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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers about Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #55

Updated on February 19, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

I'm So Excited!

As I write this article, a backhoe is preparing the space where we will soon have sidewalks and a patio. And, after a quarter of a century, we are upgrading from a gravel driveway to poured concrete. No more weeding the space from the road to the garage. {{Happy dance!!}}

Well, needless to say, it's a bit noisy around here. I'm glad I have this article to write; it provides some distraction (and keeps me from wincing every time my favorite rhododendron gets run over).

So, without further ado, let's look at what Miss Kitty found in the mailbox this week.

How To Use Up Mangoes

I have recently been experimenting with different combinations of fruit for juices. Just today I had cantaloupe and those sour tangerines I mentioned ages ago. It was a tasty combination.

In a month or two I will have more mangoes than I can cope with. Mango juice on its own can get boring, any suggestions.

Source

Mary, moderation in everything, right? I'm sure even something as luscious as mango can get to be "too much of a good thing." Let's explore how you can use up those golden orbs:

  • Spice it up—Forget about tomatoes. A salsa of jalapeno peppers, onion, cilantro and mango can make a wonderful sweet-hot condiment for chicken and pork.
  • Freeze it—You can puree the pulp and freeze it for a granita-like treat. Stir in some yogurt and your freeze will be creamier, like a Popsicle.
  • Make it smooth—Combine mango chunks with Greek yogurt, coconut milk and lime juice for a smoothie. Or try this one from SeriousEats which combines mango, avocado, and unsweetened coconut water.
  • Dry it—Turn your ripe mangos into fruit leather. It's a great way of preserving the flavor, it's healthy, and you DON'T need a food dehydrator. Here's a link for an easy-do-to recipe.

Juice Blend Ideas

Also, other juice combinations besides mango would be great.

I can handle that. Here are a few:

  • strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and apple
  • kiwis, pears, and apple
  • cranberry, carrot, apple
  • apple, cucumber
  • pineapple, cranberry, apple
  • apple, watermelon
  • strawberry, grape, orange
  • peach, apricot, grape
  • pomegranate, apple
  • and, here's a link to even more ideas!

Gazpacho, Ceviche and Poke—What's the Difference?

Linda, I am sorry to bother you again but the soup stuff got me wondering of two "dishes"? Now, what is the difference between Ceviche perhaps a cocktail and Gazpacho a soup? I note you can call Ceviche a cocktail. What is what with these classifications

Click thumbnail to view full-size
cevichegazpachotuna poke
ceviche
ceviche | Source
gazpacho
gazpacho
tuna poke
tuna poke

Eric ceviche and gazpacho are both delightful-sounding names, but the only thing that unites them is that they both contain an acid of some kind.

About one year ago I wrote "Exploring Gazpacho: The Salad in a Glass" and that article featured an authentic Spanish gazpacho (gauze-PAW-cho) and then some fun variations. Cucumbers, onions, and garlic get a zing of flavor with fresh tomatoes and apple cider vinegar. The link for that authentic recipe is here.

Ceviche (say-VEE-chay) is an appetizer or light brunch/lunch dish of fresh raw seafood that is "cooked" in an acidic food, typically citrus. (Snapper, halibut, and shrimp are great.)

But don't make the mistake of thinking that any type of seafood can be turned into ceviche. Although citrus juice cures the meat, making it appear cooked, it does not kill parasites or worms that might be present. Take a look at a sushi bar and you will notice which fish are suitable candidates and which are not (notable by their absence). This article from HonestFoodDOTNet explains how to keep you and your family safe if you decide to make your own ceviche.

You didn't ask about poke (POH-kay) but it has become the IN thing, at least where I live. Poke is a sushi-grade raw ahi tuna dish from Hawaii. Here's a great recipe from the blog BaconIsMagic (don't you love that name?). They provide the photo above too.

Questions About Pure Cane Sugar

Linda, speaking of sugar, I have a question. Yesterday I made brownies (from scratch, of course). I use non-GMO pure cane sugar instead of white, refined sugar. The crystals are larger than white sugar, as you well know. When I was creaming the butter and sugar, it took longer than if I were to have used regular sugar. Also, when the brownies were baked, they were a bit crumbly, especially on the top. However, they taste yummy! Any suggestions on how to not lose that fudgey texture when using pure cane sugar? Also, out of curiosity, where does cane sugar come in on the glycemic index?

Source

Shauna, as you know, generic white sugar sold in the grocery store is probably beet sugar or a blend of cane and beet. And, very likely, it is GMO. Non-GMO pure cane sugar is much less processed, retaining a lot of the nutrients present in cane juice. Unrefined cane sugar contains 17 amino acids, 11 minerals, and 6 vitamins, including antioxidants that may help reverse oxidative damage. It is made up of sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Plain granulated white sugar is just sucrose and calories, plus traces of chemicals utilized in the refining process such as lime, sulfur dioxide, and phosphoric acid.

But, does it matter which type of sugar you use? The answer is yes, no, and maybe. (How's that for equivocation?)

There are so many variables in the science of baking. If I were to provide a detailed analysis of each if-then statement this article would balloon to Biblical proportions. Let's just list a few of the potential problems in making that simple pan of brownies:

  • Most recipes call for room-temperature butter, but what exactly is room temperature? You live in the south, and unless you have the air conditioning running at an optimal 65 degrees F. you are flirting with disaster. With temperatures higher than 65 degrees butter loses its ability to stretch and expand. Warm butter won’t retain air. Less airy sugar-butter mixture equates to a dense dough and collapsed brownies.
  • The friction generated by an electric mixer is enough to warm eight ounces of butter by one degree per minute.
  • Beating for more than 5 minutes will result in a product that is exactly the opposite of what you want. Rather than creating “light and fluffy” the air will be forced out (and maybe working that cane sugar into the butter took more than 5 minutes).

