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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes #70

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


It's Good to Be Back Home

Last week my husband, older daughter, and I traveled by train about 1,100 miles (give or take a few) to "The Happiest Place on Earth", aka Disneyland. I'm not sure if we did Disney, or if it did us. For Christmas, I gave my husband a Fit-Bit, and he kept track of our distance each day. I've heard that 10,000 steps per day is an admirable goal. We're not admirable—we are, in the words of Buzz Lightyear "to infinity and beyond." One day Mr. Carb recorded over 16,000 steps. (And since he towers over me by 12 inches, I'm adding 10 percent to my tally to account for those short-leg steps vs. long-leg strides. If moving helps one reduce, I should have gone down at least one shoe size, don't you think?)

But enough about me. We had a great time, the weather was cooperative, we ate out every meal (no dishes to wash!!), but I'm happy to be back in my kitchen again, and back to sharing my kitchen with you.

Let's look at the questions that came in this past week.

Help with Baking Substitutions

I am stuck with a baking technique, so am hoping that you can help me out.

I made some rice flour cookies the other day by using following replacements to the original cookie recipe: rice flour instead of regular flour, bananas instead of eggs, jaggery instead of sugar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

I kept all measurements similar to the regular cookie recipe. The cookies turned out yummy but blackened out in the bottom part waiting for the top part to get baked. All oven settings were kept the same as with the original cookie recipe. Could you provide any insights as to why this might have happened? This never happens when I make regular cookies. Thanks so much.

Rinita, I've never cooked or baked with rice flour, and honestly had never heard of jaggery, so this was a fun expedition. Let's look at each exchange:

  • Rice flour in place of wheat flour - This is a common problem. Gluten sensitivity is a problem that more and more people are beginning to recognize. All of the sources I checked state that rice flour needs to be combined with other dry ingredients to achieve a product similar in texture to wheat-based baked goods. For each 1 cup of wheat flour, you need to use 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/4 cup tapioca starch.
  • Bananas in place of eggs - If you are watching your cholesterol levels, or are allergic to eggs, bananas are an excellent replacement.
  • Jaggery in place of sugar - This was a learning experience for me which always makes me happy. White sugar is sucrose from sugar cane. It is processed with charcoal to remove unwanted particles and give it a pure white appearance. Jaggery also comes from sugar cane is not treated. It has traces of minerals and even some fiber. You can substitute 1:1 but jaggery is not quite as sweet as white sugar.
  • Coconut oil in place of butter - People who have dairy allergies or want to avoid margarine or shortening (not healthy choices) are turning to coconut oil. It has more nutrients than butter and is less costly as well. Since, like butter, it is solid at room temperature, you can substitute at a 1:1 ratio. But if you live in a warm environment, you should measure out your coconut oil, and then place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before baking. Making your dough with a less liquidy fat might help. But remember, if you always store your coconut oil in the refrigerator it will turn solid—like a rock.

Based on the above, I have to assume that the main culprit in your baking dilemma was the rice flour. Mix it with tapioca and corn starches and you should achieve better results. Also, since jaggery is somewhat more liquid than granulated sugar, I'm wondering if your resulting dough was moister than traditional dough. Reducing the oven temperature a little and baking for a slightly longer time (to evaporate the excess moisture) might help.


Medicinal Properties of Herbs and Spices

Linda please direct me. Healthy eating by following your "advice" changes our love of food.

But due to some health stuff I have bumped it up a notch. Two nasty infections in two weeks. I am tired of whining to my Oncologist and GP. Both of which are awesome.

Both infections fully cured by "foods". What say you to this and who should be my Guru?

Call me crazy but I love my Oregano, Ginger, Garlic, Horseradish, clove, turmeric, black pepper, and Cayenne elixir. But who do you go with for real trust in such an area? (and yes I throw in Cummin and Cinamon, my boy loves to grind them)

Just a nudge in the right direction I pray.

Eric, long before herbs and spices were used for flavoring they were desired for their medicinal properties. Is there any truth to those long-ago theories? Let's look at each one that you named:

  • Oregano - This herb is of the mint family and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It does have antibacterial properties, and Hippocrates used it as an antiseptic.
  • Ginger - Ginger has been proven to be effective in treating nausea from morning sickness or chemotherapy. In addition, it is an anti-inflammatory and can help with pain management and the stiffness that comes with osteoarthritis.
  • Garlic - This plant also has antibacterial properties, and I found extensive information about its potential anti-cancer properties in this article by the website TheTruthAboutCancer.
  • Horseradish - This root contains volatile oils that have been shown to contain antibacterial properties. It has been effective in treating upper respiratory infections and is potentially helpful in killing the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, but the jury is still out on this. I found helpful information on this topic at the University of Michigan Medicine.
  • Cloves - This dried flower bud has long been used to ease the pain of toothaches. It is proven to be effective in repelling insects but more research is needed to verify other claims of its antibacterial or healing benefits. Much has been written on the internet, but I do not feel comfortable in conveying information from homeopathic and nutrition-based websites.
  • Turmeric - This is the spice we use when we wish we could afford saffron. But turmeric is more than just a pretty (golden yellow) spice. It contains several compounds that are powerful antioxidants.
  • Black pepper - Several studies have been conducted which point to the possibility that the piperine in black pepper hinders new blood vessel growth within tumors, stunting their growth. Whether or not this is true, black pepper does contain manganese which supports bone health and wound healing.
  • Cayenne - Cayenne is a chili pepper and the primary ingredient is capsaicin. Studies have shown that it is "temporarily effective" in reducing appetite. (Apparently one can build up a tolerance). Tests on animals have shown that it can combat certain forms of cancer, but these results have not been proven in humans.

