mmmmm coffee

DSC_0008I love good coffee.  Good coffee to me is not Starbucks which always tastes bitter and burnt.  Folgers simply never passes my lips and Keurig machines are o.k.

But if you are really interested, what I prefer is a French Press, an old school stove top espresso machine, and a Nespresso machine.  Truthfully I am so picky about my coffee I only order it out at certain places, because the brown water so many people pass off as coffee is just gross.

I have a Nespresso Pixie- my sister gave it to me as a Christmas present and we (the Nespresso machine and I) have been inseparable ever since.

Now the thing about Nespresso is it is controlled by Nestlé and you can only buy their coffee capsules which are do not misunderstand me, excellent.  But they are going up in price and I would like to be able to get capsules that are sometimes a little less expensive and a different brand of coffee – preferably small batch hand roasted kinds. Not flavored. Flavored coffee is simply gagalicious and I don’t mean that as a compliment – it is right up there with flavored or any kind of non-dairy creamer.

Well I was cruising around on Amazon.com looking and came across this company in NYC that was new called HiLine Coffee Company. So I went to their website to read about them

HiLine Coffee Company:

Our mission is to sell high quality coffee in Nespresso compatible capsules while offering great value and more choice to our customers. We believe Nespresso manufactures the best single-serve coffee machines and we like their espresso too; however, we feel it’s time to offer consumers a new choice of capsules to use with their Nespresso machines…We’re Gene and Ted, the founders of HiLine Coffee. We share a love of coffee going back more than a decade, when as undergraduates and best friends at Penn we stumbled upon La Colombe, a café near Rittenhouse Square. Just like many remember their first great wine, we remember our first great coffee.

 

So I figured how bad could coffee be from a couple of guys from Wharton? After all, a few years ago there was a coffee company I was crazy about that was also created by a guy from Wharton whose coffee I missed as the stores went away – New World Coffee.

I ordered a few sleeves and oh my I tried it today.  

One word: fabulous.

The flavor was bold and rich and not the least burnt.  It had that great espresso taste I love.  You see that is what hooks people on Nespresso machines: they can actually produce consistently good cups of coffee and espresso.

So look if you are a coffee junky like me and you own a Nespresso machine for $5 a sleeve for coffee produced in small batches, why not try it?  The coffee is good, and trust me I am picky about my coffee.

Read about the HiLine Coffee team by CLICKING HERE. They are on Twitter @hilinecoffee and on Facebook too.

Seriously? If they keep producing a product this good they will be the next hot thing sooner rather than later and you read it here first.HandsomeRoasters9photo-sa-fig-12-caffe-reggio-1

If  you do not own a Nespresso machine but want amazing coffee for your French Press or stove top espresso pot or whatever I buy from a place called Handsome Coffee Roasters from Los Angeles – like HiLine their coffee is super fresh and flavorful and roasted in small batches – all of their coffees are good but I recommend trying their “Roaster’s Choice”. I was introduced to   Handsome by a friend who designed their webpage whose girlfriend is a barista.  

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And if you want to check out one of the best coffee houses anywhere which is also steeped in tradition, check out Cafe Reggio in New York City in the Village around the corner from The Blue Note at 119 MacDougal Street.  They are the first place to ever make a cappuccino in the US and have been doing it right since 1927.

 

farmers’ market couscous

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Market inspired summer salad- my own recipe (but I am digging the 3 cookbooks I picked up on the cookbook swap at East Goshen Farmers’ Market last week)
Anyway farmers market summer couscous salad:I cooked 1 cup of plain couscous according to directions with sea salt, garlic powder and olive oil to taste.

When cooled and fluffed I added two diced medium tomatoes from Thornbury Farm, I diced red/purple lollipop onion from Sunny Slope, minced herbs from plants I bought and planted in my garden from the East Goshen Farmers’ Market (mostly from Brogue Hydroponics) – 1/3 cup chopped mint, 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley.  Then I added 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, zest of one lemon, juice of one lemon, a little more olive oil, wine vinegar to taste, adjusted salt and added fresh cracked pepper.

Toss in refrigerator covered and serve cold

YUM!

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hello pumpkin…bread

4Cold days are meant for baking, so today I whipped up a couple of loaves of my pumpkin bread – I had a container of Pacific Natural Foods Organic Pumpkin Puree left in the cupboard from Thanksgiving (it really IS the best pumpkin to cook with).

