Friday, December 26, 2014

Minty Choco Chip Cake Mix Cookies

My previous recipe (Choco Cranberry Sauce Cake Mix Cupcakes) used cake mix powder that I sifted white and chocolate flavors together, using half of the mixture. This recipe uses the other half of the powder. My cooky recipes are almost all about using cake mixes because of convenience. Using cake mix in cooky making is more complex than using refrigerated cooky dough, but easier than blending soft butter into cooky powder mix. Furthermore, cake mixes come in more varieties and provide more options for the imagination.

Winter time seems to bring out inclinations for something minty. Do something different than chocolate chip cookies—make the chips mint! One year, I found mint-green chips, which I haven't seen lately. This year, I ran across Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips, which have chocolate and mint-green stripes. Did not know until now that Tootsie owns Andes.

Note: Both Tootsie and Amazon offer up Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips, but their prices are WAY more expensive than the local supermarket price.

Besides using chips with varying mint strengths, have the dough flavors meet in the middle—half vanilla-ey and half chocolatey. If you'd rather not commit to buying one box each of white and chocolate mixes, buy a marble cake mix and mix the powders together. My recipe for Diff Kinda Choco-chip Cake Mix Cookies includes marble cake mix, chocolate chips, and coconut.

Onto the recipe details!

My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. Implements
  2. Ingredients
  3. Combo pic:
    1. Mixed eggs and oil
    2. Mixture of eggs, oil, and cake mix
    3. Dough, with chips stirred in
  4. Raw dough in pan
  5. Baked cookies in pan
  6. Flipped cookies on a cooling rack
  7. Cooled cookies on a plate
Implements
  • Cooky pan(s)
  • Pastry blender
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon for measuring out cooky dough
  • Spatula for scraping dough onto pan
  • Cooky spatula to lift and transfer baked cookies (not shown—forgot for preprep pic)
  • Cooling rack for done cookies
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 box chocolatey cake mix (I used half fudgy chocolate and half white.)
  • 5 oz mint chips (I used Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips.)
  • 5 oz chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the oil and eggs.
  3. Use the pastry blender to stir the cake mix powder into the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir the chips into the dough. (I might have saved a little energy if I had combined both kinds of chip together first.)
  5. Use a round tablespoon to scoop the dough. Shape to rounded, level, or concave height.
  6. Drop the spoon's dough onto the cooky sheet. (For slightly flatter cookies, slightly flatten the shaped dough rounds with the measuring cup.)
  7. Bake for about 9 to 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
  8. Use the cooky spatula to lift and transfer the done cookies onto cooling rack.
The yield was 57 cookies, amounting to ~65 calories each. YMMV

Recipe Deviation Suggestions
If trying out this recipe, advanced deviations include the following modifications:
  • If you want to buy only one box of cake mix instead of two for making up half chocolatey and half white dough. buy marble cake mix and sift the powders together.
  • For more mintiness, use all mint chips instead of half mint and half chocolate chips. If you want to be really gutsy, you can add some mint extract into the wet ingredients before mixing the powders in.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Choco Cranberry Sauce Cake Mix Cupcakes

This simple recipe has three ingredients besides spray oil—a 14-oz can of jellied cranberry sauce, a box of chocolaty cake mix, and eggs. (Chocolate seems to go well with just about any red fruit.) For my cake mix, I sifted a boxful of white and chocolate flavors each, using half for these cupcakes and saving the other half for a different recipe. (Batter up for the next recipe article!)

I'd Googled high and low for cake and cooky recipes that use jellied cranberry sauce. All of them seemed to call for the lumpy-cranberry type sauce. I finally took a breath and decided to forge ahead with the can of sauce that greeted me every time for many …, uh, long time when I opened the cupboard. I revisited info about possible cake ingredients for substitutions, such as applesauce. The amount of applesauce and water volume called for was similar to the cranberry.

The jellied cranberry sauce was an unknown—jelly at room temperature. I decided to spoon it out into a small mixing bowl, break it up with a spoon, and microwave it in 30-second sessions, stirring between sessions. The warm sauce did not break up well until I pureed it with the mixer.

My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. Implements
  2. Ingredients and spray oil
  3. Combo pic:
    1. Cranberry sauce out of the can and into small bowl, then pureed
    2. Mixed eggs in medium bowl
    3. Mixture of eggs and pureed cranberry sauce in the medium bowl
    4. Cake mix powder in largest bowl
    5. Mixture of the ingredients in the largest bowl
  4. Batter in the cupcake pans
  5. Baked cupcakes in the pans
  6. Cooled cupcakes on a cooling rack
Implements
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cup for eggs
  • Measuring cup(s) for dispensing batter
  • Spatula for scraping batter
  • Spoon for initial breaking up cranberry sauce (not shown—forgot for preprep pic)
  • Electric mixer
  • Cupcake pans
  • Cooling rack
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 box chocolatey cake mix (I used half fudgy chocolate and half white.)
  • 1 14-oz can jellied cranberry sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Spray oil into the pan wells.
  3. Beat the eggs and set aside.
  4. Break up and microwave the cranberry sauce in 30-second sessions, the puree with mixer.
  5. Pour the mixed eggs into the warm, pureed cranberry sauce and mix well.
  6. Pour the egg-and-sauce mixture into the largest bowl that has the cake mix powder.
  7. At low speed, mix all the ingredients for two minutes, scraping the batter down with the spatula. Mixture will become thick, like scratch-cake batter.
  8. Scoop batter into the pan wells, each about 3/4 full.
  9. Bake for about 17-20 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.
  10. Remove the baked cupcakes onto the cooling rack.
  11. Frost if desired.
Post-Recipe Thoughts
As mentioned, the batter becomes very thick during mixing. In dispensing it, I was apprehensive about distributing the batter into the typical 24 cupcake wells. Well, the batter did not run over the sides during baking. Tasty and moist! (Hmm, color and bready texture made me think of sweetish pumpernickel). Calories amounted to about 105 each cupcake. If you frost as ready-to-spread frostings recommend, you'll add an extra 130 calories for each.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

White Castle Stuffing?

OK, once in a great while I post a negative article about food. That would be the one that I wrote advising against a tortilla recipe I tried. It was an experiment contrasting tortilla and biscuit ingredients and processes, using an electric waffle-cone maker. Chewwwy!

The White Castle burger stuffing recipe caught my eye—more for the inspirational value for an article than inclination to make a batch. (Happy Thanksgiving day and weekend, everyone!)

Naw, I'd more make fun of the stuffing than make it or eat it. Before I launch into why the recipe tickles my fancy, a more positive thought about the product is that the name reminds me of "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle", a very funny and entertaining movie. It was released in 2004 (!!), starring John Cho (Star Trek Sulu) and Kal Penn (House). Neil Patrick Harris, post-Doogie Howser and pre-How I Met Your Mother, portrays himself. It's been awhile since I saw the movie, but his gestures and verbalizing in one scene seems to be pre-Barney Stinson-ish in delivery.

I've never eaten a White Castle burger. In the distant past, I would have considered it, but I didn't live near any WC fooderies. By the time I saw any WC burgers in the frozen food sections, I lost interest in burgers, and any other kind of meat that's been processed to the point of nonrecognition. This type of meat includes sausage, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs/baloney. I'm starting to approach the same feeling about round slices of deli meat. Not a vegetarian, Still very much a carnivore, and somewhat picky omnivore.

