From the makers of Candy Crush Saga, an educational new game

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The game developer King, which released Candy Crush Saga and others in their Saga series, has recently come out with a new game which is educational as well as fun…it’s called Alpha Betty Saga. If you like scrabble and word search puzzles, you’ll love this one.

The nice thing about it is that if your kids favor playing video games over running around outside to play, this is the one you’d hope they get into. It’s not only cute with adorable characters and pleasant sounds, but unlike other match-3 games with candies to crush, vegetables to pick or animals to rescue, Alpha Betty Saga will give your kids something to show for it. They’ll be looking for words, learning new ones and building a vocabulary. And for adults, it’s wonderful brain candy with some very challenging aspects.

Here are the basics. The game takes place in the 1930’s, with mouse characters Professor Alpha, his granddaughter Betty and his assistant Barney. They are on a worldwide quest to collect words to compile into an Encyclopedia of Everything.

ABS intro chars

There are different types of playing levels, each with their own objective to be completed in a specified number of moves. Each level is a board of tiles which have letters and small numbers on them, similar to scrabble. Some ask to find a certain number of 3-letter, 4-letter, or 5-letter words….those are fairly easy. Others have additional tasks. On this screen for level 16, you must bring 6 pieces of cheese down to the bottom of the board by making words with the tiles underneath them.

ABS level 16 playscreen

You choose words in the game by clicking the first letter of the word, holding the button down and dragging your mouse over the letters, and release the mouse after you’ve chosen the last letter of the word. On a touch screen, swipe your finger over the letters. Words can go across a horizontal row either forwards or backwards, up or down a vertical column, diagonally, around in a circle, or a combination of any of the directions, as long as the tiles touch along the way and a tile is not used twice in the same word. Here are a few I found – “sun,” “tea” and “shot,” which I’ve circled in purple. And I can still see more. Can you? :)

ABS level 16 found words

Notice the blank tile at the bottom of the board. It’s a wild card to use however you want in a word. You could use the vertical “S,A,blank tile” to make a word because there are legitimate words like “sat” and “say.” As you clear tiles on a board by making words, those still on the board will move down and more new tiles will cascade down from the top of the board for you to use.

Tiles colored differently from the tan ones will give you extra points or do something else special in your favor if you use them, like remove a whole column of tiles to bring a piece of cheese to the bottom. And the longer the word you make, you’ll get an exclamation with a sound byte of how well you’ve done (similar to “divine” or “sweet” in Candy Crush) and earn more points. Here’s what I got for a 6-letter word:

ABS sharp for 6 letters

And for an 8-letter word, I got this:

ABS 16 magnificent for 8 letters

There’s also a “Brainiac” exclamation, but you probably need to find a very long word for that one.

When you complete a level, you get this (similar to “Sugar Crush!” screen in CCS), before you get the final confirmation screen showing points and bonuses earned by passing that level:

ABS objective complete

In another type of level, you have to use all the letters with bubbles over them within a specified number of moves. Here is a screen for level 17, where your objective is to clear 49 bubbles in 21 moves:

ABS level 17 playscreen

Already I see the 7-letter word “empires” along with the more obvious smaller ones. Can you find more?

Will I stay on top of this game as I do Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga? Probably not, but as I have with others in King’s saga games, I’ve played a few levels of each to get the feel of the games. Each has its unique appeal, but Alpha Betty Saga is impressive and a definite winner. Some of my hard core Crusher friends have really gotten into this game big time!

This game can be played online from a computer or on a mobile device, and is available in many languages.

“The beginning of a cheese-tastic adventure awaits. So gouda luck!” ;)

 

Turkey drumsticks roasted my way :)

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While searching the net to find good recipes for roasting turkey drumsticks, I found they all called for adding four basic ingredients: salt, pepper, butter and water. I’d never used butter before in turkey roasting so I figured OK, I’ll give it a shot. (Kosher alternative to butter: use your favorite plain or herb-infused olive oil.)

I took two very meaty turkey drumsticks, total weight 2.21 pounds, put them in a roasting pan and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

Turkey drumsticks 1

Now to prep while the oven preheats. The next step is to coat the outside of the legs and inside the skin as far as you can go with butter (or olive oil). But instead of regular butter, I used Land O’Lakes Spreadable Honey Butter….it’s soft and easy to work with, just dig your hand into it and start coating. Just make sure you wash your hands thoroughly (safety first!) before you dig into the butter tub a second time, especially if you use that butter for other things like spreading on toast. I also put a few small pieces of the butter on the bottom of the pan to lend the juice some flavor. Then I seasoned the meat on all sides with sea salt and pepper, and added 8 ounces of water to the pan. You can substitute chicken broth for the water, but since I had no more leftover homemade chicken stock, I used water and it worked just fine.

Turkey drumsticks 2

When the oven reached 350 degrees, I covered the pan with foil and roasted the meat for 40 minutes. After that, I removed the pan from the oven, turned the drumsticks over with tongs, then added some broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots. I seasoned those with a little sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder. (This would be the time to add more water or broth if needed.)

Turkey drumsticks 3

Then I re-covered the pan with foil, and back into the oven it went. After another 40 minutes, I removed the pan, took the foil cover off, basted the meat and veggies with the juices, then roasted everything uncovered for about 18 minutes.

Total time in the oven: 98 minutes (40/40/18). Turkey legs made this way should be roasted for a minimum of 1-1/2 hours, maybe 2 hours if they’re much larger or you’re making more than two in the pan. 50/50/20 would probably work OK for that. Alternatively, if you want to roast it covered the whole time, just take the pan out halfway through, turn the meat over and baste the veggies and meat with juice (adding more liquid as needed), then cover and return to the oven.

After the uncovered roasting time, I removed the pan, tented it with the foil cover I’d removed before, and let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes so the juices within the meat would redistribute and the veggies wouldn’t dry out. Then, dinner was ready to plate!

Turkey drumsticks 4

The result was phenomenal. The meat was moist and delicious, and the veggies were tender without being mushy and took on a nice flavor. Using honey butter instead of regular butter didn’t make the dish taste sweet. It was still savory, but with just a subtle hint of the honey to give the dish something unique, but pleasant. And it’s a healthy, satisfying dish for those who are cutting out carbs.

I would definitely make this dish again, but try using olive oil. There are some wonderful infused olive oils on the market as well as my old standby extra-virgin olive oil. Also, I use sesame oil quite frequently in cooking as it gives a dish an Asian flavor…that’s also on my must-try list for this dish. If you decide to try this recipe, please let me know how it worked for you!

Turkey. It’s not just for Thanksgiving any more. ;)

 

Memorial Day 2015

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While you’re celebrating this long weekend at that backyard BBQ, please take the time to remember WHY. A few moments of silence, or however else you wish, to honor those servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms all Americans enjoy. And have a great weekend!

Memorial Day candyfont

Candy Crush games – links to helpful sites and merchants

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Listed here are some Candy Crush games-related links I’ve found to be most helpful for game guides, general information, and purchasing items. These are long-established working links. If you can recommend any more not in this list, feel free to comment below. Please *DO NOT* post links to game hack or cheat sites, they will be deleted! If you host a Candy Crush blog site which doesn’t support cheats or hacks, please comment and let us know! :)

http://candycrushsagaallhelp.blogspot.com/
Candy Crush Saga All Help is a comprehensive website for all aspects of the original CCS game. You can find walkthrough videos for all levels, tips, and descriptions of the game’s features. Also, if you’re having trouble with the games on a PC or your mobile device, there are many problem solutions here as well.

http://candycrushdreamworldallhelp.blogspot.com.es/
Candy Crush Dreamworld All Help is a part of the regular All Help site shown above, but is focused on the Dreamworld aspect of the game.

http://sodasagaallhelp.blogspot.com.es/
Candy Crush Soda Saga All Help is a comprehensive website for all aspects of this game. You can find guides for all levels, tips, and descriptions of the game’s features.

http://candy-crush-saga.wikia.com/wiki/Candy_Crush_Saga_Wiki
Candy Crush Saga Wiki is a comprehensive news and info website about the reality and Dreamworld sides of CCS, which anyone can edit.

http://candycrushsoda.wikia.com/wiki/Candy_Crush_Soda_Wiki
Candy Crush Soda Saga Wiki is comprehensive news and info website about this game, which anyone can edit.

http://candycrushsodasagatips.com/
Pete Peppers’ guide to Candy Crush Soda Saga.

https://king.com/#!/games
Candy Crush games and other King games you can try out online. You may need to set up an account at King’s site or already have a Facebook account to play them online.

http://shop.candycrushsaga.com/
King’s official store where you can buy Candy Crush items such as candies, clothing, accessories and other gifts.

You can also search Amazon, eBay, and Etsy for CCS-related goods as well.

These and other King games can be downloaded to your mobile device from Google Play Store and iTunes.

STAR WARS: The Force is still with us

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With the advent of the seventh Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015, it got me thinking…I’ve been blogging off and on since October 2013 and have yet to post anything about Star Wars! After all, it is in the URL for this place, right? ;)

I love science fiction movies and novels, and I’d have to say that Star Wars is my all-time favorite in this genre. Everyone who has been following this epic has many wonderful memories and stories to tell. So here are a few of mine…

When I first heard of this movie in 1977, being hyped then as a space opera, I must have taken the term literally and thought it was going to be hokey. I’d never been an opera fan and found out soon enough it wasn’t a real opera as I might have expected. What I’d read about the movie wasn’t all that impressive at first. But in early summer 1977 I went out of town to stay with some friends for the weekend. One night about 10 of us were out and someone mentioned seeing Star Wars, most had seen it before and I never had nor did I want to. They practically dragged me kicking and screaming into the theatre. I figured OK, I’m outnumbered and I wasn’t about to sit in the car by myself for two hours that late at night, and I certainly didn’t want to be a party-pooper. So I bit the bullet and sat through the movie. WOW. The story, the realistic special effects and The Force. I loved it! And I wanted to go right back in and watch it again. This time, they had to drag me kicking and screaming OUT of the theatre.

