Archive for the ‘Chemistry’ Category

KartoffelKl̦sse РAn Obenauf Family Recipe for Glazed Potato Dumplings

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Potato dumplings are a common dish in many traditional cuisines and go by a number of names.  In Germany and Austria they are often called kartoffelknödel, klösse or just knödel and can be filled with a “dressing” in the middle; in Hungary gomboc; Luxembourg kniddelen; in Italy canederi; in Canada/Acadia poutines rapees.  In Sweden, kroppkakor, and Norway, Komie (klub), they are often filled with a salty meat.

In my family we called them “kartoffelklöess” and it could be a complete meal with the meat included.  Interestingly, my ancestry is mainly Bavarian and Scandinavian hence I guess that is why the meats are included in my family recipe.  It can bring something a little different to your starch side dish.


  • 8 Medium potatoes
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Slices of lightly toasted white bread cut in cubes
  • Several slices of Summer bologna, bacon or smoked sausage cut in small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour
  • If desired, chopped carrots and peas, cooked until soft


  • Boil the potatoes in their skins until soft, then cool them completely skin and grate the potatoes
  • Add all other ingredients except the flour and mix thoroughly
  • Sprinkle in enough flour so the mixture stays together when forming balls
  • Form the balls in your hands, about three inches in diameter
  • Heat a pot of water, do not form the balls until the water is simmering
  • Just before lowering the balls into the simmering water roll them in flour
  • Lower the balls into the water slowly with a large slotted spoon
  • Cook in simmering water for 9-10 minutes; they will sink then float
  • Do not lift the lid until the cooking time is up or the balls will fall apart
  • Serve with gravy, red cabbage and sauerbraten or schnitzel and stewed tomatoes if desired

RHO 6-26-16

Did you know that squid and calamari are different?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

This is an addendum to my posting: “Make sure your calamari has tentacles on it”


A while back I was in a restaurant and wanted to order a calamari appetizer.  I half-jokingly asked the waitress if it was really squid.  She surprised me with “No, it is calamari.”  I did a little searching and discovered something interesting.  So what is the difference between squid and calamari?  …..about $5 a pound.

Many people, including me until recently, think squid and calamari are the same. Actually squid and calamari are two different species.  They are cephalopods of the order teuthida and there are well over 300 different species.  Squid is cheaper and tougher while calamari is more tender and expensive.  Squid is usually Nototodarus gouldi, Gould’s squid, or Teuthoidea. Calamari come from the genus Sepioteuthis. You can tell squid from calamari by the fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the hood.  Squids have fins, but these run only for a short distance on the sides of the body. The fins of calamari extend almost all the way down the hood.  When you see both, you can make out the difference easily.  See the photographs above.

Some people even think that calamari is just the Italian word for squid, or that squid refers to the creature and calamari refers to the cooked item. Perhaps the difference in the name used might be because calamari sounds more palatable than squid.  In some restaurants the term calamari refers to Mediterranean dishes made from squid. In some parts of the world, baby squid used for cooking are known by the name calamari.

……and I’m sure that is much more than you wanted to know.

Pickled Mushrooms

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Pickled Mushrooms  This is an easy appetizer that can be prepared in advance and takes less than 20 minutes….then It just has to sit until the party. I love pickled stuff so it’s one of my favorites. Try it if you like that vinegary taste and I’m sure you will love it too.


  • 1 pound button mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup tarragon (white) vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Dash pepper
  • Dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 medium onion in separated, sliced rings

Clean the mushrooms. (Do not soak them in water but just clean under running water) Remove stems if you desire. Combine all ingredients except mushrooms and onions and mix well. Add mushrooms and onions. The mushrooms should be submerged in the liquid. Let them rest in a covered dish for about 5 hours, or you can refrigerate for 8 hours. Stir occasionally, it’s easiest to seal them in a plastic container and flip them over now and then.

Pickled Mushrooms

Leave out the onions if you don’t like onions, or have an allergy of course. And you can also use red wine vinegar or even add a bit of red wine….wine always helps.

