Bzzzzzz

I’m a BzzAgent. What’s that? I signed up here, filled out surveys and now get stuff free in the mail to try out. The products I get are based on the surveys I take, so they are catered to my tastes. I then review the products on the BzzAgent website and Bzz about it on Facebook and Twitter. It’s pretty fun! I’ve only been a part of a few “campaigns”, but so far, I’ve had a blast. To Bzz about the latest campaigns I’m in, I’m writing a blog post to share two cool products I’ve had the privilege of trying out.

Do you like candy? I do. I love M&Ms with peanuts and Snickers bars.

Do you like artificial coloring, hydrogenated stuff, corn syrup, preservatives and GMOs? Me neither.

Good news! There is a company that doesn’t have any of that junk, but tastes just like the top candies available at CVS and other major stores! Incredibly, this company doesn’t use artificial food coloring in their products. Check out the color wheel they have provided on their website. It compares where they get their colors from verses where other candy companies get their colors from. Fascinating!

You can always get “healthy” candy at health food stores, but now this wonderful option is available at places like Walgreens, CVS, etc. Want to know where you can buy it near you, click here.

I’m really thankful for Unreal. Junk is just not necessary. So their taking it out.

So here is their promise to you:

GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT UNREAL AND WE’LL KEEP UNJUNKING YOUR FAVORITE JUNK FOODS.

Thanks Unreal!

Campaign #2: Glade.

I bought two oil diffusers from Target (for free with coupons provided by BzzAgent) and put one in the reception area at my office and in my bathroom at home. The office now smells like sweet apple pie and I am constantly hungry. From the moment I put the air freshener out, I’ve received non-stop comments about how good it smells in the office now. I’m not much of an air freshener person. I was raised by a woman that can’t stand perfume. But, these scents are actually very genuine and refreshing. I don’t get a headache with these. :) I have two huge books of coupons to try these for free, so if you are interested, leave a comment.

Like I said, we love joe.

Phillip and I have decided to take our love of  joe to the next level.

We bought a roaster from Sweet Marias. OK, so it’s nothing major, but we dropped a little dough and bought this little toy to try our hand at home roasting. We purchased a sampler of green beans with it. Friends and family, if you are interested in “testing” our new roasts, leave a comment. ;)

First, a note about home roasting and the value of Sweet Maria’s website. It is an exceptional site full of information for home roasters! I mean, just look at this menu!

Pretty cool, huh?

Sweet Maria’s guides you through all the ins and outs of coffee roasting. After some roasting, I looked into how to make coffee blends, because it seems like that’s what every coffee roaster does. Here’s what I discovered (long quote, but worth it):

“Blending is done for several reasons. Presumably, the goal is to make a coffee that is higher in cup quality than any of the ingredients individually. But high quality arabica coffee should be able to stand alone; it should have good clean flavor, good aromatics, body and aftertaste. So one reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend. Another reason might be to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image; consumers don’t often call Starbucks by the origin names used in the coffee but simply as “a cup of Starbucks” as if the dark carbony roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from month to month and crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific origin flavor so they can source coffee from various (or the least expensive) sources and attain a consistent flavor. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator.”

So, I don’t think our goal is to create coffee blends at all, just to stick with learning how to roast single origin coffee the best we can.

Want to try your hand at roasting, but don’t want to drop the dough? Try a Whirleypop on your stovetop! Here’s a pdf of directions from Sweet Marias.

We purchased the Fresh Roast SR500. It’s small, similar in size to a coffee pot or a popcorn maker. In fact, it functions just like a popcorn maker, using hot air to roast the beans. Larger, more industrial style coffee roasters are often gas powered and now even using infrared technology to roast the beans.

The next most important tool, so I’ve read, but not actually tested the difference yet, is your grinder. I’ve written about the importance of using  a burr grinder in an earlier post.

Phillip and I are both avid coffee drinkers, but for some reason neither of us has ever learned the difference between coffee origins (like Guatamala versus Sumatra) and the different roasts (French and Italian).  I used to scan the selection of beans from Trader Joes and not know what I was looking for, other than a coffee that was dark and full of flavor. I’d imagine it’s easy to go your whole life without ever knowing the differences.

