Kitchen Kit: The Coffee Press

I know, some of you are thinking, ‘But Mimsy I don’t drink coffee.’ I know, and I got you. I am a huge coffee fan and quite honestly I do love a cup of French press coffee.

And I will admit, I bought my first French Press because I had a cup of French Press Coffee and not only thought it tasted good, I thought it looked cool. and I do love a bit of cool Kit. I have several coffee presses and I will tell you that this is one of my favorites because it comes completely apart for easy cleaning, however the truth is i like the orange.

For those who have never used a French Press, You grind your coffee and place it in the bottom of the glass carafe. You then pour boiling water and let it steep (generally around four minutes) then you lower the plunger. The press pushes the grounds to the bottom while leaving the coffee clear and free to pour. The inside lid of my coffee press has a divot cut out for easy pouring. Most do. it should turn so you can keep the heat in while you brew and then turn to dispense. (at the bottom of the page is a diagram with measurements and timing if you are interested.)

I know, not an earth shattering revelation.

Prior to this I only had drip coffee (this was quite some years ago). I loved that i could play around with the strength of the coffee by altering the time I let it steep and adjusting the grind of the coffee. But most importantly I found i could adjust the flavor by adding things to the grind. I believe a cinnamon stick went first. I remember cardamom pods went second and then the third time i tried it, I combined both the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods.

I played around with different additives for my coffee and then I finally thought, what about things other than coffee? i started playing around with beverages. There were things that needed to be boiled like blueberry simple syrup. I made the simple syrup, added the berries to the caraffe and let them steep then lowered the plunger. I also made cold things. I took out the plunger added a bunch of fresh black berries, filled the caraffe with gin and covered the top with plastic wrap. I sat it in the fridge for a week, took it out and used the plunger to seperate the blackberries from the gin. I actually tend to make that almost every summer so we can use it for cocktails.

However, once my brain switched out of ‘this is a coffee press’ mode, the world was my oyster. As long as the world fit into the coffee press.

the three pieces of the machine

While I love making coffee with my coffee press, my favorite thing to do is to use the press to adapt store bought stock. Chicken stock from a reputable brand is fine, but often it tastes very one note. It honestly tastes like chicken, which is what it should taste like. And Veg stock can often just sort of taste like salty water that might once have been near some vegetables.

But boiling up the stock and putting it into the coffee press with crushed ginger, a crushed garlic clove, lemon zest and some bruised rosemary turns it into something else.

Once you have let it steep you lower the plunger and keep all of the added bits in the bottom of the carafe while the delicious, freshly infused stock, tailored perfectly to your taste and your dish, is poured out and ready for you to use. You don’t have to wonder if someone is going to bite down on a chunk of ginger or garlic, or suddenly find themselves flossing with a bit of rosemary.(Although rosemary is sneaky, I suggest leaving it on the stem and using the back of your knife to bruise the leaves so they let out the oils into the liquid but stays as a branch.)

In my house we keep a couple of different coffee presses. We have both metal and plastic ones. Part of why we have multiples is that I had a couple and my babydoll had a couple and then when we combined houses we had many. This carafe is glass and the plunger is metal which doesn’t tend to keep flavors and if it seems like it isn’t getting clean enough by hand, we put it in the dishwasher which takes anything off of the metal, especially on sanitation mode. My babydoll thinks that the plastic of the carafe (which I don’t send through the dish washer) I use for stock smells like herbs, so we have a separate one so the coffee is never rosemary scented.

I have had to replace the glass carafe and places like Grosche International do carry the glass carafe separately. They also sell replacement plungers if yours has reached the end of it’s life. I know we had to replace a plunger on another one we have a while back. I keep thinking i will purchase a new one at some point, but honestly they are such a simple mechanism that if you take care of them they will last for a really long time.

Personally, I consider this one of my essential Kitchen tools. While I love it for coffee, it is a true multitasker. even if you don’t drink coffee, I would urge you to look into picking one up and playing around with it. they are fairly inexpensive models out there and they are versatile enough that I think they easily earn a place in even a non-coffee drinker’s kitchen.

Although if you are using your coffee press to make coffee, this helpful image from Grosche International has all the measurements and timing you need.

best french press

Kitchen Kit: Size Matters

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes it helps to go small, especially when you are trying to do portion control. Recently I picked up a set of bowls from Target’s Threshold collection that have proven to be absolutely fantastic additions to my kitchen and helpful in maintaining my portion control.

I do like the design (and they do come in several colors), however it’s main benefit is it’s size. This bowl holds eight ounces of liquid perfectly. It isn’t filled to the very brim, there is a space left at the top so you don’t slosh over the sides, but it is designed to hold eight ounces of liquid comfortably.

This makes it perfect for a cup of soup at lunch time. It keeps bowls of cereal and even pasta in check. It’s eight ounce size makes it easy to figure out exactly how much I am portioning out, even if i don’t feel like weighing out food on the scale or measuring it with a measuring cup.

It’s shape is also a benefit as well. Because it is round, it feels like it is deeper than it is and that it is holding more than it is. One of my favorite afternoon snacks is about four ounces of yogurt measured out of one of those large containers. Sometimes finding the measuring cup takes a bit more time then I am willing to give my afternoon snack. Because I know how full the half a cup of yogurt makes the bowl it is easy to figure out without hunting down a measuring cup.

And some days easy is better.

The shape of the bowl always makes me feel as though I am getting more though. In a bigger bowl, four ounces feels like a small amount. In this bowl four ounces feels like quite a lot. It makes my brain think that i am giving myself an extra large treat instead of skimping myself on a snack. And to be honest, sometimes tricking yourself helps.

I also like the way the shape of the bowl fits into my hands. These were relatively inexpensive bowls to pick up, $5 for a set of two, and they have more than proven their value and earned a spot in my kitchen. These stoneware bowls are dishwasher safe and microwave safe. Although if you do use them in the microwave they can get really hot so get a pot holder or towel handy to take them out.

In my kitchen I tend to keep what works and what I use, while letting go of the rest. There simply isn’t storage space to keep every kitchen Item I want to try out. There have been quite a few things that seemed like a good idea at the time, were used for a little while and then ended up donated to my local charity shop. These bowls however, will be staying with me for quite some time. Their size makes them useful in the kitchen and amazing at helping me stay on track with my portion control. Way to go Threshold and Target.

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Trying out the Delamu Sushi Making Kit

Recently I have been skipping the Happy Hour post because most of our happy hours lately have been repeats of old favorites or skipped all together due to allergies or alternative plans. Part of that is because my babydoll and I spent a little over a year going through a cocktail book and trying out new recipes and are now content to rotate a few of our favorites into the mix rather than continually search out new ones. We will still try new ones, and when we do I’ll post them.

So I decided to switch the happy hour posts up a bit. While I am content to settle in with my favorite cocktails there are plenty of other things I want to try and gadgets I want to review. Technically this doesn’t qualify as a gadget, but I have been trying it out and i thought it time for a review.

As you probably realized from my multiple mentioning of Vital Source Seafood and the orders we get from the, I am a big seafood fan. I am also a big fan of sushi and have always wanted to try a hand at making it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of becoming a sushi master, but I always thought it looked like something fun to try. So I ordered this sushi making kit from Dealmu. The original price is $25.99 but Amazon has it on sale for $12.99.

The kit I ordered included a Sushi Knife, two Bamboo Sushi Mats, two Temaki Rollers, one Rice Mold, five sets of Chopsticks, a Rice Spreader, a Rice Paddle, and a Guide Book. They do sell one of these kits with something called a sushi bazooka but I decided to pass on that.

The beginners Guide to sushi (included in the box) is actually quite helpful. It walks you through the steps of creating your sushi vinegar and blending it with your rice. It actually is a very clear and concise guide for the step by step process. The measurements and timing are easy to follow. I found it easy to follow and the measurements were spot on.

The tools for the rice mixing and spreading are the bamboo paddle and the rice spreader. To be honest I found it easier to just use the rice paddle and to not bother with the rice spreader. It worked well, but so did the paddle and while I tried out both, I found it easier to just use the one tool rather than both.

chopsticks

I appreciate that the rice molds are there to help with forming nigiri and that the temaki rollers will help me make the cone shaped temaki rolls, I mostly just wanted to focus on learning to use the bamboo mats and make regular sushi rolls. I found the seaweed wrappers for my rolls in the Asian section of my grocery store. Deciding that my first rolls were probably not going to be spectacular, I decided to set aside the basic recipes in the guide and go for vegetarian sushi as practice.

I used cucumber, carrots, avocado and cilantro in my rolls. They are less expensive as far as practice ingredients go and we always have them in the house. I figured once I got the hang of the rolls I’d pick up salmon and tuna. For now, vegetables for the win!

knife needed sharpening

Following the instructions, I made the rice. I used the steps indicated and everything went well. I sliced my veg into matchstick sized pieces and set them to the side. The seaweed went onto the mat and I put the layer of rice down. , added the veg and began to roll. It was surprisingly easy to get the motion down. My downfall, strangely enough, was not putting enough rice in the first one. I think that in my head I thought of it the same way I would think of stuffing a burrito. Since I have a tendency to over stuff my burritos, I went thinner on the rice so I wouldn’t have an explosion.

It was a user error and not the fault of the kit of course. I found that if I went a little heavier on the rice and took it to the very edge of the seaweed on the sides then I may have some rice falling out of the ends, but the rolls were more stable when i rolled them.

Rice cooling on the cutting board

While the end result isn’t picture perfect it worked out well for me and I think with practice I will get better. I like that there are two matts as I can either have someone roll sushi with me or I can switch mats when one gets damp. I think because I was moving slow and taking my time, the bamboo matt got a little damp. Once it became damp, things started sticking. Switching mats was a lifesaver.

While the chopsticks aren’t fantastically high quality they are nice and I like the design. I also like that they have some sort of sealant on them. I know is sounds strange but I hate the raw wood taste of take out chopsticks. So these I will use. The rice mold I will use when I do make nigiri. I’ll be waiting on that until I switch to fish. I like the thought of the sushi knife included in the box and it is really easy to see that a sharp knife is needed to slice the sushi. If the knife isn’t sharp it tends to stick and tear the seaweed. This knife wasn’t all that sharp.

my first attempts some are clearly prettier than others, but I got better as I went

A few passes on the knife sharpener though and it was good to go. To be honest that was the only drawback to the kit. It has everything that a beginner needs to get started making sushi. The language of the guide is simple and easy to follow. Care for the tools is also discussed in the guide which I found helpful. Knowing how to keep the bamboo tools from splitting and not sticking to the rice is very helpful. Once I did a little knife sharpening, I had no issues with this kit.

If you are a beginner thinking of learning to roll your own sushi, I would recommend this kit. It is very easy to use and while I practice my rolling skills, we have vegetarian sushi to eat. Which is not something I will ever complain about. While some may go for the bazooka option, for me this Delamu kit had everything I needed.


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Happy Hour: Chicken Liver Mousse and Cherry Fizz (non-alcoholic)

Today’s Cherry Fizz

I know some of you saw the chicken liver in the title and made a face.  I know, it is a common reaction.  This recipe is however, in addition to being delicious, near and dear to my heart for two very special reasons. 

One when I was a child (and even now) I was anemic and so my parents leaned heavily into the iron rich foods like spinach and liver, so for me this is a very comforting flavor (although it isn’t all that ‘liver-y’ a taste.  I also have very firm opinions about liver, but that is another tale.

Two I believe if you are going to make the choice to eat meat then you shouldn’t just choose a few choice cuts, but eat as much of the creature as possible.

That being said, I have friends who love mousses and pates (the non-duck abusive kind) but shy away from using chicken livers because they don’t know how to deal with them.  This is a very easy entre into cooking chicken livers.

First, this does require a few pieces of equipment.  You will need a knife to trim the livers, a cutting board, a large skillet with a lid that fully covers it (I prefer a nonstick kind) and a food processor.  I also use a mandolin but you can use your knife to cut the onions if you want.

The food processor is a necessity because you need to turn everything into a really smooth paste. Mine is from Hamilton Beach and I absolutely love it.  Not only is is affordably priced but it works like a champ.  Plus, for years I had only a small mini food processor (two cup maximum capacity) so I had to process everything in batches.  It is doable but it takes a lot of time.

This one is a ten cup food processor. Say it with my my darlings TEN CUPS! Oh it makes my little heart ping with joy. 

I think I hugged this food processor when  it first came home and my baby doll tells me that I patted it affectionately when ever I passed it for the first few months.  I do not recall this but he may be right. 

Okay, he probably is right.

While we use the food processor throughout the year it is when the garden is in full swing that we don’t even bother putting it back in the cupboard.  It gets an almost daily workout. It is one of my favorite tools. It’s got this blade so you can make slaw, grate cheese, make salsa and just about process most of what we grow in the garden. I love this thing.

Seriously, I could write sonnets.

If I could remember the rhyming structure.

I can’t at the moment, I’ll have to look it up. But I could definitely write a haiku.

But enough waxing poetic about my beloved food processor. It is time for the ingredients. Ready?

Ingredients before prep work

Ingredients

1 pound chicken livers, trimmed (this basically means cutting off all of the harder bits from the livers.)

1 thinly sliced onion (I use the mandolin for this)

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 bay leaves

1 cup chicken stock (if you don’t have your own on hand I highly recommend the Better than Bullion concentrate, just check your salt level)

2 tsp salt

3 sticks (3/4 of a lbs) softened butter (you want to be able to press your finger into it not have it melted)

3/5 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp cognac

Ingredients after prep work

Are you ready to bring it together? Excellent.

  • Put your pan on the stove top. 
  • Add your livers, onions, garlic, bay leaves chicken stock, and half of your salt (1 tsp).
  • Bring it to a boil.
  • As soon as it boils, turn the heat to a low simmer and cover it.
  • Leave it on the heat for 3 minutes.
  • After three minutes, turn the heat off and shift it off the burner.  DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. (you need the residual heat to cook the livers through)
  • Leave the pan covered for ten minutes. After ten minutes take off the lid and your livers will be cooked through but still a little pink. (mostly it will be the liquid that is still pink, but don’t worry we aren’t using it.)
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer all the solids from the pan into the food processor (livers and onions). 
  • Pulse until it is a smooth paste.
  • Take the lid off of the food processor and let it cool for 5 minutes.
  • After 5 minutes, put the lid back on and start adding the butter in lumps.
  • Add in the cognac, pepper and remaining salt.
  • Blend until smooth (I won’t lie, it looks like mud at this point.)
  • Pour the mix into a container (or several) and put it in the fridge for 4-6 hours or (even better) overnight. The mix will firm up to a pate like consistency.
  • As it is a LOT of Mousse, we cut it into servable sections once solid, wrap each one in plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer safe zip top bag. Thus stored in the freezer it keeps for about six months.   Just give it time to thaw before serving.(a  few hours on the counter or overnight in the fridge).
solids in the food processor

See that wasn’t so hard. And you not only have a delicious treat for now, but for several occasions to come. My portions come out to twelve, but I make them different sizes. Sometimes it is just me and my baby eating it and sometimes we have a houseful, so I find multiple sizes helps.

I tried to pare the recipe down, and in theory you can, but our store only sells chicken livers in one pound containers so for me it is just easier to make the batch and freeze what doesn’t get eaten right away.

Plus, I like having something I can pull out of the freezer for surprise company (not that we’ve had company in the past year, but you know, usually). Our location means we get a lot of friends and family passing through. Sometimes we only have a few hours notice before a drop by visit occurs so i like to be prepared.

cut into portions

This can be served with crackers or bread depending on your preference.  I find adding a really nice sharp cheddar works really well as a paired offering.

As for drinks, I usually choose a white wine to go with it.  Today, however we are going non-alcoholic. 

I know, strange for a happy hour.  However both my baby doll and I got our Vaccines this week and have been feeling a little off.  It seemed like a good week to give the booze a pass. You know, just in case.

So instead we are using seltzer water, complements of my lovely Soda Stream and adding a little bit of grenadine to make a sweet cherry fizz.  It is light and fruity and oddly enough the sweetness pairs well with the sweetness of the cognac. Personally, I like something light and fruity with the deep richness of the chicken liver mousse.

The two actually complement each other. If you were looking for something equally light to pair with it that had alcohol in it, you could add a shot of vodka to this (lemon infused vodka would actually be quite nice actually, the lemon adding a note of sharpness to go with the sweet and lemon would pair very well, or at least cut through the fatty richness of the mousse).

If looking for something pre-prepared, you might try a White Claw or some other hard seltzer to go with it. It also goes very well with a Chardonnay that leans towards citrus notes.

Whether alcoholic or not, you are going to want to look for a light beverage with either sweet or sharp notes to pair with the fatty rich flavor of the chicken liver mousse. And while I adore red wine, this is one of those foods that just leans towards the crispness of white wines. It may be liver, but it is still poultry if that helps you when you are making your selection. Sometimes the classic associations are there for a reason.

Personally tonight i am going to enjoy my light cherry flavored fizz with my chicken liver mousse spread on rounds of fresh baguette. And I think even without the alcohol, my baby and I are going to have a very happy, happy hour.


And if you’d like to oggle my beautiful Food Processor (Or really his compatriots) You can click on the Hamilton Beach link below. It really is one of my essential kitchen tools these days.