Thursday, July 3, 2014

Learn how to dry the blueberries you pick in July for recipes this December

Last week I was on holidays. So, the first thing I had to do Monday morning was sort through the mail that arrived in my absence. Among the items piled on my desk, though no longer a big pile thanks to digital mail, was a new book. My first thought when I saw it was, ugh, another self-help book that doesn’t help. Then I opened the package to discover Teresa Marrone's, "The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods" (Storey, $16.99) and proceeded to lose a good portion of my morning delving deeper into its pages. The book is not only well-written but interesting.
Each section offers a food-by-food guide with clear preparation instructions - whether you choose to use a fancy schmancy dehydrator, a home oven or the sun. It all starts with the basics of drying foods and then moves on to cover a variety of topics organized according to food type and equipment. Each chapter contains a pantry of information on everything from turning fresh fruits into wholesome baby food purees to instructions for drying fresh pasta and making vegetable snack chips and all-grain crackers. How about a DIY plan for building and assembling their own dehydrator?
What I love about the idea is being able to pick blueberries in July that can be used for a lemon-blueberry muffin recipe, come a snowy day in December?
Beef jerky?
Naturally, there's a section on that, which is probably the first thing people think of when it comes to dried foods. Also known as "Ch'arki" a word derived from the Quechan language of the Incas that translates into "dried meat" the discovery of jerky not only served as food that could be stored for long periods of time but as a source of nutrition that could be packed in a saddlebag for easy transport. Every kind of meat - except pork - can be made into jerky. By adding dried berries and fat one can also make a variation of jerky known by Native Americans as pemmican.
As Marrone points out, jerky also can be used as an ingredient for stew and she provides the recipe to do it. There are also recipes for while-muscle jerky, which is made of strips of lean meat that have been marinated in a flavorful liquid or sprinkled with a salt mixture. In some marinades, the salt comes from a condiment such as soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. What's also nice about Marrone's book is all of the recipes can be made without the use of curing compounds or chemicals perceived by many researchers to be possible carcinogens.
Why practice the ancient art of food preservation?
As Marrone notes in her book: drying food from your garden or bought in bulk is less expensive than buying prepared products, saves on the space that canned preserves take up (four-times less) and is considerably lighter. That can make a huge difference to those packing it for a trip or hike in the woods.
It's also healthy alternative. "Drying preserves more nutrients than canning or freezing and offers variety to raw food diets," according to Marrone. "Cooks who dry at home can also better control the amount of sodium and gluten in their foods."
Lastly, it could be a lifesaver. Dried goods are a recommended source of emergency supplies in case of adverse weather, power failures and other catastrophes.

For those of you excited to start the process the following is Marrone’s recipe for muffins.

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup lemon yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin plan or line with paper liners. In a bowl combine, dried blueberries, yogurt and lemon juice. Set it aside. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and set it aside. After 15 minutes, add the sugar, butter, honey, salt and eggs to the blueberry mixture. Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon. Then add the flour mixture and gently stir until moistened. NOTE: Do not over mix the muffins. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins or paper liners and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (until golden brown). Serve with lemon curd and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea.
Gina Joseph is a multimedia journalist and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com. Follow @ginaljoseph on Twitter.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Out-of-the-box gift ideas for Father's Day

Playoff Electric Football by Tudor Games

I lucked out with my dad. He was an avid reader. His favorite author was Louis L’Amour who was primarily known for his Western novels but who also wrote historical fiction, science fiction, nonfiction and even poetry and short stories. There was always something new to read. Being a photographer my dad was also interested in technology and he loved to cook. So, my brothers and I were never at a loss for what to get him on Father's Day. Not everyone has it so easy. 
To help those pondering something other than an ugly tie or tend to procrastinate and need something quickly here are a few neat gift ideas:

Cowboy Dads
Looking for a paperback dad can take camping? "Calves in the Mud Room" by Jerome O. Brown is a captivating and quick read about a teenager growing up on a cattle ranch in the Rockies. Besides having to deal with two dysfunctional parents and the family's faltering small ranch Wade Summers wants nothing more than to go on a date with Glory Schoonover. Only the weather and the heifers expecting calves are not cooperating. Brown's book sells for $7.50.

Gadget Dads
If he owns an iPhone chances are he could use the The Task Lab iPhone case. The TaskOne G3 is designed for the outdoorsman, gadget lover or handyman and contains 22 different tools as well as 2 kickstands and a universal mount for attaching reciprocating saw blades. Other versions such as MyTaskUrban and MyTaskBike contain tools specific to the task at hand such as drawing and cycling tools. Cost of gadget: $99.