I was never the same afterwards. That summer, I saw it 28 times in my local movie house, with friends of mine who also loved it or with someone who *I* had to drag kicking and screaming to see it. I was captivated by Darth Vader. That imposing presence and oh, that VOICE. Posters and other Star Wars goodies adorned my apartment, and John Williams’ soundtrack could probably be heard through the halls of my building at any given time. I even had a bar of Darth Vader soap that came in a green box. And who didn’t have this iconic Darth Vader poster from 1977:

SW Darth Vader poster 1977

(This photo was courtesy of the internet, as my original of this poster eventually got ripped and folded and mangled many years ago.)

Being a longtime comic book fan and one-time collector, I still have the original 1977 collectible oversized 10″x13″ 2-comic Marvel set based on the movie. In the normal sized comics, the movie constituted the first 6 issues of Marvel’s “Star Wars” comic series. I keep the 2-comic set in plastic and it’s still in good shape (and no, they’re NOT for sale so don’t ask):

SW Marvel comics 10x13

Since then, I’ve also gotten into the Star Wars expanded universe through the comics and the novels. I have most of those in digital comic or e-book format now.

Another collectible I’ve kept is the first edition paperback novel by George Lucas from 1976. This is the original pre-movie novel, not the silver one with movie still inserts that came out after the movie was released. That’s protected in plastic too (also not for sale. Sorry.).

SW paperbacks

Another collectible must-have for the avid Star Wars fan is the coffee-table-sized compendium “Star Wars Chronicles.” This book is massive, and the current prices for this on Amazon and eBay are outrageous. Mine is the original 1997 edition, which retailed for around $100-$120 at the time but I found it on clearance for $75. This book was published again in 2005.

SW Chronicles

And let’s not forget the humor. TV programs and talk shows parodied the movie. There was even a short film, made as a trailer for a movie called “Hardware Wars,” which became immensely popular. The movie was also spoofed in newspaper comics and magazine covers. Then there was that godawful holiday special TV show from 1978. Now here’s a fun artwork piece I have that a friend of mine gave me for my birthday in 1980, called “May this farce be with you”:

SW Farce Be With You

Also, I have a few cool Star Wars goodies around the house…like a cube with movable sections and a 6-foot stormtrooper standup:

SW Kenobi cube

SW standup trooper

I’ve loved all the Star Wars movies over the years, and have seen them many times both in theatres and at home on VHS tape or now on DVD. Of the original trilogy I thought the middle one “The Empire Strikes Back” was the strongest and most entertaining of the three as a movie. “Return of the Jedi” had its good points but I found it the weakest of the three in both storyline and acting.

Of the prequels, I found “The Phantom Menace” entertaining although cute…who didn’t love little Anakin Skywalker, even though you knew what he’d grow up to be? The middle one, “Attack of the Clones,” one word: AWFUL. But this trilogy totally redeemed itself with “Revenge of the Sith,” clearly the best movie of the three and which perfectly set the backstory for how and why Anakin became Darth Vader.

So now I’m looking forward to the December 18 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which takes place about 30 years after the end of the story in “Return of the Jedi.” It’ll be interesting to see how much of the expanded universe George Lucas accepts as canon for this movie. And if he does go ahead and make movies 8 and 9, like it’s been rumored for years of his planning a “sequel” trilogy, I hope to live to see them all.

Until then, may the Force be with you. :)

Ring out the old (2014), and ring in the new (2015)

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For everyone planning to go out on the town and celebrate on Amateur Night…oops, I mean New Year’s Eve…just wanted to wish you all a happy and safe one. If you plan to drink, please don’t drive. Get a designated driver or if you don’t and you’ve indulged in too much holiday cheer, call a taxicab or one of those services that will take you home (check out what’s available in your community or through your auto club beforehand, some may be free of charge). Or if you’re at someone’s home, ask if you can crash there until you’re safe to drive in the morning. And to those staying in, whether you’re hosting guests or planting yourself in front of the TV to watch the ball drop, have fun and enjoy the evening.

New Year 2015 gfx

As we enter into 2015, let’s resolve to make the world a better place for everyone, be it on a large scale or locally in your community or for your loved ones. One small kindness can make a big difference to someone out there. And speaking of resolutions, it always seems that diets and weight loss after piling on that holiday poundage are at the top of everyone’s New Year’s resolution list. Sometimes they work and often they don’t, at least in my case they never seem to. But in any case, out of all the diet suggestions available out there, how can you NOT love this one…. (heh-heh)

Diet holiday stress

And for all the Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga game players out there, I did meet my goal of completing level 800 in CCS by the end of 2014. :) So my New Year’s wish to you is may you never fail to clear all the jelly and bring all the ingredients down to the bottom in 2015. And my New Year’s resolution is to keep on crushin’ and bloggin’! As for all that leftover candy from the holidays, especially if you have resolved to lose some weight, just grab the nearest hammer and crush it for real. ;)

So to all, a very happy and safe New Year’s holiday and a prosperous 2015!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Merry Christmas!

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I’d like to wish my fellow bloggers, followers and Candy Crush Saga players a joyous holiday to you and your loved ones. Peace on Earth and good will towards people everywhere, not just on Christmas but every day of the year. Lord knows, this world needs more kindness.

Xmas graphic by me for 2014

Enjoy your favorite foods of the season, whether you make your own recipes or enjoy others’ creativity. And ooh, those Christmas cookies…always yummy!

But whether you’ve been naughty or nice, I hope you’ll receive lots of goodies from Santa….especially CANDY! :D

And if you’re a Candy Crusher, I hope you’ll hit the Jackpot on the daily wheel for Christmas. Now there’s a great present… ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Happy Hanukkah! ✡

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To all who are celebrating…Chag Sameach Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Lights!

CCS Happy Hanukkah

Thought I’d share with you the dinner I made for the first night of the holidays. It’s not traditional brisket, but a nice chuck roast with carrots and onions. Normally my pot roasts include whole potatoes but since it’s Hanukkah, potato latkes are a must. There are tons of recipes for latkes on the web, my advice is to find one of your own if you don’t have your mother’s or your bubbe’s special recipe. Or you can use ready-made commercial products, some of those aren’t half bad. As for frying the latkes, you can use any cooking oil you want, although I find that frying them in peanut oil gives them a wonderful flavor.

 

Hanukkah dinner 2014

As with many Jewish holidays, humorists say it all boils down to “They tried to kill us….we survived….let’s eat!” ;)

So have a Happy Hanukkah…or is that Chappy Chanukah?  However you spell it, enjoy the holidays with friends, family and loved ones…that’s what’s important! :)

Ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night…

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Taking your little boys and ghouls out trick-or-treating, making the party rounds, having people over or staying home by yourself watching monster flicks this Halloween?

CCS Halloween 2014

Whatever you do, stay alert and look out for others as well as yourself. Little and big kids will be walking around out there in costumes or masks which may limit their peripheral vision, so drive slowly and safely Halloween night. And if you’re drinking, don’t drive. Make sure you have a designated driver to take you home or if you don’t and you’re at a friend’s, ask to crash on the couch until the next morning when you’re sober enough to drive. Otherwise, call a taxicab.

Go nightcrawling with a group. You never know who or what’s out there. No, I don’t mean vampires and werewolves, witches and goblins. They’re relatively harmless. :D I’m talking about those crazies who may really be out looking to cause harm to a child or anyone else walking alone…Halloween would be the perfect time for them, since they can wear a costume and blend in with everyone else in disguise.

Halloween - boo & 3 ghosts

Check yours and your kids’ trick-or-treat bag to make sure all those goodies are safe. Look for pinholes in candy wrappers, anything stuck into an apple or whatever else may look suspicious. Most people handing stuff out are good, but there could be a few sickos out there. If you happen to find anything harmful, you or your child try to remember who gave them what, hold onto the treat and call the police.

If you’re staying home alone curling up with some hot chocolate and horror flicks, don’t answer the door after you run out of candy or after 9pm. Turn your porch lights off. If you’re not giving out treats, don’t turn the outside lights on in the first place. And if you have a garage, make sure your car and your garbage cans are inside it. That’s usually when the mischief makers are out and about.

Whatever your level of alertness is on Halloween compared to other nights of the year, it should be appropriate for the neighborhood. Trick-or-treaters in my small-town neighborhood are out early while there’s still some daylight, and most are small children accompanied by an adult. And we don’t get a whole lot of them around town because the elementary schools host Halloween parties and haunted houses in safe environments where kids and parents can have more fun and probably score more candy and swag than they could beating shoe leather door-to-door.

