Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sprouted Grain Bread

Sandwich, Snack, Eating, Healthy  Occasionally while shopping at a health food store, I've stumbled across sprouted grain bread.  I've often wondered exactly what it is and how its made.

After a bit of research, it appears there are two types of sprouted grain bread, both based on sprouted grains.

The first requires a person sprout wheat berries until the tail is twice as long as the berry.  They are sweet at this point.  The berries are run through a hand grinder so you end up with a nice  juicy, dark and light dough.  Shape the dough into a nice circular shape after working out the air bubbles.  Place on an oiled sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 2 to 2.5 hours. The outside should be firm but not hard while the bottom should be springy.  This only uses the sprouts with little else added. You could add nuts or soaked fruit as you are grinding the wheat berries.

The second type of sprouted grain bread requires the person to sprout the grain berries they want in their bread.  Again, sprout until the tail is twice the length of the berry but instead of grinding at this point, spread the sprouted grain in a single layer on a cookie sheet or dehydrator tray.  Dehydrate or let dry 8 to 12 hours so the grains are dry but not hard.  Grind into a flour a handful at a time.  Be sure to sift the larger pieces out.  You know have your flour.

Now mix 2.25 cups of warm milk and .25 cup of honey together.  Add a package of yeast to the milk mixture.  Mix the 4.5 cups of flour and 2 tsp salt together.  Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Knead about 10 to 15 minutes, place in a bowl, cover,  and let rest until the size doubled. Punch down, place in oiled bread pan, and allow to double before baking at 375 degrees for 45 minutes till a golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

The basic differences between the two is whether the sprouted grains are dried and ground into a real flour or if the mixture is baked without traditional yeast. I'm used to the type of bread made the second way usually with sourdough rather than yeast.  The first recipe is more of a dense loaf made of only the ground up berries.

I wouldn't be surprised to find a recipe which has you grind up the sprouted grains like in the first recipe but adding the milk, honey, etc to create a lighter loaf due to the yeast.  I love yeast breads because it tends to produce a lighter loaf.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Happy Birthday

Today, I'm sending out a little card via the blog to a gentleman who is celebrating his 93rd birthday.  He retired from teaching at the age of 65 but continued working as a substitute till he was 87 years old.  Yes he quit subbing but then he started a small business where he created handmade wooden items he's been selling at the farmer's market during the summer and at winter craft fairs.

He's been muttering something about retiring from that but I honestly do not see that happening.  He and his wife live on their own in a small apartment overlooking the ocean.  He still drives and both are still independent.

He's been a great role model for people showing one does not have to slow down once retired.  This is for him. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I saw this and just had to share it with everyone.  It made me laugh because we just had a nasty day with blowing snow and wet rain/snow.  The wind turns simple sleet into pikes.
Found this on pixabay.com
Weather, Clothes, Bad, Choice, Clothing

Friday, February 24, 2017

Stuck Again.

Snow, Wind, Norway, Cabins, White  I know, I know, I'm running late.  I was traveling home yesterday but due to blizzard conditions, the wind caused the plane wings to shake hard.  I was stranded in a place with many of the rooms already booked for a conference.  After lots of hours, I ended up at a place with no internet.  I got back in time for lunch so I had to get to work immediately. So I'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Shortbread Cookies.

 I adore shortbread cookies with hot fresh unsweetened tea.  I am particular about the type of shortbread eat.  Yes, I do make shortbread at home because the brand I love is extremely expensive by the time it gets shipped up to Alaska.  I've seen a good $3.00 difference between its price on the east coast and the price in Alaska.

So I've been known to make my own.  I use salted butter, never the unsalted.  You can pretty much find recipes anywhere on the internet and so many use granulated sugar.  I will not use that type of sugar because it does not give the final product that flaky, yummy flavor.  It can leave the final product rather grainy.

Instead, use powdered sugar because that will give you the flaky texture you are looking for.  Furthermore, do not use anything other than butter, flour, and sugar unless you want to make pecan shortbread.  

