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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #64

Updated on February 20, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

No long introduction today. It's Christmas Eve and all of us are busy. But I have made a promise that I will be here each and every Monday to share with you the questions I received, and give you my answers. I don't break promises.

And so, the first question today comes from Mary.

The Connection Between Dairy Products and Sweet (or Nightmarish) Dreams

I have a question that is less about cooking and more about chemistry perhaps. Why is it said that drinking warm milk before bed helps you sleep, but eating cheese gives you nightmares?


Mary, like you, for years I've heard that a glass of warm milk just before bedtime will make us sleepy. Is there any truth to this, or is it another old wives' tale? While it's true that milk contains tryptophan (an amino acid that helps create serotonin and melatonin) the amounts are insignificant. So why does warm milk put some of us in the mood for slumber? May I say that "it's in your head?"

If you have pleasant childhood memories of Mom giving you a warm glass of milk and a bedtime story before you drifted off to sleep, your mind will associate warm milk with that cozy, comfortable feeling. So, it's science but it's not physiology, it's psychology.

OK, that story was a bit of a snore (pun intended). The question about cheese and nightmares was a lot more entertaining. Is there any truth to the claim that eating cheese before bedtime induces bad dreams, or is it merely the invention of Charles Dickens? (Remember that his Ebenezer Scrooge blamed a "crumb of cheese" on his ghostly visitors on Christmas Eve.)

In 2005 the British Cheese Board conducted a sleep study using 200 volunteers (100 men and 100 women). Over a one-week period, the test subjects were given a 20-gram piece of cheese 30 minutes before bedtime. Six different types of cheese were used. During the 7-day trial, 72 percent of participants reported that they slept well and 67 percent were able to recall their dreams but no one reported nightmares. But here's an entertaining fact from the study:

85 percent of females who ate Stilton had some of the most bizarre dreams of the whole study – although none were described as bad experiences. Highlights included talking soft toys, lifts that move sideways, a vegetarian crocodile upset because it could not eat children, dinner party guests being traded for camels, soldiers fighting with each other with kittens instead of guns and a party in a lunatic asylum.

If you want more information on the study, check out this link.

How to Cook Dry Beans

My mom always soaked her beans overnight. Lately, I've heard that you really don't need to do that. And what about draining them? Mom always tossed out the soaking water, saying that it would make the beans more "gassy."


Yes, my mom always pre-soaked the beans for our soups. She said it softened the dried skins so that they would cook faster. And, as in your house, she too pitched out the soaking water and replaced it with fresh.

There is also controversy (perhaps too strong a word) over when the beans should be salted. Some cooks say that adding salt to the cooking water "toughens" the beans.

And then, there are those who say the lid should be left on to speed up cooking time, or it should be left off to reduce the liquid and enhance flavors. So many considerations!

Well, to obtain the ultimate answer, I went to the ultimate source for the best methods in kitchen-cooking, Epicurious. Here are the variables that they took into consideration:

  • pre-soak beans overnight
  • bring beans to a boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let sit one hour before cooking
  • cook without pre-soaking or the 1-hour heat/soak
  • drain away soaking water
  • use soaking water for cooking
  • salt before cooking
  • salt after cooking
  • cook with the lid on
  • cook with the lid off

I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure that there are dozens of combinations of these factors. But don't worry. Epicurious did all of the heavy lifting for us, and here's what they came up with:


For the Epi Kitchen, the results were clear. Quick-soaking the beans, salting them at the beginning of cooking, and cooking in a pot without a lid, resulted in beans with great texture and a flavorful broth.

  • Place 1 lb. dried beans in a large, heavy pot.
  • Cover with water about 2” above the top of beans. Cover pot, bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Let rest 1 hour.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Uncover, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender and creamy, checking after 1 hour and adding more water as necessary to keep beans submerged, 1–1 1/2 hours total.