OK, let's get to the WC stuffing recipe! First of all—TEN burgers—no pickles. I gotta believe the people who came up with the recipe tried including the pickles and decided the result was a bust. I have a gut feeling the sodium is out of this world even without the pickles. In addition, the recipe calls for additional sodium in the form of chicken broth. The paper recipe calls for 1/4 cup of broth. (What, not enough flavor?) Oddly enough, the online recipe also calls for 1/4 cup, but it also includes text in the procedure itself to "add an additional 3/4 cup of chicken broth". Yow!

Alrighty then, the main reason the recipe attracted my attention for amusement. The ingredients made me think of prison food I'd read about awhile back—Nutraloaf, except unmolded. "Food As Punishment: Giving U.S. Inmates 'The Loaf' Persists" describes putting ingredients together, baking it, and feeding it to inmates who present disciplinary problems.

So the WC stuffing is not exactly a Nutraloaf—less sodium for one thing. It's supposed to be a pretty flavorless (tasteless?) loaf. I can visualize the WC stuffing baked in a brick form. I am mercifully omitting links to Nutraloaf recipes.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Carrots and Tops and Bugs Oh My

Seventy-nine cents a pound for carrots is my usual paying price. But I couldn't find any on 10/26 or 11/1. Coincidence that those days were near Halloween? For a few weeks, I noticed the smallish carrots with tops. Eh, what's up with those? $1.99? Why do people buy those, except for decorations?

Normal price for bulk carrots w/o tops: 79¢/#
Carrots w/tops, always small and skinny, 5 bunches bundled together: $1.99/#

How about some more carrot price comparisons?
  • 1-pound bag, smallish whole, topless (woohoo): 78¢/#
  • minis, "baby" carrots: $1.28/#
  • matchsticks, like the ones you see in pre-made salads: $1.77/#
  • chips, crinkle-cut round slices: $1.38/#
Your prices might vary. Looking at price per pound, whole ones (topless) are way less expensive than consumer-convenient ones. However, these whole, unprocessed ones require trimming, peeling, and washing. Then you can cut them up into processed shapes.

"Baby" Carrots
Digging deeper into carrot topic, spreading the search for carrots and related, I ran across "Carrot Sticks vs Baby Carrots". The article has simple explanation, how-to instructions for processing regular, less expensive carrots, and an embedded link to YouTube video that shows the machinery processing of converting big carrots to small. Interesting to see that commenters for both article and video talk about baby carrots being soaked in a bleach solution. For those who buy "baby" carrots, at least RINSE those puppies before you consume them!

Carrot Tops as Edibles
Some links that provide carrot top information and recipes:
Iconic Carrot Consumer(s)—What's up, Doc?
The best-known icon is Bugs (natch) Bunny. Visit the YouTube video that shows Bugs seasoning his carrots on his rotating spit.

One very helpful website about Bugs is "7 Things You Didn't Know About Bugs Bunny". One fascinating factoid, for which the article's author included an embedded YouTube link is about the inspiration for Bugs Bunny chewing on his topped carrot.
Bugs' carrot-habit actually started as a parody of Clark Gable. In Clark Gable's movie It Happened One Night, there's a scene where Gable is leaning against a fence, talking quickly, and eating a carrot. ...Over time, the original movie has faded, while Bugs' carrot chewing has lived on.
The video is entertaining for more than just the carrot connection.

Segueing into Homophones
As language is one of my interests, I also include carrot homophones in this article.

caret
• http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/caret?s=t
a mark (^) made in written or printed matter to show the place where something is to be inserted.

• https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/microsoft.public.excel.misc/jS1OLNyFocs
Caret: "^" means "to the power of"
It means "raise to the power of"

carat
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/carat
1. a unit of weight in gemstones, 200 milligrams (about 3 grains of troy or avoirdupois weight). Abbreviation: c., ct.
2. karat.

karat
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/karat
a unit for measuring the fineness of gold, pure gold being 24 karats fine.
Abbreviation: k., kt.

Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 4

This article is the fourth (and final) one in my series about having blogged continuously for five years. I discuss the process of collecting my blogging data and reporting them in tables and graphs, but this time, the process differs from the quartile methodology that I cover in Part 2. That article emphasizes spread of word counts, and this article emphasizes high/low word counts and distribution over 10 word-count intervals.

The top pixstrip shows a table with the basic information that I put in Excel for creating the column graph. In the table, the first column lists the word count divisions, and the second column lists the number of articles for each word count category. In the graph, the word count divisions are in the x axis, and the numbers of articles are in the y axis, represented by the blue 3D columns.

The distribution and percentages of articles show that the largest group of my articles ranged from 400 to 499 words—27, a smidge more than 20%. Combined with the other three largest groups (range from 400 to 799 words), my articles totaled 82, 63.1% of the 130 articles over five years time, from September 2009 through August 2014.

In the three previous articles that I wrote about blogging for five years, I listed various steps for collecting information and generating visual results. For bloggers and other interested parties who might want to create your own similar info, the basic steps are as follows (also noted in Part 3 of my series):
  1. In Excel, log the article titles.
  2. Open each article, and copy/paste verbiage into MS Word, noting the word count at Word's lower left corner.
  3. In Excel, copy the word count number into the cell adjacent the appropriate article title.
You might want to insert empty rows to separate significant time periods. You might even copy the set to another spot before putting in separators.

The following pixstrip shows the Excel window for sorting, and the partial image of the Period A sorted table. The Excel window opens after clicking Data tab > Sort and clicking Add Level for obtaining a second sort criterion. At the table, I added reddish outlines at the highest and lowest word counts.

The following image shows high and low word counts for periods A through E, with red outlines at the absolute lowest and highest word count numbers.

It might seem odd that I place the graphing process pixstrip before the other images. Usually, my images are sequential. For this article, the results image is more eye-catching at the very top. FYI, my tools in my series have been Excel, MS Word, Windows 7 Snipping Tool, and my ancient PaintShopPro 7.04.

Links to the series
  1. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 1
    Focus on single- and five-year views for total articles, articles with images, and recipe articles.
  2. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 2
    Focus on numbers of words in articles and graphical representations.
  3. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 3
    More details on collecting the data.
  4. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 4
    Emphasis on data sorting and distribution of word count groupings.

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 3

This article is the third one in my series about having blogged continuously for five years. It describes how I collected the basic data for my five years of continuous blogging, used some elementary Excel calculations, and graphed some results.

The pixstrip shows a truncated Excel tally sheet and a partial Word-paste window. The Excel portion has a red rectangle around the recipe article that I did the word count on. The partial Word paste shows truncation of the recipe text. The lower left of the Word window displays the word count without needing to open menu options or use shortcut keys. How convenient!

Creating a spreadsheet with initial data
I tiled the Word file of my catalog next to a browser view of my blog site to create the following columns in Excel:
  1. Article titles ("Article Title")
  2. Word count ("# Words")—more on that farther down the article
  3. Image, y/n ("Image, 0 or 1")
  4. Recipe, y/n ("recipe, 0 or 1")
I differentiated the time periods (September to August over five years) by changing font colors. If you choose to try assessing your own blog over years or other time periods, you can try differentiating by text color, bolding, italics, border looks, etc. (For recipes, I flood-filling rows for quick visual cues.)

In retrospect, the catalog was helpful for quickly confirming recipe status, but not crucial. The most important compilation tool was the index in the blog. It grouped by years and months, and linked to all the articles.

Although I created a column for word count early on, I collected the word counts after creating the rest of the spreadsheet. It seemed more sensible to do word count as a separate process than going through each cell of each row. The word count process follows.

