Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Cooking Carob Cake and Granola in Michigan

Well, friends, after arriving in Michigan and giving myself about a month to settle in, I am again turning my attention to blogging. I must say that the trip here (more on that later) and the initial adjustment period have been surprisingly smooth and, dare I say, easy? The sky will probably fall now that I’ve said that, but really I doubt it. Life (no, God) seems to have touched everything around me and turned it to gold. I’ve never been happier!

Yesterday was The Boyfriend’s birthday. I’m a traditional, occasion-observing sort of girl, so I wanted to give him something. Easier said than done for a guy who readily admits he already has everything he wants and wears a large corresponding smile at all times. Nevertheless, I had a few ideas and set about making them happen. Being the penniless, jobless loser that I am, I thought it would be perhaps a bit more economical to give a gift of homemade food (and, let’s face it, even the man who has everything still needs to eat). Granola (which he’s obsessed with) and carob cake (he loves carob so much it’s almost disturbing) were on the menu. And here’s where the link to travel comes in (you were wondering, weren’t you?): when you uproot yourself and move across country, sometimes you really miss the places you used to buy food!

Back in Walla Walla, Washington, we had a store called Andy’s Market. If I could be back there at this very moment, I’d kneel down and kiss the ground it stands on. Andy’s Market had all the fresh local produce, all the inexpensive bulk everything, all the vege and vegan alternatives that I could ever ask for. It’s not a chain and it’s not to be surpassed, apparently. I needed all these nuts and dried fruit and carob and I had no idea where to get them! Everyone here shops for food at Meijer, which is the Michigan version of Wal-Mart (not considered “The Devil” because it’s not nationwide?….). Besides that, there are a few other familiar and not-familiar stores. I finally found carob at both Hillers Market and Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods also has a very small bulk section where I was thankfully able to find the nuts I needed. They also had a bit of cheaper price on the carob goods. That, coupled with the fact that they carry Vegenaise and liquid aminos, means that I’ll cross Hillers off the list and rely on Whole Foods as my substitute (albeit a poor one) for Andy’s. Whole Foods in no way measures up to the variety or price of the bulk foods section in Andy’s Market. Sigh.

All in all, I’m not sure that making homemade granola and carob cake are the most economical ways to go, but they are definitely the most fun! I found the cake recipe in the April 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Dorothy Olsen of Provo, Utah won the $25,000 grand prize for her Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake. Being all at the same time a fan of chocolate, dessert, and healthy eating (hypocritical maybe?), I had to try it out. The only change I made was to substitute unsweetened carob powder for unsweetened cocoa powder and vegan carob pieces for semisweet chocolate pieces.

This cake is rich and decadent.  The Boyfriend and I love the way the whole wheat flour tastes in it!  Very wholesome.

Whole Wheat Chocolate-Blueberry Cake

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob powder)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (or carob pieces)
  • fresh blueberries or Blueberry Sauce (see recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In blender combine water, blueberries, and the egg.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Add to flour mixture.  Whisk until well combine.  Pour into greased 8x8x2-inch baking pan.
  2. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Invert onto serving platter.
  3. In small microwave-safe bowl combine dessert topping and chocolate pieces.  Micro-cook, covered, on 50% power (medium) 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Pour onto cooled cake, spreading evenly.
  4. Cut cake into squares to serve.  Top with fresh blueberries.  Serve with Blueberry Sauce.  Makes 9 servings.

Blueberry Sauce: In blender combine 1/2 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed, and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries.  Cover and blend until smooth.

I found the granola recipe, Easy Homemade Granola, on this website.  I slightly modified it by also adding 1/3 cup walnuts (LOVE walnuts!) and cutting the brown sugar to 1/8 cup.  The granola turned out REALLY SALTY! so I’d recommend cutting down on the salt as well.  Maybe 1/2 tsp. in instead of 1?  Otherwise, it was delicious.  The Boyfriend adds some plains oats to his granola anyway, so that probably helps with the salt factor.

