Archive for May, 2011

Hungry? Want to eat something out of the ordinary that will confuse your brain and challenge your taste buds? If the answer is yes, then go find yourself a food truck and sample its tasty offerings or, better yet, go to a food truck festival and indulge in new gastronomical experiences! A long weekend of celebration for my family often means consuming massive quantities of food. My recent trip to Southern California was no exception. At my son’s suggestion we attended a food truck festival at the Santa Anita Race Track. Yes, a race track!

After paying a $5.00 entrance fee, we walked through a long tunnel that carried us under the track. As we emerged from the tunnel and caught our first glimpses of the Festival, we felt like we had entered another world. Picture a racetrack. Now picture an infield, the grassy center of a track, filled with colorful umbrellas, picnic tables, a DJ playing loud music, a bounce house, pony rides, and carnival games! Ringing the infield are over 70 colorful food trucks offering almost every type of food imaginable. This is dining at it’s most unique and is not an experience for the unadventurous or for those with digestion issues!

Immediately ahead of us was easily a two-hour wait for the line of people wanting to place an order at the Grilled Cheese Truck. Although this truck serves grilled cheese sandwiches, most of them are not the type your mom or Denny’s served to you as a child. For example, if you order Mom’s Apple Pie Melt from this truck you’ll get sweet brioche bread grilled with sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized apples, and candied walnuts. Or if you prefer a sandwich with a little kick, you’ll ask for the Pepperbelly Melt which is served on cheddar jalapeno bread grilled with habanero jack cheese, homemade chili, Fritos, fire-roasted salsa, and cilantro lime sour cream tucked inside! This all coming from a chef who got his start with his famous Cheesy Mac & Rib Melt.

While walking the track and taking it all in, I was impressed, not only by the bright-colored and cleverly-named trucks (Let’s Be Frank, Great Balls on Tires, Crepen Around, Shrimp Pimp, etc.), but also by the creative fusion of food styles. Jogasaki Burrito successfully offers a fusion of Japanese and Mexican food. We, unsurprisingly, devoured delicious Sushi Burritos and Spicy Tuna Nachos. At the Calbi BBQ truck, soft corn tortillas carefully cradled Korean barbecued meat and shredded cheese. Not all the food at the Festival was fusion, though. Food trucks serving epicurean delights from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Greece, Vietnam, France, India were also doing brisk business.

The chefs driving these trucks (literally and figuratively) are not slouches. An article on About.com mentions the interesting pedigrees of some of the food truck chefs in the Los Angeles area – a former chef of Michael Jackson, a former Wolfgang Puck chef, and a chef from Top Chef Masters!

If you’re adventurous and live in or are visiting a major city and you want to get something good, but different to eat, track down a food truck by using your smart phone. There are several apps available which track the locations of food trucks – you can either check the location of a particular food truck or find out which food truck is nearest to you at the moment. Trux Map is an example of a popular one. A word of warning if you seek out a food truck: GO ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!

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How observant are you? Do you see two identical rocks in this photograph? Of course not. Nature fashioned every one of these rocks to be unique and each one should be appreciated for its individual qualities. The same goes for us. No two persons are alike in this world. Each of us is one-of-a-kind and each of us brings to the world unique gifts. We should appreciate our differences and as I always remind my children, “The world would be a boring place, if we were all the same.”

#1 – Taking Care of the Earth
Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions are happening with greater frequency. Whether you believe in global warming or not, statistics are hard to refute. Sometimes seeing is believing. The Breathing Earth accomplishes that by providing a real-time simulation that ” . . . displays the CO2 emissions of every country in the world, as well as their birth and death rates.” And after you digest the astounding statistics, go to Global Footprint Network to determine your ecological footprint and to get the answer to “How many planets does it take to support your lifestyle?”

#2 – Word Bubbles
Think you had a difficult time playing the Raindrops game that I posted a link to in a previous edition of Friday’s Fresh Five? Perhaps, math is not your forte. Try playing Word Bubbles instead. Word Bubbles “challenges your language skills and flexibility.” You’re given one minute to form as many words from the three-lettered stem provided. If you enter three words that are the same length, the bubble containing that number of letters will bubble out of the water. If at first you don’t succeed, “bubble” luck next time!

#3 – Who Called?
If you’ve observed that you frequently receive phone calls from unfamiliar phone numbers and if you want to find out just who keeps calling you, there are a few sites that can be of help. Go to 800notes, Who Called Us, or Who Calls Me and type in the phone number and click search. By doing this, I’ve often found out enough information about the caller to contact the source and request that they remove me from their call lists.

