Coffee Roasting, Apple Pie, and Macaroni Grill
I really wanted to see coffee roast, and since John bought me coffee last week, I really wanted to see the new coffee roast. Thing was that John usually does it Saturday mornings, and I normally sleep in, deeply, on Saturday mornings. So this morning I actually woke up not too late in order to watch coffee roast.
It was pretty cold out, so we took the roaster into the little bathroom, turned on the fan and then let it rip. It's really neat. The heater unit, underneath, heats up really, really hot air and blows the beans around in the glass chamber, covering them all with the warmth. So it gets really hot, and the beans started to crackle a little, kinda like popcorn popping. The beans got gradually browner and browner over several minutes, and then they suddenly all started crackling, loudly, all at once. Smoke started to come pouring out, and, alarmed, I wanted to move the timer over to the cooling cycle. John said that if I was here to watch how he did it, then I should just leave it alone. So I watched the beans get darker and darker and shinier and shinier, and soon they were pretty much a perfect Italian roast, nearly as dark as an espresso roast, but not quite that burnt. Each bean was glossy with oils and the acrid smoke of the chaff had filled the little bathroom.
That smell would stay in the bathroom for pretty much the entire weekend.
The coffee beans themselves, however, smelled wonderful, chocolatey and marvelous. John normally brewed an entire pot of coffee from the beans, rather than saving half for tomorrow, and so we brewed an entire pot of coffee. I drank a lot more coffee than I have since I got pregnant. It really was extra smooth and mellow and good with milk. It was mildly less expensive than the Jamaican Blue Mountain and nearly as good. So I was pretty impressed. It turns out that the Brewing Company actually has a very large number of green coffee bean varieties as they roast their own coffees. The lady said that if there was anything we wanted, we could get it. They didn't undercut their roasted prices nearly as much as Blue Mountain Brew does, but it's also over the counter, not mail order. Instant gratification. We both wondered if Victor would sell us some Hawaiian Kona peaberry green at a discount. That would be worth it.
John then went downstairs to ride the exercise bike, and while he was down there I thought and thought a bit. We weren't going to be home for most of next week, so if I wanted to use the kitchen, I should us it now. I got some pecans out of the freezer, and toasted them in a pan over the stove, until the pecans were fragrant and toasted brown. I then pulled the Krustez whole wheat and honey pancake mix from the cupboard and read the instructions. I measured stuff out, and then when it was all ready, I mashed a very ripe banana with a fork, mixed the mix with chopped pecans in it, and stirred in the banana mash. The resultant batter seemed fairly thin to me, so I added just a bit more mix.
I'd forgotten that the Krustez stuff thickened up with a little time, I should have stayed with the old proportions as the batter suddenly stiffened up significantly and I was pouring a pancake that was nearly a third of an inch thick. Oops. I added some water, and spread the thick one out a little more. It cooked up okay, and the next one was a bit better, but I added just a bit more water to the batter and the rest of them were pretty good. Not quite as dense as the pancakes from the Egg and I, but not lightweight things, either, especially with the richness of the toasted pecans and the banana in there.
John showered while I flipped pancakes and when he was out, they were pretty much done. Real, grade B maple was pretty much all these puppies needed and we dug in happily, with nice, big mugs of coffee to wash it all down. Yum. Nearly no fat, no salt, and plenty of taste and character. I could get used to eating like this.
The goal of the entire weekend was to clear out the dining room area and the kitchen so that the flooring folks could get everything completely dusty and then fill the air with noxious, alcohol fumes without killing anything, filling anything with dust we didn't want filled, and breaking anything. We basically needed to move all the furniture out and get all the cooking things out and then seal up all the cabinets. I thought it was mildly funny that John decided to do all this with a pregnant wife; and he agreed that it would have been funny if he'd assumed that I'd do much of the lifting. He had a hand truck and was pretty sure he could do all the heavy stuff himself. So I helped with the light stuff.
