Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Iced Coffee

First of all, we're not going to talk about how much time has passed since my last post, or how I justified much of that time off because of a literature thesis I was writing, or the fact that I've had said thesis completed since May.  Instead we're going to talk about a subject that I hope will be timely for most of you and help you whether you're starting school soon, or just looking for something new to make at home.

I know that school is starting for many of you, and now that I transition from student to teacher once again, I'm thinking about the new school year.  There are a few truths that I live by, one of them is that new school supplies are always exciting (this may be why I went into teaching), and coffee is the primary fuel of teachers and graduate students.  

I live in a small town, we do have a local coffee shop, but there is not the ubiquitous green sign on every corner tempting me to drive through on my way to classes.  Even when I do stop at a coffee shop it is not often, maybe once a month.  This is not because I don't enjoy coffee shop creations as much as the next sleep-deprived and grumpy night owl who has to appear chipper during 9 am classes, but because I simply cannot justify the cost.  I have friends who have daily, twice-daily (and 3 and 4 in a few cases) coffee shop habits.  I swear it is these same friends who always complain about being broke.

Even if you don't cook, claim you can't cook, or don't have a coffee maker, you can still easily make iced coffee at home.  You will need a little planning, a few containers to soak, strain, and store the coffee, and something to strain the coffee through.  This could be cheesecloth and a mesh colander, paper towels, or coffee filters (you could probably even use a clean shirt).  The great thing about this cold brewed coffee is that it's really strong, so not only do you not have to worry about your ice cubes watering it down, you probably want the melted ice, and cream, and sugar to mellow it out a little bit, or, if you're a double espresso person like me, all you need is a little ice and a little sugar to have the perfect iced coffee.  The other great thing about this is that it's really inexpensive.  Even if you buy really good coffee at $8 a pound, you'll still come out ahead when you consider your coffee shop habit.  It also makes as much or as little coffee at a time as you want.  You can make it a cup or two at a time (I'm looking at you grad students with your tiny refrigerators), or gallons at a time (for people like me with a spare fridge).

You can see if the picture above an example of my coffee (just a little sugar), and my husband's (lots of almond milk, sugar, and a little coffee.  I usually make an entire 10 oz package at a time and keep half in a container in the fridge and freeze the other half for later use.  To sweeten, syrups are best because they dissolve easily whereas sugar remains grainy for a long time in cold liquids.  I'll be back soon with a recipe for vanilla syrup that you can use if you coffee, so hang on and stay caffeinated until then.

Iced Coffee

1/2 quart (2 cups water) for every 1 oz of coffee  (for a 10oz bag you would need 20 cups of water)

Place coffee grounds into a container big enough to fit the amount of water you will be using (I buy large storage containers, but if you're just making a little coffee, a bowl would work).  Pour proper amount of cold water over coffee.  Stir to moisten grounds.  Cover.  Let sit overnight or 8 to 10 hours (you can leave this on the counter or put it in the fridge).  The next morning strain into a new container.  As I mentioned earlier, you can strain this through cheesecloth, coffee filters, or paper towels.  You just want something small enough to keep the grounds out of your coffee.  I usually let my grounds strain for an hour and then squeeze out the cheesecloth, but if you're in a hurry to buy that shiny new box of crayons, so you can start the school year off right, then you can strain and squeeze right away.  That's it, add ice to a glass, pour in coffee, and desired add-ins and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Spicy Chicken Spud

Yikes, no posts since August?  Time just slips away when you're busy and before you know it you've disappeared for much longer than intended. I'm not going to make excuses because I hate it when blogs do that.  Just know this last semester of grad school has taken more time than the others, and that I have not disappeared completely.  I have lots of ideas for future posts. I am back with an amazing combination that came about because of my obsession and frustration.  

My obsession comes in the form of a baked potato.  This is not the first time I've been obsessed with a baked potato.  I eat them when I can't think of anything else I want.  They are a constant source of joy for me.  I top them with one or more of the standards: butter, sour cream, crisp bacon, broccoli, cheese, ham, and caramelized onions and the not so standard: salsa, chili, and steak seasoning.  I've recently heard about a raw egg cracked inside a potato and baked until the egg white is set but the yoke is still runny.  I'm searching for a way to do this (if anyone knows, please tell me).  It's safe to say baked potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  

So why the frustration?  It came from a beautiful combination of baked potato toppings that I had never considered: cheese, bacon, green onions, a buffalo sauce dipped chicken strip, ranch, and more buffalo sauce.  It is amazing.  I had dreams about this potato after I had it.  The problem was not with the potato itself but the place it was served.  This restaurant, which shall not be named has terrible service.  The food is slow and comes out sporadically even when the place is not busy.  I would get annoyed every time I went there, but whenever one of my friends wanted to go I would be a little (okay a lot) excited because I knew the potato was waiting there for me.  

I have decided to take a stand and rid myself of this dependence, not on the potato, but on the restaurant.  I knew I could recreate this masterpiece not only as good as, but better than the original, and I was right.  With the addition of blue cheese crumbles, I am no longer beholden to slow service, and sometimes cold food.  

