Finally Made My Own Cold Brew

There was a time in which coffee was not very exciting.  Most people had a regular coffee maker with regular coffee.  In terms of brewing coffee at home, it was pretty standard.  Of course, coffee houses and independent roasters have been around for some time.  But at home, the coffee game has changed.  There are so many methods and gadgets for brewing coffee at home.  One of those gadgets is called the Coffee Sock.  My friend got this for me for Christmas and I finally used it.  Truth be told, I wish I had used it sooner.  The Coffee Sock consists of a cloth “sock” or filter that sits in a mason jar.  It is definitely one of those things that is so simple that its genius.  It also helps to eliminate waste from the disposable cups from a coffee house.

I have always wanted to be that kind of person that makes their own cold brew.  I finally took the plunge.  I couldn’t be happier.  I love iced coffee, even when it is cold outside.  And I love not having to pay $4 for a cold brew at Starbucks.  If you don’t have a specific gadget to make your own cold brew, there a so many methods to do this.  If you have a large container and a way to strain the coffee grounds out, you can make cold brew.  Here is what I did.

For my “recipe”, I used 4 cups of water and 1 cup group coffee.  And I didn’t use some fancy coffee.  I used the Trader Joe’s Cup o’ Joe coffee.  When you grind it, just make sure its a course grind.  You don’t want to grind it too fine, or it won’t come out right.  You put the coffee in the sock part, and submerge it in the water.  After the initial set up, you let it sit on your counter for 12 hours.  After the 12 hours, remove the sock part.  What you do with the coffee grounds is up to you.  After making the concentrate, you can store it in the fridge for 2 weeks (or so google told me).  Now, onto the fun part!

How people take their coffee is as personal as what kind of music they like.  This is how I made my Iced Coffee.

  • *1 1/2 Cups Cold Brew
  • *1 Cup Water
  • *Creamer to taste

That’s it.  Its very simple, and not very exciting.  But I love it.

I feel like I’m late to the game to cold brew at home, but I got here, and that is all that matters. But if you need one, you can get The Coffee Sock in a variety of places.

 

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Tummy Tuesdays: Quick Lentil Sloppy Joes

I am blessed to be able to stock my house on a regular basis with finds from the Farmers Market and Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  But some weeks, (especially when I’ve been doing a good amount of Christmas shopping) I go into budget mode.  Its kind of like Battery Saver Mode on your iPhone.  All the extras fall away and I get only the essentials.  I grew up in a home that did not always have extra money, so I can default to this mode pretty quickly.

I will say this.  It does become easier to live on a relatively low budget since I stopped stocking meat in the house.  Relying on alternative sources of protein lends itself to stocking grains like lentils, farro, etc. in bulk.  A mason jar is truly man’s best friend.  Meat was eating a large part of my budget when I went grocery shopping, and storing it always skeeved me out.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not a vegan.  I’m a sucker for the chicken gyoza at Trader Joe’s.  But I have definitely decreased my meat consumption.  But I digress…this isn’t a post about the virtues of veganism.  Its about living on a budget.

When I need to trim the budget significantly, I usually get the following at the grocery store:

  • *Eggs (Preferably Organic and Free Range)
  • *Bread
  • *Cheese
  • *Cottage Cheese
  • *Canned Fruit
  • *Pasta Sauce
  • *Tortillas
  • *Salsa

I usually try to keep grains and pasta on hand, as well as some frozen veggies.  So what do I cook during these weeks?

  • *Egg salad sandwiches
  • *Pasta with sauce and cheese
  • *Quesadillas with salsa and avocado (if I can get some for a decent price)
  • *Cottage Cheese w/ canned fruit

These are just a few of the things that I keep in the rotation.  Avocados are most definitely a luxury item, but they have good fats, so I like to have them.  Sometimes, though, I like to get creative.  One of the things I love is sloppy joes.  I haven’t really had them since I stopped buying meat, but that is easily substituted with lentils or another hearty grain.  And much to my skepticism, it actually turned out decent.  I usually use a very basic recipe for sloppy joes, so I would definitely be interested in trying a different recipe down the road.  Here is the recipe I used.  And a quick disclaimer, if you do not like ketchup, I would steer clear.  I love ketchup, so I like this recipe.

