Archives for March 2010

{Foodie Friday: Shrimp on the Barbie}

Okay, I don’t have a grill, and I don’t like shrimp.  Actually, I don’t like seafood at all. (Even just looking at fish completely creeps me out.  Weird, I know.) But I married a Catholic (::gasp:: The horror!), and I’m running out of things to feed us on Fridays during Lent (otherwise known as abstaining-from-meat-except-fish-day).  A girl can only eat so many black bean salads, and Eric won’t eat the beans, so he’s starving.  Which, I think is the point…but, anyway.

I picked up a couple of bags of frozen shrimp as a last minute thought during my recent grocery trip.  After a seafood poisoning debacle on our honeymoon (Eric, not me), I wasn’t sure the best way to go about presenting him with seafood again.  However, he mentioned really wanting a McDonald’s fish sandwich (gross).  TANGENT ALERT: Now I can’t really blame him for wanting one-I mean the fish sandwich was started in Cincinnati, for Catholics, during Lent.  It’s like it’s in his blood or something.

Photo

(Lou Groen, Cincinnatian who invented the Filet-o-Fish)

So, needless to say, I promised a wonderful home-cooked Lenten meal tonight in exchange for him staying away McDonald’s.  And I have no idea what I’m going to make with this shrimp.  Enter Foodie Friday.

Etymology:

The term shrimp originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe, akin to the Middle Low German schrempen, and meaning to contract or wrinkle; and the Old Norse skorpna, meaning to shrivel up.

Random Facts:

The oft-quoted phrase “shrimp on the barbie” is a misnomer.  Shrimp are part of a classification that includes prawns.  Prawns and shrimp are similar, but different.  Throughout the rest of the world, folks refer to both shrimp and prawns as prawns; here, we refer to both as shrimp.  That line was changed to “shrimp on the barbie” so that Americans would understand, even though Aussies say “prawn”. 

Shrimp can swim both forwards and backwards.

After canned tuna, shrimp is the top seller of seafood in the U.S.

There are over 300 different species of shrimp eaten worldwide.

Where is it Grown?

Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970’s, though sustainable practices can be dated back to Asia as far back the 1400’s.  The total worldwide production of farmed shrimp reached more than 1.6 million tons in 2003.  About 75% of farmed shrimp are produced in Asia, in particular in China and Thailand. The other 25% are produced mainly in Latin America, where Brazil is the largest producer. The largest exporting nation is Thailand.

Storage and Shelf-Life

Fresh shrimp should be bought as close as possible to the date planned for eating it, as it will last only a day or two.  It is very sensitive to temperature, and should be refrigerated immediately. However, the temperature of most refrigerators is slightly warmer than ideal for storing seafood, so place the shrimp, which should be well wrapped, in a baking dish filled with ice. The baking dish and shrimp should then be placed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, which is its coolest area. Replenish ice one or two times per day.

Fresh shrimp should have firm bodies that are still attached to their shells. They should be free of black spots on their shell since this indicates that the flesh has begun to break down. In addition, the shells should not appear yellow or “gritty” as this may be indicative that sodium bisulfate or another chemical has been used to bleach the shells. (Uh, no thank you?)

Smell is a good indicator of freshness; good quality shrimp have a slightly saltwater smell. (Hmmm…I’m not sure I would be able to pinpoint this smell, and if I did, I’m not sure that I would associate it with a “fresh” smell, ya know? One of the main reasons I don’t like seafood is I can’t stand the “fishy” smell. Blah…)

You can extend the shelf life of shrimp by freezing it. To do so, wrap it well in plastic and place it in the coldest part of the freezer where it will keep for about one month.

To defrost shrimp place it in a bowl of cold water or in the refrigerator. Do not thaw the shrimp at room temperature or in a microwave since this can lead to a loss of moisture and nutrients.

Oookay…I’m usually a big advocate for buying “fresh”, but this seems like too much work.  I’ll stick to my frozen package with  a nice little expiration date on it.  I was sure to read the package carefully and paid a little more for a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that made me feel better about eating something that swims around in toxic chemical water.

Umm, Why Should I Care?

Shrimp are an excellent source of protein– a four ounce serving of shrimp supplies 23.7 grams of protein (that’s 47.4% of the daily value for protein)–for a mere 112 calories, and less than a gram of fat.

