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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #117

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


The Halls Are Still Decked

As write this article the skirt under our "main" Christmas tree is bare. The few packages that rested there for several weeks have been opened and distributed and treasured.

The Christ child was the star of the show, and in second place was the love in our home. But would it be sacrilege for me to say that third billing went to the roast turkey? It was magnificent if I do say so myself (along with the garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, winter squash casserole, green bean casserole, roasted Brussels sprouts, cornmeal angel biscuits, cranberry sauce, and that beautiful pear/ginger cake baked by my younger daughter).

Life is good. Love abounds. And the diet begins in a week.

Are You Ready?

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.

The first question comes from Denise (Paintdrips) who says . . .

Thoughts About Homemade Vegetarian Bouillon

I've been looking at homemade vegetable bouillons and some call for them to just be mixed in a food processor with lots of salt and then kept in the freezer while others suggest drying all the ingredients in the oven for 4 hours and then grinding them to powder. Do you think the dried version looses any nutrients? Is one better than the other? I know I could buy vegan bouillon but I would rather know what's in it for myself. Thanks.

homemade bouillon

homemade bouillon

Denise, I'm a big believer in make your own, start from scratch, home cooking but honestly had never considered making my own bouillon. You are my inspiration!

OK, so I really took to heart your question about the pros and cons of preparing a dried shelf-stable powder vs. a fresh concoction stabilized by salt and stored in the freezer. I'll give the links for each, provide a brief review, and then give my recommendations.

Homemade Vegetable Stock Powder

This recipe was created by Elena (Easy As Apple Pie blog). She didn't like the thought of caramel color, fats, preservatives, and MSG in her bouillon powder, so she found a way to make her own. It's a lengthy process, taking almost 4 hours, but much of that time is the vegetables roasting in the oven. The ratio of vegetables to salt needs to be precise, so having a food scale is a must for this recipe.

Homemade Soup Starter

The recipe for this soup started is from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook" by Pam Corbin. I would recommend a food scale for this recipe too. It creates a vegetable paste that is stored in a sealed container in the freezer. The high concentration of salt prevents it from freezing solid. You can remove exactly what you need and return the remainder to the freezer.

OK, so here are my thoughts. The dried powder should be shelf-stable for up to 3 months because the salt acts as a preservative. The paste stored in the freezer is spoonable, again because of the presence of salt. My personal preference would be to make the paste and omit the salt entirely. I would measure out teaspoon-sized "plops" onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze them until firm. Then I'd store those little teaspoon-sized gems in the freezer.

Are Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil the Same?

Is there really a difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil or is the EVO just label a way to get us to pay more?

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This isn’t just a slick marketing scheme; there truly is a difference between extra virgin, virgin, and just mere olive oil. The quality of olive oil is based on its color and flavor. Some of the world’s finest olive oils come from Tuscany where olives have been cultivated since the 7th century B.C. The cool climate allows olive to ripen and mature more slowly, creating more aromatic and intensely-flavored olive oils.

When olives are 6 to 8 months old they are at their peak of maturity and have the maximum amount of oil in the pulp (up to 30 percent). They are washed, crushed pit and all ground into a paste.

The paste is pressed to extract the oil. This first pressing releases a green-gold aromatic oil. This is the extra virgin oil, the best of the best. Consider the difference between bottled orange juice and juice that was squeezed just one minute ago. The paste is then heated and pressed again. This second pressing releases more oil, but of lesser quality—virgin olive oil.

The grading of olive oil isn’t subjective--olive oil production is regulated and to garner the label “extra virgin” or “virgin” the oil must pass specific standards for amounts of fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil isn’t for cooking—this is the expensive stuff and needs to be used where the flavor and richness will shine through. Toss it with hot pasta, swirl into soup, or use as a dip for Tuscan bread. Virgin olive oil is a good choice for sautéing.

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.


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 January 06, 2020:

Denise I'm sure your question helped many people. Thanks for stopping by.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 06, 2020:

Thanks for the bouillon suggestions. I went ahead and dried some for a starter. It turned out much better than I thought it would and I've really enjoyed the soups I've made with it so far. I even added a teaspoon to my seitan roast and it was wonderful. I do compensate for the extra salt by not putting any more in anywhere. Good to know you think the paste version is probably better for me. Thanks for your research.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 02, 2020:

Mary, you're not late. I'm still catching up with financial reports for 2019 (my day job). If you look at the "We're Organized" section of this article you will find a link to my recipe index. Look under "Breads and Baking" and click on "Cornmeal Biscuits." I'll also reprint it in #118 next Monday.