We'd done the closets in the front foyer already, bringing up all the contents to the second floor. Today we'd be bringing everything downstairs, to the basement. We'll have to get it all back up when we're back again, too. All the plants, all the kitchen equipment has to be moved down, piece by piece. So we did that. I got breathless on the stairs, eventually, and took breaks and drank a lot of water and generally did okay. Most everything made it down by mid-afternoon. At noon, John wasn't hungry, still full from eating nearly twice as many of the banana pancakes as I did; but I was, so I made myself a Wrangler hot dog, with mayo, relish, and ketchup and ate it with Fezzik watching me while I ate and drank a pop. The protein helped and I kept going afterwards.
I realized something, that before the pregnancy, I used to skip meals. I don't anymore. At all, even if the meals might be smaller than I thought before, I don't skip anything anymore and really can't or I feel awful. So I must be eating more than I used to eat, and I shouldn't feel guilty about 'not eating enough'. I am pretty convinced, however, that this eating healthy stuff is going to be a good habit to carry forward and is one of the reasons I'm not gaining a huge ton of weight.
Right after lunch, John ran out of gas, and so he went and took a nap. I was still way too awake from all the coffee, so I started making apple pie. The very first thing was the crust, and I'd been watching enough Food TV, now, that I actually make the dough and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let any gluten I accidentally create to loosen up. I also did the crust more Alton Brown style, i.e. work some of the fat (i.e. vegetable shortening) in completely, so that the mixture almost looks like meal, and then cut in chunks of cold butter, so that the crust can be both tender (like biscuits that have the fat worked completely in) and flaky (with the butter chunks actually creating layers in the dough). I added some sugar for good browning characteristics and just a touch of cinnamon for taste. The finished dough rounds went into the fridge, and I had an hour to wait, so I was very brave and went downstairs, into the basement, and, for the very first time, plugged the Final Fantasy VII disk into the PlayStation.
I'd heard a lot of good things about the game, and John wanted to watch me play; but when I'm starting to play, I don't want people watching mostly because I know I'm going to screw up and it's actually easier to screw up and try new things when nobody is watching. For me, at least, it is. I don't want help. I don't want helpful words, 'cause I'll just bite whomever tries to give me advise. I want to do it alone. Which isn't all that easy a thing to say; but doing it was a breeze. So I sat down, turned everything on and started, right off the bat, by being completely unable to figure out how to fight in a combat scene. Took me about three or four rounds of getting whacked before I realized I had to hit the okay *twice* before the selected attack actually did anything. Oops.
Lots of stuff like that. It's embarrassing in front of others, it's edifying when I figure it out myself. John basically doesn't embarrass easily. So he doesn't get mad when people comment on his mistakes. I do.
So I actually had fun learning the basics as I went. It was actually really keen, and I slowly started watching the very, very opening things start to unfold before me. In many ways it's a bit like Parasite Eve, where combat is very contained in a different environment, and there's lots of opportunities to watch plot unfold, just not quite as *long* a plot sequence set as with PE. So I could rest my hands when I wasn't in fight zones. Also like in PE, on the most part there doesn't really seem to be a master clock by which plot elements Go Off, rather, most of the plot elements seem to be triggered by things I do. So even if there is character urgency, I can actually take some time for things to figure things out if I want to. Resting isn't something that's going to ruin the story. There are way cooler puzzles in this game, and good light moments as well as the intense, scary ones that seem to be the staple of Parasite Eve.
Eventually my butt got tired, so I wandered upstairs as I heard John moving around up there. He was moving more stuff and warned me that, tonight, he was going to tape up the way upstairs, so that I'd better get what I wanted now, if I wanted anything from upstairs for the next week. I thought a bit and didn't go up and get anything. I can pretty much live without any of that.
