Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pizza or Lox for Breakfast?

This morning, I came downstairs and found my daughter eating a slice of last night's pizza - the breakfast of champions. Pizza wasn't the breakfast for me; I was thinking about how to prepare my eggs.

With more time on this weekend morning, I offered to make soft boiled eggs for her, knowing that soft boiled is one of her preferred ways to eat eggs. She said, "No" that she had already eaten pizza.  I remembered some gluten free bread that we had and decided to fry an egg on toast. She still wasn't interested.

As I was getting the eggs from the fridge, I saw a package of lox. This changed it all for me - I was going to poach an egg on toast with lox.  Evidently, it changed it all for my daughter too, "Can you make one for me too?"

A photo posted by Beau (@beauraines) on




Saturday, December 05, 2015

An alcohol problem - not having the right stuff

I have an alcohol problem. As we prepared for Thanksgiving and brought many fresh herbs that we don't usually have on hand and celebratory whipped cream, I started thinking of the cocktails that I could make with those ingredients. And unfortunately, I was stymied by not having the alcohol that I needed (okay, wanted).

Several years ago, I went to a movie theater and got a cocktail. Cocktails at the movies is another thing, but it was a nice date night with my wife. I had a Bogart cocktail, that was composed of muddled sages, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a lime garnish. I fall on the savory part of the cocktail spectrum, so this was right up my alley.

While I was preparing the ingredients for Thanksgiving, I secreted away a few sage leaves to save for my cocktail.  The next day, while we were lolling around in our food coma, I decided that the time was right for a Bogart cocktail. I started to gather my components, I discovered I was out of Cointreau! Stymied by the lack of a key ingredient, I decided that I would try another drink.

I had a growler of cold coffee, cans of whipped cream for pie and it was cold outside. Sounds like Irish Coffee weather! When we have whipped cream at our house, it is most commonly applied directly from the can into the mouth. You have to be fast to use in on pie or hot chocolate.

I warmed up my coffee, it had been on hand for my daughter to make iced coffees in the morning on the way to school, and went looking for my bottle of Jameson. I was thinking how nice it would be to sit by the fireplace, catch up on my reading and enjoy an Irish Coffee. I leaned over to go through our liquor cabinet contents and could not find my bottle. It turns out, I had finished it last winter and not yet replaced it.

My problem is that I don't have the liquors I want to make my cocktails with!  If you ask my wife, she'll tell you that my problem is that I have to call it a night after two drinks (sometimes even just one, I'm such a lightweight). In many ways, she's right; I won't drink a lot or often, but when I do, I want something good.  What is your favorite cocktail this winter?

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Seattle Craft Distillery - 3 Howls

Seattle has a growing craft distillery movement. Ahh, who am I kidding; there is just a growing craft movement... Craft coffee, craft cocktails, craft beer, craft (not with a K) cheese and craft distilleries. A few weeks ago, I was invited to 3 Howls Distillery in Seattle's SoDo district for a tasting and tour.

A small sample of the long line of spirits...
What I find especially neat about the craft distillery movement, really any of the craft , is that the people involved are so passionate about their craft. One of the 3 Howls owners, Will, gave my wife and I a personal tour of his distillery space. It's plain to see from just chatting with him that he loves distilling and making the perfect spirits. 


Even though Will has been making a lot of rum, we got a sample of his still aging single malt whisky.  I think he only had 2 or 3 barrels; this is really a small batch operation, so it was quite nice of him to share. And Heather, who isn't a whisky kind of girl, liked this single malt. It was smokey and smooth, but not overly smokey where it was choking you out. I'm looking forward to when this one is available for purchase!

Getting a special sample of @3howlsdistillery single malt #whiskey from @3howls founder Will. #3howls #Seattle #whiskey #rum #vodka #gin #cocktail

A photo posted by Heather Murphy-Raines/Scouts H (@unitedstatesofmotherhood) on



I got to take home a sample of the Hopped Whisky which was nice to enjoy on this blustery weekend we've been having in the Pacific Northwest. It was good whisky, but my tastes stray from the hoppy side of things, even in the beers I drink.
Drinking my party favor at home.
If you're in Seattle, 3 Howls offers distillery tours and will share their passion with you. If you're not in Seattle and you want to check them out, they're nationally distributed by Total Wine and More. Drink responsibly, but drink well.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lingering over breakfast with a french press

I enjoy drinking coffee. I'm not one of those people that needs coffee to function first thing in the morning; my first coffee will often be 5 to 6 hours after I wake up. I drink coffee for the flavors of the beans and for the art of making coffee.

