Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Dragon Fruit That Wasn't

Last time we "spoke", I suggested a mysterious post was forthcoming. Sorry kids, it just isn't going to happen:( I stumbled upon a few road blocks that I just couldn't over come in time. The most important being there is NO Dragon Fruit in central PA. I drove everywhere! Oh I know, you have no idea what I'm talking about. How could you? I'll spell it out, briefly.

photo source

As many of you may already know, Chinese New Year has been in full swing all week. If I have my notes in order, it lasts for about 14 days. (please correct me if I'm wrong) In honor of the occasion, I decided to explore the virtues of Dragon Fruit. Oh, I know the name doesn't sound too appetizing but, according to what I could find out, it taste somewhat like a kiwi of sorts. Enchanted by the night blooming flower which bears the fruit, I went on a quest to see if I could find just one Dragon Fruit in my neck of the woods. No can do. I don't know whether it has anything to do with its exorbitant price ($11-$25.00) or the fact that oddities in food are simply not on the menu in my neck of the woods.

photo source
Confucius Says...
To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.

I'm no stranger to huge, fragrant flowers that bloom at night.

taken oven the fence during the full moon September 2011

The notion of trying a new fruit (new to me anyway) in honor of those who visit my blog was rather enticing. There's another reason. You see, in my travels I discovered that under the rules of the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Water Dragon! How cool is that???

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is 2,640 years older than ours and never begins on January 1st, nor does it begin on the same date each year. It can begin any time between January 21st and February 18th, depending on the date of the New Moon in Aquarius. Each year is named for an animal. Every 12 years this cycle begins again. The Chinese say that the animal ruling the year you were born will influence your life. In 2012, Chinese New Year begins January 23rd and will be the year of the Dragon - or more specifically, the year of the Water Dragon. Every animal of the zodiac has 5 elements associated with it. Because of this, there are five dragons, one for each element. Thus, every twelve years there is a different Dragon. (source)

I'll try to explain. According to Chinese folklore, each new year is named for one of twelve animals. "They are, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  One legend is that this order was determined through a race in which the rat cheated by standing on the ox's head and jumping off ahead of him as they reached the finish line." Every 12 years the Chinese Zodiac animal cycle begins again. You too can find out what year you were born under in the Chinese Zodiac. Aren't you just a bit curious. Try it. It's real easy but be sure and come back:)

The Dragon Fruit, which also goes by assorted names such as Strawberry Pear, is borne from the fragrant bloom of a cacti plant. In Spanish it is called Pitaya. It is touted as an antioxidant which is truly hidden in this "spectacular" Dragon Fruit Salad. Besides containing high levels of antioxidants, Dragon Fruit, like rose hips, is high in Vitamin C. It is also high in fiber, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Whew! Can you understand why I thought the Dragon Fruit was the perfect fruit to celebrate this Chinese New Year? In Chinese culture, Red Dragon Fruit symbolizes prosperity. It is seen as a lucky charm and is believed to be able to ward off evil spirits too. Today, Dragon Fruit is the leading fruit export of Vietnam. The juice of the Dragon Fruit has even caught the attention of companies such as both Snapple, Tropicana and a few organic companies right here in the USA!

The culinary uses for Dragon Fruit are only limited by the imagination. The inner part of the fruit is filled with a very juicy sweet tasting pulp. It's said to be very refreshing, especially when it has been kept in the fridge. Inside the pulp there are small black seeds. The pulp is GREAT in sorbets. Some say the flower buds, which are enormous, are enjoyed as vegetables. How do you eat a Dragon Fruit? It seems, it's really rather easy and chances are, if you're a fruit lover, you're bound to like it. However, remember, the price can be a bit steep. Despite it's price tag, Dragon Fruit sounds Easy to Grow at Home; Anywhere! (remember my pineapple?:) When you buy a fruit, all you need is the smallest piece attached to the fruit and it can be propagated from vine cuttings into a complete fruit bearing plant! That's how they do it at Disney's Epcot Center!

Are you convinced that you too should seek out the nearest Dragon Fruit? No? How about this? Dragon Fruit is said to be the exotic fruit with anti ageing properties! Just in case you're still wondering "What So Good About Dragon Fruit, I suggest you visit any one of these recipe links I have provided for you to begin your exploration. If I may, begin with the plethora of recipes I found at Tastespotting and go on from there:)

I must apologize for leaving you with all these links. I got so discombobulated while searching for the invincible Dragon Fruit that once again, I plum ran out the time to put this all together for you. I desperately wanted to share a recipe or two but alas, all I can say and do for now is wish everyone Gung Hay Fat Choy! and start my list of February Celebrations:) Cheers!See you Wednesday!