There is just something so homey about the smell of something wonderful baking in the oven, isn’t there? And by the way, one of my secret 3ingredients is Jayshree Spices’ Tea Masala spice blend.  It works well when making chai spiced tea, and you can bake with it too. I wanted something fun to accompany tonight’s dinner which is my hybrid cross between black bean and lentil soup and a spinach salad with a tangy apple cider-mustard vinaigrette salad dressing.  (And no, I have not written down my soup recipe it is a dash of this, a pinch of that, but I can tell you it is quasi pureed, made with tomatoes and my secret to its smokey fabulous flavor is good ham and minced orange peel.)

Anyway, I thought I thought I would share my recipe, which is a constant evolution. Pardon the haphazard way I list ingredients, but when something comes out of my head sometimes the whole codifying a recipe isn’t perfect…

Pumpkin Bread 1

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

1 15 or 16 oz container of pumpkin puree (I have seen both sizes – just pumpkin, no sugar or spice added)

3 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup milled bran (yes that again – love it in baked goods- makes chocolate chip cookies extra yummy too!)

1 cup Smart Balance oil

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups organic white sugar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup of orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons buttermilk powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (regular not sea salt)

3 tablespoons Jayshree Tea Masala Spice Blend

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice5

shredded coconut, quick oats, and turbinado sugar for dusting tops of batter in pans before it goes in the oven.

1. Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, vanilla, orange juice, sugars, spices

2. Mix in all dry ingredients except milled bran.  Mix well.

3. Add bran.  Stir again

4. Pour batter into prepared pans and dust top with plain quick cooking oats, turbinado sugar, shredded coconut.

Bake at 350 for at least 60 minutes (my oven went 70 minutes on this recipe today).  If a wood or stainless steel small skewer comes out of center clean, pumpkin bread is baked.

Cool in pans on baking rack about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove loaves from pan and cool completely.  This bread does need to sit at least an hour after coming out of over before slicing. (just my opinion)

Enjoy!

 

 

let’s talk turkey about thanksgiving

Today Rachael Ray announced it was (as per Butterball which may or may not have a trademark on the day) National Thaw Day.  She said:

“No matter what size bird you are dealing with, if you are cooking a frozen turkey it needs to get out of the freezer and get into the fridge today,” Rachael suggests. “Store it in the lowest part of the refrigerator, and take it out [of the freezer] today and it will be perfect by Thanksgiving day!”

Ok so it is funny, as I was staring at my frozen turkey this morning, I was wondering the same thing.  Some years I have gotten a fresh turkey, but this year economizing is the name of the game so I took advantage of my free turkey from the grocery store. I actually have the points for two free turkeys, but have only picked up one at this point.  Maybe I will donate the second one.

Anyway, apparently every four pounds of turkey is equal to one day of refrigerator thaw.  And once defrosted a turkey can hang out in the fridge another four days. My turkey is in a plastic shopping bag and resting in a shallow pan.  I don’t want anything to leak if possible.  After all, who wants to scrub the refrigerator on Thanksgiving Day?

A week ahead of time is also when I start to think about how the table will look.  I collect vintage linens so I can change my table out from year to year.  And no, I never pay a lot for old and vintage linens.  Garage sales, church sales, flea markets, thrift shops.  I look for lots of things in numbers I can deal with, tablecloths that can be tea stained or dyed if need be.  I only look for natural fibers, so polyester will not be found on my table – I don’t like the sheen, feel, and texture.  I generally hand wash my linens, so a week ahead gives me time to do that and get them ironed up if need be.

I also love vintage dishes, so you might find those on my table as well. I have some cool goblets also gathered courtesy of garage and church tag sales.  I don’t do paper plates, plastic cups, and aluminum foil containers as serving dishes.

In my former life with my former in-laws (for lack of a better description of what to call these people), one of the ex factor’s sisters not only had the darkest living room I had ever been in (dark green walls and all her own art work – some was decent, some of it looked like paint-by-numbers), but she wouldn’t know how to set a buffet without aluminum foil containers and cheap paper napkins.

I wouldn’t comment except she made such fuss about how fabulous a table she set, and all I ever saw every Thanksgiving were those aluminum foil containers on the sideboard and table (and the bottles of salad dressing on the table, paper napkins and really bad  as well as warm white wine choices.)  She was also one of those people who would ask you to bring something and then make something in the category of what she requested like it was a competition instead of a holiday meal. And if you arrived five minutes past her decreed holiday start time, chances were she was eating without you which I always found rude to guests who traveled a distance to be with her.  I think one of my favorite Thanksgivings with this woman was when her dog stole the leftover turkey right off the counter.

