Posts tagged ‘coffee’
One of the benefits of this little extended vacation before residency starts is the slow mornings. While our days seem to be filled with endless piles of paperwork (marriage license hiccups, name changes, residency paperwork, apartment applications… it never ends!), we have been starting each day slowly with really good coffee. I got Dan a Beehouse pour-over coffee dripper and burr coffee grinder for Christmas, and we have been enjoying getting good use out of it these past few months. We first got hooked on this coffee-brewing method at The Thinking Cup near the Boston Commons. Dan was intrigued by the science behind it – they used kitchen scales, electric kettles with thermometers and long spouts, and timers to brew the perfect cup of coffee. While we don’t get quite that fancy at home, we have found that pour-over coffee is worth the extra few minutes, when you have them.
From some reading I have been doing for this blog post, I have learned that this coffee brewing method is originally from Japan and has taken off in the US because of the low cost of the associated equipment. While espresso is a much more well known international coffee style, there is a high cost of equipment for DIYers. Pour-over kits can be assembled gradually, and the parts are relatively inexpensive. A good coffee dripper will run around $15-30, and you can be as fancy or as simple with the grinders and kettles as you want.
The magic of pour-over coffee comes from the small brew method and slow pour. As a coffee-enthusiast, you can control every step – from the bean (we prefer a light roast with more earthy flavors), the coarseness of the grind (we find that a medium grind works well), the temperature and amount of water, all the way up to the length of brew time. Each cup that you brew is unique, and somewhat maker-dependent, which can be both a good and bad thing depending on who you ask. The most important thing we have learned making this style of coffee is the slow pour, as this is what sets it apart from regular drip coffee. American coffee machines, while noteworthy for their convenience, work by pouring a single batch of boiling water over the coffee grounds and then dripping through the filter. This initial boiling water bath can create bitterness that many dislike about American drip coffee. It also does not fully utilize the flavors from the coffee beans as it creates a thick cake that prevents all of the grounds from soaking. Making pour-over coffee allows you to hand pour the hot (not quite boiling) water over the beans in a pulsatile method. (source) The resulting cup of coffee is free of the bitterness that many people dislike about American-style coffee, and is rich and flavorful with a smooth finish. Even my Dad, a dedicated milk-and-sugar kind-of guy, will happily drink pour-over coffee black.
There are plenty of great informative articles out there, from the history of pour-over coffees to comparisons of different drippers to the basic how-to instructions for how to make the perfect cup of coffee. If you enjoy a good cup of coffee or are looking for alternative ways to brew yourself a single cup of coffee, I would highly recommend making the small equipment investment! We have started with a basic dripper and coffee grinder, and currently use an electric kettle to boil the water and a spouted Pyrex measuring glass for the pour. Eventually, we may expand our gadgets but are more than happy to enjoy our simplified, homemade version for now!
If you are not a coffee fan but are still looking for a slow morning treat, then try out these muffins! I adapted the recipe from my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine to use some dying bananas, and have been greatly enjoying the subtle chocolate flavor and how it compliments my coffee! Do not be intimidated by the name – these muffins are not overly sweet or heavy, and the cocoa comes across more in color than taste. If you are looking for a more decadent treat, try adding chocolate chips or walnuts for a more dessert-like breakfast muffin!
Question: What is the best cup of coffee you have ever had?
Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (April 2014)
makes 12 large muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp melted butter
2 overripe bananas, mashed
handful walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-muffin tray; set aside. In a stand mixer, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine milk, yogurt, eggs and melted butter. Add to dry ingredients in the stand mixer; stir until just moistened. Add the mashed bananas and mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then use butter knife to loosen. Store in air-tight container.
Fall is in the air and the blog world is abuzz with pumpkin, squash and cinnamon. I am loving all of the new meal ideas, especially anything with pumpkin pie spices! Recently, my friend turned me on to spiced coffee. In your regular drip coffee maker, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg over the coffee grinds. Brew your coffee as normal and a hint of the spices will shine through. It tastes like fall in a cup! As good as gourmet pumpkin spice roasted coffee blends without the cost.
More than just the season is changing around me. School is picking up intensity faster than I ever could have imagined. I am already two exams in with only harder modules in sight. I have a lot less time to cook, and also less of a need to cook since it is just me. (Marie and I are still working on that big batch of winter melon soup from last week!) I also have a lot less time for blogging, necessarily prioritizing school on certain days. I love cooking and writing and sharing and will still plan on doing so, but will have to pull back from daily posts. I do not want to promise a schedule either, since this blog is something I do to unwind and have a stress-free outlet. I hope you will continue to read and enjoy my adventures, even as I become a busier and busier student!
