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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #50

Updated on February 19, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

Guess What?

Here's a sobering thought for all of you. Do you realize that Christmas is less than 100 days away? Perhaps that doesn't bother you. If like some people I know, you wait until the 24th of December to do your shopping, you are probably not in the least concerned.

But, me? I'm in a panic. There are so many things to do—knitting, sewing, baking, candy-making, decorating. I'd better finish up this article so that I can get back to my fretting!

How to Make Soft Bread

I have a question regarding soft bread. I make my bread using my bread machine. I tend to only use the dough program, and then bake it as rolls. I use all purpose flour and they taste good but are quite dense. I would like to make bread that is lighter. Is it the ingredients or do I need more kneading?

Source

Mary, there are so many variables that come into play; without being in your kitchen I'm not sure how to advise you. Allow me to ask a few questions:

  • Do you measure your flour (by the way, all-purpose should be fine) by the cup (volume) or do you weigh it on a food scale? Because you live in a tropical climate, it is possible that your flour is absorbing moisture from the air which is, in turn, throwing off the balance of flour and liquid.
  • When allowing the dough to proof (rise), do you go by the time specified in the recipe, or by how the dough looks? Here's an easy test. Gently poke the dough with your finger. If the dough springs back (the hole fills in immediately) it's not ready yet. If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough. However, if it remains in the "ready-to-go" state for too long, some of the oomph of the yeast will start to fade, making for a more dense loaf.
  • Most dough recipes contain just the basics—flour, yeast, salt, and water. The addition of an egg and/or a pat of butter will add fat which can help make the bread more tender.

Here's a simple recipe by Nigel Slater that might help:

Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3Tbsp butter
  • 2 packets of yeast (dry)
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions

  1. Heat the milk and add sugar, salt, and butter. Make sure the butter melts. Allow this mix to cool.
  2. Heat up the water to about lukewarm and add the yeast. Add a cup of flour and start stirring/mixing.
  3. Add a second cup of flour and the butter mix you made in step 1. Stir again for about 9-10 minutes.
  4. Add another cup of flour (3rd cup) and stir.
  5. Add the next cup of flour and stir/knead for around 5-6 minutes. Add the 5th cup of flour and knead again. Keep kneading till it’s soft and doesn’t break but behaves more like clay. Add a bit more flour if required.
  6. Pour some flour on your kitchen slab and start to knead the dough.
  7. Oil a big bowl for the dough to go into. Cover with a towel and let it rise for around 35-40 minutes. Longer if it hasn’t risen.
  8. Punch it down in the bowl, take it out and knead it a little bit. Split it into two equal loaves.
  9. Take two baking trays, oil them and put the dough in. The recipe asks for oil to be sprayed on top of the dough but I brushed some butter over them.
  10. Cover them and let the dough rise for around an hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F) and bake till golden brown.

Your Best Chili Recipe

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.

Source

Bill, chili is one of those foods that everyone has an opinion about—each one is different, and everybody's right. Some people want LOTS of meat (in fact there are those who say that beans should never fall into the pot). Some want it red, others white, some prefer mild seasoning and others swear it has to be 5-alarm or not at all.

We are a complicated species.

Not knowing your preferences I'll give you two different recipes from the Carb Diva files. The first contains some beans but contains a LOT of meat. It won 1st place at our church chili cookoff a few years ago. The second one is vegetarian, but most people can't tell that it does not contain animal protein. (There's a secret ingredient lurking in there that fools just about everyone).

Carb Diva's Prize-Winning Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • * 1 - 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • * 1/4 to 1/2 cup chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large can (27 ounces) dark red kidney beans

Instructions

  1. Crumble meats into a large lidded pot. Cook over medium heat until no pink remains. Remove from pan and drain well.
  2. Add oil to the same pan and saute onion until soft—do not allow to brown. Return meat to pan.
  3. Add tomatoes and spices. Simmer, covered, 2 hours. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  4. Stir in beans and cook one hour more. Watch carefully; it tends to scorch because it is very thick. Add a bit of water if needed.

* Amount you use depends on how hot you want the chili to be.

