Saturday, April 30, 2016

Top 10 Fish You Should Avoid Eating.

Trout, Fish, Rainbow Trout, Animal  If you wonder why I"m suddenly into talking about fish and fishing, well its spring and people are outdoors doing more fishing since the lake and the river either have melted or are melting.

Out here they catch pike, black fish, needle fish, and several others including salmon.  I wondered if there are any fish out there that are not considered good to eat.  After all, they say you should eat more fish because of the omega - 3 content! 

So I found a list which included reasons for why you shouldn't eat them.  I don't know,  I would rather eat my veggies and fruit to fish or meat anyway but I am always curious about things.  So this is what I found out.

1.  Orange Roughy which can contain high levels or mercury and is being over fished.

2.  Chilean Sea Bass is also being over fished and can contain high levels of mercury.

3.  Sharks  may contain high levels of mercury.

4. Imported shrimp may contain antibiotics and chemical residue.

5. Swordfish may contain high levels of mercury.

6. Tile fish may contain high levels of mercury.

7.  Blue Fin tuna often has higher levels of mercury and is being over fished.

8. Imported Cat fish may contain antibiotics that are banned in the United States.

9. Farmed Eel could have higher levels of PCBs and mercury.

10. King Mackeral often has higher levels of mercury.

Out of this list, I only recognize a couple. Probably because I don't have a store that carries fish and I don't eat it.  It is good to know which fish may have higher levels of mercury so we can eat healthier.  I'll try to have a list tomorrow on the best fish to eat.

Friday, April 29, 2016

No More Pudding - Unique Places to Visit

Fishing At Sunset, Fischer, Twilight  To continue from yesterday, at some point puddings were packaged so they could be made in a short time for dessert. It turns out that Jello brand is credited with the first instant pudding made with milk but there is no other information I can find.  In fact, it's the only comment I can find about anything labeled instant pudding.  I'm guessing the original ones were cooked and  the ones that thicken without cooking require a chemical to do it.  So I went off looking at a different topic.

I decided to check out the best places to fish in the world because so many people like to fish.  They fish to relax, get dinner, or just because they need to be outside. One of the first places I found is a place called Lizard Island, Australia  it is located on the Great Barrier reef and is part of a National Park.  Lizard Island is actually one of several islands in the park.  Aside from its beauty, it ended up on the list because of its fishing tournament in October where they try to catch a Black Marlin.  This fish can weigh as much as 1000 lbs or more.  The best time to try is between September and December.

The Black Marlin is only one of 14 fish available year round starting with the small coral trout at 23 lbs on up.  This is a place you can't just sit on the rocks at the edge of the ocean, you have to go by boat out a ways to find them. 

I got sticker shock when I checked out the hotel or rather resort that is located there for discerning people.  It is very high end and plush and not something I could ever afford to visit.  A cost of one night would pay for 2 to 3 months of rent.  Imagine laying out $1600 for the cheap room but if you prefer the best, you'd have to fork over $3500!  Geez, for $3500, I could plan a trip to Hawaii, stay at an expensive hotel, and have a blast!

I"m actually more of a budget traveler, so I did a bit of research and it turns out there is a more reasonable place to stay.  Since it's a National Park, there is camping available at a much better price of $6.00 per night per person or $24.00 per family.  It is not a fancy campground and actually rather primitive but it falls within my budget.  I don't mind the 1.2 km walk to the campground.

Based on the pictures I've seen, I would not go fishing.  I'd walk the island armed with my camera to capture pictures of birds, lizards, trees, flowers and any other interesting photo opportunities.  I love taking photo's but they are not selfies.  You will not find me stopping every 2 feet to snap photos of myself against the plant, but the plant or animal or scene would be the focus of my photos.

When I travel I always take lots of pictures because I love to look at them later and remember all the fun I had.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The History of Pudding!

Dessert, Pudding, Sweets, Eating  When I grew up, I would eat pudding.  My mother got those boxed mixes.  You know the ones you add milk to, then mix up, pour into dishes, and let set.  My mother was not much of a cook so if she was feeling really creative that day, she would used the pudding you cook until thick, then pour in glass containers, and let cool.  I remember loving to eat the skin that formed on top. 

It wasn't until I hit college that I learned that not all puddings are created equal.  I ran across bread pudding (yummy), Plum Pudding with Run Sauce, and other puddings that in no way resembled the mixture of my youth.  I had this awesome bread pudding a couple years ago made with taro bread and it was fantastic.  I ate too much of it but I wanted more.

Did you know bread pudding has been around since the 11th or 12th centuries.  It developed as a way of using stale bread. It became known as the "poor man's pudding" and was enjoyed by the lower classes.  You can make bread pudding out of almost any type of bread and other ingredients. Check out this website which has tons of recipes for bread pudding by the queen of bread pudding.
The original puddings were meat based and often resembled sausage and used oatmeal as a filler.  It is thought that the word pudding came from the french word boudin which came from the latin word botellus meaning small sausage which referred to the encased meat used in Medieval puddings.

By the 17th century puddings might be meat based (savory)  or made with flour, nuts, and sugar (sweet)  These puddings were cooked using special bags dropped in boiling water which is where the term boiled puddings came from.  By the later part of the 18th century, puddings no longer contained meat but they were still boiled.  By the 19th century boiled puddings resembled cakes and were not quite as dense. 

The food we call a pudding is actually more like a custard and dates from the middle ages.  At that time it was used as a filling or eaten alone.  By the 1840's the distinction between European and American puddings became murky.  The earliest recipe for chocolate pudding dates back to 1730 and calls for cream, eggs, egg whites, biscuits, chocolate, and a few spices and was baked.

Now for odds and ends:
Although rice pudding existed prior to the 19th century, it was originally used as a medicine for digestive ailments.  It appears to have come from Asia where rice puddings known as porridge's were common but most every country has its own version of rice pudding. At some point it became a dessert.

One of the first puddings/custards was created in 1837 by Alfred Bird who used a corn starch for an instant pudding because his wife was allergic to eggs.  I used Bird's custard mix when I was growing up.  We'd put it on fruit for almost a trifle.  It was good. I even use it today for a quick dessert.

Stay tuned to learn more about instant pudding that most of us have grown up on or use when we bake.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walking Over Hill and Dale

Alaska, Forest, Mountain, Mountains  I live out in a beautiful area near the sea.  It is classified as tundra because its got lots of wonderful low growing plants such as blueberries, salmon berries (Aka cloud berries) , cranberries, and a nice dark black berry they call blackberries.  All of these grow low to the ground but the only thing out right now are berries that froze under all the snow.

Since its spring, people are going out more and more to enjoy the outdoors either hunting, fishing, or looking for greens.  There are still patches of snow scattered on the ground and the river still has a week or two before it is completely ice free but its fun to see stands of water peeking through the ice covered river.

Over the past couple of weeks, the birds have been arriving back in town.  There are enough around to enjoy watching as they land and take off but give it another week or two and the place will be filled with tons of birds.  There is a guy who runs a bird watching service in the summer where he takes them out on the river or up to the moutains so they can take pictures of those beautiful creatures. 

In addition, there are greens just coming out.  They are young, tender, and sweet.  I love them at this time of year because they are so juicy that they call to you.  I'm told that in another couple of weeks, the greens will be bursting out all over the tundra.  Right now, the buttercups (yellow flowers) are ready for use.

I've been walking up by the old airport.  It gives a great view of the volcanic mountains in the distance. Of the boats still parked up above the river where the owners placed them just before freeze up this past fall. 

I'm still seeing snow machines try to make their way across the patches of snow or sometimes they try to rev up enough to cross the lake.  I've already seen a few snow machines sink in the lake because the engines got water logged because they were not going fast enough and sank.

I hope you all have a good day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More On Candy!

When I was growing up, I don't remember candy stores near me.  The shops has candies like M&M's, or Tootsie rolls.  Mostly, I would go to a store filled with canisters of dried lemon peel, dried cherry seed, li hing mui and other delicacies. When I did get a chance to visit candy stores, I wondered how they created some of the individual ones.