2 cups flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar.
1 cup salted butter.
1 tsp vanilla 

Danish Butter Cookies, Cookies, Butter

mix the flour and sugar together.  Slice the butter into small chunks and cut into the flour mixture.  Add the vanilla last.  If the dough needs a bit of moisture, add 1 tsp water, otherwise wrap the dough in plastic and stick in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

If you want nice round disks, roll into a round log before wrapping in plastic so when its cold you can slice 1/3 inch disks, place on the cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you prefer nice rectangular strips, roll out the dough so its about a 1/2 inch thick, chill and then cut into smaller rectangular cookies.  Bake at 350 for 12 to 14 minutes or till lightly browned.

If you want a slight variation, you could make these with 2 tablespoons of chai to add a spicy taste. Or you could add 1/2 cup toasted and finely chopped pecans to the dough to give a nutty flavor.

Have fun and let me know what you do to make your favorite shortbread.  I've shared what I like to do.  Now its your turn.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More Homemade extracts

Lemon, Lemons, Fruit, Citrus Fruit

While writing about making your own vanilla extract, I wondered if creating other extracts would be just as easy.  The answer is YES.  Lets look at making a few more flavorings at home.

Lemon Flavoring.
Step 1:  Wash 2 to 3 lemons,
Step 2: Cut the yellow skins off the lemons.  Try not to have any pith on it.
Step 3:  Add the lemon skins to a jar.
Step 4: Cover with 1 cup of Vodka.
Step 5: Make sure the lemon skin is submerged totally and place a cap on it.
Step 6: Let set 4 to 6 weeks. Shake at least 2 times a week.
Step 7: Strain out the liquid and use this to flavor.

Now for the Peppermint extract.

Mint, Peppermint, Leaves, Green, Herb  If you are interested in making your own, you'll need about 1 cup of fresh mint leaves.

Step 1:  1 cup of mint leaves packed.  No stems.

Step 2: Place the leaves in a jar.
Step 3: Cover with 1 cup vodka.
Step 4: Place lid on jar and tighten the lid.
Step 5: Let steep for 4 to 6 weeks.
Step 6: Strain the leaves out before using.

Orange Extract.
Oranges, Tree, Leaves, Green, Leaf  To make orange extract, you would do about the same things as you would for lemon extract.  You take the skin or zest from the orange, place in a jar, over with 1 cup of vodka, cover and set for 4 to 6 weeks.  Be sure to shake occasionally.

When done, strain the orange zest out and use.

Have fun and let me know what you think.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Really Hate.......

 This past Thursday evening, I flew into Anchorage to attend a technology conference. Yes, it has been awesome with all the programming, robotics, and all those other wonderful geeky topics. 
 Kleenex, Tissue, Paper Towels, Clean
Unfortunately, by last night, my nose started running.  Every time, I got comfortable enough to sleep, my nose clogged up and I had to get up, blow my nose and try again.  All night long, it went that way.  I hardly got any sleep.  I didn't feel too bad but the first thing I went for after breakfast was some sort of cold medicine.

I don't know the area, I don't have a car but I was lucky enough to discover the hotel across the street carried some stuff.  Yes I bought it and popped it all day long.  At the end of the day, I went over, picked up something for dinner and then took a short nap for a couple of hours.

I realize I should stay in bed and sleep all night but I am like a kid on Christmas eve.  I'm afraid, I'll miss something important.  Tomorrow, I'm going to learn about creating apps in Swift, more about google classroom and so many more exciting topics.

I don't want to miss anything.  Which is why I stuck around so late rather than go back to my hotel room to sleep.  I hate being sick under normal circumstances but I hate it even more when I'm on the road.  I can never get enough orange juice, enough sleep, or enough of my routine designed to help me get better faster.

I assume I am not the only one who hates getting sick while traveling.  I know we all have our list of things we do to get better fast so we are not stuck in bed, even when we really should stay there.

I love drinking hot peppermint tea but I don't have access to any.  The fumes keep my nose cleared up.  I alternate with honey flavored black tea which helps make me feel better overall.  I love sleeping by I always seem to have way to much to do.

Please let me know what you do when you get sick on a trip and how you keep from having to miss important conferences.  I know we all have it happen, so share your secrets.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Homemade vanilla

Drying, Vanilla Beans, Mauritius  The other day, I wandered through one of those cooking stores specializing in oil, vinegar, and vanilla.  I've never seen so many types of vanilla.  It appears the type is based on where the bean came from.