Anyway, when you have had a few painful Thanksgivings like that, you learn how to craft one you can be proud of, but a holiday that won’t drive you bonkers either.  The key is simplicity.  The KISS theory, or keep it simple stupid. I believe even if you aren’t doing a more formal dinner, you should take the time to set the table well to complement your meal preparation.  It is a holiday, not pizza night.

If you are doing all the cooking, realize it doesn’t have to be the proverbial last supper.  The world will not end if you don’t have multiple kinds of potatoes, every Thanksgiving veggie known to man including that disgusting green bean casserole made with those deep-fried dried onion things. If you are doing a communal Thanksgiving and you are the host or hostess, lay out your menu and be clear about your assignments to other people.

Don’t forget the salad.  It can be simple or seasonal, but take the time to make your own vinaigrette.  So much better than the bottle.

Let’s talk stuffing.  Know what I discovered yesterday when I was thinking of buying a Thanksgiving stuffing mix to cut out a step?  High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient. I saw it on the ingredients list in Peppridge Farm and Arnold’s pre-bagged dried stuffing cubes. Bleck.

I won’t be taking that stuffing short cut.  I am going traditional and have plenty of fabulous herbs left alive, so my turkey and stuffing will definitely include fresh sage and rosemary. And a combination of garlic,  shallots and onion. Baby Bella mushrooms are a must.  Maybe minced apples and raisins, not sure.  I won’t know until Thanksgiving morning.  (Nothing better than the smell of stuffing ingredients sautéing away in the pan!)

And yes, I make my own cranberry sauce.  It is so easy a caveman can do it.  My base recipe is 2 bags fresh cranberries, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup water, cinnamon, a little fresh ginger. Sometimes I add diced apricots or a persimmon or two.  Sometimes I turn it chutney and add funky ingredients like diced green tomatoes.

As for other sides? Well this year it will be yams done somehow (I like them better than sweet potatoes) – I am thinking of roasting them with a couple of carrots and then mashing them somehow – a puree then warmed up in the oven with maybe little marshmallows on top to appeal to the kid factor. Maybe a yam-pumpkin puree. And a simple salad.  Gravy.

Dessert?  Undecided.  Looking like an apple pie.  Haven’t decided.  Saw a double crust apple apricot pie on page 126 of the November 2012 Food & Wine that looks promising.  Or I might do my own apple with streusal topping. I haven’t finished checking out my favorite magazines yet.

As for the big bird itself, it is helpful to remember a couple of simple tricks to keep turkey-lurky from drying out. I pre-heat my oven to 450 degrees for twenty minutes before putting turkey in the oven.  When I put the bird in the oven, I leave it at 450 degrees for the first half hour, and then I reduce the temperature to 350 degrees for the duration.

Most people say 15 minutes per pound is a good rule of thumb. So my turkey is 15 pounds.  So that is 15 x 15 = 225 minutes or 3.75 hours. Sometimes my gass oven is a little pokey on the roasting, so it could be longer.  But I have a thermometer :<}

I cook my turkey covered for almost half of its cooking time. I do put a couple of cups of water or broth in the bottom of my pan along with bay leaves and onion.  I baste around every 45 minutes.  When you baste, haul big bird out of the oven and shut the oven door so you don’t lose the heat.

And yes, I do indeed rub my turkey down with butter before I herb and salt and garlic the skin and put it in the oven.  I do not brine my turkey.  I have thought about it, but never done it.  I have no desire to deep fry my turkey so I can’t comment on that.

Check out this blog link for a KISS method of turkey cooking. Whole Foods also covers the basics, Southern Food does too, and when all else fails there is Butterball and they have a turkey hotline too. While Martha Stewart has a LOT of recipes, I find her recipes may be confusing and overly complicated for the beginner home chef. There are a LOT of turkey recipes out there.  I like to consult web sites that I know test the recipes Food TV and Epicurious are the websites I haunt the most.

I like to entertain for friends and family.  I like to cook, so you may find cheeses and whatnots mixed in from DiBruno Brothers and Carlinos, but for the most part you find what I serve I actually prepared.  Maybe I am old-fashioned, but it is something I just like to do.  I also believe in adopting Thanksgiving orphans.  I have been one a couple of times over the years when family and friends were scattered to the four winds for the holiday. I actually have an article on easy entertaining featuring Chef Angela Carlino in the fall issue of Main Line Parent Magazine (which I haven’t seen yet in print because I keep spacing on picking up a copy).

