Home In Disarray

March 6, 2015

Coffee CSA


Craig and I are coffee snobs.  Over time, we have slowly stepped up our game in terms of what coffee we determine is “acceptable.”

Coffee CSA

One of our favorite coffees is actually roasted in Seattle.  It’s called Back Pedal Brew, by Middlefork Roasters.  It tastes creamy and chocolaty.  It’s quite nice.  But it’s about $16/lb, not organic, and kind of a pain to get.  Our options are Seattle Coffee Gear, which has 2 locations nearby, but neither are convenient, or Whole Foods, which is equally inconvenient to get to (and also a total zoo).  Whole Foods also offers some pretty great coffees in their house brand which can be purchased in bulk.  That is our general go-to for everyday coffee.  I get their organic breakfast blend for $10/lb and it’s pretty tasty.  But it’s still a total pain to get at Whole Foods.  So sometimes when we run out of “the good stuff,” we will slum it, and pick up a bag of Starbucks coffee.  And every time, it’s awful.  During one of those times, I just wasn’t willing to make time to take a special trip to Whole Foods to get more coffee, and we finally broke down and decided to try out a coffee subscription service again.  We had tried Tonx in the past and weren’t fans of how overpoweringly sour their roasts tasted, so we dropped it.

I signed up with CoffeeCSA.org last week and scheduled our first delivery of 2 pounds of coffee.  2lbs monthly costs $30 shipped.  It is roasted just a couple days before it is shipped.  Since they deal directly with the farmers, the people who grow the coffee make a lot more money.  The subscription that we selected allows us to get a “featured farmer of the month” coffee, so we get different coffees each month.   We got our first delivery yesterday. It’s tasty, and good, and Craig really enjoyed it, which is saying a lot.  Also, I like that the farmers are getting paid more, and I like that the coffee’s organic.  But most of all, I like that I don’t have to schlep my ass to Whole Foods twice a month to get ethically produced coffee.  So CoffeeCSA – if you’re reading this… want to be the first sponsor on my site?  I like what you’re doing and I want more people to get involved in paying the people producing our food a fair wage.
Posted in: Clean Eating, Coffee, Food
January 30, 2015

Bulletproof (butter) Coffee

butter coffee

I am willing to try almost anything once.  When I was pretty into eating Paleo(or similar), I kept coming across references to Bulletproof Coffee.  If you have somehow missed the hipster express and have not yet heard of this substance, here, let me explain it to you.  It’s basically butter and any number of other good-for-you fats dunked into your coffee.  It sounds totally sick, right?  Well it tastes incredibly close to coffee with cream.  And essentially, it is.  The concept is that it gives you energy, focus, and helps curb your appetite.  And it does.  You know, because coffee. And fat.  You could probably get a very similar product from just adding some grassfed cream and a couple hunks of coconut oil to your coffee in the morning, but for whatever reason, this feels like more of a ritual and leaves me feeling less hungry.  It very well could be psychological.

The recipe?
28 grams (2 tablespoons) of good fat (grassfed butter and coconut oil)

Grassfed butter is the preferred base of this.  People recommend unsalted.  It’s expensive at the grocery store, and our Costco only sells the salted stuff.  Craig and I use it because we don’t have any issues with sodium consumption, and frankly, we kind of like it.  Craig goes with the whole 28 grams in butter, because he hates coconut.  Joke’s on him.  I actually quite like coconut, so I either go 14/14 or 23/5 butter/coconut oil.  The reason to include the coconut oil is that the medium chain triglycerides are easy to digest and generally considered (at least for now) quite good for you.

Coffee.  Craig and I use the heck out of our Aeropress.  Like every morning.  I actually haven’t touched my espresso machine in over a year.  It’s on a shelf in our spare bedroom collecting dust.  Anyway, good coffee.  Organic coffee is better for the environment (duh) and has far less chemical residue that conventionally produced coffee.  And I find that when you start getting into decent quality coffee, there often is very little (if any) cost differential between conventional and organic, so might as well find something organic you love.  We usually  get the Whole Foods store brand, Allegro.  They have a medium roast that’s organic, called Early Bird Breakfast Blend.  A pound will set you back about $12.

weighing out the fat for bulletproof coffee

Here’s how we go.  I have amassed quite the collection of those flimsy plastic starbucks reusable mugs.  You know, the ones that cost $1 and look like a normal paper cup?  I am constantly losing or letting to-go mugs get totally disgusting, so I figured I’d just get these quasi-disposable cups and use them for coffee at home.  The only thing is that since I’ve gotten these, I haven’t destroyed any, and I’ve mostly stopped losing them.  And they last freaking forever. Oh geez.  There goes another rant.

doodles on reusable starbucks cups
Recognize  the llama?
doodles on reusable starbucks cups
Recognize the NWA reference?  Craig’s favorite cup.

