CoffeeCrew Blog

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like there is no tomorrow.
Because, hey, you never know!.

Winter Storm Muffin re-mix - healthy fibre muffins · Wednesday September 1, 2021 by colin newell

I have been doing most of my own baking since I was 12 years of age – And although I do not have a cookbooks worth of experience, I have come up with a few good things.

These are a Daylight Saving Time classic to get you over the shock of the time change, get your train out of the station on time (I have no idea what that really means!) or keep you happy, healthy (and by design) more regular than sunrise.

One recipe that I have been making for over a decade is my Winter Storm muffin recipe – and I do reference it quite a lot on my blog as it has evolved some – so here is the remix:

The Dry – mix in a large bowl

2 Cups Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups All-purpose Flour (I often sub out the White flour for 4 whole wheat – yes, it’s healthier)
1 Cup Each; Rolled oats, Corn meal and (oat or wheat) bran – sub in Muesli if you have it.
(A variation for me is using 3 cups of All-Bran for a classic Bran muffin or a sugar free granola mixture)
1/2 to 1 Cup dark brown sugar (I now use 1/2 cup Demerara sugar and/or 1/8th of a cup of black strap molasses for intensity)
1.5 Tbsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Magic Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 – 1 Tbsp Organic Saigon Cinnamon
1/2 whole fresh ground nutmeg

The Wet Mix

3/4 Cup unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
3 Eggs
1 Tbsp Organic Vanilla
2 Cups Almond milk OR 2 Cups Goat’s milk OR Yoghurt
Almond milk (sugar free) is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk
and if you like an interesting flavour consider some organic Goat’s milk – great for the lactose intolerant among us.

Add Wet to Dry Mix – Do not over-mix.
I use a Kitchen-aid mixer. Stress on the over-mixing. You do not want to work the gluten in the flour in any way.

Add from 2 to 4 cups of the fruit of your choice – I use finely chopped mango, or apple, or fresh Turkish figs, blueberries, rhubarb or anything in the way of frozen fruit medleys – the sky is the limit. If the fruit falls from the sky, even better.

Another option is 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (any kind) in lieu of single cups of fruit.
A couple of times the mix seemed a little dry after the liquid was added.
Solution: Add a shot glass (2 fluid ounces) of your favourite juice; Orange, Cranberry, Lemon – whatever you have.

Pam spray 2-3 Muffin tins (I use a 12 and a 6)

Use an Ice Cream scoop for loading up the muffin tins – paper definitely not needed!

Bake for 24 minutes in a 375 degree oven or a few moments less in a 350 degree convection oven.– check for degree of done with a toothpick.
Poke the muffins. If the picks come out clean, you are good to go.

Let cool in pans for about 2-3 minutes and then air dry on cooling grid for 10 minutes. Makes about 18-20 freezer ready muffins. Ziploc freezer bags are suggested for long term storage. And by long-term I mean 2 weeks because these muffins don’t hang around!

Colin Newell has been a Victoria resident and food writer for over 25 years – His website has kept readers wide awake since 1995.
Winter Storm Re-Mix Muffins


The Soul Commotion - photos and music from the 1990's · Friday March 19, 2021 by colin newell

Soul Commotion from the archives!

Download here – Track-1-Small.mp3

The Soul Commotion 1993

Way back in the 1990’s I did a photo shoot for a Gospel R&B band that rehearsed at Glad Tidings Church. The objective was to get some tight band shots for use in promotional materials. I shot a few rolls. The band leader was not excited about the results. So I put them in my film archive with the other 12,000 film images I have taken over the years.

Now 27 years later I am opening the archive. I also have a copy of the bands 4 song EP that I am digitizing for them – and I will scan all the other photos. Above is a sample track for downloading or listening.



Rethinking the social bubble before schools re-open - with Dr. Iris Gorfinkel · Friday August 14, 2020 by colin newell

Of the many things that are forefront in our minds, especially the minds of parents, at the very top of the list is the concept of back-to-school, the ever shifting shadow that is COVID19, and the possible efficacy of any future vaccines.

