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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #109

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


It's All Good!

A few times a month (I'm not counting) I receive an email from a high school classmates' website. You've probably seen the ads for them—a database that works like Facebook for your high school graduating class. Post photos, let everyone know what you've been up to, comment on each others' posts, brag about your kids (or grandkids), etc.

Of course, like just about anything else, all that information comes with a price tag. There are little hints as to what lurks inside, but I can't see the photos or post a comment because I'm not paying the subscription. Oh, they want me; they tantalize me with "What's Joe Smith been up to?" "Where did Karen Jones vacation?" "Who's Cathy Questionable-Morals married to now?"

Nope, I don't care (that much). I won't tell you how long it's been since I donned that cap and gown (because I know you're smart enough to do the math). But, truth be told, I just don't have that much in common with the kids from high school other than that we once sat next to each other in study hall or Trig III.

I did, however, find this quote from an old boyfriend rather interesting, not because of who he was, but for his perspective on how he faces each new day:

"Every day above ground is a good day, and every day vertical is a fantastic day. So when I walk into the bathroom in the morning, and see me looking back in the mirror I know that I made it through another night."

Can't argue with that logic. And, knowing that he's survived fractured limbs, broken ribs, and a triple bypass, he probably IS grateful to be upright and mobile.

And I'm grateful to begin this day with all of you. Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

How to Get Really Good (Not Soggy) Toast


"Re toast, oh my goodness. I hate soggy toast. Is there a way to have warm morning toast that is crisp? I find if I use a toast rack to let the steam out, it doesn't stay warm."

Mary (Blond Logic), it seems that you and Eric Dierker are in two entirely different camps. He's all about the wealth of toppings and you just want perfectly buttery crisp toast that isn't cold. Oh dear!

Well, for the answer I went to my friend/food scientist Kenji of Serious Eats. He started out with a discourse on dehydration, and then riffed on the Maillard reaction, chemical reactions, aromatic compounds, and "textural contrast between crunchy exterior and moist center."


To really achieve great toast, you need to forgo the toaster. According to Kenji:

“For the very best toast, do it the way they do it in the very best diners: on a griddle or pan, in butter. Slowly frying bread in a buttered skillet will give you deeper, more even browning and less internal moisture loss because conduction (as opposed to dry heat convection, in a toaster) is such an effective means of heat transfer. It also builds that moist, buttery flavor right into the bread—sort of like a grilled cheese but without the cheese."

How to Use Papaya

"Papaya is plentiful and reasonably priced here. Other than just eating it as it is, do you have any recipes I can use it in. One papaya will last me 4 servings so it's getting a bit manky by the 4th day."

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Mary (again, and thank you so much for the questions) I have a few suggestions for using up those papayas. If the ones you have are anything like what I've seen in my local supermarket, I can understand why it takes your four days to eat one—they're HUGE! So, instead of eating just out of hand you could:

  • Use them in a facial: Papayas are chock full of vitamins and antioxidants and some people swear on their ability to cleanse, tighten, and brighten one's complexion. Here's a link to give you a dozen options.
  • Make sherbet: Here's a recipe for a creamy sherbet made with fresh pineapple, papaya, and coconut milk (I know that, in Brazil) you have all three.
  • Muffins: Papaya and banana get cozy together in these moist full-of-flavor muffins
  • Smoothie: There are lots of papaya smoothie recipes on the internet, but I'm sharing this one because it includes turmeric. You know how good that is for you!
  • Green papaya relish: When they aren't ripe yet.
  • Salsa: Hot, sweet, tangy, yummy

Waffles vs. Pancakes

"Question: waffle or pancake? Which do you prefer and why? And you can toss in some history if you feel like it. Who dreamed up that funny looking waffle?"

