All posts in Food

Cold Brewed Coffee in a French Press at Home

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I will consume coffee almost any which way. There was a scene in a Jim Belushi movie where he eats a tablespoon full of coffee grounds because he’s desperate for his morning coffee*. One can relate.

Cold brew has become more popular as of late. The lack of heat keeps coffee sweeter, keeps the acid down so it’s less harsh on your tummy and allows different flavors to come through. A great experiment is to brew your usual beans using your usual method and then try the cold brew method. You might notice more chocolate or vanilla flavors that weren’t there before because they were hidden under a layer of heat and acid. I wouldn’t say cold brew makes “better” coffee, but it’s certainly different**.

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Los Angeles Brunch

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I love brunch so much that we had our wedding in the late morning so we could have a brunch reception. What other meal can you find french toast, prime rib, eggs and dessert? AND champagne? Brunch is the best meal.There are tons of places for brunch and everything on this list I’ve had more than once. I’ve also tried to select places that take reservations and a have a full bar (can’t say no to a good Bloody Mary). Popular brunch spots in LA can be an hour wait on Sundays. There’s a few places that were good but I wouldn’t necessarily go back to.

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Japanese Curry: my new comfort food

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One of the great things about my relationship with Mr. Los Angeles is that we introduced each other to new cuisines. He was never a fan of vegetables, so one day I took a bunch of steamed broccoli and covered it with Pasta Roni White Shells and Cheddar. After taking a few bites and noticing something green in his dinner, he gave me an, “I’ve caught you red-handed,” face but he gave it a try. And he ended up loving it. Now he eats salad and all sorts of vegetables. VICTORY!

But that food education goes both ways, and he introduced me to sushi and curries. I took to sushi pretty well but the curry took me a while. Anything spicy was an immediate veto. But one day we went to our favorite Japanese grocery/food court and he got udon in a brown curry sauce. The smell! The consistency! I was hooked! It was only brown curry served over rice with some tissue thin beef and some sauteed onions, but that’s all I needed to become a Japanese curry addict. Even though I hit up the same place for Ramen, I almost always get the curry. Best part: I add a very runny egg on top and the whole meal ends up being $5 and change.

So on days like today when Los Angeles is gloomy, I get the curry itch. And for that price, it’s an itch I can afford to scratch.

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Friday Linkathon: Construction Edition

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. We failed inspection thanks to a brand new inspector that is having our contractor bend over backwards. While I appreciate his thoroughness, it’s slowing us down to a crawl. Good news: WE HAVE HOT WATER:

Takagi TK-4

Takagi TK-4

This is the Takagi TK-4. It’s been providing us hot water for the last couple of days and so far, so good. It’s about as loud as a bathroom fan, which was our biggest concern.

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My top 10 uses for White Vinegar, plus uses for vinegar that I avoid

uses for vinegar

This is yet another list for using vinegar… HOWEVER… these are the ones that I’ve tried and actually work and there are some that I avoid. If you were to compile all of the lists together, you could use vinegar for almost every household chore: laundry, leather furniture, carpet cleaner, sticky residues, any/all stains. But just because vinegar can do all of these things doesn’t mean it’s great at everything. It does have a strong odor and I wouldn’t recommend it for everything.

Keeping vinegar in a labeled spray bottle makes it handy to add to your cleaning routine

Keeping vinegar in a labeled spray bottle makes it handy to add to your cleaning routine

Before you get started, make the vinegar you have easily accessible. If you plan on using it as a cleaning product, put it in a spray bottle… and be sure to label it! Other members of your household might be unpleasantly surprised if they think it’s water or some other substance. I use a juice carafe for the vinegar I use in my laundry. It’s much easier to handle than the giant 2-gallon jug I get at Costco.

Keeping vinegar in a carafe makes it easier to handle rather than the large bulk size jug

I keep some vinegar in a juice carafe so it’s handy when I use it for laundry.

This list is divided into a couple of sections: The first consists of uses that call for straight white vinegar with no dilution.

Windshield Wipers: Get a paper towel, or a rag your plan on throwing away immediately, and spray it with white vinegar. Wipe off the blades. Maybe it’s just L.A. but my wiper blades have stained anything that’s touched them.

Blood: blood is tough. There are a couple of things you can use to clean off blood, but the #1 tip is time. Regular cold tap water will clean blood pretty well if you use it immediately. I’ve had good and bad results with water, but vinegar works much better. Spray undiluted vinegar on the blood stain and leave it there for about an hour. If it’s a darker or delicate fabric, spray and leave on for 20 minutes, rinse and check to see if there’s any fading in the color. If not, and the blood stain is still there, repeat the previous steps and check again.

Berry and pomegranate stains: undiluted white vinegar will take these stains off of almost anything, including your hands. As always, time is of the essence so take care of it quickly.