Are you feeling discouraged? In the words of the Heavenly angels, "be of good cheer." Depending on what type of brownie you desire (cakey or fudgy) this article which appeared in Leite's Culinary might give you just the answers you need. If nothing else, I hope you will be entertained by the humor.

Beyond that, I cannot analyze or explain why your brownies did not live up to expectation. Taste matters and I'm glad that they tasted yummy. You know how to reach me. Share with me the recipe that you used, and perhaps I can do a bit more sleuthing and then get back to you and the world at large.

You also asked about the glycemic index of white sugar vs. other sweeteners. Here's a brief comparison:

  • High fructose corn syrup - 100
  • White sugar - 68
  • Honey - 62
  • Molasses - 55
  • Maple syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth's) - 54
  • Barley syrup - 42
  • Agave nectar - 15

So, white sugar is not the worst offender, but the other sweeteners listed can't be swapped out to replace white sugar without adjusting other ingredients in a recipe. Obviously, white sugar is dry and the lower glycemic ingredients (honey, molasses, etc.) are wet. But there is also the chemistry of acid/alkaline balance.

Sugar and Salt Substitutes, Part 2

Eric, last week you asked for advice on substitutes for sugar and salt, which ones are good, which ones to avoid, and so on. I broke the query down into two parts—addressing substitutes for salt or sugar in cooking (part 1), and then focusing on baking (part 2). As I explained, baking is more of a science; measurements, proportions of liquid vs. dry, chemical reactions of ingredients, etc. are critical in the success or failure of baked goods.

Salt Substitutes

I have one word of advice on using salt substitutes (for example, potassium chloride) in baked goods. Don't! It won't work chemically or flavor-wise. However, there is one notable exception. Tuscan bread. There is no denying that the taste of Tuscan bread is…tasteless. An authentic Tuscan loaf is missing one key ingredient that you will find in all other bread recipes—salt. No, this is not due to a careless mistake by a hasty baker. It is not an oversight. Tuscan bread is intentionally made without salt. And you are probably wondering "why?"

To understand why Tuscan bread is made without salt, one need only look at what the addition of salt does to bread. A bit of salt:

  • will strengthen the gluten (this makes bread more “bread-like”)
  • aids in browning
  • acts as a preservative

So, without salt Tuscan bread is more cake-like and has a soft crust, it is not well-browned, and it stales more quickly than other loaves. At first glance, all of those attributes seem like a negative. But if you consider the foods that are most popular in Tuscan cooking, it makes perfect sense:

  • spaghetti with bread crumbs
  • panzanella (bread salad)
  • ribollita (bread soup)
  • bruschetta

So, if you want to bake without salt, Tuscan bread is the way to go. I will be glad to share my recipe if you can't locate it on my profile page.

Sugar Substitutes

I hate to short-cut you on this answer, but I'm going to direct you to an article I wrote a few months ago. Click on this link and you'll find a lengthy explanation of how to reduce sugar in your diet—it discusses each alternative and how that substitution can be used in baking. I hope this helps.


What Is the Definition of Processed Food?

Which brings me to a question that happened over the lunch table today. What is the definition of a processed food?That word, has a bad rap I think. For example my husband had to process his pate but it only had natural ingredients. Is there a standard for the phrase, 'processed food'?

Source

Wow, what a great question Mary. Technically any time you wash, rinse, chop, or mince a piece of food, you are processing it. The amount of processing is the key. Most nutritionists use the term "processed foods" when referring to products that are heavily modified with the addition of dyes and preservatives.

There needs to be a balance, if using bottled dressing encourages you to eat a green salad, then maybe the dressing isn't such a bad thing. (Of course, if you could achieve the same result by making your own dressing. It too would be "processed" but I'm sure your list of ingredients would be much shorter, not to mention healthier).

What "processed" foods should you avoid?

  • bacon, sausage, and other smoked meat products
  • granola bars (cereals, nuts, and dried fruits are good, but look at the high amount of sugar and fat)
  • instant ramen (almost zero nutrition and enough sodium for an entire day in one tiny unsatisfying package, plus the noodles are fried)
  • margarine (trans fats)
  • microwave popcorn (satisfy your popcorn craving with an air popper)
  • ketchup (too much sugar, sodium)
  • soda pop

Oh, and in case you think I might be exaggerating the use of artificial ingredients in our foods, take a look at this example (this is the ingredient label from an Atkins Advantage bar):

Sounds healthy, doesn't it?

Source

My friend Kenji at SeriousEats has a perfectly simple, perfectly easy, and perfectly perfect recipe for Egg Drop Soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Chinese ham, Chinese dried sausage, or slab bacon
  • 6 scallions, greens thinly sliced, whites left whole
  • 1-inch knob of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 whole eggs

Instructions

1. Combine stock, ham, scallion whites, ginger, and peppercorns in a small stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain broth, discard solids, and season to taste with salt.

2. Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogeneous. Whisk into the broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.

3. Whisk together eggs and remaining teaspoon cornstarch until homogeneous. Transfer eggs to a small bowl and hold the tines of a fork or two chopsticks over the edge of it. Swirl the soup once with a large spoon, then slowly drizzle egg mixture into soup. Allow soup to sit for 15 seconds, then stir gently to break up the egg to the desired size. Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve.

Source

My clerk, Miss Kitty, appreciates your cards and letters. (Eric, she was especially happy to field that question on ceviche).

That's all for this week. If you have cooking questions in need of answers, leave them below in the comments, or you can email me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

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