Bearded Dragon
source wiki
The Legend of the Dragon Fruit: According to legend, The fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle when the dragon would breathe fire the last thing to come out would be the fruit. After the dragon is slain the fruit is collected and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure and indication of victory. The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the flesh. It was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and that they too would be coveted by the Emperor.

It is written that the dragon’s flame originates deep within its body near the base of its tail. The meat from this part of the dragon was the most desirable and most sought after portion. Only the officers of each division would be privy to this cut of meat. The ancient Chinese called this cut the “jaina,” which translates literally to “the sweetest and best tasting."The jaina was treasured by all who were privileged enough to taste it, and it is believed that man’s thirst for the jaina is what led to the destruction and eventual extinction of all of the dragons.(source)

P.S. For those of you who have never "met" Lottie Moon, may I suggest you visit my wikipedia worthy post I did about her a few years ago. (Imagine my surprise when I discovered my link for Lottie Moon; (aka The Cookie Lady) at wiki. Thank you whom ever you are:) From The Lottie Moon Cook Book:

Born in Virginia on December 12, 1840, Lottie (short for Charlotte) Digges Moon was raised in a family "of culture and means" rooted in a deep foundation of Christian Faith and missionary devotion. She would grow to become one of the world’s most well known missionaries, mostly in rural China, and became a tireless advocate for support of foreign missions. Though she stood just 4’3” tall, she laid a foundation for solid support for missions among Southern Baptists.

1. Chinese New Year Crime Fiction: Gung Hay Fat Choy
1. Dragon Fruit Jam & Lemon Marmalade Jam (Kristy's My Little Space)
2. Red Pitaya & Strawberry Popsicle (another from Kristy)
3. Exotic Fruit Chutney (Chef Hari Nayak)
4. Dragon Shrimp Salad (another from Chef Hari Nayak)
5. Dragon Fruit Salad with Strawberries (Pitaya) (Kitchen Grrrls)
6. Strawberry & Dragon Fruit Tartlets (Smoky Wok)
7. Salad of Dragon Fruit, Pomegranate & Macadamia w/ Creamy Mint & Lime Dressing and Dragon Fruit Creme Dessert
8. Coconut Lemongrass-Braised Chicken with Pink Fettuccine
9. Dragon Fruit Caipirinha
10. Dragon Fruit Jelly (Delicious Asian Food)
11. Seared Scallops with Dragon Fruit Salsa (Food Network)
12. How To Make Your Own Dragon Fruit Beer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dense Chocolate & Creamy Peanut Butter; What A Way to Celebrate Peanut Butter Day!

This is going to be a "drive by" post because I'm in the midst of preparing a rather unusual post (for me anyway:) and I'm still working on it. I'll give you a little hint by telling you it has something to do with wishing my Chinese visitors a Happy New Year!!!

In the meantime, rather than have this delicious cake go stale, I thought I would drop off just one sliver. Since my photography skills have not improved in the new year, I'm also including "their" pro image:) I adapted this recipe for Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting from The Land of Lakes Recipe Collection booklet published in 2005.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
1-2/3 cups sugar (I used 1 cup regular sugar; 2/3 cup vanilla sugar:)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I erred and used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa; it's all we had:)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons milk (I used cream)
1. Heat oven 350°. Grease and lightly flour 2 (8 or 9 inch) square or round pans.
2. Combine sugar and 3/4 cup butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy. Add eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to butter mixture alternately with 1-1/3 cups milk, beating just until well blended.
3. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely.
4. Meanwhile place peanut butter and 1/2 cup butter in small bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla (I only used one:) and enough milk for desired frosting consistency.
5. To assemble cake, place 1 layer onto serving plate. Spread 1 cup frosting over top; top with second layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
Note: If you prefer, Land O Lakes Soft Baking Butter with Canola Oil can be used right from the refrigerator.

The cake was absolutely delicious. I was a bit worried it may be too peanut buttery so I used only 1/2 cup peanut butter. (It was also all I had:) Marion loved it!!! It came out sort of fudgy like a brownie but thicker and gooeier (is that a word?) Marion and I both decided it probably would have been better to make one layer and freeze the other but too late now!!!

I hope to see you all in a few days with the "mysterious" post. Don't forget National Peanut Brittle Day on January 26th. Here's a recipe from The Peanut Butter Cookbook by Judi & Tony Meisel. (©1993)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Grab a Cookie, It's National Coffee Break Day!