I wish you a wonderful week and a blessed New Year.

Mary Wickison from USA on January 02, 2020:

Sorry I'm late to the party. My internet went down for a few days. Happy New Year.

Your Christmas dinner sounds delicious. Those cornmeal angel biscuits sound interesting. I love cornmeal, although Ian isn't too keen. I'd love a recipe.

Interesting information about the olive oil. We are using it more frequently of late but Ian finds the extra virgin too strong.

Have a wonderful week (what's left of it. )

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 01, 2020:

Thank you!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 31, 2019:

Kari, I'll include it in my #118 next Monday.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on December 31, 2019:

Talking about olive oil, when I ate 90-95% raw I found out that there are different ways to press it. The heated process that you present, and also a cold press process. I ate the cold press for dressings because it was considered "raw".

I would love to have your squash casserole recipe. I adore squash, winter and summer.

Happy New Year's! I hope the new year is filled with blessing for you and yours.

manatita44 from london on December 30, 2019:

Play on words, my Sweet. It can be like seasoning in Turkey.

Of course I know you are a culinary expert and a kitchen genius too. Praise be!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Good morning Sha. There were only 5 of us, but the turkey was small (only 14 pounds). We have a massive freezer so 1/2 of the bird immediately went into the deep freeze, and Mr. Bill loves turkey sandwiches. Until he starts to gobble I'm going to keep feeding him turkey.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Good morning Bill. The year 2019 presented a few challenges, and I'm ready for 2020 although, to put it all in perspective, the good outweighed the bad. My love to you and Bev.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Thank you Pamela. Our local grocery store has turkeys for 49 cents per pound--the big ones (20+ pounds). Call me crazy, but I'm strongly considering buying one. Even soup bones cost more than 49 cents a pounds.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 30, 2019:

Wow, Linda, you really had a spread for Christmas! How many people were you feeding? And how many hours (days) were you in the kitchen?

I've never thought of making my own bouillon. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used it. I normally have several types of stock/broth on hand, so I use that. However, they do have a shelf life once opened. Perhaps I should consider keeping bouillon on hand as well.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Manatita, I don't do a good turkey. I do a magnificent turkey! As for the diet, I don't need to lose any more weight, but I do need to be mindful of what I put into this jar of clay (quality vs. quantity). You are in quite the mood today. I like your playful spirit.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Flourish, your daughter has become vegetarian? Welcome to the club! I hope you have a wonderful and safe New Year.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on December 30, 2019:

Eric, different oils have different smoke points (the temperature at which they burn). I'll explain that next week for you and the rest of our gang, OK?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 30, 2019:

Life is indeed good, 2019 was bountiful, and 2020 holds much promise. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, my friend. Blessings and love always.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 30, 2019:

I am truly glad to know the difference between the olive oils. I learned several things today, as usual. Your Christmas dinner sounds great. This is another good article in your series.

Have a Happy New year Linda!

manatita44 from london on December 30, 2019:

There's something special about hearing the word 'Tuscany', must be the nature and as such the good food, including olive oil.

So the Christ child is first, Love second and the turkey third, eh? I also note your conscious/unconscious resolution for a weeks time. Nice one!

Not everyone can do a good turkey. Good on Ya!

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 30, 2019:

It does sound like Christmas was a big success in your home. Mine was kinda quiet and low key. Now I have a vegetarian daughter so I appreciate the first question. I learned something new with the second question. Happy New Year!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 30, 2019:

I just need the oil so not to burn my pan.not even for flavor. Maybe a wrong deal. please correct l need your instruction

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

Hello John. You are my first visitor today. Happy New Year to you

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on December 29, 2019:

Sounds like your Christmas was delightful, Linda. I enjoyed mine as well..good food and company. Thanks for sharing the differences in grade of Olive Oil...I suspected that extra virgin was for sprinkling on pasta and salad etc and the other was for cooking but wasn’t sure. Now I know. Have a great New Year.

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