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8 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Vanilla (Slideshow)

8 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Vanilla (Slideshow)

The story of vanilla is anything but plain

Vanilla Takes a Long Time to Produce

Vanilla Beans are Hand-Pollinated

In nature, vanilla orchids are pollinated by a very specific species of bee. Because vanilla is now produced in other parts of the world on such a large scale, and because their flowers remain open for fewer than 24 hours, vanilla orchids are pollinated by hand using a small toothpick-like stick.

Vanilla Beans Shrink Dramatically

Vanilla beans are picked when they are still green and then left to cure and dry in the sun. If you look at an image of a green vanilla bean, you’ll see how dramatic the difference is between the size of a green and brown vanilla pod — some estimates say that a greed pod is as much as four times as large as the subsequent brown one.

Vanilla Beans Vary in Taste

Vanilla beans from Tahiti and Mexico are said to have strong cherry and nutmeg flavors, respectively, while Madagascar Bourbon vanilla has the classic vanilla flavor most Americans are familiar with.

Vanilla Reduces the Odor of Paint Fumes

According to Nielsen-Massey, a major producer of vanilla since 1907, adding just a few drops of real vanilla extract to a can of paint can help reduce the unpleasant odor as you paint.

Vanilla is a Flavor Enhancer

Mosquitos Don’t Like Vanilla

It’s widely believed that vanilla is a natural insect repellent. According to Sara Snow, author of Sara Snow’s Fresh Living, mosquitos in particular “can’t stand the smell.” Make your own bug repellent by combining equal parts vanilla extract and water and spraying it on your skin.

The Aztecs Enjoyed Vanilla

Sugar Shockers: Foods Surprisingly High in Sugar

WebMD takes a look at the sugar content in some popular packaged foods -- and the results may surprise you.

When you read the labels on foods in your supermarket, it's no surprise that you find plenty of sugar in products like cake mix, ice cream, jelly, cookies, and soda. But it can be downright shocking to see 12 grams of sugar in bottled pasta sauce or barbecue sauce -- and even more so to find 50 grams of sugar in a healthy-sounding bottled tea!

To help you ferret out which products are surprisingly high in sugar, I embarked on a mission in the aisles of my local market. Over the course of several days, with my reading glasses close at hand, I examined hundreds of nutrition information labels to check out the sugar content in foods.

One thing’s for sure: Just because there’s a nutrition-oriented statement on the package (like "contains whole grain," "excellent source of calcium," "fat-free," "100% juice" or "25% less sugar") doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain a shocking amount of sugar. And just because the brand name or product name sounds like it’s good for weight loss (Weight Watchers, Skinny Cow, etc.), don’t assume the food is lower in sugar.


So how much exactly is a gram of sugar? One teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. To put it another way, 16 grams of sugar in a product is equal to about 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar.

Keep in mind, though, that the grams of sugar listed on the nutrition information label includes natural sugars from fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) as well as added sweeteners like refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. That’s why the label on a carton of regular low-fat milk says there's 13 grams of sugar per cup. And that’s why the grams of sugar per serving in Raisin Bran (or any cereal with raisins or other dried fruit) seem unexpectedly high.

Further, many beverages that boast of being 100% juice use juice concentrate to achieve their sweet flavor. This is also reflected in the grams of sugar listed on the label.

Touring the supermarket, I found sugar shockers in 14 food categories. Here are some of the foods I found to be surprisingly high in sugar.

1. Cough Syrup

Buying bags of cough drops every time you have a cold means less money for your favorite things like avocado toast or a Netflix subscription. To save up, you can make your own soothing cough syrup at home. Laura Prater, the woman behind the blog Awe-Filled Homemaker, shared her recipe for homemade cough syrup using ingredients that ease pain and fight inflammation like honey, lemon, cayenne, thyme and ginger. To make this serum yourself, all you need to do is infuse thyme and ginger into water using an Instant Pot, then simply mix the water in with honey, cayenne pepper and lemon. The last step? Finding a cute bottle to store it in, of course.

Up next: A food blogger figured out how to turn grape juice into something with a little more kick.