Carb Diva's Meatless (But Fabulous) Chili

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup dry kidney beans
  • 1 cup dry black beans
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, or more if you like it hot
  • 1 tsp. dried coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano flakes
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 1 lb. crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Carefully sort through the beans. Rinse well and place in a large stockpot. Add 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the beans and return to the pot. Add water to cover the beans by an inch or so; bring to a boil. Simmer until the beans are very tender, 1 to 2 hours. Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water. Place the drained beans back in the pot and set aside.
  3. Place the tomatoes, spices, and jalapenos in a blender container--blend until smooth. Set aside.
  4. In a large saute pan cook the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until they give off their water, the water evaporates, and they begin to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Next, add the remaining oil to the pan and simmer the carrots, onion, and celery over medium heat until the vegetables are soft--about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and bay leaves and saute one minute more. Add the tomato/spice mixture, the sauteed mushrooms, and the sauteed vegetables to the stockpot of beans. Stir in 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water.
  7. Simmer over low heat until heated through and the flavors are blended--about 15 minutes. Add more of the reserved cooking water if needed to prevent burning. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.


New Ways of Cooking Liver - Part 2

Last week Mary chided me for not following through on a "promise" (?) to find some imaginative ways to cook liver. Rinita Sen read that section and has been kind enough to provide a recipe of her own. I'm not certain that I can be prodded into consuming liver, but I can close my eyes and almost smell the wonderful aromas coming from her kitchen with all of those savory spices that she uses.

Source

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.

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.

Cooking: Electric vs. Gas vs. Convection Ovens

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.

I look forward to your response, my friend!

Not my oven
Not my oven | Source

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

Type of Oven
Pros
Cons
Electric
You won’t have to convert cooking times in old recipes.
Require a bit more ‘hands on’. Cookie sheets need to be rotated and opening/closing the door can allow some heat to escape. Heat cycles upward and downward to maintain temperature.
Gas
If you already have gas to your house, a gas oven might be less expensive than electric. Of course, the hookups for either should be installed by a professional. Faster pre-heat time.
Cooking with gas produces water vapor which can prevent best results for baking breads or other foods that need a dry environment. Gas models are usually more expensive than their electric counterparts.
Convection
Will cook more evenly and 20 to 30 percent faster than a standard baking oven
Standard recipes will require some adjustment, about a 25-degree reduction in temperature or a shorter cooking time. You might need to purchase new cookware (low-sided pans, and containers that allow at least 2 inches from the sides of the pan to the oven walls.

Recipe Snafu?

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.

Source

After much super-sleuthing, I discovered that the recipe in question was not recommended by me. Shauna discovered it on a website I had recommended. (So perhaps it's guilt by association). Here's the link to the problematic recipe, "Sheet Pan Honey Mustard Chicken Dinner".

Shauna's solution of parboiling the potatoes would certainly solve the problem, but would also obviate the one-pot cooking moniker. Most recipes for roasting potatoes at 425 degrees suggest a minimum of 35 minutes. But, cooking the chicken for that length of time might result in dry, rubbery meat.

Is there a compromise? I think these tips might help:

  • cut the potatoes into smaller pieces, no more than 1 inch in size.
  • arrange the potatoes near the edge of the pan.

I haven't tried this recipe (yet) but will put it into the rotation for sure. I'll be sure to report back to all of you.


Ripening Fruit

My question is about fruit for the fruit salad. How do I buy it to make sure it is all ripe at the same time to be used in a fruit salad? I tend to shop once a week.

Source

Mary that's a great question and one that I think a lot of people struggle with. Here's the problem. There are two categories of fruits.

  • "Nonclimacteric" fruits ripen gradually on the parent tree/vine. They do not store their sugars as starch and so, once picked, do not ripen any further.
  • "Climacteric" fruits can be (and often are) harvested while they are still green. Ethylene triggers the ripening action. These fruits store their sugars as starch which converts to sweetness during the post-harvest ripening process.

