Redwood Grove at the San Francisco Botanical Garden

Redwood Grove pic
Redwood Grove
Image: sfbotanicalgarden.org

Currently living in the Bay Area in California and working as a nurse practitioner, Jonathan Vrban enjoys spending time gardening and studying botany. Also a fan of cooking and baking, Jonathan Vrban likes to travel to destinations like Italy, but his own city also has plenty to offer.

San Francisco boasts many attractions, from the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to the tourist favorite Fisherman’s Wharf. One hidden gem in the area is San Francisco Botanical Garden, a living museum in Golden Gate Park that includes more than 55 acres of landscaped gardens as well as open natural spaces.

One of the park’s biggest draws is the Redwood Grove, a treat for visitors who do not want to journey out of the city to view these towering giant trees. Planted near the turn of the 20th century, the trees are some of the oldest in the garden. Furthermore, the area contains more than 100 species of plants to make the grove resemble a typical redwood forest. Visitors to the grove can download or pick up the Redwood Trail Guide or listen to a walking tour podcast.

The park is open 365 days a year. Learn more by visiting www.sfbotanicalgarden.org.

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Choosing the Right Cookware for a Dish

Cookware
Cookware
Image: dish.allrecipes.com

Dr. Jonathan Vrban lives in Hawaii and enjoys many hobbies in his leisure time. For instance, Dr. Jonathan Vrban likes to experiment with new recipes when baking and cooking.

Ending up with a tasty final product when preparing food depends on a number of factors. For instance, you should start with quality ingredients and follow proper technique. However, one key consideration many people might overlook is using the right cookware for the type of food being prepared.

For instance, for recipes that require long cooking time on the stove, you might consider using cast iron cookware. While this type of cookware can take a while to heat up, it distributes heat evenly once it does. Similarly, since it can handle high temperatures, cast iron cookware makes a good choice when searing meat or using similar cooking techniques. You might also decide to use stainless steel cookware in this situation. In addition to heating well, stainless steel pans are also versatile, in that they can handle shifts between different cooking techniques, such as broiling, stovetop cooking, and baking.

Other times, you might want to prepare more delicate dishes, such as fish, which can easily break apart if you aren’t careful. In these situations, nonstick cookware can fit the bill. Additionally, since it reduces the amount of butter or oil needed to stop sticking, it’s handy when you’re trying to reduce the amount of calories or fat in your meals. An experienced cook can provide additional guidance on the types of cookware available and when they might be used.

Making Pasta

Jonathan Vrban earned his doctorate in nursing practice in 2008 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals and has spent nearly 30 years in the field, in clinical and academic settings. Outside the professional environment, Jonathan Vrban is a passionate cook and enjoys making his own pasta.

Some home cooks prefer making their pasta themselves for a variety of reasons. It gives the diet-conscious the opportunity to assume complete control over their ingredients. For others, it’s the opportunity to experiment with different consistencies and flavors.

Pasta is made by combining flour and liquid to form a dough that can be rolled fairly thin — about 1/8 of an inch. Once rolled out, the pasta is cut into strips or other shapes by hand, shaped cutters, or machine and hung out to dry, after which it can be cooked.

The fun in pasta-making comes from experimenting with the ingredients – most pastas have egg as part of the liquid, and some have additional yolks. Pasta made for vegan diets cannot use eggs, and so those recipes substitute water. Tomato paste can be mixed with the liquid to give the pasta a reddish tint; a small amount of pureed spinach will make green pasta. Both coloring approaches will also impact the pasta’s texture and flavor.

The liquid isn’t the only part of pasta that’s open to experimentation. While western cultures often make pasta with wheat flour, other cultures use all manner of grains and legumes as the flour used for making pasta. Cellophane pasta is made with mung bean flour, and rice flour, sometimes mixed with tapioca or corn starch, is popular in Asia for making noodles. Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, while udon — thick, chewy, and soft — and the thin ramen noodles so popular in the U.S. are both made with wheat flour.

Unusual Dishes from Around the World

Dr. Jonathan Vrban worked in San Francisco as a practitioner at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Jonathan Vrban enjoys cooking and traveling. When he travels, he likes to immerse himself in the local culture and sample new dishes.

One of the most exciting parts of traveling to another country is having the opportunity to try its lesser-known delicacies. While many people will want to order pasta in Italy or enjoy an authentic Swiss dessert, there are countless exotic dishes most tourists likely never seek out. China’s bird’s nest soup, for example, is comprised primarily of a swiftlet’s nest. Rather than collecting sticks and leaves, swiftlets use saliva to make their nests. The idea of eating bird saliva might not sound so appetizing, but swiftlet saliva ranks among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. A quality bowl can carry a price tag of $100.

When it comes to the American diet, few – if any – meals come to mind that emphasize fried insects as a key ingredient. In Cambodia, however, fried tarantula is considered an affordable delicacy. World travelers can further broaden their tastes in Korea, where live octopus can be found on the menu. The meal is prepared with a light sesame oil seasoning, and is famous for severed tentacles still moving.