Yukon Cornelius would be happy

I just bought this at Costco the other day. I don't own many DVDs, but this one brings back such great childhood memories that I had to get it.

Let the Christmas season begin!


bp's science: why does a soda can explode when shaken? (v.1)

I have my brother to thank for this post. His understanding of physical science is above and beyond my own. He can conceptualize pretty much anything and then explain it in terms I can understand. Let's hope I can use his explanations so that you get it too.

Let's look at our soda can first. When you open up a can that has not been shaken, there's a small release of gas.

When you open up a can that's been shaken, their is a release of gas that creates a soda explosion (the one we all tried to avoid when trying to look cool at any social function we attended as teenagers).

Why does the first situation have a calm release and the other a fierce one when the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the can has not increased at all? The secret is bubbles.

Let's look at the following equation, (which for those of you who took any type of physical science, you'll remember memorizing):

PV = nRT

where P = pressure,
V = volume
n = moles of atoms/molecules of gas (in this case carbon dioxide gas)
R = a constant
T = temperature

Now let's take this equation and think of our soda can. When we open up a can of soda, we change the pressure inside of the can, in fact, we decrease the pressure. In both situations (not shaken vs. shaken) when we open the can we decrease the pressure the same amount. Some would say this goes against their original thought that when you shake a can, you are increasing the pressure inside (at least that is what I thought), but that is not the case. Let's look at the equation again, solving for pressure.

P = nRT/V

- When we shake a can, do we change the number of moles (n) of CO2 in the can? No, in order to do that we would have to somehow pump carbon dioxide into the can.

- R does not change, because it is a constant.

- Some would argue that shaking up a can would change the temperature (T). But shaking a can for 5 seconds, even 10 seconds, the change in temperature is negligible.

- And finally, when we shake up a can, the volume (V) of that can does not change. It would have to decrease to increase the pressure, but it does not.

So if none of the above is changing, and the pressure is not increasing inside, what is causing the explosion?

The answer: when you shake a soda can it creates lots of little vortexes or vortices (think mini-tornadoes) inside the can. These mini-tornadoes have an area of lower pressure in the center (just like the calm in the eye of a storm during a hurricane). When you open a shaken can, miniscule bubbles of CO2 in the liquid rush to the area of lower pressure, that is, the area inside the vortex. This is a characteristics of all gases, they prefer lower pressure areas. As the CO2 rushes to the area of lower pressure, the miniscule bubbles expand greatly. Thus the explosion.

Now if you do a search on the internet as to why soda cans explode (like I did), you will most likely not find an answer that includes vortexes. Instead, you'll get a simple explanation of bubbles mixing in liquid and wanting to escape, which has some truth to it. However, if you do a search on why soda cans explode and include the word "vortex" in your search, you are bound to find this great article, which will lead you to the source paper for this research.


Meringue Success!

I made the pumpkin meringue pie this Thanksgiving without much hassle. Meringue is much easier than it's cracked up to be. However, I did leave the pie under the broiler too long (I got talking) and it got a little darker than I planned. Still, the pumpkin meringue pie was good. This meringue took 4 eggs total (the recipe called for 8, but that would have been crazy).

The pie was a bit on the sweet side side, but still enjoyable. I'll have to try lemon meringue sometime. I bet it's the perfect ratio of flavors.

So for all of you out there who's wanted to try meringue, do it! It was kind of fun and easy.


It works!

Yesterday, Oliver was playing with his Fisher-Price Ernie toy. You see, Ernie was going swimming in a cup of water, and he was having a great time.

Then he decided something else needed to go for a swim, my ipod shuffle. Apparently, for over 5 minutes, the shuffle was enjoying the swim too, until I fished it out. No one's fault, but my own.

This is when I worked quickly to start the rice absorption trick. I put the shuffle in a small bowl of rice for 24 hours and crossed my fingers in hopes that the rice would work its magic. And it did! Fully functioning at this time. Wahoo!


bp's science: flavor molecule reaction (v.1)

Before cooking shows were all the rage (e.g., Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped), both my mom and my dad loved to watch cooking shows on PBS. And as such, I watched cooking shows on PBS too. True, these shows were not as exciting as those of the reality variety, but they did teach some skills and give you some motivation, "If Yan can cook, so can you!"