I now present to you the Spicy Chicken Spud.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it as homemade or as store-bought as you want.  For instance, I made my ranch dressing and chicken strips, but I bought the buffalo sauce.  You could use all pre-made sauces, and frozen chicken strips and then just assemble the potato.  I've eaten this 3 times over the past 3 days, once for supper, once for lunch, and once for breakfast.  They were all equally fantastic, and on an especially groggy morning, it made the day much better (buffalo sauce might be more effective than coffee).  

The Spicy Chicken Spud
Serves 1, but can be expanded to any number

1 baked potato (I prefer oven baked, but you could microwave it if you're in a rush)
1/4 cup shredded cheese (co-jack or sharp cheddar are my preference)
2 strips bacon cooked until crispy and then crumbled
1 green onion, white and green parts chopped
1 cooked chicken strip (My recipe is here)
2 tablespoons or more to taste buffalo sauce (I used Frank's)
1 to 2 tablespoons ranch dressing
1 tablespoon blue cheese crumbles


Slit potato open and squeeze from the ends.  Add about 1/2 of the shredded cheese, 1/2 of the bacon, and 1/2 of the green onion into the crevice of the split potato.  Place the chicken strip inside the potato.  Top the chicken strip with the buffalo sauce and drizzle some of the sauce on the plate.  Next, top the potato with the ranch dressing and the rest of your bacon, shredded cheese, and green onion.  Top with blue cheese and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm still here and I made burritos!

The other day I realized that I hadn't posted a blog since, well since the beginning of summer.  While I am always a little annoyed to read bloggers say how busy they were, I can honestly say that I had the time to blog, but it skipped my mind.  I have been cooking and taking pictures, and most importantly eating, but I forgot to blog.  I'm back now, and I will not leave you for such a long time again.  Now onto the food.

I love breakfast, but I also love sleeping, and will literally hit the snooze button on my phone for over an hour if I can get away with it.  Because school is starting soon and my assistance-ship, I may have to  get myself out of bed before 10:00 am, and actually put on real clothes before 4:00 pm.  This kind of practical nonsense is going to dramatically cut into the amount of time I have to make myself elaborate breakfasts every morning.  My choices are to either grab cereal bars or brownies on the way out the door (What?  Brownies contain eggs, which is a breakfast food.), get fast food (too expensive) or to figure out a way to get a hearty breakfast quickly.  I could buy pre-made frozen items, but I think making them myself is a better way to go.  

These breakfast burritos were easily put together, and if wrapped in foil could probably be eaten in the car, or bus for school kids, without too much trouble.  For fillings I choose eggs with hot sauce, sausage, potatoes and onions, and cheese.  For 9 burritos I used 1 dozen eggs, a pound of sausage, half an onion, and one large russet potato.  You could put in any filling you like, but personally I would avoid salsa, sour cream, and guacamole because these do not heat well, in my opinion, and are better left on the side.  These could be made vegan with scrambled tofu, vegan cheeses and veggies.

First, I cooked all my fillings and placed them in bowls on my kitchen table where I made a burrito assembly line.

Potatoes and onions
 Scrambled Eggs
 The assembly line ready to go.  If only I was as organized in everything else. 
 I started with the eggs.  Be sure not to over fill the burritos or they won't fold.
 Then the sauage
 Now the potatoes and onions
 Finally the cheese
 Then I rolled the burritos and placed them on parchment lined baking sheets.

The burritos were then placed in the freezer until frozen solid, and then I put them in a freezer bag and put back in the freezer until they will be used.  These can be microwaved from frozen.  I would try anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes depending on your microwave.  I will probably bake mine for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.  I'll pop one in the oven while I'm getting dressed, and it will be ready to go as I rush out the door.  This will allow me to hit snooze just a few more times.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Finally, Hashbrowns! (and a new post)

First, I must apologize for my absence.  I have recently completed my first year of graduate school, so I was busy writing papers and reading literature theory.  Then I immediately started my summer job, so I'm still adjusting to my new sleep schedule that has me waking up at 6:00 instead of 9:30 or 10:00.  I have still been cooking, and I have a lot of delicious food to share.

Hashbrowns, a food that is deceptive in its complexity.  I have been trying for at least six months to make crispy golden brown shredded potatoes.  During those six months my husband and dog have eaten many terrible attempts at hashbrowns. Each weekend morning when I would mention breakfast my husband's face would grow excited and hopeful until I mentioned that I was making another attempt at hashbrowns.  Some were crispy on the outside but soggy and gray in the middle.  Some were gray on the outside and raw in the middle, and some were burnt on the outside.  I tried baking them, cooking them in cast iron, non-stick, and stainless steel pans on the stove top.  I tried Russets, red, and Yukon Gold potatoes.  I always shredded the spuds on a box grater and wrapped them in a kitchen towel to ring out the moisture.  I tried soaking them in water first.  I tried frying them in bacon grease, butter, olive oil, and canola oil.  Finally, finally with the help of my electric skillet I made perfect hashbrowns.  The key is a medium high heat and a pan large enough to spread out a very thin layer of the potatoes.  They must be left alone and only flipped once.  They were cooked with a lid for about half the time, and they took a good 20 minutes.  When I slipped these hashbrowns on the plate along with bacon and eggs I felt a surge of triumph. I had finally defeated my nemesis.  My husband was happy that he didn't have to eat gray, soggy, mystery potatoes.  The dog, however, was not pleased as he knew he would not get as many leftovers as usual.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Improvised Pasta and a Possible Blogging Experiment

