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Coffee Maker Update

20170209_134425-1600x1200We’ve had this thing long enough now to be able to give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  The k-cups are the go-to for a quick cup but we’ve had success with the adapters, shown in the foreground, using our own grounds.  They even make little-bitty filters for them that are optional.  They do cut down on the cup sediments.

I did some looking on line for the cheapest k-cups and ended up running to Best Buy where they had some pretty cheap.  Green Mountain Dark Magic is a dark roast that we like, and they had a good tasting Donut Shop blend that was also on sale at the time.  Since our visit they’ve bumped up the price on both.  I’ve ordered a couple of different blends from Amazon that are very popular:  A Kona blend and one from San Francisco Coffee called Fog Chaser.

 

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Dinner Menu: Spicy Potato Soup and Gooey Chocolate Treat

Spicy Potato Soup_Snap2Well, in parts of the Front Range there was 10 inches of snow. Here…rain. Bixby was disappointed but I was not. Still cold enough to keep the soups going.

I rifled through my files and decided on another soup for the dinner menu this week:

When the cold weather hits, it is great to hunker down with some hot soup, buttery biscuits and finish with some melt-in-your-mouth cake warm from the oven. This is my go-to potato soup, over the traditional cream of potato soup; I like the spiciness and the sautéed onions add a deep, rich flavor. The garlic biscuits are a nice complement to the soup. I was going to find a healthy dessert for tonight, but then thought to heck with it, it’s cold and we need chocolate.  Rich, gooey, chocolaty goodness.

JeffW's awesome biscuit photo. So beautiful I wouldn't even try to compete with my own.

JeffW’s awesome biscuit photo.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Potato Soup
  2. Garlic Biscuits
  3. Salad
  4. Mocha Cake

Spicy Potato Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage, browned and drained
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, well scrubbed, unpeeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack

saucepan

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, garlic, broth, & potatoes. Mix milk & flour, add. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If it’s too thick, add water. With a potato masher, slightly mash a few of the potatoes. Serve with cheese to garnish.

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

====

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Shopping list:

  • Salad fixin’s
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes (russets work best)
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Coffee or espresso to make 1 strong cup

Also: flour, sugar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, baking powder, oil, vanilla

Originally posted on February 2011

=========================================

Crio Bru: An Alternative to Coffee or Tea

Crio Bru

I’m not sure when I saw someone mention Crio Bru as an alternative to coffee, it may have been a recipe post at Balloon-Juice, but I thought it sounded interesting, so I went in search of some to try. It wasn’t easy to find.

I looked around locally at all the natural food groceries and one of my clients is actually a coffee shop, so I asked there, no one had heard of it, much less stocked it. Finally, I turned to Amazon and ordered it and a stainless steel, double-walled french press.  All the reviews recommended using a french press, though you can also brew it. I tried both methods and definitely had more flavor with the french press version.

Crio Bru is roasted and ground cocoa beans that you brew like coffee. It has very little caffeine, a rich, dark chocolate flavor and 10 calories. I tried it black, with cream and with a touch of sugar. Black was by far my favorite, with a rich creamy texture and dark chocolate flavor. The cream seemed to dilute it too much and the sugar seemed unnecessary.  It makes for a nice evening warm beverage when I don’t want to drink caffeine before bed.

To make it, you use 2 tbsp of the chocolate per 6 oz of water  (I use two heaping tbsps and 8 oz).  Place the chocolate in the french press, add very hot water (I usually boil it and then it cools to about the right temperature as I measure it), stir well (I use a chopstick), cover and let steep for 4 minutes. Then press the plunger down SLOWLY and serve.

If you want to brew it, you need to have a coffee maker that has a bold setting, otherwise it’s very weak.

I highly recommend it for chocolate lovers who want an alternative to hot chocolate or coffee.  Yum.

==========================

Full Dinner Menu: Spicy Potato Soup, Garlic Biscuits and Mocha Pudding Cake

Dad Uniform

It’s Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d post photos of two of my favorite veterans. Although they are not the only two, they are the two closest to my heart. The above photo is of my dad when he first enlisted. A career Air Force man, he served in Vietnam when I was quite young and his service took me on many adventures during my youth.

2936_1082774828635_1750418_n

And my brother, who served in the National Guard and was stationed in Iraq/Kuwait during the Iraqi war.  So proud of both. Thanks to all who serve this country and the families that support them.

In recipe news, it was 60 degrees at noon today and by 3 pm it had dropped to a windy, cold 45 degrees, so soup seemed the best idea for the dinner menu tonight. I make several kinds of potato soups regularly, but spicy potato is by far my favorite.

