Tag Archives: coffee

Back in the kitchen with Suzi

Since we last met, some of you have told me that my last post made you want to cook again, and some of the books mentioned have made it onto your library accounts.

I won’t lie: as a writer and a librarian, these words make my heart sing.

I’ve been busy and lazy for the past month. Busy and lazy, you ask? Well, when you work a job from 9:30 to 6, sometimes you just want to spend the evening reading. So I’ve worked my way through Devil Bones, Bones to Ashes, and Fatal Voyage, all by my favorite forensic anthropologist turned bestselling author, Kathy Reichs. As a children’s librarian, I know that children read two reading levels below their optimal reading level for recreation, nothing wrong with that. Summer is a children’s librarian’s busiest season, so I doubt I’ll start reading Anna Karenina anytime soon. I’ve re-read both Devil Bones and Fatal Voyage. In fact, I’ve probably read Devil Bones more than twice, since I own it and it often lives in my car. I require a book when I eat out alone, and more than once, Devil Bones been my dinner companion.

 

 

 

 

 

While I like a good mystery, I read the Temperance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs for character, not plot. Our love interest is usually Andrew Ryan, a Canadian detective, but sometimes Pete Brennan, an American lawyer and Tempe’s estranged husband. Temperance is a recovering alcoholic, mostly comfortable with the crazy life she leads, living sometimes in Charlotte, North Carolina and sometimes in Quebec. I enjoy learning about the geographical particulars of these two locations. I keep reading the books to keep up with where Tempe is in her life. Will she and Ryan get together for good? Will she and Pete finalize their divorce? I’ve also grown attached to Tempe’s pets, a cat named Birdie and a bird named Charlie.

Besides lazing around with books, I’ve increased my kitchen repertoire. I now make a decent vinaigrette (the secret is the olive oil/vinegar ratio) on a weekly basis, and I bought a fancy (read: expensive) chef’s knife at Sur la Table. I used it last night for the first time and it cuts like a dream. It cuts so well that I didn’t even mind the humid heat in my third floor walkup as I boiled water for pasta and cut peppers, celery, radishes and onions.

I picked up some cookbooks and books on budgeting on a recent visit to the Carnegie Library — Squirrel Hill, where I picked up Poor Girl Gourmet. The author, Amy McCoy, worked as a freelance broadcast producer until the economy tanked in 2008. After an introduction to cooking and how to save money buying house brands (but good house brands, like Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value), Amy starts you off with instructions for making 8 cups of vegetable stock for soup, which you can then freeze. Amy clearly has not seen my apartment-size freezer. But I’m determined to change my eating and cooking ways, so I’m sure I’ll try my hand at vegetable stock soon. I started my collection of vegetable scraps last night.

In another effort to work in the kitchen and economize, I have started making coffee in a French Press. I was going to buy an Aeropress, which was featured on CBSThisMorning last Monday morning, but as I was flipping through books (again, at Squirrel Hill), the author of Bitches on a Budget recommended buying a French Press.

 

 

 

 

 

My first cup was, well, strong. But I got the hang of it, after watching many YouTube videos.

 

Suzi’s Summer Pasta Salad

(based on Betty Crocker’s boxed Suddenly Salads, but with fewer chemicals.)

 

1 pepper (yellow, red, orange)

1 stalk of celery

1 small onion

1 radish

1 cup vinaigrette

Salt/pepper to taste

1 ½ cups Greek yogurt (1 single serve container)

1 can tuna (optional)

½ lb. Fusilli pasta

Start the water for the pasta. Follow the directions on the box, which will probably read something like this: in a big pot, boil lots of water to a rolling boil. Then add the pasta, cover, cook until the pot almost boils over, and then uncover, cooking for about 11 more minutes. Drain.

While this is happening: cut the vegetables into small pieces.

The pasta takes the longest, so while you are in the kitchen, do a load of dishes in your sink, or recycle some junk mail.

