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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #144

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

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Welcome

Welcome to the second half of the year 2020. I hope that these next six months are better than the first six (but thusfar we're not off to a good start).

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.

Explain Himalayan Salt

Two for the price of one—today I have two questions on the topic pink Himalayan salt. The first is from Wesman Todd Shaw.

"Well, what is this pink Himalayan salt stuff people keep giving me shakers of? Does it have anything special about it, or is it just another big goofy trend? I recently was given a great big grinder of these pink salty things, and a couple of years ago, I was given a lamp which is supposed to do something to my breathing air, which is made from the exact same stuff, it seems."

And that prompted Shauna Bowling to say:

"Linda, I look forward to your answer to Wesman's question. I and several of us at work have pink Himalayan salt lamps in our offices. The pink Himalayan salt is purported to purify the air. Is it true? What is the science behind the claim?"

Himalayan pink salt

Himalayan pink salt

Using Himalayan Pink Salt on Foods

Wesman, it is pricy, and here's why. Pink Himalayan salt is extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Khewra is one of the oldest and largest salt mines in the world. They say that the salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed. Any time something is that labor-intensive, you can just hear the meter go 'ding-ding-ding.'

There aren't any additives; the pink color is natural, from the 84 minerals and trace elements. Oooh, it's healthy!

(Ding, ding, ding).

Some people think it should be avoided at all costs because of a 2016 study comparing lead levels in Himalayan salt to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan. But honestly, isn't there a difference between lead in water (of which you might consume a fair amount on a daily basis) and lead in salt which will be an insignificant part of your daily diet?

But on the flip side, I wouldn’t choose pink salt for the 84 minerals and trace elements either. Don't let it scare you, but don't assume that it will give you a nutritional boost. Use it if you want for its novelty, or because you were able to acquire it at a bargain price.

Why is it so much more expensive than regular table salt? Blame it on marketing.

Salt lamps

Salt lamps

Himalayan Pink Salt Lamps

Now, what about those people who believe salt lamps offer healing qualities?

I've read the claims, and my mind leaps to the snake-oil salesmen of the late 1800s. Proponents say that the lamps pull in allergens, toxins, and pollutants and also release negative ions. Because of these amazing qualities, they are purported to:

  • balance electromagnetic radiation
  • enhance overall breathing
  • cleanse, deodorize and purify the air
  • calm allergies and reduce asthma
  • alleviate coughing and other symptoms of the common cold
  • boost blood flow
  • raise energy levels
  • sharpen concentration and performance
  • enhance mood
  • reduce stress and promote relaxation
  • improve sleep

Wow, that's a pretty lofty list of promises. But is there any actual science to back up these claims?

(Oh goody, another Chemistry lesson!)

Rather than make you suffer through my feeble attempts at explaining my least favorite subject, I found this video on YouTube that does a really good job of explaining negatives ions; they examine a Himalayan salt lamp and give us the final answer on whether or not these lamps can make your life better, or are they just another gimmick?

Sources:

What If You Don't Like What You Cooked?

"I simply do not like some things that I cook. You cook a whole lot and I am sure you run into this. Yes, sometimes we just throw it out and try to learn from it. "Just too much garlic". Do you thereafter "redo" sometimes and how do you generally make those adjustments if you do?"

Eric, I have never in my 50+ years of cooking on this earth ever thrown out something I had prepared because it was too ghastly. There could be several reasons for this:

  • I'm a fabulous cook and never make mistakes.
  • I have a lead-lined stomach that can handle anything.
  • I was raised with the mantra that wasting food is a sin.

Two of those three are why I have never tossed out a meal. But, what if you come up with something you simply canNOT stand? What do you do (other than opening a can of soup, cooking a package of ramen, or calling for delivery pizza)?

Well, it kinda depends on what went wrong. Here are a few things that could send a dish in a downward spiral, and how you might repair them:

Overcooked pasta

Overcooked pasta

Texture/Moisture: The carb (potatoes, pasta, rice) is overcooked and mushy or too hard.