Amazing source of selenium—which has been shown to induce DNA repair in damaged cells, and to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Good source of Vitamin D.

Good source of Vitamin B12–one of the nutrients needed to keep levels of homocysteine, a molecule that can directly damage blood vessel walls and is considered a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, low.

Also a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, noted for their anti-inflammatory effects, ability to prevent the formation of blood clots, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, and plays a part in overall mood and function.

Omega 3’s also helps with lowering blood pressure, and keeping the heart pumping on a “regular cycle”.  In one study done in Greece, participants who ate fish/shrimp had a rate that was lower than those who did not eat fish regularly; that is, their hearts were beating stronger, therefore did not need as many beats per minute.

Shrimp is very high in cholesterol, and does raise LDL (bad cholesterol).  However, it also raises good cholesterol (HDL).  If you’re not opposed to eating two eggs (also high in cholesterol), then there is no problem with eating a serving of shrimp.

Concerns:

Mercury and other chemical-related poisoning. I mean these things are born, raised, and soaked in water that is the equivalent of a toxic waste dump.  How much does rinsing and cooking really help?

Shellfish allergy is one of the highest reported allergies.

“Baby” shrimp can rely on a natural product, their own yolk for survival. After that, shrimp feed on algae and plankton.   BUT! Leave it up to modern science to develop “artificial shrimp feed” to feed to farmed shrimp.  Come on, people.  You can’t get any more natural or simple than larva–>yolk–>algae.  Why, oh why, do we need “artificial shrimp feed”, and what is in it?

Recipes:

Shrimp can be cooked either shelled or unshelled depending how you will be using them in a recipe. There are various methods to removing the shell. One way is to first pinch off the head and the legs and then, holding the tail, peel the shell off from the body.

If shelling frozen shrimp, do not defrost them completely as they will be easier to shell when they are still slightly frozen.

Some people prefer to remove the shrimp’s intestines before cooking or eating. To do so, make a shallow incision along the back of the shrimp and pull out the dark vein that runs throughout by rinsing under cold water. (Oh, gross.  Seriously.  I’m now remembering why I have always refused to cook shrimp.)

Shrimp can be eaten cold or hot.  Serve with a cocktail sauce or salsa for dipping, or mix with a sauce to add on top of a salad.

For hot shrimp, try these:

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

Shrimp Linguine

Shrimp on the Barbie

Looking at what I have in the cabinets, I think I’ll be whipping up a stir fry + pasta.

Linguine or Rice
Assorted Veggies (we have some red & green peppers, onion, squash, carrots, peas, broccoli and asparagus left from the week)
Frozen Shrimp
Marinara Sauce

Since I don’t eat pasta, and I’m probably not going to eat the shrimp (see below), it looks like I’m in for a tasty bowl of veggie stir-fry, which actually sounds quite delish!

And. Okay, I really thought that a little research and some good recipes would change my mind.  I just can’t do it.  I will never be a seafood person.  I’m more grossed out and against eating seafood than I was when I started.  Back to the black bean salad!   Or perhaps I’ll switch it up with an omelet.

{The Vacation Chronicles: Cuyahoga Valley National Park}

I wish I could say the memories of this trip were as fond as the trip to Smoky Mountains National Park.  I wish I could say that.  While the fondness of the memories are not the same, the fact that we did little to explore the area both here and there are the same.  You see, we set out to have a wonderful little weekend roadtrip.  It did not go so well.  Eric has a little speeding problem.  We (ahem, I mean HE) got pulled over twice for speeding…in less than 24 hours…going the exact same speed in the same speed zone both times…

To his credit, in both areas, the speed limit instantly changed from 55 to 25, and there was a police officer stationed at the exact spot in both places.  Can you say speed trap, anyone?  We also did not have an updated insurance card in the car, so that caused too many complications.  And Eric was still on his parents’ insurance—needless to say he got kicked off after this trip. 

The first officer was very scary and took BOTH of our ID’s (I have no clue why he wanted mine), and asked us TONS of questions about why we were in his town and where we were going.  I’m not sure interrogation is even the right word to explain it.  I honestly thought he was going to cart us off to jail for some reason.  The second officer, a highway patrolman at that, was super nice, and was probably going to let us off, until he asked the dreaded question: when’s the last time you were pulled over?  Ummm, a few hours ago?  He did kind of laugh and give us tips on where the other officers were hiding.  Thanks, guy!

