Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Created With Plastic

Since the local school is so small, they open the prom to everyone who is in sixth grade or older.  The junior class is in charge of running the prom and then the seniors incorporate the props into the graduation ceremony.  They always set up the prom in the school cafeteria because its not that large of an even.

This year's junior class got quite creative.  Instead of ordering everything from the prom company, they ordered the basic package with some rolls of fuzzy stuff. The rest of the room was done with black plastic garbage bags and that white plastic roll plastic you use when you have to cover tons of tables at an outdoor gathering.  That and several staplers to attach it to the wall.

As you can see in the picture to the left, the room looked really nice.  The black behind the table covers the kitchen serving window.  If you look carefully at the end of the table, you can see the door into the kitchen.  The price of the ticket includes food and punch. 

The photo to the right shows the area where the hired DJ is set to play music all night.  The DJ is usually the kid in the village with the speakers and enough songs to keep everyone happy and entertained.  I think the going rate is around $100 to $150 for the night.  I seldom go in there once the dance starts because the music is too loud for my comfort.
For a more detailed look at one of the columns, check out the picture to the left.  The draping material along the top is the white plastic sheeting while the black is made up of black plastic trash bags cut open and tacked to the wall.  They happened to be on sale at the store and do a good job of blocking out the light.

At the time of year when the prom happens, the sun is up till midnight or later and if they don't do something to block the light from coming in the windows, they'd never be able to create the intimate atmosphere.  The prices are determined by the level of dress the people choose.  If you are in formals, you can get in for less than those who arrive in casual attired.  I had the pleasure of tying several ties for the young men who only dress up once or twice a year.

The thing about the prom is that each year the juniors think that theirs is the best yet.  I suspect that is because its so new and the previous year's remembrance has softened due to time.   I will say, this group had the best use of plastic I've seen in a very long time. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

I Figured It Out!!!!! The Answer To "How do I Get More Exercise?"

I am a walker.  I love walking.  A short walk is anything under 2 miles.  I am always trying to figure out more ways to add walking to my daily routine so I get the recommended 30 minutes per day.   Recently, the weather has been such that we've had those sudden showers that drench you in three minutes flat.  Usually when I go into town, I park at the back end of the parking lot so I can walk up to the stores but this time, I did something different.

Feet, Lady, Walking, Sandles, FemaleFriday I went into town with someone who cannot walk that far due to being disabled.  Usually, I stick close but I don't get enough of a walk to be satisfied. I like to feel as if I went somewhere.

So this time,  I did something a bit different.  I listed all the places we needed to go and grouped them into areas.  This way my friend was in one store while I walked to a bunch of others. For instance we put Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and the grocery store in one stop.  My friend went into Barnes and Noble while I popped over to Walmart to pick a few things up and then  to the grocery store.  My friend picked me up and dropped me off at Walgreens to pick up a couple things while he went to Sam's. 

I popped over to Joanne's fabrics to see which patterns were on sale. Since nothing I wanted was on sale, I walked over to Taco King where he picked me up on his way to Music Mart to get a snake for my French Horn.  A snake is a long thin tool with brushes to clean the crud out of the pipes in my horn. 

It was great.  I think I covered a couple of miles walking from one store to another.  I forgot to bring my pedometer.  I found it when I got home.  I accidentally washed it last night but it was still working, so I put it in a safe spot and now I can't find it.  I always do that.

I really enjoyed all the walking I got in because I  didn't get a chance to do any more exercising.  I think the next time I go shopping with my friend, I'm going to do this again.  It allows me to do all the walking I want and keeps my friend from from too much. It meant we both got what we needed.  He got his shopping done and I got a nice long walk in at the same time. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

8 Facts about Worcestershire Sauce.

Sauce, Tomato, Salsa, Food, Jar, GlassDid you ever wonder about Worcestershire sauce?  My parents always had a bottle in the cupboard when I was growing up but I never new what it was.  According to the Lea & Perrin's website, in the early 1800's  a nobleman came back to his home in Worcester from Bengal and he wanted to reproduce something he'd acquired.  He hired two chemists (Lea & Perrin) to work on it.  Their initial results were so bad, they banished them down to the cellar. 

A few years later, they stumbled across their first attempt and tried it again.  It had become much better after being aged for a while. They liked this one better and soon began bottling their savory sauce composed of vinegar and spices, selling it without advertising. Word of mouth caused it to spread to kitchens across Europe.

In 1839 a gentleman began importing the sauce and soon he was importing large shipments to meet demand. At this time it was the only commercially bottled condiment on sale.  It is still quite popular in the United States and Worldwide even today. 

Interesting facts:
1.  To keep people from selling imitation bottles of Worcestershire sauce, Lea and Perrins put their signatures on every bottle.

2. When Lea and Perrins began shipping their bottles overseas, everything went by boat.  Since the sauce was in glass bottles, some often broke during transit.  So Lea and Perrin's wrapped each bottle in a paper wrap for protection.  Although it is not needed, the practice still continues.

3.  It is currently sold in over 75 countries.

4. It takes 1 to 2 years for each batch of Worcestershire sauce to ferment properly before being bottled.

5.  The sauce takes its name from the place it was originally made.

6.  A court in 1876 decided that Lea and Perrin's do not own the right to the term Worcestershire Sauce.

7.  Worcestershire sauce contains dissolved anchovies or fish.

8. In 1919, an ad state that Worcestershire sauce claimed it could help your hair grow beautifully.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Getting Ready

Nature, Landscape, Green, Forest, Trees  For the next two weeks or so, I'll be traveling so you are going to get a travel blog interspersed among my regular entries.  I leave this evening around 5 PM and fly down to Washington State.  I'll take lots of pictures to share, and comment on things as I head off.  Thursday of next week I'll be flying off to Hawaii for one week due to attending and presenting at an educational conference.  The week after I fly back to Washington state just in time to see two of my nephews graduate from high school.  There are about 18 years difference in age between my oldest (the first grand child) and the youngest ones.

The following week, I'll be flying home to Alaska for a few weeks.  I warn you right now, I love walking around town, any town, because I find all sorts of wonderful things you never see when you are in a car or on the bus.  I'll have my parents with me so they like to take the bus but I can always start a bit early and meet them somewhere. 

I still have to pack, plant a few things, and figure out which electronic devices are coming with me and make sure I have everything I need.  My neighbor is one of those ladies who is always packed one to two weeks ahead of any trip she takes.  Me?  I wait till the evening before I head out but I've got a list I've been making so that I get it all packed. 

I enjoy traveling but most of my traveling is done because I'm on my way to or from a conference that I'm attending or presenting at. I seldom go somewhere just because I want to.  Much of that is because I'm limited on the time I can get off from work to travel.  Next August I'm going to try to head off to Finland for a short visit to attend a conference.  It will be about the same time I start teaching but I hope to get the time off.

Later in the summer, I'm hitting Portland which has some great farmer's markets and Los Angeles - which is always full of traffic and extremely urban but I'm staying right next to a shopping mall so I can pick up a couple things.  The mall with the target is a couple blocks away and I'm always trying to wander through the neighborhood rather than walking on the noisy streets and I get kind of turned around......LOL.

I usually have a couple other things lined up but they did not fit in this summer so maybe next summer.  Tonight I'm hoping to down load the pictures from my camera so I can talk about this year's prom.  They used plastic garbage bags and those long plastic table cloths to create a really awesome room.  I'll explain more tomorrow or Sunday.  It all depends.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Monopoly - Who Really Invented It?

Monopoly Junior, Monopoly, Board Game  I'm sure you are familiar with the story concerning the creation of Monopoly.  A learned a real estate game from friends, obtained a written set of rules, eventually sold it to Parker Brothers and the rest is history.  When asked how he was able to invent it out of thin air, he said it was a freak.  This story has held for a long time.  But is it the truth?