This recipe has been in my repertoire for decades. I don't recall the source; I think it might have been originally published in Sunset Magazine or Better Homes and Gardens (years ago those were my go-to sources for cooking inspiration).

Ingredients for soup

  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs (not Panko)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces of mini penne pasta or other small pasta

Instructions for soup

  1. Prepare spinach pesto and set aside.
  2. Saute mushrooms in 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large stockpot until they give off their juices and begin to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Combine egg, milk, bread crumbs, and salt. Add ground meat and mix well. Shape into 2 dozen 1 ½ inch meatballs.
  4. Saute meatballs in olive oil in a large stockpot until browned.
  5. Add broth, carrots, celery, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add pasta; cover and cook 10 minutes or until the pasta is done and the vegetables are tender.
  7. Stir in pesto and mushrooms and simmer until all is heated through.

Ingredients for Pesto

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • ½ cup grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions for Pesto

  1. Squeeze spinach well to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  2. Place in the bowl of a food processor along with remaining ingredients. Process until smooth.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.

It's Not Too Late

If you have not already posted your letter to Santa he might not pay you a visit, but it's not too late to write to me. If you have cooking questions, I have cooking answers. Leave your queries in the comments section below, or you can email me at

From my house to yours, I wish all of you a very Merry, Blessed Christmas. See you next Monday.

© 2018 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric all you need is love.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      I just got this again on my "follow". Wow!! Did I read # 64 right? After hugs this morning my wife and I were cooking together. She tossed a chicken bouillon into simmering beef for a type of Vietnamese spaghetti sauce. Grandma Tam says it needs to sit for 4 hours. Is a kitchen a church?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, long before spices were used to season foods they were uswd medicinally.

      As soon as I return to my office I will address your question. I am on the midnight train as I write this.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda please direct me. Healthy eating by following your "advice" changes our love of food.

      But due to some health stuff I have bumped it up a notch. Two nasty infections in two weeks. I am tired of whining to my Oncologist and GP. Both of which are awesome.

      Both infections fully cured by "foods". What say you to this and who should be my Guru?

      Call me crazy but I love my Oregano, Ginger, Garlic, Horseradish, clove, tumeric, black pepper and Cayenne elixir. But who do you go with for real trust in such an area? (and yes I throw in Cummin and Cinamon, my boy loves to grind them)

      Just a nudge in the right direction I pray.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Lawrence. I'm sorry about your cheese restriction. Although I can understand your family's complaint it seems the stinkiest cheeses are also the most luscious.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      5 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      The only nightmare in our house (related to cheese) is not having any in the house, though I have been banned from eating Danish blue cheese asit smells like 'sweaty socks'!!

      Enjoyed the article regarding beans, wesoak our if cooking them, but if making a salad with them they go in 'as is'

      Great information here.


    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Brian, you always ask such great questions, and always provide such great information in your comments. Based on that, I KNOW you're great in the kitchen. Beans? You've got this.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      5 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Thanks, Linda, for the how to cook dried beans instructions. I've always bought canned beans because cooking dried beans sounded complicated. The method you describe sounds simple enough for even me to try.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks Eric. I would be happy if every meal consisted of cheese. There are so many I've yet to try. I hope you are having a great holiday with Gabe.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Thank you Linda for two very in-depth articles. Beans and cheese, who could go wrong! Have a wonderful New Year.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, your meal and the quiet Christmas sound wonderful. Years ago we would go to my sister-in-law's house for a Christmas dinner and gift exchange. To deem it "organized chaos" is being gracious. Small children full of exuberance, excitement and too much sugar. It was exhausting then--there is no way I could endure it now.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, your meatball soup looks yummy.