#4 – Memorial Day
Observe our country’s flags on Memorial Day. Wikipedia, provides these reasons for the different positions of our flags on that day:

On Memorial Day the flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

The true meaning of Memorial Day is lost on many Americans. How easily some forget the ultimate sacrifice of others. The ads in the newspapers train us to think that it’s a weekend devoted to shopping the sales or barbecuing. No Greater Love is a “non-profit organization that for 40 years is dedicated to honoring those who died to keep us free.” In 1997 this organization initiated and Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance. No Greater Love asks that wherever you are at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, May 30th, to “Stop for a moment and observe the ‘Moment’ in your own way. It can be a simple gesture such as, placing your hand over your heart, bowing your head, or offering a prayer, and making the following promise: “I promise to make myself, my community, my country, and the world better in memory of America’s fallen.”

#5 – Shine
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
— Nelson Mandela

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, but remember to take a moment to give thanks to all who have served our country!

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What makes one brownie chewy, another one cakey and yet another one fudgy? Scanning the list of ingredients for Chewy White Chocolate Brownies and noting that it only required 1/2 cup of flour, I contemplated the different textures of brownies. Since most brownie recipes list similar basic ingredients, I figured the difference must lie in their proportions.

After some online research, I found this matter discussed in a post on Diana’s Desserts:

FUDGY BROWNIES (which purists often claim are the only real brownies) have a minimum of flour–about half a cup–and no leavening such as baking powder at all. Melting the butter rather than creaming it with sugar yields a denser, fudgier outcome.

CAKELIKE BROWNIES are really … well, little cakes! They contain less butter and more flour than fudgy brownies, as well as a bit of baking powder to make them softer and lighter. Often the softened butter is creamed with the sugar rather than melted with the chocolate. (Creaming incorporates air into the mixture, which causes the brownies to rise higher.) Many cakelike recipes also call for a bit of milk to add tenderness.

CHEWY BROWNIES usually get their texture from two factors: an extra egg (or even two) and a combination of different types of chocolate. Of all the chocolate types, unsweetened chocolate has the highest proportion of starches, which create a stiffer-textured brownie. Semisweet chocolate produces a creamier texture. Put the two together, often with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to round out the flavor and thicken the texture, and you get a rich, satisfyingly chewy result.

BLONDIES are really butterscotch bars, made with brown sugar, butter, and eggs (and usually nuts as well), but no chocolate. Typically, blondies have a cakelike texture.

There you have it! By definition this Chewy White Chocolate recipe, with it’s 1/2 cup of flour and melted butter, should fall into the fudgy and not chewy category. But wait, because it has no chocolate (dark, semi, or milk), it’s essentially a blondie. Shouldn’t this sweet little recipe, clipped out of my local newspaper years ago, really be called Fudgy White Chocolate Blondies? Doesn’t sound right, does it?

Chewy White Chocolate Brownies

1-1/3 cups white chocolate baking chips, divided use
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) butter or margarine
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter brickle baking bits (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

2. Melt 1 cup of the white chocolate chips and the butter over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy. Add the vanilla extract.

4. Slowly mix in the chocolate mixture.

5. Gradually add the flour and beat until smooth.

6. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup white chocolate chips and brickle bits, if desired.

7. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

8. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 16 servings.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Don’t leave out the brickle bits – it’s the combination of white chocolate and butter brickle that make this recipe delicious!
2. Don’t over bake the brownies or else they will lose their fudgy/chewy texture.
3. Don’t leave them on the kitchen counter unguarded or else you may return to discover that “someone” has eaten one whole row of edges!


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“Don’t lose sight of your goal.” I seem to be saying that a lot lately – whether it’s to myself or to one of my children. It appears, though, that the squirrels in my yard never lose sight of their goals!

#1- Gift of Trees
A couple of weeks ago my hairdresser and I were chatting about buying graduation gifts. She mentioned Trees For a Change to me. For a nominal fee, a tree is planted in a U.S. National Forest that has been devastated by wildfire. The recipient receives a gift card and information where his tree is planted. Give a different type of green gift to the graduates in your life. Make it one that impacts the earth in a positive way. And what a perfect gift it could be for that someone who has everything – think Father’s Day!

#2 – Shadow Art
This type of art is fascinating – these artists take the study of light and shadows to a whole new level!

#3 – Do You Have a Problem In Your Life?
Whether your answer to this question is yes or no, you’ll want to take a look at this graphic. Yes, it’s simplistic, but it does help to put worrying into perspective.