I was going to suggest you pull up a chair to celebrate National Coffee Break Day but, it occurred to me that you may already be sitting:) I suppose you could be munching on a cookie also but just in case, I baked up some of Pattie's Forget the Cake Crumb Cake Cookies for very good reason I might add; they are just so darn easy to make and they are precisely the right size for a coffee break albeit, a bit crumby:)

According to the National Coffee Association, "coffee lovers celebrated their first National Coffee Break Day last year." However, for those of us who crave out java, we pretty much celebrate coffee every day. So, what's with the notion of a designated coffee break day? Fact is, we may never know, not this year anyway. After numerous attempts to find out the goings on for National Coffee Break Day, 2012, neither the National Coffee Association website or twitter page had any information to offer. I did however find a fabulous Starbucks K-Cups Prize Bundle Give-Away posted on twitter yesterday. For those of you who are Starbuck's fans and own one of those pod coffee machines, you may just want to check it out. I'm more of a Dunkins Donuts coffee kind of gal myself and although I was lucky enough to get a brand spanking new Keurig machine for Christmas, I don't really use it much. (I still use my faithful percolator for my morning brew:)

The premise of celebrating National Coffee Break Day is simply described as "a way to celebrate the history of coffee and the centennial anniversary of the NCA." Let's take it a baby step forward shall we and stir up some history about coffee breaks in general. Are they any different than say, a coffee klatch? Well, sorta kinda. In case you missed the National Coffee Cake Day post I did a long, long time ago, (2008) let me refresh your coffee cup (or tea cup if you prefer:)

An afternoon kaffeeklatsch (coffee-and-cake gossip session) is one of Germany’s most cherished traditions. According to Evan Jones in American Food: The Gastronomic Story, German women brought to America the concept of the kaffeeklatsch, a break in the day to meet for some coffee, a sweet, and a little gossip. He also notes that Scandinavian hospitality was probably responsible for instituting the idea of the American coffee break that featured sweets, since so many of their simple pastries were called coffee breads, coffee cakes, or coffee rings. It pretty much sounds like a coffee version of a Victorian Kettledrum. For a kettledrum, tea is the choice beverage and the sweets served are dainties or sandwiches.

"...Scandinavians were perhaps more responsible than anyone else for making America as coffee-break-conscience as it is, and for perfecting the kind of food that goes well with coffee...it was in the kitchens where there was always a pot brewing on the back of the stove that Scandinavian hospitality and coffee became synonymous...From these social hours in homes evolved the worker's "coffee break," an office ritual so firmly established that it became in many cases a matter of union contract law.

By some accounts, the workers' coffee break originated in Wisconsin when working women in Stoughton, took 15 minute breaks to go home to tend to their chores. They usually returned with cup in hand. BTW, it may have started as far back as 1880. So some say that is...

Way back in 1880 Stoughton's Coffee Street was having daily coffee breaks for coffee. The citizenry being 80% Norwegian (100% on Coffee Street) just had to fit in some time of day to send a batch of coffee through their system between meals.

With the T.G. Mandt Wagon Co. going strong, it became necessary for tobacco firms to hire women for the seasonal tobacco steaming.  The Gunderson Tobacco Warehouse at Main & Coffee Streets was ideal for hiring women because it was so near their homes and they could run home to check on the kids, the house and see how the next meal was progressing.

With these chores done and a hot pot of coffee constantly on the stove, what was more natural than to have a cup?  So began today's coffee break - a few minutes to relax and refresh with coffee.

The British may have invented “Tea Time” but America invented the “Coffee Break”. The practice began in WW II era war effort factories to give workers a brief rest and a jolt of caffeine. Thanks to a clever advertising campaign in the mid 1950s by the Pan American Coffee Bureau, 70-80% of American workers were taking a coffee break – both factory and office workers. General Eisenhower used the coffee break idea for “Operation Coffee Cup” during his presidential campaign to meet with voters, which continued to spread the social trend of the coffee break. (The History of Coffee in America)

I tend to agree with Susan Stamberg's rendition of the History of the Coffee Break. Certainly, coffee in some form or another has been around a very long time. It seems to me, somewhere in time someone took a break with a cup of coffee in their hand. Which by the way reassures me in another instance. Although Coffee Cake may not always have coffee as an ingredient, a coffee break must include coffee as an ingredient. Else, we just have a regular ol' break!

The world's first coffee break, Stamberg reports, "probably took place before 1000 A.D. in Abyssinia (today's Ethiopia). Legend has it that a goatherd named Kaldi noticed his goats dancing around on their skinny hind legs. Then he noticed the goats had eaten some red berries. Kaldi tried the berries; he started dancing, too; and so coffee break dancing was born!"...Continue reading.

