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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #118

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


A New Year and a New Goal

The year 2019 was a challenging one for many of us, and I for one am happy to begin 2020. (By the way, 2019 was not the end of the decade. Technically a new decade begins with the number 1, so 2021 will be when we hit the new decade button. If you don't believe me, read this tidbit from NPR).

Before we begin with the mailbox, I have a question for all of you. Several years ago I wrote and published a cookbook. It was filled with color photographs, food histories, and personal stories. A fun project for sure, but the color pages drove up the cost, so much so that I fell short of my sales goal.

In a moment of insanity, I've decided to do it again—I'm considering another foray into the publishing world, but this time without the stories, without food histories, and without costly color photographs. Just recipes, the recipes I share on Hub Pages with all of you . . . if you are interested. So would you like to have a copy of "Carb Diva's Recipes" on your shelf? Let me know what you think (there's a poll at the end of this article to make it simple and anonymous).

The First Questions of 2020

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 Bake a Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

I recently published an article on how to make the "Perfect Dark Chocolate Cake." That prompted a question from Donna Rayne:

"Hi, Linda, This chocolate cake looks so yummy! How would I turn it into a gluten-free cake? Also, I use a splash of coffee for cakes and cookies, brings out wonderful flavors and makes them soft and moist to eat. I look forward to reading more of your recipes! Love your hub!"

Donna, as you probably know, gluten-free baking can be a bit of a science experiment. When viewed under a microscope, gluten protein looks like a spider web; it is that “web” that traps carbon dioxide bubbles. The other important part of wheat flour is starch. When heated, starch becomes firm and it supports the protein webs.

When you bake a loaf of bread, there's yeast alive in there, giving off carbon dioxide, creating air bubbles that let the dough double in size, but it's a slow process. Normal proofing takes from 45 minutes to 2 hours. So you need more gluten with the lasting power to hold up those bubbles, maintain the structure of the dough, and give you a brilliant loaf (as opposed to a hockey puck).

For a cake that is leavened (made to rise) with baking powder and/or baking soda, a lower amount of gluten is needed. The baking powder and soda won't be making huge bubbles and they will act quickly.

Where I'm going with all of this is that substituting gluten-free flour in a cake recipe is not as difficult as if you were to attempt gluten-free bread.

Non-gluten flours can be used in baking, but how to do that depends on the type of flour you have.

  • If your gift is labeled as "all-purpose gluten-free flour" then it can be used in place of regular all-purpose flour, at a ratio of 1:1.
  • If you use rice flour you will need to add starch and "sticky stuff" to mimic the gluten that is missing. Mix this up and store in a canister for future use: For every 3 cups of rice flour add 2 cups of potato starch, 1 cup of tapioca flour, and 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum. You now have a rice flour that can be used in place of cake flour.

Here's a link that will provide more information. I hope these tips help you.

Gluten Free Cooking Help

Donna asked another question about gluten-free cooking:

"Linda, do you have a gluten-free dessert dishes and entre dishes? I get tired of making the same things over and over again. I'm also allergic to eggs but not in cakes and stuff, I just can't have scrambled eggs or omelets. Any new recipes would be appreciated."

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I could certainly find links for gluten-free for you, but I don't have first-hand experience with that type of cooking or baking. I'm going to suggest that you contact my dear friend on Hub Pages, Doris James, also known as MizBejabbers.

Doris is allergic to wheat and has a wealth of ideas on recipe conversions and where to source the best gluten-free brands.

Berry vinaigrette

Berry vinaigrette

Homemade Salad Dressings

"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."

Mary, here's a link that I shared on my article about making your own seasoning and sauce mixes. If you're in the mood for something creamy, I have two more recipes to share, a Mock Caesar (real Caesar has anchovies and my vegetarian daughter refuses it), and a ranch dressing that tastes so much better than bottled, you'll never buy salad dressing again.

Mock Caesar (concocted after a bit of trial and error)


  • 3/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated/minced fresh garlic
  • black pepper, to taste


Place all ingredients in the jar of a blender and whirl until smooth and well-blended.

Ranch Dressing


  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Stir together milk and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes. (The milk will thicken. It may look a bit curdled, but don't worry).
  2. Combine milk mixture and sour cream in a medium-sized bowl, whisking until smooth.
  3. Add dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. Transfer dressing to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.

And here's one more. Sometimes I like to make a salad with fresh fruits; this berry vinaigrette uses strawberries, but any fresh berry would work.


Winter Squash Casserole Recipe

Last week I mentioned the menu I had created for a Christmas Day dinner. Kari Poulson asked for the squash casserole. Here it is.