Last but not least….if you’re a Candy Crush Saga player, don’t crush that REAL candy with a hammer to take out your frustrations because you’ve been stuck on the same level for a month. Eat and enjoy it. Yes, even the CHOCOLATE. ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Pork shoulder roast with Rome apples

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Fall is a wonderful season for apples for eating or making pie, and drinking a glass of apple cider, and there’s no better time than now for using either or both of those in cooking as well. Pork pairs well with most apple products in any dish. Who doesn’t love pork chops with applesauce on the side? Or the current trend of putting bacon in everything (did someone say BACON?), including apple pie? Granny Smith apples are great for cooking when you want to give your dish a tart flavor. Romes are sweet and are good eating apples, but they’re also hard and dense enough to hold up when roasted with meat for 2 hours. Since I love to pair meat with fruit in roasting, I made a pork shoulder roast with Rome apples.

So here goes nuthin’… ;)

INGREDIENTS:

Pork shoulder roast weighing 3.94 lb., mostly boneless

4 Rome apples, each approximately 3-1/2″ in diameter

Buck’s Seasoning (25% reduced sodium) to taste

Black pepper to taste

Ground sage to taste

8 oz. liquid minimum (water and/or apple cider)

Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large roasting pan with foil (it helps to use the non-stick foil from Reynolds). Season the roast all over with sage, black pepper and the Buck’s Seasoning (or make your own mix; sea salt works nicely if you don’t use a seasoning mix), and place the roast in the middle of the pan. Cut the apples in half and core them. If you like apples and cinnamon, rub some cinnamon over the fleshy part of the apples, then place them flesh side down in the pan all around the meat.

Pork shoulder roast + Rome apples 1

Cover the pan with foil, and place roast in the preheated oven for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, remove pan from the oven and the foil cover from the pan. Here is what it will look like:

Pork shoulder roast + Rome apples 2

Baste the meat with juices from the bottom of the pan. There should be enough juice to baste the meat but if you want to add more, now would be a good time to add (more) apple cider, or water if you don’t have cider. Return the pan to the oven, and cook uncovered for another 35-45 minutes. (This was a thick roast. My rule of thumb for total in-oven cooking time for a pork shoulder roast like this is a minimum of 30 minutes per pound.)

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for at least another 15 minutes. It’s up to you if you want to tent the roast with foil while it cools. After the cooling period, the roast is ready to slice and serve. The meat will be tender, moist and flavorful. The apples will be soft, about the consistency of applesauce, and will take on some of the pork flavor.

OPTIONS: (1) If your roast is thinner or smaller than the one I used and will cook in less time, you can cut the cored apples into wedges instead of in half. (2) If you want the apples to come out less soft, don’t put them in the pan until after the 90-minute covered cook time, then cook the whole shebang uncovered for those last 35-45 minutes. (3) If you don’t eat pork, roast the apples with chicken or duck instead…poultry and fruit pair nicely too.

Eat and enjoy! :)

 

Candy Crush Soda Saga: The Sequel

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Monday October 20 saw King.com’s worldwide Facebook release of its latest match-3 game Candy Crush Soda Saga, the younger-sister sequel to its popular ongoing game Candy Crush Saga. It had already been on limited mobile release for several months in Europe; however the application package for android devices could be found on the web via a simple Google search. It can soon be installed on mobile devices through Google Play Store and iTunes. The current version of Candy Crush Soda Saga is v1.29.26 and has 135 levels.

I downloaded the android app package of Candy Crush Soda Saga about a month or so ago, and checked out the files stored within it. This game contains many of the original features, concepts and elements as original CCS, but is different enough from CCS as to hold your interest. The new sound effects are cool. And there are new voice exclamations, such as “Juicy” and “Sodalicious,” for example. As nice as the music is in CCS, the Soda Saga music is refreshing, soothing and less annoying when repeated than a couple of pieces in CCS that played over and over again.

The structuring of both games is also similar. You have levels within named episodes, and episodes within worlds. Candy Town is the name of the first episode in both games, but after that the names differ. You also get 5 lives at a time, and the in-game features for getting to the next episode and/or help from Facebook friends is similar.

The main characters are different in this game, although a few of the characters appear in both games. In CCS, the little girl was Tiffi and her dad Mr. Toffee introduced the tutorials and goals in each level. In Soda Saga, Tiffi is gone (although she’s mentioned by other characters in the cutscenes) and so is Mr. Toffee, and dark-haired Kimmi takes Tiffi’s place. Mr. Yeti is more prominent in this game than he was in CCS, as he now introduces the tutorials. Elephants and other cute characters show you the goal at the beginning of each level. What was the Yeti Shop in CCS is now the Soda Pop Shop for purchasing boosters and other items.

Most of the candies are the same, except with a few differences. A new diamond-shaped cyan candy is introduced. Besides the familiar dark chocolate in CCS, there is now a 2-layered white chocolate that looks scrumptious enough to eat, but with a catch: when the chocolate grows back, it can replicate the 2nd layer as well. There is a fish candy similar to the one in CCS, except it’s not a jellyfish…it will eliminate one obstacle of any type on the board to help you reach your goal; for example, it may remove one licorice cage covering a piece of candy, or it might remove one piece of chocolate. You can make a fish candy by matching 4 candies of the same color in a square. There are layered obstacles like cupcakes, bubblegum and honey squares, among others. The special candies from CCS like color bombs, striped and wrapped candies are present and do the same thing in both games. Now there is a new one called a coloring candy…match 7 of them in a t-form and it makes a candy which, when matched with any one around it, will turn a whole bunch of candies on the board into that color. Here is a progressive screenshot sequence of how to make a coloring candy and what happens when it is switched with a yellow candy on the board:

SodaSaga Soda coloring candy made

And the fish…make as many of these as you can. So far, I’ve found the fish candy can be your best friend in this game, especially when paired with a color bomb or a striped candy.

loading_tip_fish

The levels are challenging as in CCS, but in a different way. A voice comes on to tell you what type of level you’ll be playing. There are 5 types of levels so far….

SODA LEVEL: Collect or “pop” one or more soda bottles They can be anywhere on the board. In this screen from level 114, there are 3 orange ones in licorice cages and a cyan one at the bottom right of the board. Since 11 are required to be collected in 30 moves, more bottles will drop down as you clear candies from the board.

SodaSaga Soda level board start - level 114

FROSTING LEVEL: This is similar to a Jelly level in CCS, except that you’re breaking blocks of ice to release one or more green gummi bears trapped underneath. The bears may be partially or completely hidden, and may be of different sizes. In this screenshot from level 6, you can see parts of the 3 bears you need to release in 20 moves. Blocks of ice may be one or two layers.

SodaSaga Frosting level board start - level 6

BUBBLE LEVEL: In this type of level, you must save a pink bear trapped in a soda bubble at the bottom of the board. You must match candies and soda bottles above the bear, eventually floating the bear above the string of candies near the top to “save” the bears within the specified number of moves. In this screenshot from level 9, you must save 3 bears within 20 moves. This is similar to CCS’s Ingredients level, except in reverse…you’re moving from bottom to top in Soda Saga, and the second bear doesn’t appear until you’ve saved the first one. So far, I’ve found the Bubble level to be the most challenging type. In some of these levels, you may have more than one board as the bears float upward. It’s not as easy as it looks.

SodaSaga Bubble level board start - level 9

CHOCOLATE LEVEL: In these levels, you need to clear or “eat” all the chocolate on the board within a specified number of moves. The chocolate may be dark or white. Here are two screenshots of chocolate levels. The dark chocolate in level 31 can be cleared easily. The white chocolate in level 128 with the “C” are two-layered, remove the first “C” layer and it looks like the other flatter ones. All the white chocolate in this level are blocked by single- and double-layered honey squares.

SodaSaga Chocolate level board start - level 31SodaSaga Chocolate level (white choco & honey) board start - level 128

HONEY LEVEL: In these levels, you have to break through layers of honey to save the bears. In this screenshot from level 105, you must save 7 bears in 45 moves.

SodaSaga Honey level 105 board

:) :) And now for some GOOD NEWS! :) :) Unlike CCS, there are no timed levels, at least so far. Also, you don’t need to score a minimum number of points to complete a level. Your goal is only to fulfill the order (eat chocolate, free bears, etc.), and the number of points you get during level play is only to determine the number of stars you earn on completion of that level. This is a big improvement over CCS where you could fail a level, even though you fulfilled the required order (especially in Ingredients levels), because you didn’t get the minimum number of points needed to earn 1 star.

After you complete the goal of any level in Soda Saga, you get an exclamation over a bubbling screen of grape soda:

SodaSaga Soda Crush sample

There are a few style and layout differences between the mobile and Facebook versions of Candy Crush Soda Saga. For example, when you complete a goal, the congratulations screens are different styles. The font used in the mobile version is a typewriter font on a pink background, and the Facebook version uses the candy-style font on a tan background. These differences are minor and don’t affect actual gameplay.

NOTE FOR MOBILE “STANDALONE” PLAYERS: Like with CCS, I started playing this as a standalone on my android phone, not connected to Facebook. When the game is installed, you get 50 free gold bars to use however you want in the game. After I completed level 45, which was the end of an episode, and clicked a graphic to progress further, a screen popped up with options to either use gold bars or connect to Facebook and ask friends to help me to unlock the next episode (compare to tickets in CCS). There was no option given for me to play mystery quests or an equivalent thereof in this game like there is in CCS, so if you want to continue playing past level 45 on your mobile device, you’re forced to connect to Facebook. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to set up a Facebook account specifically for playing CCS and Soda Saga. King has been slowly doing that lately with their games, steering players away from standalone play once they get to a certain point in the game.

