Food & Cooking · Tried

Infographic Love, Coffee Love, and Epicurean Baristas (Love!)

Christmas BlendClick image to enlarge

Hi everyone! I’ve been going crazy over infographics as of late, and I even made one to describe Starbucks Christmas Blend (pictured above). After I finished my Christmas Blend infographic, I got to wondering if there were a lot of other Starbucks coffee-related infographics out there. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find many that talked about coffee, though I could find quite a few that described Starbucks as a company and its history. Here are a couple of the ones I liked (though they’re not in English):

Starbucks 1Click to enlarge (Source)

PrintClick to enlarge (Source)

I also found these super helpful (free!) websites that I will be using to create future infographics:

Easel.ly
Infogr.am

After thinking about all that coffee, I knew today I would have to make a French Press at home. I decided to pair Christmas Blend with a Cranberry Loaf, and OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS THE LOAF WAS AMAZING. I will share the recipe eventually, but I am planning on making it for every single Thanksgiving get together this year so you’re just going to have to wait and drool.

Christmas Blend Pairing(You can find this image on my instagram, too! 😉 )

While we’re still talking (and dreaming about) my pairing from this afternoon, I think it’s a good time to mention that I tried taking my first ever video while preparing the tasting. I’ve got a lot to learn, and my friend Amanda is going to help teach me the ropes of editing, but I think the video I took today will be a good start.

A good start to what, you ask? A good start to a new YouTube channel that my friend Tia and I are starting called Epicurean Baristas. Since Chad and I are going back to Japan, Tia and I thought it would be fun to stay in touch via video “letters” talking about things we’re very passionate about: eating and drinking! We’re still working out the kinks of our YouTube page and blog, but I’ll keep you posted as things progress!

xx Caitlyn

Reviews · Tried

Review: Theo Chocolate

Gazing across the bars of chocolate in my local supermarket, I noticed quite a few bars I hadn’t seen before. It was exciting for me to see so much quality chocolate available, and I decided to choose a new kind to try! Although it was tough to decide between several appealing bars, this time I chose Theo Organic Fair Trade Coconut 70% Dark Chocolate. IMG_1435Surprisingly, I hadn’t heard anything about Theo Chocolate before coming across it in the candy aisle. However, I loved the simple packaging, the Fair Trade Label (among others) posted along the bottom, and the thought of coconut playing a role in the chocolate bar. IMG_1436Every time I try chocolate (whether it’s for the first time or what feels like the hundredth), I always begin by smelling it. As you would expect, this bar of chocolate smelled very much like dark cocoa with just a hint of sweetness. I couldn’t taste the coconut when I took a bite, but the coconut definitely contributed to the overall texture of the bar. Unlike bars that have crunchy nuts or soft dried fruit, the coconut in this Theo bar adds a texture in between the range of crunchy and soft. And although the coconut flavor isn’t especially pronounced, it seems to add a bit of toasty sweetness to the bar that breaks up what could otherwise almost be an overwhelming amount of dark chocolate. I would be interested in pairing the chocolate with coconut water to see if the coconut notes would become more perceptible. IMG_1437After trying Theo chocolate, I visited their website and decided I LOVE THEM. Here’s why: Theo Chocolate is passionate about the journey from bean to bar (and you know how passionate I am when it come to coffee and its journey from bean to cup!). On their fact sheet, Theo Chocolate touts that “Theo is founded on the belief that there is a common thread that binds us, from the cocoa farmer to the chocolate lover, and [they’re] devoted to making our world a better place.” YES!

The fact sheet also states that Theo Chocolate is the first and only bean to bar maker of Organic, Fair Trade, Fair for Life and Non-GMO Project verified chocolate in North America. That’s a reason to try Theo Chocolate if there ever was one, if you ask me! I am looking forward to trying out other flavors of Theo Chocolate in the future.

xxCaitlyn

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Summer Bucket List: Make/Decorate Pottery

