10.27.2010

Cold brew (on the cheap)

Cold brewed coffee has been a revelation for me. All the flavor and none of the bitterness, plus it makes an iced coffee that you actually want to drink (instead of the watered down mess you get when you ice hot brewed coffee).

There are several methods for cold brewing at home.

1) The contraption method: I've gotta say, I'm not a fan of gadgets, so this holds little appeal for me. But if you have plenty of cabinet space and/or want the easiest method, this is probably for you. There's the original Toddy system and a cheaper version by the always awesome Ron Popeil called the Coffeetime Cold Brew system.

2) The French press: Coffee can also be cold brewed in a French press. This is good for those who want to brew hot coffee at home as well. Caveat: start with a medium grind or coarse grind for best results.

3) The cheap method: This is where I landed. I didn't see the point in buying something new when I had everything I needed already here. The downside is that you have to filter yourself which can take time and be a bit messy (but not bad once you get the hang of it). The upside: cheeeeeap! Plus, you can try cold brewed coffee without much investment to see if it's for you.

You will need:
1 glass jar/bottle with a lid (preferably something easy to pour from)
1 mesh colander (the finer the better)
Another bottle or large container (a Pyrex measuring cup would work well)
3-4 paper coffee filters

Add coffee and water to the glass jar with a lid at a 1:4 ratio (4 times as much water as coffee). Let sit 12 hours in the refrigerator. Pour the coffee into the second bottle/container, filtering through the mesh colander. Discard grounds. Rinse out original bottle, and pour the coffee back through the colander that you have lined with a coffee filter. I find I go through 3 to 4 filters depending on how much coffee I am brewing (yes, I do get impatient and squeeze it through - why do you ask?).

Voila! You now have coffee concentrate! Dilute it with water or milk and warm it in the microwave or serve it cold over ice. I dilute at a 1:2 ratio of coffee to milk, but you can make it as strong or weak as you'd like.

Photo by JcOlivera.com

10.26.2010

Enjoying it while it lasts

Jumped into first last night. Wahoo!

10.18.2010

Impaired

I have a confession. While I am a decent enough cook, there is one dish that I have attempted for decades and have yet to make successfully. Even worse, it's one of the most "simple" dishes out there.

My nemesis? Steamed rice.

I know, I know. For those of you who are not rice-impaired, this seems absurd. You will tell me (as I've been told before), "You just ** insert simple instructions here **, and it will turn out fine!"

I have heard you. I have obeyed (or at least tried).

I have failed.

My results are either hard little rice grains or sticky glop but never the evenly cooked, fluffy side dish I had envisioned.

My workaround has been to use other methods to cook rice. I make baked rice and curried rice in the oven. I use a Fannie Farmer method for boiling rice on the stovetop. It all turns out great. Why simple steaming eludes me remains a mystery.

I have considered a rice cooker, but my aversion to kitchen clutter (and small appliances in general) has always kicked in and steered me away. Until, that is, I read about "The Pot."

"The Pot" is what Roger Ebert calls a rice cooker in his blog post and book: The Pot and How to Use It.

According to Ebert, the simple appliance is more than just a rice cooker, it is a one pot meal factory. He cooked a variety of full meals in it - including oatmeal for breakfast and even chili - and claims they are easy, tasty, and won't leave your kitchen a mess and your sink full of dishes.

Am I skeptical? Of course. If there was ever someone the "idiot proof" rice cooker wouldn't work for, it's me. But ... the idea of steamed rice (and more!) - without mess and drama is awfully tempting. This appliance may be worth a look after all.

Photo by Tamaki

10.15.2010

So horrible, so funny.


She's fine and ended up giggling at the memory. In case that makes you feel any less guilty for laughing at this ...

10.11.2010

10 signs that I am old

1) When the radio lands on the smooth jazz station, I no longer flip away.

2) I do not understand Lady Gaga.

3) I use the phrase "kids these days".

4) High school students look far too young to be driving.

5) Staying up all night is no longer an option (without mass quantities of Excedrin).

6) I have sent one text in my life. It was to a wrong number telling him to stop texting me.

7) I don't understand why one would want to send a text in the first place.

8) Upon seeing a dvd player inside of a minivan, I launch into a semi-coherent rant about the character building effects of boredom.

9) I don't know who half the people in the gossip mags are these days.

10) I get most of my electronics to work by randomly hitting buttons until the right thing happens.

10.08.2010

10.06.2010

Life is beautiful. Life is hard. Repeat.

My dad came to visit us in South Carolina this week. We've spent our afternoons on the beach, soaking up the sun and watching the waves roll in.

Life is beautiful.

A fine lady and good friend had surgery last week. She didn't wake up and is now on life support. All prayers for her are appreciated.

Life is hard.