Buying bags of cough drops every time you have a cold means less money for your favorite things like avocado toast or a Netflix subscription. To save up, you can make your own soothing cough syrup at home. Laura Prater, the woman behind the blog Awe-Filled Homemaker, shared her recipe for homemade cough syrup using ingredients that ease pain and fight inflammation like honey, lemon, cayenne, thyme and ginger. To make this serum yourself, all you need to do is infuse thyme and ginger into water using an Instant Pot, then simply mix the water in with honey, cayenne pepper and lemon. The last step? Finding a cute bottle to store it in, of course.

Up next: A food blogger figured out how to turn grape juice into something with a little more kick.

3. Honey: Comb Vodka ($40)

Comb Vodka hails from New York’s Hudson Valley, where it’s made in small batches from orange blossom honey. While many vodkas are distilled multiple times, Comb is only run through the still once, and it’s left unfiltered. According to the makers, this light touch preserves more of the base ingredient’s flavors, allowing the sweet and floral notes to shine in the finished product. Expect lush honey-apple tones, mild citrus and a dry, warm finish.

11 Things You Didn&rsquot Know Your Instant Pot Could Do

Your Instant Pot is great for making so much more than braised pork shoulder and tender beef stew in remarkably short periods of time. Venture outside the expected with these surprising Instant Pot ideas.

If you believe the hype of Instant Pot owners𠅊nd we do—you𠆝 know how magical these multi-purpose countertop cooking appliances can be. Sure, they make quick work of tenderizing a dense pork shoulder. They can have beef chunks, carrots, and potatoes soft and simmering in a delicious sauce in a matter of minutes. Instant Pots can even turn hearty whole grains that typically need more than 30 minutes of simmering into fluffy pieces in less time than it takes to boil instant rice.

However, as curious home cooks experiment with their Instant Pots, the Internet’s collection of unusual but totally legit ways to use the pressure-cooking device continues to grow. Some are a little out there𠅌ough syrup, for example. Some are downright genius—keep reading. But all are a sign that you don’t have to think of your Instant Pot as just a glorified slow cooker anymore.

#1 You can reheat leftovers.

People living without a microwave have likely created a series of genius alternatives to nuking their day-old ziti, from baking in the oven to simmering in a saucepan or skillet. Using an Instant Pot to heat up those leftovers might be the most efficient way you can warm them, however.

How to do it: Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot insert. Place the metal rack in the insert. If the leftovers are not in heat-proof containers (like Pyrex bowls or mason jars), you need to transfer the food to those safer containers. If the food is likely to dry out in reheating (rice or pasta, for example), consider adding stock, water, or another liquid.

When the food is ready to be heated, cover the container with foil, and place it in the Instant Pot. Turn the pressure cooker to Steam, and set a five-minute timer. That’s typically enough time to get pasta, lasagnas, soups, or stews warm.

When the time is up, let the machine release the pressure naturally. Then open the vent and lid, and use pot holders to lift the container out of the Instant Pot. If you need more time, repeat the steps, but decrease the amount of time you steam the food.

#2 You can make applesauce.

Before you dismiss this idea for the cloyingly sweet muck that is passed off as applesauce in many grocery stores these days, know the beauty of making your own applesauce in an Instant Pot is that you get to control the sweetness. Indeed, you also get to control the spices and the texture. Basically, you can make applesauce just how you like it, as thin or as lumpy as you like with as much or as little cinnamon as you can stand.

How to do it: When picking out apples for sauce, select the ones you𠆝 normally avoid for apple pie because of their tendency to fall apart under heat and pressure. Those are precisely the apples you want for this recipe. Fuji and Golden Delicious come to mind.

Then, core the apples and slice them in two-inch wedges. You can remove the peel before you slice the apple if you want, but the skin is a great source of nutrients and fiber. Plus, you can pulverize it with a blender later.

Add the apples, one cup of water, and your spices of choice (cardamom, vanilla extract, and cinnamon are common). Don’t forget a sprinkle of salt. Stir to coat the apples, then put the lid on the Instant Pot and set to seal.