EZ Word Counting
For multiple article word tallying, it was helpful using a wide-screen monitor for tiling my blogsite on one side, the Excel tally sheet on opposite side, and MS Word somewhere else. I performed the following steps:
  1. Opened the blog article webpage.
  2. Selected the content—excluding title, superfluous info, images, keywords, and reader comments, and pasted it into the clipboard (Ctrl+C).
  3. Opened Word, pasted the clipboard contents onto the page (Ctrl+V).
  4. Noted the word count at the bottom left of Word window, and typed it into the appropriate Excel cell for word count.
I repeated the process of opening a blog article, copying, pasting into Word, and entering the word count into Excel. However, when bringing Word back to the foreground, I selected the existing text and pasted the new text in its place. I continued with this copy/paste process till finished.

Using Some Very Basic Excel Commands
Using formulas is not necessary in the info gathering, but interesting to calculate totals, averages, highest and lowest word counts (endpoints), and medians (midpoints). Creating graphs require two main layouts of info in Excel—1) calculated values in cells in grid form and 2) and "physical" cell distribution.

The only formula that is necessary for creating the graphs for contrasting numbers of articles over n years is summing. In the Excel window, select the cells, and select the summing icon—
Formula tab > Autosum icon.

Expanding the icon displays options for Sum, Average, Count Numbers, Max, Min, and More Functions. Besides using the summation formula for obtaining the data for creating the graphs in Part 1 of my article series, I also used the percentage formula for creating the table.

Note: I copied some of the data and placed them in another clear area so I could select adjacent cells and use graphing features Insert tab > Chart > 3-D Clustered Column and Chart > Line, respectively. Right-clicking in various areas provided additional options, such as displaying data labels, and modifying titles and other labels.

In case you are a blogger and have not yet tried collecting info on your own articles but might want to try—well, the tools are in the three parts I've written. Click "1" and "2" for the first two articles. For "5 Years Continuous Blogging, Part 4", I will share article links and stats that resulted from my trip down memory lane, my memory lane that I created for myself.

October 31, 2014: Links to the series
  1. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 1
    Focus on single- and five-year views for total articles, articles with images, and recipe articles.
  2. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 2
    Focus on numbers of words in articles and graphical representations.
  3. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 3
    More details on collecting the data.
  4. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 4
    Emphasis on data sorting and distribution of word count groupings.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 2


In my article about blogging 5 years (part 1), I emphasize quantities of articles over the last five years. This time, I emphasize numbers of words for articles. The images indicate distribution in scatter plots, a line chart, and a box-and-whiskers chart.

The scatter plot for the third year indicates a narrower stream of word counts than the other years. However, it's also the year with the fewest articles. The spread between high and low for word count is as follows:

Sep 2009 to Aug 2010
1323
Sep 2010 to Aug 2011
895
Sep 2011 to Aug 2012
613
Sep 2012 to Aug 2013
1277
Sep 2013 to Aug 2014
852

The line chart shows data points for high, average (mean), median, and low word counts. The box-and-whiskers chart displays the bunching of data. The "whiskers" in the box-and-whiskers graph display the end points to the "box". For each unit:
  • The box represents the middle 50% of the word-count range.
  • The whiskers each depict the other 50%—25% at each end.
  • The line inside the box depicts the median of the word count (spreadsheet-sort of word counts by article and establishing the midpoint).
For each year's period, the line chart numbers for most words, fewest words, and medians coincide with end points and medians in the box-and-whiskers chart. Note that the fifth year "box" (smallest of the five year periods) shows that half the articles fall between approximately 400 and 600 words, with the median around 450.

Some handy resources on graphing, with the first two being the most helpful for me:
Excerpt from Box plot that summarizes "whiskers":
lines extending vertically from the boxes (whiskers) indicating variability outside the upper and lower quartiles
For "5 Years Continuous Blogging, Part 3", I will go into more detail about the road I traveled in obtaining and processing my data.

October 31, 2014: Links to the series
  1. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 1
    Focus on single- and five-year views for total articles, articles with images, and recipe articles.
  2. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 2
    Focus on numbers of words in articles and graphical representations.
  3. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 3
    More details on collecting the data.
  4. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 4
    Emphasis on data sorting and distribution of word count groupings.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 1

I initially started blogging to create writing samples in addition to samples I have for my technical writing portfolio. Every month for the past 5 years, starting in September 2009, I have published something. My monthly count has been as few as one and as many as five. I know the quantity does not come anywhere close to many prolific bloggers, but I know of many bloggers who were sporadic or stopped.

For me, a motivator for publishing was imposing a schedule for myself. Initially,I posted three times a month. During one contract writing/editing job, I cut the posting to once a month throughout 2011. Since then, except for a 16-episode of weekly century plant posts in 2013, I have posted twice a month.

Not sure I'd return to more often if and when I again exit the working world. In any case, when I publish, the motions remind me of the clock reset (countdown timer) in the Lost TV show.

My graphs reflect the stats for the 5 periods for September through August (2009 through 2014). Wanting to generate stats, formulas, and graphs sent me scurrying to some Excel how-to Google searches. (I hardly ever use Excel.) Was I rusty! Couldn't remember how to assign repeating rows, create a formula, or generate a graph! Conveniently, during my research over my 130 articles, I ran across my SurveyMonkey article, which I had foresight to list some Excel formulas.

A couple of handy Excel-info webpages:
The images show 5 years for total posts, posts with images, and recipe posts. Although the 3D graph is cute for the depth looks, I feel the line graph actually shows better contrasts among year-to-year and also type-to-type trends.

I had a bit of fun playing with Excel in creating the tables and graphs, then playing with them in my ancient PaintShopPro 7.04. In Excel, I became reacquainted with inserting some basic formulas and creating graphs. I rediscovered graphing options for type (bar, line), inserting numbers and titles, and moving numbers. In PSP, I further played with moving pieces, cropping areas, and combining the charts.

Related posts, besides the one about SurveyMonkey and using Excel:
For "5 Years Continuous Blogging, Part 2", I will focus on word counts and number spreads.

October 31, 2014: Links to the series
  1. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 1
    Focus on single- and five-year views for total articles, articles with images, and recipe articles.
  2. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 2
    Focus on numbers of words in articles and graphical representations.
  3. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 3
    More details on collecting the data.
  4. 5 Years of Continuous Blogging, Part 4
    Emphasis on data sorting and distribution of word count groupings.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Crustless Quiche Mini-Loaves

This recipe is flourless, thus, gluten-free. The filling ingredients are—besides evaporated milk and eggs—coarse-cut ham pieces, cut-up sliced Swiss cheese, and thawed and drained, previously frozen zucchini. Because has so much sodium, I decided Swiss cheese would contribute less additional sodium than cheddar or other saltier cheese.

I had spotted an intriguing recipe for crustless mini-quiche that used cupcake cups. I started poking around for additional crustless quiches, which I list some links at the bottom of this article.

My inclination to modify kicked in. Why not make the quiche totally gluten-free? With my crusted quiches, I was always adding one or two tablespoons of flour. How about, instead of using cupcake pans, I finally use my mini-loaf pan that I've had for years and not yet used? The one ingredient that nudged me to make the recipe items all come together? Zucchini! More zucchini from the co-worker who had already given me lots of!

