Stop Sleep Deprivation with the Perfect Pillow

If you’ve been sleeping poorly and waking up more tired than when you went to bed, it’s time for a change. That change may be your pillow. But first, here’s why you need to avoid losing sleep.

Perfect Pillow

Sleep deprivation leads to undesirable outcomes. Besides feeling sleepy and tired throughout the day, lack of sleep leads to making bad decisions. Your cognitive abilities decline so that you’re prone to making mistakes. And you’re probably cranky and impatient, too.

But sleeplessness also impacts your immune system. It raises your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Plus, it contributes to undesired weight gain by increasing appetite and lowers your motivation to exercise.

While there are several reasons why you might be sleeping badly, your pillow could be one solution to the problem. For example, the wrong pillow causes poor posture. Then, muscle stiffness leads to rolling around all night. Perhaps you even awaken to fluff up and adjust the pillow.

Instead of putting up with being uncomfortable, it’s time to upgrade your pillow. This is especially true if you have backaches or need a pillow for neck pain. Also, pillows break down over time; even memory foam will so plan to replace them about every eighteen months. (more…)

Best Cookbooks for College Students

When youngsters go off to university or college, it is an exciting time for them. They look forward to the independence that college life brings. They think independence means that they can stay out late, sleep late, have high jinks with their friends, but they never think about the ‘boring’ but necessary things that they will have to do. The money for their living expenses seems like a huge amount, which soon dwindles in their minds when they realize that it must last the whole semester, term, or year. Living on fast food soon turns to living on noodles and, when this begins to pall, youngsters realize that they must actually cook.

Prudent parents will prepare their youngsters for college, including teaching them to cook and will want to send them off with a good cookery book, preferably one slanted towards college students and their lifestyle. However, there are many cookery books on the market and it is difficult to choose which to buy.

A good basic cookery book is right for anyone, which means one that tells the user how to do everything, from boiling an egg upwards, and does not assume that the user knows basic cookery methods. The recipes inside should use clear direct language that leaves no doubt as to what to do. Recipes should not have huge ingredient lists and those should be basic, inexpensive ingredients. The time that recipes take to prepare is also a factor and quick, easy recipes that provide nourishing and inexpensive meals are the best kind for students.

There are some super cookbooks especially aimed at students. There are various recommended books for both American and British students. British and American cookery books are different, not only in their weights and in measures but in their language and this may be confusing for novice cooks.

Recommended American Cook Books for College Students

American students would do well with “Cooking outside the Pizza Box”, by Jean Patterson and Danae Campbell; it contains easy recipes using basic cookery methods for beginning cooks. It contains basic instructions for everything from scrambled eggs to preparing a healthy balanced meal. The book also contains helpful advice, tips for students on shopping, equipment, and sharing a kitchen, including a very helpful trouble shooting/mistake avoiding section.

Another very helpful American College cookbook is “College Cooking” by students Megan and Jane Carle. It contains ninety simple tasty and cheap recipes and many helpful tips and knowledge for student cooks, including information on equipment, shopping and other necessities. The “I Don’t Know How to Cook”, 300 Great Recipes You Can’t Mess up Book is very suitable for any novice cook and assumes that the cook has little or no knowledge. Its beginner recipes are divided into easy, medium and hard and provide help on choosing ingredients, when shopping and other helpful novice cook information.

Recommended British Cookery Books for Students

British students would appreciate “The Ultimate Student Cookbook” by Fiona Beckett, a cookery writer with a large student following in the UK. This book was written with the help of three male student co-authors and has over 300 recipes tips, advice, and comments. Fiona Beckett’s other books, Beyond Baked Beans, Beyond Baked Beans Green, Beyond Baked Beans Budget, The Frugal Cook, Meat and Two Veg, and Sausage and Mash, might well prove suitable books for students too.

“4 Ingredients Student Cookbook” on Hamlyn Press contains over 200 fast and easy recipes using 4 main ingredients plus store cupboard items like flour, salt pepper et cetera. A student reviewer rated this book as excellent and it provides simple no-fuss cheap recipes, which students can make with minimum preparation and cooking time. This book is very suitable for those with little or no cooking experience.

When Joy May’s son returned home ill, shortly after leaving for University, because he had not been feeding himself properly, she looked for a cookbook that would encourage her non-cooking son to cook for himself. She failed to find an inspiring beginner’s cookbook, so she wrote one called “Nosh for Students”. The book’s tag line, “A fun student’s cookbook” describes it perfectly, and is ideal for complete beginner cooks, and busy, hungry, students with low budgets. Student and parent reviewers alike rate this book, featuring simple recipes, each accompanied by a photograph of the finished dish, using readily available ingredients, tips and advice.

