Fact of the Week: December 23, 2014

On this day in 1888 artist Vincent Van Gogh cut of his own ear in a depressed state. Shortly after he checked himself in to a mental institution.

Cite: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history


Fact of the Week: December 17, 2014

Charles Dickens' classic story "A Christmas Carol" was published 171 years ago today.

Cite: History.com


Fact of the Week: December 1, 2014

On average you share your birthday with more than 16 million people. Happy birthday to all those 16 million people!

Cite: http://skepdic.com/lawofnumbers.html


Fact of the Week: November 26, 2014

Taylor's new album '1989' sold 1.287 million units in the first week, making it the largest sales week for an album since 2002 and the first album released this year to sell a million copies! Taylor is the first act to ever have three albums sell a million copies in one week.



Fact of the Week: November 18, 2014

Last week the Rosetta Satellite landed a probe, Philae, safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or C-G for short. This marks the first time scientists have been able to look at a comet up close. Their main goal is to learn more about the origins of our solar system.

Cite: NASA


Fact of the Week: November 10, 2014

This last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall,  that separated East and West Germany during the Cold War.



Fact of the Week: October 29, 2014

A total of 50,900 Acres of pumpkins were harvested in the U.S. in 2013.  Which had an estimated value of $149.9 million. Illinois was the leading producer of pumpkins in the country, with an estimated 547.6 million pounds of this vined gourd

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Page 9 and 38


Fact of the Week: October 21, 2014

In Iceland names are regulated. Childrens first name must be of Icelandic origins. Also in the law is a provision that states a first name may not cause its bearer embarrassment.



Fact of the Week: October 13, 2014

Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created the monster, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and not the name of the monster itself.

Cite: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


Fact of the Week: October 6, 2014

Joanne "Jo" Rowling published her books under a pseudonym because her publisher’s thought that a woman’s name would not appeal to the target audience of young boys. Jo got the “K” in J.K. Rowling, form Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name.

Cite: http://www.jkrowling.com/en_US/#/about-jk-rowling


Fact of the Week: September 30, 2014

59 years ago James Dean died in a car crash on this day. He died at the age of 24.

Cite: History.com 


Fact of the Week: September 15, 2014

This month marks the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.



Fact of the Week: September 8, 2014

With the success of the Kepler telescope to find exoplanets, we have a confirmed count of nearly 1,700 planets outside our solar system. Kepler finding 715 of those exoplanets orbiting 305 stars, so far.

Cite: NASA


Fact of the Week: September 23, 2014

Bats can only have one pup a year. Only female bats will enter a home or building. They do this to have a place to have their babies.

Fact of the Week: September 5, 2014

Giant Kelp, in opportune conditions, can grow up to 2 feet in a day, and reach a towering height of 175ft.

Cite: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/plants-and-algae/giant-kelp


Fact of the Week: August 25, 2014

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the cinematic debut of the Wizard of Oz! Which opened with modest box office success in 1939, but grew in popularity as it was televised in 1956.

Cite: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-wizard-of-oz-debuts 


Fact of the Week: August 19, 2014

There has been a 17% increase in the number of college graduates in the United States from 1940 to 2010, as shown from census data.

Cite: Census


Fact of the Week: August 4, 2014

Daniel Radcliffe went through 160 pairs of glasses and around 70 wands during filming for the Harry Potter film series.



Fact of the Week: August 6, 2014

Mosquitoes are responsible for killing more humans than any other animal.  They have killed more people than those who have died in war.
Mosquitoes transmitting malaria kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more every year. Tens of millions more are killed and debilitated by a host of other mosquito-borne diseases, including filariasis, yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis.


Fact of the Week: July 21, 2014

Today marks what would be Ernest Hemingway's 115th birthday!



Fact of the Week: July 14, 2014

The U.S. is the third most populous country, but it barely adds up to even 1/4 of the top two countries, China and India's, respective populations.
Cite: World Factbook (CIA)


Fact of the Week: June 30, 2014

There are an estimated 7,100 languages spoken worldwide. About 80% of them are spoken by less than 100,000 people. However, about 50 of those languages are only spoken by 1 person!

Cite: World factbook (CIA)


Fact of the Week: July 7, 2014

The world birth rate is: 18.7 births/1,000 population. This rate brakes down to about 255 worldwide births per minute or 4.3 births every second (2014 est.)

Cite: World Factbook, CIA

Fact of the Week: June 23, 2014

Barn Owls (Tyto alba), and at least eight other genera of owl, have asymmetrical openings to their ears, meaning one ear is higher than the other. A sound coming from above will seem slightly louder in the ear with the higher opening.

