Sunday, December 27, 2009

A lesson in cold-brewed coffee

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I've discovered a new method of brewing coffee that works for my budget, my space and my price point.

The answer? Cold-brewed coffee.

In the great tradition of sun-tea, cold-brewed coffee is brewed in the refrigerator for much longer than coffee would normally take to brew (12-24 hours, 24 being ideal).

What you'll need is the following:

A mason jar with lid
Coffee, ground
Room in the fridge
Strainer big enough to hold coffee grounds

I use a 1/2 gallon mason jar and 1/2 pound of coffee that I get from the local Sun Harvest where the coffee section is never crowded. I grind the coffee in-store the morning I am making the batch and use the most coarse setting I can find.

Add the coffee to the mason jar.

Fill up the jar to the top the morning you go shopping (for me, very early on Sundays when all the weekend meat is on clearance - bonus!)

IMPORTANT: Do NOT shut the lid tight - this coffee will explode all over the inside of the fridge if it isn't allowed to breathe. Ask me how I know. (twice.)

Rest in the fridge until the next morning.

The next day, strain into new container, or just strain back into old container after washing it out, and serve, diluted if desired.

I like mine in a 1:3 ratio of coffee to milk with a little sugar or chocolate syrup. It's also good for a strong shot in a small coffee cup for a pick-me-up.

This coffee is smooth, not acidic at all and most of all strong. The liquid lasts about two weeks though it starts to get a bit sour near the end of week 2. It's a great way to make coffee for guests or for yourself if you're a cuppa-day person like me and a coffee maker takes up valuable real estate.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chana Masala

Apna Bazaar may be one of my new favorite places. Located in a shopping center with Asia Market, which by far has the best, most flavorful Chinese restaurant in Austin, this little grocery store packs a lot of punch. The owner gladly helped me with the 50-foot wall of spices to find what I needed to make my first today into Indian food, chana masala. I found everything but forgot the cardamom pods - twice! I'll have to remember next time. The owner's wife also make samosas nightly for sale in the store and runs spice introduction classes from time to time.

Inspired by Orangette's posted recipe, chana masala is a spicy chickpea dish with tomatoes and onions. The chickpeas in this recipe were canned, but fresh would probably yield even better results. After tasting it fresh out of the pan without yogurt last night, my lips were burning for a good five minutes (okay, so I doubled the cayenne...) but the yogurt made the flavors much milder and the interesting mix of spices shone though. I made it last night and had it reheated today (as was recommended) and it was really good!

This dish came together quickly, and I was impressed with how much of a flavor punch was delivered for little effort. If my mother made Indian food when we were growing up, this would be a staple in her kitchen. It's like a big warm hug.

Food Librarian Strikes Again: Bundt Inspiration

Thank you, Food Librarian for inspiring me to use one of my precious cans of pumpkin to make the pumpkin spiced apple bundt on Day 3 of the I Like Big Bundts challenge. With a name like that, how can you resist?

The bundt took about an hour and thirty minutes to cook for me - even with a thermometer in the oven.

From one pseudo-librarian to another real one, have fun the rest of the month!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One cake to rule them all... wait, wrong movie.

This last weekend was a good friend's birthday. For a surprise, his lovely wife wanted to make him a cake that he had suggested during his party last year. Every year she tries to top his cake from the year before, and this one was certainly a doozy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite Cake.

This beauty took a 9x13" homemade carrot cake, five hours, a tub of black food coloring, a skilled marzipan sculptor (not me!), black food air brush paint and pearl dust.

The end result was a relatively gruesome-looking carrot cake with pewter cream cheese frosting. The birthday boy was very pleased!

Check out the detail on those hands.

Next year's cake will have to involve pyrotechnics or something equally crazy to top this one.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The winner!

I thought the best entity to decide the winner of the Method contest would be one of the most calm, loving, and ultimately driven beings I know:

Okay, maybe she's not so calm.

And as for the method of selecting the winner?

Step 1: Number cards.

Step 2: Place treats on cards.

