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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #23

Updated on February 19, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

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

I am weary, sore, hands aching, arthritis beating me soundly like a hammer, but I'm still loving every moment of life. Just 10 days ago we had 4 inches of snow on the ground, and now temperatures are in the 50's with a promise of mid-60's on Monday.

All of my yard is in bud and bloom. We see the deer more frequently now (since there is so much new growth popping up to explore. We are a veritable salad bar). Daffodils are in full bloom. The herbs are starting to pop up, the trees are budding out, the rhubarb is awake, and all's right in the world.

I know that some of you are not as fortunate but trust me, Spring will come.

The mailbox was not crammed full, but the questions I received were thought-provoking and required more than a moment of research, which I LOVE. Thank you to all of you who wrote, and let's get started.

How To Make Tasty Spareribs (Part 2)

Our son gave us five pounds of spareribs...I don't like spareribs....any way to make them that might make me happy?


In #21 of this series, I gave Bill (and the rest of you) some hints for making really great spareribs.

A few days ago I happened to watch Cooks Country on my local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) station. They prepared ribs in a way I had never thought of before. They used my dry rub theory and slow roasting but were able to do it in a crockpot.

Most (maybe all?) slow-cooker ribs recipes tell you to simply place the raw ribs in the pot, dump in some barbecue sauce, cover, and let the world spin for a while and then 'ta-da' you have falling-off-the-bones ribs.

Yes, you do. But they are a soggy mess! They are nothing like you would pull off of a true barbecue grill. It's just sad. And that is why I had vowed to never prepare ribs in a slow cooker . . . until now.

Cooks Country massaged a dry rub into the ribs. Next, they placed them in the slow cooker, but instead of laying them down, they were set upright, bones pointing down and the meat against the sides of the pot.


After 6-7 hours on low (without any water) they were perfectly moist, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone wonderful. But wait, there's more!

Next, you place those ribs on a baking sheet. Slather with your favorite barbecue sauce (they made their own), and then placed under the broiler (just 1 inch away from the heat source!!) for 2 minutes.

Take them out, baste with sauce again, and then cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Of course, I couldn't actually taste them, but they looked amazing. So if you are looking for a way to make wonderful ribs, this is another idea.

How Long to Keep Dry Herbs and Spices

What’s the shelf life of kitchen spices? I just tossed some old ones that I know I’ve had for two decades! Do you feel the expensive spices are worth it? (I love Penzey’s for key spices.)


Flourish, I could probably write an entire article on this topic (and maybe I will someday), but in the meantime, I'll give you the Readers' Digest version. There are a number of factors that affect the longevity of dried seasonings. Probably the most crucial factor is how they are stored.

All dried herbs and spices should be kept in a well-sealed container (glass or metal are best), away from heat and moisture. In other words, if you keep your seasonings right next to your stove, you're doing it wrong.

An easy way to tell if something is still viable is to take a pinch. Rub it between your thumb and forefinger and then sniff. Does it still have an aroma? Taste it; does it still pack a punch, or is it flavorless?

Most whole spices are good (useful) for about 4 years, ground 2-3 years, and blends 1-2 years. If you still have a shaker of allspice that was purchased when George Bush (either one) was the President, you should toss it out, just sayin'.

Preserving Produce By Freezing

Which vegetables and fruits are acceptable for freezing and which ones aren’t? Which do you have to blanch first and which can you put right in the freezer as is?


Flourish, such an easy question, and such a complicated answer. Fruits and vegetables vary in so many ways. Some of them are delicate and fragile; they bruise easily and require special handling. Some are sturdy. Some are mostly water (80 percent or more) and others are more "solid".

To best answer your question I went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Oh my goodness! The amount of information was overwhelming. I'll do my best to present an abridged version.

Basic Information

  • Choose only the best-quality produce. Freezing won't improve the quality of a sub-par fruit or vegetable.
  • Freezing does not sterilize foods, it only slows down the growth of microorganisms.
  • Packaging materials must be moisture- and vapor-proof to prevent leakage and evaporation, protect from flavors and odors, and avoid freezer burn.
  • Label and date everything.

