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

Updated on February 19, 2019
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Linda explores 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 | Source

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 | Source

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

I hope you have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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