Sunday, August 6, 2017

Camping Pancakes

I know most campers believe that pancake mix is a no brainer when it comes to packing up the family for a camping trip - but I will share with you my recipe for "pancakes from scratch" because I have found a way to bring what I call "real pancakes" to the picnic table at your favorite campground.

This practice is not new, it's the way I was raised. I never really understood pancake mixes - pancakes have relatively few ingredients and you have to dirty the bowl either way! Though many of the mixes are good, when you assemble your own ingredients, I think you will find your pancakes to come up a notch or two in quality. It really is hard to go wrong here.

So I have a tried and true "recipe" for a pancake mix that travels easily. We always take eggs and oil with us, so to add these and water to my mix is really not a problem or a bother. I like to use Grapeseed Oil for baking and cooking.

pancakes, camping pancakes, pancake mix, homemade pancakes
Fresh Strawberries & Pure Maple Syrup on Camping Pancakes

Camping Pancake Mix

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup powdered milk
(I omit the 3/4 teaspoon of salt that most recipes would call for, but you can add that if you want to.)

I do have a secret ingredient that gives the pancakes the best flavor! I sometimes add 1/4 teaspoon of Penzey's Baking Spice or a dash of Cardamom. It gives it a little bit of a Swedish pastry flavor.

You can put these dry ingredients in a jar or a quart storage bag and add a label with directions:

Add 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cups water, & 3 Tablespoons oil.

You can opt to replace one of the eggs with 1/2 cup shredded apple (delicious!)
Add some Cinnamon too!

That's it!

Wisk the ingredients up and pre-heat the griddle or fry pan to medium-low heat, you are on your way to bake some pancakes to remember.

Tip: when the bubbles stay indented on the first side, the pancake is ready to flip.
Enjoy!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Hill Station" Chai Tea

How I learned to make Chai Tea

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Spiced Chai Tea - shown with the "Reed Straw
Tea time is my age-old friend.  To share a cup of tea is love and friendship.  To savor a cup of tea is a chance to pause.... and breath.

I first tried the Chai Tea Latte at the coffee house on the advice of a friend, and was instantly hooked! From then on I tried different "Chai Tea" products and tea bags - all to have them disappoint me. I am not sure if what I tried had a different balance of spices?  Or the quality of the tea leaves?

I ran across a Facebook post that showed how to make Chai Tea and was intrigued. Before I even tried the method and recipe in the post, it spurred a conversation with a man that frequents India! This was good luck for me, and now, out of that conversation, I have developed my own method to make Chai Tea.

First, the spice "brew" needs to be made separately for the Tea.  Long ago, I read up on the art of tea making.  It is a big deal not to steep those tea leaves too long.  My rule, 5 minutes, black tea, and 3 minutes, green tea.

Now, back to the spices - the conversation went like this:
"My chai blend is gleaned from a restaurant in India: Black Tea Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Sesame Seeds, Black Pepper, Red Pepper, Cardamom, Fennel Seed, Vanilla Bean, and Nutmeg
If you try it yourself, know that it takes awhile for the Sesame Seeds and Cinnamon Bark to suffuse. And don't over do the Black and Red Pepper."

We agreed that a Crockpot is one good way to make this brew.  And that the brew can be used over a period of a couple of days if you "refresh" it periodically with another slice of fresh Ginger.  The tea is added to the cup of spice brew so as not to steep the tea leaves too long.  You can use tea bags or an infuser.

So into my pot of water go the cinnamon sticks and the sesame seeds first, giving that the most time to steep before adding the additional spices:

2 cinnamon sticks
1 t. of sesame seeds
then add:
1 slice of fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom pods - crushed
1 T. of Fennel Seed - crushed
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or a grating)
1/2 of a vanilla bean (split)

Let this brew steep for a couple of hours. You can use a warming plate or the warming tray of your coffee maker, as well as a crockpot for this.
Pour the spiced brew into a cup.
Add quality tea leaves in an infuser or tea bags to the cup. Use the recommended steeping time guidelines for tea. Remove the tea leaves (or bag).

To serve: You can add cream and sugar but I love it without!

My Facebook friend added to the conversation:
"If your experiments lead to something that needs a name I think 'Hill Station Chai' would be appropriate. In the days of the Raj, Hill Stations were where you could get away from the heat and dust of the dry season. Not everyone could afford it, but not everyone was able to afford the selection of spices in the more elaborate chais, either."

Now to sip my tea while my mind drifts to visions of life in India.....

