Coffee Liqueur Recipe

My latest liqueur infusion project, if not my absolute favorite, is possibly the most “me.” The inspiration actually came from a scholar in my field who stayed in our apartment during a conference last year. Learning of my love of coffee, she suggested infusing Sambuca with coffee beans. The thought was appealing, but I’m not crazy about the anise flavor in Sambuca, so I didn’t try it.

The seed was planted, however. I started thinking about what liqueurs would pair well with coffee. I’ve always loved coffee and orange together. Back when I was in high school Starbucks used to have a Mocha Valencia Latte, which was the only thing that would make me pay the prices of a Starbucks latte. My first thought was Grand Marnier, but given the cost of Grand Marnier and the fact that this was a total experiment on my part, I went with its cheaper little sister, Triple Sec.

I bought about two cups of whole bean coffee. I went for my favorite locally-roasted, super-dark roast (also fair-trade certified). Because if I’m going to go low-end on the booze, it’s important to be as pretentious as possible about the coffee. I bought a 750ml bottle of Triple Sec and poured roughly half of it into a mason jar with half of the beans, then put the other half of the beans in the bottle with the remaining liqueur. A lot of recipes online for making coffee infused vodka suggest using ground coffee—I didn’t do that, because it sounded like filtering would be a pain in the ass. If you do use ground coffee, it will infuse faster. On the other hand, it infuses quickly regardless, so there’s really no point in grinding if you ask me.

And that’s it. Store the jar and the bottle somewhere cool and dark and taste it every day. Like I said, this infuses fast. I waited forty-eight hours to taste the first time and it already had a good coffee flavor. At that point it was orange with a hint of coffee and I was looking more so for coffee with a hint of orange, so I left it in longer. After four days it had the flavor I wanted, but I didn’t have time to strain it, so it sat another day and a half.

The end result in amazing. It’s like drinking a good dark roast coffee, but then you get this hint of citrus at the end. Excellent for sipping. It’s very popular with my friends (I’ve gone through two bottles). It also makes a nice addition to desserts. My roommate added it to the filling for her Yule Log (she uses the French name I can’t spell and am too lazy to look up). I’ve added it to trifles with delicious results. And, of course, it goes nicely in coffee.

One, One Cup of Coffee, Ah ah ah ah!

Cammy:  I’ll admit that it was only in recent years that I figured out who Joan Ganz Cooney was.  Once I knew, well, there’s no way I wouldn’t buy her multiple cups of coffee. This woman was one of the founders of the Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street (apparently it was she who said that if they couldn’t get Jim Henson, they wouldn’t bother with puppets for Sesame Street).  And how could one not want to have a cup of coffee with someone so instrumental in helping so many of us to learn our letters, numbers, and basic concepts like near and far?  Not to mention giving so many of us a weird cross-generational unity over strange little jingles and the sight of an absurdly large and slightly neurotic canary?  Mostly, I want to have coffee with her as a thank you, but I can’t deny I want to pick her brain about what decisions they made in those early years about the Sesame Street curriculum–what did they opt to omit?  And how does she feel about other CTW shows like 3-2-1 Contact which weren’t gifted with Sesame Street’s long run–is CTW ever going to resurrect them?  And what was missing that kept them from lasting as long?
And most important of all:  Which character on Sesame Street is her favorite?
Kristy:  Um… sure.  I had no clue who she was till just now.  But like Cammy, and probably many of our readers, I owe her many pleasurable hours from my childhood, and Sesame Street definitely helped me learn all sorts of random things.  I don’t share Cammy’s love of children’s literature, and while we’ve never talked about it, I expect she also has more interest in children’s television programming than I do.  But while I’m not nearly as interested in the subject, I will say that even as an adult I find Sesame Street less patronizing and annoying than a lot of children’s television shows.  (All I remember about 3-2-1 Contact is the theme song which is now stuck in my head.  Thanks, Cammy.)  So yeah… I’m interested to hear what the woman has to say even if there’s nothing I’m dying to ask her.  And I feel the least I owe her is a cuppa joe.

Crunchy Caffiene

For some reason I’ve been craving chocolate covered coffee beans lately.  I don’t have them often as they seem too decadent and expensive to make a habit of purchasing.  And normally my cravings for them hit late at night when I have no intention of getting dressed to go out and scour the grocery store shelves.

But this evening, the craving would not be staved off by other things.  I had to do something about this.

So I decided to make my own.  After all, I had chocolate and I had coffee beans.  Really couldn’t need more than that, right?

