Passive Iced Coffee

Good morning everyone! I hope you all are doing well. I’ve been off the net for the past few weeks as I try to get my garden up and running; sort through old clothes the kiddies have outgrown and get them ready for donation and try to “remodel” my kitchen. I put the “remodel” in parentheses, because it means taking cabinets down and putting them in a different arrangement. We haven’t removed any yet, save two, which I have removed the doors and scrubbing them with some shellac remover. My goal is to paint the cabinets, since we cannot afford to go out and purchase several thousand dollars worth of cabinets. “Work with what you have!” Hopefully by changing the height of some cabinets, adding a shelf or two, it will make a difference.

While doing  all of this, I have a nice glass of iced coffee beside me. This morning’s glass of iced coffee was done the way most of us do…heat up your water, add the coffee, then add ice. I need my coffee each morning. Even my kids tell each other, “Don’t talk to mommy until she has had her second cup of coffee.” Well, sometimes with all of the rushing around in the mornings, I don’t get to make my coffee before the electric is shut off. Then I stumble around, trying to find a can of Pepsi to get me going or I just have the kids lead me around by the hand, because I’m unable to open my eyes beyond half-mast. By 0730, regardless if I have coffee or not, my body will be awake enough to drive my son to school and hold a halfway coherent conversation with his teacher and other moms. You might say, “Well, geez, Jen, just turn the power on and make the coffee!” Sure, I can do that…and what message and I sending to my kids? To myself? I tell my kids the power is being shut off in ten minutes, so they better be in the kitchen ready for breakfast, or else they will have cold cereal, rather than eggs and toast, or oatmeal. When they keep goofing off and arrive twelve minutes later to cold cereal, they realize they missed out. The rules are, the power is shut off at 0630. If you get to the kitchen on time, you get a nice breakfast. There are rules and they need to be followed. What message am I sending, when they cannot have what they want for breakfast, because they were slacking, meanwhile, I turn the power on for myself? I’m teaching them that rules don’t apply to everyone. So, the kids see that if mommy hits the snooze on her cell phone alarm once too many times, mommy doesn’t get coffee. Rules apply to everyone and my kids see that I will play by the rules. They abide by the law, “Get up, dressed, beds made and in the kitchen by 0615, and BOTH kids need to be in the kitchen, not just one, to have a hot breakfast.” This also teaches them self-responsibility and accountability. Life isn’t always about what YOU have accomplished. In school and work, sometimes there will be group projects. Even factory work depends on group work. I can’t get my piecework done, until you are finished processing your part and she can’t finish her work, until I am finished with the piece. In college, sometimes you have group projects. One person doesn’t pull their weight, the whole project can go down the tubes. My son knows he has to get up, wake up his baby sister; (who isn’t exactly a baby, but four years old) get dressed; make his bed; assist his sister in making her bed; tell her if her clothes are on backwards (she will dress herself, however the shirts are often backwards.) and then come into the kitchen for breakfast. He is accountable for her and she is accountable for him. If he starts playing around, swinging from the bunk bed, or running around with a pair of socks on his hands and underwear on his head, she knows it will set them both back and she will remind him that they won’t get breakfast if they are late. Life lessons can be taught in so many ways.

Anyway, if I am arguing with the kids, trying to get them up; trying to find a pair of pants that my son hasn’t torn the knees out of; finding him a pair and having him catch his foot in the hem and looking for another pair; trying to find shoes for him that aren’t muddy, etc. and don’t have time to make my coffee, or my automatic coffee maker wasn’t set, I usually have to go without. I read, recently about Thai iced coffee. It’s basically cold-brewed coffee. The blog was http://noshon.it/blog/2013/08/how-to-make-the-best-cold-brew-iced-coffee/

It explained how to make coffee, without using electricity, for iced coffee. Basically, using a glass jar (do not use plastic or metal; plastic can harbor flavors of foods that were previously housed in that jar and metal will give it a bad taste) like a mason jar or an old mayonnaise jar, put twice as much coffee in, as you would per six ounces of water. So if you normally use two tablespoons per six ounces of water, you would use four. The reason behind this is when you add your ice, it will be diluted. I love the idea of being able to make my coffee without needing electric. The off-the-grid idea was the driving force in attempting this.

My husband does a great deal of traveling for work and often the hotel rooms his work section puts him up in, have those small traveler’s coffee pots. My husband doesn’t drink coffee often (how he survives, is a mystery to me) so he grabs the packets in the room and packs them up for me to use at home. These are the ones I will be using for my passive coffee. I grabbed an old glass jar, added my cold water and the coffee, then let it sit on the table. It takes about twelve to eighteen hours to make, leaving the bitterness behind and bringing forth only the rich flavor of coffee.

