Posted in Bite of Breakfast

Breakfast of Champions: Part 1

cup-of-coffee

For those of you who may not know me very well, I love breakfast. It has earned the title of being the most important meal of the day, and privately it garners–from me, at least–the title of the best meal of the day.

Breakfast should be our largest meal, since it is what starts our day, with lunch and dinner growing respectively smaller. While that may not be true for most people (myself included…who doesn’t love a full-course meal?) it is true in a scientific way. Anyway, I am going to take the next few installations her on FFT to talk about all of the amazing aspects of brunch.

The first post shall be dedicated to……drum roll, please……COFFEE!

Coffee is the only thing that keeps me on my feet anymore. If I go to long with out it I get caffeine withdrawal headaches, and super cranky to boot. being confined to a college dorm I have to get my morning jolt from my trusty one cup at a time Keurig. Here it is alone in the dark, at midnight. I usually set it up the night before so I just have to hit ‘Brew’ and fall asleep on the couch for another five minutes.

For everyone else who doesn’t have a Keurig, I must assume that you grind your beans and brew them in a more old-fashioned way; you buy the beans, grind them up, then pour them over a filter so they can do their magic. Well, let me tell, you, it isn’t that simple.

You know, for a poor college student who doesn’t eat out much and who doesn’t prepare coffee the way that I wish I could, I may sound like a coffee snob. And you’re right! I am a coffee snob, but that just means if you want your coffee to be the best cup of your life every time, follow my advice. Seriously, it will make or break your morning mug of joe.

The first thing that you need to consider when brewing coffee at home is bean storage. Coffee beans aren’t actually beans but seeds, so they can run the risk of absorbing flavor from other foods, or worse, losing their volatile compounds. The volatile compounds are the oils and acids that are locked inside your beans, and they need to be protected. In order to protect them, store your coffee beans WHOLE in an airtight container, vacuum sealed is better, but a glass jar with a screw top lid is good too.

(Oh, and I shouldn’t have to remind you to not buy your beans in bulk, Right? Or to pre-grind them? Because then you run the risk of losing those compounds and flavors before you even get the chance to use them!)

Once you have your favorite type of bean selected, measure out how much you will need with a small kitchen scale. The rule of thumb is to use 10.5 grams of grounds to every 6 ounces of water per cup. For anyone who doesn’t know their conversions, that’s 2 large tablespoons and 3/4 of a cup of water, roughly.

chart
Here is a chart to help you

MAKE SURE THAT YOU GRIND YOUR BEANS AT THE LAST POSSIBLE MOMENT


Grind your coffee beans so that they have an even shape and size that resembles sea salt from a table grinder. Add your coffee grounds to your brewer, be it a vacuum or siphon, or a French press or percolator.

If you happen to think that coffee at home always tastes too bitter, Do Not add extra water. By changing the ratio of more water to the same amount of coffee you run the risk of over-extracting the flavors and oils from the beans, making it taste even more bitter. Instead, add a sprinkle of sea salt to the coffee grounds to help cut the bitterness. Our tongues receive signals from the brain when we eat salt that then causes our bitterness receptors to be blocked, making natural flavors more enhanced.

When you are pouring the water, make sure that it is fresh and filtered. If you happen to have chlorine added to your water then I suggest boiling it for a few minutes to kill any residual chemical. Also, it may sound silly to say that water can get stale, but it’s true. When water is stagnant it loses its aeration. Because water is a partial gas, it needs those gasses to dissolve the chemicals inside the coffee grounds that you are so desperately searching for! So, avoid letting water sit in your coffee maker overnight. I know how hard that may be for those of you who rely on the alarm function on your coffee maker to start your day, but if you save grinding until the last possible minute, then you can save pouring the water too!

Once your coffee is brewed, drink it as soon as possible. The heat from the hot plate at the bottom of your percolator break down the chemical flavor compounds, making your coffee taste stale, or even burnt or weak. Don’t let your friends think you can’t make coffee–just brew enough coffee for enough cups to be enjoyed immediately, and make more when the need arises.

I sincerely hope that you have learned a thing or two about the delicacies that make up our dear companion coffee. If you are trying to save money, then quit the daily latte at your local coffee shop and make it at home. I promise that this method will make you a cup so good it will all but erase that whipped cream topped confection that dare call itself coffee!

 

Enjoy!

XXO Maddie

Posted in Dining with Friends, Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

How to Celebrate the First Snow of the Season

Ladies and Gentlemen, the first snow of the season is here! And I am here to tell you just how you can celebrate it.

First, you have to get through all of you classes, or the entire work day. Just because it’s the first snow doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty more. And those storms will come rolling in with big puffy flakes that drive you back under the covers. So don’t waste an absence or a sick day—save it for when you actually need it!

Once you are at home, make a list of things that you will need. In the case of me and my roommates, we immediately went back out into the cold snowy air (yay, but also, why??) to pick up milk and ingredients to make cookies. Then we went back to the dorm. Can you guess what we did next?