By the time we got to the park, we were tired, anxious, frustrated, and I was still kinda scared that first officer was going to show up at my door and arrest me sometime in the near future.  We honestly drove 4 hours, to hike two miles tops, pick up a brochure at the ranger’s station, then drive 4 hours home.  In silence.  Eric was pouty.  Very, very pouty.  He promised to take me back sometime.  I don’t think we’ll be going back.

We did remember to snap a few pics there, to simply prove we actually did make it and didn’t end up in jail.

DO you SEE the look on his face?  I wasn’t kidding…pouter.

  

 

Ignore the fat thigh shot here.  I was very ill, and have since slimmed my thighs.  If I were better at Photoshop, I would slim them for you.

As if he hadn’t learned his lesson about speeding…He thought that if he walked fast it would all go away.

He did stop to take a picture of a flower, though, so I’m sure he had a least a little fun.

For those of you who don’t have a speeding (or pouting problem), the area seems like a super fun place to spend the weekend.  Located around the Akron/Cleveland area, there’s something for everyone.  If you’re not the camping type, there’s plenty of non-scary hotels to check into, along with restaurants and stores. The park is open 24 hours/day 365 days/year, although the Visitor’s Center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  Unlike some National Parks, there is no entrance fee.  The park does house many shelters and facilities for rental, which would be great for a family reunion, wedding, or just a weekend party.  There’s horseback riding, camping, hiking, train rides, canoeing, fishing, biking and antique shopping.  We had every intention of taking the scenic train ride—the price is $15 for adults and includes an all day pass.  There are many different options for the train ride.  You can hop on at one station, then hike to another, or hike, then take the train back.  The area is also full of rich history, which is documented well throughout the Visitor’s Center and postings along the trails.  Check out the official site for info.

{Ready, Set, Declutter!}

Last Friday, I finally got a chance to catch up on blog-stalking reading.  I had like a whole week of Young House Love posts to catch up on, along with other inspirational tales of home décor and life in general.  Right as I thought that I had finished, they posted this post-which was a challenge to clean out a closet during the upcoming weekend.  I already had this task in the back of my mind, but I was trying to keep it there–in the back–out of sight, out of mind.  Actually, that’s the problem with closets in the first place…

Needless to say, as soon as I read their challenge (and saw the picture of their hallway closet above–isn’t is nice to know you’re not alone?), it was like the clouds parted and angels sung…yes, it is that dramatic when God speaks to me. 

So, knowing that I was not the only one who would be slaving away decluttering a closet this weekend, I arrived at the task with a smile…and saw this.

 

Our hallway closet is one of those that just “catches” odds and ends and things that don’t really have any other place (although we have a few of those places in our apartment). 

There’s coats and outerwear, of course (including a few unpaired and holey gloves),
along with a volleyball,
a Frisbee with the price tag still on it (we got a lot of use out of that, obviously…),
an old vacuum bag for a vacuum we don’t own anymore,
a waterproof picnic blanket,
2 seat cushions for sporting events,
those wrap-around your head things that hold sunglasses in place during extreme sports (cause we do a lot of those),
expensive purses that should not be on the floor,
2 rainsuits?,
3 umbrellas (for two people…) 
a bazillion board games,
one boot (yes, one),
tons of loose receipts (Eric’s fault-he never throws them away–they’re everywhere)
and tons of reusable tote bags. 

All of these things kinda got tossed in there when we moved in…18 months ago.  Time to fix it up.

 

Now, there’s not much we can do with the actual closet.  I would love, love, LOVE, to paint the interior of the closet white to really brighten it up, add some lively shelf paper, readjust the hanging bar and shelves, and maybe even add a bit of built-in storage.  But the reality is, we’re in a temporary apartment.  Gotta live with what ya got, right?

So, first, I took everything out.  Every. Single. Thing.  This helped me to really see how much space I had to work with, and also how much stuff I had to work back in.

Then, I sorted everything into piles.  Board games and card games, coats to keep, coats to store, coats to donate, glove and hats,  totebags, outdoor equipment, why is this even in here? (boot!), and trash. (On a side note…want to know where the match to the boot was? Read this.)

