Monday, September 18, 2017

Homemade Liquers.

Coffee Cup, Cup, Saucer, Ceramic, Coffee  I adore Bailey's Irish Cream but not in my coffee.  I love it in my hot chocolate drunk on a cold winter day after walking home during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, it has alcohol in it and I cannot have it in my house.  In Alaska, villages can be wet, damp, or dry.  Wet means it is sold in the village, damp means you can bring it in or personal consumption or dry means you cannot have it in anyway.

My village is dry.  If you bring it in and are caught, you will be arrested and end up in jail.  It has happened before.  Although the village is dry, alcohol is sold here and people make their own.  The last time I heard, a fifth of alcohol ran around $250.

So I want to make my own without the alcohol so I can enjoy the flavor in my chocolate to give it that little bit extra flavor.  Unfortunately, I could not find a recipe for Irish Cream without alcohol.  It is frustrating because I do not want to be arrested.

I will share the alcoholic DIY version of Irish Cream because its all I could find.  There are several recipes I found but most of them are as follows:

Recipe 1.
1 1/4 cups Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon espresso powder
14 ounces condensed sweetened milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon real almond extract
2 tablespoons honey

Mix in a blender, put in a jar, refrigerate 2 hours, shake and serve.

Another couple of recipes recommended you make concentrated cold brew coffee and use 1/4 cup of it.  It also recommended using one ounce of 60% cacao chocolate chips melted in 1 pint of heavy cream over a double boiler.  Stir in 1/3rd cup of sugar to the cream mixture.  When fully mixed with the sugar melted, take off of the heat, add 2 tbsp of chocolate extract to the chocolate mixture, before adding 1 1/2 cup Irish Whiskey, cold brew coffee, and 1 tsp vanilla to it.  Mix with an immersion blender, pour into a bottle, refrigerate till ready to use.

On the other hand it was easy to find an alcohol free version of Kahlua by 3 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, and a 2 inch piece of vanilla into a pan.  Bring to a boil, and simmer till the volume has been reduced by half around a half hour. When done, add 8 tbsp of instant coffee mixing well before cooling. In a jar, mix the sugar syrup with a fifth of either rum or vodka.  Shake and store in a dark place for approx. 10 days. After 10 days, strain the mixture, bottle it, and enjoy.

I doubt, I would every make the Kahlua because I do not like coffee flavor.  I'm going to keep looking for a nonalcoholic version of Irish Creme but I do not think I'll find one since the Irish is supplied by Irish whiskey.

Have a great day and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Brief History of Desserts.

Bananas, Dessert, Ice Cream, Fruit  When I was growing up, we seldom had anything for dessert to end a meal.  Usually, we finished eating the main meal and we were off to do homework or headed out to play in the neighborhood. 

If we had dessert it was because it was a holiday such as Thanksgiving or it was someone's birthday.  If mom made cake, it came out of a box and so did the frosting. 

My favorite - A German Chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting.  Once I got older, I fell in love with carrot cakes or apple spice cakes because they had more substance to them.  They were more filling and I chose smaller pieces.  I recently began wondering when desserts became a normal part of the meal.

Apparently, the word dessert is derived from the French word desservir which means cleaning the table.  Back in the 17th century, when entertaining could last all night, cooks often prepared sweets or finishers in advance served at the end so people were filled to the brim before they left. 

Sweets have been around for a long time but appeared originally in the form of nuts or fruit rolled in honey. This is considered the first candy.  If you look at the Chinese, you'll find they invented a form of ice cream that was actually a flavored ice.  It wasn't until it reached Italy that adjustments were made so the flavored ice became a sorbet. No one is sure when it became the ice cream we know today.

One of the contributions to the development of modern desserts came when sugar began to be manufactured in the middle ages but it was still extremely expensive so only the rich could afford. The first printed recipe for apple pie appeared in 1381.  The original gingerbread appeared around 1400 but it was made by soaking bread crumbs in spices and honey.

By 1600, Pralines made an appearance in France at the tables of nobility while in 1700 the Eclair began its evolutionary journey to the form we know today.  By 1740, numerous cupcake recipes existed so they were quite popular, although they are making a reappearance in a big way today.

In the 19th century, the lemon meringue pie became popular although both lemon and meringue custards existed prior to that.  Its only really been since the 1500's that desserts have really developed.  Along the way, many meat based puddings were replaced by sweet versions.

I hope you enjoyed reading this brief history of desserts. In a couple days I'll look at a few specific desserts and their history.  Have a good day.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Metabolism Fact or Fiction.

Runner, Marathon, Military, AfghanistanI'm sure you've heard people complain about their slowing metabolism as they grow older or state something like "I can't eat anything or it shows up around my waist.  So that begs the question "What is metabolism?" and "What things do we know that are actually false"?

Metabolism is defined as the process our body uses to convert what we eat into the energy we use to live and function. It is responsible for everything from breathing to sitting and moving.  A slow metabolism needs less fuel to keep going while a fast metabolism burns through calories.  

We've all heard that we are stuck with what ever metabolism we were given.  While its true, our metabolism is determined by our genetic make up, we can do things to increase our metabolism.  One way is to increase lean muscle mass because muscle burns more calories per hour than fat.

Although our muscle mass decreases as we age we can still include weights twice a week in our exercise regime so we can keep our muscle mass up so our metabolism does not slow.

Another claim floating around the internet is that drinking green tea or eating chili peppers will cause our metabolism to speed up.  There are a few studies out which indicate they temporarily increase metabolism but not enough to counter eating more calories.  Its better to eat a good balanced diet with good portion control.

