Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rock Candy



Kids love candy, I mean what kid doesn't? So how could I make candy part of a learning experience? Well a few good ideas came to mind, but the one that stood out the most was Rock Candy.

Rock Candy is fun to make because you don't get instant gratification, instead over time you see these crystals growing out of seemingly nothing into this beautiful yet seductively sweet prize, and the kids have learned about Chemistry and Earth Science without even knowing it.

To make rock candy you need a good amount of sugar, roughly 1 lb for every 2 cups of solution, this is because you need to make what is called a super saturated solution.
In Chemistry we learn that all solvents, things we dissolve other things into, have a point at which they can no longer dissolve the solute, what we put into the solvent to dissolve, when this happens it is called a saturated solution.  However, to go from a saturated solution, to a super saturated solution we need to temporarily change the solubility, how well the solvent can dissolve the solute, we do this in a sugar/water solution by raising the temperature of the water to boiling. Once the water boiling we continue to add sugar until it can no longer dissolve the sugar, leaving us with yet another saturated solution. As the sugar/water solution cools to room temperature the water's solubility returns to its original proponents, creating a super saturated solution.  The excess dissolved sugar has no choice but to revert, meaning change back, into crystal form; in chemistry we call this process precipitation, and the crystals the precipitate, what has come out of the solution in solid form.
This crystal formation is where we bring in some really fun Earth Science.  See as the water cools and evaporates the solution begins to be more and more saturated meaning that more and more of the sugar needs to leave the solution. In this attempt to leave the solution they cling to any "seed" material they can, including the sides of the container and your string/stick. As these seed crystals form they attract other sugar crystals to form atop them molecule by molecule.  Your finished rock candy will be made up of roughly a quadrillion, or a million-million, sugar molecules attached to your string/stick. These crystals should be clearly defined in monoclinic crystals, which are crystals with sharp right angles and smooth sides of various sizes. This process is similar to how crystals such as quartz are made in caves today, except this is much more tasty!


Rock Candy

Ingredients
3-5 cups sugar, more may be needed
2 cups water
food coloring, optional
candy flavoring, optional

Directions
Seed your string/stick so that crystal formation has a "preferred" place to attach.

If using string: string should be 2/3 the length of intended jar/cup depth. Wet string, roll in sugar, lay flat on a piece of wax paper to dry completely.  Dry time can take a few days, so plan in advance.

If using a stick: no prep is necessary, but seeding provides a better surface for crystal formation.  Wet stick, roll in sugar, allow to dry completely.

Heat the water in the saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
Pour about 1/4 cup of sugar into the boiling water, stirring until it dissolves.
Keep adding more and more sugar, each time stirring it until it dissolves, until no more will dissolve. This will take time and patience and it will take longer for the sugar to dissolve each time. Be sure you don't give up too soon. Once no more sugar will dissolve, remove it from heat. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Pour sugar/water solution into your container. If you wish to add flavors and colors now would be the time. Put enough food coloring in the solution, make sure you add enough coloring that the solution is many shades darker than your intended result. Add in your candy flavoring, we used 1/4-1/2 dram of flavoring oil per 2 cup container. Stir well with spoon or unseeded stick.
Gently suspend your stick/string in the solution, try to keep the stick/string from touching the bottom or sides of the container or the crystals will attach the stick/string to the container.
Cover lightly as to not slow down the evaporation process, but to keep out dust.
Place in an area where it will not be disturbed for seven days.

My husband attacked the containers with tape to keep them from moving
Feel free to check your crystal growth over the next few days, but be sure not to disturb the containers! After 7 days you should have sufficient crystal growth, remove from solution and allow to dry. 
Enjoy!
Aeries' solution after 14 hours
Safety Note:  When working with the sugar-water solution an adult should be present.  When you heat sugar to super high temperatures it can create some very nasty burns. Be safe and use the necessary safety equipment.

This experiment is still in process, check back later for updates. This is also cross-posted from my DIY page.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tarragon Parsley Chicken





Hi I’m Marvel’s Husband, I help out with the cooking in the house and this is my first entry on here. Since our kids are picky when it comes to meat we have to be creative in how to serve it to them. Since we always have chicken in the deep freezer that ends up being a main part of our diets but our kids get bored of having the same thing over and over so we have to get creative. My wife also prefers to eat chicken over any other animal protein. So one night while trying to find something healthy to make for dinner I put together some spices and baked up my own version of Tarragon Parsley Chicken.

So I designed the spices portion of this recipe to have a lot so that you can just pull out the pre-made mixture whenever you need it. You can scale it up or down depending on how big your storage jar is.


Spices
Tarragon | 1 Tbsp
Basil | 1 Tbsp
Parsley | 1 Tbsp
Onion powder | ¾ tsp
White pepper | ¼ tsp (or to taste)

Boneless/Skinless chicken breast | 3
Bay leaves | 1/per chicken breast
Butter | ½ Tbsp/chicken breast
Garlic Clove | 3 crushed cloves
Directions

1.      Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2.      Take the Tarragon, Basil, Parsley, Onion Powder, and White Pepper and pour them into your mortar and pestle (you can also use a blender or food processer). Grind them together and then either set aside or pour into a spice jar.