A Week in Tuscany… Put It on Your Bucket List

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Cinque Terra

Cinque Terra, Manarola from the Water

Our group, actually 22 people, recently spent a week in Tuscany. It was well beyond, and very different from, my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone. What you will find is lush rolling hills, a temperate climate, interesting hill towns, culture and fine art… and of course great food and wine.

Tuscany is a product or it’s history and civilizations. The Apennine culture dominated the late second millennium BC, followed by the Villanovan culture (1100–700 BC). Tuscany, and the rest of Etruria, was then dominated by City-states before the Etruscan civilization rose in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Then came the Romans in the first century AD followed by the medieval period. Tuscany (Florence) is often referred to as the birthplace of the Renaissance. I didn’t realize how many people died in the “black death” which started in 1348, 50% of the population overall and up to 75% in some cities.

We spent about two weeks in Italy but “the group” all stayed at Villa Ponte in Bettolle for 7 days (previously called Il Casale Del Marchese or La Bandita). The villa dates back to the 18th century but has been beautifully restored and the manager/chef, Gian Luca, is a hoot. While at the villa we did day trips on our own, mostly by car.

Below is the list of towns and places visited:

Cinque Terra:
Actually 5 towns on the Italian Riviera, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It’s a fairy tale land with multicolored houses built on the steep hills and terraced gardens. Take the (underground) train and the ferry. Be prepared for lots of walking up and down the steps.


1929 Mercedes

1929 Mercedes SSK in the Mille Miglia

A very quaint walled city. We just happened to be there on the day that the 1000 Miglia, passed through town. The Mille Miglia started in 1927 as an open road endurance race and is now limited to cars made before 1957. I lost count at 100 vintage racing cars.

Castello Banfi and Banfi Wines:
A very large vineyard and winery producing 12 million bottles per year… olive oil. We had a tour then a great lunch in the restored castle.

Yet another quaint hill town/commune famous for the Brunello di Montalcino wine made from the sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the commune.


Siena Cathedral

The Romanesque-Gothic Siena Cathedral

Spend some time people watching in the Palazzo Pubblico where the Palio horse race is held twice a year. The Romanesque-Gothic Siena Cathedral is a must see as well as the home of Saint Catherine of Siena, one of the two patron saints of Italy.


Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio on the Arno River; Get out Your Wallet

What can you say about Florenza?….Santa Maria del Fiore, The David, Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Repubblica….the cradle of the Renaissance. And of course Ponte Vecchio, the Medieval bridge over the Arno river, now home to jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops.

Bagni San Filippo:
Hot springs, a great surprise and change of pace. We “sort of” stumbled on hot springs that were a bit of a hike back into the woods and with few other people there. There was a series of rustic pools people had damned up going down the hill with the top pool at the source about 96 degrees F.

A hill town/commune with beautiful panoramic views. The town was originally called Corsignano, the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Picolomini who later became Pope Pius II and entirely rebuilt it as an ideal renaissance town.


Bridge To Civita

Don’t take the bridge to Civita if you are afraid of Heights

A very interesting hill town, less restored then the others because it was isolated for years after the original land bridge collapsed. You can still see Etruscan caves in the area. I got vertigo for the first time in my life while walking up the bridge.

Another interesting hill town perched on vertical cliff faces with a subterranean city of caves and tunnels one can tour. The Duomo, the Orvieto Cathedral, is striped in travertine and basalt.

Other cities people in our group visited included Rome, Venice, Pisa, Cortona, Bologna and Milan.

RO 6-14

A Better Way to Determine Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A while back I reported a table of the approximate calories in an average (115 ml or 4 oz) glass of wine (also see here and here). However there is a more accurate way to calculate how many calories alcoholic beverages contain which actually contribute towards your body’s use of calories. In other words how will the alcoholic beverages you consume affect your weight?

Wine contains about 13% alcohol by volume (actually I’ve seen one that reports 16.5%) and beer any where from 3.2% to 10% or more, and distilled spirits vary widely. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So you might assume the more alcohol you consume the more weight you will gain. It turns out that many studies have determined that calories from alcohol do not necessarily lead to weight increase. The reason is unclear but the research suggests that alcohol is not effectively metabolized and that alcohol can increase overall metabolic rates causing more calories to be burned rather than stored. (Read this). For scientists the “calories” reported in foods are actually kilocalories but we will just call them “calories” here.

