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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers AboutFood, Recipes, & Cooking, #114

Updated on December 8, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

Sometimes It Works

I have several friends here on Hub Pages who are professional authors; they have published articles, poetry, books, or song lyrics. I can't believe that I get to rub shoulders (in the figurative sense) with these amazingly talented people but somehow they put up with me. Like the annoying little sister, they allow me to tag along.

All of them, every one of them, has cautioned

"Don't edit a friend's writing. It will be the end of your friendship."

Well, I've always been the renegade, the slightly off-kilter quirky one in the group. For the past two years, I have been working with a dear friend who is writing a children's' novel. It's a touching yet sometimes humorous tale of woodland animals working together for the betterment of their society. The animals have human qualities and feelings. (To some of you that might sound strange, but if you have a pet in your home I'm sure you will nod your head in approval and agree that they certainly are at times just little people with fur.)

I've done all of the typing (from her yellow legal pad writing) and I believe we're on edit number 6 (or maybe 7?) Guess what? We're still friends. Actually I think working on this has brought us closer. Isn't that a nice thought as we head into the season of sharing and giving . . . and loving one another!

That's my feel-good intro for today. But, dear friends, you came here for a reason, not to discuss writing but to talk about food and cooking and yummy things. Let's get started.

Let's Open the Mailbox

If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

Help with Gluten Free, Part 2

Last week I received a request from Ruby for help with a gluten-free diet. I referred her to Doris James (MizBejabbers). After that Doris provided some more really helpful advice in her comments. I'm reposting that here in case Ruby didn't see it:

I would be very glad to help Ruby or anyone else, for that matter, if I can. Ham, cheese, green beans and bananas, as mentioned, should be all gluten free, but boring (Just no traditional green bean casserole, which has glutens in the condensed mushroom soup and batter on the French fried onions.) I have about 6 or 7 years experimenting with gluten-free flours and other ingredients. But I will tell them one secret: When baking with gluten-free flours, do NOT SPARE the eggs (unless you are allergic, of course). Eggs give the bread, cake, etc. an elasticity that is usually found in glutens. Some people use guar gum or xanthan gum, but I just love pouring in more eggs! In fact, I've never used either of the gums as a gluten replacement. Perhaps because a friend of mine found that she was sensitive to them.

How to Buy and Grow Old-Fashioned Garlic

MizB also had this question. "In the last few years, we have noticed a change, and not for the better, in garlic. We would raise our own if we could get back to the original garlic of yesteryear. Do you know how we could find out what "breed" it is? The new garlics are more bitter or are too mild, and each is less "garlicky." Thanks for your help."


Doris, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "a rose is a rose is a rose, but there are lots of garlics out there." Most varieties available at the grocery store are grown not for their flavor but for long shelf life. Refrigerated storage (at home or by the commercial processors) also causes garlic to lose its punch. Here's a table of the various types of garlic and their unique properties.

Garlic Variety
Hardneck (when buying to plant in your garden, look for Porcelain, Rocambole, or Purple Stripe)
Has a hard central stalk and 4 to 12 cloves in each bulb. Cloves have a rosy/violet cast
Spicy or hot
Softneck (for your garden, look for Silverskin or Artichoke)
Produces many cloves, perhaps up to 30 in a bulb. This is the one you find most often at the grocery store
A good choice if you want to use raw garlic
Creole (look for Cuban Purple, Ajo Rojo, Burgundy, Creole Red, and Rose du Lautrec)
Beautiful bulbs in colors from pink to dark purple
Intensity falls somewhat inbetween hardneck and softneck varieties

And then there's black garlic. Yes, it's black, and you can find it in most Asian markets. Describing black garlic makes one sound like a snooty wine connoisseur—it's rich with plummy undertones, notes of dark caramel and chocolate, and a hint of vinegar, chewy like a dried apricot and great for those who hate garlic.

You can't "grow" black garlic. It's not a separate variety; it's fresh garlic that has been processed (cooked, caramelized and fermented).

Why Is Peanut Butter So Sticky?

This past week we bought some peanut butter with nothing but peanuts in it. This is going to sound crazy but why is peanut butter so sticky when peanuts aren't?


Mary (Blond Logic), I had to laugh when I read your question. I'm guessing you're wondering why peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth (and fingers, and bread when it lands peanut butter-side down on the floor).

Can we blame it on chemistry? Sure, why not?

There are two separate processes working together in peanut butter that create the perfect storm for 'Arachibutyrophobia,' the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. (This is a term coined by Charles Schulz of the "Peanuts" comic strip).

  • Peanut butter contains a high amount of oil and so the saliva in your mouth can't break it down easily.
  • It's also high in protein, again a potential problem for our digestive equipment. High protein means that it absorbs a lot of the moisture in your mouth. When your mouth gets dry the peanut butter can more readily stick. Put that peanut butter on a slice of bread (more drying) and you have one huge palate problem.

How to Cook Lamb

The next question came from Nikki Khan.

