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: Cherry Ginger

Tonight my darlings is something nice and quiet for us.  After last week both my babydoll and I had plenty of treats.  I personally also had enough alcohol and will be going non-alcoholic until New Year’s eve (well minus the glass of Christmas Eggnog). This week, we are setting down with something that always feels special.  I know I have mentioned this before but we often pick up a bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup

While it is a familiar ingredient, I wanted to mention it again as you prepare for your own personal holiday gatherings.  The Sour Cherry is a big hit in our house because it can be used as a mixer for a wide variety of drinks, some alcoholic some not.  It is one of those mixers that when hosting a gathering it is great to have on hand.

When I want a nonalcoholic drink that looks spectacular, I add the syrup to Ginger ale. To make it alcoholic I will mix it with a spirit called the King’s Ginger. It also works well with vodka. I am partial to the citrus based vodkas with it as the tang of citrus works really well with it. Pairing it with Mandarin Absolute is quite a refreshing treat. It works well with gin because the bright botanicals really help lift the heavy sweetness of the syrup.

As I said, the Sour Cherry is a big hit at our house, but if there is one easy hosting tip I can give you for the creating drinks for a wide array of people, it is look into a good quality fruit based syrup. They tend to be able to blend with with everything from plain seltzer water to spirits. They can make a soft drink feel like an indulgent treat and you can make some super easy cocktails with them without having to have a huge array of mixers on hand.

This drink here is a teaspoon of sour cherry syrup in the bottom of the glass topped with ginger ale. The syrup will eventually break up into the ginger ale and you will lose the variegated color, but when first poured it looks stunning. While it will look pretty cool in just about any glass I have a weakness for pretty glassware and couldn’t resist. This is a stemless champagne glass (Rachel Zoe Collection). I picked up a set of them at TJ Maxx for not a lot of money and everyone I have poured a drink into with them, whether sparkling water with lemon or a multi ingredient cocktail, enjoys them.

Tonight is a quiet night for me and my baby, but even with my feet clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on a footstool, I will still enjoy my Friday night treat. In fact I think I’ll enjoy it more after spending so much time rushing around last week. I love getting together with friends, but sometimes, it’s nice to just stay home.

TWE Generic Christmas 2020

The May Vella Box

The May 2020 Vella Box

As you might remember from my Friday Face mask last week, my monthly candle subscription Vella Box came in. It arrived last wednesday. It was a week later than usual as they are having to mail in batches due to current restrictions. I actually don’t mind as all but one of my current subscriptions arrive closer to the beginning of the month and it is nice to have a later arrival. (I think the only subscription left to arrive this month is my Facetory sheet mask subscription).

While there are several levels of subscription, the one I receive is called The Lucerna Tier and in it comes one 14 ounce candle which has approximately a 25 hour burn time.  I will have to say the time estimate for my last candle was pretty spot on.  The subscription is $10 per month and for me it has a $3 shipping fee so for $13 I get a candle and one surprise gift each month.

The candle comes in a reusable glass jar with a lid and is encased in a canvas bag that can also be reused.  I find the bag handy for corralling all sorts of little things.  I actually have my extra lip balms in last month’s bag so they don’t get lost in the drawer while they are waiting for their turn to be used.  And so that I don’t just reach in and grab one to open without looking to see which ones are already opened.

I’m sure I’ll find a use for the bag that came this month as well.  They are quite a handy size.

The jars containing the candles are also reusable, but before they are reused, they must be used.

Quite frankly I am looking forward to using this one.  Each candle comes from a different supplier and this one came from Roam Botanicals.  Apparently they were once sold by Anthropologie and Martha Stewart but the company is moving out of candles and into skin care.

While I suppose that means there will be no more candles, it might be interesting to check out their skin care.  The scent of my candle is Cactus and Jade.  The descriptive card is almost worthy of a perfume ad.  It reads…

…a fresh earthy scent with the perfect blend of floral and woodsy notes. May it remind you of travels out west or inspire you to take an adventure in nature.