3.      Thaw chicken if frozen, then rinse off chicken and pat it dry with a paper towel. Put chicken on plate and season meat to taste on both sides with the Tarragon mixture.

4.      Take sheet of tin foil, enough to fully enclose chicken in, break up and place half of your butter on bottom for chicken to rest on, also place your bay leaves where you will put the chicken. Put the chicken on top of the bay leaves and butter, then top off with the remainder of the butter.


5.      Now to close up the tin foil, you take the long sides and fold them up above the chicken like a tent, then fold or crimp them closed. Next, roll up the open ends so that your chicken is completely sealed.

6.      Place your tin foil chicken tent in the oven where it’ll camp out at a toasty 350 degrees for 35-40min.

7.      Very important – DON’T PEAK IN THE TENT! Think of it as if you are changing in your tent. You wouldn’t want anyone to see you before you are finished, the same goes for the chicken. The sealed environment allows for natural juices in the chicken to steam cook the meat.

8.      When the timer goes off, take the tent out of the oven and very carefully open up a small hole in the top of the tent so that you can check the temperature of the meat with a meat thermometer. The temperature should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s not there yet, seal it back up and place in oven for another 5-10min.

9.      When finished I suggest that you serve it on top of a bed of rice with a spinach salad on the side. But you can make it your own and serve it with cotton candy if you would like to.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hawaiian Style Macaroni




If you read my previous post on Shoyu Chicken, you will know my deep love of Hawaii and of their famous plate lunches.  This is the amazing macaroni salad that goes along side the meat to complete the plate lunch.  It is amazingly simple, yet tastes amazing, it is truly sinfully delicious.

I edited the recipe just a touch to add a bit of sugar that I felt the recipe was lacking, though this could be due to my onion not being overly sweet, I would suggest leaving out the sugar until you've tasted the salad first.  
The last time I was in Hawaii I caught a shot of a beautiful double rainbow.

Hawaiian Style Macaroni Salad

Ingredients
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp grated white onion
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste 
1 tsp sugar, to taste, optional

Directions
Grate onion, set aside. Cook macaroni until just tender in salted water. Strain and rinse in cold running water, stir macaroni thoughally. This rinses off the excess starches that make it sticky as well as quickly cools the macaroni stopping the cooking cycle, which otherwise would continue for 3-5 minutes after being removed from heat.
Pour cool macaroni into a large bowl, stir mayonnaise, salt, onion, and pepper into the noodles until well combined. Taste, mixture should have a mild sweetness, add sugar as needed.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If the salad seems dry add a bit of milk, 1 tbsp at a time or a little more mayonnaise.

Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken



I love Hawaii, I miss Hawaii, and I dream about Hawaii.  However, financially I can't afford to hop on a plane and go visit Hawaii.  For me, one of the biggest things that sticks out when I travel is the food; if the food's not worth eating, you won't see me returning, and let me tell you, Hawaii has some of the best food I've tasted.  My favorite part of Hawaiian food was the hole in the wall restaurants where the locals would eat and not the super trendy, super spendy tourist spots, where you could get some amazing food for some rock bottom prices.  One of those such meals was the "plate lunch" where you got a heaping scoops of meat, rice and macaroni salad.

This style plate lunch has been becoming more and more famous with all the little Hawaiian style restaurants popping up here and there.  Their food is good, don't get me wrong, however, like my ability to hop on a plane to Hawaii, there's no way I can afford $8 a plate for my family of five on a recurrent basis. Lets also not forget that both my husband and son can eat not one, but two plates each.

Hungry for Hawaiian food, I looked up some recipes and stumbled upon Heather Likes Food, who had not just the macaroni salad, but also the chicken.  Oh happy day.  I immediately went to the store and bought the three missing ingredients to the recipe.  I put it all together, except for the extra sauce, and waited.  Oh, how would this taste? Would it be as good as the real thing? I have to say that it was nothing short of amazing, if this isn't an authentic recipe, I would be surprised!

Enjoy!
Marvel

Me, enjoying a scenic hike on Kauai

Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken

Ingredients
Chicken:
3 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped
1 1/2 C soy sauce*
1 1/2 C water
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 in piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Extra Sauce:
1/4 C soy sauce*
1/4 C water
1/4 C + 2 tbsp sugar

Directions
Chicken:
Chop the ginger and mince the garlic, set aside.
Chop chicken thighs into slightly larger than bite size pieces, they will shrink to bite size in cooking process. Place chicken in a large pot on the stove top or in a slow-cooker.
Combine soy sauce, water, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, ginger and garlic in a bowl, stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over chicken and stir until all chicken is immersed in sauce.
Stove top-
Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 1 hour at a low simmer until the chicken is tender.

Slow cooker-
Cook on LOW for up to 8 hours or HIGH for 4.

Extra Sauce-
Combine all ingredients, stir until sugar is dissolved.

* using gluten free soy sauce can make this recipe gluten free.