For tonight:

It is all about comfort foods. When the cold weather hits, it is great to hunker down with some hot soup, buttery biscuits and finish with some melt-in-your-mouth cake warm from the oven. This is my go-to potato soup, over the traditional cream of potato soup; I like the spiciness and the sautéed onions add a deep, rich flavor. The garlic biscuits are a nice complement to the soup. I was going to find a healthy dessert for tonight, but then thought to heck with it, it’s cold and we need chocolate.  Rich, gooey, chocolaty goodness.

JeffW's awesome biscuit photo.  So beautiful I wouldn't even try to compete with my own.

JeffW’s awesome biscuit photo.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Potato Soup
  2. Garlic Biscuits
  3. Salad
  4. Mocha Cake

Spicy Potato Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage, browned and drained
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, well scrubbed, unpeeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack

saucepan

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, garlic, broth, & potatoes. Mix milk & flour, add. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If it’s too thick, add water. With a potato masher, slightly mash a few of the potatoes. Serve with cheese to garnish.

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

====

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Shopping list:

  • Salad fixin’s
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes (russets work best)
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Coffee or espresso to make 1 strong cup

Also: flour, sugar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, baking powder, oil, vanilla

Originally posted on February 2011

=========================================

Iced Coffee Update

I decided early last week to go ahead and try Kirk’s Cold Brew method for a batch of coffee. The first thing that I realized was  – it wasn’t as arduous as it sounds. I have 8 oz containers of ground coffee handy, so I did a half a batch. Let me tell you, it makes sludge. And I didn’t think to ask him if grind mattered, but my coffee was an espresso grind, a fact I realized after I mixed it all together. What I had when I as done was a thick liquid, even after I strained it twice.

Straining it was easy. I have a reusable coffee filter, I strained it through that using my glass carafe as the receptacle. The second time around I added cheesecloth – it didn’t make much of a difference. But it was easy both times. With the grounds that were left, I wished I had a compost pile to add it to. Good stuff.

The flavor is different, that is for sure. The best way to describe it, I guess, is that it’s more like what it tastes like to eat a coffee bean (sans the chocolate coating). It’s a rich coffee flavor, but decidedly different from hot brewed coffee. It is very good, just don’t expect it to taste like brewed coffee.

It is also very, very strong, but as Kirk states, it’s very drinkable because it’s not bitter. But the caffeine kick will do just that, kick you. I have an exceptionally strong tolerance for caffeine and can drink coffee late into the evening without effect. Not so with this, even watered down it packed a considerable kick for me and I had to give up any ideas of drinking it as an iced beverage. Even two parts liquid to coffee mixture was too strong for me and I was finding it difficult to sleep, even if my iced drink was in the afternoon. And at the two parts mixture, I thought the flavor a bit weak.

What I did find though, was it made for a nice, rich frappaccino. I could use a tray of ice cubes, about a 1/4 cup of the coffee brew, milk, touch of sugar and chocolate syrup and the taste was great. And for that reason and the idea that it holds up well in the refrigerator all week, I would do it again.

My next test will be the double brew method and how best to cool down the coffee without watering it down too much. Until then….

Iced Coffees

photo from Seattle’s Best

Yesterday friend of blog, Kirk Spencer, put up a post on iced coffee.  He does a great job of explaining the different ways to approach it. He followed up (after a question from me) with a post on cold brewing, which was great, because I knew nothing about cold brewing and had only seen very expensive machines for the process. I’m going to give it a shot, probably on a small scale.

I love iced coffee in the summer. I do the ‘brew strong coffee and serve immediately over ice” process. I have yet to get the ratio perfect for my tastes. My standard  is Dunkin Donuts, love their coffee, it’s one of the few big coffee shops I can say that about, and their iced coffee is just as good. Not from a mix, it is fresh brewed. They say they double brew it. Whatever, it works. Oh, and did I mention there is not a DD to be found around here? Though that is about to change in a big way. Yay!

I think I will work this summer at perfecting my technique. One advantage I have is the  vita-mix and I can easily make smooth frappucinos. My goal it to make a mocha frappuchino that does not have 400 calories a glass.

So let the adventures begin. I’ll let you know how it goes.  Until then….

Arrivederci!

I don’t normally worry about disappointing my waiter.  Our final dinner in San Diego, it was clear I might have done just that and my gushing over my dinner was not going to sway him.

Arrivederci Ristorante is a neighborhood restaurant, which is always the best kind.  We stumbled upon it after aborting another dinner plan on the way to the airport.  It was charming and the staff was friendly and very good at their craft.

The wine was excellent and the food was impressive.

It was clearly a local hangout and quite busy on an early Sunday afternoon.  We had two hours before our flight and I was not all that hungry, even though the menu held many temptations.  My original order was for what looked like an excellent soup.  It must have been, because they were sold out.

