Will the Real Olive Oil Please Stand Up?

img_5152I grew up eating a lot of food cooked in butter, toast covered in butter – it was the oil of my childhood in the South! But in the past few years, especially living in Madrid, I became an olive oil person. I like it for cooking, I like it on toast, I like it for everything.

So as I was reading the book Real Food, Fake Food, I was surprised to find that many of the olive oils are actually a mix of fresh olive oil (the yummy stuff) and a refined, low-flavor, super-stable version of olive oil. Sure, the book calls that fake, but if you read between the intense accusations, it still shakes out that the labeling in this industry is deceptive. This doesn’t mean that every bottle is mislabeled, but Extra Virgin Olive Oils from California, it turns out, actually have a more consistently high quality than some brands from Italy, according to tests!

It made me wonder if I had good “taste” in olive oil; so I bought a bottle of California Olive Ranch, and grabbed my most recent bottle of EEVO, and tasted them. I liked them both – but the California one was really flavorful! It makes me think I could happily use whatever olive oil for cooking but might want to keep the delicious California kind with me for toast and other kinds of direct use.

Do you have a favorite brand of EEVO? I’m only now opening my eyes to the idea that they can taste different!

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Match Made Coffee 3 – Espresso Roast!

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We don’t have an espresso machine (probably the only piece of coffee related paraphernalia that we don’t own…) but there was some ground espresso in the Match Made Coffee box, so I rooted out the old Aero Press to make an espresso-like pressure.

I first tried Aero Press at my friend M’s house, where it made small but velvety cups of coffee basically by sticking coffee and water in a filtered syringe and pressing the water through the coffee. When we were dating, Husband and I did a coffee themed Christmas where I bought him the electric coffee grinder we use every day, and he bought me the aero press. It’s a lot to wash so we don’t use it all the time, but it is fast and does make a delicious cup of coffee.

The San Diego Coffee Company espresso roast reminds me of drinking syrupy little espresso shots in Italy and Spain, and how quickly they disappear, almost sweet just because they are so concentrated! That tinge of caramel and sweetness is one of my favorite qualities of an espresso roast.

If you want to try your own roasts from Match Made Coffee, they have their whole bean and ground varieties at www.matchmadecoffee.com – I noticed recently that you can save money if you order the 6 month subscription as a gift. I was shopping for hotel nights so that Husband and I could have a night away for Valentine’s, and I realized that for the same price as one night in a downtown hotel, you could have coffee breaks together for 6 months! Maybe more exciting for a girl who has had a “coffee-themed Christmas” in her past, but still. 🙂

 

Subscription Service Review: Match Made Coffee!

img_5130I have often thought that it would be nice to be able to get to know new foods and drinks through the “subscription service” model; I even tried it once when my sister gave me a free trial of Blue Apron. The use of exotic ingredients like watermelon radishes and spices that are outside my norm, like harissa, made me feel like I had a better grasp on what’s available to me as a cook.

One thing I hadn’t seen, however, was a coffee subscription box – it makes sense, because coffee can be roasted, sealed and shipped quite easily (no need for the big ice packs they use in food subscription boxes), and coffee roasteries have a special fingerprint and access to many single-origin coffees. There has also grown up a lot of interest in supporting fair-trade organizations that make coffee sustainably without polluting or degrading environments around the world where the richest coffee is grown.

Enter Match Made Coffee – I got to know them because one of their founders is an active WP blogger! This community never ceases to amaze me. I chatted with him and he agreed to let me try out their first shipment box and share with you all about it! The first shipment contains a beautiful coffee-holding wooden box, with 3 bags of coffee and 3 snack samples to pair with those coffees! The wrapping is decadent and contains the Match Made Coffee seal. You can get the coffees whole bean or ground.

A lot of people who don’t buy small-roastery coffee will probably see the $29.99 a month tag as steep, but I can ensure you that I have frequently spent 14-18 dollars per pound to get coffee from a place I’m travelling to bring back for husband – it’s a lovely gift that travels easily and makes my suitcase smell AMAZING. The coffees in Match Made’s boxes are smaller – will make a 12 cup pot or a couple french presses or half a dozen rounds with your pour-over, it seems – but given the fact that they amount to 3-9 little “coffee breaks” each time you get a shipment,  with new flavors that you don’t have to locate and purchase yourself, it really becomes a curated, reasonable deal. For a pour-over of a single-origin cup of coffee in a shop, most places charge between 3 and 4 dollars. If you make these at home, you really aren’t losing out, and as I’ve often said in posts like The Ritual of Slow Coffee, coffee at home can actually be even more delectable.

For the next few days, I’m going to discuss the coffees in this box so that you can hear about each one for yourself, but to check them out more in-depth and sign up, the link is www.matchmadecoffee.com – enjoy!

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Book Review: Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

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Do you ever read something, and have it remind you of a good meal? I stumbled upon Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, and it has me thinking of macaroni and cheese. Sure, there are two foods in the title, but macaroni is thick and creamy, worth lingering over. Her work is by turns sad and sweet, by turns rich and stark.

Niequist is a religious writer, but she makes it a part of her life, not the goal of the book. She seems more interested in showing how food and life have come together for her than in forwarding a particular experience of spirituality, which I find really refreshing and lovely. It also opens me up to all the lovely parts of her religious experience: she’s gotten to marry friends of hers, and share food while discussing the Bible, and pray over those she loves. I don’t know much about her specific beliefs, but I do love that I learn about the foods and the travels and the friends that matter so much to her.