Next, I was able to give the closet a good scrub.  Or actually, a good Swiffer.  The closet did have a bit of a musty, or just generally old, smell.  But now?  It smells like Swiffer and Victoria’s Secret Love Spell body spray.  Hey, how else am I going to use up all of those free samples?

I quickly realized that I needed some more vertical storage if I wanted to ensure that everything just wasn’t going to revert back to a huge pile on the floor two days from now. Enter Plastic Storage Carts.  I used these in my previous first grade classroom, but since I’ve now upgraded to a nice cubicle with real office supplies, I no longer need these.  They’ve been moved from the attic, to the laundry room, to the office, back to the attic, back to the office, well, you get the idea…I don’t really like the look of the blinding white plastic.  Great (and durable) for kiddos, not so sophisticated for a young, married couple moving on up.  So, I decided they would be great to hide away in the closet to store a bunch of other stuff that needed to be hidden.  As an afterthought bonus, I realized that wet gloves and winterwear, and dirty sports equipment would find a perfect home in the plastic bins.

 

The bins now house the smaller card games and travel games that were causing a mess, and creating the occasional fall of other games, on the top shelf.  They also create a nice, organized place for a variety of shopping totes of different sizes and shapes.  Best of all, I still have a few empty drawers!

The next task was to get the coats back in the closet.  Hands down, the best way to create a chic and sophisticated look for clothes is to use all of the same kind of hanger.  Unfortunately, we were not following this.  Some coats were on the original plastic hangers that they came with, some were on our “college” plastic hanger collection, and some had moved to our new “married” wooden hanger collection.  Everyone got a little upgrade to the new “married” wooden hanger collection.

 

Next, I had to deal with the board games.  We heart games.  We do not heart storing games.  We had most of them in the closet, a few under the desk, a few under the ottoman, and one in the back office.  I cannot STAND when groups of objects are split up, so it was driving me mad.  ALL games needed to be in ONE place, dang it.  Plus, we have one game with a buzzer, and every time something would shift, or we’d close the door the wrong way, we would get a “buzz”.  Occasionally we would be lying in bed or watching TV and hear the faint “buzz”.  Time to get that fixed up.  Surprisingly, I found that most games come in boxes that are the same size as other games.  This makes stacking easy.  How did I not notice this before? 

 

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the outcome, and the fact that it really only took about 20 minutes to do.  Eric hung his coat up every day after work this week, so that alone justifies the time spent.  Plus, we haven’t been “buzzed” at yet.

YHL is asking readers to post their before and after pics on their facebook page (and be sure to check out their “afters”).  I’m sure I’ll be spending time drooling over everyone else’s more permanent closet redo’s.  Like I need a reason to spend more time on facebook…

{Weekend Photography Challenge}

Warmer weather + sunshine + new camera = lots of new fun taking pictures.

Eric had the fun idea of creating weekend challenges for ourselves.  His plan? Come up with a topic of interest for us, which we both have to capture in photos.  Whoever takes the best picture wins! The prize?  I have no idea.  He didn’t think it out all the way…

So this weekend, we decided on the topic: “Things That We Like About Lima”.  We’re trying!

Here’s what I found.

 

Yep, I liked this town much better when they put a Panera in about a year ago.  They know us by name.  And they know our order.  It is very sad.

Eric found this. 

It’s just because it looked out of place downtown, and this guy was the epitome of “businessman”-talking on the cell phone, driving fast, personalized plates…

But then we really got down to the nitty-gritty and found some great places where we could take some future photos.  We also captured some details that we never noticed before.

 

 

 

We attempted to go shoot a few other places, but the 10ft. of melting snow mixed with the very flat land in Lima left a very, very muddy mess.  So this challenge is To Be Continued…

{Click, Click, Click}

That’s the sound of our new camera! (or the opening of a new NKOTB song, but I digress…)

We took the plunge and purchased a DSLR.  After much debate and research (okay 2 months of it), we decided to go with the Nikon D90.  Our choices were narrowed down to either the Nikon D90, or the Canon XSi.  In the end, it really came down to the outcome; we viewed tons of pictures taken by each camera, and just loved the colors and crispness of the D90. Both cameras had about the same features, or one won out over the other in various categories, but we like results.  And the results of the Nikon seemed slightly superior to the Canon.