Do you have a Thanksgiving tip or recipe or tradition you would like to share? Feel free to post a comment!

Now for the last word: if you don’t feel like cooking, might I suggest Thanksgiving at The Yellow Springs Inn?  Check this out  from Exton Dish! (Yes, click HERE)

A place to SKIP is Farmhouse Bistro at People’s Light. We did that last year because family and friends were all scattered and it is something we would not do again, or recommend.  We’ll leave it at that.

This post must now come to an end.  I have recipes to read.

are cupcakes safe to discuss?

Hello cupcakes!  Greetings on a rainy Sunday morning afternoon (started earlier and got distracted).

So listen, I seem to have inadvertently upset people by discussing current events in Tredyffrin and some of my random act of consciousness where politics are concerned.  I would apologize, except this is my blog .  It really is ok for a woman to like home crafts like cooking and want to discuss politics and current events occurring in local municipalities.

So that being said, I recently discovered Himalayan Indian Grocery in Exton (Marchwood). They have a fun assortment of oils, spices and teas and chutneys.  Some fresh produce (they have some unusual varieties of eggplant), some dairy (you do have to watch for expiration dates) and a large frozen section of all sorts of Indian foods.  I also found rose water to bake with there – hadn’t seen that in a while.  Anyway, I bought a Tandoori marinade pouch that I mixed with plain whole milk Indian yogurt, and made delicious Tandoori chicken which we grilled.  To accompany that I created a Jasmine rice with a blend of curry and masala spices and raisins, chopped almonds, a smidgen of fresh basil.

Now to the cupcake of it all….

They are, I will warn you, semi-homemade from the cupcake side.

Creamsicle Orange Cupcakes with Coconut & Ginger Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting

I made 24 cupcakes.  I started with a Duncan Hines Orange Supreme Cake Mix.

I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl I added 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla or orange extract (pure not imitation), 4 tablespoons real mayonnaise, 6 tablespoons honey, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup canola oil.  Mix with mixer until blended and a bit frothy.  Add cake mix, blending on low until mix incorporated and then about a minute and a half on med-high.  Add 1/2 cup shredded coconut to batter.  Incorporate.  Pour into cupcake tins lined with cupcake liners – the recipe will make 24 cupcakes. When a toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are baked.

Bake 18 to 21 minutes (as per cake box directions).  Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing cupcakes.

When cool, frost.  I already told you how to make my frosting in the banana cake recipe. OMIT the banana and cinnamon and add 1 teaspoon ginger.  Also add 2 tablespoons orange juice.

These are cupcakes that keep best in fridge in a cupcake container – the frosting will melt when too warm.

Feel better now?

But seriously, this blog is a mixed bag.  So it is and never will be all Suzy Homemaker – after all I am not all Suzy Homemaker. I blog first and foremost for myself as this is my creative expression.

clucking right along with greek yogurt marinade

Well, today we need something simple that can be cooked quickly and has little clean-up.  I have incredible looking tomatoes from Sugartown Strawberries, and I was feeling like grilling chicken.

But I am tired of all the regular types of marinade.  Someone was telling me about using plain yogurt to marinade chicken, so I thought why not use plain Greek yogurt?

Here’s the marinade:

2/3 cup plain greek yogurt

Lemon juice – maybe 4 tablespoons or juice of one good-sized lemon

Juice of one orange

4 Tablespoons oil – olive, vegetable, whatever

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons mild or sweet Paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala ( I get mine from a little Indian grocery store I visit once in a while)

1/2 teaspoon Tandoori Masala  (I get mine from Jayshree spices you can find them online)

1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (I get mine from Zamouri Spices you can find them online)

I mix it all together with a whisk and some fresh herbs – sprig of rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano and fresh mint (mine is curly mint which is technically a spearmint I believe).  You can either rough chop the herbs or just sort fo tear up the mint leaves and strip the rest from their stems.

Toss into a ziplock bag to marinade for a while and grill.

I will end with that is my favorite cooking tip of the summer: using ziplock plastic bags for marinades.  Easier clean up and so not a problem to mush your meat, poultry, or seafood around *gently* in a ziplock bag.