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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #49

Updated on September 9, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

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

The seasons are changing, and I find that those chilly nights prompt me to change my menus as well—fewer main dish salads, more soups and stews, and steaming bowls of chili are definitely in our future.

What about you? Do you alter your eating habits when the weather turns cold (or hot)?

Is there perhaps a food that you remember from your childhood that you'd like to make for your family, but don't have the recipe? Or maybe you want some new ideas, a bit of inspiration. Tell me and I'll do my darnedest to help you.

So, let's get started on the questions that arrived last week.

Yogurt and Bread Starters (Cultures) - Part 2

When I was a young boy, during undergraduate my wife to be and I swapped yogurt and bread "cultures"?? Can you tell me straight about them, and could one really be forty years old?

sourdough starter
sourdough starter

Eric, this is such a great question and required such a lengthy answer that I made it into a two-parter. Last week I discussed yogurt and today we'll tackle bread cultures, otherwise known as sourdough.

First, let me explain that I did have a sourdough starter many, many (many) years ago. But several moves, having babies, a crazy 50-hour per week career, and life all interfered. Eventually, something had to give, and since I loved my babies and my job, and was pretty much enjoying this thing called life, my relationship with the starter had to come to an end.

Part of me would like to begin a new courtship with sourdough, but in all honesty, despite my nickname (Carb Diva) I don't "do" bread very much anymore. Nevertheless, I did research this topic, looking for the perfect recipe for you Eric, and the rest of the readers.

Phil Van Kirk wrote an excellent article on "Conquering San Francisco Soughdough" for Fine Cooking Magazine, (April/May 1994), but he is a big fan of purchasing a known starter rather than seeking the illusive wanton wild yeast. I don't think that's what you want.

Then I visited King Arthur Flour, AllRecipes, and countless other websites. Finally, I found it, the Holy Grail of information on all things sourdough. SourdoughHome is the book on sourdough. Actually, what they have written could fill a book. I won't endeavor to repeat it here. Why re-invent the wheel? Instead, I suggest that you click on this link and feast your eyes and mind on everything wonderful and possible with creating your own sourdough starter. It all begins here.

There is now a Table of Contents for this Carb Diva Q&A series. It's broken down into these handy topics:

  • Beverages
  • Breads and Baking
  • Casseroles and One Dish Meals
  • Desserts: Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings, Frozen Treats
  • Diet, Nutrition, Food Safety
  • Dried Beans, Pasta, Grains, and Rice
  • Eggs, Cheese, Dairy, and Non-Dairy
  • Fish, Seafood, and Poultry
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Herbs, Seasonings, and Spices
  • Meats: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, Variety Meats
  • Potpourri (It Doesn't Fit Anywhere Else)
  • Salads, Soups, Sauces, and Side Dishes
  • Special Helps: Kitchen Tools, How To's, Canning/Freezing, and Meal Planning

Each question is a hot-link to the original article where the answer is given. Here's a link to the Table of Contents. Bookmark it. I will update this on a weekly basis.

New Ways of Cooking Liver

This is from my friend Mary, in response to the caption I wrote for the "Meats" section of my table of contents. In case you missed it I said:

"Here is the time for a confession—I cannot promise that I will ever address a query about organ meats (otherwise known as offal). Thusfar, I have not been asked "how to cook liver" but if that day does come, I will do my best."

I do have one issue with this (table of contents)... I did ask you about cooking liver! You said we may have to part ways, as you hated it. LOL

I tend to just fry it, and then serve it with cooked onions, and mashed potatoes and gravy. I would love another way to make a simple dish using it.

the dreaded liver and onions with mashed potatoes
the dreaded liver and onions with mashed potatoes

Good golly Mary, I thought Flourish's question about roasted guinea pig was difficult. Oh, the things I do for my friends!

Here are a few ideas that take you beyond the standard "liver and onions." I've not tested them (nor will I ever), but I'm sure you are not the only person out there who enjoys eating liver once in a while. If you do happen to try one of these, please report back to us, OK?

  • In this first recipe, liver is combined with ground beef, garlic, and chili powder to create meatballs that you bake in the oven.
  • Or, thinly slice it and saute with onion, bell pepper, and savory spices to create this Egyptian-style beef liver.
  • Thick-sliced bacon and rosemary help flavor this beef liver pate.
  • One more (to show that I care). Liver is sliced, dipped in an egg wash, breaded, and fried till done and crispy crunchy.

This is where I share with you the one kitchen tool I simply cannot do without. I promise it won't be a one-use-only gadget for a costly space-waster on your countertop. Today I'll share with you the . . .