Perhaps the best cookbook for college students about to leave for university is not bought from a shop at all, but homemade. Make a cookbook of family recipes, Take a 3-ring folder or binder and print out family recipes. Include simple recipes for easy, economical recipes, family favourites, but also include recipes that remind the student of people. If Granny has a wonderful recipe for stollen, include it, although it will probably be too difficult for your student just yet, he, or she, will remember when Granny made the stollen and should he or she ever want to recreate Granny’s stollen, the recipe is there. Include some childhood favourite recipes too. Do not forget to add in little anecdotes about special occasions when the dish was served, or how family recipes evolved because recipes do within families. For example, if M’s mother taught M, her two sisters and her brother to cook her recipe for spaghetti Bolognese, but each one cooks it slightly differently and they all make it differently to their mother.

Look on line for simple, cheap, basic tasty recipes for pasta, noodle, rice meals, homemade pizza and the foods that students enjoy. Do not just include meals, remember that students are always hungry and include recipes for quick, tasty, and healthy snacks too. Include tips on shopping, things to look for when buying food and food hygiene. There are also good web sites advising student cooks and you might write some links to them in your book.

Such a homemade cookbook is more than just a cookbook. It is a little piece of home and family, which could be comforting when the first excitement of leaving home, and not being under parental eyes, palls. This cookbook would make a wonderful gift to a student, and it is something that the extended family could help you to put together.

Space here forbids naming all the excellent cookery books suitable for college students. However, there are more recommendations for British or American student cookbooks, check customer reviews on one of the major book-selling websites and see whether a particular book will suit your student and their cooking ability.

The right student cookbook will ensure that your student eats properly at college. Cooking skills can give your student a passport to friendships and social occasions. Cookery is a life skill that your student will use throughout life and a student cookbook can be the beginning of a useful, creative, and satisfying skill that will last your student a lifetime.

Bread Baking Gluten and Yeast

As a professional baker it is strange to me why anyone would want to know the true chemistry of bread making. I have never met a scientist that bakes, and if I did he would probably give me some reason why we shouldn’t eat bread. Fresh baked bread smells so good and tastes even better; there must be something wrong with it at a molecular level to make it bad for us.

Now, if you want to understand what is behind the making of good bread, well that I can explain to you in simple laymen’s terms. There is no need (or desire on my part) to go into complicated explanations and formulas you would never understand anyway. So following with the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) formula I will do my best to inform rather than bore you.

Basic yeast bread such as French or Italian bread is composed of 4 ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt. More complex breads like the ones we know in North America also contain shortening, sugar and sometimes milk.

Something called a leavening agent is needed to make bread rise and fill it full of the little air pockets. These air pockets make bread light and fluffy. In the case of yeast breads, yeast is the leavening agent.

In Ireland they make soda bread which uses soda and not yeast to rise. Here in the Americas we also use soda and baking powder as a leavening agent which makes biscuits, cookies or cakes rise. Simple, a leavening agent is something that makes things rise. None of these leavening agents however can work alone. They all need to be mixed with moisture first plus heat or acids in the case of baking powder or soda.

In the case of bread it is most often water that gets mixed first with the yeast. So now we have our yeast in the water and it starts to bubble. What causes the bubbles is a by-produce of yeast being a living organism. Let’s just say that as the yeast grows and multiplies it releases what we all do after we eat, gas. Yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.

So our yeast is now alive because we put it in water and given it an environment to grow in. We need to capture that gas it is producing so we can use it in our bread. We also have to feed the yeast to keep it alive and multiplying. This is where the flour comes in. If we mix yeast and water with flour we can provide the yeast with food. It can eat away at small amounts of flour and continue to grow and really multiply. In the case of bread, the more yeast growth the better because it will produce more gasses and some extra flavour.

It is important to know at this time that there are several types of flour used in baking. There is a protein in flour that when wet, produces small strands that can’t be seen. We call this protein gluten. Gluten joins together and forms long strings that get wrapped around each other. These strings are what makes bread strong enough to hold in the gasses that yeast produces. If all the gasses got out you would have a thick heavy bread like a flat bread.

Certain flours have almost no gluten. These flours, we call them cake and pastry flour, are great for making flaky treats. Bread flour is made from a type of wheat that has lots of gluten so it is made into all purpose or even specialty “bread” flour. Whole wheat and rye flours have only a little gluten so we often need to mix bread flour with them so they rise well and stay puffier during baking.

