Sunday, July 27, 2014

Iced Coffee Concentrate

The gods of coffee laugh at our feeble attempts to resist having yet another cup!!

Last summer I heard for the first time about "real" iced coffee, and I cannot believe I did not come across this sooner. Iced coffee should not be made by simply chilling hot, brewed coffee. Neither should it be made by sticking an ice cube into a cup of old coffee left in the pot from the morning. (Shame on me.) It should be made using a coffee concentrate. 

The concentrate is made by pouring room temperature water over freshly ground coffee and allowing it to steep. Strain it, refrigerate it and voilà: iced coffee concentrate. A bottled concentrate is available from Trader Joe's (and with Vermont's first Trader Joe's newly opened nearby, it IS tempting to grab it there.) However, it seemed pretty easy to do at home so I gave it a go.

I tried two test batches: one using 2 parts water to 1 part coffee and the other with equal parts water and coffee. I did the same grind on the coffee beans that I would normally do for drip-brewed: medium-fine. The 1:1 batch was very strong - and very good, but the yield was low. I only got about 1 cup of concentrate from 2 cups of water and 2 cups of ground coffee. 

I was happier with my next batch, made 4 cups of water and 2 cups of ground coffee. This ratio of water to coffee grounds gave me 3 cups of concentrate. Though made with more water it still had a great, deep flavor to it. 

For my iced coffee I mix equal parts coffee concentrate and very cold water, along with ice and just a splash of half & half. (No sugar tonight, or ever in my coffee.) The taste is bold, smooth, strong, and so satisfying! With the first few sips I feel an immediate lift, a bounce back in my step. The world looks like a brighter and happier place. Potent stuff is this! This iced coffee is also noticeably better than the iced coffee I might get from McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts, which tastes flat and watery in comparison. Iced coffee made with this concentrate tastes more in line with what I would get at a local coffee roaster (love it at Uncommon Grounds.

As for the 1:1 concentrate, I decided to add to it an equal amount of half & half and freeze it into ice cubes! They are perfect for chilling and adding more flavor to iced coffee. 

I also made some ice cubes out of sweetened vanilla-flavored coffee creamer - Christian's favorite coffee add-in. Now he can join me in perfect, real iced coffee bliss. 

Iced Coffee Concentrate

2 c. freshly ground coffee, medium-fine grind
4 c. room-temperature water

In a large pitcher or glass measuring bowl with a lip for pouring, combine the ground coffee with the 4 cups of room-temperature water. Stir well until all the coffee grounds are moistened. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12-15 hours. 

Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or several coffee filters - arranged with edges overlapping each other. Place the strainer over a large bowl. Slowly pour the coffee-water mixture into the strainer. Allowing the liquid to seep through leaving the coffee grinds in the strainer. Use a rubber spatula to press and gently stir the grounds to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the grounds. (If a few grounds or sediment remain in the liquid, you can strain it a second time through a clean coffee filter.)

Pour the concentrated coffee into a large mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups.

For a glass of iced coffee: In a tall glass combine 3/4 c. coffee concentrate and 3/4 c. very cold water. Add regular ice cubes (or Iced Coffee cubes - see below) and milk, half & half, creamer, sugar, etc. to lighten and sweeten the coffee to your preference.

Iced Coffee Ice Cubes
Coffee-Cream: Combine equal parts either cold, strong coffee or coffee concentrate along with your choice of half & half , cream or sweetened creamer in a pitcher. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight.
Black Coffee: Pour cold, strong coffee or coffee concentrate into and ice cube tray and freeze overnight. 
Sweetened Creamer: Pour sweetened, liquid creamer into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight. These cubes will be sticky - I found that using a flexible, silicone ice cube tray made it easier to pop them out. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Songs of Summer Bloghop

Today is the Songs of Summer Bloghop

We all have a "Songs of Summer" list in our heads, songs that evoke blissful thoughts of sunshine, blue skies, sandwiches eaten at the beach with grains of sand stuck in them, coconutty sunscreen. When I happen to stumble across one of these songs on the radio in the bleak, blue cold of winter I can shake off the stinging snowflakes and know that summer will indeed return. 

Number 5
'What Time Is It?' from the soundtrack to High School Musical 2, 2007

It's been a long time since the kids were into the 'High School Musical' movies. Nevertheless as the last day of school before summer vacation approaches, this song gets stuck in my head. "Finally summer's here! Good to be chillin' out!" And I almost recreate this dancing-on-the-desks scene at my own school. Go on, give it a listen. It's as catchy as all get-out.

Like a dork, I play it for both kids when they get home on that last day! (They barely tolerate me.)

Number 4
'Magic' by The Cars, 1984

Hard not to dream about summer when a song belts out at its beginning, "Summer! It turns me upside down. Summer, summer, summer... it's like a merry-go-round" Summer felt like this back in 1984 and feels that way today as well.

