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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #27

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

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My Philosophy

What are the things in your life that you know you can always depend upon?

Here's a photo that was taken a few days ago in my front yard. Those white flowers are trilliums. They grow wild where I live and they ALWAYS open by Easter Sunday. Always. They never disappoint. In that grand scheme of world events, that's pretty small, but it makes me happy.

Jobs may fail, health may fade, friends and family may disappoint, but I know that every day the sun will rise. We all have another chance with a fresh hasn't-been-used day. I recently expressed to a friend that each new beginning is like hitting the control-alt-delete. That makes me pretty happy.

I hope that today finds you in a good place. And remember, there's a fresh tomorrow waiting for you.

Trilliums, and yes that is a wire cage to protect them. Trillium is another word for "deer candy"

Trilliums, and yes that is a wire cage to protect them. Trillium is another word for "deer candy"

Now, it's time to start talking about food (that's why you're here, right?) The way this works is that you ask a question, any question about food. It could be how to use a specific ingredient or kitchen tool. Perhaps you recall a recipe from your childhood that you'd like to recreate. Or maybe you need recipes that are gluten-free, or vegan, or take less than 30 minutes to fix.

I can help. And, if I can't, I will direct you to the person/place/website that can.

Please note that this isn't a tutorial; each week I will be responding to questions from readers like you, so please feel free to jump in at any time. Leave your questions in the comments below, or email me (go to the end of this article for my address).

Homemade Pet Food

Have you ever made your own dog food, or cat food, for your pets?

My kitty, aka "Pumpkin". Isn't he handsome?

My kitty, aka "Pumpkin". Isn't he handsome?

Last week I answered Bill Holland's question about preparing homemade food for your pets; we focused on cooking for dogs. The nutritional requirements for cats are not the same, and so I promised to cover those in this week's installment.

I'm sure you are familiar with the children's storybooks that show cats happily lapping up saucers of milk. Sadly, many people think that kitties love and need milk. The reality is that they actually cannot digest it (other than from their mommies).

Some cat owners advocate a raw diet, saying that this is the natural way for them to eat. Lisa Pierson, DVM, states that cats can survive (and thrive) on a homemade raw diet. However, she cautions that care must be taken to provide the fatty acids and nutrients essential for optimum cat health. A link to Dr. Pierson's website which provides lengthy and detailed information on preparing cat food at home is here.

But some experts disagree. I looked to Rebecca Remillard, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who works with the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston and maintains a dietary consulting business for guidance. Ms. Remillard says:

"Raw meat diets are neither safe nor nutritionally sound. There are a lot of people who want to feed raw. I tell them they have to be aware of zoonotic (animal to human) disease transmission, food safety, and contagion issues. I don’t think veterinarians should get upset about it, but they should make clear the health issues,” Remillard says.

"Feeding cats a raw meat diet also leaves too much room for variables. The potential for slip-up is high if the owner goes out of town and the food is left out too long, or if he substitutes one ingredient for another", she says.

Personally, I prefer to leave the nutritional needs of my kitty up to the experts who prepare and package pet food. I purchase the food recommended by Pumpkin's veterinarian and I feed him exactly the amount that is needed to help him maintain his svelte figure.


Lexicon of Cooking Terms

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We have been exploring an alphabetical list of cooking terms that are often obscure, unheard of, or just plain unusual. We're into the middle of the "S's".

Simmer - To gently cook food in liquid over low heat. You should see tiny bubbles just breaking the surface of the liquid.

Skim - To remove impurities, whether scum or fat, from the surface of a liquid during cooking, thereby resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final produce.

Smoke point - The point when a fat such as butter or oil smokes and lets off an acrid odor. Not good since this odor can get into what you are cooking and give it a bad flavor. Oils that can tolerate more heat and your best choice for Asian stir-fry.

Smoke Point of Common Cooking Oils/Fats

 Degrees F.