I melted a little over 1/4 of a Hershey’s special dark bar in a double-boiler on the stove.  When it was nice a gooey, I dumped in somewhere between 1/3-1/2 cup of coffee beans I had on hand.  Stir to coat them.  Then I laid out wax paper on a cookie sheet and scooped the chocolate-bean-mush onto it and sort of smeared it about to separate the beans some.  Into the freezer, and wham, 15 minutes later I’m crunching away on a chocolate caffeine fix.  And while I waited, I got to lick the chocolate out of the pot.

Now, I’ll grant you, they don’t look all nice and smooth and shiny like store-bought versions (you know the ones that kinda look like a yogurt covered raisin?), but they taste good.  In fact, because I didn’t waste a lot of time separating the beans, what I got is kinda like chocolate-coffee-bean-brittle that I broke into chunks. After I’d completed my experiment I read up on some other methods of getting “nicer” looking beans–using candy molds and doing this one-by-one was a popular method.  Way too labor intensive for me.  But I liked another idea about adding cocoa powder or sprinkles before the whole thing dries.  Now that I could go for.

And at the rate I’m consuming these things?  Not only will I have an excuse to try again for the sake of replenishing my depleted supply, I will also be wide away to do it.

I’m Really Not Qualified to Judge Your Gumbo, but I Totally Will

Today, as I’m guessing you know, is Mardi Gras (also, International Women’s Day, which is like Mother’s Day but doesn’t leave out those of us who don’t reproduce).  Mardi Gras in much of the US is the day in which other people try to live the life of Louisiana residents.  Now I have to be honest, I’m no more a Louisiana resident than any of the rest of these wannabes.  But I do have  a lot of family in the great state of Louisiana and spent a lot of summers there.  This means that I don’t really understand what it is to be a Louisianan, but I do have my own distinct understanding of the state and what it means.  Here’s the bits of Louisiana I have absorbed into my identity:

The only sort of rice you should ever use is Uncle Ben’s.  No I don’t care that the store brand is cheaper.  This is one time when generic is not okay (unless you’re making basmati or jasmine rice.  I might even concede brown rice).

Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely no reason why gumbo must contain shrimp.

A casino is a perfectly acceptable place for a post-funeral dinner.

No other coffee in the world can ever be as good as Community Coffee (even if I’m not allowed to buy it since it’s not fair trade certified).  Community Coffee should be at all state welcome centers as a way of saying, “Welcome to Louisiana.  We’re nice and like good coffee!”

There is nothing wrong with putting a Wal-Mart in a bear crossing zone.  Or an alligator crossing zone.

The most important requirement for a priest/minister is that he give a short enough sermon you can beat the Baptists to all the good restraints (this one is fairly common throughout the south).

If a Catholic priest is conservative and young he’s also probably good looking and the old ladies in the church not-so-secretly call him, “Father What-a-Waste.”

A good family name will get you just about anything you could want.

Alligators are f’ing scary.

Honestly, we could kind of sum it all up to that last one.

For Sarcastic People Must Be In Want of Coffee…

In our attempts to add some variety to MTV, MPB: Year Two, we’re opening our doors to yet another dimension of coffee (or beer) chatting:  fiction.  Fear not, we still have plenty of real folks to caffeinate with in the future, but now and then, we’d like to dabble in the less-than-real sandbox.

To kick off:

Would we have coffee with Mr. Bennett?

Cammy:  Hells yeah.  Of all characters in all of Pride and Prejudice who would be most guaranteed to have hysterically dry observations mocking the stupid people in the immediate vicinity?  Mr. Bennet’s our guy.  For one thing, I have a sneaking suspicion that he has his own booth in the back of the Spacial Anomaly where he goes to avoid his wife and daughters when his library just isn’t far enough away (or he want’s a fresh crop of nut jobs to observe).  I honestly don’t want to quiz him or get any kind of inside story, I just want to sit at the table–probably with a book or a notebook to occupy time when he gets absorbed in his own book when there aren’t enough people coming in and out to watch–and exchange quips about others.  I think Kristy and I are far enough from being Mary, Kitty & Lydia-esque (definitely far enough from Lydia) and can comport ourselves in reasonably Lizzy & Jane-like fashion to avoid being targets of his mockery, and be included as contributors to the ridicule.  Of course, if he’s been in that booth during some of our other coffee visits, he might have a thing or two to give us hell about.

Kristy:  Before I go any further, I just want to make it clear, in case any of our readers were laboring under any delusions, that neither Cammy nor I is nice enough to fall into Jane territory.  Just so we’re clear.

