MoonBeans Coffee

Opened for nearly fifteen years, MoonBeans began its operation in McAllen, Texas at a simple plaza along 10th street. The coffee shop has a very relaxed atmosphere with different types of tables, chairs and couches for its customers to rest upon. The dim lighting makes it an ideal location for friends to gather and students to work.

In the counter, there is a display case of both lunch or breakfast sandwiches, depending on the time of day, and baked breads such as scones, muffins and loafs. On the menu above, written in chalk, is a list of signature coffee drinks. The names all relate to the theme of outer space such as: Comet Cappuccino, Launch Pad, Milky Way Mocha, White Dwarf, etc. What makes this drink shop special is not only the friendly vibe, but the variety of drinks. In their menu includes an ale and lager selection from specialty brands to staples. There is also a selection of smoothie flavors, non-coffee based drinks and teas for those that enjoy the atmosphere, but do not want the caffeine.

In the past few years, the coffee house had begun expanding across the valley with two new locations. Opening on November 9, 2012 is the Edinburg location settled along Trenton road, in front of the new Bistro Theater. This Edinburg building is the first to include a drive-thru option for those on the hurry. Recently in August of 2014, the chain has opened its doors in Pharr, Texas behind city hall. The city used U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development funding of $114,000 and added $60,000 from city coffers for the project under a revolving loan program that covers rent for the coffee shop until the loan is paid. A dozen jobs were created and MoonBeans invested $60,000 and equipment for the new store.

It all began when Luis Beltran, a fifty-four year old man and native of San Francisco, California, moved to McAllen two decades ago and decided to start the coffee house after an illness in his wife’s family. “My grandmother used to make it on the stove, old school Puerto Rican style,” Luis Beltran said in an interview, as he confessed his love affair with coffee from a young age. “The way she made it was more like candy, with sugar and condensed milk… she got me hooked.” Luis Beltran has traveled coast-to-coast in order to scope out what quality coffee really means. Shade-grown coffee from high-altitudes in Central and South America can yield some of the most complex flavors but MoonBeans offers brews from around the globe. Plans to start using direct trade with farmers around the world are in the works, but they currently offer organic fair trade brews. A seven-foot tall coffee roaster churning out dark beans will be behind a glass wall viewable from the coffeehouse floor when the renovations are complete. “Anybody from here to the expressway will be able to smell it because that’s the way the wind blows,” said Beltran, a master coffee roaster who “cups” his coffee after roasting to ensure quality and consistency. During the cupping process, hot water is mixed with freshly ground beans in a ceramic or glass cup and scooped out with a spoon before tasting. There is no filter required.

 

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Pumpkin Ales

Only seen as a seasonal item, Pumpkin Ales are released around the fall and winter times. Each is brewed differently, yet most are spiced with seasonings such as pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger, nutmeg cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Some brewers like to add chunks of pumpkin inside the mash, while others use puree or pumpkin flavorings and extracts. The Ale itself is normally mild with little to no bitterness. Varying on what it is spiced with several are more malty than others. Many will contain a starchy, slightly thick-ish, mouthfeel too. The Top five brands of Pumpkin Ale are Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Cigar City Good Gourd, New Belgium Pumpkick, and Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus.

 

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Hors D’Oeuvre

French for “outside the work”, hors d’oeuvres are commonly served in very small, bite-sized portions as an appetizer before a meal or sampler for food-consorts. Usually served on a large dish held by a waiter, butler or even in a buffet table. Because they can consist of meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, vegetables, grains, pasta, fruits baked goods and sauces; there is no end to the possibilities when creating a treat.

There are savory and sweet hors d’oeuvres as well as coming in hot or cold. Generally cold hors d’oeuvres can be divided into five ranged categories based on preparation, ingredient or presentation. The different styles include: canapés, crudités, dips, caviar, sushi and sashimi.

The Guidelines for preparing hors d’oeuvres consist of four mainly. They should be small and consumed in one to two bites. They should be flavorful as well seasoned without being overpowering. They should be visually attractive. They should complement whatever foods may follow without duplication their flavors.

Canapés are tiny open-faced sandwiches, classically. Constructed from a base, a spread and about one or two garnishes, there are many modern interpretations to the style. The most common canapé base is a thin slice of bread cut into an interesting shape, like a triangle or crescent, and toasted.