My pixstrip shows eight image areas:
  1. Implements
  2. separate bowls of zucchini, cheese, ham
  3. zucchini, cheese, ham combined in a larger glass bowl
  4. eggs, evaporated milk, spray oil
  5. mini-loaf pan, prepped with the spray oil
  6. Combo pic:
    1. mini-loaf pan with the filling mixture parceled out into the pan wells
    2. evaporated milk and eggs whisked together in the measuring cup pitcher
    3. closer-in pic of pitcher showing the total amount of fluid
  7. baked mini-loaf quiches
  8. baked mini-loaf quiches, one dished onto a plate (yum!)
Implements
  • mini-loaf pan
  • wide-mouth mixing bowl
  • measuring cup pitcher or similar
  • wire whisk
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
Ingredients
  • Solid fillings, listed in the order that the 2nd pic shows
    • thin-sliced zucchini, previously frozen, then thawed and drained to weigh 10 oz. (YMMV if you use fresh zucchini.)
    • 8 oz shredded Swiss cheese (I used thin-sliced Swiss cheese that I cut into smaller pieces.)
    • 8 oz cubed ham or similar (I cut ham pieces into small-cube size.)
  • Wet
    • 4 eggs
    • 12 oz evaporated milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Spray oil into the pan wells. You can do this step any time before you add the solid fillings or fluids into the pan.
  3. Prepare the bowls of zucchini, Swiss cheese, and ham. Stir together in a bigger bowl.
  4. Divvy up the fillings into the mini-loaf pan wells.
  5. Beat eggs and evaporated milk together in a separate bowl. (I used a large, plastic measuring cup.) If desired, beat the eggs first, then blend in the milk.
  6. Pour the egg-and-milk mixture into the pan wells, being careful not to overfill.
  7. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.
  8. Use a cooky spatula or similar to press a mini-quiche's sides away from pan walls, then lift it onto a plate.
  9. Repeat extraction for each quiche. You can store the rest of them by wrapping each individually in food wrap and freezing them.
Post-Recipe Thoughts
When I tried extracting a mini-loaf quiche (gingerly using a cooky spatula and plastic knife), I noticed some fluid at the bottom of the pan well. It's a good thing I had drained the zucchini before I mixed and baked.

Each wrapped mini-quiche weighed about 4 ounces. Hmmm, snack size!

On occasion, I've thawed one a few hours or overnight in the fridge, then microwave it for about a minute, using a nearly ancient, low-power, 700-watt oven). I'd still get fluid, which I concluded came from the ham. (I've reheated ham slices from the same ham and wound up with fluid.)

One friend, more patient than I, reheated one mini-loaf quiche that I gave her. She placed hers inside a dish and lid set, and heated it in a regular oven. Hers came out fine, without extra fluid.

What did I do with the fluid? Sipped it like it was a broth. Tasty!

My recipe is versatile enough for using different ingredients, different baking shapes. You could even try pouring the ingredients into a pie shell for a regular quiche. For that matter, try the cupcake-sized wells as several recipes say to use.

The following webpages attracted my attention while I searched for ideas for crustless, mini, and quiche:

Crustless Veggie Mini Quiches
This recipe uses Egg Beaters pourable eggs. Yields cupcake-sized quiches. Some good advice about ingredients:
Use your favorite vegetables in these mini quiches. Firm vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or asparagus will need to be cooked in the microwave a few minutes and then chopped finely so they will be tender at the end of the baking time.
Mini Loaf Pan Quiche Lorraine
This recipe calls for loads of ingredients, including flour. (This recipe makes crusted mini-loaves in individual pans.)

Crustless Quiche Lorraine
In contrast to the previous recipe I listed, this one makes a full-size quiche that calls for a pound of bacon, a whole onion, and six eggs. The author does mention using a 12" ceramic quiche pan. She suggests cutting the ingredients by about a third if using a pie pan.

Crustless Quiche for One
This crustless mini-quiche is flour-free and free of cow dairy products, using soy milk and soy creamer. Even though using vegan and soy cheese, the author suggests alternatives of mozzarella or cheddar.

Mini Crustless Quiches
The recipe looks heavy on the eggs (5) and light on the milk (1/4 cup). The yield is six muffin-size mini-quiches, but I can't tell the muffin well size. The author makes a statement about about types of veggies to use (similar to another sentiment):
you can add whatever veggies you like {or tolerate} or happen to have on hand in your home
Mini Quiche Recipe
This recipe is light on both the eggs (1) and milk (1/2 cup). She uses a mini-muffin pan for 15 crusted quiches.

Update, as of 9/10/2014
  • Original zucchini amount: 2 cups prviously frozen zucchini, thawed to measure 2 cups
  • Original baking time: about 30 minutes, then test for doneness

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Varying Zucchini Mini-Muffin Methods

I previously posted recipes for round and square mini-muffins, using zucchini that a co-worker provided from his summer bounty. I coarse-shredded it with my trusty Salad Shooter. I varied for pans—one type being round aluminum, and the other type being square-well silcone. As the batches were at least a week or so apart, it wasn't easy to contrast taste and texture results between them.

Since then, I baked another two batches, using both kinds of pans at the same time. One batch (upper part of pixstrip) had zucchini that I shredded, which another co-worker provided. (I have such sharing co-workers!) The most recent batch (lower part of pixstrip) had zucchini that I previously shredded, froze, and thawed.

Contrasting Round (Aluminum Pan) and Square (Silicone Pan)
For starters, neither recent batch of silicon-pan mini-muffins tasted of siliconey weirdness. As for different baking times, I encountered that issue in the most recent batch, when I positioned the baking pans differently from the batch before. More on that later.

The round mini-muffins look to have perfect crowns. The square ones, although also having crowns, seem to favor one edge over another. The slight lopsidedness might result from my not having sprayed the shots of oil as evenly into the squares as into the circles.

Contrasting Pan-Type Positioning in the Oven
The pixstrip shows the two different pan positionings in the oven. For the most recent batch, I placed the round-well aluminum pan on the bottom rack, closest to the oven element. The mini-muffins wound up browner and drier than the square ones, which were on the upper rack. (I had baked both batches at 350 for 15 minutes each, with pre-heating.)

Contrasting Fresh-Shred and Previously Frozen Zucchini
The thawed zucchini was very watery and less bulky than fresh-shredded. I poured and mixed in the entire thawed 8 ounces without draining the fluid. The batter was slightly easier to stir than when using fresh-shred. The results seemed the same as using fresh-shred. As noted, however, the pan positioning and timing seemed to affect the results.

Conclusion
  • No significant difference between using fresh-shredded zucchini and frozen/thawed zucchini. Frozen means convenience for using the zucchini whenever, and without fear of having too much or too little fluid.
  • If using metal pans, bake for a minute or so less than if using silicone. Or put the metal pan on a high rack.
  • My silicone pans have more wells for area than the aluminum pans, making them more compact for quantity.
  • It seems the silicone pans yield a slightly more moist result, but not by much.
  • The slight downside of silicone is that it requires structural support (a metal pan) in the oven because of its floppiness.

Update—Another batch
Yesterday (Th September 4), I baked a batch of 12 round and 24 square mini-muffins—using one aluminum and one silicone pan. The frozen zucchini that I took down from the freezer the previous night had ice crystals in it. Thus, when thawed, was very watery. Although I didn't think to weigh the bagful, it didn't feel any fuller than the bagful that I used in a previous baking session.

The results, after 16 minutes of baking, were 12 round mini-muffins that were nicely browned at the edges and tan on the surfaces and 24 square mini-muffins that were pale and had a texture as though I steam-cooked them. Delish as expected!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh-Shred Zucchini Mini-Muffins (Square)

My previous article was a recipe for round mini-muffins, which I initially thought came out a little crier and chewier than I expected. I wondered if maybe vertical-side wells might make a difference. For this batch of 36 mini-muffins (same volume as 12 regulars), everything's the same except for using square silicone pans.

