Slowing Down


After an unplanned break from blog writing, I am back with a recipe! I explained in my last post how Hurricane Irene caused me to move veg:ology to the back burner for a week. The short version of the story is this: I worked 94 hours in 8 days, I drank gallons of coffee, and I ate a whole lot of free catered meals and carryout sushi. By the end of the second weekend of storm duty, I had a long To Do List of neglected chores, but what I felt that I really needed was to slow…. down….

I took my time with the chores and bought myself a new work bag while “out shopping for groceries.” I walked the long way to the coffee shop. I spent two hours on a NY Times crossword instead of catching up on blogs (sorry friends). While I folded laundry, I roasted eggplant for dinner. I made iced French roast coffee and cooked bourbon peach butter while I slept last night. This morning, when I woke up to the heavenly smell of warm peach butter simmering in the crock pot, I finally felt calm. Veg:ology is back and it feels good.

Slow Cooker Peach Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fresh peaches (6-7 medium)
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • juice of one lemon

Preparation:

  1. Fill a large pot of water with water and heat over high heat until boiling. Fill a large glass bowl halfway with ice water.
  2. Cut an X into the bottom of each peach. Place the peaches in the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the peaches with tongs and place immediately into the bowl if ice water. Let peaches soak in cold water for two minutes.
  4. Remove peaches to a cutting board and dry them. Remove the skins (no peeling!) by sliding them right off and into the garbage. Cut in half, remove pits, and dice the peaches.
  5. Spray a crock pot with cooking spray and add the peaches. Stir in bourbon, sugar, spices, vanilla, and lemon juice.
  6. Place two chopsticks or two butter knives flat on opposite sides of the pot and place the lid on top of them to create a small vent in the top of the pot. This will allow some of the moisture to escape and thicken the sauce.
  7. Turn the crock pot on to low and cook for 12 hours or overnight.
  8. When the peach butter has cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to puree to smooth.

 

Check out this perfect combination of summery peach butter and autumn pumpkin cream cheese, made to be enjoyed at my favorite time of year.

I love the change of seasons! Thanks for hanging in there, things will be back into full swing soon!

Iced Coffee: Cold Brew Method

It may be the beginning of Fall, but it’s not too late to enjoy iced coffee. The morning chill in the air has me reaching for a warm cup of caffeine, but the soaring temperatures into the afternoon leave me wanting a cool and refreshing pick-me-up before the end of the work day. Without the high demand for cold beverages and the revolving door of apartment guests that summer brings, I find myself in a caffeine conundrum. I want to have iced coffee on hand, but I don’t want to commit to a full pitcher of it in my refrigerator.

Lucky for me, I received an iced coffee toddy in July of this year, and all of my cold and hot coffee problems are solved. Not only is the toddy the best method for brewing iced coffee, it also provides an extremely versatile base for making various coffee beverages. How convenient for the changing of the seasons!

The toddy cold brew method allows you to brew a strong coffee concentrate with relatively low acidity that can be mixed with hot or ice cold water to produce a cup of coffee at the temperature that you prefer. For me, that’s hot in the AM and cold in the PM. Although it takes a little preparation with twelve hours of brewing required, it is very simple to use, and the concentrate lasts for up to 14 days in the refrigerator.

Here is the cold brew method, as described on the side of the toddy box:

I used Kenya AA from World Market for my coffee.

It is important to use coarse ground coffee, so I grind my own beans.

Assemble the toddy (container  + filter + plug) and position it over the carafe. Mix the coffee with water, per the proportions in the instruction booklet.

After 12 hours, pull the plug and drain the container, extracting a delicious (and very strong) concentrate that can be mixed 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water.

After making coffee this way for years as an employee of a local coffee shop, I am so proud to have a toddy in my own kitchen. I don’t know why it even took so long to add a toddy to my collection of brewing equipment, but it is a welcome addition. I have used it to make hot coffee, iced coffee, and even blended coffee drinks. I strongly recommend it to anyone who loves coffee as much as I do. This device is well worth the $30-40 investment.

Cheers!

Local Favorite: Iced Coffee

Lately I have been shamelessly addicted to iced coffee from Black Hand Coffee Co in Richmond’s Museum District. It started out as a convenient place to stop for coffee or a sandwich when I didn’t want to venture too far from my neighborhood. Then as the weather warmed up, it became a usual stop on Sunday afternoons when I needed an ice cold pick-me-up to get me through cleaning, laundry, or errands. Before I knew it, I was strategically planning my lunch breaks from work so that I had enough time for a Black Hand run. Obviously this coffee is super delicious. On my weekend runs to the coffee shop, I love to bring it home to enjoy on my balcony with a good book and some relaxing music.

Recently when I was sitting in Black Hand, I asked them how they brewed their iced coffee to get it so dark, smooth, and delicious. It turns out that they use the best iced coffee brewing method ever (in my opinion): the cold water brew. In high school I worked at a local coffee shop and I learned a great amount about coffee. We brewed our iced coffee using a toddy, a cold water brewing method.

The method consists of immersing coarse ground coffee in cold water in a large container and allowing the mixture to sit overnight (or for at least twelve hours). The toddy has a filter in the bottom that lies on top of a draining hole with a rubber plug. When the coffee has finished steeping, the toddy is placed over a pitcher and unplugged, which lets the coffee drain through the filter and into the pitcher, leaving the wet grounds behind. This produces a coffee concentrate which is very strong and must be diluted with fresh cold water before drinking. Soaking the grounds in cold or room temperature water yields a different flavor profile than traditional hot brewing methods. Cold brewed coffee is less acidic and is the least bitter coffee I have ever tested. The results are smooth and mellow, which is why many people use a dark roasted bean to punch up the flavor.

As I wrote earlier, Kyle and I were recently on vacation in Harrisonburg, VA, where we visited and fell in love with a locally owned cafe/bar called The Artful Dodger. We had a tasty and filling breakfast along with a pair of coffees for a bargain price. What surprised us the most was the quality of the coffee. On our first visit, we asked where they got their beans. It turns out that they are sourced from a local roaster, Lucas Roasting, in Broadway, VA. I had a Nicaraguan brew with my veggie scramble, and Kyle had the Nicaraguan, iced, with his veggie breakfast quesadilla.

On our second visit to the Artful Dodger, we had the Mocha Java and the Zimbabwe. Both were excellent. This time around, we asked about their brewing method for iced coffee. The guy behind the counter explained to us that they had just started using “this cold brew method where they soak the grounds in cold water overnight and then get a really strong concentrate that you have to add water to, which sounds kind of complicated, but it’s totally worth it because the iced coffee just turns out awesome.” Agreed. I found out that the folks at the Artful Dodger had just started using this method a day before our second visit. It seems like more coffee shops are picking up on this brewing method (which has been around since the 1960’s) to make deliciously smooth iced coffee, and I am glad to see it because it truly is my favorite way to make an iced coffee.

Now when it comes to hot coffee, I prefer my French press, but that is a story for another time. Check out the yummy pre-hike meal that I made for us before our trek to Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls last week. I used Lucas Roasting coffee purchased at the Artful Dodger, coarse ground, and brewed in my French press.

Excellent!!!