"It would be great if your share some barbecue recipe next week as we are heading to the great festive period by the end of December. Yes, lamb barbeque on a gas grill, would be great my dear. Specifically, lamb shoulder. Would love to read one from you next Monday."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lamb shoulder, slow-oven roastedGrilled lamb kebabsKofte kebabs
Lamb shoulder, slow-oven roasted
Lamb shoulder, slow-oven roasted | Source
Grilled lamb kebabs
Grilled lamb kebabs | Source
Kofte kebabs
Kofte kebabs | Source

Nikki, some of our readers might not be familiar with cooking lamb, so I'll explain the various cuts and how best to cook them.

  • Chops: Loin or rib chops are very tender and cook quickly; pan-fry, roast, broil, or grill. Shoulder chops are chewier and fatter—just don't buy them.
  • Leg: This is the hind leg; it usually weighs 8 to 10 pounds and will easily feed 6 to 8 people. Roast or grill it.
  • Shank: This is the lower portion of the leg (from ankle to knee). It's rich in flavor but has to be simmered for hours.
  • Rack of lamb: This is the show-stopper. Seven or eight ribs from the center of the lamb. The meat is supremely tender and can be roasted quickly at high heat.
  • Shoulder: Because the shoulder does more work than the leg, it's less tender and requires slow roasting or braising. Cook slowly as a roast or grind the meat.
  • Top round: This is a cut from the large top muscle of the leg. It's very tender and is perfect for cutting into cubes for kebabs. Pan-fry, roast, or grill.
  • Ground lamb: This is shoulder meat plus (no doubt) some trimmings; grill, pan-fry or broil.

You asked about grilling lamb shoulder; as stated above, it has lots of connective tissue. It's not a tender cut so to make it tender but keep it moist it needs to be cooked low and slow. Cooking on a gas grill will not produce a good result for you unless you grind the lamb and shape it onto skewers or can cook slowly on a covered grill. But don't despair, I have several ideas for you.

Roast the lamb shoulder in the oven: The website Great British Chefs has a recipe for flavoring a lamb shoulder with rosemary and whole cloves of garlic, wrapping it in foil, and cooking for 4 hours in a low oven. That's their photo above.

Cook it slowly in a smoker: Here's another idea from a U.K. food blogger. Rub Moroccan-style spices on the lamb and cook in a smoker. Ross and Ross Food give you step-by-step instructions in this recipe.

Make kebabs: Could you choose a different cut? The perfect type of lamb for kebabs is the top round. It will cook quickly and roasting on the grill will create succulent crispy edges and tender moist morsels.

Grill kofte: Kofte is a Turkish kebab made with ground lamb flavored with cumin, coriander, and mint and then shaped onto skewers. My friend Kenji serves them with yogurt and spicy harissa. If you grind the shoulder you can make wonderful kebabs on wooden skewers that can be cooked on your gas grill.

Here's a question

Do you have a meat thermometer? If not I would really like you to buy one for yourself. Overdone lamb (as you know) is dry and tough.

  • 110 degrees F (42 degrees C) is rare
  • 120 degrees F (58 degrees C) is medium-rare
  • 145 degrees F (68 degrees C) is medium-well, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this is the optimum temperature for cooked lamb.

After the lamb is cooked let it rest for 15-20 minutes with a loose tent of foil over it. Nikki, I really hope you find something here that will help you in preparing for your end-of-year celebration. If, however, I've missed the mark please let me know. I will happily do more research for you.

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.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.


Let's do this again next week. 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:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, thanks for that. Yes, it makes sense and love your humor.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      12 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Thank you for this hub, it was interesting reading. I can add one more thing for the peanut butter as one of the questions there was why does it always land 'butter side down'

      Well, that we can ask Sir Isaac Newton about because the peanut butter is heavier than the bread, and when bread falls off the table it normally starts to head straight for the floor, but when one side is heavier it unbalances the bread causing it to flip over and thus land with the heavier side down (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!!)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Nikki, I'm so happy to hear from you and to know that what I provided might be of help to you. Honestly, I have no experience with cooking lamb and so it was like teaching someone to ride a bike if you've never ridden one yourself.

      We will be celebrating Christmas on the 25th of this month and all plans are falling into place (6 decorated trees, the fireplace mantle and stairway festooned with pine garlands and lights, and a big dinner planned).

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      13 months ago from London

      Linda, thanks so much for this detailed effort dear. The descriptions are quite helpful for grilling different types of lamb. I have electric grill oven.

      I would try lamb sholuder and chops. Would share with you the experiment.

      I do make kebabs sometimes. My kids love those. I think 145 is good temperature to cook lamb meats.

      Apologies for replying late but was bit busy this week.

      Happy Festive Season ahead darling!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, if you don't mind I'll leave the sheep herding to someone else. I can't even guide one little kitty in the proper direction.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Manatita, you are a dear. Perhaps you should read more quickly?

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda I was born in Navajo and Hopi area. That was their mainstay. So my dad would buy it as kind of a gesture. I have no idea how mom cooked it 322 ways. In a stew of green chili there a great twist. Poor poor me I was born in the Southwest of America.