Next, set the pressure cooker to cook on High with a timer of five to seven minutes. After the timer goes off, let the pressure release naturally. Remove the lid, and then use an immersion blender to turn the lumpy apple mixture into silky, delicious apple sauce. Store the apple sauce in mason jars for up to 10 days in your fridge.

#3 Hard boil eggs for the week.

If you’re a big fan of hard-boiled eggs for breakfasts or snacks, you may have mastered the art of cooking eggs on the stovetop, but if you need to make more (several dozen, perhaps), you can use your Instant Pot to cook them more efficiently.

How to do it: Place a basket or wire trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add one cup of water. Place as many or as few eggs as you want to cook in the Instant Pot, and put the lid on the cooker. For a soft-boiled egg, cook on high for four minutes. For a more hard-boiled egg, cook on high for five minutes. Let the steam release naturally, then move the eggs into ice-cold water.

The total time comes out to about 15 minutes (five minutes to pressurize, five minutes to cook, and five minutes to release the pressure), but that’s still faster than stovetop boiling, and you’ll get a lot more eggs cooked at once.

#4 Make homemade bread.

You will still cook your no-knead bread in your cast-iron pan, but the Instant Pot can shave off hours of rising, punching, and waiting. For people who love homemade bread (and who doesn’t?), the Instant Pot is perhaps the best method to get the dough to rise quickly without stressing the yeast and proteins.

How to do it: Turn to your Instant Pot’s handy-dandy Yogurt setting for this trick. This setting provides a constant source of low heat, which is just enough to make a bread dough rise faster. Make your dough with any no-knead recipe of your choice. When the dough is sticky, move it to a piece of parchment paper, and lower that parchment paper into an Instant Pot. Set the timer on your pressure cooker for Yogurt and four hours and 30 minutes. (Typically, the bread dough would need 24 hours to rise.)

When the time is up, use the parchment paper to life the inflated dough out of the Instant Pot. Reshape it into a ball, punching down to remove some air. Then put the dough once more into the pressure cooker on the Yogurt setting. This time, you’ll only need 30 minutes.

While the dough rises one last time, preheat your cast-iron pan and oven to 450ଏ. When the 30 minutes has elapsed, slip the dough into your hot skillet, place the lid on it, and slide the pan into your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until a golden crust forms.

#5 Pop plenty of popcorn.

If you don’t have a large saucepan or tall pot, you can use your Instant Pot as your go-to popcorn popper. It’s actually so simple you may soon bid farewell to anything that comes in a microwavable bag.

How to do it: Turn your Instant Pot to the Saute feature, selecting “More” to get the pan a bit hotter. When the surface of the pot is hot, add an oil of your choice (canola oil is good, as is coconut oil). When it begins to sizzle, pour in popcorn kernels. Cover with a lid. Listen for the popcorn to pop, and turn off when about two-thirds of the kernels are popped so you can prevent scorched kernels. Before serving, sprinkle with your preferred seasoning, and gently toss.

#6 Make homemade vanilla extract.

You can DIY this baking necessity if you have time and patience to wait. (The process typically takes several weeks) But you can also speed it up with your Instant Pot. This particularly comes in handy if you forget to make favors for your bridal shower or a thank-you gift for your neighbors and need something pronto.

How to do it: Using the pot-in-pot method, pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom of the pot. In pint-sized mason jars, combine two cups of high-quality vodka and vanilla beans that have been split with a knife. (One bean per jar is fine.) Leave at least one inch of space between the vodka and the jar lid. Seal with jar tightly, but not firmly, and place each jar in the Instant Pot. Close the Instant Pot, and cook on high for 30 minutes to one hour. After the end of a natural release, remove the jars from the Instant Pot, and let them cool naturally. Swirl each jar a few times while they’re cooling.

The extract is likely ready to use right now. However, before you do, smell the extract. If it is still predominantly vodka, let the jars sit for a few more days with the vanilla beans in the liquor, swirling daily. You can remove the vanilla beans from the extract if you wish, but they’re OK to leave, too. However, they will begin to disintegrate and may leave particles behind in your extract.

#7 Share some bottles of homemade Limoncello.

