Archive for September, 2010

The Coffee Process

IMG_0706 Today is Monday.

Today is rainy, gray, and gloomy with a 100% chance of rain for the rest of the day.

Today is back to work after a weekend out of town with family and a night full of moving furniture before we could get into bed.

And today, I can’t wait for my coffee.

I said I’d do a photo tutorial of how we make our coffee in the syphon – here it is!


The syphon is two pieces: the bottom carafe and the top, which has the vacuum piece you can see in the carafe here.

Fill the syphon and set it over medium/high heat while you get your beans ready.


Whether you’re using whole beans that you grind yourself or preground coffee, Nick has found the perfect ratio for us: 7 grams of coffee for each “cup” of coffee. So for our 8-cup syphon, we use 52 grams of coffee.


As the water heats, it will travel into the top of the syphon. Once all the water has moved to the top (and you’ll hear it start to bubble and boil), turn the heat to low and stir in your coffee.


As soon as you stir in your coffee and make sure the heat is on low, start your timer.


Again – Nick is the expert here – but 2 minutes and 32 seconds seems to be the best time to let it brew. No more, no less.

So set the timer and let the coffee work.

Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat and move the syphon off the heat.


This is where the fun begins!

Once the heat is no longer under the syphon, the vacuum piece starts its work and pulls the brewed coffee back into the carafe, leaving the ground in the top of the syphon.


And it’s just fun to watch – like a science experiment in your kitchen, every morning!


The last part is the most fun to watch.


It’s hard to see in this picture, but the vacuum action makes the coffee bubble up right at the end as it pulls the last of it from the top.

When all the coffee is back into the carafe piece, you just take the top of the syphon off, dump the grounds/wash it out, and enjoy!

After all that fun, you have a great cup of coffee.


We’re not professionals and we don’t know everything there is to know about coffee, but this coffee syphon makes some of the best coffee we’ve ever had.

We also have a 12-cup regular coffee pot and 2 different French Presses, but we haven’t used anything else since we got this syphon last December.

Having freshly roasted and ground beans also makes a huge difference in your coffee. Our Honduran coffee is the one exception – those beans are already ground, but it seems to be better than other preground coffee we’ve had in the past.

We usually try to buy locally roasted coffee from a few coffeeshops around town or some of our favorites from Trader Joe’s when we go to my parent’s house (their Kona and Papua New Guinea Peaberry are both delicious).

But when we can’t have those or when we run out, the best coffee we’ve found in regular grocery stores is the Eight O’Clock, and specifically, their 100% Colombian and French Roast. We usually find this at Kroger and it’s $3-5 per bag.


Are you a coffee drinker? What’s your favorite coffee brand/bean/flavor?

If your hot drink of choice is tea, what’s in your mug this morning?

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F&W Meets BFD

It’s always a good Friday when it ends with Breakfast For Dinner.


Nick and I have a busy weekend again (seems to be the norm, lately) and I really didn’t have anything planned for dinner tonight. We had no leftovers and there wasn’t much to work with in the fridge.

But you can always find stuff to make breakfast, right?


I made some biscuits and some bacon gravy to have along with our cinnamon sauteed apples and pears.


While our dinner was lacking in veggies, the fruit more than made up for it! The little bit of brown sugar was so delicious on the diced apples and pears.


My biscuits turned out pretty good, too 😉

Not my best batch, but they were good considering I don’t use recipes anymore!

Now that I’m full of biscuits and gravy, I’m going to settle in for the night with Nick and Maggie and enjoy the calm before the storm. Lots of time on the road coming up this weekend!

FOOD & WINE is giving away a year-long subscription to a lucky reader from BranAppetit.  Click here to enter and read official rules here.

This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive.  As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE.  I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.

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Behind the Blog: Sarah


Time for another Behind the Blog post, and I’m happy to welcome Sarah! I’ve been loving her blog lately and she just seems like such a fun person.


1. What’s your name and blog address?

Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen (http://thesmartkitchenblog.com)


2. How long have you been blogging?

I think we are coming up on my 6 month anniversary! (Clearly not the "gold" or "diamond" one…maybe we’ll call it a "cardstock" anniversary, since I think paper is taken.)