I recently attended the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference (disclaimer: this post is one of three posts I'll write in return for a discounted ticket) and a pre-event sponsored by Sur La Table and KitchenAid. I'm all about gadgets and cool kitchen cookery, so it was a great to visit the Sur La Table's test kitchens and see the new products coming out this fall. And I was quite pleased by the new Kitchen Aid Precision French Press that we were given.
If you've seen my Instagram photos, you know I love coffee and geeking out about it, maybe half of my pictures are of coffee in the making. Not only is the Precision French Press beautiful in it's stainless steel glory, it has a scale and timer built in so you can get your coffee just right every time. And because a French Press says lingering over breakfast or a baked good, the double wall construction keeps the coffee warm longer.
Photo by Parker Raines
Using the press is quite simple, especially given that it is self-contained.  I warm my press with boiling water, empty it and measure the coffee with the integrated scale. The manual comes with a table for a 1:16 coffee to water ratio, so no early morning math is needed! Tare the scale and fill with water to the target weight and then start the timer, all right there on the handle.  I like a 4 minute brew time and after a stir to break the crust, a gentle press of the plunger makes great tasting coffee.

Keep in mind that brewing with French Press does require a slightly coarser grind coffee, otherwise pressing the plunger will get pretty tough.  I've had glass presses break on me as I've been pressing and its quite a mess, but with the strength of stainless steel, I'm not sure how this one would fail - no matter what it would be a hot mess. So, just make sure you use an appropriate grind, which is nicely pictured in the manual, as well.


Personally, I'm quite happy that the art and science of making coffee is becoming more prevalent. It's no longer the brown stuff from the can that my grandparents would drink; like wine and chocolate, the subtle flavor nuances are now being appreciated.

How do you like to make and drink your coffee? Are you on board with the craft coffee movement or does coffee help you survive the morning?





Saturday, September 05, 2015

September is going to be awesome

September is shaping up to be an awesome month.  For one, I'm writing on my blog again after an almost 3 month hiatus.

End of Summer Backpacking Trip

September started off (well, really August ended) with a 2 night backpacking trip with my son in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. He said he wanted to go backpacking during the summer and this was the last weekend of summer. What started out being planned as an overnight, turned into a 21 mile, 2 night, multiple lake extravaganza in the woods.


We started out Friday afternoon at 4:25pm with 4.5 miles and about 2000' elevation gain to get to Melakwa lake before the 8pm sunset. We made it just in time to set up our tent in the twilight and enjoyed dinner in the dark.

During the nights (both of them), the wind and rain were both hard, but we stayed warm and dry. It sprinkled during the day were we weren't necessarily dry, but we weren't cold or wet either. Though there was some suck factor, we both had a great time.

I took my Aeropress on this trip, with the grand plan to take some of those camp stove, Aerpresss, coffee pictures against the beautiful lake backgrounds. Sunday morning, I had a great backdrop for it - we camped at Rainbow Lake and our tent door opened up to look out across the lake. If it hadn't been raining so much while I was making breakfast, well let's just say I didn't have any coffee that morning.

New Job, New Computer

I'm getting settled in my new job and learning the ins and outs of using OS X.  In my case, its not such a big deal, because I usually have 4 terminal sessions open anyways. I love the fact that underneath the polished GUI is some form of 'nix.  And I'll say it - "why didn't I do this sooner?"

Swim practice has started up and as I write this post, I made this tweet:

So, don't be surprised if you see more more geeky tweets in the coming months.

The Elysian Games

Next weekend, I am competing in the Elysian Games at Seattle Center. Taking advantage of my age, I'm competing in the Masters ( > 40) division. I didn't finish last last year, so I'm going to do it again. It's going to kick my butt, but I'm going to have fun at it.

International Food Bloggers Conference

The 7th annual International Food Bloggers Conference is the following weekend 18 - 20 September.  I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, making new friends and getting re-energized about my blog. Oh, yeah and tasting some really good food.

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington, there is even a breakout session on edibles. Truthfully, that breakout is not for me, but I know that lots of people are looking forward to that session. 

This will be my third year in attendance and its a fun filled, tummy filling experience.