Good morning Bill Holland. Waffle or pancakes? Honestly, neither one unless you're talking about potato pancakes (latkes) and then I could eat them until I pop. But that's another story for another day. Pancakes were once batter on a hot rock. Waffles were that same batter but "fancified," or so it seems. Here's a (very) brief history:

  • In the beginning, coarse slurries of grain and water were “baked” on hot rocks.
  • With the Iron Age (800 B.C.), tools and flat griddle-like plates came into being. Centuries later, (about 1,100 B.C.) the ancient but innovative Greeks were cooking grain wafers (which they called obleios) between two hot metal plates. By the Middle Ages (400 to 1,000 A.D.), those obleios had become so popular that smart salespeople (they called themselves obloyeurs) were selling them from street vending carts (I will take the high road and refrain from saying that these wafers were selling like hot cakes).
  • However, wafers (or obleios) were not simply the food of the Greeks; what happens in Greece doesn’t stay in Greece. The rise of the Roman Empire, the increase of merchant trade routes, and probably even the spread of Christianity were all part of expanding the popularity of wafers throughout the Middle East and Europe.
  • In Medieval Europe, communion wafers (eucharist) were commonly manufactured by nuns; they were used not only for the celebration of Mass but also as a “fasting food” since they contain no animal products (eggs, lard, milk, butter). However, members of the nobility had the ability to supplement the tastes and texture of these “humble” wafers with the inclusion of expensive flavorings such as sugar, spices, and orange blossom water (pleasure in self-denial?). By the 13th century, wafers were a common part of royal cuisine. But, these still were not “waffles.”
  • Finally, in the 13th century, someone had the brilliant idea of embellishing the wafers by cooking them on patterned iron plates. This might have begun with the inscription of communion wafers (eucharist) with the cross of Christ. The most common secular pattern was the honeycomb of course. And guess what? The Dutch word for honeycomb is “wafel”. Finally, the waffle is born.

So, there you have it. And I'm off to make a batch of potato pancakes (latkes) for myself. You've made me hungry.

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.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

My partner in crime

My partner in crime

Let's do this again next week. 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 November 07, 2019:

Denise, that's an excellent question. To give you a quick answer I'll say that for the most part squash are interchangeable (with a subtle difference in flavor and texture) when you are cooking. Baking "might" pose a different circumstance because some might have more liquid that others. That's my easy-peasy answer for you right now, and I'll cover this in detail in my Q&A #111 (#110 is already well over 2,000 words). Thanks so much!!!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 07, 2019:

Oh, I have a question. I was given several squashes. I know what to do with the spaghetti squash. My question is can I interchange most squash in recipes? Such as if the recipe calls for butternut squash, can I substitute acorn squash or vice versa? I figured you can realizing that there are differences in flavor but I also figured that it is subtle enough not to matter. Am I wrong? Also, I typically substitute recipes calling for pumpkin puree with sweet potato puree or even pureed carrots. What do you think about that? For muffins or bread (as in pumpkin bread) there doesn't seem to be much of a flavor difference.

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

Denise, you just never know what you might find here LOL.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 07, 2019:

What a great waffle history! I will never look at a waffle the same way again! Thanks. Now I'm hungry.



Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on November 06, 2019:

Thank you, Linda. I find that with as many food allergies as I have, I have to be creative or stay perpetually bored.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 05, 2019:

Mary, pancakes (or crepes) and lemon? My head reels. However, I know Ian has other admirable qualities, so I'll allow him this one indiscretion.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 05, 2019:

MizB what a wonderful, imaginative idea. Look at you getting all creative! I'll post your comment in next week's Q&A just in case my readers don't see it here. Thank you so much!

Mary Wickison from Brazil on November 05, 2019:

Thanks for answering my questions. I don't think I'll ever get Ian to eat papaya.

I haven't had waffles in ages but we often have pancakes. It's a huge debate in our home, about what is a 'proper pancake'. I make American style, and Ian makes crepes and calls them pancakes. The British put lemon juice on them. Quite frankly, I think that is scandalous!

Thank you Rinita for your suggestion for papaya.

Have a great week Linda.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 05, 2019:

Manatita, I can dream about pancakes but that is as close as we will get for some time. A moment on the lips, a year on the hips.

No reunion.

I would be honored to look into nutrition for eye health for you my dear.

manatita44 from london on November 05, 2019:

Pancakes, eh? You can afford the luxury. Isn't it fattening? God has blessed you with a great figure. You're lucky!

Toasters go funny quite quickly, so your other idea is cool. Had some papayas this morning and indeed last night. No hard and fast rules for me.

School mates, eh? Maybe I should be looking towards a re-union.

