Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cashews: Tough Nuts

This post will take you through the steps of harvesting, roasting, and finally eating fresh cashew nuts. I am going to lay the process out step by step. Before I begin I want to warn the reader not to try this at home. I have learned the hard way that cashew nuts are no joke. They are fine in their docile canned form. In the raw, however, they should be handled with EXTREME CAUTION. Do not underestimate these nuts, unless you really like to scratch yourself.

STEP 1: Cashew Tree
The first thing you need is a cashew tree. If you don't have one you can borrow one from a neighbor. That's what we did. The tree is sort of smothering the shack behind our house. It rains down 15-25 cashew fruits and nuts everyday.

STEP 2: Pick Fruit

Cashew nuts grow atop a false fruit called a cashew apple, marañón here in Central America. I believe the fruit is called false because it doesn't actually contain the seed of the plant. Cashew apples are extremely sweet and are used to make jellies, chutneys, wines and vinegar. They are the juiciest fruit we have ever seen. After falling from the tree they completely decompose in about three days.

STEP 3: Separate Fruits
Here we separate the true fruit from the false fruit. The cashew nut is contained in the kidney-shaped drupe that Karine is separating from the cashew apple in this picture. Its best if you can do this before they fall from the tree because cashew apples turn into gloppy messes as soon as they hit the ground.

Step 4: Gather Nuts
We chose this delightful pink plastic strainer to use as our drupe-nut holder. If you don't have a pink strainer you can certainly use anything that will work: a paper bag, a bowl, a differently colored plastic strainer, whatever. We collect nuts every day. As soon as the stainer is full, its roasting time. The roasting process is a little messy and a little dangerous. Better to do them all a once.

WARNING: Before I continue on to the roasting process I would like to remind the reader that this is a description of the stupid way to roast cashews. Cashew drupes contain a caustic dermatogenic phenolic resin called urushiol. This delightful substance, also found in sumac, poison ivy, and poison oak, causes skin inflammation, uncontrollable itchiness, and possibly fluid filled pustules. If you follow my directions exactly, you may just end up covered in this stuff.

STEP 5: Fire up the Grill
Place a handful of drupes on a hot grill and watch them burn. The drupes soon catch fire and begin to ooze thick black oil. I would not recommend doing this roasting, or any roasting for that matter, indoors. As the drupes begin to burn they sometimes shoot out jets of flaming resin. If the flaming cashew drupes get out of control, as mine did, quickly remove them from the flame.

STEP 6: Repeat STEP 5 (Less Heat)
If your cashew drupes burst into flame and begin exploding, your fire is too hot. You want to the drupes to smoke and sputter resin in a somewhat controlled manner.

STEP 7: Avoid Smoke
Roasting cashew drupes give off a thick white smoke. This smoke is pretty nasty stuff and I would not recommend standing in it or breathing it. Because it is the smoke emitted by boiling urushiol resin I certainly would not recommend getting it in your eye.

STEP 8: Cooling and Cracking
As soon as the cashew drupes are no longer sputtering caustic resin they can be removed from heat for cooling. I never did find a neat and efficient method for separating the nuts from drupes. I used a hammer and my bare hands. This is where I got myself into trouble.

STEP 9: Wear Gloves (and long pants, and a shirt)
If at any time during the cashew roasting process you find your hands covered in urushiol resin (see picture below) you have made a serious error. If you do happen to get urushiol on your hands during the roasting process do not for any reason touch any part of your body unless you want that part of your body to itch for the next two weeks.

STEP 10: Clean and Re-roast
Once the cashew nuts and the cashew drupes have been separated the nuts should be cleaned and roasted in the oven on a low temperature for several hours. This is done to ensure that any remaining urishiol is cooked away.

I learned a lot about nuts through this process. I learned that nuts can be sort of dangerous. One thing that I learned is that, as far as nuts go, cashews deserve a lot of respect. How do they taste? They taste awesome.

The good news is that I don't think I will be breaking out in fluid-filled pustules. My whole body itches pretty much all the time, but I'm happy be pustule free.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Welcome home, I ate your trees!

Ruby really missed us while we were gone. She communicated this to us by eating two palm trees in our backyard. I bet they were tasty. The picture below is Ruby apologizing.

Back home in La Ceiba

We are home now. Here is a picture of a ripe cashew fruit growing in our backyard. We're going to post a full cashew harvesting and roasting blog later this week....

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sweet Home Nebraska

As we look back at the week we had in Nebraska, we can't help but smile. It was a wonderful time to celebrate, laugh, eat, play with some cute kids, shop, and eat some more! Here's a bit about the highlights of our trip...

  • Flying from San Pedro Sula to Miami to Dallas/Ft. Worth to Omaha
  • Meeting Christopher and catching up with the Notch and Lewandowski families at the hotel

  • haircuts and mani/pedis
  • ladies night out and meeting some of Karen's awesome friends

