Sunday, March 25, 2012

I heart the I-Heart and you Should too!

     Fatima Fazal is the creator and founder of the Heart Part. What is the Heart Part? Part heart, part fork, knife and scoop; the heart part is the new way to dine in style when you don't have silverware (or you don't want to use the fine silver on that takeout Chinese). The beat part? The Heart Part utensil is 100% biodegradable! We like the fact that it's not made of soy or corn or some other food product that the majority of the population is allergic to. Besides, those utensil kits are always in some boring beige or off-white color (blech). Personally, I'm going to wash my heart utensils a few times-they're that damn cute and colorful. Now who can say that about other disposable silverware? 
    The Heart Part comes in five fantastic colors. We picked out a blue/green and black (we can match black food-which is all the rage now!). You can buy them in IHeart's shop for under $10. Each pack has 10 hearts and each heart breaks into two pieces, so there's plenty to go around when you have a neighborhood picnic. We think the Heart Part will be great on camping trips or on long road trips.  Now, were'e not saying to use this when your in-laws come over, or when you're having a caveman meat meal that needs a steak knife. Common sense in everything. But, stick one of these in your purse or bag and you'll never have to use the lid of your pudding cup as a spoon again!
A separated green heart and a unused black heart

   You can check out the hearts in action here and there's a link on Fatima's website to share what you heart. Here's what we heart:

Untouched snow and the silence it brings
Tart Lemons
Sitting by the fire on a cool summer evening
Cashmere Socks
Fresh, Raw Oysters
Givenchy Lipstick
Salon Fresh hair
Swedish massages

What do you Heart?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

If you think the Brothers Grimm are scary.....

   With "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time" on T.V and two adaptations of Snow White coming to theaters this year it seems like people just can't get enough fairy tales. For those of you who think Disney tales are gospel, I suggest you read "Sixty Fairy Tales of Brothers Grimm", my favorite translation its the one with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. These tales were meant to be a warning and a lesson to children.
Stay on the path and you'll make it to Granny's alive. Don't talk to strangers or go into house made of candy; you might get eaten. Be careful what you wish for.  
  Continuing on in the German tradition of scaring the crap out of kids is the book "Stuwwelpeter" (Merry Stories and Funny Pictures) by Heinrich Hoffman. In 1844 Hoffman was looking for a Christmas present  for his son and didn't find anything he liked, so he wrote and illustrated "Stuwwelpeter". His son and everyone who read the book loved it. It freaks us out, but maybe we are missing something about German humor.....
   Among the "merry tales" for the kiddies are stories about kids being burned alive, chowed on by dogs, nearly drowned, starving to death, dismemberment.....the perfect tales for a long winter's night........
   We have Struwwelpeter, Slovenly Peter, who nobody liked because he has personal hygiene issues. So kids, cut your hairs and take a bath every now and then...

The cats did try and warn her....maybe they should have cried
sooner to put out the flames, or at least explained
"stop, drop and tool"

   In "The Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches", Harriet's mom and grandmother leave her alone with a pack of matches and tell her not to play with them. Naturally Harriet does the opposite and sets herself on fire. Her two pet cats tell her not to play with matches, but who's going to listen to talking cats? She burns to death and all that's left of Harriet is her red shoes sitting in a puddle of cat tears. Maybe fire prevention can use this as a bedtime story. It should scare the arson right out of kids.

The bad boys get dipped in ink
   In "The Story of the Inky Boys" three boys make fun of little Black-a-moor so Agrippa (the nosey neighbor) decides to teach the three naughty boys a dunking them in his giant inkwell. Now the three naughty boys are darker than Black-a-moor. Not that this isn't a great lesson, but maybe there's another option other than drowning kids in ink....Maybe the parents could do something? Or this story could be a great way of turning the other cheek on racists.

Little boys who don't eat soup die

   In "The Story of Augustus who would not have any Soup" a little boy wastes away when he decides he hates soup. Now this story peaks our interest. In todays society picky little eaters get their way with Mom and Dad, why else are their all those books about blending vegetables to little bits to mix them in and fool your kids. Instead, just read them this lovely tale and tell them, "If you don't eat your food you will waste away into a stick person and die in 5 days".

The tailor cuts of the thumbsuckers thumbs
   In "The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb"  Mamma leaves Conrad alone (why are the parents NEVER around?!) and tells him to stop sucking his thumb or, "the great tall tailor" will come and "take his great sharp scissors out" and cut his  thumbs, "clean-off--you know, they never grow again".  Well thank you Mamma...yes, people can't regenerate their thumbs... Well, let's just say that Conrad ignores his mother and the tailor comes with his giant scissors and lops of his thumbs. When Mamma comes back she tells him that she knew he would suck his thumbs.

   If you want a modern take on the tales, head on over to Der Struwwelpeter, make sure the volume's up and just keep clicking those pictures. Our favorite book(s) about children with bad habits....Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle...Now that was teaching kids a lesson and no one had to die!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi/Pie Day!

