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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking, #65

Updated on February 20, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

What Are Your Resolutions?

'Tis the end of the year; a time when we all become a bit nostalgic, looking back over the events of the year—the pluses and minuses, the happy occasions and the sad occurrences. I know that there is no point in dwelling on the past. However, I did write on this very topic about one year ago on my personal blog. I entitled it "Thoughts from My 60-Something Self to My 20-Something Self." The link is here, but allow me to share the highlights with you:

  • Travel - When you visit places other than home turf you meet new people, gain new perspectives, you discover, and you grow. If and when you can, travel.
  • Read - Read every day. Read out of your comfort zone. Read to learn and to grow.
  • Relationships - Trust everyone...once. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Most people you meet will be average, a few will be total disappointments, and a select few will be amazing.
  • Time - Don't waste your time, and don't waste the time of others. Respect the gift of time.
  • Failure - All of us fail at some point in our lives. Failing is stumbling and then trying again. Failure is stumbling and giving up.
  • Perspective - Do you remember the angst of your teens, how it seemed that there were so many insurmountable crises, how no one could possibly imagine the stress you were under? And then somehow you were in your 20's, your 30's and so on? You survived. Maybe it wasn't pretty, but you moved from one decade to the next. We do. We cope. We adjust.

Time changes everything. And that's the whole point of this section. Don't worry about the coulda/woulda/shoulda.

Be patient. Plan in decades. Think in years. Live in days.

Now, It's Time for Some Questions

The mailbox was full of interesting queries this week. The first one is from Mary who says:

Chai Tea

I've recently read a book about life in India and would like to know about making chai in my home.

Source

Mary, in the United States chai is thought of as a particular flavor of tea. But in India, chai is tea, so when you say "chai tea" you are actually saying "tea tea." And if you visit someone's home in India, there is a 100 percent chance that chai will be served.

Chai culture in India developed out of British colonization. When the British East India Company was thriving tea from Assam, India was one of its biggest commodities. Tea consumption in India grew, and eventually, Indians took the British preparation of tea—black with milk and sugar—and put their own spin on it, with the addition of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

In most big cities, you'll find chaiwallas (vendors who specifically sell chai) on every corner, with enormous kettles full of simmering chai. There are regional variations but for the most part, the basic components of chai are the same: tea, milk, spices, and sweetener.

Here are the basic components:

  • Milk - always whole milk
  • Spice - Cardamom is the flavor that makes us sit up and take notice when we enjoy a cup of chai. It is unlike the other spices with which we are so well accustomed (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, although those are used as well but in smaller quantities). Black pepper, coriander, and fennel have also been known to make a guest appearance.
  • Sweetener - Unrefined cane sugar is most common but difficult to source. White granulated sugar could be used to, but I prefer the sweet-bitter flavor of brown sugar.

Here's a basic recipe for you to try. Obviously, this makes quite a bit of tea; you can halve the amounts if needed.

Ingredients

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Coarsely grind the 1st 5 ingredients with a mortar and pestle. Place ground spices, ginger, and pepper in a large saucepan with water; bring to boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Discard tea. Add milk and sugar.
  4. Bring tea just to simmer over high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Strain chai into a teapot and serve hot.

Of course, you can adjust the amounts of spices, tea, and brown sugar to suit your own particular tastes.

And, From the Christmas Brunch

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.

Source

For 31 years Cooking Light magazine taught us how to eat light, eat healthily, reduce fat and sodium . . . and not feel deprived. Their remakes of old standard dishes and innovative food and flavor combinations opened a new world to cooking (and eating) enthusiasts. Sadly the December 2018 publication was their final issue. I have been a subscriber since their infancy; they will be sorely missed by me and countless others.

But their legacy lives on thanks to the internet. This remake of the classic "New England Clam Chowder" has all of the briny flavor and creamy richness you would expect from a bowl of New England chowder, but with much, much less guilt.