Quick Lentil Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:

  • *1/2 cup split lentils
  • *1/4 cup ketchup
  • *1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • *1 Tbsp Mustard
  • *Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
  • *Bread
  1. Cook lentils.
  2. Mix ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, salt and pepper into cooked lentils.  Let simmer in pan for like 30 seconds while stirring.
  3. Toast whatever bread you desire, and EAT.  I used sliced white bread with a little bit of butter.  It may not be pretty, but it was tasty and filling.

My original inspiration… https://www.eatingonadime.com/sloppy-joes-recipe/

NYC: Food!!!

New York City; one of the greatest cities in the world.  And one that I had the pleasure of visiting this year.  I have only been to New York once, and it was for less than 24 hours.  I used to work at Macy’s and had the chance to be a balloon handler in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.  However, that was quite a long time ago, and I remembered almost nothing.

My list of things I wished to do became longer and longer.  And, that list became more and more centered on New York points of interest.  Specifically, I wanted to experience many of the restaurants that can only be found there.  My trip was a full week, and a lot was accomplished.  Here is a recap of some of the great food that I had the pleasure to eat.

Papaya King

*Nothing says NYC like a hot dog.  I will say, I’m not a fan of eating off carts.  There is something about it that has always made me a little sketched out.  So, after a little research, I found a place I could get a good NYC hot dog.  And I certainly found it.  Let’s just say that it was one of the most delicious hot dogs I’ve ever had.

Papaya King

2 Hot Dogs and fries @ Papaya King

Schmakery’s

*Prior to this trip, I started to be interested again in musical theater.  After going down an internet rabbit hole (we’ve all been down one), I stumbled on this cookie place.  Every year, they hold a fundraiser called Broadway Bakes.  I also started seeing it on some must-eat lists.  After looking at pictures of their cookies, I HAD to go.  They looked ridiculously delicious.  I was not disappointed.  I got the Cookies & Cream and the Funfetti cookies.  They were the perfect pre-theater snack.  Schmakery’s is something to behold.  They have something for everyone, and especially if you love cookies.

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The Spread!

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Funfetti & Cookies and Cream

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar

Anyone who has seen The Mind of a Chef is familiar with Chef David Chang.  And this is exactly how I was made aware of him.  I am fascinated by his culinary point of view, and he is proof that even the simplest things can be memorable.  Momofuku Noodle Bar was on my list of non-negotiable things to do in NYC.  Shockingly, I have never had ramen.  Like real ramen.  I’ve had variations of it, but never in an actual ramen place.  There is no better way to try ramen than at Momofuku.  And it was so good, and I don’t think I could ever judge ramen fairly again.

Now, under the same umbrella, but altogether different, is Milk Bar.  No, its not some pop-up Clockwork Orange place.  Its one of the most creative and well executed dessert establishments…ever.  It is the brainchild of Chef Christina Tosi.  Coincidentally, as I was becoming aware of Milk Bar, Chef Tosi started as a judge on MasterChef.  One of their specialities is the Cerealmilk products.  Specifically, the soft serve is what I tried.  I’ve never had anything like it, and I double I will ever find anything else like that.  In addition to the Birthday Cake truffles, their famous Crack Pie and the Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip cookies, I will never look at dessert the same way.  I’m forced to patiently wait for their Los Angeles location to open…soon hopefully.

Le Bernardin

I don’t think any words could possibly convey what it is like to eat at Le Bernardin.  But, I will try.  But first, a slight detour into the background behind why I picked it.  When I was going through chemotherapy, I couldn’t eat seafood that wasn’t thoroughly cooked.  One of the chefs I love is Eric Ripert.  He has a gentle soul, and an appreciation for life that is unmatched.  I admire him, as a chef and as a person.  Since a fair amount of seafood in a fine dining restaurant is usually lightly cooked, it is something that cannot be risked when you have zero immune system.  I made a promise to myself that when I beat the cancer, I would go to eat at Le Bernardin.  And eat at Le Bernardin is what I did.  It was the best meal of my life.  I had the Le Bernardin Tasting Menu and it was incredible.  Each course was delicious.  I will let the picture speak for itself.