Our love affair with coffee, fed by the fact that it is a common interest between the two of us, has bloomed into an ever increasing search for knowledge about the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. It’s been encouraged along the way by things like the Chemex, to which I was introduced by a good friend and single origin coffee, thanks to Ritual and Four Barrel in San Francisco, two local roasters we visited in San Francisco on our honeymoon. Slowly but surely we’ve gotten here, to buying our own home roaster and seeking to understand all there is to know about coffee. Along with our roaster, we also got a variety pack of green beans from Sweet Marias. We’ve been making our way through the different beans, roasting to different lengths and looking for flavors.

Below is a picture of a peaberry. Normally a coffee berry has two beans inside, but once in a while only one will develop into a bulb shaped single bean with no flat side. This is a peaberry.

When I make a pot of coffee with my Chemex, this is how it makes me feel.

Like brewing beer or drinking fine wine, there are always gadgets and gizmos galore! How much you want to geek out about coffee is up to you. Phillip and I have definitely chosen the coffee geek path. We have a number of other coffee purchases on the horizon. One being Chemex’s new best friend, the Kone. Only, it’s $60! What? Did I just say $60? OK, it will be a while before we are able to buy this…

Kone Stainless Steel Conical Filter

Another great product is the Clever Coffee Dripper. Might I say, a much more affordable product too.

“It differs from a normal filtercone by way of a stopper added to the bottom: water only drains once the filtercone is placed onto a cup. This design features more durable plastic, and is easy to disassemble for cleaning. In essence, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines the best features of French press and filter drip brewing, eliminating the drawbacks of each. With French press brewing, you have control over steeping time, but heat loss and sediment in the cup can be a problem. Brewing with a paper filter is easy and convenient; the problem is lack of control over steeping time (i.e. the coffee begins to drain immediately). By adding a stopper to the filtercone, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines control over steeping time with a sediment-free cup. We call this a “full immersion brewing” method.”

Clever Coffee Dripper - LARGE

It seems that coffee culture is blooming, pun intended, and I’m really excited that Starbucks is finally taking a back seat. It will always sell a ton of coffee, but now really great freshly roasted coffee is soon to be had everywhere! Similar to the home-brewing movement, knowledgeable consumers will seek out good cups of coffee.

Kickstand Coffee from Dear Coffee, I Love You. on Vimeo.

We didn’t know about this farmers market when in San Fransisco, but this would definitely be worth the stop. Pour over coffee and everything! http://jessgibbsphotography.com/2008/cities/ferry-plaza-farmers-market-san-francisco/

Sourdoughs.

Sourdough Starter

The nickname for Alaskan homesteaders. Do you know why? Because supplies only came to these settlers once or twice a year and bread was a staple. The solution was to carry with them a sourdough starter to keep the yeast going for their bread. Either that (my recipe explains) or these old timers resembled the “indomitable sourdough starter…” That part made me laugh, because I can’t see myself calling a rough and tough homesteader a sourdough, because dough is too squishy.

There’s a tradition here out on the ranch, pancakes every Saturday. Rain or shine. Mom makes pancakes. Really good buttermilk pancakes. Since Phillip has been raised with this fantastic tradition, it’s just a way of life on Saturday morning to make pancakes. Recently, however, his mom gave me a whole packet of information on how to make a sourdough starter, pancakes, muffins, etc.

I’ve always wanted to make sourdough. When I was young, my parents owned a pizza parlor in Fallbrook, a small town up the road from where we live now. It was called Sourdough Pizza and they got their starters on a regular basis from bakery in San Fran. The pizza was delicious and everyone in Fallbrook loved it. I recently learned that it closed down, which is sad. My parents sold it a while back, but it had a good run.