Once you’ve drained the pasta, pour some cold water on it. You don’t technically want to rinse the pasta, but you do want it to be cold, since you are adding cold ingredients. Put everything in a bowl and mix. Don’t add the vinaigrette all at once; once you add the yogurt, there is a point where you’re adding too much liquid. However, if you are not eating this right away, it’s okay to add a little more vinaigrette, as the vinaigrette will soak into the pasta while being stored in the refrigerator.

I packed this for lunch today and cut up a radish for garnish and some additional crunch.

–Suzi

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Tea Ritual

There’s nothing quite like a cup of hot tea to warm you up when it’s very cold outside or, as more often happens, you’re just so cold you can hardly stand it. When I’m feeling very cold (which, unfortunately, is often) it’s the only thing that will warm me completely. It’s also nice to share with my co-workers.
 
 
 
 
 I’ve always enjoyed an afternoon beverage after lunch; it’s my dessert, my daily ritual and it calms and centers me. And, after all, what goes better with a good book than a cup of tea? In the summertime, I drink iced decaf espresso but, during the cold months of fall and winter, I switch to hot English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea.
 

When I drink tea in the evening, it’s usually herbal (I like fruity teas best) or decaffeinated as I’m superstitiously convinced any caffeine after 2pm will negatively affect my sleep; my husband says it’s psychosomatic but I don’t care.

There are several lovely little books that describe the ritual of tea:

 Tea Bliss : Infuse Your Life with Health, Wisdom, and Contentment 

by Theresa Francis-Cheung

Tea Gardens : Places to Make and Take Tea  by Ann Lovejoy

Tea Culture by Beverly Dubrin

The Art of Taking Tea by Kim Waller

 

~Maria, who has recently discovered the treasure trove of teas to try at Nicholas Tea & Coffee in downtown Pittsburgh.

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While You Were Sleeping

Good morning Pittsburgh!  While you were sleeping, a dedicated group of hardcore library supporters stayed up all night reading to the people…and they’re still reading.  That’s right.  As we slowly inch toward sunrise, and with less than six hours to go, Pittsburghers from all walks of life are reading, staffing volunteer tables, and learning about the Our Library, Our Future voter initiative.

Here are just a few of the overnight highlights:

  • Sci-fi and fantasy ruled the wee hours, from Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams to C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. 
  • Nerdfighters.  Who knew?
  • Poignant readings from The Hunger Games, The Book of Lost Things, and The Fifth Agreement
  • Two words:  David Conrad.  Hilarity ensued!
  • Classic literature from Twain, Salinger and Burroughs
  • Loads of giddy, caffeinated, and/or sleep-deprived laughter and banter

Green with envy?  It’s not too late!  We’ll be reading to the people until noon today, so stop by Main Library in Oakland.  Upcoming highlights include children’s books and family-friendly fun, a visit from some local luminaries, and a grand finale that will knock your socks off.

Hope to see you soon!  If you simply can’t, please check us out, and spread the word, on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Leigh Anne

blogging and yawning.

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Easy DIY Iced Coffee

If you’re like me, you like your coffee-making to be inefficient and time-consuming with not a single of thought of convenience. For almost all of my coffee addictions, I swear by the french press. I grind my beans for the morning pot, boil my water, stir the grounds in and wait the allotted time until it’s done steeping. Start to finish usually runs around 20 minutes. But, as the mornings gradually slip out of their grey winter gear and change into the greens and blues of spring and summer, I find myself wanting to drink hot coffee less and less. I want it iced. I want it cool. I want it refreshing. Most importantly, I don’t want to spend two dollars and fifty cents at the corner coffee shop every time I want one. But, how to make my morning coffee cold? How about Cold Press coffee?

Cold press coffee is the method of making coffee that is basically no method. Zen coffee. Cold press was out there practicing flawless No Mind while you were still taking Freshman Intro to Eastern Philosophy and having your mind blown by Fellini films. Simply put, you take the grinds and you put them in the water. Wait twelve hours. The coffee is done. Barring the use of the refrigerator and the grinder, you can actually make this coffee with zero electricity. (TOTALLY OFF THE GRID) While I do find that interesting, it’s not really the reason why I’ve been making it this way. The real reason is the lower acidity that cold brewing achieves. It’s the simplest, smoothest cup of iced coffee that you’ll ever drink. Add the concentrate to hot water and you’ll find you have a smooth cup of hot coffee and you don’t have to be a snob to make it.