Fruit Jelly, Candy, Sweet, HeartDid you know that Tootsie Rolls have been around for over 100 years?  The story is that they were created and marketed back in 1896 when Leo Hirschfeld, an Austrian immagrant, made and sold them in his shop in New York City. The reality is that he was an employee of Stern & Saalberg at this time.

According to an article I read, Leo applied for and received several patents involving chocolate making.  In addition, he shared several patents with Stern & Saalberg who eventually received a patent for Tootsie Rolls in 1909.  The company marketed Tootsie Rolls selling over seven hundred million pieces of candy by 1913 when Leo was listed as one of three directors of the company.

In 1917, Stern & Saalberg became The Sweets Company of America. Although, he made a lot of money, Leo left Stern & Saalberg to start his own candy company in 1920 but he did not do well.  He died in 1922.  Eventually The Sweets Company of America became the Tootsie Roll Company.

I never cared that much for Tootsie Rolls growing up because they were always sticking to my teeth and I had to use a finger to pry them off. I didn't even like the Tootsie Roll Pops but did you know they were first released in 1931?  The story is that Luke Weisgram, an employee of the Sweets Company of America came up with the idea after having a taste of his daughter's lolly pop while eating a Tootsie Roll.  When the board wanted new ideas for candy he proposed it and the rest is history.

The animated commercial that made the treat super famous came about in 1969 when a young boy asked the question "How many licks does it take to get to the center"  After several times of being told to ask someone else, he asks an owl who takes three licks and then bites into it.  Believe it or not, this commercial spurned several university studies to answer that question but none of the results seemed to have come out close to each other.  However, after a bunch of analysis, the final results are as follows.
1. The one sided approach resulted in 195 +/- 18 licks.
2. The full surface approach resulted in 184 +/- 33 licks.
3.  Using a global minimum resulted in 130 +/_ 29 licks regardless of licking style.

I don't think I know of any other candy who inspired so many studies to answer a single question posed in a commercial.  Personally, I think that is cool.  Enjoy the day and enjoy your next Tootsie Roll or Tootsie Pop.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What Do You Know About Cake Mixes?

Batter, Cake, Food, Cooking, Dessert  I think all of us have used a cake mix at some point or another.  Your kid comes home and tells you that you have to provide cupcakes for the party tomorrow, so you grab a mix and make the baked goods.  You top them off with one of those frosting's in the can because its so quick and easy but do you know when cake mixes were first marketed?  Probably a lot earlier than you thought.

There is a myth out stating that cake mixes came into being at the end of World War II due to an abundance of flour that needed to be used.  Apparently it is just a myth because there is a record of cake mixes being available in the 1930's.

 In 1930, John Duff of Pittsburg, PA applied for a patent for the first complete gingerbread mix that required adding only water. Mr Duff needed to use up his extra molasses so this gingerbread mix used 100 pounds of molasses for every 100 pounds of flour.  In a very short time, the patent was extended to include cake mixes. 

In 1933, they adjusted the recipe so the person using the mix, added the egg rather than relying on dried eggs in the mix because people physiologically preferred using fresh eggs.  They received their egg-less mix patent in 1935 and they were off but cake mixes really didn't sweep the nation until after World War II when flour companies began selling convenience. By the end of the 1940's, there were 200 companies selling cake mixes but in the 1950's everything came to a major slowdown and many companies quit making mixes.

Flour company executives spent time trying to figure out how to make people want to buy the mixes. It turns out that it was the invention of icing that caused cake mixes to start selling again.   There was an explosion of recipes, instructions, and designs flooded the market so now women could create any fancy cake their hearts desired using a box of mix and a can of frosting.

The frosting actually hid any weird flavors the early cake mixes had and made women feel like they were a part of the creative process again. According a survey done in the 1990's, women loved baking from scratch.  It turns out this meant they started with a mix and a can of frosting to create the cake.  It sounds like the definition of baking from scratch has evolved to mean starting with a mix instead of starting with all the individual ingredients. 

So what do you think?  Is it still scratch if you start with a mix?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My Favorite Cakes - Top 10 Mouthwatering Cakes

I have definite likes and dislikes when it comes to cake.  I really don't like those packaged mixes you add water, oil, and eggs to because they really have no substance.  I don't even know why people think they are all that.  I prefer my cakes to have substance.

Cake, Chocolate, Sweet, Suites, FoodSubstance is another word for dense so it isn't light and airy but filled with flavor and fills you up.  For instance, I love making an apple spice cake that feels heavy in your hand and is full of apple pieces.  When you bite into it, the spices mix with the apples and you almost have an apple pie flavor.  It makes a good breakfast.

I also enjoy carrot cake but I like mine with some sort of spice, raisins or a shot of rum added before I cook it. I usually make a carrot cake right after I make carrot juice because the pulp works beautifully in the batter and cooks up nicely.  When I want a spiced cake, I usually use the pumpkin pie spice because its a nice blend of spices.

I do not particularly like icing on my cake because it makes it too sweet and it covers over the flavor of the cake itself.  The only time my mother put icing on a cake was for a special occasion such as a birthday cake.  Otherwise, the cake might have a dusting of powdered sugar.  I don't know when it became popular to put frosting on everything.

The ten top mouthwatering flavors counting from number 10 down is as follows:

10.  The ever popular Carrot cake with raisins, nuts, or even pineapple.  That actually sounds good! A carrot cake with pineapple in it.  Yummmm.

9.  The Banana cake which seems to be a regular cake with mashed bananas mixed in before baking.  Hmmmm, I wonder how that would do with a bit of coconut and cinnamon?

8.  A Lemon cake with lemon zest and grated lemons.  The tartness is supposed to go with the sweetness of the cake.  I've never liked lemon so this one is not for me but I know others who love anything lemon.

7. The Yellow Butter cake is next and is the flavor selected most often for layered cakes because properly done, it is moist but firm.

6. Then there is the wonderful Rum cake made so the rum is put in the batter or baked first and then soaked in rum.  Either way it has a strong rum flavor.  I've had a wonderful sourdough Rum Bundt cake that was fantastic.

5.  Coming in fifth is the Vanilla cake which is a cake flavored with vanilla essence or extract.

4. Did you know the Red Velvet cakes used to have beets as part of the recipe to sweeten it and create the reddish color?  Now they use red food coloring to create the same look.   In addition, they now use a cream cheese frosting because it takes less time than the traditional French style roux frosting.

3. Here comes the Pineapple cake in third place.  The only type of pineapple cake I've ever had is a pineapple upside down cake.  My mother made a yellow cake in the 13 by 8 inch pan, topped it with sliced rings of pineapple, and just before it was done, she'd sprinkle a bit of brown sugar over the top to give it a brownish golden look.  I enjoyed that so much.

2.  Next is the Black Forest Cake which is actually a chocolate layered cake with whipped cream and cherries.  This cake originated in Germany where they used to add a liqueur for flavoring.

1. In first place is Chocolate!  Any kind of chocolate cake!  Plain chocolate! Death by Chocolate! It doesn't matter.  Chocolate is the flavor that rates number one for delicious, mouthwatering cakes.

Notice none of these are dump cakes which seem to be more and more popular.  Yes, I've had one or two and I hated them because they had a funny taste to them.  I prefer making cakes from scratch so I get the type of cake I want.  By the way, there is a different list for wedding cakes and cupcakes which I'll talk about in the near future.

Have a good day.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mmmmmmmmm, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies, Chocolate ChipsDo you remember growing up when you had a nice warm chocolate chip cookies.  The one that had enough time to cool off so you could hold it without burning your fingers but still warm enough for the chocolate to be gooey enough to let the flavor explode in your mouth.  The question I always had for my mother was "Where did chocolate chips come from?"  I never got an answer.