But to the matter at hand, of course, I’d drink coffee with Mr. Bennett.  Or tea or port or whatever the man drinks.  Like Cammy, I’m more interested in people watching and listening to the snark than actually interrogating him about anything.  And frankly, having seen what he has to put up with, I think we should buy the man a drink of some kind.

Cammy:  She’s right about the Jane thing.  The best we could get here is two Elizabeths.

Nectar of the Gods…

Coffee

So before I go any further, let me confess one thing:  I have writer’s block.  And I’m supposed to be out the door right now.  But once I head out the door I won’t have internet access until tomorrow night, so I have to get this written and posted now.

But I have nothing to say.

So we’re going to talk about what is on my brain right now.

Coffee!

One of God’s greatest gifts to us.

Yes, I have an addiction.  And yes, in part, it is a caffeine addiction which could be satisfied by any number of sources.  But I also have an addiction to coffee.  You see, unlike many of my fellow college students who learn to drink coffee in order to stay up and write papers, I actually love the stuff.  And I have for a very long time.  When I was four years old my mother was driving me to preschool one day and I complained of being thirsty.  I’m fairly certain she simply thought I was being an obnoxious child and complaining just to complain, so she finally snapped, “If you’re that thirsty you can have a drink of my coffee!”  So I picked up her coffee cup and started drinking.  (At which point she snatched it away from me, no doubt dreading the results of sending a caffeinated four year old to school.)

I love the smell.  Some of it is simply a matter of association since my mother is also a coffee addict and so coffee smells like home and mom to me.  But it has an extremely visceral effect on me.  There was a day a couple years ago, where I had spent several hours lost on my way to a rehearsal.  Several more hours rehearsing outside in rain that was just above freezing.  Then another hour lost on my way to the interstate.  I finally reached the interstate and got off to get badly needed gas.  While at the gas station (Wawa—Wawa has some of the best gas station coffee around) I picked up a cup of coffee.  Exhausted, stressed out, and facing at least an hour of bumper to bumper traffic on I-95, I got back in my car and back on the interstate.

And then the smell of my coffee began wafting through the car.  And the knots in my back and neck began unclenching.  And my lungs, which I didn’t even realize were tight, opened up.  And I suddenly felt like everything was going to be okay.  And this is just from the smell—before I even had a sip!

I’m sort of a coffee connoisseur, but not a coffee snob.  At the moment I’m drinking Community Coffee French Roast (Louisiana represent!) which is dark and rich and delicious with a slight acidic aftertaste.  My preference is definitely to dark roasts, the darker the better.  I’m not really picky about flavor notes.  When I’m buying myself (I didn’t buy this) I only buy Fair Trade Certified, because having lived in South America I think it’s really important.  Usually Fair Trade Certified coffee is also organic, and I will say that with coffee more than most anything else, I can taste the difference in organic.  It’s cleaner tasting somehow.

As for how I drink my coffee, it depends on the time of day and what I’m drinking it with.  In the morning, I like it with a fair amount of some sort of milky substance.  It can be milk or cream or synthetic artificial cream like product.  I don’t ever add sugar, but if there’s sugar in the creamer, that’s acceptable.  What is never acceptable is sugar but no cream.  It’s disgusting.  Also, Splenda is never okay, because if I wanted extra chlorine in my diet I would drink some pool water.  And I’m allergic.

Any other time of the day I can drink it in most any form.  With dessert I tend to like it black.  But if I’m drinking it by itself after a meal I like it with a lot cream and a maybe touch of sugar, essentially turning my coffee into a dessert.

Fancy, schmancy espresso drinks are okay, but honestly not usually worth the money to me since they disguise the taste of coffee, which is what I’m actually after.  So I rarely drink them.  Espresso itself, on the other hand, is quite tasty.

And on that note, my cup is almost empty, and I’m now officially late, so happy drinking to you all.

Cheap Green: My New Favorite Ex-Foliator

I’m not radically green.  I can, however, say without a doubt that I’ve been green a lot longer than a lot of the newly-environmentally-aware people I know, who are all about their organic cotton and trendy metal water bottles and reusable stuff.

See, the thing was, we used to just call it “cheap” when you were up for using things multiple times and growing your own tomatoes and making things yourself and hanging clothes out on the line.

But, whatever tag you attach to it, I’m enjoying the proliferation of cheap/green instructions out there.  One of which led me to a suggestion for a face and body scrub that is my new favorite thing ever:

Coffee grounds

Olive oil (a tablespoon or so–this isn’t an exact science

Tiny bit of tea tree oil (a few drops)

I actually read about the coffee grounds all on their own.  I tried it and it worked all right for me.  Nothing spectacular, but nice enough to use for the occasional ex-foliation.

