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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Foods, Recipes, and Cooking #21

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


This past week Winter descended on my poor little corner of the world with a vengeance. Snow and ice, then more snow and bitter temperatures into the teens. My heart aches for the wildlife. We saw countless paw and hoof prints in the snow, all in search of food. How cold they must be, huddling together for warmth. Even the birds have a limit on how much is too much.

I look forward to Spring.

There is one plus to all of this brutal weather however. It forces me to stay indoors, and thus I write more (for example, this weekly article).

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 #22, I will have an answer for you. I promise.

Here are the questions that came to my mailbox this past week.

How to Make TASTY Spareribs

Our son gave us five pounds of spareribs...I don't like spareribs....any way to make them that might make me happy?


Bill, I had to hop into my "way back" machine for this one. I remember that my sister Florence (she was the oldest, 26 years my senior and took care of the house and bratty little me while mom was working) made the most amazing spareribs. Here's how.

  1. First, rinse the rack of spareribs under cool running water. Pat completely dry using paper towels.
  2. Lay the ribs face down onto a cutting board. Remove the membrane, the white film-like substance found on the back of the spareribs. To do this, grab the end of the membrane with a piece of paper towel and pull it away from the ribs. If the membrane tears, be persistent. You can do this.

3. Coat the ribs with a dry rub (Florence used a package of Lipton onion soup mix, the dry stuff in a packet. It contains most of the things you'd want in a dry rub—salt, pepper, herbs, spices, and dried onions).

4. Place the ribs in a single layer, meat-side up, in a baking dish (a 9x13-inch baking pan or roasting pan) and cover tightly with foil.

5. Bake at 275 degrees for 4 hours.

The onion and seasonings will permeate the meat of the ribs and they will be fall-off-the-bone tender. If you want them a bit crispy, run under the broiler for a few minutes. Mop on barbecue sauce if you want, but I prefer them seasoned only.

Lexicon of Cooking Terms


Several months ago my friend Eric asked if I could provide a lexicon (he suggested five-per-week) of the not-so-common cooking terms. I started with Letter A and we've worked up through the M's. Here's another batch for your entertainment:

Nap - To completely cover food with a light coating of sauce so that it forms a thin, even layer.

Non-reactive pan - A non-porous pan which does not produce a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with acidic foods. An aluminum pan is reactive, while stainless steel, glass, and enamel are not.

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Paillard – A piece of meat or fish that has been pounded very thinly and then grilled or sautéed.

Pan-broil - To cook uncovered in a hot fry pan, pouring off fat as it accumulates.

Pan-fry - To cook in small amounts of fat.

Pastry bag – A cone-shaped bag with openings at both ends. Food is placed into the large opening then squeezed out the small opening which may be fitted with a decorator tip. A pastry bag has a variety of uses, including decorating cakes and cookies, forming pastries, or piping decorative edgings. Bags may be made of cloth, plastic, or paper.

Pastry blender – A kitchen utensil with several u-shaped wires attached to a handle. It’s used to cut solid fat (shortening or butter) into flour and other dry ingredients in order to evenly distribute the fat particles.

Pastry brush – A brush used to apply glaze or egg wash to bread and other baked goods either before or after baking.

Pate a choux – This is the dough used to make cream puffs and eclairs. It is a mixture of boiled water, butter, and flour, then whole eggs are beaten in.

Parboil - This is another word for "blanch". To boil until partially cooked. Usually, this procedure is followed by final cooking in a seasoned sauce.

Pare - To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.

What To Do With Baby Potatoes

I need to cook tiny potatoes. I have these purple ones and white and brown. I am talking about baby things but I want to have fun with them. I was just going to do them baked but that sounds weak. What do you have my Diva?

Eric, I rarely purchase baby or fingerling potatoes. They look amazing, but the cost (where I live) is prohibitive. Nevertheless, I have a few suggestions of what to do with those little orbs (and I'll bet your little son is intrigued by them).

Click on each title below to go to the link for the recipe:

Roasted baby potatoes - These are by far the easiest way to create a side dish with baby potatoes. We like to serve them with individual meatloaves, made in muffin cups. They bake at the same time.

Garlic parmesan roasted potatoes - These parmesan-coated potatoes are crispy and crunchy, like french fries, only better. Looking for something to have with that deli roast chicken? Here's your answer.

Roasted baby potatoes with homemade mushroom sauce - If you have some leftover rotisserie chicken, fully-cooked chicken sausage, or some fully-cooked meatballs you could easily toss those into the pan in the last 5 minutes of cooking and turn this into a complete meal. Or go vegetarian with tofu or edamame.

Barbecued new potatoes on skewers - Food is more fun on a stick. Add these to your next barbecue.