It turns out there is an interesting story behind it.  If you ever read the back of Nestle's chocolate chips for Toll House Cookies, you'll find out that the cook for the Toll House establishment, Ruth Wakefield, ran out of bakers chocolate for the cookies she was making and cut up a bar of semi-sweet chocolate to use instead.  Voila, you have a new recipe and a great story.  Apparently, they were a hit locally and the recipe first appeared in Boston newspaper as "Toll House Crunch Cookies"

The recipe with the chunks of chocolate appeared in a cookbook published by Ruth Wakefield in 1938.  It became so popular that the Betty Crocker radio show even talked about it.  Due to the popularity of the recipe, there was a spike in the number of semi-sweet bars sold.  This lead to  Nestle's entering into an agreement with Ruth to feature her recipe on the back of every bar of semi-sweet chocolate and she would receive a life time supply of chocolate.

Notice Nestle's has always called them morsels while we call them chips.  Where did the term chocolate chips come from.  It turns out a chocolate chip first appeared in the 19th century in the "Chocolate Chip" recipe which is an English tea biscuit.  The recipe actually had the biscuit cut out of the pan in small strips referred to as "chips" and they did indeed have melted chocolate in them.

By 1892, a candy called a "Chocolate Chip" was being marketed but it appears to have been a molasses candy covered in chocolate. It really wasn't until 1940 or so that the "chip" we know today hit the shelves.  Up to that point, if you wanted to make the cookies, you had to buy the semi-sweet bar and chop it up.  Nestle's called their morsels while other companies called them chips.

The pre-made make them yourself cookies arrived in the 1950's when Nestle's and Pillsbury began marketing them.  I suspect these were the ones my grandmother called the slice and bake ones that she used.  In the 1970's, Nabisco started marketing the "Chips Ahoy" cookies which advertised a chip in every bite.  At this point there was an explosion of chocolate chip cookie brands.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dancing With The Lights

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis  Have you ever seen dancing lights?  I have.  I've seen them in green, blue, purple, and pink.  I've seen them swirl, ripple, bounce up and down to the point they seem almost alive.  They appear in darkness and flee in the light.  Photos and videos do not do justice.  Only when you see them in person will you appreciate the full beauty.

I'm talking about the Aurora Borealis, lights that appear in both hemispheres but are best seen in the colder parts of the winter.  Did you know there are all sorts of stories and beliefs associated with these lights?

Around here, they say if you whistle, the lights will dance. The lights go up with the higher notes and go down with the lower notes. There are all sorts of stories associate with these beautifully memorizing lights.

One group in the northern most part of Alaska viewed these lights as evil beings and always carried their knives with them when they went out.  Other groups see the Aurora as the spirits of the dead playing ball with animal skulls.  Some say the lights are the spirits of the animals they've caught for their meals.

Alaskan natives are not the only ones with myths of Auroral displays.
In Norse mythology, the lights represent the spears armor, and helmets of the women warriors called the Valkyries.  In Finland, it is said the Aurora is caused by a fox who brushes the snow with his tail and causes sparks to fly into the sky. 

One of the tribes from New York believes the aurora is from the one who created the earth.  Once he was finished, he went to the far north and now he lights a fire that is reflected back to his people as the aurora lights.  In Estonia, it was believed that these lights were sleighs taking guests to a wedding.  Isn't that romantic.

A tribe in Wisconsin believed the lights were torches used by nice giants who fished at night.  Another group in northern Scandinavia hid indoors whenever the lights were out.  My favorite is that if you whistle, the lights will come down to take you but if you clap, the lights will run away.  These are but a few stories concerning the northern lights.  I think most countries have one or more stories concerning the lights.  I hope you enjoyed these few.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Do You Ever?

Alaska, Juneau, Glacier, Ice, Snow  Have you ever read a fiction book that takes place in your state only to find the author didn't know the area he or she wrote about?  I have. Since I live in Alaska, I have friends who send me books or links to stories that take place in Alaska.  I usually cringe when I read them because the person definitely used poetic license.

If you check out a map of Alaska, there are places that look like there might be a road but its not guaranteed.  There are a couple of roads that are not on the main system from Valdez up. 

There is a major road that goes from Fairbanks up to the Barrow area but its the haul road and cars are not allowed there, especially in Winter.  If you've ever seen that reality show about Ice Truckers, you've seen the road.  It's really only for truckers.  There is a road from Nome to Teller that is usuable some of the year.  You have a few spurs off the main road that head off to Manley Hot Springs or Circle.

Back to the books and stories I mentioned earlier.  One book, I have no idea of the title, took place in Fort Yukon which is north east of Fairbanks.  It was about a nurse who worked at the regional hospital and drove down the road connecting Fort Yukon with Fairbanks for a night out.  First off, regional hospitals are not found in a place as small as Fort Yukon.  It might be a regional clinic but not a hospital.  Second the only "road" you can find out there is the river.  You could drive on it during the winter once its frozen but not any other time.

Another story I read, started off quite well.  The story takes place in winter when its so cold outside that you have to have your car plugged in to electricity to keep the battery from dying.  The author had the part about starting the car to warm it up before trying to drive.  The driver unplugged the car.  The wheels made a kurthunk sound because they had one side that was frozen so it makes a noise until it thaws and the wheel is round again.  So you want to know what made me mad about the whole story?  The author said it was midnight with the sun out.  It doesn't happen unless you are in Antarctica in the summer maybe but not in Alaska in the winter.

There are authors who write fiction set in Alaska that is done properly.  There are authors who did enough research to get everything right.  I'm sure everyone has had this experience

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Candy Bars

Chocolate, Candy, Sweet, Delicious  I have a weakness for chocolate, especially anything milk chocolate.  I especially enjoy candy bars if they have something in them like cranberries, nuts, toffee bits, or anything that keeps the candy from being totally plain.

Did you know the first candy bars were bitter, chewy, and dark because milk chocolate did not really exist?  In 1875, Nestle's figured out how to use condensed milk with chocolate to create milk chocolate.  When he did this, it meant milk chocolate bars no longer would mildew as they did when real milk was used.

After a bit of tweaking, the candy bar joined our diet and vocabulary.  That means candy bars are over 125 years old.  Just imagine that!  So Nestle's was responsible for the first milk chocolate candy bar.  The next candy bar to hit the market came from the Cadbury candy people over in England in 1897.  The Cadbury company really was one of the first socially responsible companies who paid their workers well and provided a pension.

Cadbury inspired Hershey's to start a factory in the middle of the dairy farms of Pennsylvania.  In 1900, Hershey's created its first chocolate bar and over the years has become a leader in producing chocolate and has a museum dedicated to chocolate. I've been through it and it is fantastic. Soon after, around 1908, a Swiss company released the wonderful Tobleroan bar in the triangular box. It was the first bar with a filling.  In 1921, the Baby Ruth came on to the market, celebrating the athletic prowess of Babe Ruth, the baseball player. 

In 1923, the Speery Candy Company created the Chicken Dinner candy bar filled with nuts and it was marketed as a nutritious item.  This creation was the fore father to Luna and Cliff bars. In 1930, the Snickers bar was launched.  Over the years it became the highest selling bar worldwide.  By 1937, Nestle's Crunch made its appearance.  It differed from most candy bars because it had puffed rice rather than nuts, caramel, etc and it brought the price of candy bars down, making them more affordable.

Look how far we've come in flavors and types of candy Bars.  My favorite is by the Green and Black company.  I love their dark chocolate bar with bits of ginger in it.  Yum, Yum, Yum.  Everyone has a favorite.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sugar, Sugar, Sugar

Food, Sugar, Crystals, Sweet, Grain  Every time I read a recipe that calls for super fine sugar or granulated sugar, I wonder if there is a difference and if so what is it?  Did you ever read the "Little House on the Prairie" books where they talk about chipping the sugar off a loaf, then pounding it into pieces so they can use it?  I did.  I assumed they would pound it until it was the desired type of sugar but now a days, the sugar comes ready to go.

It turns out that the classification of the sugar is based on the size of the crystals.  Some sugars are only used by bakeries or stores while others are available to the public.

Regular sugar, the type you have at home in your sugar bowl, is general sold in the store.  It might be labeled as extra fine or fine but these crystals will not cake and is used in most recipes calling for sugar.  Then is a fruit sugar whose crystals are finer than regular sugar and more uniform in size.  You are likely to find it in gelatin and pudding mixes.  The uniformity of crystals keep them in the mix better and most crystals do not settle out which is extremely important in these mixes.