So, what does this mean? There are some fruits that you can purchase unripe, they will ripen in your home, and if you enclose them in a paper (not plastic) bag, you can hasten the ripening process. And then there are other fruits that, if not as ripe as you would want when you purchase them, will not improve after you take them home. Here's chart to help you:

Fruit
Non-climacteric (will not continue to ripen after being picked)
Climacteric (will ripen after being picked)
Notes
Apples
 
x
refrigerate to extend shelf life
Apricots
 
x
if hard can be ripened by storing in a paper bag. Use within 1 or 2 days
Bananas
 
x
ripen in a bag. The kitchen "hacks" of speed-ripening in the freezer or an oven don't work
Berries
x
 
shelf life of 3 days or less
Canteloupe
 
x
 
Cherries
x
 
 
Grapefruit
x
 
have better taste if not chilled but can last up to 7 weeks in the refrigerator
Grapes
x
 
will keep chilled 4-6 days
Guava
 
x
 
Kiwi
 
x
can be encouraged to ripen by storing in paper bag with other fruits. Once ripe use immediately or chill
Mangoes
 
x
 
Nectarines
 
x
 
Oranges
x
 
 
Papayas
 
x
 
Peaches
 
x
 
Pears
 
x
 
Pineapples
x
 
look for fruit that is lighter in color at the base and smells sweet
Plums
 
x
 
Watermelon
x
 
will keep up to 2 weeks if left uncut.
Source

In this segment I have highlighted the kitchen tools that are (in the words of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins) "a few of my favorite things."

Today is the final chapter of the series.

This last one is something very personal. It's not something that you can purchase on Amazon, or at your local department store (but it might be available on Ebay). The last kitchen gadget/tool/piece of equipment I want to talk about is a set of Pyrex bowls from my mom's kitchen.

I really don't know their age, but they were present on the pantry shelf when I was just a young thing. (I'd rather not reveal my actual age, but let's just say that I was alive during the Eisenhower administration). OK, so there are 4 bowls.

  • The largest is yellow and is ample enough to handle just about any mixing challenge.
  • Next in size is the green bowl. I pull that one out when making a pie crust or cookie dough.
  • Then, there's the red bowl. It probably doesn't get as much respect as it is due. Not big enough for crust, but too big for the smaller tasks of whipping up a sauce. Poor red bowl.
  • Then there's the blue bowl. This is the master for whipping together sauces, crumbles for desserts, or one-person tuna or chicken salads.

Source

So that prompts me to ask, is there something, a tool you remember from your childhood that your mom (or grandma) used in the kitchen that you wish you had today? Or, perhaps you were lucky enough to have it passed down to you? I'd love to hear your stories.

And in case you are wondering, next week I'll be looking at "Alphabet Soup". One soup for each letter of the alphabet, one per week. Following that, I have suggestions from two Hubs friends which I will be working on during the winter.

Thanks for stopping by. I enjoy hearing from all of you. Remember, you can leave questions in the comments section below, or email me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      9 months ago from london

      Lol.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, you made me laugh. In all truth, I am not at all concerned about the holidays. Things are coming along quite nicely.

      Rinita is a sweet soul. Always positive and upbeat and willing to share her knowledge.

      Yes, I like using at least one kitty in every Q&A article (I've recently decided that it will be my 'signature'. "The crazy cat woman has written another article."

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, the tool that you speak of sounds like a mortor. Many cultures use a mortor and pestle (the pestle is a small bowl) to grind spices, or pulverize fresh herbs. Think of it as a VERY old fashioned food processor. You are most fortunate to have that in your kitchen.

      It was my pleasure to include your recipe. I like the idea of meeting here to share ideas.

      I hope you will enjoy the soup series, but a few of the letters still have me puzzling a bit on "what to do."

      I hope you have a wonderful day. Thank you for stopping by. Your comments are always full of kindness.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      9 months ago from london

      I sometimes go for the unusual. I love the idea that you have a 'prize-winning recipe. Lol. I love the idea that Rinita offered her services and I like the cat. Ha ha.

      Great stuff on the fruits. I understand the little things.

      Now didn't I hear you say that you do everything way in advance? So why are you worried about Christmas? You are already prepared, no? Sweet chuckle.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      9 months ago

      Thank you, Linda, for including my liver recipe. Great mailbag as always. That fruit ripening chart is quite handy. I have also successfully ripened avocados by keeping them in a paper bag alongside a banana. Well, the banana does start to blacken before the avocados are ripe, in which case I just eat the banana, and replace it with a new one in the bag... Haha

      To your question about an old kitchen tool, yes I do have something in my kitchen that my mom gave me, which was probably my grandma's, or even older. I don't know what it is called globally, or if it has a name even, but in our part of the world, it is a traditional tool used for hand pounding spices. It is like a heavy cynlindrical rock about 8/9 inches long and 3/4 inches in diameter, bulging out in the middle and tapering at the ends. These things have been known to last for centuries, so I think my future grandchild is all set :). Oh, and yes, I use it regularly.