I have a scale out on the counter all the time.  I use them constantly for cooking, portioning, etc, so it is a super easy way to ensure I’m getting the right amount of fat in my coffee.  While the water is heating and the coffee is grinding, I just toss the cup on a scale, and start adding butter/coconut oil til I hit 28 grams.  Then I brew my coffee right over the top of the butter.  It melts the fat, and then I just buzz the half-full cup with my hand blender.  It gets frothy and emulsified, I let it sit a few more minutes for the foam to die down a little, and then finish filling the cup with additional water.  Easy peasy.

brewing coffee with the aeropress
bamix hand blender
I got this 1970s Bamix on Ebay for $30 shipped.  It’s built like a tank.  Made in Switzerland, and should last you forever
blending the coffee and butter/coconut oil
blended coffee
Difference between blended butter coffee and unblended.  Gross oil slick on top of unblended.

Now, let’s talk about how this goes, realistically.  Nutritionally, it’s great.  It fills me up, and only sets me back a hair over 200 calories.  There are few breakfasts that do so.  It takes an equal amount of time to make as a normal cup of coffee (which I’d be making anyhow), doesn’t take any more time to consume than I normally would spend (sipping while I put on makeup and drive to work), and doesn’t generate any additional dishes.  The hand blender just gets rinsed off when I’m done and goes back in it’s little stand thing.

And the downsides?  If I let it get cold, it gets icky.  The oils solidify and then it gets chunky.  Microwaving fixes the chunky part, but then you get the oil slick on the top again.  Fix?  Drink it faster.  Done.  The inside of the cup gets oily, and I like to reuse my cups.  Instead of just rinsing the cup before refilling it with some hot water with tea, I actually have to wash it with dish soap. I can live with that.

Additional upside?  It moisturizes my lips.

So I implore you, please try this.  At least once.  If you have one of those little bullet type blenders, make the coffee in that!  I admit that it might be kind of a bummer if you just have a vitamix or other normal blender, but give it a shot, and if you love it, spend $30 on a hand blender, which you will use all the freaking time once you have it.

January 5, 2015

The “Work” Salad

Duck confit salad

I assume that we must all do something similar to this, but in the off chance that I am incorrect, here’s my rundown on the “work” salad.  The salad that consists of leftovers, stuff you dug out of the pantry, and random bits and pieces of tasty that have somehow gotten my attention.  Throw a can of tuna or leftover chicken breast over the top, and you have a full meal deal.  Here’s my salad for the day.  It was  huge, filling, and delicious.  As I assembled it, I just started entering the items that I added and their approximate measures to myfitnesspal.  It is an interesting way for me to determine where I could be “saving” calories, and what items I may want to add more of next time.  In this case, I had some duck confit (yes, from our ducks) in the fridge that needed to be used, and Craig won’t eat salads, so this came to the office for work salads.

work salad with duck confit

Yes. that’s a huge cottage cheese container from costco.  It makes a great salad bowl that I am not concerned with forgetting in my car for 3 days or leaving at work.

calorie breakdown of salad

I erred on the high side of everything for the salad.  Going over the calorie breakdown, I’d probably use half as many cranberries and half as many pepitas, and toss a couple of boiled egg whites only on top to boost the protein factor.

November 5, 2014

I hosted a caramel making class for a bunch of strangers!