 

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Central Plains

Consisting of the states in the Great Plains of the United States such as: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  The region’s major trade areas became areas for America’s first breweries that started the great beer industry before the decline during the Prohibition of 1920. After the ban ended, only 400 of the original breweries survived and were able to reopen for business.

With the expansion of the railroads, more land was developed in the Central Plains. Many cattle were herded out of Texas and settle to the vast grass lands of Central Plains’ towns. New breeds of cattle were developed that could withstand the hard conditions and fattened nicely on plains grasses as well as making them easier to ship east. Ranching became a booming business.

Major grain that came out of the Central Plains was Corn and Wheat which could be used for a vast majority of things like fuel, feed and byproducts. Popular meals include: Roasted Beet and Pickled Rhubarb Salad, Pork Medallions with Pears and Herbed Israeli Couscous, Sautéed Green Beans, Wisconsin Cheddar and Beer Soup, Morel Mushrooms with Spinach, Planked Whitefish with Green Onion Butter, and Molasses Cookies.

 

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New England

New England is the North Eastern region of the United States and is made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. With these states being along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it is very common to see seafood being incorporated into their dishes.

Among the many varieties of seafood found, it is the Atlantic Cod and Maine Lobsters that are among the most popular there. The species of Cod has a very early history dating back from settlement times and is recognized as a symbol of the region’s natural heritage. Live Maine lobsters are very abundant and can be available year-round. The legal size to catch a lobster for consumer eateries is 1 pound with ranges from a minimum of 3 ¼ inches and not beyond 5 inches.

Popular dishes include: New England clam chowder, which had four distinct variations in the recipe depending on the State it is made in; Roast Turkey Roulades, Boston Baked Beans; Peach and Blueberry Cobbler. It is common to have dishes that are made in one pot dating back to colonial times and it had become even more common-place with immigration coming in the early 1800s.

There are two ocean currents that meet in the region which help cultivate the growing fish industry. The Grand Bank is where these two currents meet and help produce a number of cod, swordfish, scallop and lobster. From the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream this place has become the most productive fisheries in the world.

 

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Louisiana

Louisiana has many cultural influences upon it from it’s long history of being occupied by Native American, French, Spanish, German, English, African and Italian settlements. These people have blended together to create two distinct but similar styles: Cajun and Creoles.

Cajun cooking has been described as country cooking and tends to have a robust and earthy taste. Such foods popular in Cajun cuisine include Gumbo, Chicken Maquechoux and Cajun Omelet. It is mostly based on food that is indigenous to the area and features mostly one-pot meals with a hefty variety of ingredients. The term Cajun applies to both a geographical area and the people who come from it. Cajun people are well known for their hospitality.

Creole cooking began in New Orleans and is considered the city food of Louisiana. It was created by sharing cooking styles and is more sophisticated and complex than Cajun cooking. The word Creole was first given to new arrivals from Europe who were generally wealthy and educated as well as bringing many European customs and traditions. Creole foods include the Muffuletta, Creole Jambalaya and Beignets.

There is many hunting to be made profitable in Louisiana setting from the early 1700s and 1800s. There is many opportunities to catch wild turkey, duck, partridge and quail as well as fishing for catfish. Coming from both freshwaters and pond raised this species of fish is very abundant.

 

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Hawaii

In Hawaii, there is a chain of 132 islands that extend for more than 1500 miles. Out of these many islands, there are eight main island called: Hawaii; Maui; Oahu; Kauai; Molokai; Lanai; Nihau; and Kahoolawe. Inhabiting these islands are the native Polynesian people whom came from early on as well as people from Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese ancestry and those from the United States after becoming one with the Union.

During the early 1700s, the Hawaiian Islands were ruled by four chiefs until the late 1780s when Kamehameha I became the sole ruler and united all islands. With this Hawaii became a Kingdom that had established trade with other counties and prospered as it grew. It was until 1893 when Queen Liliuokalani was removed from the throne by U.S. and European landowners that the monarchy ended.