The first time I tried this method, it didn’t work out too well for me. It wasn’t nearly as concentrated as I thought it would be and my coffee ended up watery. It wasn’t until my fourth try that I really got it right. So, be patient and don’t be intimidated.

THE STEPS

1. Grind your coffee for a medium coarseness. Somewhere between drip and french press. I usually grind a bit finer as I like the stronger flavor it produces.

2. Get yourself a jar. I’ve been re-using a 28 ounce spaghetti sauce jar. Any jar will do, but try to find a slightly larger one.

3. Put your grinds into the empty jar. As I’ve been using a jar that holds three cups of water, I mix in around ⅔ of a cup of coffee grinds. Again, this will be something you’ll have to test out.

4. Add the cold water. Now, I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to stir it at all. You add some water. Wait five minutes. Add more water and so on. I think that’s dumb. Fill up your jar with water half way, close the lid and shake it. That way, you’re getting the water in contact with all of the grinds. Open it back up and finsh filling it. At this point, you’ll notice that all of the grinds will be floating at the surface. Over the course of the next twelve hours, they will settle to the bottom.

5. Either on the counter top or in your refrigerator, let your coffee steep for twelve hours. I use the refrigerator as it leaves you with a cold end product.

6. Wait. Wait. Wait for twelve hours.

7. Depending on what you have around your house, figure out the best way to strain your grinds. I was pouring it over a paper towel stretched over a pitcher, which worked, albeit slowly. But, in a strike of pure genius, I realized how dumb I was and just poured it into my french press, plunged the screen down, poured out the coffee and was done. And now that I think about it, I can use the french press for the entire process.

8. If you brewed in the refrigerator, then you don’t have to wait for your coffee to get cold. Since you’re dealing with a coffee concentrate, you need to dilute it a little to get the flavor correct. Try using ⅓ coffee to ⅓ ice to ⅓ water. If you need it to be stronger, just add a little more coffee. I also add a little creamer (soy milk, actual creamer, almond milk and sometimes skim if I’m desperate enough) and a pinch of sugar. Stir vigorously and serve.

– Chris

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Up Late, Reading

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the words “yawn” and “coffee”

Lately I’ve been reading some truly gripping fiction, the kind of novels you simply can’t put down for an archaic, old-fashioned notion like “bedtime.” If you’ve ever tried to resist the power of a page-turner, you know that the temptation to finish “just one more chapter” frequently leads to bleary-eyed, yet satisfied, book-finishing, usually around 3 or 4 a.m. And while you may find yourself at a temporary disadvantage the next day, the satisfaction of having read an excellent story usually makes it all worthwhile.

Here are a few of the books that have recently kept me up late, reading:

VeracityVeracity, Laura Bynum. In the wake of a pandemic, the government places electronic implants in citizens’ necks and shocks anyone who utters forbidden words. Fueled by the mythic “Book of Noah,” a resistance group struggles to create a government where speech is truly free again. Caught between her lofty government position and her daughter’s freedom, Harper Adams decides to flee. A must-read for fans of dystopian sci-fi and freedom of speech.

Under the Dome, Stephen King. Those of you wondering whether or not it’sUnder the Dome worth even beginning such a hefty novel can take comfort in King’s familiar style and delivery. Cut off from the rest of Maine by a mysterious, transparent dome, the people of Chester’s Mill begin to reveal their worst natures in ways that are all-too-plausible. King delivers a scathing commentary on the decline of both liberty and civility in American culture in the guise of a horror novel…or maybe it’s just a book about capricious aliens.  Either way, you won’t be able to put it down.

