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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #141

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


When you are at home, even if the chicken is a little burnt, what’s the big deal? Relax.

— Jacques Pepin

Can We Take a Break?

Not to make light of the problems all of us are witnessing, but goodness sakes, I'm feeling the tension. There is no escape from the discussions about social unrest, politics, and the virus. It even appears in the daily comic strips. Just for now, can we hit the pause button and escape for a few minutes?

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.

Recipe for Flapjacks

I had a fun exchange with Ann Carr, who lives in Great Britain. First, she left this comment:

"I've cooked more in this lockdown than ever before - it was flapjacks the other day which were quite good. Do you have any easy superb flapjack recipes? I bet you do!"

I responded that I had written an article on waffles but don't think I have ever addressed pancakes. Ann came back and left this:

"Oh! Does flapjacks mean pancakes to you? I thought a pancake was a cooked batter for sweet or savoury fillings. To me, flapjack is rolled oats in golden syrup, butter and sugar, flattened into a dish, put in the oven and eaten as an accompaniment to coffee or tea, instead of a biscuit. I was wondering if you had an even more yummy slant on that. Funny how food names vary like that, isn't it?"

Who knew? Well, this sounded like a fun challenge, and I always love it when my readers teach me something. To find the best possible answer for Ann I went to the Queen of baking, none other than Mary Berry, one of the original judges in the Great British Bake Off.

Great British Bake Off flapjacks

Great British Bake Off flapjacks

Mary Berry (actual name Mary Rosa Alleyne Hunnings), is a British chef, food writer, and television celebrity. She has authored 75 books; her best-seller is the Baking Bible, published in 2009. Is there any doubt that she can create the best flapjack? Here's the link to her recipe.

Now, although this recipe from Great British Bake Off might be good news for Ann, it will be a disappointment for my friends in the United States—disappointing because there is one key ingredient that we simply do not have here. There is no substitute for golden syrup.

But, don't despair. I have up my sleeve an alternate recipe that, although not exactly like Ann's teatime treat, is a reasonable facsimile. I've been making these for my family for decades.

Scotch Teas


  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats (I prefer the old-fashioned kind)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (table salt, not Kosher)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the brown sugar and butter in a large saucepan; cook over low heat until the butter melts.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the oats, baking powder, and salt; mix until the oats are thoroughly coated.
  4. Turn the mixture into a greased 8-inch square baking pan (metal, not glass).
  5. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.
Scroll to Continue

Which Type of Ground Beef is Better?

"So I'm at the store yesterday, and I have my choice between 80% fat-free ground beef and 90% fat-free...about a buck a pound difference in price. But is there a difference in taste and if so, why is there? Just askin'."

Bill, I'm happy to tackle this one for you. Much as we hate to say it out loud, fat tastes good! If you're making hamburger patties, you might think that the higher percentage of lean meat might be the better choice; more is better, right? Well, in this case, not necessarily so. The amount of fat in ground meat can drastically affect not only the flavor, but the moisture and texture.

But, lest you think this is just a simple matter of ratios, there's another consideration--what cut of beef is being used. Let's get honest; ground beef is the leftovers and trimmings from other more expensive cuts of beef (steaks and roasts). Based on the knowledge of the structure of various parts of the steer we can assume that:

  • 80/20 is probably ground chuck
  • 85/15 is probably ground round
  • 90/10 is probably ground sirloin

But, before you buy that mince (as my British family calls it), you should probably have a plan in mind for how you will use it. Let me explain:

  • 90-95 percent: This is the really lean stuff. (Much less fat than me!). I might use this for tacos, a dish where you use lots of sauces and seasonings to add layers of richness and flavor. This would also be a good choice if you are making a meatloaf and will be using a blend of beef and pork.
  • 80-85 percent: This is my go-to whenever I buy ground beef. Medium amount of fat, and just the right amount for burgers on the grill. Fat keeps the burgers from drying out.There's enough fat for flavor and texture but not so much as to cause a 3-alarm flare-up. It also works well in chili or stuffed bell peppers.
  • 70-75 percent: According to USDA standards, ground beef cannot contain more than 30 percent fat. (But if you grind your own, no one's going to know). If you are making a 100 percent beef meatloaf, you could use this. But, if you use a blended mix (as many people do) with beef, pork, and veal, this would be too fatty even for Baucus.