Now our bread has water and yeast and flour for food and structure. This is enough to make the bread rise fast. Now we must add a little salt. Yes, salt is good fo flavour, but it also kills some of the yeast. This is good because bread would rise too fast and not bake well if it wasn’t kept under control, so we add salt. This simple recipe up to this point would produce a good basic French bread.

Here in North America we like our bread to last longer than a day and we like it a little richer than French bread. By adding milk or milk powder to the dough we add lactose, a type of sugar. As you know when sugar is heated it will brown. The lactose in the milk will give our breads crust a nice color and add a little bit of flavour. Likewise sugar will help feed the yeast and speed fermentation (yeast growth) while adding a little sweetness.

So what does the shortening do? Some bakers believe (as I do) that shortening lubricates the bread as it rises so it rises better. Shortening will also stay in the bread after it is baked and keeps it feeling moist. Oils won’t evaporate like water. It also adds taste and something we call a nice “mouth feel”.

Now we come to that thing they call kneading. After bread is mixed we need to knead it.

Kneading is the action of pressing the dough between the board or table and our hands. You can knead in a mixing bowl with dough hooks or simply pick the dough up and slap it down on the table. The more you knead the dough the more strands of gluten you create.

Remember, we want our dough to be able to be strong enough to hold in all the gasses the yeast produces. After we knead the dough we cover it and let it rest so the dough can relax and the yeast can work. After a while the dough will fill with carbon dioxide and alcohol. Both these items will kill the yeast or slow it down so we “punch” out the dough to get rid of the excess.

Finally the bread is ready to be rolled into loaves. We punch the bread down once more and form it into a loaf. The bread is allowed to proof (puff up) one last time.

Just as the bread gets about 80% of its full puffed up size we pop it in the oven. The heat will make the bread rise very quickly. A crust will form on the outside of the loaf and get hard enough to hold the gasses in. Heat will kill all the living yeast, evaporate most of the carbon dioxide and all of the alcohol. The bread will set and before you know it, the inside will bake into a milky white sweet smelling loaf.

Now you know the inner workings of bread baking. Easy stuff once you know how it works and handy too. Next time you make a nice pie or some muffins for breakfast and they turn out a little tough, you will understand why, gluten. So go ahead and practice, be gentle with your pastries and beat up on those breads. In no time you will become an excellent baker.

Beer Reviews Orkney Brewery the Red Macgregor

The Orkney Brewery in Sandwick on the Isles of Orkney – a small group of islands off the northern tip of Scotland – was founded by Roger White and his wife Irene some 15 years ago. It is situated in a former schoolhouse set amid lakes and grassland on the Mainland of Orkney.

They brew a wide range of quality ales, including: Skullsplitter, Northern Light and Dark Island; and have won many awards including the International Brewing Industry Awards championship cup (2002) for Red MacGregor.

A lot of the beers from Orkney have Viking-style names celebrating the rich Norse history of the Orkney Islands, but Roger White, being a descendant of the MacGregor Clan, thought that it was appropriate to name this beer after his ancestors.

Red Macgregor comes in at 4% ABV in draught form, but 5% ABV in the bottle. I’m reviewing the draught ale which is a fairly common guest ale in pubs around Scotland and is making inroads abroad as well.

Red MacGregor Ale pours to a lovely, rich, chestnut colour with flashes of ruby-red, and moderate carbonation forming a rocky, off white head which leaves a decent amount of lacing. There are some nice aromas, most noticeable among them being a dominant sweet malt. Some toastiness is evident, along with a little peat-smoke, a yeasty earthiness, and a gentle, flowery hop aroma.

It is light-to-medium bodied and has quite a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Initially, the flavour is all sweet malt, but dig a little deeper and there are hints of toffee, raisins and caramel – it’s a malt-lover’s dream. As with the nose, there’s a peat-smoke taste, some yeasty flavour, and a very slight citrus twang. It finishes with more malt flavours before a faint floral hop bitterness creeps in to balance out the beer nicely.

At 4% ABV, this is an excellent, tasty beer with lots of malt character, and is a very typical Scottish Heavy. Malt is the by-word here, so if you lean towards the hoppier end of the beer drinking scale, you might find it a little too sweet.
I wouldn’t foresee any problems matching this with most foods – anything from the richest meat dishes to simple bread and cheese – but most especially traditional pub fare. Of all the beers from The Orkney Brewery, this is perhaps the easiest drinking, and to my mind, probably the best all-rounder.

Bean Dip Recipe

Bean Dip Recipe

Seven Layer Bean Dip

Whenever I am invited to a party or event that I am required to bring a dish to, I usually put in a request to bring an appetizer. I just love dipping and snacking, so creating fun and tasty appetizers is right up my alley!