We live in a unique time – a time that requires the best minds that we can find. And, as a lay person listening to all the reports with an ear glued to the Canadian media, one voice that stands out is the voice of Dr. Iris Gorfinkel.

We spoke with Dr. Iris Gorfinkel from our sunny patio in Saanich this afternoon. One thing became clear immediately: The good doctor has an inexhaustible focus for the crisis at hand but also a delightful self-deprecating humour on the subject of her long time love affair with music and the piano. We spoke of the mindful life savers in our personal realm and, as it turned out, music itself was one of those meditative exercises that keep us on course. But for now, the challenges at hand remain front and center in the doctor’s world.

This is her essay on the subject of Rethinking the social bubble before schools re-open:

When kids return to school in just a few weeks it will greatly impact social bubbles that contain both children and seniors. Children and adolescents will be exposed to other students in groups in which physical distancing may not be possible. This carries serious potential risk to those older than 60 years and those with chronic conditions who have school-aged children in their social circle.

Just last week the Toronto District School Board released an impressive 50+ page document describing well thought-out plans to bring children back to school. Bringing kids back isn’t just about the didactic teaching of core subjects. It’s critically important for children’s social skills, lends stability to at-risk children’s lives, provides reduced-priced daily meals and supports both physical and mental health. It also allows parents and guardians to re-enter the work force. The document describes the stringent control measures that are to be put in place including not only masks and hand sanitizer use, but also recommendations on restricting class sizes to 15 students with physical distancing in place along with some at-home learning.

These measures are critical but like all proposals intended to control the pandemic, it is far from perfect with plenty of unknowns. There is the question of adherence on the part of students, teachers, custodians and bus drivers with the suggested measures. Will everyone wear a mask? Wash their hands? Practice physical distancing? What will happen with the oncoming colder weather? What about aggressive contact tracing? Will kids or staff come to school when they have the sniffles?

When we look at the experience of other countries, school re-openings have been sobering. Israel was one of the first countries to re-open its schools and serves as an illustration of caution when moving too precipitously. Within days of reopening in May, COVID-19 infections mushroomed in Jerusalem forcing a widespread shutdown of schools.

We continue our grapple with the unpredictable in Canada. Schools have complex social structures with variable physical layouts, unique student and staff bodies, and a myriad of social dynamics. These factors make accurately predicting the impact that school reopening will have on the number of cases of COVID-19.

It is for this reason that returning students should be considered high risk to vulnerable populations. It follows that, when possible, kids should avoid contact with those over 60 and those with chronic conditions when schools reopen. Instead they should communicate by phone or electronically. When possible, this precautionary measure should be left in place for a minimum of one month following schools’ re-openings. After this, we will have a much better idea of the impact that returning to school has had on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

Should the number remain low, easing back on complete physical distancing can then be reconsidered. At that point, it still would be prudent for students to continue to wear masks, adhere to hand washing and maintain physical distancing.

Canada has recently exceeded 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. We’ve seen close to 3,000 deaths in Ontario alone. Ontario also boasts the dubious distinction of having one of the lowest hospital bed ratios in the western world during a pandemic for which there remains no known cure and for which no safe and effective vaccine is yet available. It is sobering to contemplate that these numbers may well represent only the beginning of what’s to come.

Rethinking the social circle of vulnerable populations when schools reopen is a consideration that for many may not be an option. But not rethinking seniors’ social bubble in advance may cost far more in terms of human suffering, hospitalization and death. A bit of advanced planning may well help to mitigate infections in our most vulnerable populations.

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel

Dr. Gorfinkel graduated from McGill University and completed her post graduate training at the University of Toronto where she was named Intern of the Year. Following this she became a Clinical Instructor in Family Medicine at the University of British Columbia, maintained a family practice, and served assessing women in the emergency room on the Sexual Assault Service at Shaughnessy Hospital (now the BC Women’s Hospital).

She moved to Toronto where she maintains a full time general practice and participates in clinical research.