My pixstrip shows ten image areas:
  1. Dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar)
  2. Wet ingredients (eggs, oil, vanilla)
  3. The wet ingredients, plus grated zucchini
  4. Implements
  5. Partial view of the implements, plus spray oil
  6. Bowl of stirred dry ingredients, bowl of stirred oil, eggs, and vanilla, and jar with shredded (or grated) zucchini (Yes, you do need to pre-process some zucchini for this recipe.)
  7. Bowl of stirred dry ingredients, bowl of stirred oil, eggs, vanilla, and the grated zucchini
  8. Bowl of the ingredients (now batter), stirred together
  9. Batter in square silicone pans (using only 1 and a half pans), which I sprayed oil on before filling with batter
  10. Baked square mini-muffins
Implements
  • square silicone mini-cupcake-volume pans
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium small mixing bowl
  • pastry blender or wire whip
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • cooling rack for done muffins
Ingredients
  • Dry, listed in the order that the 2nd pic shows
    • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/4 t baking powder
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1/2 t nutmeg
    • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 C sugar
  • Wet (and also zucchini), listed in the order that the 3rd pic shows
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 C oil
    • 1 t vanilla
    • 1 1/2 C fresh, shredded or grated zucchini
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Measure and pour the dry ingredients into the larger mixing bowl, blending them together with a pastry blender or wire whip.
  3. In the smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then stir in the zucchini.
  4. Pour the mixed wet ingredients with zucchini into the larger bowl and stir the ingredients until they're moistened.
  5. Spray oil into the pan wells.
  6. Scoop about a rounded tablespoon spoonful of batter into each well.
  7. Bake for about 13 to 17 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned. (Use toothpick test for doneness if desired.)
Post-Recipe Thoughts
Gee, they came out sooo cute! And they popped out of the flexible pans so easily. I turned each pan upside down, flexed it, and gently pressed from the back. I did pulled some from the topside, but the effort seemed a lot easier and faster than extracting the morsels from aluminum pans.

Another upside about silicone pans, besides easy fall out (grin), is each pan compactly having 24 wells, while my aluminum pans have only 12 wells. Mini-muffin pans with 24 wells are available, but I myself am not inclined to replace pans I already have. A downside to the silicone pans, because of its floppy nature, is needing a rigid pan underneath for physical support. On the other other hand, one of those rigid pans was convenient for flipping the freshly baked square mini-muffins into.

Were these square mini-muffins more moist and less doughy than the round ones? I thought so. My co-worker who brought me the zucchini wasn't sure, but then, he had liked the round mini-muffins fine. Another friend whom I gave some square mini-muffins to was very enthusiastic about them. Well, gotta do a followup experiment where I use both pans!

That batch will be a 3/4 recipe (3 eggs and appropriate proportions that are based on the Betty Crocker and Paula Dean amount of ingredients for zucchini bread). I'll put batter in both types of pans. The only other difference will be using shredded zucchini that I have stored in the freezer. I'll try not to crush or squeeze the thawed squash.

Will also see if the material (silicone) could itself could affect the outcome. One site has commenters talking about time required. Another site talks about odors.
8/21/2014—Published today! I contrast zucchini mini-muffins for round (aluminum pan) and square (silicone pan), pan positioning in the oven, and using previously frozen vs. fresh-shred zucchini. This article is the followup to July 2014 zucchini mini-muffin recipes, complete with pixstrip.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fresh-Shred Zucchini Mini-Muffins (Round)

Make use of the abundance of zucchini! These round mini-muffins are 1/3 the volume of regular cupcakes. They're good for snacking when you don't want to commit to eating a larger unit. For potluck events, the small size helps spread the goodies around, particularly if lots of other desserts are available.

I wanted to find a zucchini bread recipe that fulfilled the following conditions:
  • Easy to make
  • Reasonable number of ingredients that are easily btainable
  • Easily convertible to mini-muffin portions
  • Recipe yield that could be easily downsized if appropriate
The Betty Crocker recipe fulfilled the conditions, and more.
  • Bread pan sizes, with baking times
  • Cupcake pan usage, with baking times and instructions
  • Recipe deviations, including substituting canned pumpkin
  • Nutritional stats
  • Easy-to-follow numbered steps
In poking around the web for zucchini bread recipes, I noticed most yield two loaves. Because the Betty Crocker recipe conveniently noted the cupcake quantity yield, I decided to hunt for recipes that easily divided by half. BC filled the divisibility condition with the call for four eggs. Numerous other recipes called for three—not so easily divided.

I wasn't totally sold on using only the BC recipe. I didn't want to add nuts, cloves, raisons. I also wanted to find recipes that called for nutmeg, which is something I use seldom and have a lot of. Paula Deen's recipe calls for nutmeg and four eggs. Convenient! She does also call for water, lemon juice, and nuts (option), which I skipped in my recipe.

The two recipes varied from each other for quantity of main ingredients—zucchini, oil, flour, sugar, salt. My version of the recipe is for mini-muffins (36). Based on the Betty Crocker recipe, however, you can consider that the yield equals one loaf or 12 cupcake-size muffins. (Refer to the BC recipe for those baking times.)

My pixstrip shows ten image areas:
  1. Dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar)
  2. Wet ingredients (eggs, oil, vanilla)
  3. The wet ingredients, plus grated zucchini
  4. Implements
  5. Partial view of the implements, plus spray oil
  6. Bowl of stirred dry ingredients, bowl of stirred oil, eggs, and vanilla, and jar with shredded (or grated) zucchini (Yes, you do need to pre-process some zucchini for this recipe.)
  7. Bowl of stirred dry ingredients, bowl of stirred oil, eggs, vanilla, and the grated zucchini
  8. Bowl of the ingredients (now batter), stirred together
  9. Batter in mini-muffin pans, which I sprayed oil on before filling with batter
  10. Baked round mini-muffins
Implements
  • mini-cupcake pans
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium small mixing bowl
  • pastry blender or wire whip
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • cooling rack for done muffins
Ingredients
  • Dry, listed in the order that the 2nd pic shows
    • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/4 t baking powder
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1/2 t nutmeg
    • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 C sugar
  • Wet (and also zucchini), listed in the order that the 3rd pic shows
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 C oil
    • 1 t vanilla
    • 1 1/2 C fresh, shredded or grated zucchini
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Measure and pour the dry ingredients into the larger mixing bowl, blending them together with a pastry blender or wire whip.
  3. In the smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then stir in the zucchini.
  4. Pour the mixed wet ingredients with zucchini into the larger bowl and stir the ingredients until they're moistened.
  5. Spray oil into the pan wells.
  6. Scoop about a rounded tablespoon spoonful of batter into each well.
  7. Bake for about 13 to 17 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned. (Use toothpick test for doneness if desired.)
Post-Recipe Thoughts
I thought the mini-muffins seemed a little chewy (doughy?) and drier than I expected. I brought some in to share with the co-worker who gave me the zucchini. He thought they came out great! I speculated pan well shape might affect the texture and moistness outcome. My next recipe article describes using square mini-muffin-capacity silicone pans instead of the round aluminum pans.

I recall Paula Deen's recipe calls for 1/3 cup (5 1/3 T) of water in her double recipe, which would be 2 2/3 T for a half recipe like mine. I might try adding some water in a future batch.
8/21/2014—Published today! I contrast zucchini mini-muffins for round (aluminum pan) and square (silicone pan), pan positioning in the oven, and using previously frozen vs. fresh-shred zucchini. This article is the followup to July 2014 zucchini mini-muffin recipes, complete with pixstrip.
Also look into the square mini-muffin version—same ingredients, but using square-well silicone pans.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Zucchini Overflow?

