Monday, March 19, 2018

Crazy Conifers: a Cedar Wood Story

Cedar Tree - Photo: Wikimedia
However, softwood producing trees such as the Cedar contain just two types of cell and have few waters conducting vessels meaning it stays drier in wet conditions than other conifers such as the Yew or the Cypress tree. They commonly reach 1500m in height and are 30 to 40m across. In their natural habitat, Cedar trees are exposed to mountain and monsoon climates, which mean that they are adept at surviving snow, drought, heavy rainfall and temperatures as low as -25?C. 

Not only are Cedar trees aesthetically beautiful, but they produce wood which smells and looks lovely when crafted into furniture. This type of wood is ideal for outdoor furniture as it is resistant to decay and is protected by its own natural oils and resins that prepare the wood for harsh weather conditions. However, many cedar garden furniture items (particularly those used outdoors) are stained or treated every two to three years in order to give the wood those few extra years of protection against the elements. If left untreated, Cedarwood gradually ages and develops a greyish-silver color. 

This looks good but means that the wood will not last as long as it would, had it been treated. An additional advantage of Cedar is that it is sparse (has a low density) and while it attempts to equalize the moisture within its wood and the air around it, it does not warp or crack as many other kinds of wood do. Cedarwood contains small pockets of air, which means that it doesn’t conduct heat as well as some other woods. This is ideal in summer when the air is warm, and the cedar furniture remains cool despite the weather.

Cedarwood is often chosen by carpenters and furniture manufacturers because of its low density and weight. It is easy to transport and very versatile, along with its weatherproof qualities and aesthetic appeal which makes it an ideal wood for outdoor furniture.

Western Red Cedar wood is often chosen for furniture because of its attractive look. It has a straight grain and an almost terracotta shade. Unlike ‘white’ Cedar, its natural oils also repel moths and other insect pests such as ticks, fleas, and termites which make it well suited for outdoor dog and cat pens or houses and small huts such as beach houses.

It has also been tested in the US for its flame spread rating in order to determine how fast fire will burn through the material. The lower the rating, the slower the wood takes to burn, and Western red cedar wood’s flame spread rating is 98 which is considered low. So not only is red cedar wood perfect for outdoor furniture and structures, but it is very suitable for interior displays, wall panels, and furniture too.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How To Make Candied Fruit For Cake Decorating

Photo: Pixabay
I remember my mother making fruit cake, she would use candied cherries that she would buy them in little airtight containers. They came in two colors, red and green, but they did not have the best taste. The candied fruit available now is much more beautiful and tastier than it was then. Trust me it isn't just for fruitcakes anymore.

Making your own candied fruit to use as a garnish for dishes, in cookies, as a snack, and in cake decorating. Making candied fruit is a simple process. You infuse fruits and citrus peelings in a sugar syrup. You can candy orange wedges, orange peel, lemon peel, grapefruit peel, pineapple and fresh cherries. You can also candy fruits, such as carrots for carrot cake decorating.

You will need two saucepans, one for making the syrup, and another to blanch the fruit. This is a recipe for a Candied orange peel. 

Simple Syrup

This syrup is used for making candied fruits, adding flavor to cold drinks, and adding moisture to sponge cake. There are different strengths of simple syrup for different uses. Thin simple syrup, made with 1 part sugar to 2 parts water, is used to brush on cake layers, mostly sponge cake, to provide extra moisture and sweetness. A medium simple syrup is made with equal parts of sugar and water. This is excellent for adding sweetness to mixed drinks, coffee, iced tea and to candy fruit. A syrup made of 2 parts sugar and 1 part water is used as a base for sorbet and making rock candy.

Combine equal parts of sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. You do not need to stir the syrup, but if you do it will do no harm. You can flavor the syrup. Take the syrup off the heat and cool slightly. Stir in 1 or 2 tsp. Of vanilla for a basic vanilla syrup. This syrup can be kept in a lidded jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Remove the bottom and top of an orange. Set the flat end of the orange on a cutting board. With a sharp paring knife, slice the peel off in strips, starting at the top and slicing downward, following the curve as much as possible. Don't worry about cutting off the white pith of the peel. Although it is usually bitter, blanching it will make it translucent and the syrup will sweeten it.

You can candy the peel as it is, or cut into strips that are 1/4 inch wide, to use in cake decorating and garnishes. You can also dip it in chocolate and use it as a snack. Larger peels, like grapefruit, should be cut into strips for even cooking.

