One of the advantages of living where we live is that from roughly December to March, everything outside our home's doors becomes one giant walk-in cooler. I use a table and a cooler on my front porch — which, by the way, makes me look very classy indeed — to hold overflow from the refrigerator.
This seems to happen mostly around the holidays and the many birthday celebrations we have, but it also happens after I do my once-monthly grocery shopping trip.
I phone the house and call out the kids and my husband as I pull into the driveway in the car weighted down with far too many bags. There is a flurry of activity as we all shuttle back and forth, carrying bags into the house and kids dive into those bags looking for "the good stuff."
Hands pop up in the air with favorite finds: "YES! Pretzels!" "Finally, more clementines!" and "We have crackers again!" Every so often a groan and a, "Yuck. Asparagus," peppers the air, but mostly people are thrilled to have the staples and luxury items on hand again.
And almost without fail, it is at this point that I smack my forehead and realize I didn't clean out the refrigerator before I left for the store. This is when my great outdoor walk-in cooler is greatly appreciated.
I take out the odds and ends that I've been saving for whatever reason — the last carrot and stalk of celery (into the soup stock bin in the freezer), the cheese ends rattling around in storage bags (into a bigger bag to deal with later and into the porch cooler) and the armload of almost empty mustard bottles and various other things.
I also set the little jelly jar with a tablespoon or two of sweetened condensed milk and the quart jar with a cup of coffee concentrate outside the front door. When the rest of the groceries are put away and the kids have descended like locusts on the pretzels and crackers and clementines, I crack open the door and stick my arms out just far enough to grab the jars I put out there for just this moment.
A handful of ice, the contents of both jars, a goodly splash of milk, a lid and a shake-shake-shake. That's all it takes to whip up a sweet, refreshing iced coffee to cool me down from my marathon grocery session.
One batch of cold-brewed coffee concentrate yields a little over a gallon to keep you happy and hopping for quite some time. There is a smoothness to cold-brewed coffee that you just can't get from standard heat brewing. Those of you sensitive to the acidity of coffee may find this helps make it easier to stomach, literally. This cold-brewed concentrate is also great in recipes calling for strong coffee.
Cold-Brewed Coffee Concentrate
8 ozs. espresso grind coffee (Café Goya, Café Bustelo, etc.)
1 gallon plus 2 quarts cold, fresh water
Scatter the coffee grounds into the bottom of a large, non-reactive container (glass, plastic or stainless steel). Pour 2 quarts of the water over the grounds. Stir well to make sure all of the grounds are wet. Pour in the rest of the water, cover the container with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours, or overnight.
Strain the coffee through a coffee-filter- or cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander into a large pitcher or bowl.
Transfer the strained coffee into jars or other containers with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate and drink within a month.
Perfect Mason Jar Iced Coffee
1 c. (8 ozs.) chilled cold-brewed coffee concentrate
½ c. ice cubes
1-3 T. sweetened condensed milk
Optional: 1 T. chocolate or other flavored syrup
Put the ice cubes, coffee concentrate and sweetened condensed milk into a Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in milk to the point of the jar where the threaded rings to screw on the lid start.
Screw the lid into place and shake firmly several times or until you hear the ice moving freely and the color is even. Sip happily!
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What kind of good Irish-American girl would I be if I didn't share one of our favorite St. Patrick's Day recipes? A bad one, I tell you! Every year, we make massive casserole dishes full of Colcannon and I'd love to share that tradition with you.
14 medium sized all-purpose potatoes
1 small head white or green cabbage
1 cooking onion
1 c. warm whole milk
½ c. warm cream or half and half
3 T. butter (for cabbage)
½ c. butter, melted (for mashed potatoes)
1 c. shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra butter for the casserole dish
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Wash potatoes and cut into quarters, then carefully add to the boiling water. When the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and return to the hot pan. Add the ½ cup of butter and warm milk, then mash well. Set aside.
Cut the blossom end off the onion, stand on the flat spot, and cut in half. Lay halves on their cut sides, slice down from about ½ inch below the root end all the way to the cut end at ¼-inch intervals. Turn the onion 90 degrees and cut across the slices you already made to dice the onion.
Slice a round off the stem end of the cabbage to make it stand sturdily on the cutting board. Place cabbage, cut side down, on the board and cut in half. Lay the half on its side and slice as thinly as possible. Turn knife (or cutting board) 90 degrees and cut your thin slices into small squares.
Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add cabbage to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Add the onion to the cabbage in the pan and toss to coat.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and stir into the mashed potatoes. Try the potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Generously butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish and spoon the mashed potato mixture into it. Roughen the top with a fork and sprinkle the Cheddar cheese over the top. Bake until the potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted and lightly browned in places. Serve hot, warm or cold in slices.
For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com or Rebecca's new blog, www.icouldeatthat.com. Write to Rebecca at email@example.com to share your adventures and favorite recipes.