Want the Perfect Iced Coffee? Try Cold-Brewing.

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In my neck of the sorta-northern U. S. woods, it’s common to see the flip flops come out when the outside thermometer reaches 60 degrees. While I don’t follow this particular footwear routine, I do have a similar mantra concerning weather and coffee: “60 degrees means iced coffee!”

But the thing about iced coffee, as obtained from a proper coffee establishment, is that it’s expensive. Maybe I’m overly thrifty, but having to pay up to a dollar more to have someone add ice to a cup of coffee is perplexing. So over the years I’ve tried to make my own…without much success. I tried brewing my normal coffee, letting it cool, and adding ice, but that never cut it. The coffee always ended up tasting weak and watered down. I tried brewing exceptionally strong coffee – espresso and French roasts. The results were better, but since I’m not a fan of dark roasts generally, I never found the tastes of these brews appealing. I tried k-cups that were supposedly designed to make iced coffee. They weren’t. (Quite the sham they are.) I eventually gave up on the notion of ever making great iced coffee at home. That is until I discovered cold-brewed coffee.

As I’ve come to discover, cold brewing produces an amazing cup of coffee. The process removes much of coffee’s inherent bitterness and acidity and leaves you with coffee that’s rich, bold, and very smooth. Best of all, because the resulting coffee is so concentrated, it requires some dilution, which occurs anyway with iced coffee, what with all the melting ice. Despite this, the taste remains as wonderful as a full-strength cup o’ joe.

The Internet is full of recipes for cold-brewed coffee/iced coffee, and here’s one more. It’s so very simple, if a little time consuming. Fair warning, my recipe here is specifically based on using an 11-ounce bag of ground coffee, the size of which is most prevalent in my grocery stores. (A good bit of trial and error was involved here as a lot of recipes call for 10 or 12 ounces of coffee, and you’d be surprised how much that makes a difference in the final results.)

The perfect cold-brewed iced coffee

For the coffee concentrate:
  • One 11-ounce bag of course ground coffee
  • 6 2/3 cups of cold water
  • A fridge-safe container large enough to hold 7-8 cups
  • Another fridge-safe container that holds at least 1.5 quarts
  • For straining, a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth and/or coffee filters
  • A funnel

In a sealable container (one that’ll fit in your fridge and hold at least 8 cups), pour in the ground coffee and then the water. Stir the mixture until all the grounds are incorporated. (If you’re using a bottle-type container, shake vigorously, with the cap on, of course.) Put the container in the fridge and let it rest for at least 10 hours but not more than 14. (I’ve read that this time frame is the optimal. I’ve not tried it longer for longer than 14 hours – too scared to waste more coffee than I already have!)

After brewing, it’s time to strain out the grounds. Line your sieve with 1-2 coffee filters or several layers of cheesecloth, place it in the top of properly sized funnel, and then place your funnel into whatever container will hold the concentrate. Working in small batches, and replacing the filters or cheesecloth when needed, strain the concentrate from the grounds into the new container. (With waiting for a batch of liquid/grounds to strain out, this process took about 45 minutes, and I came away with about 1.25 quarts of concentrate. Your results may vary.)

To make iced coffee:
  • 1/2 cup of liquid gold, i.e. the coffee concentrate
  • 6 ounces of cold water
  • 1-2 ounces of cream, half-and-half, or milk
    (If you like your coffee sweet, a dash of simple syrup would do the trick.)

Pour all the ingredients into a tall glass filled with ice, stir, and enjoy. If my ratios don’t work for you, simply adjust the dilution. Once you have the concentrate made, the rest is really up to your taste buds!


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

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Recipe Challenge: Fried Rice with Mushrooms

Mushrooms and I have a…well…rocky relationship. That’s to say I’ve spent the better part of my life avoiding them. For many years, they simply struck out in both the taste and texture departments. (Unless they were hidden so deeply in a dish as to be completely unrecognizable.) But some years ago I learned about the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, and since then have been trying to accept them into my life. I can now eat mushrooms on a pizza without wincing and can make a suitable mushroom gravy when needed. I’ve also been cooking with them more as I would any regular vegetable. The results have been…not the worst, but I still have a long way to go in become the world’s greatest mushroom chef.