So for a correct comparison of the “metabolic calories” in various alcoholic beverages you have to back out the calories due to the alcohol. Note for comparison: one gram of fat contains about 9 calories; complex carbohydrates and protein each contain 4 calories per gram; and as above pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. So if you know the total (T) calories in a given volume (Xoz) of a drink and the percent alcohol (P) it’s simple to calculate the net (N) metabolic calories you will consume:

N = T – 7(cal/gm alcohol)*0.28(gm alcohol/oz%)*P*X = T – 1.96*P*X

  • N = Net calories in your drink of X ounces
  • T = Total calories in your drink of X ounces
  • X = Number of ounces of the drink
  • P = Percent alcohol of the drink


There are a number of sources that report the calories and percent alcohol in various drinks. The values differ quite a bit from source to source, but below I have selected some wines and beers to provide a few examples:

Calories in Wine

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Wine 4oz, 0% 37 37
Champagne 4oz, 12% 105 11
Dry Red 4oz , 13% 115 13
Dry White 4oz , 12.5% 120 22
Dry Rose 4oz , 12% 100 0

Calories in Beer

  Total Calories Net Calories
Non-Alcohol Beer 12oz, 0% 60 60
Beer 12oz, 5.5% 150 21
Light Beer 12oz, 4.0% 100 6
Stout 12oz, 4.3% 153 52
Double Dock 12oz, 9.5% 323 99


There are many references but these will get you started if interested:



LCGC Europe Webinar: “The Comprehensive Analyses of Wine”

Monday, October 29th, 2012

LCGC Europe recently held a very informative webinar detailing the analysis of wine.  You can register on the LCGC Europe website to view a recording, or download the slides.

You can also watch the webinar I hosted last year on the Art and Chemistry of Wine.


If you analyze wine, be sure to check out SPEX CertiPrep’s growing selection of wine standards.

Phthalate and BPA concentrations in small, inexpensive, imported children’s toys [Updated!]

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Concerns continue to grow about what is causing the increase in autism, cancers and other childhood disorders. We see higher levels in the environment for pesticides, heavy metals, steroids, antibiotics and potentially toxic compounds used in the production of plastics. These alone or in combination could be responsible for some of these increases. Plastic additives are of particular concern because it is virtually impossible to limit a child’s exposure to food and drink containers, toys, etc. which can lead directly to the ingestion of plasticizers such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).


In fact children’s products are often targeted for testing and regulation where the potential for toxic exposure is even greater than for adults. The US has started to limit levels of some phthalates, including DEP, DEHP, DBP, BBP, for use in children’s’ products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has published testing methods for these regulated phthalates while the regulation of BPA remains under debate. A study was undertaken here to examine the levels of phthalates and BPA in small, inexpensive, imported children’s toys. New cryogenic grinding methods developed to process the different types of plastic toys examined and new quantitative analytical methods developed specifically for these analyses are described and the results discussed.


“The Preparation, Extraction, and Analysis of Imported Children’s Toys for Phthalates and BPA.”

Presented by Patricia Atkins at Pittcon 2012


Download the slides (.pdf) from this very informative presentation.


Want to learn more?  Join SPEX CertiPrep for a FREE webinar!

Join SPEX CertiPrep on May 3rd, 2012 at 10AM or 2PM for an informative webinar on the sample preparation of imported plastic toys for the analysis of BPA and phthalates.

Register now!

Paraprosdokians….Obie’s Favorites

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Paraprosdokian: A figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected, frequently humorous.

Paraprosdokian was a legendary Greek hero. A handsome warrior, his exploits, feats and conquests surpass one’s imagination.


  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  • The problem with being better than everyone is that people think you’re arrogant.
  • Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
  • A fine is a tax for doing wrong…..A tax is a fine for doing well.
  • If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea… does that mean that
 one enjoys it?
  • Two guys walked into a bar. The third one ducked.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and it never was.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  • We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  • I thought I wanted a career, it turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘A DOCTOR.’
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
  • I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you religious any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • A diplomat is someone who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
  • I always take life with a grain of salt. Adding a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila helps too.
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • Sometimes people ask me, “ What would you do if you had a million dollars?” My answer is always the same three words: All-Pistachio Diet.
  • Pain is fear leaving the body
  • Blowing out another’s candle will not make yours shine brighter.
  • I refuse to engage in an intellectual battle with an unarmed man.
  • Some days you’re the dog, and some days you’re the hydrant.
  • Eat shit! 1,000,000,000,000 flies can’t be wrong.
  • The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
  • The gene pool could use a little chlorine.
  • If you step in a puddle, don’t blame the puddle.
  • How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
  • Some people are like Slinkys … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?
  • Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.
  • A bus is a vehicle that goes twice as fast when you’re after it as when you’re in it.
  • If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple
of payments.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that
you don’t need it.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
  • I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if
you wish they were.
  • Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. So study hard and be evil.
  • You are such a good friend that if we were on a sinking ship together
and there was only one life jacket… I’d miss you heaps and think
of you often.
  • I’m so miserable without you, it’s almost like
you’re still here.
  • If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people
have more than one child.
  • The car stopped on a dime, which unfortunately was in a pedestrian’s pocket.
  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.



Check out our webinar on “The Making and Chemistry of Wine!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The production of wine has been an art form and a business for thousands of years. Join SPEX CertiPrep as we discuss the vintner’s art, from wine production to the chemistry of wine. Our presentation includes not only the various steps in the actual production of wine from crushing the grapes to bottling the wine, but also a discussion of the different chemical aspects of wine from flavor profile agents to contamination and spoilage agents. We invite you to take part in our interesting and informative look at the art and science of wine!



You can view other webinars from SPEX CertiPrep on their YouTube Channel

Download the slides from the SPEX CertiPrep website

For more information on SPEX CertiPrep’s Wine and Pesticide Certified Reference Materials, visit  To learn about the Geno/Grinder, visit

Absinthe: Myths and Truths

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Absinthe, the “Green Fairy” (Fee Verte) as it came to be called, originated in Switzerland in the late 1700’s as an elixir/tincture. It is a distilled, 68-70% alcohol, liquor flavored by several herbs, notably wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, and also green anise, hyssop, lemon balm and Florence fennel.

However, it is better known for its popularity in late 19th and early 20th century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers such as Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Picasso and van Gogh. Part of its fascination is its ritual preparation: a shot of absinthe is added to a glass then a sugar cube is placed in a special spoon laid on the rim of the glass. As cold water is poured over the sugar it dissolves into the Absinthe resulting in an opalescent milky-green emulsion.

Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug that could cause hallucinations, epileptic-like attacks and madness. By 1915, it was prohibited in a number of European countries and the United States. The culprit in the drink was believed to be thujone, found in wormwood – a ketone and a monoterpene that exists in two stereoisomeric forms: (+)-3-thujone or α-thujone and (-)-3-thujone or ß-thujone. It has a menthol odor.

Scientific analysis in recent years by an international team led by Dirk W. Lachenmeier and including David Nathan-Maister and Theodore A. Breaux has shown that absinthe contains only small quantities of thujone, and cannot be responsible for absinthe’s reported hallucinogenic effects. They analyzed recent productions as well as authentic absinthe produced before 1910.

Pre-ban samples averaged 25.4mg/L while modern samples ranged between 7.6mg/L and 26mg/L. At these concentrations it is impossible to ingest enough thujone to affect the central nervous system, long before that would happen the person would be very intoxicated. It should also be pointed out that thujone is also found at low concentrations in some other herbs such as sage.

The ban on Absinthe was lifted in Europe in 1988 with a limit of 10mg/L and in the US in 2007 where the limit on thujone is set at less than 10mg/L as well. Today over 100 different brands are produced in more than a dozen countries.

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