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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #38

Updated on February 20, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

Last week my dear friend billybuc (aka Bill Holland) introduced his 207th(!) weekly mailbag by writing:

To clarify, heat for us in Olympia is anything over 80 degrees. We are a bit wimpy in the Pacific Northwest. We like our seventies, so when the forecast calls for ninety we all get a bit grumpy. If you ever want to live in an area where the word “moderate” is embraced (only regarding weather and not politics) this is the place for you. None of that has anything to do with writing, but I felt like sharing. Hope you don’t mind.

Bill and I live just 20 minutes away from each other . . . and I agree with everything he said, and then some! Good golly miss Molly it's hot around here. I don't do heat. It's not a pretty sight. But thankfully you don't have to look at me (this series will never become a podcast).

Let's start talking about happy things, like food.

Recipes for Non-Alcoholic Frozen Drinks

This question is from Patti - Any recipes for non-alcoholic frozen drinks? I'm having a July 4th afternoon party and would like to offer something fruity that's not a smoothie to go with wings and other grilled items. Don't want the alcohol but along the lines of a daiquiri or something like that. A couple of suggestions would be good.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
virgin strawberry daiquirivirgin mango daiquiri
virgin strawberry daiquiri
virgin strawberry daiquiri | Source
virgin mango daiquiri
virgin mango daiquiri | Source

Patti, I don't know where you live, but in my corner of the world fresh strawberries are in season and will still be available in early July. You can make a great-tasting strawberry daiquiri without the alcohol. The link for that recipe is here. I would be willing to bet that the recipe could be adapted to use other fresh fruits as well—I'm thinking nectarines or peaches.

Want something a bit more "tropical"? Here's a recipe for a mango daiquiri that uses fresh mango, pineapple juice, and a hint of lime.

I hope that helps.

Source

I Have 10 Fingers and I Want to Keep it That Way

Two weeks ago 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. I've told you about my indispensable spider strainer. And last week I mentioned the microplane (a very sharp rasp-like kitchen tool). If you purchase a microplane, I think you need to buy one of these as well—a wire mesh glove.

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I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, especially the Iron Chef-style programs. I'm fascinated by the plating techniques and knife skills. However, there is one aspect that I simply cannot watch. I find that I must turn away whenever a chef uses a mandoline. No, I'm not talking about the stringed instrument in the lute family. A mandoline is a kitchen utensil consisting of a flat frame with adjustable cutting blades for slicing vegetables very thinly and with rapid speed. That blade is razor-sharp and most professionals (I've noticed) employ it without using the safety guard! Why, oh why don't they use a mesh glove?

A what?

Last week I told you about the microplane—a rasp-like utensil for zesting and finely shredding hard spices and cheeses. You don't want to accidentally rub your fingertips against those sharp teeth, and that is why you need a pair of wire mesh gloves. They come in a range of sizes (small to extra-large) and cost less than $10.00 on Amazon. That's only $1.00 per finger! Totally worth it.

What Do You Cook When You Don't Feel Like Cooking?

When you are just too lazy or whatever to cook, what is the go-to stuff you use? I lean toward salads and cereal.

Source

Eric, please don't hate me, but I can't remember the last time this ever happened to me. I love to cook and, except for a few aches and pains that come with six-plus centuries on this planet, I'm in relatively good health.

Spontaneity is not my middle name, and so I usually plan out meals for a week (or more) which are based on what I have in the refrigerator/freezer/pantry, and what I know our schedule will be during the week. Some days are easy-peasy, some are very short (duty calls), and on some days, I know that I need to get dinner on the table at a precise time (because of evening meetings).