Easy Homemade Granola  (from “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.
  4. Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.
  6. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  7. Bake for 5 min, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
  8. Bake for 10 min, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola.
  9. Transfer it to an airtight container, where it will keep for one week.

I noticed on the Andy’s Market website that you can order things online…. Hmmmm…. I may try that.  Until then, I’ll be crying on the inside every time I walk out of Whole Foods.

© Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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April 1, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Countdown

WELL, everyone! After countless months, weeks, and endless excruciating days, I have finally finished a task that at one point literally felt insurmountable. I have defended my thesis, merited my committee’s approval, and after minor revisions will have my thesis paper ready to print. AAAAAAH! The relief is palpable, the peace is thick. My blog has been silent for the past few days (weeks? I have no idea how long I’ve been holed up) because I have lived and breathed my thesis! But now, it is DONE!!! I won’t try to describe my jubilee because the description would never be adequate. Suffice it to say that I feel I am a beginning a new life with the burden of a huge unfinished project behind me FINALLY!

On to the next thing. And that is moving. In six days. Aaaaaaaaaah! Ok, not really. There is no panic here. Not tonight, anyway, because I’ve been carefully preparing for this for awhile. I have a lot to do this week, but the tasks are, for the most part, relished. They mostly include preparing the car, whittling down my belongings one final time, eating up my food, bidding farewell to friends, stuff like that. My boyfriend arrives late Friday, we pack the car Saturday night, and we head out early early Sunday morning. I can’t wait to chronicle our mega road trip: 3 days, 2200 miles, 1 cat, 1 bird….. Oh, and all my earthly possessions.

6 days….

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Car, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moving Sale Nightmare

As some of you might know, I had my big moving sale on Sunday! The one thing about almost any kind of travel is that you must. pack. light. I know some people don’t follow this rule when moving, but when moving consists of a major road trip in a mid-sized car, it’s a must!

all the things piled up ready for the sale

So I had a moving sale. I planned it very carefully, too, as I knew it was my big opportunity to not only reduce my belongings but to make a little cash in the process (I really needed to see money in my hand before I forgot what it looked like). I advertised well, even paying to put an ad in the newspaper, went through all my stuff ahead of time, made a giant pile in the living room of boxes labeled “sell” and “free”. I cleaned up the bigger items, made some beautiful signs, bought hot chocolate to serve, and set up all the tables the night before. I’d been scared to death that it might rain that day, but my heart rate returned to normal as the weather forecast retracted its threats just hours before the big day. Everything was perfect and it was going to be the best sale ever. I was excited. I was even proud of myself. The frenzy was set to start at seven, and before I went to bed late Saturday night I set my alarm for five to give myself plenty of time to have everything set up before the customers began to arrive…..

a couple of the makeshift tables I constructed

Bzzz….Bzzzz- WHA?! I jerked awake at a buzzing sound from my phone on the desk. My eyes swiveled to take in the gleaming red numbers on my clock and as they did, my mouth let out a screech- Aaaaaah! OH NO!!!! It was 7:40!!! I was a full FORTY MINUTES late, not from getting up to set up my sale but from being at the START of my sale!! I. Was. Mortified. 😦 Jumping out of bed and throwing on clothes faster than I ever have in my life, I ran outside with a box of merchandise and started throwing stuff on the tables. During most of the worst tragedies of my life I’ve been able to imagine how funny the situation really is or at least what a wonderful story it will make, but this is one situation in which i honestly had a VERY difficult time finding the bright spot. I felt so irresponsible and ridiculous.

I traded my friend that plant for a really cool lamp!

Not a soul was lurking around the vicinity of the yard and for a moment I thought that perhaps every yard-saler had lost faith in me and it was all a total flub. Perhaps the yard-sale community had already put me on their black list for what must have seemed like the cruelest moving sale joke in history. 😮 I winced as I tapped on the door of my roommate, whom I knew had only had a few hours of sleep, begging her to come help me. I needed someone to (wo)man my sale while I tried to haul my junk out the door. Thankfully, I have some of the best friends/roommates in the world and she willingly pulled herself from a deep sleep to go stand in the bitter cold guessing at what my prices might be for various items.

things! people!