      I hope you had a nice Christmas. Mine was quiet and relaxing - just what the doctor ordered. I made a simple meal of baked salmon with dill, parsley cheddar potatoes, and peas for myself and son. We had a nice time.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Wow Flourish, our Christmas is so boring in comparison, I best not tell about it for fear of putting people to sleep. No parents, no siblings, no ex's to joke about, no little kids with hands that have been in questionable places, and only one bitty kitty who's only sin is devouring anything and everything on the counter if/when our backs are turned. He received a lifetime achievement award which I must share with you.

      A belated Merry Christmas to you as well.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 months ago from USA

      OMG Diva. That sounds amazing.

      I'm just going over my parents' house (they live a mile away). I'm making a huge pot of string beans because I'm told that no one makes them like I do. It's the spices. I'm also making a broccoli cheddar casserole, but I don't eat that. My mother is making the rest. She's having steak this year to make it easy on her, but I'm not a steak eater either.

      We've tried to assign my sister salad because she doesn't cook well (don't tell her), however, she is insisting on bringing a dessert tray of cakes and other homemade items that she a made a week ago. (Slow cringe, it's all in the spirit) While some of us don't mention my sister's ugly divorce, my father will blurt it out over dinner, making her ex-husband the butt of a hilarious off-color joke in front of his three young kids. They'll laugh, unaware, and repeat it.

      We'll have to watch my sister's youngest because he fondles the rolls with dirty hands and tastes tests, putting anything back that he dislikes. Plus, he relentlessly chases the family cats. (I'm happy that they fight back.) During the middle of the meal, we'll get a call from my brother in Tennessee and put him on speakerphone for the rest of the meal. We've tried doing Christmas dinner many different ways, including out at a restaurant, but dysfunctional seems to work most naturally.

      Merry Christmas!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, Merry Christmas to you as well my friend. It's not about the packages under the tree (as you well know). It's about the Love that is in us and surrounds us.

    • manatita44 profile image


      6 months ago from london

      Thanks Linda and good job 2018! In fact, super-excellent!!

      My aunty's way with beans is similar to your last advice. Cool. Enjoy yourself. Have fun tomorrow. Stay well. Merry Christmas

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Mary. Your question about Parmesan is a good one, and I'll do some research. My instinct is to suggest nutritional yeast for that tangy flavor, but that's just a guess. I have some vegan sources and will have an answer for you next Monday.

      Have a very blessed Christmas my friend.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Linda, I was taught to soak the beans overnight and drain the water, so that is what I have always done. I don't cook beans as often as I did when I had a larger family. The recipes sound good.

      Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      6 months ago from Brazil

      Wow those were weird dreams!

      As Flourish said, that information about cooking beans is useful. When I tell people here that I can't cook beans, they look at me like I've said, "I can't boil water". I appreciate good beans when I'm offered them.

      That meatball soup, does look tasty. Although we don't get cold weather, I still love to eat soup.

      Do you know of a 'mock Parmesan' for recipes? It's so expensive and I know the 'pre-grated stuff' is loaded with anti-caking agents. If I used cheaper cheese and added mustard would that give me the tangy kick? I use mustard in my cheese sauce for cauliflower, so I thought it might help.

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, in my family we always open our gifts on Christmas morning, but today I opened my mail and found this wish from you. My first and best gift wasn't even under the tree.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wishing for you a very Merry Christmas, filled with love and peace. Thank you for your friendship, Linda!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      I never do dinner. Always a brunch which I can mostly prepare ahead of time. Look at my profile page and you'll find 2 hubs "in the spotlight" that will give you some clues.

      Spinach tart with a savory corn shortbread crust, breakfast quiche with tater tot crust, brie topped with dried fruits and nuts and honey, ham, and a kale-pomegranate-Gorgonzola-pecan salad to balance out the decadence. At least I think that's what I'm doing. Too tired to remember.

      What about you, and it's midnight+ where you live. Get some sleep dear friend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 months ago from USA

      The recommendation on bean cooking is very useful as I have tried a variety of methods myself. I love the cat photo too! Merry Christmas to you and your family. What’s for Christmas Day dinner? Just curious.


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