I enjoy making things from scratch just because I know exactly what is in it.  I realize that its often much easier to pop over to a store and just buy it.  Sometimes, it is great being able to make things from scratch just to see how its done.

So for making your own vanilla from scratch, it really isn't hard.  It only requires a nice bottle which will take at least 8 oz, 7 vanilla beans, and one cup of 70 proof vodka or rum, bourbon, or rum.

Step 1: Split the vanilla beans long ways or into pieces depending on which fits better in the jar.
Step 2: Add the vodka or other alcohol to the beans in the bottle so the beans are completely covered.
Step 3: Cover
Step 4: Shake a couple times a week
Step 5: Wait about 8 weeks and your vanilla is ready to use.

The type of vanilla bean used will determine the flavor of vanilla you end up with.

 I realize many readers may prefer a vanilla made without alcohol.  Yes, it can be done.  The directions are basically the same except you would use one cup of glycerin. Another way to make alcohol free vanilla extract without glycerin is as follows

1. Slice 8 vanilla beans in half. Place in bottle.
2.  Add 1/4th tsp of salt.
3. Add 1 cup of filtered water.
4. Cover with lid.
5. Place in the refridgerator.
6.  Shake once a day for four weeks.
7.  Shake a couple times a week for another 4 weeks.
8. It should be ready in about 8 to 9 weeks.

Enjoy making your own vanilla.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sorry About Yesterday.

Suitcase, Old, Travel, Traveler, Pack  I thought I'd set an entry to publish yesterday but in my haste to get it all done, I forgot to hit the publish button.

It was one of those days where I had to finish off everything I had on my desk before getting ready to catch the evening plane.  I had to turn in papers for a meeting next week that was canceled due to people being out of town.

I got all my lesson plans on the desk, every answer on the worksheets so the sub can copy the work on the board.  It is too hard to find a sub who can do the math, so I have to provide all the answer.

Two members of the basketball team and their coach kept getting bumped from the 9 person planes.  Most people are used to checking in at the ticket counter, going through security, waiting at the appropriate gate till boarding happens.

Out where I am, you check in via phone with the agent who tells you, they'll all when the pilot contacts them.  So you hang around at home till you hear the pilot over the VHF.  You then call the agent to make sure this is your flight. If it is, you get a lift up to the airport and wait in or on your vehicle (truck, ATV, or snow machine) until the plane lands.

Once the plane lands, they unload the mail and cargo, let people off, set up additional seats, then load up.  They either head to the next village, or they head back to their home base.  It is really cold if the wind is blowing hard.  The plane is a small Navajo Caravan carrying no more than 9 passengers.

Once you get to the hub and transfer to a larger airline with a larger plane and you have to go through security.  If you are precheck, you get to leave your shoes on.  If its winter, you still have to take off all your winter gear, coats, hoodies, etc. It feels like you are doing a strip tease. Once you get through security, you put it all back on because you have to walk out to the plane, climb the portable stairs much like those movies from the 50's and 60's. 

I'm happy to announce that although the basketball players missed their connecting flight, we were able to get them on the last flight out of the Hub into Anchorage so they would have enough time to get to the games by leaving at 5:30 in the morning.

Have a good day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Versitile White Sauce

Salad, Dressing, Healthy, Food, Green  I firmly believe that every cook should be able to make a basic white sauce because you can do a few things to it to create a variety of other sauces.

I know everyone has their own basic recipe.  Mine is as follows:
1/4 cup butter, gently melted till just liquid.
Add 2 tblsp flour into the butter.
Mix and keep mixing over medium heat until it thickens and turns a beautiful golden color.  Add 1 to 2 cups milk slowly while stirring to keep it from  clotting.  Keep stirring till it thickens to the proper consistency.  Finish with a bit of salt and pepper. You are done.  I should tell you these are general measurements because I always eyeball them as I cook.

I've seen recipes which used arrowroot, cornstarch, or potato starch to thicken the sauce.  If you use one of these, you would melt the butter, add most of the milk but you would keep a 1/4 cup of the milk back to mix with the powder.  Add it to the heated milk and stir till thick.

Now what can you do with the sauce?  Tons of things.

1.  As it is thickening, add grated cheese, keep stirring till fully melted and mixed.  I often use a provolone or smoked Gouda to give it a smoky flavor.  This is the sauce, I use on my macaroni and cheese dish.

