Breakfast in Bed – Mulled Cider

Post by Alison Hein.

Merriam-Webster describes the act of mulling to mean “to heat, sweeten, and flavor (as wine or cider) with spices.” The origin is stated as “unknown” (although speculation abounds out there on the web), and the first known use supposedly occurred in 1618 (if anyone can identify this, please let me know!).

Despite the confusing and sometimes misleading archaeology of food history, one thing is certain. It’s autumn, and apples are in peak season. Sweet, rounded juicy red- and green-skinned fruit, rendering tree branches low, beckoning to be plucked and devoured. So of course I dragged my husband out to do just that, returning home with several sweetly scented baskets of apple varieties – ranging from baking tart to noshing sweet. A couple of gallons of fresh-pressed cider made my purchases complete.

Now back to the mulling. Apparently, we’ve known for quite some time (at least since 1618) that adding a little spice, and a little heat, can ratchet up that glorious sweet-tart apple flavor. Some fresh cider, a little cinnamon, a handful of whole cloves, and perhaps a splash or two of brandy, and you’ve got a soothing drink that will delight both young and old.

If you’re out and about, be sure to stop by your local apple orchard. Then, if you’ve got 15 minutes or so, whip up a pot of steaming mulled cider. It makes a sweet after school welcome for kids (without the brandy, of course), a surprisingly satisfying after dinner treat, and a sweetly scented, late harvest breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 cups fresh apple cider
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 small apple
A splash or two of brandy (optional)

Preparation

Pour fresh apple cider into a small, heavy pot. Add one cinnamon stick and cloves. Slice the apple into a few slim rounds, and add apple slices to cider mixture, retaining two rounds for garnish. Bring cider to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain cider and pour half into each of two mugs. Make a cut halfway across the retained apple slices, and slice onto the rim of each mug for garnish. Add a cinnamon stick to each mug. Serve hot and add a splash or two of brandy to the cider, if you like.

Makes two servings.

Variations: add fruit such as orange or lemon peel, try sweeteners from honey to maple syrup, experiment with alcoholic additives like flavored brandy, port or whiskey.

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Bedtime Stories: Pssst!

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Pssst! by Adam Rex.

You have no idea how happy I was to discover I had somehow missed writing a review of this story. I am a huge fan of Adam Rex. I love his illustrations, his novels, his picture books. I even love his tweets. We would be great friends, I am sure. We found a copy of this at my favorite used book store the other day and since then has become a staple of the bedtime reading ritual.

A girl is walking through the zoo when suddenly she hears, “PSSST!” To her surprise, the one hailing her is a gorilla. “Hey,” he says. “Hey,” she replies. Turns out, he wants her to get him a new tire for his busted tire swing. As she walks through the zoo, the javelinas, bats, sloths, all manner of animals call her over and her list of supplies grows. The animals are hilarious. My son’s favorite is definitely the turkeys. “We want corn,” one of them says. The other adds, “Corn corn corn corn corn corn!” He insists on reading that part. “Corn corn corn corn corn corn!”

So what is the greater story here? We soon discover these animals are in cahoots. What could the garbage cans, tires, flashlights, helmets and all the other pieces add up to?? The answer may surprise you.

As with all of Adam Rex’s books, this is a must-read.

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Things We Like: Nest Protect To Sleep Safer At Night

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

I’m always on the look out for new products that make your house cooler, smarter, and safer. In the past, I’ve discussed products like the Philips Hue smart LED lights and SONTE’s digital window shades. This week, I’ve got a new one for you: Nest Protect.

Nest Labs, the same company that makes the smart thermostat “Nest”, recently announced a new product that is sure to help you sleep better at night: a smart smoke detector called Nest Protect. Nest Protect takes what is usually thought of as a boring ad mundane device, the smoke detector, and adds additional functionality that makes it a “stylish must-have” for many homeowners. Let’s talk about what exactly Nest Protect does, and what makes it so revolutionary.

Nest Protect is a connected smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, heat detector, light sensor, ultrasonic sensor, motion detector, and nightlight. With Nest Protect’s motion sensor, you no longer have to scramble up on a chair to disconnect an errant alarm (like when you burn something in the Kitchen). Instead, you can simply wave your hand at the device to temporarily disable it. That feature alone has me sold, as I often forget to take the bread out of the toaster. Oops.

In addition to replacing a single purpose device with a feature rich hub, Nest Protect is also connected meaning it works in tandem with other Nest Lab products. One benefit of having a connected smoke detector is that it can alert you of problems in your house even when you’re away from home via it’s smartphone app.

Last, but not least, Nest Protect also acts as a nightlight. Using its light and motion detectors, Nest Protect lights your way at night to prevent those uncomfortable toe stubs when you get out of bed for a glass of water.

If you want to learn more about how Nest Protect works, be sure to check out the demo video.