3. What do you love / hate about blogging?

I love the creative outlet it gave me that I didn’t even knew I needed. I love the relationships I have formed because of blogging, and those I have renewed and strengthened "behind the blog." It’s fun to have a platform to showcase and celebrate food (and people! and places!) that you love. 🙂

I don’t think I hate anything about it, actually. Some days it is more difficult to feel "witty" and interesting, but I believe that if there ever comes a day when I find myself hating it, I will stop. I haven’t even really wanted to take a "blog break" yet!


4. What’s your favorite color?

Green! (although I am branching out into other colors slowly….)


5. Favorite movie?

Hook, Shag, She’s The Man [I’m not super intellectual in my movie choices….]


6. Favorite book?

I always say The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwartz-Bart, because that sounds much more intellectual, but in reality it would probably be a toss-up between Harry Potter [especially The Goblet of Fire] and any of the chick-lit novels I unabashedly adore. [I also love food writing. Especially Ruth Reichl.]


7. Favorite food?

Isn’t that like asking a mom to pick her favorite child? [Although we all know there are favorites. My sister is my dad’s favorite child, for example. Your teachers’ were also lying when they said they didn’t have favorite students. We do.]

Based on my recent eating habits, I’d probably have to go with The Big Three: Hummus, Yogurt, and Oatmeal, but I also love pimiento cheese and my dad’s grilled pizza. If I see the words "hearts of palm" or "lychee" I must eat it. I am a cereal fiend. And frozen yogurt. Oh how I love frozen yogurt.

[I also adore preety much every vegetable and fruit in existence…Perhaps you could consult my Top 25 Most Eaten?]


8. Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla (with chocolatey mix-ins, like Oreos, brownies, or chocolate chips)


9. Favorite TV show NOW and when you were growing up?

Now? Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Mad Men, Top Chef…when growing up? I lived for TGIF (Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, Boy Meets World), and SNICK (Are You Afraid of the Dark?)…as well as Saved By The Bell on Saturday mornings.


10. Do you like playing sports? Watching sports?

I am often quoted as saying "I don’t play team sports." I wanted to be a field hockey player in middle and high school, but never made the team. Although I had a brief obsession with World Cup soccer this summer (Viva Espana!), and I do enjoy the occasional tennis match…I’m really into sports for the tailgating food potential.


11. Are you a coffee or tea person? Or neither?

Coffee! Oh my goll, do I love me some coffee.


12. Do you have tattoos or piercings?

Just the normal ear piercing undergone at the local mall upon turning 13.


13. Do you have any special talents?

Can’t say that I do. I’m not double-jointed and I do not perform any Gob Bluth*-like illusions.

*Bonus points to you if you got that allusion.


14. If you could go anywhere in the world TOMORROW, where would you go?

Costa Rica or Greece….the first is my favorite place I’ve ever been, and the second is the place I most want to go


15. Last thing you ate?

A delicious CFY (cereal, fruit, and yogurt) mess with strawberries and green and black grapes on top.


16. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

First, a teacher. Then, a film director. Then, a teacher again. Now, a Broadway actress.*

*Just kidding. Sort of.


17. What was your favorite subject in school?

As a student, English (or, strangely, Physics).

As a teacher, Math and Science.


18. What games did you play when you were younger?

I played a lot of my brother’s computer games actually…I loved The Sims and Lemmings, as well as this one which I think was called Quest for Glory. Getting into board games was a later development in my life, where now my family loves to play Apples to Apples and some of my favorite nights with friends have involved either Cranium or Catchphrase.


19. Favorite restaurant?

Impossible to say…my new favorite is Foodheads here in Austin, which is a menu-on-the-blackboard, chairs-and-tables-are-salvaged-and-mismatched type sandwich shop.


20. Favorite store?

Trader Joe’s!!!! [Oh how I miss him here in Texas.]


21. Favorite animal?

I’m not actually sure….puppies? Who doesn’t love a puppy?


22. Favorite thing to cook/make?

Anything that will be a gift or served to someone else…especially if it is their birthday cake!


