Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bacon and Chocolate is good. Very good!

Playing around with unusual flavor combinations for a new client - a Circus-themed candy shop - I discovered something very good, my friends: bacon and chocolate go real well together.

I went even further with my research and browsed a few pages dealing with "molecular gastronomy".

Here's what I presented to my client:

Dark chocolate with bacon bits, dehydrated apple chunks, and butterscotch chips.

He emailed me a few days later and reported that he "can't stop eating this stuff".

Meanwhile, I'm dipping baby koshers.

In dark chocolate, no less.

Photo by rumpleteaser. Thanks.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How To Really Support Our Troops - "Operation Helmet"

It's hard to imagine that years into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan our troops still don't have the proper helmet system designed to protect them from IED's and other sudden blast forces.

Whether it is the muddled bureaucracy, or the influence of special interest groups - serious blunders on the side of their leadership have left our heroes exposed to unnecessary deaths and lifelong brain injuries.

In 2004, Dr. Bob Meaders founded "Operation Helmet", a non-profit organization that provides the correct suspension pad systems free of charge to our soldiers - in the field and at home awaiting deployment. These upgrade kits cost under $100 and can be installed in about 15 minutes.

Can you imagine a better, faster, more direct and immediate way to save a life that might even save another?

Forget the "Made in China" ribbon stickers - support our troops! Really.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Have you "wordled", yet? What a fun little toy!

Check this out - "wordle" any text or web page and create a cloud with the most prominent words of the content.

You can play with the layout, fonts, and colors, too.

Boy, is this fun! >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Wordle!

I "wordled" my Squidoo Lensography. (Photo)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bavarians Enjoy Big Breakfasts

I was born and raised in Munich, Germany. So I know a thing or two about Bavarian breakfasts. Country folks like to get up early, everywhere in the world. There are cows to be milked, and other chores to be taken care of before the sun comes up. A quick cup of strong coffee and a piece of delicious breakfast bread serve well as a first breakfast. Around 9 o'clock in the morning, it's time for the all-important second (Bavarian) breakfast. Here is where it gets interesting. A good, nutritious beer is of utmost importance. It should not be too heavy on the stomach, and not too high in alcohol content, either. A yeasty wheat beer is just right. We call it "Weissbier". But what about the meats? We have two main options: Weisswurst or Leberkaese. And pretzels, of course. And sweet mustard, too. All this should be eaten before 11 a.m., because around 12:30 or 1:00. the pork roast with bread dumplings is awaiting consumption. Have you ever wondered why Bavarians are big and strong? Get your recipes and more detailed info on my page "Scratch Baking For A Bavarian Breakfast". Photo by on

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bake Sale For Squidoo Charities! W00t.

There's a new posse in town - the Squidoo Activists!

We're a core group of charity-friendly lensmasters who are committed to producing more revenue for existing and new charity programs through Squidoo. This is going to be great fun, and the payback will be huge, too. My contribution is a tutorial on how to make my famous "Tres Leches Coconut Macaroons".

Remember the law - the more you give, the more you receive.

Currently, we're running a charity bake sale. Lensmasters make pages on the topic "baking" and set the proceeds to charity. Check out what's in the group, already. Then go and make a lens yourself, and add it to the group. Deadline is July 24th.

Watch for next week's theme and make another lens for the chance to win a prize!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flavored Agave Nectar - A Reminder.