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All in all, it was an incredible trip filled with tasty food and fantastic sights.  And one of the best things about my trip was that everything was on my terms.  I went solo, and I can’t imagine seeing New York City for the first time not solo.  I packed so much in in a week, and I don’t regret going by myself.  I’ve done a lot of things by myself, but never a trip like this one.  Most definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Quick Dinner! Stuffed Portobellos

Since I’ve been trying to incorporate more mushrooms into my diet, I’m always looking for different ways to prepare them.  Sautéing them and then putting them in sauce becomes boring really fast.  I also have a secondary problem.  I buy these beautiful vegetables at the farmers market every week, but I always end up with a little bit every bit that I haven’t used.  I hate throwing away food.  HATE it!  Especially the product of the labor of local farmers.  After scouring the pages of Pinterest, I took a combo of a few things I saw and made one of the tastiest dinners.  I was also able to use more of some of the cherry tomatoes I bought at the Farmers Market.

Ingredients (for 1 serving)

*1-2 Portobello mushrooms

*2 slices of Trader Joe’s Pre-Sliced Mozzarella, cut into pieces

*About 6 cherry tomatoes cut in half

*2 tsp olive oil

*2 cloves garlic

*Salt/Pepper

Instructions

  1.  Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Scoop out black part from mushroom and brush olive oil mixture onto bottom of mushroom.  Put in 8×8 foil lined pan, cap side down.
  3. Combine remaining olive oil mixture with tomatoes and mozzarella, and salt and pepper.  Fill mushroom with mixture.
  4. Broil for 8-10 minutes.  Then drizzle with a balsamic glaze. (I reduced 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar with a tsp of raw sugar for about 10 minutes.)
  5. Serve alone, with pasta or whatever you want!  I paired it with pasta and red sauce.

 

*Tomatoes from Ellwood Canyon Farms

*Portobello Mushroom from LAFungHi

Travel: Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture

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Tomatoes to greet you on the entrance path!

On my recent trip to New York, I knew that one of the things I had to make happen was a visit to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.  About 30 miles north of Manhattan, in a town called Pocantico Hills, is Stone Barns Center.  It was started by the Rockefeller family more than 20 years ago.  And it has turned into a hub of experimentation and research for something that affects us all; farming and food.  In conjunction with chef Dan Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (11th best restaurant in the world), they have created something very special.  After a day at this amazing place, I have grown to appreciate even more what they do there.

One of the major things that I have learned about SBC is that they genuinely believe in what they do there.  Of course, they have gained more notoriety from their collaboration with Dan Barber and Blue Hill, but the farmers have a bigger purpose than trying to get to the top of the list.  Its very simple.  They want to grow and raise food that tastes good and is sustainable.  One of their major techniques is a 7 year rotation with the crops in the field.  For example, if this year, tomatoes are grown there, tomatoes will not be in that soil for another 7 years.  They understand each crop completely.  They utilize each crop’s assets and defects to grow better food and to make it sustainable.  For example, they know that tomatoes suck nitrogen out of the soil, so they may plant a crop next time in that space that puts nitrogen back into the soil.  Or they may plant a micro green in the same bed at the same time that counteracts the nitrogen depletion.  Its an amazing technique and to see it in action makes you feel like you are witness to a food revolution. Stone Barns Center also utilizes a greenhouse.  They do this not in an effort to grow out of season, but rather to extend the growing seasons.  In the greenhouse, they have a 10 year rotation cycle instead of 7.

 

Another thing they do is create new types of fruits and vegetables.  And they do this without genetic modification.  And they do this for a better tasting crop.  They use traditional methods of cross breeding.  When I was there, I saw the pepper crops.  They had the usual jalapeños, bell peppers, etc.  But they also had a new pepper.  It was called a Habanata (not sure it that is the correct spelling).  It is a habanero that has had the spiciness bred out.  Amazing.