I’ve been telling Chad forever now that I really want to paint some pottery at Your Plate or Mine in Muskegon,. Leave it to beer to be the answer to my plea: when we finally joined the Mug Club at Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven we got to paint our own mugs! (Yay for crossing off an item on my bucket list!)IMG_0688We arrived at Your Plate or Mine feeling a bit nervous about making our mugs, but full of inspiration. I decided to go with my favorite character in the whole world, Rilakkuma, and Chad went with the creepy Kobito Dukan (pronounced “dzoo-kahn”).IMG_0691The staff member at Your Plate or Mine was extremely helpful; she explained everything very clearly and was available the entire time we were there to answer all of our littlest questions. She even provided us with carbon paper so we could trace our designs if we wished (and as this mug would be getting a lot of use, we did wish to trace our designs–just in case!).   IMG_0692I was really impressed with Chad’s artwork, as there was a lot of shading involved. I think there are two things that are really difficult about painting ceramics: ensuring your colors are the actual colors you want (since they look totally different once fired), and getting smooth lines.IMG_0693It was super relaxing, and time just flew by. At the same time, after a particularly tricky section, you could hear both of us let out an audible sigh. Phew!  IMG_0695Above you can see my mug before firing. At first I was a bit frustrated with the difficulty of getting my lines exactly the way I wanted, but I realized that this is an art in which you have to just “give it up,” so to speak. You have to go into it knowing you’ll make mistakes, and decide you don’t care. And, when it comes down to it, it’s pretty impossible for Rilakkuma to turn out as anything except kawaii. IMG_0696I painted a little suitcase on the inside of my cup, and on the bottom I wrote out “Nomichatta!,” which means, “I accidentally drank all of it!” (Story of my life.) **Edit: Apparently I need to start studying Japanese again! It should say “Nonjyatta,” but hey, perhaps by the time I drink it all I won’t remember my mistake… 😉 IMG_0694On the bottom I wrote “Kanpai,” which means “Cheers,” though that Japanese has a translation right next to it on the cup 😉 In this picture you can also see the yellow birdy before firing. IMG_20140628_125951_907 (2)We could hardly wait to see how our cups turned out, but we had to wait a week for them to be fired. I am so in love with them! Chad’s turned out as creepy as we imagined, and I just want to squeal at the cuteness of my Rilakkuma.

IMG_20140628_130017_676IMG_20140628_130134_746Chad’s (left) says “Nonde,” the command for “Drink.”

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IMG_20140628_130413_421Yay for fun mugs! We spent a few hours on them, and I had so much fun that I went back with my mom yesterday to paint some more. We spent over five hours working on our creations, and I am going CRAZY wanting to see how they look once they’re fired!!

IMG_20140628_201021_048In the meantime, I’ve got this precious mug to drink delicious beer in! 🙂

Have a good day darlings!
xx

Food & Cooking · Reviews · Tried

Review: Fantastic World Foods Falafel Mix

I was wandering through the aisles in my local supermarket when I came across a falafel mix. Although in the past I always have made falafels from scratch, I was interested in how a pre-made mix might taste. (Sometimes after a long day, making falafels from a kit sounds much better than making them from scratch!)IMG_0697Making the falafels with the Fantastic World Foods Mix is easy enough: all you need is the mix, water, and (in my case) your favorite beer to drink while making it.IMG_0698Just upon opening the bag, a delicious smell of cumin and garlic rose up into my kitchen. I added 1 1/4 cups of water and mixed until moist, and then let the mixture sit for 15 minutes as directed. (During this time you could always drink that delicious beer mentioned earlier and watch some of the World Cup action with your husband, but that’s totally up to you.)

IMG_0699Once 15 minutes have passed, you make little balls out of the dough and press them into discs. I think if you follow the serving suggestion, you’ll end up with about 16 discs, but I made mine a little fatter, apparently. (Make sure you don’t make them too fat, though, or they will be dry!) From this point you can choose whether you want to bake them or deep fry them, and I chose the former over the latter. After brushing olive oil on both sides of each disc, I popped them in the oven for about 2 minutes per side.IMG_0701While I waited for the falafels to get golden brown, I prepared tomatoes, lettuce, pitas and a yogurt sauce I whipped up quickly with dill, garlic, a little lemon juice, salt, pepper and plain yogurt. (There is also a recipe suggestion for yogurt sauce on the box for those of you that prefer to follow an exact recipe, but the yield seemed really high for just a few stuffed pitas.)IMG_0702I had wanted cucumber, but I forgot to pick some up at the store in all of my Falafel mix excitement. Nevertheless, the finished falafel-stuffed pitas were awesome. Totally brought me back to the first time I ever tried one in a little diner in Amsterdam. IMG_0704Overall I would say that Fantastic World Foods Falafel Mix makes an inexpensive, fast, easy and delicious meal. As the website proudly declares: “If you have an appetite for discovery, try Fantastic World FoodsTM Our truly original ethnic and regional cuisines are specially crafted to stimulate all your senses. Native spices, vegetables, rice and grains combined in new blends of tastes, textures, colors and aromas. They’re vibrant! They’re creative! And they’re always all natural and organic.”