Bakers special sugar is even finer than fruit sugar and was developed to be used in the baking industry.  It is used on doughnuts, cookies and often makes a crumblier cake due to its fineness.  Then is superfine, bar sugar, or ultrafine sugar has the smallest crystal sizes.  This is often used in meringues, and drinks where you want the sugar to dissolve quickly.  In England, it is similar to Caster sugar.

From here, we move to powdered sugar  which is regular sugar that has been ground to a powder that is then sifted with a bit of cornstarch added to prevent caking.  Sugar is ground into three different finenesses.  The finest is 10X which is found in the supermarket and used in icings, etc. The other two are used only in the baking industry.  I discovered my shortbread turns out better when I use powdered sugar rather than the regular sugar.

Last is the course sugar  and sanding sugar which have much larger crystals than the others.  Course sugar is used in fondants, confections and liqueurs while sanding sugar is used in the baking industry as sprinkle on baked goods.

As for brown sugar, there are a few types.  First off is turbinado which is a partially processed raw sugar which has had only the surface molasses rinsed off.  It has a lighter color and a mild brown sugar flavor.  It is good in tea and other beverages.  Next is evaporated cane juice which has been filtered, crystalized and cured.  It has a light brown sugar flavor.

Both light and dark brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses. Both are used in an assortment of ways from glazes to candy and both sugar clump due to the higher moisture than  white sugar.  If you find Muscovado or Barbados sugar, it is a much darker and sticker brown sugar than the normal  variety.

These are the major sugars out there.  I left out a few but still I didn't know there were so many and I learned quite a lot.  I hope you learned something from reading this.

10 Exotic Places.

Nepal, Annapurna, Trekking, WaterfallI love finding new places either on the internet or in real life.  There are places I want to visit when I have a bit more time and money but I can't right now.  I'd love to visit so many places I"d need to win the lottery.  In the mean time, I look at pictures on the internet to enjoy these places.

I checked out the internet and found some places I'd classify as breathtaking rather than exotic because when I saw pictures of the places, I was stunned.  Absolutely stunned.

The order of places will be in no particular order.

Pagoda, Bagan, Myanmar, Temple, Burma1. Bagan, Burma - Home of the largest number of Buddist temples per square mile in the world. Most of these temples were built between the 11th and 13th century.  It is possible to take a hot air balloon ride at dawn to enjoy the view.

2. Forest of Knives in Madagascar is a series of sharp razor edged rock sprouting up in a beautiful forest. A visitor can hike around the forest and rocks to observe the birds and animals. 

3. Namje, Nepal is extremely remote, accessible only by foot but the view is fantastic.  As you hike in on the footpaths, you have a view of Mount Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world.

4.  If you are a stargazer, check out Pisco Elqui, Chile where the skies are extremely clear and the weather is perfect year round.   

5.  If you are a fan of Conan Doyle's Lost World book, you have to head for Mount Roraima Venezuela. This place inspired the book.  It is a geologic formation that forms a natural boundary between Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana in South America. 

6.  While in South America, stop by Cano Cristales, Columbia. This is known as the most beautiful river in the world and nicknamed the "Liquid Rainbow". If you see it between July and November, the river bed is full of colors like red, green, blue, yellow, and black.

7. If you are in China, stop by Panjin Red Beach which has no sand but is a beautiful red from a type of seaweed.  The Red Beach is the highest wetland and reed marsh in the world.  The Sueda seaweed remains green through the summer and turns red in the fall.

Beach, Socotra, Yemen, Sea, Sand
Socotra, Yemen
8.  Do you enjoy rare flora and fauna?  If so head to Socotra, Yemen. Its landscape looks like it came out of a Science Fiction movie. It has over 800 rare flora and fauna.

9. Do you like strawberry milkshakes?  If you do head off to Lake Retba, Senegal in Africa has naturally occurring pink water, the same color as a strawberry milkshake. It has a high salt concentration that supports micro-organisms which produce the pink color of the water.

10. Are you planning on getting married in the near future?   Look at Fregate Island in the Seychelles.  This private island has a one of the worlds most exclusive resorts with seven pristine beaches to visit.  It is considered one of the ultimate honeymoon places in the world.

All of these places sound absolutely fantastic and I put them on my to see list for the future.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa, Man, Colombia, Peasant, Hand  After yesterday's research, I wondered about cocoa powders  because it is often recommended we use these to cook with.  Cocoa for baking has no added sugar or milk so its dairy free. 

Did you know there is something called Black Cocoa?  I didn't but it turns out this is a super dark dutch processed powder that gives baked goods a deep dark color and intense flavor.  Since it has little to no fat, it is important to increase the amount of fat. Black Cocoa is often used more for coloring and creating nuances rather than for actual flavoring.

2. Droste dutch processed cocoa comes highly recommended for baking.  It is not as dark as Black Cocoa but is darker than regular baking cocoa so its a nice inbetween.

3. Fauchon cocoa powder has a bittersweet flavor that comes through when used in baked items.

4. Valrhona which has a deep color, strong chocolate flavor and is great in baked items.

5. Green and Black has a fair trade cocoa that is not quite as good as the others but for many people is easier to find in the supermarkets.  It is said to have a coffee tinted flavor and is ok.

Not all cocoa powders are the same.  Some are used to make hot cocoa.  My neighbor makes some that is just cocoa and water which I hate because I prefer the milk added to smooth it out.  I remember saving my money to buy Droste for my hot cocoa.  I'd add the cocoa, sugar and some hot water, then top it with milk and I really liked it because the chocolate flavor was strong and outstanding.

It turns out there really isn't any information the best brand of cocoa powder to make your own hot cocoa.  There are recommended brands of drinking chocolate mixes that are highly recommended or you can try the various recipes that appear on the internet.  The bottom line for the recipes is that most start with a straight cocoa powder and you can add milk, sugar, to them to create the drink. 

Its interesting that one chocolate mix I had was grated chocolate you added to milk and heated.  As the milk heated, the chocolate pieces melted and were supposed to mix with the milk to create a nice homogeneous mix.  Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.  There were always strands of chocolate and I just didn't care for it as much.

I'm off to make myself a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa to enjoy while I watch snow machines try to race across the thin lake ice. Have a nice day.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Most Expensive Chocolate

Praline, Chocolates, Chocolate  I am craving a nice hot cup of cocoa today.  Its been snowing outside and its not all that cold, just breezy.  I also realized that when I want a hot cup of cocoa, I general reach for one of those packets of flavored drinks, tear it open, pop it in the cup, pour hot water, and voila I have something hot. 

I have purposely avoided looking at the ingredients because I know its filled with junk.  I need to start making it from scratch so its healthier but I'm kind of addicted to them.

Its like I used to eat tons of milk chocolate but when I dried the dark chocolate I discovered I could have one square and I was done.  I think its all the sugar in the milk chocolate that keeps me eating square after square.  To quote a potato chip. "I can't eat just one"!

I've had a chance to try the more expensive chocolates and some of those have some great nuances.  Kind of like when I watched the episode of the "Chocolate Whisperer"  from Leverage.  Two women were given a small sample of a chocolate and they had to get the country, bean, and percent purity of the chocolate.  It was fascinating to watch and realize you can tell a difference after I'd tried a few higher priced chocolates.

Of course with my inquiring mind, I wanted to know about the most expensive chocolates.  I did a quick search and I found some.

1. Chocopologie by Knipschildt that runs $2600 per pound for this creation.  This maker also has a $250 dark chocolate truffle filled with french black truffle that can only be obtained by pre-ordering it.

2. The Noka Vintages Collection is only $854 per pound. This company only uses the best dark chocolate from a few countries in South America.

3. Delafee chocolates are $504 per pound. What sets this chocolate apart from others is that the chocolates are made from the finest cocoa beans and encased in an edible 24 karat gold covering painted on by hand.

4.  The Godiva "G" collection is easily affordable at $120 per pound is actually a collection of various flavors.

5. To'ka chocolate at $260 per bar is made from the chocolate harvested from 1000 acre forest in Ecuador that survived a disease back in 1916.  The chocolate bar comes in a box with a 116 page book telling all about it.