According to a few things I discovered on the net, it is likely, he was inspired by a game that was created and sold at the turn of the century. A woman in Washington DC created the game "The Landlord's Game" as a political commentary against the problems of the time.  The game expressed her political views.

In 1903, she patented her game and approximately two years later, she published a version of the game through the Economic Game Company in New York. The game took off among the college and intellectual groups including the Quakers in Atlantic city who customized their boards with the names of various neighborhoods.  From there it made its way to the gentleman who sold the game to Parker Brothers.

Before you get upset, Parker Brothers did pay her $500 for her "Landlord's Game" and two other games but she received absolutely no royalties.  Although she could prove she had invented the game, she never got any more monies and faded into obscurity until the Anti-Monopoly game was released.

Her contribution came out when the creator of the Anti-Monopoly game was sued for copyright infringement.  Due to his research, her contribution came out and after a decade, he won.

Now for some interesting facts about Monopoly:
1.  The Monopoly man may have been modeled after J.P. Morgan.

2. The highest rent property for each international version is different.

3.  During World War II, the British secret service used Monopoly boxes to smuggle escape maps to prisoners in Germany.

4. There is even a Braille version of the game.

5. The city of London was used in the first licensed game but it is now Atlantic City.

6. The total amount of money in the standard Monopoly game is $20,580.

7. There have been more than 300 licensed specialty version of Monopoly created based on sports, movies, etc.

8. The longest Monopoly game on record lasted 70 days.

9. Over 1 billion people have played Monopoly.

10. The most expensive Monopoly game cost over $2,000,000 because of the 23 carat board and diamond encrusted dice.

11. Between 1940 and 1960, it was voted America's most popular board game.

12. In 1978, Neiman Marcus offered a chocolate version for $600.

13.  It can be played online now.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

12 Facts about Tabasco Sauce

Bottle, Hot, Tabasco, Sauce, Food, Spice  Although I love kim chi, I'm not much of a hot sauce eater.  I don't like throwing it on everything to spice things up.  I  much prefer adding the heat during cooking so that it's a flavorful hot, not a burn your mouth up hot.  The main hot sauce found at work is the world wide Tabasco sauce.

After a bit of research, I found out there is only one brand allowed to label itself as "Tabasco Sauce" due to a decades long infringement court case in which McIlhenny's won against B. F. Trappey and sons.

Tabasco sauce is strictly an American invention from Avery Island, Louisiana.  Avery Island is a small salt dome in Iberia Parish which the McIlhenny family has owned for years.  Although the family came into possession of the seeds via a returning soldier from Mexico, they did not begin commercial production for another 10 to 12 years.  The first commercial product showed up shortly after the Civil War.

Using Tabasco Peppers, Avery Island salt, and vinegar, the McIlhenny created an enduring sauce after finding their island fought over by both sides in the Civil War due to the salt it produced.  By 1872, McIlhenny obtained a patent for the sauce.  Since then it has expanded and developed a world wide following.

1  The peppers are picked, mashed, mixed with salt and placed in barrels to age for 3 years before the vinegar is added and a month later, the mixture is strained and bottled.  Originally, the mixture was fermented for 30 days before the vinegar was added.

2. A 130 year old Tabasco bottle was excavated at the remains of an African American owned saloon in Virginia City, Nevada.  This establishment was one of the places to offer the sauce.

3.  The Bloody Mary drink began in Paris but it wasn't until the creator was working in New York, that he added various ingredients to the tomato juice and vodka, including Tabasco.  No one is sure where the name came from for the drink.

4.  B. F. Trappey used to work for McIlhenny before he branched out on his own.  He had the seeds and created his own Tabasco sauce but once he lost the copyright infringement case, no one including him could use the title Tabasco sauce, they could only list the peppers as an ingredient.

5. Tabasco sauce is kosher.

6.  There was a gentleman who sold his own hot sauce about 4 years before McIlhenny began selling his but there are differences in the two recipes including the original guy boiled his while McIhenny fermented his.

7. McIlhenny bottled his original sauce in discarded cologne bottles.

8.  On average, each 2 ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce has 720 drops.

9. Some of the seeds are kept in the local bank vault just in case.

10. Tabasco sauce is found in the MRE's for both American and British forces.  In the Vietnam war, the company sent a recipe book and bottles of the sauce to servicemen.  The book showed how to use the sauce in C-rations to make them better.

11.  Tabasco sauce has even gone to space with the astronauts.  It helped spice up the rather dull meals.

12.  There is even a Tabasco flavored ice cream available at the Tabasco county store on Avery Island.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Home Ownership and Mortgages.

As I write this blog, I'm listening to Public Radio.  I don't know the name of the program but they are discussing the history of home ownership and the government.  It was interesting to hear that there was a movement to have people buy their own houses in the 1920's for political reasons.  It was thought that if people owned their homes they were less likely to be a radical. 

Holiday House, Summer House, HomeSo I wondered about home loans and purchasing homes through history.  Apparently only 40 percent of the population purchased homes in the 1920's because the terms were not very favorable.  Lending institutions required a 50% down payment, charged 6% interest for a term of 5 years.  Most people simply refinanced the balloon payment every 5 years. 

Due to the depression, the federal government creates Fannie Mae to buy mortgages from banks so banks have more money available to lend.  At the same time, the government created the Federal Housing Authority which helped banks offer more loans.  By 1936, the down payment was only 20% while the term of the loan extended to 15 years and the loan became self amortizing so they were actually paying the loan off.  In addition, the interest was still 6%.

Between 1940 to 1970, home ownership rose from 40 to 60 % and the federal government began offering V.A. loans to returning military.  At this point, the VA loans required no down payment and only charged 5%.  If you were did not serve, you were required to have a 20% down payment.

In the 1970's and 80's interest rates skyrocketed and new types of loans with variable interest rates because popular because they could start out lower but would be reindexed on a regular basis.  At this point in time, there were groups who would loan money and use the high rates to make money.

By the 1990's, interest rates dropped, people refinanced and the standard term of the loans was 30 years because of house prices.  It was at this same time that sub prime loans began to become popular because people who did not normally qualify for conventional loan and because of the financial risk, lenders could charge more.

From 2000 to the present, loans became more creative with 50 year loans, no interest loans, no down payment, etc but by 2004 loan money flowed with few checks and  in 2006 house prices flattened. People could no longer afford their houses and foreclosure rates increased.   Due to lenders not verifying application information, fraud increased. 

Historically many political leaders felt that owning a home makes the country unconquerable, or they become responsible, or it is the American Dream.  Unfortunately, in some places, it is cheaper to rent than to buy a house due to the cost of houses.  Last time I was in San Diego, the median house cost was around $600,000 which is way more than I could ever consider.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Heinz - The Ketchup People

Today's topic came about by accident.  I was listening to the Splendid Table radio show on Public Radio this morning and someone mentioned Celery Sauce that used to be made by Heinz.  Celery Sauce?  So off I went to learn about it and in the process, I learned more about the company that made it and is famous for making ketchup.  I can tell you right now, ketchup was not their first product.

Bread, Ketchup, Red, Face, Smiley, SmileToday, I'm looking at the company itself because I found it's history so interesting.   Henry Heinz born in 1844 to German immigrants in Pennsylvania.  By the age of 12, he was already an entrepreneur selling vegetables to his regular customers.

What set him on the road to manufacturing condiments boils down to safety.  Apparently most condiments made back then had things like lead, ground stone, turnips, and wood pulp added and were sold in colored glass bottles so you couldn't see the quality of the product before buying.

So as a teenager, he began creating a bottled horseradish based on his mothers recipe, without fillers,  and put in clear glass bottles.  He advertised his sauce as pure and he could prove it with the fact you can see what you are buying.  By 1861, he was raising 3.5 acres of horseradish and using that to meet the demand.

He and John Noble became partners in 1869, expanded, and created pickles, horseradish, and vinegar.  That's right!  Vinegar so they could control the quality of the vinegar used in their own products and they went ahead and sold it to the public. 