Cite: https://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/How_Owls_Hunt.html


Fact of the Week: June 15, 2014

In the 1920's and 1930's a movement to combine both Father's day and Mother's day into a Parent's day arose. However due to the Depression and later on an increased in commercial marketing to buy presents on these two events, momentum for Parent's day dwindled. Although in 1994 congress passed a national Parent's Day that occurs on the fourth Sunday of July. 



Fact of the Week: June 10, 2014

On June 10, 1752, Benjamin Franklin famously flew a kite during a thunderstorm to collect a charge in a Leyden jar when it was struck by lightning, enabling him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning.
Cite: History.com


Fact of the Week: June 4, 2014

Commuting to work by bike had the largest percentage increase of any form of commuting, from the years 2000 to 2008-2012 census data.  It increased from about 488,000 bike commuters to 786,000.

Cite: http://www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/



Fact of the Week: May 12, 2014

Blue eyes appears to have originated some where between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and where highly selected for. Scientists aren't sure what the advantages of blue eyes are but there are two leading theories as to why they where passed on: blue eyed people are highly desirable sexually or maybe they hitchhiked with a more advantageous gene, light skin.


Fact of the Week: May 5, 2014

Owls, unlike other birds of prey, are completely covered by feathers.  There are even feathers on their legs. Their feathers have frayed edges to allow for silent flight. 
Cite: http://www.tetonraptorcenter.org/great-horned-owl-species-profile.html


Golden Snitches

These are a wonderful treat to pair with butterbeer! They can add a lot of fun to any Potter celebration, which I have a lot of apparently... 
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts and the fall of the Dark Lord. I personally can see no better way to celebrate than to read the tale of the Three Brothers and eat some Snitches. 

Any way you can follow these directions, just make it with yellow cake and white chocolate with yellow food coloring. And while the chocolate is setting, place white chocolate covered pretzels as wings on the sides. Toothpicks can help keep these in place. To let the wings set even more firmly let the chocolate cool in the freezer. Also agave nectar can be replaced with honey as I've recently discovered, and personally prefer.

Enjoy these treats that open at the close!


Gluten free twix bars

I made these for my Aunt  who is gluten intolerant and hasn’t had a twix bar in years. So I found this recipe here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/thousand-dollar-bars-recipe
And modified it a bit. These are really great snack to share with friends and this recipe makes a lot. 

Twix Bars 

shortbread layer
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups All-Purpose Flour (I used Pamela's gluten-free flour)

caramel layer
1 1/2 cups caramel, cut into small chunks
3 tablespoons heavy cream

chocolate layer
2 cups chopped milk chocolate or dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven 300 F. 

Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla. Add in flour and keep beating on medium speed till it all comes together. 
Butter a 9” X 13” pan or line it with parchment paper (I’ve done both now and they both work well). Then press the dough into the pan with lightly floured fingertips. Prick the crust all over with a fork to prevent air bubbles. 
Bake the crust for 35 to 45 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. 
Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before the caramel layer. 

Caramel Layer
Melt the caramel chunks with the heavy cream in a saucepan on low heat. When the caramel is smooth (free of lumps, this can take about 5 minutes or less) pour it over the cooled crust and spread out evenly. Then allow the whole thing to cool completely in the refrigerator, till the caramel is firm. This may take about 30 minutes. 

Chocolate Layer
At this step you have some choices you can choose to cut the caramel and crust layers into small strips (like the size of twix bars) or leave it in the pan. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 50 seconds then remove and stir. Put back in the microwave  for 10 second intervals till all the chocolates are melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate on top of the caramel. Or if you have cut it into strips dip them into the chocolate (you might need more chocolate if you choose to dip). 

Let cool (can take 30 minutes in the refrigerator) and cut up and serve.


Fact of the Week: April 29, 2014

California has the most National Parks in the U.S. with 9 total: Yosemite, Sequoia, Redwood, Pinnacles, Lassen, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and the Channel Islands.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies!

These add the perfect red and white coloring to any holiday dessert table. I love these because they add a rich decadent chocolate flavor with sweet cheesecake. You no longer have to choose between brownie and cheesecake! With our indecisive cultural it's always better to eliminate more choices. You can really have the best of both worlds!

1 stick (1/2 cup) Butter Melted
1 1/4 cup Sugar (1 cup for brownie and 1/4 for cheesecake) 
1/4 cup Cocoa powder
pinch of salt
5 drops red food coloring 
1 teaspoon Apple Cider vinegar
3 eggs (2 for the brownie and one for the cheesecake)
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla (1 for brownie, 1/2 for cheesecake)  
3/4  cups flour
8oz (one packet) of cream cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F
To make brownie layer: 

Mix in the melted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, mixing after each addition. Whisk 2 eggs into the cocoa mix. Slowly add in the flour until lightly combined. Pour about 3/4 of the batter into a buttered or greased pan (8x8 works best for a thick brownie, but I used a slightly bigger pan and it was fine, just thinner as you can see). Set the rest aside to put on top of the cheesecake layer. 