I offer the above information as a guideline. You should, of course, always talk with your physician or medical staff about your dietary choices. Even "natural" substances can pose negative interactions with medications.

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Sources:;; National Cancer Institute; University of Michigan Medicine;;

Can Greek Yogurt Be Frozen?

Linda, I have a question regarding Greek yogurt. I use plain Greek yogurt in recipes that call for sour cream because of the huge health benefits (probiotics) over sour cream. It tastes the same as sour cream and has the same texture. I even use it on baked potatoes and tacos. Frankly, I don't buy sour cream anymore.

However, plain Greek yogurt either comes in single servings or quart packages. I don't use it enough to warrant buying the quart size and the single serving doesn't come with an air-tight lid. My question is this: If I buy the quart size, can I freeze the unused portion until ready to use? If so, what is the best way to do so? Spoon into an ice tray? Wrap the container in foil before freezing?


Shauna (aka BraveWarrior), the Carb Diva family has also ditched sour cream and jumped onto the Greek yogurt bandwagon because of its nutritional value. But, Mr. Carb eats it every morning with a sprinkle (or 5 or 6) of granola, so looking for a way to store "too much" has never been an issue for us.

That said, I did a bit of research and found that yes indeed you can freeze Greek yogurt. If you want to enjoy it with granola (as my husband does) you might be dissatisfied, as freezing does affect the creamy texture. But, if you are using your yogurt in cooking or baking, that's a non-problem.

Now, how should you store that yogurt in the freezer? Here are some pointers:

  • If you freeze your leftover yogurt in its original container, make sure that there is some "headroom". When liquid or semi-liquid food is frozen it expands, so allow at least 1/2 inch of space between the yogurt and the lid on top.
  • If freezing in the original container, it would also be good to place the whole thing in a zip-lock plastic bag or larger sealable container so that your yogurt doesn't pick up any odors from other foods in your freezer.
  • If smoothies are in your future, find that ice cube tray and plop your leftover yogurt into it. Once frozen, place the yogurt cubes in a zip-lock bag or other freezer-safe container. No defrosting needed.

How to Grill Tomatoes

I carry in some tomatoes on our big hikes. Big ones. Slice in half "gut" and then broil up our caught fish along with the tomato meat. It is crude as it bakes in tin foil in the coals. Is there a real recipe for this?


Eric, why do you think that you need a recipe? You're doing everything right. Slice the tomatoes (those big beefy ones the size of a softball, right?) in half horizontally. Poke out the seeds (I use my fingers).

You can place them directly on the grill, cut side down over medium heat. Then flip them over and continue to grill until they look as charred as your little heart desires. If you want to get all fancy-schmancy after you flip them over you can drizzle on some good-quality olive oil, add some herbs and maybe even a splash of balsamic vinegar.

And now here's the next dish in our exploration of soups of the alphabet.



  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ¾ pound red potatoes, scrubbed and diced (don’t pare), about 1 ½ cups
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried tarragon
  • ¾ teaspoon dried dill weed (not dill seed)
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika (not hot or smoked)
  • 7 cups fish stock
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, diced
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup Chablis
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ¼ cup fresh minced parsley, for garnish


  1. In large stock pot melt butter in olive oil.
  2. Add the onion, celery, potatoes, garlic, thyme, tarragon and dill weed. Saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent.
  3. Reduce heat and add flour and paprika; stir well.
  4. Stir in fish stock a little at a time so that it lumps don’t form. Add the smoked salmon, bay leaf, lemon juice, Worcestershire, pepper, salt, and Chablis. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.
  6. Garnish with parsley.

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.

If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.

I hope that we can continue share in this food journey together. 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


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 24, 2019:

Eric, there are several. If you go to the "Ask-Carb-Diva-Table-of-Contents-for-the-QAs" and then scroll down to Salads, Soups, Sauces, and Side dishes you will find the links there.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 24, 2019:

Linda, please direct me to your work on Salad Dressings. I am kind of pleased with mine but could use some of your wisdom.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 07, 2019:

Eric, I will work on brown rice and whole grain article just for you. And, I like your suggestion of a weekly segment on cooking with kids.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 07, 2019:

Please Linda help on making good for you brown rice as easy and tasty as white. We do corn and we do potatoes. But truth be told that is when mom is working ;-) we do have fun here. Tonight the art of grating. Watch out fingers.