2.  Sometimes, I saute finally chopped mushrooms in an increased amount of butter, fish the mushrooms out, add the flour and make a thinner sauce by increasing the amount of milk.  When its ready, add the mushrooms back in for a mushroom sauce to add to the pasta.

3.  Add a variety of herbs in the butter as its melting and make as normal.  I like this poured over eggs on toast to add a bit of flavor.  Occasionally I add a sprinkle of Parmesan or Asiago just before its done to create depth.

4. Add garlic to the butter as it melts and use this white sauce in your lasagna instead of tomato sauce.  I've often added chopped dried vegetables to this mixture to add more nutrition to this.  Try this white sauce with Asparagus.  It is good this way.

5. My mother used to make the white sauce, add it to cooked ground beef and mushrooms.  She served it on noodles and called it Goulash.

6.  My father likes to add vegetables and chicken to a white sauce, pour it in a pan, cover it with mashed potatoes and calls it Shepard's Pie.  On the other hand, he puts a crust in a pie pan, adds the meat/veggie mixture, tops it with another crust and calls it a huge pot pie.

7.  Make the mushroom sauce, add it to green beans, top with onion rings for your own version of green bean casserole.

As you can see, having a basic white sauce in your cooking repertoire is perfect because its the starting point to other fantastic dishes.

Let me know what you add to your white sauce and how you use it.  I'd love to hear more.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Crazy Weather

Blizzard, Snow, House, Winter, Cold  Yesterday, I woke up to howling winds which pushed all the loose snow across the landscape from the mountains to the sea.  It was nasty.  It plastered snow to the windows and cut visibility to the basketball court.  It was not a day to be out.

At work, we had a late start because the pipe bringing water into the building froze solid so we had no running water.  School was cancelled for the kids but we still had to work.

I got quite a bit done but the wind caused the internet to go down as I was writing my column for this blog.  I finally went home to a frozen pipe at my apartment.  So things got snarky last night.  The wind continued howling but later that night, I got a text saying the water was working once again at work.

This morning, I woke up to more howling wind, more blown snow, and more cold wind chill when the wind whipped across my body.  My neighbor caught me before I got very far.  Work had been cancelled due to plumbing issues.  I promptly turned around, went home, and crawled back into bed for another couple of hours.

I just know wandered over to work to check out the internet.  Its up and running so I'm getting caught up with a few things including all the paperwork I need done before I head off on a business trip.  The plumbing is still down.  The maintenance guys are in the building discussing the problem.  I can report the wind is still howling but there is no snow being blown.  I think it moved all the loose snow already. 

The unfortunate thing about current events is since school was cancelled today, we have to have a make up day on Saturday.  I'm out of town but I'll leave easy work, for that day.  I had to pop over to district office to check on something for my trip.  On the way out, I spotted a snow machine plugged into an outlet.

I suspect the owner did this so they could start their machine when work was over.  I spoke with maintenance about the plumbing problem.  It turned out, one of the pipes had a leak they fixed so hopefully we will have school tomorrow.  Unfortunately, the plumbing issues seem to have extended to my neighborhood. 

We are having all these issues because the amount of snow is much less than it should be.  Snow is an effective insulator.  About two-thirds of the town has above ground pipes so if snow does not cover them properly, the liquid in them can freeze and block things.  The school is above ground and its pipes hug the underside so they are exposed to the cold blustery wind.

One year, the boiler quit two days in a row and the third day a major pipe burst flooding about 5 rooms including mine.  They spend the day cleaning up the mess but it was another few weeks before they cleaned the carpet with a fungicide.  Until they cleaned it properly, the room stunk like mold, making it impossible to use it.

Have a good day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fresh Greens In Winter

Food, Food Photography, Food Prep  By this time of the year, I crave greens.  I don't care what type of green it is, just something I can eat.  So over the weekend, I was cleaned out a drawer and came across a mixture of seeds for spouting.

Talk about a light bulb going off!  Eureka!  My fresh greens.  Wonderful beautiful home grown greens.

You really don't need anything fancy to grow them.  Just a jar, a rubber band, and a piece of stocking.  That is all.