MBA Reunion and Cal Football Game

It's been 5 years since I graduated from the Foster School of Business with an MBA and its reunion time. What's kind of cool about this reunion is that the football game that it is paired with is against Cal, our alma mater.  It'll be my families first UW football game, so it'll be pretty cool to see Cal too. 

September is going to be jam packed... It's funny how we had a quiet summer and then pack it all into the very end. Hopefully, I can keep writing during the month. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Even Better Paleo Mug Cake

Recently, I wanted a treat for dessert. I knew that mug cakes were quick and easy and I wouldn't have to turn on the oven on a hot summer night. I did a Google search for Paleo Mug Cake and found this recipe. I looked at that recipe and realized that it did look good, but I thought I knew how to make it a better paleo mug cake.

Just make sure you have a big enough mug!
Just make sure you have a big enough mug!

Now let me warn you, as mug cakes go, this is a pretty labor intensive recipe. For most mug cakes, you just throw everything in a mug, give it a stir and pop it in the microwave. This recipe has two cooking cycles and you have to add ingredients in a sequence. But don't let that deter you; its still far easier than making a cake and having to warm up an oven.

An Even Better Paleo Mug Cake

Ingredients

4 tablespoons chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 espresso shot
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

Instructions

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave in a mug. I will set my microwave to 70% power and microwave for 20 secs and stir, multiple times. This way, I get a good melt, but without burning them. Plus, sometimes chocolate chips hold their shape even though they are melted.
  2. Stir the coconut flour, espresso and baking soda into the melted chocolate. Then add the egg and mix it well - if you don't, you'll be left with little worm like strings of egg white in your cake, which is kind of weird.
  3. Add the remaining chocolate chips for little fudge-like nuggets in your cake. This step can be omitted, it makes for a pretty rich cake, especially if you use dark chocolate.
  4. Cook it all in the microwave for about a minute and a half. It should be dry when tested with a toothpick. Let it cool a bit and enjoy.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Starbucks Grande Plan For Great Coffee

I've think I've figured out Starbucks grand, or should I say grande, plan. For years, I've maintained that Starbucks is great because you can get a consistent cup of coffee, just about anywhere. Recently, I've come to the conclusion that I want to consistently get great coffee. For me, this has meant independent cafes and brewing my coffee myself.
Starbucks recently opened their Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, where they roast rare and small batch coffee beans. Its an experience because the tasting room is built around the roastery, you can chat with the roasters as they work. They sell beans that you'll only be able to find there, some of them even roasted the same day!  There are great single origin beans and some that come from a farm smaller than a football field.  Unlike a normal Starbucks, you can get your coffee from a whole slew of brew methods and if you find a new favorite, you can pick up all of the coffee gadgets you'll ever need (or want).

While this is a great coffee experience, it is only here in Seattle. But Starbucks is up to something. Starbucks has done a great job of exposing American's to good coffee, but they're going to take it up a notch. With the roastery and a few other efforts, they're exposing American's to great coffees.

I've recently started seeing Starbuck's single origin beans at the grocery store. I've not picked any up because they've always been pre-ground and I know that is sub-optimal, but its getting the idea out there in front of consumers.

Last weekend, I was driving a carpool for swim practice and was in a shady neighborhood where the Starbucks is my hangout while waiting for practice to end. I was surprised to see that they had one of their espresso machines loaded with single origin beans from Kenya. They had little signs suggesting that people order their espresso drinks with the single origin beans. I decided to have a tasting and compare the espresso made with the two different beans. It took a while to get my order right, two single shots of espresso, not one double, but the differences between the two beans were incredible and easy to notice.


At most Starbucks, instead of their drip coffee sits in the urn for up to 30 minutes, you can order a pour over. They'll use any of the beans in the store for it, opening a package from the shelf if necessary. At no additional cost compared to their drip coffee. It's definitely slower and does have an impact on the customer queue, but its one more way that Starbucks is upping the quality of the coffee that they make available.

Starbucks has been successful at getting coffee in front of almost all Americans and even convinced them to shell out big bucks for a drink with very little coffee in it. Now, with these introductions of better brew methods, distinct flavor profiles and single origin beans, they're working on stepping the American coffee drinker up to a better coffee experience. In the long run, this is great for coffee growers and the coffee industry. Its actually interesting from a business perspective where the big player in the industry is working to make the market better rather than just drive costs out.

Maybe its not a grande plan, but a Venti. What do you think?