It seems I have carried on the tradition, and now I can be caught watching cooking shows on PBS on weeknights. I mean, when cooking is something you do everyday, this stuff becomes more interesting and definitely more useful. I think I've seen nearly all of the Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs episodes, then their is America's Test Kitchen, but my favorite is Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way. He can cook just about anything and make it look easy. He explains what he's doing but makes it brief, because he's doing things so fast. I also like that he's one of the greatest chefs around yet he's extremely humble about it. Very fun to watch (and sometimes I try some of the things I've seen, except my show would be called Ashley's Slow-to-Medium-Fast Food Jacques Pepin's Way).

But enough about my PBS watching, onto the science! Here is something I learned while watching: One of the reasons you brown meat is because it creates strong flavor molecules. When the protein molecules (amino acids) and the sugar molecules in the meat heat up, they break up and form flavor molecules. When you brown a piece of meat, the temperature is high enough (~310 degrees F) to go through the Maillard reaction and that's when distinct "browning" flavor molecules are made that make the meat that much better. This reaction happens in other foods too, like french fries, crusts of quick breads, and maple syrup. So next time you're cooking a steak or making biscuits, there is a little bit of science in your recipe too (how's that for a PBS cooking show line?).


Thanksgiving comes, soon!

This morning I got up and decided I needed to start making pies . . . I am that excited for Thanksgiving.

This year, I'm going to attempt meringue pumpkin pie. However, we promised to bring apple pie to our friends' house, so I am not really sure who is going to eat the pumpkin meringue pie I make. Still, I am making it!

And we'll save our traditional cranberry sauce recipe that we usually make for Thanksgiving and make it for Christmas this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The above photo is of our little family last year on Thanksgiving. Not much has changed, in fact I'm wearing those pants today and I think Jess wore that sweater yesterday! Oliver however has grown out of that shirt.


Comparison stinks

Black Friday is coming up. Can you believe it? Enjoy Thanksgiving first, then decide if you're going to wait in those long lines, in the cold, to save $50. I've never been a big Black Friday person. In fact, I've never shopped on Black Friday. I'm just not into it (although I have been tempted when friends and family share their savings totals). This year, I want something a lot, a few things really. Unfortunately, the things I want are much, much more important that a 50'' screen television or the latest iteration in fashionable boots, and I can't get them at any Black Friday sale. If so, I'd be the first in line with a down sleeping bag, an MRE, and a water bottle.

A lesson I've learned many times, and again just recently, and again just last night is that there is absolutely no reason to compare yourself to others, because it does not help any. It's like worrying, it gets you nowhere (this is another lesson I've learned many times over and over again). I am much happier when I focus on the goodness, when I'm trying my best to be my best. And when you're focusing on the good, you are bound to feel good.


Apple Picking

A few weeks ago we went out on a beautiful October day and picked apples. It was delightful.

Oliver and Jess walk down the row of trees

Oliver loves our picks

Can you see Jess in there picking only the best?

Oliver reaches high for a delicious apple


bp's science: meringue (v.1)

Halloween is past and Thanksgiving is coming upon us. I've been thinking about making a pumpkin pie with meringue on top. I'm a bit nervous because I've never made meringue. There are two reasons why:

1. It appears to be a very arduous process.

2. Using all of those egg whites and not the yolk kind of goes against my waste no food ideas. See pathetic example of such beliefs here.

Getting over reason number 2, that may involve trying to figure out how to use just egg yolks in a recipe (any ideas anyone?). But getting over reason number 1 may just involve learning a bit more about the process.

Basically meringue is a protein-sugar mesh created by beating. Beating egg whites denatures the proteins (unravels them) and adding sugar enables them to come together and create a molecular crystal-like structure with lots of air. This results in a puff of meringue that is eight times the volume of the unbeaten eggs. It turns out that creating the meringue is half of the battle. It must be cooked at precisely 325 degrees and it must cook evenly throughout. How is this done? See here.

After learning about this, I am not feeling all that confident about meringue. I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes (that is, if I can find a way to use those yolks!