 Created in 1988 by physicist Larry Shaw, Pi day is celebrated on March 14th. For those who snoozed during math class (or doodled dinosaurs chasing your math teacher) pi is 3.14 (an so on and so on....) pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi= C/D. In 2009 the United States House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution declaring March 14th as Pi Day.
  Pi Day is celebrated in many different ways, most of them involving contests to see who can memorize pi, talking about pie, who can figure out pi to its longest decimal....and eating pie. We prefer the eating pie, so we have for you two very bizarre pie recipes when you need to shake up the pie party at your office (if you happen to be working at Fermi Lab).

Pigeon Pie 

from Rand McNally's 1914 publication "Wholesome Cooking"

(This is Mrs. Abraham Lincoln's Recipe)

Make a fine puff paste; lay a border of it around a large dish and cover the bottom with a veal cutlet or a tender steak. Sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt, a half salt spoon of cayenne pepper, and a salt spoonful of mace. Prepare as many pigeons as can be put in one layer on the dish, breast downward. Sprinkle the birds with a half of teaspoonful of salt and a quarter of a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper, dot with butter, and cover with sliced hardboiled eggs (six). Add a cupful or two of veal broth, cover with a crust and bake slowly for one hour and a half.

Wondering where to get pigeon? We were too...since its probably not all that legal to go shooting pigeons in the park....D'Artagnan's website offers a wide variety of meats, including pigeon. Right now fresh pigeon is out of season (?!) but, frozen pigeon goes for about $12.99 a bird. How many birds does it take to fill a dish, your guess is as good as ours. Also, we would think a baking time of around 350 might be a good place to start.

RITZ Mock Apple Pie

RITZ used to print this recipe on the box, it first appeared in 1934


2 cups sugar
2 tspn. cream of tartar
1 3/4 cup water
Pastry for 2 crust 9-inch pie pan (pre made or your own recipe)
36 RITZ crackers, coarsely broken
Zest and 2 tblpsn juice from 1 lemon
2 tblspn butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


MIX sugar and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in water. Bring to a boil on high heat; simmer on low for 15 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and juice and let cool for 30 minutes.

HEAT oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out half of the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 11-inch circle. Place it in a 9-inch pie plate. Place cracker crumbs in the crust and pour sugar syrup over the crumbs. Top with butter and cinnamon.

BAKE 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. 

Country Mink made this one time at summer camp and swears that it tastes almost like the real thing. Cracker pies got their start in the Depression, when cooks needed to be creative about getting food on the table.  
   A mock apple pie might be the perfect pie for Pi Day. After all, it was Carl Sagan that said, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." Really, Carl? We think it just takes ripe apple and really cold vodka for the perfect crust, but what do we know? We're not rocket scientists.....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Incredible Edible and Vanishing Fruit Sticker

   Love fruit but hate peeling off those darn tiny stickers? So do we! I mean, at least the Chiquita banana stickers have some humor, but most fruit stickers are tiny, tell you next to nothing and are a royal pain to remove before you can get at the fruity goodness.
   Fret no more! Help has arrived from three promising new "stickers".
   First up, the edible sticker. Scientist at Tufts University have created a sticker using silk and gold that will let you wave your smatphone over it and tell you if your fruit is still good. Now, we are smart cookies and can tell if fruit is good by doing the squeeze test...but the sticker can also be dropped into liquids, like that milk that's been hiding out in the back of the fridge. The silk on the sticker acts as the glue, so no more sticky sticker! Think of the possibilities of this sticker....You could scan your eggs to see if they are from a local organic farmer or from a conglomerate chicken factory. Or you could scan fruit to make sure you are only buying local produce. You could scan to see if your product comes from a company that uses pesticides or if they use only natural products. The full report is listed here. The University of Illinois is interested in using this sticker on people; to tell if they are coming down with anything from a cold to cancer.
   If you like your function before form, then the dissolvable sticker is for you. FruitWash labels look like any fruit sticker at the grocery store, but just add water and the label dissolves into soap that washes away wax, dirt and bacteria to leave you with a clean and label-less piece of fruity goodness.
   The last option is currently working it's way through the Food and Drug Administration. In 2009 scientists at the University of Florida came up with a carbon dioxide laser beam that tattoos your fruit. No more label, no more waste; just a permanent stamp of where your fruit came from. Think of what this will do for recalls; no more debating over where the fruit's origin, or if there was a label mix up. You will be able to know for a fact that your grapefruit came from Bob's Grapefruit farm in Florida. The tattooing process simply removes the top layer of the fruit's skin, leaving you with all the info you need and you can eat it too!
   With springtime and farmer's markets fast approaching, we can put off out sticker ennui for a couple of months, maybe by then some of these stickers will be in use at the store.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Foods to try from around the world....