When you go there for a day, you also have the option to participate/observe in activities around the farm.  I chose the watermelon testing, the foraging walk and the pig feeding.  By far, the foraging walk was my favorite.  To learn about how the restaurant uses foraged ingredients made me have a new respect for the chefs at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  It is one thing to say, “I want these ingredients to make this dish”.  It is quite another thing to say “I’ve been presented these ingredients, what will I come up with?”.  And that is what they do at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  They are presented with or have found ingredients and they come up with something grand.  They can be presented wit a giant crop of sunflowers and have come up with a way to use EVERY SINGLE PART OF THE SUNFLOWER.  Nothing goes to waste.  This is an important part of what happens at SBC.

And that leads to my main takeaway of my visit.  They are trying to really create a better world through food.  They want to create something sustainable and delicious and in such a way that keeps you interested.  When I first read The Third Plate, I was convinced that Dan Barber was on to something.  And to see it in action is truly something awe-inspiring.  With so many horrible things going on in this world today, it is important to do things that make you happy and give you hope.  Stone Barns Center gives me hope and it made me so happy to see something like that first hand.  If you ever get a chance to go, I urge you to go.

Quick Breakfast! Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms

I have always found it to be a challenge to make breakfast interesting to me.  Truth be told, I’m not fond of breakfast food.  My usual go-tos are eggs benedict and sometimes, french toast or pancakes.  Overall, I’m just not crazy about that meal.

Enter the mighty mushroom!  As I no longer buy meat for my house, I started to dabble in the world of mushrooms.  I’m fortunate to live in a city in which we have many mushroom purveyors.  My favorite is LaFungHi. They have both foraged and cultivated mushrooms, and they always have something different.

And for some reason, the combo of eggs and mushrooms is just so delicious.  It has even made me enjoy breakfast a little bit more.  Although its pretty simple, here is what I used.

*2 eggs

*1 small bunch of mushrooms (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) (I used foraged Forest Namekos for this.)

*about 2 pats of butter

*A healthy pinch of dried thyme

*Salt & Pepper

First, I melted the butter in a pan, then added the mushrooms, thyme and salt and pepper.  I let those sauté for about 3 minutes.

Second, I added the eggs, a little more salt and pepper, then fried in pan until done.

It was that simple.  And it gives me an easy breakfast that takes less than 10 minutes.  It makes me happy to be able to utilize as many Farmers Market items in my normal diet.  To me, fresh produce from a Farmers Market tastes better.  And it helps to support local farms!

Ingredients

Simple ingredients

Farmers Market Haul!

Probably my favorite day of the week is Sunday.  And its not because I don’t have to go to work, or because I get to sleep in.  Its because Sundays are for the Farmers Market!  My best friend got me a tea towel that says “The Farmers Market is my happy place”.  And this couldn’t be more true.  I love it.  After I read The Third Plate by Dan Barber, I was inspired to eat more locally, and to be more sustainable.  This is where my love affair with the Farmers Market began.

Living in Los Angeles, I am extremely fortunate to have a good number of them at my disposal.  On Sunday morning, finding a Farmers Market is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But my personal favorite is the Hollywood Farmers Market on Selma and Ivar.  Its huge, and has everything you could possibly want.  Plus, its near both Groundwork Coffee, some great shopping and some great restaurants.  Not to mention, they validate for the parking garage at Arclight Cinemas.  $3 for 2 hours is just a bargain, in my opinion.  But, this isn’t about the Hollywood Farmers Market in particular.  Its about what I found there.

As I’m sure every regular patron of this weekly event of awesomeness can tell you, you end up at the same stalls every week.  There is just something about that lettuce or those tomatoes that keep you wanting more.  Its not just about the produce.  Its about the sense of community that happens at Farmers Markets.  You see the same people every week, and it makes you feel more at home.  Or at least that has been my experience.

Here is what I snagged, and from where!  (All featured farms are linked below.)