That’s right, we baked them! Then we ate them!

Your list should look pretty similar to that. Take off your work appropriate clothes and put on comfy sweatpants and start baking. I may or may not have the Nestle Tollhouse recipe for chocolate chip cookies memories, but you can use whatever recipe for whatever cookie you like. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl—flour, chocolate chip morsels, sugar, chocolate chip morsels, butter, chocolate chip morsels, eggs, chocolate chip morsels. Can you guess what my favorite part of the dough is?

It also needs other stuff like vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda, but who really cares about that stuff??

Once your cookies are safely in the oven, make your drink of choice. Now because I still had a lot of home work to do, I made a nice strong cup of chai tea. Sprinkle a little extra dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, add a splash of milk and a sprinkle of sugar, and you have a mug of the best holiday beverage that will ever pass your lips.

cookies

close-up

These cookies and tea are best enjoyed with a few great friends and a bit of Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. If you don’t have any work to do and just want to relax and enjoy the season, then I recommend some Spiked Spiced Cider… But that’s another post! 😉

Enjoy!

Xxo Maddie

Posted in Posts about People, Weekly Assignments

Student Voter Turnout

Many eligible students on the University of Hartford campus are not registered, with many not planning to in time for this year’s election. there are also many among those who are registered who plan on not voting on November 8th.

The University of Hartford holds registration drives on campus, where students can fill out forms to get registered as voters in Connecticut. Later, the school will have shuttles carrying people to their designated polling stations in town.

Most 18- to 24-year-olds are dragging their feet to get registered this year, for two main reasons that I observed: either think they don’t have the time to get it done by November 8th, or they don’t like either candidate enough to do it at all and will do it before the next election four years from now.

Excuse me, but both of these reasons are bullshit. If you have the right to exercise your free will by casting a ballot and you have the means to do it, then you should actually do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like either one of the leading candidates because someone is getting elected, with or without your voice.

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Uhart Student Jean Corbett wears the Hawk’s Vote t-shirt… a gift students receive upon registering at the voting drives

I’ve been asking people around campus a series of questions for the past several days in regards to the election. They go like this:

Are you registered? Do you plan on voting? Why not? Don’t you know how easy it is? Yeah, you just stick it in the mail, do you need a stamp? Oh, you’re already registered, so are you voting why not? Didn’t you hear? –The school has a shuttle service running all day to take students to the polls! Don’t you know that there are more than just two candidates running?

The list goes on. I swear, I’m like you’re least favorite relatives that pester you with questions when you come home from college, all rolled into one little student voter-activist package.

I have been encouraging my friends to get registered and to vote in two weeks’ time, but some people just don’t see the point. Voters in the 18- to 24-year old bracket make up 21% of the voting population. That’s just over a fifth, people! Yet, only 17% of those young citizens actually cast a vote.

In the 2008 election, only 44% of college age voters participated in the voting process. In 2012, that number dropped to 38%. According
to a post done by ABC, of all the registered voters, only 41% of registered voters in the youngest bracket said they were “absolutely certain” to vote. In 2014, only 42% of 18- to 24-year olds were registered.i_just_dont_care_enough_final_jpeg

A few of my friends say that there isn’t a point in voting if not a single candidate is worth their vote, and I can see the discouraging side of their argument. I was talking with my friend Alex the other morning about whether he was registered or not, and he said no. I asked him if it was because he wasn’t old enough to vote in the last election, and he said yes. That was where I fell, too.

Until a few weeks ago.

The University of Hartford has been hosting voter registration drives for students on campus who are not registered yet (10/25 is the last day they are hosting the drive, but you can register online here!) The school will even have a shuttle system bussing students to their designated polling places around town.

I spoke with Toshia Anderson, the Associate Director for the Center for Community Service, the group in charge of organizing the drives, about what is so great about the drives. “It offers students a chance to learn how to have their voice be heard,” Anderson said. “When we live in a time where people feel muted, and they finally get a chance to make a difference, we want to help them get there.”

Another UHart student, Madeline McGrail, spoke with me about changing where you are registered, and she told me that she isn’t voting at all despite being registered in Connecticut. “Why not, do you have class that day?” “No,” she replied simply.

“Well then, why don’t you just drive over when you get the chance?” I inquired. She looked at the steering wheel and said to me, “Because I just don’t f****** care. I just don’t care enough to vote for anyone in this election.” Hearing that nearly broke my heart. There are so many people in this country—and this world—who cannot vote. So I strongly encourage everyone out there who CAN vote to exercise that right… even if it means putting down Batman as a wright-in candidate.

Just this evening I helped my roommate search online how to request an absentee ballot and where to send it. I will help however I can. I’m like the voting superhero…I should get a cape, too…

I don’t know who our next president will be, but their first law should be to turn Voting Day—Nov 8th—into a holiday! Everyone gets off work and school so that they get a chance to vote instead of standing in line for an hour during their lunch break only turn around and leave because things took to long. Voting is just too important to stand around and not do anything.