Caramel Making Class

I’m part of a Facebook group called Buy Nothing Bothell. It’s a simple concept, people post things up (along with their general location) that they’d like to give away, and people who are interested in them, comment and ask to be considered.  The gifter then lets the person who has “won” know, and they take the conversation to private messages, where the gifter gives the giftee their address and they make arrangements for the giftee to come pick up the item, usually from the gifter’s porch.  It’s a simple concept, and feels a little safer that Craigslist free ads, because you have access to the person’s name and facebook profile.  There are numerous Buy Nothing groups in the area, but based on what I’ve heard from friends, Bothell has the “best” one.  Numerous great things have been gifted, including a working espresso machine, a Wii, tons of Halloween costumes, dishes, baby stuff, a trampoline, etc.  I have given away a dresser, knife block, baking pans, light fixtures, and hundreds of caramels.  I’ve personally had the luck of “winning” a couple purses, an electric roaster, a fondue pot, and a set of hot rollers.

Sorry for the quality of the photos guys, they’re phone pics.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and just couldn’t get it together enough to take many photos with my real camera.

Photo by Mary-Leah Bryson Moore

A couple of months ago, someone who has an apple tree in her yard posted saying that she’d love to learn how to can, and she has all of these apples to use.  This blossomed in to an experienced canner offering to host several of us and teach us how to can.  We all brought equipment and ingredients, a few people on the group donated some canning jars, and someone brought a huge crock pot of chili.  We turned it into an afternoon/evening of processing apples, and at the end of it, we each had 2 quarts of apple pie filling, and 4-5 half pint jars of a couple different apple jams, in addition to some frozen apple sauce.  It was a pretty great ordeal.  Fun was had by all and we walked away with delicious food, new skills, and new friends.

Each time I gave away caramels on BNB, I got requests to share my recipe(which I am happy to do) and comments about how people don’t know how to make caramels.  So I had the genius idea to offer a similar get-together to the apple thing, but there was LOTS of interest.  I created an event page, and the initial 6-8 that I figured I could “handle” quickly turned into 14, as I found that you cannot block RSVPs.  I eventually had to use all caps to write “do not rsvp” in the event title.  But as can be expected(let’s be honest, I was hoping!) 4 people didn’t show up.  Thank goodness!

The way we did this one (and I’m hoping to do a few more, and refine the process) was to post what ingredients were necessary, and have people volunteer to bring stuff like corn syrup, cream, butter, pumpkin pie spice, real food, etc.  It ended up working out in the end, but having a third of the people dropping out had potential to be disastrous.  I made sure we had extra corn syrup, a ton of granulated sugar, and a little cream.  For refreshments, I made some focaccia, got a tub of jalapeno artichoke dip (yum) and made a crock pot full of mulled wine.

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

My husband packed up the escape artist dog (Helo) and got the hell out of Dodge, then guests began arriving.  We had a few snacks, I gave a quick rundown on sugar temps, crystallization, and talked about the importance of an accurate (or at least consistent thermometer), then we got down to business.  I cooked a batch of caramels, and showed the women what different temps of boiling sugar look like, the extreme frothiness when adding your cream, etc.   The first batch was a success.  The second batch, I didn’t add enough initial water to, and got sidetracked, so of course, I taught everyone the lesson of not burning things.  One of the women has her own caramel recipe that she wanted to also make, so she made that.  And we had a good lesson in the importance of thermometer consistency.  Her thermometer at home is calibrated differently to mine, so when she cooked to the exact same temp as her home thermometer reads, using mine, her temperature was overshot, and the caramels are closer in consistency to a sugar daddy candy.

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

All-in-all, we made 5 batches of caramels: my standard French Grey Salt, Coffee, Pistachio, Pumpkin Spice, and Jackie’s plain.  I was hoping to have enough time to cook up a batch of Toffee Popcorn Crunch while the pans of caramels cooled, but time was flying and we’d have been there til after 8 if we had tried to make that happen.  After the caramels cooled sufficiently, we got to cutting and wrapping.  Let me tell you, wrapping happens A LOT faster when you hate 10 people involved.  I’m about ready to start hiring the neighbor kids to come over and wrap candies for me.  I’ll pay them in sugary treats!

Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger
Photo courtesy of Heather Heyer, The Bothell Blogger

After all was said and done, we each walked away with:
12x espresso
12x salted
6x pistachio
12x pumpkin spice
24x plain

And of course!  Recipe:
Chewy Caramels (makes 64)
1.5 c granulated sugar (300 g)
.5 c light corn syrup (150 g)
.25 c water (enough to moisten sugar)
1.25 c heavy cream
4 Tbs (.5 stick) butter
.5-1.5 tsp salt
Espresso:3 Tbs instant espresso
Pistachio:1 cup hulled pistachios
Pumpkin Spice: 100g canned pumpkin, 2tsp pumpkin spice

* In a 3 qt or larger heavy bottomed pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water, being sure not to splash granules of sugar onto the sides of the pan
* Combine cream, butter, & salt in microwave safe container, nuke until butter is melted and cream is warm, stir.
* Cook sugar mixture over medium-high heat to 250°, wash sides of pan down with wet pastry brush, and cook to 290°.
* While stirring, slowly add warm cream mixture to sugar. Cook to 243° (or whatever works with your thermometer), remove from heat, and pour into greased loaf pan
*Allow to cool, unmold, cut, and wrap

If you are considering actually making these, please refer to a previous blog post that I made (but ignore that recipe, I have since fine-tuned it).  There are notes regarding how to test for temp and what to do if the temp isn’t quite right.  On my personal thermometer, the target zone is 243.  Whatever thermometer you have may be off quite a lot.  If your thermo is at least quality, it will probably be consistent though, so once you figure out that thermometer’s sweet spot, stick with it!

Posted in: Candy, Coffee, Misc
February 13, 2014

Espresso, learning how to pull a proper shot, and delicious failure

Espresso, learning how to pull a proper shot, and delicious failure

Urg.  I have this love-hate relationship with fussy things.  On some occasions, I enjoy the fussy aspect of really perfecting something.  On other, either the artfulness of it is lost on me, or I just don’t care enough to put forth the effort to get it “just right.”  Such has been my experience with espresso.

A few years ago, I picked up a cheap espresso machine as a birthday present for myself.  It was a cheap little refurbished machine (highly rated though) that is essentially internally identical to the Starbucks Barista machine.  It has what is called a pressurized portafilter. The portafilter on espresso machines is the little basket with a handle that the coffee goes in.  A pressurized portafilter eliminates the fussy aspect of pulling a really nice shot of espresso.  It gives you a consistent product, eliminating the need for the “correct” grind size, tamping, etc.   It is consistent, and good, but not great.  Enter my nature.  Why improve on good?  Because I could use a good knock to my ego.  A manual portafilter, one that doesn’t have the safety net of being pressurized has potential to make exquisite shots of espresso.  It also has the potential for extreme failure. The benefit of the potentially extreme failures that a manual portafilter can provide are that they are a) cheap and b) still espresso (yum).  A couple years ago I got a burr grinder (also cheap, but highly rated), for the ability to freshly grind my beans, and knowing that at some point in time, I would decide that I had nothing better to do than spend $60 on a manual portafilter and continually hurt my own feelings in the quest to make great espresso.

The pressurized portafilter is visible sitting on top of my espresso machine in the first photo.  It is a big honker.  The non-pressurized portafilter is much slimmer, not having any of the extra crap in it to pressurize the chamber.  An additional wrinkle in the standard portafilter game is the bottomless, or naked portafilter, where they cut out the bottom of the portafilter so you can see the basket from the bottom.  This allows the barista to see exactly how the coffee is coming out of the filter.  It basically allows you to figure out WTF you’re doing wrong, so you can try to correct it.  And boy-o is it apparent!

manual portafilter for saeco aroma

There are a whole host of problems that you can create with different variables.  The variables include: grind size, tamp pressure, inconsistent tamp pressure,  and quantity of coffee.

bottomless portafilter

You wanna hear how my first attempt went?  NOT PRETTY.  Side spurting like nobody’s business, too short of extraction times, blonding, over extraction.  It was a clusterfuck.  And no crema.  NONE.  It was still coffee, so.. you know… I drank it. Then I made a second attempt this morning.  A little better. I got SOME crema, but not much.  I still had a spurter, multiple streams, over and then underextraction.  I tried again.  This time with a little more coffee, a little more pressure, and a slightly finer grind.  Better results.  A spurter still developed, but it took a while.  Extracted too fast.  I have work to do.  And by golly am I going to love both my successes and my failures!

not very much crema
I used a ramekin so it would help catch any spray.

Updates will follow.

Posted in: Coffee