Put a couple tablespoon of seeds into the jar, add water, and secure the piece of stocking over the jar.  Let the seeds soak an hour or so and drain.  Each day, add water, swish, then drain.  In a few days you'll have nice fresh greens.

A few years ago, I invested in a nice stackable sprouter with 5 layers.  I place some seeds in each layer, water it and the water drips down to the bottom layer.  It is easy and within a few days, I have wonderful fresh greens.

As you know, you can add sprouts to stir-fry, salads, sandwiches and even bread. If you keep an eye out, you can get books devoted to using sprouts in cooking.  I have several.  Each type of green provides a unique flavor and texture.

Alfalfa sprouts are a popular choice for most people. Its neutral taste and crunchiness provides vitamin C, vitamin K, and a bit of protein.

Broccoli sprouts is said to be quite good for you.  It has vitamin C and fiber.

Mung bean sprouts are often what you see as "bean sprouts" in Chinese cooking.

Radish sprouts offer a spiciness or bite which add to the over all mix. 

Other seeds are lentils, chickpeas, sunflower, wheatgrass, fenegreek, clover, soybeans, mustard, and onions.

One other thing to think about is sprouting peas because pea shoots are a delicacy used in Chinese  cooking.  Check the internet for easy to use recipes.  I think I'm going to get some of that to start at home because I want to try them. 

Fresh greens when there is snow all around and no chance of any grown locally until summer.  I'm happy and I'm starting a batch tonight.  Yeah.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 10, 2017

That Time of Year Again

Thermometer, Temperature, Fever, Flu  It is that time of year again.  At work half of the people are hacking, coughing, snorting, wheezing, or displaying other symptoms of having a cold.  About half of the remainder are fighting some sort of stomach flu and are often seen running down the hall.

I know, I know, you've seen it at your own place of work.  You probably wonder why people would come to work sick.  Why don't they stay home, rest, and get over it enough.

I can't speak for anyone else but for me, its a matter of trying to make sure I leave enough work for my students so the sub they bring in can actually follow directions and teach them.  I teach math in a place where the quality of sub boils down to they are breathing.

I remember watching a Myth Busters on spreading germs.  They used a dye to show how germs spread while inviting some unsuspecting people to see which ones had habits designed to keep them from being exposed.  I think only one person passed.  It was fascinating.   I'd love to show it to some of my students who do not even cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

There are ways to stay healthy even when everyone around you is sick, trying to share their current bug with you and everyone else.  The CDC has suggestions for everyone to follow so they stay healthier.  Check them out!

1. Keep your distance from those who are sick.  Distance is your friend because it decreases your chances of being exposed.

2.  Stay home so you do not expose other people but as many of us know, its hard staying home due to commitments we've made or sometimes we have family that will not let us be sick at home.

3. Cover your mouth and nose to keep the germs from spraying out into the air.  It helps cut down on the spread of the bugs.

4. Wash your hands regularly, to help rid the surface of germs.  The fewer germs you are exposed to, the less chance you have of catching the flu.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth otherwise, you might be exposing yourself to germs that you might avoid otherwise.

6. Clean and disinfect surfaces, especially when sick.  Get lots of sleep, stay hydrated, and eat well.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear about your favorite suggestions to stay well.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

HIstory of High Heels and 6 Fun Facts

Pumps, High Heeled Shoe, Stack-Heel Shoe  Today out of the blue, I remember something I read about one of the french kings who make high heels popular so he'd be higher.  I've often wondered how true that statement is.

As we know, popular information may not be correct or even true.  There is a grain of truth to this in that men were the ones who wore high heels originally.

Apparently, high heels signaled wealth and nobility.  The higher the heel, the more wealth the wearer ha and the higher his or her ranking.

One of the earliest styles of women's high heels comes from the 15th century.  It was named the chopine which is a platform type shoe.  It looks like a shoe on two pieces of fancy wood and cold be up to 18 inches tall.  There is speculation these shoes might have originated within the ranks of the working girls of Venice while others speculate they were invented to help Catherine De Medici seem taller since she was quite short.   Eventually, the wealthy of Italy and the Ottoman Empire adopted these.  It didn't matter if you couldn't walk in them because if you were rich, you rode everywhere. Eventually the right believed the higher the platform, the longer the dress could be worn and all this extra material cost money so only the wealthy could do this. The shoes were not comfortable.