6.  Prendime chocolate is much more affordable $55 per bar and is created in Tuscany by the worlds first female master chocolatier.

7.  Michael Cluizel collection for a measly $895.  It is filled with almost 400 delightful treats.

8. Gold and Diamond chocolates for $1210. This particular choice is often given for weddings and birthdays for very special people.  Some of the chocolates actually contain 22K gold or silver plus some other ingredients hence the high price.

9. Cadbury puts out a very expensive "Wispa Gold" at $1628 because it is wrapped in edible gold papers.

10. Sworvski Studded Chocolates are beautifully prepared at $10,000 per box.  The picture of their presentation make them look soooo appealing.

There are a couple of others but the last one is a collection called Le Chocolat Box that goes for 1.5 million dollars because it is made with diamonds.  Imagine being rich enough to drop 1.5 million for chocolates like this.

I fear I cannot afford anything on this list but its nice to dream isn't it?

Friday, April 15, 2016


Strawberry, Red, Macro  I have a visitor who was kind enough to bring me some fruits and veggies.  I realize that is not a big deal for most people but it is for me because of the prices out here.  All fruits and veggies have to be air shipped here and that can be quite a cost.

The other year, I paid almost $14.00 for a fresh cantaloupe.  Imaging that $14.00 for something most people pay maybe $4.00 at the most.  Bananas tend to run between 75 cents and 1.00 per banana.  That means a bunch can run between $5 and $13, depending on how many are on the bunch.

So when he handed me this box of big, ripe, beautifully scented strawberries, I fell in love.  Not with him but with the strawberries.  I am not a great host under these circumstances because I ran to the bathroom, locked the door, and just enjoyed the smell of fresh strawberries.  The aroma replaced the stale winter smell of the closed up house.

I sat down on the tub edge and took out the biggest one.  I'm sorry but I didn't lick it, didn't inhale the scent, didn't do anything you might do if you were trying to take time to fully worship and appreciate the offering.  No I didn't do any of that.  I shoved the thing in my mouth and took a bite of it, letting the juice run down my chin. 

I felt like I was eating Nirvana.  It tasted so rich, so delicious.  I loved the fresh, spring flavor that burst forth and invaded my mouth.  I signed and felt so sinful from the one bite.  After the flavor drifted away, I took a second bit to finish off the strawberry.  Again, I enjoyed the nuances of the fresh strawberry flavor. 

I managed to curb my desire to inhale all the strawberries in one sitting and put them away. The next day, I took several strawberries in my lunch to share with my coworkers.  After a long hard winter and a landscape of brown mud and white snow, the strawberries made everyone feel as if they were special.

You don't know how much you miss certain things until you can't get them or the cost becomes so prohibitive you can't afford them.  I have the last couple packed in my lunch today so I'll really enjoy them and be thankful for having received them as a gift.

Just to let you know, when I was a teenager, my parents could not afford much so I'd always spend part of my babysitting money on fruit.  I would buy pounds of fruit and enjoy each and every piece.  So I've had a life long love of fruit.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Not?

Cave, Darkness, Explorer, Man, Helmet  On my way over this morning, I was treated to a beautiful scene.  The sun was coming up and the sky by the eastern horizon was a deep bright red.  Absolutely, breathtaking to see the red surrounded by a lighter blue.

It was quiet and beautiful so my mind took off on a strange tangent.  I wondered why men had "Man Caves" but women don't.  Women have a sewing room or a crafts room but why can't we have our own cave where we can hide and do our thing?

I have got all these plans for later on and I need my own woman cave.  I want to learn to work on engines which can't be done in a craft room.  I'm learning about electronics, so I need space for my soldering iron, my electronic bits, copper tape, etc.  I don't know if electronics works in a sewing room.  Eventually, I plan to get a 3 D printer, a scanner, and a couple other things for my maker space.  The only thing on my list that might fit a craft room is wearable technology.

In high school I wanted to take an automotive class but the school wouldn't late us.  I was living in a very conservative place so they were way behind the times.  The excuse they used was ridiculous.  They said there was no where for girls to change into their work clothes.  We were like "We can change in the girls bathroom" but no it wasn't to be.

So now, I've discovered a whole new world out there of possibilities.  I just don't have the space for everything.  I have electronics stuff stacked on my coffee table with my exercise and dance videos.  The soldering iron is at the opposite end of the table.  I have my paper circuit stuff on top of my text books.  I have beads in the bedroom, on the night stand.  My material is on a shelf in the closet.  I actually lack a dining room table only because the apt is too small to have one and still have space to dance.

I need my own cave so I can fully organize stuff, and give me a real work space.  I can actually picture its design in my head so half of it will allow me to dance, do my beading and sewing while the other half will be for the electronics and computer stuff.  The engines?  Well those will fit in the garage.

So back to my original thought.  Why can't I have a woman's cave so I can do my electronics, my beading, my sewing, learn about engines and just do my thing?  <grins>  My private empire.....LOL

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Top 10 Hits of All Time!

When spring arrives, I start hearing more music in my head.  The other day it was something from the movie Grease.  This morning it was "House of the Rising Sun" because the sun was already enough for it to be light at 7:00 A.M.  Songs tend to pop in my head once spring arrives.  It almost like the music is my personal garden and starts to grow about now.  When it gets cold and dark, the music runs away and hibernates much like a bear or my perenials.

Disc, Audio, Vinyl, Record, SoundHave you ever wondered what songs are so wildly popular, they stay around for a long time?  I remember the popular songs from when I was young.  I have a familiarity with 40's music due to a family member who is much older and played swing all the time.

I went to Billboard because they tend to rank and follow music trends since I don't know when.  They have a list on the Greatest of all Time - Hottest 100 singles.  The top 10 are sprinkled with both old ones from the 50's and 60's and more recent ones from The Black Eyed Peas.  The first time I heard of the Black Eyed Peas I wondered why a food would be singing.  On to the list.

1.  The Twist by Chubby Checker

2. Smooth by Santana

3. Mack the Knife by Bobbie Darrin

4. How do I live by LeAnn Rimes

5. Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO

6. I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas

7.Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix) The dance to this song really made it around the world.  I saw it being done to Eskimo Drums one time with the exact same movements.

8. Physical by Olivia Newton-John

9. You Light Up My Life by Debbie Boone

10.  Hey, Jude by the Beatles. 

I though more of the Beatles numbers would be on the list because they started the screaming teenager phenomena.  I remember seeing clips on You Tube showing wild screaming almost out of control girls.

I hope one of your fav songs ended up on this list.  Have Fun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Its Officially Spring!!!!!

I saw patches of dark brown dirt peeking up through the snow.  This is a clear indication of spring around here.  It doesn't take long for the snow to melt and the whole place turn into a muddy bog.  Just a few weeks ago, we hand a nasty blizzard hit that dropped several feet of snow around the village, on my porch and enough was blown against doors that the doors were completely covered.

This past Thursday
When a blizzard like that occurs, you cannot see much.  This past Thursday, the storms had moved on,  leaving us with a beautifully sunny day so clear you could see the mountains in the distance.  The lake was still iced over completely and the snow was just starting to melt and get soft.  Almost a snow cone soft before its compacted.

Today, the lake ice is under 6 inches of water (I made the mistake of going across it but never again till next fall.)  It was soft enough, I thought the ice might crack.  Thank goodness, it did not.  The snow for the most part is turning to slush in certain parts of the village and there are places where the underlying support has disappeared.  You don't know until you sink down to your knee or thigh.

It doesn't help the city plowed the roads down to the mud.  They pushed the snow off to the sides making 15 foot tall mounds that kids are playing on.  The kids find these mounds almost hypnotic in that they cannot leave them alone.

The latest guess is that by early next week, the ice on the lake will be gone, the roads will all be mud, and the people who fancy themselves extreme athletes will be gunning their snow machines across the water in the hopes they can make it all the way without finding them selves neck deep in water.

You read that right.  Once the lake melts, friends and I will stand on the front porch and place bets on which person will make it all the way across and which one will have to be pulled out.  Its fun to watch them try to skip their machines across.  I'm not sure who holds the record for the most times of sinking in one day.