#4 – One Word
One of my daily goals is to write everyday. Sometimes writing comes easy to me and sometimes it’s like giving birth. One Word is a site I love to go to warm up my brain and start the flow of words. It’s very simple: one word appears on your computer screen and you have just one minute to write about the word. If you’d like to share it, submit it to the site. It’s entertaining to read what others have written. The best advice is offered by the site’s creators, “Don’t think. Just write.”

#5 – Never Too Old
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
C.S. Lewis

What about setting a new goal or dreaming a new dream this weekend?

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“Is this my blanket?” my daughter asks as she curiously eyes a large colorfully-wrapped box that has the words CELEBRATE plastered all over it. Sitting in a hotel room, my family watches expectantly as she opens up her graduation present. There’s a moment of anticlimactic silence as she removes the lid of the box. Each of us, even my daughter, knows what’s inside.

Several years ago, I first struggled with the problem of what to give to my children when they graduated from college. Giving them money, jewelry, or big, fancy gifts were okay, but I longed to give them something that they wouldn’t forget – something, that perhaps, could be a symbol of love. That’s when I thought about making each of them a blanket.

In concept this was a good idea, but in reality, not so great. Although I am a creative person and I attempt to do many things – just who was I kidding when I thought I could crochet? As I bought the pattern and yarn for my oldest son’s blanket, I thought back to the baby hat that I’d once crocheted. It turned out almost perfect, except for one minor detail – the size was way off. The cute, crocheted hat turned out to be too large for any infant’s head, including an alien’s!

With crochet hook in hand and skeins of yarn all about, I determinedly began the first blanket. I envisioned myself to be like my grandmother, a woman who could crochet furiously while watching television. The directions to the Mile-A-Minute blanket seemed easy enough and after crocheting all the strips, I carefully lined them up on the floor side-by-side. Noticing that each strip was a different length, I was crestfallen. How in the world was I going to join these strips together when some were inches shorter than others? Figuring I had two choices – either I alternate the long and short strips or I configure them from shortest to longest – I frantically worked to salvage the project. Although it’s been years since I made it and I cannot remember exactly how I put it together, I do remember the look on my oldest son’s face as he graciously accepted his trapezoidal-shaped blanket. Sometimes there are disadvantages to being first-born!

Like parenting, the second time around was easier. Being wiser, I vowed not to repeat my mistakes and made every effort to avoid the pitfalls of crocheting. Again, I lovingly crocheted a Mile-A-Minute blanket for my second son and was most pleased when his blanket turned out “almost” rectangular. Diligence and experience had paid off. When I asked him a few weeks ago what I gave him for his graduation, he immediately replied “A blanket!” Good answer! There are some advantages to being the second child!

Now, as I watch my daughter take her blanket out of the box, I notice that she’s studying the straight rows of crochet stitches and the nice, even border. It’s evident that I did not make her blanket. I explain that her blanket was made by my grandmother and was given to me on my twenty-first birthday. That my daughter is twenty-one-years-old and that she’s graduating from college, the pretty, pink and white blanket seemed destined to be hers. Sometimes the third child is just lucky!

No matter the story behind each blanket, the accompanying note always included this sentiment:  You are the lucky recipient of a “Crocheted Masterpiece.” At this point in your life there’s not much more Dad and I can give to you other than our continued, unconditional love. Think of our love as being wrapped up in this blanket. Take it with you wherever you go in life and may you always feel the warmth of our love whenever you wrap yourself in it.

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Tears form and my heart fills with emotion as strains of Pomp and Circumstance fill the room. There will be no Friday’s Fresh Five posting today as I am celebrating the college graduation of my youngest child. Enjoy your weekend and check in with What About This? next week.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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A refreshing beverage for warm and sunny days, this iced tea is easy to make. I know I mention the word “easy” in the majority of my recipe posts, but I am one of those cooks who likes to get great results with a minimum amount of effort! Although this recipe is not as easy as opening a packet of iced tea mix, it’s worth the few extra steps to get the tart and fresh-brewed taste. Why is it called Boston Iced Tea? I’m guessing that moniker has something to do with the addition of cranberry juice!

Boston Iced Tea
Adapted from a recipe posted by Sean Paajanen on About.com

4 quarts of water
1 cup of sugar
15 tea bags
12 oz. frozen cranberry juice concentrate

1. Pour water into a large pot and bring it to a boil.
2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
3. Add tea bags and let them steep until desired strength is reached – about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Remove tea bags.
5. Stir in frozen cranberry juice concentrate until it has completely dissolved.
6. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
7. Serve over ice.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I used 6-7 of Lipton’s Iced Tea family-size tea bags instead of 15 small tea bags.