So now that we got all the formalities out of the way, what shall we chat about? How about Cheese Lovers Day? Did you know today is Cheese Lovers Day. I may as well admit it, I did consider to a post in honor of the celebration. Perhaps next year...What about Buttercrunch? I'm not a huge fan of buttercrunch but it doesn't mean I wouldn't celebrate today as National Buttercrunch Day! Perhaps, next year...It's any one's guess as to when National Granola Bar Day is. Some say today, others tomorrow. Just to be on the safe side, I'll leave you this recipe from Coffee Makes It Delicious published by the makers of Maxwell House Coffee in 1981.

Since we're all sitting around "shooting the breeze," I should give you an update on my eye infection. We may have found the culprit. Humidity! That's right folks, after tons of questions, days of research, and lots of investigation, Marion and I have come to the conclusion that the humidity in the house (25%) may have been the cause. (the burden of complications pertaining to the infection are still in litigation) We have remedied the situation with a brand new humidifier in the house which seems to be helping. I know my houseplants are feeling perkier as are Marion's "pals."

Yes, she crocheted the hats, vests and booties:)

I tried to gather a few "appropriate" Coffee Break Day recipes from some of your blogs but I'm having a problem with my google search engine so, if you have a favorite "Break Time" recipe to share, coffee need not be included, please feel free to leave the link below. And, for those of you who visit T.W. @ Culinary Types, here's a heads up, January 21st is his birthday!!! Enjoy Break Time!!!

Oh goodness, I almost forget. Patties cookies do not include coffee as an ingredient. I just had to play around a little so, I spun up a batch, rolled them into little balls and plopped a few of them on a coffee cake that I baked for Marion. You really can't see it to well in the picture but it really came out good! Since the cookies took 15 minutes to bake, I allowed enough time at the end of the coffee cake baking to rest the cookie crumb balls gently on top of the baking coffee cake. Next time, I'm going to add more!!! (I really need photography lessons:)

1. Forget the Cake Crumb Cake Cookies
2. St Bart’s Cafe Celebrates National Coffee Break Day
3. What Can Be Down About the Coffee Break-(seems it was this employers problem in this video from 1958 which is rather long)
4. The Unpaid Coffee Break (TIME Magazine)
Any Day All-Occasion Apple Snack Cake
Some of My Favorite previous Coffee Related Posts
Friendship in A Cup
August is National Coffee Month
National Coffee Cake Day

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Nothing Day Post Featuring Booze

For those of you who have never heard of National Nothing Day, let me enlighten you as I was illuminated by Trisha yesterday while visiting her blog A Reason to … Celebrate, Remember, Have Fun! BTW, we missed Rubber Duckie Day:)

Newspaper columnist Harold Pullman Coffin created National Nothing Day, first celebrated in 1973, "to provide Americans with one national day when they can just sit without celebrating, observing, or honoring anything."

After I left Trisha's, I headed on over to Cocktail Puppy and was once again apprised (and surprised:) to learn of a beverage I had never heard of before, The French 75 Cocktail. Immediately I ran to my book shelf to see if I could find out more about it. It looked tempting but did its name have a history? While flipping through pages and pages, I had an Epiphany. Rather than celebrating the day, why not relax and have you consume a few die-cut booklets from my "beverage" collection. I thought it also a subtle way to give a nod to Prohibition.

"When Prohibition went into effect in America on January 16, 1920, it did more than stop the legal sale of alcoholic beverages in our country...[it] increased the production of soft drinks, put hundreds of restaurants and hotels out of business, spurred the growth of tea rooms and cafeterias, and destroyed the last vestiges of fine dining in the United States...Hotels tried to reclaim some of their lost wine and spirit profits by selling candy and soda pop The fruit cocktail cup, often garnished with marshmallows or sprinkled with powdered sugar, took the place of oysters on the half shell with champagne and a dinner party opener....The American wine industry, unable to sell its wines legally, quickly turned its vinyards over to juice grapes. But only a small portion of the juice from the grapes was marketed as juice. Most of it was sold for home-brewed wine. Needless to say, this home brew was not usually a sophisticated viniferous product, but sales of the juice kept many of the vineyards in profits throughout Prohibition. Prohibition also brought about cooking wines and artificially flavored brandy, sherry, and rum extracts. Housewives were advised to omit salt when using cooking wines, as the wines themselves had been salted to make them undrinkable...Some cooks gave up on alcoholic touches, real or faux, altogether...The bad alcohol, the closing of fine restaurants, the sweet foods and drinks that took alcohol's place, the artificial flavors that were used to simulated alcohol, all these things could not help by have a deletrious effect on the American palate."Fashionable Foods: Seven Decades of Food Fads Sylvia Lovgren
(click on images to enlarge)
Since the days of the roistering buccaneers good apple brandy has been the favorite drink of iron men who manned the wooden ships, and of their hardy brethrens ashore. Today, Captain Apple Jack, with its mellow flavor and fine aroma, resonates the same hearty zest for living. This treasure chest contains a little loot for modern buccaneers of happiness. (dated 1935)
Captain Apple Jack

A cherished book in my collection is from Rochelle. In a serendipitous RAK (random act of kindness) Rochelle hostess of Rochelle's Vintage & Frugal Recipes slipped this booklet in my mail box via snail mail. As you can imagine, I was delightfully surprised!

