#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things E

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North Carolina, here comes the sun…

Early Morning

Early morning is really a collection of my favorite things.

As night wears on I begin to ache physically from inactivity and wake frequently. I am always relieved and eager to get out of bed when I smell the aroma of coffee at 6:30. I program the coffee maker the night before because it makes me feel like someone has anticipated my need and has been in the kitchen before me. I am easily fooled.

Although I hear traffic in the distance, I know no one is coming to the door, or calling at this hour. I used to have to prepare for the day and travel to work. But I don’t do that now and the change is refreshing. On the average day, I have at least two hours before there is anyone in my world that I must deal with. There is a lot of peace in this.

I read things carefully chosen to remain in my thinking during the day. Sometimes I have the luxury of thinking about a passage long enough to memorize. I have rediscovered memorization and it is a joy, a challenging joy.

I write. I give it all up, in my journal. Once it is out, I know myself better.

I sometimes make a list. I love lists and they actually help me get things done.

I watch light appear magically, making the night go away. And then I see it is the sun. On days like today it stays oddly dark and there is thunder, but I know the sun is out there because it always has been.

It’s early morning and I am alive for one more day. There is purpose in that and I am eager to find out what it will be (almost all the time…).

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sunrise over inter-coastal waterway.
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Wisconsin sunrise
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Florida sunrise and clouds Inter-coastal waterway
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Florida double sunrise, pond reflections

*All photos private property, contact me for permission.

Miracle Coffee

wp-1488932380243.jpgThere’s a lot going on these days for first world coffee drinkers. For instance, I myself have become disdainful of weak coffee or coffee served without half and half.  There are many people even more selective than myself who won’t drink anything other than specific brands of premium organic coffees, single origin and preferably fair trade. We even need a good coffee glossary of terms to figure out what all this means.

Just this week my pastor, in the Sunday morning service, apologized for the brand of coffee served at the church welcome center and announced an upgrade to come.  I don’t fault him for this, in fact it is a smart move given that the church welcomes many young, upwardly mobile coffee drinkers every week. First impressions count and there’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be on the cutting edge of coffee.

But, in spite of all these gourmet trends, I often think back to an incident years ago that has always amazed and instructed me. The scene was a wedding held in our back yard. As concierge of the event I had oversight of refreshment tables, including the coffee bar.  It was evening, and we were serving decaf from a large silver coffee urn with a convenient spigot. It came out cup by cup, dark and steaming. Lots of people were enjoying it and remarking how good it was. They were asking what kind and where I had gotten it. I would smile and pretend it was  secret, exclusive stuff when, actually, it was Folgers from the green plastic container hidden under the skirt of the table.

So, what was going on here that made it so delicious? Probably several things – a perfect offset for the sweetness of wedding cake, the right temperature, the good company in which to drink it, the general happiness of the occasion, the mystery of it all on a special evening, hearing the accolades of other coffee drinkers… Of course there is one other possibility which I can’t discount. There was a wedding spoken of in the Bible where water was turned into wine of the best quality.  Wow, maybe we were at a wedding where Folgers was turned into fair trade, single origin, organic brew! Why not a little coffee miracle? Just sayin’… it could happen.

The Next Cup

To write about things you like is fun.  To share what others have written about things you like is fun. To hear back from others about what you like is rewarding (and fun).  Probably the most fun of all is when others are stirred to do something, maybe something surprising, that acknowledges they have read what’s been posted.  They take advantage of the opportunity to engage, respond and, well… be nice and have fun.

My recent post on coffee was reblogged from James Radcliffe and in describing the perfect cup of coffee that he had made, he mentioned that he uses a hand grinder to grind the beans.  Tonight, I got a text from the husband telling me that he found a coffee grinder outside our door.  He didn’t know who it was from at first but did notice a card in it a little later.  I LOVE SURPRISES! And I didn’t have a hand coffee grinder.  I can’t wait to have that next cup of coffee with hand ground beans!  Thank you JCB, Cracker Poemer, for reading and following up with a fun surprise that made my day, just sayin’…

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We shall have to write a poem about this…

#atozchallenge: Half and Half (It’s not coffee without it)

I was looking for interesting information about Half and Half and came across a statement that exactly describes what I love about this product. Ready?

“the addition of half and half gives coffee body and richness without turning it grey”

And that is my experience exactly.  On the rare occasions when I’m out of half and half and resort to using the husband’s skim milk in my morning coffee, the mere sight of it is enough to make me give up and dump it in the sink. Not the same and not worth drinking. I’m looking for this and nothing else.