2. So that the tea bags don’t fall into the pot, I wrap the tag-ends of the bags around the handle of a long wooden spoon (a long pair of chopsticks would also work) and rest the spoon across the pot opening. This enables the bags to dangle in the hot water, but they can also be easily retrieved when the brew strength is just right.

3. I’ve also made this iced tea using frozen cran-raspberry juice concentrate with good results.

4. For an event I recently hosted, I poured some of the ice tea mixture into plastic molds and froze them. When placed in the beverage dispenser, these molds kept the beverage cold without diluting the tea.

5. Whole fresh cranberries can also be frozen and placed into individual glasses or a beverage dispenser for a decorative look.


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My mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.
~Sharon Doubiago

#1 – What’s a Mom Worth?
Although we all know that moms are priceless, an ABC News article puts a mom’s yearly price tag at $61,436. The researcher under-categorized the duties that moms perform. For example, omitted is the category of performing noninvasive brain surgery on a daily basis – how do you put a price tag on that? Click here for the breakdown and see what you think.

#2 – Make a Photo Mosaic!
On last week’s Friday’s Fresh Five, I posted a link to a photo mosaic depicting Van Gogh’s Starry Night. This week you are just a couple of clicks away from making a photo mosaic of your own. It’s easy to do – just follow the few steps on the site (“Browse” and “create my Image Mosaic”). An added feature is that you can download your mosaic and print it. Create a frame-worthy piece of art for your mom for Mother’s Day!

#3 – How to Tie a Scarf
After working in women’s retail clothing for a couple of years, I realized that many women need assistance accessorizing their outfits. One of the easiest ways to accessorize is to use scarves. But herein lies a problem: most women’s knowledge of tying scarves is very limited. To the rescue is this site. It’s devoted to the many ways to tie all different types of scarves. If you’re buying a scarf for Mother’s Day or if you receive a scarf for Mother’s Day, you’ll want to watch these videos.

#4 – Wrap It up
Now that you bought your mom a gift, how are you going to package and wrap it? Here’s a link to packaging templates. Click on the template you want and print it up. Depending on the size of the package you need, you may have to enlarge the image before printing. Remember, “Good things come in small packages.”

#5 – Mothers
The noblest calling in the world is that of mother. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece or who can write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will be exerting an influence throughout the ages long after paintings shall have faded, and books and statues shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give.
~David O. McKay

It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have . . . One pair that see through closed doors. Another in the back of her head . . . and, of course, the ones in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and reflect ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.
~Erma Bombeck

Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.
~Charlotte Gray

Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.
~Kate Samperi

A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take. ~Cardinal Mermillod

Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers, and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world.
~Kate Douglas Wiggin

Celebrate your mother not just for one day a year. Celebrate her your whole life long!

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Whether it’s the combination of two cheeses – sharp white cheddar and parmigiano-reggiano – or the rich buttery taste that has a bite of cayenne pepper, these little cheese crackers are addicting. Start nibbling on one and you’ll soon find the whole bowl is empty! They are simple to make, unless you decide to cut them into tiny hearts and flowers like I did for a recent bridal shower. Whatever shape or size you choose, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with these crunchy, homemade, cheese crackers!

Cheese Crackers
A recipe from Saveur

12 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
6 oz. sharp white cheddar; grated on small holes of a box grater (to yield 1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1-1/2 cups flour, preferably White Lily flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cayenne

1. Put butter into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.

2. Add cheeses and beat well.

3. Sift flour, salt, and cayenne together into another bowl.

4. Using your hands, quickly work flour mixture into butter mixture without overworking the dough. If dough remains crumbly, stir in 2 tbsp. ice water.

5. Gather dough into a ball.

6. Quarter dough, shape each piece into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

8. Roll out one piece of dough on a floured surface to 1/16″ thickness.

9. Using a 1-1/2″ round cookie cutter, cut out about 30 rounds and transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet about 1/2″ apart. Repeat process with remaining dough.

10. Bake crackers until puffed and golden, 6-8 minutes. Transfer crackers to a nontoxic paper bag or paper towels to let cool completely. Crackers will keep in an upright container for up to one month.

Makes about 10 dozen.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I made different batches – one with sharp white cheddar and one with regular sharp cheddar. Tasters preferred the regular sharp cheddar. Obviously, the better the cheese, the better the flavor!

2. As mentioned before, these crackers can be cut into any shape or size. Just adjust the baking time. My small crackers were baked just under six minutes.

3. Although, these crackers can be stored for a while, I made them two days before the shower and stuck them in the oven the morning of the shower to re-crisp them.

4. Irish white cheddar cheese can normally be purchased at Costco or Sam’s Club.

5. If wrapped in a nice container, these crackers would make a wonderful hostess gift.


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