Category Archives: Coffee & Tea

Saturday To-Do: Handmade for the Holidays

WHAT: Handmade for the Holidays

WHEN: Saturday, November 13 – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHERE: ArtChurch Studios (301 Whittington Avenue) in Hot Springs

Event showcases high quality, handsome products from local artists and crafters. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit http://handmadealliance.weebly.com or call (501) 781-5281.

Roasting Coffee at Home

Some posts are worth repeating.

I have a confession to make. I’m a coffee geek. Good coffee makes my day, and bad coffee makes me mad. When I get a cup of joe at a coffee shop, and I ask what kind of beans they use for their house blend, I get ticked off when I get an answer like, “Oh, it’s French roast.” Okay, you told me how you roast your house blend. What about beans? Chiapas? Yirgacheffe? Monsoon malabar? What is it???

Our home coffee roasting device

As you can tell, I’m little passionate about coffee. Several years ago I decided to start roasting coffee at home so that I know what I’m drinking. You need only four things to roast coffee at home: 1) green coffee beans, 2) measuring cup, 3) timer, and 4) old air popcorn popper. You read it right. Old air popcorn poppers that you see at a thrift store for $3.50 make a perfect home roasting device. Caution: do not use a popper with mesh bottom. When you roast green coffee beans, skins come off from the beans. When you use an air popper with mesh bottom, skins may fall through the mesh, burn, and ignite fire.

View looking down into the chamber of my air popper. Note the solid chamber bottom and louvered vents around sides.

Let me tell you how easy it is to roast coffee beans. Place 1/2 cup green coffee beans in a popcorn popper. Set your timer for 5-15 minutes depending on your roast preference. Turn on the popper. After your timer goes off, place roasted beans on a pan. De-gas for 48 hours. After 48 hours, it’s grinding and drinking time!

I buy my green beans from Sweet Maria’s. My last order included beans from a women’s coffee cooperative in Rwanda. I try to support Rwandan coffee whenever I can so that the Rwandan economy, devastated by the genocide during the 1990’s, can make a comeback. Sweet Maria’s also offers beans from Mexico, Indonesia, India, and various South American and African countries. The website is http://www.sweetmarias.com.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

Now let me make a case for roasting coffee at home. First, you will know what you are drinking. Many people drink coffee everyday, but they have no clue what they are drinking. Are they drinking arabica or robusta coffee? Are they drinking Sumatra or Harrar? Are they drinking sustainable or not-so-sustainable coffee? Wouldn’t you want to know what you drink everyday? When you roast coffee at home, you become involved with the selection of beans. You’ll know if you’re drinking organic Mexican Chiapas from a farmers’ co-op or Rwandan coffee from a women’s co-op. You’ll get to know your beans intimately. Second, you can control quality when you roast coffee at home. When you buy green beans from reputable suppliers such as Sweet Maria’s, you know you’re getting good quality beans. You can roast your beans to your specifications when you roast at home. Here’s the bottom line: your beans will always be fresh since you get to roast them whenever you want, however much you want. We roast ours once a week, so they are always fresh. In comparison, most coffee shops use beans that have been roasted 3 months to a year ago. Finally, I believe home coffee roasting reduces my carbon footprints. When roasting companies such as Green Mountain Coffee purchase beans, the beans travel from the plantations to the roasting companies. After they are roasted, the companies ship the beans to the stores. You purchase them at the store, and finally, the beans come home with you. My beans, on the other hand, travel from the plantations to Sweet Maria’s. I purchase them from Sweet Maria’s, and they arrive at my home. Voilà, I just eliminated several trips.

When I drink my home roast, though, I don’t think about all that. I just enjoy a good cup of joe. Coffee, anyone?

Weekly Meal Roundup

Homemade bread topped with AR  butter & homemade strawberry jam. With a side of homegrown duck eggs.

Homemade bread topped with AR butter & homemade strawberry jam. With a side of homegrown duck eggs.

Homemade spinach, egg & tofu soup made with our duck eggs.

Homemade spinach, egg & tofu soup made with our duck eggs.