 

During my research of DSLR’s, I actually learned a lot of great tips for getting good shots, and also learned about some features that I have on my previous camera.  Score!  It was a few of those, “Ohhh, that’s what that button does” kind of moments. Overall, a little (or a lot) of research before opening the camera really helped to not feel so overwhelmed at first, and also had us taking pretty good shots right away.

Interchangeable Lenses

One reason for getting an SLR is so that we have the ability to change lenses.  Most people think it’s the camera that is responsible for taking a good picture, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The lens plays a huge role in the color, contrast and clarity of every single photo shot. The most important thing for us was that we can now buy lenses that match our own photography style, since a nature photographer (Eric) should not use the same lens as a portrait photograph (me).  This also means that even if our photography styles change in a couple years (or a couple of months!), we won’t have to buy a new camera, just different lenses. 

The Nikon D90 can be bought as a kit, where you get the camera body and an 18-105mm lens.  We opted against the kit, after reading hundreds of reviews, as many had deemed the kit lens “cheap”, and noted that it was causing many, many errors.  Instead, we bought the body separately, along with:

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor Lens
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens

Umm, what are all of those number and letters?!

Let’s start with the 18-55mm, and 55-200mm.  The only way I could explain this to myself, was to think of it in terms of focal length, or zoom.  On DSLR’s, “normal field of view” is considered 50mm, or what your eyes can see.  Anything smaller than 50mm will pick up a bit wider of an image than the eyes can see, and anything larger than 50mm will pick up less width than the eye can see, but it will also “zoom in” closer. 

So…you want a smaller number to pick up things close to you (babies, kids, flowers, friends), and larger numbers to “zoom in” on things (clock towers, steeples, birds in a tree, a boat on the water).

For a really good feel of what mm lens will work for the distance you want to shoot, try this site.

 

Next, let’s look at AF.  This simply means it has the option to Auto Focus if you so choose.  Most recommend using manual focus, but having the option to shoot off some quick pics in AF is a nice option.  Most cameras have anywhere from a 5-11 point autofocus setting.  This means the camera will automagically choose 5, or 7, or 8, or 10 things to focus on in the picture that it has deemed important to keep in focus.  You can also choose One Shot, or Continuous Focus.  One shot will focus and then take the picture.  It will not take the picture until it is focused. Continuous focus continual works to keep things in focus, and will take the picture even if the camera hasn’t completely focused.  This works great for children, pets, or sports shots.

Then, there’s VR.  This stands for Vibration Reduction.  Basically, if you have a shaky hand, you know that it will blur the picture.  Some cameras have VR in the body, and some bodies do not have VR, and so the lenses must have VR.  We figured it was more important in the lenses, since they are more unstable, and we will be touching them a lot while adjusting the focal length.  Many “experts”, aka internet persona, also agree that VR in the lens is a better choice.

The DX just means that it for the digital SLR’s and not the film camera bodies.

F-Stop

The lenses also are labeled with an “F” number.  This is for f-stop. F-stop is the ratio…of the proportion…and the diagonal…and the hole…and light…and aperture.  Yeah…At this point in my photography career, I don’t really care what it is.  I just care about what it does and how to use it. 

The smaller the f-stop number (for example f/2.8), the more in focus one aspect of the picture will be, with the background and everything else being “blurred” out.

The larger the f-stop number (for example, f/22), the more things will be in focus, with very little, if anything, “blurred” out.

I read somewhere that an easy way to remember how this works is to imagine photographing a group of people. At f/4, four people will be in focus. At f/32, 32 people will be in focus.

ISO

Another aspect that was important to us was getting a camera with a wide ISO range.  The ISO number indicates how quickly the camera can absorb the available light in the room.  This is super important to be able to control manually if you normally shoot photos in dim light (like our very dim apartment).  When there’s not a lot of available light, the camera automatically slows down the shutter speed to capture a balanced exposure. A slow shutter speed means that the shutter stays open longer, giving the sensor plenty of time to gather light. Unfortunately, there’s a problem associated with this: when the shutter stays open for long periods of time, any motion is captured as blur, and not a simple blur that VR will help. Since an increase in the ISO makes the sensor absorb light faster, the shutter doesn’t have to stay open for such long periods of time, minimizing the chance of getting blur.

