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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #37

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


According to the calendar, we are just days away from the Summer solstice, and the thermometer in my corner of the world is proof of that. On Wednesday we are projecting temperatures around 90 degrees F.

The photos below are from my wildflower garden. I attempted a "head count" of the foxglove and soon recognized the folly. Saying that there are roughly 500 would not be an exaggeration. Most of them are at least as tall as me (although my family laughs when I say that. Reaching my height is not a significant achievement). There are a few specimens that are 8 feet in height. And the sound as one strolls through them is incredible. They are all literally abuzz with honeybees.

The dianthus are putting on an equally good show. They range in hue from white with a pale pink eye, to rose red to the deepest magenta and the intensity of their color is neon-like.

But, that's not what you're here for. Let's start talking about food!



wildflower garden, dianthus and foxglove

wildflower garden, dianthus and foxglove

How Can I Get My Family to Try New Foods?

I am sorry for this psych question but you have so much love in your food maybe you can help. What did you do to get your husband and two girls to love variety? To suck it up and give it a go? My son is doing better but my wife just cannot switch her native with variety. I was trained to try everything. Heck, I was trained to like everything :-) I just about do to this day.

I suppose my question is about "how do you get them to try it?" Or should I just let them miss "variety is the spice of life." I have this health coach and she fires me up. But she don't hold a candle to you. You just make us eat healthily and love it.


Eric, the answer to your question is pretty simple. My daughters were brought up eating a wide variety of foods, so they've known nothing else. My husband was raised in a traditional meat-and-potatoes home, but (1) was exposed to other cultures/cuisines when he served in the Navy, and more importantly (2) he loves me enough that he's willing to try just about anything once. And over the years I've honed my skills in the kitchen. Sometimes the resulting meal doesn't meet my (high) expectations, but I can't remember the last time I had a serious fail.

To be honest, there are a few culinary places I dare not go. I know that Mr. Carb doesn't like briny olives or capers so I don't force the issue on those.

I sense that your son is starting to gain an appreciation for working in the kitchen, and I know from experience that allowing kids to help will encourage them to eat. You and I have talked about this already, but for the rest of the readers, I'll repeat my suggestions. To encourage your little ones to try new foods they can:

  • help start a garden
  • pick the resulting produce
  • go shopping with you
  • select the recipe for your evening meal
  • help with the prep work (slice and dice, with supervision, of course)
  • measure ingredients (built-in math lesson if you are halving or doubling a recipe), stir the pot, etc.

I can't comment on how to get your wife to step outside of her comfort zone. She's a grown-up, so if she doesn't want what you cook, she'll have to make something for herself. Would she be willing to be more "adventurous" if you reminded her that Gabe is getting his cues on life from both of you?

I wish you well.


Last week I introduced a new topic, explaining that once a week I will be channeling my inner Julie Andrews and write about "A Few of My Favorite Things"—the cooking tools, equipment, and gadgets which I cannot do without. I promise that I won't be promoting expensive sous vide cookers or instant pots. Some of these might even be available at your local Dollar Store. One week ago I told you how much I LOVE my Oxo salad spinner. Here's the second item for your consideration.

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Microplane - This sweet little gadget is not like the traditional box grater. Microplane graters have teeth that allow you to grate in both directions, saving you time and effort.

Why should you have one? Microplanes do more than simply grate cheese.

  • Perfect for hard cheese (such as Parmesan) to create not shreds but a fine snow-like dusting of cheese atop your perfect plate of salad, the pile of pasta, or steaming bowl of soup.
  • Citrus zest (orange, lemon, or lime) adds a delightful pop of flavor on desserts and/or savory dishes. It will make you look like a gourmet cook.
  • Whole nutmeg + eggnog. Need I say more?
  • Dark chocolate - Just a dusting on top of cupcakes, whipped topping or vanilla ice cream for someone special (you, of course!)
  • Fresh ginger is difficult to break down, but a microplane makes the task easy-peasy.
  • Garlic - faster and more efficient than a garlic press.

Be careful though: It may look harmless, but those teeth really are razor-sharp and can do a lot of damage if you’re careless. There is a safeguard and I'll share that with you next week.

How To Grow Herbs Indoors

I regularly grow sweet basil and mojito mint placed next to my sunny kitchen window. I have four plants, water them the same, and give them the same amount of sun. One, sometimes two, plants always die while the others grow like gangbusters. Any ideas on what causes this?


Audrey, in a separate conversation you told me that these plants were purchased as seedlings at the grocery store, not started from seed in your home. For the benefit of readers who might want to try an indoor garden, but don't know how to begin, I'll repeat what I'm sure you already know:

  • Light - Most herbs require full sun, at least 6-8 hours each day in a sunny (south facing is best) window. If that is not possible, supplement with overhead fluorescent lighting.
  • Temperature - Like us, our indoor herbs are most comfortable when the temperature is around 60-70°F.
  • Air circulation - The gentle breeze of a fan (several feet away) will keep the air around your plants moving. Stagnant air plus damp soil are the friends of mold. But there is a fine balance. If the air becomes too dry, the edges of your leaves will begin to curl or crack. You can eliminate that problem by placing a tray with a layer of pebbles under the catch basins of the pots. This added water will increase humidity. Keep the water level below the catch basins to avoid waterlogged roots.
  • Soil - Use a bagged potting soil for your herbs, not soil from the garden.
  • Fertilizer - Your indoor plants will not have the benefit of micro rhizomes in native soil. They will be relying on your for regular feeding. A half-strength fish emulsion once a month should do the trick.
  • Water - Although they need water to survive overwatering is certain death to plants, both indoor and outdoor. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch. My next door neighbor lost a lovely little begonia because she flooded it every time it went limp. The problem was not a lack of water--the cell walls of the stems were collapsing because they had over-expanded from taking up too much water.

If all of these needs have been met, and your herbs truly all have the exact same growing conditions there is only one answer—the plants that died were unhealthy before you brought them home. Perhaps they were the runts of the litter, so to speak. When selecting a plant make sure that it is not dry as a bone, but not waterlogged either. Roots should not be a solid mass fighting for freedom through the drainage hole. Check the underside of the leaves, looking for aphids or spider mites.

Good luck with the indoor garden. I hope you will try again. By the way, mint and basil are good candidates for growing indoors, but you might also consider adding one or more of these:

  • oregano
  • marjoram
  • thyme
  • parsley
  • sage

What Are the Health Benefits of Salt?

Great stuff here again. Just one thing with the salt. Table salt has iodine added for health reasons. Some places in the world don't have iodine in the soil, the body needs it (otherwise you get goiters!) That's why it's put into table salt. We used to use the other salts until I developed a goiter. Actually, there's a question for you, what are the health benefits of the various salts?

sea salt

sea salt

Lawrence, in my book I wrote about the history of salt but didn't delve into the health benefits. I'm not a nutritionist, but I'll do my best to present the information I found in my research.

My favorite reference for questions such as yours is "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. He explains that sodium and chloride are ions that are essential components of our bodies and keep our systems running smoothly. They mostly reside in the fluid that surrounds all of our cells (the plasma).

We need about 1 gram of salt per day; McGee says that thanks in great part to processed foods and the fast-food industry we ingest about 10 times that amount. It has long been thought that sodium contributes to high blood pressure, but studies have shown that those on a low-sodium diet do not show significant improvement in their systolic and diastolic pressures. Excessive sodium intake can impact the kidneys (worsening chronic kidney disease), bones (loss of bone calcium), and digestive system (there is evidence of several cancers of the digestive system in China and elsewhere in Asia).

But too little salt can also have serious health implications, including increased cholesterol levels.

It seems that the moral of the story is everything in moderation. Don't salt everything, but don't strive to eliminate all salt from your diet.

You mentioned the addition of iodine to salt to prevent goiter (a thyroid condition). According to the Global Healing Center, iodine deficiency was a significant problem one century ago. Researchers at the University of Michigan decided to copy a Swiss practice of adding iodine to cooking salt—the incidence of goiter dropped dramatically as a result. However, the iodine in table salt is a chemical additive, not a natural ingredient. If you want to increase your intake of iodine without ingesting chemical additives, consider adding these foods to your diet:

  • ocean fish (cod, mackerel)
  • shellfish
  • sea vegetables (seaweed, kelp)
  • cranberries
  • navy beans
  • cheese (particularly goat cheese)

I would love to keep this series going. Send me your questions (in the comments section below, or in the Q&A which is now available for published articles). Or, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can always send me your queries at

Let's do this again next Monday!