But no matter how much planning one does...surprises happen. Here are some suggestions for what to cook when you just don't feel like cooking or don't have the time:

  • Salad - You mentioned this, and it's a great idea because it's fast, there's usually little to no actual cooking involved, and is a great way to use up leftovers. Make it a meal by tossing in protein—leftover chicken, canned drained tuna, rinsed and drained canned beans, or top with a poached egg.
  • Soup - Canned soup is horribly salty, but I keep a few cartons of low- or no-sodium chicken or vegetable broth on hand. Heat on the stove. Add diced carrot, onion, and celery and when those veggies begin to soften, stir in dry noodles or some rice. Or add canned beans, croutons, and some pesto for a Tuscan-style soup.
  • Pancakes - Yes, I know it sounds decadent, but it's a hot meal that can come together pretty quickly.
  • Eggs - This is probably my favorite go-to meal and another way to use up leftovers. Add sausage, diced cooked bacon, leftover roast beef or pork, or tofu. Is there less-than-crispy spinach lurking in your salad bin? Add that, or shredded carrots or kale. Leftover boiled potatoes? Bingo.

Can You Make Coconut Aminos at Home?

I am back with a question for you - could you share any information on whether there is a way to make coconut aminos at home? We don't get it here, and I heard the process does not require many ingredients but was unable to find a process to make it at home.

Rinita, your question really had me scrambling. I have learned that I still have much to learn. I did not know what coconut aminos are, nor had I even heard of them.

For those of you who (like me) had not heard of coconut aminos, here is a description:

Sold as a condiment, coconut aminos is a dark colored, sweet, salty alternative to soy sauce or tamari. Coconut aminos liquid is promoted for its low glycemic and low salt content. This natural nutrient-rich raw sauce is totally soy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and rich in amino acids – hence its name.

That’s the good news. But, unless you are lucky enough to have a live coconut tree in your backyard, you will probably not be able to make your own coconut aminos. Unlike other coconut products, aminos are derived from the fermented sap of the coconut tree, not the meat of the coconuts.

If you are trying to avoid/eliminate soy and/or gluten from your diet by using coconut aminos, here is a substitute recipe you can make at home (but it is not vegetarian!)

To Flip, or Not to Flip, That is the Question

This question comes from Bill - It's barbecue season and I have heard you should only turn meat over once on the barbecue...something about retaining the moisture....is that true?

Source

Bill, I'm in no way a "grillmaster" so I went to the publication "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee for the correct answer to your question. (And I checked with my friend Kenji who has tested and agrees with Mr. McGee's findings)

Here are some considerations, suggestions, tips, and pointers from the pro:

  • Take the chill off. The warmer the meat is before putting on the grill, the less time it will take to cook. Makes, sense, doesn't it? Remove steaks or chops from the refrigerator at least an hour before grilling or, if possible, seal in a zip-lock plastic bag and immerse in warm (100°F) water for 30 minutes.
  • Want to make it pretty? If grill marks are important to the appearance of the finished product, of course, you will flip and rotate one-quarter turn or 45 degrees each time. Watch this video:

  • Size matters. The thickness of a steak is not just about portion control. With a thin cut of meat, it's nearly impossible to achieve that contrast between exterior (crusty bits) and interior (melt-in-the-mouth tenderness) that all of us desire.
  • Season well. Salt your steak at least 40 minutes before grilling. The day before is even better. If you don't have that much time (you just bought the steaks on the way home) salt them just before grilling. And always use kosher salt.
  • Have a flipping good time. If moisture is more important (and that's what Bill was asking about), then flip every minute.

By flipping a steak multiple times—as often as once every 15 seconds or so—you not only end up with meat that's more evenly cooked, you also cut down on your cook time by as much as a third, and develop a great crust on top of that. This is because with multiple flips, neither side is exposed to intense heat for too long, nor does it lose much heat to the relatively cool air above. It's the equivalent of cooking it from both directions simultaneously.

— Kenji, The Food Lab

And, that's it for another week. This time I managed to cobble together (with your help) more than 1,250 words, so the Hub Pages gurus will be pleased. Thank you all for your questions, and for stopping by each week to read my little column. Thirty-eight weeks! Who could have imagined?

If you have a question for me you may leave it in the comments below, or send an email to lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I am humbled beyond words.

      What happened in your kitchen is exactly what I want for all everyone who reads this series. I'd like you to feel like I'm right next to you, cheering you on. Thank you for taking the time to write.