23. Most embarrassing guilty pleasure?

Anything featuring Zac Efron. Oh, and I love Hanson. [But I’m actually not embarrassed by it. Seriously, their newer music is GOOD.]


24. Do you have any nicknames?

I get a lot of inadvertent ones from my students: Ms. Pepper, Ms. Pemberson, Ms. Pemberton, Ms. Peppermint.

My friends used to (and some still do) call me Pembs.


25. List one thing the “blog world” doesn’t know about you but should!

I don’t like nut butter in my oatmeal. (Gasp! Shock! Outrage!)


Thanks, Brandi, for letting me share a little of me with your portion of the blogger world!  :)


Thanks Sarah!

If you’re interested in being featured on Behind the Blog, send an email to branappetit [at] gmail with your answers to these questions!

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All week, I’ve been sticking with my Trader Joe’s roasted flaxseed peanut butter on my pumpkin oatmeal, but I’ve totally been missing out!


Welcome back, White Chocolate Wonderful 🙂


My kryptonite.

For melting, you just can’t beat this white chocolate pb – it’s super creamy and so easy to spread. I bet it would be great for baking!

After missing my pumpkin for breakfast yesterday, I knew Friday’s breakfast needed to be full of it.


  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • LOTS of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp White Chocolate Wonderful
  • 1/2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips







Time for work + coffee!


What are your plans for this weekend?

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Smooth Idea

Why didn’t I ever think to do this before?


I was hungry this afternoon and knew I would be running after work, so I made myself a HUGE smoothie. (I also love this Blender Bottle I got from AmericasNutrition to sample – it’s a great size and has the little whisker ball so you can keep your smoothie mixed well!)

  • 2 cups almond milk (the rest of a container)
  • 1 Tbsp Nesquik
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 2 drops Vanilla NuNaturals Stevia

I knew I didn’t want to drink all of this before running because it would just be too much. So I had half before my run and drank the rest when I got back.


Best. idea. ever.

It also helped that dinner was leftovers tonight 😉 Easy!


Leftover lentils and turkey sausage from last night – they reheated beautifully! Even Nick enjoyed it a second time.

He actually said – and I’m quoting – “I think I really like lentils”.

I replied, “Really? Well, they’re full of protein”.

“Hm”, he said. “Maybe that’s why I like them”.


You know what time it is – football! I’m watching Miami/Pitt right now until The Office!

Happy Thursday 🙂


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Fruits, Vegetables, Miracles

First of all – I totally forgot to post the winner this morning.

So..thanks to that random number generator, we have…


p.s. my favorite thing about fall is taking a walk on those cool, brisk days then coming home to a warm cup of apple cider or hot chocolate


Congrats to Holly! Email me so I can get your address and send some fun things your way 🙂

And thanks to everyone who entered – I loved reading all of YOUR favorite things about fall. I wish this season would last for 6 months instead of just 2, but oh well.


Breakfast this morning did NOT include pumpkin! Surprised?


I had fruit this morning instead of a veggie.


I really wanted some apple oats this morning, and it goes so well with almond butter that I decided to go without pumpkin today.

Good decision 🙂

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • cinnamon
  • 1 local apple, diced and microwaved for 1 minute with cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter


This bowl of oats, along with about 3 cups of our Honduras coffee has kept me working, working, working this morning.

And then I had a lunch errand failure. I need to send back a new quilt we bought, so I swung by the UPS dropbox in town (after looking for it for a good 10 minutes) and the box was too big for the dropbox! Fail.

Wasted half of my lunch break for nothing. Now I get to take it to a regular store tomorrow and finally get it mailed back. Don’t you hate that?

But Maggie had fun on her short car ride with me, and it got us both out of the house for a few minutes, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.

And lunch was just waiting for me when I got back!


A huge, mixing bowl salad, full of veggies!


Today’s mix:

  • romaine
  • spinach
  • scallion
  • carrot
  • tomato from our garden! Probably one of the last
  • 1/2 local Asian pear
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • homemade balsamic-dijon dressing


I’m trying so hard to savor our tomatoes. We have a few more on the plants that are green so we might get a couple more this season, but I’m so sad that tomato season is coming to an end! I do love fall, but you can’t beat summer tomatoes.