The third myth concerns eating late at night causes you to gain weight.  This isn't fully true.  Its eating extra calories, no matter when that cause people to gain weight.  Many times, people are more likely to much in the evening when they are watching television or doing something sedentary.

People believe that by cutting back on calories significantly, they will jump start weight loss but for most people, if the number of calories are cut too much, their bodies will begin to store energy in the form of fat because the body thinks it is starving.

Some people believe that both men and women have the same metabolism. This is not true due to the way each is built.  In general men have a higher metabolism because they generally have more leaner muscle mass than women and their organs are larger.  In addition, women have a layer of fat which does not go away.

Its been said if you skip a meal, particularly breakfast, you will kick your metabolism up so you burn more calories but its been shown by eating breakfast a person is less likely to binge eat later in the day.  As mentioned before it can actually cause your body to store fat in case of famine.

It appears the best way to keep your metabolism going, especially as you age, is to keep the amount of lean muscle mass your body has, exercise regularly, and eat a good balanced diet so you are not eating extra calories.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from people.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does Fat Change Into Muscle?

Man, Board, Drawing, Muscles, Strong  I remember being told by P.E. teachers, we had to exercise to change fat into muscle.  They always said, muscle was denser and so much better for us but I couldn't figure out how fat could be changed into muscle.

The phrase is actually not quite right because fat cannot change into muscle.  In fact, they are two different parts of the body.  Fat is the body's way of storing potential energy while muscle is active as you move and burns energy.  

You cannot turn one into the other but with it is possible to build muscle and shrink your fat.  Its important to eat enough protein, about one gram per body fat, eat dense carbohydrates, and include healthy fats.  Balance weights with cardio and you have the best situation for building muscle and cutting fat cells.

When doing weights, implement compound movements so more than one group of muscles is worked at any one time.  The cardio should be in the form of HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training or circuit training alternating cardio with strength.

Here are 7 myths associated with the topic which seem to persist.

1. The first myth is that cardio is best for burning fat.  While cardio does burn more calories, lifting weights actually burns more fat.  In one study, it was found women who completed an hour long strength training session burned at least 100 more calories in the following 24 hours than those who skipped it.

2. It it believed that is you lift weights, you will become bulky but this is not true.  Muscle growth occurs slowly over days, months, and years.  People comment about having gained bulk quickly after adding weights but all that happens is that you are packing more muscle in the same place. You are tightening your body.

3. One of my favorites - If you do not exercise your muscle will turn to fat.  If you quit training, your muscles actually shrink while your fat cells fill in the areas where muscle used to be.  They do not turn into fat because they are two different creatures.

4. This is a new one on me.  I was taught to stretch muscles before working out or just after your muscles are warmed up.  Apparently, stretching increases flexibility. Most injuries occur during the normal range of motions. It is recommended you warm-up properly to prevent injury.

5. Another new one is that cables and resistance bands have gained a reputation for toning muscles while free weights are better for building muscles.  This is a total misconception because a muscle contraction is the same regardless of tool used.

6. As you know by know, eating lots of protein does not build muscle.  Your body requires a well balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to build muscle. 

7. Spot exercise such as lunges does not burn fat from one location.  Your body when it burns fat, burns it from the whole body, not a specific location.

I grew up learning most of these myths which were promoted as gospel for anyone wanting to watch their weight.  I now know they are all wrong.  You may wonder why I wrote about the topic?  Well, its fall and pretty soon the colder weather will arrive.  Once the snow starts, I do not take the long walks I do the rest of the year.  I need to know the proper ways to keep my body fit so when spring comes again, I do not start at the beginning again.

Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alaska Commercial Stores

Small Business, Business, Shop, Store Alaska Commercial has a rich and varied history in the 49th state.  It is the equivalent to Safeway or Fred Meyers because its more than just a grocery store.  As mentioned yesterday, the closest one is about 45 minutes by river since that is really the only way to go other than a short 20 minute hop by plane.

Alaska Commercial has been in the state since before it became a state and has roots back to when Russia settled in the state.  Originally it was known as the Alaska Commercial Company when it bought out the Russian American Company around 1866 or so.

In 1901, it was renamed the Northern Commercial Company when it merged with four other companies but in 1992, it reorganized and became Alaska Commercial again. These village stores often operated as the court house, community center, and post office.  They used barter more often because people did not have cash.  So proprietors exchanged goods  for fish, gold or furs which could be resold elsewhere for more money.  Many stores set a basic unit of furs based on how many it took to make a parka (fur coat).

 In other areas, they accepted gold for merchandise.  They received 7 million dollars in gold over the 12 year period of the gold rush. During the gold rush period, the company ran steam wheelers, stage coach lines, and the mail service in addition to maintaining their stores.  

Although Alaska Commercial could be found in so many places in Alaska, its parent company operated in San Francisco after it was sold to a group of employees.  In 1890, the company has its own museum in San Francisco.

Over the years, ownership has changed hands and stores have been sold off.  Now there are just under 30 AC stores left all over Alaska in small villages and towns.  I've been to the ones in Fort Yukon, Bethel, Nome, and Unalakleet.  The stores aren't very big, about the size of a 7-11, yet carry everything a person would need.

One time, they had a sale on Ben and Jerry's so I purchased 10 pints and stored them in the freezer for those days when I absolutely needed a treat.  Understand, a pint of Ben and Jerry's is around $12.00 normally because the cost of air freight is added in to the normal cost.  So when it was marked down to $5.00 it was a bargain.

Hope you enjoyed that bit of history.  Have a good day.  Let me know what you think.