Unfortunately due to the economic climate, his company declined and he and his partner had to declare bankruptcy.  It wasn't long after that he realized he could produce ketchup, a very important cooking condiment, so he got funding from his brother and cousin to start a new company.  Due to his past reputation of selling a high quality unadulterated product, his new company grew and became what we see today.

So back to the Celery Sauce.  It was one of his early condiments which he sold as a "brain and nerve" food because celery was believed to improve nerve function.  It continued to be sold up to the early 20th century when it fell out of favor.  At one time, it would be found on all tables in restaurants, much like ketchup is today.

Now for a couple of facts about Heinz.

1.  The company weathered the depression by introducing ready to eat soups and baby food.

2.  The Heinz 57 slogan came from Henry Heinz when he saw a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes.  The number grabbed him and he decided 57 varieties was  perfect  even though they were already producing over 60 varieties in 1892.

3.  Henry Heinz was known as "The pickle king".

4.  Henry was really one of the first people to establish brand recognition.

5. In 1905, Heinz opened its first international branch in England.

6.  Henry Heinz promoted cleanliness at a time when people often got sick from premade condiments and foods.  He received awards for this.

7.   When the FDA tightened regulations for producing canned foods, Henry was already ahead and pushed for even better rules.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rice Crispies Treats.

Rice, Food, Eat, Staple Food, Grainy  I really enjoyed those the few times I had them as a child.  I remember it was sometimes hard to get the marshmallow mixture just right so when you ate the treats, they were soft and gooey.  I hated it when they ended up too hard.

Although Rice Krispies first printed the recipe for Rice Krispies Treats in 1941, there is a story that the recipe was created by two women in 1939 who sold the treat to raise money for their Camp Fire Girls troop.  This is sort of true but not quite.

The two women who created the recipe actually worked in the test kitchen of Kellogg's.  It has been suggested they based their three ingredient treat on another recipe that used puffed wheat but made a few substitutions.  Apparently soon after, the Camp Fire Girls in Kansas City asked for ideas to fund raise so the company sent a representative to teach them how to make "marshmallow squares"  They spent two weeks working 10 hours days preparing, wrapping, and selling the treat. 

 In general the treat is the size of an average brownie except for the one made in 2001 at Iowa State University that weighted 2480 pounds and measured 12 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 2 feet long.  It took 8 hours to make and used 818 pounds of Rice Krispies, 1,466 pounds of marshmallows, and 217 pounds of butter. This record was busted in 2010 when a group of volunteers in California worked for 48 hours to create a 10,460 pound treat as a fundraiser.

Fun Facts about Rice Krispies Treats

1. The recipe has never changed since it was created.

2. They are one of the most popular no-bake treats.

3. These popular treats were mailed to service men during World War II.

4.  Kellogg's began commercially selling these treats in 1995. Up till then, they were only homemade.

5.  Kellogg's trademarked the name "Rice Krispies Treats" in 1955.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

Rice Field, Green, Grass, Nature, Plant  Do you remember those commercials when you were growing up?  The ones with the three guys who told you that if you listened closely you could hear the cereal talking?

I have vivid memories of them.  Rice Krispies, also known as Rice Bubbles in Australia, has been around since 1928.  It was liked by consumers for the noise it made when milk was added. 

The words Snap, Crackle, and Pop appeared in a print ad , one year later.  Within three years, these famous words were printed on each and every box of cereal.  In 1933, a radio commercial inspired the first drawing of Snap, Crackle, and Pop appeared in ads and on posters.  During the same year, the first gnome like drawing of Snap appeared on boxes of Rice Krispies.

At the beginning of World War II, in 1941, Crackle and Pop joined Snap on the boxes of Rice Krispies but in 1949, Snap, Crackle, and Pop underwent a rejuvenation so they appeared much younger and less gnome like.  In 1955, these three famous characters got their first television commercial but they still didn't look like we know them today.  By 1979, they'd undergone a change to look more like we know them and in the 80's Kellogg's began licensing their characters and selling merchandise.  By the 21st century, they went digital.

Facts about Rice Krispies.
1.  There was a fourth brother named Pow in the early 1950's where he appeared in two television commercials. 

2. Early boxes were white instead of blue.

3. In 1963, The Rolling Stones, recorded a short song for a Rice Crispies commercial. 

4.  In 1941, the recipe for Rice Crispies treats appeared on a box of cereal.

5.  At one time, these three famous characters had their own comic strips appearing on boxes of cereals.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Joined Civilization

Gas, Gasoline, Petrol Pump, Automobile I spend about 9.5 months a year living in a small village in Western Alaska.  For the rest of the year I fly home to a much larger city that still has a small town feel.  In fact, rush hour only slows me down about 5 minutes when I drive across town but at my house rush hour means I have to wait for three or four cars to go past so I can leave my drive way.  Usually, I don't have to wait at all.

In the 9 months since I've been gone, the La Quinta Inn took over another hotel out by the airport, a new one is being built over by Walmart and they are building a gas station across the street from the fire department.  It will be the first gas station past Nenana and just before the one by the saloon.  This is progress.

I realize you are wondering why I would be making such a big deal.  In most places, there is always some shopping mall going in complete with gas station but you have to understand that here its way different.  I live in a small rather independent place with city government where you have to bring your own chair to meetings.

The ruling body voted this place a no fast food zone!  No McDonalds, No KFC, none of that.  In fact, its such a small place, you have to go to the post office to get the local news on what's happening in town.  The volunteer fire department even hosts a huge community garage sale once a year.  They take out all fire engines, ambulances, etc from the fire house and open it up to people who want to sell stuff.

Of course, the fire department takes a cut of the sales, I think its 10%, but a good time is had by all. I've found a wonderful renovated coal burning stove for a good price.  I even had someone offer me double what I paid for it but I like it.  Its cute and its a pot bellied style from the early 1900's.  I've gotten a nice large telescope for $20 and a brand new, never used, cast iron wok.   I've bought yarn, working computer printers, and all sorts of things.

Then there is the July 4th parade which runs from the bar to the fire station past the post office.  This parade is much like the others in that we have entries and lots of fun but what makes it different is that you can bribe the judges with beer or something harder.  Yup, the wining entry of the parade is often based on whoever provides the best booze.

The town is nicknamed "The Independent Republic of ____________"  As you can tell, they are still very Alaskan.  Several women in town got together to produce a calendar of themselves on various dredges around town.  The story about the town is that it was founded by two brothers who found gold in the area.  When that influenza bug struck town, the Madam from the local "hotel" and her girls nursed the men back to health and in gratitude, they renamed the town.

Tomorrow, you'll learn more about Rice Krispies, the other ingredient in the Rice Krispies treats.

Friday, May 20, 2016

7 Facts About Fluff.

  When I was young, I loved to have a peanut butter, marshmallow creme, coconut, and peanut sandwich.  I absolutely adored it but I couldn't have it very often because my parents couldn't afford it.  The only time my mother bought it was when she planned to make fudge but I'd try to sneak enough for my sandwich.  I don't know if I'd still like it but it left me with fond memories.

Marshmallows, Giant, Roasted, LiftedSo where did it come from? Although there are a few recipes for marshmallow filling beginning in 1896, a man in Massachusetts created the first commercial marshmallow creme in his kitchen and sold it door to door.  Unfortunately, his business faltered due to a sugar shortage during World War I, so he sold the recipe to two candy makers for $500.   They started selling it for $1.00 per gallon door to door and soon created a demand for it.  Soon the company merged with another company.

By the 1930's its was doing so well, the company was able to have a 15 minute radio show just before Jack Benny's Sunday night show.  The show had a character who was always writing a book that was revealed at the end to be a cookbook using the fluff and was called "The Yummy Book."  During World War Two the company allotted their product to distributors based on a percent of pre-war sales due to shortages.  They converted part of the factory to wrap electronics and optical parts in water proof material for the war.

