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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #116

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

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Tra-La-La-La-La

'Tis the season for a small offering of questions. The mailbox was mostly stuffed with Christmas cards and annual letters and that's fine with me. I've a dinner to prepare and a cat to snatch out of the tree.

So, 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.

To start, I received two questions about biscuits.

Why Were the Biscuits Dry?

There was no milk (for making biscuits) so I used whipping cream. The biscuits were dry and disappointing. Was whipping cream the culprit?

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Megan, I don't think whipping cream made sad biscuits; in fact, cream biscuits is a thing in the South. Without seeing what was going on in the kitchen, I can't be certain what went wrong, but here are some things to keep in mind when making biscuits:

  • Don't cut the butter (or margarine) into particles that are too small. You want little clumps of butter, not something the consistency of sand. That's why I never use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour.
  • Work with cold ingredients and equipment. A chilled bowl and pastry blender are your friends. The butter should be hard (not room temperature). The easiest way to keep the butter cold but in manageable-size pieces is to grate it on the largest holes of a box vegetable grater.
  • Measure your flour by carefully spooning into the cup and then leveling with a knife. Don't dip and scoop. Even better, sift the flour directly into the cup. Too much flour can throw off the ratio of flour:fat.

Soft Wheat Flour and Your "Perfect" Biscuits

This question came from Anonymous who took exception to my article on "How to Make Perfect Biscuits."

"Why don't you recommend soft wheat flour such as White Lily or Martha White?"

That is a very good question; my answer (and I throw myself at your feet in repentance) is that White Lily and Martha White are flours available in the South. I'm a Northern girl and they simply aren't available (or well known) where I live. I must confess that my not using them is not an indictment of them. It is due solely to lack of experience. I did a little reading before answering this and found, lo and behold, that the two that you mentioned are recommended for biscuits. Thank you your question; it's a good contribution to the article.

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Are Tomatoes Really Fruits?

Here's another one from Anon.

"There's so much confusion about what is a fruit and what is a vegetable. We tend to think of veggies as the stuff of which salads are made, or maybe that fruits are sweet and veggies are savory?"

Anon., I'm about to turn your world upside-down. Yes, the tomato is a fruit; so are pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplant, and even beans. Flavor has nothing to do with it. Fruits are one of six specific parts of a plant:

  1. Roots anchor the plant in the ground and conduct moisture in the soil to the rest of the organism. Some have roots that swell and allow the plant to survive in the winter (carrots, radishes, etc.) or in the dry summer months (sweet potatoes).
  2. Stems (or rhizomes) are another part of the circulation system. They move moisture from the roots to the leaves. They tend to be fibrous (think of celery, asparagus spears, broccoli stems).
  3. Leaves facilitate the process called photosynthesis; they convert sunshine into energy (food) for the plant.
  4. The flower is the reproductive part of the plant. If you remember your middle school biology class, you are familiar with pollen (from the male) and ovules which when fertilized become fruits.
  5. Fruit—finally we're at today's topic. The fruit develops once the plant is pollinated and it contains . . .
  6. Seeds. That's what makes future generations of plants, and what sets fruits apart. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and all those squashes contain seeds so they are fruits.

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.

Scroll to Continue

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.

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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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 29, 2019:

Genna, I wish you were here. I'd love to show you how. Look at my "Making Perfect Biscuits." It might help. I hope you have a wonderful day.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 29, 2019:

I have never mastered the art of making biscuits -- although I've tried. I either overcook or undertook. :-( When made well, they melt in your mouth with a warm, delicious taste that's like coming home. What an interesting article, Linda.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 26, 2019:

Denise, I hadn't thought of it that way. Actually flora is really complicated. (Broccoli, the part we eat, is a flower). Have I opened a can of worms?

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 26, 2019:

What a great education on fruits vs veggies. Is it your contention to label anything that isn't a fruit as a veggie? That would include roots (carrots), stems (asparagus), and flowers (broccoli)?

Blessings,

Denise

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

Kari, that makes me so happy. I enjoy doing it and will continue to do so as long as I get questions from this wonderful group of people. Merry Christmas to you.