The following recipe is for one of my all-time party favorites:  Seven Layer Bean Dip! The fun thing about bean dip is that everyone makes it just a little different from the next person. This dip has been a party favorite for us for many years now.

What makes this dish a bit more fun than some other bean dips I have tried is how attractive it looks. By layering the dip as I suggest, you will end up with a very colorful appetizer, which will appeal to the eye as well as the taste buds! I suggest a flat, square dish or an oval shape for the best effect, but the dish should be shallow, so that the layers really show up.


1 15 Oz. can refried beans

1/2 C. Sour Cream

1 pouch guacamole (spicy, if preferred)

1/2 C. Medium Salsa

1/2 C. Shredded Cheese (Shredded Cheddar or a Mexi-Blend work well!)

1/4 C. Chopped Scallions

1/4 C. Chopped Plum Tomatoes


Using a rubber spatula will really help you layer this dish. Start by opening your can of refried beans, and scraping it into your dish. Flatten out the beans as much as possible for the first layer, all the way to the edge of the dish.

Rinse off your spatula between layers.

For the Sour Cream layer, spread it evenly over the beans almost to the edge, leaving a circle of brown under the white.

Guacamole spreads very nicely for the next layer, followed by the salsa.

Over the salsa, spread your shredded cheese evenly and top with colorful tomatoes and chopped scallions.

I have always found that this dip is BEST when served with Frito-Lay Scoops. The flavors are outstanding with tortilla chips as well. Enjoy!

A new Kind of Vegetarian Food


When Quorn came onto the market, it offered vegetarians a choice of different products which gave them a great supply of flavors, rich in protein and low in fat. The product range available from Quorn includes varieties which use the basis of looking and tasting like meats without the cruelty involved in actually killing animals. Quorn isn’t meat. Although many would argue and say “Why would vegetarians want a food that imitates meat?” the fact of the matter is that up until recently most vegetarian foods were relatively tasteless. Quorn provides a range of foods which has flavor and which can be used as main course meals, supplemented with a choice of fresh vegetables and sauces.

What is Quorn made from?

There are many who question this, as it’s a relatively new food. Some think that Quorn is a little like Soy, but they’d be wrong. Its flavor is more delicious. Its texture is different. It’s calorie content is less. So what is it? Truth be told, it comes from the mushroom family, and is a mycoprotein. Still none the wiser? Within the fungus family, Fusarium venenatum is a very high fiber fungus which has been found to give good nutritional value and in fact has been compared with truffles and such delicacies. Manufacturers have found that by adding glucose and minerals, nitrogen and oxygen to this fungus, what they produced was something now labeled as mycoprotein.

Due to the fine strands that this fungus is known for, the composition of Quorn is very similar to that of meat, and the flavors which can be used to enhance both the taste and the presentation of the product have made it a winner with vegetarians.

The health benefits of Quorn are such that it helps to keep cholesterol levels in check. In fact, replacing meat with Quorn will keep fat content to a minimum, since the fat within Quorn is already less than that of meat. Another advantage is that Quorn is filling and thus less is needed to sate the appetite. The fiber within Quorn provides this filling feeling and also aids good transit of foods, making it a great regular contributor to good stomach health.

Another area where this has been shown to be beneficial to health is that Quorn users appear to have more stable body glucose levels.

So what is Quorn when you buy it?

The product itself has been shaped into many formats, and flavorings added to imitate different meat products. Chicken pieces for example, are just Quorn, but can be added to stews or casseroles to bulk out a vegetable stew into a “meat” style meal, making it more substantial for the vegetarian. Quorn sausages are shaped into sausage shapes and cook in a very similar manner to original sausages. The beef steaks have had added peppers and flavorings to imitate beef, and have been shaped into small steaks suitable for frying.

One thing to look out for when buying Quorn products is any allergy to wheat or any of the products used to produce the breadcrumbs used on chicken nibbles and escalopes. Apart from the ingredients shown above, Quorn is basically the pure product from the fungi, though shaped into more traditionally acceptable meat shapes for recognition purposes.

A nut allergy is another to be aware of when purchasing the Quorn nut roasts, though these are clearly labeled as having nut content.

For an alternative to meat, the Quorn range of fungus based products come in frozen format, and do have date limits which should be respected. These products do not keep well in the refrigerator and instructions for their use should always be adhered to, in order to gain maximum health benefits. For the amino acids which may be lacking from the diet, Quorn offers ample of these and may just help to balance the diet of those vegetarians or non vegetarians who want to ensure that their amino acid levels are correct. The products may resemble meat, but indeed this fungus is very clever at taking on a disguise that is suited to all ages and all tastes.