Place the peel in a pot of cool water. Bring water to a rolling boil, remove from heat and transfer the peel into a colander to drain. Repeat the process twice more. For grapefruit or a more tart flavored fruit, you will need to blanch them seven or eight times. Cherry and pineapple do not need blanching and can be placed directly into the syrup. Between blanching taste the peel, if it is tender it has been blanched enough. Place the peel into the pot of syrup and bring to a low simmer. Let simmer for 15 to 30 minutes or until the orange rind becomes translucent and the peel tastes sweet and tender

Remove the pot from heat and let it cool. The orange rind can be stored in its own syrup for weeks in the refrigerator. You may choose to drain them and roll them in sugar. Sugared rinds tend to dry out quite fast and should be eaten within a couple of days. You can dry the peel and dip it in tempered chocolate to make it last a bit longer.

You can use the orange flavored syrup in other drinks or dishes. Nothing really goes to waste!

Saturday, March 17, 2018


English: An illustration of alfalfa leaves.
An illustration of alfalfa leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), which is a perennial herb, has a long list of dietary and medicinal uses and research has proven that Alfalfa might lower blood levels of cholesterol and glucose. Many take Alfalfa supplements orally and it has been proven safe except in a small percentage of people where it produces lupus-like symptoms. In the seeds and sprouts of Alfalfa, amino acid L-canavanine is present and that is what is thought to cause this reaction. However, this is not present in the leaves of the Alfalfa. The whole leaf and the herb are what is rendered from the Alfalfa plant.

Since the sixth century, the Chinese have used Alfalfa to relieve fluid retention and swelling. The Arabs were the first to find Alfalfa and they named it "the father of all foods." The leaves of the Alfalfa plant are very rich in minerals and nutrients, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and carotene. The Arabs first fed it to their horses because they believed the Alfalfa made them swift and mighty. Alfalfa has been an animal crop for over a thousand years but is also used as an herbal medicine.

Alfalfa is a good diuretic and also a good laxative. It also works well for urinary tract infections, and kidney, bladder, and prostate disorders. The latest and greatest discovery of Alfalfa is the benefits that it might provide for lowering cholesterol because there are certain agents in Alfalfa that stick to cholesterol which keeps it from remaining in the bloodstream. Further, it may also have a very strong relationship with lowering blood sugar levels.

When it comes to Alfalfa it is something that many people enjoy in their cuisine. It is good in salads and some people eat it as a vegetable all alone. Many people claim that eating Alfalfa is a big part of eating healthy. Besides wheat grass and algae, Alfalfa has the most nutritional value. It is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and has all of the required digestive enzymes.

It is warned by avid Alfalfa lovers that you likely will not like the way that it tastes in your mouth, it may feel like it is burning the tip of your tongue and you actually might just completely dislike it however, they urge you to not give up because it is an acquired taste and you will begin to like it. The best news is that soon after eating it regularly you will find that your appetite for heavier foods will diminish.

Alfalfa is also great for reducing fevers and is very good for the blood. It contains natural fluoride and prevents tooth decay. Alfalfa makes a great tea because when the Alfalfa leaves steep in the hot water it is a source of nitrogen. The tea is not only made for human consumption because people who grow Irises and Delphiniums just love Alfalfa tea because of the great effect that it has on the plants when used as a foliar spray. Many with a green thumb also use Alfalfa as mulch for their flower beds.

Friday, March 16, 2018


A cup of espresso
A cup of espresso (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With the popularity of espresso shops and martini bars is it any wonder that the espresso martini has become popular as well? Sometimes called the espressotini, this drink is a perfect blend of caffeine and alcohol. If you’re looking for a buzz that picks you up while relaxing you at the same time, then it's time that you asked your barista or your bartender for an espresso martini.

So what is an espresso martini? Well, that depends on who you ask. There are so many variations of this drink out there that there isn't a generally accepted recipe. The only consistent ingredients are espresso and vodka and even then the espresso is sometimes substituted with coffee or even instant coffee crystals.

The best espresso martinis are usually made with real espresso. If you're making one at home, be sure to let it cool to room temperature before adding it to your cocktail shaker. Using ice to cool down your espresso will just give you watered down espresso.

The vodka in an espresso martini is almost always of the flavored variety. The most popular option is using a vanilla vodka and adding a coffee liqueur. But now there are espresso flavored vodkas available as well. Whether you use unflavored vodka, vanilla or espresso just remember that you don't want to use gin. It's true that martinis are made with gin but it really doesn't taste great when mixed with espresso.

Once the vodka and the espresso are added this is where all the variations come into play. Some people like to add a splash of Grand Marnier, while other recipes call for Tia Maria or Amaretto. Even chocolate liqueurs can be added if you prefer the taste of a mochaccino to a regular espresso. If you like the taste of one of these liqueurs and you think it will go with your espresso martini then give it a try. Whatever you choose, be sure to only use a splash because the main purpose of this additional liqueur is to add a just hint of flavor. You don't want to overpower the primary flavors of the martini.

