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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes & Cooking, #19

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

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Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but he doesn't live in the Pacific Northwest (thank goodness!)

Hints of springtime are popping up in every flower bed. Primroses and hellebore's are in full bloom in my garden, daffodils are beginning to awaken, buds on the fruit trees are swelling, and even the rhubarb is pushing up through the mulch. This is my favorite time of year!

Hellebores and primroses in my woodland garden

Hellebores and primroses in my woodland garden

If you are new to this series, let me quickly explain how it works. If you have cooking questions I have cooking answers. Is there a cooking term that puzzles you or a technique you don't understand? Perhaps you need help finding the recipe for a specific type of food or dietary need. Leave your queries in the comments section below and next Monday, in Installment #20, I will have an answer for you. I promise.

The mailbox was filled with great questions again this week, so let's get started.

I Want To Make Round (Not Rustic) Tortillas

My pie crusts come out okay but for some reason when I roll out my tortillas, they aren't very round. Although I have a tortilla press, I find it to be more hassle than rolling. I am cooking the tortillas at the same time so I don't give myself much rolling time. Currently, when the shape is wonky, I just call them 'rustic' LOL What is the secret to getting them round?

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Mary, I have never attempted to make my own flour tortillas, but this is definitely something I need to add to my repertoire. I found these suggestions at What's Cooking America:

  • After mixing your dough, cover it and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pinch off 1-inch diameter balls. Knead each of these into a tight ball by folding them over with your fingers, turning and repeating until it is shaped like a fat disk. Place it to one side of the mixing bowl and continue to do this until you have used all of the dough.
  • Allow the dough balls to rest at least 10 minutes. This will permit the gluten to relax and make them much easier to shape and roll.
  • On a lightly floured surface take one of the dough balls and begin to roll it out. To keep a somewhat round shape, roll from the center to the edge, make a 1/4 turn and roll again, make another 1/4 turn and roll. Continue to roll and turn until you the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter.

--- Lexicon of Cooking Terms --

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A few weeks ago I was asked to explain some of the lesser-known cooking terms. We started with Letter A, and have progressed to letter "I". If you want to catch up, a link to the first installment is here.

Ice - I’m not talking about frozen water ice but instead the act of drizzling a baked good (cake, cupcakes, etc) with a thin layer of frosting.

Ice bath – a bath of ice and water used to quickly chill a food or beverage. Remember the word “blanch”? After you give your vegetables a hasty dip in boiling water, you plunge them into a bowl of water and ice (an ice bath) to stop the cooking process.

Infusion – The extraction of flavor from ingredients by steeping them in a liquid (water, oil, or vinegar). This is commonly done with herbs, tea leaves, or fruits.

Juliene - To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin strips.

Jus – natural juices released by roasting meats.

Knead - To work and press dough with the palms of your hands to develop the gluten in the flour.

Ladyfinger - Shaped like a fat finger, it is a delicate sponge cake that is used for making desserts like Tiramisu and Charlottes. You can usually purchase them in bakeries, supermarkets, or specialty markets.

Leaven – To cause dough or batter to rise, lightening its texture and increasing its volume by adding egg whites, baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast.

Lukewarm - Neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.

Must "Healthy" Oatmeal Be Bland and Boring?

I have a round box filled with all the best oatmeal. Something to do with organics and something ground with absolutely not additives or flavoring. It tastes bland as can be. But if I just go and put something sweet on what is the point. (blueberries are a little helpful)

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Eric, you're on the right track. Oatmeal is a great way to begin your day—it's rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and soluble (cholesterol-reducing) fiber. But, as you acknowledge, without any flavoring it is bland. You don't have to punish yourself by eating plain oatmeal. Here are a few suggestions:

If you like it sweet add

  • a super-ripe smashed banana
  • applesauce
  • vanilla extract
  • dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots) and chopped nuts
  • fresh fruit (peaches or nectarines are my favorites)
  • a sprinkle of coconut and some pumpkin pie spice
  • a spoonful of agave nectar or honey

If you are daring, perhaps make it savory by adding

  • yogurt
  • a spoonful of peanut butter
  • a poached egg

You have inspired me to write an article on oats. I will publish it tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Please Explain Measuring Cups

Measuring cups confuse me. Some are glass with a spout, some are nested and in various shapes.