The higher the ISO (like 800, 1600, or 3200), the more faster light is absorbed.

The lower the ISO (like 100, or 200), the slower light is absorbed—good if you’re shooting in very bright sunlight.

This is one of those features that is actually available on our previous camera, which is not an SLR.

Continuous Shot

One thing that really made Eric drool was that the D90 can shoot 5 pictures/second.  Yes, he uses this for almost everything.  Yes, it is very annoying to view pictures with him later.  It’s like watching one of the “flip-book” animations.  Still, there is a time and place for needing to shoot this many frames per second, and I’m glad we’ll be able to do it.

White Balance

While our other cameras have White Balance options, this was one of the things I never really messed with.  And I can’t believe I didn’t.  It makes a HUGE difference. I’m sure you’ve noticed that fluorescent lights or sunlight or dim light affects the way colors look in the pictures, especially items that are supposed to be white.  A pre-set white balance setting will adjust for the average color temperature under those lighting conditions.  However, the D90 (along with other expensive cameras), allow for manual white balance.  Simply point the camera at the item in the photo that is supposed to be white, and the camera automagically adjusts everything.  It makes me think of Cheer laundry detergent-your whites come out whiter and your colors brighter! (At least I think that’s Cheer.  I should know that…)

Megapixels

To us, this wasn’t a huge selling point.  If you’re not a person who normally enlarges pictures and prints them above 11×14, then anything above 6 megapixels isn’t really needed.  If you like to zoom and crop and print larger pictures, 8-10 megapixels should be good.  Case in point, we weren’t going to be tempted to pay more money simply because one camera touted 1.3 more megapixels than the other.

Movie Mode

Upon first glance, the fact that the D90 could do HD video looked like a major selling point.  However, after more research, we realized we will never, ever use this feature.  Because SLR’s use an actual sensor that absorbs light, the longer the shutter is held open, the more light is being burned into the sensor—literally.  Allowing too much light for prolonged periods of time will burn “hot pixels” into the sensor, thus all of your pictures will show up with red dots.  We have a digital that takes WONDERFUL HD video already, so no need to risk the ruin of this camera.

 

The Nikon D90 also possesses a wide range of lighting features that allows the camera, again, to automagically adjust contrast, color, and light intake to get the best shots.  Actually, the camera has something like a bazillion menus.  The bottom line seemed to be that this will be a camera that can grow and change with us as our skills and interests change.  We can keep some automatic settings while having some manual.  We can change lenses as we feel more and more comfortable with what we’re doing.  And the camera really does do a wonderful job of capturing good shots.  After just two days with the camera, I’m smitten, and I’ve only taken a few pictures—the other 4 millionish were taken by the hubby.

Oh, and as a side note.  Watch Amazon, and sign up for email alerts.  We saved almost $500 by watching sales and comparing prices.  Plus, free shipping never hurts when you’re like us and don’t have a camera store nearby.  Overall, we have a plan to “recoup” the entire cost of the camera by the end of Summer, which includes eating in even more, making some cash shooting a wedding (yep!), and having a few more game nights in instead of movie nights out.

{Foodie Friday: Cashews}

Have you ever bitten into a rancid cashew?  I have.  This morning.  Blahhhhh.  Obviously, I should double-check the shelf-life of cashews.  Enter Foodie Friday.

Etymology:

Comes from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which is derived from the indigenous Tupi (of northeastern Brazil) name, acajú.

Random Facts:

There such as thing called a “cashew apple”, aka marañón in Central America.  Some might mistake this as the fruit of the tree, but it actually develops from the receptacle of the flower, and then the actual fruit grows from this.  And we thought human beings were convoluted!  The cashew apple is edible, has a juicy flesh which is very sweet, and a delicate skin that makes it unstable for export. (I sense a future Jeopardy question here!)

 

The actual fruit houses the single seed–the cashew.  Yep, that means that cashews are technically fruits, and seeds.  The shell that makes it a “nut” has been removed, so we only eat the seed.