Part of this re-examination of mushrooms has involved trying different varieties. For the most part, and thanks to their explosion of the 2000s, portabella mushrooms have been my go-to. But our local grocery store has upped its game in the produce section, and now all sorts of mushrooms are readily available. One of the newest things now for sale is this:

mushroom mix

“Exotic blend?” Erm, well…okay. Save for the portabellas, I guess shitake and oyster mushrooms still count as exotic these days. I brought them home with no plan of what to do with them. Only then entered in a challenge put forth by 8bit’s ringleader Liores: create a recipe using three chosen ingredients — peppers (hot or bell), mushrooms, and eggs. Well now…suddenly my fancy, exotic mushrooms took on a whole new meaning.

In thinking of meals that might include mushrooms, peppers, and eggs, my thoughts naturally turned towards breakfast — omelets, scrambles, fritattas, and such seemed perfect for such ingredients. Well, that is if the thought of eating mushrooms for breakfast didn’t give me pause. I needed something where the mushrooms would be suitably cooked and “disappear” into the dish. With that in mind, one meal jumped out: fried rice! Oh yes, what better way to incorporate different vegetables into one dish with (usually) good results? Hence my newest creation: Fried Rice with Mushrooms!

Now, to say that I have a fried rice “recipe” would be a lie. Fact is, fried rice is one of those nice dishes where you can throw in a little of this and a lot of that and smidge of something else, and most of the time, things turn out okay. So instead of a traditional list of ingredients and instructions, I’m going the sorta kinda play-by-play route, which, you should know, is unheralded as I’m perfectly awful at taking pictures of my cooking while it is happening. Apologies here for any blurry images.

Fried Rice with Mushrooms

First up in prep, the veggies. Here we have (going counterclockwise from bottom left), the mushroom mix (portabella, shittake, oyster), a large serving of broccoli spears, half a white onion, a few baby carrots, one egg, one bunch of scallions, and a bell pepper. Taking half the mushroom mix (about 4 ounces), I chopped everything up into bite-sized pieces.

ingredients - veggies

Next, we have the oil and spices. From left to right, teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, canola oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

ingredients - spices

And finally, the cooked and slightly cooled rice. (In this case white jasmine, because it was all I had.)

rice

Now onto the stove. First, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat. Then add in onion, pepper, and carrot. (If you like, you can also add in some chopped garlic.) Sauté until the carrots have softened a bit — about 8 minutes.

friedrice1

Then throw in the broccoli and mushrooms. Keep on stirring and cooking until the mushrooms have browned – another 5-6 minutes.

friedrice2

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. In the wok, create a small well in the center of the pan by moving your veggies out and up the sides a bit. Drop the egg into the center of the pan. Let it cook from about 2 minutes before incorporating it into the mixture.

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Once the egg has been stirred in, fold in approximately 1 1/2 cups of the cooked rice.

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Season the mixture with 3-4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, a couple good shakes of garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and let the rice and veggies cook over heat for 3-4 minutes more.

friedrice5

Sprinkle scallions over the rice and let them warm through.

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Serve the fried rice warm on its own or with your favorite Asian-inspired meat dish and/or egg rolls and/or whatever else you like.

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As a postscript, I must say that this recipe considerably changed my opinion of mushrooms. They lent delightfully hearty and earthy flavors to the fried rice, which were quite appealing, and which made the meal all the more filling. Needles to say, this dish is going into regular rotation, mushrooms and all!


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

 

That Holiday Classic — Spanikopita!

In two days, we (read: Americans) will be engorging ourselves on a feast that only comes round once a year: Thanksgiving dinner. I’m talking sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, stuffing/dressing/whatever you prefer to call it, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, ham (at least at my house) and, of course, spanikopita! Uhh, you mean…turkey?  No, actually I mean spanikopita, a classic spinach pie with Greek roots. I discovered this magical meal early on in my turn towards vegetarianism, and it became something of a holiday-only thing because of the limited availability of phyllo dough. Back then, the only time I could find phyllo dough was in November and December. Now, that quirky pastry dough is easily findable year-round, but I still tend to only make spanikopita during the holidays. Putting aside the difficulties of working with phyllo dough, spanikopita is a delicious, savory, and satisfying dish that can be equally enjoyed by all. (Seriously, and I’m not much of a fan of spinach!) Yes, you have to be a little easy on the papery phyllo, but the results are worth ten times the effort.

