Charley Coffee now at The Cupboard

photo by Christopher Scheirer  all rights reserved

We have a new coffee at The Cupboard.  You can now find Charley Coffee gracing our shelves.  The name, Charley Coffee, comes from John Steinbeck’s novel, Travels with Charley, and the coffee is roasted by Christopher Scheirer, who was born and raised in Loveland, Colorado.  Christopher, while getting his graduate degree in Sociology,  traveled to  Guatemala for research.  This experience eventually led him to trading in 8 cup of coffee days studying and living in New York City, for a life in Guatemala filled with love, a family, and a new found passion for creating the best coffee in the world.  Living in Guatemala and being fluent in Spanish gives Christopher the unique opportunity to build long term relationships with farmers.  These close, personal relationships built up over time provides the necessary ingredients, trust and availability, to discuss directly with the farmers the special qualities and tastes of the coffee beans.  He is constantly on the search for distinctive features in each bean–brightness, depth, character, and complexity–knowing these qualities will make each cup outstanding.   His goal: to provide you with the “best cup of coffee you have ever tasted!”  Come visit with Christopher and taste his coffee this Saturday October 30th from 1-4 p.m.

Dark Chocolate Sauce Recipe: An essential ingredient for many desserts

We at The Cupboard have a little known secret, Ric Dudley. He happens to be, among many other things, an incredible chef full of knowledge to help improve your skills in the kitchen. He is offering a FREE class on dessert sauces this Saturday October 23rd, from 1-4pm.
From 1-1:45pm: Learn to make a sabayon custard sauce
From 2-2:30pm: Learn to make a chocolate sauce
From 2:45-3:30pm Learn to make a dark caramel and raspberry sauce.

Stay for the whole event, or drop in to learn how to make one or two of the sauces.

Here Ric’s recipe for Ric’s Dark Chocolate Sauce:

This recipe for chocolate sauce has evolved from a compilation of recipes that yields a full flavored but not overly sweet sauce. This sauce serves as a great stand alone sauce for desserts of all types as well as for a base to use in cakes, brownies and other pastries. It is easy to make and lends itself well to a multitude of flavorings.
(Yields 1 1/2 cups)
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2 oz (60g) coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (70-90%)
2 oz (60g) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate (50-65%)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (45g) sugar
1 tsp instant espresso powder
2 TBSP (20g) black cocoa or any powdered cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (extract can also be used)
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Place the chopped chocolate into a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and sugar over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and vigorously whisk in the cocoa and espresso powders until smooth. Stir in the vanilla paste and the flavoring of choice. Pour the hot cream and sugar mixture into the chocolate and let this stand for a few minutes to melt, then whisk to smooth the sauce.
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Serve the sauce warm or cool to room temperature. The sauce can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The sauce may be warmed in a pan of warm water or in the microwave prior to serving. Use caution when using the microwave not to “cook” the sauce.

Shop Smart, Reduce Stress with ‘The Stocked Kitchen’

With about 400 new cookbooks being published annually on a wide variety of subjects, there is currently a glut of cookbook titles on the market.  Many of them include recipes that call for obscure, hard to find ingredients that may be used just once or twice, filling pantries with unnecessary products that are eventually thrown away.  Food and money are often wasted in the process.

When considering this, cookbook authors Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins, two Michigan moms with young families and busy lives, saw a need for a practical cookbook with recipes comprised of ingredients already found in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer, and created a system and cookbook called The Stocked Kitchen.  The heart of this cookbook is the grocery list of ingredients that is included with the book on a magnetic pad.  Kallio and Krastins created the list as a way to standardize what was stocked in their pantries.  In doing their research, they created a list of mostly basic, standard ingredients that most people already had in their kitchens.  They then developed a set of recipes using only those ingredients on the grocery list.  The result is a system that not only streamlines and simplifies cooking, it also saves money, time, results in less waste and reduces the stress of shopping.

This is not your average cookbook.  Rather, it is a way to change and possibly revolutionize how one cooks and uses ingredients in the kitchen.  To fully utilize their system in one’s own kitchen, the authors suggest purging your pantry, fridge and freezer of unneeded ingredients and items, cleaning and organizing as you go.  Then you can start from scratch, using the list as a guideline as to what you want stocked in your kitchen.  Since all the ingredients in the recipes are on the list, there is no more stress of having to pre-plan grocery lists for meals for an entire week.