The cashew seed is well protected by many acids and resins and other toxins.  One common one is urushiol, which is better known as the oil that causes poison ivy rashes.  Hmmm…I’m severely allergic to poison ivy, but have no problems with cashews…

Where is it Grown?

While native to Brazil, the Portuguese took the cashew plant to India in 1560. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa. The first country to import the cashew nuts from India was the United States in 1905. The leading commercial producers of cashews are India, Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria. The United States is the largest importer of cashew nuts.

Storage & Shelf-Life

Due to their high content of oleic acid, cashews are more stable than most other nuts but should still be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about six months, or in the freezer, where they will keep for about one year. Because of their high oil content, they spoil quickly at room temperature. Aha!  I really should implement a sniff test before hand, as rancid cashews will smell spoiled.

Ummm, Why Should I Care?

Source of protein-3.5 ounces provides 18g.

Also a significant source of Vitamin B1 and B6.  We know we need to get our B vitamins!

Heart-healthy-cashews contain oleic acid, which is an unsaturated fatty acid.  It has been shown to reduce triglycerides.

High antioxidant level-helps reduce free radicals wreaking havoc on the system.

Many studies have proven, to lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of cashews or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.

High in copper-Copper is vital for our body’s functioning.  Numerous health problems can develop when copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections.

High in magnesium- Insufficient magnesium contributes to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways–asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness, and fatigue. Given these effects, it is not surprising that studies have shown magnesium helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart attacks, promotes normal sleep patterns, and reduces the severity of asthma.

Because cashews are a higher calorie food (relatively, or course—compare it to a Twinkie!), and a good source of unsaturated fat, many still associate it with FAT and CALORIES and avoid them.  However, studies have shown the exact opposite to be true.  Those who eat nuts and seeds a few times a week actually lost weight and/or did not gain weight.

Other Uses

The bark of the cashew tree is scraped, soaked, boiled, and eaten as an anti-diarrheal. 

Cashew oil is used as an anti-fungal.

The cashew seed is ground and applied to snake bites to retract the venom.

In many places, the cashew apple is mixed with water and sugar and left to ferment to make an alcoholic drink.

It can also be ground to make cashew nut butter, to be used the same way as almond butter or peanut butter.

The wood of the cashew tree is prized for its beauty and sturdiness.

Cashews are never sold shelled because the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin, known as cashew balm, which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is actually used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides. Umm, wait…what? Who ever figured that out, or who decided to try to get past the “bad stuff” to see if there was “good stuff”?  Diamond in the rough seeker or really bored caveman?

Recipes:

Again, roasting, salting, sugaring or chocolate-coating pretty much negates, or causes further distress, all of the good reasons to eat cashews in the first place.  The best way to eat cashews is raw (again, relative as it has been processed a bit to remove the toxic shell), as a snack.  They make an excellent in-between-meals snack. Try sprinkling them on top of salads, chicken, or pasta dishes.

Cashews have a rich buttery flavor, so they complement other foods well.  Specifically, they go well with fresh or dried fruits, most vegetables (add right after steaming or at the end of stir-frying as they’ll soften quickly),tofu, poultry, pork, soy sauce, ginger, oyster sauce, curry powder, coconut milk, ground coriander and cardamom.

Pork & Cashew Stir Fry

Caramel Cashew Cookies

Cashew Chicken

Asparagus and Cashew Chicken Stir-fry

{Robert Pattinson is an Awkward Actor, and Other Thoughts From February}

Is February really over?  Already?  Wow! Not that I’m complaining in the slightest.  March is my favorite month.  It’s the month of Spring and Birthdays.  It doesn’t get much better than warmer weather and birthday cake. February really seemed to fly by, though.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse as to why I didn’t get a lot of my February goals accomplished…

February Goals

Take vitamin everyday: Grade: B-I missed about one/week.

Take herbal supplement 3x/day:
 Grade: C-I missed about 1x/day plus another few days total.

Walk 10 minutes 3x/week:
 Grade: A+! I actually did about 4x/week for 15-20 minutes, and did a lot of jogging. I think it helps that my coworker began going to the YMCA every morning at 4:30,  and I feel like an uber-slacker not being able to do 10-15 minutes a day. 

Eat dinner in at least 4x/week:
 Grade: A-There was one week that didn’t go so well, but it was a CRAZY week.  The following week we made up for it by eating in almost every night.