Posted in Dining with Friends, Dinner Done Right

Cooking As A College Student

dinner

So, in case you were wondering what it’s like being a college student trying to maintain a healthy diet, let me tell you right now: more often than not it just won’t happen. I know this, because I have eaten scrambled eggs twice this week for dinner. Most days I combine breakfast and lunch. But not in a fun, “let’s all have a Sunday brunch catch-up meal” type of brunch. I’m talking, “I woke up late for my first class and spent all the time between my other classes doing homework that I never finished so I have to eat at Starbucks in the Library at 1:50 again” type of breakfast-lunch combo.

So when I get a chance to eat right, I lunge at it faster than most people when they grab for the newest iPhone. Last night my roommates and I got together to make dinner and watch the final presidential debate between Senator Clinton and The Donald. This is a run-down of how the meal went.

(P.S. I also had this meal tonight in the form of leftovers. Sorry, but I’m broke)

To start off the meal, we bought chicken strips, green beans, and pasta from the grocery store on campus. And, why yes, it was grossly underpriced, thank you for noticing!

My roommate Jean and I preheated the oven while Ally bought the food (thanks Ally!). The real question was what were we going to season the chicken with?

Well, this is a fallback meal for me, so we had the “recipe” down pretty well. First, after preheating the oven to 375 degrees, peel and mince a few cloves of garlic, and cut one lemon into wedges. If you want to get real fancy, cut an onion in half, then in quarters, and place around the chicken.

As for the herbs that go on the chicken, use whatever you want, but we used what happened to be in the pantry: dried oregano and thyme! Not terribly chicken-y, but we like it enough to use it every time. This is also because the campus grocery store doesn’t carry any other spices…

Arrange the chicken equally on a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, with the garlic, lemon wedges, and onion chunks distributed as well. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the chicken is white throughout.*

As for the green beans, steam them in a colander until they are as tender as you like. If you don’t have a colander, they you could just boil them (but know: boiling washes away most of the nutritional values from veggies!). Or if you are lucky like us, you buy the green beans that come in a microwavable bag that just needs a couple of vents and a five minute nuke session.

For the pasta: I really hope I don’t need to tell you how to make pasta. Step one: boil water (and season with oil and salt if you’re fancy like me). Step two: boil the pasta until it’s al dente, or as tender as you prefer. Step three: drain, and then add noodles back to the pot along with as much or as little of your favorite sauce.

Also, everything should have butter on it. Just a little piece of advice from one chef to another J

And there you have it! A delicious meal that is also nutritious: protein, veggies, grains, and fruits (if you include the wine and fruit punch that we drank it with)… the perfect balance for the growing college kid.

This meal is enjoyed best with a little wine, and a lot of friends!!

Comment if you watched the debate and whether you’re a “bad hombre” or a “nasty woman”

*If your chicken is extremely juicy but shows no signs of being undercooked, do not grow paranoid and put back into the oven to dry the hell out of it like a ~certain~ blogger. Otherwise you may ruin the juiciest chicken of your life.

Posted in Bite of Breakfast, Seasonal Cooking, Sneak a Snack

Festive Apple Pie Cresents

While it’s not quite Halloween yet, I’ve been noticing myself getting a little ~excited~ for the holiday. Being the last day of the month, All Hallow’s Eve has its advantages of the dramatic build-up.

Pumpkin carving. Apple Picking. Costume hunting (or building, in my case). And of course the decorations. And scaring people. And the candy.

Where was I?

One of the perks about Halloween is the festive and creative food you can make. No need to go crazy with a turkey that needs a 24 hour marinade like on Thanksgiving, or a yucky fruit cake that no one eats on Christmas. Halloween food can get away with being made from the leftover ingredients you have in the kitchen.

brown-sugar

To make these yummy mummy roll-ups, you’ll need a roll of pre-made crescent dough, apples–preferably green so they don’t fall apart in the oven– both white and brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg (or if you are fancy you can use apple pie seasoning), and mini chocolate chips. Plus a little bit of butter, if necessary (butter is always necessary).

Pre-heat your oven according to the instructions on the tube of dough, then lay out and prep each triangle. You will only need 1 or 2 apples, since you’re just putting one large slice per triangle. Mix the two sugars with the cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle generously on the dough.

Once all the triangles are seasoned, roll them up, wide side to skinny side, so that the tip of the triangle is on the top. Lay each crescent so that the seam won’t fall open, then place two mini chocolate chips for eyes and TA-DA! Your apple pie crescents look like mummies!

apple-roll-up

Bake according to instructions and remove when golden brown. If you want them extra golden brown, spread a thin layer of melted butter over the top before popping them in the over (you’re welcome).

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Let cool before eating, and try not to eat them all in one sitting. If you can’t, justify it with the fact that they have apples and apples are healthy.

Trick or Treat!