Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coffee Berries.....

About 6 years ago, I thought it would be fun to purchase some coffee plants.  We both love coffee, like, seriously like coffee.  Coffee has become one of our hobbies.  A friend from the neighborhood shared that she had a coffee roaster and it opened up a huge realm of possibilities.  We now have a coffee roaster, pounds of green beans, a big fancy grinder and of course, the coffee plants.

So, I got these plants.  I think I ordered two of them, but really, I got like 12 little sprigs of plants.  They were nice foliage and I have a great sunroom (when the oak trees don't shade it) so they were able to stay completely climate controlled.  Over these last six years they have grown tremendously and the plants now occupy three large 25 gallon pots.

Last May, we got our first blooms.

Pretty little things, aren't they?  The scent was sweet, really sweet.  Not as pervasive as a lemon tree (which I also have), but it could have been because there are fewer blooms.  We had a few fruits set.  I wasn't looking for a lot, because I didn't want to tax the plant, but I couldn't help but get excited when we had a solid 20-30 berries set across about 3 of the plants.

Fast forward seven months.  It's JANUARY.  STILL NOTHING.  These green berries done nothing for seven months.  I was starting to think they were never going to ripen.  I figured that the inside of a house in the frigid north was just not going to do it.

And then....

We have ripening.....  About January 10th I noticed the first signs of something changing.  At first I thought it was the berries dying (they were yellowing slightly).  But no - they were changing to red!

So today, I actually picked a berry.  At least one of them had that firm but squishy feeling that I associate with ripe fruit. 

Inside the berry, I was rewarded with two green beans!

So, I'm off to figure out how to process the beans.  The green beans have a coating on them - I associate it kind of like tomato seeds - it's kind of firm and slippery.  I believe I need to get that coating off.  I know with tomato seeds you ferment the seeds to remove the coating.  We may have enough to get a half of a cup of coffee, but it's been fun!  And, it's one step closer to knowing where our food comes from and being able to sustain my coffee habit in case of the zombie apocalypse.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Krispy Pops

Miss Thing has a July birthday.  While there are many benefits to having a summer birthday, there are a few fallbacks as well.  For those with a summer birthday, there is not the same excitement of having the whole class sing happy birthday, of the special birthday treat, of having that "special day" with the entire school. 

Fortuntely for those with a summer birthday, it means that you have a winter half birthday.  Now, I admit that I have not always been the most diligent mom when it comes to half birthdays.  I'm pretty sure I remembered last year to bring something in.  But I think that was my first time.

This year, Miss Thing requested that she can bring in a treat, so how could I refuse?  Her classroom is a restricted one - no nuts, no eggs.  I've been using my "crazy cake" recipe (no eggs, no dairy) cake for so long for her school events that I'm getting tired of making it.  Let alone I have dug myself into a bit of a hole with the complex constructions of some of my previous cakes.

So this year, it was something simple.  Rice crispy treats.  Sticks.  Chocolate.  Sprinkles. 

Start with your basic rice crispy treat.  I try and pack them down a bit as well.  You want some strength to your treat.  Then, spread a thin coat of chocolate on the back for structure and strength.  Homemade rice crispy treats can get a little flaccid or bendable at times.  You do not want that in a pop.

 Now, about that stick....  Rice crispy treats are not exactly the most stable, and while a stick should stay in, it is best to apply reinforcements.  Before placing that stick in the rice crispy treat, go ahead and dip it in chocolate first.  That way, the stick will be cemented inside the treat.

Drizzle the other side with more chocolate and top with sprinkles.   A sugar filled treat fit for a princess.  On a stick.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crack pie

I'm in denial.  I'm pretty sure if I ignore the date of my last post, I won't feel like quite as much of a loser.

Now, back to the food. 

I'm a little behind the times with Crack Pie.  It's been talked about in so many places (just to begin).  I remember seeing the first recipe show up in Bon Appetit in 2010 from Momfuku Milk Bar's pastry chef Christina Tosi and was intrigued, but not overwhelmed with the desire to make it.  I'm more of a chocolate girl myself, and well, this didn't have chocolate in it, and really didn't seem like it needed chocolate.  If you aren't familiar with this dessert, it's described as a salty/sweet oatmeal cookie crust with a gooey buttery center.

However this past weekend, my brother-in-law was bringing his new girlfriend over and I thought it might be nice to have a little dessert to break the ice.  I wanted to do something different.  With kids around brownies tend to be go-to sweet bite, but it gets boring.  A friend had recently posted her success with crack pie, so I figured I'd give it a go as well.

My one concern about the recipe was the sweetness.  I read a lot of reviews discussing how overpoweringly sweet the pie is.  And as much as I try to follow a recipe exactly the first time, looking at the crust, I knew that I didn't have time to bake a cookie just to make a cookie crust.  However, I have a good pat-in-the-pan oatmeal cookie crust that looked remarkably similar (it's the same crust I use for caramel cashew bars).
We let it cool and decided that I couldn't wait until brother-in-law and said girlfriend came over.  We decided that we would just sliver one of the two tarts.  Just to see how it tasted.  We would still have one full and pretty tart to cut into, and no one would be the wiser.