Soon after the war, they started packaging the fluff in a jar which fit in the refrigerator and had a wide mouth to allow the use of spoons.  They continued growing and today they are one of three companies that produce fluff.  They do not offer coupons, merchandise or anything else with the idea of keeping the price down.

Here are a few facts about Marshmallow creme.
1.  There is no chocolate flavored marshmallow fluff because its butterfat content keeps the mixture from whipping.

2. The Dunkee - Mower factory in Massachusetts produces 40,000 pounds of fluff each day.

3. A 2 tablespoon serving of fluff has a quarter of the amount of sugar as the same sized serving of jam or jelly.

4. Susan Olson who played Cindy Brady is known for her "Fluff" art in which she takes paintings such as the Mona Lisa and add the jar of Fluff in so it looks like she has been eating it.

5. The recipe has not changed since it was created. It still uses sugar, dried egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla.

6.  New Englanders are responsible for consuming half of the fluff produced.

7. At one point, there was a bill to make the Fluffernutter, the official state sandwich of Massachusetts. The Fluffernutter has been around since World War I when it was created by a descendant of Paul Revere at the Snowflake Creme company.  The peanut butter - marshmallow creme sandwich was original known as the Liberty sandwich.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

7 Facts of Peeps.

Do you remember finding those marshmallow chicks in your Easter basket?  It turns out these have only been around since the 1950's when Just Born Candy company bought the Rodda candy company which created a handmade marshmallow chick.  Just Born Candies had been around since 1923 and were named after the owner, Sam Born.

In 1954, Sam's son mechanized the process which streamlined the process and allowed the company to commercially produce the chicks.  He named this creation "Peeps" Today, Just Born Candy produces over 1 billion Peeps each year in at least 5 colors.  The company also produces Hot Tamales and two or three other famous candies.
Marshmallow, Confectionery, Candy
Facts about Peeps:
1.  The original marshmallow chicks took 30 hours to create by hand because they were piped through a pastry bag.

2. The original Peeps had wings.  The wings disappeared to streamline the process.

3.  Peep stores exist such as the one that opened outside of Washington D.C. in 2009.

4. There are Peep bunnies but they only account for 20% of the Peeps produced.

5. There are Facebook groups devoted to the dislike of Peeps.

6. The company produces an average of 5.5 million Peeps every day.

7. 37,000 peeps weigh the same as one boy band.

One of the most interesting things I've found out about Peeps is that they have the reputation for being indestructible.  Well after scientists tried to destroy these candies, they discovered that everything except the eyes can be destroyed. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

10 Facts About Marshmallows.

Marshmallow, Chocolate, Instagram  You remember as a kid, having a nice hot cup of cocoa with those mini marshmallows. Remember sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows on a stick over the fire for S'More's?  What about the ones used in Aunt Prisilla's candied yam recipe she only made at Thanksgiving?  

What do you know about them?  Really?  Did you know they've been around for quite a long time?  Since the around 2000 B.C.?  At one time they were considered a delicacy for Gods and Royalty.

So how were they made way back then?  Originally, Egyptians made marshmallows  by taking the sap from the marshmallow plant and mixing it with nuts and honey.  The marshmallow plant is in the same family as the hibiscus and has been used as both food and medicine for years. But back to its use as a sweet. 

The concoction took a step towards what we know today when candy makers in France took the sap, mixed it with egg whites and sugar before whipping it by hand  into a nice frothy creation more like what we have today.  Due to the increased demand, marshmallow makers began to use corn starch forms to create uniform confections.

Eventually, the sap was replaced with gelatin so when it was mixed with corn syrup, starch, etc, it formed the fluffy texture associated with marshmallows.  In 1948 the first machine was successfully used to extrude marshmallows so the labor intensive creation could now be mass produced for the population. 

Interesting facts about marshmallows.
1.  The first S'mores recipe was published in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook.  They are credited with creating the treat.

2.  Marshmallows did not make it to the United States until the 1900's.

3. Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows per year which is equivalent to 1250 whales.

4. Over 50% of the marshmallows sold in the summer are toasted over a fire.

5. In Egypt, it was against the law to eat Marshmallows unless you were a god, a Pharaoh, or Royalty.

6.  Polar bears love marshmallows.

7. Marshmallows can be placed between the toes the next time you give yourself a pedicure.

8. Use marshmallows to keep your brown sugar soft.

9.  Astronauts use marshmallows in their nose during lift off to keep from damaging the nasal membrane.

10.  More marshmallows are sold between October and December than at any other time of the year.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Graduation and Promotions

Graduation, Silhouette, Boy, Cap  Its that time of year again when high schools and colleges hold their graduations recognizing that people have completed the requirements necessary for a diploma or degree.

Up until this year, the village celebrated one graduation and three promotions.  Three promotions!  Promotions that are run like graduations only with the diploma replaced by a certificate of promotion.

First, the Head Start program would have their promotion in the school cafeteria.  The boys dressed in blue caps and gowns while the girls wore pink.  The parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc sat in the audience or stood in the back watching the little ones enter one step at a time and sit.  They'd have a speaker.  The teachers passed out certificates after sharing a little something about each child. It never started on time and lasted a couple of hours.

Second, Kindergarten celebrated their students completing their first full year of instruction with a promotion.  This time the little ones dressed in suits or dresses rather than caps and gowns but they still entered to music, carefully spaced so parents and others had a chance to take a picture.  Again, one of the teachers made a small speech before passing out the certificates to each student.  At the end, they carefully walked out spaced so it took a while for the children to make their way out. 

These two happened between the high school graduation and the Eighth grade promotion.  The junior class decorated the cafeteria for the 6th grade to community prom where everyone is there to see or be seen.  Its also one of the few times people have to dress up and look as if they've stepped out of the pages of Seventeen or Gentleman's Quarterly. The major decorations are kept for a week and brought out for high school graduation.

The students attired in caps and gowns, slowly walk in with enough distance for family members to snap tons of pictures.  There are speeches galore from the Valedictorian, Salutatorian, Keynote Speaker, class Advisor, School Board President, and of course the person who gives out the Scholarships.  At this point, the diplomas are passed out to each and every graduating student pauses with the diploma so family members can take photos and videos to last a lifetime.  A movie showing the life of each graduate is shown after all the diploma's are given out.  The final activity is watching students march out slowly to the cafeteria where they form a receiving line.  This is followed by cake and punch.

The following Monday, the eighth graders use the graduation setup so they can go through the exact same process to recognize their advancement to high school with a certificate rather than a diploma but they have the speakers, the movies, and tons of photo opportunities.

This year, the school managed to eliminate the Head Start and Kindergarten promotions and there is talk of eliminating the eighth grade promotion but I don't think that will happen until they get the graduation rate up.  By the last celebration I am tuckered out of speeches, movies, and the slow walk in and out. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kim Chi

Korean Cabbage In Chili Sauce  Did you every watch the television series "Mash"?  There was an episode where Major Burns kept thinking those buried pots were bombs and kept digging them up only to discover the pots were filled with Kim Chi? 

Kim Chi has been a popular dish in Korea.  My father was stationed in Korea during the Korean War.  He worked as an orderly for the navy.  At some point, he was working in a ward filled with Koreans.  They would have visitors who brought Kim Chi to the sick.  My father commented that they could always tell when someone had it due to the smell.

I enjoy Kim Chi and have been making it for many years.  Due to where I live, I end up having to use regular green cabbage rather than the Chinese cabbage because they don't get anything other than the green cabbage at the stores. 

I'll share the way I make mine and know that there are so many different recipes out there that you find one that works for you.  I cure mine in plastic ziplock bags because I usually make so much of it, I share it with friends and coworkers.

I cut about 2 to 4 heads of green cabbage into 1 inch square pieces.  I do not use the core in the center but I use the rest of it except for the outer leaf.  I alternate layers of salt with cabbage until the plastic bag is full, throw in 1/2 cup of water or so, and close it.  I let it set for 24 hours before I drain any liquid out of it and wash the cabbage.

