Zen Pipe Tutorial – Quick Start

Start of a ZenPipe Game

Start of a ZenPipe Game

ZenPipe for iPhone is a relaxing game of luck, logic and skill. And very addictive too! Since the game is not timed, you can think carefully about each move at any pace you enjoy.

Object of the game:

·      The object is to connect all the pipes correctly (turned grey) in the least number of moves or rotates. Each rotate counts as one move.

·      Click the pipes to rotate them to their right position.

·      Pipes that are grey can be turned back to red again if they are in the wrong position and visa versa.

Some Things Can Be Controlled, Some Are Just Luck:

·      Sometimes the pipes will rotate clockwise and sometimes counter-clockwise. There is not telling which way they will turn.

·      It is a game of chance in the way all the pipes are situated at the start of the game.

·      Some procedures will lessen your moves especially when you learn how the pipes move and connect.

·      A good dose of strategy and logic is involved.

How to Begin:

·      Complete the outer rectangle by rotating all the outside pipes to connect them.

·      You will be tempted, as I often am, to start completing the connections. But you stand a better chance of getting a lower score by waiting to complete until all the pipes on the outside edges are in their place.

Complete the outer edge in ZenPipe

Complete the outer edge in ZenPipe

Connecting the Outer Edge:

·      Corner pipes at the corners have only one correct position, facing inside.

·      Corner pipes on the sides have 2 correct positions, facing in and rotated to the left, or facing in and rotated to the right. If there is a corner pipe facing left, the next one will face right and so on.

·      Straight pipes only have one correct position along the edges and only need to be rotated once to achieve.

·      T-pipes have three openings. They have four positions when rotated. They also have only one correct position, which is with the opposite openings along the edges with the third opening facing inside.

Connecting the Inside Pipes:

Each player will use a different strategy. Each game will require a different beginning.

Once you have connected the pipes on the outer edge, the rest is logic and knowing how the pipes connect to one another. Getting to know the pipes and how they work and how they connect when clicked takes some time but is the essence of getting a low score.

Finished ZenPipe Game

Finished ZenPipe Game – one more rotate to complete, not the same game

ZenPipe Scores

ZenPipe Scores

Changes We’d Like to See:

Unfortunately you cannot see your game when its completed.  There is only one level of difficulty. Also you can’t see your score as you proceed. Hopefully in new releases we will have these functions.


Enjoy a relaxing game of ZenPipe because they are not timed.


ZenPipe for iPad has 90 pipes and ZenPipe for iPhone has 65 pipes so scores on iPad will be greater.

iPad Game Before Rotating

iPad Game Before Rotating

iPad ZenPipe Outer Edge Completed

iPad ZenPipe Outer Edge Completed

iPad ZenPipe Game Solved

iPad ZenPipe Game Solved

ZenPipe Score on iPad

ZenPipe Score on iPad – not the same game

Good luck!!!!

2013 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

**Wild Mushroom Soup**

Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushroom Soup

Any mushrooms will do but wild ones have more flavour.

1 small cooking onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh wild mushrooms, any variety, washed with stems separated from the tops
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 cups water, divided
2 cup whole milk or light 10% cream or 1 cup 35% cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Optional: ¼ cup of dry white wine

Stir-fry chopped onion is a medium pot or wok. Onions are completely cooked when they are translucent.

Finely chop the stems of the mushrooms, add them to the onions along with several twists of fresh black pepper and salt to taste. Add one cup of hot water, stir and cook for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Remove from the heat and leave in the pot or wok. When cooled, use a handheld blender to puree the mixture.

Thinly slice and then roughly chop the tops of the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and the remaining ingredients to the wok. Stir and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the mushrooms are well cooked. Stir occasionally and add more water if the soup becomes too thick.

Garnish bowls of soup with a sprinkling of parsley.


May the Year of the Horse bring you all the health and happiness you deserve. Happy New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year! 2014 the Year of the Horse.

Happy Lunar New Year! 2014 the Year of the Horse.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Better than any coffee shop blueberry muffin, these really are ‘to die for’.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter softened to room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

Place vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup. Add the egg and then enough milk to fill the cup, which is approximately 1/3 cup of milk. Pour into a mixing bowl, add the vanilla and combine well with a fork.

Add flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the liquid mixture and blend well. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together the brown sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking. Makes 8-9 muffins.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven until done or a toothpick inserted into centre of a muffin comes out clean.


Amazing Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

The triple chocolate comes from cocoa powder, chocolate bits and fudge icing!