Once the coffee is done, you strain it through a coffee filter that you have laid out in a small strainer, or you can use several layers of cheesecloth, add a bit of milk or sweetened condensed milk, some ice and you have a great glass of iced coffee. I will be using my coffee filter for this, so I can toss my used grounds around my blueberry bush and the filter itself can go into the compost heap. This coffee will keep for a week in the refrigerator. I am definitely looking forward to trying this method. I already make sun-brewed tea for my husband, so now I can have my cold-brewed coffee as well.

My favorite thing about this is, to me, it’s another way of staying off the grid. I can still have my coffee and have my electric off at the same time.

Have you helped another person out today? Held the door for someone? Paid the toll for the car behind you? Have you given a smile to someone, or called an old friend? When was the last time you waved at your neighbors on your block, or told your spouse you love them? Not every day is guaranteed. You could be living out your last few hours right now. What would people remember you for, when your name is mentioned? Would your name conjure up smiles and thoughts of a person who was never too busy to lend a hand? Someone who put others first? Would they reminisce about the time you bought a homeless person lunch, or gave a bag of groceries to the food pantry? When people spoke your name, would there be a long line of people wanting to speak about the things you did for them? What do you WANT to be remembered for? What will they ACTUALLY remember?

 

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Baking bread on a woodstove

Two days ago I was looking online for recipes to bake bread on my wood stove. We have our electric prices charged on “real-time pricing” which is usually several cents per kilowatt under the standard rate. Due to this horrendous winter, the real-time prices have been significantly higher. Two weeks ago, the prices were almost ten to twelve times higher than normal. I freaked and hit the main power switch and decided that day we would live “off the grid.” This entailed cooking without my electric stove. We have a wood burning stove in our walk-out basement, that we use to heat the house up, but I looked closely at it on this particular day and decided, “You are doing double-duty, my friend.” I went into the garage where my cast-iron wok was hiding. My husband had purchased this huge, heavy creature for me about 15 years ago…I think I’ve used it once. Tonight, I pulled a bag of mixed veggies out of the freezer and started letting them defrost on the counter as well as several pieces of boneless chicken. After a few hours (the house had the furnace also off, so the temp was around 56 deg upstairs and 70 deg in the basement) I had about 20 candles lit around the house and started to prepare for dinner. I filled the stove with wood, closed the flue, opened the damper and put my wok on it to start warming up. (Since it was in the unheated garage, I’d let it warm up to room temperature most of the morning) and started chopping up the chicken. After about 30 minutes, I put the oil into the wok to start warming and brought my food into the basement to start cooking. I wanted dinner to be ready by 5pm, so I started this around 3.30pm. I put the chicken and some garlic in to fry up, then added my partially defrosted veggies and some flavoured sauce that came in the package. I put the lid on and let it cook. Every once in a while, I took the lid off my wok and gave it a stir. By 5pm, it was all ready. My family and I ate by candlelight and had a great dinner. After dinner, we needed entertainment, but since there was no power, we had to do something else. My son and daughter (aged 6 and 3) were given chem lights to carry to help them not be afraid of the dark. My daughter, Rebekah, who is taking ballet, entertained us by dancing in the dark, holding the chem lights and spinning, singing and dancing. My kids then built forts out of the couch cushions and we all nestled down on the couch in the basement to go to sleep. My husband did not sleep well, since he had to keep getting up to put wood on the fire and my daughter decided to sleep horizontally on the couch, so I had to sleep half on and half off, to keep her from falling off. But was it fun? Yes!! My kids had a great time. In fact, the next day, I threw some more defrosted chicken into the wok with the leftovers of the sti-rfry (which I put into the fridge overnight) and added some chicken broth. Cooked it and made: chicken soup. I used unsalted broth so it was pretty bland. The third night, again, no electric and I added some butter to a cast iron skillet and some flour and reconstituted dry milk and made a roux (on the wood stove.) I added that to the soup and made cream of chicken soup. Wow. It was great. Two nights later I made some tomato soup from tomatoes I canned last summer.

I’m originally from Queens, New York, so this is all foreign to me. I never had family members who canned and the closest I ever came to living off the grid was when we went camping once a year, to the mountains. It’s astounding to me that I am learning to do this. If this city girl can learn, then anyone can. I will be happy to share my recipes and things I learn along the way to help you also learn to rely more on yourself and your family and less on the power company. It’s cheaper and I believe, more fun!