Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #37
According to the calendar, we are just days away from the Summer solstice, and the thermometer in my corner of the world is proof of that. On Wednesday we are projecting temperatures around 90 degrees F.
The photos below are from my wildflower garden. I attempted a "head count" of the foxglove and soon recognized the folly. Saying that there are roughly 500 would not be an exaggeration. Most of them are at least as tall as me (although my family laughs when I say that. Reaching my height is not a significant achievement). There are a few specimens that are 8 feet in height. And the sound as one strolls through them is incredible. They are all literally abuzz with honeybees.
The dianthus are putting on an equally good show. They range in hue from white with a pale pink eye, to rose red to the deepest magenta and the intensity of their color is neon-like.
But, that's not what you're here for. Let's start talking about food!
How Can I Get My Family to Try New Foods?
I am sorry for this psych question but you have so much love in your food maybe you can help. What did you do to get your husband and two girls to love variety? To suck it up and give it a go? My son is doing better but my wife just cannot switch her native with variety. I was trained to try everything. Heck, I was trained to like everything :-) I just about do to this day.
I suppose my question is about "how do you get them to try it?" Or should I just let them miss "variety is the spice of life." I have this health coach and she fires me up. But she don't hold a candle to you. You just make us eat healthily and love it.
Eric, the answer to your question is pretty simple. My daughters were brought up eating a wide variety of foods, so they've known nothing else. My husband was raised in a traditional meat-and-potatoes home, but (1) was exposed to other cultures/cuisines when he served in the Navy, and more importantly (2) he loves me enough that he's willing to try just about anything once. And over the years I've honed my skills in the kitchen. Sometimes the resulting meal doesn't meet my (high) expectations, but I can't remember the last time I had a serious fail.
To be honest, there are a few culinary places I dare not go. I know that Mr. Carb doesn't like briny olives or capers so I don't force the issue on those.
I sense that your son is starting to gain an appreciation for working in the kitchen, and I know from experience that allowing kids to help will encourage them to eat. You and I have talked about this already, but for the rest of the readers, I'll repeat my suggestions. To encourage your little ones to try new foods they can:
- help start a garden
- pick the resulting produce
- go shopping with you
- select the recipe for your evening meal
- help with the prep work (slice and dice, with supervision, of course)
- measure ingredients (built-in math lesson if you are halving or doubling a recipe), stir the pot, etc.
I can't comment on how to get your wife to step outside of her comfort zone. She's a grown-up, so if she doesn't want what you cook, she'll have to make something for herself. Would she be willing to be more "adventurous" if you reminded her that Gabe is getting his cues on life from both of you?
I wish you well.
Last week I introduced a new topic, explaining that once a week I will be channeling my inner Julie Andrews and write about "A Few of My Favorite Things"—the cooking tools, equipment, and gadgets which I cannot do without. I promise that I won't be promoting expensive sous vide cookers or instant pots. Some of these might even be available at your local Dollar Store. One week ago I told you how much I LOVE my Oxo salad spinner. Here's the second item for your consideration.
Microplane - This sweet little gadget is not like the traditional box grater. Microplane graters have teeth that allow you to grate in both directions, saving you time and effort.
Why should you have one? Microplanes do more than simply grate cheese.
- Perfect for hard cheese (such as Parmesan) to create not shreds but a fine snow-like dusting of cheese atop your perfect plate of salad, the pile of pasta, or steaming bowl of soup.
- Citrus zest (orange, lemon, or lime) adds a delightful pop of flavor on desserts and/or savory dishes. It will make you look like a gourmet cook.
- Whole nutmeg + eggnog. Need I say more?
- Dark chocolate - Just a dusting on top of cupcakes, whipped topping or vanilla ice cream for someone special (you, of course!)
- Fresh ginger is difficult to break down, but a microplane makes the task easy-peasy.
- Garlic - faster and more efficient than a garlic press.
Be careful though: It may look harmless, but those teeth really are razor-sharp and can do a lot of damage if you’re careless. There is a safeguard and I'll share that with you next week.