      If you have never herded sheep wild put it on your list.

    • manatita44 profile image


      13 months ago from london

      Yes, my 'annoying little sister', didn't you know I'm a writer? how dare you become better than me? Lol. Anyway, true, writers are very sensitive indeed, especially poets. Still, not all would be offended by what you say. Good writers will take from you what they need and confidently leave the rest alone.

      Gee! I didn't know that there was so much to garlic! very interesting! Anthony Williams, the latest craze on the net, will tell Miz to abandon her eggs. Lol. But that's not new. It seems to go out and come back into fashion quite frequently. Have a great day, my Dear.

      Note: Just responded quickly to a smell coming from my kitchen. I have burnt my Irish Moss. I blame you. Who told you to write so well? :)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Doris, I have come to anticipate your comments--always a joy. From now on I will not be able to grab the jar of Skippy without thinking "quack quack."

      I hope you have a blessed week.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      13 months ago from Beautiful South

      Thank you for the advice on garlic. I'll cut and paste this into a word.doc and save it for next spring. Perhaps we can get some good garlic to plant from one of the seed companies.

      I loved the question on peanut butter, but your answer was even funnier. Reminds me of the time my little sister (about 5 years old) got some stuck onto the roof of her mouth. She was going "quack, quack, quack" trying to get it loose. After that, we always referred to peanut butter as "quack quack" around our house.

      Glad your friendship has survived the editing phase. That sounds like me rewriting my cousin's book. So far we haven't killed each other yet.

      See you next week. Have a good one.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I have a bunch of brunch ideas. In fact, I wrote two articles on that very topic. "Easy Christmas Brunch Recipes" and "Easy Christmas Brunch Recipes Redux." You can jump to them easily by going to my profile page and clicking on the first two in the spotlight articles.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      13 months ago from Central Florida

      I like the brunch idea, Linda. What dishes do you prepare? Any recipes you care to share with us?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi again Sha. Yes, publishing is close (maybe tomorrow) and she's going the self-publish Kindle/Amazon route that Bill Holland has used for all of his novels.

      We did not "do" Thanksgiving this year so will be having the turkey and all the things that go with it on Christmas Day. This is a huge move away from tradition for us. Typically we have an enormous brunch (most of which can be prepared in advance) and just eat and nibble and nosh all day.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      13 months ago from Central Florida

      Very informative Q & A this week, Linda.

      It's good to hear your friendship is surviving your collaborative efforts. Are you close to publishing? Is your friend going to try to publish traditionally or is s/he self-publishing?

      Here's a question for you: What will you be making for Christmas dinner this year?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, good morning to you. I don't have any experience with protein powders so will have to do some super-sleuthing (my favorite thing). Would it help to find other ways Ian can boost up his calorie intake (in a healthy way, of course!).

      I hope to have an answer for you next week.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      13 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for answering my question on peanut butter.

      Your suggestions of garlic for the garden are useful.

      My husband, since his surgery, is trying to gain weight. He has bought protein powder to help supplement what he's eating. The problem is he doesn't like the taste. Here they are flavored. Vanilla was the best option, but it's hard to incorporate that into a savory meal. He can't drink it.

      Do you have any ideas about making custard or something sweet that is easy to swallow using the protein powder. It is made from egg whites.

      Have a great week.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela the internet is rife with stories of bleached garlic from China but, as you thought, not everything you read on the web is true (shocking, I know). Most of the world's garlic IS produced in China (they lead the list with 20 million tons per year according to the World Atlas).

      Yes, you can probably tell if garlic comes from China because the roots have been removed. However, it's not because of anything nefarious. The roots are taken off to lighten the load (imagine how much the roots alone on 20 million pounds of garlic costs).

      Is it bleached? I have not found any information stating that it is not, but the reasons might not be quite as alarming as stories would lead you to believe. Bleaching will kill any insects, remove stains, stop or inhibit sprouting and in general present a prettier head of garlic.

      Should you be concerned. Perhaps. If you want to avoid garlic grown in China, look at the labeling (assuming you are not purchasing garlic in bulk). Find out where it was grown, and look for the tell tale roots.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Aw shucks Bill. I just got done calling you a silly goose, and now you go all soft and squishy on me. Honestly, the side of Billybuc that I've come to know would be difficult to not love. I am glad that you are a part of my life as well.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad your friendship has lasted. It is a testament to your disposition and loving nature.

      Have a brilliantly loving week, my friend. Thank you for being a part of my life.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda, Lamb is just a part of my diet too expensive sometimes. I like to eat a half garlic chopped like peanut. Kind of like cloves.

      I taught Gabe about Celiac just a fews days ago. Actually it stemmed from the notion of "intolerance".

      You are great.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      13 months ago from Sunny Florida

      You answered a nice variety of questions today. I saw something on Facebood recently that said garlice comes from China and it has been bleached. I have no idea if this is true, and I doubt all galic comes from china.

      The description of the various cuts of lamb and ways to cook it was very helpful Thanks again, Linda. Have a great week.


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