Good harvest of zucchini lately? Gotten a bunch from people who have been harvesting them? An explanation for the overflow might be from wiseGEEK's "What is zucchini?" site. "Many markets carry this squash in the summer, and it is also a snap to grow at home, although some caution is advised, as the plants can produce way more fruit than one would think is physically possible."

A few times this month, a co-worker brought some gargantuan ones, and I've gleefully partaken of them, and passed on buying any in the store for awhile. I've grated or sliced these homegrown ones for recipes, or bagging and freezing after shredding and slicing, As of a week ago, I've baked two half batches of zucchini mini-muffins, varied by well shapes, and one batch of crustless ham-swiss-zucchini quiche.

For the next few articles, I'll publish three recipes for zucchini mini-muffins and one for the quiche.
The two half-batches of mini-muffins I baked last week had the same ingredients and baking time. The pans differed—aluminum round vs. silicone square—because I wanted to test my theory that one type of pan would yield moister results than the other pan.

My third batch of mini-muffins will again use the same ingredients, but the amount will be a 3/4-recipe batch, using both types of pans. I'll be using zucchini that I grated, froze, bagged, then let thaw. I'll not squeeze, as thawed zucchini is watery when squeezed.

I consider mini-muffin sizes to be a bit more appealing than regular cupcake size—more units that are available for distributing in a social environment. The amount of batter for making one cupcake-sized goodie is the same amount as for three mini-muffins. (At a potluck event, people can more easily pick up a small, self-contained morsel than commit to a larger item or something that requires slicing, particularly a pie.)

The Betty Crocker recipe has lots of details, including baking times for various pans. The Paula Deen recipe includes nutmeg, a spice I'd like to use in more recipes than I do. The most appealing reason I like these two 2-loaf recipes, besides relative ease of the process, is the even number of eggs. Making half-recipes is a lot easier when dividing four eggs than three eggs.

Some additional zucchini links:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Minty Choco Chip Pudding

Look ma, no cooking! Just combine, whisk, stir, and pour ingredients into cups. Ready to eat within minutes. Reasonably lo-cal at a smidge over 200 calories each container.

The idea for the flavor came from a recipe for mint soft-serve ice cream that's in page 20 of the Cuisinart Instruction Booklet (for soft-serve ice cream maker). Having tried the recipe and stirring in grated Wilton Dark Cocoa Mint Candy Melts, I figured the flavors can transfer to a pudding recipe. The ingredients for the ice cream are as follows:
1 cup whole milk, well chilled
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1 teaspoon mint extract (may use peppermint or spearmint)
4-5 drops green or pink food coloring
The boxed instant vanilla pudding, which I had on hand, listed the following ingredients for the normal recipe:
1 package instant pudding powder
2 cups of milk [Whisk into pudding powder for 2 minutes.]
In assessing suitable amounts of additions, I considered the following factors:
  • The pudding fluids amounted to 2/3 of the ice cream ingredients.
  • The ice cream contains lots of air, thus, spreading out mint flavoring by volume.
  • The pudding powder already contains sugar.
My pixstrip shows the implements I used (YMMV), the ingredients, and the cups of pudding.
Ingredients
  • 1 package instant pudding powder
  • 2 cups of nonfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon spearmint extract
  • 4 drops green food coloring
  • 2 ounces grated Wilton Dark Cocoa Mint Candy Melts, replaceable with chocolate chips, minty or otherwise
Instructions
  1. Whisk the powder and milk for two minutes.
  2. Add the extract.
  3. Add the food coloring, one drop at a time. More on that later.
  4. Stir in the grated candy. Otherwise, you can add Hershey's or Nestle mint chocolate chips, which you might find either at your supermarket.
  5. Pour into 4 containers. Sprinkle some candies or chips on top if you like. Eat now or store in fridge for consumption later.
Post-Recipe Thoughts
Good that I guessed right to not put in a whole teaspoon of the extract. As for the food coloring, I wish I had thought earlier to try the blue food coloring, a drap at a time, as the pudding started out vanilla yellowy. Y'know, blue and yellow make green. Oh, well, next time.

I stirred in candy melts, which I had grated and stored in the fridge awhile back. I did experiment with a few regular-sized chocolate chips for bouyancy. I spooned a very small sample of the mixed pudding into a paper cup and stirred in the chips. The pudding had thickened up enough during whisking so that the chips did not sink to the bottom. (Yay!)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Whatever's-In-Your-Kitchen Ham Sauce Recipe

Recently, I looked for an easy ham glaze recipe for my almost 11-pound fully cooked ham. This ham contrasts with the one I prepared and blogged about early last year—"New Year Ham Day". That ham was not quite 9 pounds, spiral-sliced, and included a packet of ham glaze, which amounted to a pound.

In my quest for a reasonably uncomplicated recipe for a ham glaze, my eyes glazed over so many recipes that called for ingredients that sometimes overlapped. The biggest commonality was sweet stuff—brown sugar, honey, syrup, juice, …. Non-sweet ingredients included soy sauce and mustard. Instead of coming up with a glaze, I wound up with ham sauce. More on that further down.

Just prepping the ham with pineapple slices and cherries was a much bigger hassle than with the spiral ham. I kept breaking toothpicks because so many wouldn't go into the ham gracefully.

I speared all the pineapple slices and cherries, and foil-covered the decorated ham. The foil was not easy to handle. It kept easily breaking between the toothpicks piercing it and my trying to gingerly wrap the open sides. I decided to skip the step of needing to open the foil, pour glaze, and rewrap a half-hour before finish time.

I looked for prospective ingred8ients for making some sort of sauce. It was like a treasure hunt in my fridge. Behold, the following list!
  • Honey-flavored sauce from a fast-food place that used to provide real honey (two squeeze packets)
  • Pancake syrup from yet another fast-food place (one 2-oz container)
  • BBQ sauce from another fast-food place (one double-size squeeze packet)
  • Bottled BBQ sauce (yes, about 1 oz, poured into the pan without measuring)
  • Bottled yellow mustard (two squirts into the pan without measuring)
  • Juice from jar cherries (from the 10-oz jar—labeled as 4.1 drained weight)
  • Juice from canned pineapple rings (from the 20-oz can, no info on drained weight)
Note: I skipped using soy sauce, as ham is plenty sodium-loaded as is. I also passed on using additional honey that I had on hand.

I gently boiled the sweet stuff, BBQ sauces, and the mustard together in a small saucepan to reduce the liquid to about half its original volume, occasionally stirring and mixing with a wire whip. In a glass cup, I stirred together about a third cup each of cornstarch and water. With the liquid at a reasonably rolling boil, I wirewhipped in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce thickened. (I tossed the excess cornstarch mixture.)

Mmmm, the sauce came out tasty for pouring onto ham slices. Takeaways from my quest for ham glaze/sauce recipes:
  1. Google the topic (ham glaze).
  2. Note the kinds of ingredients (sweeteners, mustard, etc.).
  3. Gently boil the fluid down to concentrate the flavors.
  4. If necessary to attain thickening, mix up some cornstarch-and-water paste, and mix it into the gently boiling liquid.
For would-be ham preparers: Spiral-sliced hams are a lot easier to serve up than unsliced ones. If unfamiliar with ham-and-bone anatomy, it can be a bit of a hassle navigating the knife around fat, bone, and gristle to get the meat. One other difference between this ham and the spiral-sliced ham: This one had the skin, and trimming it off added some unexpected extra time meeded for meal preparation.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

LinkedIn Connection Request for Favor--Job Hunt

As a blogger, sometimes a blog article opportunity arrives like a fish that jumps into my boat while I'm fishing, metaphorically speaking.

