Movin' On Up Mac & Cheese

  As they say "As one door closes, another one opens". I have spent the last couple days packing, packing up all my belongings that I have collected over the last 8 years in my house. We do not have too much, we live a pretty frugal life, but where does all this stuff come from? What is it like in the normal household with kids and people who hoard stuff? I can't even imagine. 
We have finally sold our condo and it is time to move on. What does that mean? It means warmer weather, that is for sure. Ohio can be great, but it gets cold, and cold weather I am not a fan of.  And it means cleaning out the pantry, refrigerator, and the freezer. We have to be out in less than a week so we are using up the food that we have collected, horded, and stashed away. It can lead to some interesting finds and unique food combinations. For example, yesterday for lunch we had French onion soup with corn in it. The soup was left over from a party that we had......last February (I honestly forgot it was in there), and the corn was from my parents' garden that was frozen. And then there are these little guys
Aren't they cute? Crawfish, so little, so sweet, and so tastey. Who has these in their freezer? I was thinking of adding them to a fondue with some other seafood, but decided against it. I thought about just baking them for about 15 minutes on a bed of rock salt and serving them with some lemon and thyme butter, but that is too easy and doesn't use up enough of the food that we need to consume before the week is out. I took inventory of what had and decided upon....Macaroni and Cheese. I had a couple of half full boxes of pasta, different cheeses to use up, artichokes, shallots (from my grandma's garden),evaporated milk (never have used it before in my mac and cheese, but what the heck), mushrooms, frozen jalapeños (from the garden), crab, and of course the crayfish. Oh yes, Mac and Cheese it is.

Did I mention that I am tired of packing? I am surrounded by boxes. My house is in disarray. My cookbooks are all packed away. And, I am depressed. I dislike Ohio weather, but I love looking out my great room window and watching the birds, ducks, deer, red fox, and other wildlife that congregate in my back yard. It is quite peaceful for city living. I am going to miss it, but on to bigger, brighter, and a new start. 

 Movin' Mac & Cheese

1/2 stick of butter
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. shallots, thinly sliced (or onions)
1/4 c. garlic, chopped
1 lb. pasta
1 c. white wine
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cans (24oz) evaporated milk
2 tsp. pepper
3 c. cheese (use a variety) I used Gorgonzola, Dubliner, Parmesan, and Cream Cheese
1/4 c. jalapeños
12 oz. artichokes
1 c. mushrooms
1 1/2 lbs. crabmeat, chopped
1/2 lb. crawfish
1 c. bread crumbs
2 Tbs. olive oil
Put the pasta in a large bowl and cover with water. Let sit one hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and use as follows. 
Butter a large 9x13 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot heat oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the shallots and cook 5-7 mins. Toss in the garlic and cook an additional 4 minutes. Pour in wine and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes to allow the alcohol to burn off. Stir in the the chicken bouillon until dissolved. Whisk in flour and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, and heat until just steaming, stirring occasionally. Slowly stir in the cheeses, a handful at a time until they are evenly incorporated and melted. Add the artichokes, jalapeños, and mushrooms. Cook together for 5 minutes. Add the pasta, stir, and cook an additional five minutes, the pasta will absorb some of the sauce and thicken. Toss in crab and crawfish. Pour into prepared 9x13 pan. Mix bread crumbs and 2 Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Remove and let rest 5 minutes.


Fresh Roasted Coffee

     I have a confession... I am a coffee snob, but cannot brew a pot a pot to save my life. I try and try, but it just does not taste as good as when Mr. Crumbs makes it. He has showed me time and time again, but it does not turn out the same. I have to admit I am getting better at it, but honestly I think that he is sandbagging and withholding some top secret trick. When I find out, I will let you know what it is, but until then I am just the roaster.

 That is right I roast my own coffee beans. Mr. Crumbs' friend Bob roasts his own, and he set me on the right track to this new D.I.Y. obsession of mine. You would think that it is difficult and that you need all this fancy schmancy equipment, but you don't. It is quite simple actually. All you need is a cookie sheet (I use a pizza pan), an oven, a metal colander, a wooden spoon, and a resealable container (such as Tupperware), and some green (raw) coffee beans. Don't forget the grinder to grind your fresh roasted beans. You can also do this using an air popcorn popper instead of your oven. Check out the video from Sweet Maria's on how to use the air popcorn popper method.


 The next question you may have is "Where do I find green coffee beans?" I find my beans online. I have ordered from two places; and There are many places online to order your beans, you just need to research which site has the best deal for you. I first ordered the Home Roasting Starter kit from U Roast 'Em, it was $8.99 and included one pound of Columbian Supremo green coffee beans, and that was pretty much it. I recently ordered the sampler from Sweet Maria's and it came with 8 one pound bags of different green coffee beans.


 I use the oven technique of roasting. This is not as efficient as using the air popper, but I use my popper for popcorn and do not want anything to happen to my beloved snack machine. The following is the oven technique. Watch the video for the air popper technique.     