Number 3:
'Summer Lovin' from the soundtrack to Grease, 1978

A bit of a predictable choice, but this movie always aired on t.v. in the summer when we were kids. The whole movie and every song bring back that kid-in-the-summertime feeling.

Number 2:
'Tha Good Life' by Cisco Adler, 2012

Our daughter introduced this song to us. Ever since she first played it - while we were driving around with the windows down, wind in our hair - it has been a favorite. It features one of her favorite musicians, Mod Sun. The song has a laid back, sunshiney feel to it. 

Number 1:
'Green Onions' by Booker T & the M.G.'s from the soundtrack to American Graffiti, 1973

A groovy, timeless, drivin' around song from another movie set in the summertime. I "borrowed" my dad's VHS copy of the movie for about a decade and later found a copy of the double-album LP at a record store in Maine. The whole soundtrack is amazing: Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, The Platters, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chuck Berry - songs that bring to mind classic summer scenes at drive-in movies and drive-in restaurants with roller-skating waitresses! 

The first video clip is the drag race scene from the movie that opens with 'Green Onions' and the next is the song on its own.

Honorable Mention
'Home on the Range' as performed by the Mr. Ding-A-Ling ice cream truck...

... as it relentlessly roams our neighborhood pedaling its frozen dairy treats! (Actually, I still get excited when I hear it approaching and am the first to run out with a fistful of quarters.)
Many thanks to our evenly-tanned hosts: Armchair Squid,  Cygnus at Servitor Ludi and Suze at Subliminal Coffee! Check out their selections, as well as the selections by these folks! 

1.The Armchair Squid2.Subliminal Coffee
3.My Creatively Random Life4.Alex J. Cavanaugh
5.L.G. Smith Bards and Prophets6.I Think; Therefore, I Yam
7.Servitor Ludi8.Stephanie Faris, Author
9.WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME10.Cherdo on the Flipside
11.Nicki Elson's Not-so-deep-thoughts12.Trisha @ WORD STUFF
13.Hungry Enough To Eat Six14.V's Reads
15.Life Before the Hereafter16.The ToiBox of Words
17.StratPlayer's Creative Output18.DiscConnected
19.Aristotle's Mistake20.Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian
21.Words Incorporated22.Madeline Jane
23.Arlee Birds Tossing It Out

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tex Mex Potato and Chicken Salad

Here finally is a third salad, long overdue from when I first started planning for them this spring. (Salad #1 was the Green Goddess Buttermilk Potato Salad and #2 was the Bacon, Tomato and Basil Rice Salad.) In this one roasted potatoes are tossed with shredded chicken, taco seasoning, chiles and cheese. It comes together as a spicy, creamy potato salad. 

I added the chicken so that this salad would have enough heft to serve as a meal, but it can easily be omitted if just straight-up potato salad is preferred. 

And here's my tagline: ¡Una ensalada picante y deliciosa para su próxima fiesta de verano!

Tex Mex Potato and Chicken Salad

1-1/2 lbs. potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
2 TB vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2  tsp. pepper
1 envelope taco seasoning
1/4 c. water
8 oz. cooked chicken breast, cut into small pieces or shredded
1/3 c. sour cream
1/4 c. taco sauce
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
1/2 c. black beans (optional)
1/2 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place the cut potatoes in an 8" x 8" oven-proof dish. Add the vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper and toss to coat the potatoes. Place in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, just until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown on the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, In a medium bowl combine the taco seasoning and water. Add in the chicken and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble the salad: to the chicken-taco seasoning mixture add in the sour cream and taco sauce. Stir until the sauce is smooth and combined. Place the cooled, roasted potatoes in a large bowl. Add in the diced green chilies and black beans (if using.) Pour in the chicken and taco sauce and stir until well mixed. 

Can be served immediately or chilled. Garnish individual portions of the salad with the shredded Mexican cheese.   

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Strawberry Lime Smoothie with Bits o' Chocolate

This smoothie has been Logan's and my breakfast these past couple of days! So yummy. It's not hard to throw together a great smoothie, but since we are really digging on this combination I thought I'd share it!

One of the ingredients is chocolate chips, thrown into the blender to be dashed about and chopped up in the smoothie. Don't feel bad about adding chocolate to your smoothie... you're already way ahead by making the healthy choice of having this fruit and yogurt concoction for breakfast! The chocolate is just a teeny, tiny little reward for that.

Strawberry Lime Smoothie 
with Bits o' Chocolate

1 5-oz. container strawberry Greek yogurt (we used Yoplait)
1 5-oz.  container key lime Greek yogurt (Yoplait again)
8-10 ice cubes
6 medium strawberries, hulled
1 TB semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until all the ingredients are incorporated and mixture is smooth (add a little water or fruit juice if necessary to get things whirling.)
Serve immediately. Makes two 12-oz. servings.

Nutritionals per serving
Calories: 146, Total fat: 2g; Total carbs: 21g, Sugars: 14.9g, Dietary fiber: .8g, Protein: 10.2g