Almond

420

Avocado

520

Butter

250

Canola

225

Coconut

350

Flax

225

Ghee

485

Grapeseed

435

Lard

370

Olive (extra virgin)

375

Palm

200

Peanut

450

Safflower

475

Sesame

350

Soybean

460

Vegetable

425

Soft peaks - A term used to describe beaten egg whites or cream. When the beaters are removed, soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand straight up.

Springform Pan – A round cake pan that is typically a little deeper than a standard cake pan. Springforms are so-called because the sides of the pan are a circle of metal secured by a clamp. When you release (open) the clamp, the sides expand away from the bottom of the pan. This is the type of pan used for cheesecake.

Will Soaking a Hot Pan Cause It To Warp?

I have a stainless steel pan that I use for frying. When things stick to it, I put water in to soak, when it's still hot. Am I damaging my pan by doing this? Could it warp my pan?

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Mary, cheap pans are more prone to warping but unfortunately, a quick temperature extreme can cause even the best-quality pan to warp. Why? The molecules of metal expand with heat. If metal cools off too quickly, the molecules constrict too rapidly, warping the pan.” This is called thermal shock. According to Chris Tracy, manager of Calphalon culinary relations

The bigger the difference in temperature between the liquid and the pan, the more intense the shock. So, for instance, if you deglaze a pan with tepid or room-temperature wine, that’s fine. But if the liquids are cold or chilled, then they have a higher probability of causing thermal shock.

Tracy says that warping is a concern for all types of metal, but that generally, the thicker the pan, the more resistant it will be. When it comes to washing, he suggests letting pans cool briefly and then putting tepid water on them. Also, he cautions that “you should always avoid complete submersion until the pan has cooled.”

How To Make The Perfect Meatball

What goes into the perfect meatball? I looked at those big meatballs in the red sauce photos and got so hungry! I can't make big ones like that stay together or cook all the way through. Come on. Spill your guts, Diva.

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This question was posted by 'Anonymous' on my article "French Cooking: The Five Mother Sauces (And Why You Need Them)".

Here is my recipe for meatballs that are light (not dense) yet they hold together, and they are packed full of flavor.

Meatball Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. lean ground pork
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Meatball Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a small mixing bowl to make a panade. Let sit 5 minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef and the ground pork. Stir in the moistened bread crumbs and the remaining meatball ingredients. Combine.
  4. Form the meatballs and place on a lightly-greased baking sheet (you want them to be a little larger than a golf ball).
  5. Bake about 20 minutes or until the meat begins to brown and firm up.

Remove the meatballs from the baking sheet, leaving the pan drippings behind. Carefully place them in a simmering pot of spaghetti (red) sauce. Cover and simmer at lowest heat for 2 hours. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, here is my recipe for a great red sauce (aka Italian gravy):

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • 36 oz. (4 ½ cups) chicken broth
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Sauce Directions

  1. Heat a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth to the tomato paste and stir until well blended.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Carefully add the meatballs (see recipe above), but not the pan drippings. Treat them gently because they are very fragile. Make sure that all of the meatballs are totally submerged in the “gravy”.
  6. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
  7. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
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Well, that's it for another week. Please remember you can leave your questions in the comments section below, or you can write to me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

See you next Monday!

© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 05, 2018:

Linda

What i meant to say is there's a tradeoff at times, a hot pan cooling slowly, and properly but running the risk of kids getting burned against a pan cooled quickly with hot soapy water and possibly warping the pan.

We use aluminium pans with a copper bottom, more expensive as pans, but the copper has a higher melting point and can take the two extremes, your Teflon coating wears out before the pan warps, believe me, I've worn them out!!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 05, 2018:

Lawrence, we each have been given special gifts (which is the more positive way of expressing "we should all know our limitations"). Thanks for the chuckle this morning. I pray you are well.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 05, 2018:

Linda

Very interesting. I had to check out the 'cooling a hot pan' because i always use water for it, BUT NEVER COLD WATER!

Then again I'm about the only person i know that can turn Macaroni cheese and a pyrex dish into an explosive!!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 17, 2018:

Manatita, it's a good thing that you discovered that pan before things got ugly. (And I do hope that you reminded daughter about being and remaining attentive in the kitchen).

Thank you for your kind words. I pray your trip is going well.

manatita44 from london on April 17, 2018:

I came into the kitchen once to find my saucepan on fire. Not sure what my daughter wanted to do. To fry eggs, I suppose. But she did not use oil or water or whatever, and she walked away, playing with her mobile, I suppose and things went a bit fiery. Lol.

'each new beginning is like hitting the control-alt-delete. That makes me pretty happy.' I love the happy bit, gives us all a moment to let go. Would be nice if it was like that. Ha ha.

Thanks for another lovely mail.

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

Good morning Mary. There you go again bragging about the weather LOL. I find that whenever I try to pan fry meatballs they flatten wherever they touch the pan and end up being more like pyramids than balls.

Do have have leftover mashed potato recipes? Mygoodness yes I do. That's an easy question for next week. (The others that I'm "working" on are not so easy. Almost beyond my pay grade). Thanks much.

Mary Wickison from USA on April 11, 2018:

Thanks for answering my question about the pans. My tap water is usually quite warm as it sits on my roof in a tank in the sun all day. It's good to know how best to care for my pans.

Re meatballs. I have always fried mine and had mixed result, sometimes they fall apart. I'll try the oven method next time.

Do you have any suggestions for leftover mashed potatoes other than making potato cakes?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 10, 2018:

John, your dog is fortunate to have such a caring owner. I am glad to know that you found the information helpful. And yes, those meatballs are good. They take a bit of time, but well worth it.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on April 10, 2018:

Wonderful information as always. I make my own petfood, usually add pet mince to rice and add a little dry dogfood, carrot etc. They still have addition dry food as well. I found the smoke point of oils helpful and the meatballs sound great.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 09, 2018:

Wow, Eric. First of all, good for you for striving to remove (or decrease) salt and sugar from your diet. Removing sugar from cooking and baking isn't that easy. That's an excellent question and one that I'll be working on a LOT this week. (Get out the reference books and Google machine on this one for sure).

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 09, 2018:

Fantastic as always. I like your philosophy. I also slip in that I can start a new day any time of the day. I need that cuz I mess up and still want the day to be good. ;-)

Linda, I am cutting way back on sugar and salt. Things are going great. But I still have that sweet tooth. Is there a natural sweetener that can be used? Sure I understand about processed sugar substitutes.

But what about recipes that call for sugar? Is there a substitute in that arena?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 09, 2018:

Flourish, I think black cats are amazing, but we did not adopt Pumpkin. He found us and yes, he's absolutely adorbs. I just realized that I failed to include the photo of those meatballs. I'll take care of that now. Have a great week my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 09, 2018:

Bill, I know someone who teaches a writing course. He just completed No. 197, and they are free as well. The garden calls today.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 09, 2018:

Ann, I'll start with you first. A little more information on the chicken please. Whole, spatchcocked, cut into pieces? Do you want crispy skin?

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 09, 2018:

Great mailbag, Diva, albeit a short one. Great stuff as always. I do have a question to ask you. Any tips on how to broil chicken well for example?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2018:

The cool thing about these articles is they are FREE! I don't have to take some expensive cooking class. My friend gives it away for free and we all benefit. Very cool!

Enjoy that sunshine today; it won't last long!

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 09, 2018:

Let the deer eat their cake! And oh, that Pumpkin is such a cutie. I love that you have a black cat. They are so underappreciated. I've had three black cats, all named Jamal. They have all been neighborhood volunteers and the most excellent cats. Your description of those huge meatballs has me bookmarking this for my family. I never bother cooking them meatballs but now I will try.

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