Years ago, I had a friend who as soon as they felt spring had arrived, they sat out on the front porch on a chair and enjoyed a hot cup of tea. It didn't matter the temperature was below zero.  It didn't matter the wind was blowing enough to cut through your coat and make you feel as if you were a walking Popsicle.  She didn't care.  To her, spring meant it was time to be outside, enjoying the "warm" weather.  When I need to enjoy spring, I put a gardening DVD on and watch it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

11 Weird Flavors Of Toothpaste

Toothpaste, Tube, Dental Hygiene  I was talking with a friend tonight about toothpaste.  He told me that one time he tried an orange flavored toothpaste that was absolutely horrid.  I've ended up with bubble gum flavored travel size toothpaste and I hate it because it left my teeth feeling like they had not been cleaned.  So what are some of the strangest flavors out there?

I found a flavor that I would never go for but my father would love - Scotch flavored toothpaste.  My father is a single malt drinker and he just might go for this. As for some strange flavors, well you can tell me what you think of these.

1. Mint and Licorice flavored toothpaste.  The two flavors are mixed together and it was designed to fight smokers breath and keep the teeth from yellowing.

2. Cupcake flavored toothpaste.  It is supposed to taste like cupcakes (I don't know what flavor of cupcake) but I don't think anything that sweet would clean your teeth so they felt clean.

3. Wasabi flavored toothpaste.  It may be good with sushi but I don't know how it works as a toothpaste flavor.  It sounds like it might be a bit hot.

4. Bacon flavored toothpaste for those people who want bacon with everything they eat.  They can have bacon with their meal and finish off cleaning their teeth with it.

5. Eggplant flavored toothpaste for those who love their vegetables and can't get enough eggplant during the day.

6. How about an Indo Curry flavored toothpaste to finish off your Indian meal.

7. Need to wake up fast in the morning?  How about a coffee flavored toothpaste.  I don't know if it includes the caffeine or if its just the flavor but I'm sure this appeals to certain people.

8. Monkey brand black toothpaste, a wonderful combination of charcoal and something similar to Vick's Vapor Rub.

9. Email Diamant Rouge is a french concoction that has been around since 1893.  It is a dark red toothpaste with a mint/clove/licorice flavor that manages to stain things pink.

10. Champagne flavored toothpaste for those who want to finish the day off with a feeling of celebration.

There are quite a few other odd flavors out there such as blueberry, coca cola, chocolate and other relatively benign flavors.  I went with the odder ones.  Enjoy the read. 



Sunday, April 10, 2016


This weekend is the annual Winterfest celebration of dance and fun.  Each year the town hosts a three night dance festival and invites other villages to come share their dances for 30 to 45 min.  Each night the order of the dancers changes with the host village being first the first night, around the middle on the second night and last on the third night.

First, Won, Competition, 1, SymbolTraditionally, any first celebration occurs on the first night.  A first celebration is where all the members of a family get up and dance to celebrate a first that a child or member of the family did.  At the end of the dance, members of the family go around, passing out gifts such as socks or gloves to those attending.

This year there were four first celebrations. Each focused on something different.:

The first one involved a young couple and family who celebrated their 2 or 3 year old daughter's first dance.  She was decked out in her own head dress, dance fans, kuspuk, and boots.  They placed her on a cow skin in the middle of the family and everyone danced.  At that age, the kids look so cute that they steal the show.

Next,  one of the elders was honored with a life time achievement award from a major dance festival in the area.  His family danced in remembrance of their mother and his wife, on the first year anniversary of her death.  One of the daughters announced a potluck to be held the next day to celebrate the one year anniversary of her death. 

The third family celebrated a son's catching his first walrus. The mother made sure all the family members had new matching kuspuks and the young man knelt on a skin as he and the others danced.  Traditionally, men kneel in front while the women dance behind standing.

4. The final family celebrated their youngest son's first moose. The family stood around the young man as he held the rack of a moose which was almost bigger than him. According to the father, his son is becoming a great hunter.

Traditional Native Dance

Once these finished, the best part of the night began with dancing, dancing, and more dancing.  The dancing was pretty straight forward with no one getting particularly fancy.  But on the second night, the humor broke loose.  There are three different dance groups in this town and they came together  for the celebration so other dance groups would have a chance to perform.  The great thing is even if you don't actually know the dances, you can still go up, stand in a place to follow someone in front of you or next to you.

It got really funny at one point when one of the ladies began exaggerating the movements to the point that she made everyone around her laugh.  The audience kept asking for more and about the 7th time through, two of the drummers got up. One put on a head dress and the other grabbed a scarf and both joined the women in dancing. This caused the audience to laugh even harder because the drummers are male.

The three people were so funny, that I almost couldn't dance.  At one point, the woman was moving at me and I had to jump out of the way.  It made the audience laugh more.  They appreciate funny dancing and often demand to see it again and again until everyone is tired.  The next dance celebration is in the fall but in the meantime, people will head off to other villages within a 3 to 4 hour drive over the next couple of weeks.

Winterfest celebrates the end of the winter and the beginning of spring.  It happens every year in April and brings in three to six surrounding villages.  There was one that had planned to come but didn't make it because of a death there. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Most Expensive Places to Visit

City, Tokyo, Street View, Harajuku, Road  When I travel, I go for the cheapest way I can.  I've stayed at hostels, campgrounds, universities, B & B's and cheap hotels.  When I went to the United Kingdom, I hit a booking agency after I decide where I"m going and set up my stay at B & B's. I have always had a great time staying at the various venues.

I wondered where the most expensive places to visit are and most of the places are on my "I want to see" list.  I have been to a couple on the list and I found ways around some of the costs.

1. Tokyo, Japan - Apparently good hotels, taxis, and a night on the town are so expensive.  This is one of the places on my list along with Hiroshima and a few other places.

2.Cancun, Mexico because it has developed into a resort, touristy area with the costs attached to that type of vacation. 

3. Copenhagen, Denmark made the list due to its multi-starred expensive hotels, wonderful night life, and happening places to hang.  It is possible to visit here so its not expensive if you are willing to forgo many of these pleasures and do things like buy alcohol to drink in your hotel room.

4. London, England has become more expensive because of the exchange rate so it can cost almost double the U. S. dollars.  Hotels and transport can be expensive but the last time I was there, I stayed in a lovely B&B in Kensington, bought all my food from the stores, took the subway or walked and had a blast.

5. Sydney, Australia also has a stronger exchange rate so its become more expensive in U.S. dollars.  In addition, Sydney is even more expensive to live in than Hong Kong, New York City or Copenhagen.  There is also the ticket to fly there and once there due to the exchange rate, a beer can cost $10.

6. Paris, France has developed into a more expensive city.  If you take into account that a decent hotel runs around $360, cocktails are 20 Euros or around $23.00 per drink, the costs can add up quickly.

7. New York City can be expensive with a decent 4 star hotel running just over $300 per night.  Taxi rides can add up and so can meals, etc. 

8. Stockholm, Sweden has its own currency so things can be expensive when you convert from dollars or euros into the local currency.  It has so many attractions but again the cost can add up.

9. Zurich, Switzerland which offers so many activities in and around the city.  A decent four star hotel can average over $300 per night, a taxi ride $40, and a beer $11 per drink.

10.  Oslo, Norway is considered the most expensive place in the world to visit.  Its expensive to visit, to stay there and to visit the museums, etc.

I am the type who does not stay in four star hotels in general.  I am more likely to stay at a hotel or cheap hotel, go to the supermarket to buy food, walk or take public transportation, pack light, and just have fun.  I've also checked web-sites so I could find good deals on places to stay.  I've asked the owners of the B & B's where I should go visit and have ended up at places most tourists do not visit. 

When I was in London, I checked out the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace but didn't stick around because of the huge number of people there.  I ended up at the Tower of London which had its own changing of the guards and that was more fun.  I hate tours, I hate staying in expensive hotels because they are not as fun.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Non-Electric Slow Cooker

Teapot, Electric, Beverages, YellowI own two slow cookers.  I bought one (a large 4 quart size) and my mother gave me a smaller one (a one person size).  I don't like using them because even on low, they seem to overcook the meal.  Its not burned, it just doesn't taste right.