I think even seasoned CCS players will like Soda Saga. It has a positive, fresh approach in its challenges, graphics and sound. As much as I love CCS and always will, this game looks to be way cooler in many aspects. :)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

 

Horrorfest for October 2014

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October. Halloween. Gotta love it. :) Again, we’re at the time of year when tons of TV stations air horror flicks, monster movies, Twilight Zone marathons and other ghastly thrillfests for your viewing pleasure. From frightful fare to creepy comedies, you’re bound to catch some of your favorites, old and new.

As for me, I’ve always been partial to the older classics from the 1930’s and 40’s like “Frankenstein,” “Dracula” “The Mummy” and “The Wolf Man”….and of course my favorite zombie apocalypse movie of all time, “Night of the Living Dead” from 1968. Turner Classic Movies is great every October with it’s variety of horror movies, and this year definitely won’t disappoint. Last year, TCM’s focus on Friday nights were movies about witches. This year’s specialty is ghost stories on Thursday nights. Here is their prime time lineup on Thursdays for the rest of October.

On October 16th….

TCM Oct 16 Ghost stories prime time

Then on the 23rd…

TCM Oct 23 Ghost stories prime time

Yet again on the 30th….

TCM Oct 30 Ghost stories prime time

All leading up to the big day….Halloween. TCM will be showing horror movies all day long. It’s on a Friday this year, so if you don’t have party or other evening plans outside the home, this can be a perfect movie night for you, your family or with fellow horror fans. So order the pizza, make some popcorn, dip into your kids’ trick-or-treat bags and have plenty of coffee or hot chocolate on hand, and get ready to pull an all-nighter…

TCM Oct 31 Halloween 1

^^^ by day…

TCM Oct 31 Halloween 2

^^^…and by night.

Not doing the marathon on TCM? How about some corny but creepy movies from the 80’s? The series of “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” mainstream horror flicks are always fun. Or if you can catch them on TV or online, check out more obscure cult classics like “Eating Raoul” and “Basket Case,” both from 1982…corny but humorous. And then there’s always “Motel Hell” from 1980…now that’s scary.

Or sift through your DVD collection and find your favorite horror movies to curl up with. And you can always have lots of fun with these…

Ghostbusters box set

Or if you’re not big on TV, you can cozy up in your favorite comfy chair and read a good scary novel or collection of vampire stories. For that, I’d like to recommend “The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories” published in 1983…it contains some great late-19th/early-20th century stories, including the classic gothic novella “Carmilla.” How about old “Tales from the Crypt” comics or vintage Fangoria magazines? If you don’t have the original print copies, you can find digital versions online. Just don’t forget the hot chocolate. Or that glass of wine. ;)

Everyone have a fun and safe Halloween! :D

Halloween - boo & 3 ghosts

The blog is 1 year old today!

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This little experiment of mine made it through its first year. :D

Sugarcrush blog anniversary 1 (Oct 6)

I’ve periodically posted product reviews on other sites and social media over the past several years, and one friend who also blogs and writes reviews suggested I start a blog of my own too. Also, with some encouragement from fellow Candy Crush Saga players on a gaming site and several other forums where I participate, this blog was born. It started out primarily for fellow CCS enthusiasts but soon took off on its own in several directions. Like for instance, another passion of mine…FOOD and cooking and recipes, for starters. I love food blogs and recipe websites from all over the world, and appreciate the time and effort that goes into them.

Many bloggers post regularly every day, but I post when I feel inspired. Which could be once every several weeks, or twice in one day. Whenever and wherever my muses take me, that’s what I share here with you.

So to all who are reading this, thank you for taking the time to drop by here. I appreciate your likes, comments on posts and feedback I’ve received this past year…and please keep ’em coming. And to fellow bloggers and those listed in “Blogs I Follow” or in “Links,” thank you for sharing creative ideas, recipes and the experiences that inspire you. Keep up the good work. I’ve learned much from you, and I hope you’ve learned something from me too! :)

King.com pulls a fast one on Candy Crush Saga standalone players

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If you’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga as a standalone game on your mobile device, meaning never connected to Facebook, you’re in for a big surprise if you haven’t already noticed by now. When you attempt to spin the Daily Booster Wheel, update the game or use other features, you get a pop-up that says you can’t “connect to Facebook” or “access the kingdom” or something to that effect. Or you may get something like this:

CCS FB kingdom access failure text

Since the late-August update of CCS, people have noticed they can’t do certain things, like earn boosters from the wheel or even access new levels unless they connect to Facebook. I’ve played this game as a standalone, either on an android emulator for PC or on my mobile device for well over a year until I reached level 680 (the end of an episode). I’ve always had Google Play Store set to automatically update the game as soon as King released a new version to them. But after completing 680 I couldn’t update any further, and soon found out I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t update their mobile versions of CCS.

It appears King is forcing standalone players who want to update the game to connect to Facebook in order to do it. Even those standalone players who do pay for items (see my blog post of September 12 in this section about playing for free) are being forced to connect if they still want to continue to spin the daily wheel or play beyond the levels already included in the version of the game on their devices. This is unfair to those players who don’t have or want a Facebook account, or to those who are connected to Facebook but don’t play online because they don’t want an app to spam their friends’ News Feeds or bug their friends for tickets and lives.

I originally got a Facebook account to connect with family and friends, especially those living far away, and fellow alumni for school reunions and events…not to play games. Being spammed with other users’ game posts in my News Feed bugged the hell out of me and still does. Finally, within about the last week or so, being the hard-core candy crusher that I am :) , I broke down and started playing on Facebook, but not the way that most people do. About 3 years ago, I had opened a test account on Facebook under another name, which I’d only use to occasionally check the security and accessibility of my regular account every time Facebook made changes to its security options or other features, since my regular account is set to “Friends Only”…I wanted to see what a public stranger on Facebook would see when searching me, in case the “View As” feature on my own account didn’t pick up on all my security settings. So I thought….why not use that test account for playing CCS, since I don’t use it for anything else?

I had no problem synchronizing the CCS progress already on my mobile device to the test Facebook account as a “new” player. Not only did it pick up that I had completed through level 680 at the time, but it gave me a ton of boosters and 50 gold bars to start me off, and I could now spin the daily booster wheel. I also made new CCS friends from all over the world who I figured were doing the same thing I was, using an account other than their regular one just for playing CCS (their profiles seem to prove that)…and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were originally standalone players like I was. Others you can tell are using their regular accounts for playing. The new friends are requesting lives, tickets or extra moves from me. The only thing I’ve requested so far are tickets as the game updates new episodes, and people send me them quickly. I don’t ask for lives because I don’t mind the wait…I’m not THAT addicted, lol! ;)

Actually, playing on Facebook isn’t that bad. I found out a few cool things I didn’t know by being strictly a standalone player. One is that if someone asks you for lives or tickets whether you have any or not, you can still give them one without losing anything. The game doesn’t penalize you for helping out others. The first time I noticed that is when I had 4 lives and I got a message requesting a life….I thought what the heck, I’ll send it. After I sent the life, I still had my 4 lives. The same held true with tickets. And the CCS friends aren’t intrusive into any other part of my life or profile except for a game request or a post that the CCS app itself makes. You help them, they help you, and otherwise remain anonymous.

Now for the REAL rant a lot of people are having. You can sync your mobile version of CCS to your Facebook account for the first time as a “new” user, but the problem lies as you progress through the game on Facebook: you can’t sync the other way around even when connected to Facebook on your phone or other device (or both, which is what tutorials suggest you do to properly sync). Those who were able to sync before find they can’t do it now, which was an advantage especially for people who travel. Why doesn’t it work, you ask? Because King, at least via Google Play Store or the Facebook option to sync your progress to your device, isn’t updating mobile version of this game. At least not the episodes/levels feature. On Facebook, I’m now at level 706 but on my phone, the episode portion still won’t update past level 680. Funny though, it’ll send current game requests and other messages to the phone. Players are up-in-arms about this, and if you contact King (I read their forum), they say they’re “working on solving the problem.” Yeah, right. They just want more of the mobile phone market.

As far as I know, this seems to be a problem only on mobile phones. I don’t know about tablets or iPads…Google Play Store or iTunes might be updating the game OK on those for standalone players and/or syncing Facebook with those fine.

The advantage to crushing candy on Facebook on PC or laptop rather than just over a mobile phone is that Facebook always keeps your progress, no matter what happens. On a mobile phone or PC, you could lose your progress for various reasons, like your hard drive dies, your mobile device emulator crashes or a corruption in updating via Google Play Store to your phone sets your level progress back to 1. (I had that happen, and it’s not fun.) Or something goes wrong with your phone.

After all is said and done…..Bottom line: the game is still free. So if King never fixes the update problem on phones, I’ll just delete both the Facebook and Candy Crush Saga apps on the phone. And since I have to be physically sitting at the PC in order to play and progress (at least until the sync-to-phone problem is fixed), I spend less time playing. Which I suppose is a good thing. And I really don’t mind that!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

October is National Pork Month

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Every day or month of the year seems to be given some sort of significance, whether it’s a national holiday or something more obscure or even silly. Heck, we have Talk Like a Pirate Day. But October has been known as National Pork Month for a long time now. Who knows how or when it got started, but apparently it’s the month of the year when pigs were traditionally marketed. You can find many articles about it on the web. Each year, pork farmers reinforce their commitment to produce safe, high-quality meat all year round. And it’s a time we can thank pork producers for providing us and others around the world with nutritious and economical meals.

Pork, “the other white meat,” is inexpensive compared to other meats on the market that come from the usual 4-footed creatures. A little goes a long way. And most importantly, PORK FAT RULES! Especially BACON. :D Check out my bacon post on this blog from September 13.