      By the way, I did write an article on this. Look for "Stuffed (Twice Baked) Potatoes Recipes". If you type it exactly that way, including the quotation marks, it will be the first hit in Google.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda this is a great piece. But let me speak of the cumulative effect of your teaching. Another rice dinner looming - as Asians are prone to. Mom was gone and I just had to change the diet. Potatoes. Twice baked not a recipe even in the back of my mind. Plopped down in front of my boy along with a coleslaw (with my dressing) after a meat snack earlier.

      We really were poised to watch a new episode of "Nailed it", a favorite.

      He looked at the presentation kind of quizzically. Gave me a thumbs up. Then tentatively took a bite. Both sides of the huge potato were devoured with a hearty - Nailed it Dad!

      That would never have happened without you Linda. I am growing in food because you are mentoring. You change lives.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna - Perfect poached eggs? I think we can do this. I'll help you make some next Monday.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      11 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I love the idea of the mesh gloves. I'm terrified of cutting myself. In fact, I don't keep my knives sharpened for that very reason (I've sliced off the tip of my fingernails all too often)! I know they say a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one, but so far I have all my digits in tact.

      And speaking of eggs for breakfast (you were, weren't you?)... I loved poached eggs. I've watched a thousand tutorials on how to properly poach an egg, but they all seem a tad complicated or labor intensive. Do you have a secret to easily making perfect poached eggs?

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      11 months ago

      Thanks Linda, will check it out.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, believe it or not I do not own an instant-pot, and I honestly don't see one in my future. I did, however, write about them in installment #11 of this series. Look for that. It even provides some links that might be of help to you if you are on Facebook. If you cannot find the article, or are not on FB, let me know and I'll repost the informatoin for you.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      11 months ago

      Linda, have you ever used an Instant pot? I just came across it few days ago, and thought you might know as you do a section on kitchen equipment anyway.

      The thing is I would love to automate the cooking (well, who wouldn't), but only if this instant pot churns out food as good as traditional pots and pans.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Mary. No, the gloves do not shed fibers. I think they are made of something akin to Kevlar (think flack vest used by the military or police).

      Your question about the coconut milk ice cream is a good one. Non-dairy alternatives (either because one is lactose-intolerant or vegan) are a growing industry. I'll let you know next week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, yes they do look good. I could have used one of those when our temps went over 90 degrees.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      11 months ago from Brazil

      I've learned so much from reading today's article. So glad to see someone asking about non-alcoholic drinks. I too am a non-drinker and often people forget to cater to us.

      I've never heard of those gloves before, interesting. Do bits of fabric not get grated into the food by accident? If someone would grate their fingers, I would think that bits of fibers would go in.

      I can sure relate to Eric's question. Sometimes, I do not feel like cooking and would love to open a box of cereal and have everything over and done with in 10 minutes.

      Regarding the flipping of meat, I love the idea of flipping it multiple times yet I imagine there are people who will never be convinced to do that. Some people are set in their ways.

      That question about coconut aminos, was interesting. I too had never heard of it and I have a coconut farm! That is fascinating although I don't know that I would risk the health of a producing coconut tree to tap into the trunk. I will read more about that.

      While we are speaking about coconuts though, I have heard of a company that makes ice cream but uses coconuts instead of milk or cream. In fact, I think his company is in your region of the US. Any idea how he does this? I would love to make that.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      11 months ago from USA

      Those frozen fruit drinks are a fantastic idea this time of year! Thank you for those!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, it was a pleasure. That's what I'm here for and I enjoy the hunt for answers.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      11 months ago

      Linda, thank you for answering my question, and sorry you had to search so much. Well, too bad the coconut aminos cannot be made at home. Maybe when I retire and settle in my home town, there's a coconut tree there. Anyway, thanks again and next time I promise to bring in an easier question!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      11 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh, Bill, I'm so sorry. Fixed it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You shorted me 100 articles, but who's counting? It was probably the heat.

      Thanks for answering my question. Shows you how very little I know. I've been doing it wrong for about sixty years now. lol

      Have a tremendously enjoyable evening, my friend.

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