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Breakfast in Bed: Jeff’s Proper English Fry-Up

Post by Alison Hein.

I coerced my good friends Rosie and Jeff to invite me for breakfast – a full English breakfast, that is. Although Jeff had never done a proper English fry-up before, he’s a talented, inventive cook who’s always up for a challenge. First, he located the nearest butchery where he could buy handmade, authentic bangers, the quintessential English sausages. (No way did the 150 mile round trip stop him!) Next, he studied up on English Breakfast history (a filling meal to tide one over through long working days), and painstakingly visited six stores before he found authentic HP Sauce, the traditional brown sauce used to spice up breakfast bangers and beans. (Originally made inBirminghamand named for the House of Parliament, it’s now made in theNetherlands, to the dismay of many Englishmen.)

Jeff spent more than one hour watching over his many steaming pots and pans with the grace and timing of an orchestra conductor. Then, while Rosie set a perfect harvest table and brewed a big pot of stout English Breakfast Tea, Jeff sautéed and spiced, poached and plated, fried up and finished a very proper, English breakfast in bed.

Here are Jeff’s tips if you want to try your own hand at a Proper English Fry-Up:

  • Poach bangers in a slow water bath to keep them juicy and cook evenly. This may even help prevent banger explosion!

  • Bring eggs to room temperature before cooking for a faster cooking time and a lighter, fluffier texture.

  • Replace simple salt and pepper with a hardier seasoning, such as Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning, which contains salt, pepper, mustard, coriander, garlic, paprika and chili pepper.

  • Black Pudding is optional!

Menu
Savory British Bangers
Vegetarian Baked Beans
Thick-Cut Slab Bacon
Buttered Mushroom Slices
Oven-Grilled Tomatoes
Griddled Toast
Black Lace Eggs

Ingredients
4 bangers
1 8-ounce can vegetarian beans (made inCanadapreferable)
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 slices thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 8-ounce package baby portabella mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooking spray
2 Roma tomatoes
2 slices soft, thick white bread
4 eggs
1 bottle HP Sauce (or other English Brown Sauce)

Preparation
Pour about 4 cups of water (enough to cover bangers) into a heavy pot and heat to 150º. Add bangers, and cook for about 20 minutes, using a thermometer to maintain temperature at a steady 150º. Remove bangers from water and set aside.

Add beans to heavy pot and warm over medium heat. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Pour about 1 tablespoon canola oil into a heavy non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes until browned and lightly crisp, turning once or twice. Remove from pan and place in oven to keep warm. Retain bacon grease, and reduce heat to medium low.

Add bangers to bacon grease and cook, low and slow, for 15 to 20 minutes, until well-browned. Remove bangers from pan and place in oven to keep warm. Remove pan from heat and maintain bacon / banger grease.

While bangers are cooking, add 1 tablespoon butter and remaining canola oil to a second heavy non-stick frying pan. When melted, add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked through but still lightly firm. Remove from heat and place mushrooms in oven to keep warm.

While bangers and mushrooms are cooking, lightly spray a heavy, cast iron grill pan with cooking spray. Slice tomatoes in half and trim ends. Place on grill pan, and broil, approximately 4 inches from heat source, until tomatoes are cooked through and lightly blackened on top, about 8 to 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Reheat bacon / banger grease over medium-high heat. Add bread slices and cook until golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and about 2 tablespoons of bacon / banger grease to a large, heavy frying pan. Heat over medium heat until bubbling. Break eggs into a small bowl, two at a time, then add to pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook, basting frequently with pan drippings, until whites are cooked through and yellow centers are still soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bangers, beans, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast and eggs on warmed plates and serve immediately.

Makes 2 Full English Breakfasts

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Bedtime Stories: The Experiments of Dr. Vermin

Post by Mark T. Locker.

The Experiments of Dr. Vermin by Tim Egan.

Well, autumn is in full swing now. We are a week into October, the trees, as my son puts it, are glowing, and all the Halloween books are off the shelves at the public library. I usually try and hit the shelves in early September to beat the rush and get first picks of the selection. This year, I got there a little late and ended up with one about a squash who didn’t fit in and whose last line was, “Happy Thanksgiving!” (remind me to notify the librarian of the misclassification) and this Dr. Vermin book about a pig who winds up lost and seeking help on a spooooooky Halloween night.

Turns out the house Sheldon the short-order cook visited was the abode of the malevolent Dr. Vermin. Oh no! I hope Sheldon will be okay! Spoiler alert: nothing terrible happens. The pig learns a lot about himself. He befriends two wolves who had a run-in with the wicked Dr. Vermin. Together they confront the doctor and defeat him. Justice is served! The spells are broken! Sheldon takes on work as a cook for the wolves. I do hope pork is not on their menu.

It’s a simple book, simple illustrations and a simple plot. A good read for kids who say they like spooky things but are scared of anything actually scary.

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