Friday, July 29, 2016

Preparing a Fresh Mango

Mangos are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They're related to cashews and pistachios, have been harvested for over 5,000 years, and their shape is the basis for the paisley pattern. Mangos are stone fruits that grow on trees that are up to 100 feet tall.
Mangos are delicious, with yellow to orange edible flesh, but be careful with the skin, stem, and sap. People who have a sensitivity to poison ivy (urushiol) can suffer from dermatitis if the skin, stem or sap touches them. However, with careful handling, the flesh of the mango is not a problem for those people.
What do I look for when I purchase mangos?
 When you purchase a mango, do not be concerned with the color. A pink mango does not indicate ripeness. When you purchase mangos, they tend to be hard. Look for unblemished, unwrinkled mangos. Let them sit on your counter to ripen for a few days. Ripe mangos will yield gently to pressure from your finger. It will be slightly soft, but not gooey, like a ripe peach.
How do you prepare a mango?
Mangos are most delicious when eaten raw, although cooked mangos make tasty jams, chutneys, and pureed drinks. No matter how you eat them, you need to remove the flesh from the skin.
First, wash and dry your mango.
 Place on a cutting board. Make sure your knife is sharp.
 The first step is to divide the mango in thirds, lengthwise. In the center of the mango is a large pith - essentially, a fuzzy pit.
 Slice the mango in thirds, leaving the center part (pith) aside for now.
 Taking one of the sides, slowly drag your knife through the flesh as close to the skin as possible without slicing through the skin. Repeat, scoring the fruit in parallel lines.
 Turn the mango 90 degrees  and slice the flesh again. It will look like a grid pattern.
 Now, invert the mango by gently pulling the ends down pushing the outer center of the skin up. Do this as if you were turning the fruit inside out. Repeat this with the other side of the mango.
 Now, return to the pith. There is some edible flesh around it, but not nearly as much as you would expect.
 Carefully remove the skin.
 Then shave off the edible flesh. You will feel tension in the knife when you reach the pith. Do not force the knife through the pith, because it is not tasty. Just shave off 1/4" or so bits from around the pith.
 Here is the mango taken apart, with the flesh removed from the pith.
 Return to the inverted sides of the mango and gently slice off the pieces that stand up.
 The cutting board shows the unusable material from a prepared mango and the bowl shows all the edible mango flesh.
It's a bit of work to get the flesh, but it is truly delicious.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sketching: Chocolate Bark Cakes or Drip Cakes

I'm working on making a German's Chocolate Cake for a birthday party this weekend and I wanted to do something different. In year's past, I've made the traditional looking cake in parts 1 and parts 2, with my added twist of chocolate frosting and cherries on top. I also did a larger one here. This year, I thought I'd make one with chocolate shards, chocolate bark, on top. In studying these cakes, I learned that they are not called Bark Cakes, but drip cakes for the ganache that is dripping from the top.
It's funny because when I look at these cakes, I notice the bark, not the drips.
I plan on making the bark with German Chocolate Flavors - chocolate, caramel, coconut
And I plan on incorporating frosting dollops on the cake as well, because, everyone loves chocolate frosting!
Here's another idea using the bark around the case, instead of on top. This way can use more of a traditional look - with the coconut topping on top of the cake and the bark around the perimeter.
Now, to decide which cake to make! Any opinions?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bookmaking: License Plate Book

 I've continued binding unusual things into books. I made a seashell book here and a fabric book here. This time, I made a book from old license plates.
 I took some license plates and drilled holes in one side. I folded papers to make the pages (signatures), gathered tools, and began to bind.
 I placed the layers together and then sewed the bindings together.
And now I have a bound book. I haven't filled it with anything, but am thinking of doing sketches of NH foliage, wildlife, and scenes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark is an easy to make candy that can be tailored to almost any occasion. At the most simple, it's just thin chocolate broken into shards or sliced into pieces. At its most elegant, it contains luscious chocolate, dried fruit, salted seeds or nuts, and contains a mix of flavors.
The secret to making a tasty bark is to use tasty chocolate. You can use high quality chocolate or even Candy Melts that are made in all sorts of colors.
The steps are simple:
Melt chocolate and spread it thinly onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. (Add additional layers of chocolate, if desired and swirl them together, or marble them while still liquid.)
Choose from the toppings, candies, nuts, seeds, dried fruits. Make sure they are chopped and in bite size pieces and sprinkle them on top of the still molten chocolate.
Let mixture harden.
Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Now for the fun. Choose from various chocolates and toppings. Mix and match from below.

CHOCOLATE - white chocolate, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, Candy Melts, Almond Bark, peanut butter chips, caramel chips, cinnamon chips, mint chips
CANDIES - MnM's, snickers, peanut butter cups, Reeces Pieces, Pop Rocks, Kit Kat, Twix, Junior Mints, Peppermints, Dried Cereal, marshmallows, Oreos, Cookies
DRIED FRUITS - apples, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, raisins, figs, dates, coconut, mango, candied orange, Pomegranate Seeds
SALTY- pistachios, pecans, walnuts, macadamias, cashews, pine nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, plantain chips, almonds, pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips, popcorn
TINY SWEETS -Sprinkles, candy pearls, nonpareils
DUST - salt crystals, chili powder, powdered sugar, cinnamon, instant coffee, red pepper flakes

Monday, July 25, 2016

Project: Polymer Clay Love Birds Wedding Cake Topper

I wanted to find a wedding cake topper for a 26th wedding anniversary cake. I couldn't find a set, so I decided I needed to make a pair. I started out in my sketchbook making sets of lovebirds.  The only thing I knew, was that I wanted them to be light blue, be a bride and groom, and be able to balance on their own.
I looked through my sketches and discarded some ideas for efficiency and ease of use. I eliminated the birds that appeared to be flying and the ones with legs.
I liked the top hat for the groom and the flower hat for the bride. Then, I got to work.
I found some colors of polymer clay, but didn't like the blue, so I combined turquoise and light blue to make the shade of blue that I like. The pink was also a little too deep, so I added some white polymer clay to that as well. I conditioned the clay and made the shapes. The process is hard work and leaves my hands very messy, so I didn't take any pictures. Sorry.
 I sculpted the birds and the large heart, baked them in the dedicated oven and let them cool to room temperature. Then, I added 3 coats of gloss and let them cure for 24 hours.
I love how them came out. They were a success.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


This week has been full of blessings.
I'm continuing to work on paintings. I love to research, explore, and then work on my art.
I played tennis with some wonderful ladies this week.
We celebrated our 26th anniversary and received thoughtful wishes from family and friends.  Thank you all! Our daughters made us a beautiful origami flower filled basket! So beautiful.
Jon knows that I love mugs of tea, so he found this hilarious mug for me!
Jon and I walked on the beach and these pelicans barely blinked an eye. It was beautiful to see them in their natural habitat. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Buck Moon

July's full moon was on July 19th. Typically, called the Buck Moon by Farmer's Almanac, because bucks begin to grow new antlers at this time. It's also been known as the Thunder Moon due to the increased storms during this month. 
Next month's full moon rises on August 18th. It's called the Sturgeon Moon due to sturgeon being plentiful in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. It's also known as the Green Corn Moon.