‘Good’ tips for baking

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When it comes to baking, precision and testing are essential. Countless baking books are produced annually and it is hard to tell which ones to pick out right off the bat. Despite the fact that we can find thousands of different chocolate cake recipes, it all comes down to one trick that do it all for most amateur bakers. Follow the recipe precisely, for not being precise is what made me fail many times but that is also the reason why I enjoy baking so much. It will never fail you  if you simply follow the instructions precisely using credible sources.

It may sound oddly easy when I say just follow the instructions carefully but there are some common mistake people make by under-estimating the importance of following the recipe. And It’s got a lot to do with the eggs. Adding eggs to the batter seem incredibly easy for everyone to succeed and it is but only if you follow these rules.

First, use room temperature eggs; adding cold ones will harden the fat in the recipe and cause curdling of the sugar and fat mixture. It may also affect the texture of the recipe.  Another equally important thing is to add room temperature eggs one at a time to a batter, usually after creaming the fat and sugar, until well incorporated after each one. The mixture can curdle (the creamed butter and sugar will separate) if eggs are added too quickly. Lastly, do not over beat, as the eggs will form a hard, meringue-like crust on your recipe.[1] When I have mastered what not to do with eggs, nine out of ten times my cakes have turned out as I imagined.

Addition to all the things got to do with eggs, to get the crumb moist and delicate: don’t over bake it, add a little frosting while it’s warm, keep it covered once cool and, if you want it extra soft, add two teaspoons of vegetable glycerin for every 200g flour.[2]

There is one thing I find less important to follow on the recipe. I came across a couple of online articles about the importance of preheating your oven. It seems that it is mostly a tradition that comes from the past, when people baked in wood or coal-powered ovens and so getting the fuel up to temperature was the important part. These days, with our fairly accurate gas or electric ovens, maybe it’s time to rethink our preheating habit to save energy costs.[3]

There is nothing worst than having a crappy cake on a special day when you didn’t have a back up plan. However the celebrating would be extraordinary if you have that perfect chocolate cake for someone special.

Anna Kui Yeon Hong

Celebrity-Influenced Weight Loss

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Obesity is the result of laziness in this day and age. When eating sounds much more pleasant than going for a run, people are going to take the easy way out. It’s not that we don’t realize the benefits of hard work-there just need an influence strong enough to pull us out of our comfort zones. This is the target demographic weight loss programs have decided to aim their services towards. With so many of them to choose from, how is each program going to distinguish itself from the rest? A rising trend in this market is to feature a celebrity endorser.

Jennifer Hudson, singer and Academy Award-winning actress, had always overweight since being in the public eye. Since being a spokeswoman of Weight Watchers and transforming her body, she promises “guaranteed” results and that “you will never ever go away from it” because it will become so much a part of your lifestyle [1]. We as entertainment consumers indulge and admire these flawless figures because we love to watch their every move in media.  Hudson is using her relateable struggle of losing weight with our fascination with the idea of “celebrity”. Because we are more interested in the ongoings of media, we will “attribute[s] much greater authority and weight to a testimonial that’s given by someone who’s famous'” [2].

We have to remember that while these idols are losing weight and looking  great, they have the incentive of being paid to endorse these products. There is also  the fact that they had a lot of extra help during their journey, given the industry they are in [3].  We must take care to choose a method of being healthy based on individual needs and a lot of hard work. There is no guarantee that you will succeed based on the success of your beloved stars.

 

By Olivia Quan

 

[1] Weightwatchers   http://www.weightwatchers.ca/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=40241

[2] CBC     http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/pre-2007/files/health/bernstein_diet/index.html

[3] DocShop    http://www.docshop.com/2008/01/31/diet-spokespeople-jenny-mccarthy-queen-latifah-dan-marino-and-everyone-in-between

Starbucks habits

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Wednesday morning is probably the worst morning for me, working at a Starbucks near middle school. There are always bunch of kids waiting in line to get their fix of caffeine or sugars or both, later I had found out the reason for Wednesday morning rush was because the school doesn’t start until an hour later than other days.

I don’t know how it all got started but somehow it became quite noticeable that kids in their middle school were getting caffeinated drinks from Starbucks. Not only that but the cost to get a small cup of Frappuchio which is one of kid’s favorite drink, are range from four to five dollars. How did this happen?

Some people may say it’s our cultures that we’ve built up since 1971 when the first Starbucks store opened at Pike Place Market in Seattle. But looking at those children every Wednesday morning and seeing them filling up their body with nothing more than sugar water, I refuse to accept it as our culture, rather I want to claim that we are victims of the influence media has carried over to us.