Almost to perfume levels of intrigue, but not quite.

I will say that it is softly floral, but not overpowering. The floral is the sort of floral I would associate more with arid environs than wet ones.  It makes me think of the flowers I smelled when I lived in Texas rather than those from New Hampshire.  I’m guessing that is the cactus part. 

I’m not entirely certain what jade is supposed to smell like as I think of it as an unscented stone, but I can smell the cypress and the bayberry.  They do help ground the floral so it isn’t cloying and overpowering.  I would guess those are the woodsy notes. Overall it is a quite mild scent. You can smell it in th room but it doesn’t dominate.

I really like the scent and I enjoyed using it for my Friday afternoon break. I had the candle lit when I was reading over the weekend as well and enjoyed it then.  I suspect, I will enjoy it all month.

I think I will also get quite a bit of enjoyment out of my surprise gift as well.  This month it was a pack of basil seeds.  I tend to start my basil in waves so that I have the plants growing all summer without risking them getting woody so I appreciate extra seeds. I use it fresh in tomato salads all summer, make oils, pestos and vinegars with it and then freeze it in ice cube trays for use all winter.  I love basil.  Oddly enough I’m not a big fan of it when it is dried, but every other way I can use it I do. So I am happy with my extra surprise.

I am very glad I decided to give this subscription a trial.  (I found it when looking for something else entirely on Cratejoy – a tea subscription for my mom for mother’s day and subscribed on a whim.) I am rather glad I did. In the store this is a scent I probably would have passed up, but I actually find quite delightful.  I don’t like that the company won’t be making them anymore as it means I can’t order a replacement, but it was nice to have my comfort zone stretched a bit.


Trying a new Subscription: Vella Box Review April

It is time for a new subscription box!  Well, new to me anyway.  With staying at home more (or all the time really), I find somethings aren’t as easy to pick up.  One thing I always like to have around the house are candles.  Personally I find the flickering glow of a lit candle along with the subtle perfuming of the air from their scent restful and relaxing. 

And who couldn’t use a bit more resting and relaxing, right?

So I decided to give Vella Box a try. 

In case you hadn’t guessed or didn’t know, they are a candle subscription box.  They have three tiers.  The Lucerna tier subscription sends you One 4oz candle with approximately 25 hours of burn time as well as one surprise gift each month for $10 (with $3 Shipping and Handling).  The second tier is the Ignis Box which comes with one  8 oz candle with 50 hr.s worth of burn time and one surprise gift for $20 (plus $3 S&H) and the third tier is the Vivere Box which is $30 and a combination of the previous two tiers.  In it you get one 8 oz candle, one 4 oz candle plus one surprise gift as well as free shipping.

As I am just trying the box out for the first time, I went with the Lucerna tier to start with.  It is my understanding that each month the candles come from different companies around the United States.  I ordered my box on March 30th (because I’ve sort of started losing track of dates and at that moment thought it actually was April for about two hours. I soon got sorted but that’s another story) and so I received the March selection, but will not get another one until May (so I basically missed April).

So the March candle was from Kin &Care.  According to the card included with the box, Kin &Care make soy wax candles hand poured by refugee women resettled in the USA (in the DC area I believe) and all of their candles are made in small batches.

I rather appreciate all of that.  I think their candles look a little different from the Vella Box ones so I think it is a special batch in their packaging, which I believe is supposed to be the same jar type package each month. As this is my first month I will have to report back on that.

The scent of the candle I received is Fern And Tobacco.  I have to say if I saw the name on the shelf I might just pass it by.  That doesn’t bother me actually as part of the reasons I like subscription boxes is that when things arrive I feel compelled to try them since they are already paid for. This helps get me out of my comfort zone and by doing so I have found several things that I never would have tried, but really end up liking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had absolute flops, but I have had better luck than expected. So I continue experimenting in the world of subscription boxes.I also have a second new box coming this month, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.