In theory, you could drink the vanilla extract, but it wouldn’t be nearly as delicious as you might imagine. What is seriously good for sipping, however, is limoncello, a sugary lemon liqueur that’s great as an aperitif or after-dinner dessert beverage.

How to do it: You’ll need the same equipment for limoncello as you did for vanilla extract: your Instant Pot, trivet, and mason jars. For ingredients, you’ll need lemon peels, vodka, water, and sugar.

For the first step of this process, you need to infuse the vodka with lemon. Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom. In each pint-sized mason jar, add vodka and lemon peels, leaving about an inch between the top of the liquid and the jar lid. Place two big strips of lemon peel in each jar, and seal the lid tightly but not firmly. Use the Instant Pot’s manual function to cook on high 30 minutes. Then let the machine release the pressure naturally. Remove the jars, and set them aside to cool overnight.

The next day, strain the lemon peel out of the vodka, and combine the lemon-infused liquor in a larger jar. Add simple syrup to the vodka mix to taste. Cool, then pour into bottles, and enjoy.

#8 Turn a fruit bounty into quick preserves.

If your strawberry patch was more generous than you had expected, you can use your Instant Pot to make quick jam or preserves. This procedure doesn’t sterilize the fruit spread for long-term use, but you can store the preserves in jars and use up to a week later. (Or share with your friends and neighbors, with the caveat that they too need to use them quickly.)

How to do it: Wash, clean, and slice three to four pounds of strawberries. Add the juice of one orange, and a few tablespoons of sugar. Set the Instant Pot to Manual mode, and cook four to five minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If the fruit isn’t falling apart when it’s stirred, you may need a minute or two more.

When you like the texture, remove the strawberry mix to a blender or food processor, and gently combine to make more smooth. Pour into prepared jam jars, and enjoy using on everything from biscuits and toast to ice cream and oatmeal.

#9 Melt chocolate with ease.

You’ve never seen the point in investing in a double boiler for the one or two times a year you really need to dip a lot of fruit in chocolate. However, now that you have an Instant Pot, you’ve basically got everything you need to engineer your own fancy double boiler at home.

How to do it: Fill your Instant Pot with water, almost to the top. Turn on the machine’s Sauté function, and heat to Normal. Place a glass bowl that is slightly larger than the opening of the Instant Pot into the appliance, being sure to not overflow the water. Pour chocolate chips or chopped melting chocolate into the bowl. Wait five to 10 minutes for the water to heat through and begin to melt the chocolate. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir occasionally until smooth and uniform. Turn off the Instant Pot. Then turn it back on to Keep Warm. This will keep the water from cooling quickly, so you have smoother chocolate longer for lots of dipping.

#10 Bake a whole cheesecake.

You didn’t know you wanted to make a cheesecake in your Instant Pot, but I bet as soon as you see how easy it is, you’ll be finding many reasons to make this creamy dessert.

How to do it: Pour one cup of water in the bottom of an Instant Pot. Place the wire trivet in the pot. Next, fill the bottom and sides of a six-inch springform pan with a graham cracker crust, and pour in your preferred cheesecake mixture. (You’ll need to look for a recipe that makes a smaller cheesecake, as most are written for nine-inch pans.) Cover the cheesecake with foil.

Transfer the springform pan with unbaked cheesecake to the Instant Pot, and seal the pressure cooker. Cook on Manual Low for one hour, or until the cheesecake’s center jiggles but isn’t still liquid. Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack, and then refrigerate overnight. (Those quick strawberry preserves would be a great topper—hint, hint.)

#11 Roast a whole chicken.

You already knew you could cook big cuts of meat like pork shoulder and beef roast in a fraction of the time you𠆝 need in a slow cooker or oven braiser. But the same magic that helps break down those dense proteins can cook whole chickens perfectly while still keeping them juicy.