Last change – I am giving up sugar! For three weeks at least… My hiking buddies and I are running the Boston Half Marathon over Columbus Day weekend, and we talked about nutrition and training during our hike. We are all dedicated to running and eat pretty healthy (whole grain, vegetarian, mostly unprocessed) diets, but want to be at our peak for the upcoming race. We committed to forgoing added sugars until the race (with one cheat day allowed for a pre-planned event). I am even planning to avoid natural sweeteners like honey and agave, hoping to better taste the sweetness of fruits for dessert. I started yesterday and was already craving a biscotti from Starbucks, so this will likely be harder than I expected.
Challenge: Want to join me, my roommate, and friend as we give up added sugar for the next three weeks? It is simple! Avoid most desserts, choosing fruit instead, and check your normal spreads and sauces for added sugars. It is always helpful to have accountability partners in lifestyle changes, whether near or far!
A little rain won’t stop me! Azra started her first year of medical school after returning from Bosnia, and although I am sad she is no longer in Boston, I am so excited for her! We had planned weeks ago a time that I could come see her new house and have her cook for me, and the hurricane almost threw a wrench in our plans. While there was definitely some heavy rain at certain points in my drive, the hurricane was still in the Southern East Cost on Saturday night and was not going to get in the way of my Saturday night plans! (We also were both, thankfully, spared from too much storm damage on Sunday, though many people in MA and where I am from in NJ were hit much harder.) I am so glad I got to visit Azra’s new home! Her apartment is gorgeous, especially with our fun housewarming gifts! Melissa, my college roommate and I, got her some houseplants to decorate her room with, similar to ones she had in college. A cactus, and bamboo to balance the feng shui!
Azra made a fantastic Bosnian dinner, breaking out the big guns with a spinach and cheese pie. Her mom had very little faith and even offered to make it for Azra and have me pick it up to bring out, but Azra persisted. She did an excellent job! As good as her mom’s, which is a huge complement!
Even after such a filling dinner, there is always room for dessert! Especially Chocolate Mocha cupcakes, my dessert contribution! I chose these specifically for Azra, knowing her shared love of good coffee. These cupcakes were so good that Azra and I split a second. Good thing they are pretty low in fat and sugar! I searched for a good chocolate cupcake that didn’t need egg since I had none on hand, and could be substituted to use an overripe banana. The good thing about using bananas in place of some of the oil is that it takes out some of the fat and allows you to cut down on added sugar without losing moisture or flavor. This recipe from Erica’s Sweet Tooth was perfect! The cupcake is a little denser, but rich and moist and flavorful. The espresso powder in the cupcake really helps to enhance the cocoa powder, giving it a dark chocolate flavor. And the icing makes the cupcake! Just the perfect amount of sweetness and coffee flavor. I hope you get a chance to make these and enjoy them as much as we did!
Question: What is your favorite flavor combination with chocolate?
Vegan Mocha Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth, makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp canola oil
1 mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp ground flax seed
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp instant espresso
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together almond milk, canola oil, mashed banana, vanilla and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the dry ingredients. Slowly stir the wet into the dry ingredients. Line a cupcake tin with paper cup liners, and fill 2/3 of the way with cupcake batter. Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
1/4 cup Earth balance buttery stick
1/8 cup coffee
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Brew a cup of coffee. Dissolve espresso powder into 1/8 cup it while still hot (and enjoy the rest!). Place coffee/espresso mix in the fridge to cool. Once cooled, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the margarine, vanilla and coffee until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium-low, add the sugar in 3 additions, beating well after each. Spoon icing onto cupcakes smooth with a knife.
Confession time: I am a coffee addict. I am not so bad that I get a headache if I don’t have it, and I am not impossible to talk to in the morning before I have a cup, but I am definitely a much happier person when I do. I take my coffee black and like it to be strong and flavorful. I don’t like flavored lattes, and will stick with a plain cappuccino if I am in the mood for a coffee shop drink. Most of the time, however, I keep it simple with a plain old cup of American coffee.Little did I know that my affinity for strong, black coffee would prepare me perfectly for my time in Bosnia! The thing that struck me most about their culture was how much it revolved around coffee. They will sit in the afternoon for hours at a cafe, their spot reserved by their tiny cup of coffee that was finished long ago. This allows for good conversation and excellent people watching, two of my favorite leisure activities. I wondered aloud at how many people were out for coffee so early in the afternoon, but my friend pointed out the high unemployment rate in the city. With almost half of the adult population out of work, what better to do with your time than sit and discuss current events over coffee?