Take Valentine’s Day cards to local nursing home or school: 
POSTPONED

Mail a card to a friend via snail-mail:
 Ummm…POSTPONED?

Bed by 11:00 on weekdays, 11:30 on weekends: 
FAIL.  Not even an F. Just total FAIL.

File Taxes (we do our own):
 Grade: A+

Read I Just Want My Pants Back:
 Grade: A

Make 2nd curtain for tables in craft room:
 POSTPONED

Renew Passport (I’ve been working on this since my wedding in 2008 ::sigh::):
 FAIL

Make “Easter Baskets” to send to the troops:
 Grade: C/POSTPONED

That is not a report card I’m happy to share.  I need to be stricter about taking herbs, vitamins and drinking tea, as I’ve been pretty tired this month.  But, if I would actually make it to bed and sleep before 11:00 more than 6 days (6!) during the month, I may fare better on that front. But, I’ve been working out pretty hard this month-jogging, sit ups, push ups, stretching, stability ball-the whole nine yards.  So, I’m feeling pretty good, I’m just in need of a siesta during the day.

The whole point of the Valentine’s cards being gifted was that I wanted to do a community service project.  Instead of donating the cards for a service-oriented project, I had the opportunity to play in a Scrabble championship to raise money for the local Literacy Council.  So, I postponed the cards until later in the year.  And as for those Easter baskets? Well, I made things to go in them.  I sent out some feelers to get some contact information.  And no contact information came back.  Yes, I could have just sent them to one of the big organizations who mails items in bulk, but I have some personal connections and wanted to touch base with them first.

As for those other postponements?  Well, I ran out of stamps.  And have yet to get new ones.  So I couldn’t mail anything.  But I designed some cute stationery.  So, I’ll send two this month.  Curtain for the craft room?  Well, the craft room looks like WWIII kicked off while we were at work, so a curtain isn’t going to do us any good.  The only thing that will is a good Spring Cleaning.  But, I’m starting to have the nagging suspicion this room will never get done.

So, now I need to set some March goals.  I’m not setting too many projects to get completed, as we have a busy, busy month ahead.

March Goals

Take vitamin everyday
Take herbal supplements 3x/day
Walk/Jog at least 10 min. 3x/week
Eat dinner in at least 4x/week
Be in bed (and asleep) by 11:00 on weekdays, 11:30 on weekends
Mail 2 cards to friends via snail-mail
Read Love in the Time of Cholera
Spring-Clean Laundry Room
Spring-Clean Bathroom
Make & Mail Julie’s Wedding Shower invitations

As for other areas for reflection:

We didn’t really watch anything new on TV.  I thought about watching “Survivor”, just because Rupert was on again, but I’m already watching more TV than I think is healthy. 

Maybe I feel like I’m watching too much TV because we’ve watched a lot of the Olympics.  Go USA!  I must have not paid much attention in previous years, cause I got a lot of good laughs. 

Curling just cracks me up, and I can’t take it. I don’t like ice, and I don’t like sweeping.  50K cross country skiing does NOT look like fun. And there’s pit stops? Really? Who decided that skiing around with a gun on your back was a good idea? I can see Apolo Ohno and the Koreans getting in gun fight in back alley sometime in the near future. NBC should not put mics on jacked-up-on-adrenaline athletes if they want to keep the broadcast clean.  The American bobsled team kicks booty.  The American hockey team is pretty sweet, too.  The Canadian women’s hockey team is a set of classy broads. And the French still hate Americans. Eh, what are you gonna do about it?

Steven Holcomb

 

We must be looking for an escape as far as movies go.  We watched The Count of Monte Cristo and Persuasion together.  I watched New York, I Love You, Little Ashes, and How to Be on my own.  Eric’s now going to read The Count of Monte Cristo-go him, and I still think Robert Pattinson is a horrible actor ::wincing and waiting for backlash from overzealous teenage girls::. Seriously, it’s like the same character in every movie: look pained, stare at the ground, play with hair, and be otherwise generally awkward. I’m feeling very harsh today…It’s not that he’s not a somewhat attractive guy, a talented musician, and has the potential (maybe)  to be a good actor, it’s just, when did it become against the law to smile? It’s okay to be in love and have friends, buddy.