The one thing that almost all espresso martini recipes agree on is the garnish. Three espresso beans will top your drink off properly. The rules for garnishes say that odd amounts are lucky to go with one, three or five beans.

Espresso martinis are becoming more and more popular no matter how they are made. Whether you're a regular at your local coffee house or that swanky martini bar in the city, why not order an espressotini the next time you're looking for the new and unusual drink.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Beginners' Guide To Enjoying RED WINE

Bottle of Penfolds Grange wine
Bottle of Penfolds Grange wine
(Photo credit: 
The world of red wines is a heady, rich and wonderful world filled with everything from the nuanced subtlety of a gentle South African Merlot to the peppery richness of Sangre de Toro, “Blood of the Bull” from Spain. In general, many of the “rules” of wine drinking have been cast aside in today’s world, making it more accessible to every person, and with the increased demand-supply has soared, allowing for inexpensive and very delicious wine available to all.

Still, there are many who feel that the world of wine-loving is not as yet open to them. With so many wines to choose among, where do you begin? How do you properly enjoy a red or white and with what meals would they be best?

Let’s look at some very basic tips for maximizing your exploration of red wines.

Don’t spend a ton of money on a bottle of wine. Leave that for later, once you’ve begun to explore beyond the brands and varietals that you like. There are so many wonderful and delicious wines that are available for somewhere between $5 and $8 a bottle, that you really should not need to drop $20 or $30 for a bottle of least not yet.

Don’t buy local, yet. Often, your local wine store is stocked with bottles from the local vineyard (if there is one). These can be wonderful, or they can be vinegar. It really can be something of a crapshoot. So, unless you live in the Napa Valley, or some other area that is renown for its wine-making efforts, stick with something that is nationally or internationally distributed.

Stick with a varietal, for now. In other words, pick a wine that is primarily made from one type of grape, i.e. a Shiraz, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc. Try to avoid blended reds, to begin with, though they can be quite delicious. By learning the flavors of the varietal grapes, you’ll better understand what it is about the blend that you like. Avoid flavored wines or coolers that you can get at your local convenience store. These are little more than non-bubbly soda pop with alcohol in them and can lead to a nasty headache as they are hastily made from the least pure ingredients.

Start with a nice Merlot from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Chile. These vineyards are usually able to balance cost with quality quite nicely. The reason I recommend Merlot is that of all the red varietals, it is the gentlest and complements a broad menu of meals.

Reds like to breathe. Open the bottle and let it sit for ten minutes or so. This allows oxygen to get the wine and mature it quickly. For that matter, pouring the wine into the glasses and allowing it to sit for ten to twenty minutes accelerates this process. You’ll find the flavor is much enhanced by this approach.

Reds at Room Temperature and Whites Chilled. A simple rule that does not always apply but is a good guide, nonetheless. Chilling a red removes many of the subtleties of flavor for which you buy the wine in the first place and slows the wine’s ability to mature with exposure to oxygen. Keep them at room temperature.

I mentioned earlier that many of the “rules” of wine-loving have been discarded, or at least loosened, such as ‘red wine with red meat or pasta and white wine with fish or poultry.’ While these are not bad guidelines, they really are not carved in stone and nowadays waiters and even the seasoned gourmand will not turn up his/her nose at a guest who asks for a red with fish or enjoys a nice, tart Chardonnay with a burger.

Merlot with what? While a Merlot can be a perfect complement for a spaghetti dinner (particularly if you have a nice buttery garlic bread), it can easily sit beside a pork chop or fried chicken dinner. A Merlot is a lovely, non-pretentious start to your journey and should open the door nicely to a journey of wine loving.

OK, Now What? Try a few different brands of Merlot from competing vineyards. Note the differences in style and substance. I’d recommend sticking to those south of the equator, to begin with. Once you feel like you’ve tasted a number of Merlots and are acquainted with the differences, then move on to a Cabernet Sauvignon and begin your journey anew. I’d hold off on Shiraz, Syrah, Petite Syrah or Beaujolais until you have a basic appreciation of Merlots and Cabernets, but once you do, then dive into the heavy, heady, peppery joy of the stronger reds. Once you feel like you really understand and can note the differences of the red varietals, start exploring the blends or the truly excellent California varietals. Good luck and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Begin By Eating BREAKFEST

A spoon containing breakfast cereal flakes, pa...
A spoon containing breakfast cereal flakes
(Photo credit: 
You have probably witnessed that eating a healthy breakfast can save you from cravings later during the day and can actually assist your effort in losing the excess weight you have been carrying around for some time now. But, as time has lately been considered a luxury not many people have during the day and especially during a busy weekday morning, starting the day off with eating a healthy breakfast is now a lost nutritional practice.