I’d like to try some of their other mixes in the future!

Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Review: Nail Rock

I used to hate painting my finger nails because they always turned out looking like a kindergartener painted them. Not to mention I sort of have sausage fingers, so solid blocks of colors on my nails only tend to make them look stubbier. If I ever had my nails done in the past, it was only some version of French tips for me. But nothing makes a girl want to paint her nails more than being told she can’t, and since my occupation prohibits nail polish, I’ve been DYING to spruce up my fingernails! (And by occupation I mean I’m currently a barista. Yes. A barista that’s not allowed to wear nail polish *cries*)

nailrock_glitter_pink_900x900Source

Fortunately for me, I somehow got four solid days off in a row. I got a stupid cold, but can you guess what else I got? I GOT TO DO MY NAILS. It’s the little things. I decided to try out the Nail Rock I had gotten months ago when I was still a Birchbox subscriber, and I just adored the pretty sparkly pink!

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Yes, the Nail Rock was pretty. But I’ve got some important things for you to know before you go out with excitement and get your own.

1. It can be messy. The instructions tell you to put on two coats of the solid foundation before dipping your fingers in the textured topper (aka glitter), and the glitter will get everywhere. It’s like a preschool craft nightmare, so be sure to put some paper underneath your little glitter pot for easy cleanup.

2. Put on your first coat of solid foundation, and then alternate your second coat with dipping your finger in the topper. If you wait until you’ve given each of your nails a second coat, they won’t be wet enough to hold the topper. Dip each one after the second coat, and press on to help the topper stick.

3. After you’ve let your nails dry for the recommended 15-20 minutes, apply a top coat. I didn’t do this because the instructions didn’t say anything about a top coat being necessary, and because I’m not super patient and I didn’t feel like investing more time in what was supposed to be a little treat. In retrospect, I wish I had because 1) I really didn’t like the texture of the topper, 2) the texture of the topper occasionally led to snags on thread or fiber, and 3) by the end of the day, more than half of the topper had come off ALL of my fingernails! It is my hope that a top coat would solve these problems, but ultimately–despite being very pretty initially–I can’t say I recommend this product. A lot of time + short-lasting cover = disappointed girl.

 

What do you think? Have you tried Nail Rock? What’s your favorite nail polish brand?

xx

Around Town · Bookspiration · Monday Matters · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Around Town/Bookspiration: My Fishy, Muddy Weekend

After a bit of a rough patch there, I decided I should read something uplifting and funny, so I chose to go with Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. It was funny in parts, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say uplifting. There were, however, quite a few parts in which I found myself nodding, saying to myself, “YES! EXACTLY!” For example, in the story “Loggerheads,” Sedaris describes a time in which he comes across a monkey in a national forest in Japan. I could relate to his feeling of being in awe of animals and nature, of that feeling like time stops in that rare, surprising moment. Sedaris writes, “…part of the thrill was being accepted, which is to say, not feared. It allowed you to think that you and this creature had a special relationship, a juvenile thought but one that brings with it a definite comfort” (59).

I also loved the story “Standing By,” not only because it described airplane travel in ways I could COMPLETELY relate to, but because it made me laugh out loud a lot. The last story that stood out to me was “Day In, Day Out.” In this story, Sedaris talks about his writing habits, and about rereading old journals. He writes:

“…that’s the terrible power of a diary: it not only calls forth the person you used to be, but rubs your nose in him, reminding you that not all change is evolutionary. More often than not, you didn’t learn from your mistakes. You didn’t get wiser, but simply older, growing from the twenty-five-year-old who got stoned and accidentally peed on his friend Katherine’s kitten to the thirty-five-year-old who got drunk and peed in the sandbox at his old elementary school. ‘The sandbox!’ my sister Amy said at the time. ‘Don’t you realize that children have to pee in there?'” (229).

Sometimes rereading old journals definitely makes you feel that way! Though I like to think I’ve been learning something along the way, journals do sometimes “rub your nose” in some of the less-than-good choices you made or in unfortunate situations you experienced.

In Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris talks a lot about his time living in England, so I convinced Chad we should have Fish and Chips for dinner Friday at Fish X2 in Spring Lake.