Care to read some more on the good doctor’s latest initiatives? A National Vaccine Registry Blueprint Check over here

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and author of the coffeecrew website… his meandering on the subject of specialty coffee goes back decades…


COVID 19 Chapter 2 - A science look at what it is and what it is not · Friday March 27, 2020 by colin newell

Being prepared - ready your mind

Some interesting COVID 19 and Virus stuff gathered from a few sources.

  • The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipids (fats) which, if absorbed by the cells of the (eye)ocular, (nose)nasal or mouth mucosa, changes their genetic code.
    Mutation converts them into multiplier and attack cells.
  • Since the virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it cannot be killed, but decays on its own.
    The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and the type of material in which it is found.
  • The virus is very fragile. The only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat.
    Soap or detergent is the best weapon, because the foaming action and alkalinity of soap breaks down the fat layer.
    By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own.
  • Heat melts the protective layer. Use hot water above 25 degrees to wash your hands and clothes. In addition, soap and hot water produces more foam making it even more effective.
  • Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol content greater than 65% dissolves the fat layer of the virus.
  • Any mixture with 1 part of bleach and 5 parts of water directly dissolves the protein.
  • Pure Hydrogen peroxide is very effective but only in its pure form but it’s hard on your skin.
  • Don’t shake used or unused clothing, sheets or clothing. It can attach to porous surfaces. Lifetime – 3 hours (fabric and porous), 4 hours on wood, because it removes all moisture and does not let it detach and disintegrates, 24 hours (cardboard), 42 hours (metal) and 72 hours (plastic).
    Active virus molecules can float in the air for up to 3 hours.
  • Viral molecules remain very stable in air conditioned homes and cars. They also need moisture and darkness to remain stable. Dehumidified, warm and bright environments will degrade it more quickly.
  • Ultraviolet light breaks down the virus protein.
  • The virus cannot go through healthy skin. If you wash your hands regularly, rubber or cloth gloves may be little to no value.
  • Vinegar is not useful because it does not break the protective layer of fat.
  • Any agents, like mouthwash, which can be 65% alcohol can be an effective weapon against the virus.
  • In limited spaces, the virus can concentrate. More ventilation and fresh air is better for slowing down the spread.
  • Wash your hands after coming in contact all the obvious things like door knobs, car doors, door handles, etc
  • Avoid touching your face. It is human nature to touch ones face and this is the leading cause of transmission and propagation of the virus!
  • Moisturize! Wash your hands a lot, because molecules can hide in micro wrinkles or cuts. The denser the moisturizer, the better.
  • Keep your nails short so that the virus doesn’t hide there.

These are all good suggestions and there are likely more. Bottom line: A little knowledge goes a long way!

COVID 19 spoken word thingie

COVID-19-Audio-Primer.mp3 Download


COVID 19 Chapter 1 A great business neighbour Root Cellar · Tuesday March 17, 2020 by colin newell

This letter was sent out by Root Cellar Market within the last few days – it’s brilliant – it deserves a full read.

So these are interesting times, and before I forget, we have adjusted our business hours and will be closing at 7pm effective immediately.

Also…your specials are at the end!

As I knelt on the floor of my store today, marking off the recommended ‘social distancing’ boundaries for our till line up, trying to infuse a bit of lightness into our customer’s day by writing friendly reminders on the floor… I had one of those ‘is this real?’ moments. Am I really kneeling on the cement floor as customers walk around me, asking people to respect personal space for the safety of others. I never thought I would write #personalspaceisthebestspace in relation to the running of my grocery store… but here we are, all of us, in this together.

Root Cellar - Stay Calm - Carry On

Before I lose you with my long winded message, I’d like to speak to ‘panic buying’. Please STOP. We aren’t seeing it here, and for that we are grateful. This causes unnecessary stress on the supply chain, on staff in stores, and renders others without. I want to assure you that we do not have supply chain concerns, we will be here for you, with food on our shelves. You will however, notice a few compromises being made in our store due to lightened staff levels, we ask for your understanding as we prioritize everyone’s health and safety by having fewer staff on shift at any given time, (for example, we will not have baggers on our tills, and you will see a few less options here and there in order to accommodate our increased sanitation procedures).

