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Holiday Hot Cocoa

First the quick way, then the “real” way.

Basic but nice:

  1. Hot chocolate mix and hot water
  2. Tea spoon of decaf instant coffee
  3. Cream or half n half or almond milk to bring it down to drinking temperature
  4. 2 drops peppermint extract OR two shakes ground nutmeg
  5. Stir gently and thoroughly
  6. Whipped cream topping and sprinkles

Fancy way:

  1. 2 spoons baking cocoa with just enough boiling water to dissolve it
  2. Confectioners sugar to taste, gently stirred in
  3. 2-3 spoons brewed decaf coffee
  4. Cool milk or cream added to desired drinking temp
  5. (Optional: Stir in using a milk frother for more of a latte texture)
  6. Peppermint extract 2-4 drops, OR 1/2 teaspoon of 1:1:1 mixture nutmeg, ginger, and all spice (Not everyone likes the added flavor, though)
  7. Pure heavy cream, beaten until you have God’s greatest creation, homemade whipped cream
  8. Top with whipped cream and either sprinkles or nutmeg

A few afterthoughts:

  • You can leave out the coffee if you can’t stand coffee flavor no matter how slight. Most people will not even taste it, but rather it will potentiate the chocolate flavor.
  • When I say spoons I mean the ordinary eating utensil. Our cutlery set has larger and smaller spoons and we use the smaller ones 99% of the time. Ultimately those measurements are to taste and the size of the mug used will affect this, too.
  • I am experimenting with salted caramel and maple syrup versions.
  • Chocolate syrup drizzle could be a nice addition.
  • In the quantities listed, you could use regular coffee and the caffeine would still be negligible for most people.
  • For plain hot chocolate without added flavors, I’d recommend a pinch of sea salt on top. This is also a good hack for coffee that is too bitter whether from over-brewing or imperfect beans.

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Celebrate Harvest Season

Celebrate the Summer Harvest

Once again, it is my favorite time of the year! Time to celebrate harvest season. The leaves change color and fall, and it is time to put the garden to sleep for the long winter. But first, we take some delicious veggies to the kitchen.

Summer veggies!

Reflecting on the summer garden, I realized that we have actually made a lot of progress in a relatively short time.

Celebrate Progress in the Garden

First there was a late frost, and then significant competition for our produce from the deer, squirrels, and birds. Now that the harvest is wrapping up, here are a few of the successes after a couple of years in progress:

  1. Increased the number of raised beds
  2. Added mulch (and learned how to get a truckload of free mulch for the asking)
  3. Added compost (accelerated by adding the birds’ used bedding to the pile)
  4. Blackberry bushes grew well and so produced more berries
  5. Tomato vines were enormous
  6. Peppers and onions grew better than expected
  7. Herb garden expanded to include rosemary, parsley (2nd year plants!), mint, garlic, onions, cilantro and coriander
  8. Planted some new flowers that seem to be doing well
  9. Perennial garden including hazelnuts, cranberries, and elderberries continued to grow well
  10. Added a couple of trees
  11. Kept my potted lemon tree alive another year and it produced two lemons
  12. Indoor garden added a few plants and propagated a few plants

Celebrate Positive Reflections

This year I felt like the garden had setback after setback, but when I actually reflect on it, there were a number of areas of growth and success just because of things set in place in the first year. The soil improved. The perennials are more established and more productive. Time to celebrate the harvest season and the transition from summer to fall.

Reflections on 2020

Never has the garden meant more than in such a wild year 2020!

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One Minute Latte

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov

This is the easiest way to make a one minute latte in the comfort of your own home. Under the assumption that you do not already have a full coffee shop set up in your kitchen. Yes, I did a stint as a barista at two different establishments back in the day.

Save glass jars with lids. I like Mason jars. I have a good supply of them and the deer decimated our tomato crop so I am not expecting to do a whole lot of canning any time soon.

Photo by Brett Sayles

Microwave milk. This is very important: WITHOUT THE LID. Do not microwave metal unless your intent is to ruin your microwave and start a fire in one fell swoop.

Shake jar. This is also very important: WITH THE LID.

Obviously, if you want to buy another kitchen gadget, the “real” way to froth the milk, is with a milk frother.

Add coffee or espresso or cocoa or tea and maple syrup or agave or cinnamon or nutmeg or other flavorings to taste. Drink hot or pour over a generous amount of ice. If you are going to pour over ice, you want to make your coffee/espresso/cocoa/tea at least twice as concentrated.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs

I think this would work with any milk substitute with a decently high fat content. I like it with regular milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk. Skim milk or almond milk works and will taste fine, but is not going to froth nearly as well.

Fresh whipped cream is an ideal topping. Pure heavy whipping cream in a jar WITH THE LID ON and shake until it is whipped. Set aside and then top the latte. Any extra will go perfectly with some fresh berries. Easy.

So nice. I hope you enjoy the one minute latte and find your best personal combination.

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Tiny Beginning Summer Harvest

The very first harvest at the beginning of summer is here! A few pods of red beans. I am going to cook these up, but hopefully will dry and save some as well.

Update: Saved about half of a mason jar from last year and they work just fine in early 2021. I made sure they were completely dry before storing them.

One use of a pantry stock of dried beans is to plant them. If intended for sprouts, the pantry version should actually be used. Seeds from a seed packet are often treated to prevent spoilage and enhance germination.

As one of the easiest garden plants to sprout and grow, plain dried beans germinate just fine. In fact, we had pretty well neglected our vines. Yesterday I checked on them. Here are the results!

We have a seemingly limitless supply of squirrels and deer. So this year, I planted these vines in terra cotta pots as close as possible to the back door.

Whenever I thought of it, I would shift them so that every few days they were in a slightly different spot. The critters did not damage them nearly as much, although we still lost a few leaves here and there.

I may pan-roast these pods or just chop them up and add to a stir fry. We will have a lot more coming. I planted a second batch last week and they are already producing leaves.

To dry them, I would just dry the pods until they split open, then remove the beans and dry them completely before storing. Beans and legumes are amazing in that from one seed, even a poor yield produces many more. You can then eat them or dry them and store them. Chickens love greens and the raw green pods too.

Interested in growing red beans? Check out this guide from Heirloom Organics.