Cheesecake Layer: 
Mix together softened Cream Cheese, 1 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla till creamed. Creamed is when it is light and fluffy in texture and smooth. Pour the mixture on top of the brownies, then add the last bit of the brownie mix on top of that. with a toothpick or butter knife mix just the top two layers together till the cream cheese is peeking through. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Fact of the Week: April 21, 2014

Today marks the 176th birthday of naturalist, writer and advocate of U.S. forest conservation, John Muir! He founded the Sierra Club and helped establish the Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.

Cite: Sierra Club


Fact of the Week: April 14, 2014

Today marks the 148th birthday of Anne Sullivan, the teacher of Helen Keller. She was a wonderful teacher and paved the way for education.


Fact of the Week: April 7, 2014

The middle star of Orion's sword is not actually a star but a nebula. A nebula is a place where new stars are "born".



Fact of the Week: March 17, 2014

On this day in 461 A.D., Saint Patrick, Christian missionary, bishop and apostle of Ireland, died. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick's death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. The first St. Patrick's Day parade, though, took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762.



Fact of the Week: March 24, 2014

Women in the United States now earn 48 percent of bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and 30 percent of the doctorates


Perfect Gluten Free Pie Crust

A great pie crust can make or break a pie. I find that since I've learned how to make a great crust I judge pies much more harshly now. It is not homemade in my opinion unless it has a flakey and fresh crust. So here are some of the things I've learned making gluten free pie crust, because this can be tricky. 

Amounts for only one pie crust bottom. Double for two, or if lattice topped. 
1 3/4 cups Pamela's Bread Mix
1 stick (8 TBSP) Butter (cold)
3 or 4 TBSP cold water (very cold is best)

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Cut up the butter into pea sized pieces. Add in bread mix and slowly add water while stirring, till dough comes together. 

Place wax paper on to large cutting board. Lay dough into paper and flatten with palm. Add another piece of wax paper on top and roll out dough to desired size and thickness.

Peel off top paper and invert into a lightly greased pie dish. Peel off second sheet and fix crust edge. I just use my thumb between my index and middle finger to get the wavy edge seen below. (Chill dough for 30 minutes if dough is too soft.) Poke the crust with a fork on the bottom several times to avoid air bubbles. Bake unfilled crust on bottom oven rack for 28-30 minutes***.

***However if you are planning to fill the pie with something that needs to be cooked, only place the crust in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then take it out, fill, and bake to the pie directions instructions.***


Fact of the Week: March 11, 2014

One this day in 1818 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein was published. It is considered the world's first sci-fi novel. 

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes!

These cupcakes were fun to make last year and were loved by many friends. I also personally believe that the Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting is the BEST frosting ever! 
They do take a bit of work, but worth it for some St. Patty's Day fun!!

So Yummy! 


Guinness Stout Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Jameson Whiskey Ganache Filling
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons Jameson whiskey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4oz unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream
4-6 drops green food coloring


Preheat oven to 350°F. (Good time to take out the cream cheese so it's room temp. before the frosting steps)

Bring 1 cup Guinness and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Take the mixture off the heat and add the cocoa powder and chocolate chips and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Using a mixer, beat eggs and then add sour cream and mix well. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix in mixer to combine--don't overmix. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.

Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean which can happen in about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely before coring for filling.

Heat the cream until simmering and then add in the chocolate chips and dark chocolate. Stir rapidly until smooth while on the heat. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Take the ganache off the heat and let it cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. A tip from the recipe I used was to put it in the fridge to cool off and check on it after 10 minutes.

Cupcakes Filled with Ganache
Meanwhile, use a 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer (or a knife in my case) to cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. Don't cut all the way to the bottom, about 2/3 down will do.  A slim spoon will help you get the center out. Either toss the scraps or eat them while you finish up the cupcakes.

Frosting Before the Green 
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer mix the room temperature cream cheese and butter on low to medium low speed until well incorporated. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar and beat until light and fluffy on medium speed. Drizzle in the Bailey’s, depending on how prominent you want the Irish cream flavoring to be. Then add in green food coloring. Mix until completely incorporated. Use a piping bag with tip of your choice and frost the cupcakes.  And Enjoy!


Fact of the Week: March 3, 2014

Lake Tahoe is estimated as forming somewhere between 2 billion and 3 billion years ago. 



Fact of the Week: February 17, 2014

Todays official holiday is called Washingtons Birthday and not Presidents Day according to the Federal government.  However George Washington's actual birthday was on February 11.




