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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #32

Updated on February 20, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

I'm going to be shamelessly self-promotional this week. There is no clever introduction, no story to share. My flower garden is putting on a spectacular display, so I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size

These are rhododendrons. A few facts:

  • Rhododendron is a genus of shrubs and small to large trees, the smallest species growing to 10–100 cm (4–40 in) tall, and the largest reported to 30 m (100 ft.) tall.
  • They may be either evergreen or deciduous.
  • Rhododendron is the largest genus in the family Ericaceae, with as many as 1,024 species
  • Species of the genus Rhododendron are widely distributed between latitudes 80°N and 20°S and are native to areas from North America to Europe, Russia, and Asia, and from Greenland to Queensland, Australia, and the Solomon Islands.
  • The rhododendron has become invasive in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The photos show just three of the 20 rhodies in my yard. Yes, they are as tall as the house (the other 17 or so are not quite as large).

End of botany lesson. Now, let's start talking about food.

How To Make Really Tasty Fried Chicken (Part 2)

Last night my fried chicken was (in my husband's terms) bland. Do you have a suggestion of a KFC copycat coating? I usually make a milk gravy to go with the mashed potatoes so it hasn't to work with that.


I'd like to revisit this topic. Admittedly I am woefully behind in my reading. Just yesterday I picked up my January/February 2018 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. Therein was an article on making crispy oven-fried chicken. In addition to garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika (in the breading) they also add grated Parmesan cheese for extra salty/umami flavor and Tabasco (hot sauce) in the buttermilk brine.

I have been subscribing to Cooking Light for years and have never been disappointed by one of their recipes. I'll bet that this one is worth a try.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


Continuing with our alphabetical list of strange, odd, unusual, and obscure cooking terms.

Umami – I mentioned "umami" in the above paragraph about fried chicken. You're familiar with the flavors sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Did you know that there is a fifth “taste”? Umami (Japanese for “pleasant savory taste”) is detected in foods that contain glutamate. Umami has been described as rich, meaty, savory. Foods that impart an umami taste are:

  • Anchovies
  • Beef
  • Carrots
  • Chicken
  • Cured meats
  • Green tea
  • Miso
  • Mushrooms (especially dried shitake)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Parmesan
  • Pork (bacon!!)
  • Potatoes (French fries)
  • Shellfish
  • Smoked fish
  • Soy sauce
  • spinach
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • tuna

Unleavened - Describing any baked good that has no leavening, such as yeast, baking powder, or baking soda (flat breads).

Unmold – The careful removal of a food shaped in a mold such as cakes and terrines.


Vandyke – To decoratively cut fruits or vegetables in a zig-zag pattern around the circumference (usually oranges, tomatoes or lemons. The food is usually used as a garnish to decorate a dish.)

Vanner – A French term meaning to stir or whisk a mixture until it has cooled.

Is There a Substitute for Molasses?

I love ginger cookies and gingerbread (loaf), but I can't get molasses or a dark treacle here. I can get a dark brown traditionally made cane sugar. I don't recall if I have asked you about ginger cookies before. Can I substitute honey? I prefer not to use Karo syrup.


Mary, honey or maple syrup can replace molasses on a 1:1 ratio (1 cup molasses equals 1 cup of honey or one cup of maple syrup). However, as you know, neither of those has the same smokey flavor of molasses.

Since brown sugar is made from granulated sugar and molasses, it will be the closest flavor match. (3/4 cup dark brown sugar plus 1/4 cup water equals 1 cup molasses).

Maple syrup would be the next best choice.

If you have to use honey as the substitute, consider increasing the spices in the recipe a bit to make up for the flavors that the molasses would have contributed.

Why Are There So Many Types of Salt?

At the grocery store, I see grey, pink, sea, flake, and Kosher salts, and more and more. Aren't they all the same thing in a fancy (i.e. expensive) package?


Not all salts are created equal—salt isn’t just salt. The seasoning that we consume is 98 percent sodium chloride; the remaining two percent is what makes the difference. That two percent contains subtle flavors and aromas imparted from the waters and surrounding minerals from which the salts are harvested.

Table Salt—The standard recipe salt. Fine-grained and contains anti-caking agents and (often) iodine. Use in cooking and baking, where precise measurements and table salt’s consistent grain and strength are required.

Kosher Salt—The go-to salt for chefs who appreciate the lack of additives and the coarse grain (to get a “pinch”). Use it to season anything cooked in a saucepan or sauté pan. You won’t need to use as much as table salt.

Crystalline Sea Salt—By-product of evaporating seawater, available in fine and coarse grains, prized for its pure flavor. Use in baking (fine grain) or cooking (coarse grain).

Grey Salt—Most comes from Brittany where the clay soil lends a grey tinge. The trace minerals give it a complex flavor. Use as a finishing salt.

Fleur de Sel—Expensive and worth the cost. These crystals, like snowflakes, form on the top of salt flats and achieve a delicate texture from the breezes that blow across them. Use by sprinkling on your finest foods (such as aged steak, heirloom tomatoes, or a salad of baby greens with artisanal oil and aged balsamic vinegar) just before serving. The instant they touch your tongue they explode with flavor--think of them as Nature's pop-rocks.

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

Let's do this again next Monday!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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