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

Updated on December 8, 2019
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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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