Fact of the Week: February 10, 2014

The US has hosted the most winter Olympics. The Olympics have been in Lake Placid twice, in 1932 and 1980, Squaw Valley in 1960, and in Salt Lake City in 2002.



Pink Champagne Cupcakes

So I made these Pink Champagne Cupcakes on Valentine's day. These ones are gluten free too. It was fun to make since I had to drink the leftover champagne of course since you can't re-cork it. I also made buttercream frosting to go with these. It was my first time making buttercream frosting. My friends liked the frosting, but honestly I am not a fan. I am much more partial to cream cheese frosting. I ended up giving these to my friends, or what was left after I ate them with the leftover champagne that is. 

Buttercream frosting: 

Ingredients for Cupcakes:
3 eggs, separated
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
2 1/4 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup pink champagne
4 drops of Red food coloring 

Buttercream frosting Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks), softened
4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350°.

Separate eggs. Whip the whites until stiff.

In a separate mixing bowl, soften butter, add Pamela’s Mix and white sugar. Blend for 1 minute on medium speed until the butter is distributed throughout. Add 1/4 cup milk with the vanilla flavoring and almond flavoring, mix for 1 minute on medium. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk with the egg yolks, mix together on medium for 1 minute. Fold in stiff egg whites. Add in the champagne and food colors, mix till color is distributed throughout. 

Pour into cupcake pan lined with baking cups. Do not fill more than 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven door while baking. Cakes are done when it springs back to the touch. Pop out the cupcakes, and leave until completely cool. 

When ready make the Buttercream frosting (maybe while the cupcakes are cooking). 
Beat softened butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes.
Then add sifted confectioner's sugar and stir on low until incorporated.
Add vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream to the mix. Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides once or twice.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them! I added candy hearts for decoration. 


Fact of the Week: February 4, 2014

Nitrogen accounts for 78% of the atmosphere, oxygen 21% and argon 0.9%. These gases precentages stay fairly constant day to day.  The other atmospheric gases appear in trace ammounts and can vary day by day.



Yellow Cake (not from Box) with Chocolate Ganache

These where a request from a friend for his birthday. I really didn't want to make a box cake so I found this recipe on Pintrest and it was amazing! 

Source for the cupcakes:  Shelly Kaldunski's, Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup whipping cream


Preheat oven to 350F

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla to this mixture, and beat until well combined.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to the butter/sugar mixture, until no traces of flour remain.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling get the ganache ready:

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan over low heat-just until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the sides of the pan.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for a minute.  Whisk the chocolate chips and cream until smooth--let it cool for about 5 minutes.  Take a cupcake, turn it upside down, dip it in the ganache--let the excess drip off and turn the cupcake top side up--viola!  Do this with each cupcake until they are all coated with ganache. Let the cupcakes cool and serve. 


Fact of the Week: January 20, 2014

Two-thirds of Antarctica is a high, cold desert known as East Antarctica; This section has an average altitude of about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles), higher than the American Colorado Plateau. It has a land area about the size of Australia. There is enough water stored in the East Antarctic ice sheet to raise sea levels by 60 meter (197 feet).



Fact of the Week: January 27, 2014

The lungs of the world is not the rainforest but the oceans.  Phytoplankton is estimated to continburting more than half of all the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Oceanic Research Group
UCSB Science Line

Salted Caramel Cake Truffles

These bite sized cake truffles require no baking and have a great taste. The rolling of the cake around the caramel does take awhile to complete, but its worth the time! I brought these in to work for the solstice and pretty much everyone loved them! Except for the girl who is allergic to chocolate. Worst allergy ever, right? 
Sea Salt on the outside, caramel on the inside! 
3 cups Chocolate Cake Mix (I used Pamela's gluten free mix) 
3 Tblsp. Honey 
3/4 cups Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 bag of Caramels 
Melting Chocolate
Sea Salt  
In a mixing bowl combine Cake Mix, Honey and Sweetened Condensed Milk, and stir to combine.This mixture should be quite solid and not runny, but not so dry that you can’t mold it into balls. If you find that your mixture is a little too runny, add a touch more cake mix. If it’s a little too dry, add more sweetened condensed milk/honey.

After you've made the dough, cut the caramels into quarters. Roll the dough into a ball with a piece of caramel in the center. 

Lay parchment paper down on a cookie sheet or pan.
Melt the dipping chocolate, and dip the chilled cake batter balls into melted chocolate. After the balls are dipped in chocolate, place on parchment paper and sprinkle sea salt on top. 

Place truffles in freezer or fridge to set up.
Yields: 40 to 50 truffles depending on size preference. 


Fact of the Week: January 6, 2014

If you find a calendar from 1986, 1997 or 2003 laying around you can reuse it this year, since all the dates line up with 2014.

Image from Google