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

MizB, Merry Christmas to you. I've already written #117 so whenever you remember the lost question, I'll be happy to take care of it for you.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on December 24, 2019:

Thanks, Linda, for the biscuit tips. I may make 2020 the year I make a perfect biscuit. I make a decent one now, but there is room for improvement. I'm so glad you take the time to write the Carb Divas. I always find something interesting in them. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 23, 2019:

A cat to get out of the tree. La la la. I solved that problem. I won't get rid of the cats, so I just don't put up a tree anymore because I don't have family around to appreciate them. My darned inconsiderate children married furriners (meaning Texans) and established their own clan there, so I don't get to see them at Christmas unless I travel there to them which is a rare treat for us.

That's a good explanation of fruit, Linda. I liked to have never accepted the idea that that red acidic ball on my plate was a fruit just like my dad's sweet apples in mom's cobbler in the bowl.

I understand the confusion about the flour. We Southerners do like our Martha White and Aunt Jemimah (corn meal). I miss wheat flour a bunch. Even when I get a good gluten free texture that rivals a wheat bread, it doesn't always equal the flavor of wheat. More than anything, I miss yeast rolls. There is no substitute that I've found.

I thought up a question for you, but now it slipped my mind. Maybe I'll think of it later. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Sha, Merry Christmas to you my sweet friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Manatita, thank you for your kind words. I look forward to the year 2020 with anticipation and joy.

Merry Christmas to you my dear friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Mary, here's a link that I shared on my article about making your own seasoning and sauce mixes. https://www.macheesmo.com/homemade-salad-dressing-... I'll craft a lengthier answer in a week. Merry Christmas to you and Ian.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 23, 2019:

Good information on the biscuits, Linda. Your tip about grating very cold butter is a good one.

Merry Christmas, my friend!

manatita44 from london on December 23, 2019:

Yes, the tomato one is a common question. Merry Christmas, Mrs L. God continue to bless you with the spirit of an ever-increasing wisdom and a more expansive Heart. Wishing you more inner and outer opulence for 2020 and beyond. Glory be!!

manatita44 from london on December 23, 2019:

Merry Christmas, Linda. God bless you to continuing to allow the Light to shine in even more windows in your loving Heart.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Pamela the science of biology is strange indeed. It all has to do with how/where the fruit develops in relation to the ovary of the plant.

Merry Christmas to you too!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 23, 2019:

Well Linda, I put a message up here first thing this morning and somehow it is gone. So, I will try again. I was surprised to learn a bean was a fruit! I guess we just keep on learning.

I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Eric, dry biscuits were made for sopping up gravy, but butter will do in a pinch.

I didn't know that it was possible to ruin guacamole.

No, biscuits really aren't a Mexican thing, unless perhaps you toss in some corn meal. Pita isn't a biscuit dear. It's a flat bread and if you look for "Exploring Flatbreads: The Staff of Life Around the World" (in Google it comes up as #1), you'll find a recipe for pitas and a lot more.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on December 23, 2019:

I too didn't know the others were fruits. I've heard it said, "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. "

Linda do you have a good 'go to' salad dressing? Currently I just use olive oil and apple vinegar. I am the only one who will use it so I don't need vast quantities. A simple affair with easy to get ingredients would be perfect.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Bill, I always keep my gifts under the tree. I don't poke or shake and I never peek. But I just opened a wonderful one this morning when I read this comment from you. My love to you and Bev as well my dear friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 23, 2019:

Flourish, I don't want to do any more to turn your world upside down, so I won't mention that bananas are berries.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2019:

I do love biscuits!

And I do love you, dear friend. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family. Thank you for the gift of friendship.

bill

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 23, 2019:

Somebody have some fun here. Not me!! I kind of like dry biscuits. An excuse to heat them up again with butter and preserves. Gabe and i do not do plain. We tried a guacamole last night and we both felt like throwing up. I do not think biscuit and Mexico go together.

Is a Pita a biscuit?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 23, 2019:

I didn't know some of those things you listed were actually fruits. Live and learn I guess is the answer to that. The questions and answers were interesting today.

Have a very Merry Christmas, Linda!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 23, 2019:

Short but sweet, Linda. But that is understandable with Christmas upon us. I have been trying to find the time to publish another “Poems From the Porch” before Christmas but unless I get a move on that won’t happen. The priority is getting everything ready for visitors arriving tomorrow. Merry Christmas to you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 22, 2019:

Beans a fruit ... say what?!? Trying to process just like I’m still trying to process Pluto isn’t a planet. Merry Christmas!

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