Between battling work problems and prepare ourselves for another demanding day, we have forgotten to pay attention to the most important meal of the day and usually try to find time to squeeze in a cup of milk or in best cases a whole bowl of cereals. The contemporary fast-paced world has directed people to become superheroes, managing double or even triple careers, but forgetting to manage their own daily food intake. If you think that your body is the only instrument you have to continue performing all the tasks you want, perhaps it is time to pay attention to its nutritional needs and fulfill them accordingly.

But it is more convincing to start our argument from the beginning. Millions of people who skip breakfast and have never invested time in researching the consequences of their actions, usually wonder why do experts regard breakfast as the most important meal of the day and how come it is still the most important meal of the day, surpassing the nutritional value of a healthy lunch or even dinner. However, for millions of others who do eat a healthy breakfast, their secret to good health lies within this first day's meal. So, it is vital for you to understand why eating breakfast is crucial for your overall health. While you are sleeping, your body continues to perform its functions and thus consuming resources, but in a lower rate than when you are awake since your metabolism slows down to compensate for the decreased energy needs.

After waking up in the morning, because your body does not have enough time to return to its normal state is still experiencing the decreased metabolism state which can be ceased by eating a healthy breakfast. That is actually why it has this particular name "break" the "fasting" process. Thus, a healthy breakfast will end the calorie conservation period and will allow your metabolism to increase to its normal levels. This is why when you actually eat in the morning you feel that your energy levels have increased and you are ready to begin your day's tasks.

Moreover, for those of you who are dieting in order to lose weight, you should know that skipping breakfast will not save you from the calories you are trying to avoid. By deciding not to begin your day with a healthy intake, you are not allowing your body's metabolism to go back to its normal state and you actually lose a protein called "leptin" that has been discovered to keep your body working efficiently and thus losing weight.

Since now you are familiar with the basics of metabolism and overnight fasting, you should concentrate on what your healthy breakfast should include. Avoid simple carbs and concentrate on consuming complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Whole wheat bread, cereals, white meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, and fruits are excellent breakfast choices. Remember to eat small portions throughout the day, but not to exclude breakfast from your daily nutritional plan. Soon you will be grateful for waking up ten minutes earlier but at the end of the day you will have much more energy to spare and you will feel fitter and healthier all day long.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Two reasons why you should avoid FAST FOOD

English: Fast food in Yambol, Bulgaria Българс...
Fast food in Yambol, Bulgaria
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are so many reasons to avoid eating at fast food restaurants, many of which we don’t really think about on a regular basis. There are things like obesity and the caloric content of the food that is constantly explored in the media and in studies. But what two big reasons are there to stay away from fast food?

Low Food Quality

When you think about fast food, you don’t necessarily think about the quality of the food. When you are seeking out fast food, you are thinking more about getting something into you rather than what exactly you are putting into your body. In truth, most fast food is of very low quality. This isn’t just about the ingredients that are used (or aren’t) but also the preparation of the food and ingredients.

Ingredients in most fast food are cloudy on the best of days. Despite the new trend of restaurants releasing information about what goes into their menus, there is still some mystery surrounding just exactly what goes into some of our favorite fast foods. Some foods have things that you cannot pronounce in them, while others aren’t truly the proteins that they claim to be serving. You can tell the quality of the food by the quality of the ingredients, and in most cases, it just simply isn’t up to par. From the wilty lettuce to the rubbery cheese, it is just proof that the cheapest products are being used to produce the biggest amount of food that they can.

Preparation is a key step in fast food. The whole point of the restaurants is for them to be fast. But at what cost? Companies tell their employees to cut corners in order to get the job done in a timely manner. This might mean more frozen food than you thought, as well as improperly trained employees handling your food. Is all of this really worth getting that cheap cheeseburger?

Health Effects
In addition to the poor conditions that the food is produced, there can be huge health effects because of the consumption of large amounts of fast food. Weight gain is nearly guaranteed, based on the fact that fast food tends to be so high in fat content. But besides the weight gain, you need to keep in mind that most fast food has a very low nutritional value. How many essential vitamins and minerals do you figure that you can get a fast food meal? Not many in most cases. Fast food is loaded with preservatives, and even the “healthy options” on menus are loaded with fats that aren’t really needed in your daily diet.

Fast foods may be a staple in many diets across the country, but they really shouldn’t be. There are so many reasons to avoid fast food, some of which we don’t necessarily hear about. More people need to be made aware of what they are putting into their bodies when they are eating from fast food restaurants.