Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How To Adjust Spices In Recipes

 If you have read my posts about preparedness food you already know that I consider spices to be an important part of your preparedness food. A good selection and use of spices will allow you to keep eating the same things repeatedly without getting tired of it during an emergency.

I gather from my reading that many people do not know how to adjust their spices for cooking. This can be serious if you are depending on spices to give you a variety of tastes for your storage food both in your everyday diet as you use and replace your food storage and in emergency use.

This post is to help you learn how to adjust your spices to your personal tastes. The first part of this process is to examine what you like. Do you find yourself adding a lot of pepper and salt to your food when you use the recommended amount of spice in a recipe? If that is the case or if you think it is tasteless or bland, then you can probably increase the amount of spices called for in ordinary recipes.

Some exceptions to watch out for are Szechuan, or Sichuan Chinese food. That is the extra spicy Chinese food. They use the hottest peppers in the world. I believe  eating the Szechuan food could substitute for a tonsillectomy. When I go to a Chinese restaurant that serves Szechuan food, I ask them to go easy on the spices. I don't even use Szechuan recipes, but if you do, like most people, you will probably need to reduce the spices called for in the recipes. 

Some recipes have the taste of the spices in it as an important part of the entire recipe and in those you WANT to taste the spices. In other recipes the spices are meant to be subtle and you don't even want to be able to specifically notice a particular spice taste standing out from the background taste.

My pineapple/blueberry smoothie is one of those. If you taste the spices, I think you have too much spice in it. In that recipe, the spices should just give it a little bit of a wild berry taste so that you don't especially even notice that it has spices in it.

One of the problems with getting spices correct for a recipe is that there is a tremendous variation in how strong spices can be. If you get your spice from a grocery store, it can have been on the shelf for over a year. That will mean that spice will be weaker in taste than a fresher spice. You will need to use more of the grocery store spice to get the same amount of spice taste. That could mean doubling the amount of spice that you use to get the same taste.

I have been increasingly using bulk spices from health food stores instead of supermarket spices. The health food store spices are usually much fresher. I believe that this is healthier as well as more tasty. The variety in a health food store's bulk section may be less than is available in the grocery. This means that you will have to get some spices from the grocery.

If you think food is usually bland and tasteless, then you might want to start out a new recipe by increasing the spice called for in it. My personal preference is to use a recipe the first time, exactly as written. Once I know how the author meant it to come out, then I feel free to adjust it to my preferences. That is the point where I add or reduce the spices. I think that 1/8 teaspoon or less is a safer increment to adjust the amount of spices in a recipe. 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoons can be hard to find, but they are available. If this is too difficult you can take a 1/4 measuring spoon and estimate what half of that would be.

A pinch is an old measurement for spices. It is the amount of spice that can fit held between your index (pointer) finger and your thumb. The size of your hand can really make a difference in this measurement. If you have a very large hand you will probably do well to assume that it is best to go scant on your pinch for a standard recipe. A pinch can help you be consistent in adding spices to your recipes. I kind of use an eyeball method, which has its drawbacks. If you spice directly into the recipe, it can vary quite a bit and make your cooking unpredictable.

You can reduce this unpredictable element by shaking your spice into the lid of the spice container or the palm of your hand so you can control the amount before it hits your recipe.

Emergencies are kind of miserable to live through anyway. It could make you and everyone who eats your cooking during an emergency feel nibbled to death by ants if your cooking is wildly variable. It might be safer to learn to shake your spices into the container lid or palm of your hand before you actually put them into your recipe.

Basil is my favorite herb. I will use it as an example to explain what you are dealing with on herbs. You can take seeds from the same packet and grow them up into a plant to use for cooking. Each plant from that same packet can produce leaves that will taste noticeably different. The difference can include stronger or weaker basil taste. Each plant will taste different depending on whether you use the leaves dried or fresh.

How you dry the leaves and how you store them and how long you store them can all affect the taste and strength of the basil taste when you put it in your food.

When you have all of those variable and more affecting how your food tastes when you put basil on it, you can see that using spices can require more than automatically putting a half teaspoon of a spice or herb into your food.

You have to know how that spice you want to use tastes. I have learned to have a pretty good idea of how an herb will taste by smelling it. I don't believe that this ability is very common, but if you can develop it, it saves a lot of trouble. If not, then you will need to taste your herbs before you use them. If a dish turns out to be too strong tasting for a particular herb or spice, then you know to reduce that herb or spice a little the next time you cook. 

I dislike taking the chance that I will ruin an entire dish by really over-doing the spices in it. That means I make small adjustments each time I cook it until I get the spices where I want them. 1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon is about as fast as I like to go to adjust my herbs or spices in a recipe. I usually keep the herb or spice adjustment even smaller than that, though. Spices can really change a dish for better or for worse very fast. 