The recipe below serves 6-8 people and can easily be doubled or tripled (which might require 2 packages of phyllo dough). It’s made in an 8- or 9-inch pie plate, but you can also use a similarly sized square baking dish. Or, if you’re feeling brave and creative, you can also cut the dough and fold the filling into triangular “packets.” (Place them on a greased baking sheet and cook at the same temp and time.) But you’ll have to venture elsewhere online to find out how to do that — I just don’t have the skills and patience.

Spanikopita

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil olive oil
1 lb spinach washed and drained, or 10-16 ounces. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
6-7 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper
6-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed (if obtained frozen)

 Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with a little cooking spray.

2. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and add spinach. Let it wilt fully and then remove from the pan. Place on paper or cloth towels to cool and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Note:  If using frozen spinach, simply thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

3. In same pan sauté scallions in remaining oil until soft. Add spinach back in along with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well until spinach is warmed through. Remove mixture from pan to cool at least to room temperature.

Note:  Spinach mixture can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

4. Once spinach has cooled, stir in feta cheese and egg.

5. Unwrap and unroll thawed phyllo dough and place all the dough between sheets of damp paper towel. Basting each sheet carefully with butter, layer six sheets crossways — alternating between placing them left to right and top to bottom — in bottom of pie plate. (Some of the dough may hang over the edges and that’s okay.)

6. Place spinach and cheese mixture into pie plate and spread evenly. If your phyllo dough hangs over the edges of the plate, wrap it over the top.

7. Again basting each sheet carefully with butter, arranged 6 more sheets of dough on top of the spinach. (You can wrap or fold the dough in whatever manner you like to cover the pie, but none should hang over the edges of the plate, otherwise it’ll burn.)

8. Baste top layer with butter and cook for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned and filling is set.

9. Once done, cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into wedges.

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Because of phyllo dough’s tendency to become soggy, spanikopita is best enjoyed the day it’s cooked. Leftovers reheat well enough, but the dough will not become as crispy as when it’s first cooked.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

Honey-glazed Carrots with Sage

We’re all busy people.  We work; we tend to our families; we go out with friends; we raid with our guilds/save the universe/kill all the monsters; we try to sleep. Some days, the cycle is so maddening it’s not until moments before bedtime that you realize you haven’t eaten a decent meal all day (if you’ve eaten much of anything at all). Well here’s a super quick dish that you could easily squeeze in for lunch or dinner. It consists only of four ingredients — carrots, butter, honey, and ground sage — so it doesn’t require a fully-stocked kitchen. There’s a little chopping require, but you could whack through a bag of baby carrots if you don’t have regular-sized carrots. You will have to stand over the stove for a bit to make sure things don’t burn, but you’ll receive the lovely aromas of butter and sage, which are enough to calm even the most savage of souls. Granted, you’d want to include some protein and leafy greens with these carrots for a full meal, but having the carrots on their own is better than warming up that frozen something-or-other from the fridge or freezer. Plus, just think of all the wonderful beta-carotene! You need plenty of that to keep your eyesight sharp when raiding/saving/monster-hunting.

Honey-glazed Carrots with Sage

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
5-6 carrots, or about half a bag of baby carrots, roughly chopped
1-2 (or more) tablespoons of honey
1/2-1 teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a skillet large enough to accommodate your amount of cut carrots.  Let the butter brown slightly and then add in the carrots. Stir to coat.

2. Sauté the carrots about 10 minutes, or until they can be easily stabbed with a fork (yet aren’t mushy). 

3. Drizzle in the honey a tablespoon at a time. Use enough so that it starts bubbling up around the carrots.

4. Continue to cook the carrots until the honey stops frothing and thickens up. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper, and then add the sage. Stir.

5. Cook for a couple minutes more until you can just start to smell the sage.

6. Let cool for five minutes before serving.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

 

I Ate This: Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

Finger food is one of the greatest things to have on hand for snacking while you game. Muffins are especially great, come in all different flavors, and don’t have messy frosting to deal with like cupcakes. My sister-in-law shared a picture claiming you could make muffins using only two ingredients, a cake mix and a can of pumpkin. I had to try it!

pumpkin_muffins

I have to say, these turned out really well. I changed things up a bit and used a cake mix with Splenda to drop the calorie load down slightly. A 15 oz can of pumpkin mixes in really well and creates a perfect muffin batter consistency. I also added some pumpkin pie spice, but have heard you can use a spice cake mix instead of the classic yellow mix. This made 12 big muffins, plus some extra that I put into a ramekin. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, game food nirvana.