Amazing Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Amazing Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Makes one 8- or 9-inch baking pan

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup crushed walnuts (optional)

½ cup semi sweet chocolate bits (optional)


Fudge Icing:

3 tablespoons butter, softened

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Amazing Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Amazing Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use parchment paper to line an 8- or 9-inch square pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan or in microwave. Remove from heat or microwave and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in the cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 28 minutes. Do not overcook. Almost immediately remove from the pan by lifting it out with the parchment paper. Let cool but not completely for about 10 minutes.

To Make Fudge Icing: Combine butter, cocoa, honey, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm so the icing will melt and spread easily.

Cut into long, thin rectangles. Enjoy!

Articles & Recipes Published in www.gokunming.com

As a regular contributor and resident chef of the ezine, GoKunming, the following recipes and articles have been published to date:

Exploring Kunming Bread: Guandu Baba December 24, 2013

Yunnan-Style Sweet & Sour Ribs May 28, 2013

Yunnan Copper Pot Rice April 19, 2013

Yunnan-Style Hong Shao Rou March 19, 2013

Yunnan Mint & Green Onions February 27, 2013

Yunnan-Style Red Beans & Shiitakes January 29, 2013

Yunnan-Style Tomato Salad December 24, 2012

Yunnan Shredded Chicken With Chili Sauce November 29, 2012

Yunnan Spicy Taro & Greens November 11, 2012

Yunnan-Style Pork & Egg Custard October 2, 2012

Yunnan-Style Lotus Root & Pork September 16, 2012

Yunnan-Style Edamame Beans & Garlic September 1, 2012


Traditional Chinese Bake Shop with Guandu Baba Stacked Up

Traditional Chinese Bake Shop with Guandu Baba Stacked Up

Every country throughout the world has their own typical or cultural bread. China is no exception with their mantou and baozi, which are rolls of dough steamed in stacked covered bamboo or (now) metal baskets at boiling temperature, sometimes being stuffed with meats or vegetable combinations.  But perhaps a fairly unknown but interesting, tasty and most-like Western bread is Guandu Baba.

Mantao and Baozi Shop at the end of the day

Mantao and Baozi Shop at the end of the day

Baba is a yeast bread, made in my local neighbourhood market near Guandu Ancient Town in a 40 meter square bake shop. But it’s not your traditional Western loaf, cut into slices, but a 10-15 centimetre round, so delicious with a wonderful texture like some Western breads. Since finding Baba, the baking couple have become my friends, sharing our creations in bread making and our little secrets (even though the language barrier is great, we still enjoy our short conversations). When I asked to watch them and know more about this bread process, they obliged.

I have used Guandu Baba for making salty and fruit pizzas as well as my main breakfast food – cut into quarters, sliced in half through the middle, toasted in my small oven, and eaten with butter or jam or cream cheese. At this point I’d bet it’s even delicious with peanut butter.

Guandu Baba, (top right) Guandu Baba dough, and Stuffed Baba (lower Right)

Guandu Baba, (top right) Guandu Baba dough, and Stuffed Baba (lower Right)

No matter where you live in the world, if you’re a bread maker, your work starts way before your customers get their hankering for a slice of your bread or toast, and usually even before the sun comes up. My bakers, who come from DongBei in northern China, are no different. Mr. Wang Jing Zhang and Mrs. Bi Yi Min start their loaves rising at 6am and continue to bake and serve their customers until the last of their daily supply is sold – that’s usually 8pm. You could say that bread making is not an easy life. But it’s a rewarding one – as “bakers feed the world”.

It’s said that Westerners eat bread and Chinese eat rice. Of course there is much truth to that in general, however Westerners eat bread more often in loaves, whereas Chinese have just as many varieties of bread products to choose from. What starts off as basic dough, but by changing the shape or changing from wheat to rice flour, produces a huge variety of foods by mixing in or sprinkling on some spices, more or less salt or sugar, other ingredients, such as eggs, or vegetables, or adding or subtracting oil.

(I like to call them) my bakers use one small grill-type round ‘oven’ for their many varieties of bread-type foods.  Interesting enough, the temperature of 150C was used for all products, only shortening or lengthening the cooking/baking time…all done without a timer, amazingly!

When asked how she learned to make these breads, Yu Min, replies, “There’s no big secret to our recipes. These are the original green foods, free from chemicals with no food additives and made with pure ingredients. They’re the ones that we’ve been eating since we were little kids.”

Ingredients for the Guandu Baba Dough

Ingredients for the Guandu Baba Dough

The baba dough consists of plain wheat flour, water, yeast and a very tiny amount of MSG. When saying this she puts her thumb and finger together to suggest a pinch! The dough is mixed and shaped into larger than fist sized discs and set aside in their warm, small shop to rise on baking sheets until about doubled in size.  The baking procedure is simple. Three babas at a time are placed on bottom of the ‘oven’ – a very lightly greased surface – and using the hand, are flattened. Then the lid of the ‘oven’ is closed. The babas bake on one side for 5 minutes, then are turned with wooden tongs and cooked on the other side for another 2 minutes with the lid closed again. After much discussion about the correct name for this oven, it’s been determined that the oven is called a “Bing Cheng 饼铛”. Voila, fresh, hot, wonderful smelling Guandu Baba!