A post-it note or a pencilled-in notation on the recipe can help you to work out the change you need to make for that herb or spice the next time you use the recipe. Once I get the spice adjustment down to where I like it, I like to change it in my computer and on my hard copy recipe book.

Every person has different taste preferences. This is even more true for cooks. It is often possible to tell who cooked a dish by the herb or spice "signature". Every chef has a special palette of herbs and spices that they like best. Once you get used to adjusting herbs and spices to your own tastes, you too will develop your own herb and spice signature.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Save Money And The Earth By Keeping Cool Without Air Conditioning

There are lots of things you can do to keep cool during hot weather without using air conditioning. If you live in a very hot climate and are used to air conditioning, you may have to reduce your use of air conditioning gradually. I quit suddenly, with at least once a month  using air conditioning. 

This is because I rented a place that had an air conditioner along with it. If you don't run an air conditioner at least once a month, without special preparations, the seals can go bad and even ruin the air conditioner.

The thing that makes the most difference in coolness is a combination of plants grown in front of the window, a mister on the plants at night, and a double fan with one set to exhaust warm air on top and the bottom fan to intake cool air. I kept the window shut during the day time. I closed the window right before it became hot outside.

This combination was enough to lower the temperature inside my home enough to make it chilly and necessary to use warm blankets and warm clothes at night. Getting it this cool at night made the coolness inside my home last most of the day, with no other things done except running a few fans, and shutting windows to keep the coolness inside

Here is a link to a post about how to stay cool without air conditioning:

There are a couple of things you can easily make that will help you to stay cool as well. They are known to me as, "Okie Air Conditioners". Both of them involve fans. 

I have not made the more complicated version, but I have made the easier one. That one involves an insulated ice chest. Styrofoam is cheapest, but unless you can find one made of  biodegradable styrofoam, it is not that environmental.

You also need a small fan, and something like a piece of pvc pipe with an elbow to direct the flow of cool air where you want it, like your face. I just taped a couple of used cardboard toilet paper rolls together at an angle, after trimming them to fit first.

You will also need ice for the inside of the chest to cool the air going out the elbow to your face. I get my ice by putting a plastic bucket with water into my freezer to make a large chunk of ice that doesn't melt too fast. If you live in a very hot place, you will probably want to have at least two plastic buckets so you can have an extra piece of ice ready when the first one melts. I refill my bucket as soon as I take out the chunk of ice and put it back in the freezer. It takes a while to freeze a big chunk of ice.

Ice cubes work also and seem to make cooler air come out the elbow, but they also melt faster.

I also wet a towel in cool water and wring it out pretty thoroughly. Then I put it on a hanger with built in clamps like a skirt or pants hanger or use a pin or clothespin. Then I hang the whole thing in front of a window that is open with a slight breeze coming through it. This does not work as well if a lot of sunlight is hitting the window. The air coming through the wet towel is cooler. 

If the window has a lot of sunlight on it, you will need to re-wet the towel much more often.

If no breeze is available, I put a fan near the window so the air is directed into the room to be cooled.

My cats can seem pretty miserable in hot weather, so I usually direct my air flow out of the okie cooler where the cats can lay in the cool air right where it comes out. They sit and wait for me to put fresh ice in it and turn the fan back on.

I cracked the bottom of one chest by letting the chunk of ice hit it too hard. Since then, I take the lid off of the ice container and set a large dinner plate on top of the container with the ice in it. Then I flip it all over so the ice slides out onto the plate. Sometimes it is necessary to run a little hot tap water on the outside of the ice container to loosen up the ice inside in order to get it out of the freezer container. I use a large plastic bulk ice cream bucket for my freezer container. There are a lot of other things that can also be used, but this is what I had handy.

Next I turn the ice chest on its side and position the plate with the ice on it next to the open top of the chest. I scoot the chunk of ice into the ice chest very gently to avoid breaking the styrofoam. Last, I gently turn the chest upright with the ice chunk in it and take it back to where I use it and put the lid on and turn the fan back on.

I also bathe my cats' ears, faces, and necks with cool water to help them stay comfortable. They objected at first, but now they come to me to get it done.

There are lots of other things you can do to stay comfortable in hot weather without using an air conditioner. Even if you feel you absolutely have to use an air conditioner, you can do these things to reduce how much you use it. This will save both your budget and the Earth. 

It is kind of ironic that we can be making the Earth get even warmer, by using an air conditioner to stay cool. lol. It seems a bit counter productive to me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Explaining The Spiritual Gift Of Music To Christians

It seems a shame to me that many Christians are completely or largely ignorant of the existence of spiritual gifts. I believe our spiritual gifts and learning to use them are a large part of the reason why humans exist. That is why it is so bad that Christians should be unaware of this major connection to Gd.