Friday, December 16, 2016

Press Release - December 2016


StrawSleeves - The Next Step in Sustainable Living

Linden, CA - December 16, 2016 - 500 MILLION single use, plastic straws are used and discarded in the USA every day! Reusable straws provide a solution to this environmental problem as straw users learn the importance to refuse plastic and opt for sustainable straw choices. StrawSleeves provides a practical way to carry reusable straws while traveling, shopping, or eating out.

Bring Your Own Straw - Packing your reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and utensils promotes the practice of "reuse" over accepting single use plastics in our daily routine. Straw users can choose from the many types of reusable straws on the market and now have a way to pack and carry their personal straw easily in the cloth sleeves. The sleeves are designed to keep the straw clean and protected from contact with other items in their tote-bag, glove-box, pocketbook, backpack, or picnic basket.

Hemp and Reclaimed Fabrics - Materials used in the making of the sleeves are sustainable, plastic free choices.  100% Hemp Fabric from Romania is offered in four colors. Hemp is a sustainable resource, not requiring pesticides, and has natural anti-bacteria and anti-fungal properties that benefit food utensil storage. Triple washed reclaimed denim and denim weight fabrics are used for making the sleeves as an additional choice and are offered in earth-tone colors. All straw sleeves are self-lined, triple stitched and have an "invisible inner cuff" that prevents the straw from sliding out of the pocket, requiring no ties or fasteners, a convenient choice to transport and access your straw. The fabrics and sleeves are designed to withstand frequent laundering by hand or machine and are ideal for many types of reusable straws including stainless steel, titanium, copper, bamboo, sterling silver, and glass.

New Multi-Utensil Packs – Cloth carriers with four sections are now available as an additional StrawSleeves line. These packs hold a number of straws, chopsticks, utensils, and cleaning brushes as well as other items such as art supplies or makeup brushes. Fabrics used are 100% cotton or reclaimed materials.

Sleeves Bearing Store Brands - Current StrawSleeves sales are mostly business-to-business with several straw manufacturers and eco stores branding the sleeves with their own business logo.  Wholesale and Distributor pricing is based on the quantity of each order. Selecting the highest standing businesses that promote plastic free solutions is the object of the StrawSleeves Company in the effort to promote solutions to the environmental issues of plastic waste.

Social Media Love - To learn more about StrawSleeves and see photos and videos, please go to the StrawSleeves Instagram page where you will find @StrawSleeves and the StrawSleeves community engaging in discussions and ideas that encourage us all to take that next step toward a sustainable lifestyle.

Plastic Free Donations - StrawSleeves considers requests to donate sleeves for worthy plastic free causes. Please email inquiries to strawsleeves@gmail.com for consideration.
###

StrawSleeves on Etsy - Individual retail StrawSleeves sales are active on Etsy.  http://etsy.com/shop/StrawSleeves

B2B Sales inquiries and Sample requests:  Please contact Cheri Newcomb directly.

Press Contact
Name:  Cheri Newcomb
Email:  strawsleeves@gmail.com
Website: http://strawsleeves.com
Instagram: @StrawSleeves Facebook: @StrawSleeves



utensils, reusable straws, utensilwrap, utensilpack, picnic, BYO, bring your own
Multi-Utensil Pack for straws, chopsticks, utensils, cleaning brushes, etc...

reusable straw, straws, strawsleeves, byo, byostraw, carry your straw
StrawSleeves - to bring your own reusable straw!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Olive - Walnut Bread

Olive-Walnut Bread Recipe

olive oil, olives, graber olives, bread, yeast bread.recipe, olive, walnut, cheese bread
Olive -Walnut Bread made with Graber Olive products

This recipe is adapted from some traditional Olive Bread Recipes and produces a rustic, savory loaf of bread. This recipe involves no kneading, unlike most yeast bread recipes. I made this bread using Graber Olive Products found at the Graber Olive House.

Feel free to up the herb proportions, I did not want to overpower the taste of the walnuts.

This bread is perfect to serve any time of year, but especially wonderful to serve this in the late Autumn months gathered around a warm fire. For some ideas on table settings and place setting etiquette, check out this blog.

 Enjoy! Please do share any adaption you decide to make to this recipe in comments!