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Fish X2 is a fish, seafood and chicken restaurant right off of the expressway from Grand Haven to Spring Lake. They have a special Hurricane Sauce, allow you to bring in your own fish to be cooked up in their kitchen, and have won an award for a salmon dish at the Salmon Festival.

IMG_20140606_191438_604

IMG_20140606_193315_415We chose to go with their Friday Catfish special, each getting a Mate’s Basket. The baskets come with fries or slaw, homemade sauce and a slice of lemon. You can also substitute sweet potato fries for an additional dollar.

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IMG_20140606_192750_854The inside of the restaurant is very open and clean, with no fishy smells at all (always a good sign!). Every time we’ve gone to Fish X2, the staff has always been very friendly and helpful, creating a very inviting atmosphere.   IMG_20140606_193013_314Fish X2 also has nice, cozy outdoor seating for the summer time. We decided to bring our meals to a nearby park/boat docking area, but it was nice to sit in the sunshine while we waited for our meals to be prepared.IMG_20140606_191303_093We waited about ten minutes for our Captain’s Baskets, but who minds that when you’re about to get a fresh-cooked meal? Once we had our to-go bag, we headed across the street to Mill Point Park and Boat LaunchIMG_20140606_193540_055There couldn’t be a nicer day for a picnic!

IMG_20140606_193600_414We dove into our meals. Sadly, Fish X2 was out of sweet potato fries (which happened the last time we were there in February, too!), so we both opted for their regular fries. Additionally, only one of our baskets came with sauce and a lemon slice! Fortunately, Fish X2’s normal fries are really yummy, and we were able to split the sauce and lemon out of one basket.IMG_20140606_193610_254The catfish was perfectly salty, while also light and fresh tasting. While it’s very easy to have greasy “fish and chips,” our meal at Fish X2 seemed to be a perfect balance of an airy batter, flaky, fresh fish, and not-too-crunchy, not-too-soft fries. Yum!

Separate from our book-inspired outing was an adventure I had the next day in Kalamazoo!mud run

Some of my fellow baristas and I decided to do the Kalamazoo Mud Run. It was definitely an interesting 5K, with lots of obstacles I never saw myself trying out (and with lots of unintentional mud-tasting!). I had a lot of fun with my Green Apron girls, evidence of which can be seen on Alex’s blog, here! While I was definitely more comfortable with the “fishy” part of my weekend, the “muddy” part was quite an experience, too!

What did you try this weekend?

xx

Around Town · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Around Town: Wild Blue Frozen Yogurt

Last week I was spoiled with frozen yogurt not once, but twice! After talking about going for “FroYo” with a few of my friends for months, we finally made it to Wild Blue Frozen Yogurt in Grand Haven, MI.

IMG_20140518_135304_706This was my first experience in years with frozen yogurt, and I was really excited to sample some of the fun flavors that ranged from cheesecake, to salted caramel, to standards like vanilla and chocolate. As my sister-in-law explained, once you’ve sampled a few, you’re free to mix any favors you like before adding additional toppings, and then you pay for your treat based on the total weight.

IMG_20140518_135313_595Above you can see Chad, my sister-in-law, and my brother in line paying for their delightful cups of frozen yogurt, as well as a view of the 70 plus toppings offered to add to your yogurt.

IMG_20140518_135324_727I chose the White Chocolate Macadamia-flavored frozen yogurt, and I topped it with raspberries, Ghirardelli chocolate pieces, cookie dough chunks, a cherry, and waffle cone pieces. A couple days later when I came back after hiking with my friend Alex, I tried the same flavor, but perfected my toppings, choosing Heath bar pieces, a light sprinkling of the Ghirardelli chocolate pieces, and a cherry. *sighs happily*

IMG_20140518_135342_785Chad’s cup and my cup on the scale being weighed.

IMG_20140518_135433_928So many pretty colors amongst our four cups!

IMG_20140518_135453_453I really enjoyed my experiences at Wild Blue last week. The location is easy to get to, the shop itself is very open, clean and friendly, and the atmosphere felt very relaxed. I’ve heard that other Frozen Yogurt places tend to have more flavor choices, but that they also tend to be much busier and less inviting. I felt like Wild Blue offered a perfect set of choices: I wasn’t overwhelmed, yet I still had lots of fun choosing different flavors and toppings!

What is your favorite Frozen Yogurt place? And what flavors do you like the most?

xx