I mix up some red pepper paste also known as gochujang with smashed ginger and garlic, a bit of vinegar and mix it all up.  I layer the cabbage and spicing mix till the plastic bag is full, throw in maybe 3/4 cup of water and close it.  I move the bag to the liquid around until the red spicing mix is mixed throughout the cabbage.

I set it aside for a few days and when it looks right, I start eating it.  I really don't measure a lot of things.  If you prefer having a recipe with actual measurements, you can check the internet for recipes.  Don't be afraid of trying to make your own.  Its fun and you get a good product.

I use kim chi in rice, soup, spaghetti sauce, and just about anything I cook.  Tonight, I threw some of the juice mixed with olive oil over the vegetables I roasted. It added a bit of a bite to the veggies.  I really enjoyed it. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Love Apples

Trusses, Tomatoes, Red, Vegetables, Food Imagine: Its a warm sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing.  You wonder out to the garden and spy a beautifully red sun kissed tomato peeking out from the leaves.  You pick it and bring it inside but you take time to smell the slight sweetly acidic notes emanating from the fruit.

Tomatoes at one time were called "Love Apples" because the French called them "Pomme d'Amour", believing them to be aphrodisiacs.  

Tomatoes originated in the Americas, probably from Peru where wild tomatoes are still found.  By the time the Spanish arrived, tomatoes were being cultivated throughout Central and South America.  They took it back to Europe where it spread and the first mention of using tomatoes in cooking appeared in a Nepalese cookbook in the 16th Century.   Believe it or not, tomatoes were brought to North America by European immigrants. 

Apparently, the tomato was thought to be poisonous due to the fact they caused plates and silverware made of pewter to leach lead and poison people.  This may explain why John Gerard, one of the first acknowledged herbalists declared it a poison.  The poor people who used wooden plates did not have this problem so tomatoes were a poor person's food until the 1800's when Italians immigrated to the United States.  Furthermore, tomatoes belong to the same family as the deadly nightshade and the two plants were sometimes mixed up, again resulting in death.

In America, the attitude about tomatoes began changing around the Civil War when the Union began canning foods for their soldiers.  It was found that tomatoes grew quickly and stood up to the rigors of being canned. 

Tomatoes gained momentum when pizza was invented in the 1880's in Naples.  The story goes that a restaurateur created the first pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil in honor of Queen Margarite's visit.  The three items were chosen to mimic the colors of the Italian Flag.

One interesting fact about the tomato - it was considered a fruit until the late 1800's when the Supreme Court declared it a vegetable because as a fruit it could not be taxed but as a vegetable it could.  Technically it is a fruit but most people regard it as a vegetable and this court ruling may explain that.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Recipe For Greek Style Pizza and Pasta.

Recipe, Label, Icon, Symbol, Spoon  You will note that I'm actually sharing a recipe today.  You will notice that once I start give the ingredients and directions, I seldom every give actual measurements.  I am one of those people who just throws stuff together and goes for it.  My mother hates it because she has to measure everything exactly. 

So if you are a person who hates vague measurements, you are not going to like the following recipes.  Since I live in the bush of Alaska, I had all of the things sent up at the beginning of the year and needed to use it.  You could make some of the things from scratch.  I can't because they don't get a wide variety of things at the stores.

Greek Pizza.
1 -  pizza dough (regular or gluten free)
Pesto - what ever type you want.
 1 - bottle of roasted red peppers
1 - bottle of Kalamari olives.
Feta Cheese crumbled.
Regular Cheese

Spread enough pesto over the pizza dough to cover it.  Slice up the peppers and spread over the pesto.  Chop up the olives (I had to take the olive meat off the pits before chopping) and spread.  Sprinkle feta cheese and/or regular cheese over the rest of it.  Bake at 425 for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool a few min and serve.

Greek Pasta.
Pasta (regular or gluten free)
1 bottle of roasted red peppers
1 bottle of Kalamari olives
Feta cheese crumbled.

Cook the pasta till done.  Stir in a few tablespoons of pesto.  Add in chopped roasted red peppers and Kalamari olives.  Stir, then add some crumbled feta cheese and still a bit more.

As you can see, my personal recipes are kind of general because everyone has different tastes and want to adjust accordingly.  I'll share other recipes along the way as I feel like it.  I do enjoy cooking and playing with ingredients to make good food.  Have a good day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mmmmm Milkshakes But Those?

Milkshake, Milk, Dairy, Drink, Glass  You probably wonder why I'm writing about Milk Shakes today.  Is because I'm one day closer to leaving for a nice long visit to town and getting a Milk Shake in town is a tradition.  It started many years ago when I lived on the Island of Diomede.  If you look on a map, you may or may not see it depending on the map.  If you can find Wales, north of Nome, and head west to the international dateline, its about there.

You see, Diomede is so remote, the only way to get there year round is by helicopter.  If the helicopter goes down, you are out of luck.  If the ice gets thick enough in the middle of winter - around February - plane service began and lasted at the most 6 weeks.  The town is so small, there is a store, a laundromat and the bingo place. Not much else.

When we left Diomede at Christmas or in May and got to Nome, the first place we hit was a wonderfully great eating place called Fat Freddies.  I heard they went out of business a few years ago.  At the time, Fat Freddies sat on the waterfront so you could see everything.  The building was funky but well liked.  They made very thick chocolate milkshakes that gave you brain freeze and made you just melt because they were soooooo good.  Of course you had to order it with a burger or for me, it would be a bean burger with all the trimmings. 

I have only had milkshakes in Australia and those were very, very, thin compared to what I got in the United States.  I think they added a small amount of ice cream and blended so it was really whipped milk that was a micro thicker than normal.  It was quite an adjustment.  I still enjoy shakes but I prefer going to a place where they actually mix the ice cream (not the soft serve stuff), milk, and flavorings in the cup and blend it properly. 

Of course I have to include the top 10 weird flavors just because  I find them fascinating.
1.  From Japan we have a canned pancake flavored milk shake flavored with maple syrup.  It does not appear that thick.

2.  To go with it, why not add the bacon flavored milk shake that is not flavored with real bacon but a liquid flavoring so its technically vegetarian.

3. McNuggetini made with vanilla vodka added to the chocolate milkshake served in a barbecue sauce rimmed martini glass.

4. The avocado milk shake that is popular in Asia.

5. How about the Kool-aid milkshake 

6.  For the more adventuresome try the Fois Gras milkshake.

7.  What about the Buffalo Wings shake.

8.  Sweet Potato, Candied Cashew, mixed with Bourbon milkshake.

9. What about Guiness, Chocolate and Espresso together in one shake.

10.  Drink your breakfast with a Strawberry Waffle milkshake.

None of those really appeal to me but they do to someone.  Have a good day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

8 facts about Instant Coffee.

Coffee, Coffee Cup, Coffee Crema  When I was young, my family would go out and camp for weeks at a time or a day depending on the time of year and what was up.  My parents always brought instant coffee so they could save space and make it easier.  It was always the same brand because the said it was the best brand of instant coffee out there.  All the other brands tasted like dirt.  If you wonder, its Tasters Choice.

Do you know how long its been around?  I thought it came out in the 1950's or so but in reality its been around since 1771 when it first appeared in Great Britain. The first American version showed up in 1853, just before the civil war.

Why did I mention the civil war?  Well, someone managed to create a version of instant coffee that was in cake form to try out during the Civil war.  It wasn't until 1890 that a New Zealander finally got around to patenting instant coffee but the powdered form as we know it today, came from Japan.  In 1901, a man in Japan figured out the first method to manufacture instant coffee because he actually made instant tea.  It wasn't until 1930 that mass production began but most people didn't like it due to its flavor.  Around 1938, Nescafe became the king of instant coffee. The freeze dried version of instant coffee appeared in the 1960's.

