The trials and tribulations of a new knitter...

Bananas: The Best Fruit Ever

Bananas, arguably the most distinctive of all fruit because instead of coming from a tree like other fruits, it comes from large plants that are of relation to the orchid and lily family.

Bananas are a perfect part of anyone's diet, since to maintain a healthy lifestyle, one should meet one's daily requirement of five fruits and vegetables. It's no wonder bananas are one of the most popular fruits in all of America. They provide a source of energy and they are available year round. Similar to other fruits and vegetables, bananas do not contain any sodium, fat, or cholesterol. With bananas being a part of a healthy balanced diet, one may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer as well as heart disease.

Bananas are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, fiber and are rich in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is important because a lack of it can cause insomnia, weakness and irritability. Potassium is important for helping muscles flex and bend properly during active work and it also reduces the chance of cramping up. Potassium may also help in reducing the chance of high blood pressure and stroke. It regulates blood pressure. An average-sized banana obtains about 400 mg of potassium and contains 110 calories with 4 grams of fiber. On top of being easy to digest, they also contain many carbohydrates, one of our main sources of energy.

Even those who get sugar cravings can be satisfied with a banana as its great taste can be a substitute for unhealthy sweets such as candy bars and gum. The banana even provides it's own wrapper with its peel, just like any other kind of tasty sweet. However, the difference is that it is healthy.

Bananas may also naturally help people overcome depression, as research shows that serotonin and norephinephrine exist in bananas.

Bananas also are great for babies. There's a reason why bananas are often the first food that's solid given to babies. They are easy to digest because they don't have fat and not many babies are allergic to them. The taste is also great and the amount of energy provided is great for kids that are growing up.

Yellow bananas are selected for eating and green ones should be used for ripening or cooking. Ones with brown specks should be used for baking cookies, bread and muffins. As they ripen, the starch in bananas turns into sugar, which makes them taste sweeter and sweeter. They're also great as a side dish for foods like cereal, salads, smoothies, shakes and yogurt.

Bananas should be stored at room temperature until they reach the ripeness that you prefer. Once that happens, you can put them in your fridge for storage. The banana peel will get darker in the fridge but the banana itself will still stay perfectly fine and tasty. One way to ripen bananas faster is to put them in a brown paper bag overnight. It works well with other kinds of fruit too.


Homemade Chocolate

It is easy to make impressive and delicious homemade chocolates for family and friends at Easter or anytime. You can purchase Easter chocolate molds at most specialty or discount stores and a wide variety of chocolate at your local supermarket. With a bit of time and patience you will soon be turning out gorgeous homemade chocolates.

Types of Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. It is stronger and richer than milk or white chocolate and is usually the preferred choice for cooking.

Milk chocolate contains the same ingredients as dark chocolate but has added milk solids. It is sweeter, creamier, softer in texture and less intense than dark chocolate.

White chocolate doesn't contain cocoa solids, only cocoa butter blended with sugar, milk solids and flavorings, such as vanilla. It is rich, creamy and sweeter than milk chocolate.

Eating chocolate - dark, milk and white - can be used for cooking. Dark varieties include bitter, semi-sweet and sweet. Bitter chocolate has up to 80% cocoa liquor and butter with a minimal amount of sugar. Sweet chocolate has a higher proportion of sugar and vanilla to cocoa butter.

Good-quality cooking chocolate can be found in the baking aisle of supermarkets. It is similar in taste to eating chocolate, but a small amount of cocoa butter has been replaced with vegetable fat to make it easier to melt, able to set without tempering. Cheaper than normal eating chocolate.

Compound chocolate is sold in blocks or buttons and can be found in the baking aisle of supermarkets. The cocoa butter has been replaced with vegetable fat or oil, making it easier to melt and to set at room temperature without tempering. It lacks the flavour and texture of other chocolates, but is perfect for kids' cooking.

Melting Chocolate

Chocolate can be melted in several different ways including on the stove, in the microwave or in the oven.

Stove Top – put chocolate in a clean, dry, heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure no water or steam enters the bowl of chocolate, or it the chocolate could seize. Stir constantly over medium to low heat until the chocolate has melted.