Long story short, because my roommate handled the customers (which DID come, by the way, and fast), within about an hour I had everything out and set up in a rather chaotic fashion and felt ready to begin. I had also sold about half of my larger items by then. I realized pretty quickly that there were still plenty of customers whom I hadn’t offended and that people really just wanted to buy stuff before I’d had a chance to take it out of the box or think of a price. One woman arrived about 2 minutes after I woke up and immediately bought my couch and 2 table-lamp deals. I realized that I really didn’t even need my street signs in order for people to find me. The only real embarrassment occurred during that painful window of time when I had large numbers of customers but only about 5 items for sale…..

My landlords joined my sale, adding a few of their items. Apparently, as they recounted to me later, there had been a HUGE crowd of people outside my house at 7am. They even knocked on my door and everything but…. we were SLEEPING!

The sale turned out to be so much fun, I sold most of my big items, gave the rest of the little stuff away, and felt happy but tired at the end of the day. One of my favorite parts was trading with my friend who brought a few things to my sale: she got a giant plant and I got a lamp that I love. My neighbors really pitched in and helped after it was all over with hauling away leftover things and cleaning up, and it really gave me a good feeling, like I had precipitated and participated in a community effort. 🙂

Get rid of all my crap…. CHECK! That’s one job down!

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tentative Moving Dates and Moving Sale

So. The groundwork is being laid, the plans are being spun, and things are taking place! I now have a couple of tentative moving dates, everything being dependent upon when I get my thesis finished and ready to defend. The first, and preferred date is February 28. The latter, second-rate choice is March 14. I’m praying for the 28th, so we shall see! I’ve begun packing and downsizing in earnest. I actually have 3 large boxes of books stacked in my room, ready to transport. They were recently ousted from my bookcases, which are now sold, as is my bicycle, a picture, a CD tower, a set of plastic drawers, and 3 chairs… I’m preparing to sell everything else in my big moving sale, coming up a week from today on the 7th. It’s going to be HUGE! …Unless everyone buys my furniture beforehand. I listed everything big and bulky on the school’s classifieds and didn’t expect much to happen, but I’ve had so many responses that I actually had to make a list and schedule for showing everyone the goods or, as one enterprising customer stated, my wares.

I’m feeling equal parts sadness and excitement as I watch my belongings trickle out the door (the excitement is aided by the cash that appears in my hand upon their absence) and I’m working hard to balance the two emotions. On one extreme, it feels great to rid my life of all the excess stuff that tends to accumulate when you stay in one place for awhile and self-medicate through hard times with surplus material goods. I sometimes dream of carrying my possessions on my back and walking through the world without the worry that things tend to breed. On the other hand, sometimes it’s those very things that can negate worry. It’s nice to have plenty of blankets when it gets really cold or to realize that you do, in fact, have that weird item that you need for your random hobby project. Nothing that I have is really worth much in a monetary sense, but some of it is nevertheless very special to me. After awhile, though, the stuff of life just builds and builds until I long to see the other side of the spectrum.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Detroit, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling With Cat in Car: not recommended at any time

Feline, kitty, purr-box, mouser, tabby, tiger, tomcat…. Call it what you like but a cat by any other name is still a bad travel companion! Oh, yes I know there may be some of you out there whose cats are perfectly docile when in an enclosed space hurtling down the highway at seventy miles per hour. I unfortunately am still waiting for the pleasure of that experience and there’s a story to tell. But let me start at the beginning.

This summer I spent two months at a marine station on the Puget Sound taking the very last class of my graduate school experience. While there, my cabin mate and I adopted a gaunt-looking stray. He was a large black and white hunter with a loud and pleading call (the meowing did, incidentally, nearly cease once we started feeding him!). We named him Pleoh.

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

He immediately began to bring us almost daily gifts. I presumed that it was in thanks for the rescue, but I had to sit him down and tell him that there were other, more effective, ways to reach me. Unfortunately I don’t speak Cat-ese… Barring the rodent gifts, Pleoh turned out to be a more-than-wonderful feline companion and we both became quite fond of him.