Men's and women's shoes were basically the same until the 1660's when men's shoes became more practical while women's became more decorated. Most heels at this point were blocky with very pointed heels and tied with ribbons.  These shoes are heavily embroidered and quite fancy.

At one point in history, around the 1840's, the heel decreased until it disappeared. Shoes resembled the modern day ballet slippers with ribbons and square toed. By 1850's the heel reappeared and continued to be worn.  It wasn't till the 1940's and 50's that technology reached a point where stilettos became stable and the choice for most women.

Fun Facts
1.  It is believed Egyptian butchers wore heels to keep their feet free from blood.

2. Middle Eastern Riders wore heels to keep their feet in their stirrups.

3. Ancient Greeks and Roman actors wore high heels when performing.

4. High heels were an added shoe accessory in the Middle Ages.

5.  6 inch heels were worn by the upper classes during the 17th century in Europe.  It required the wearer be held up by a servant on each side.

6.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, heels of shoes were always red.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Did You Know?

Tiger Mosquito, Mosquito  As mentioned by Adam to an earlier entry on Alaska, we do have mosquitoes who seem a bit hungrier than those down states.  They do attack in a way that make you wish you could figure out how to get rid of them.

When I first moved to Alaska, it was in September when everything cooled down, got wet, and the mosquitoes began disappearing. I couldn't understand why people joked about it being the state bird.

 I didn't worry about them until the following spring when snow melted and all the sudden the air was thick with those hungry rascals who were fully grown.  I couldn't figure out how they went from small larvae to full sized adults in such a short time.  It turns out one of the mosquito species up here hibernates over the winter.

You read that right!  In the fall when the temperatures begin dropping close to zero, these mosquitoes bury themselves under leaves and other materials so they are protected over the winter.  They enjoy a nice long sleep until the snow melts.  Once they wake up, they crawl out of their safe spot before they hunt for food due to hunger.

Its not unusual to walk along shaded paths and be attacked by a swarm of starving mosquitoes.  One time I was driving up from Anchorage to Fairbanks and had to make a stop by the side of the road, near a nice thick patch of woods.  I barely got in there, before they attacked in full force.  I got my business completed and back to the car in record time.

Once these adults have started satisfying their hunger, they reproduce, adding to the population.  It is no fun being attacked by both adults and babies.  I have spent a few summers  coated in lotion designed to keep the bites from scratching.  A couple years after I moved up there, I found a couple of plants I could use to prevent those suckers from biting.

One of the plants is a wonderful catnip. Yup, the same plant that drives cats crazy.  I grabbed a few leaves, rubbed them over my body, before going out.  Presto, no longer did the mosquitoes focus on me.  They left me alone to bother other people.

The downside of using catnip?  All the cats in the neighborhood invaded my yard and tried to kill it with love.  I finally had to build a protective cage around it, otherwise it was being smothered by all the felines who needed to play in it.

Yes even today, I keep catnip handy so I don't have to use any poisons.  Yes mosquitoes still hibernate and wake up so hungry.  Until I moved up here, I didn't know they hibernated like bears.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tenderizing Meat

Meat, Steak, Cutlet  My parents are on a hamburger budget but occasionally like a cut of meat.  Unfortunately, they are only able to afford the tougher cuts.   I am sure many of you have the same constraints.

My mother is really not much of a cook, so my dad does most of it.  My mother's  favorite way of cooking meat is to fry it quickly, dump bunch of water in the pan and cook till done.

I don't think my parents ever owned a tenderizing mallet or even did much towards marinating meat.  If we had meat, it was often cut in thin slices and cooked in stir fry or it was ground beef served with gravy on rice.

If you check the internet, you'll find several ways to improve the tenderness of the meat so its more edible and desirable.

1.  The usual way is to grab one of those special mallets and just pound it until it is thinner.  Be sure to hit the whole surface on both sides so it is fully covered.

2. If you do not have the mallet, you could use a knife to score the surface so the cuts are against the grain.  The cuts should be thin, long, and deep.

3. Marinate it with lemon or lime juice, buttermilk, yogurt, or vinegar to help break down the muscle fibers.  These acids can break it down too much so only leave the meat in it for between 30 min and 2 hours.

