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

Updated on February 19, 2019
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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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