Also included in the book are helpful cooking hints throughout, as well as recipe and ingredient indexes, and a glossary.  For more information about The Stocked Kitchen, go to www.thestockedkitchen.com.

To quote the authors, “Get Stocked!”

Squash…slicing, pureeing and more!

Squash, a vegetable that looks really beautiful, but seems a little daunting for any kind of regular use, or so I thought. I love the taste of it, but slicing into that hard shell always gives me the feeling I might just end up in the emergency room. But, ever inspired by Sarah Jane’s confidence in the kitchen, I went out and found myself a very nice, large, butternut squash, keeping the end goal of a delicious soup in mind.   Well, first my task was to roast it.  I promptly pulled out my Shun bread knife, which I highly recommend, as it is as sharp as ever.  If anything is going to cut through squash, it will be this knife. After just a bit of sawing and the removal of the stem, I had my squash cut in half…without a trip to the emergency room.

The Shun knife does the trick!

This is when I decided to consult my copy of the Joy of Cooking cookbook on just how to roast squash. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I could have cooked the squash whole!   I am sure Sarah Jane is laughing at me, but I had no idea.   Now, they did mention the importance of cutting 4 to 5 slits at the top of the squash to prevent it from exploding, but nonetheless, you CAN cook a squash whole. It does take double the time, but the skin is so easy to slice once its roasted in the oven, I think it is worth it.   I am definitely remembering this trick when I buy my 6 month supply of squash at the Farmer’s Market this weekend…
Roasting, of course was easy.  I just put some oil in the pan, turned 2 halves upside down, and put it in a 375F oven for 45 minutes.

roasting squash couldn’t be easier…unless you leave the squash whole…

Now, onto the fun part, making soup.   I have just about every gadget one might think of in my kitchen. However, the one item I don’t have is an immersion blender.
There are three different immersion blenders we carry at the store. All three are from Cuisinart.  The first is $29.95…I like this price!..and it is straightforward and simple.  The next version will cost you $49.95 and comes with some extra attachments like a sealing bowl to chop in and a whisk in case you need to whisk up a small batch of heavy cream.  This might prove to be a worthwhile add-on.  The third style costs $79.95 and is battery operated. There is a re-chargeable plug that provides a home for your immersion blender.  This way it is ready to blend anywhere you take it and it is always charged.

So, on to the soup making…I made a simple butternut squash soup with the basic ingredients being onion, diced apples, squash and a little chicken broth.  Once I had the onions and apples nicely browned, I added the squash and some chicken broth.  I then put the immersion blender to use.  One thing that seems fairly obvious is to immerse it in the liquid before blending.  This adds greatly to the efficiency and reduces mess immeasurably.   Before I knew it, my chunks of squash turned into a smooth, buttery puree.  And all I needed to do to clean the blender was rinse it under some running water.  Wow.  Who would ever try to pour hot soup into a blender again?  If you like making soups, this is the gadget to have.  Tune in next week to find out Chef Happy’s secret recipe for squash soup.  And then on Friday October 15th from 11:30-2:30 p.m., come down to The Cupboard and taste this delicious soup and learn how to pick squash, use an immersion blender, and make an outstanding squash soup!

Let the Fall Squashtacular Begin! (and a few fun announcements!)

After a brief sabbatical which included mourning the finish of my amazing CSA share from Raspberry Hill Farms, we are back and better than ever here on the Cupboard blog.  We’ve got a new look and we are excited to share more healthy, local, seasonal eating tips and tricks with you.  There is some great news to share as well, as Scott Hapner, aka Chef Happy, will be joining Jen and I blogging as we tackle fun seasonal foods, local ingredients, share useful tools, and recipes as a group.   You can also look forward to reading book reviews, cooking tool tips, and more goodness from Cupboard employees.

Seeing as it is fall and we are always focused on ways to eat local, fresh produce, it should come as no surprise that the first ingredient Scott, Jen, and I want to chat about is squash!!!