So to my first candle from Vella Box. Once lit, I found I rather liked the light delicate scent.  The fern is a green smell but it seems grounded by the tobacco so you don’t feel overwhelmed as some of the intense green scents can get a little intense.  It is pleasant and not overpowering when burning in a room. 

I believe my darling dearest was hoping it had a more pronounced tobacco scent so he could say “AH HA!” and then try to bring his once a month cigar smoking inside from its back porch banishment. As the candle in no way smelled like his cigars, he was disappointed not to claim kinship.

The included card has a section of fragrance notes which reads… rich forest greens with a sweet and woody finish reminiscent of dried fruits, teas and tobacco leaves sold in the open air markets throughout the middle east and north Africa.

I have to admit, I didn’t get that.  I got a light green scent with slight earthy back notes.  But it does paint a pretty picture. I really enjoyed the candle and I love the way it comes in a glass jar with a screw top lid.  I love when my candles come with lids in general as it keeps the scent of the wax from fading and dust from collecting on the candle.  I tend to trade mine out based on seasons and personal mood. 

Although this year that isn’t saying much.  My winter type candles were well and truly used up this year instead of being put aside when my thoughts turned towards spring.  I think it is because the winter scents are ones I find very comforting.  My plan was to restock more spring and summer scents from the store, but I didn’t manage it before lock down.  Somehow this winter felt like it was never going to end so I put off a lot of my typical spring purchases thinking I had time. But at least I now have this subscription to provide a monthly candle, hopefully with a seasonal aroma to keep me going.

In addition to having a lid on the candle I like that it is a glass jar as I will be able to reuse the jar when the candle is finished rather than just chucking it out. A simple screw top jar can be used for a lot of things once the candle is gone and the label looks like an easy one to remove with soap and hot water. The candle is packaged in a reusable canvas bag which I will also easily find another use for.

In the description, each box promises to come with a surprise.  This month’s surprise was a Loofah Kitchen sponge.  It is the square item pictured above with the rest of the package. Not only does it actually work well on my dishes but it is biodegradable as it is made from 100% loofah plant. when I was little my mom grew loofah plants in the back garden and we used to use them at bath time so I find it both comforting and familiar.

All in all, I am pretty happy with this subscription box and looking forward to keeping it for at least the next few months, possibly longer.  I don’t think I need any of the larger subscriptions, mostly because I really like shopping for candles myself and really hope to get back to that at some point before fall. while I am more forgiving with summer scents, I find the winter ones I almost always have to sniff before deciding wheter or not to purchase. But at least at this ppint I know my favorites and can order them if nothing else.

I do like getting the one surprise scent each month as well. It is a small thin, but I really like having that small element of surprise. I think I will enjoy it more the longer the self-isolation continues as now that my baby doll and I have worked out the details of working from home together or at least in the same house and grocery shopping is more of a pantry raid there are few surprises within the day. And for $10 ($13 with shipping) I think it is a pretty good deal.  I like their eco friendly ethos and their support of small batch companies.  It will be interesting to see how different months progress with this one and if I continue to like the candles. I suppose we shall see.

Now, I am in no way an affiliate and this isn’t sponsored,(I actually get nothing from the links above, they are just the link to the companies sites) but I did notice that they do have a $5 off deal going on right now if you are interested in trying out this subscription, that might be a good incentive to try something new. when you go to their website a pop up offers you $5 off your first purchase, or it did when I went to the site. If you are looking for a little something different and like candles this might be a good option for you.

Also, speaking of candles, I am going to put an ad for Paddywax Candles below (If you do use that link to make a purchase I get a slight compensation. If that bothers you, just go to their website without using the link, no worries). They are one of my favorite on-line companies as far as candles go and they are currently doing a give back to local stores (you list your local store I believe). The details are on their website which you can access by clicking the banner below. Again if you are looking for candles, it might be something to check into.After all if you are going to be staying home for a while, you might as well make home as nice as possible.

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