Microwave – put chocolate in a clean, dry, microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 1 minute on medium/high then stir. Cook for another 30 seconds then stir again, continue until chocolate has all melted.

Stove – preheat oven to 160 C. Put chocolate in a clean, dry, heatproof bowl. Turn oven off then place the bowl in the oven for 10 minutes minutes. Remove and stir, then place back in oven if required for several minutes, remove and stir again.

Tips for Melting Chocolate

* Break chocolate into even sizes pieces before melting.

* Use a metal spoon to stir chocolate; wooden and plastic spoons retain moisture that can cause the chocolate to seize.

* Always use a metal, glass or ceramic bowl to melt chocolate.

Making Homemade Chocolates

1. Melt your chocolate, (see above), then stir thoroughly to remove all lumps.

2. Pour melted chocolate into the moulds until they are filled to the top.

3. Tap the moulds with your fingertips to remove air bubbles from chocolate.

4. Let chocolates set, until hard.

5. After your chocolates have completely set and hardened, carefully pop them out of the mold.

6. Use a butter knife to trim off any excess chocolate around the edges.

Tips for using Chocolate Moulds

* Never wash your chocolate molds with soapy water. The soapy water will remove the shine of the mold, making it difficult to get the chocolate off. Just wash in hot water.

* Always dry your molds carefully after washing. Water spots can also cause spots where the chocolate won't release easily from the mould.

* If your molds are sticking, very lightly coat them with a thin layer of vegetable oil.

* If you make a mistake, or if extra chocolate dribbles in the wrong places - don't touch it while it's still wet. Place the chocolates in the fridge or freezer to harden, then you can easily just pick off the parts you don't want there.

How to Store Chocolate

Chocolate should be wrapped in alfoil and placed in an airtight container. Store in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. Do not store in the refrigerator.

Unopened chocolate has a shelf life of 12 months and opened chocolate, properly wrapped and stored has a shelf life of 3 months. (However it would never last this long at my house!)

Chocolate Terms

Seize – Chocolate will seize up when small amounts of liquid mix with it, it becomes a thick grainy mass that cannot be remelted or used.

Chocolate Bloom – White spots that appear on chocolate, caused by the chocolate being heated and cooled too quickly. This can also occur when chocolate is refrigerated, it does not affect the quality and can still be eaten.

Tempering - A technique used to stabilize chocolate with a high cocoa butter content through a melting and cooling process so the chocolate will set firm and shiny at room temperature.


Vegetarian Soup Recipe

Here are 3 great vegetarian soup recipes for you to make and try.


1 lb. each of artichokes and potatoes, 1 Spanish onion, 1 oz. of butter, 1 pint of milk, and pepper and salt to taste.

Peel, wash, and cut into dice the artichokes, potatoes, and onion. Cook them until tender in 1 quart of water with the butter and seasoning. When the vegetables are tender rub them through a sieve. Return the liquid to the saucepan, add the milk, and boil the soup up again. Add water if the soup is too thick. Serve with Allinson plain rusks, or small dice of bread fried crisp in butter or vege-butter.


4 good-sized carrots, 1 head of celery, 1 onion, 3 oz. of Allinson wholemeal bread without crust, 1 oz. of butter, pepper and salt, and 1 blade of mace.

Wash, scrape, and cut the carrots into dice. Prepare and cut up the onions and celery. Set the vegetables over the fire with 3 pints of water, adding the mace and seasoning. Let all cook until quite soft, which will probably be in 1-1/2 hours. If the carrots are old, they will take longer cooking. When the vegetables are tender, rub all through a sieve, return the soup to the saucepan, add the butter, allow it to boil up, and serve with snippets of toast.


2 bunches of leeks, 1-1/2 pints of milk, 1 oz. of butter, 1 lb. of potatoes, pepper and salt to taste, and the juice of a lemon.

Cut off the coarse part of the green ends of the leeks, and cut the leeks length ways, so as to be able to brush out the grit. Wash the leeks well, and see no grit remains, then cut them in short pieces. Peel, wash, and cut up the potatoes, then cook both vegetables with 2 pints of water. When the vegetables are quite tender, rub them through a sieve. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add the butter, milk, and seasoning, and boil the soup up again. Before serving add the lemon juice; serve with snippets of toast.