The general populous was not interested in instant coffee but it captured the military's interest to the point that it was used by servicemen in World War I.  In World War I, soldiers called it a cup of Washington because it was a George Washington who invented it.  By World War II, it was so popular in the service that the military bought all of the coffee produced by Nescafe in one year.  Image!

Today its used in cooking, the military, on camping trips, backpacking, etc. Now for the statistics on instant coffee.

1.  The United States is not into instant coffee.  Their rates have stagnated since 2008.

2.  About half the world prefers instant coffee.

3. Sales for instant coffee have tripled since 2000

4.  Instant coffee makes up 34% of retail brewed coffee.

5. India and China are the fastest growing market.

6. Asia Pacific is the largest region consuming instant coffee.

7.  Instant coffee accounts for 75% of the coffee consumed in Australia and New Zealand.

8.  Even Europe drinks about more instant coffee than the United States.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Coffee, Coffee Beans, Afternoon Tea Coffee is almost the national American drink. I think I'm the only one in the family who does not drink it.  I lived in Australia as a teenager and learned to drink tea, so when I hit college, it was tea I went for and not coffee. 

So where did coffee come from?  Why is it grown in so many places.  My parents have always loved the 100 percent Kona grown coffee and prefer it.  They say the stuff with 10 percent is not quite the same.

It is thought that coffee originated in Ethiopia many, many years ago.  The earliest evidence of coffee is from a fifteenth century Sufi monastery in Yemen.  There is a local legend that states the goat herder Kaldi noticed how energetic the goats became after eating the coffee beans.  He reported it to the abbot of the local monastery and the abbot brewed a cup of coffee from the beans.  The brew made the abbot energetic and alert so he shared it with those who lived in his monastery and then shared it with others. 

It appears coffee started in the highlands of Ethiopia, expanded out to the Arabian Peninsula before spreading to the Middle East.  It spread to Europe by the 17th century and was quite popular although some people called it the "bitter invention of Satan".  Due to the controversy associated with coffee, the Pope ended up tasting it and declaring it was good in order for certain people to accept it.

Around this time, coffee houses sprung up and pretty soon coffee replaced beer and wine as the choice of drink at breakfast. Its interesting that tea was the favored drink in the colonies until the Boston Tea Party when people switched to drinking coffee.  As the demand for coffee increased, people "obtained" seeds and plants to grow coffee elsewhere and broke the monopoly Arabia had on growing coffee.

Right now, coffee is the second most exportable item after oil due to demand.  Now for the interesting facts about coffee.
1. Coffee contains lots of antioxidants which can help health overall but coffee drinkers are also more likely to be smokers, drink alcohol, and eat red meat.

2.  Coffee is nutritious, it contains 11% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B2, 6% of vitamin B5, 3% of Manganese and Potassium, and 2% of Niacin and Magnesium.

3. Coffee can increase your metabolism between 3 and 11 percent.

4.  Black Ivory Coffee is the most expensive type of coffee because it is made from elephant poop and costs around $50 per cup.  Luwak, another expensive coffee, is made from feeding coffee beans to mongooses and using the ones found in their poop.  It is only $160 per pound. 

5. In 1675, all coffee houses were banned because King Charles II thought that was where the conspirators met to plan against him.

6.  The name cappuccino came from the resemblance of the drink to  clothing of Capuchin monks.

7.  The word espresso is Italian for "something forced out".

8. Coffee was the first freeze dried food.

9. Arabica varieties such as Java and Mocha are named after the ports of origin.

10. A pound of coffee requires 2,500 gallons of water which means it requires a lot of water to grow.

11. A coffee plant can live for up to 200 years.

Wow so much I didn't know about coffee.  Up to this point, I only knew one thing about coffee. Don't get between a person and their coffee first thing in the morning!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

14 Interesting Facts About Chocolate.

Chocolate, SchokalodentafelI admit it!  I am a chocoholic who sort of has her addiction under control. Mostly, sort of, I think?  As long as I don't have that first piece of milk chocolate, I'm fine but if I eat even a small bit, I'm off in the deep end where I want to inhale as much chocolate as I can in one sitting.

I love and adore chocolate ice cream.  I prefer chocolate peanut butter or chocolate with ginger, or chocolate with anything in it.  I will eat it plain but I add things to it just because I have to have something in it.

Chocolate is one of those items from Central and South America that was brought back by the Europeans.  Chocolate comes from the Theobroma cacoa tree.  Theobroma is Greek for food of the Gods.  Although it is grown in the tropics, about 70% of the worlds chocolate supply comes from Africa.

A tree can produce about 2000 football shaped pods per year.  The pods grow from both the branches and the trunk.  The pods mature over the year rather than all at once.  There is a white pulp surrounding the bitter seeds that is used in drinks and is both sweet and tart.  It is the seeds that are processed into chocolate.

The process starts at harvesting when they are split open, placed in a earthen pit or wooden bin, covered and allowed to ferment to help the chocolate flavor develop.  The better quality the bean, the shorter fermentation time needed.  Once ready, they are air dried and then shipped off to a factory for processing.

Now for some interesting facts:
1.  Chocolate was originally used by the warriors, priests, and nobility in Aztec society and was so revered it was used as "money".  You could purchase a slave for 100 cocoa beans.
2. Originally hot cocoa had no sugar mixed it.  It was only after the drink made it to Europe in the 1500's that sugar and spices were added to make the drink extremely popular.
3. It takes about 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate.
4. White chocolate is not real chocolate because it has no cocoa solids or liqueurs  in it.
5. The smell of chocolate increases Theta brain waves which helps with relaxation.
6.  M & M's were created during World War II so soldiers could enjoy chocolate without a mess.
7. Every second, Americans eat 100 pounds of chocolate.
8. The worlds largest chocolate bar weighed 12,770 pounds.
9. Eating dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease by one-third.
10. In 2013, Belgium issued a limited edition chocolate flavored stamp.
11.  There is a pill that can make your gas smell like chocolate.
12. German chocolate cake is named after its creator, Sam German, and not the country.
13. Nutella was invented in World War II when its Italian creator added hazelnuts to his chocolate supply to extend it.
14. Chocolate is the only edible substance with a melting point of just below normal human body temperature.  That is why it melts in your mouth.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cinco De Mayo?

Dancer, Mexican, Culture, Mexico  It happened on May 5th.  It is a big celebration within the Hispanic or Latino communities.  When I lived in the Denver area, the city closed down streets due to the traffic from the celebration but what are they celebrating?  Do you know?

I didn't know for the longest time because it was something that happened every year and since I lived right next to the local Hispanic community, I would go over to the park and join in the celebrations. But!  I didn't know what they were celebrating.

Fast forward to when I took Spanish classes at the local community college. That is when I discovered the mystery behind Cinco De Mayo.  It turns out it is not celebrating  Mexican Independence which is what many people think.  It celebrates a battle that Mexico won against the French.

At one point, the French occupied Mexico.  Due to a series of wars, the Mexican treasury was almost bankrupt by 1861 so the president suspended all payments to foreign countries.  Unfortunately, Spain, England and France didn't like it so they sent their naval forces to request payment.  Spain and England reached agreements with Mexico but France decided this was a good political opportunity.

France wanted to establish a Mexican empire that would favor French interests.  The French fleet stormed Veracruz causing the president and his people to with draw.  The French followed them inland towards Mexico City but as they followed they ran into resistance at two forts and a town.

The poorly trained and equipped Mexican army of approximately 2000 soldiers  crushed the better trained and equipped French army of nearly 6000.  The French military was considered one of the best armies at this point in time, so the victory was sweet.  This victory bolstered Mexican resistance but it did not prevent the French from sending additional troops who were able to overwhelm the Mexican troops and installing Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico.

This government only lasted 3 years because once the American Civil War ended in 1865, the American government was able to provide assistance to the Mexicans to rid their country of the French.  According to various sources, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in California continuously since 1860 or so but it came to the forefront in the 1940's with the Chicano Movement.