  • Undercooked pasta? Put it back in the pot or place the casserole back in the oven. If the casserole seems dry, drizzle water/broth/sauce over the top, cover the dish, put back in the oven, and say a prayer.
  • Over-cooked pasta is a tough one (inverse pun intended). You can't turn back the hands of time and make it less mushy. If it's a casserole you could add some crumbs or toasted nuts on top to kinda counter-balance the mush-factor. If it's spaghetti (say, you left the pot unattended and it went beyond al dente) and there is no sauce on it yet, I'd start over. Yes, you heard it here; I'd start a new batch.
  • Undercooked potatoes? See what I said about pasta (above).
  • Over-cooked potatoes are a different story. I have a lifesaver in my pantry otherwise known as instant mashed potato flakes. Granted, they won't work on potatoes that are meant for potato salad (although smashed potato salad has become a thing on the internet). But if you want to mash those taters and they are too full of the cooking water, stir in some instant flakes and that will help.
  • If the rice is undercooked, well, add 1/2 cup hot water to the pan, replace the lid and wait five minutes. If the pan is still hot, the steam produced should finish the rice.
  • If the rice is too watery you can drain it in a colander.
  • If the rice is gluey/goopy (and has not yet been combined with other ingredients) you can also dump it in a colander and rinse it. It won't be great, but it won't be as bad. If it's already in the dish (baked in a casserole, for example), grab the phone and call for pizza delivery.

Seasoning: Too much salt or too much spice/heat.

  • Ask yourself "what is the main ingredient in this dish that is bland/basic? It's probably going to be a starchy thing—rice, pasta, potatoes. Can you add more of that? Go for it.
  • But, if you've over-salted the meatloaf (for example), I wouldn't toss it out. I'd find a way to re-purpose it. Throw it in the refrigerator (in a sealed container please). The next day you can chop it up, and use it in a casserole where you would normally have ground meat. But this time, you don't have to add any seasonings.

I don't rely on other people's recipes very often. But when I do use a recipe for the first time, I don't blindly go along with their recommendations for seasoning. I find that I don't like my foods quite as salty or fiery as do others. You can always add more but, as you have found, it's next to impossible to correct over-seasoning. If you've ever watched cooking shows on TV you'll also notice that the chefs season as they cook, tasting with each step. Not a bad idea.

I hope these pointers give you some help.

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.

I met this kitty in Vernaza. He had 'vita semplice' down to an art form.

I met this kitty in Vernaza. He had 'vita semplice' down to an art form.

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. (Bonus points if you understand "vita semplice.")

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

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

Lawrence, everything in moderation, including salt. You are correct (I had no doubt) that New Zealand is missing iodine. Pink salt is flashy, but rock salt is just as good. It just costs less. Thanks, as always, for your comments. You also contribute something of value.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 06, 2020:

Linda

One important fact for Himalayan Salt, or at least its important to NZ, and that is Iodine!

NZ is a young (Geologically) country and hasn't had time for certain minerals to build up in the soil, Iodine is one of them, and we need it.

Table salt has Iodine added forthis reason, but it occurs naturally in rock salt, and Himalayan rock salt has it along with Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium.

Having said that, normal rock salt is half the price, and has the same, just not enough to turn it pink!

Great hub here, but dont forget the salt

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

Audrey thank you so much for your kind words.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 14, 2020:

Well, it looks like I'm a majority of one with the Himalayan salt. Been using it for years and recently brought home purple salt. What can I say? I'm visual. :)

Love this article and your style of writing. I read every comment!

Stay healthy!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 08, 2020:

Thanks Denise. It's a little bit art, a little bit science, intuition, and a pinch of luck.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 08, 2020:

Those are some good suggestions for fixing a failed recipe. Very common sense stuff.

Blessings,

Denise

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

MizB, sage is a funny duck. If your husband used fresh sage I can understand the problem. I never use it fresh, and even dried it's very assertive. A little bit goes a long way.