Toward the end of the summer we began to discuss the fate of Pleoh since we both had rather territorial cats at home and didn’t feel we could add another kitty to the litter. I put up an add for a free and adorable cat and waited. And waited. No one wanted our poor little guy! My cabin mate was flying to Michigan and so it fell to me to transport the cat six hours to Walla Walla, via Lester. I was not excited and my previous experience traveling with cats did nothing to pique my enthusiasm. As a test, I introduced Pleoh to my car and drove a few feet through camp. He went berserk! Yowling and clawing, he attempted to force his gangly body through the small opening in my back window.

I did a Google search on making travel with cats more bearable to find some (hopefully) lifesaving tips. Advice was to accustom the cat beforehand to its leash, harness, and travel carrier. I had only a few days to work with, but I got a harness and put it on him in the cabin. He walked in a funny stilted manner for awhile but finally got used to it. Then I attached the leash and let him drag it around. “What’s that blasted thing following me everywhere I go?!” his face seemed to say, but he dealt with it. I looked at pet taxis, but his size cost $25 and jobless me could only think of the meals I could eat with that money. I ended up purchasing an $11 fold-up cat carrier. It was like a cat tent and really cute! Pleased with myself, I introduced it to Pleoh who, to my surprise, sat contentedly in it for more than a few seconds. It was enough to lift my spirits considerably. Perhaps this trip would not be so bad after all! Trips to the vet with my beloved Ami were always noisy, panting affairs that left us both shaken, and the cross-country trip I had once taken with my friend’s cat, make that my friend’s sedated cat, was anything but peaceful, quiet, or free of cage-soiling. Nevertheless, I foolishly told myself that this time it would be different.

The great day arrived. My cabin mate kissed Pleoh goodbye and I stuffed him into his tent with his harness on. He immediately sensed that this wasn’t a test run. We started to drive and the yowling began. And the panting. And the clawing. “He’s going to tear that tent to shreds,” I warned myself, but miraculously it held up. With each pull of his claws, it yielded to the pressure. Kudos tent for being resilient! But Pleoh didn’t care; rolling, yowling, tossing, and crying, he made himself a miserable mess of panic. Always one for good eye contact, Pleoh pleaded with me with wide terrified eyes to stop the torture. After a few close calls on the road, I apologized for ignoring him, but maintained that I must focus on driving lest we both die. “You,” I reminded him, “are actually NOT going to die in there.”

But I wondered if I might. How much of this could I take? Six hours much? Heading toward Seattle, we hit traffic almost immediately, and I found the distraught cat beside me to be quite a distraction. A few times he wrenched the stiff supports out of place, turning his tent into a sack. There wasn’t much I could do to help him. Then I looked up and saw that the sunscreen in front of my sunroof on my stupid car was coming off! One end of it was gyrating freely in the breeze, a heartbeat away from flying off and hitting the truck behind me! So there I am, holding the sun thing on with my right hand, driving with my left, trying to ignore the flailing cat beside me, and attempting to pull off the road in thick traffic! That was the first stop. I took the stupid sun thing off- what is it for, anyway?

Back on the road, Pleoh got more and more frantic. A couple of times he even catapulted himself and his tent over directly into my lap. That’s when I noticed that he had peed in his tent. I guess terror negates bladder control in cats. Great. 5 1/2 more hours with a urine-soaked cat. I was just glad I had protected my car seat with an old blanket. (BTW a tent in ones lap does not bode well for steering control)

Just as I was wondering aloud how much worse it could get, Pleoh popped out of his tent! Apparently the tent’s weak point was it’s zipper. He literally broke it! In the stunned moment in which he sat in disbelief to comprehend his freedom, I was luckily able to grab his harness. This also does not assist steering ability in anyway. Make that the sixth time I almost broadsided someone. Another stop, a stowed tent (it was urine-soaked anyway), and Pleoh was firmly leashed to the passenger side door (uh… on the inside, mind you), keeping him in the other seat, I hoped.