Then someone on a message board posted something suggesting adding some olive oil.  Since I consider olive oil a somewhat magical thing, I was down for trying this.  The tea-tree oil was my own addition since I tend to use it on my skin anyhow as I’m prone to acne.  I tossed it all together and decided to give the new-and-improved version a try last weekend.

Oh my.

It’s been 5 days and I still find myself petting my own arm because it’s never felt that soft.  Yes, petting my own arm.  And my knees.  Holy crap, I never knew how rough my knees were until I found out how soft they could be.

This is a miracle substance, at least for me.  The raving and amazement I’ve heard from others about this product or that recipe, but never managed to experience myself?  Now I’ve got it.

The only downside is application.  The ideal way to use it is in the shower, but I hesitate to wash coffee grounds down the shower drain too often–I have to clean the hair out of the drain often enough without adding other bio matter to it.  But, if I can find a handy way of rinsing into a separate container, not only can I spare the drain, but I can take the whole mess out to the compost bin for use number 3 as future fodder for garden growth.

Just another way to reap the benefits of green, the new cheap.

What Makes a Hotel ‘High End’ When You Get Less?

As I alluded in a prior post, I’m not pleased with the “high end” hotel experience.  I grew up in a family that tended more toward the tent-and-National-Forest form of over-night accommodation.  A La Quinta was high end.

But job travel, especially to conferences and seminars, usually means staying in the hotel where the event is taking place and that usually means a “high-end” location.  The first time I got sent on one of these trips, I thought, “Oh, wow!  Even if the conference sucks, at least I can spend the evenings relaxing in a luxury room.”

Yeah.  That was  a let down.

The sheets are a little nicer, and I’ll admit that the pillows are usually quite schnazzy, and sometimes you even get a great view out the window (not always) but the lack of extras generally leaves me wishing they’d just put me up in the regular old Holiday Inn.  Oh, sure, the extras are THERE, but they cost you.  It’s all about ways to nickel and dime you, which kind of blows knowing what my company is paying per night.  Other than the lack of paying for a rental car or taxi to get me too and from another hotel to the conference location, what you get for the price is almost insulting, especially when you know what you could get somewhere else!

The biggest pet peeve?  Internet access.  It’s a total racket.  They know they get high end business folks who have to have internet, so, of course, they charge $10 a day extra for it and it’s generally only wired access.  The fact that I’m in a room with a luscious king-sized bed and yet I have to sit in a craptastic chair to check my e-mail?  That makes me grumpy.  Meanwhile, the Holiday Inn two blocks down might have one layer less on the pillows, but the internet is wireless and it’s free.  Hell, even the Motel 6 and the Super 8 can manage to swing wifi, so what the hell is going on at the Marriott with the waterfront view.  Oh, and while the Wall Street Journal had a story about the lack of wifi in many high end hotels and SAID that all the Hyatts had wifi?  Bull.  I have yet to be in a Hyatt that didn’t limit me to that $10 wired internet crap, including the one I was stuck in when I read the story in the WSJ.

Another peeve?  Continental breakfast.  The higher end the hotel, the more likely that the only way to get breakfast is in the equally high-end and dramatically over-priced restaurant.  While the La Quinta down the street a few blocks has the waffle-maker and the mini boxes of Captain Crunch free for the taking, my $200 a night hotel with no wifi wants me to pay $6.89 for a bowl of plain oatmeal.  A number of the hotels I’ve stayed in like to “bundle” internet access along with breakfast in a “business upgrade package” for extra bucks.  I applaud them for the supply/demand capitalist behavior, but as someone filling out an expense report, I loathe and despise these bastards.

TV also sucks.  Now, it’s kind of nice to walk in and see a huge flat-panel larger than my home TV sitting there, waiting, but, inevitably, the channel selection blows goats, and you always have to go through their stupid-ass menu every time you turn it on–or worse, navigate away from the 24/7 tourism suggestion channel.  The only 24/7 tourism channel I could ever tolerate was the one so many hotels in Williamsburg, Virginia use where they play Story of a Patriot on continuous loop.  Because, well, it’s Story of a Patriot!  What’s not to love?  And, really, would it kill them to have a DVD player?  I don’t want their pay per view crap, I just want to watch the Psych DVDs I shoved in my carry on, and if I can do it on the TV rather than my laptop, I’d be less inclined to write critical blog posts.