Early Polynesian natives brought in foods such as taro, breadfruit, coconuts, sweet potatoes, sugarcane pineapples and bananas to the islands. They also introduced small pigs that grew very widely along the islands. It is with these ingredients that Hawaii food became distinct. Pork, pineapples and bananas can be incorporated into any cuisine and are used in abundance in traditional meals such as Grilled Ono with Pinapple Chutney and Saimin with Teriaki Meat Sticks. Other popular dishes come from the local fishing industry that catching a vast majority of wild fish to make meals including: Deep Fried Calamari Salad, Ahi Tuna, and Caramelized Salmon.

 

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Belarussian Hospitality

The Republic of Belarus is located west of Russia, above Ukraine and below the Baltic nations of Lithuania and Latvia as well as the neighbor to Poland. Agriculturally, they are very well at growing grain, potato, vegetables, sugar beet, flax and their meat and dairy industry is in the high. Currently the people of this nation can be described as kind, friendly and good humored. They can claim their patience comes from a darkened history of endless wars in which they were in the crossfire of and had to participate in.

Settlements can be traced far back in the beginnings of Belarus, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that wars began to divide the people amongst its neighbors. An especially damaging time in their life was during 1569-1795 in which the region was known as Rcecz Pospolita. During these times the citizens were forced to participate in a war with Russia during 1600s followed by the North war in 1700. This led to a weakening that made it easy to loose provinces to other nations such as Russia, Austria and Prussia.

In line with the Russian Empire, the parts of Belarus that were under this influence were intirated to take up Russian culture and traditions. Many conflicts followed suit including: revolt under Tadeusz Kostushko’s leadership, Napoleonic invasion of Russia, Polish revolt, and a great rebellion headed by Kastus Kalinovski. After many more hardships, the nation of Belarus was formed when it’s people declared independence in March 1918.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the New Year in 1919 that the country renamed itself as the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic and fell in line with the USSR during the following years like many other eastern European countries. In the 1930s, famine brought about from soviet economic policy lead to a collective farming known as Kolkhoz which resembled America’s Great Depression in the use of over farming. The nation was bitter about the suffering of its people caused by the Great Purge, but attitudes changed at the start of the Second World War. It was during these times that Belarus became the battlegrounds between the red army and the German Nazi party. The capital of Minsk was turned into a large ghetto known as Tuchinki where many of its native Jews, as well as German and Czech Jews, were executed in masses. By the End of July in 1944 a movement known as Operation Bagration saw the liberation of the Belarusian SSR by the Red Army from German occupation.

Joining the United Nations in 1945, Belarus took part in bringing cultural understanding throughout the world, dispirit being a member of the Soviet Party. Horror occurred when the neighboring Chernobyl suffered a nuclear reactor disaster which lead to the pollution of large areas of Belarusian territories. This made farming harder on the citizens, but they were able to overcome it. By 1991, the official namesake of the country became the Republic of Belarus with the dissolution of the Soviet Union soon to follow months later. It wasn’t until policies were put in place that the country entered a democratic form of government and its first president Alexander Lukashenko whom was inaugurated on June 20, 1994. The day of independence was shortly moved to July 3 in which was the day Belarus was liberated from Nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War.

After going through so much, it is great to see culture bloom in the country. With wildlife such as elks, deer, wild boar, beavers and wolves to roam about, it is easy to understand how traditions are able to keep up. Belarusian national cuisine has evolved over the centuries. A mix of simple recipes used by commoners and sophisticated cuisine of nobility, extensive use of local ingredients and unusual way of cooking makes up the culinary taste. Old recipes have managed to survive to present day and is a local treat for visitors. Restaurants serve food ranging from “peasant cuisine of the countryside” to “elaborate dishes for Belarusian magnates” to give a full experience to any unsuspecting traveler. Traditional dishes are served at farmsteads that use only fresh farm produce to make the dishes which are often common only for a particular area. Here they bake bread to old recipes and technologies, cook homemade meat delicacies, cheese from cow or goat’s milk, and sweets made of honey, apples and cranberries.

As previously implied, the two main factors that lead to the way food is served today come from both active farming and extensive use of local produce, as well as influences from neighboring countries and migrant settlers. Since the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the national culinary traditions have been a mix of Baltic, Slavic, Jewish and partly German cuisines. Therefore, the Belarusian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the continent. It is similar to the Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, but is unique in its own way, is hearty and delicious. In the old days, each social class had its own gastronomic traditions. Therefore the Belarusian cuisine was divided into peasants and high nobility cuisines.