Have you ever wanted to make fresh sourdough at home? Sourdough is unlike regular bread where you can just dump yeast in warm water, add salt and flour and go. Sourdough needs to be made from a starter that has been soured. I always thought you had to get a little batch from a very long standing strain of sourdough, but that’s not true. It’s nice to get a starter from a strain of sourdough that goes back 100 years, but if you’re like me, you don’t have any connections that good.

Actually, sourdough starters are easy! Not only are they easy, but when I made a starter, then next morning I had enough left over “sponge” to make sourdough pancakes. I didn’t know that you could make sourdough pancakes and it’s a shame because they are fantastic both in texture and flavor! Here’s a website that describes how to naturally start a sourdough starter and it’s a little more involved. We’ve started two starters, one using the method below and one using the method from this site. They use natural yeast that is always in the air, making the bread more resilient to mold and probably has a more sour taste (which I think was missing from the starter below, but it might need time to acquire that sour taste). If you’ve ever had a sour ale or brewed your own beer, you are well acquainted with this kind of yeast and probably try to stay far away from it because it tends to contaminate your brewing gear.

Here’s how to make your starter from a package of yeast. The starter itself will only be 1/2 cup of this stuff, the left over mixture will be enough to make a batch of pancakes or bread…

In a bowl mix well:

2 cups flour

2 cups warm water & 1 package dry yeast

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

It will look like this.

Sourdough Starter

Put this into a container (I used a corning-ware dish and plastic wrap to cover). Leave this at room temperature over night. This is now your “sponge.”

Side note: It’s important not to use anything metal in this process. (Stainless is probably OK for mixing.)

In the morning, put boiling water in a clean glass or ceramic container (mason jars work great) to make sure the container is sterilized and dump it out. Take 1/2 cup from the “sponge” and put it into your clean mason jar or container. Cover either with plastic wrap or the mason jar lid, but don’t tighten it. The starter will let off gas and expand. Put it in the fridge. This is your starter!

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Now make pancakes with everything that is left!

***

Here’s the sourdough pancake recipe:

Serves 3.

The left over sponge, after you have removed your starter (should be about 2 cups)

1 or 2 eggs

1 Tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

Beat with a fork and blend in all ingredients, except soda and water mixture. If you like, add a Tablespoon of milk to the recipe as well. Add the soda and water mixture right before baking. Bake on a hot griddle and only turn once (like any other pancake, but it’s worth repeating).

You can also add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat germ or branflakes to the batter (two eggs will provide the liquid for this addition).

Sourdough Pancakes

***

To use your starter later:

Create another sponge, by adding the starter to 2 cups flour and 2 cups warm water (just like the starter recipe, but no need for yeast now). Let this sit out, covered over night.  Then save a 1/2 cup of this sponge as your starter, just like before. Use the rest (should be about 2 cups) just as you did before in the recipe above.

Enjoy!

I hope to make a few loaves of sourdough bread this week and to experiment with muffins, sourdough wheat bread, sourdough french bread, etc. I’ll keep you posted if I find some good recipes.

We love joe.

We love coffee. 

Our most recent love affair has been with pour over coffee. Some call it “slow coffee”, some call it “by the cup” coffee. Whatever you call it, it’s the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. There is a whole subculture exploding around this coffee and for good reason.

Between the two of us, we can finish off about 3 pots of coffee in a day. Easy. He’s Dutch and I’ve been drinking coffee since I was like 9.  Actually, Phillip never drank coffee until he took a trip to Costa Rica in college. There he admired the coffee bushes everywhere. Then he split his time between drinking cafe con leche and rock climbing during his 2 year stint in Spain. I spent some time in Italy back in 2001 and really grew to appreciate delicious $1.00 cappuccinos at every gas station and one stove top cappuccino every hour when you were in someone’s home. I fell in love with Illy coffee and when I returned to the states, searched high and low for cafes that served it. I attempted to buy it, but at $15 a pound, it’s not really affordable. Together, we’ve learned to appreciate all sorts of coffee.