I am working on an article on the perfect clam chowder and hope to have that available for you in the near future. But in the meantime, here is the Cooking Light version which, I promise, will not disappoint.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds littleneck clams (about 4 dozen), scrubbed
  • 4 cups plus 1 Tbsp. water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. pieces (about 7 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Instructions

  1. Bring clams and 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high. Cook until clams open, 8 to 10 minutes. (Discard any clams that do not open.) Using a large slotted spoon, transfer clams to a large baking sheet lined with paper towels; set cooking liquid aside. Let clams stand until cool enough to handle. Pull meat from shells; discard shells. Coarsely chop clam meat and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, celery, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add reserved clam cooking liquid, potatoes, miso, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf; cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, about 6 times. Stir mixture into remaining chowder.
  4. Whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir cornstarch mixture into chowder; bring to a boil over medium-high. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Stir in clam meat and half-and-half until combined. Divide chowder evenly among 6 bowls. Top with chives.


How Best to Cook Bacon

I forgot to ask you about bacon. I fry it but when I worked at a restaurant, they used to cook it in the oven. This was in the UK and it was what they call back bacon. I personally prefer, what is called 'streaky bacon' because it is similar to the US type. Is there a best way to cook bacon that will be consumed for example with a breakfast as a side to eggs?

Source

Mary, step into any professional kitchen and you will find that all of them cook their bacon in the oven, not on the stovetop. It's expedient and frees up the cooking surface for other wonderful treats (such as fried eggs and hashbrowns. Yum).

My friend Kenji at the Serious Eats food lab swears by this method and gives us all the facts (he is very precise and methodical) right here. He played with various temperatures (from 325 to 475 degrees F) to find the sweet spot for perfect taste and texture. Kenji also tested four methods of cooking:

  • Directly on a baking sheet,
  • on a wire rack (on top of a baking sheet),
  • on a crimped piece of foil, and even
  • between two baking sheets.

Now, I don't mean to contradict Mr. Lopez-Alt, but in the 'almost-final' issue of the aforementioned cooking magazine (Cooking Light) they were striving to achieve the healthiest baked bacon (adding one more element). So, they lowered the temperature a bit and found that a cold-start technique (they placed the bacon in a cold oven rather than a pre-heated oven) rendered 55 percent more fat! Their perfect baking temperature for this method was 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

Thank You

I want to thank each and every one of you for being here. Without your questions (and encouragement) this series would not be.

  • I am happy to do the research on topics of which I know (barely more than) nothing and I enjoy learning with you.
  • I am passionate about food history and sharing that knowledge with others.
  • I believe in the "community" of eating. Food is how we connect with others. At a shared table, families unite—events of the day are exchanged, children learn, relationships are nurtured, and dreams blossom.

Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.

We may be separated by culture and continent, but food is the language that unites. Food is a part of who we are and what we have been; it is our history. Food has a story to tell.

I hope is that we can continue share in this food journey together. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: lindalum52@gmail.com.


© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda my boy and I do not like beets. Until now. Grumpy old mom took our spring potatoes, beets and carrots and some fine beef and we all sat around in marvel and asked for more. The best Pho' ever. Love and lover and more love makes food heavenly. Thanks for your part in life.

      I am not entitled I am blessed.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence I know that I can always depend on you to contribute something wonderful. Thank you for this.

      It was not my intent to give the impression that the Brits introduced tea to India. I know that that trade route was in existence for millennia.

      I've not tried the Arab method of enjoying tea, but there's still time.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, thank you for your comments. I can always count on you to provide a good dose of information. I did not mean to im0ly that tbe Brits introduced tea to India. That trade route began thousands of years ago. I had heard of tbe arab method of drinking tea but have not had that experience.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      fascinating article here, and being a Brit I was particularly interested in what you said about 'Chai'

      You're right about 'Chai' meaning tea, but tea was in India long before the British, it is the oldest man-made drink in existence and is probably older than the first Beer recipes.

      India got tea from China much earlier than the British getting there, and the Muslim armies when they came into the North in the 8th and 9th centuries took tea back all over the Middle East!

      The most common drink in the Arab "Kahva" (meaning coffee shop) is actually 'Chai' though it's made without milk (Tea with milk is known as 'Chai Englisi') and the best way to drink it is the Persian way where you put the sugar cube under the tongue and drink, once you've drunk the team you spit the remainder of the sugar out as it's only there to take the bitterness away.