*Corn from The Garden Of.. // Cucumber from John Givens Farm

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*Yellow Peaches from Burkhart Organics // Foraged Forest Kemeko mushrooms from LAFungHi // Mixed Cherry Tomatoes & Ambrosia Melon from Ellwood Canyon Farms FullSizeRender 3

*Carrots from John Givens Farms // Shallots & Lemon Cucumbers from The Garden Of.. // Enoki and Maitake mushrooms from LaFunghiFullSizeRender 2

Farm Links!

The Garden Of…

Burkhart Organics

Ellwood Canyon Farms

John Givens Farm

LaFungHi

Be Well Challenge: The End is Near

This month has been crazy, and has been such a good experience.  I loved being able to ramp up healthy habits and things that help to reduce my negative effect on the planet.  When I originally started this challenge, it was the most intensive way I could think of to gain footing in making things stick.  Although I did not do everything perfectly, I am content with the progress I have made over the last month.

Let’s start with food.  I don’t think I have ever eaten as well and as consciously as I have for the last month.  Being mindful of what I am putting in my body made me eat healthier on the whole.  And although there was the occasional misstep, I did a lot better than I thought I would.  I bought more fruits and veggies, and ate more clean.  Adding in the Farmers Market component to this challenge was extremely beneficial.  I tried some new things, and taught me to go outside my comfort zone.  Before this, I would have never tried dandelion greens or even the green plums.

Now…on to workouts.  I was almost perfect with my workouts.  Forcing myself to be consistent makes it a part of my life.  Some people really dread physical exercise.  But the truth is is that I get to workout.  After surviving cancer, it is nice to be able to do anything.  Working out is no exception.

When it comes to waste, I would say that this is where I was my weakest.  I realized quickly that there are many places that do not subscribe to the less is more philosophy with waste.  Personally, I frequently forgot my reusable cups and eating take out made this more difficult than expected.  However, I most definitely was more conscious of the waste I was producing.  And although I wasn’t able to eliminate my waste, I’m definitely moving in the right direction.

All in all, this was a very cool experience.  I learned about what motivates me and what I really enjoy doing.  And I really enjoy being healthy.  Exercising, taking care of the planet, and eating right just makes me a happier person.

Yay or Nay: Dandelion Greens

In my quest to try something new every week at the Farmers Market, I decided to try dandelion greens.  Dandelion Greens are extremely high in good nutrients and from what I’ve read, is way more of a super green than kale.  As far as greens go, he more bitter the better they are for you (or so I’ve read).  How could I not want to give these a chance?

My conversation with the farmer went like this:

*Me:  What are those?

*Farmer:  Dandelion Greens

*Me:  Sold!  I’ll google how to cook them.  This will be interesting.

*Farmer:  Usually people eat them with a little lemon.  They taste terrible.

In my head, I thought, oh great..can’t wait.  I don’t think I was even out of the stall before I had put “how to cook dandelion greens” in my Pinterest search box.  It seemed like, overwhelmingly, the preferred method to cook dandelion greens was with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (I linked the recipe at the end).  The basics of cooking dandelion greens is to wash them, cut them into pieces (about 3 inches) and sauté in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Now, I put waaayyyy too much salt, like, an obscene amount.  Also of note, these cook down much like spinach.  So, you get 1/3 of what you actually put in the pan.  Cooking them took about 8 minutes.  After they were all wilted and tender, time to taste.  First bite, oh these aren’t bad.  A little bitter, but I could get used to the bitterness.  Second bite, wow, these are really bitter, the guy was right.  Third bite, how many bites until I’m done?

I know what you are thinking, how bitter could they POSSIBLY be.  If you have never had dandelion greens, I urge you to try them.  Judging by how many stalls have them at the Farmers Market, I imagine that more people than I think like them.  If I had to describe the bitterness, they are about 10 times more bitter than arugula.  With that being said, I am not ruling them completely out.  I also found a recipe for pesto using dandelion greens.  Maybe when the trauma has worn off, I’ll try that.  But for now, its a no go for me.

Dandelion Greens from: Givens Farm (Yes, they are organic!)

Recipe used:  http://www.italianfoodforever.com/2008/05/sauted-dandelion-greens/