Did someone say BACON

So whether you’re making barbecued spare ribs….

Spareribs-130112_0002

A pork shoulder roast….

Pork roast 130520_0000

Flavoring a stew or a southern dish like collard greens with these….

Bacon ends and pieces

You can’t go wrong with pork, unless your dietary or religious restrictions forbid it. I’ve found that unlike other meats you get at the supermarket, the most expensive cuts of pork aren’t always the tastiest. They may be leaner, but to me they’re often chewy and lacking in flavor. Which is why I like shoulder roasts or pork “butt” steaks…which aren’t from the pig’s butt, but actually from the shoulder. The shoulder cut has more fat throughout the meat, and the meat itself is more tender and flavorful. It’s a versatile cut of pork that will work for just about any dish. Yes, it’s definitely a pork fat thing.

The best pork chops for coating and frying, or grilling, are those cheap “assorted” chops you can get in packages of 10 or more…they cook quickly and have tons of flavor, and are definitely at the top of my pork fat list.

But before I close, let me recommend some ways NOT to use bacon… ;)

Bacon things not to wrap

Eat Like Shit Cookbook Available NOW!!!!!

Sugarcrush:

Had to pass this along from one of my favorite food blogs, The Vulgar Chef (see “Blogs I Follow”). These are just a few of his unique and tasty creations in a downloadable cookbook. But be warned….there be many cusswords here. ;)

Originally posted on The Vulgar Chef:

image-5

DOWNLOAD HERE

DOWNLOAD HERE

Im having a fucking bitch of a time getting this shit on the iTunes store…so for now here is a raw PDF version. Share it with your fucking mother.

View original

For the love of all things BACON

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Emeril Lagasse is right: pork fat rules. And of all the various cuts and roasts of pig meat and its delectable porcine preparations, bacon reigns supreme. Bacon is hog heaven. But if you think you know everything there is to know about bacon but were afraid to ask, you probably don’t unless you’re a butcher, chef or spend an inordinate amount of time around pork fat. So prepare to be taken to bacon school. You won’t have to travel too far or spend your life savings on tuition…all you need is this:

Bacon00 - 2015 wall calendar

It’s a very cool calendar for you or your fellow bacon buffs, and makes a nice gift. You’re bound to learn new stuff, and anyway, it’s a fun read. You’ll learn to bestow upon bacon its proper reverence…

Bacon01 - 10 commandments

…and how to make some yummy recipes (read: artery-clogger specials. The health-conscious and those on a diet need not apply.)

Bacon03 - BBQ bacon burgers

Each month shows the days in various shades of pig….

Bacon04 - month sample

…and you’ll read some interesting and important facts about this tasty meat.

Bacon05 - facts and tips

OK class, RECESS! Time for a bit of the real thing. :)

Bacon 09 - Hormel bacon bits

Bacon bits, that is. Real ones! Imitation bacon bits are also available for those whose religious or dietary restrictions prohibit eating pork or bacon, and they are quite tasty too. The bits are great sprinkled into a vegetable salad, or an omelette or pancake mixture before pouring it into the pan.

Bacon comes in all types of cuts and flavors. You can get thin, normal, and thick cut strips of bacon. And the types of wood used in the process of makin’ bacon each lend a unique flavor to the finished product. Bacon ends and pieces can be used the same way you’d use salt pork…for southern dishes like collard greens, bacon and beans, or in a stew. One of my local supermarkets occasionally offers fresh bacon in strips, labeled as “pork belly,” which is unsmoked, uncured and unsalted. It tastes like regular fresh pork and, fried as you would regular bacon, it’s an interesting side to your breakfast omelette and a great alternative for those on salt-restricted diets.

Bacon07 - popular bacon flavors

Besides frying bacon or heating it in the oven, you can microwave it. Packages of pre-cooked strips of bacon can be found in your supermarket, and the strips heat up in mere seconds in the microwave. Or you can eat them right out of the box. You can microwave regular uncooked strips on several sheets of paper towels. This inexpensive microwave bacon cooker with a top does an excellent job, and you can flip the bottom to the flat side to reheat slices of pizza and other prepared foods.

Bacon 10 - microwave bacon cooker

Be careful when buying bacon in a supermarket. There are inexpensive store brands and some off-brands, but many of them are mostly fat and not very much meat. And not all packages are the same size. Most standard packages are 1 pound, but some are 12 or 14 ounces and cost more, even within the same brand. Compare like-to-like, and find ones with the least amount of fat for the price. If you really love your bacon…and who doesn’t?!…you’ll fork up the extra dough and buy the good stuff. Turkey, duck and beef bacon alternatives are also available for those who cannot eat pork. There are many good brands of bacon out there, but here are 3 I found that I like. They are all thick cut (sometimes called “butcher’s cut”), which I like better than the thin cut because they don’t curl as much…so far, the Smithfield brand is my favorite.

Bacon 08 - 3brands thickcut

And some duck bacon…

duckbacon 130405_0002

Now before you sit down to pig out on your favorite bacon, here’s your homework assignment:

Bacon06 - word search

Who said bacon wasn’t educational? ;) Eat hearty, and remember when things start getting you down and the wolves are at your door…

Bacon02 - keep calm

Playing Candy Crush Saga without spending real money

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Some Candy Crush Saga players ask how they can advance through this game without forking over their hard-earned cash. Well, you definitely CAN play CCS and still keep all your dough, using a couple of simple tricks! I play this game as a standalone, not connected to Facebook, and completed over 500 levels without spending one thin dime. Moving through each level of the game itself is a combination of skill and opportunity (read: luck. The candies cascading down into the right positions have to present themselves, as well as your knowledge of strategies for moving them to your best advantage.) Patience is also a virtue when advancing through levels, as you may get stuck on one for quite a while until you’re ready to pull your hair out. So far, level 425 proved to be the proverbial bee in my bonnet. I found I really didn’t need any more boosters than the ones earned when certain levels are completed, or those gotten by spinning the daily wheel, so I haven’t paid for additional boosters…nor will I when all the boosters have been used.

However, tickets and lives pose a dilemma. Since I play the game not connected, I can’t ask others to send me tickets or lives when I run out. And to avoid paying for them, the only way to get lives between levels is to wait a certain amount of time until the next life. For standalone-game players, the only way to progress from one episode to the next without paying for tickets is by playing 3 mystery quests. The quests are levels that you’ve played before and in some cases, the target score you need to achieve is higher than when you played it as a regular level. (I don’t believe the Facebook version has the mystery quest feature…someone please correct me if I’m wrong. FB players can ask friends for tickets if they don’t want to pay for them.) If you play the quests as the game instructs, you must wait 24 hours between each quest. But there is a legal “cheat”…actually a workaround for that, and you can play all three quests in a lot less time by following these instructions carefully (thanks to the Candy Crush Central website for these tips):

Do this after you complete your FIRST quest:

1. Go to the date and time settings on your iOS or Android device.
2. Manually change the date to the next day.
3. Open the game to confirm that the second quest has been unlocked. You will see a screen telling you what level you need to play. DO NOT START PLAYING. Back out of the game at this time.
4. Go back into the date and time settings return the advanced date to the present date.
5. Go back into the game and complete your next quest.
6. Repeat the above 5 steps to unlock and play the third and final quest.

After you complete the third quest, you have earned your ticket and are ready to advance across the tracks to the next CCS episode.

CCS crossing episodes ticket needed

This workaround also applies if you’ve run out of lives. Advance the time on your device, open CCS to confirm your new set of 5 lives, then DON’T START PLAYING. Back out of the game, change the time back to the present time before getting back into the game to play! The mistake people make is playing with the 5 new lives while the time is still advanced instead of first changing it back to present time before playing…then when they return to present time afterwards, they have a several-thousand-minute wait for more lives. Very frustrating, but it can be corrected. Once you’ve earned lives or tickets and that info is saved in your CCS stats, they can’t be taken away from you, whether or not you tweak the time or date on your device. If you did these tweaks, just make sure you set your device back to the present time BEFORE you use them.

These little “cheats” are great timesavers by helping you advance through levels and episodes of CCS quickly. As for luck and skill playing each level, you’re on your own. Happy crushing! ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

For the Candy Crush Saga player on your gift list

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If you’re thinking about buying a birthday, Christmas or Hanukkah gift for that hard-core Candy Crush Saga addict, here are a few new items. Target.com is offering some CCS items in their home goods area, mostly in kids’ bedding. You can only buy them online. At this time, they’re not available in stores. Here’s what’s available now on their site, with pricing:

CCS Target items

Being a CCS player and having passed level 500, I thought I’d treat myself to a few of those goodies. The plush throw, 50″ x 60″, is very soft and is edged with purple piping to keep it in shape and which gives it a nice finished look. It’s bright and colorful, and will be a cheerful addition to your family room, game room or a kid’s room.

CCS plush throw

The blanket, 62″ x 90″, is also very plush and soft. It’s made to fit a twin bed. This blanket doesn’t come in other sizes. Although I have a double bed, I prefer twin blankets and comforters because I don’t like a lot of bulk. It’s also very colorful, and says “Sweet!” in the middle among a pattern of solid and striped candies.

CCS plush blanket

The comforter, available in twin size only, is 64″ x 84″, quilted and the front has the same design as the throw. It’s also reversible, the back having a solid purple background with a pattern of solid-color candies. Part of that is visible in the photo. As kids’ bedding goes, it appears to be well-made.