How To Grow Herbs Indoors
I regularly grow sweet basil and mojito mint placed next to my sunny kitchen window. I have four plants, water them the same, and give them the same amount of sun. One, sometimes two, plants always die while the others grow like gangbusters. Any ideas on what causes this?
Audrey, in a separate conversation you told me that these plants were purchased as seedlings at the grocery store, not started from seed in your home. For the benefit of readers who might want to try an indoor garden, but don't know how to begin, I'll repeat what I'm sure you already know:
- Light - Most herbs require full sun, at least 6-8 hours each day in a sunny (south facing is best) window. If that is not possible, supplement with overhead fluorescent lighting.
- Temperature - Like us, our indoor herbs are most comfortable when the temperature is around 60-70°F.
- Air circulation - The gentle breeze of a fan (several feet away) will keep the air around your plants moving. Stagnant air plus damp soil are the friends of mold. But there is a fine balance. If the air becomes too dry, the edges of your leaves will begin to curl or crack. You can eliminate that problem by placing a tray with a layer of pebbles under the catch basins of the pots. This added water will increase humidity. Keep the water level below the catch basins to avoid waterlogged roots.
- Soil - Use a bagged potting soil for your herbs, not soil from the garden.
- Fertilizer - Your indoor plants will not have the benefit of micro rhizomes in native soil. They will be relying on your for regular feeding. A half-strength fish emulsion once a month should do the trick.
- Water - Although they need water to survive overwatering is certain death to plants, both indoor and outdoor. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. My next door neighbor lost a lovely little begonia because she flooded it every time it went limp. The problem was not a lack of water--the cell walls of the stems were collapsing because they had over-expanded from taking up too much water.
If all of these needs have been met, and your herbs truly all have the exact same growing conditions there is only one answer—the plants that died were unhealthy before you brought them home. Perhaps they were the runts of the litter, so to speak. When selecting a plant make sure that it is not dry as a bone, but not waterlogged either. Roots should not be a solid mass fighting for freedom through the drainage hole. Check the underside of the leaves, looking for aphids or spider mites.
Good luck with the indoor garden. I hope you will try again. By the way, mint and basil are good candidates for growing indoors, but you might also consider adding one or more of these:
What Are the Health Benefits of Salt?
Great stuff here again. Just one thing with the salt. Table salt has iodine added for health reasons. Some places in the world don't have iodine in the soil, the body needs it (otherwise you get goiters!) That's why it's put into table salt. We used to use the other salts until I developed a goiter. Actually, there's a question for you, what are the health benefits of the various salts?
Lawrence, in my book I wrote about the history of salt but didn't delve into the health benefits. I'm not a nutritionist, but I'll do my best to present the information I found in my research.
My favorite reference for questions such as yours is "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. He explains that sodium and chloride are ions that are essential components of our bodies and keep our systems running smoothly. They mostly reside in the fluid that surrounds all of our cells (the plasma).
We need about 1 gram of salt per day; McGee says that thanks in great part to processed foods and the fast-food industry we ingest about 10 times that amount. It has long been thought that sodium contributes to high blood pressure, but studies have shown that those on a low-sodium diet do not show significant improvement in their systolic and diastolic pressures. Excessive sodium intake can impact the kidneys (worsening chronic kidney disease), bones (loss of bone calcium), and digestive system (there is evidence of several cancers of the digestive system in China and elsewhere in Asia).
But too little salt can also have serious health implications, including increased cholesterol levels.
It seems that the moral of the story is everything in moderation. Don't salt everything, but don't strive to eliminate all salt from your diet.
You mentioned the addition of iodine to salt to prevent goiter (a thyroid condition). According to the Global Healing Center, iodine deficiency was a significant problem one century ago. Researchers at the University of Michigan decided to copy a Swiss practice of adding iodine to cooking salt—the incidence of goiter dropped dramatically as a result. However, the iodine in table salt is a chemical additive, not a natural ingredient. If you want to increase your intake of iodine without ingesting chemical additives, consider adding these foods to your diet:
- ocean fish (cod, mackerel)
- sea vegetables (seaweed, kelp)
- navy beans
- cheese (particularly goat cheese)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's do this again next Monday!
© 2018 Linda Lum