She has some serious thoughts about hospitality, which seem relevant as I’m embarking on my badly-defined quest to know how hospitality fits into modern life. She sees her home as a place that hosts others: even when she and her husband disagree on how warm to keep the place, even when things are awkward or unplanned or not what anyone expected. There’s something so authentic about the way she discusses both her own need to make a lot of experiences good for her guests and her own longing to release some of her unnecessary worries.

I’d recommend it as a winter time read; it has made me feel comforted and warm while I sit in a cold house and nurse a frigid cup of old coffee. It makes me think about how it’s worth it to make a new pot of hot water, to enjoy each bite of a piece of toast, and to write about the way people have made my life so rich and lovely. It’s a good way to feel about a book.

C. R. Gibson’s “Creme de la Creme” Recipe Box

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As I’ve written before with product reviews, I receive the product for free but am not compensated for my writing; I also make sure that I actually like and endorse the products before I even know if I’ll be doing a review. Here’s my thoughts!

I have been writing for this past year about how much I see food as a way to bring people together, and so naturally when I saw the design on the ‘creme de la creme’ box I was a little starstruck: “gather round” would have made such a good blog name! Since I am pretty committed at this point, I’ll just tell you that this phrase encompasses so much of what makes recipe boxes special: they are a bringing-together, a compilation of important memories and traditions. If someone you know is starting a new family or just connecting more with their family, this seems like the right box.

The box is a bit more luxurious than usual recipe boxes, covered in leatherette and with gold-colored end-caps on each of the corners. The inside features a black-and-white design that matches the fun and funky recipe cards – they even feature a pineapple! I envision this box for a stylish person, someone who wants to bring folks together but also puts all the lovely photos from their kitchen up on Instagram.

You can check out the box here or browse the variety of other boxes and kitchen organization tools that C.R. Gibson makes on their website. My grandmother-in-law was thrilled to discover their company before my bridal shower last year because she wanted to get me a recipe box and fewer and fewer places are selling them. I like the idea that investing in a C.R. Gibson box, or any recipe box, is a long-term investment: few people just have a bunch of them (I guess I do… but having a recipe blog seems to justify it!) and if you get a nice quality one, it could become an heirloom to give to a daughter or son someday!

C.R. Gibson Recipe Box Review

img_4821As I usually say,  I receive no payment for my thoughts about recipe boxes I review, and I don’t get approval from the companies before I publish. However, I do receive the recipe box free of charge – just want you to know the situation. Still, I don’t review products I don’t like!

Recipe boxes tend to be serious, in my experience, but what I like about this one from C.R. Gibson is that it recognizes another serious aspect of cooking: it’s all about chemistry. The bright green metal box has a typeface and style that makes it look a bit like the periodic table of the elements, and comes with a cute carrying strap on the top.

Because I’m sort of advocating that more people (and more kinds of people!) keep recipe boxes, not just newlywed ladies like myself, I like that this one has all the functionality of a regular recipe box – even tall dividers and recipe cards to use specifically with this box! – but doesn’t necessarily scream “girly girl.” It’d be a good gift for the dude or lady in your life who wears science goggles for work and also for mysterious pressure cooker experiments.

The box is one in a series called “Periodic Table of Yum,” so you can also check out other items that are connected to the series. I think it works great as a stand alone piece because it isn’t the typical wooden box or paperboard paisley box. I love the little details like the border of “elements” on the cards themselves!

The box is available here if you want to see it; C.R. Gibson helpfully lists recipe boxes under “kitchen organization,” but I think that a box like this could make a really personalized and helpful gift for anyone whose getting started living on their own!img_4822

Product Review: Rifle Paper Company Recipe Box

Note: I have not written reviews before, but I’m reviewing this recipe box which was provided to me for free. I think recipe boxes are a key part of the project of this blog – passing stories of food between family and friends – so I hope that this review is informative, but I wasn’t paid to say any of these things, just given the box to write about honestly.

I’ve always thought that old-fashioned drawings of plants and flowers have a beautiful look to them; I’m not usually a visual person, but I’m a sucker for the history behind all the knowledge we have regarding botany. It’s literally how we know what nourishes us and what could kill us.

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This box makes me feel nourished too; I think that the nice thing about a pretty recipe box is that honestly, cooking is rarely pretty – it’s covered in flour and tomato splatter and it probably just dropped a chunk of squash on the floor. This recipe box guards the beautiful parts of cooking against all the mess – it keeps your recipes safe and secure. The box is made of metal, so if it does get splashed, it’ll clean easily.

I love using a recipe stand while in the thick of cooking, which helps keep the mess at bay, but this box will also keep you organized before you cook. The beautiful dividers and practical cards would make you feel capable of feeding your family on even the most overwhelming day. I especially like that there’s a line for the “title” of the recipe, as well as for who gave it to you. These cards were clearly made for me and my need to bug others for recipes. It also strikes me as a great bridal shower gift, where each person fills out a card, or a gift you could make for a wedding itself if you have enough family recipes to pass along. IMG_4645

Right now, Rifle Paper Company has this box on sale at https://riflepaperco.com/shop/recipe-boxes-cards/herb-garden-kitchen-recipe-box/, which is pretty wonderful, but knowing the quality of this one (and knowing that sales don’t last forever), I’d recommend that you check out their other products. They seem to really carefully curate what they sell, and the materials are well-sourced.

Reviewing this box has inspired me to get into the nitty gritty of writing out recipes – something I said I’d start doing weeks ago. It’s so easy to just grab a link and pin it on Pinterest, and then try to scroll through websites with messy fingers while cooking. I want the slow flipping through the cards to find the recipe I need; cooking is not digital, and I’m going to make a bit of my cooking process more physical too. It’s time I added a few recipes to the stack of wedding recipes I have pretty much worked through.