And, we mustn't forget the Ginger Ale

I never did bookmark the page that revealed the history behind the name. Another day when I have nothing to do, I suppose:)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pining Over My Ananas Comosus

If you spied my tweet this morning, you may have noticed my announcement of the arrival of Pineapple in Hawaii on January 11, 1813. It comes from an excellent source. And before you get all huffy about the title of this post, let me assure you that the Ananas Comosus I long for is a Pineapple; botanically speaking that is. Only mine won't be arriving from Hawaii, mine is growing near a sunny window sill in my house.

Have you ever attempted to grow your own pineapple? Let me tell you from first hand experience, it is not for those who are of an anxious nature. It takes time, lots of time. I planted this Pineapple plant from a store bought pineapple when I permanently moved to Pennsylvania two years ago. Notice it hasn't even begun to flower. It isn't unusual for Pineapple to take it's own sweet time bearing fruit, the Chiquita website says their pineapples take 18 months to grow!

Truth be told, I was a bit impetuous when I planted it. I wanted a remembrance of my move to Pennsylvania and pretty much said to myself, "I know, I'll grow a pineapple ( a symbol of hospitality in many cultures) and when it fruits, I will celebrate the anniversary of my new home in PA. (for those of you who travelled back and forth to New York with me for all those years, I'm sure you understand:) I had no former pineapple growing training but for a gal who runs around with a scissor in her purse clipping and snipping any plant or flower that catches her eye, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to any of you! So after I prepared my store bought Pineapple for devouring, I took it's top and stuck it in some dirt on a sunny window sill. And, that's where she still sits. Oh, I did take her outside during the summer months but since Pineapples are rather tropical, I didn't want to take any chances that she might catch a flu so I brought her in the first sign of a chill.

In colonial times, pineapples were so rare and costly that they were rented to households by the day as centerpieces for entertaining. They were eventually sold for eating.
The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality since colonial days. Merchants and sea captains returning from the West Indies would present their guests or host with a pineapple as a gesture of friendship...

The Social History of the Pineapple begins somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. The journey is rather tumultuous and best left for the experts. However, I did find an amusing tale about King Louis XIV of France, that I thought you might like. It comes from a book titled The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies by Selene Yeager and the folks at Prevention. (once one of my very best favorite magazines:)

When King Louis XIV of France was first presented with a pineapple--the most exotic and sought after fruit in seventeenth century Europe, he immediately took a huge bite. Unfortunately, His Greediness hadn't given his servants a chance to peel it, so he cut his royal lips on the prickly find. This episode put an end to the royal cultivation of pineapple in France until Louis XV took the throne in 1715.

I also discovered "the healing power" of the pineapple in the same book. Not only are pineapples an excellent source of Vitamin C, they contain a substances that keeps bones strong and another that promotes good digestion. The book refers to Pineapples as "Tropical Champs!" How cool is that? BTW, the bone building ingredient? Manganese! If you're worried about those ol' bones of yours crumbling before their time, I'd dig deep into the Health Benefits of Pineapples if I were you. I am and I did:) My new drink of the morning will now be a Healthy Pineapple Smoothie. (OJ and I just don't agree:)

One of the benefits of pineapple is that it helps to build healthy bones. Pineapples are rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is needed for your body to build bone and connective tissues. Just one cup of pineapple provides 73% of the daily recommended amount of manganese. The benefits of pineapple can effect the growth of bones in young people and the strengthening of bones in older people...(source)

Fresh pineapple also contains Bromelain an enzyme that is similar to the papain found in papayas. Not only does it promote digestion and do a host of other important things, which I would rather stay away from since I'm no expert, it is the bromelain which cooks are actually using as the meat tenderizing agent when they use pineapple or its juice in marinades. I know there are those who are totally aghast at the mention of pineapple and pork but let's just say I'm from the old school. I have used pineapple juice as a rescue aid many a time for tenderizing a poor quality piece of meat. (hey it happens to us all:) And, Marion just adores fresh pineapple slices after a hearty meal. She says they refresh her tummy:) I'm sure they do as Pineapple has been used as a digestive aid for centuries!

Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, a protelytic enzyme that breaks down protein in a manner similar to what happens in digestion. Because of this, gelatin made with fresh pineapple won’t set. Cottage cheese, sour cream and other dairy products should not be mixed with fresh pineapple until just before serving. But, you can use fresh pineapple to great advantage in meat marinade to add a flavor accent and tenderize less tender cuts of meat. (source)

I was quite impressed with these Dried Pineapple Flowers when I happened upon them while searching for an easy pineapple fruit leather recipe to share. (no you don't need actual pineapple flowers to make those gorgeous decorations. Check them out, they are simply lovely:) I didn't have much luck finding a recipe for pineapple fruit leather that didn't make use of a food dehydrator. I did, however, find a recipe for Candied Pineapple at Stef's Cupcake Project. They sure look "purty" too:) While I'm pointing you in the direction of pineapple recipes, don't forget to "Pukka" Up" and head on over to Heather's. Just feast your eyes on her Pukka Pineapple w/ Mint-Sugar! Oh goodness...While you're at it, check out Courtney's Baked Pineapple Upside Down Doughnuts. Ooo, la la...

When I saw these spiral cut pineapples on wiki, I just had to find out How To Make a Pineapple Spiral. It's on YouTube...Way cool...

I suppose it's time for us to return to the saga of my pineapple. Chances are, I won't be harvesting any delectable fruit in the near future. Apparently, I need to coax the flowering process along. My Pineapple looks like this:

When it should be looking more like this. (If you want to see the fascinating growing process be sure and check out this website. in the UK. Amazing!)

I refuse to let that tropical feeling slip away from me. I've been following the directions from Rick's Woodshop Creations for the last 6 or 7 months. Out of all the "How To Grow Pineapples At Home" websites I've come across, Rick's step by step directions are the easiest for me to comprehend:) According to Rick,

...If your pineapple plant is at least 24 inches tall and has not flowered by the time it is twenty to twenty-four months old, you can "force" it with a few different techniques that trick the plant into putting its energy into flowering instead of making new leaves.

I haven't decided which method I will be using yet. And, I'm not sure mine has grown enough so I think I will do another repotting and wait it out a while. I would encourage each and every one of you to try growing your own Pineapple indoors. Although there is mucho patience involved, the plant itself is not very demanding. It needs at least 6 hours of sunlight each day (mine sometimes only gets four:) and it only needs to be watered about once a week. I wouldn't suggest getting the kiddies involved until nearing the flowering stage. However, once their curiosity has been piqued, I'm sure they will want to grow one right from after dessert! How about this one from Easy Entertaining?

Pineapple Daiquiri Sundae
1 fresh pineapple, cored, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
zest of 2 limes, cut into strands
1 tablespoon cornstarch
vanilla ice cream
Place all ingredients in slow cooker; mix well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Serve hot over vanilla ice cream.

In the meantime, I have plans to grow more Pineapple Sage in the garden this year. It may not look as exotic as the fruit, but it sure does perfume the yard when it blooms at the end of the summer and, it's a heck of a lot easier to propagate by rooting stem cuttings. The seeds are difficult to come by so you're better off buying a plant if you can find one. If you're memory is better than mine, you will only need to do this once. I for some reason, forgot to take cuttings from my plant. I will be buying one again!!!

Here are a few suggestions from the that excellent Pineapple Sage article at The Herb Companion.

In the kitchen, fruit salads are enhanced by the fruity, piquant flavor of the fresh flowers and leaves. This flavor is very different from that of garden sage; although there is a sagey element, it’s very subtle, and pineapple sage doesn’t substitute for other culinary sages. The flowers add visual sparkle as well. Even without flowers, a fresh leafy stem of pineapple sage is the perfect garnish for tall summer drinks.

Try mixing the minced leaves and flowers in cream cheese for a delightfully fruity spread, or knead a handful or two of chopped leaves into raisin bread dough. Steeping the leaves in hot apple juice and using the juice to make jelly is an easy way to preserve the pineapple sage flavor. The dried leaves can be brewed for a satisfying winter tea; however, the fruity element is lost in drying.

I truly enjoyed my Pineapple Sage plant when I grew it. Hummingbirds LOVE it too! I could kick myself for not taking cuttings. (I did remember to take cuttings from my Heliotrope last year, thank goodness) You may even be able to see it in one of the pictures. When I do get another Pineapple Sage plant, I plan on doing a post devoted to it and Pineapple Mint so stay tuned:) (I love saying that, lol:) There's also a species of Pineapple Coleus available at some nurseries. I've left the link below for you to explore.

