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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, & Cooking, #41

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

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True Confessions

Once a week I prepare this article. I also write one additional article on Hub Pages (usually about one specific food or ingredient), and I also have a weekly blog (which covers a wide range of topics, mood-dependent).

I have a secret to share with you (please don't tell anyone; it's just between you and me, OK?) Other than this Monday musing (which relies on input from YOU), I write the other articles well ahead of time (on those days when I do nothing else but write because the weather is unforgiving—no gardening).

I have, at this moment, six articles that I could publish RIGHT NOW, but I parse them out, one per week, so that I don't have to worry about a deadline.

I'm a planner, an organizer. a self-proclaimed worry-wart. I write menu plans for the entire week. I buy birthday cards 6 months before I need to mail them. I already have five Christmas 2018 gifts hidden away in my closet.

So why am I telling you this? There is one article, one topic, that I have been wrestling with like Jacob and the Angel. I've been at it for 3 weeks and am still not at the finish line. At this point I am not sure that it will ever see the light of day. But I keep at it. Why? Because after writing for 7 years on Hub Pages, I'm confident that I have found my voice, my niche, the area in which I want to focus my attention, the style I want to use, and the way I want to convey my message.

So, stay tuned. Someday you might actually see "that" article. (And when you think you've spotted it, leave me a note in the comments. I'll let you know if you have found it).

But, in the meantime, we need to look at what flew into the mailbox this week. Let's get started.

Can I Make Coconut Milk from Fresh Coconuts?

This question is from Mary - With regards to the coconuts, mine would be straight off the tree. It is quite labor intensive to get the coconut out, I use a tool that looks like a spoon with spikes. They also have the same type of thing but with a flat piece of wood you sit on and then move the cut coconut half back and forth. I have also had one that had spikes and is turned with a handle after attaching it to a table.

Shockingly although coconut milk is widely available here, coconut creme isn't. I have tried removing the coconut meat from the coconut and then using my grating blade on my food processor. That wasn't very successful as my processor isn't robust enough.

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Mary, I did a lot (a LOT) of looking on the internet for this one. I don't know if you have a blender or, if you do, how sturdy it is. But, here is a link which describes using chunks of coconut meat, added the liquid from the coconut PLUS one cup of water, and then blending (and blending, and blending). Maybe 5 to 10 minutes worth of blending.

Then squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze some more to extract every last drop from the resulting slurry. The resulting coconut milk looks creamy, much better than anything I've bought at the store.

Favorite Things

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Each week in this part of the article I will share with you the name of one product, gadget, or piece of equipment that I absolutely cannot function without. I promise that it won't be expensive or difficult to source.

Today I must confess that I have an obsession. Parchment paper. I use it pretty much every day. In fact, two years ago my daughter gave me a Costco-sized roll of the stuff (that's 164 linear feet, in case you were wondering) as a Christmas gift. Before the next Christmas, I had to purchase another roll. Yes, I use it that much.

By the way, in case you were wondering, parchment paper is not the stuff on which the Dead Sea Scrolls were scribed, and it's not the same as waxed paper. Although waxed paper does have its uses, it is not heat-tolerant and so cannot be used to line baking sheets. Parchment, on the other hand, is safe for oven temperatures up to about 425°F.

Want some examples of how I use it?

  • line cookie baking sheets
  • roll out pastry dough on it
  • form biscuits on it
  • dust the surface with flour and knead dough on it
  • dredge chicken
  • line baking pans for cake, bread, or meatloaf
  • sift dry ingredients on parchment and then form the paper into a funnel to decant into a mixing bowl
baking sheet lined with parchment paper so that the cookies don't stick

baking sheet lined with parchment paper so that the cookies don't stick

Of course, you don't need to purchase the largest roll known to mankind, but once you try it, you just might get hooked like me. It's addictive.

Coating Fruit with Flour So It Won't Sink

When I made a cherry cake using glace cherries, the recipe told me to coat the cherries in a bit of flour. Why would they suggest this? As I recall they said to keep them from sinking but I can't see how that makes them stay dispersed in the batter.

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Habits handed down from generation to generation—are they factual, or folklore—such as the age-old advice that berries should be tossed in flour before they're folded into a batter. The logic is that flour allows fruit to magically hover above the pan, to defy gravity thanks to...what? It reminds me of the baked ham joke:

A mother was teaching her daughter the family recipe for whole baked ham. It was the very best ham recipe so they always followed it carefully.

They prepared the marinade, scored the skin, put in the cloves, and then came a step the daughter didn't understand.

"Why do we cut off the ends of the ham?" she said. "Doesn't that make it dry out?"

