Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Perfect Cup of Coffee

My coffee journey began sometime in junior high. It was pretty popular to be one of the kids who drank coffee. Of course, at that age, I really did not like the bitter flavor. When coffee was available, I mixed it with hot chocolate and called it my coffee. What I actually preferred was the sweetness of the chocolate.

After that phase, I moved on to the more sophisticated version of drinking coffee that really didn't taste like coffee: the heavily flavored latte. My personal choice for years was a Starbucks vanilla latte with two packets of sugar. Did I like coffee then? I would say no. Looking back, I think I liked sugar and the thought of coffee. I mean, it really doesn't taste like coffee since it is so thoroughly diluted by milk and sugar.  In the double income before kids phase, though, it was my morning coffee drink.

When our first little bundle of joy arrived and our income reduced to practically poverty level, I decided that my special coffee drink must be one of the items to cut from the budget. Sadly, it was not a necessity. Drinking a latte became a splurge or a luxury I only enjoyed with my mom (because she bought me a latte).

Around this same time, my husband's coffee drinking habits began to dramatically change. To call his initial drink "coffee" was practically a joke. He filled his cup about halfway with creamer, added a generous helping of sugar, then topped it off with a dash of coffee. He suddenly decided that he wanted to be able to drink coffee however it was offered, which frequently meant "black" coffee. Slowly and progressively he began to reduce the amount of sugar and creamer and increase the amount of coffee in his cup. He finally changed his tastes and for several years now enjoys, even prefers, his coffee black.

Watching my husband go through this process inspired me. Why should I be so picky that the only coffee I consumed was a sugary vanilla latte? I started to make my own coffee at home and learned to enjoy it with my own milk and sugar. In the beginning, I used Starbucks coffee beans and a cheap little whirly coffee grinder.

Soon my horizons expanded yet again. My brother, who prefers to have coffee running through his veins rather than blood, introduced me to a coffee shop and roasting place downtown. He began to talk about the roasting process, which produced a coffee with a dramatically reduced bitter taste and no burned flavor. At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Isn't that just how all coffee tastes?

As I transitioned to purchasing my beans from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co, I began to notice the difference. The coffee was rich, flavorful and delicious. When I used those beans, I needed dramatically less sugar and milk. In other words, there was less "bad" flavor to mask. As an added perk, the coffee is organic. If you want to try a cup of really good coffee with incredible flavor, I highly recommend Olympia Coffee Roasting Co in downtown Olympia or the west side.

The only problem is that I am now spoiled. I like my coffee the way I prepare my coffee. Other coffee tastes bitter and burned. It is hardly worth drinking.

Oh, how do I prepare my coffee? Well, glad you asked. Here is my perfect cup of coffee:

1. Start with some perfectly roasted coffee beans, obviously, from Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.
2. Grind the coffee beans in a burr coffee grinder. 

3. Measure amount of water. (My method is to use our coffee cups and fill them with filtered water from the fridge.)

4. Prepare the coffee in either a coffee maker or a French Press. I go through phases as to which one I use. Right now I am just using my coffee maker.

5. Pour the coffee into our cups. In my cup, I add some sweetener. My favorite sweeteners are raw sugar, raw honey or real maple syrup. Today I used raw honey.

6. When I feel like something special, I add a spoonful of real vanilla extract. (Or sometimes I forgo the sweetener and vanilla and instead add a spoonful of homemade Kahlua.)

7. Lastly, I add my warmed raw whole milk. Yes, whole milk. In my opinion, whole milk tastes way better than half and half.

And there you have it. A perfect cup of coffee for myself and my husband. And you know, coffee just tastes better when it is served in your favorite coffee cup.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Cheese or Not to Cheese

Cheese: a solid food prepared from the pressed curd of milk, often seasoned and aged. A simple definition of cheese does not do it any justice at all. It does not describe the incredible creaminess and richness of high quality cheese. Just tonight we thoroughly enjoyed our cheese with our dinner. I made a lasagna with mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar and ricotta cheeses. Along with the lasagna, I served salad with Feta cheese. Each cheese had its own, unique taste, joining together to create a complex, delicious flavor.

Cottage Cheese picture from GNOWFGLINS
No, I am not considering swearing off cheese. How could anyone in her right mind do such a thing? No, what I am considering is whether or not I will be doing the next e-course with GNOWFGLINS. The upcoming e-course covers Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese.

Can you imagine how fun it would be to make cheese at home? In my experience, most everything homemade just plain old tastes better. And, I would assume, cheese must not be an exception.

Here are some of the courses that will be covered:

  1. Sour Cream / Creme Fraiche and Whole Milk Buttermilk
  2. Cultured Butter and Buttermilk
  3. Clabbered Milk and Cheese
  4. Heritage Yogurt
  5. Greek Yogurt*
  6. Kefir and Kefir Cheese
  7. Kefir Cream and Kefir Ice Cream
  8. Ricotta* and Soft Cheese
  9. Cottage Cheese
  10. Feta Cheese
  11. Middle Eastern Fresh Cheese
  12. Queso Fresco Cheese
  13. Fresh Cheddar Cheese
  14. Traditional Mozzarella Cheese
So with all this yummines, why would I possibly choose not to take this course? Well, it really is a simply financial matter. There are two discounted supply kits recommended, one from Cultures for Health and one from Homesteader Supply. They both look wonderful, but they would run me around $100! And that is for the basic kits!