Salmon and baby potatoes sheet pan dinner with dill sauce - Sheet-pan cooked meals have become the new fad in cooking magazines and television cooking shows, and with good reason. Simple prep, simple cook, and simple clean-up. Most meals are ready in half an hour.

Brie-stuffed crispy baby potatoes - These would make a great appetizer. You can prepare them ahead of time (up to but not including adding the brie. That happens at the last moment).

Honey-mustard chicken foil packets with baby potatoes - Here's another "sheet pan" type of meal. Perhaps you have heard of "En Papillote," cooking a serving of food (meat and vegetables plus seasonings) in a circle of paper parchment. Everything steams together, creating moist, perfectly cooked ingredients that are flavored throughout.

Here foil (which is easier to fold and seal) replaces the parchment. And, because it's not paper, you can cook these in the oven, or on the grill. What could be better? Each packet is a "gift" from you to your hungry guest, and a gift to yourself because of the ease of preparation and clean-up. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Before You Go...

...I want to leave you with a quotation I read a few days ago about cooking and cookbooks:

Cookbooks hit you where you live. You want comfort; you want security; you want food; you want to not be hungry and not only do you want those basic things fixed, you want it done in a really nice, gentle way that makes you feel loved. That’s a big desire, and cookbooks say to the person reading them, ‘If you will read me, you will be able to do this for yourself and for others. You will make everybody feel better.

— Laurie Colwin, More Home Cooking

I hope all of you have a great week. Keep those cards and letters coming in. And remember, if you don't want others to know "who asked that question" you can always email me at Your identity is safe with me.


© 2018 Linda Lum


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

Deer. They LOVE potato and tomato plants (never mind that both are poisonous for us, it doesn't seem to bother them in the least.) Fencing has to be at least 10 feet tall to keep deer out so those would end up being very expensive potatoes.

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

Why can't you, Linda? Potatoes can be grown in 5 gallon buckets if you don't want to dedicate garden space to them.

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

That's great to hear. I don't buy them because the price is at least double the cost for "normal" potatoes. Wish I could grow my own.

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

Thanks to Eric for his question about baby potatoes. I printed off three of the recipes you offered, Linda!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 03, 2018:

Natalie, thank you so much. I'm here every Monday, and strive to write at least one more food-related article during the week as well. Stay tuned!

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 03, 2018:

What a great series! I'm so glad I happened upon it. I publish a recipe every now and again but this is fabulous. Thanks for the info.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on March 02, 2018:

Yum! I will make it a habit from now on!! :)

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

Kari, it's a simple thing and does make a difference. WIthout that skin the savory seasonings and flavors can permeate both sides, and it's easier to eat. Yum.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on March 02, 2018:

I have cooked ribs before, but I have never removed the membrane. I will need to do this when next I make them. I love those baby potatoes, but I'm with you about the price. When I lived in California, I used to go and "glean" the fields after the potatoes were harvested. Fresh fingerlings were my rewards, lol.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2018:

Mary, I just added a few more terms to the lexicon. This article was not featured due to quality. I'm closer to 1,250 words now, so will keep my fingers crossed.

In case you didn't notice, the key to those ribs (as outlined for Bill) was again low-and-slow. I guess that's my new mantra.

Mary Wickison from USA on February 26, 2018:

I had some ribs recently, but ours were cooked on the BBQ. The crackling was so hard, I broke a tooth!

Small potatoes, oh I love them any way they are prepared. Thanks for the recipe links.

Of your cooking terminology, I didn't know 4 of those. Very interesting.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2018:

Eric, that's nice to know. I don't take up much room, but I'm too old for you to be able to claim me as a dependent LOL. If you have not, perhaps you should buy a copy of my book. Each chapter contains a "Carb Diva-type" of story before delving into the food/recipes.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 26, 2018:

Linda they are cheap here. Oh my did we like your suggestions. Crispy treats that my boy and I cooked together. Oil was so much better than butter. We have to read one hour a night. It is just something us Dierkers do. And lately we have spent some of that reading you.

Linda you are moving into our home.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2018:

Oh my! Flourish, when I have a moment or two, I'll expand that section on baby potatoes to put in a description of each one. Without that, this probably won't be "featured."

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 26, 2018:

I'm glad Eric asked about those "baby potatoes" because I have bought the because they are cute (and occasionally purple!) then didn't know what to do with them. I think what I did was wrong because my daughter told me she was eating them simply out of respect for me.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2018:

I hope it works for you Bill. But actually, when you consider that half of the weight is bone, you'll go through those ribs in no time. I'd love to help you. I haven't had ribs in forever.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 26, 2018:

I'll give it a try, my friend. With five pounds of them I can afford to experiment. :) Thank you!

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