 A while ago I bought a bag from Amazon called the "Wonderbag".  Its an insulated bag that holds the heat in so your meal cooks over several hours without using electricity.  I like it so much.

The way it works is that you cook the beans, or soup, or other dish on top of the stove for 10 or 15 min, and put in the bag.  I usually wrap a towel around the pan because I actually use a Japanese or Korean clay or ceramic pot that has a good close fitting lid.  I don't want to burn or scorch the fabric.

The wonderbag looks like a round sleeping bag with a draw string and a lid.  The whole thing about the size of your curved arms with fingers meeting.  I open it and place the wrapped pot inside, top it with the top and slide the string so its nicely closed.  I leave it in a corner till I get home or get up and its all ready to eat.

I've used it for beans that I pre-soaked (I boil the beans for 2 to 3 min, turn off the heat and let cool).  After I've gotten them hot again, I put in the bag and wait a few hours.  I've cooked rice, grains, soup, casserole, etc.  I don't eat meat so I do not know how it would work.  I've heard it is good for making yogurt which makes sense because I have heated the milk, added the culture, wrapped in several blankets and put in the oven over night.

I've even used some of those boxed mixes for beans and rice, or quick all in one pasta dishes and they worked well.  The next stop is selecting recipes from my slow cooker cookbooks to try.  I purchased this because I got a bag and the company donated one to needy folks in Africa.  Yes it was a bit more expensive than a slow cooker but it evens out because I am not using as much electricity.

Check it out and enjoy.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

11 Strange Pasta Dishes

Pasta, Fettuccine, Food  I eat a lot of pasta.  I'm sure you do.  I think pasta is a main stay for many countries such as Italy, Japan, China, the United States, and several other places.  Some of the pasta is familiar to people and some is not as familiar.  I found several ways pasta is not being used in a familiar way.

1.  Ramen Burger where the creator used cooked, fried ramen as the buns with the burger in between.

2. A breaded fried macaroni slab surrounding a hamburger patty with lettuce, tomato, and onion.

3.  Spaghetti placed inside the meatballs, covered in sauce and topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese.  

4. Dry uncooked squares of ramen with slices of cheese and ham in between to create a sandwich.

5.  Fried slabs of spaghetti replaces the buns in a hamburger.

6. Spaghetti taco where the cooked spaghetti with sauce is served as the filling of taco.

7. Deep fried spaghetti and meatballs.

8. Ramen noodle pizza crust covered by sauce, pepperoni and other toppings.

9. Red velvet ravioli where pasta and doughnut doughs are mixed together and run through a ravioli maker while the red velvet cake batter is turned into cookie sized pieces that becomes the filling.  Once the ravioli is made, it is deep fried and finished off with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

10. Grilled noodle sandwiches.  Instead of a cheese filling, use any flavored noodles inside and grill.  The noodles could be combined with veggies or kim chi but use a sturdy bread as the noodles can be juicy.

11. Noodle infused taco.  Take ramen noodles, cook and drain them, add the taco flavoring and use instead of meat to fill a taco with the  lettuce, onion, cheese, etc.

I'll be honest, the red velvet ravioli doesn't sound to bad but the rest of them are a bit out there for my usual eating habits.  What do you think.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Goop, Slime, ETC

Background, Texture, Pink, Paint  Yesterday, I had fun making slime with some kids.  You might have heard of it as silly putty or goop.  Its a stretchable, bouncing mixture that takes 3 ingredients, two cups, teaspoons and its is tons of fun.

Mix 1/4 tsp of borax in 1 Tbsp of water and mix until the borax is dissolved and add a drop or two of food coloring.  In a separate cup mix 1 Tbsp glue into 1 tblsp of water.  Pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture and stir with a wooden stick till it coagulates.  It makes a nice amount for one person. Once its done, pull out the solid and start playing with it so it turns from sticky to nice and smooth.  E

  It was great watching the kids carefully measure everything.  They loved the way it coagulated so quickly. Once it was made, they bounced it on the table, they stretched it, broke it, folded it, and even discovered it would make copies of pencil or markers.

One person make it into a long roll, dropped it, and swung it around making it become a slender thread.  They noticed some mixtures were softer than the others. One kid even figured out that if you tapped the slime, the sound waves vibrated the material. 

When one of the kids broke it in half, they noticed that it was a smooth break, not rough.  They just kneaded it and they were off playing with it.  In regard to bouncing, the kids noticed it did bounce but not well.  At the end of the time, they wrapped it in plastic wrap to take home. The next morning, she said that it had released gas so the plastic wrap expanded. 

It was lots of fun and really easy to play with.  Try it and enjoy it.  Just be careful discarding the left over.  don't put the remaining borax and the glue solutions down the sink or it might clog it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Poor Lonely Socks

Socks, Colorful, Stockings, Clothes Line  We've all had it happen.  You stick your laundry in the washer, wash it, then put it in the dryer.  When the clothing is dry, you sort it, and you are missing one or two socks.  Just enough to make you search through things to see if you missed them.

I have friends who  routinely wear unmatched socks.  They didn't care if they wore a purple stripped one with a pink flowered one.  Their logic was simply that no one saw the socks so who cared.

On the other hand, some people insist that their socks match.  If that is the case for you, here are some ideas for using the single socks so you don't have to throw them out.

1.  Cut off the foot to use to insulate bottles and cups.

2. Use for dusting.

3. Use to store tennis balls, golf balls, or other small items.

4. Moisturize feet or hands and cover with socks when you go to bed.  This will help soften hands or feet.

5. Use on your Swiffer instead of Swiffer sheets.

6. Use over hot packs or ice packs.

7. Slip your dress shoes into socks to keep them clean when you have them in your suitcase.

8.  Use to store Christmas ornaments and delicate items.

9. Create pet toys with them.  For instance fill one with cat nip, stitch shut and you have a great cat toy.

10. If you cut the leg off a tube sock, slide it over your arm, double it over and slip your mobile device in there, you can keep it safe and listen to music while you do things such as raking leaves.

11. Slide the sock over the mouth of a vacuum hose, secure, and use the suction of the vacuum cleaner to pick up screws, pins, etc.

13. Fill socks with rice and then put around areas with cracks to keep the cold out and the heat in.

14.  Fill the socks with rice, heat and you have a nice hot pack for sore muscles.

15. Put a bar of soap inside a sock, tie it closed and tie to a faucet so you can wash hands before coming into the house.

Have fun trying some of these.  I know I'll be trying some myself.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, April 4, 2016

14 Strange pizza toppings

Pizza, Slice, Italian, Toppings, Dinner Pizza is an American favorite, especially pepperoni.  Most of people do not need an excuse to order pizza for dinner.  When I'm in town, I love picking up a Papa Murphy's pizza for the night.  I like it because you bake it fresh in the oven and serve it hot.

I wondered what pizza flavors are favored in other countries or are they the same as the U.S.? It turns out some countries have some very interesting combinations.

1.  In Brazil, they like thin crusts with thin layers of sauce while being topped with peas, carrots, beets, and quail eggs.  I'm not sure about the quail eggs but I think the rest sounds really good.

2. In Australia they top pizzas with barbecue sauce and  an exotic meat like Emu, Kangeroo, or Crocodile. Sounds exotic.

3. France loves to have fried eggs on their pizzas. Sometimes the eggs are baked on the pizza, sometimes they are fried separately and added later but the egg yolk is always on top.

4. Russia loves the Mockba pizza which is sardines, tuna, mackerel, onion, salmon and red herring, the fish lovers special.  I'm not sure about a couple of things but they really enjoy it.

5. India has their unique version with tandoori chicken or mutton, pickled ginger and paneer (cottage cheese), with loads of mayonnaise on top of it.  This sounds a bit strange but the pickled ginger would give it a small kick.

6. Germany is known for using canned tuna mixed with vegetables and other ingredients on their pizzas.

7.  Finland's most popular pizza was named after a former Italian Prime Minister.  It is topped with smoked reindeer, chanterelle mushrooms and red onions.  I know some kids who would really enjoy this combination.