Sticky Residue: If you have a sticker or price tag that’s left a residue, saturate a paper towel, tissue or cotton ball with undiluted vinegar and let it sit for 20 minutes. This works fine on most plastics, but be careful with metals, delicate woods and natural stone. A lot of people use vinegar to clean stainless steel so you’re probably safe there, but use a little less vinegar on wood and don’t use at all on natural stone. Again, vinegar is a great kitchen degreaser and bathroom cleaner but it’s not great on natural stone like marble and travertine.

Laundry Softener/Stain Remover/Laundry Booster: I’ve mentioned previously how I use vinegar as a fabric softener. This sort of counts as diluting vinegar in water but you simply pour vinegar into the rinse water so it requires no prior mixing. The two main things I love about using vinegar in my laundry is that it disinfects your laundry (so great for stinky workout clothes) and makes your towels very fluffy. Over time, traditional fabric softeners will make your towels less-absorbent. Since this is the primary function of a towel, it seems like something you’d want to avoid, no?

Refrigerator cleaner/deodorizer: Next time you need to clean your fridge, spray a little bit of white vinegar on a damp cloth and wipe down the shelves and sides of your fridge. Don’t worry: you won’t have a stinky fridge. In fact, the vinegar will clean up the mess and take care of any lingering odors you might have. Baking soda is great for the air in your fridge, but vinegar helps deodorize the places where the scents have stuck.

Room deodorizer: A shallow dish (like a ramekin or a pie plate if it’s really bad) in a room will get rid of almost any strong odor, including smoke, garbage, cigarette smoke, paint fumes and body odors. And if you ever have a run-in with a skunk, soaking your clothes overnight with vinegar will supposedly cure your clothes of the stench. Luckily, I haven’t had to test this one but it’s probably the first thing I’d try.

Fill the dish about three quarters of the way with undiluted vinegar. The more surface area, the better. If it’s a larger room, place a couple of dishes out and keep the room well-ventilated if possible.

Weed Killer: This is a case where the traditional remedy can be less expensive than the home/eco-friendly remedy, but I’d much rather put vinegar into the ground (and eventually the ground water) than a strong pesticide or herbicide. Spray undiluted white vinegar in the cracks in the sidewalk where the weeds are growing. Focus on the roots. This will hold for 1-2 weeks. If it rains, you’ll have to repeat.

The following are vinegar cleaners that involve diluting or adding things to it, like water, essential oils etc.

For cleaning glass and plastic laminate surfaces: Two parts distilled water, one part vinegar and a few drops of dishwasher rinse aid (or dish soap if you don’t have any, but rinse aid works better). While Windex and other glass cleaners give you that streak-free shine, vinegar solutions take an extra minute or two to de-streak themselves. So if you’re wiping down a mirror and there’s streaks everywhere, be patient and it will eventually disappear.

 

Stuck on food on pots, pans and glass baking dishes: I’d start with 1/4 vinegar and enough water to cover the stain. In the case of pots and pans, go ahead and let the solution boil for a few minutes. Simply using water here will work on most stains, but vinegar is especially helpful on acidic foods like tomato sauces. For glass baking dishes, I put a little vinegar in them, plus some water, and set the oven to about 200 degrees. Be careful not to fill it too much as a baking dish filled with water is tricky to handle and you don’t want to scald yourself. If you don’t trust using the oven for this, simply use the vinegar and add boiling water and soak.

So while vinegar is great for the aforementioned uses, these are some that I avoid:

Dishwasher Rinse-Aid: I’ve heard of people using vinegar for rinse aid in their dishwashers. There’s a couple of reasons I don’t do this. First, vinegar doesn’t do well sitting inside something metal for a long period of time. A quick Google search will uncover people who have weird rust stains coming out of their rinse aid dispenser when using 100% undiluted white vinegar instead of traditional rinse aid. While chances are that your rinse aid dispenser is made of plastic, there are still metal parts inside and they can rust over time. In general, vinegar is good as an additive to another substance like water or soap, but it can be abrasive on its own. There are a few natural rinse-aids available if you want to stay green.

Fruit fly traps: I’m not a fan of traps in general. I’d much rather repel the pest from the get-go than have something that brings more pests inside. The vinegar trap is usually a jar with some plastic wrap covering the top and a few small holes poked in the top. You then place a piece of fruit inside and the bugs get trapped inside. I’ve used the trap a few times and it works much better with a piece of rotten fruit than it does with vinegar.

Orange and citrus peels soaked in vinegar: I’ve done this a couple of times and while the results are good, I can’t seem to eat enough citrus to justify the time and hassle of making this kitchen cleaner. In order to make it worth my while, I need to make a ton of it. And in order to do that, I have to eat enough oranges for a family of four. Since there’s just the two of us, I’m holding off on this one for a while. It works just as well as making a 1:1 vinegar and water solution and adding a few drops of orange essential oil.

What are your favorite uses for vinegar that you’ve tried and use regularly?

 

 

Friday Linkathon: Spring Edition

It’s been a weird week.