Playful Dads
You could get him his favorite game - even a vintage version of it. Or you could get him a basket and fill it with a whole bunch of new games. Endless Games is the maker of a variety of new games including Oddly Obvious - the wild new party game where all the answers are right in front of you. One player reads clues while the other players race to spot the correct answers on a games card. Prices start around $16.99.

Healthy Dads
Vintage Tradition Body Balm is not something he would want but it is something he might appreciate -- whether his skin is dry, chapped, calloused, cracked, sun damaged or covered with itchy, burning rashes. Choose from eight scents: $20 for 2 ounce container.

Sporty Dads
If he loves music and windsurfing, sailing or just jogging on the beach chances are he would enjoy a waterproof MP3/FM player. The UWater G5 is cool because it can be attached to goggles, a headband, armband, swimsuit, wetsuit or belt. Look for the 4GB, 100 percent waterproof music device at Geared To Be Fit Cost: $60.

Hoopster Dads
How many times have you seen your dad shooting wads of paper into a wastebasket? It's this fun habit that inspired Spalding's licensed Hoopster Wastepaper Basket. The gizmo for basketball-kind of dads features a sturdy, plastic, realistic looking basketball hoop.  Look for the Hoopster at Milen Products. Cost: $12.99.

Speedy Dads
Some dads like a boat powered by the wind. Others want to go fast as in jet engine fast. For those dads there is the Scarab 195 Impulse HO. It has a 250-horsepower Rotax jet engine and a sticker price of $25,998. Look for Scarab Boats at Wilson Marine, 36355 Jefferson Avenue, Harrison Township, MI 48045.

Here’s another idea for the adrenaline-seeking dad who prefers to race across the land. Petty Holdings, LLC, owner of Richard Petty Driving Experience is rolling out a buy-one, get-one package just in time for Father’s Day. Purchase one eight-lap rookie experience ($499), 18-lap king’s experience ($899) or 30-lap experience of a lifetime ($1,349) with Richard Petty Driving experience at any one of the participating tracks including Michigan International Speedway Michigan International Speedway and dad receives a free drive of equal or lesser value. Both experiences must be booked before June 15 but the drives can take place anytime between June 16 and Dec. 31. A 3-lap high speed ride-along in a NASCAR race car is also available for $79. http://www.drivepetty.com/?gclid=CM-uxo7J9L4CFaJaMgodiTwAzA

RC Dads
Silverlit has been making remote-controlled cars and trucks for years. Their latest toy is the Nano Falcon - a miniature RC helicopter that flies up and down, forward and backward, and left to right. Thanks to Silverlit technology and a Gyro Stabilizer it maneuvers easily and precisely. Look for Nano Falcon, $49.99, at Silverlit

Football Dads
There's a new electric football game to hold dads at bay until the Fantasy Football League or the Detroit Lions take the field. Playoff Electric Football by Tudor Games has several settings so dad can play it on his own when he's got the house to himself or as the entertainment for a gathering of friends and family. Cost: $49-$59. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

What to know when choosing a real estate lawyer

A few months ago I learned of a woman who is homeless because of a crooked real estate transaction. After years of taking mortgage payments as part of a land contract deal, the property owner took off. He left the house, but the woman later learned that he never made the payments, so she lost it shortly afterward. 

There’s not much that can be done now, but a real estate lawyer may have been able to prevent something like this from happening. Even without having any experience with land contract deals, he or she might have noticed something amok in the paperwork or the answers being given by the property owner.

In any case, be it buying or selling real estate, it is rare to find a deal that is free of any complications, which is why it’s always a good idea to have an attorney available.
But, how do you know you’ve got a good lawyer?

Below are a few tips from a Metro News Services’ report to consider before hiring someone to represent you in any real estate transaction:

  • Check out their experience — The reason you’re hiring a real estate attorney is to make use of their experience. A veteran attorney who has been involved in a number of complicated real estate transactions, be it development deals or buying rental properties, is more likely to see potential red flags. When interviewing someone for the job, ask how long they’ve been practicing law and what kind of experience he or she has in your area. This is important because zoning laws and other real estate restrictions vary from state to state and city to city.
  • Beware of vague answers — When interviewing perspective attorneys, ask for a detailed account of how they plan to represent you, including what must be done to get the transaction off the ground. Also ask what they might do in certain situations involving the transactions. How will they overcome the hurdles or problems? What kind of safeguards can they put into place to protect you? Some attorneys might request time to develop a plan of action and that’s not necessarily a bad thing — especially if they answer your questions in great detail.
  • Watch your money — Attorneys are costly, but not talking about fees will not make them cheaper or go away. Be sure to discuss fees before you hire anyone. Most lawyers charge by the hour, but their rates may be negotiable depending on the case. Those who will be overseeing your real estate transaction are likely to bill by the hour, but if their services are only required to look over a single document they might negotiate a flat fee for the service.
  • Make sure you know what lawyer is representing you — Do not assume the person you interview is going to be on the case full-time. A firm may hire a junior associate or even a paralegal or law school student to handle the day-to-day work. While these people might be perfectly equipped to handle your transaction, when interviewing the attorney ask whether he or she will be handling your case. It’s vital to have a good rapport with the person who will be working your case, whoever he or she will be.
  • Get help and references — Contact the bar association in Michigan and ask for a list of real estate lawyers. Talk to people you know, such as a neighbor or relative who might have had dealings with an attorney they can recommend. Perhaps their lawyer knows of someone else in the firm who handles real estate.
Gina Joseph is a multimedia journalist and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com, follow @ginaljoseph on Twitter and visit her beat blog at macomblife.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tornado of '64: Monitor Leader reporter tackles difficult assignment

Maury Vincent at work in the newsroom.
I’ve reported on weather-related disasters including a prairie fire that threatened a town before destroying a man's livelihood but no lives were taken.
That was not the case for one of my Macomb Daily predecessors.
On May 8, 1964, right around the time Maury Vincent would have been dotting his I’s and crossing his T’s on weekend stories, a tornado touched down in Pontiac.
It killed one woman. Then it headed east for Chesterfield Township where it took 13 more lives and left hundreds homeless, before escaping into the clouds over Lake St. Clair.
It was also the end of Vincent’s weekend.
I'm only guessing because I never had the chance to meet the award-winning journalist. Vincent died on Oct. 5, 2011. Still, having heard the stories shared by journalists who had the pleasure of working with him -- he worked late into the night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Doing the job of reporting the news but also provide accurate information for those who need it most.
Residents hurt by the storm.
The biggest question being where their missing loved ones might be found.
I am a storyteller but I can only aspire to reach the level of a Maury Vincent, who was assigned the difficult task of reporting the deaths in Chesterfield.
Here we are 50 years later.
Looking at a story about the people who died handled with great accuracy and respect from Maury Vincent’s Sunday report, "Morgue was the last stop for the missing," on May 10, 1964:

Maury’s opening lines…
“Outside the door, a cardboard box filled with torn and bloddy clothing stood as mute testimony to the scene inside the room.
There, on stretchers placed neatly in a row, lay the crumpled bodies of the tornado victims.
This was the morgue of Martha T. Berry Hospital Friday.
Knots of people stood in the hallways.
Many of them had come to inquire about missing relatives.
A husky man walked in looking for his wife and daughter. He said his name was Joseph Soloc, age 28 and a machine shop operator. He lived (on) Forbes, Chesterfield Township.
A few moments later he came out of the morgue room.
His face was blank, jaw set.
He had found his wife Donna Mae, 24, and daughter Wnedy Lou, 6 months.
Soloc said he was driving home when the twister hit.

Maury shares the words of a grieving father…
“I saw the cloud,” he said. “I jumped out of the car and ran toward my house.
“I got to the house and there was nothing there. It’s all gone… flattened out. I went running through the fields looking for my family.
“Everybody was looking.”
Nearby, he found his two sons, Joseph, 6, and Alan, 5.
After getting medical help for the boys and sending them off to hospitals, Soloc resumed the search for his wife and daughter.
The morgue was his last stop.
A man and his wife walked in, looking for a missing daughter.
They walked out of the morgue room, wearing the same blank expressions.
“…she just had her hair cut,” the woman said softly.
Then she broke into sobs.
Her husband put his arm around her and pulled her into the elevator.
The closing doors framed them in their silent moment of grief… two people touched by the screeching death of a vicious tornado that screamed out of blackened skies on a quiet Friday afternoon…
Occasionally someone ventured a smile, but the atmosphere dispelled any attempt at cordiality.

So you never forget…
A box of corrugated paper, labeled “mortuary paper,” stood open beside the morgue door.
Among a cluster of people nearby, Dr. Raymond G. Markle, a Macomb County coroner noted the names of the dead as survivors went through the brief, but painful process of identification.
“They’re all women and children,” said Dr. Markle, inclining his head toward the covered bodies.