8.  The mayo jaga is the most popular pizza in Japan with mayonnaise, bacon, corn, potatoes, and onion. It is so popular it can be ordered from Dominos.

9. In the United Kingdom, they have a pizza with haggis and cavolo nero, black chile jam, and mozzarella. This particular one can even be found frozen in the supermarket.

10. In the Palestine area, pizzas are generally covered with pine nuts, spices and cinnamon mixed in olive oil.  This one doesn't sound too bad at all.

11. Costa Rica loves their coconut and shrimp pizzas.

12. Sweden has their popular Pizza Africana that is topped with peanuts, bananas, chicken, pineapple and loads of curry powder.  It is nick named a banana curry pizza.

13. Back to Japan for a pizza that uses squid ink instead of tomato sauce and topped with a variety of seafood.  This pizza has no cheese.  The ink makes the pizza kind of black.

14.  For dessert, you can order a chocolate marshmallow pizza in New York.

So now you know about the most popular pizzas found in other countries. Some don't sound bad but others are interesting in a purely intellectual manner.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Around the World in 80 What?

Rhubarb, Bud, Earth, Leaf, Red, GreenThe other day, I came across a book titled “Around the World in 80 Plants by Stephen Barstow.  He wrote a 280 page book looking at 80 different edible perennial plants he grows in his garden in Norway. 

These plants last for more than one year and can be planted in those spots in your yard that you don't use because its too wet, too dry, too shady, or too something.

Perennials are nice plants that return year after year. Some of the ones we are most familiar with are plants like dandelions, rhubarb, and watercress.  I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that he takes his grand kids to pick dandelion flowers and makes a jelly from them.  According to the book, all parts of the dandelion is edible from the root to the leaves to the flower stems.  I've always thought of it as a weed, a pesky pain in the but weed. 

The book is divided up into 6 chapters, each chapter focuses on a different geographical area and the plants found there.  Each listing has its Latin name, English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian names, a description with information on if it can be raised from seeds or cuttings, pictures and information, quotes about the plant from other printed material and occasionally a recipe is included. If there are several edible varieties, he notes that and states which varieties he is looking at.

It turns out that many of these plants are found in more than one geographic location. The descriptions given are so fascinating.  The author gives a nice history of the plant, areas where it is normally grown, parts of the plant that are eaten and ways of preparing it. 

For instance, there is a plant in Chile called prickly rhubarb but it is not rhubarb.  It does not have the tart flavor  of regular rhubarb but is often eaten raw.  It can be made into marmalade, jelly, etc.  Unfortunately, prickly rhubarb and real rhubarb are often confused and all of it is sold as rhubarb.

On the other hand, rhubarb is a long living perennial that can grow above the tree line in Norway.  I’ve seen it grow in Fairbanks, Alaska where its grown on a very gravelly soil.  After like 12 years, the plant is huge and produces so much rhubarb that its easy to freeze for use in the winter.  The plant survives a temperature range from -40 F or -40 C  your choice to around 80 or 90 F or 30 plus C.  Apparently the Russians brought it to Alaska to help fight scurvy.  He gives a Norwegian dessert recipe where the cooked, sweetened rhubarb is thickened with potato flour and topped with sour cream.

According to Stephen Barstow, perennials are easier to raise, require less work, and return year after year.  Most of the plants he chose, I've never heard of but they look interesting.  Check it out at your local library. It is great reading.

Have you ever wondered what the top pizza flavors in the world are?  Check the blog out for the information tomorrow.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Around the World in 80 Days.

Beautiful Steam Ship, Paddle Steamer
I’m sure you’ve heard of the book Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  I’ve never actually read the book but I have seen a couple different versions of the movie including the one with Jackie Chan.  I’ve always associated comedy with the story because of the way the movies were written.

It turns out, back in the 1800’s, a woman reporter tried to traverse the world in 80 days.  Did you know that Nellie Bly, a reporter for the “New York World”, talked her bosses into letting her try to beat the fictional record set by Phileas Fogg in the novel.  After a year of arguing with them because they thought she would have too much luggage or be too frail, they finally agreed.  She left New York City on November 14, 1889 with 200 pounds in English gold and some American currency and nothing more than one small (16 inches wide and 7 inches high) suitcase.

As she traveled the world, she sent back reports but due to the time it took for the material to get back to the paper, they would often run contests so people could guess when she arrived at her next destination.  At the end of the trip, the twenty five year old had bested the record by setting her own.  It took her 72 days of travel but she did it!

Most people have heard of Nellie Bly and her trip.  But what about Elizabeth Bisland?  Do you know who she is?  She worked for the monthly magazine Cosmopolitan.  When the publisher got wind of Nellie Bly’s trip, he arranged for Elizabeth Bisland to make her own attempt at going around the world in 80 days. She left on the exact same day as Bly, six hours after she was contacted to do the job.

Nellie Bly went east to Europe and Elizabeth went west towards San Francisco.  Nellie Bly was unaware of her competition until she got to Hong Kong on Christmas Day, when she was informed by the steamer company that Elizabeth had passed through just three days prior. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was given some incorrect information in England which caused her to miss her connection with a fast ship that might have helped her win.  Instead, she had to take a slower steam ship and arrived four days after Nellie. 

Although Elizabeth arrived four days later, both she and Nellie arrived in under 80 days.  Nellie’s journey was followed more closely because her publication ran daily so the newspaper could easily publish updates, speculations, run contests, etc while Elizabeth’s magazine could only publish the information it had, once a month.

One interesting fact about Elizabeth is that when she died, her obituary did not mention her trip around the world.  This maybe because her writing tended to be a more literary nature and she focused on more serious topics.  She did publish a book in 1891 about her trip.

Did you know that both ladies are buried in the same cemetery in the Bronx?  Its fascinating that the fictional story is better known than these two ladies who proved the trip could be done at a time that men dominated the world and women were considered frail.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I talk about another trip about the world but this one won't be in days.

Friday, April 1, 2016

11 Uses for Cornstarch

Pop Corn, Yellow, Pop, Popcorn, Food I regularly use cornstarch in two or three ways.  The first is to thicken gravies or pudding in cooking or I use it at school as a way of teaching plasticity in Science. I've used it when my children were young to help prevent diaper rash. Recently I heard of some interesting ways to use it outside of the kitchen or with kids.

Just a bit of background first. Cornstarch is made out of the finely ground endosperm of the corn.  It is ground, washed, and dried until it reaches a powdery state.

Did you know that you could use it to:

1. Remove an ink stain from cloth by making a paste of cornstarch and milk?  You make the paste, put it on the stain, let dry and brush off.

2. Kill cockroaches by mixing equal parts of plaster of Paris with cornstarch and spreading in cracks and crevices?

3. Stop floorboards from squeaking by applying cornstarch to the area of the seams where the boards rub together.

4. Create your own finger paint from a mixture of boiled cornstarch and water with food coloring added to it.

5. Soothes sunburn by mixing cornstarch with water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the sunburn or skin irritation, let rest till it is dry, then brush off.

6.  Helps in untangling knots.  Sprinkle cornstarch on the knot, rub in a bit, and the knot is much easier to take apart.

7. Create your own matte nail polish by mixing cornstarch with nail polish on a post it note, then apply to your nails.

8. Lift scorch marks from fabric by wetting the affected area, covering with cornstarch, let it dry and brush away.

9.  Getting rid of blood stains. Make a paste of cornstarch and cold water, apply to stain, rub it in, let it dry in the sun, then remove the dried cornstarch.  You might need to repeat.

10. Remove oil stains. Sprinkle cornstarch over the stain or smudge, let rest to give it a chance to absorb the oil before cleaning as usual.

11. To keep cards from sticking, put the cards in a bag with a couple teaspoons of cornstarch, shake well, remove cards and wipe the cornstarch off with a dry cloth.

Most of these uses, I'd never heard of before.  This list is going up on my refrigerator as a quick reference.  I sew a lot and the one for getting rid of blood stains is going to come in handy because I have yet to make anything where I don't shed blood on it.  Enjoy the list.