I hope that helps.

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 June 17, 2020:

Denise, thanks for the added info. I think I've got this. See ya Monday.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 17, 2020:

If it makes a difference to your research, I used to use brown sugar for my bread recipe (only about 1/4 cup) but ran out and used 2 or 3 tablespoons of the agave one day... and thus the big difference. The recipe called for white sugar but I liked using brown for the coloring and sweetness.... goes to show what I know.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 17, 2020:

Hi Flourish, I rarely ever purchase ground beef. Never lamb. Almost always turkey or chicken. I never bother to buy the stuff that is 99 percent lean. It's like eating cardboard.

I hope you have a good day. We are finally forecast to get some dry weather, up in the 70's for the weekend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 17, 2020:

I liked the question about ground beef (not that I buy it or eat it). I’d assume the general scheme applies to the other ground types of meats sold as well (Turkey, chicken, pork, etc.)? Have a good day!

Raimo's of Amityville from USA on June 16, 2020:


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Greg that's a great question and a very busy important one. Not all salts are the same; you can't I interchange them. I'll be happy to add you query to the batch.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 15, 2020:

Another great edition, and we all appreciate you putting these together. I also have a question pertinent for later toward the canning season: if I’m using 1 cup of salt for a recipe, does it matter if it’s table salt or canning salt or pickling salt? If yes, why? If not, then what’s the difference? It seems some recipes are very specific about salt type but I never understood why.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Denise, I'll need to do some poking around but that's what I'm here for. There are different types of sugars. White sugar (cane or beet) is sucrose, agave is fructose (a fruit sugar) and so probably reacts differently. This is going to be fun.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Eric, in my defense, Bill was asking about ground beef, not a nicely marbled, aged steak.

Ann's flapjacks aren't at all what we call flapjacks. Hers are bar cookies.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 15, 2020:

I learned something new today. I always thought flapjacks were pancakes with a more sourdough feel. Shows what I know about food.

I've been making my own whole wheat bread for some time now (3 or 4 years) and was disappointed at how fast it goes dry and crumbly. I'm vegan so I don't use egg in the recipe but I do use flax seed. I tried double bagging it, freezing it, buttering the top after baking... nothing helped until I stumbled on it last week. Instead of using sugar, I used agave nectar, a couple of tablespoons, and left all the other ingredients the same. The difference has been amazing. It stays soft and spongy for a week or so which is a great improvement over the next day dry loaf I hated before. Can you tell me why that happened? I wouldn't have thought sugar would have been a drying factor. I'm happy but stumped.



Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 15, 2020:

Another great one Mrs. Diva. I was noting to self about the coloring of the beef. I think most know that the bright red color is coloring for sales. Which for the quite lean is bad. It costs too much to let beef age - cooling and space and such. But that lean stuff should be near purple and the fatty stuff should look like it. I would also caveat on the purpose. If you are going rare do not go fatty. Not that I really care about beef.

I was raised with both flapjacks and pancakes and due to a daughter we now only eat pannicakes, whats in a name?

This came in strange, something between the gods of Google and Gmail.

Mary Wickison from USA on June 15, 2020:

Linda, no I don't but we have Karo Syrup. Although it is different, I still feel it is suitable if there is no alternative.

manatita44 from london on June 15, 2020:

No, looks like you are wrong for once. Ann would be better at describing this, but jam tart is different. Bakewell tart is a little more up-market and sophisticated. Maybe it's like your frangipani, perhaps. I will look it up.