Making Guandu Baba in the Bing Cheng

Making Guandu Baba in the Bing Cheng

This dough is also used to make the large flat pancakes with a heavy, long rolling pin, in two flavours. More oil is added and the first pancakes come out of the oven quickly, then are sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, cut into small bits and put into a small plastic bag with a toothpick from snacking as you walk along doing your errands. There’s a lovely, crispy sesame taste to these.

Making Sesame Street Snack

Making Sesame Street Snack

The same pancake is morphed into a spicier snack, with a mixture of chilli sauce, sprinkled with green onion on the top.

Making Spicy Street Snack

Making Spicy Street Snack

The dough that’s wrapped in clear plastic is the original recipe with some oil and eggs added into the dough, and following the same procedure as above, is cooked in more oil and done very quickly.

Making Egg Pancake

Making Egg Pancake

The morning I was there, they had already made over 30 babas, many other kinds of bread products, and nice warm soya bean milk. And that was at 9:00 in the morning. During the mid day they will make another batch or two of dough and continue to bake more breads throughout the day, keeping their booth stocked with the tasty morsels that the customers have grown to love over the 6 years they have been in Kunming.

Making Egg and Green Onion Pancake

Making Egg and Green Onion Pancake

I am wondering if they’re going to expand or sell their business. Just last week, they had a woman and her son working together and the baker seemed to be teaching his sister-in-law and nephew how to do what he and his wife have been doing for so long…baking baba and traditional street snacks. It’s quite normal that with two more pairs of hands in the back, their business will improve, just as long as they don’t move or close down that will be fine…that would be a pity for all of the residents of my neighbourhood but mostly for me!

My hats off to this talented couple who, like so many others in the same shoes all over China, work incredibly long hours in cramped quarters with recipes passed down from generations using simple utensils and equipment to feed the masses with ever tasty and predicable breads!

Left: Ludagun or Glutinous Rice Rolls with Sweet Bean Flour or Rolling Donkey--- a traditional Beijing/Tianjin snack Right top: Egg Pancake Right bottom: Guandu Baba in front

Left: Ludagun or Glutinous Rice Rolls with Sweet Bean Flour or Rolling Donkey— a traditional Beijing/Tianjin snack
Right top: Egg Pancake
Right bottom: Guandu Baba in front

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Don’t you just love the smell in the house when anything is being made with oranges. And what about that beautiful orange colour….so dramatic and alive! Well I have been trying many different recipes that meld cranberries with citrusy flavours like lemon and orange, and have come up with a fluffy, yummy, melt-in-your-mouth kinda muffin – not one of those hard, heavy and dry ones. So give it a try!

Makes 16 muffins

1 cup cranberries

2 large Jaffa (or substitute) oranges

1 large egg

1/2 cup butter (margarine can substitute)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Sugar (coarse granulated sugar is optimum) to sprinkle on top.

Preheat oven to 400F. Fill a muffin tin with muffin papers and set aside. (you’ll need to repeat with 4 more papers after the first batch are baked).

Chop the cranberries by hand with a knife or in your food processor. Set aside.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the oranges. Place in a food processor to chop the peel. Leave the peel pieces in the bowl. Then cut off the bottom and top of the oranges and score the pith (the bitter white insides of the oranges). Remove the outer pith and break the orange sections apart. Cut each section into 4 pieces and put into a food processor (or blender) along with the peel and process or blend until pureed. Set aside.

Place the egg and butter in a large bowl and mix well. Add the pureed orange.

Combine the remaining ingredients to the orange mixture and continue to stir until blended.

Fill 12 muffin cups about 3/4 full. There will be enough dough left over to make 4 more. Sprinkle the tops with 1 teaspoon each of granulated sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let stand until slightly cooled before removing muffins.

Repeat with remaining dough to make 4 more muffins. Enjoy!

How to Make Sushi at Home

Sushi and Salmon Sashimi

Sushi and Salmon Sashimi

Sushi is made with some common and not so common ingredients and equipment. Great sushi starts with great cooked sushi rice, a combination of small grain, round polished sushi rice, and seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and oil. Once the rice is prepared the sky’s the limit as to what ingredients you can include into your luscious rolls of sushi. Combinations of finely sliced vegetables, raw fish, and other condiments are wrapped with Nori, the thin sheets of dried seaweed, and sliced into beautifully formed and appetizing rounds. Dipped into a soy sauce and wasabi mixture and eaten using chopsticks, these healthy morsels can be the appetizer or an entire meal for lunch or dinner.