CCS twin microfiber comforter

From the pictures at Target’s website, the sheet set looks cool and would be great for a child’s twin-size bed, as does the pillow in the design of the Tiffi character. A friend of mine likes the pillow and plans on getting it for her grandchild.

As for me, I’m a big kid at heart and love bright primary colors. They’re cheerful and lift your spirits on dreary cold winter days, and the plush items and comforter will keep you warm. Now all I need is a purple sheet set to go with the blanket and comforter. :)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

A low-carb flavorful summer salad

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Oh, the plethora of recipes that can be found, scrolling through one’s News Feed on Facebook. One in particular caught my eye so I thought I’d try it. Cauliflower salad! It’s a low-carb variation on potato salad or macaroni salad, great for anyone watching their weight and it seems to be diabetic-friendly.

I used most of the ingredients of the original recipe. The only variation I made is that I used diced zucchini instead of the pickle relish it called for, since I don’t like pickle relish:

1 head of cauliflower (I used about 2/3 of a large head, but 1 medium-to-large sized head will do nicely)
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup approximately of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise (don’t use light, it has more carbs) – I used Hellmann’s REAL Mayo because I don’t care for Miracle Whip.
3 tbsp of mustard
1 cup of diced zucchini (instead of 3 tbs of pickle relish)
1/8 cup of chopped onion uncooked, can use more if you prefer (I used half of a medium-sized Vidalia onion)
Salt and pepper to taste

First, hard-boil the eggs, let them cool and peel them before you prepare your veggies.

Cauliflower egg salad 1

^^^Second, prepare the cauliflower and zucchini. I chose to use a steamer in the microwave instead of boiling the vegetables, so I cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and the zucchini into smaller pieces. I put some water in the bottom of the steamer, put the lid on top and steamed them first for 5 minutes. Then checked for doneness, then steamed them some more for about 2-1/2 minutes. You can steam (or boil) them for however long you want, depending if you like your finished salad soft or slightly chewy. Cook them less if you want to up the crunch factor.

Cauliflower egg salad 2

^^^While the veggies are steaming, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Cut the eggs in half, then separate the yolks into a bowl, as you’ll need them to incorporate into the dressing. Cut up the whites into small pieces to add to the salad near the end of preparation. Dice the onion into tiny pieces.

Then, prepare the dressing. Mash up the egg yolks in the bowl with a fork, until they’re almost powdery. Then add the mayonnaise and mustard to the egg yolks, and mix until thoroughly incorporated and creamy smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix some more. Since this is a basic filling for deviled eggs, here is where you could also add paprika if you wanted.

Cauliflower egg salad 3

^^^I find these collapsible measuring cups a godsend in the kitchen. This one was great for measuring and mixing up the mustard with the mayo before adding it to the eggs.

After the cauliflower and zucchini finish steaming (or boiling, if you used that method), let them cool and make sure they’re well drained. (If you had boiled them before you cut them up, now is the time to cut them into bite-sized pieces.) Then transfer them to a large mixing bowl or, if you have a steam-and-serve style Tupperware steamer with a lid like the one I used, make sure the bottom of the steamer is dry and put the drained cooked veggies in it. Then add the cut-up egg whites and diced onions to the cooked cauliflower and zucchini. Toss all the veggies to mix, then add the dressing:

Cauliflower egg salad 4

Stir the whole shebang to mix it all up, then put a lid on it. Now it’s ready to chill overnight in the fridge.

Cauliflower egg salad 5

^^^Ta-DAAAAA! The finished product. A small plate of this makes a great lunch by itself, or spoon some out as a side dish to a dinner entree. Since I’ve never frozen potato or macaroni salad, I don’t know how well this salad will freeze…I’m guessing it’ll freeze well, since cauliflower and zucchini don’t tend to get mealy after they’ve been frozen and thawed. If you do make it and later freeze and use it, please let me know. It keeps well in the refrigerator, but it’s so GOOD that it might not last long enough to spoil, lol!

SOME ADDITIONAL IDEAS:

1. Some people like a little diced raw celery in cold salads to give it a bit of crunch. Add some at the same time you add the diced onions and cut egg whites.

2. The recipe calls for 6 hard-boiled eggs. Boil 8 instead, and use the extra 2 to slice up thinly as garnish on top of the finished salad, and sprinkle a bit of paprika on top. Then chill overnight. This makes a great presentation at parties or if you’re bringing a dish to a BBQ or pot-luck dinner. Also, it’s a dish that dieting party-goers who are watching their carbs or are diabetics can eat, an ideal alternative to all those crackers, chips and other carb/fat-laden commercially produced munchies prevalent at most gatherings.

3. Don’t think you’d like the dressing because you’re not a fan of deviled eggs? Substitute a dressing you do like, or get creative and make your own. Ranch dressing would be great for this, and that’s probably what I’ll use next time I make it!

4. If you want to add meat toward the end before you mix it all up and stick it in the fridge, try bacon bits or diced grilled chicken. Or cut-up leftover turkey breast. Any cooked lean meat will work, and….DID SOMEONE SAY *BACON*??? ;)

(rave) The absolute coolest PJ’s on the planet

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If there was ever a “greatest thing since sliced bread” category for pajamas, a brand called Lazy One would be it. I found Lazy One pj’s a couple years ago in a local athletic clothing store and immediately fell in love with them! Since then, I’ve bought more at their website, at Amazon.com and most recently at Zulily.com, where I found them on the cheap.

LazyOne Moose have a hug nightshirt

^^^The designs are uniquely nature-oriented artwork, often featuring wild animals, farm animals, woodland or sea creatures (very few dogs or cats, not as many as you would think) and their captions are humorous. Some of the captions are puns which are downright groaners! One with horse artwork is captioned “I’m unSTABLE in the morning” under the art. Another has a bird with the saying “Tweet dreams.” My favorite is a spotted dragon captioned “I’m dragon my tail.” Some of the animals are doing things like holding a cup of coffee, waking up, sleeping, doing funny camera poses or holding their arms out to get a hug.

LazyOne Crab nightshirt and pants

^^^What’s nice about these pj’s is that you’re not stuck buying them in a set. You can buy individual collection pieces separately for adults and juniors in any size you need. The crab design set shown were bought as two separate pieces: a long nightshirt and sleep pants with a front pocket for a cell phone. A design set can be available in more than one type of item. You can get 2-piece pj sets for kids, onesies for babies, and footed flapjacks for adults. There are long nightshirts, t-shirts and tanks, pants and boxers for men, women, kids, and some of the men’s pants are designated as unisex. Many of the designs are made to mix and match, as a lot of the background colors and animals are used in more than one design collection. Non-pj items include gift accessories like totebags, spa slippers, baby bibs, note pads, magnets, oven mitts, mugs and kitchen aprons, and even adventure booklets for kids with a story about characters on the pj’s.

LazyOne RB moose nightshirt

LazyOne RB checked sleep pants

^^^Most of the long nightshirts have short sleeves. This red and black moose one was offered with 3/4-sleeves, which is ideal for colder nights. Some nightshirt designs have one or more coordinating pants. The pants matching this shirt were either red-and-black hunters’ checks, or a red background with small repeating black moose.

Qualitywise, Lazy One’s pieces wash up beautifully and don’t shrink after hot wash/hot dry. The pieces I have are 100% cotton and made in India. The cotton used isn’t flimsy…it’s got some substance to it, like a well-made t-shirt you’ve owned forever and that still looks great. It’s heavy enough to wear to bed in cooler weather, yet light enough that summer sleeping in them is very comfortable. And it feels soft against the skin. Plus, they’re just way cool-looking to wear around the house, both for adults and for kids at sleepovers, and super cute for babies. They’d also probably hold up well enough that once your kids outgrow them, they’ll make great hand-me-downs or a cool garage-sale item.

I highly recommend this brand, but they tend to be a bit pricier than pj’s found at Walmart or Target and other run-of-the-mill stores, but a lot less than so-called designer or exclusive brands. I would consider them moderately-priced, an all-around good value for the money. Check Lazy One’s website for designs, variety and price…sometimes they have items on sale. If you like these pj’s, but they’re not available locally and price is a major determining factor, I suggest you check Zulily’s website first, which has a great selection WHEN they carry the Lazy One line. (That’s the thing about Zulily…they don’t carry the same brands all the time.) Zulily had the same adult-sized pieces for between $10 and $15 that regularly were selling elsewhere for between $22 and $30, or more. Do some comparative shopping. Besides Lazy One’s website, you can find pieces and sets on Amazon.com, The Pajama Company or google “Lazy One” for other online sleepwear-specific merchants to get the best price for the type of item and availability of designs. Wherever you end up buying them, either for yourself or as a gift, you won’t be disappointed.

Now….if I could only find Candy Crush Saga designed pj’s for adults, lol!

A quick and easy bok choy stir-fry (or cold salad)

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Here’s a healthy dish you can make as a cold salad with your favorite dressing, or as a stir-fry. Either way, it can be eaten as a vegan dish or you can add strips of cooked meat or even seafood, like shelled and deveined shrimp.

Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that can be found in just about any grocery store. It has a mild, light flavor and looks similar to celery. I’ve seen it in two different sizes. Baby bok choy is about 1/3 of the size of regular bok choy, and is often sold in 8-ounce packages. The larger version is often seen in a bunch with a band around it. Because baby bok choy is more tender, it lends itself better to cold salads. Either size is great for cooking.