There’s no course for this in business school (I didn’t go). But should there be? Probably not… what there should be is a course on trusting your instincts, in engaging with your team & your customers to ensure that their needs are met and their fears are abated. This is what we are focused on right now. On ensuring that we are doing ALL that we can within our resources to represent our space as local entrepreneurs, as grocers, as friends, family and parents with the utmost integrity.

We assure you from the bottom of our hearts that your health & safety is of our utmost priority. We are grateful that as a small business we can respond with immediacy to our rapidly changing circumstances. Today for example, following the provincial news briefing, we immediately removed all customer seating from our store. Thanks for coming, but please move along, for the health and safety of all.

Our current circumstances and recent call for all to ‘social distance’, will deliver quite a blow to our island economy, first to the small businesses that define our culture here in Victoria. As a member of the small business community we feel that it’s our obligation to urge you to make mindful decisions when choosing where you spend your dollars.

We can only speak for our own store, where our customers thus far have impressed us beyond belief with their overwhelming support, and their rational shopping habits, allowing us to manage the slight increase in sales volume without making huge compromises.

Think also of your grocery list as you write it, we are a small business, so is Fatso Peanut Butter, so is Golda’s Pesto and Saltspring Jam, not to mention the farmers growing this season’s local produce, about to be abundant. These companies need sales, need healthy staff, and need our support to stay afloat. We cannot IMAGINE a world without these products (among so many others) in it but the fact of the matter is that when life resumes normalcy, many of our favourite places to shop & eat, and our favourite products to buy may not exist when that time comes.

We urge you as always to vote with your fork and with your dollars. Our community of small businesses, growers, makers, bakers and shakers needs us right now. Mindfulness is contagious.

We all need to eat, and though many of you have gone out of your way to stock your pantries, the need for food, particularly fresh food will be ongoing. Many cannot afford to stockpile, others prefer not to, a lot will just want a reason to leave the house.

Please be aware that our staff have been trained to be mindful of social distancing when going about their daily tasks. You are less likely to be approached while shopping; please know that we want to chat with you and lend a hand, but as a result of our efforts we may appear less friendly than usual, we assure we are not!

We are currently open 8am-7pm, 7 days a week. Our busiest hours of operation are from 11am-5pm, with our highest customer counts from 2-5pm. Avoid these shopping times if you can.

We are strongly suggesting that the first hour of the day 8-9am is the ideal time for the elderly or vulnerable to do their shopping (if they don’t have someone to do it for them). Our customer volume is low, our staff levels are high and our store will have been freshly sanitized. We will not turn you away but If you are a low risk individual we suggest that you honour this window of time if you are able, out of respect for those in our community that are comforted by this accommodation.

Shop alone, not as a couple or a family if you are able. The fewer bodies in our store at any given time, the lower everyone’s rate of exposure.

Doing it right - in the Blenkinsop Valley

Make your shops larger and less frequent. If you have always been a 3x/week shopper, consider becoming a once a week shopper. Just plan ahead.

Shop for your friends, family & neighbours, (particularly the vulnerable) take turns running errands for each other, again, the less bodies in circulation in the community the greater impact we are having on flattening the curve.

Use a shopping buggy instead of a basket, ‘social distancing’ isn’t human nature. The nature of a shopping cart’s size will ensure distance between you and other shoppers & staff.

Clean your hands before and after leaving the store, be mindful that coming in with clean hands reduces risk for all staff and customers sharing the space. We have a well equipped customer bathroom available, and a limited supply of sanitizing stations.

Amongst the constantly changing social climate, we want to take a moment to remind you that we are still running our Island Food Caring Campaign. While this may feel like a nuisance, we urge you to consider the vulnerable, the hidden hungry in our community during this unsettling time. Imagine, if on top of the instability we are all experiencing, you also didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. Everyone’s food sustainability commitments are being tested right now, we stand firmly planted behind ours, and pledge to DOUBLE ALL CUSTOMER DONATIONS to Island Food Caring made between now and March 22nd at our tills. Those in need, need us more than ever. I am a huge fan of the beautiful words below … we need to BE THE HELPERS right now.

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