How to do it: Sprinkle a fresh or thawed whole chicken with salt and pepper. Set the Instant Pot to Sauté, and brown the chicken breasts and sides in the Instant Pot for three to four minutes on each point. Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot, and deglaze the pan with stock or broth. Place the metal trivet in the Instant Pot. Before returning the whole chicken to the pressure cooker, add any seasonings to the skin or cavity, then put the chicken in the Instant Pot. Seal the cooker, and cook on high. The time depends on the size of the chicken. Plan for six minutes per pound of chicken, plus three additional minutes. For example, a four-pound chicken would need 27 minutes.

When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally. Check the internal temperature of the chicken, and cook for several more minutes if it’s not done at the centermost point.

12 Things You Didn't Know About Cracker Barrel

We recommend pondering these fun facts over a Chicken n' Dumplins platter.

Even if you're a die-hard fan of the Tennessee-based restaurant chain, we're willing to bet at least a few of these tidbits will surprise you.

The first Cracker Barrel location was opened off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1969 by a man named Dan Evins. Back then, even the cornbread was made from scratch, a practice that is still going strong today. (Unrelated fun fact: Lebanon is also where we hold the Country Living Fair in Tennessee!)

When Evins opened the first Cracker Barrel, he was working for his grandfather's gasoline business. Back in the late '60s, the interstate road system was still in its nascent stages, and Evins wanted to find a way to better service the needs of drivers, while also expanding his family's oil business. He thought a down-home country store inspired by the ones he'd visited as a boy in Tennessee would be more enticing to homesick travelers than fast-food restaurants.

More Cracker Barrel locations were opened throughout the early '70s, all of which included gas pumps, but when the oil embargo of the mid-seventies hit, new locations were built without pumps. These days, Cracker Barrel is no longer in the fuel game&mdashhowever, 32 current stores do have electric vehicle charging stations.

All of those tools, signs, photographs and toys that decorate the walls of your local Cracker Barrel? They're all authentic vintage items&mdashno reproductions allowed. Back when the first Cracker Barrel opened, founder Dan Evins asked Don and Kathleen Singleton, a couple who ran a local antiques store, to help him decorate the space in the style of an old country store. Today, the couple's son, Larry Singleton, is still in charge of finding unique regional artifacts for new restaurant locations. In fact, Larry runs an entire decor warehouse filled with over 90,000 artifacts at the company's headquarters in Tennessee, where his team restores and archives every fabulous antique item that he purchases.

In the early years, Don and Kathleen would store their vintage finds in Larry's grandparents' bedroom. Now, Larry says he loves visiting the old Cracker Barrel stores that his parents decorated, like Stewarts Ferry Pike in Nashville. Today, he gets a lot of calls from dealers asking to buy various antiques from the stores, but he always says no.

Each restaurant features unique local finds that reflect the community's history, every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has an ox yoke and a horseshoe hanging over the front door, a traffic light over the restrooms, a deer head over the mantel, and a cookstove used as a display in the retail sections. (CB currently owns 783 cookstoves!)

To keep up with the dusting, Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores are staffed around the clock. When the store closes, a staff comes in to clean and dust everything.

Cracker Barrel restaurants also serve 151 million eggs, 121 million slice of bacon, 56 million pancakes, 37 million portion of grits, 13 million pounds of chicken tenders, and over 4 million Moon Pies annually.

American country stores in the late 19th century stocked barrels of soda crackers, which customers would often gather around to chat and socialize (think of them as the water coolers of their day). The term "cracker-barrel" eventually came to refer to the simple, rustic informality and straightforwardness that was characteristic of these conversations and the country stores they took place in.

Have you ever wondered if the Cracker Barrel cheese you see at your local grocery store is affiliated with Cracker Barrel restaurants? It's not. In fact, Kraft Foods&mdashwhich has sold cheese under the Cracker Barrel label since 1954&mdashfiled a trademark infringement lawsuit against the restaurant chain in 2013 when it licensed its name to a division of Smithfield Foods for a line of meat products to be sold in grocery stores. While the line did not sell any cheeses, Kraft was concerned that customers would get confused by the two similarly named brands. Today, bacon, hams, deli meats, baking mixes and more are available at grocery stores under the CB Old Country Store&trade brand to avoid confusion.