Gravy (Fat) Separator - Honestly, if you have ever attempted to make real gravy (not the stuff concocted from water in a saucepan and an envelope of unknown powdered substances lurking in a sealed-for-your-safety package), you will want one of these.

What is a fat separator? It looks a little like a liquid measuring cup. But wait, there's more. Some of them have a spout positioned near the bottom of the vessel. Seems good in theory, but some of the fat always manages to get into the spout, and then you are faced with either allowing some fat to escape, or leave some (still good) liquid behind.

I love my Cuisipro 4-cup fat separator. As (I hope) you know, fat always rises to the top. With the push of a button, the liquid in the bottom of this container is released from the bottom. You can stop the flow (just before that ugly fat reaches the exit) by simply releasing the button.

Of course, this isn't just for gravy. It works for de-greasing soup too. Once you have one in your repertoire, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it.

Can I Bake Meatloaf in a Pot?

Can I just use a pot for meatloaf?

Eric, my mom always baked her meatloaf in a loaf pan (a 9-inch by 5-inch pan used for baking a loaf of bread). And you can certainly do that. I prefer to bake a free-form loaf on a foil (or parchment paper) lined rimmed baking sheet. There are pros and cons to each method. I think it pretty much boils down to how you want your meatloaf to look and taste.

Baked in a Pan
Baked Free-Form
Top crisps, sides remain soft
All sides are brown and crisp
Fat remains in pan
Fat drains away
Top can be glazed
All sides can be glazed
Uniform slices
Free-form (multi-size) slices

There is a way to somewhat combine the two methods. If you line your loaf pan with plastic wrap, you can pack (mold) your meatloaf into the pan, then turn it out onto a rimmed baking sheet. That way you get all the benefits of having a loaf with uniform slices, but the fat will drain away and it will be easier to (1) obtain crispness on all sides and (2) glaze the entire meatloaf.

By the way, the standard baking time for a 2-pound meatloaf is 25 to 30 minutes per pound (or about 1 hour) at 350 degrees F.

If I have totally misunderstood your question, please let me know and I'll give it another go.

OK, so the mailbox was not jam-packed this week, but that's understandable. The Labor Day holiday marks the unofficial end of summer. Now, the kids are back in school and it's time to settle back into a routine.

Read me on Monday (every Monday), ask a question, and I'll have an answer for you the following Monday. It's that simple. Leave your queries in the comments below, or you can write to me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

I hope you have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      It can absolutely wait, Linda. I'm a pasta-holic, too. I still have two more dishes from that post I want to try and they both contain pasta. Surprise, surprise!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, since the parsley has already wilted, I'm going to assume that you don't need an immediate answer. May I hold this one to answer in Episode #51? Number 50 is already over 2,200 words. I want to enlighten, not put people to sleep. I'm glad you liked the gnocchi. I'm a pasta-holic.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I'm back with another question. First, I have to tell you that I made the Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Gnocci that you featured in your One Pan Wonders post and it was delicious! I think the only thing I'll do different the next time I make it is substitute half and half for the whipping cream and add a tad more white wine. I found the sauce to be just a bit too thick.

      So, here's my question: the aforementioned recipe called for fresh parsley. Since I don't currently have any growing in my garden, I had to purchase an already-cut bunch from the grocery store. How do I store the unused portion so it can go in my belly and not the composter? I tried setting it in a glass of water and storing in the fridge like I sometimes do with celery, but that didn't work. The entire bunch wilted.

      Any ideas?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, I'm glad I've got you wondering "what's next"? You just never know what I might come up with. Yes, the weather is now being brutal to the other extreme. We have had more rain in the past 24 hours than we had in the past 4 months. It's crazy. I hope you stay well, dear friend.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      3 months ago from london

      Thanks Linda.

      Im cold now and not good at extremes. I use hot soup at such times and increase my inner layers.

      So you have a gravy separator. What,s next? Ha ha.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, taste and smell work together, so if something doesn't smell good to us, we'll probably give it a thumbs down. It is good to hear from you. I can almost envision you and Gabe making sourdough bread.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda this is excellent. Don't care for Liver but I might like that meat ball one. Funny that I like liver pate. Maybe it is the smell which turns me off about liver.

      Thanks for the info on starters. I think I will get a known one.

      That is great news about how you do meatloaf. I think the boy will like kneading this one.

      Thanks so much.

      (Linda I am going to start reading these later - as with Bill's, the comments are awesome and it is a foodie love fest)

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks Rinita, I will give this a try.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      3 months ago

      Of course, I'd be happy if you include it. Thanks! Agreed, all of us eat :)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, thank you for sharing your recipe with us. I love that we can all "talk" together. That's what makes food so much fun. Not everyone drives a car or gardens or listens to music, but all of us eat.