Uh Oh -- you can now just add a easy peasy for kids section in your articles.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 07, 2019:

Eric, I don't want to get in between you and your wife. She probably grew up eating rice 3 times a day. But I agree with you that white rice is not the healthiest carb you can put in your body. If you're going to eat something, it should taste good and be good for you.

Personally, I like brown rice. Barley is num num, and I love quinoa. Should I write an article on "alternative" grains? I know that there are others as well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 07, 2019:

You prodded and I came back -- Definitely cogitating on the Rice Flour notions. Corn Starch hmm. I think you could do all that like organic or something.

Linda I am getting into a rough patch of thorny wickets here. "TOO MUCH RICE - especially white".

We have to have our grain type starch. I make a great corn dish in any fashion. /just reminded me of going with my son to get fresh sea water to soak our corn in the husk in before cooking it in the husk and then broke in two with three "dips" for spice./

Do you know how to ween off rice?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Hi, Flourish, we were at Disney California, not Disney Florida. Don't worry about the Worchestershire sauce. I'll have a vegan version for you next week (and it's easy-peasy).

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 04, 2019:

I learned all kinds of things here today —never heard of jaggery, freezing Greek yogurt, and Worcester sauce has anchovies (ewwwww). I might pretend I don’t know that last one. I’m glad you had a blast at Disney. If I had known you’d be going, I’d have coordinated my recent Florida trip to Disney and Universal to coincide with yours so I could meet you in person!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Eric, those are all comfort foods for sure. I slow-simmered stew and homemade biscuits also are near the top of the list, or chicken and dumplings (I don't make biscuit-like dumplings, I make the homemade noodle things called slicks).

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 04, 2019:

Alright now there are three foods to celebrate snow days, oops make that four.

A hot beverage in the coco area


Tomato soup or Bisque

Grilled cheese sandwiches

Of course I know about when we stoke the fireplace with Oak and make Smores.

What say thee Queen of Culinary.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Rinita, I think you're fortunate to have jaggery available to you (it IS common in your part of the world). I looked online and the only way I can purchase it is via Amazon.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Mary, I made some vegan Worcestershire in December because (1) the baking of party mix (Chex mix) is an annual Christmas tradition in the Carb Diva household, and (2) my younger daughter is vegetarian (Worcestershire contains anchovy). I'll post the recipe for you next Monday.

Rinita Sen on February 04, 2019:

Thank you, Linda. As always, helpful answers. I am not supposed to have corn, so I guess I will just add in some tapioca starch next time to the rice flour, and see what happens. I will also keep the different oven settings in mind. The dough was kind of moist as compared to the regular recipe, so I guess your suggestion should help.

I am a little surprised you never heard of jaggery before. But then again it is a regular in an Indian kitchen, maybe not so much elsewhere. In fact, in my great grandma's generation, there was no concept of adding sugar in anything. Any sweet dish automatically had jaggery in it. Those were healthier times.

Enjoyed the rest of the hub, too. Have a great week.

Mary Wickison from USA on February 04, 2019:

A great variety of questions this week. I have bought some Greek yogurt this week and had forgotten just how much I enjoy it. I like the idea of putting granola on top of it.

Do you have a 'mock Worcestershire sauce' buried in one of your cook books? I bought some "English sauce" here and my husband nearly spat it out. He wants it to put on Cornish pasties.

Glad you enjoyed your trip, it sounds like it was jam packed with fun.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Shauna, I'm glad that I could help.

As for the journey from Washington to the Los Angeles area, it is scheduled to be 30 hours, but because of freight trains, it creeps closer to 32 hours. If we had opted for a sleeper car I think it would have been more enjoyable. Sleeping sitting up is difficult (especially if you don't have a kitty on your lap), and of course, the train stops numerous times on the journey to let passengers on and off. Clang, clang, crash.

But, despite the fatigue around the edges we had a great time in California. We spent a day in Santa Monica, visited the Los Angeles Zoo, saw a taping of Jeopardy, and spent 3 days in Disneyland.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 04, 2019:

Linda, thanks for answering my Greek yogurt question. Now I know what to do moving forward. Thanks for the storing tips as well. You've been a huge help!

How long did it take you to get from Washington to California via train? Did you enjoy the journey?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Bill, I intend to stay indoors today, either here at the 'puter or next to the fireplace with kitty on lap.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 04, 2019:

Welcome back,, and Happy Snowy Monday! It won't last long, but it sure is pretty while it's here, before the cars make it a muddy mess....enjoy your day, my friend!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 04, 2019:

Pamela, I wish that I had all of the ingredients on hand for that chowder right now. We got hit by winter (finally) last night and have our first blanket of snow. It's beautiful, but with all of our hills, freeway overpasses, and crazy don't-know-how-to-drive-in-snow transplants from other parts of the country, I think it best to stay inside today.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 04, 2019:

I am glad to hear you had a great vacation, and Linda, you got your


You had some interesting questions today.I was interested in the use of a different flour used in baking. I thought the soup recipe sounded so good, especially in cool weather. Thank you.

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