Cracker Barrel often partners with some of the biggest names in country music to release exclusive albums that can be purchased at its Old Country Stores and on its website. In addition to working with singers like Alabama and Alan Jackson, the chain teamed up with the one-and-only Dolly Parton to release a two-disc album titled An Evening with. Dolly Live in 2012, which went on to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Cracker Barrel also released Dolly's Backwoods Barbie Collector's Edition disc in 2008.

Over 10 million peg games have been made exclusively for Cracker Barrel stores. And everyone who has ever been to a Cracker Barrel knows that playing the peg game found on every table is the best way to pass the time while waiting for your food to show up. Thanks to this genius tutorial, now you can impress your friends and family by solving the game in three simple moves.

The rocking chairs that populate the front porches of every Cracker Barrel are made by the Hinkle Chair Company, a five-generation family business that was founded in 1834 in Springfield, Tennessee. Andrew Hinkle, the company's founder, was a farmer who made ladder back chairs in the off-season to supplement his income. In 1932, the family gave up farming in order to produce chairs full-time. The chairs are the chain's top seller.

40 Surprising Things You Probably Didn't Know About Barbie

She has the dream house, the glam car, and all of the careers. Life in plastic . it sure is fantastic, but it isn't always as it seems.

Barbie was "born" the day Mattel president and Barbie inventor Ruth Handler debuted the doll at the American International Toy Fair in New York.

Ruth decided to create a three-dimensional doll when she saw her daughter playing with paper dolls, pretending they were students, cheerleaders, and career women.

Barbie's physical appearance was inspired by Bild Lilli, a German doll created in 1952, which was based on a high-end call girl named Lilli featured in the comic-strip, Bild-Zeitung. She was sold as an adult novelty in bars and tobacco shops &mdash definitely not as a toy for children. Ruth saw the Bild Lilli doll while on vacation in Europe and brought it home.

Barbie was named after Ruth and Elliot Handler's daughter, Barbara. Barbara took part in the ceremony immortalizing Barbie's hand and footprints in cement on Hollywood Boulevard in 2002.

Ken was named for the Handlers' son Kenneth &mdash meaning Barbie and Ken, one of the most famous fictional couples in the world, were actually inspired by a brother and sister.

Barbie and Ken severed ties in 2004, then got back together on Valentine's Day 2011. "Barbie" told her Facebook fans that her "heart only beats for Ken."

After her breakup with Ken, Barbie had a new male companion doll named Blaine Gordon. He's a boogie-boarder from Australia. A new and improved Ken eventually came back into the picture.

Barbie's backstory was revealed in a Random House book series in the 1960's. The series included the names of her parents, George and Margaret, who have never been released as dolls.

No wonder she's got that Midwest charm! Barbie was "born" in the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin.

Barbie has seven siblings. Skipper was introduced in 1964. Twins Todd and Tutti were around from 1965 to 1971. Stacie hit shelves in 1990. Kelly was sold from 1994 to 2010. Chelsea was introduced in 2011 as a replacement for Kelly. Barbie's youngest sister Krissy was sold as part of a set with Barbie and Ken from 1998 to 2001.

Barbie has an English cousin named Francie Fairchild, who was sold from 1966 to 1976. Francie hit shelves again in 2011.

Christie, the first African American Barbie doll, made her debut in 1968 with Talking Christie. She's been part of the Barbie squad ever since.

In 1967, supermodel Twiggy became the first celebrity to be immortalized as a Barbie doll. Other celebrity Barbies have included Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, and Nicki Minaj.

In 1997, the company debuted Share a Smile Becky, the first fashion doll to come with a wheelchair.

She was originally marketed as a "Teenage Fashion Model " and around 350,000 dolls were sold during the first year.

Since Mattel created her, generation after generation has enjoyed playing with Barbie. By Barbie's 50th birthday in 2009, over 1 billion models of her had been sold by Mattel. And every three seconds, a Barbie doll is sold somewhere in the world.

According to Mattel, the best-selling Barbie doll was the Totally Hair doll, which debuted in 1992 &mdash just more proof that America has always been obsessed with hairstyling.

Barbie was available as either a blonde or a brunette from the start, but t he blonde dolls have always sold more.