Much has been said and written about the benefits of agave nectar. It is a perfectly natural sweetener even suitable for diabetics due to it's low glycemic index rating - it won't cause a "sugar rush". Because agave nectar is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar, you can save on your calorie and carbohydrate intake by using less of it for the same sweetening power. So far, so good. Flavored agave nectar greatly expands the versatility of uses and promotes this healthy syrup into the condiment department. In addition to sweetening your coffee and tea, a few drizzles of lemon-flavored agave nectar quickly transform a rather ordinary piece of steamed fish into a palate-pleasing gourmet item. The secret here lies in the fact that when you address all taste buds simultaneously, this synergy creates a "flavor explosion" in your mouth. For exactly that reason, good chefs often add a little sugar or honey to their savory preparations. Aside from tickling the receptors for sour, salty, and bitter - the "sweet" buds get stimulated at the same time - and the the guests break out in "mmh-ing" compliments. The "Agasweet" brand flavored agave nectar offers 7 varieties: Pure Vanilla Pure Almond Lemon Cinnamon Peppermint Lavender Tangerine Ginger The flavoring agents are therapeutic-grade essential oils, except for Vanilla and Almond, which contain pure extracts. Imagine the possibilities for pancakes, waffles, cereals and yogurt! Amazingly, agave nectar has the quality of bringing out the flavors of any foods it is combined with. Take a handful of fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries and macerate them with a few squirts of Tangerine Ginger Agasweet. After an hour or so, enjoy a fresh fruit dessert unlike any you have ever tasted. The remaining juice is simply divine! Throw some steaks, chops, or chicken breasts on the grill. At serving time, glaze the meats with a drizzle of Cinnamon or Lemon Agasweet and your guests will wonder what you have done that makes everything taste so good. The best way to enjoy flavored agave nectar is by using it in the purest form possible - from the bottle onto the food. The subtle yet distinct flavors add a gentle accent to your dishes, without being overpowered by the food's natural flavors. Don't hesitate to go overboard with flavored agave nectar when it comes to desserts. Use it in whipped creams (or on top) and custards, as a fabulous sauce for cheese cakes and other pastries, or simply on top of your favorite ice cream. You'll be surprised at the enhancing properties of this natural syrup. Be adventurous - play with different flavor combinations and try something a bit different, too. The French have used culinary lavender for centuries in their rustic bistro fare. Combined with agave nectar, lavender works wonders on lamb roasts and in bread. Especially when paired with lemony dishes, lavender will quickly seduce you away from the initially unfamiliar flavor experience into a surprised awakening toward something new - and wonderful!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chef Karen Knows Best - The Power Of Cinnamon

Several times in the past few weeks, I've overheard my wife, Chef Karen, advising our farmers market customers on the antimicrobial power of cinnamon oil, as we use it in our Agasweet Cinnamon flavored agave nectar. I had been somewhat clueless in regard to this particular quality.

A couple of days ago, I found this article on the USDA Agricultural Research Service, touting the immense "antimicrobial punch" of cinnamon essential oils, along with the essences of oregano, thyme, and clove. Would you believe that these flavorful gifts from Mother Nature are strong enough to quell such food-borne pathogens as E. coli?

Learned something: listen to my wife. Learned something new?

There's quite a bit more info on essential oils and their culinary applications on my pages about Cooking with Lavender and Tangerine Ginger Dream Recipes. Have a look.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thinking Man's Guide To The Benefits Of Driving Like A Complete Idiot

Driving in L. A. is one thing - fast, furious, and (mostly) competent.

Driving in Austin, Texas is a different thing - fast, furious, and (mostly) moronic.

As a long-time resident of our beautiful city in the Texas hill country I feel obligated to (finally) speak up and do my part to remedy the situation. That's why I published the ultimate manual slash scientific handbook slash bible slash -

Thinking Man's Guide To The Benefits Of Driving Like A Complete Idiot

May the force be losing you.

Photo by CJSorg

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anonymous Alcoholic - A Superhero!

I made a Squidoo page about my personal experiences with (my) alcoholism - the bad and the good.

This lens was one of five winners of the Squidoo Superhero Charity Project and generated $500 for "Room to Read". Additionally, it was chosen to be the "Lens of the Day" for this weekend. Many honors - and I'm truly grateful.

These honors belong, of course, to my late AA sponsor, Buddy T., and the many recovering alcoholics around the world who carry the message to other alcoholics.

Aldous Huxley called the co-founder of AA - Bill W. - the "greatest social architect of the 20th century". The truth in this title is easy to recognize if you consider the staggering number of lives saved and transformed by the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The many responses on the page show that this topic is a timely as ever - possibly even more so as our living conditions get more and more depressing as we burden ourselves as a society with wars, greed, and cultural indifference with potentially horrifying consequences. It's very seductive to ease our mounting pain with booze and pills. It also makes everything worse.

Please join the conversation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Natural Viagra - Watermelon Rind

You might have concluded from reading the headline that I'll talk about two different topics. Wrong - it's one and the same: watermelon rind is natural viagra. Let Margaret Schaut tell you more about it. O.k., you're here already - let's talk about something else, too. Food prices have been climbing and climbing, and they will continue to do so. How do people cope with that? Read this interesting article in USA Today. Today's recommended blog posts: Michael Ruhlman on cast iron cook ware. Anthony Bourdain on summer vacation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Welcome to Bistro Le Marseillais!

Wouldn't you be elated if you knew that these two friendly folks were first-rate chefs and they wanted to cook for you?

Eric and Martine Pelegrin were the chefs at Austin's beloved Chez Nous Restaurant, when in the fall of 2003 they decided to go into business for themselves. I remember their days at the local farmers market - we bartered my sweets for their unbelievable pork rilette, salmon mousse, or a variety of other French specialties.