Ingredients:
      3 cups Bread Flour, plus more for work surface
      1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (the olives & cheese have added salt content)
      1 teaspoon instant or active-dry Yeast
      1/2 teaspoon dried, ground Rosemary
      1/2 teaspoon dried, ground Green Onion (or Onion Powder)
      1/2 cups of finely chopped Walnut meats
      1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Asiago Cheese
      1  can (seeded & cut in thick slices & pieces) Graber Olives
      1 1/2 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees), plus more as needed
      2 teaspoons of Graber Olive Oil

Directions:
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, and yeast; stir in cheese and olives. Add water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds, adding additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and surface becomes dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours. It works well to plan this timing the night before. Generously flour work surface; scrape dough onto work surface. Lightly flour hands, a bowl scraper, or a spatula and lift edges of dough toward the center. Nudge and tuck edges of dough to make round.

Place a piece of parchment paper on work surface and generously dust with flour. Gently place dough on parchment. If dough is tacky, lightly dust top with flour. Cover dough loosely with parchment paper and two clean kitchen towels. Let dough stand in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Gently poke dough with your finger; dough should hold the impression. If it springs back, let rise 15 minutes more.

Ten minutes before dough has finished rising, use olive oil to coat the inside of a large, Pyrex bowl. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (convection oven preferred.) Place a Pizza stone in the center of the oven rack and a Pyrex bowl in the center of the stone.

Using pot holders, carefully remove preheated Pyrex Bowl from oven and uncover. Uncover bread and loosen bottom with a large spatula. With the aid of the parchment paper, invert bread dough into preheated bowl. Cover bowl with a well fitted, oven heat safe Pyrex lid and transfer to oven; bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until bread is dark brown but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. At this point you can carefully transfer the bread from the bowl, right onto the pizza stone and turn up the over to 450 degrees. The timing will depend on your oven and my nose (smell wafting through the house) usually tells me the exact moment it is done.  You want the bread crust dark brown but not burnt.  Transfer to a bread board to cool.
Serve with Graber Olive Oil - Balsamic Vinegar in a dipping bowl with added dried herbs of your choice.
olive, olive oil, walnuts, bread, olive bread, walnut bread, olives, yeast bread
Olive - Walnut Bread

olive loaf, cheese, asiago, walnut, graber olives, olive oil


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Straws, the next plastic bag...

September seems to be straw awareness month, as the online buzz brings an awareness factor of how we are not thinking about the consequences of using and discarding plastic straws day after day.  The statistics are repeated post after post, not just how many straws are used each day, (500,000,000 per day in the USA alone) but also how long it takes for the plastic to degrade. Well, it actually does not - plastic straws are made to last - get this - HUNDREDS of years!  Not so good for something you use for a few minutes and then toss it.

Plastic straws are accumulating at an alarming rate, and just like the plastic bag that faces bans in most areas, straw use is being scrutinized!

My work in the reusable straw industry for the past 9 years has introduced me to many amazing warriors on the straw front.  But let's be serious here, it's not just straws. It's the idea of single use consumerism in a "throw away" society. The consequences of our habits, if we do not pay attention and try to change some of our once accepted behaviors, will be problematic for many generations to come. 

Leading the way are a number of organizations and projects to help us understand the idea of how we might change our thinking and choose differently.

StrawSleeves on Instagram follows numerous beach cleanup operations, some highly organized, some just a lone soul or small family that go out every day and pick up trash in parks, on beaches, and on city streets. Photos posted of what we all leave behind, collectively speaking, are graphic, disgusting, and the photographers are true heroes that care enough to make a small dent in an atrocious problem.

Celebrities like Ed Begley Jr., Jack Johnson, and Adrian Grenier bring awareness out into the public eye by their examples and convictions that the public has a responsibility toward the care of our planet. This is one thing that we all share regardless of fame, the fact that we all live here on planet Earth.
 
Graphic credit UKonserve.com
UKonserve posted on their blog that they estimate their own reusable straw sales have saved 74,000,000 plastic straws from the waste stream! Impressive number! They even tell where to buy cloth cases made for all types of reusable straws and include a link to a tutorial showing how you can make your own carrying case, After all, it's hard to refuse the plastic straw if you do not have your reusable straw along for the ride.

The Last PlasticStraw and One Less Straw are busy offering ideas and incentives to participants in their campaigns. The Surfrider Foundation provides guidelines and information to businesses through the Ocean Friendly Restaurants website that is quickly signing up Hotels and Restaurants to stop supplying plastic straws to customers and to implement "straws on request" policies. Milo Cress of Be Straw Free founded this idea when he was just 9 years old. Now, if children can figure this stuff out, we should all be able to come up with some collective solutions on a grander scale!