      Awaiting your alphabet soup series! Thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Eric. I have been hoping that you would stop by for a visit. Your kind words warm my heart.

      My girls don't care for meat (one is a strict vegetarian), but I have to admit that the "minimal" beans one is awfully darned good. Had I been at your house I would have been hiding with you and Gabe. As if liver isn't bad enough, you get blood soup too?

      The stove isn't mind (really it isn't). It's just a photo I found in the Public Domain and I thought it was funny. I hope you have a good day. Look for my new one yesterday on Mise en Place.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      A wonderful article as always expected. I get tired of thinking this is the best ever as every week you raise the bar. Cool stuff on fruit.

      I think minimal beans is the best option.

      My boy and I hid outside the other eve. Blood soup and liver were going on in the kitchen. Sometimes Viet food is not so good.

      That stove is a cheapy. In our cabin we used a Ben Franklin the high end one.

      Apple peelers and Ice cream"churners?" Instead of a juicer grandpa had a fruit masher of a sort.

      Thanks again.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, it's good to hear from you. I sincerely hope that the bread recipe works for you. There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread. And, yes I will be glad to add your question about reheating pizza to the Q&A for next week -- no microwaving involved.

      Have a great week!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      9 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for answering my questions. In answer to your question, I weigh the flour. In my bread machine, for the dough program it's 2 hours and 20 minutes. Most of the time, the machine isn't doing anything other than just sitting there with the digital clock counting down. Funnily enough, I also noticed another reason why in your response to Shauna's question. My oven is gas, and is in need of having the jets cleaned so I have no idea what temperature I'm cooking at. I will give that recipe a try and use your poking method of checking to see if it has risen enough. I am guilty sometimes of forming my rolls and then forgetting about them and then they fall.

      You've expanded my vocabulary with 'Climacteric'. I will try your paper bag idea.

      Thanks again to Rinita for that liver recipe. I've already mentioned it to my husband. It will now find it's way into my repertoire.

      I have a question for another Q & A. What is the best way to reheat leftover pizza? I don't use a microwave.

      Thanks again for all the great ideas.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, thank you for sharing your story. I'm sure that every time you use those things, you think of your great-grandmother. If she was the kindest person you have ever known, I'd have to say that you are certainly #2. Treasure those memories.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      9 months ago from USA

      No one wanted my great-grandmother’s cooking implements. They were more interested in the bigger items when she died, and I was young with no place to store large items. I volunteered to take a double decker metal coffee pot, a ceramic double decker teapot, her syrup dispenser, and several other items. I eventually ended up with her wood wardrobe and secretary as well as an old enamel storage cabinet with a built in flour grinder when they were each cast off for newer items. They remind me of the kindest person I have ever known, someone who always said you got prettier and prettier each time she saw you. She had a good heart and made great food.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, you can grow your own pineapple? Wow, how lucky you are. Thanks for that advice on being able to ripen them indoors. I hope you have a wonderful week.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      9 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, thanks for answering my electric versus gas question and looking into the foiled (pun intended) recipe.

      One thing I'd like to mention with regard to pineapple. I have several pineapple plants in my yard. If I can get to them before the raccoons do, I'll twist the pineapple off the plant when it's yellow, but not completely yellow. I set them in my kitchen window for a day or two until they are completely yellow. The sugars do continue to develop and distribute themselves. It also helps to lay them on their side and rotate every so often. This is another way of promoting the spread of sugars throughout the fruit. My pineapples are some of the juiciest and sweetest I've ever tasted!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill those chili recipes have been tested (and approved) many times. Don't worry, I'm not ever going to try to convert you to eating liver.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, thank you so much. I had fun putting this one together.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I salivated over the chili recipes...thank you...and I cringed over the mention of liver. Such is life. Thanks for the recipes. I shall try them...but never liver! :) Have a great week!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a great article as it is loaded with so many good tips for cooking and preserving foods. I loved the information on fruit. i don't make bread anymore, but the chile recipe sounds great. Thanks.

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