On the road again. Traffic is really bad. Pleoh is still terrified but mostly quiet. He looks wild-eyed out the window and then tries to claw his way up the back of the seat or over onto me- ouch! But not else bad could happen now, right? I just need to keep my eyes on the road and trying to ignore the acrobatics unfolding on my right? Not exactly. With one strange twisting flipping crunching maneuver, Pleoh (aka Houdini) slips right out of his harness, collar, and leash!!! Aaaaah! Maneuvering in Seattle traffic and holding a yowling, scratching, clawing, biting, urine-soaked monster by the scruff on the neck, I wanted to cry. Moreover, I couldn’t seem to get over to a place I could stop. Road rage took over, “MOVE IT, PEOPLE! Can’t you see I need to get over??!”

But then, like a soft fog descending into a valley at dusk, Pleoh crawled into my lap, hid his face in the crack by the seat, and lulled himself into a sleep (or trance or coma, but who cares!). I held my breath. Barring the occasional wiggle, he stayed calm. And that was my strategy for the rest of the trip. Every time I started the car up again, he panicked briefly, but as long as I could keep him down in my lap, he seemed to be able to shut out the horrors. It took him hours, though, to relax long enough to drink any water or stop hyperventilating.

Traveling with cats. Just don’t do it. I won’t do it again unless I have a cat in a pet taxi with heavy sedation and a catheter. I can’t describe to you how many times I almost died on that highway and I probably scared countless other drivers to death. Just so you know, Pleoh has made himself quite at home here, waiting for my cabin mate to pick him up in a few weeks. He also hates my Ami and tries to attack her, but that’s another story…

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Car, Cats, Cities/Regions, Pets, Puget Sound, Transportation, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where in the world am I?

Maybe someday I’ll get organized enough to write in this blog consistently. Man, this is really bad. I never even finished writing about Christmas vacation! I think I started some blogs but never finished them….

Anyway, that’s all old news now. So let’s talk about something timely. I’m living on the Puget Sound for the summer. Right on it. Yes, I am about the luckiest person in the world and I’m going to try to appreciate it as much as possible before the summer is over, which will unfortunately be in about 3 weeks….

Beautiful, isn't it?  This is what I get to look at every day!

Beautiful, isn't it? This is what I get to look at every day!

I live in a little cabin with one other student. We have a black and white cat. His name is Pleoh. I’m taking the last class of my life (at least I hope!): Phycology, the study of algae. I’m making beautiful algae presses for my collection, savory rosemary bread, and lasting memories. This beach is perhaps my favorite place on earth. I love the smell of the sea, the cool morning air, and the sound of the waves. Oh, may it never end.

This weekend I have reluctantly vacated my cabin dwelling to return home for a friend’s wedding. At 39 years of age, it is an exciting occasion for him. I’ve watched him in his valiant struggle to find the woman of his dreams and I could not be happier for him to have finally found someone as wonderful as she. I get to see my cat. And my roommates. My cat acts like she doesn’t care that I’m here, but I can see it in her face- she LOOOOOVES me! It’s so hot here. By the sea it’s a hot day if it gets above 80 degrees. So I’m hunkered down in my room with the drapes pulled attempting to keep from sweating…

I rented a car from Enterprise to drive down here. Wait, did I say car? I meant truck. I rented a truck. It’s all they had! The talked me into getting the insurance. I don’t know if it was worth it, but I was sure that as soon as I didn’t, I total the vehicle in a tragic accident and go deeply into debt paying for it. Not a pleasant thought. I got a very late start last night (another part of the Enterprise story) and got very sleepy about halfway here. I finally stopped at a rest stop and spent the night on the bench seat of my handy dandy truck. Despite my mother’s worst fears, I felt very safe. And I slept well.

This weekend I also have a job interview. Fingers are crossed. I really need the money.

I am planning to visit a ghost town -my last adventure passion- on the way back to the coast on Tuesday. That should be exciting so I will have to tell you about it. I want to find a buried treasure, but it’s probably only wishful thinking.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Puget Sound, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | Leave a comment

   

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