There are special features that distinguish the Belarusian cuisine from culinary traditions of many other countries. For example, the Belarusian cuisine is characterized by quite complicated and lengthy processing of products. It includes such methods as braising, stewing, baking, cooking, blanching and roasting, with several of them being used in some recipes. Many national dishes require various kinds of flour made of oats, buckwheat, peas, rye and their mixtures. The Belarusian cuisine offers a great variety of dishes made from vegetables. Many of them are unique despite the fact that they are based on traditional Slavonic recipes. The pride of the national cuisine is traditional Belarusian bread baked with the use of rye flour. Instead of yeast Belarusians used a special leaven. Belarusian bread is heavier and is a bit sour. In old recipes different additives were used like caraway seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds. Bread was sometimes baked on the ‘pillow’ made from birch and oak leaves.

Today’s restaurants offer modern intake on traditional Belarusian dishes which reflect original ideas of chefs and principles of Grande cuisine, which takes into account the diversity of products and seasonal changes. The main changes that the Belarusian cuisine underwent in the 20th century were that wheat flour and dishes from it became very popular and that salads became quite common.

 

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Switzerland

Switzerland is a country that is small in size and lodged in the middle of several larger countries making its culture more blended. The main themes to be established in its cuisine take notes from German, French and Italian rules. In the southern part’s, polenta and risotto are very popular while west of that French dominates leaving the north to German ancestry. These three may be on the main course, but are not the sole participant’s in Switzerland’s dinner table. The country prefers to have a mix of cultures from other neighboring countries and to diverse its pallet. The three dishes created solely by the nation and is a specialty there are Fondue, Chocolate, and Raclette.

The etiquette that must take place varies typically between German, French and Italian, but all come with certain rules before taking place. First the guest is expected to bring a gift such as chocolate or wine from a local place. Since the drinking age is sixteen, alcohol is very common to have at a meal, so be prepared to drink out of curtesy. Dinner is very formal so one must dress nicely and use extremely good table manners. When at the table it is important to remember to greet everyone properly with a firm handshake, including children, before being seated. The middle of the table is reserved for the place of honor when seating instead of at the head or next to the host.

There should be no elbows on the table, yet arms only are fine. It is important that you do not drink until the toast is made, which you should be sure to clink glasses with everyone in reach without getting up from the seat. Because the Swiss have a high approval for trying something new, it is important to try a little bit of everything on the table. Be mindful of the amount you serve yourself because it is very rude to leave any food behind on the plate.

When finished, place knife and fork parallel to each other and pointing to the right while being directly in the middle of the plate. If you wish to ask for seconds set the utensils as an “X” on the plate with fork pointed left. The Swiss tend to be very direct in responses so try not to beat around the bush. Topics to avoid, however, are religion and salary since no one wants anyone to feel uncomfortable in regards to either. When at a restaurant, it is important to not leave any money on the table. One should hand cash over to the sever for the bill with the tip included and to be very clear on how much you are paying for each, so they know how much to bring back in change. It is common for the tip to be at ten percent and is usually included in the bill.

When dining on a German meal it is important to avoid eating with hands as well as keeping arms away from resting on the lap. When presented with a majority French meal, one must include the above, but also remember to wait for host to say when to ear as well as to not chew with mouth open. A napkin is to be on the lap and you must expect second or even third helpings. When given an Italian meal, there is not as many restrictions as the other two but you have to leave your glass half full when you are done and stay at the table until everyone is finished. With either meal eaten, the Swiss enjoy having a wine or other alcohol selection chosen.

 

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500px

Not many people know this but I’m an avid photographer. I used to be very serious about it in my youth, but it was just one hobby that I couldn’t share because work or college got in the way…

Well I was recently recommended this website that allows me to finally show off all that hard work I had made so long ago as well as my recent pictures from when opportunity arised.

If anyone is curious, they are free to view at 500px. I’m not sure how often I will upload since I have over a decade of photos to look through. I’ll try not to put any sub-par, but either way enjoy!

https://500px.com/xxmaskedpuppetxx

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