"I don't know.That's just the way grandma taught me. We should call her."
So they called grandma. "Why do we cut off the ends of the ham? Is it to let the marinade in, or what?"

"To be honest, I cut the ends off because that's how my mother taught me. I added the marinade step because I was worried about the ham drying out. Let's call great grandma and ask her."

So they called great-grandma.

"Oh, for land sakes! I cut off the ends off because I didn't have a pan big enough for a whole ham!"

Mary, as you assumed, no amount of flour will resist the forces of gravity. It's not as though the flour granules turn into grappling hooks. I have two suggestions to offer if you happen to make that recipe again:

  1. Cut the cherries into smaller (lighter in weight) pieces.
  2. Spoon some of the "un-fruited" batter onto the bottom of your prepared pan before folding in the cherries.
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Well, the postman must have taken a well-deserved vacation this past week. The questions were few, but they were fun (for me).

OK, so here's how this works. If you have a question about "just about anything" that relates to food, recipes, cooking techniques or equipment -- just ask me. The worst that could happen would that I'd say "I have absolutely no idea".

I've not been (totally) stumped yet. Perhaps that's your challenge. See if you can stump me. Questions can be posed in the comments below, or you can write to me at lindalum52@gmail.com.

© 2018 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 08, 2018:

Lawrence, thank you for stopping by to comment, and for your kind words. The tale is one that many cooks have shared over the years. Is it true? I have no idea, but it certainly gets the point across.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 08, 2018:

Linda

I loved the story at the end, actually I loved the whole hub, but the story at the end was neat!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 02, 2018:

Thank you, Brian. I appreciate your feedback and your input. We all work together to help each other.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on August 02, 2018:

You are probably right, Linda, re same nutritional value. As for any problems trying to cook by boiling food in parchment paper, if I ever get around to experimenting, I'll report what I learn. Re baking in parchment paper, I've more than once had restaurant fish cooked in parchment paper--baked I suppose. I found out you can buy parchment paper cooking bags. See "Mediterranean Fish in Parchment with Spring Vegetables"and also "Mexican Fish in Parchment", both at the website Beyond Mere Sustenance. When I searched on parchment paper vegetables boiling, all I found was the article "How to Perfectly Boil Vegetables - Men's Journal", which has a recipe in which vegetables are boiled in a pot with parchment paper laid on top of them.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 31, 2018:

Brian, I had not heard of this (although I had certainly heard of Edgar Cayce). Rather than boiling, is the same nutritional value gained from baking in parchment ( "en papillote")? That to me achieves the same purpose but is easier (or less likely to fail. I can imagine my parchment bag breaking open in the pot of water).

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 31, 2018:

Edgar Cayce, known as the 'father of holistic medicine,' often recommended cooking vegetables in Patapar paper, a brand name of parchment paper. The technique is to wet a sheet of the paper; put on it a chopped raw vegetable; form the sheet into a pouch and tie it closed with string; put the pouch in boiling water for the usual cooking time; remove, open, and plate. The theory is that this avoids the loss of vitamins, minerals, and natural juices. I haven't tried that cooking technique yet though my wife keeps parchment paper on hand for cooking in the oven. Google on: Cayce Patapar.

manatita44 from london on July 21, 2018:

Thanks Linda. All good so far. Hope you get some more questions soon. Seems like you are waiting for or preparing a Magnum Opus. I can hardly wait. Have a great weekend.

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

Hi Flourish, your first question, about a passion fruit salad dressing I will work on this week and (I hope), have an answer for you on Monday.

Your 2nd question requires a bit more thought. Allow me another week, OK (and I might need to IM you in the meantime). I hope you are enjoying your exotic travels.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 17, 2018:

I look forward to the mystery article, Diva! I’m still in Peru, ready to go home but have a question for you based on a wonderful salad I had here. The house salad in the rain forest hotel came with one dressing. I tried it and was pleasantly surprised.

Question: Can you recommend a recipe for passion fruit dressing?

Second unrelated question:

As a guest have you ever been served something so truly terrible tasting or objectionable that you just couldn’t or wouldn’t eat it? If so, what would you recommend as options, especially if you want to try not to insult the cook? (The counterpart to this question might also be —As the cook and host, how do you avoid this dilemma and keep the peace with guests?)

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

Mary, cow hump? That sounds like the punchline for a really bad joke. No, you hadn't but yes I will regretfully place it in the hopper for if not answer at least a bit of exploration. Wow, you never cease to amaze me.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 17, 2018:

Take your time, no worries.