Catching FireCatching Fire, Suzanne Collins. Having burned through The Hunger Games in several hours, I picked up the sequel with high hopes. Happily, I was not disappointed. Katniss Everdeen gets to return home after the Hunger Games, but even though the cameras have been turned off, the real games are just beginning. As accustomed to dystopian fiction as I am, I was completely shocked by Katniss’s further adventures, and mightily impressed with Collins’s plot twists. Grab these now, immerse yourself in Katniss’s nightmare world, and then jump in line for the third installment, Mockingjay, which will be released on August 24, 2010.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Experimental fiction soars to newHouse of Leaves heights in this multi-layered novel about a mysterious house in Virginia, the documentary its owners made about it, the book about the documentary, and the diary of the young man who found the book. Confused yet? It gets better, as the physical text mirrors the narrative by playing with visual representations that frequently force the reader to flip back and forth, turn the book upside down, and engage in other contortions. Replete with footnotes, color-coded text conventions, poetry, madness, nightmare and heartbreak, this is truly the novel to end all novels (sorry, James).

One person’s meat being another person’s poison, what constitutes an up-all-night read for me might not be your cup of tea! When was the last time you had a close encounter with a book that simply wouldn’t let you sleep? Leave us a comment and let us know what kinds of books you simply can’t put down.

–Leigh Anne

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Caffeine Nation

In 1984 the National Coffee Association aired a promtional ad that featured David Bowie, Cecily Tyson, and other “coffee achievers” in an attempt to promote a positive image of both brew and bean.   Here’s the clip:

25 years later, it’s hard to believe coffee ever needed publicity!  Large chain stores and independent shops can be found everywhere you look, including your library.  Coffee also makes countless appearances in pop culture, to the point where it’s practically a fashion accessory.

Love it or hate it, coffee appears to be here to stay.  With the help of your library’s collection, you can:

For more coffee talk (not to be confused with “Coffee Talk”), ask a librarian!

–Leigh Anne

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Things that make librarians sad

 

Here are a few things that your favorite librarians may find depressing, in no particular order.

A view of the Lecture Hall from behind the building.

A view of the Lecture Hall from behind the building on an obnoxiously lovely fall day. I had to go to work shortly after taking this picture.

1. When you tell us how nice it is outside. Yes, we’d love to enjoy the day too, but someone has to be here to make sure you get all of those bestsellers and magazine articles, not to mention the ever-important headphones for the computers.
 
2. Books that are returned with sand trapped in their jackets. From a technical point of view, this is bad because the sand will damage the book’s cover. From a morale point of view, this is bad because the book got to go to the beach but we didn’t. This is especially depressing during the winter months.
 
3. The places that people leave things. One of my clerks once found a Naruto DVD in the second floor men’s toilet. Not just in the bathroom, mind you, but actually in the toilet. I think he should have earned hazardous duty pay for rescuing it (don’t worry, we threw out that one and ordered a replacement copy). 
 
No DVDs have been found in this particular toilet. But don't be getting any ideas.

No DVDs have been found in this particular toilet so far. Please don't get any ideas.

4. The things you use as scratch paper. I have a note from a customer written on the back of an opera ticket stub. No big deal, you say. But this particular ticket stub was entirely in Italian. Librarians don’t get to go to Italy very often, you know. Maybe if we presented it to the management as an outreach program?

5. Mysterious stains. More specifically, the coffee stain that we found on our new carpet the morning after it was installed. So from here on out, you’ll have to keep all of your Crazy Mocha treats down on the First Floor. We may lighten up a bit eventually, but that won’t be for another ten years or so.

6. When you say scary things on the phone. Today a customer told me that he was driving on (major highway) at (illegal speed) while talking to me, so he couldn’t get his library card out to tell me his number.  Please, call us later. The library has all sorts of nifty things to be sure, but it’s not worth risking your life.
 
That’s quite a list of downers, isn’t it? So how do you cheer up a depressed librarian? It’s really pretty simple: take care of your materials, return them on time, don’t put things in the toilet, and visit us often. We’d love to see you.
 
Or you could just take us to Italy….
 
-Amy
 

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