Before the guests got here, we had finished the whole tart.  One tiny sliver at a time.

The irony is that the new girlfriend (in whose honor I made the tart) didn't want any due to a diet.

Crack Pie (with an adapted crust)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus a pinch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a pinch)
  • 10 tbls butter (very cold)
Put flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor.  Pulse in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pour mixture into bowl and work in oats using hands.
Pat crumbs into pan (I used two 5 inch tart pans, but the recipe is designed for a 10 inch pie, so there may be some crumbs left over).
Bake crust at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crust starts to turn golden brown and is set.

NOTE ABOUT CRUST:  This crust may make a little more than a 10 inch pie pan

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Napa, and a special dinner...

We just returned from 48 hours in Napa, culminating in a visit to.... *The* French Laundry.

What an experience. Honestly, as wonderful as it was, I feel no burning need to return quickly... It was a very special occasion dinner, with everything cooked perfectly.

I'll write more about the dinner soon, but I'm currently pursuing sauerkraut.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My new favorite squished potatoes...

As a child, we had potatoes with just about every meal. I chalk a lot of this to my paternal grandmother's immigration from Ireland, and her subsequent influence on my father. A meal was not complete without a potato of some kind. I remember my grandmother visiting us, and accompanying our meal of spagetti, we had... potatoes. Her idea of health food was a McDonald's fried fish sandwich and a large order of french fries.

Potatoes have always been a symbol of comfort and stability for me. I could eat them every day, in varying forms. Unfortunately, I can also eat way too many of them - somehow the section of my brain that says "stop eating" turns off when potatoes are around. Like other things that accompanying getting older, I am trying to limit my consumption of starches - not for some Adkins like diet thing, but just an acknowledgement that I can't eat as much of them (or anything) anymore, and I don't feel particularly good when I do.

But there are still days that I crave potatoes. I love french fries (the way my dad used to make them), but fried food is a big no-no. I used to make over roasted french fries, but I always have had problems with them sticking to the pan or foil. It's like the raw potato starch solifies and sticks so you can't turn the potatoes to get them evenly browned. Maybe I'm the only one who ever has this problem.

My inspiration came after reading a recipe for mashed, roasted potatoes. First, boil the potatoes, THEN roast them. Given, you're not going to be able to cut them into those little french-fry strips, if that's what you're craving, but I am in shock and awe of how much better the potatoes turn out.

First, scrub some red-skinned (or other waxy type) potatoes. Boil them in enough water to cover until a fork pierces the potatoes easily. You want the potatoes to be pretty tender because you need to be able to squish them with a fork.

Next, spread them out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and use a fork to gently squish and break up the potatoes. Now, I like lots of little crunchy pieces, so I break them up quite a bit. Drizzle with olive oil (or a butter/olive oil combo if you're feeling really daring), salt, and maybe garlic if you are so inclined. You want all the pieces to be coated.

You're going to look at the pan (above) and think, 'This is going to turn into a goopy sticky mess' , but I swear, it's not.

Bake at 400 or 450 until the potatoes are as crispy as you like. All those little bits will become like little potato croutons. Because they have been pre-cooked, the insides are fluffy and tender, but the outsides and skins are so crispy.

Serve them with ketchup or aoli, or I even use them in my potato salad now. I also like to serve them as a tapa (potato bravos)...

Saturday, May 30, 2009


One of the things I loved most about our (last) house in Cbus were the lilacs. I had planted lilacs under every window on the first floor. In spring, the fragrance was intoxicating (and probably overwhelming if you're not into lilacs). It was with great dismay that I realized I would probably never be able to sustain a lilac bush here in Toledo. Too much shade. No place I could really put it to even give it enough sun.

So imagine my delight, when today, my birthday, I discovered that the gangly, overgrown bush by the entrance of the house was indeed, a lilac bush. I'm guessing that the previous owners pruned it back at the incorrect time two years ago, resulting in no blooms last year. This year, there are about 6-7 tufts of lilacs. Clearly, the lack of full sun is influencing the bloom, but hell, I'll take whatever I can get. I sacrificed a few sprigs so I could make the kitchen smell like lilacs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Backyard Gardening...

At the completion of my master gardener training last year, the one piece that I was disappointed in was the small wedge of time that edible gardening (which I will call vegetable, fruit and herb gardening) was allocated. It was about half a day, total, most of which was spent on very, very basic elements of vegetable gardening (starting things from seed, how much light do most vegetables need, etc.). This is not the fault of the program, rather reflective of the large amounts of information and the diverse knowledge of the student population in the master gardener class. I'm sure while I was furiously taking notes on something as foreign to me like, roses, the master rose lady was picking the dirt from her fingernails.

However, I was so excited when I saw an opportunity to specialize in that which I adore the most. Tomorrow, I start the Backyard and Local Foods specialization, which is being offered at a statewide level. It's an 18 month program, where we meet once a month. I'm eager and excited to really learn in a more academic setting about the gardening that I tend to fumble through each year.