Mags is at my feet – time to get back to work!

PS: Football is on tonight 🙂 Happy Thursday!!!

Come on, 5 pm…


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I’m sorry to do this to you so early in the morning, but I just couldn’t wait any longer to tell you about these cookies!

Thanks again, Food & Wine.

Now I have one more treat in the house to avoid at breakfast time.

As soon as I saw the recipe for these Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies, I knew I had to try them.

They’re flourless!

Light, but decadent.

Fluffy, yet full of nuts and powdered sugar.


I normally don’t make many changes in baked good recipes because they’re so finicky…but I was lazy when I making these the other night so I did make one little revision.

Instead of toasting and chopping walnuts, I just used the same amount of pecan meal (finely ground pecans).

I think it worked great – the cookies are delicious and it saved me a step. But I will try these again with the walnuts.


I was seriously tempted to pop one of these on my breakfast this morning.



What’s your favorite cookie?

FOOD & WINE is giving away a year-long subscription to a lucky reader from BranAppetit.  Click here to enter and read official rules here.

This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive.  As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE.  I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.

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Gone Gourmet

Food & Wine recipes make such great meals!

I feel like a new chef with all these recipes I’ve been trying as one of the Food & Wine Blogger Correspondents. And everything is turning out delicious, which makes Nick and I very happy.

Plus, they’re so easy!


Tonight’s dinner inspiration?

Lamb Sausage with Lentils and Sauteed Pears


And I made a few changes 😉

But not many with this recipe! There were a few things I didn’t have, but my swaps worked great.

  • Lean turkey sausage in place of lamb
  • I didn’t presoak the lentils
  • Regular diced red sweet peppers instead of roasted (didn’t have any)
  • Forgot the cider vinegar! Dangit…I just realized this as I’m looking at the recipe. I’ll add it for tomorrow 🙂


I loved the spicy sausage with the lentils, and those sauteed pears? They were the perfect complement.


When Nick walked in and saw my plate, he said “Oh, you’re going all gourmet tonight!”.

I guess I am.

At least, this is gourmet compared to one of my casseroles or random one-pot meals I like to make 🙂

There’s another fun recipe review coming tomorrow! Get ready.


Don’t forget – you can win, too!

FOOD & WINE is giving away a year-long subscription to a lucky reader from BranAppetit.  Click here to enter and read official rules here.

This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive.  As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE.  I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.

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Breakfast Giveaway

This bowl of oatmeal is turning into my fall favorite!

I had it Monday, yesterday and today. And I still have enough pumpkin to have it a few more times this week, too 😉


I normally don’t have chocolate this often for breakfast, but 1/2 Tbsp of dark chocolate each day won’t kill me.

Plus, the dark chocolate is just perfect with the pumpkin, banana, and peanut butter.


It’s just too good to leave out.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • cinnamon
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips


This is definitely one of the best ways to start off my day during my favorite season of the year.

*Don’t forget to vote for your favorites in Project Food Blog – you can vote for 400 different bloggers in the first round through today!


Last Tuesday evening, Nick and I had the chance to hear Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp speak about “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, one of my favorite books.



It was fun to hear them both speak about the book and their experiences – they each read excerpts from their sections of the book and held a question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation.

Sadly, Nick and I had to come home before I was able to get my book signed, but I did pick up another copy for one of you! I honestly love this book and have read it more than once since I bought it last year.

Kingsolver has a way of weaving her family’s love of food into each story and each season and reconnects you to your own food in the process.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve become so interested in my own local food movement is this book – there are great resources and stories and everything in this book just reminds me that there are seasons for a reason.

Food tastes better when it’s in season, and I’m extremely happy to live in an area that experiences all 4 seasons each year.

Maybe this doesn’t mean that I’ve given up bananas (they definitely don’t grow in Virginia), but I DO try to buy as much locally as possible – produce, meat, baked goods.

If you haven’t read the book, I would definitely recommend it.

And in honor of fall settling in across the country, here’s an excerpt that seems fitting.