Music is a very special spiritual gift, yet I have spoken to Christians who deny that it is even a spiritual gift. One reason for this is the narrow definition of spiritual gift accepted by many Christian religions. 

Here are a few Bible passages that are most commonly accepted by more Christian religions about spiritual gifts:

Romans 12:6-8
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
1 Corinthians 12:28-31
Ephesians 4:7-13
1 Peter 4:10

There are many more Bible verses that are accepted as describing other spiritual by smaller numbers of Christians. 

Music is not one of these. I believe that we are told rather clearly in the Bible, nevertheless, that Music is a spiritual gift, and a very important one to Gd, at that.

Here is a quote about what the Bible has to say about singing: The Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing. We're commanded twice in the New Testament to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). This quote comes from here:

Musicians were scheduled to play in the Jewish temple around the clock. The job of these musicians was to keep music going at all times. This happened when having enough laborers to grow food was important. During this time, a large number of people were taken away from raising food to make music instead. This demonstrates how important the music was. Gd told the Jewish people to have the musicians play in the Temple all of the time. That means it was important to Gd. 

One way to tell how important something was to Gd was to see how often it is mentioned in the Bible. We already saw that singing is mentioned in the Bible over 400 times. That is only one word about music. If you add in the mention of music and musical references, you can see how important music is to Gd from the Bible.

Another way to see how important music is to Gd is through scientific discoveries. One reason for my love of science is that it tells me about Gd. 

When you love someone, you want to know about them. One of the best ways to know about someone is to look at what they make. This is especially true of artists, including musicians. You only have to watch one sunrise or sunset to know that Gd is an artist.

The Bible also tells us that Gd is a musician. It talks quite a bit about inanimate objects singing. Psalms 19, for example, has things about hills being joyful and skipping. Some versions of the Bible equate this with singing.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, since it is especially dear to my heart and I have studied it quite a bit. I need to get something posted on my blog to avoid letting down my readers by a very late post, so this will have to do for now.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Is A Diagram?

This question comes up in search queries for my blog often. Most readers will already know the answer to this, but since so many do not, I am going to answer it in an extra post. I am also going to refer you to other posts connected to it.

In case you wound up on this post without reading the title, the question is: "What is a diagram?" A diagram is a simple picture that helps to understand ideas more easily. That is my own definition of a diagram. I am going to give you a link to a dictionary definition of it also. I hope that you will be able to look up any words you don't understand after you read this. I have posts on how to use the internet to look things up. You might want to read those also.

Here is a dictionary definition in red:

[dahy-uh-gram] Show IPA noun, verb, di·a·gramed or di·a·grammed, di·a·gram·ing or di·a·gram·ming.
a figure, usually consisting of a line drawing, made to accompany and illustrate a geometrical theorem, mathematical demonstration, etc.
a drawing or plan that outlines and explains the parts, operation, etc., of something: a diagram of an engine.
a chart, plan, or scheme.
verb (used with object)
to represent by a diagram; make a diagram of.

1610–20;  < Latin diagramma  < Greek:  that which is marked out by lines. See dia-, -gram1

The definition above comes from this link:

You can use the dictionary or others online to look up other words you don't know. You can type the word you want to find out about into your search engine or browser with "def" after it (short for definition) and you will usually get a lot of different dictionaries with their version of the definition. I think it is good to try different dictionaries to see which ones you like the best.

I believe that the most important diagram among my posts on this blog is about what happens when a nuclear bomb explodes. My diagram is not that great, but it gives you some idea of what happens when a nuclear weapon explodes and makes it easier for readers to think about it. This makes it possible to make a plan to live through a nuclear war. I do not care what side anyone is on who reads this information. I think it will be hard to keep enough people alive to save the human race after a nuclear war starts, so the more people who live, the better.

Any survivors will be so busy trying to stay alive, that continuing a nuclear war will not be a priority. I think we will need all of the genetic diversity we can get. We certainly won't have enough people left to kill off more after a nuclear war. I hope that a few more people will do emergency preparedness, including for nuclear war because of my blog.

I have other diagrams on my blog for things like a cheap, easy-to-make solar oven and for a rocket stove that is basically a fancy hole in the ground, but takes very little fuel. If you look at these diagrams and study them a little, you will be able to take the ideas and make your own versions of a solar oven or a rocket stove with the materials you have available. I put lots of links into my posts to help you understand and use the information in my posts.

I started this blog as a public service to as much of the world as possible, to help more people live and thrive in spite of the damage that humans have done to the Earth. 

I believe that people are capable of behaving much better than we have so far and hope that this blog and all of its posts will help us to become better humans. First, we have to stay alive.