The glass (or plastic) cups with a spout are for liquid ingredients only (water, milk, broth, oil, syrup, etc.)

  • Fill the cup to the appropriate line, place it on a level surface, and read it with your eye at the level of the liquid.
  • The surface of liquids curves downward, so use the bottom of the curve for accurate measurement. This is helpful for bread recipes in which the exact amount of water is crucial.

The nested cups are for measuring dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, powders, etc.)

  • Spoon or scoop the powder lightly into the cup.
  • Run a knife or spatula across the top to level the surface and scrape any excess back into the jar or canister.
  • One exception—when measuring brown sugar, pack the sugar into the cup.
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Well, that's it for another week. Remember, you can leave your questions in the comments section below, or write to me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 15, 2018:

Linda

Glad you think so, we have the same, and my wife tells me it's too much sugar in the jam, (a boy's got to have some vices)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 15, 2018:

Lawrence, we have both jam and jelly (and preserves too). Jelly is made from the juice only so is clear. Jam contains bits of fruit, and preserves are large chunks of fruit. I'm a chunky sort of gal (in more ways than one, I'm afraid). Your oatmeal with jam sounds wonderful. I do believe you might live to be 100.

Blessings to you.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 15, 2018:

Linda

I always have mixed Berry fruit jam (I believe you call it jelly) with my rolled oats every morning.

The day just doesn't start right without it!

But it's nice to know just how good oats are for us

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 18, 2018:

Manatita, perhaps you watched your mother knead the dough or a grandmother. I feel it is instinctive. Perhaps the dough tells us what it requires?

manatita44 from london on February 18, 2018:

It's amazing the way people turn something into teaching! I use to need dough without thinking. I seem to have been doing what this person demonstrates, but God alone knows how I learnt. Worth pondering, perhaps.

This one is shorter but sweet.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 14, 2018:

Wow, what group do you roll with? Do we need to add "measuring cups" to the list of forbidden topics (such as religion and politics)? LOL.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 14, 2018:

When I asked a group a question about whether glass and nested cups were the same I got sharply different answers. Some people hooted and howled at me for “not knowing” that 1 cup equals a cup no matter what’s in it. Others thought it was preposterous that I didn’t understand liquid v. dry ingredient measuring. I’m glad you set the record straight! People can be so intense!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 12, 2018:

Thanks, Kari. The hellebores come up even when there is snow on the ground. Perhaps you should invest in a plant. They are deer proof and even the slugs don't bother them.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 12, 2018:

Your flowers are beautiful! I can not wait for ours to start, but in Ohio that time comes in late March/early April. Still, you have given me something to look forward to. I like your suggestions for oatmeal. I cannot wait to read your article tomorrow. :)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 12, 2018:

Mary, I'm glad that the info about rolling tortillas is helpful to you. If you can order from Amazon, I would suggest the cups made by OXO. I will instant message you the product number.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on February 12, 2018:

Hi Linda,

Thanks for answering my question about rolling tortillas. I like the idea of prepping the balls beforehand and letting them relax. That will give me extra time between the rolling and cooking.

I have Tupperware measuring cups and spoons and they are poorly designed. There are so many fiddly areas which makes it difficult to clean. Plus they are white raised numbers on white cups and spoons, it is difficult to see.

Do you know a company that makes easy to read measuring cups? Sometimes I have to take the cup outside to see what it says.

My Pyrex liquid measuring jug I love, it is easy to read the amounts.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 12, 2018:

Bill, my work here is now finished LOL. Glad I could help.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 12, 2018:

I now know more information about measuring cups than I ever knew existed. You are a fountain of cooking information. :)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 11, 2018:

Rochelle - What a great idea. I had never thought of adding pudding mix to oatmeal, but why not? I wonder if Jello (powder) could be used as well?

As for your question about quick-to-fix meals. That's a good question, perhaps worthy of an article and not just a quick answer. I'm on it!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on February 11, 2018:

OK, a question: What are your favorite home meals for quick prep and minimal cleanup?

I like to cook, but sometimes I just want it to be easy.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on February 11, 2018:

On the oatmeal-- a spoonful of instant vanilla pudding powder can be a tasty sweetener. Perhaps not as healthful as fresh berries, but very tasty. (And you can still put berries on it.)