The Plug Problem

Our house on Elizabeth was built in 1962 and hadn’t been updated since, which meant that in the kitchen, where modern cooks use all manner of electric appliances to make their jobs easier, there was a dearth of electrical outlets for us to use.  So we were always unplugging things and plugging in other things.  The one that got the most use was where our coffee maker was.  The issues was that the majority of the appliances we used in that spot had black cords and plugs — including the coffee maker itself.  We unplugged the coffee maker by accident too many times, and re-setting the little clock on it was a pain in the backside.  There’s a life hack out there that tells you to label your cords around your office desk by writing on bread tags and sticking them to the cords in question.  So I did the same thing here.

Plug It In 2

Simply putting a yellow tag on the plug that needed to stay in its socket clues us in to the fact that we shouldn’t mess with this plug, which meant that I never had to re-set the clock again!

The Un-Cola

The Un-Cola

I saw this recipe on Freshly Pressed this past summer and was inspired by Krista and Jess to make this recipe from the New York Times (thanks ladies!).

My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages.  Specifically the cola variety.  The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl).  Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course,  as they contain a lot of sugar.  The colas especially so.  Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it.  It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).

The Un-Cola

These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).

So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail.  I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.

The Un-Cola

You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon.  I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill.  Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.

The Un-Cola

So I grated a lot of citrus.  I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.

The Un-Cola

For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.

The Un-Cola

Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.

The Un-Cola

It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.

The Un-Cola

Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff.  Mmm, smells so good.

The Un-Cola

Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.

The Un-Cola

Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk).  Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.

The Un-Cola

You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.  You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The Un-Cola

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.

The Un-Cola

Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.

The Un-Cola

Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package.  Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.

The Un-Cola

Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.

The Un-Cola

In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it.  You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.

The Un-Cola

To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water.  It tastes FANTASTIC.  Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it.  AMAZING.

The Un-Cola

And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.

The Un-Cola

Iced Coffee (ARRRR MATEY!)

Iced Coffee

My man loves his morning coffee.  He also loves it with whipping cream.  He SAYS he’s just helping me use up the excess cream, but if there is some in the house, the first place it goes is in his coffee.  Oh, don’t have enough anymore for baking?  Let’s get some more!  And so it goes.  He’s a devious one, that man.

Iced Coffee

In addition to being International Talk Like a Pirate Day (I’m not making this up), today also marks the seventh anniversary of our first date.  We have been together for most of our adult lives.  That is so weird.  Anyway, this one is for the Pie, from his saucy sea wench.  ARRRRR!

Most of the recipes for iced coffee I found on the internet involved using instant coffee granules.  I personally feel like instant coffee tastes like beef broth and should only be used in baking.  So this recipe (which I have made up all with my own brain meats) uses fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee, and I won’t have it any other way.

I don’t want to water down any of my coffee goodness, so first I made a tray of coffee-ice cubes.  There’s your caffeine — with a crunch.

Iced Coffee

Then I made some more coffee, added a ton of cane sugar to it (it will dissolve best when hot), and let it cool.  And stuck it in the fridge so it was cold.  I wouldn’t leave coffee in the fridge for too long, lest it start to taste like old, cold coffee.  Maybe a day or two at best.

Iced Coffee

When it comes to the mixing, I think the best ratio is 1 part coffee ice cubes : 1 part whipping cream : 2 parts cold sweet coffee.  For two people, this worked out to 1 cup ice cubes, 1 cup cream, and 2 cups coffee.

Iced Coffee

Blend that sucker silly.

Iced Coffee

Pour it in a pretty glass (or your man’s favourite glass, thanks Cait), and drink it up.

Iced Coffee

Try some variations.  Use milk instead of cream for a beverage that won’t kill you as quickly (and deliciously).  Squirt in some chocolate syrup for a mocha iced coffee.  Add vanilla and white chocolate for a white chocolate latte.  Use espresso instead of coffee and create yourself an iced cappucino or mochacino.  Up the proportion of ice to liquid coffee if you like your coffee a little on the slushy side.  The possibilities are nearly endless!

Iced Coffee

Walking on the Wild Side: Labrador Tea

One of the benefits of camping with a former Junior Forest Ranger supervisor is you tend to find things out.  Ranger P tells us that there is evidence in Columbus’ writings that the aboriginals fed Columbus and his crew Labrador tea, which is extremely high in vitamin C, and saved them all from scurvy.  The internet tells me that Labrador tea also provided a revolutionary alternative to regular tea after the Boston Tea Party. 

A member of the rhododendron family, “Lab tea” also contains ledol, a toxic substance which, in high quantities can cause paralysis and cramps.  Those who drink the tea on a regular basis (which is pretty much all of rural Canada, because this stuff grows freaking EVERYWHERE) say that’s a bunch of hooey.  The leaves and branches are also used to keep bugs out of clothing and rodents out of grain.

You can find Labrador tea pretty much all over the place.  Despite its name, it grows across the width of the country, and can be found in the deep woods, by rivers and waterfalls, and in peat bogs.

While the white umbrella-like flower heads are pretty, it’s the leaves that are important

Thick, waxy, and slightly resinous, the leaves are also furred on the underside with white or yellow or even reddish fuzz.

This is Ranger P desecrating a national wildlife reserve in order to make us tea.

It’s simple, really.  You put your kettle on to boil.

You put your leaves in the kettle.

You brew that for a few minutes.

You have your tea.  It’s very astringent and tastes a bit like a Christmas tree, but it’s palatable.  We might have brewed ours a bit overlong.

And it’s either really good for you, or it will kill you.  Either way, I think we’ve all learned something today.