Squash is not only one of the most beautiful, but also flavorful and nutritious foods you can eat. Squash comes in a large variety of types, each with their own characteristics and flavors.  I’m going to outline some basic tips for selecting, storing, cleaning and basics of cooking squash.  Then, be sure to check back Thursday and next Tuesday as Jen is going to cover tools that will make cooking squash easier and Scott is going to share his favorite squash recipes.

Squash grows great in Northern Colorado, so your local farm and farmers market are a great place to buy up hearty local squash.  The Food Co Op and Whole Foods also offer a great selection of locally grown squash if you can’t make it to the farm or market.

Choosing the squash variety can be daunting, with so many colors, shapes, and sizes it can be frightening to tell which variety which is right for you.  There are plenty of references available online to help you learn about squash varieties, my favorite being here http://whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm.  While resources such as these are awesome tools, I think the best way to find your fave is to just try lots of different kinds!  While there are tons of recipes and ways to really bring out the flavor qualities of each individual variety, basic prep of squash can be done the same way for just about every variety.

When you are selecting your squash, you want to inspect each squash for mushy spots or mold.  You don’t want those!  Pick a squash that has a solid skin free of excessive blemishes and feels heavy for it’s size.  There can be an urge to pick squash that is big for it’s size, but it is best to stay away from those obscenely large ones- the bigger squash gets, the less intense it’s flavor.

Once you get your squash home, be sure to give it a good rub down with some water and a veggie brush (and some cleaner if that is your thing).  Even though you will not eat the skin, it’s important to make sure that skin is clean: since squash grows on the ground, the skin can be exposed to things which you don’t want making their way into your food.

You can store whole squash in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months (That’s right, up to half a year.  Load up now and you can eat local straight through to next spring’s produce!).  In a cupboard is a great place, or I’ve even heard of folks who keep them out in the garage.  Just be sure to keep an eye on them for signs of mold or losing their firmness.

Some people enjoy cooking squash whole and simply pop it in the oven at this point.  I’m not one of those people, so we’re going to keep writing.  It’s not that I have anything against it, I just have only tried it a few times and it seemed to take to long for my tastes.

To cut up your squash you’re going to need 2 things: One big ol’ super sharp knife (make sure it’s sharp, if yours are dull bring them into the shop and we’ll be happy to sharpen them up for you) and a nice set of upper body strength.  Seriously, cutting a squash in half is easily the same exertion level as 5 push ups.  Ok, maybe girl push ups, but still.  Once you get that puppy in half, scoop out the seeds and innards.  Some people save the seeds for snacks, and some recipes call for them in the prep, so be sure to check before you discard them.

Tip on scooping innards:  buy a grapefruit spoon for this part.  The serrated edge makes this step super simple and cuts through all those strands that get tangled around and stop up a normal spoon.  This method also kicks behind on cantaloupes.  I have a lot of spare time in the kitchen to think about these things.

You can choose to leave the squash in halves, or can chop into smaller pieces.  Only differences there really being for recipes (if the squash will be stuffed you will want to leave it in half, etc.) and cook time (smaller pieces = smaller cooking time).

Now, there are a whole slew of ways to cook squash: on the stovetop, in the microwave, roasting, crock pot, etc, however we’re talking super basic and works for every variety here, so I’m going to bake mine.

I simply preheat an oven to 350°, place the squash in a shallow baking dish, and bake.  I like to put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan to help ensure the squash won’t dry out.  Now, for baking times.  Let’s say a generic time is about 45 minutes- but the truth is, your time will be determined by the thickness of your squash.  I just start checking mine around 30 minutes and then go from there.  You can tell the squash is done when you can slide a spoon into the meat without having to use those girl push up muscles we covered earlier.

And that’s it!  You cooked squash!

I like to eat mine with some butter and salt, or maybe a little maple syrup, or mashed up with a little olive oil and Parmesan.  Just experiment and see what works for you.  Be sure to check back Thursday as Jen is going to outline some tools for cooking squash, and then 1 week from today Scott Hapner is going to share a favorite squash recipe or two of his own.  Then on Friday the 15th, as part of the Cupboard anniversary sale, Jen, Scott and I will be in the store cooking up squash and offering tastes to lucky folks.  Be sure to mark your calendar to stop by!

As always, let us know what you think!  Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you!