Friday, July 22, 2011

DIY Cold Brew Coffee

The idea for cold brew coffee is nothing new and there is plenty of online information on the subject, but I felt compelled to share because it is so easy to make at home and the cost savings will make it well worth your time.
When I was in high school my parents made the conversion from drip coffee makers to cold brew coffee. It is said to have a lower acid level and a more "lively" flavor.  The system they owned was similar to this.  Over time, they could no longer find the filters and/or plugs, so they gave up and went back to drip. Mind you though, this was before the advent of shopping online.  I felt compelled to purchase "the system" for making cold press coffee, but space availability for yet another gadget along with the $50 price tag made me think again.  I chose the "mason jar/strainer with a coffee filter" method.

I started with a coarse-medium grind on my beans. I used my manual grinder, but feel free to use your electric version....just be careful not to grind too fine.

 I measured out 2 1/2 oz coffee beans....this equated to a "heaping" cup.

Added the coffee to a quart size mason jar using a canning funnel...notice it's vintage along with my measuring cup and mason jar!

Filled the jar with cold tap water and placed the jarred contents in the refrigerator. I used tap water, because it was easy and it's good.  We have great water in our little mountain town.

24hrs later it was ready to be strained. For this task I used a large glass measuring bowl, a like sized strainer lined with a coffee filter.

I don't know if it was that necessary, but I strained it a second time.

The end result was a little over 2 cups of coffee goodness...full of caffeine, or go juice as I'd like to say.

I then proceeded to immediately make an iced coffee. I used equal amounts of coffee, skim milk and a small amount of agave syrup...mmmmm...refreshing on a hot summer morning...still in my jammies.

The coffee extract can also be diluted with hot water for a hot cup of joe. If you own a french press, you can make this coffee using your press, just adjust the amount of ground coffee and water based on the size of your press.'s potent, so be careful. :o)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Time has gotten away from me and nearly a month has passed since I started to work on this post. Initially, my reaction was to scrap the post, but I really want to share this recipe with you because it is a favorite of mine.
I had to work on Father's Day and was unable to spend it with my Dad. Restaurant work is bad for that...these Hallmark holidays become "just another day".  But, later in the week when I had a few days off, I baked him this pie and took him and my Mom to lunch.

The recipe for this pie came from my paternal grandmother, Carol. Grandma was quite the baker and a good cook to boot. A person could always go to her house and expect to savor a piece of pie, a cake or some cookies.  It was an emotional moment the first time I made this pie for my Dad after her passing. He excused himself from the table, only to come back with eyes that had shed a few tears.  We didn't talk about it, (of course!) but I imagine tasting that pie brought back memories and sorrow because she is no longer with us.

I believe we all have an emotional connection to food. Tastes and smells can evoke childhood memories, a special meal your Mom always prepares, or even a romantic evening spent with the one you love. This pie and several other baked goodies remind me of my paternal Grandmother. For my maternal grandmother, its homemade chicken and dumplings and sourcream chocolate cake. This list could go on and on, but you get the point. Be still and think about it...what foods are special to you?

Rhubarb Custard Pie

makes 1 9" baked pie--enough for 6-8 slices

1 single crust unbaked pie shell
4c chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1c half and half
fresh ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chopped rhubarb in pie crust shell.  Mix sugar, eggs and half and half. Pour over rhubarb, then sprinkle with nutmeg.  Place pie in oven and bake at 400 degrees until pie starts to brown, then turn down to 350 degrees and bake until done.  Test custard for doneness. I've included this link that describes testing methods.

Below are a few pictures showing a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

A tempered glass bowl complete with a handle, pour spout and plastic lid from Pampered Chef and Mrs. Anderson's aluminum pie crust shields. For years I used to fold long pieces of aluminum foil and wrap the edges of pie.  These shields are easy to use, just place them over the pie and bake. I remove the shield during the last 15 minutes of baking.  I see that they also have silicone baking shields available now.

Another all-time favorite is this whisk, given to me by the Office Manager when I cooked at the Lazy EL Ranch. This whisk is not available available for purchase online, only at Ikea stores.  Here is a link for product information.  This baby is "cheap" and boy can make short work of whisking eggs...much better than the average balloon whisk.

I picked up this jazzy little nutmeg grinder prior to purchasing the classic handheld Microplane grater/zester. I paid $4USD and picked it up from TJ FAVORITE discount store for all things "home". It's also made by Microplane and while you can never be guaranteed of finding another one at TJ Maxx since their stock is always in a state of flux, you can purchase one from Amazon. The top orange compartment is the "house" for whole nutmeg and the bottom of the unit collects the grated nutmeg.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts & Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

I'm pressing the "easy button" this morning and posting about some yummy brownies I made last winter.  I've got a few other rhubarb posts to put up, but nothing ready enough without spending hours in front of this laptop.  It's also my day off today and I've got lotsa chores to get done before going back to work tomorrow.  I also thought I'd put this recipe out there as my cousin Sheila was asking about brownie recipes for half sheet pans.  I've only baked this in a single batch, but if you decide to go increase the recipe and bake in a half sheet pan, let me know how it goes.  I also must tell you that I've made these brownies using all-purpose flour and again with Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. The latter is my flour of choice. The end result is a denser, chewier texture, of which, I happen to prefer. You also have the added bonus of a more nutritious flour choice, added fiber from a whole grain and the bigger bonus being you would be supporting a local farmer who is dedicated to not using genetically modified (GMO) seeds for all of their wheat planting....can I have an AMEN.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

makes 9-16 bars (cut 3x3 or 4x4)

1/2 cup organic salted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup organic cane sugar*
2 farm fresh eggs*
1/2 cup flour* (Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

*High Altitude (el. 5,500 ft) adjustments 
1 cup minus 1 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking dish.

Stir together butter, sugar & vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. 

Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl and gradually add to wet ingredients, just until incorporated. Pour into pan and bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then frost.

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

makes 1 cup

3 tbsp organic salted butter
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp organic agave (or honey)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered cane sugar
1-2 tbsp organic milk

Cream first four ingredients, then add powdered sugar. Add enough milk for spreading consistency.