Location.  Outside of the hotels in the East Coast cities (DC, downtown Baltimore, New York), they like to put these hotels off away from other things–like reasonably priced eating establishments.  Without a rental car, I either prepare to answer to the boss on travel spending with my meal price when I get back to the office, or I put on my walking shoes and brave the strange streets to find food–so far I’ve been lucky on this, but as a woman traveling alone, I’m not always going to have this option.  Taxis cost money and frankly, I’ve been in a few where I wondered if I would make it back alive.  And even if I do manage to finagle a rental car, the parking at high end places sucks.  Several have limited you to valet parking, and others charge you every time you enter and leave.

Crappy coffee.  Kristy’s right.  The in-room coffee at the high end places is really not that good.  And worse, I’ll admit that I’m afraid to use it half the time.  After all, the bottles of water they leave in the room will add $5 to your room bill if you take them.  Why should I believe they would actually let me drink the coffee for free?  That goes for other things as well.  In one hotel, I was almost afraid to set the alarm clock for fear of what the charge would be.  Everything in that place came at a price over and above the $200 odd a night charge for the privilege of letting me sleep there.

Add to this that a lot of these luxury places have had crappy decor (in my opinion), wear and tear equal to or exceeding many of the low to mid-price hotels I’d stay in on my own dime, and at times, I’ve had reason to be completely grossed out by the housekeeping (bad vacuuming–I could have grown a garden in the dust and dirt left in the carpet behind a door–chewing gum under the desk….) which, I dunno, I guess I just expected better than that for the cost of the room.

I’ve got one last really big boon-doggle next week and then I think I get a reasonable amount of time off.  But the next round?  Screw the conference location.  I’m going to find a way to stay somewhere reasonable.  Somewhere with my free muffin and orange juice, free wifi and in-room coffee I’m not afraid to drink.

Best part of waking up?

What are the morning beverages of choice aboard the Battlestar Galactica.

Adama: Coffee.  Black.

Roslin: Green gunk with a hot tea chaser.

Billy: Diet Coke

Gaius: Tea.  Probably Darjeeling.

Six: Skim milk Latte

Doctor: Coffee (with a little bit of help)

Dee: Some kind of protein shake.  Grab and go.

Apollo: Tea.  But a manly tea like Lapsang Soochong (sp?)

Starbuck: Coffee.  Though she’s a big believer in the hair of the dog principle

Tyrol: Coffee.  Which he makes.  According to a very specific system

Callie: Orange juice.

Helo: Gatorade

Sharon: Fruit smoothie

Gaeta: Mountain Dew

Tigh: Taster’s Choice (with a little sumpin’ sumpin’)

Ellen: Expensive coffee.

Tori: Starbucks tea/espresso drink

Anders: Red bull

Leoben: Doesn’t need a morning beverage

Zarek: Americano

Good morning starshine?

Battlestar Galactica lists are back this week because Cammy and I got off on our rotation and I decided this is the easiest way to fix it.

This go ’round we ponder what mornings are like on the Battlestar we call Galactica.  Who on board is a morning person? (we realize morning is an arbitrary construct when you’re drifting through space, but hypothetically speaking…)

Adama: No.  You don’t want to run into him outside his quarters in the morning before he’s had enough coffee.

Roslin: No, but she’s not evil about it.  She’s just quiet and speaks in monosyllables

Billy: No, but he tries to fake it.  He’s kinda bleary eyed and his hair might be a bit mussed.

Gaius: Strangely, yes.

Six: She’s a pretty even keel all day long.

Doctor: Hell no.  He’s wearing a 10am shadow

Dee: Yes.  Annoyingly pleasant.

Apollo: He’s quiet also, tries to fake it.  He’s more successful at doing so than Billy unless he was drinking with Starbuck the night before.

Starbuck: Another hell no!  The only exception is if there’s someone around more hung over than her—in that case she takes great delight in tormenting them (“Good morning, sunshine!”)

Tyrol: Best to avoid him for first couple of hours.  Don’t ask him questions.  Don’t try to make his coffee, you’ll just make it wrong.

Callie: She’s pretty zombie like, but not cranky.

Helo: Up and at ‘em kind of guy.  Would get up and run if there were somewhere to run.

Sharon: She’s functional, but not fun.

Gaeta: Considering he was up till 3am playing PlayStation he’s pretty coherent.

Tigh: No!  He reverts to primal grunting.

Ellen: Morning?  She doesn’t get up till after 12:00.

Tori: No, she gets up when she has to, but it’s about face time rather than feeling up to it.

Anders: Absolutely!  He loves mornings!  I’m convinced this was a big part of the failure of his marriage to Kara.

Leoben: Morning person presumes that he sleeps.  We’re not sure he does.  Time is kind of irrelevant for him.

Zarek: Yes.  And he’s smug about it too.