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 
  • Pour beans in a single even layer on a cookie sheet. I roast about a 1/2 lb of beans at a time.
  • Place beans on middle shelf. Wait about 5-7 minutes for the "first crack", then 2 minutes more to start checking for color. Crack the oven open quickly if you must. Oven roasting is slower than other methods, but if it takes more than 12 minutes to reach the medium brown color then you should turn up the heat to 520-530 as the initial temperature for the next batch. If a batch takes more than 20 minutes it will taste flat.
  • After 10 minutes I recommend opening the oven every 1 minute and shaking the beans around to get your desired roast. Try to do it quickly and not let too much heat escape. When you open the door prepare for smoke. There will be lots of smoke associated with this roasting process.
  • Put on oven mitts, and dump the beans into the collander.
  • You want to pour the beans out when they are a tad lighter than the color you desire, since roasting continues until beans are cool.
  • Agitate beans in metal collander or bowl with a big spoon until they are warm to your touch. You may need oven mitts for this. You may want to walk out to a porch to aid cooling and let the chaff blow away. Otherwise, you'll want to keep the collander over the sink.
  • If beans have chaff still attached to them, simply agitating them in the collander should remove it. Blow lightly on the beans while shaking them and the chaff will fly off.
  • Coffee should be stored out of direct light (and not in a fridge or freezer) in an airtight container.

1st crack finishes 10:40 - 426 f
This is considered a City Roast. First crack is done and the roast is stopped.
Notice the bean surface is smoother somewhat from expansion but still has darker marks in the coffee, like a finely etched pattern. The edges of the seed are still fairly hard. At this point the coffee starts giving off carbon dioxide.

City+ roast 11:05 435f
City+ means the coffee has cleared first crack, and time is allowed for an even bean surface appearance to develop.
There are only very small changes between the #9 picture above and this one, notably the edges of the bean are a bit softer. The whole stage between the first and second crack is a short period ( 15 to 30 seconds) where a lot is happening chemically to the beans. The coffee gains heat once again until its woody cellulose matrix, the bean structure itself, begins to fracture ... that is, the Second Crack.

 Full City roast 11:30 - 444 f
On the verge of 2nd crack
This image represents a Full City roast; the coffee is on the verge of 2nd crack. This might be hard to judge the first few times you roast; after a while, you will have a feel for it. The beans are have a slight sheen of oil and the edges are softer.
The internal bean temperature for second crack normally is 446 degrees farenheit. But in fact second crack is a bit less predictable than first crack, in my experience. Why? It could be due to the fact that first crack is the physical expansion of the coffee seed as water and carbon dioxide split and CO2 outgassing starts. Second Crack is the physical fracturing of the celllose matrix of the coffee. This matrix is both organized cellulose that reacts readily to heat, and not-so-organized cellulose that does not. Since every coffee is physically different in size and density due to the cultivar, origin, altitude, etc., it make sense that the particular cell matrix is different too, and not as universally consistent.

 Full City+ roast 11:50 - 454 f
First audible snaps of 2nd crack
The darker side of a Full City roast is Full City +, where the coffee has barely entered 2nd crack. A few snaps are heard, and the roast is then stopped. Second crack may continue into the cooling phase - this is called "coasting". The more effective and rapid your cooling - the better your ability to stop the roast at the degree you want.
Compare the full size images from the Full City roast and this one, and I think it is easy to see a difference. Well, maybe not easy, but the Full City+ roast is a bit fuller, more small cracks on the face (or flat side) of the bean.

Vienna - Light French roast 12:15 - 465 f2nd crack is under way
(This is my darkest espresso roast)
The Vienna stage (also called Continental) to Light French stage is where you begin to find Origin Character eclipsed by Roast Character. A dark or heavy roast is at odds with buying coffee for its distinct origin qualities. Dark roast coffees tend to taste more like each other - as the differences due to distinct origins are obscured by the carbony roast flavors. Nontheless, some coffees are excellent at this stage (our Puro Scuro blend is engineered for this roast range).
By the way; Espresso is not a roast. But Northern Italian style espresso is usually roasted to 440 - 446 internal bean temperature. Southern Italian (Scura) is generally a Light French Roast or a tad darker.

 Full French roast 12:40 - 474 f2nd crack is very rapid, nearing its end.
Sugars are heavily caramelized (read as burned) and are degraded; the woody bean structure is carbonizing and the seed continues to expand and loose mass. The body of the resulting cup will be thinner/lighter as the aromatic compounds, oils, and soluble solids are being burned out of the coffee and rising up to fill your house with smoke. 474 is well beyond any roast I do on the Probat. I will go as high as 465 on a couple blends, and that's my limit.
Notice how fast and dramatic the change is from the previous photo - all that happened in less than 30 seconds!

Courtesy of Sweet Maria's

Roasting coffee can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. I do recommend that you try it. It is fun and the taste is amazing. It is a cheap DYI project. The cost is half that of buying roasted beans in the store.

Sorry this pic turned out fuzzy and not clear.