I celebrated another birthday recently ~ in good health, with a wonderful husband, and in a new town by the ocean that I love.

Life is beautiful.

Another friend's daughter is undergoing chemo. I read today that she's very weak and struggling with this round of treatments. Please send your prayers and good thoughts her way.

Life is hard.

My heart soars ... and breaks ... and soars again. And I wonder why, since we're all in this crazy cycle together, we can't go a little easier on one another along the way.

10.04.2010

Nelson: 1, Rocky: 0

My dad's dog Rocky came to visit yesterday.

Rocky is a ... um ... joyful dog. And he expresses his joy by yipping and bouncing and running around non-stop.

Basically, Rocky is a handful. But a happy one, so it's hard to mind too much.

Ernie (our shih tzu) tolerated Rocky pretty well. He spent most of the visit following him around "his" house to make sure, well, I'm not sure what he wanted to make sure. Possibly that Rocky didn't make off with the silverware.

Nelson (our cat/evil genius) spent the visit on the back of the couch, eying Rocky with contempt and waiting. For what we didn't know.

His moment came when Rocky climbed in his cage and sat down for a minute. Nelson got up, walked over, and looked Rocky square in the eye.

Then he shut the door in Rocky's face and walked away.

Of course, Nels neglected to lock the door. I'm sure he's working on that for next time.

10.03.2010

I *heart* Food Lion

Where else can you get soda that sounds like a plastic surgeon?


And then there were giblets


Last night, I tackled #96 on my life list: roast a whole chicken.

This may not sound like much to most people, but I am a bit squeamish about raw meat (ok, more than "a bit"), so tackling a whole bird was daunting to me.

Translation: I was gonna have to touch the thing. Bleh.

I settled on a recipe that involved roasting a 5-6 pound bird atop a bed of veggies. It looked simple enough: rinse bird, stuff bird, season bird, bake bird. How bad could that be?

Things even started out pretty well. I covered the bottom of a casserole with veggies and got the bird out of the package with little trouble.

Then it came time to stuff the bird. I looked in expecting to find a wide open cavity and instead found ... parts. Giblets, I think they're called. I recognized a heart and a liver before I put it down in horror.

Once I calmed down, I decided to upend the bird over a plastic sack and dump whatever the heck was in there out. I flipped the bird and gave it a good shake.

Nothing.

Another shake. Still nothing.

Apparently the opening wasn't large enough, and the giblets were wedged in there. I knew what I had to do. The only way the awfulness was leaving was if I stuck my hand in and pulled it out myself.

I took a breath, closed my eyes, and reached in quickly, pulling out a handful of who knows what. I threw it in the sack before my mind could figure out exactly what I was touching.

After a couple handfuls, the bird was clear.

And then I saw it: the neck.

I've bought rotisserie chickens before, and I know that the end result should definitely not have this bit of bone and spine flopping off one end. The question was how to remove it. I don't own a cleaver, so I hacked and pulled and twisted (and gagged) until the vile thing was gone.

The rest of the process was fairly smooth. Unless you count the lemon I stuffed in falling out the back end at one point. Compared to what I had been through, that was nothing.

When I told Kurt and my dad about the horror, they were surprised. They thought giblets were usually in some sort of bag, and neither ever remembered seeing a raw chicken with a neck still attached.

Apparently, I got a rustic style bird where they chopped off the head and feet and called it good. At least they plucked the thing.

Next time, I'll see if they have a city girl version.

** Yes, the bird is upside down. No, I didn't mean to cook it that way.

10.01.2010

It's important to have goals

Goals are important.

Some are lofty. Some are noble.

And some are dreams that tug at your heart and won't let go.

I have such a goal. Not noble perhaps. Not lofty, but mine nonetheless.

My dream? I never want to wear real shoes again.

That's right. No sneakers, no flats, no heels, no loafers. Nada. Only sandals and the sweet joy of going barefoot.

I took a step in the right direction by leaving the midwest for South Carolina. So far, I've been here six weeks, and nothing but sandals have graced my feet.

Unfortunately, my new Southern paradise doesn't enjoy summer all the time, and temperatures may dip soon into the 60s, 50s, and (heaven forbid!) even the dreaded 40s.

Then it will become a question of my fortitude, my desire, my sheer strength of will.

Can I do it? Or will I sell out and succumb to blue toes and frozen piggies (or even worse - social pressure to dress like a grown-up)?

As the old saying goes, "The heart is strong, but the toes are weak." Or something like that.

Only time will tell. Feel free to place bets, if you'd like. Right now, my money is on lasting until Thanksgiving or possibly Christmas (any trips to the deep freeze of the midwest are exempt, of course).

Who knows though, maybe I'll go the distance. Does Tony Robbins have a program for this?

Photo by PR