Paris the Chicken & Soophie the Duck. It's been so cold that the girls have been hanging out in front of our back door.

Weekly Meal Roundup is back! One of the reasons that it’s back is because I have to keep a food journal to manage my migraine. Well, as long as I have to keep a food journal, I figured why not share how I eat locally on the blog?

Eating locally can be tough this time of the year. With farmers markets closed, it’s hard to get hold of fresh, locally grown food. Eddy and I buy from Arkansas Sustainability Network’s Local Food Club, but even online food clubs see a decline in availability of fresh produce this time of the year.

That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of harvest preservation if you want to eat locally throughout the year. This week, I made eggplant casserole using tomatoes and eggplant that I froze in this summer. They helped bring back a bit of summer in a frigid week!

How do you eat locally this time of the year? Enjoying any preserved harvest? Leave a comment!

And now, here is the roundup for this past week.

Sunday

Breakfast – organic mochi in kelp soup, home roasted coffee

Lunch – organic mochi in kelp soup, daikon & carrots slaw, mashed Asian sweet potatoes with chestnuts, black beans, burdock roots with sesame seeds

Dinner – homemade chili made with AR ground buffalo, tomatoes, corn & peppers, homemade cornbread made with War Eagle Mill cornmeal

Monday

Breakfast – organic War Eagle Mill (WEM) oatmeal with WEM flax and AR honey & bee pollen, half a grapefruit, home roasted coffee

Lunch – homemade chili, cornbread

Dinner – at friend’s (Thanks, David!)

Tuesday

Breakfast – organic WEM oatmeal with WEM flax and AR honey & bee pollen, half a grapefruit, home roasted coffee

Lunch – homemade chili, cornbread, AR grape tomatoes

Dinner – at Vino’s with friends

Wednesday

Breakfast – AR rice with natto (fermented soy beans), AR grape tomatoes, half a grapefruit, home roasted coffee

Lunch – at Vino’s with colleagues

Dinner – homemade chili, pecan mashed sweet potatoes made with AR sweet potatoes & pecans, AR turnips in mustard sauce made with homemade mustard, eggplant casserole made with AR eggplant, tomatoes & jalapeno cheddar, homegrown eggs & homemade cornbread made with WEM cornmeal & homegrown eggs, home brewed beer

Thursday

Breakfast – organic WEM oatmeal with WEM flax and AR honey & bee pollen, half a grapefruit, home roasted coffee

Lunch – homemade chili, pecan mashed sweet potatoes, AR turnips in mustard sauce

Dinner – homemade shrimp fried rice made with SC shrimp (Christmas present from Eddy’s parents who live in Charleston), homegrown eggs & AR rice, carrots & peppers, AR broccoli in oyster sauce, spinach, egg & tofu soup made with homegrown eggs, AR mixed greens salad topped with homemade miso vinaigrette

Friday

Breakfast – homemade bread made with WEM flour topped with homemade strawberry jam made with AR strawberries, homegrown eggs, home roasted coffee

Lunch – homemade shrimp fried rice, spinach, egg & tofu soup, AR broccoli in oyster sauce

Dinner – at Masala Grill & Teahouse

Saturday

Brunch – homemade French toast made with homemade bread, homegrown eggs, topped with AR honey, half a grapefruit, home roasted coffee

Dinner – at a taqueria in Hot Springs

I Heart Little Bread Company!

Located in Fayetteville, Little Bread Company is my favorite bakery in Arkansas.

Located in Fayetteville, Little Bread Company is my favorite bakery in Arkansas.

Little Bread Company serves great cappuccino...

Little Bread Company serves great cappuccino...

... and delicious slices of cake.

... and delicious slices of cake.

Little Bread Company recycles...

Little Bread Company recycles...

... and promotes local businesses.

... and promotes local businesses.