Now, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the United States where there are all sorts of parades, music, foods, etc while in Mexico it is only a school holiday.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mothers Day

Bouquet Of Roses, Pink Roses  Happy Mothers Day to all Mothers, Grandmothers, soon to be mothers and anyone else who has a Mothers day

Did you every wonder about Mothers day and where it came from?  Turns out no one is absolutely sure who started it but it is attributed to three different woman.

 First, in the late 1800, Juliet Calhoun Blakely from Albian Michigan is given credit due to her sons paying tribute to her every year and urging others to honor their mothers.

 Second is Juliette Ward Howe, the same lady who wrote Uncle Toms Cabin, is said to have called for a Mothers day to encourage pacifism and and disarmament.  It lasted for 10 years in Boston under her leadership but died out over the years.

Finally is Anna Jarvis who held private celebrations to remember her mother.  She also established mothers day work clubs to improve health and cleanliness in her area.  She may have been the first person to lobby for a national Mothers day celebration who had the support of a wealthy business owner.  She organized a service at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton West, Virginia in 1908.  The first service was attended by just over 400 children and their mothers.  This church is now recognized as the International Mothers Day Shrine.

Who was responsible?  I don't know but its nice that women were recognized for their hard work of being mothers.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Only 3 Come From The New World.

Chilli Pepper, Sharp, Spices, Laos  I've always wondered which spices came from the "New World" since most fruits and vegetables are transported from other places to show up in the produce department of the local store.  Most of us know that corn came from the "New World" but have you ever wondered which spices we contributed?

It turns out the new world is responsible for adding three spices to the pot.  One of them, you already know if you read my blog earlier this week!  That's right, it is Vanilla!

The only species of orchid that produces Vanilla is the V. planifolia which comes from Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.  It is a terrestrial vine that resides in forests.  One other thing, the name "bean" came from the resemblance the pods have to string beans.

The second one appears to be certain peppers used in cooking such as Paprika and Chipolte. It is believed that many chili peppers originated in the Amazon and spread throughout the Americas before the Europeans arrived.  The Europeans were responsible for chili peppers for spreading throughout the world and becoming an intricate part of cooking.  

Did you know the following about hot peppers?
1.  The level of heat is determined by the amount of Capsicum (the chemical that provides the heat) contained in a pepper.
2. Chipotle is not a variety of pepper per say.  Chipotle is actually a fully ripened and smoked Jalapeno pepper.
3.  Most peppers are from the Capsicum annuum but Tabasco sauce is made from peppers belonging to the Capsicum frutescens while some of the hottest peppers such as habenero or Scotch Bonnet come from the c. Chinese family.
4. Chili seeds have been found in settlements over 9000 years old in Mexico.
5.  For a very long time, peppers were grown as ornamental plants in Europe.
6. Capsicum comes from  the Greek word kapos that means "to bite".

Allspice, Piment, Pimenta DioicaFinally, there is allspice, an evergreen plant in the same family as cloves. It grows wild in Central America,  South America and the West Indies.  The spiced was named Allspice because it tastes like a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  the small berries are picked and then dried so they look like pepper corns. 

Did you know this about Allspice?
1.  It was one of the few treasures that Columbus presented to the crowned heads of Spain. 
2. Today Jamaica controls the worlds production of it.
3. Russian soldiers put allspice in their shoes to keep their feet warm and kill foot odour during the Napoleonic wars around 1812. 
4.  Although people tried to grow Allspice in other places it just didn't work out. The trees might grow but they wouldn't produce fruit.  It can only be grown in the rainforests of Central and South America.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Nutmeg or Mace

Nutmeg, Muskat
  I have a few recipes that require nutmeg.  I have a bottle of ground Nutmeg in my kitchen cabinet to use in Pumpkin Pie.  I've been using it for yeras but I never knew where it came from or anything about it.

Both Nutmeg and Mace come from several species of trees in the genus Myristica found in the Mollucus or Spice Islands. Believe it or not, nutmeg and mace are from different parts of the seed.  Nutmeg is from the inner seed while Mace is made up of the outer red lace like material that covers the seed.

Nutmeg is sold in two forms.  The form most of us use is the powdered form where the Nutmeg has been ground up and sold.  Although it is convenient, it looses its potency much quicker.  It is recommended you invest in the seed as that has an indefinite shelf life.  You will need to invest in a small grater so you can prepare freshly ground nutmeg when needed.

Nutmeg is not a nut so if you have a nut allergy, you won't have a problem.  Nutmeg is encased by a yellow edible fruit the size and shape of a peach.  The fruit splits in half to reveal the  red covered seed. Once dried it is sold as Mace and then the covering is removed to reveal the inner shiny brown seed.  Normally,  you will only find Mace in powdered form.

India Coconut, Muskat, NutmegHistorically, it has an interesting history. The Arabs exclusively imported Nutmeg into Europe till 1512 when Vasco De Gama claimed the Spice Islands for Portugal.  They and the Dutch restricted the trees to certain islands so they could preserve their monopoly.  One reason both they and the Dutch did this was simply to control who grew the trees.

They did this because the seed could be used to start new trees and they wanted to continue controlling this industry.  Although the Dutch treated the seeds with lime so they would not sprout, the birds took the seeds to other islands, where they began growing.  Unfortunately, they were unable to control where the nutmeg trees grew because a Frenchman smuggled enough seeds out for the French to start their own plantations in Mauritius.  In 1796, the British took over the area and expanded the Nutmeg growing region to the Caribbean.   Today, the island of Granada calls itself the Nutmeg Island.

It is recommended that if you run out of Nutmeg you substitute Mace and vice versa but know that the Mace has a slightly harsher flavor.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Saffron, Threads, Orange, Spice, Cook  Have you ever wondered about an ingredient you've seen in certain recipes?   Have you seen the term saffron and wondered?  When you find it in the store, you see a few yellowish/reddish stands for an absurd amount of money?  Several years ago, I finally researched why this particular spice is so expensive.

Well to start with, saffron are the stamens of a finicky crocus who is particular about its climate and whose crop is unpredictable.  It turns out this crocus only blooms for one week a year and produces only 3 stamen that must be handpicked and carefully dried.  Imagine only 3 thin stamen a year! 

It takes about 150 stamens to make a single gram of saffron.  Just as a reference there are about 28 grams in an ounce so it takes 150 stamen to make 1/28th of an ounce which is very, very, little.  This is why the real stuff is so expensive.  A pound of saffron goes for between $2000 and $10,000.  If you see a 2 ounce bag for $5.00, its going to be fake so leave it alone.

When you shop for saffron, look for Iranian or Spanish saffron.  Iranian saffron is considered the best because of the dark red color and its unique smell but it is not easy to get due to embargoes, local bans, and its cultivation.  So a good choice would be Spanish saffron which is more available and strictly regulated to the point that it is divided into grades.  If it has the designation Superior, Rio, La Mancha, or coupe, then you are looking at the best saffron produced in Spain but coupe is considered the best of the best.

Do not buy ground saffron because it is usually cut with turmeric, paprika or other things.  The unique saffron flavor dissipates quickly.  If you are dealing with a merchant you've never used before, see if you can get a sample of the saffron to test.  If you drop the strands into a small bowl of warm water and the water turns yellow and the threads retain their shape, it is the real thing.  If it turns murky or the threads fray, its had something added to it.

When you buy it, make sure it is sold in an airtight container rather than a plastic bag because you want the saffron to retain its flavor when you cook with it. When cooking with it, use a small amout in dishes that take a while to cook so the flavor develops properly.  Its traditionally used in Paella, certain rice dishes, bouillabaisse, and other specialties.

Hope you learned something from this because I did.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What Do You Know About Vanilla?

Popsicle, Ice Cream, Treat, Dessert  If you do any baking, you have vanilla in the cupboard ready for use.  I do and I admit, I usually just grab something from the baking aisle in the Supermarket because that is where my mother got hers.  Have you ever wondered about Vanilla?