StrawSleeves reposted a Starbucks video and questioned the news story that they were sticking to green plastic straws due to children harming themselves on the stainless steel straws they were providing as a retail option. Some of the commenters wondered about the quality of the stainless steel straws (most have rounded edges) and the "safety" of a rigid plastic reusable straw in the case of a child falling with the straw in their mouth. 
Starbucks, we know you can do better!

STRAWSfilm is currently in final stages of film production. This important documentary will be made available to educational institutions, lobbyists, and government forums for the better understanding of the impact of our accumulative straw use. The film includes interviews with the biology team that extracted a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle last year. The video went viral on a global scale!


With so many choices of reusable straws, there are still many who cannot get past the desire to stay with single use straws. The good news here is that there are paper straws, while somewhat wasteful, they do eliminate many of the harms of the plastic factor in toxicity and how long they last. One company is manufacturing straws inspired by the history of the "first straw", made of - straw!  Rye grain is farmed and harvested, and the remaining straw is specially cut and cured to create a truly renewable single use straw!


Whether you refuse, reuse, or just start to reconsider, change is in the winds and the wonder age of the "Tupperware Age" conveniences have been found to be not so convenient after all.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Perfect Pizza

 Finally!  The Perfect Pizza!

 
Raising 4 kids, 3 of which worked in pizza restaurants (back in the day) brought some great pizzas into our home!  Not to mention the pizza making techniques that were shared through time.  We even started having a "make our own" pizza night on Christmas Eve!  That is when I was informed that I was doing it all wrong!
pizza, vegtables, dough, cheese, sauce 
Throw in the fact that, due to health reasons, low sodium meals are a must at our house.  We keep the salt shaker out for guests and advise that all of the meals are cooked without salt.  That is the easy part.  Reading labels and picking and choosing ingredients that are not salt laden is the hard part.  I have had many years of practice!

The word perfect is just my "for now" word.  If this recipe were truly perfect, then you would make, and can your own pizza sauce from the bounty of your vegetable garden! And you would use homemade Mozzarella cheese!

 But here is how I do it NOW!

For the dough:
4 cups unbleached flour (bread flour works best)
1 3/4 cups warm water (divided)
3 tablespoons olive oil (more to coat the proofing bowl)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (in the jar or 1 packet will be fine)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Method:
Turn oven on to 175 degrees.
Measure 3/4 cup of warm water (you will add the other cup of warm water later) and add the yeast and the sugar - dissolve, let sit 5 minutes until if foams.  Now turn off the oven. assemble all the other ingredients in a bowl, then add the foamy yeast stuff and stir it all with a spoon.

Now if you decide to just dump everything together and skip dissolving the yeast first, it still will turn out fine - I am telling you the way I learned to get the dough just perfect!

I use a dough hook on a mixer for about 3 or 4 minutes for the kneading, then I take half of the dough and place it in an oiled storage bag, it goes in the fridge for another pizza in about 5 days or so. I place the other half in a large oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball of dough, and place in that preheated but previously turned off oven for no more than 45 minutes. (Do NOT over proof the dough, or you will not know how perfect it could have been!)  You now have enough time to get the rest of the ingredients prepared......

As I said, I do not can my own pizza sauce, and there brands lower sodium then Trader Joe's brand, but they just do not taste that good, so this is what I use.  About 1/3 jar is what you need for one pizza.  It's 350 mg. of sodium per 1/4 cup - this (and the cheese) is where I choose to budget the sodium content.

Thinly slice: 
Red Onion, Green Onion, (or both)
Colored Bell Peppers (your choice)
Black Olives
Fresh Mushrooms

Put the slices on a dinner plate, each ingredient should take up the space of about 1/4 of the plate.  Too much of the toppings can make the pizza soggy, you don't want that!

Grate 1/2 lb. of Mozzarella Cheese - a little more is ok, we are trying to watch the sodium at our house. We tried substituting for a lower sodium cheese, like Swiss, but it tasted like a combination quiche-pizza!  A different animal.  Got to have the Mozzarella!

I find a cheese at Costco that we use as a Parmesan replacement, I use a fine grate to process it and I only add a tiny bit to this pizza.  It is called Lake Country Asiago Cheese and bears the Kirkland Brand.

OK, now on with it - take out the dough and a rolling pin and a floured bread board. 
Preheat your oven - I use "convect roast" at 425 degrees, but you might have to use 450 degrees if you do not have convect options on your oven.