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Friday Linkathon

I’ll be perfectly honest: there is a small part of me that started this blog so I could post awesome stuff like this.wiener_wipersOK, now that we got that out of the way…

I’d like to make Friday Linkathon a new L.A. Lady tradition. In it, I’ll have something to wear, something to eat and something to see. And a gif like the one posted above.

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Afternoon Tea: a modern update to an old tradition

So my previous post on snacking indicates that I appreciate meals outside of the Three Squares. In fact, they’ve become imperative for me since I don’t eat breakfast. When 3pm rolls around, I start to get hungry and, until recently, go for whatever is in my field of vision.

And in yet another previous post, I’ve also indicated that I’m a coffee drinker. But that doesn’t mean that I’m totally into tea as well. In fact, my #1 afternoon pick me up is usually a Starbucks Venti Green Iced Tea, no water, no sweetener. I try to keep this habit at bay since daily Starbucks trips can really add up. And unlike my coffee, I will not touch any tea that has been sweetened. I think my mom originally got me started on unsweetened iced tea with lemon. She’d drink it constantly and as any curious child, I finally wanted to try some. “EW!” was my first reaction. But tastes evolve and here we are.

afternoon tea

Traditional Tea Service. Via Flickr

Afternoon tea services have cropped up at boutique hotels and eateries. Depending on the lavishness of the establishment, it can range from tea and snacks to what I’d consider a full-blown meal. It’s nice to see these places make it their own tradition. For me, it is a great way to pace your afternoon. A lot of people eat lunch from 12-1pm, followed by a non-stop race to 6pm. And then you get home, feed your face, watch TV and go to bed. But when you take 30 minutes to have a cup of tea and a snack around 3 (4pm seems too late to me), the afternoon seems less daunting.

And just to clear things up, what is commonly referred to “high tea” is actually a heavy meal with meat, AKA dinner. Afternoon tea is called “low tea” and is what you usually see in the United States when someone says “high tea.” Afternoon/Low/Light Tea consists of tea with snacks like scones, cookies, jam and toast, etc. Sometimes there’s cake and not-so-light pastries, and now you’re more into the “full” tea service. What’s crazy is the British diet consisted of breakfast (ale, bread and meat) and dinner at the very end of the day (which was also heavy and lasted until right before bedtime). At some point tea time was introduced and then they were just eating all the time.

But enough with tradition. It’s 2013 and I really think the British had something going here! So I’ve made my own modern tea time:

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Snack like a chef: gourmet snack foods worth eating

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Midnight nacho runs aside, I’ve made an effort in recent months to look at what I eat more closely. I haven’t made drastic changes to my diet, nor do I intend to. Huge, sweeping changes never stick for me and anyone who’s been on a fad diet will experience what this does to your body: short-term success, long-term consequences. It’s more about the quality of food that I eat rather than counting calories and referring to the Nutritional Facts as a Holy Grail of nutrition. A little portion control hasn’t hurt either!

The fact is: I snack. We all snack, and a lot of us should snack more. When you skip breakfast or deprive yourself, your body will remind you later. And then it’s a bowl of pasta for lunch or the aforementioned Midnight Nacho Run. I’ve been trying to curb the latter by smarter snacking between meals so I don’t get into these situations of overeating. In addition, I have a hypothyroid condition which means that I’m not hungry in the morning and I’m a raving lunatic at night. Mr. Los Angeles has to listen to me around 8pm saying, “I’m really hungry for…” and then name something completely insane. He’s such a good sport. I’m surprised he doesn’t just check into a hotel during Shark Week.

So I’ve tried the carrot sticks and fresh veggie snacks and it just doesn’t do it for me. I need flavor and lots of it to satisfy me between meals. I also can’t seem to consume fresh veggies before they spoil. That’s a very weak argument but it’s a fact. In my effort to eat less processed foods, I have to eliminate any/all of those 100 calorie packs (like I didn’t eat 3 of them at a time…). Foods higher in protein and fiber are also a top priority, as both of those things curb your appetite and make your body happy. My snacks also have to be something that doesn’t need preparation. I’m not about to warm up the oven for a snack!

So I did what I do best and researched what chefs eat. They must eat, right? They must like tasty foods or they wouldn’t be good at their job. And I’ve seen Anthony Bourdain and I’m guessing he doesn’t have poutine for every meal, so what’s the deal? Here’s a list of snack suggestions that meet my requirements. They are not necessarily low in fat. However, they all are available at most grocery stores, are high in protein and/or fiber, are easy to prepare or require no preparation at all and are delicious!

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Italian Stovetop Espresso: Not just for decorating but for great coffee!

A couple of years ago I became infatuated with stovetop espresso. I liked the idea of an espresso maker that didn’t cost as much as a Volkswagen and yet produced decent coffee. Yes, coffee. The true espresso aficionados will tell you that the stuff that is produced by this little pot is a strong coffee and not an espresso. But since it looks like espresso and is seemingly as strong as espresso, we’ll refer to it as such. Moving on…

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