Barbie's figure has been criticized, but a voluptuous doll was in stark contrast to the baby and toddler dolls that were previously popular. Handler told the New York Times, "If [a young girl] was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts."

30 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About 'The Mentalist'

Though the show officially wrapped in 2018, fans of The Mentalist are still raving about the unique crime drama. You may be a super-fan of Patrick Jane, played by the gorgeous Simon Baker (winner of our 2019 March Dadness tournament) and his "psychic" abilities, but we don't have to read your minds to guess that you didn't know these surprising facts about The Mentalist and its amazing cast.

The dreamy actor and show's star was born and raised in Australia. (Didn't think he could get any hotter, did you?) Would prefer if Patrick Jane had Baker's real accent, tbh.

His earliest gigs include roles on Heartbreak High and Home and Away. Baker later relocated to L.A. and found success on the CBS drama The Guardian before getting the gig that would propel him into stardom.

During its 7-season run on television, the show took home well-deserved trophies, including a People's Choice Award for "Favorite New TV Drama" in its first season. Baker himself was nominated for several Golden Globes, SAG, and Emmy Awards for his acting.

Every use of the color leads up to the capture and death of notorious serial killer Red John.

Specifically lapsang souchong, a black tea from China, which is also called "hong cha." That literally translates to "red tea" in Chinese.

. which also happens to be the hometown of Robin Tunney, the actress who plays her! The Irish-American Actress was born and raised there and attended the Chicago Academy for the Arts.

. Lisbon and Jane weren't supposed to end up together.

The idea of the leads becoming a couple "never crossed his mind" in 2008 when 'The Mentalist' was green lit, the creator told Deadline.

The 45-year-old actor played FBI Agent Dennis Abbott in the series, which he joined in 2013. He's also known for his work on Soul Food, Prison Break, and The Game.

The Pico House serves as the fictional CBI headquarters on the show. The building was erected in the late 1800s by the last governor of California under Mexican rule. It was the first grand hotel in L.A.

Because Yeoman stayed in character even when the cameras weren't rolling, his castmates had no idea he wasn't American. Talk about good acting! He's also had roles in Troy and Kitchen Confidential.

Lucy is best known for her role in the British version of The Office. But in season 2 of The Mentalist, she played the widow of a murder victim&mdashwho was actually arrested by her husband's character! The couple divorced a year later in 2011.

. because the creators of the show could't decide who he was.

Apparently, there were "three of four possibilities" for the identity of the notorious serial killer, creator Bruce Heller told EW. Eventually it was revealed that (spoiler alert!) Sheriff Thomas McAllister (Xander Berkeley) was the source of the evil.

Though the writers weren't sure who Red John would turn out to be, they'd always planned for Jane to get his revenge. "Certainly I never considered any other ending," creator Bruno Heller shared with The Hollywood Reporter. "It would've been almost dishonest not to take that as the conclusion of that particular chapter."

. Simon Baker had different hopes for the ending.

"[Jane] was a tragic character from the beginning," Baker admitted to an Irish paper. "And to me, it only ever felt right that there was sort of a tragic ending to it." Thank God he didn't get his way!

In season 1, murder victim Jared Renfrew writes out "He is Mac" on the wall before dying. Mac = Thomas McAllister.

Jane was often seen driving around town in the unique-looking Citroën DS, a French car made from the '50s to the '70s. Jane has said he wanted his alter-ego to drive something out of the ordinary.

Ellis made her professional acting debut in 1995 in a Broadway revival of William Shakespeare's The Tempest and starred in several other plays. You might also recognize her from Men of Honor, Ray, and The Taking of Pelham 123.

In season 1, Rigg appears as Felicia Scott in the episode 'A Dozen Roses.' Two of their children Stella and Claude were also extras in The Mentalist.

But her character Grace Van Pelt wasn't seeing anyone at the time, so the crew filmed her sitting at her desk for most of the season! Her son, Knox Addison, was born in January 2013.

Before he caught his big break as Agent Kimball Cho, Kang was working in a totally different industry&mdashhe was putting his BS in Political Science from Berkley to use at the Pacific Exchange, a regional stock exchange in California. He later got an MFA from Harvard.