Step 3: Insert cat.

The winner is.... #2! TZel, Congratulations!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GIVEAWAY: Method products - for a clean and happy kitchen

Last week, method sent me a lovely package. I'm a huge fan of method cleaning products for a number of reasons:

-the products smell good
-the products work (very important)
-they don't irritate sensitive skin
-contains mostly natural ingredients.

I went through the apartment and scrounged around to see what I had on stock of method. Here's what I found:

Window spray (also great for cleaning glasses!)
omop - reusable floor pads
soy candles, which last much longer than regular (unfortunately most of them are at Big Lots since they are being clearanced).
All-purpose cleaner (a must in my kitchen!)
Hand soap & hand soap refill--it's that good.

Those are my must-halves. I really enjoy the line of products and was more than excited to receive a package of four of these:

with samples of their wood spray, hand wash, dishwashing soap and all purpose cleaner, in a neat little box with a coupon to boot! Love!

It's only natural to give away one of these boxes to one of my readers, so if you'd like to win please respond by next Wednesday (August 26) by posting in the comments your favorite thing to bake!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bread in Minutes

One of our wedding presents was a book from our Amazon registry, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Considering that Austin has had a record number of days - both consecutively and total - above 100 degrees, making bread isn't one of those things that I planned on doing immediately. However, that and an extra KitchenAid Mixing Bowl and the prospect of fresh bread every day with minimal effort means the kitchen has been hot and the bread very fresh the past few weeks.

While our new kitchen is bigger, it's still an apartment kitchen. This means the oven runs very hot, the appliances break with some regularity (this week: the garbage disposal), and I don't really have room to store things like a baking stone
or a full pizza peell

So I improvise: Since Mr. O and I are just a couple, I make smaller loaves and raise them on this bread board.. And instead of a baking stone, I use another one of our wonderful presents: a giant Le Creuset cast iron skillet. It crisps the bottom of the bread very well and serves the same basic purpose of aerating the loaf. Just remember to preheat it like a baking stone and you're golden (no pun intended.)

However, for this post I made the sandwich bread (which is done in loaf form). It took about three hours to rise because it's humid as all get-out and also I added some whole wheat flour to the basic dough recipe. It's all over the internet right now, but I would definitely recommend high-tailing it to your local library or bookstore and snagging a copy.

I learned with the help of this book that slashing a loaf doesn't require a razor (reference: my horrid Daring Bakers trial) but instead it is possible to sub a wet serrated knife. It's like buttah.

Finally, the book recommends storing the cut-side of most of the breads on the cutting surface for primo storage. Has anyone tried this? It looks a bit silly with a loaf.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Review: House Pizzeria

I'm starting this post with an admission: This review is going to be biased. very biased.

Mr. O and I celebrated a very special day here. We are lucky enough to have friends that are more than cool with us having our wedding (!) shower at one of the best and newest pizza/pubs in Austin, House Pizzeria.

cupcakes: peanut butter, chocolate and vanilla (not provided by House Pizzeria)

On to the food:

Meatballs! (mmm.)

Rosemary, goat cheese and potato pizza (my favorite!)

Eggplant tapenade (awesome)

Seriously, this place kicks ass. And I'm not just saying that because I love everyone there. The pizza is excellent and the beer is plentiful.

I probably shouldn't have used "kicks ass" and "wedding shower" in the same post, but it's that good.

Go visit if you haven't!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

whole wheat focaccia

Yet another recipe from the Pillsbury Complete Cookbook. This focaccia bread uses an egg, which is a little different than most of the focaccia recipes I saw on the internet before just going to Mr. Doughboy.

I added about two cups of whole wheat flour and a little white. What I've noticed about whole wheat is it takes a hell of a lot longer to rise, but it's good in the end. Just give yourself a good amount of time (um, 2-3 hours/rise) to achieve palatable results. Earlier this month I tried to make dinner rolls, and allotted the same amount of time for them as I had white rolls. We had dinner pucks.

Tasty stuff!