Did I ever asked you about the eyes? having trouble with mines. Anything to help with Glaucoma or the optic nerve? Next Hub, perhaps.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on November 04, 2019:

Linda, this #109 is really helpful to me, since most of your hints and recipes don't contain allergens that are taboo to me. I can hardly wait to try the papaya pineapple sherbet using coconut milk. I don't really like coconut milk in most recipes because I think it's custom made for tropical dishes.

We never owned a toaster when I was growing up, so I love skillet-fried toast. Sometimes we would make sugar-cinnamon toast, and have to really work cleaning the skillet afterward.

I love waffles and last year I bought a mini waffle maker (4 in. waffles). I got a wild hair one day and added just a little more liquid to my recipe for gluten-free chocolate mug cake. It made 3 perfect little chocolate waffles, kind of like cookies. I eat them by dipping them in pancake syrup. Delicious. Thought you might like the idea of turning mug cakes into waffles. Just be sure to use a recipe that calls for baking powder.

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

Sha, that makes perfect sense. Dill weed and seed play a prominent place in many Scandinavian dishes.

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

I'm with you on the pancake vs waffle debate, Linda. I don't care for either (but LOVE potato pancakes).

I finally got around to making Swedish meatballs yesterday. I use the McCall's recipe but halve the meats and liquids, and breadcrumbs. I don't halve the spices because they're what make them so yummy. I'm partial to McCall's recipe because it calls for dill weed in addition to allspice, nutmeg and cardamom. Dill weed is not only incorporated into the meat, but the sauce as well. Dill sends the flavor over the top, in my opinion. It's so delicious, I had some for lunch today as well.

I can relate to your lack of interest to see what your high school cohorts are up to. I've never been to a high school reunion. Besides the fact that I haven't lived in the state from which I graduated since the year after I graduated, I simply have no desire to see any of those people.

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

Good morning Bill. That's a good question (about flavor combinations). I don't know if I can come up with five. I tend to be somewhat of a purist with my foods. I don't even dunk my fries because I want to taste the fry and not the ketchup.

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

Eric, I can't imagine you ever ranting at me. I hope you're enjoying that toast and you have my blessings on that. As for the latkes, I devoted an entire article to them a while back. (Exploring Latkes is the name).

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

Rinita, thank you for that reminder. Green papaya is also a common item in Thai cooking. I think I hear the need for an entire article devoted to that fruit, don't you?

Thanks for contributing.

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

Pamela, thank Bill for the great question. I love doing this stuff!

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

Flourish, thanks for the reminder about drying those wonderful tropical fruits. I'll write up about that next week. As for granola, no I've not covered that topic but I'll place it on my "to do" list. I'm always looking for new ideas. Thanks so much. I hope you have a great week.

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

I never went to a high school reunion.Just didn't care about it or about those people. No regrets! Here's one for you...complimentary flavors when baking? Cherry and chocolate are probably my favorite....can you give me five more which are personal favorites?

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

Hold on just a gaul darned second here;


Papaya (Gabe and I were on the fence here but this will revive us)

Toast best in a cast iron frying pan? Whahoo! This is going to take my, sunny side up ketchup with a covering of lettuce sandwich to a new over the top.

I am going to try a pan fry just using and smaller pan on top for a mix of waffle and pancake. I will use salted butter but how about olive oil?

This is what I am has got me thought today "talking about potato pancakes (latkes)" Bring them on sister.

Sorry so long. I can ramble, but at least I did not rant.

Rinita Sen on November 04, 2019:

Great one again. Papaya - I suppose most people eat it as a fruit, but here we cook raw papaya (the green one) as a veggie. We boil it, mash it, and add some salt, pepper, and oil, that's it. It is supposed to be excellent for digestion and reduces bloating. Just wanted to add that.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 04, 2019:

The history of how food trends started are always interesting, Linda. This article was no exception. I haven't used papaya too often, so I never dreamed there were so many ways to prepare it. Thanks for all this new information.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 03, 2019:

Mary is lucky to have some of the fruit options she does. Maybe she could dry them too for some kind of granola. Speaking of which granola might be a good topic if you have not covered it yet. My dad used to make his own.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2019:

John, I love doing this just as I believe you enjoy writing poetry. Thanks for stopping by.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on November 03, 2019:

Linda, as always very interesting. Thank you for the history lesson on pancakes and waffles.

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