      Sorry for going on a bit.

      Blessings

      Lawrence

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Pamela. I hope you are enjoying a good beginning to the New Year.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I have cooking bacon in the oven and it has turned good most of the time.Thick sliced bacon takes a bit longer to bake I have found. Another good article!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 months ago from london

      Sorry about the mistakes. Perhaps I can blame the typewriter. Ha ha. Anyway, these little mistakes in spelling and missed words are so glaring! Like a light in my eyes. So sorry.

      Hey, thank you for that. Maslow will be proud of his psychology in my case. Chuckle. Pretty amazing yourself and to think that our birthdays are so close to each other, I believe. God's Peace be with you this day.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, how wonderful that the first words I read in the New Year are from you. Thank you for the insight on masala chai and for that addition to the topic. You and I have not met, but I know already that you are one of the amazing ones.

      Love and peace to you in this 2019.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 months ago from london

      In Sri Chinmoy's Philosophy, Food is God (Annam Brahma), so you are doing a great work for the service of humanity.

      Chai is used loosely as the word Guru Itself, both by Indians and Westerners. Perhaps they have adapted to th Western concept in seeing chai simply as tea.

      So for instance, you may ask for chai and get simple tea.

      One needs to ask for masala chai, then it comes with all the spices you mentioned plus more and is a treat fod the gods, done well.

      Of course for the connoiser shops in places like Southall, Middlesex, chai is understood and they will serve you the real deal which is masala chai.

      I loved your intro. Am I one of the amaxing people you meet, the total disappointments or the abject failures? Lol. I LKE TO TEASE!

      Finally, I do not plan for decades. I dont really know what happening today. Help! Happy New Year! You are a special one.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda and Flourish, I always cook my bacon in the oven. It doesn't splatter as it does on the stove. I use the method your friend Kenji preferred in his tests, Linda. The only thing I don't do is line the sheet with foil. I'll certainly be doing that from now on to make cleanup a breeze!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, your comment is an excellent one, and one that I will take to heart. Perhaps I should make that my resolution for 2019. Have a safe and wonderful New Year.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, best wishes to you and Bev for a safe and loving New Year.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Mary, and Happy New Year to you as well. I think 2 cups of corn in place of the clams would work just fine. Use fresh or frozen (canned is too salty). I like to saute mine for a few minutes so that some of the kernels get toasty. It adds another layer of flavor.

      As for the ham/pork roast question, may I answer that next week? If you need an instant response, you know how to reach me.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I love the introduction and letter to your younger self. Sage advice, my friend!

      I love this series and look forward to each episode. I would love to see personal photos of your recipes. Before I post a recipe, I take a photo of each stage of the cooking process. That way I can present my "proof in the pudding", rather than a picture of someone else's version. Even if you don't post the recipe soon after taking the photos, they'll be locked away nice and cozy in your hard drive until you're ready.

      I really hope you consider my suggestion.

      Happy New Year, Linda!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, we don't "do" bacon, so I'm the wrong person to ask, but at least the oven is self-cleaning. The cooktop isn't. My gut instinct tells me that it doesn't sputter and spatter as much.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wishing you a very Happy, Safe, and Loving New Year, my friend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Happy New Year to you and your family.

      Thanks for your answers. I am going to have to order cardamon off the internet as I've not seen it for sale locally. I will definitely be trying that.

      Your brie looks scrumptious, I'm sure it was a hit.

      If I wanted to make a corn chowder (clams could be difficult to find), do I just replace the corn with the clams in your recipe?

      My husband and I were talking about ham. I saw a leg of pork at the store. If I want a roast ham, do I have to boil it first? What is the difference between roast pork and a baked ham?

      Love the information about the bacon.

      Thanks again.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 months ago from USA

      What a wonderful edition of this column. I loved your advice, my dad will love that chowder recipe and I was surprised by the oven method of cooking bacon. Does it make a mess? My daughter loves bacon so even if you don’t know I can find out by trying. Just wanted to be prepared. Have a very happy new year, dear Diva!

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