The Mentalist was in its fifth season. It was presented to him by Bruno Heller (the show's executive producer) and Naomi Watts on Valentine's Day. He made sure to thank his co-star Robin Tunney, saying she made going to work every day a "joy." And even teared up thanking his friends for inspiring him with their work and his wife for her support.

The two worked together on The Ring 2 in 2005 but originally met through Baker's then-girlfriend (now-wife), Rebecca. Watts wasn't always in his corner&mdashthe besties initially got off to a bumpy start because Baker was always interrupting their girl time. Now, Watts is the godmother to his son.

The Aussie pair are extremely close, and Kidman serves as a godmother to his children as well.

The actor, who played computer savvy but socially awkward FBI agent Jason Wylie on the show, went on to have major roles in Grey's Anatomy and Maze Runner.

Simon Baker and Robin Tunney were very close friends, and their off-screen relationship made filming scenes together super easy. "The teasing, the fondness, as the relationship's progressed&mdashit's just us in real life and how comfortable we are with each other," said Tunney. "There's very little acting involved. We're pretty lucky."

Psychology professor (and superfan) David Daniel wrote The Mentalist Code and the Search for Red John after the serial killer's identity was finally revealed.

Per The Mentalist Code and the Search for Red John, Berkeley was chosen for the role for a very specific reason: He was born in the same year as the notorious serial killer who inspired the character of Red John, Keith Hunter Jesperson. You may know him as the "Happy Face Killer."

Loren joined the cast as FBI agent Michelle Vega in season 7. "Tom (executive producer of The Mentalist) called me the day before I started shooting the very first episode, and he let me know what was in store for Vega, and in that phone call, he also laid out her storyline for me," the actress revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. "So I knew everything that was going to happen before I stepped on the set."

And they were not happy about the plot twist, according to executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi: "A number [of castmembers] came up to me and said, 'Do we really need to do this?'" Alas, Vega was killed in a shoot-out in February of the final season.

In an interview with ET, Josie Loren revealed that the CBI almost had another office romance on their hands. "Wylie and Vega were drifting toward something more a little bit more than friendship," she said. "And I think if Vega and Wylie had a whole season, I think it would have been very clear that Wylie was perfect for Vega."

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Oreos

It's no secret that we are just a tad Oreo obsessed here at Delish, and who can blame us? For more than 100 years, these iconic cookies have been incorporated into almost every food imaginable. So while we thought our Oreo game was on point, we were surprised to learn that there's more to love (and know) about milk's favorite cookie.

1. Oreo has been the best-selling cookie in the United States since its introduction in 1912.

The Oreo has been continuously dominating the cookie world, which is crazy considering it all started as a simple idea to sandwich crème in between two pieces of chocolate. More than 450 billion Oreos have been sold since it was first introduced.

2. No one knows how the Oreo got its name.

You would think that such a prestigious cookie would be given a name to define it's excellence, but truthfully no one knows why it is called an "Oreo". There are a few rumors that the cookie was named after the French word for gold, "or" (the original packaging for the cookie used to be gold) or that it is a combination of the "re" in "cream" and the two "o"s in "chocolate." Or quite possibly someone was just like "Hmm, Oreo, that's cool," and rolled with it. The world will never know.

3. There's an "Oreo Way".

In 1898, several baking companies came together and created the National Biscuit Company, or more commonly known as Nabisco. They opened a bakery between 15th and 16th Street in New York at the Chelsea Market Building, which now celebrates its status as the birthplace of the Oreo. Thus, 15th Street at Ninth Avenue is officially, "Oreo Way."

Although it's rare, some foods are flavored with Castoreum, a beaver anal secretion. As gross at that sounds, the FDA classifies it as GRAS, or "generally recognized as safe," and Castoreum is typically listed as "natural flavoring." The additive is most often used in baked goods as a vanilla substitute, but it's also been used in alcoholic beverages, puddings, ice cream, candy and chewing gum.

This popular sauce is made with anchovies, but vegetarian-friendly brands are available.