Soon they moved on to greater things. After a brief stint running a small but popular "supper club" in South Austin, Eric and Martine founded their new venture "Bistro Le Marseillais". For several years now, the Austin gourmet community can order from a gorgeous online menu and get their French heat-and-eat meals delivered to their door step. What a wonderful concept!

Eric and Martine are two chefs who won't cut corners. They get only the best ingredients they can find for their preparations, even if it means to drive a few extra miles or to pay more money for freight. We are blessed to have them around, here in good old Austin, Texas.

Another reason why I'm blogging about my dear chef buddies - Martine writes a weekly newsletter on the front page of their web site and I want you to read it often, whether you'll order or not. Her personal stories and her historical accounts of French dishes, cocktails, individual food items, and much more, are so refreshing to read, and highly informative, too.

Go, say hello to Eric and Martine Pelegrin, at "Bistro Le Marseillais".

Friday, July 4, 2008

Save money on your groceries - and much more!

Every now and then I see a lens on that compels me to promote it with all my might. However mighty my might might be. (Say that with a full mouth. Only one time - but fast!)

Well, before I take my mouth too full with silly chit-chat, let's go straight to the subject of "saving money". The problem is - I don't have any. Money. To save.

Here's where Squidoo lensmaster extraordinaire, mulberry, comes to the rescue. Her page "Saving Money" offers a huge number of easy-to-do tips on how to cut down on your expenses. She does it "with heart". She knows just how hard it is to muster a saving consciousness when every cent seems to be "already spent before it's earned". Yet, there are possibilities you might not have thought of, unique ways of pinching a few which when added up over a year's length may buy you a family vacation. Go, browse mulberry's page, and save!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Greetings from your new Giant!

I'm proud, I'm humbled, I'm thankful. After 5 months of making content-rich squidoo pages - most days until 2 a.m. - I have been honored with Giant Squid status. On January 29, 2008 I started out as a newbie in most things related to internet business, SEO, blogging, website building, etc. My activities on gave me an invaluable education, a new business direction, many new friends, and a super jolly good time. And it didn't cost me one cent. I do recommend it with all my heart that you check out your opportunities with I can't even begin to list all the friendly and generous folks that have helped me along my path to Giant Squiddom. However, I'll point those of you visitors who haven't tried Squidoo yet into the right direction. That's what my friends would want me to do, anyway. After you've signed up for free, read what the founder of, Seth Godin, has to say about your reasons to make a Squidoo page - then, go right ahead and make your first page (on Squidoo, a page is called a "lens"). You'll find help everywhere you look - in the forum and on many Squidoo tutorial lenses. Good luck and good sleepless nights. You're gonna love it. Thank you - HQ (Seth, Megan, Gil, Anne, Corey)! Thank you - Giant Squid organizers (Bonnie, Robin, Patti)!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Am I a statesman?

Funny question, huh? Me? Li'l ol' me - a statesman!?

Yet - according to a thought-provoking blog post by Seth Godin, no less - I have to ask myself this question every day:

As a small business owner - am I a statesman, a lawyer, a marketer?

I manufacture and sell "Agasweet" flavored agave nectar. Aside from a thriving wholesale business, I operate my own retail outlets at a couple of local farmers markets. Twice a week, I get invaluable insights about my customers' needs and desires.

Am I pushing for a sale no matter what the customer really wants? Am I a lawyer/marketer advocating my viewpoint only?

My flavored sweetener is more expensive than the unflavored version of agave nectar. It is wonderful when enjoyed in its purest form as a healthy sweetener for your beverages, cereals, yogurts, fruits, etc. - as a glaze for meats, or as a dessert sauce for cakes and creams.

When a customer wants to buy larger quantities of agave nectar, using it mainly for baking and cooking, I recommend buying the unflavored version (which I don't offer) at the local Whole Foods Market or other gourmet groceries. Yes - my product would work, too. But the subtle flavorings might disappear under prolonged exposure to heat. It wouldn't be fair to persuade the customer to pay more for the added value of high-quality flavorings - if it's irrelevant to his or her current needs.

What usually happens is - the customer trusts me and considers more open-mindedly what I have to say about the many delicious applications of my flavored nectar. The customer's mind joins me on my creative journey exploring the many incredible benefits and uses of my Agasweet product. After all, we're friends now - my honesty has been established.

90 percent of the time, my customer buys a bottle (or more) of my flavored agave nectar, happy to have learned something new, and eager to try all the yummy suggestions we have discussed.

Even if I lose a sale, I gain something of a much higher value - my customer's respect for me as an honest partner in culinary adventures. That's priceless, don't you think?

Wouldn't it be nice if our politicians had a similar attitude?