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

chai tea, tea, hot tea, straw, reed straw, reed straws, spiced tea
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.....