  • Bridal luncheon with the ladies,
  • Tom and Doug's lunch/gun-store browsing trip
  • Christopher was baptized (We're proud Godparents!)
  • Wedding Rehearsal
  • Catching up with Casey, Tommy, and Kathryn at dinner
  • Lewandowski family night at the hotel- hours of catching up with cousins, aunts, and uncles
  • Hair appointments and last minute details
  • Doug, Tom, and Jon spend a lot of time on kid duty while wives get photos taken
  • Tom and Doug walked Karen down the aisle
  • Karine held beautiful flowers as a bridesmaid
  • Karen and Mark Roesner are officially married!
  • Fantastic reception with loads of friends, family, and dancing!
  • Gift opening brunch at Jean's house
  • Watched some Mars movie with the Newlyweds
  • Tom and I went "browsing" at Sears, Sam's Club, Target, Home Depot, Marshall's, Dietz Music, Petco, Whole Foods, and Borsheims!
  • Tom said I could only buy one toy for Ruby at the pet store. After much deliberation, I settled on the biggest, most expensive toy I could find- she loves it!
  • McKenna's BBQ for dinner with Jean
  • Flew from Omaha to Minneapolis (Thanks for the pick-up Kristin!)
  • Tom biked around the lakes
  • I lunched with Kristin and Katy and their adorable sons.
  • Karine had happy hour with Ann, Ellen, Megan, and Emily
  • Tom visited Joe at work and went to a birthday dinner party
  • Tom purchased an ipod shuffle out of an airport vending machine
  • Flew home
  • Reunion with Ruby! (Thanks, Carter for dog/house sitting!)
It was a fantastic week, full of family and fun. We can't wait to see everyone again this summer!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Family Shopping

How much fun are we having in Omaha? We are having this much fun.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Going to the chapel...

Because they're gonna get married!

Karen and Mark, we can hardly wait for your big day!

We've had a crazy week preparing to leave for Karen and Mark's wedding, but we are so excited to see many of our friends and family in this quick trip. When we get back, we'll share a few exciting things- including Tom's mad machete skills and our very own cashew harvesting project!

Adios for now!

Friday, April 11, 2008


Due to her love of dining with men in high-powered positions, Karine has been invited to dine with the Mexican Ambassador to Honduras. As a board member to the Guaruma organization, Karine will be lunching and touring Guaruma today with the ambassador. After reading The Secret, Karine has spent hours thinking positive thoughts of eating with powerful people. The laws of attraction continue to bring her desired results.

This was not a hoax. I actually was invited to lunch with the big guy. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the restaurant up in the jungle, we learned that he was not coming. He apparantly had called the restaurant the day before to let them know, but nobody told us.

One other thing I've learned in The Secret is that the universe does not recognize words like "not" or "don't". The Universe reads my thoughts "I do want to have lunch with the Mexican Ambassador." = "I do NOT want to have lunch with the Mexican Ambassador." It's all the same to the Universe according to the law of attraction. Oh well. I did enjoy a nice day up the river, visiting the communities of Las Mangas and El Pital and learning more about Guaruma.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

Electronic music is generally subdivided into seven genres: House, Trance, Techno, Breakbeat, Jungle (AKA Drum and Bass), Hardcore, and Downtempo. Iskur's brilliant graphical-musical interface allows you to explore the evolution of these distinct genres over the last fifty years. He provides opinionated commentary and musical samples of electronic sub-genres with names like liquid funk, industrial, glitch, microhouse, and my favorite, buttrock goa (a surprisingly successful marriage of Indian trance music and heavy metal).

Check out the guide, here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Book Recommendation: Three Cups of Tea

In 1993 an American mountaineer named Greg Mortenson stumbled -- dehydrated, exhausted, and near-death -- into an impoverished village in northern Pakistan. He had just failed to climb the earth's second highest mountain peak. The villagers nursed him back to health and Greg promised to repay their kindness by building them a school.

Greg Mortenson lived in his car when he wasn't climbing mountains. He had no training or experience in international development, education, construction, fund raising, middle eastern languages and culture, or international non-profit organizations.

Since 1994 Mortenson's organization, the Central Asia Institute, has built fifty-five schools in the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has raised millions of dollars to promote education and expand opportunities in one of the most desolate and dangerous regions in the world. This book describes how he did it.

Contribute to the Central Asia Institute, here. Buy the book, here.

“Three Cups of Tea is one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time. Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world.” -Tom Brokaw

Friday, April 4, 2008

Stuff We Like: The Trout

As far as musical tastes are concerned, ours don't always overlap 100%. Karine does not enjoy Lamb of God, my favorite heavy metal band. I like Karine's favorite artist, Bright Eyes, but I can only listen to him about once a month. There is simply no disagreement when it comes to the Trout. We love the Trout. We like to listen to the Trout in the morning, while sipping coffee and eating toast on the front porch. We know that any day that begins with the Trout is going to be a great day.

This legendary 1969 performance of the fourth movement features Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline Du Pre, and Pinchas Zuckerman. Cellist Jacqueline Du Pre was just 24 years old. Her instrument for this recording, the Davidov Stradivarius, was purchased for several million dollars by the Vuitton Foundation upon Du Pre's death in 1987. The cello is currently on loan to Yo-Yo Ma.

The Trout Quintet was written by Franz Schubert in 1819. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


We are happy to announce that Karine has been invited to share a meal with Honduran President Mel Zelaya at the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa. We never suspected that she would receive such an honor. Karine recently wrote short letter entitled, “Why President Zelaya’s Mustache is the most Important and Powerful in Central America” ("Porque el bigote del Presidente Zelaya es el mas importante y con mas portencia en Central America"). She submitted the letter to our national newspaper, La Prensa, in response to recent criticisms of Mr. Zalaya's mustache. Karine has always been a fierce defender of mustaches in general and President Zelaya's mustache in particular. Aids to the president related Karine's vigorous defense of the presidential mustache to the president himself this morning. We couldn't possibly be more excited!

Mark Twain on travel

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." -Mark Twain