Strawberry cake

Well, dear reader, I am back - albeit temporarily. Life has decided to get pretty crazy.

On the upside, I'm now a certified librarian! Now if only I could find a job. Ha. ...not kidding there. Anyone need a baker for hire?

At any rate, I got to host a lovely party for some friends earlier this week and happened upon a veritable truck of strawberries at Costco. Out of that came a salad with strawberries, almonds and basalmic vinegar and this lovely strawberry cake.

I can't say enough good things about the Pillsbury Complete Cookbook. It's got some awesome recipes for baking that never fail. Thanks, mom!

At any rate, I used the yellow cake recipe from this book and made a simple cream cheese icing:
1 block cream cheese, cold
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups strawberries
powdered sugar to taste

Beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the strawberries and then add powdered sugar until it reaches a good consistency. I should have added more but was reluctant to kill the taste of the cream cheese. The cake melted in the warm weather of the evening, but it was awesome.

Forgive the questionable pictures - it was late at night and the host may have had a few drinks by the time the party was jumping enough to cut the cake.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hot recipe of the week: Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Lemon and Milk

I'm coming out from the corridors of the library archives to say hello. I'm sorry I've been gone. One month out from finishing my final reports has left lunettes a very tired, boring cook. I can't write about pasta and meatballs every week for a month, and lentil soup never ever looks pretty when I make it.

On the other hand, something piqued my interest this week. Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn had a recipe linked for Jamie Oliver's Chicken with Lemon and Milk. I decided to pick up a chicken yesterday and give it a try.

I had to substitute limes for lemons and some dried herbs for fresh, but it was a really nice chicken. It's kind of hard to futz this up.

I had some trouble turning the chicken as it had a tendency to stick to the pan while browning, so be warned some of the skin will go during the process. Thankfully my enameled cast iron cleans up really pretty with a good soak.

I made sure to leave the pot lid on for an hour and then basted and uncovered the chicken for the last thirty minutes. The result was a moist, tender chicken with a great sauce.

I couldn't really taste the cinnamon in the dish. I did take Apartment Therapy's recommendations and used the pan drippings for potatoes.... butter and chicken fat can never go wrong. It was good.

All in all, I'd make the dish again. The curdled milk isn't as gross as it seems - the 'cheese' gets a really nice, butty flavor and the sauce goes very well with the chicken, which is moist as all get-out to begin with.

Crab legs

So I decided to pick up a few crab legs last night while shopping at my local H.E.B.

This further proved that I really shouldn't try to cook fish at home - the smell just does me in every time. I had to air out my place until late in the night from the strong smell. If you're in central Texas, you probably shouldn't be buying fish from a grocery store anyway.

It was kind of neatly carnal to attack them with my hammer, though. 'Neat' being a one-time experience that is not likely to be repeated.

Still cleaning shell shards off the floor,


Review: Grapples

Okay, so I bit.

Grapples? They're kind of grayish-red when you get them. This picture makes them look really nice and juicy, but they're more purplish in real life.

They have an aftertaste that is highly reminiscent of grapes, but it's really hard to taste it while you're eating them. I imagine that grape burps would be interesting. My apartment smelled strongly of grape flavor while they were in the fruit basket.

Cost: $4.99/4, in a special case. Free Frisbee with purchase of three packs!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Meditation on mushrooms

it's like mushroom nirvana.

So my produce box is turning out to be a really fun thing. It's not easy - Mr. O doesn't really like greens but he's tolerating them. In addition, one of the banes of organic, local produce is using that or figuring out how to preserve it before it goes bad.

This week, I got some amazing portabella mushrooms. The sun was setting and I just had to take some pictures while the getting was good and the contractors were not directly on my balcony.

I can't suggest helping your local CSA or organic delivery service (seriously, how cool is Austin?) enough, especially now. While it may be a luxury, I look at it in the long run as much less food on grocery trips and helping out my local farmers who are doing some amazing work now that the winter months are quickly subsiding in central Texas.

I want to play those gills. I wonder what they would sound like?