Smashing Pumpkins

Driving through our little town in late fall, still a bit love-struck for Tuscany’s charm, I began to see my hometown through new eyes.  We don’t have medieval hilltop towns, but we do have bucolic seasonal decor and we are not afraid to use it.  “Look,” I cried to my family, “we live in Pleasantville.”  They were forced to agree.  Every store window had its own cheerful autumnal arrangement to celebrate the season.  The lamp posts on Main Street had corn shocks tied around them with bright orange ribbons.  The police station had a scarecrow out front.

Yard art is an earnest form of self-expression here.  Autumn, with its blended undertones of “joyful harvest” and “Trick-or-Treat kitsch,” brings out the best and worst on the front lawns:  colorful displays of chrysanthemums and gourds.  A large round hay bale with someone’s legs hanging out of its middle.  (A pair of jeans and boots stuffed with newspaper, I can only hope; we’ll call it a farm safety reminder.)  One common theme runs through all these dioramas, and that is the venerable pumpkin.  They were lined up in rows, burnished and proud and conspicuous, the big brass buttons on the uniform of our village.  On the drive home from our morning’s errands we even passed a pumpkin field where an old man and a younger one worked together to harvest their crop, passing up the orange globes and stacking them on the truck bed to haul to market.  We’d driven right into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Every dog has its day, and even the lowly squash finally gets its month.  We may revile zucchini in July, but in October we crown its portly orange cousin the King Cucurbit and Doorstop Supreme.  In Italy I had nursed a growing dread that my own country’s food lore had gone over entirely to the cellophane side.  Now my heart was buoyed.  Here was an actual, healthy, native North American vegetable, non shrink-wrapped, locally grown and in season, sitting in state on everybody’s porch. 

The little devil on my shoulder whispered, “Oh yeah?  You think people actually know it’s edible?”

The angel on the other shoulder declared “Yeah” (too smugly for an angel, probably), the very next morning.  For I opened our local paper to the food section and found a colorful two-page spread under the headline “Pumpkin Possibilities.”  Pumpkin Curry Soup, Pumpkin Satay!  The food writer urged us to think past pie and really dig into this vitamin-rich vegetable.  I was excited.  We’d grown three kinds of pumpkins that were now lodged in our root cellar and piled on the back steps.  I was planning a special meal for a family gathering on the weekend.  I turned a page to find the recipes.

As I looked them over, Devil turned to Angel and kicked butt.  Every single recipe started with the same ingredient: “1 can (15 oz) pumpkin.”


Now….I have NOT cooked my own pumpkin yet this season, but I do have big plans to do just that!


Since I love this book so much, I want to share it!


If you want to win a copy of this book (and maybe a few other fun items from me), just leave me a comment with your favorite thing about fall.

I’ll pick a winner Thursday morning!


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Sunday in Honduras is our one day off “work”.

We get to sleep in, go to church, go to the Valley of the Angels and other spots for sight seeing, and hang out with our Honduran family. Our group that helps us while we’re over there has become more than friends, and it’s so good to see them but so sad to leave.


After eating lunch in the Valley of the Angels, we took a short trip to Santa Lucia, which has one of the oldest churches in Honduras.

This summer, our trip was right in the middle of their rainy season, so we got caught in the middle of a few big storms. You can tell one was headed our way in Santa Lucia, but it didn’t stop us from getting some good pictures.

The views are breathtaking and hard to capture on camera.

IMG_0173 IMG_0177

IMG_0183 IMG_0257

This was our group this year. 10 of us from the States and our adopted Honduras family. I don’t know how we would do these trips without them. They’re more than just drivers and hard workers – they bring us joy and smiles when days are rough and they give the best hugs you’ve ever had.






We miss all of them, every day.

But we also know that they’re waiting for us to come back, and they make sure to tell us!

This is my last recap post from Honduras.

Took long enough, huh?

These trips are hard to put into words, and I want to make sure I take enough time to digest everything.

Thank you for all the notes and emails about the trip! They mean so much to us, and we’re extremely happy to share about our travels, the trip, and all the details we can offer.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jovenes or our trips, don’t hesistate to leave a comment or email me! I’d love to talk to you.

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