One of the reasons I was making apple pie was cause Penzey's spices had arrived, including a nice little canister of very fresh cinnamon. The other real reason was 'cause I've been craving apple pie since the weather turned. Hot spicy, tart and sweet with a crisp, yummy crust. I also love it when the apples still have their skins, which will never happen in a grocery store pie, and the grocery pies scared me 'cause there were ingredients in them that I couldn't even characterize chemically, much less pronounce them. So I cut up five Granny Smith apples after scrubbing them well and doused them with a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Then, in a bowl, I put a quarter cup of brown sugar, an eighth of a cup of white, a couple teaspoons of cinnamon, a quarter teaspoon of ground allspice, a quarter teaspoon of cloves, and several vigorous rubs of a whole nutmeg against the grater. Mmm... fragrant. I tossed all that with two teaspoons of corn starch, as I wanted it not quite completely runny, but also not gluey thick and I don't really like the cloudy results that flour gives. I tossed all the apples with all the spices and then rolled the lower crust, poured everything into the lower crust and then rolled out the upper, put that one, crimped, and cut steam vents.
My pies are not pretty. They're functional, mostly, as the shell is well enough sealed on the edges so that things don't leak too much. The whole thing went on a cookie sheet to catch any wayward drips, and then into a very, very hot oven, about 450 for about ten minutes to set up the crust and then I turned it down to 350 to let everything roast slow and long and happily.
In the meantime, Jenny and Colin called to ask if we were doing something tonight. We thought it would be great to have dinner somewhere other than in the house, so we told them that, and they were in Westminster. I said it'd be cool to eat at the Macaroni Grill, as I'd never eaten there before and John said that he'd gone once and that it had been pretty good. There was one right next to where Jenny was shopping, so we told them to meet us there.
The minute the pie came out of the oven, we hightailed it out there. We hadn't realized that, these days, Homecoming included a formal dinner and dancing on the same weekend as the game. The place was just stuffed with local high school kids. Oops. It was an hour wait. Jenny and Colin had just meandered about before going there to meet us, so they'd only been waiting a few minutes when we arrived. So we walked to the next restaurant we saw, which was a Carraba's, and they were stuffed full too. The walk in the cold, cold night air took us about twenty minutes there and back, so by the time we got back we were ready to just stand in the warm lobby, watch the chefs in their show off kitchen, and talk. Jenny and Colin had had a late, lunch, too, so the extra wait actually helped to whet their appetites, which was very useful in the long run.
When we actually sat down, it had only been about forty minutes, all in all, which was nice, that they'd overestimated it a little, so we could be pleased. The menu looked very much like a less-pretentious Cucina! Cucina! from back in our Northwest days, and when the food came it was very good. The Caesar was not inspiring, but also not bad. Fresh and with a fairly balanced dressing and the usual croutons and cheese. I had the lobster ravioli, covered in a lemon butter sauce with shrimp, asparagus and other yummy things in it. The lobster was tender and had a few shells in it to give me an indication of its authenticity. I really liked that.
John had the lasagna, and it was a mountain of layers that tasted really, really good. Just the right balance of savory and sweet, cheese to pasta and sauce. I got a bite of his and he got a bite of mine and I just barely finished the four pillows of ravioli I had. It was a good deal of food. And then came dessert!
Colin really wanted tiramisu and Jenny really didn't. I wanted tiramisu and John said that he'd share with me, but I thought, well, why doesn't he share with Jenny if he doesn't really have strong feelings about his dessert? So I told him he should share with Jenny. He was very surprised, but turned it into a laughing matter, and, eventually, he and Jenny shared a really marvelous plain cheesecake on a pool of raspberry syrup. None of us could actually finish the last bites of our dessert.
The conversations were fun and interesting. I have known people who have gotten pregnant, and I know that before I was actually pregnant, I didn't ask them a single thing. Jenny seems to be filled with interesting questions, and Colin and John had their says as well; but it was just interesting and kinda neat, too, to be asked so many things. John says it's how I learn, too, that I'm much happier reading a book and trying things myself than having someone show me, but a lot of people just don't get it unless someone shows them or talks with them or there's some kind of interaction. He's likely right.
After that much food, sleep was a little hard to get to, but with a little digestive time, I finally managed.