Little Bread Company is my favorite bakery in Arkansas. Started in Eureka Springs and now in Fayetteville, Little Bread Company serves all kinds of bread, sandwiches, and coffee drinks. What I love about Little Bread Company is that its baristas know how to make good cappuccino. As some of you know, I’m a big coffee geek, and I have no patience for cappuccino with flat foam. Foam for cappuccino should be thick enough that you have to use a spoon that comes (or should come) on side. Unfortunately, most coffee shops in Arkansas can’t tell cappuccino from latte. Little Bread Company is one of only two places in Arkansas that I would recommend for coffee drinks. (The other is Vicki’s Coffee Corner in Hot Springs.)

Another thing I love about Little Bread Company is its food. The restaurant uses fresh ingredients for its quiches and cakes. During our recent trip to Fayetteville, I had a slice of blackberry chocolate mousse cheesecake. Initially, I thought it may turn out to be too sweet. Well, it was just right. The tartness of blackberries balanced the sweetness of chocolate mousse. It went very well with LBC’s cappuccino.

Little Bread Company is a member of the Fayetteville Independent Business Alliance (FIBA), a group with a mission to promote local economy. The restaurant proudly displays the FIBA logo and doesn’t shy away from telling you why it’s important to support local businesses. Little Bread Company also recycles, which is another reason why I love the place!

Next time you are in Fayetteville, stop by Little Bread Company. Get yourself a great cup of cappuccino and support local economy!

Spot on Green: Carrie’s

Located in southwest Little Rock, Carrie's is one of my favorite thrift stores.

Located in southwest Little Rock, Carrie's is one of my favorite thrift stores.

Lamps for sale, $24 and $14 respectively.

Lamps for sale, $24 and $14 respectively.

Retro red chairs for $20 each.

Retro red chairs for $20 each.

Need a smoker? Carrie's sells it for $7.

Need a smoker? Carrie's sells it for $7.

I consider myself to be a coffee geek. I read Kenneth Davids’ coffee reviews religiously. I roast my beans at home, using an old air popcorn popper. Since the advent of microwavable popcorn, many air popcorn poppers have made their way to thrift stores. Carrie’s is one of my favorite thrift stores to look for one.

Located in southwest Little Rock, Carrie’s is a HUGE flea market. You find almost everything at Carrie’s – furniture, appliances, tableware, books. etc. Last time I visited Carrie’s, I scored a copy of The Moosewood Cookbook ($1) and a 20-quart stainless steel pot to brew beer ($20). You never know what you’ll find there, but you are bound to find something.

Carrie’s is located on 8717 Geyer Springs Road in Little Rock. Hours are 10-6 on Mondays-Thursdays, 10-7:30 on Fridays, 10-6 on Saturdays, and 1-6 on Sundays. For more information, call (501)562-8088.

Pics from Hot Springs E-Day

Eddy manning GreenAR by the Day booth at the Hot Springs E-Day.

Eddy manning GreenAR by the Day booth at the Hot Springs E-Day.

An attendee holds a baby raccoon. Tommy Young, a federally licensed wildlife rescuer, holds Otto the Baby Otter in the background. I plan to visit Tommy very soon, so stay tuned for his story!

An attendee holds a baby raccoon. Tommy Young, a federally licensed wildlife rescuer, holds Otto the Baby Otter in the background. I plan to visit Tommy very soon, so stay tuned for his story!

Briana Johnson Moore, the woman behind the Nest Handmade Soap as well as my soapmaking mentor, mans her booth.

Briana Johnson Moore, the woman behind the Nest Handmade Soap as well as my soapmaking mentor.

Arkansas Earth Institute shares a table with Lisa James of the Golden Muses. Lisa makes recycled paper journals and sells them through Etsy. I plan to interview her shortly, so stay tuned for her story as well!

Arkansas Earth Institute shares a table with Lisa James of the Golden Muses. Lisa makes recycled paper journals and sells them through Etsy. I plan to interview her shortly, so stay tuned for her story as well!

Karen Holcomb of the Spa City Co-op talks to people.

Karen Holcomb of the Spa City Co-op talks to people.

A display hive at the booth for Greater Hot Springs Beekeepers' Association.

A display hive at the booth for Greater Hot Springs Beekeepers' Association.

Hot Springs E-Day was fun for everybody including kids!

Hot Springs E-Day was fun for everybody including kids!

Twike, a zero emissions vehicle, made an appearance at the festival.