How I wish I could be one of those people who are paid to try things and then share the experience with others. (Okay, maybe I would just like to be paid to try it and blog about it. Is that so bad?)

So for now, I will continue to salivate over this list of delicious looking cheese. It is wonderful to know that the course will still be there waiting for me if I decide that it is worth the splurge, that is, unless you decide that you want to fund my obsession...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loving My Tea Kettle

Most people talk about receiving an abundance of toasters as wedding gifts. Well, for us, it was tea kettles. Yes, we do love tea, but you can only use so many tea kettles. We decided to keep one tea kettle and return or -ahem- regift the remaining tea kettles. 

That first little tea kettle worked hard and produced some wonderful, boiling hot water for us. It certainly kept us on our toes too. Who can ignore the piercing screech of the kettle's whistle? Not us! Especially after we had kids. Imagine, little kids finally in bed and I decided that was the perfect opportunity for a cup of tea. I placed the tea kettle on the stove and waited for the water to boil. Only, as a sleep deprived mom, my memory was short and my attention span even shorter. Then the shrill whistle practically shook the house, quickly reminded me of my tea and forced me into a sprint for the stove, hoping to reach the stove before the horrible noise woke one or both of our kids. Ah, the memories.

After years of hot water production, the handle of our little tea kettle broke. As annoying as that was, I persevered with that little kettle for quite some time. Finally, I realized it was probably time to move on and find a new tea kettle.

At a friend's house, I ran across a different kind of tea kettle. I must say, it was love at first sight. Well, not really first sight, at first whistle. Her tea kettle made a different kind of sound. It wasn't high pitched, piercing the ear drums. It was a nice low pitch. As the water boiled even more, the low pitch turned into a beautiful, harmonious sound. As tempted as I was, I did not beg her to allow me to bring her tea kettle home. I took note of the brand name, went home, and immediately started searching online for one of my own.
Now, when the water is hot, I am kindly beckoned to my stove. In fact, my kids will at times hum along with the tea kettle. I no longer sprint to the tea kettle in an attempt to stop the noise as quickly as humanly possible. Now, I hear the noise, smile, and walk to the stove. Sometimes I even wait a minute so I can listen to the full chord.
Drinking a cup of tea should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment. Thanks to my tea kettle, the whole process is now calm and pleasurable. If you are in the market for a new tea kettle, I definitely recommend a Chantal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Goals for 2011

Many people make New Year's resolutions and thoroughly enjoy attempting to keep them. I know myself too well, though. Although I am great at making plans and knowing the "right" thing to do, I am awful at follow through. I procrastinate and put things off until the last minute. Why bother making a New Year's resolution I know I will break before January is even over?

Last night my husband and I helped in the junior high group at our church and the youth pastor, Sam Christensen, challenged the youth to set goals for this coming year. He said to stop and consider what decisions we are making and what direction we are going. I know the message was mostly intended for the youth, but it really struck me and challenged me. What steps am I taking? Where will those steps lead me? Is that really where I want to go?

A resolution is easily broken, but a goal is different. My Webster's dictionary defines a goal as "an end that one strives to attain." In that striving, there is room for both progress and failure. Even if I don't attain all of my goals this year, I can know that I at least moved in that general direction. I can make progress and that is encouraging to me.

I thought about my goals and the direction I want my life to go. These are the goals that I thought of so far. My list is probably incomplete and will continue to be tweaked, but it is a good starting point for me.

Life Goal
  • Glorify God. Honor Him in all I do.
Long Term Goals
  • Have a deep, growing relationship with the Lord.
  • Be madly in love with my husband.
  • Train our girls to be responsible, mature, loving women.
  • Serve and love others in our church and community.
  • Pay off our house and live debt free.
  • Eat and feed my family only nourishing healthy foods. Prepare a balanced diet.
  • Produce much of our food in our garden. Purchase remaining food locally.
  • Be healthy and physically fit.
  • Keep a generally organized and clean house.
Mid Term Goals (1-5 years)
  • Read the Bible daily. 
  • Continue serving in our church.
  • In addition to monthly date nights, plan weekends away with my husband.
  • Save for and plan a family vacation.
  • Grow and correctly store vegetables from our garden.
  • Run a 10k (2 years).
  • Run a half marathon (3-5 years).
  • Make and use a menu plan for our meals.
  • Create and maintain a cleaning and organizing schedule for our home.
    Short Term Goals (This year)
    • Be faithful in WEB (Bible Study) to complete my lessons and thoroughly prepare for my teachings and leading worship.
    • Schedule monthly date nights with my husband.
    • Make our Monday family night a priority. Plan fun things to do together.
    • Take the initiative in friendships.
    • Run a 5k this spring/summer.
    • Run a 5k this summer/fall.
    • Fence the yard (wood deer fence, upper area and garden).
    • Plant and maintain a vegetable garden.
    • Continue GNOWFGLINS e-course.
    • Write a blog post at least once a week.