 We love to travel here at Country Mink/City Mink, unfortunately gas prices are going nowhere but up, putting a damper on our wanderlust. So we took a quick drive around town to some of our favorite international stores and we brought back some tasty treasures to share with you!

First off, let us travel to Japan..

Picture from Amazon (since we can't find ours!)
We bought this because of the name and we were pleasantly surprised. The chocolate quality was quite good, it tasted like someone solidified Strawberry Quick. The crunch in the bar comes from malty puffs and it gave it the flavor of a strawberry malt. All in all this was tasty, like an upgraded Nestle Crunch Bar....but with better ingredients. 

Meiji Hi Lemon Candy

When we got this we thought...oooo lemon hard candy that is low in sugar! We are still slightly confused as to what these are. Part Vitamin C tablet and part Sweet Tart, they come individually wrapped (reminded us of how cold medicine comes). The had a initially tart taste, but more of a fake lemon than a real pucker. They dissolve rather quickly and left a little aftertaste. We just wonder how many of these you would have to suck on to tackle your cold. We hear there is a yogurt version of these that is way better. Best to keep our eyes peeled for that. 

Now how about a trip to Germany?

"Forelle" means trout in German

Picking up some fresh cauliflower for a soup, we saw a bunch of these beauties, Forelle Pears. We had never heard of them, so of course, some went into our basket. These are tiny pears, about half the size of a normal pear. They were first brought over to the U.S. by German immigrants in the 1800's. They are now grown in Washington and Oregon. You don't want to waste these tiny gems on cooking or baking, they taste perfect by themselves. The do have quite large seeds for such a small fruit, so be careful. Their flesh is more dense and firmer than a regular pear and you don't have that grainy taste. They are juicy and have notes of cinnamon. We think these would be perfect paired with a good cheese, perhaps Manchego? 

Now how about we head for Sweden for some fresh mountain air??

This may look like Pretzel Salt, but it's pure Sugar!

   Going down the baking aisle on a hunt for black sesame seeds, we saw packs of Swedish Pearl Sugar and intrigued by the cinnamon roll recipe on the back, bought a pack. Pearl Sugar is made from beets and is shaped into ingots under super high pressure, then it's crushed into tiny shards (pearls). Since beet sugar is refined with ions, there's no bone char in Pearl Sugar (yay!).
    Yes, regular old sugar (like you put in your coffee) is filtered with bone char (yup, it's exactly what is sounds like) to give it that super fine texture and pearly white color.
   Pearl sugar can withstand super high baking temps and not melt. Because of this, they are great for topping any number of cakes, cookies and breads to add a crunch and a touch of sweetness. We are very excited about Pearl Sugar and recommend that if you are lucky enough to see a bag, get it-post haste! And the cinnamon rolls were fantastic!

And back home again!      
  For anyone suffering from dairy allergies, I suggest the latest addiction to the dairy-free craze..Coconut Milk! Coconuts are hot right now, from milk to butters to oils and's good for what ails you and everything else too.
   The Coconut Milk comes in Original (pictured and taste tested), UnSweetened and Vanilla. The Original has a pleasant coconut taste and is a tad sweet (compared to milk). It wasn't bad with cereal, but we think it would be the perfect summer smoothie. Also, if you add some pineapple juice and rum....hello Skinny Pina Colada!

Well, we hope you enjoyed our little trip around the world. We are always looking for new things to try, like our Cauliflower and Stilton Soup we had for dinner this weekend. e also made a Short Rib Ragu (because a snowy Sunday afternoon is the only time to make this time consuming dish). If you have any "must-trys", let us know! Happy Travels!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Cloud now comes with Color!

   Being in the design business, my life is often times ruled by the Bible...not that Bible.......the Pantone color chart. For example, Coke red is more than just red. It's been carefully formulated and trademarked so you instantly know the brand when you see the color. Every brand tries to grab your attention and put its stamp in your brain. Starbucks green, Dunkin Donuts orange, Fed Ex purple, Pepsi blue...and the list goes on and on.
   The problem with all of this is going from product to packaging to ad space, is that you need consistency. That is the key and yes, the ad head honchos can tell that their product is off. One would think that a color is a color and when you call your local printer, you should be able to tell them, "give me the graphic in PMS 485". Many a time I have given a pantone call out out for printing (or I have a sample from the client) and it is woefully nowhere near close to the happy little chip in the Pantone book. This leads to much gnashing of teeth, heckling the client (and the client heckling you) and a compromise that leaves no one happy.
   Well, we shall worry no more! Pantone has brought us PantoneLIVE where, according to their website, "digital brand color lives in a secure, cloud centralized cloud ecosystem, accessible to brand owners, designers, production people, everyone in the supply chain, anywhere around the globe. PantoneLIVE saves time and money and ensures a consistent global brand identity."
   If you want to see why this is a wonderful boon to the design community, check out the story of Heinz Beanz on their website. Gertrude Stein said, "a rose is a rose is a rose" we all know better that that!