      Just in case people do not at the comments, or look back once they have been here, I will print your recipe next week if you don't mind.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      3 months ago

      Great info again, thanks! Liver is a regular on our dinner table because of its high nutrient density. If Mary or anyone else reading this is up for Indian spices, here's my pan recipe - shallow fry cubes of potatoes with salt, until it is less than half cooked. Keep them aside. Fry chopped onions, garlic and ginger, add pastes of onion, garlic, and ginger. Add ground coriander and cumin, salt, a pinch of ground turmeric, and black pepper powder or green chili pepper. Fry the spices well, and then add the chopped liver and the semi fried potatoes. Fry the mixture for a couple more minutes, and then add the required amount of water. Cover and cook until the liver is done. Note that a generous dose of spices and frying of all ingredients is recommended for masking the smell of liver. Also, we make this with goat liver, but I believe it should work with livers of other animals, too.

      Thank you for providing a great platform to share through your hub series.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      WOW, John, it sounds like I hit the jackpot with you today; I'm so glad. Do let me know if you try the sourdough.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Pamela, for your kind words. You love to read about cooking, and I love to write about it. I'd say we make a good pair.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Linda, I loved this mailbag. It is especially relevant to me, and I need to purchase that gravy/fat separator. What a great idea. I also am one who loves liver, usually dusted with flour then fried with bacon (and it makes the most wonderful gravy). My wife also likes it but none of our kids would eat it. These other recipes for it sound great too, and the tip for meatloaf is helpful too, and we are always buying sourdough bread so the link for a starter culture will be helpful so we can make our own. Happy cooking.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 months ago from Sunny Florida

      While I do not care much for liver but I use to cook it occasionally. I really like your Cuisipro 4-cup fat separator. I spent a lot of time getting fat off of soup two days ago. I was fairly successful, but a time consuming headache.

      I just am not able to cook like I use to due to health issues, but I love to read your articles as I always learn something new.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, your fruit question is in the hopper and I hope to have an answer on beef next week as well. I hope you have a great week.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks for those liver links, I will give them a whirl. My husband misses pate so I should make him some.

      Besides my fruit question from an earlier, Q & A, I have another about meat.

      I was living in the UK during the BSE (mad cow) time and beef was only sold off the bone because of this. My mother-in-law said, that meat nearer the bone was sweeter or more tender, is that true?

      I love that idea of a gravy separator, my chicken gravy is a bit too oily sometimes.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I'm glad you got a deal on that bench scraper.

      I have a gas cooktop, but my oven is electric convection. I'll bet that the convection part is what louses up the timing. Obviously I can't test gas vs. electric vs. convection, but I'll do some research to find out if and how these three types of cooking vary in time and temperature. Thanks for the question.

      I'm sorry that you ran into problems with the chicken and potatoes. I'll take another look at that recipe and see if some adjustments needs to be made. Thanks for letting me know.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, finally you and I agree on something that should NOT be eaten LOL. I did an entire article on chili about a year ago. I'll dust it off and see what I can extract from it for you. Stay tuned.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I don't know about the "filter" part, but I just can't bear the appearance, the smell, and...well, you and I are in agreement on this one.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I hope this doesn't spoil our friendship, but I do like liver and onions.

      Okay, I'll redeem myself. I bought your OXO bench scraper last week. Zulily had all OXO kitchen gadgets on sale for no shipping! I paid $9.99 plus tax. Whoo hoo!

      I have a question for you: I know that cook times must be modified when cooking in higher altitudes, but does the same hold true for electric versus gas? I made croutons last weekend based on the recipe you gave me. I found I needed to cook them 10 minutes longer in order to get that crispy, crunchy texture. I have a Whirlpool Accu-Bake electric oven/stove. Additionally, I made a foil pouch dinner I pulled off your one pot meals post. It was dijon chicken and potatoes. I found I needed to actually double the cook time. However, I'm thinking the author of the recipe neglected to mention that the potatoes should be par-boiled first.

      I look forward to your response, my friend!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Liver? Gag me!!!!!

      My tastes do change with the seasons. Chili is my first desire as I say goodbye to summer . .. so please, Oh Wise One, share with us all your favorite chili recipe.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 months ago from USA

      No liver for me, thanks, even before dietary restrictions. This was something my mother refused to cook, saying it was a filter organ and stunk. Maybe a little hoity-toity but everybody has preferences.

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