Bosnian coffee is made and enjoyed in a very particular way. It is often said that a girl is ready for marriage when she can make her own pita and perfect Bosnian coffee (too bad I am not Bosnian because Azra and her mom have taught me both!). To begin, a tiny cup of water is measured out into the pot and put onto the stove top. When the water comes to a boil, a small spoonful of finely ground coffee is added. When the coffee grounds rise to the top of the pot, it is immediately removed from the heat and allowed to settle. Like good espresso, perfect coffee is marked by a creamy layer on the top of the coffee. That layer is scooped into the cup, followed by the coffee. The cup is allowed to sit for a few minutes to allow the grounds to resettle. Some add sugar cubes as well, but I didn’t need the extra sweetness because, before taking a small sip, you take a small bite of sweet dessert. At home, we enjoyed sweet coffee cookies, and at the restaurant I got to try lokum, a super sweet jelly cube with bits of walnut that is traditionally served with the coffee. At the end of the cup, you have to be careful not to swallow the grounds. They are really bitter and not a pleasant ending, but can also be used to tell your fortune! I loved the ritual and tradition that is involved in a cup of coffee, and love the time that is devoted to the making, drinking, and talking afterwards.
PS: Forgive the red hue that dominates the pictures! We were sitting at a cafe that must be sponsored by Coca-cola, because everything was Coke red! Everything from tables and chairs to umbrellas were red, casting a red hue over everything. Not the best for pictures, but it was all I had!
So many things that I love in this post: peanut butter, made-over cookies, coffee, Mother’s Day surprises… get excited! After I am done with this post, I am going to make my kitchen table into my very own coffee shop, with Oatmeal PB cookies and stove-top cafe au-lait on hand. Should make a studious Saturday morning much more enjoyable.
Peanut butter might possibly be my favorite treat, and I absolutely loved peanut butter cookies growing up. I remember a recipe in an old church cookbook that made the best, fluffiest, and greasiest PB cookies ever. Your hands would glisten by the time you were rolling them out, so much so that you had to wash them to even grip the fork to make the classic criss cross pattern in them. Inspired by the success of my oatmeal raisin cookies, I wanted to try my hand at another classic (recipe is at the end of the post). I used some ground flax seed (best done in a spice mill or coffee grinder) to add some good omega-3’s, used apple sauce for moisture instead of eggs to reduce cholesterol, and cut way back on the sugar. In the end, the flavor is pretty earthy thanks to the oatmeal and flax, but still has enough of a hint of sweetness and peanut butter to go perfectly with coffee or a tall glass of milk (my new found favorite is almond milk!) If you aren’t quite feeling an earthy cookie dessert, you could also bake these into bar shapes for an excellent on-the-go snack. Or if you want another twist, try dipping them in melted chocolate!
Coffee might be my second favorite treat. My family has a huge coffee culture – get all of us together and we have a pot going after most meals while we sit around the table and solve the problems of the world. Like my mom’s side of the family, I usually prefer my coffee black, but every once in a while I too get a craving for the steamed milk goodness of a coffee shop treat. However, my wallet is not always so fond of these $4 coffee cravings, so I have learned how to make steamed milk myself! I don’t have an espresso machine and so can’t quite replicate a latte or cappucino, but cafe au lait comes in pretty close! It is pretty easy. Just take about 1/3 cup of the milk of your preference and put it in a small saucepan over the stove. Using an immersion blender, slowly froth the milk while it begins to heat. Blend until the milk is as foamy as you like, and then add to your favorite brewed coffee.
Nothing like a little steamed milk to perk up that home brew. (PS: this is a perfect addition to anyone surprising their mom with breakfast in bed! Really simple, but with impressive results!)
Question: What are you doing for Mother’s Day?
Vegan Oatmeal PB Cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup brown sugar (may want to add more if you like your cookies sweeter)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 mashed banana
2 tsp agave nectar or honey
1 cup peanut butter (use crunchy if you want some extra texture!)
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl, and all wet ingredients (including peanut butter) in a separate bowl. Add wet mixture to dry mixture slowly. At the end, it may be easiest to use a spatula or your hands to get all ingredients well incorporated. If dough looks dry, add a splash of almond (or your preferred type) milk. Roll into small balls and place on a cookie tray lightly coated with cooking spray. Press cookies down with a fork to create classic criss cross pattern. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown.