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

Happy Hour: Cheese plate and planning

Hello my darlings. I know I have skipped a few happy hour posts lately and to be honest the next few weeks these posts are going to be more about more than just treats for myself and my babydoll. With so many gatherings there are treats to take with me to other places and easy entertaining recipes that don’t take a lot of time or money to put together.

Tonight’s happy hour is more of a planning session for me and my babydoll. Not that we both won’t enjoy putting out feet up and having a little treat. Tonight’s treat is a glass of beer that my babydoll made himself. It is quite delicious and quite frankly I chose this glass because everything feels fancier when sipped from it. Plus, I really like the way this particular beer smells and the shape of the glass seems to sort of capture the scent and funnel it directly to the nose, which I really like.

To go with the beer we are doing a simple cheese with crackers (and a few late season cherries. I was quite surprised the store had them and honestly they aren’t the best but I like a little fruit with my cheese so we are using them up.). I like water crackers as they have less of a competing flavor when paired with the cheese.

The cheese is actually a truffle goat cheese ordered from the igourmet cheese shop. They have a really great selection. I don’t think the truffled goat is still available at the moment although they do have quite the selection if you are looking to build a holiday cheese board. Since we will always use the goat’s cheese we tend to order extra and freeze what we don’t use right away. Because of the texture and moisture content goat’s cheese tends to freeze really well.

While we are having it plain with crackers tonight, I love putting it into my roasted beet salad. I roast and peel the beets and then use a mandolin to slice them super thin. Then I layer beets, crumbles of goats cheese, walnuts and a little bit of fresh sage in a small roasting pan, like you are layering a lasagna actually. Then I put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to get the cheese soft and oozy (it won’t fully melt like other cheeses so just look for warm and soft with all of the beet layers warmed through).

The earthy truffle pairs well with the beets and the tang of the goat cheese and fresh herbs help lift it up a bit. The walnuts are both a bit earthy and they have that slightly bitter element as well as adding crunch. It is a bit messy to eat and the cheese does turn a bit pink, but it is absolutely delicious. You can make it sweeter by using golden beets instead of red ones, but I personally like the dark red beets with this.

If you are looking to do super simple entertaining, you can also get pre made holiday platters from igourmet. They have pre made plates if you don’t want to choose your own elements or a selection of elements if you are looking to create your own. Where I live sometimes the foods I want aren’t easy to come by so ordering from a reputable company like this really helps. They also have various food based subscriptions and gift baskets if you are looking for gifts for food lovers. We have never had any problems with anything we have ordered from the, the quality is great, the variety is good and even with all that is going on the shipping has still been really good.

They are actually on the list of things my babydoll and I need to discuss tonight. While we will be bringing several things to other people’s houses as our contribution to the gathering, we will also be hosting our own gatherings in the near future. My babydoll looks at this as a way to get all the delightful treats that we don’t usually indulge in so we will be looking at not only my recipes but things to order in. No doubt there will be much perusing of both the igourmet website and the Vital Source website. (we tent to order our seafood from them and we are running low on salmon at the moment).

there will of course be some debate as the things my babydoll wants are usually about three times as many as we actually need. Tonight however is just the listing of desires. It can be as long a list as he wants to make it. We’ll save the paring down to a non-Friday night conversation. So tonight I will nibble my cheese coated cracker, sip my beer and watch my babydoll’s eyes twinkle at the delicious list for feasting.

Paired down reality can wait for a few days.

I hope whatever you are doing tonight, you are planning to have a fantastic evening and an excellent weekend.



Happy Hour: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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Happy Hour: Keeping it summertime simple

Today was a hot one. High heat and even higher humidity. In lieu of something hot from the kitchen, our happy hour food featured goat’s cheese on water crackers and some fresh cherries. The cheese actually has truffles mixed into it and is from igourmet (the link will take you to the site for details.) It is quite delish and adds a bit of earthiness to the Happy Hour treat.

The drink actually required a bit more preparation, but it too was summer fresh and fantastic. And once you get the prep work done, it is super simple. While loads of people think watermelon or strawberry once the summer time hits (and trust me, I love both of those) for me Summertime means blackberries.

There was a thicket near our house when I was little and you could always tell when the blackberry season was high because I would always come home covered in scratches. Seriously, I looked like I jumped into a sack full of angry cats. Because I knew the best berries were always where the thorns were sharpest.

The scars have faded and it has been quite a while since I picked my own blackberries as we have numerous farm stands that carry them, but as soon as they are ripe I take as many home as I can. We end up with blackberry crumble, blackberries in salads, I even end up ordering elk steaks at least once in season because I have a blackberry gin infused sauce recipe that works so well with elk. It also works well with venison too actually. But that is an entirely different post.

don’t forget to smash the blackberries for extra juice before you discard them

While I eat loads of blackberries fresh, I also make a few pots of jam to use well after the season is over and freeze some for midwinter deserts. I think one of the reasons i like blackberries is that while they are sweet, they have an edge of tartness to them.

One of my favorite things to do with them, is to make a blackberry simple syrup for use in drinks. I’m sure everyone out there knows how to make a simple syrup, but in case it has slipped your mind, you take equal parts sugar and water and pour them both into a pot. Simmer them on medium heat, stirring occasionally to make certain the sugar isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once they heat up enough that the sugar and water have become one syrup remove it from the heat, pour it into a container to cool and then refrigerate.

If you want to make the simple syrup blackberry (or any other fruit flavor) add the berries to the pot and stir so that nothing burns. Once the sugar and water have joined to make syrup, simmer an extra minute. Then remove the pot from the heat. Use a sieve to strain the berries out of the syrup and then press the berries with a spoon or silicone spatula in order to get as much juice and flavor out as possible. Discard the berry pulp and pour the liquid into a container.

Voila! Blackberry simple syrup.

While I will be using it in tonight’s cocktail, I am a big fan of just stirring a spoonful of it into ginger ale and having it over ice. If you are looking for a summery drinks treat that is non-alcoholic, that is usually a good one. It also works really well mixed in with lemonade. Just mix the two into a pitcher until you have a flavor that works well for your palette and then add a few decorative berries to the pitcher and you have a quick, company ready summer drink to offer.

Simple syrups may be something you think of for your cocktails, but even if you don’t drink, they are fantastic to have around. Plus they actually taste better with bruised or slightly over berries. So if you have some not very pretty fruit that you want to use, but don’t think would be good to serve because it isn’t the prettiest, think simple syrup.

Lemon and blackberries work really well together, in fact when I make blackberry jam or crumble I always add in a little lemon zest to perk it up a bit and brighten the flavors.

And lemon features in our cocktail tonight too. I don’t really have a name for it as it is just a summer time treat we throw together. Add one ounce of your Blackberry syrup, two ounces of lemon flavored vodka and then top with seltzer water. I use my Soda Stream for this. I like to use a tall clear glass so I can see the layers. The glass I am using tonight is a stemless champagne flute from the Rachel Zoe Collection. Personally i think everything tastes better in a fancy glass and I use one of these flutes to convince myself to drink more water during the day. However it looks really lovely with the layered drink in it.

To drink it, you do need to mix it up so it blends, but I like keeping the look until just before I drink it, then I stir it up to drink. My babydoll thinks I’m crazy and shakes the simple syrup and vodka together in a martini shaker before pouring it into the glass and topping it with the soda water.

To each his own.

And so tonight may be a simple Home happy Hour as far as things go, but it is a delicious one. I hope however you end your week, you take a moment to sit and take a breather and let all of the stress of the day drain away. Whether vodka based cocktail or non-alcoholic lemonade, the important thing is the moment spent just breathing. Let the stress go, if only for a little while.



Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Good evening my darlings and welcome once again to the Friday night Happy Hour.  While last week I dealt with the ramifications of having the second vaccine shot, this week it was my babydoll’s turn.  While mine was a condensed 24 hours of misery, his was less intense but spread out over a couple of days.  As a result, he spent the week with little appetite.  Now he is feeling better and quite hungry.

For us happy hour is about taking some time together to sit and unwind from the week.  Even before 2020 we tended towards quiet Friday nights and went out on Saturday instead.  That way we could always recoup from the week.  Usually, we take the opportunity to experiment with a new cocktail recipe and try out a delectable little treat. 

This week we are giving the alcohol a pass. It doesn’t mean that I am not having a pretty little drink though. This week I poured seltzer water into a stemless champagne flute and added a dash of grenadine.  We just got new tanks in for our Soda Stream so there are plenty of festive looking bubbles and the color is fun.  It may not be a traditional cocktail, but it is a fun drink to sip nonetheless and quite frankly I can drink almost anything out of these glasses and it feels special.

My babydoll won’t touch them  because he is worried that he will knock them over.  So he has taken one of my Blackberry Hint waters (the sparkling kind) and poured it into a very chunky looking goblet.  I have no idea how or when the goblet got into out cabinets but there it was when he reached for it, and he seems happy with his beverage choice.

We also tweaked the happy hour treat.  Technically speaking I believe this is meant to be a shared appetizer, at least when we had a version of this at a restaurant, that is how it was labeled. As an appetizer you need about six people to eat it and after that I would still suggest a light meal.

When I make this Choriqueso I make the full batch and we tend to use it as both happy hour delight and the main meal of the evening.  We certainly aren’t eating anything after this. When we do this we typically only eat about half, let it cool and put the other half away.  It reheats well in the oven and it does freeze well.  It is one of those dishes that I find easier to make in the full batch because of the size of the pan I am cooking it in and the measurements.  Plus it is something I know won’t go to waste even if we do end up freezing half.  It was also what my babydoll requested for his post pseudo flu hunger pangs.  How much will be left over is anyone’s guess. I suspect some might make it to the fridge overnight, but I doubt we will be freezing anything.

Although it seems like a bit much once you get everything together it comes together in a snap.  The only thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your ancho chiles about half an hour or so before you begin cooking.  The only extra equipment other than a stove and oven with a broiler that you will need is a blender.  It really is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have one, you could try chopping the ancho pepper really finely and then whisking it and the other ingredients in a bowl but you won’t get the same smooth paste. It will still taste fantastic but it won’t be as smooth a paste. A food processor helps for quick cheese shredding, but it is optional.

To rehydrate the dried anchos put the chillies in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak until they are plumped and soft. Drain, remove any seeds and use the chilies as directed. 

Ingredients

2 ancho chilies, seeded and rehydrated (see above note for rehydration)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

Half of a medium sized yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp Mexican oregano (if you can’t find Mexican regular oregano will do)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cayenne

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ lbs ground pork

1 lbs Monterey jack cheese shredded

Warm tortillas for serving

  • Do all of your prep work first.  This is one of those recipes that comes together quickly so dice, shred and measure ahead of time to save yourself some stress. As all the spices go in at once you can just put them all in the same bowl as you measure.
  • Put the anchos, vinegar and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then add the onion garlic, salt, and all of your spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne).
  • Again blend to a smooth paste.  If it is too thick then add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t make it too liquid though.  You want it just loose enough so that everything blends into a homogeneous mix with no straggling chunky bits (think heavy romesco).
  • Place a large, broiler safe skillet  on the stove.
  • Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and turn on medium heat. When  it is warm pour the chili mix from the blender into the skillet.  Heat for about 1 minute to wake up the spices. 
  • Then add the ground pork to the skillet. Mix it in with the sauce until the meat is covered.
  • Cook the pork (medium heat) about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing, stirring occasionally.
  • While the pork cooks, move the oven rack about six inches below the broiler and let the broiler come up to temperature. 
  • Once the pork is cooked, check the seasonings and adjust the spice level if desired, then layer the shredded Monterey jack cheese over the meat mixture covering it completely. 
  • Shift the skillet from the stove top to place it under the broiler.  Keep it there until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (approximately 2-3 minutes)
  • Serve it hot in the pan with the tortillas (we just spoon it onto the tortillas and eat that way, you can, eat it with tortilla chips if you wanted to make it more of a dip than a meal)
adding the cheese to the top

A couple helpful hints.  If you want to shred cheese in a hurry with your food processor you can put the block of Monterrey jack in the freezer for about five minutes (no longer).  It will firm up enough for the machine to shred, but not do any damage to the blades or the cheese. 

My Hamilton Beach Food Processor has the plate that allowed for easy shredding (and makes me love the machine so very very much), just make sure your cheese is cut into pieces that can fit into the feeder tube on the machine before you freeze it.  My block needed to be divided into three sections.

I personally like glass carafe blenders as they don’t stain and don’t retain any odors from previous blending, but that is a personal choice.

With the ancho spice mix, the dish tastes like it took hours to prepare even though it took almost no time at all.  We occasionally like to use this mix on pasta in place of traditional red sauce or just as something to smear on a baguette.  It is a great and super easy burst of flavor.  Just don’t forget your minute on the heat with it because that is what really wakes up and melds the flavors. 

It is a great sauce to have in your flavor arsenal. And until you add the pork to the skillet and top with cheese, the ancho spice mix is actually vegan. When we have vegan, vegetarian or even just lactose intolerant friends over, the spice mix comes in really handy used in ways without the pork or cheese of course.

The one thing we have to watch is the spice level.  There are several places to control it.  You can leave in or take out the ancho seeds.  You can also adjust the cayenne.  In our house, since we grow paprika peppers and dry and grind our own paprika each fall, our paprika is what we have to watch.  It is really hot in the fall but towards the spring it mellows out a bit. It still has more of a kick than most store bought paprika though.  I used the spring paprika measurements for this dish, you might find you want a little more heat depending on what paprika you are using so don’t forget to taste and adjust.

So tonight our happy hour is rolling into dinner and out cocktails are non-alcoholic just to be on the vaccine reactions safe side. Still with a pretty glass filled with cheery bubbling liquid and an absolutely delicious choriqueso on hand, it is in no way a hardship. In fact, it feels quite luxurious and like the perfect way to unwind after a rough week. Happy Friday my darlings and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.