© 2018 Linda Lum


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 19, 2018:

I love that idea, Linda! (Sorry for butting in, Manatita!)

manatita44 from london on June 19, 2018:

Yes ... yes ... A grand tour would be fine. Cool!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 19, 2018:

Thank you Manatita. Sometimes if I did not address a question that came from you, nothing needs be said. I'm glad that you stopped by. The two photos are just one small part of the garden. We have 1.5 acres. Perhaps I should write about it (with pics) and give all of you the grand tour.

manatita44 from london on June 19, 2018:

Thanks Linda. Wont say much but this does not mean that you are not back to your best!

Beautiful garden!

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

Hi Mary, just a quick correction to your comment. Iodine prevents goiter, not gout. Gout is an inflammation of a joint (often the big toe) from uric acid. Goiter is a thyroid condition.

I'm sorry I gave you and Shauna a bit of pause, but hey, that tells me that you're paying attention (better than I).

I hope you have a wonderful day. Are your days getting cooler, or it is always about the same?

Mary Wickison from USA on June 18, 2018:

Oh, Linda, you had me worried I thought I had missed a week when you mentioned the salad spinner. After reading your response to Shauna, I knew I was okay. Phew!

I had a totally different idea about a microplane. I didn't realize it could be used for so many things. Fascinating.

Regarding salt, I had no idea iodine helped avoid gout. After reading your articles, I am desperately waiting for a trivia contest or someone to ask me these questions so I can share the knowledge.

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

Shauna, you are so right. I have NOT written about the salad spinner yet (well, actually it's written, but not published). That's what I get for talking without double-checking. I'm glad that you have added the zester and spider to your arsenal.

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

Bill, thank you, dear sir. This was a fun mailbox, and I sense that next weeks will be equally challenging. I will certainly answer your query about grilling next week. Stay tuned!

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

Eric, so Gabe is now your "nutritionist?" That's funny. I am assuming that you do not need an immediate reply on what to cook when you don't feel like cooking. We've probably all been there, and I'll answer that for you and the other readers next week. Thank you for your help.

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

Ann, thank you for your kind words. I feel like I won the jackpot with my two daughters. Even as babies they were willing to try anything and I honestly don't remember them saying "I don't like that!"

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

Rinita, I must admit that I had to look up "coconut aminos" This is a great question and I hope to have an answer for you next week.

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

Flourish, there are very few things that I won't eat. I'm willing to give just about any food a try--once (but you can't fool me about beets).

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 18, 2018:

Interesting info, Linda, especially with regards to iodized salt. I buy sea salt and noticed the last time I restocked, I was given a choice of sea salt with or without iodine. Of course, the iodized version touts it as necessary for good health, but I stuck with the non-iodized version.. Thank you for sharing that added iodine is in chemical form. No thank you!! The foods you list that provide iodine naturally is very helpful, all of which I already consume with the exception of sea veggies.

BTW, this weekend I bought a spider (isn't that what you featured last week or did I miss the salad spinner episode?) and a zester. Yay me!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 18, 2018:

You did well with what you had to work with. It's barbecue season and I have heard you should only turn meat over once on the barbecue...something about retaining the that true?

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 18, 2018:

Spectacular as always. My "nutritionist" is convinced that if we cook (like you teach) and back up on processed the salt is healthy.

This question follows that a bit.

When you are just too lazy or whatever to cook, what is the go to stuff you use?

I lean toward salads and cereal.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 18, 2018:

High time I got back to this series of yours, Linda!

I love your Microplane (thought that was for flying!) as I have nightmares trying to wash a standard box grater.

Also good advice regarding children trying food. My grandchildren are a mixture of 'easy' and 'difficult' eaters, within the same household, so it's not always the upbringing, just personal taste I suppose. I think the 'try anything once' is a great premise to start with, though. If it looks exciting, they tend to go for it more.

Good to read your excellent practical advice.


Rinita Sen on June 18, 2018:

Great information again, Linda, especially on the 'how to get your family to eat variety'. I am back with a question for you - could you share any information on whether there is a way to make coconut aminos at home? We don't get it here, and I heard the process does not require many ingredients, but was unable to find a process to make it at home.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 17, 2018:

As far as trying new things, the mind is a very powerful tool. I was once convinced that mincemeat pie was chocolate simply because I wanted chocolate pie so badly and believed that’s what I had in front of me (until I bit into something that resembled a raisin). Convince yourself something is good before you try it. Tell yourself you’re adventurous.

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