Use the pink salt as a garnish.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 07, 2020:

Linda, I have to confess that I've thrown out food that I've cooked because I couldn't stand the taste. I've also refused to eat food that hubby has cooked for the same reason. Years ago, he put sage in some hamburgers he fixed for us. Neither my son nor I could stand those burgers. Not enough mustard in the world to cover up that sickening icky flavor. We both loved sage in chicken or pork, but not in beef. LOL

Thanks for the info on the pink salt. Larry bought a jar of it a couple of years ago, and it's still on a kitchen shelf because neither of us knew what to do with it.

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

Mary, my only rescue would be a very picky cat. 'Nuf said.

manatita44 from london on July 06, 2020:

Looks like you are going to be here for a while. Some, like Norman Walker plus, say that the gut is the key to great health and since you say that you can tolerate most, then that's awesome. Those beautiful flowers, gardening and fresh air must be helping you.

The Himalayan salt someone has spoken of before. I thought that it was you, no?

Still, it is that long list of goodies relating to the lamp that seems more like pretty slick marketing.

Glad you don't waste food. It is said that Americans waste a great deal of food daily. Much love and stay safe and blessed.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 06, 2020:

I have seen pink salt here but haven't bought it. Thanks for the information.

I love your fixes for over or underdone and too salty.

My plan of action is to first give it to the dog, then the chickens, and lastly throw it in the lake for the fish and prawns.

Have a great week.

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

Eric, I'm a control freak. Comments have to be approved by me before they show up.

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

Pamela, I'm sure that you're a great cook. Have a great week.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 06, 2020:

Hmm? My comment is not showing but it has me following like I posted it. Oh well back later.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 06, 2020:

Happy Monday, Linda! I love all the suggestions for trying to fix things than may be over cooked, etc. Unlike you, I am only an adequate cook but we survive. I was wondering about the pink salt also, so you answered some great questions today.

Have a great week, Linda.

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

Mashed noodle pancakes--now, that's a new one. Although if the Germans can make pudding from noodles, why not pancakes. I'll have to think on that a bit.

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

Bill, I wish you could explain what the "awful" part was. Perhaps I could help you find a way to not give a repeat performance. Lucky you have dogs. Cats have a reputation for being a tad fussy.

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

Shau you're right about that "add a potato" trick. You've just about got it on the vita semplice.

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

Flourish, your husband sounds much like mine. He's a pretty easy-going guy. Have a great week.

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

Thanks John. I don't think I've ever had something go up in flames. I wish you a good week too.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 06, 2020:

Another great one! I always wondered about my pink salt -- now I know. Those grinders leave pretty large grains. So I use it when that does not matter or I want it more coarse. My doc said that if I must add salt to cooked food go all against the grain and use iodized. Hmm.

Such a great list of "corrections". I bet I use them all in the year to come. For some reason this made me think of "massed noodles". I mean why not? I will let you know. I am thinking mashed noodles pancakes.

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

I made some enchiladas last night and they were terrible. Obviously I forgot to do something, but for the life of me I don't know what it was. Bev was a brave soldier and finished hers, God love her. I couldn't do it. The dogs feasted. lol

Happy July my friend!

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

Thanks for the info on pink Himalayan salt, Linda. I'll have to come back to watch the video.

Another trick for correcting an overly salted dish, such as soups,stews, pasta is to add a peeled potato to the cooking liquid. The starch will absorb some of the excess salt.

I don't know what vita semplice means, but judging by the kitty I'd say it has something to do with chilling or taking life easy.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 06, 2020:

I’m impressed that you have never ever tossed a dish. I’ve had some food that just could not have been what was described it was so yucky. My rule is if my very forgiving husband won’t finish his plate when I cook a new recipe (and usually no one else likes it either) then it goes in the garbage. I hate to waste but well ... I learn something from it.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on July 05, 2020:

Thanks for sharing these questions and answers once again, Linda. The only reason I would toss out something I cooked is if it was burnt beyond salvation. As you showed, there is a way to fix most mistakes or turn them into something else. Have a great week.