Enzyme Action

  • Enzymes make fruits and vegetables grow and ripen. However, you don't want that ripening to continue. Blanching will stop the process so that your precious foods won't over-mature, becoming mushy, discolored, and funky.


  • Blanching is scalding in water or steam for a short time and then quickly cooling in ice water.


  • Not all vegetables freeze well. See the list below.
  • Many but not all vegetables must be blanched to stop the enzyme action.

The following tables the give the particulars for most vegetables are from North Dakota State University:



  • Most fruits can be frozen. Ascorbic acid will prevent fruits from darkening.
  • Most fruits have a better texture and flavor if packed in sugar or syrup. Some can be satisfactorily packed without sweetening, but vitamin C losses are greatest when fruits are packed without sugar. The type of pack will depend on the intended use. Fruits packed in syrup are generally best for serving uncooked; those packed in dry sugar or unsweetened are best for most cooking purposes because there is less liquid in the product. Unsweetened packs and sugar replacement packs are often used by people on special diets.

Specific information on which fruits can be successfully frozen, how to prepare them, and how best to package them are voluminous. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll give you the link here.

Produce That Does Not Freeze Well

  • onions
  • garlic
  • celery
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • parsley
  • radishes
  • potatoes

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


Still continuing with the weekly (alphabetical) series.

If you have any suggestions for any topic you would like to have covered in detail (like this one) once we get to Letter Z, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Poach - To cook very gently in a hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.

Preheat – To allow the oven to get to a specific temperature before adding the food to be cooked.

Proof - In bread baking, the word proofing most commonly refers to the final rise dough undergoes, which takes place after being shaped into a loaf and before it is baked. In practice, however, the word proof is commonly used to describe any time that a yeast dough is allowed to rise (ferment). When making a loaf of bread, for example, the dough is typically

  • mixed,
  • allowed to ferment,
  • punched down,
  • allowed to ferment again,
  • punch down again,
  • shaped,
  • allowed to proof, and then
  • baked

Puree - To mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor.

Pulse – There are two very different meanings of this word; it can be a verb or a noun.

  • As a verb, it is an action used by food processors and blenders. If a recipe tells you to pulse, turn the start button on and off rapidly several times or until the ingredients are appropriately processed.
  • As a noun, a pulse is the dried edible seeds of certain plants in the legume family. The four main types of pulses grown are dry peas, lentils, beans, and chickpeas.

Pulverize – To reduce to powder or dust by pounding, crushing, or grinding.

Puree - To finely blend and mash food to a smooth, lump-free consistency. You can puree foods in a blender, food processor, or food mill.

Which Potato Should I Use?

With potatoes, I know certain ones are better for boiling or mashing, and others for baking, frying etc. if you haven't already maybe you could list the types that are best for certain ways of cooking.

John, one of the articles on my long "to-do" list is "Exploring Potatoes." About a year ago I helped us "Explore Mashed Potatoes" but, as you pointed out, understanding the optimum use all of the various potatoes is worth doing.

Potatoes fall into three categories—starchy, all-purpose, and waxy. Here's a quick reference chart.

How to Use

I hope you are enjoying this series. I enjoy researching these topics for all of you.

And I love hearing from all of you. If you have questions, leave them in the comments section below, or you can write to me at Remember, there are no dumb questions. We all have different levels of experience. Your questions typically prompt me to poke and prod and research, so I'm learning too.

Have a great week!

© 2018 Linda Lum


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    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm trying to catch up on my HP reading. Normally, I only have my lunch hour, but if I'm slow and my work's all caught up, this is what I do.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Shauna, wow this article is really a blast from the past. I had totally forgotten about it. Honestly, I never met a potato I didn't love. I'd like to have one of those red baked potatoes right now in fact.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years ago from Central Florida

      This installment is packed with great information, Linda! The veggie/fruit freezing section is good reference.

      As for potatoes, I buy red potatoes and do everything with them. I bake them (poke holes to vent, then salt the outside before putting in the oven) and mash them with skins on. They make for very creamy mashed potatoes. I also use them in my scalloped potato recipe (again, skins on). I make potato salad with them. I even roast them. I find the texture much more pleasant than an Idaho or baking potato. They're a tad gritty for my taste.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, you made me smile. I'd love to have a cheer team. Wave those pompoms.

      I appreciate you and am so grateful that Hub Pages allowed us to find each other. And, I think a big part of that was billybuc. He is so well regarded (and read) and was the impetus to our networking.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      CarbDiva, Wouldn't that be divine? You might have to do the bulk of the cooking. My all-too-honest daughter says I rock at cheese eggs, sandwiches, soups, and desserts but the rest ... well, you know. But I'd certainly cheer you on.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Chitrangada Sharon, I am so happy to help.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent article about preservation and freezing of certain food items! Saving this for future reference.

      I do preserve certain seasonal vegetables. I will be following your advice, for the ones, I wasn’t aware about.

      Great, useful article. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      I am so happy that this is taking off to be a big hit. Standing in "the queue" is a pleasure for it reflects your success.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, the next episode is getting a bit lengthy (already). May I answer this in two weeks? If you personally need an immediate response send me an IM.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      Linda I have been wondering about salad these days. For instance I was taught never to "cut" the greens but only to tear them. So my question is really what is the proper method for preparing the greens. Nothing specific.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I wish we were neighbors. Can you imagine all of the mischief the two of us could get into? I'm glad this was of help to you.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      Your freezing answer was extremely helpful. I often try to freeze vegetables in the height of summer for fall and winter. And I’ll be doing a recheck of my spice cabinet. Loved your answer.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Linda, thank you so much. I hope I continue to receive questions to keep this series going. I enjoy the research and writing. Blessings to you.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is very interesting as well as useful. You're creating a great reference source for cooks in this series.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I've not heard from you in a while. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are having a good week.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

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

      As always just a fantastic article. Thank you.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I plan menus for one week (and sometimes two) so don't often get caught with nothing to prepare. And I'm retired with kids that are grown so life for this old gal is pretty simple.

      When I was working full time I would spend one LONG day preparing meals for the freezer--a whole month's worth. If you look through my articles you will find them "Cook Once for a Month".

      But your question is a great one and I'll work on that for next week. Thanks so much!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 years ago from Brazil

      All the talk of spring appearing, such as the daffodils, makes me homesick for a temperate climate. I miss having seasons (not winter though).

      John beat me to a question. I had a disastrous attempt at hashbrowns. I blamed it first on the pan and then on the potatoes. Hubby had to scrape it out with a cheese slicer. He likes them crisp so it wasn't a complete disaster.

      I think this is the first week I actually knew all your cooking terminology. Woohoo!

      Recently I had a 'lack of preparation moment' when dinner time rolled around and I had nothing other than a pot of beans on the stove. In the end, I cobbled together bean soup and had enough flour to make a 1/4 recipe of tortillas. I kept thinking, "what would Linda do?"

      What do you consider staples that you always have on hand so you can throw a basic meal together?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari, that is certainly an option. They don't lose nutritional value but become somewhat wimpy. In freezing, onions and garlic become less biting. Potatoes get mealy, so if you put them in casseroles and then freeze, be sure to under-cook them a bit. Tomatoes are fine as long as you use them (as you said) in soups or stews.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      3 years ago from Ohio

      I love that I can have a cooking question and not even search for an answer. Thank you for this! I will freeze many of the vegetables that do not freeze well, but I only use them in soups or stews after freezing. They are not good raw after thawing.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill it will take more than Uncle Arthur to keep this old gal out of the yard. There's too much to do, and I enjoy the heck out of doing it. Have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, of course, for the spare ribs answer...great information in this one...all of which I can use this summer and fall, so thank you.

      Take care of that arthritis, my friend,and enjoy the heck out of this beautiful day.


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