Phillip and I made it a point to stop by the best coffee shops in San Fran when we were there on our honeymoon. What we encountered was hipster heaven and super snobby coffee drinkers. All that aside, we discovered a whole world of pour over coffee and it’s science. You may ask, “What is pour over coffee?” Here’s a great article from the New York Times about the Japanese ancestry of pour over coffee and how it made its way to San Francisco. In Escondido, our town and a small suburb of San Diego, there’s a coffee shop called Blue Mug (El Norte location) that does pour over. They have a small brew bar set up and their coffee is pretty decent.

At home Phillip and I use a Chemex (a gift we registered for at William Sonoma and someone who loves us bought for us). The Chemex, featured above, claim to fame is that it makes the best cup of coffee in the world. This method proves convenient up at the ranch as it is “off the grid” compatible.  All our methods are simple with easy cleanup, beside the grinder, you don’t plug it in and they don’t take up much counter space in our economy size flat.  Another perk is you can take it with you (our Chemex just served 20+ breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park).  We usually buy Starbucks or Pete’s coffee, with occasional beans from boutique roasters (check out Escondido’s local). We use a burr grinder.

Put simply, burr grinder differs from other grinders because they grind coffee more uniformly, “Devices with rapidly rotating blades which chop repeatedly (see food processor) are often described as grinders, but are not burr grinders. Burr mills do not heat the ground product by friction as much as blade grinders, and produce particles of a uniform size determined by the separation between the grinding surfaces.” We pretty much follow the steps of the Chemex video below and every cup is phenomenal. The last piece of equipment that we are in need of is the Hario Buono Kettle. It looks a lot easier to pour than my water kettle at home.

I’m a fan of bold, dark roast coffee. Phillip loves medium roast. This was a problem when we visited Four Barrel where the server said they they “don’t do” dark roast coffee. That’s what they said. Whatever… your coffee doesn’t taste any better than Folgers to me.

:)

Like I said, I like dark roast. Luckily, there are people who still believe that you can do dark roast without ruining the flavor or burning the bean. Ritual Coffee was a much more down to earth coffee bar where the gentleman took 10 minutes to describe the process of brewing and tasting coffee properly. These two coffee spots are the most well known pour over coffee shops in the city.

We’ve been trying to share the love, buy giving a ceramic pour over funnel called a V60 to a friend in return for emceeing our wedding. He loves it, down to weighing his coffee and timing his pour. Awesome.

We also enjoy espresso at home from time to time.  Our preferred method is the stove top stainless steel espresso maker.  Everyone is familiar with the aluminum ones, but the stainless ones have risen in popularity after the aluminum cooking scare.  Phillip admired these stainless steel ones in the windows of the hardware stores in Spain, but could not sacrifice bus fare to climbing destinations to buy one.  Luckily, this too was a thoughtful wedding gift from a Lone Star coffee fan.

I just wanted to share our love for good coffee.

Enjoy these helpful and informative videos from Intelligentsia, one of the local pour over coffee joints in SoCal (Venice, CA). They have a video demonstrating how to use a V60 and a Chemex.

Chemex

Monadnock from Intelligentsia Coffee on Vimeo.

V60

Intelligentsia Chemex Brewing Guide from Intelligentsia Coffee on Vimeo.

Espresso

Espresso, Intelligentsia from The D4D on Vimeo.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino, Intelligentsia from The D4D on Vimeo.

Kahlua Recipe

As promised here the recipe for a delicious little addition to your coffee or Hot Cocoa. This is the recipe we used to make the Kahlua we will be serving at the coffee and hot chocolate table.

Ingredients:

-for gallon batch

  • 2-3 pots decaf coffee
  • 800mL of Vodka
  • 400 mL of Brandy
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 2 tsp salt
  • more sugar to taste

Process:

  1. Brew the coffee very strong. You can use your automatic coffee maker, pour over setup, espresso cafetera, or french press.
  2. Reduce the coffee by half approximately by letting it evaporate. This can be done by leaving it on the hotplate or by placing it on the stove in a large pot. Be very careful not to let the pot boil or even approach a simmer. You don’t want burnt coffee. Notice how much coffee you start with. You should see steam coming off and after keeping an eye on it for a while you will notice it is indeed evaporating off water and leaving you a stronger coffee liquid.
  3. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla bean. Slit the vanilla bean open before tossing it in.
  4. Stir.
  5. Allow to cool and funnel into a glass bottle. The glass bottle should not have too much extra space in it. Top it off with coffee if needed but do leave some room to add more sugar later.
  6. Add the vodka and brandy
  7. Cap the bottle, shake. Shake vigorously every week.
  8. Allow to sit 2-3 months.
  9. Taste and add sugar if necessary.

