Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Iced Coffee

First of all, we're not going to talk about how much time has passed since my last post, or how I justified much of that time off because of a literature thesis I was writing, or the fact that I've had said thesis completed since May.  Instead we're going to talk about a subject that I hope will be timely for most of you and help you whether you're starting school soon, or just looking for something new to make at home.

I know that school is starting for many of you, and now that I transition from student to teacher once again, I'm thinking about the new school year.  There are a few truths that I live by, one of them is that new school supplies are always exciting (this may be why I went into teaching), and coffee is the primary fuel of teachers and graduate students.  

I live in a small town, we do have a local coffee shop, but there is not the ubiquitous green sign on every corner tempting me to drive through on my way to classes.  Even when I do stop at a coffee shop it is not often, maybe once a month.  This is not because I don't enjoy coffee shop creations as much as the next sleep-deprived and grumpy night owl who has to appear chipper during 9 am classes, but because I simply cannot justify the cost.  I have friends who have daily, twice-daily (and 3 and 4 in a few cases) coffee shop habits.  I swear it is these same friends who always complain about being broke.

Even if you don't cook, claim you can't cook, or don't have a coffee maker, you can still easily make iced coffee at home.  You will need a little planning, a few containers to soak, strain, and store the coffee, and something to strain the coffee through.  This could be cheesecloth and a mesh colander, paper towels, or coffee filters (you could probably even use a clean shirt).  The great thing about this cold brewed coffee is that it's really strong, so not only do you not have to worry about your ice cubes watering it down, you probably want the melted ice, and cream, and sugar to mellow it out a little bit, or, if you're a double espresso person like me, all you need is a little ice and a little sugar to have the perfect iced coffee.  The other great thing about this is that it's really inexpensive.  Even if you buy really good coffee at $8 a pound, you'll still come out ahead when you consider your coffee shop habit.  It also makes as much or as little coffee at a time as you want.  You can make it a cup or two at a time (I'm looking at you grad students with your tiny refrigerators), or gallons at a time (for people like me with a spare fridge).

You can see if the picture above an example of my coffee (just a little sugar), and my husband's (lots of almond milk, sugar, and a little coffee.  I usually make an entire 10 oz package at a time and keep half in a container in the fridge and freeze the other half for later use.  To sweeten, syrups are best because they dissolve easily whereas sugar remains grainy for a long time in cold liquids.  I'll be back soon with a recipe for vanilla syrup that you can use if you coffee, so hang on and stay caffeinated until then.

Iced Coffee

1/2 quart (2 cups water) for every 1 oz of coffee  (for a 10oz bag you would need 20 cups of water)

Place coffee grounds into a container big enough to fit the amount of water you will be using (I buy large storage containers, but if you're just making a little coffee, a bowl would work).  Pour proper amount of cold water over coffee.  Stir to moisten grounds.  Cover.  Let sit overnight or 8 to 10 hours (you can leave this on the counter or put it in the fridge).  The next morning strain into a new container.  As I mentioned earlier, you can strain this through cheesecloth, coffee filters, or paper towels.  You just want something small enough to keep the grounds out of your coffee.  I usually let my grounds strain for an hour and then squeeze out the cheesecloth, but if you're in a hurry to buy that shiny new box of crayons, so you can start the school year off right, then you can strain and squeeze right away.  That's it, add ice to a glass, pour in coffee, and desired add-ins and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Spicy Chicken Spud

Yikes, no posts since August?  Time just slips away when you're busy and before you know it you've disappeared for much longer than intended. I'm not going to make excuses because I hate it when blogs do that.  Just know this last semester of grad school has taken more time than the others, and that I have not disappeared completely.  I have lots of ideas for future posts. I am back with an amazing combination that came about because of my obsession and frustration.  

My obsession comes in the form of a baked potato.  This is not the first time I've been obsessed with a baked potato.  I eat them when I can't think of anything else I want.  They are a constant source of joy for me.  I top them with one or more of the standards: butter, sour cream, crisp bacon, broccoli, cheese, ham, and caramelized onions and the not so standard: salsa, chili, and steak seasoning.  I've recently heard about a raw egg cracked inside a potato and baked until the egg white is set but the yoke is still runny.  I'm searching for a way to do this (if anyone knows, please tell me).  It's safe to say baked potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  

So why the frustration?  It came from a beautiful combination of baked potato toppings that I had never considered: cheese, bacon, green onions, a buffalo sauce dipped chicken strip, ranch, and more buffalo sauce.  It is amazing.  I had dreams about this potato after I had it.  The problem was not with the potato itself but the place it was served.  This restaurant, which shall not be named has terrible service.  The food is slow and comes out sporadically even when the place is not busy.  I would get annoyed every time I went there, but whenever one of my friends wanted to go I would be a little (okay a lot) excited because I knew the potato was waiting there for me.  

I have decided to take a stand and rid myself of this dependence, not on the potato, but on the restaurant.  I knew I could recreate this masterpiece not only as good as, but better than the original, and I was right.  With the addition of blue cheese crumbles, I am no longer beholden to slow service, and sometimes cold food.  

I now present to you the Spicy Chicken Spud.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it as homemade or as store-bought as you want.  For instance, I made my ranch dressing and chicken strips, but I bought the buffalo sauce.  You could use all pre-made sauces, and frozen chicken strips and then just assemble the potato.  I've eaten this 3 times over the past 3 days, once for supper, once for lunch, and once for breakfast.  They were all equally fantastic, and on an especially groggy morning, it made the day much better (buffalo sauce might be more effective than coffee).  

The Spicy Chicken Spud
Serves 1, but can be expanded to any number

1 baked potato (I prefer oven baked, but you could microwave it if you're in a rush)
1/4 cup shredded cheese (co-jack or sharp cheddar are my preference)
2 strips bacon cooked until crispy and then crumbled
1 green onion, white and green parts chopped
1 cooked chicken strip (My recipe is here)
2 tablespoons or more to taste buffalo sauce (I used Frank's)
1 to 2 tablespoons ranch dressing
1 tablespoon blue cheese crumbles


Slit potato open and squeeze from the ends.  Add about 1/2 of the shredded cheese, 1/2 of the bacon, and 1/2 of the green onion into the crevice of the split potato.  Place the chicken strip inside the potato.  Top the chicken strip with the buffalo sauce and drizzle some of the sauce on the plate.  Next, top the potato with the ranch dressing and the rest of your bacon, shredded cheese, and green onion.  Top with blue cheese and enjoy.