So what do I plan on doing with the sweet fruit of my patience? At this moment, I plan on roasting it. Yes, that's right, I'm going to prepare the Roasted Pineapple recipe provided by Jacques Torres in his Dessert Circus cookbook. Just look at it! I'm not sure I'll show persistence but, I'll try.

Roasted Pineapple
Serves 8 to 10
1 large pineapple
1 cup vanilla sugar (recipe below)
5 vanilla beans

Fill a nonreactive heavy-bottomed saucepan with water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, peel the pineapple. Here is the technique: Use a serrated knife and cut 3/4 inch from the top and bottom of the pineapple. (Save the top for garnish, if you wish.) Stand the pineapple upright on a cutting board and place the blade of the knife at the top of the pineapple about 1/4 inch in from the skin. With the blade of the knife at a 45-degree angle, cut along the natural curve of the pineapple from top to bottom, slicing off the skin. Repeat this procedure, moving around the pineapple, until all of the skin is removed. Remove as many of the eyes as possible. You want the pineapple to look as clean and neat as possible since it will be presented whole. Roll the peeled pineapple in the vanilla sugar until it is well-coated. Stand the pineapple on end and use the handle of a wooden spoon to pierce 10 holes horizontally through the pineapple, making sure they are evenly spaced from top to bottom. The core of the pineapple is too hard to pierce, so poke the holes just off-center.

Use a sharp knife to slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Insert one vanilla bean half into each hole in the pineapple. The final presentation will look nicer if you push the vanilla beans all the way through the pineapple so both ends are visible. Completely and thoroughly wrap the pineapple in 5 or 6 layers of plastic wrap. You can also use a zippered-top plastic bag, but be sure to remove all the air from the bag before sealing it. Place the wrapped pineapple in the now-boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and allow the pineapple to simmer until it becomes slightly translucent and the color has darkened, about 1 hour. Do not let the water return to a boil.

About 10 minutes before the pineapple is ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the pineapple is ready, remove it from the saucepan. Hold the pineapple over an ovenproof nonreactive 4-quart saucepan and remove the plastic wrap, allowing any juice to drip into the pan. Be careful; it is very hot! Place the pineapple in the saucepan and bake until slightly soft and brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Baste it with its own juices every 5 to 10 minutes; this will help keep the pineapple moist.

Remove the saucepan from the oven. Place the roasted pineapple on a platter. (Torres says he usually saves the top of the pineapple and reattaches it with wooden skewers. He serves the pineapple with sorbet or ice cream.)

To make vanilla sugar: place 1 cleaned, used, dried vanilla bean and 2 cups of sugar in a food processor and process on high speed until the vanilla and sugar appear to have the same texture, about 1 minute. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer remove any large pieces. Or place a clean, dried vanilla bean in a container of sugar, seal and store. The sugar will take on the flavor of the vanilla.

In case of an emergency, I can always seek out this simple recipe for Ooey Gooey Pineapple Buns from the Incredibly Easy Silly Snacks cookbook. Not only does it make use of canned pineapple, it's made with refrigerator biscuits!

Ooey-Gooey Pineapple Buns
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can (8 ounces) pineapple tidbits, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 package refrigerated flaky biscuits (10 biscuits) (12 ounces package)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, butter and vanilla in 11x7-inch baking dish, Sprinkle with pineapple tidbits, pecans, and coconut.
Cut biscuits into quarters; arrange over coconut. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown. Invert onto serving plate; serve warm.
Make 10 servings.

FYI: Pineapples don't ripen much once they are harvested. But here's a trick for you. To maximize the flavor in fresh pineapple, store it upside down at room temperature the night before serving it. This allows the sugars in the bottom half (that's where most of it is anyway:) to circulate more evenly. Try it, it works!!!

Did you know? James Beard had Pineapple Wallpaper! He had huge black and white wallpaper in his cooking school in New York City. Today art prints of pineapples are sometimes hung in restaurants as a homage to James Beard. The Pineapple is also the symbol of the James Beard Foundation

April 20th is Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day. Oooo, that Lucky Pineapple, lol...

1. The Social History of the Pineapple
2. Pineapple Legend and Lore
3. The Pineapple in Early America (Repast Magazine Summer 2006) PDF file here.
4. How to Select A Fresh Pineapple
5.What is the best method for freezing pineapple?
6. Pineapple: Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits
7. Dehydrating Fruit
8. Pineapple Splash Coleus

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm So Happy I Could Just Burst!

Hi Everyone! My eye has healed, I bought a new pair of "specks" and I'm ready for action!