Disclaimer: This is our first Kahlua recipe, adjust liberally to taste.

Everything in it’s Season

Epicurious.com has this great interactive map that shows you what’s in season in your state! 

Here’s what’s in season, when, in California! I’m going to print this out and put it in my recipe binder. I think it would be nice to make myself a little dessert/veggie dish calendar, so I know what to make when throughout the year. 
January:
Avocados
Broccoli
Grapefruit
Kale
Kumquats
Lemons
Mushrooms
Oranges
Swiss Chard
Tangerines
February:
Avocados
Broccoli
Swiss Chard
Grapefruit
Kale
Kumquats
Lemons
Mushrooms
Oranges
Tangerines
March:
Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Broccoli
Grapefruit
Kumquats
Lemons
Mushrooms
Oranges
Tangerines
April:
Artichokes
Asparagus
Beets
Cherries
Kohirabi
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Spinach
Strawberries
Tangerines
May:
Apricots
Artichokes
Asparagus
Cherries
Nectarines
Peaches
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries
June:
Apricots
Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Nectarines
Okra
Peaches
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries
July:
Apricots
Avocados
Green Beans
Nectarines
Peaches
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries
Summer Squash
Tomatoes
August:
Eggplant
Corn
Figs
Melon
Nectarines
Peaches
Plums
Summer Squash
Tomatoes
Tomatillos
September:
Asian Pears
Chile Peppers
Corn
Eggplant
Grapes
Okra
Peppers
Persimmons
Tomatoes
Tomatillos
October:
Apples
Artichokes
Asian Pears
Brussels Sprouts
Grapes
Persimmons
Pomegranates
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatillos
November:
Apples
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cauliflower
Corn
Cucumbers
Peppers
Pomegranates
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
December:
Beets
Cabbage
Carrots
Guavas
Kiwis
Lemons
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Oranges
Scallions

Piety… or Pie on Sunday.

My roommates and I made a blueberry pie with a lattice top this afternoon. De-lish.


*Note: I made this pie with flour as a thickener for the filling, but a friend just suggested tapioca pudding instead, because my pie came out kind of watery.  


Making the pie crust:

Here is the recipe for the pie crust. 

You have to measure out 1/2 c. of shortening,
but then remove a tablespoon.
Cut in the shortening until it is well mixed in. 
Then tablespoon in ice water slowly until it forms a dough,
not too sticky but so that it sticks together. 
Like so.
Roll half of the dough slightly bigger than your pie pan.
The other half of the dough will be for the top.
Fold it over the rolling pin
to transport to the pan so you don’t rip it. 
Press gently down to form it to the pan.
Cut off the excess. 


Making the filling:  

Flour, sugar and cinnamon. 
Frozen blueberries. 
Fresh would be better,
but the grocery store sold out for this little project. Lame. 
Spoon it into the crust and
cover with a tablespoon of lemon juice. 
Then drop in a tablespoon of butter. 

Now to make the lattice top:
Now we use the other half of the dough.
Roll it out and cut it into half inch strips.
Ta-da!
Place the strips slightly apart. 
Pull back every other strip and place a strip down going the opposite direction. 
Put the strips back. 
Now you have to pull the strips back going the other direction.
Same thing though, every other one, the opposite ones this time. 
Put them back. 
Repeat until it is done. 
Beautiful! It’s OK if the strips don’t fit…
Just cut them off! 
Then, with a little bit of ice water on your fingers,
get the bottom crust wet and press the strip down. 
Cover the edges with tin foil,
make sure its shiny side out. 
Sugar the top and don’t let roommates pick at it.