Have I asked you about cow hump? It is popular here but I have unsuccessfully tried to cook it twice. Here it is called 'cupim'.

My husband says it looks like horse meat. I have had it at a restaurant that specialized in BBQ and it was really good, and would like to make it here. I know it can be roasted, barbecued, or even done in a pressure cooker but don't want to fail a third time. Any thoughts?

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

Mary, I don't keep recipes secret from friends. Yes, I do have a German chocolate cake recipe in my back pocket. Would you mind if I turned that topic into a hub (can you wait that long?)

I think the history of why it's called that, and variations on the theme could be interesting (but I already have 6 hubs that are waiting for me to hit the "public" button). Not all of them are time-sensitive however, so depending on how quickly I can knock this one out, I might move it up in the queue.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on July 17, 2018:

Hi Linda, Thanks for answering my questions. I have seen our former gardener, open coconuts like the link you shared. I usually don't bother taking the outside husk off, so I tend to have coir bits in my grated coconut. I just call my baking -rustic.

I really don't think my blender is up to the job, even tonight it struggled with corn and bacon soup.

The cherries in the cake, I followed the advice but I did wonder about that. I hate it when I am so gullible.

I love the fact you received parchment paper as a gift. How thoughtful and useful.

Shauna mentioned German Chocolate cake, wow, I haven't had that in I don't know how many years. I think that is a type of chocolate cake that isn't OTT on chocolate. My husband therefore would probably love it. Do you have a secret recipe kicking around at your place?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 17, 2018:

Thanks, Linda. I'll scrap my wax paper and replace it with parchment paper.

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

Shauna - Our old cookbooks call for waxed paper, probably because they weren't lucky enough to have parchment. The waxed paper lining your cake pan probably doesn't burn because it is somewhat insulated by the batter. But, you couldn't use waxed paper to line (for example) a cookie sheet.

The "wax" in waxed paper is paraffin--it isn't toxic, but I wouldn't call it edible.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 17, 2018:

You are such a good person

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 17, 2018:

Linda, I didn't know wax paper can't withstand high heat. My German Chocolate cake recipe (that I've used for decades) says to line three cake pans with wax paper. I've never known it to burn. However, since the advent (or popularity) of parchment paper, I wonder about the wax coating. Is it possible it eeks into the cake? If so, how much and how does unknowingly ingesting wax affect the body?

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

Eric, I think I've provided some homemade salad dressing recipes in the past, but I'm glad to do it again. However, if I answer all of your questions here, I'm doing the other readers a disservice (and goodness, there would be no fodder for next week's issue), so if you can stay tuned until next Monday I'll have a stellar (LOL) answer for you then.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 17, 2018:

Linda, I have been making my own salad dressing of pure unfiltered apple vinegar and extra Virgin olive oil. But I need different types, the lower the fat the less salt is a preference but not a deal breaker. I love it when you refer me to an older article that covers the question :-)

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

Thank you Audrey. I enjoy writing it and look forward to hearing from you each week. You've never let me down.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 16, 2018:

Thanks for listing the uses for parchment paper. Your recipe for making coconut milk will come in handy for me. I use coconut milk and almond milk only. Love this series!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 16, 2018:

Thank you, Eric it took a while. But admittedly there are some articles that lend themselves to a more casual approach and some that have to be precise and orderly.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 16, 2018:

That was very helpful. Thank you. Seems you have changed your writing voice a tad. I like it better.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 16, 2018:

Eric, I wrote an entire hub (before you and I "met") on just that topic. Look for "Cook Once a Month: Prepare 30 Meals for a Family of 4 in Just 1 Day." You don't have to do all of that cooking, but it provides information on how to prep and also a link to my article which has all of the recipes.

As a rule of thumb soups and stews are usually good choices as are meatballs and spaghetti sauce. Don't cook, freeze, and thaw a seafood dish.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 16, 2018:

Bill, I 2nd that motion. 90+ degrees is just too stinkin' hot. Yesterday we ate taco salad for dinner and the only protein was opening up a can of black beans. It was satisfying but lacked something in the wow factor.

I hope Wednesday is more forgiving. I hope to be cooking up a storm that day. Anniversary #37!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 16, 2018:

Another great one. Wow I have a sister like you planning and planning and buying Christmas gifts in July. I think maybe that is part of what makes an excellent cook.

My mom cooked for many usually 8 of us. She would over size most meals and freeze for later use. Do you think this is a good idea? And an idea on what foods work best that way?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 16, 2018:

Oh, I think it will be very obvious when you publish the mystery article, and I look forward to that moment.

Wishing you a splendid Monday; let's hope the heat leaves us soon.

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