Twike, a zero emissions vehicle, made an appearance at the festival.

Michelle Sestili and Courtney Butler, two of main brains behind the Hot Springs E-Day. You guys ROCK!!!

Michelle Sestili and Courtney Butler, two of many brains behind the Hot Springs E-Day. You guys ROCK!!!

Hot Springs E-Day was AWESOME!!! Gorgeous weather, great booths, and wonderful people!

Hot Springs E-Day was AWESOME!!! Gorgeous weather, great booths, and wonderful people!

Adam Roberts, another brain behind the Hot Springs E-Day, cleans up after the festival. Thanks, Adam, for all that you did!

Adam Roberts, another brain behind the Hot Springs E-Day, cleans up after the festival. Thanks, Adam, for all that you did!

Meet Local Green Peeps!

nonewcoalChances are, if you are reading this, you support green causes. You go to meetings, you visit local farmers’ markets, and soon you start running into familiar faces. You know their names, but have you ever wondered what they do to be ? Well, Meet Local Green Peeps! hopes to satisfy your curiosity about area green people and what they do to be GreenAR in the Natural State. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Vital Statistics (Name & Location): Leah Hennings, Little Rock

What Do You Do?: I am a citizen activist always and a veterinarian/ scientist during the work week.

Steps Taken to be GreenAR:

I believe that the easiest way to be green is to simplify.  My family and I have made the choice to decrease our total consumption.  That one step allows us to make less garbage, use less energy, and walk more lightly on Earth.  The first step we really took as a family was to go almost 100% vegetarian.  Decreasing meat consumption is among the most ‘green’ lifestyle changes a person can make.  In order to decrease our garbage, we recycle everything possible, buy food items in the largest possible package, and I make our bread and sauces from scratch.   We also compost, and that hasn’t been too difficult for us because we use the simplest possible method.  We keep our thermostat at almost painfully low temperature in the winter and equally painfully high temperature in the summer, and we open the windows whenever possible.  My daughter and I buy only used clothing (obviously there are some things one really should purchase new, like socks), and we get great bargains and nice-looking clothes from our favorite resale shops.   We buy used furniture or  scavenge whenever possible. We buy fair-trade products, especially coffee.  I use biodegradable and natural cleaning products around the house.  I believe that local economies are the greenest, so we try to purchase everything from small, local businesses.  My rule of thumb is that any business with greater than 3 franchises outside Little Rock is too big.  And fast food of any kind is right out.  We buy local foods whenever possible, and I preserve local foods for winter use.

Of course, just walking the walk isn’t enough.  I believe that being green also means speaking up for the environment and social justice.  I volunteer with local organizations like Arkansas Earth Day Foundation, Arkansas Earth Institute, Basket-A-Month CSA Program, and Arkansas Sustainability Network.  I also manage a blog (www.citizensdailylobby.com) whose purpose is to empower Arkansans to make a difference in government.  My mission is to encourage everyone to “talk the talk” to those in power.

Hard-to-Take Steps: I really would like to ride the bus, but so far haven’t found enough hours in my day to dawdle at  bus stops with the Central Arkansas Transit system’s rather dismal schedule.  I would like to make cheese and yogurt, but I’m finding it hard to get going.

Future Steps to be GreenAR: There are some energy efficiency steps we need to take in the house, but those involve rather high start-up costs, and we haven’t been able to take those steps yet.  I would like to have a produce garden of my own.  I am also planning to start making more of our household cleaners from scratch.

Favorite AR Produce, Groups & Businesses: There are so many!  I would have to say that my favorite produce comes from Arkansas Natural Produce, followed at a close second by Willow Springs Market Garden.  It just wouldn’t be politic to pick a favorite group or green business, but I am so proud of everyone who has started/will soon start local green businesses.

If You Can Do One Thing to Make the Natural State Even More Natural, What Would You Do? I would keep coal plants and coal mines out of our state.  There is a big movement in Arkansas to encourage the mining of lignite coal, and that has to stop!

Know a green Arkie? Leave a comment and let me know how I can get in touch with him or her.