Now just as the world is evolving, so too, the Divine is in motion. We say in local parlance, that 'one can always do more.' So while you and I am good children at Spirituality, we can always excel. Ha ha.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Mary, do YOU have golden syrup? Gosh, I'm jealous. I feel like I'm living in a baking desert.

Mary Wickison from USA on June 15, 2020:

This is so interesting about the meat and how to use which for what. I don't think I've seen this explained before.

Now I will be more selective depending on what I am making.

Also, flapjacks are one of Ian's favorites. I didn't realize the recipe was so simple. Thanks

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Shauna, I have the answer for you, but I'll save that for next Monday if you don't mind. Have a great week my friend. It's almost SUMMER!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Bill, don't be so hard on yourself. You play the game of being a novice in the kitchen, but I'm not buying into it. Yes, Summer please!!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Manatita, thank you for your concern; I'm honestly not doing that badly. But I will heed your advice and "take a peek." (I'll not shoot the messenger).

As for baked goods. Yes, the flapjack does sound a bit too sweet for my tastes. I had to look up "Bakewell tart" and found that it's a jam tart. I've made something similar, but instead of jam used apricots (look for Apricot Frangipane AND Carb Diva on Google).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Pamela, I love your smiling face, and I love you. I don't eat sweets as I used to (a moment on the lips 20 years on the hips, right?)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

You are making me hungry. It's time for 2nd breakfast.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 15, 2020:

Treacle? No, I'm afraid not. However, we do have something called "light molasses." and I think that could work.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 15, 2020:

Linda, I thought the flapjack lesson was quite interesting. I wonder how the came to be called flapjacks? They're nothing like pancakes.

With regard to your alternate recipe, I'm curious as to why you recommend a metal baking pan over glass. Do tell!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 15, 2020:

I did use it for tacos! Hooray, I did it correctly, despite my ignorance.

Thank you for making me feel good as I embark on this Monday.

Happy Ugly Rainy Monday to you, my friend. They tell me Summer will be here on Thursday. Cross your fingers.

manatita44 from london on June 15, 2020:

Linda, sometimes looking at the old scriptures said in a new way can help us. I was saying only recently to a friend, that she should be careful of reading too much bad stuff, or opening the text she receives, purely because life is energy and low energies or vibrations can affect us. It is like having a toxic friend.

So why don't you look at Sayings of Ramakrisha. There are words and videos on the net and you will find two minutes of his video in my very last Hub. Ramakrisha is widely accepted in India as one of the noblest souls that ever lived. He is credited for realizing God in many Paths.

That is to say, he studied and practiced Christianity, Islam and so forth. He spoke in parables like Christ did but his writings and sayings are very powerful. Only trying to serve here, don't shoot me till you have a 'wee' look at least.

Back to your lovely Hub. I like flapjacks, but they are too sweet. The old sugar problem, although I have had them done with honey, I believe. Pret a Manger do a Bakewell Tart, which is about the same size and shape but really nice! can you make Bakewell Tart?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 15, 2020:

Happy Monday, Linda! I have never made anything quite like the flap jack recipe and it sound sinfully good. I assume the syrup would give as plenty of calories.

The information on groung meat was also hepful. Thanks for another very good article.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 15, 2020:

Apparently, golden syrup is just a lighter and thinner form of black treacle, which you know as molasses. Therefore, flapjacks can be made with molasses. They will be a darker colour and of richer taste but that might make them even more yummy!


Ann Carr from SW England on June 15, 2020:

Thank you, Linda, for going to the trouble of finding that. Yes, golden syrup is one of those specific things but I am surprised you can't get it there.

It's like recipes which contain 'molasses', like one of the sauces I use to make my honeyed gammon sauce. For that I substitute Black Treacle. It's thicker than golden syrup and very dark but I wonder if that might be possible to use in flapjacks? I'll try it next time and let you know! Hang on though - do you have Black Treacle there? Maybe not. Both Golden Syrup and Black Treacle are made by Tate & Lyle I think. I'll check and let you know. What have I started here?!!


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