“With more than 27 million fans around the world, Starbucks is currently a top brand on Facebook.  One million people follow Starbucks on Twitter, and each month our website receives 12 million visitors.” [1] It clearly shows how the media became the tool of empowerment, but that’s not all. We see paparazzi shots of celebrities walking with a drink that features Starbuck’s  green logo.

Looking at celebrities’ life style, we may not be able to afford most of what they afford, but there is one thing we may be able to have without breaking the fortune; It is getting a drinks. With that we share the same addiction as them. We subconsciously want to go to Starbucks to get something to indulge ourselves with. We cannot be free from an impact that was brought to us through media.

Starbucks says it is responding to customer demand for larger sizes they will introduce the Trenta, which will go on sale in 14 US states, then the throught the country by May.[2] It can hold more than a pint and a half coffee, which seems impossible for one person to drink. However, with media such as Facebook, Twitters and magazines empowering our Starbucks drinking habits, photos of paparazzi shots of celebrities consuming these drinks will suddenly seem like a normal thing.

By Anna Kui Yeon Hong


[1] Onward. (2011). Rodale. New York, NY: Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

Aside

You know that one song which cheers you up every single time you hear it? Gives you an adrenaline rush and the feeling that you can conquer the world (at least for a little while)! Empowers you? While song favourites usually depend on current life situation[1], there is always that one song which empowers every time you hear it. There are many such songs out there. Some provide a direct mood-boost while others just put that smile back where it belongs: Katy Perry’s Firework is one such song. This song talks straight to its listeners. Katy Perry, herself, says this song is “all about … igniting the spark inside” of every person. It is about restoring people’s belief in their own abilities and giving them that confidence they’ve lost for whatever reason. While talking about Firework, Perry has this to say: “A lot of times it’s only us that’s standing in the way of reaching our goals, fulfilling our destinies, being the best version of who we possibly can be.”

“There may be no more human experience than imagining the future and its possibilities, only to experience simultaneously hope and fear at the thought of the person one might become.” – Psychology Of Music

The song’s chorus really needs no explanation:

“‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”
You’re gonna leave ’em all in awe, awe, awe”

The song literally talks to you, like a best friend. It’s easy to see how much Katy Perry, through this song, is trying to cheer up her listeners. For a song, which will be heard by people all around the globe, from various walks of life, this is usually a hard goal to reach. But for Perry’s Firework, I’d say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

 

Certain music/songs do promote certain feelings. It has been proven that songs, and even music in general, affect people emotionally and mentally. According to EMedExpert.com, music ‘improves mood’ and ‘decreases depression’.

Practically any song from any genre may be used to make a point, stimulate discussion, exemplify a problem, present an alternative and/or identify consequences. Although most of the current recordings or music videos are not ideologically pure, significant examples of empowering messages may be found in many popular songs.

Here’s a link to some more feel-good songs that you might want to listen to. Just ’cause!

– Sonia 🙂

 

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Other references:

The Influence of Music and Music Video by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

You are a firework! (Sonia)

TasteBook

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Dieting exists in numerous forms around the world. They go from diets based on religious customs to fad diets, for those who want a quick fix for weight loss. We’ve heard of diets that exempt certain animal products (vegetarianism), all animal products (veganism), and even ones that require no cooking (raw foodism).

When we think of first-world eating, this is something that includes a significant amount of people in the world (and certainly those able to access this blog!) Therefore it’s common sense to assume that preparing and accessing everyday staple foods shouldn’t be a problem to the average middle-class family, let alone someone who has enough money to fly a private jet to France for dinner.

This isn’t necessarily the case for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is roughly $17.5 billion. [1] He made headlines in early 2011 over his choice of food preparation when he updated his Facebook status as: “I just killed a pig and a goat.” [2]  Zuckerberg has self-described his regular diet as “basically” vegetarian for the most part. [3] Even when transitioning into meat products, why is buying ethically grown animal products from the local grocery store not enough? Zuckerman saw a lack of remorse from meat consumers who were ignorant of their food’s origins, calling their views “irresponsible.” [3] Therefore, he chooses to only eat animals that he has killed himself. On days he doesn’t eat meat he is able to appreciate and reflect on the work that’s involved in being able to eat it. [2]

Naturally, people everywhere expressed shock at how barbaric the act was, especially coming from such a privileged person. This reaction most likely comes from our perception that hunting and preparing our own food (fishing aside) from it’s natural state is something historic and done in less developed areas.