Someone sent me email through LinkedIn to ask if I knew someone at a particular workplace. Turns out, I do have a first-degree connection there, but I didn't feel I knew the person well enough to ask about positions on my inquirer's behalf. After I wrote back, my emailer took a second look at the original inquiry, with thoughts that maybe initially proofreading before clicking Send might have been reasonable.

Note: As a courtesy to the inquirer, I requested and received permission to quote most of the email.

"Hey [me as email recipient], for the advise about getttig back into looking forwork.soi was wonderingif you kow someboday a [undeterminable name of potential employer]!!"

I replied as factually as I could, and asked confirmation of the company name.

"I'm not sure I can help. What is '[indecipherable company name]'? [industry guess]? I have one first-level connection for [guessed company name], but ... [allusion to barely knowing other connection]".

For others who might not have asked LinkedIn connections about potential employers, the approach is reasonable, but maybe do spellcheck first, and afterwards, re-read for thought before sending the email.

Let's revisit the original text, lightly edited for obscuring some context and ID:
Hey [me as email recipient], for the advise about getttig back into looking forwork.soi was wonderingif you kow someboday a [undeterminable name of potential employer]!!
And now, a suggested inquiry, edited for sendout:
Hi, [me as email recipient]. I'm getting back into the job market. I was wondering if you know someone at [company name] that I should contact. Would it be ok if I mention that you provided me that person's name?
At the time of considering sending such a message, do some LinkedIn research first. If you have a company in mind, do a LinkedIn search for the company name. As you start typing the name, LinkedIn starts suggesting the following categories:
  • Jobs at [company name]
  • People who work at [company name]
  • People who used to work at [company name]
  • [company name] (not shown on pixstrip)
My focus is on the first three links and results when you click each of them.

Jobs at [company name] The Jobs page opens. You want to know that a suitable job description is at the company--such as a mutual fit for skills and experience. You might want to filter the results to more manageable numbers, At the Search area on the left part of the results window, filter by adding criteria, then click the Search button. In this search case, maybe enter your occupation title into the keyword field and also make choices for geographical restrictions (Postal Code, followed by Within distance choice).

People who work at [company name] The People page (current workers) opens. Scan the list for 1st-degree connections of prospective people to write to. Also consider 2nd-degree connections. People who actually work at the workplace of interest can fill you in on their current work environment and co-workers.

People who used to work at [company name] The People page (former workers) opens. Try out this webpage for completeness of research, or if you did not find prospective people to reach out to in the current people webpage. Scan the list for 1st-degree connections of prospective people to write to. Also consider 2nd-degree connections. People who used to work at the workplace of interest can tell you about their work environment and co-workers while they were there.

The people who currently and formerly worked at the workplace of interest can be especially helpful if they can help route a resume to hiring types directly. They can also be helpful if they know people you will be interviewing with. Look into interviewers' profiles ahead of time, and ask your connections questions about the interviewers, whatever the profiles prompted you to wonder. Ask about interactions between your connections and interviewers, if any. Ask about connections' perception of interviewers' demeanor and professional expertise.

You can send LinkedIn email directly to 1st-degree connections. Ask them a few crucial questions. Ask if it's ok to call them. Ask them to call you. Look into their profiles and see if they list a phone number, and call them. Call the company phone number and use the corporate directory to call them, leaving them a message if their voicemail picks up. Be courteous and brief. (I myself prefer to contact by email than phone, maybe because I'm a writer and feel I can better articulate in text. YMMV.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

EZ Pineapple Cupcakes

I recently became intrigued at a poked pineapple cake recipe that I saw in a coupon ad. I found the online version, but only after I ran across a no-poke recipe that attracted me for its simplicity.

In the past, I've looked at pineapple upside-down cake recipes, and can't seem to muster the enthusiasm to make one. Holey moley! Both Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines have recipes that, to me, are mind-numbing for numbers of ingredients. As for maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings, I'll save those ingredients for the ham that I picked up for Easter and still haven't baked yet. (Sell-by date has another 1 1/2 weeks.)

Back to the Dole recipe, I thought the number of ingredients and process looked way more complicated than what I wanted to try. Making a cake with pineapple in it interested me, along with making handy individual smaller sizes instead of using a bundt pan. It took a good while to find the "Pineapple Poke Bundt Cake" recipe on the web. Without Googling the exact title, I was unable to find the exact recipe. Even searching Dole's website didn't yield the recipe.

The upside in expending the effort to find the pineapple poke cake recipe was finding food.com's "Frosted Pineapple Cake". The cake part calls for only five ingredients—flour, sugar, eggs, crushed pineapple, and baking soda. As usual, when I see a recipe, I assess the ingredients and process. As the poke recipe included vanilla bean, I figured the scratch recipe might be ok with adding vanilla extract.

I further deviated from the scratch recipe as follows:
  1. Measured the pineapple juice for curiosity's sake (3/4 cup, the same amount for the poke cake recipe).
  2. Stirred the dry ingredients in a plastic measuring bowl.
  3. Stirred the wet ingredients in a different measuring bowl. (Added 1 teaspoonful of vanilla. As the poke recipe calls for vanilla bean, good enough use vanilla extract in the scratch recipe.)
  4. Stirred the wet ingredients into the plastic bowl.
  5. Noted the batter measurement (5 cups).
  6. Poured the batter into the 24 spray-oiled cupcake pan wells, baking at 350° for about 20 minutes instead of 9 x 13 pan for 40-45 minutes.
  7. Skipped the frosting.
My pixstrip shows eight image areas:
  1. Implements (Your preferences might vary.)
  2. Ingredients
    • Dry, with plastic bowl
    • Wet, with glass bowl, and spray oil
  3. Batter in plastic bowl
  4. Batter in cupcake pans
  5. Baked cupcakes on cooling rack
  6. Baked cupcakes detached from pans and flipped onto cooling rack.
    Note: For extracting the cakes, I used a plastic knife to gently cut around the cakes and nudge at the bottoms.
  7. Baked cupcakes in cake taker.
Ingredients
  • Dry
    • 2 C flour
    • 2 C granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp baking soda
  • Wet
    • 1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, all of it
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla
  • spray oil (Next time, I might try also shaking some flour into pans after I spray oil and see if the cakes detach a little more easily.)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Pour the dry ingredients into the plastic bowl, using a wire whip. (I used a flat one.)
  3. Mix the wet ingredients in the other bowl.
  4. Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the plastic bowl and stir the ingredients until they're moistened.
  5. Pour and evenly distribute the batter into the 24 spray-oiled cupcake wells. (I pushed my luck by pouring the batter to almost the top instead of the usual 2/3 to 3/4 full.)
  6. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until the cupcakes are lightly browned. (Use toothpick test for doneness if desired.)
  7. Transfer the baked cupcakes onto cooling rack.
Post-Recipe Thoughts

The recipe makes more of a quick bread than typical cake mix cake. Thus, I used a wire whip to gently but thoroughly mix rather than use a hand mixer and beat the ingredients. The cupcakes' texture seemed denser than regular cupcakes—weighing about 2 ounces each, a little less airy than regular cake, only slightly chewier than a muffin, and not crumbly. The cakes were not crumbly. I put them into cupcake papers for neat handling.