How to Make Sushi Rice

Makes enough rice for 5 rolls. Approximately 30-40 pieces of sushi

2 cups sushi or short grain rice (not instant or converted rice)

2 ¼ cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Chinese Chicken Bouillon Granules

Place the rice into a strainer or colander in a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

Rinsing rice for sushi

Soak and rinse the rice 2-5 times until the water is clear

Let the rice sit for 30 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the water and therefore be tender. Place the rice and water into a medium saucepan or a rice cooker.

Drying the soaked rice

Let the water drain from the rice in a colander

Rice Cooker Method: Turn on the rice cooker and the rice allow to cook. When the rice is done, open the lid and remove the pan from the machine. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes

Stove Top Method: Bring to a boil, uncovered on high heat. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and oil in a small bowl and place in a microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds.

Ingredients for Sushi Rice

Ingredients for Sushi Rice

Put the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Use a wooden spoon and fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture being careful not to damage the rice. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

Typical Ingredients for Sushi

Slivers of carrot

Slivers of cucumber

Slivers of green onion

Slivers of avocado

Slivers of crab meat

Slivers of tuna

Slivers of Salmon

Caviar (fish eggs)

Softened Cream Cheese

Sesame Seeds

Maki (sushi mat)

Nori (dried seaweed sheets)

Sharp knife

Sharpening stone

Your ingredients must be prepared before you can start to put your sushi rolls together. Prepare your fresh ingredients while the rice is cooking and cooling. Fish ingredients should be slightly frozen to cut easily into thin strips. Leave the skin on the cucumber. Use the whites and green parts of green onion. Peel carrots and cut into long thin slivers.

So the rice doesn’t stick to the bamboo sushi mat, wrap it in cling film or better, place it inside a ziplock baggie, letting out the air before sealing.

Bamboo rolling mat, placed inside a ziplock baggie

Bamboo rolling mat, placed inside a ziplock baggie

Place one sheet of nori on the mat with the long sides left and right of your surface and the short sides on the top and bottom closest to you. Take a tennis ball sized fistful of rice (approximately 1 cup, well packed) and spread it out on the nori. Do not go right to the edges, leaving an 1/8 of an inch on the sides and bottom and leaving a ½ space on the short side at the top of your mat, farthest away from you. Press firmly to even out the rice, using the back of a wooden spoon, which doesn’t stick to the rice. Dab a line of water on the nori where there is no rice at the top end.

* NOTE: The nori can be placed on the mat with the long sides in front and the short sides to the left and right…it’s your choice. The difference is only in the size and the quantity of rolls  you will get at the end.

At about the 1/3 mark from you, line up the ingredients parallel to you. Try not to leave any space on the line.

Begin to roll, in jelly roll fashion, from the end closest (and shortest) to you using the mat and putting firm pressure on the ingredients until the mat is just around the entire ingredients. Then pull the nori and the mat closer to you, but removing the mat from above the ingredients and placing it all the way around the ingredients, rolling as you go. Press down firmly to push the ingredients firmly in place. Repeat one more time to attach the nori to the other end of the nori to seal the ends together. A little more water may be required to seal the ends.

Keep a damp clean cloth beside you to keep your workspace and your hands clean.

Move the roll down and to the side edge, and wrap the mat around, pushing any stray bits back into the end with the flat end of your knife. Repeat with the other end, for a clean end.

Lightly mark the half-way-point with your knife, easily finding the middle point by lining the roll inside the ropes that hold the mat together.

Remove the roll to a cutting surface. Using a well-sharpened knife, cut through the centre where you marked it. Turn one of the pieces around to line up with the other clean-cut end. Clean the knife after each cut by dipping it in cold water and wiping with your clean cloth. Sharpen again as required. The more you sharpen, the better your cuts. Cut the two pieces at two time, into half, and then half again, making taller, or shorter pieces of sushi. Cutting in thirds will make taller pieces of sushi, cutting in fourths will make shorter pieces, the amount of cuts depending on how tall you want your sushi to be.

California Rolls – with the rice outside

Place the amount of rice on your nori as above, making sure the rice is firmly on the nori. At the 1/3 line sprinkle a row of sesame seeds.

Turn the nori with the rice over onto your mat and repeat as above.

The sky’s the limit; only limited by your own imagination. Give this healthy food a try and let me know how you do. Do a Google search for more information and videos on how to roll sushi and enjoy!

Clockwise left to right: Cucumber Sushi, Salmon, Avocado and Cream Cheese Sushi, and California Rolls

Clockwise left to right: Cucumber Sushi, Salmon, Avocado and Cream Cheese Sushi, and California Rolls


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