Bok choy salad 3

This recipe is for a stir-fry. If you’re not making it vegetarian, I’d suggest precooking the meat or seafood, unless the pieces are so small or cut so thin that it would completely cook in a very short time. I used leftover precooked bacon bits from the last stuffed mushroom recipe I blogged about.

    BACON!

;) This will make 2 portions as meals, or 3-4 portions as a side dish to an entree.

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces Baby bok choy
8 ounces mushrooms (I used a blend of baby bella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms)
1 large white onion (about 6-8 ounces)
3/4-ounce bacon bits
2 tbsp. Sesame oil
Garlic (fresh or garlic powder)
Ginger (fresh or ground)
Ground black pepper

FOOD PREP: If the bok choy needs cleaning, run it under the water quickly and shake it out, then let dry on paper towels; you may not need to, as the baby bok choy in packages are often prewashed. Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise, so each piece has both leaves and bulb. If the mushrooms need cleaning, wipe them with a paper towel or cloth (do not wash them with water or the dish will be too soggy). Peel the onion, then cut it in rings, then cut the rings in half so the onion will be in strips. If you’re using fresh garlic and ginger, choose the amount to taste, then peel and cut into small pieces.

For this, I used a wok that’s 11-1/2″ in diameter. You can use a 12″ or larger frypan if you don’t have a wok. Put the sesame oil in the wok, heat on med-high. Add the garlic, ginger and black pepper. If you want, you can also add the bacon bits at this time. Once the oil is hot and sizzling, add the onions and mushrooms. Don’t let them sit, stir-frying means that you constantly stir during the process. Keep the heat high, because you want the onions to be slightly translucent but not caramelized or even golden, and the mushrooms not to release moisture (you basically just want them heated and flavored). Stir until warm and coated, then add the bok choy. You can also add meat or seafood at this time, including the bacon bits if you didn’t add them earlier. And keep stirring…the key to a successful stir-fry is using high heat, cooking it quickly and keeping everything constantly moving in the wok or pan. :)

Bok choy salad 1

Keep the heat high, stir and cook until the bok choy is warm, a richer green color and slightly wilted. Any raw meat or seafood should be safely cooked through (hence, using tiny pieces in the first place). The whole cooking process takes only a few minutes, after which it’s ready to plate and enjoy.

Bok choy salad 2

You can vary this dish any way you like. If I’d had some pea pods, or carrots on hand that I could grate or sliver, they would have gone in the wok too. The dish is tasty on its own as a meal or as a complimentary vegetarian side to any Oriental entree like teriyaki beef, General Tso’s chicken, or even pork fried rice.

For a cold summer salad, just throw the cleaned and prepared veggies in a bowl, along with seasonings of your choice. You’ll probably want to break up the bok choy with your hands so it’ll blend better with everything else. Add cooked chicken or shrimp, bacon or other meat if you want. Add your favorite dressing and toss. An Oriental ginger dressing like you’d get in a Japanese restaurant would do this salad nicely!

Stuffed portobello mushrooms redux….bacon and BBQ sauce

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*** BACON! ***

All right, now that I have your undivided attention, here is another batch of stuffed mushrooms…a slight variation from the meatless ones I made and blogged about 3 days ago.

The cooking method, time and temperature are the same as the last recipe, 400 degrees F for 12/15 minutes. Actually, closer to 15. The only real difference is the stuffing mixture and the topping. I used slower-melting cheeses in this recipe than the one I posted 3 days ago. This is the mixture. Put these ingredients into a bowl and mix well:

5 ounces of shredded cheese (Cheddar and Colby/Jack)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs…most went into the mixture as a binder, then used a little for topping)
Bacon pieces, cooked crispy then crumbled up (use imitation bacon bits if you don’t eat meat or you keep a Kosher home)
Black pepper

Stuff the mushrooms densely with the mixture. This will keep the finished product from becoming too watery on the inside. Top each mushroom with a little more panko, if you like. Then put them in the oven for at least 14-15 minutes.

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, top each one with a little of your favorite THICK barbecue sauce. For these, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce. Use whatever mild or spicy sauce you like, or get creative and make your own. Then return mushrooms to the oven for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes to heat the sauce. Remove the mushrooms, and let cool.

Stuffed BBQ mushrooms

^^^Here they are, fully-cooked and ready to eat. Just pick ’em up and eat ’em. Great finger food to eat with one hand while you’re playing Candy Crush Saga with the other. Hey, even we CCS addicts need to eat! ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Stuffed portobello mushrooms, a meal in itself

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I love stuffed mushrooms, and have been making them in many varieties for years. The best type I’ve found to use are very large white mushrooms or portobellos. You could probably use any type of mushroom, as long as it has a cap large enough to stuff with lots of goodies.

My favorite type to use are portobello. Portobello mushrooms are brown, and are sometimes seen in the stores as “crimini” mushrooms; genetically, there’s no difference between the two except their age. Criminis are picked earlier than portobellos, so consider criminis teen-age portobellos. :D The stuffable ones I like have caps at least 2-1/2″ in diameter, up to the “beefsteak” type which are around 5″ or so in diameter. Some people like to use the smallest version called “baby bella” for hors d’oeuvres. Whichever size you use for stuffing, you’ll have to adjust the cooking time in this recipe to allow for smaller mushrooms cooking faster and larger ones taking longer.

Here is an easy meatless dinner recipe I made using 2-1/2″ to 3″ diameter mushroom caps:

4 portobello mushroom caps (2 if you’re using “beefsteak” size)
5 ounces of shredded cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, asiago)
A handful of frozen spinach, thawed to room temperature
A handful of cooked/softened artichoke hearts
Mushroom stems (optional)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Seasonings of your choice (I used oregano, garlic powder and ground black pepper)

If you’re using fresh spinach, heat and wilt it down first. For fresh artichokes, make sure they’re cooked and softened. I like to use frozen spinach and prepared artichokes you can buy in the glass jars in any grocery store’s Italian food section. Whichever you use, make sure you get as much moisture out of them as you can before you put them in this recipe. If you use the mushroom stems, cook them down and dry and dice them first. Pressing them between paper towels helps. Wet vegetables will make the finished product soggy.

Put the cheese into a mixing bowl. Dice the vegetables into very small pieces, with a sharp knife. Then put them in a bowl with the cheese. Add the seasonings to the bowl. Unless you’re a total salt freak, I would not suggest adding salt because there will be more than enough in the cheese. Toss the ingredients in the bowl until they are well distributed. Set aside. With the Panko, you have a choice…you can mix it in with the other ingredients in the bowl, or you can save it to top the mushrooms after stuffing.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil; Reynolds Wrap Non-stick is a godsend! Look over the caps of your mushrooms, you may or may not have to clean them off first. If they need cleaning, do not wash them…wipe them with a paper towel. You don’t want unnecessary moisture in the mushrooms while they cook; they’ll be releasing enough moisture of their own during the cooking process.

Place the mushrooms on the baking sheet, cap side down. Stuff each one with the mixture from the bowl, as loose or as dense as you like. Mine were dense. If you didn’t use any Panko in the stuffing mixture, sprinkle some over the top of each mushroom. I like to use Panko rather than regular bread crumbs because Panko stays crunchy in the oven, and browns nicely as a topping.

Stuffed portobellos 1

If you have any leftover mixture or mushroom stems, put them up in a container with a tight lid and refrigerate. You can use these leftovers the next morning in your breakfast omelette. Yum!

Place the mushrooms on the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack. Leave them in the oven for 12-15 minutes. (Again, the cooking time will depend on the size of the mushroom caps and density of your stuffing.) Check them around 12 minutes for doneness and intensity of browning. If you plan to poke a food thermometer into the middle of the largest mushroom in the bunch, you’re looking for about 165 degrees internal temperature. Remove the baking sheet from the oven when done, and let the mushrooms cool.

Stuffed portobellos 2

After the mushrooms cool, they’re ready to serve. 4 of these made a complete meatless meal for me. Stuffed mushrooms also make a great side to a meat entree. You can also use meat to stuff mushrooms (I’ll get to that later).

Stuffed portobellos 3

Stuffed mushrooms with meat: You can use meat in your stuffed mushroom mixture. Just make sure it’s been cooked, patted with paper towels to soak up excess grease, and is in very small pieces. Lean ground beef is ideal, as are bacon bits. (Did someone say BACON?!) When I use meat, I like to use cheeses like cheddar or Jack. Instead of Panko, I like to baste the top of each mushroom with a little bit of thick barbecue sauce about a minute before taking them out of the oven, or just as they’re coming out of the oven while they’re still hot. Or you can cut pepperoni into tiny pieces and use them as stuffing with Italian cheeses and top them with a bit of pasta sauce a minute before you take them out of the oven…Stuffed Mushroom Pizza. :)

There are so many ways to stuff mushrooms. Use your imagination and create something new!

Matzoh brei (fried matzoh) – a Passover tradition

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You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy matzoh at Passover or any other time of the year. Matzoh is the unleavened bread Jews eat during the 8-day major holiday of Passover, when eating food made with leavening is forbidden by Jewish law. It can be found in abundant quantities in most grocery stores around the start of Passover, but a limited number of boxes can be found all year long in some places. Matzoh is fairly tasteless and blah, so you have to make it taste GOOD. One way to do this is a traditional Passover dish commonly eaten for breakfast during this time called matzoh brei, also known as fried matzoh. Think of it as Jewish French toast. Matzoh may come in many forms (such as the ground matzoh meal used to make matzoh balls for soup), but the form of matzoh used in this particular dish is the 6″x6″ square, which looks sorta like an overgrown saltine cracker.