  • 2 cups cooked mashed winter squash (butternut, acorn, or sugar pumpkin are great!)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs


  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place squash in the bowl of a food processor; add the sugar, milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and vanilla. Process until smooth. Add eggs and pulse until blended.
  3. Pour into a 1-quart baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray.
  4. Combine all ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the squash mixture.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes or until golden.
Cornmeal biscuits

Cornmeal biscuits

Cornmeal Biscuits Recipe

Mary (Blonde Logic) liked the Christmas menu too.

"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."

Your wish is my command:


  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add to buttermilk and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in yeast/buttermilk mixture and knead just to bring together about 5 or 6 times.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, pat dough out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch round cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Biscuits should be almost touching.
  4. Cover and set in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until browned.

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.

© 2020 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 07, 2020:

Aah, thank you Flourish. At this time of year I feel that I don't want salad greens at all. We are loving chopped kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrots. Still pondering on the book. Stay tuned.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 07, 2020:

I am eating lots of salads these days so I liked the homemade dressing recipes. Keep them coming! Am also intrigued by the biscuits. If you want to do a new book, go for it! You have lots of great recipes to choose from.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 07, 2020:

Thank you Manatita. The numbers are creeping upward. Stay tuned my friend.

manatita44 from london on January 07, 2020:

I think that you should do a book, yes. Colour is an asset but financial wisdom is good too, as you seem to have found out.

Over the years you have used a great many utensils and cookware, that I don't keep at home. Would probably cost me a fortune to use your recipes. I still think it would be good for us to see your book. Peace.

Rinita Sen on January 07, 2020:

Thanks Linda. Just regular, brown sliced bread.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Hi Mary, I'm having the same problem. I'll go shopping this week and let you know what I find.

Mary Wickison from USA on January 06, 2020:

Thanks for the biscuit and salad dressing ideas. I need to organize myself better (note to self).

Can you suggest some measuring cups and spoons? I don't like the ones I have. They are white plastic with the numbers also in white. They are too difficult to see. I don't know what possessed me to buy them.They are also a pain to clean with all the little nooks and crannies.

Have a wonderful week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Hi Denise. Thanks for your support. BTW did you see last week's post; I answered your question about veggies bouillon.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 06, 2020:

I know what you mean about the color photos driving up costs. It's a bit unreasonable when you consider that color photos are necessary for some things (like recipes) and the print on demand printers are not that costly. It's the go-between marketer who is hiking up the costs. I've switched from Amazon to Lulu and although Lulu isn't as well-known and trafficked, Lulu doesn't charge as much for color interiors. Since I write and illustrate children's books, I need them to be in color. I think we (the little people do all the work, research, writing, illustrating, etc.) are being cheated and undervalued. But that's just my opinion.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Kari, if you are striving for the perfect biscuit, the one everyone thinks of when they envision Sunday dinner at Grandma's house, the cornmeal biscuit isn't that one. Because of the yeast, it has a slightly different texture. It tastes great but is more cakey than flaky. Go with my "Perfect Biscuits" article.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 06, 2020:

Linda, Thank you for the squash recipe! It looks scrumptious. I love my squash sweet. I will make this soon. The biscuits sound lovely also. They fit in with my theme of learning to make a perfect biscuit in 2020.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Pamela, I am getting more and more requests for gluten-free cooking and baking, so will try to incorporate that in my articles whenever possible. I hope you have a great week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Thank you Bill. It's too early for any reliable readings from the exit polls, but I'll let you know how the voting goes.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Hi Shauna, and thanks. I use yellow corn meal always. I'm not sure if there is a difference other than appearance. Hmmm, that sounds like a question for next week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2020:

Good morning Rinita. I'll ponder a bit on your question. I think I can come up with an answer for you next Monday. What type of bread are you having problems with? Is it a flat bread (like pita or naan)?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2020:

Best wishes with your new project. I'm afraid it would be wasted on me, but I have no doubt many out there will find your expertise to be helpful.

Happy 2020...let's make it a fantastic year!



Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 06, 2020:

Linda, I love that you're featuring original recipes in this episode. You go, girl!

The cornmeal biscuits look so good. Do you use white cornmeal or yellow?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 06, 2020:

Your salad dresssing recipes sound delicious. I imagine your gluten-free suggestions will help anyone suffering from gluten disease. This is a great start to 2020. Have a good week, Linda!

Rinita Sen on January 06, 2020:

Happy New Year, Linda. I agree with you on the decade concept. It seems incredible that people are falling short of basic mathematical skills these days.

Anyway, great hub as usual and I have a question for you. It's not much but I've been having a hard time properly cutting up sandwiches. Is there a specific knife or a particular technique that cuts sandwiches without breaking the bread? I'm talking about sandwiches made of thin bread slices with a lot of stuff in between the slices. I like to cut them up diagonally, but the bread always cracks. Any recommendation is appreciated.

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