Did you know that Vanilla actually comes from the seed pods of the Vanilla Orchid that only grows in a tropical climate.  Did you know that the Vanilla Orchid is difficult to cultivate artificially because of the way it needs to be pollinated?  The name Vanilla comes from the Spanish word "vainilla" meaning long pod.

Due to cultivation issues, vanilla is one of the most labor intensive crops so it the second most expensive spice behind saffron.  Apparently, the vanilla flower is open only one day and if it is not pollinated, it dies and drops off the plant. The bean is actually a seedpod that grows to between 4 and 8 inches long  and takes 8 to 9 months to fully ripen.  Each pod contains thousands of seeds but both the seeds and the pod are used in the production of Vanilla.

It turns out that the law requires real vanilla extract to be 35% alcohol because vanillin, the major flavor component, is soluble in alcohol.  Although the imitation vanilla brands are not required to have alcohol, most do. In addition, imitation vanilla relies on a wood pulp byproduct to produce the vanilla flavor.

Currently, Vanilla is grown in 5 areas worldwide.  The highest quality Vanilla is grown in Madagascar.  You've seen it in specialty stores where its known as Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla because its grown in the Bourbon islands which includes Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, and Reunion.  This area produces the largest number of Vanilla beans in the world.

Indonesia is the second largest producer of Vanilla beans.  Indonesian beans produce an astringent and woody product while the Madagascar beans have a smooth, sweet flavor.  The two countries produce 90 percent of the Vanilla beans.  The third region is Mexico which originally produced all the Vanilla but only produces a small percent of the worlds crop today.  The next two countries surprised me because I did not know that Tahiti or India produced Vanilla beans.

If you check the ingredients list on the Vanilla but aren't sure what you are looking at,   look for the words "Pure Vanilla Extract" rather than Vanilla Flavoring.  According to what I've read, using pure Vanilla extract is best if used where it will not be overpowered by chocolate or spices but it all seems to boil down to personal taste. 

Unfortunately, I live in a place where having alcohol is illegal and I have to get Trader Joe's alcohol free Vanilla so I don't get busted.  I think I'm going to try the "real" stuff this summer when I visit family.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Is It Still Lasagna?

Lasagne, Lasagna, Lunch, Dinner, Bread  I don't usually plan dinners ahead.  I'm more the spontaneous type who looks in the fridge to see what is there and I just create.  I sometimes look at recipes but I usually use those for inspiration and go from there. 

Last night I had the urge to enjoy a nice pan of homemade lasagna made from scratch.  I have a visitor so I made the filling and he finished it. 

I threw chopped onion, zucchini, and sweet potatoes into a fry pan with a bit of oil and cooked them for a little bit before throwing in some mushrooms, chopped Swiss chard, tomato paste, broth, and spices.  I cooked the sauce until it was thick and everything was ready to go.

So I turned it over to my guest and he layered the noodles, sauce, cheese, lots of cottage cheese.  He used so much cottage cheese, the whole thing ended up rather soupy.  I don't like soupy lasagna but he was happy with it.  I prefer my lasagna without the cottage cheese and dryer.

Another version I've used is cooking black beans and corn in a chili based tomato sauce until done.  Then layered the chili based tomato sauce, noodles, and filling with a bit of cheese on top before the next layer. When done, I let it set a while because I use no bake noodles and then bake for 45 min at 350.  I always let it cool a bit before I serve. 

Of course there was the time I made a garlic white sauce that I used with asparagus and cheese to create a nice white lasagna.  I've also used the garlic white sauce with a bit of pesto layered with the asparagus and olives and cheese.  I just love experimenting.

I did a quick look for lasagna ideas and I came across a couple that make my combinations look down right tame. 

1. Pumpkin spice lasagna noodles - yes you read that right.  I'm not sure how I feel about this one because I'm not sure what type of filling I would use.  It's more of something that could be used to create a dessert but not a main dish.

2.  Lasagna a la Nutella from New York, a combination of lasagna noodles, custard, marshmallow, hazelnuts and Nutella. It is more of a desert than a main dish.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Days Are Getting Warmer Reminding Me of Popsicles.

Popsicle, Brown, Stick, ChocolateYesterday was such a beautiful Sunday.  It was warm and sunny with a nice breeze blowing.  So many people were out.  Here, everyone heads out to the runway for a Sunday afternoon stroll or drive.  I walked across the tundra to the old airport, down the old airport to the end and down and around by the school to home.

Along the way, I saw kids looking for old bird nests, bugs, and other things.  They had fun riding bikes along the flat gravel area.  I got to remembering my own childhood when mom would occasionally buy Popsicles as a treat.  I loved the cherry ones but they were so sticky and today I know they weren't healthy but as a child you don't care.  You just enjoy the flavor and try to get it all eaten before it drips all over you, leaving you sticky.

Melting, Popsicle, Sun, Heat, Ice CreamIt won't be long before I'll want them here.  I admit, I invested in a set of Popsicle molds because it does get warm enough to enjoy them.  I also invested in a couple of books filled with healthy recipes rather than using frozen drink mixes.   

Last year, I invested in one of those blender thingies that turns fruit and veggies into a drink.  I don't like the way it does vegetables but I do like the way it does fruit.  So I'm going to try to use fresh and frozen drinks to make a smoothie to fill the molds with and then freeze.  These won't have the amount of sugar commercial preparations have.

As a base I use either 100% fruit juice or a nondairy milk such as almond milk.  Then I throw in what ever fruit I have such as apples, bananas, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mangoes, melon or what ever is in the house.  I've seen pictures with fruit sliced in or added to the mix to make it even better.

I love adding a bit of ginger into the mixture to add a bit of a bite but not enough to overwhelm the flavor.  Ginger seems to go with almost any fruit.  I was reading up on making these summer treats.  Some recipes recommend adding Greek Yogurt, coconut milk,  chocolate, and other goodies to add a depth to the Popsicles. 

If you do a quick search you'll find all sorts of recipes but I'm one of those folks who use a recipe as a set of guidelines that I adjust according to what I have in the house.  I love experimenting and finding the flavors that work for me.  Tonight, I'll go find the molds and I know I've got a mango or two to add to other things for the first batch of the season.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Best Fish To Eat

Trout, Fish, Rainbow Trout, Animal  Yesterday, I made a list of fish that should not be eaten due to levels of mercury, antibiotics, or they are being over fished.  So what about fish that are good for you. Do you look at only those that are good for your health or the ones that are harvested responsibly.

Well lets look at the criteria for both health and responsible harvesting first.  They are the first 5 on the list.  These I actually recognize the names as they are often eaten by people I know.

1. Atlantic Mackerel is a fish that reproduces quickly, and the process of catching Mackerel does not impact the environment as much as other ways.  It is high in both protein and Omega - 3.

2. Freshwater Coho Salmon is raised in tanks. These are easy to distinguish at the store due to a label of land based or tank based.  This fish is high in Omega - 3.

3. Pacific Wild Caught Sardines has among the highest rates of Omega - 3 and Vitamin D.  This variety reproduces faster than others so is able to maintain fishable populations.

4. Wild caught Alaskan Salmon has high rates of Omega - 3 and is considered sustainable because the water and number of fish is monitored to assure a good population and healthy fish.

5. Canned Alaskan caught Salmon - still has a high level of Omega - 3 and is often found for a good price.  Just watch the bones in it as I've had to sort the bones out of canned Salmon for friends.

6.  Arctic Char is considered high in Omega - 3 and is raised with good farming practices so is a better choice.

7. Although King Mackerel is on the no-no list, Atlantic Mackerel in a healthier choice as it does not have the mercury levels of its relative. 

8.  It is recommended you purchase Sable fish and Black Cod that have been caught off the coast of British Columbia or Alaska because fishing practices have made it so other species are less likely to be caught.

9. Anchovies are small enough that contamination is not an issue and they reproduce quickly so these are a good choice.

10.  Pacific Halibut - is high in Omega - 3 and recommended as a good fish to eat.