4.  Marinate it in an enzyme such as pineapple, papaya, or kiwi .  These help tenderize meat but if you are using pineapple, do not leave it in too long.  It is suggested you puree the fruits, add seasonings, and marinate. I know someone who often mixed the juices together.

5. A simple method for marinating meat is to salt it heavily.  Let it sit for a couple of hours and wipe the salt off before cooking.  Salt is considered to be a

6. Slow cook it over low heat for several hours to help break down the muscle fibers.

Have a good time trying some of these.  Let me know how it goes.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Sunset, Sun, Abendstimmung, Setting Sun  As you know, I live in Alaska.  It is amazing how many people still believe certain myths.  If you've ever read Tundra Comics, you know the author capitalizes on misconceptions and myths that have originated up here.

I love when those letter exchanges open between classes down states and here in Alaska.  One of the first questions is "Do you live in igloo's".   I have no idea where that particular question began.

Yes I have seen an igloo made of ice but it was built during cultural heritage week.  The upper elementary students go outside to the lake, cut blocks of ice and make one but no one lives in it.  I was told an igloo is actually used by hunters when they are out for extended periods of time. 

One year we go so much rain, we joked around about selling igloos made of mud due to a lack of cold......LOL.  Seriously, in all the time I've lived up here, I have never seen an igloo used in a real situation.  Most of my hunter friends live in tents when they hunt in the winter.

Another lovely myth is we have 6 months of sunlight and 6 months of darkness.  That is not quite true.  We may have longer times of darkness or light but no one turns a switch to make it dark or light.  The reality is that we loose a certain number of minutes per day until about December 21st and then begin gaining it again till around June 21st.  It is a very gradual process.

Honestly, it is so gradual, you really don't notice it until one day, you look out the window and its dark outside at 9 am.  Then its 11 am and the sun is finally up and you realize half your morning has passed in the dark.  On the other end, you notice the sun is going down at 5:30 in the evening and pretty soon its still light at 11 pm.  You wonder where the time has gone.

The first year or two people tend to notice it more because they are ready for bed about 2 hours after it gets dark.  Its a hard adjustment.  One way to fight it, is to have all the lights on to help the body adjust and stave off the depression which haunts the new people who move up here.

I've lived in a place, just north of the arctic circle where we had one hour of daylight on the winter equinox.  Yes it was different and hard to get used to but there is one thing that makes life bearable with so much darkness. 

Sunrise or sunset is not a quick process.  In the morning, the sky changes from a dark blackish blue to a vibrant cobalt blue before movies into a almost sky blue as the sun bursts across the horizon bathing the landscape in fire.  At night the sun sets and the sky darkens through a cobalt to the dark blackish blue.

And in the darker hours, the aurora bursts forth and races across the sky, flaring forth in green, purple, pink, and yellow, swirling and dancing across the sky. 

Something I've never seen down states, at least not to the extent as up here. The pictures only capture a moment in time and do not show its beauty and vitality.  If you get a chance, some see it in March or October. 

Friday, February 3, 2017


Blossom, Bloom, Passion Flower, Bloom  I love watching science fiction movies where the colonists are able to transform the country side from something totally inhospitable into something totally livable.  Its often referred to as terra forming but is it really possible or is it something we are presented in such a way we can suspend belief.

Is it real?  Can we terraform at this point in time?  Well, we have a lot of ideas right now, especially in regard to Mars but we really don't know HOW to do it.

Back in the late 1980's and 1990's a group of scientists crated Biosphere 2 which was an enclosed system to recreate Earths ecosystem.  The idea behind this particular project is that if such a system was possible here, it would make it easier to settle on a planet somewhere.  So this was build in Arizona with eight people willing to live there, sealed in for two full years.

About half way through the first year, the oxygen levels dropped significantly so oxygen had to be pumped in to make it livable again.  They tried again but this time it only lasted six months due to mismanagement and the fact that two of the participants sabotaged it.  The system has continued to grow while grow and the University is getting ready to conduct experiments on  the system.

So we know that it is difficult to build anything that is totally closed but do we have the ability to transform a hostile planet into an habitable, livable place?  Well, one has to have a way to create a breathable atmosphere, produce sufficient power or instigate a source for light so plants can be grown, breed plants capable of surviving the unique challenges of the new ecosystems.

