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

Updated on October 21, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring 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.

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
cevichegazpachopoke
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ceviche
gazpacho
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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?

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'?

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?

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.

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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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Ann, my sincere hope is that each person who reads these articles will feel more confident and knowledgeable in the kitchen. Think of it as having your best friend standing next to you at the stove, guiding your every step. I hope you have a wonderful day.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 weeks ago from SW England

      Linda, my mouth was watering after a couple of paragraphs and it's only mid-morning!

      I've loved mango in any form, ever since I had wonderful smoothies in a mall in Christchurch, New Zealand. It's soooo.. refreshing!

      I've learnt a lot about sugar today. I'll have to come back to this as my little brain can't take it in all in one go.

      These hubs of yours infuse confidence which is certainly what I need when it comes to cooking!

      Ann

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, you mentioned that to me in an email a few weeks ago, and I've been doing some data-gathering as well. If you don't mind, I'll share what I've found next Monday.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 weeks ago from Brazil

      Thanks for answering my questions this week. I may have a go at that mango leather this year as there seems to be a lot hanging in the trees. Usually the season is Dec/Jan until April.

      Like Shauna, it has been ages since I have had that Chinese soup. It's so easy I don't know why I haven't made it.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Whahoo and Yahoo. These episodes are so fun. You are a class act Ms. Linda.

      I kind of store the concepts and incorporate them as the notions seem relevant. But thanks in large part to you, cooking is as much a treat as the food.

      A big Thank You from my boy and me.

      (I am still researching and contemplating how cooking may be a key to unlocking the chains of Bi-Polar and Dementia) It seems as the the Joy and stimulating all senses is paramount.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Thanks, Rinita. I have a mortar and pestle. If I can get up enough elbow grease, that should do the trick.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I honestly don't care for sweets very much. I'm more of a salty-savory sort of girl, so you and I are on the same page.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      3 weeks ago

      Yes, just a normal spice grinder. I used to bake with the crystals before, but found the texture improving largely after I started grinding the sugar.

      To Shauna: In my experience if you measure the sugar as per the recipe after you have ground it, it turns out to be the correct proportion.

      Just chicken cubes in my soup, Linda, no other meat. Happy to read and share as always.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      I often reduce to half the sugar from any recipe I follow as it can be too sweet. From the result, this does not seem to affect the taste. I don't know what you think of this.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Shauna. Sorry I missed the mark on the glycemic index question. I WILL find an answer for you.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Ah Bill, despite our differences (I cook, you don't) it means the world to me that you still take the time to stop by and read my articles. Take care my friend.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, Missy Kitty has been communicating with you? First a job title upgrade, and then she'll be wanting her kibble warmed for breakfast. Oh dear, I'll do what ever it takes to keep her happy. I don't think I could manage without her. I hope you have a great day.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, thank you for your kind words. I did an article solely on mango a while ago. Not quite as much potassium as bananas, but a good source of fiber and off the scale with Vitamin C.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Chicken curry with mango sounds wonderful. I'll have to experiment with that. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Rinita. Thankfully I live in an area where heat and humidity are not an issue. I like your idea of grinding the sugar (I assume you use a coffee grinder or spice grinder).

      Do you put meat in your soup, or is it meat-free? I enjoy hearing from you.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Egg drop soup, yum! I haven't had that in forever!

      Thanks for answering my cane sugar question, Linda. The recipe I followed is from McCall's Cook Book (circa 1970-something). From what you said about heat and climate, I'm thinking I may have creamed the butter and sugar for too long. The butter was room temperature (I don't keep my house at 65. That's too cold) and I know the mixture beat in the stand mixer for well over 5 minutes. I'm also thinking that because the pure cane sugar has such large crystals, I could probably reduce the measurement by a bit. The recipe called for 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar.

      The question I had regarding glycemic index was not for white sugar; you posted that in last week's Q & A. I was curious as to where pure cane sugar sits. It's nice to know that cane sugar actually has some health benefits. Thanks for providing that information!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I have a confession, Linda: I don't give a hoot about cooking. I just don't have the time or inclination to cook well. Having said that, I do give a hoot about you and quality writing,so here I shall remain, your humble and loyal friend.

      bill

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 weeks ago from USA

      Who would have imagined that pork was in that egg drop soup, even if it was just for flavor? I bet Kitty was advocating hard for that secret ingredient. Kitty told me she wants a job title change to personal assistant!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Isn't it wonderful to get that paving done? Even with the noise the end result is so worthwhile.

      I have not eaten mangos very often, so I foud your information helpful, as I want to incorporate them into my diet. I recently read another article about the use of mangos in homeopathic medicine, which was very interesting in the control of diabetes in a country with poor healthcare. I am not diabetic, but found the article interesting.

      Thanks for the information on sweetners. It is very helpful. Great article as always.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      It was interesting to know what you can do with mangos. There an Indian restaurant near me that does chicken and mango curry. I've tried that before and it's really nice.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      3 weeks ago

      Great article. I usually take the butter out of the fridge 2 hours prior to baking, works fine while mixing. Of course, I have only baked cakes using non GMO sugar, and they turned out perfect. I grind the sugar crystals into a fine powder before mixing with butter. Need to try brownies to see how it works.

      Super easy soup this week, thankfullly, and finally one I have not just heard of, but made several times at parties, used chicken cubes and chicken broth, though.

      Have a great week, Linda.

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