The cupcakes are low fat and low sodium, but extremely high in carbs—lots of sugar, pineapple, and flour. Each is about 125 calories, way less than if you add frosting. Yummy taste and texture; seems like adding frosting would be loading even more sugar and also adding more work.

October 31, 2015 (update)
If you want to use a cake mix method for pineapple cupcakes, visit "Simply Simple Pineapple Cupcakes". An update to ingredients: In researching for that blog article, I saw a scratch-ingredients recipe where 1 1/2 cup of sugar is ok to use. Though 400 calorie savings per batch makes sounds impressive, it translates to only about saving 17 calories per cupcake.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Revisiting Tagging Your LinkedIn(r) Connections

Note (5/30/2014): I just now noticed that LinkedIn changed the menu from Network > Contacts to Connections  > Keep in Touch.

My revisit is for providing updated LinkedIn® tagging instructions that differs from my previous blog article from a couple of years ago. A practical use for tagging is grouping your LinkedIn connections by interests—co-workers, former co-workers, professions besides yours, professional organizations, .... Why would groups be practical? How about grouping real estate people, recruiters, special interest groups, people that you want to send a group email, etc.?

My recent revisit to tagging resulted from my wanting to group people that I wanted to send a mass email to. LI had a maximum of 50 LinkedIn connection recipients. I have over 100 recipients of a particular interest, so I needed to break the group up into three separate groups with different names.
The overall process is as follows:
  1. Create an overall group theme. (I created one for my profession.)
  2. Review your connections, tagging candidates with the group name.
  3. Open the group list. Review for completeness.
  4. Create another group name, this time tightening criteria for purpose.(For my purpose, I tagged for excluding out-of-area connections and those who were inactive in the profession the previous year. In some cases, I inferred the status from profiles.)
  5. Copy the names (as text) to a word processor and sort alphabetically. (After I alphabetically sorted, I inserted column breaks to group logically—A through D, etc, keeping the groups around 45 connections, give or take a few.)
  6. Tile your list next to the LinkedIn interface. Create enough tag names that will include all the prospective email recipients. Example: [some tag subgroupname]-1, [some tag subgroupname]-2, etc.
  7. Tag the connections with the the appropriate group or subgroup tag name.
  8. For each of the group or subgroup, open a tagged-members window by filtering for the appropriate tag name.
  9. Click Select All for displaying the Message link.
  10. Click the Message link for opening the compose window.
  11. Compose your email. If you have a draft already, you can copy and paste the subject line and contents into the email interface.
  12. Send the email.
The PDF file of the step-by-step procedure, including screen captures, is downloadable at https://app.box.com/s/ju04h698elb8j5dc0m0.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Soldiering On Military Ranks

A topic that has piqued my interest occasionally has been pronunciations of "soldier". Not sure of why it's not pronounced "sol-di-er", or not spelled "sol-jer". I got to thinking about military ranks that also mystified me because of pronunciation and spelling. My curiosity led me to look up ranks in general, and ranks across branches of the military.

US Military Branches
Military-Ranks.org provided me a bird's eye view—links to the US military branches and pay in the index at the left. At the rank or pay level, you can find out how the ranks vary within each branch. Clicking a branch's rank opens a page with more details of the role. Near the bottom, the Equivalent Ranks section links to the same rank across the branches in the following order: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines (listed as Marine Corps), Navy.

The US Department of Defense has pages with illustrated tables for all five branches for enlisted members and officers (Coast Guard & Navy combined). Curiously, Warrant Officer is notably absent in Air Force, which the DoD officers page shows as "NO WARRANT". In the Wikipedia page for Warrant Officer, the illustrated table shows insignias and grades for all five branches for warrant officers, with the Air Force column heading "discontinued".

Ranks of Interest—Spelling and Pronunciation
Enlisted
Sergeant [sahr-juhnt], from Latin root meaning "serve"

Officer
Ensign—Navy/Coast Guard [en-sahyn; Military en-suhn], pertinent to flag, insignia
Lieutenant [loo-ten-uhnt], pertinent to "placeholder"
Captain (kap-tuhn, -tin), pertinent to "head"
Colonel [kur-nl], related to "column"

The general topic
Soldier [sohl-jer]
Ranks of Interest—Rank vs. Non-Military Context (E, enlisted; O, officer)
  • private (E), the member who has the lowest rank and probably least privacy
  • major (O), no major in sea branches, no rank named "minor"
  • petty officer (E), rank with "officer" in title, but not in either warrant of officer category
  • lance corporal (E), visualizing a Renaissance Fair knight engaged in joust
  • general (O), ordinarily meaning ordinary
Commander Bond, Captain, US/British Ranks

During my research, "commander" stuck out as a rank I've heard more in reference to James Bond than American commanders. Commanders rank lower than captains. Captains of the sea rank higher than non-sea captains.

The US Navy and Coast Guard have commander ranks—commander and lieutenant commander—ranks that are just below captain. Captains in sea branches rank higher than captains in the other branches. A Yahoo discussion contrasts naval captain vs. army captain. Visit a Wikipedia page to view a table that compares US and British ranks, including "commander".

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cookie Mix Recipe: Fat Deviating

I've been on a roll lately with deviating from sweets recipes—even easy and convenient ones. This time, I deviated from a Krusteaz Triple Chocolate Chunk cookie mix. (Krusteaz has nothing to do with the Simpsons show clown, Krusty.)

The box calls for only 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter and one egg besides the packaged mix. Simple. But I didn't want to use only all butter for the fat.

Sooo, I used half the butter called for. The other half, I replaced with one tablespoon of sesame oil and enough cooking oil to fill 1/2 cup.

Yes, I realized AFTER I baked the cookies that I put in too much cooking oil. I should have added three tablespoons of cooking oil instead of seven, resulting in 400 extra calories (200 calories x 2 oz. oil).

The results weren't disastrous. The cookies came out crispy, and just a mite oilier than if I'd replaced the correct amounts of fat. The cookie webpage claimed the cookies to be "chewy". They had 400 additional calories spread over 46 cookies, which amounted to less than 10 extra calories per cooky.

According to the Krusteaz box's nutritional table, the dry ingredients total 2160 calories (120 calories x 18 servings of two 2"-diameter cookies). A prepared mix of dry and wet ingredients total 3060 (170 per serving). Anyway, if I had prepared my 46 cookies with the equivalent fat substitutions, each cooky would have been 66 1/2 calories (3060/46). Instead, each cooky came to about 75 calories (3460/46).

The Krusteaz box displayed a table that listed yields as follows:
  • 56 2" cookies (2 t dough)
  • 24 2-1/2" cookies (1 rounded T dough)
  • 2 3" cookies (2 rounded T dough).
The nutritional table estimated a yield of 36 2" cookies. As my yield was 46, I'm guessing my tablespoonfuls were somewhere between level and slightly concave.

Although I increased the number of ingredients from the box's recommendation, it was by only two. The sesame oil, a favorite additive of mine, gave the cookies a nutty flavor. The cooking oil reduced the amount of saturated fat because of butter. Yes, overall fat was higher. Next time, I'll try to remember to substitute the right amounts. :-)

My pixstrip panels show the following images:
  1. Implements
  2. Ingredients
  3. Pan with raw dough/baked cookies
  4. Plate of cookies (yum)
To search for other sweets recipes (most of them EZ), use the search feature at the upper left of the webpage, or click keywords in the index at the upper right.
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