Sorry it's taken longer to post than I was expecting.  Right now I'm taking a little break from writing my final papers, so I thought I would post.  I've been thinking about conducting a little experiment with this blog, but it will take reader involvement.  If you're interested, you can look after the story about the missing rigatoni and picture.  As soon as school is finished for the year, I should be able to post on a more regular basis, and I have lots of great food I'm ready to share!

I had planned and shopped for a delicious pasta dinner.  It would include rigatoni, spinach, chickpeas, a spicy pepper, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  The beans were soaked and cooked, the spinach was washed, and the pepper was dehydrated and ready to go.  All I had to do was boil the pasta and toss everything together.  I started rummaging through my cabinets and realized I couldn't find the pasta.  I looked in other cabinets; I rechecked the cabinets I had just looked through, and I had my husband look for the pasta too.  We couldn't find the package of rigatoni.  I knew I bought it.  I could picture it in my cart.  I knew I bought it, but I couldn't find it.  The water was boiling, and I had to think of something quick.  I found a package of lasagna noodles, broke them up and put them in the water.  Everything got tossed together and dinner was saved.  While supper was not as good as it could have been, I managed to at least put an edible meal on the table.  The next day I found the rigatoni in the cabinets both my husband and I had looked through twice.  Go figure!

The experiment:

I remember being around 15 and reading magazines in the car on the way to a vacation destination.  One of these magazines featured an article where two women wrote down everything they ate for an entire week.  Both women were then assigned to follow the other woman's eating habits for a week and write down their responses.  I've been fascinated by this idea ever since, and I'm interested in doing that and posting it here.  I'm always curious about what other people are eating, the choices they make, the reasons behind those choices, and the way those choices make them feel.  I think the best way to examine my own eating, which admittedly has been horrible lately is to walk in someone else's shoes for a bit.  If you want to participate then you need to keep track of everything you eat for an entire week with amounts and recipes (I know this is a lot to ask, but I bet some of you do this anyway).  If you want to swap diets with me let me know and I will do the same for you, but it's not required.  If you have a blog and want to blog about this along with me then I will link to your blog on the week I chronicle this.  I'm not sure if I will get any responses for this, but I think it will be interesting to try it out.  I will blog about what I eat and how it makes me feel.  Obviously, I will not engage in any diets that I feel are harmful (below 1200 calories, all alcohol, etc.).  Just something I'm curious about and I bet someone else out there is too!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Pig Cake to Tide you Over

I just wanted to make a quick post to say that I just got back from Boston and final's week is coming up, so things are crazy right now.  I will have a post by Thursday with food.  Thanks to everyone who is stopping by.  The only food I have to post for today is my husband's birthday cake.  My mother made this after Jason told him he wanted a pig cake.  When he said this I tried to decide how I was going to make a cake out of pork with mashed potatoes as frosting, but then he explained that he wanted a cake that looks like a pig.  I don't make pretty cakes, I just make cakes that taste good, so thankfully my mother came to the rescue with her cake.  It was a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.  The eyes are jelly beans, and the feet are Good and Plentys with the candy coating removed (she did this by running them under water).  The cake went over well.  Later in the week I also make him a peanut butter cake with chocolate peanut butter ganache and peanut butter cream cheese icing.  I will post that cake later.  Without further ado: the pig cake.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Wow, I see it's been over a week since I've last posted.  Don't worry, I didn't go anywhere, and I've been cooking and eating delicious meals.  I guess life just got in the way of posting.  Since it's been a bit since I've been on here I hesitate to post a kitchen fail, but this blog obviously isn't about perfection, so I figured I'd share with you anyway.  

I got a fondue set as a wedding gift, and I was curious about it.  It seemed like a fun way to have an interactive dinner at home.  I considered a cheese fondue, but ultimately decided on a broth fondue where you stick raw meats and vegetables into a simmering broth and cook them.  I thinly sliced chicken, broccoli, and potatoes and awaited my interactive supper.  The chicken cooked fine.  It was moist and flavorful, and didn't cause a problem.  The vegetables where an entirely different story.  The potatoes would not stay on the fondue forks.  This is probably because I thought slicing them would be better than cutting the potatoes into cubes, but it was too late at this point.  As we waiting patiently (or not) for our food to cook, we kept fishing around for the potatoes and finally realized it was a lost cause.  The broccoli stayed on the fork, but took too long to cook.  

Our supper that night ended up being small strips of chicken, raw broccoli, and sliced potatoes that I slipped into a casserole dish with some of the broth, salt, and pepper and microwaved.  Next time I'll stick with the cheese sauce.