Roll out the dough, place on a pizza stone (important) and heap up the edges of dough a little, spoon on and spread the sauce, sprinkle all but a  handful of Mozzarella Cheese, decorate with your veggie slices, sprinkle remainder of cheese and a light sprinkle of the finely grated Asiago cheese at the end - THEN a light sprinkle (about a teaspoon) of crushed red pepper flakes (optional) before it goes it goes into that hot oven!

25 minutes!
(But check in 15 or 20, you might get a different time depending on the performance of your oven.)

Let me know if you make a perfect pizza!  Enjoy!



footnote:  You can find some truly unique and delicious cooking ideas by following my daughter's blog: McMillen Kitchen.  You are welcome!  ;)







Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Selling The House

Selling the House
by Cheryl Newcomb
http://itsnotthedestination.blogspot.com

 The old familiar sight of "For Sale" signs are popping up all over the neighborhood showing increased activity on the housing market, a good thing after a long and depressed market for years. The rises and declines of home sales will often the timing for those who are motivated to make this change for any reason, steering the seller through the pending chapter change.  First, the staging must take place to get that sale, however long it might take. 

 Hearing the chatter of friends and family sharing their experiences with their own process of "showing" the house has my attentions as I remember my own efforts in this arena, many years ago.  Some things we just do not forget!  The frustrations, fears, and tireless efforts to entice a buyer so they can move on with their own life's plans can quickly become drudgery in routine.  Re-sweeping an almost clean floor, polishing a doorknob as you quickly exit - late for work again!  I remind those who share these experiences with me, using those magic words in response, the same words that pulled me through the same process so many years ago - It Only Takes One Buyer!  Once that happens, the whole process is behind you and your new adventures wait.

To look back at this intense but fleeting moment (depending on how often you sell and buy homes in your lifetime) can bring a perspective of defining moments to life's circumstances.  It is much like the year you graduated from High School, a reference point - Just like your graduating year, you will recite the year you moved from one house to another. You find yourself using the address of where you lived to define the era.  Selling a house for any reason is one of the big page-turners, a means big change!

 Digging through old folders of paperwork produced the email that I sent to my family once the offer was accepted on my last house.  While "methods" of fresh baking bread and vases of flowers are widely used techniques for enticing a buyer for sale of a house, it was a magic moment for me to think back on the events that surrounded the sale of the house where my children had grown up.
 
 
Sent: May 14, 2001

Subject: Strawberries

Our house was on the market for 60 days. We would get about one showing per week, which is typical of our area.  Showing a house with three teenagers and the busy schedules that go along with that is a pain to lay the least!   The kids were real good about it, picking up every morning, making beds, etc....

 We got a call on Saturday night that there would be a showing on Sunday at 4:00PM.  The kids had a picnic to go to that day and I had to go to town to get groceries because my car was going into the shop the next day.  I came home with a car loaded with groceries and a "feeling" about this particular showing.  Barely was there time to put the groceries away and spit shine everything to make the proper impressions.  I packed the fridge, got out the dust rag and mop and hurried through the tiresome routine, but had forgotten to put away the flat of freshly picked strawberries that I had bought at the fruit stand.

 They were as big as red apples, and the reddest I had ever seen!  As I checked the clock, I realized there was no time to pare up the berries and no room in the fridge to slip the whole flat in so I got out a huge white bowl and just dumped them in and placed it on the kitchen table nest to a crystal vase and a basket of napkins...  The sun was streaming in the kitchen windows and the strawberries sparkled!  It gave the perfect "Country" effect.

 The call came in at about 10:00PM that night.  We had an offer!  Cassie heard me on the phone and was having one of her typical restless nights so she came in to ask me about the offer, she knew I was excited!  She lay down beside me in my bed and after a while she whispered, "Mom, I know what sold the house."  "It was the strawberries!"  I told her that I thought she was right and sent her to bed.

 A week later I was becoming anxious about the motor home not being sold through I had been aggressively advertising and showing the RV to potential buyers for months.  With inflated gas prices as front-page news, the chances of a reasonable sale were dwindling and I feared not being able to get out of the loan. I was waiting on a possible offer of the only interested party I had lined up so far.  Cassie suggested a bowl of strawberries might do the trick.  So I shrugged as I took out the bowl of fruit and the offer come in the very next day!

 It looks like the page turning is finally taking place! We are packed and ready to move into our new home and you bet I will put a big bowl of fresh strawberries on the kitchen table!