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warm brown, not grey…

 

As you might imagine the term half and half means half milk and half cream, but it gets more specific than that when you look at the milk fat content. These are the general parameters:

  • whole milk       3.5% fat
  • half and half    about 12% fat, not enough to whip or be stable in sauces
  • light cream       16 -29% fat, generally not available in the U.S.
  • light whipping cream   30 -35% fat, has to have this much fat to whip and hold shape
  • heavy whipping cream   36 – 40% fat, whips quickly and is very stable
  • manufactured cream   40- 45% fat, used only in restaurants and why their stuff tastes so good and makes you fat

All these different products have their specific uses that relate to the amount of fat they have.  In cooking, the fat in cream makes it stable, meaning that it won’t separate and curdle. If you use a lower fat product like half and half in a sauce or to thicken a soup you should add it at the very end and not over cook it or it will curdle. It won’t taste bad if it does but it doesn’t look good either. It won’t curdle  with the heat of your coffee due to an additive, sodium citrate disodium phosphate (less than .5%) which keeps it from separating. One of it’s best and most common uses is to make your coffee rich tasting with that beautiful warm brown color… hmmm.

Using 2 tablespoons in your coffee will give you 40 calories.  Using 1/2 cup will give you 315 calories.  Personally, I find it better not to measure. After all, I’m not going to be drinking gallons of the stuff.

Be aware that in that same 2 tablespoon serving you will be getting 3 grams of fat, which is 5% of your daily allotment and 2 grams of that is saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of sugar (lactose), 1 gram of protein, 2% of your vitamin A requirement, 4% of your vitamin C requirement and 6% of your iron requirement.

Some people are going to try non-fat half and half, which is a complete misnomer because if there’s no fat in it, it can’t be half cream can it? This product is actually skim milk with added thickeners and corn syrup intending to masquerade as the real thing. It does have half the calories but has twice the amount of sodium. As you might guess, it does not have the body and richness of half and half, not at all.

You can make your own half and half by using 1 part milk to 1 part light cream, or 3 parts milk to 1 part light whipping cream, or 4 parts milk to 1 part heavy whipping cream.  But what a lot of trouble – better to not run out of it in the first place!

Click on this link to find other uses for half and half that are interesting and really quite good. Many recipes that call for cream or light cream will do well with half and half and you will have fewer calories as a result.

That’s it for H!

Santa’s White Christmas

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Lately I’ve been thinking about too many things that make me cry.
Syria,
my immobile car, my sick quadriplegic friend,
my missed deadlines, my unkept promises, the world, my indecision,
other people’s problems, a touch of loneliness,
the economy, occasional holiday self-pity,
things I’m longing for,
things I’m waiting for,
the grocery store checker who was sharp with me,
the things I can’t afford,
Syria again, Cambodia, China,
and more…

I hate to think ‘cause I just know I’m going to cry and my head is getting tired of crying.

Normally when I feel like this I put my hands in warm, soapy water and feel better immediately (washing dishes – try it, it works). Today there were no dirty dishes so I decided to cook something for supper instead. This was not the best idea for someone who has been crying a lot.

First, there is the problem of finding something to cook. What I needed to cook was the large bag of collard greens that had been keeping cool for, oh, maybe a week. I’m a Yankee girl and I know almost nothing about collards. I bought them because I know they’re nutritious and I should eat them. So I put them in the pan and turned up the heat, then started looking for a recipe. That is not the right order.

After the collards burned, I found just the right recipe. Collard soufflé. I had all the ingredients, in a manner of speaking. What that means is that I don’t have several of the ingredients but I have something I think will pass as a substitute. Recipes are for people who live in a grocery store and have a lot of weird things on hand. I only have whipping cream when there’s pumpkin pie to go with it. I never have Jarlsberg cheese. Fresh bread crumbs, is there such a thing? I had eggs, and collards so I went with it.

The mixture looked very soufflé-ish, which was encouraging, so I poured it in the soufflé pan. Well, I mean I poured it in the spring form pan which I thought was probably the size of a soufflé pan. Those spring form pans really aren’t liquid tight so of course the egg and milk started running out the bottom all over the stove top. Fortunately, I had a pan of boiling water ready in the oven to set it in. Evidently that is the way soufflés are cooked. We’ll find out. I’m afraid.

But I’m not going to cry. While rummaging in the freezer for something to cook I found an opened bag of Santa’s White Christmas coffee from 2009. I think this is the year to finish it off and I’m going to make some right now. I’m not going to cry. I’m just sayin’…