Matzoh brei 1

You can Google for many different fried matzoh recipes and styles for preparing it, but the basic ingredients are the same: matzoh, eggs, water and salt. Here are the basic ingredients I use for a single breakfast serving; you can adjust it for serving two or more people:

2 squares of matzoh
2 eggs
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sea salt
Butter

I prefer to use unsalted matzoh and unsalted butter, because I like to grind sea salt to taste in recipes that call for salt. Sea salt has deeper and smoother flavor notes than table salt, which I find a bit harsh. In addition, this allows me to control my sodium intake since I have to anyway, as you don’t have to use as much sea salt as you would regular salt to be as equally satisfied with the taste of a dish.

Unlike bread, which quickly absorbs an egg mixture, matzoh is hard and crisp and needs to be softened first. There are several ways to do it. You can break it up into a bowl and add just enough warm or boiled water to soak it until it’s completely soft or just a little soft, depending on whether you like the finished product soft or a bit al dente. This is probably the best way to do it if you’re feeding a family. Or you can use my one-serving method, which is to put the 2 matzoh squares inside a Ziploc bag, fill it about 1/4 of the way up with warm water, zip the bag tightly and lay it down and let it soak, flipping it over once during the soak time:

Matzoh brei 2

While the matzoh softens, prepare your egg mixture in a large bowl or pie plate. My own rule of thumb is 1 jumbo egg for each matzoh square…your mileage may vary. Add the eggs and vanilla to the bowl, and beat as you would an omelette. If you’re using salted matzohs and plan to use salted butter in the frying pan, you won’t need to add salt to the egg mixture. Now here’s where you can get creative: Like French toast, you can also add yummy breakfast-type stuff to the egg mixture like sugar and cinnamon, or substitute other extracts like lemon, orange or almond for the vanilla or in addition to it. If you like omelettes or French toast a bit savory or with an international flavor, you can do so with fried matzoh…leave the vanilla out of the egg mixture but add other seasonings like black pepper and garlic, or Italian seasonings, Asian spices, or Indian spices if you like curry. Or any other wild and imaginative combination of flavors you might like! When the matzoh is sufficiently soft to your liking, drain the excess water and fully incorporate it into the egg mixture:

Matzoh brei 3

Now it’s ready to fry. Heat butter in a large frying pan. If you don’t want to use butter, use any cooking oil of your choice. Some specialty oils like olive, peanut, or sesame will work for internationally-inspired matzoh brei. The oil should be hot, but be careful not to burn it. Pour the matzoh/egg mixture into the pan, and cook on medium heat. Depending on whether you like your matzoh in smaller pieces or similar to a flipped pancake, you can break it up while it’s frying. Either way, just make sure none of the egg is raw when it’s done.

Matzoh brei 4

Once it’s finished cooking, it’s ready to plate. Add any toppings or fruit preserves to your liking. Here are 2 ways I made it: one broken-up style with raspberry preserves on the side, and another flipped and drizzled with honey.

matzoh brei 0 (2014)

Matzoh brei 5

But wait…..WE’RE NOT DONE YET…fried matzoh isn’t just for breakfast any more! :D You can make dinner out of it too. A savory matzoh/egg mixture can be added to sauteed onions, mushrooms or other vegetables. Or meat. Or with meat as a side dish if you would normally have vegetables and bread with your evening meat meal. If you want to keep the dish kosher and are using meat, just make sure there are no dairy products in your egg mixture (like milk, cream, or softened cream cheese), and that you fry using oil and not butter. Also if you plan to incorporate lox flakes or pieces of salmon in the fried matzoh, add it towards the end of the frying process, mix it around and don’t cook it too long, otherwise the texture and taste of the salmon will change too much and not for the better. As a dessert, make it the basic way with vanilla and a little sugar in the egg mixture, then top the cooked dish with fruit preserves or jam (and whipped cream if you’re not serving it after a meat meal).

As you can see, matzoh brei can be a versatile dish. I wouldn’t suggest eating it every day during Passover unless you really REALLY love the hell out of it and don’t mind gaining a few pounds. I usually eat it for breakfast every other day. After 8 days, most Jews get sick of eating matzoh and can’t wait to bite into a real bagel or a pastrami sandwich! ;)

For those watching carbs and counting calories, matzoh is NOT a diet food. Some brands offer gluten-free varieties for those with Celiac disease or other sensitivities to gluten. Here’s the nutrition info as taken from a box of Manischewitz unsalted matzoh (courtesy of http://www.fatsecret.com):

Manischewitz matzoh info from www.fatsecret.com

Gratuitous Food Porn: Bacon Wrapped Food

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Sugarcrush:

Had to reblog this…thanks to The Vulgar Chef (see “Blogs I Follow”) and Dude Foods (see “Links”). If you love BACON, feast your eyes on these creations. I’ve made a few of them in the past, and others I plan to make. But the bacon cannoli with chocolate and nuts, that’s a bit over the top even for me, lol!

Originally posted on The Vulgar Chef:

We all know bacon is great. Bacon is even better when its acting as a blanket to some other food, even if that food is fucked.

Feast your eyes upon this weeks GRATUITOUS FOOD PORN

@DudeFoods

BaconWeaveDoubleCheeseburger5

600x450px-d75570c1_2109660740054973606S600x600Q85

@DudeFoods

BaconWeaveBreakfastBurger3baconpotatoes_1Bacon-Wrapped-starter-for-your-dinnerbacon-wrapped-squashbacon-wrapped-jalapeno-popper-stuffed-chicken-500-5909bacon-wrapped-fries-17bacon-wrapped-chicken-breasts

@DudeFoods

bacon-weave-choco-tacobacon_wrapped_quail2bacon_potato_skewer_out_58020131112-273476-bacon-wrapped-turkey-breast-step-520080915-potd-dangerdogs11130_turkey_bacon_5_620BaconWrapFilet_11_lrg2SweetPotatoFries-smallJALAPENO-BACON-015-1024x1000Green-beans-Bacon-wrappeddsc_02253Bar-Bacon-Wrapped-Hot-Dogs

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Candy Crush Saga fruit snacks…SUGAR CRUSH! :)

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Found these in the snack aisle at Walmart, Candy Crush Saga fruit snacks in both Fruit Punch and Mixed Berry varieties. Normally I avoid the snack aisle like the plague, but I was looking specifically for something else when I happened to spot these. So I figured what the heck, for $2 for a box of 10 pouches, I’d try one….so I picked up the Mixed Berry.
CCS fruitsnacks from Walmart 1
^^^ They’re not bad at all. Actually they’re quite good, not tart at all and definitely not sickeningly sweet. I was pleasantly surprised. The sweetness is light but not bland, and they have a chewy consistency like a gummy, but they don’t have that yucky mouth feel like some other gummies do. There are 3 colors and types, all shaped like the candies in the CCS game. The blue ones taste like blueberry, the purple ones like grape, and the red ones like raspberry. They’re actually a healthy snack (not a candy at all), made from fruit juice. Each pouch is 70 calories, with no calories from fat.

Overall I’d give a positive recommendation to anyone who saw them in a snack aisle and wanted to try them. Delicious! Tasty! Divine! :) Next time I’ll try their Fruit Punch variety.

CCS-like lollipop hammers Walmart
^^^ And of course, I just had to pick up some more of these. They really do taste like bubble gum and look a lot like the Lollipop Hammers in the game. SWEET!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

A pinch of this, a litre of that…so how do I make this recipe?

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Ever find a recipe online or watch a food show where they tell you to add a dash of this or a pinch of that, and maybe even a smidgen of something else? Well…OK…but how much is that really in terms of the ingredient itself? For most people, it’s a matter of perception. A dash might be a bit more than a pinch, but a smidgen is probably a half a pinch or less. At least that’s mine. But I could be wrong. There doesn’t seem to be an official guideline anywhere, but I did manage to find this little chart stashed away in the pouch of a binder where I keep my own recipes…
Measurement - kitchen equivalence chart
^^^Now that’s a start. 1/8-teaspoon or less approximates a pinch. So a dash is a bit more than that? And if my guess of a smidgen is 1/2 to 1/3 of a pinch, then a dash is probably equal to a pinch plus a smidgen. Or maybe less. ::sigh::

What if that wonderful recipe you found is meant to serve 4 or 6 people, but you’re only cooking for 2 or for yourself? This chart might be a great help for you if you need to make 1/2 or 1/3 of any recipe…
Measurement - half and third of recipe
^^^Another alternative, if the recipe freezes well, is to make the whole shebang, then divide what you won’t eat immediately into portions and freeze them. That’s what I do with soups, stews, and pasta or rice dishes. Make sure you have enough freezer space.

And what about that great dish you saw on one of Nigella Lawson’s cooking segments? Only one problem. She’s British, and all her measurements and cooking temperatures are in metric. You’re American, and you don’t know a centimeter from a kilogram. So what do you do? Try this handy-dandy metric conversion chart…
Measurement - metric conversion chart
^^^It covers the most common measurements and temperatures used in cooking.

In most cases dashes, smidgens and a very minor miscalculation in conversion might not make that much of a difference if you’re making soup or spaghetti sauce. Most of this type of savory cooking is a mixture, so if you screw up a little you can add something else or disguise it in some other way. Where you have to be precise is in baking, because baking is more science than cooking…if you added a dash of something instead of a pinch or even a smidgen, the results could be less than desirable.

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