In addition, how will the various components be transported to the target location?  Where will the energy come from?  Well there is the thought we should terraform Mars so we can colonize it but unfortunately, there are some serious problems involved with that.

The problems start with the fact that we'd have to modify the atmosphere, raise the temperature as its quite cold, improve the soil, get rid of the heavy metals, so various plants can be grown, adjust the amount of light hitting the planet, cause elements to combine to produce a serious source of water, etc.

This is something that cannot be done in a short time.  It will not work like the Genesis project in Star Trek where they shot a bomb into it and everything instantly changed.  This is something that is more likely to take a few thousand years.

There are ideas like using shells, etc but the reality is we are not advanced technologically to pull it off within our lifetime but it still makes it fun to dream about it and all the possibilities of what life could be like if we could properly terraform planets. It's all the what if's that makes life fun.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why Do We Use Spices?

Spices, Spice Mix, Colorful, CurryDid you know that the term spice is not a botanical designation?  It is used to designate plants and plant parts used to flavor food and drink?  Spices are everything else but the leaves.  The leaves are considered herbs.

Examples of spices include Cinnamon which is the bark, Allspice which is a berry, or cloves which are a dried flower.

Many of these spices remained local until the age of exploration began and explorers such as Marco Polo, Magellan, and Columbus  roamed the world.

In the past, spices served multiple purposes.  In the Middle Ages, spices were often used either to help flavor the meat or make certain types of meat easier to eat.    Was it used to make rotting meat palatable?  According to things I've read, no this is not true because due to the cost of spices, only the rich could actually afford these.  Why would anyone waste money that way? By the 1400's, poor people could afford cost of a pound of pepper and the rich people quit eating it for that one fact.

Over the years, spices have become more accessible to everyone.  In some places, such as India, spices are used more frequently than in others.  

Did you know:
1.  The first commercial chili powder was released in the late 1800's.

2. Peppercorns have been used since at least the 4th century BC

3.  Columbus named one spice Pimento but once it arrived in Europe, it became known as Allspice.

4. The Nutmeg tree produces both nutmeg and mace.

5. Although many people think Masala is a specific type of spice, it actually means spice.

6. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili is considered the worlds hottest chili.  Its can burn its way through a latex glove.

7. Mustard and Wasabi do not become spicy until they are crushed.

8. Before the invention of electricity, they had clocks which opened the compartment of a different spice.  People could tell the time by the smell of the spice.

9. Sumac is the only spice native to all 48 contiguous states.

10. The Canna Indica seed and peppercorns were used as shotgun pellets.

Have a great time and I hope you enjoyed this.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New thoughts

Screen, Umbrella, Red, Drawing, Image  I've recently been reading up on something called a growth mindset.  This basically means you change your mindset from "I can't" to "I can" by looking at things differently.  Instead of seeing it as too hard, perhaps you look at it as you are missing something in your understanding.

I've always thought I could not draw in any way shape or form so I've never thought of myself as an artist.  The other day I doodled a bit and actually liked the flower I drew.

As today is the first of the month, I always look for e-books on sale so I can stock up on them.  This time, I looked at and purchased art technique books.  I can tell you I am not going to so anything about them right now because I do not have the time but I can read them here and there just to learn more about the techniques.

I've found books on acrylic, drawing, mixed media, and other techniques.  I'm even looking at a book on making your own supplies.  I just want to learn more about art and learning to express myself creatively as a way of fulling a desire I have. I've always wanted to draw a dog which actually looked like a dog instead of a mutant horse. 

My kids used to laugh hysterically when I tried to draw anything.  I have a cartoon bird which looks good but nothing out.  I even found a couple apps which teach you to draw certain characters.  Yes.

Right now, I can recreate historical gowns complete with corsets and petticoats.  I can do it without a pattern or with.  I can pleat, make bows, create beautiful trim out of ribbon and other supplies but when I draw, I suck.  Another thing I want to become passable is to draw clothing on figures.  In regard to that, you down load a body from the internet to draw your clothing creations on.

I may never be a Picasso or a Grandma Moses but that does not mean I can't do it for myself.  For the pure joy of it.  No one ever said that we have to be great at anything, especially if we discover a passion for it.  What do you think.