Phylis Canion: Can you tell me what squab is?

March 22, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

By Phylis CanionQ: I was reading through some recipes and came across one that called for squab. Can you please tell me what squab is? I am writing this letter because I am too old to learn about computers and research this myself. Thank you for your help.

A: Squab is a "mini pigeon" that is no more than 1 month old. Squab has been bred for centuries dating back to early Asian and Arabic cultures. Careful breeding and a specially formulated diet of natural high proteins and whole grains produces meatier birds, according to the Squab Producers of California. For this reason, the meat of a squab is distinctly unlike domestic poultry or wild game birds. Squab also possess a characteristic which allows them to retain more moisture during the cooking process than other poultry and is known to be one of the easily digestible of all meats. Squab are usually sold frozen, will store frozen for about six months, and will not weigh more than 1 pound. Look for birds with pale skin and the plumper the better.

Q: I am oversensitive to sodium and have to watch my intake very carefully. I love to cook and wonder if you can tell me if any spices that are sodium free!

A: The average person consumes about 4,500 milligrams of salt daily, which converts to about two teaspoons. The body only requires 200 milligrams daily, which converts to about one quarter of a teaspoon. Many spices do contain sodium as a part of their general makeup, but the following are some spices and flavorings that are sodium free:

Allspice, caraway seeds, garlic, mace, mustard powder, parsley;

Rosemary, sesame seed, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, ginger;

Maple extract, nutmeg, pepper, peppermint, thyme, walnut extract, bay leaves, curry powder;

Lemon extract, marjoram, paprika, pimento, extract of sage, turmeric and vinegar.

Q: I threw out my microwave for safety reasons and am wondering how a convection oven works? Is it safer than a microwave?

A: The standard oven and the convection oven work similar to each other. The notable difference in the convection oven is that it has a fan that increases the distribution of the heat molecules providing heat to all areas more evenly and faster. Because of the fan and the efficiency of the heat circulation, a lower temperature is usually required, thereby conserving energy. Meats do very well cooked in a convection oven and because of the lower heat, the meat tends to be juicer. There is no comparison as to how much safer a convection oven is over a microwave.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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