, especially after reading this hub!

      The friendship bread sounds really neat, can you freeze the starter so as to make more later?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Manatita. Yes, the wok is Chinese and yes foxglove is digitalis and it is poisonous (which is why they can grow here because the deer leave them alone).

      Beth and I had a great time. Thanks for stopping by.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      12 months ago from london

      Hi Linda,

      Isn't the wok Chinese?

      About your love fest. I'm glad that you had some quality time with your daughter.

      Isn't the foxglove digitalis? Isn't it poisonous? Stay well.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      12 months ago from Central Florida

      I don't deep fry either, but I do pan fry some foods. For instance, to me, catfish must be fried. I put about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grape seed oil in a cast iron skillet - not much at all.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I haven't owned a can of shortening for years. I use olive oil for pie crusts and do almost all of my cooking with it. (I don't deep fry, so smoke point is a non-issue).

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      12 months ago from Central Florida

      Diva, I use grape seed oil for high-temp frying. It's very clean, light and has no taste. I can't remember the last time I used shortening and don't even keep it in the house anymore. Extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and grape seed oil are always in my pantry.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Dale. We are just now enjoying summer-like weather here in the Pacific Northwest. So I will join you in growing lemon balm and will give that recipe a try. I think lemon balm should survive the marauders (aka black-tailed deer) in the neighborhood.

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      12 months ago from The High Seas

      Gudday Linda, I like the idea of the lemon balm vinegar for salad dressing and now is the perfect time of year here (in Phoenix, Arizona) to give it a try. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, I do not have lemon balm in my garden, but I think I'll give it a try. I find that the deer do not like anything in the mint family, so it just might survive. Thanks for stopping by.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      12 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I'm going to plant lemon balm after reading about it. Love the smell of lemon. Thanks, Linda, for another wonderful and helpful hub.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, non-stick cooking sprays are a problem, aren't they? The pans get a sticky buildup that seems impenetrable. I'll work on an answer for you and Shirley.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      12 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks for answering those questions, I will pass the information on to my sister.

      She and I have a similar question (great minds think alike you know). She wanted to know how to clean the spray oil off of pans, and I wanted to know the best way to clean a splatter guard.

      Thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, thank you kind sir. The "other Bill" in my life just had a birthday, so I'm not exactly sure what will take place, but you can rest assured that the kitchen will be a flurry of activity as some time today.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I'll be glad to answer your question on organics next week. Good question!

      Now, I have a question for you. You said "...I think you should do foods next". I aim to please, but not sure what you are looking for (in this series). Once a week I write an article on one specific ingredient. You are looking for something else? (Or perhaps a Readers Digest condensed version?).

      I hope you have a wonderful day. I look forward to hearing back from you.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Kristen. I appreciate your kind words and support.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      RInita, that is an excellent question (and one that I have not covered in the past). Just one week ago I wrote about the preparation of sauerkraut, but your question is a bit different.

      I will have an answer for you next Monday. Thank you for stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not all oils are created equal....great line!

      I'm trying to think of a question but I'm drawing a blank on cooking this morning...maybe later.

      Enjoy the cool holiday, Linda! Enjoy the heck out of it.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda your "giddiness" is infectious. I have got to do your suggestions on Coleslaw. Mostly my boy and I like all our veggies and fruit "raw" but that cabbage is a hard to eat.

      I can hardly wait for the response on Greek. I think you should do foods next but I really look forward to favorites in the kitchen and I know it will include other "tools" because you are a garden freshy.

      Now I have a serious question here.

      I went to an awesome "Nutrition for Dummies" class. (remember those books?) OK they really did not call us patients dummies.

      But this gal/teacher has at least 6 initials after her name. And she went off on "Organic". She just insisted that it limits our diets too much and costs too much and is really not that different. As the food producers do not want to kill their consumers ;-)

      I just want to hear your opinion here.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      12 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Linda, great mailbag as always. Very useful to know these interesting tidbits today.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      12 months ago

      What a great article! I haven't checked out the others in the series, but do you have anything on fermentation of vegetables? My specific question is whether the water used in fermentation should be thrown away after the process is complete. Thanks in advance!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, years (decades?) ago we were passing around the friendship bread at our church. I think it was actually named "Herman." (Don't ask why; I have no idea). We did Herman cake, bread, cookies, pancakes. We did it all. And then, I killed Herman...and it was no accident.

      You've asked, I'll respond. Check back next Monday for an answer to your question on Greek seasonings.

      Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful holiday. There is no way we can ever truly express our gratitude for the blessing of freedom.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      12 months ago from USA

      What a great mailbag, CarbDiva! My sister used to give out friendship bread starter and at first it was, like you describe, intriguing. Quickly came the point at which my mother and I (and my husband even though he didn’t bake) said, “Oh, no!” When she offered it. It was as if she was passing us a turd. Don’t get me wrong, the finished product was excellent but how much can you eat?

      I have a question:

      I recently made an excellent recipe that called for “Greek spice.” I searched several grocery stores in my area and eventually found it. The label doesn’t really say what exact spices are in it. Do you know what spices are considered Greek, particularly in case I have to make my own Greek spice blend?

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