While Zuckerberg makes a valid point to not take our food for granted, there is still the fact that his new habit is viewed as outrageously unnecessary, and extreme. When the world has come a long way in our quality of living, many feel he has taken one step back.

 

By: Olivia Quan

[1] Forbes:

http://www.forbes.com/profile/mark-zuckerberg/

[2]Fortune(CNN):

http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/27/mark-zuckerbergs-facebook-comment-on-eating-only-what-he-kills/

[3] Mashable Social Media:

http://mashable.com/2011/05/27/mark-zuckerberg-eats-kills/

 

 

 

 

 

‘Environmental vegetarianism’

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Vegetarian Society agrees that many vegetarians start “ when they’re beginning to question the world they live in.” I had a roommate several years’ back and she was a vegetarian. I asked her once, “Why exactly are you a vegetarian apart from that you’re an animal lover?” She said, “I don’t think animals should be bred just to be eaten.” So obvious from her answer, she loves animals and so do I but just not to the extent of not eating them. I begin to wonder, do I have to be ashamed for not being a vegetarian? My respond had formed already in my head and it was “not really.” But it is definitely worth a consideration whether or not it is right to become a vegetarian.

If I were a vegetarian it would be a slightly different reason than my roommate’s, it is my consciousness of environment. “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”[1] The logic behind someone’s reason for being vegetarian simply underlying issue of environment, I am 100% with them.

Undeniably, we are challenging questions that is how can we eat well every day without contributing to global warming or the without suffering of animals. The answer seems to be clear at this point, it is to eat more vegetables. Your mother was right, vegetables are good for your health.  But perhaps not for the same reasons we’re talking about here. “It takes 68 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie
and 35 calories of fuel to make one calories of beef. Eating lower down on the food chain requires less energy.”[2] In other words it is better for the planet if you eat soybeans rather than animals raised on soybeans. To summarize, we need to eat more vegetables and less flesh because vegetables are the foods that do us the most good and our planet the least harm.

“What we consider alternative at one time may become mainstream at another. This is why it is important always to look at the people who are using the media and the goals they are trying to achieve…”[3] Vegetarianism can be adopted for so many different reasons. Care of environment is just one reason why people look for their protein sources from non flesh items. It is not necessary to become a vegetarian to support environmental vegetarianism but I might try one meatless dinner a week.

Anna Kui Hong


[2] Tell, J. (2008). 100 ways to save the world. San Francisco: A Weldon Owen Production

[3] Straw, W. (2011). Intersections of media and communications. Toronto: Emond Montgomery publications

Is popular music the best music? (Sonia)

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People are most exposed to mainstream music. As per definition, mainstream means the principal or dominant course, tendency, or trend [1]. Songs that are classified as mainstream are the ones that are mostly advertised on TV and radio and meant for general audiences.

But is their popularity based on their quality? Is it really the best music that’s out there? No. Most of ‘famous’ music is commercialized and for conformists. This is where alternative media comes in. “Alternative media provide perspectives that are often left out of media that dominate the mediascape.”[2] In other words, it is everything that is not part of mainstream media.

There are many websites and blogs out there, which offer musicians a space to upload their music. They expose talent and give artists the appreciation they deserve. They provide a platform for artists with new and upcoming music. Although the basic idea of most of the websites is the same, there are a few that stand out.

MusicEmissions.com is one such usual site. It is a public website which, according to the site, “include[s] reviewers and critics from all over the world”[3]

SellaBand.com is an example of a slightly different approach to a typical alternative music website/blog. This one provides artists/bands with the ability to sign up and gain fans, which can ‘buy’ a share in the band creating an album. [4]

Such blogs/websites, like Music Emissions, and others like Vocalist, Alt Sounds and Sell A Band, promote new artists and provide real-time feedback from fans. Since they’re so direct in their contact with producers and audiences, virtually all commercialization is avoided. Music popularity, here, is based on quality, which is judged by the audience, instead of their sale value or the artists’ face values and selling powers. This keeps the platform unbiased to “popular” music and provides an outlet for individual opinion, an outlet for new, different music and an outlet truly committed to finding good music.

Alternative music blogs give people the power. However, while giving power, they may give away too much power to people who don’t even know much about music. So in conclusion, I believe, both, mainstream and alternative media are very important for our society. One can’t work without the other for long.

– Sonia

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mainstream

[2] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=a1ARTA0009706

[3] http://www.musicemissions.com/misc/about.php

[4] http://sellaband.com