Pop Quiz! What if I told you the man who invented the world's first Bubble Gum, Dubble Bubble, was born on this day? Would I be stretching the truth if I told you that same man, Walter E. Diemer, was a 23 year old accountant who concocted his first batch of Bubble Gum purely by accident? Nooooooo Waaaaaay!

There are gobs of stickiness orbiting the History of Dubble Bubble and Walter E. Diemer, the man most likely responsible for causing me to write "I will not chew gum in school" way too many times! If I recall, wearing bubble gum on the tip of my nose, was one of my favorite past times in school too, besides blowing bubbles of course. Nowadays, there's quite a debate as to the benefits of chewing gum in school. According to this article, there is scientific evidence showing that chewing gum improves concentration and reduces stress.

...Teachers may outlaw chewing gum in class, but chewing gum in class makes kids smarter. How could that be? Chewing causes our hearts to pump more blood to our brain than it usually does. More blood carries noggin-nourishing oxygen and that will help brain function better. It also increases the glucose level, making the student more alert. The rhythmic chewing also increases attention. Mental tasks are done 20% more effectively while chewing gum and that's why it makes students "smarter"...

"Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.
Learning how to blow bubbles isn't easy. It takes practice. Lots of practice! In fact, when Mr. Diemer slapped together his first successful batch of Dubble Bubble, he then found himself in a rather glutinous situation. He had to teach the company's salespeople how to use the stuff! Imagine, a teacher teaching people how to to blow bubbles with bubble gum? But wait, Mr. Diemer wasn't a teacher. He wasn't even just an accountant anymore. After his amazing discovery, Fleer promoted him to senior vice-president of the company.

National Bubble Gum week, which originated at Northern Michigan University as a way to "relieve tension among students preparing for final exams", isn't until the second week of March but, I thought perhaps in honor of this special occasion, we could do just a smidgen of celebrating today. What do you think? I thought you would agree:)

I was so intrigued by the "Bubblicious" Bubblegum Martini that I spied over on Kate's post, that I just had to get my hands on some Dubble Bubble and give it a whirl. Look at how cool it looks after just 4 hours of "marinating." In 24 hours, we'll have our very own Bubble Gum Vodka. Truth be told, you could try this recipe with Bazooka too!!!

Dubble Bubble had no competition until after World War II. According to the International Chewing Gum Association, during WWII bubblegum was handed out by US military personnel as gifts, thereby spreading its popularity among the peoples of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dubble Bubble was part of the US military’s ration kits. And in the 1930s the first bubblegum cards were issued. The pictures ranged from war heroes to Wild West figures to professional athletes. After the war, Topps began wrapping bubble gum in comics and called it, Bazooka!

Why is Bubble Gum Pink?

It seems, America's first Bubble Gum was a dingy gray. Mr. Diemer wouldn't have it! The only handy food coloring in his lab that August day was Pink and that dear readers is why the preferred color of Bubble Gum the world over is Pink!

Mr. Diemer never received royalties for his invention. He did, however, receive hundreds of letters from children thanking him for "inventing" bubble gum. Although he rarely chewed gum, he would invite groups of children to his home and tell them about his invention, then he would preside over bubblegum-blowing contests. He is quoted as saying, "I've done something with my life. I've made kids happy around the world." In 1991 Walter E. Diemer moved to Lancaster, PA. There he enjoyed life riding around town on his tricycle. He died in 1998 at the the age of 93!

So what does one do when they've conjured up their very own Bubble Gum "extract?" First, one "plays" with the concoction, of course.

Then one bakes cupcakes! Oh no, not your every day ordinary cupcakes. Bubble Gum Cupcakes!!! That's right kiddies, I baked Bubble Gum Cupcakes with Bubble Gum Marshmallow Frosting! And, let me tell you, they are Dee...li...cious!!! Oh, they may not look like much but, they taste just like Bubble Gum!

FYI: Frank Henry Fleer was involved with chewing gum long before Mr. Diemer made history with the invention of his bubble gum. Curiously, Blibber-Blubber was never brought to market.

Tomorrow is National Apricot Day! I did a post about Precocious Apricots a while back, however, you must check out Lena's Apricot and Walnut Bars and Gloria's Apricot Meringue Pudding, they both look so darn yummy!!!

Resources 1. Brush Up on Bubble Gum Trivia
2. Bubble Gum Lip Gloss Recipe
3. World Bubble Records
4. Fleer History
5. An odd tale about chewing gum and the Alamo.
6. Bubble Gum Ball Surprise Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream & Pink Rock Candy Crystals
7. Bubble Gum Marshmallows (made with bubble gum food flavoring, no Vodka:)
8. Mr. Diemer, New York Times Obit