I then went with my standby.  I’m from a very traditional Italian family.  Good sauce on good pasta with a great bread is really all you need.  Meatballs or sausage are an option, not a necessity. (I look at pizzas much the same way – if your crust and sauce are not excellent it doesn’t matter how much stuff you throw on top, you’ll never overcome that deficit.)

You’d be surprised how badly most restaurants do this simple dish, treating it almost as a throw away.  They put all their effort into fancy pastas, cream sauces and sun-dried tomatoes topped with fancy cheeses and multiple additions.  Often they are good, very good, but I really judge an Italian restaurant on the basics.  A great sauce is a requirement.  I’m quite often disappointed.

Arrivederci looked promising.  The dipping sauce they served with the most excellent bread was fresh, tangy with just the right amount of spice. It was kissed with fresh basil, so it didn’t overpower the delicate tomato flavor. They took it seriously.

So when the soup was unavailable, I knew exactly what I wanted. A simple pasta, sauce and meatballs.  I was not disappointed.  The sauce was fresh, well spiced, light and served on top shelf linguine that was perfectly al dente.  The meatballs, which are quite often done poorly, were perfect.  Moist, filled with flavor, not filler, a good complement to the sauce.

So how did I come to disappoint my waiter? I was only able to eat about a quarter of my plate (as you can see from the picture above, I could have served 4 with it) and since we were about to board a plane I  couldn’t take leftovers with me.  I assumed TSA would frown on a doggy bag.  No matter how he tried to convince me, I could neither clean my plate nor take leftovers with me – though I would have really liked to have them at lunch today at work. No matter how much I raved about my meal, I don’t think I convinced him how wonderful I found it. The face he made when he walked away was priceless. It was sweet.  I’d go there again in a heartbeat.

They also have a pizzeria down the street which I can only assume is some of the best pizza anywhere.

My friend had one of their gnocchi plates, which was equally delicious – and the gnocchi was light as a feather and the sauce was delicate, not overpowering as some cream sauces can be.  We finished the meal with a really good coffee.  Dark, rich with a chocolate finish (we’re coffee fanatics and love a good brew). From staff to atmosphere to food and drinks, there was nothing to disappoint here.

Elfie’s Adventures in Cooking: Coffee

Elfie thought he’d make the morning coffee with mixed results:

Special Correspondent Kathy M. H. reports that while Elfie made a bit of a mess, the results were quite good.  Heck, if someone would make my coffee in the morning I probably wouldn’t complain about a little bit of a mess either.

Wonder what Elfie will ‘cook’ tomorrow?  Stay tuned….

Bacon Jam

Someone mentioned bacon jam.  I had to go look up some recipes.  There are plenty, some involve more effort than others, this one seemed just right.

We had an uh-oh moment this morning, the door on the big freezer stood ajar all night.  We didn’t lose any thing other than some phyllo dough and a wee bit of ice cream.  Some baggies of homemade smoked bacon a friend gave us were pretty much thawed so the bacon jam sounded like a good plan this afternoon.

We used a store brand sugar substitute in lieu of the brown sugar, and Mrs Butterworth’s lite syrup rather than the maple the recipe called for.  Mmm… maple syrup.  Sigh.  I fixed Mrs J a turkey sandwich midway through the bacon jam project and topped it with the candied bacon/onion mixture that was nearly ready for the processor.  It was good with the leftover sweet potato slices and the dab of cranberry relish.

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Thursday Night Menu: Comfort Food Edition

First a little housekeeping. I’ll be travelling, so there will not be a Thursday Night Menu next week. Since it is Valentine’s Weekend, instead I will repost the menu from last year, Cornish Game Hens with stuffing.

Tonight is all about comfort foods. Most of us are in the midst of a cold snap (and those of you who aren’t, don’t gloat, lest we descend upon you and stay until late spring) and the only way to get through it is to hunker down with some hot soup, buttery biscuits and finish with some melt-in-your-mouth cake warm from the oven. This is my go-to potato soup, over the traditional cream of potato soup; I like the spiciness and the sautéed onions add a deep, rich flavor. The garlic biscuits are a nice complement to the soup. I was going to find a healthy dessert for tonight, but then thought to heck with it, it’s cold, it’s icy and we need chocolate.  Rich, gooey, chocolaty goodness.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Potato Soup
  2. Garlic Biscuits
  3. Salad
  4. Mocha Cake

Spicy Potato Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage, browned and drained
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, well scrubbed, unpeeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack

saucepan

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, garlic, broth, & potatoes. Mix milk & flour, add. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If it’s too thick, add water. With a potato masher, slightly mash a few of the potatoes. Serve with cheese to garnish.

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

====

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Shopping list:

  • Salad fixin’s
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes (russets work best)
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Coffee or espresso to make 1 strong cup

Also: flour, sugar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, baking powder, oil, vanilla