Fried Egg with Spiced Chickpeas

Fried Egg with Spiced Chickpeas

Who doesn’t love chickpeas? They’re creamy, they’re pleasantly chewy/soft, and they’re a great springboard for just about any spice. Enter these Pakistani-inspired spiced chickpeas, often referred to as chana masala. (The “chana” part is the chickpea; the “masala” is the spice blend. Fans of Indian cuisine might recognize the latter from “garam masala.”) The secret to the lush texture of the sauteed ‘peas is simple: cook them in ghee. Not only does ghee handle high heat beautifully well — it’s a saturated fat, which means it’s stable — it imparts a deep buttery flavor to any food it touches. Not surprising when you consider that ghee is clarified butter! The blend of ultra butteriness and earthy, rich spices makes these chickpeas ideal for topping darned near anything, from salads to eggs. Or just enjoy them as a simple snack.

My favorite way to use chana masala is to fry an egg and then toss a few ‘peas into the pan. So simple and so flavorful! You can scramble your eggs and then top them, poach them and then top them, even hard-boil them and then top them. I like to make a pan-fried, neatly packaged, non-simmered-but-seems-poached egg that happily gives up its yolk as soon as you cut into it.

Fried Egg with Spiced Chickpeas

For the spice blend*:
2 teaspoons coriander
¼ teaspoon fenugreek
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon dried mustard
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Dash cayenne pepper

For the chickpeas:
Ghee for cooking
15 ounces canned chickpeas, drained well
4 cloves garlic, minced

For the eggs:
Eggs, preferably from pastured hens

To make the spice blend, place all spices in a glass jar. Close and shake until well combined. (Note: if you want to make more of the blend than you’ll need in this recipe, go ahead — it’s a great blend for meat and poultry dishes!)

To make the chickpeas, melt a generous knob of ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chickpeas are turning golden brown.

Add another knob of ghee and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in spice blend and garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and turning golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool. Once cooled, you can store the ‘peas in a glass jar at room temperature for a week.

To make the eggs, melt a generous knob of butter in a small skillet (use more than one small skillet if you’re making more than one egg; it’s much easier to give each egg its own pan) over medium heat. Crack an egg onto the butter and cook for a minute or two, just until the white is mostly opaque and bubbling around the edges. Nudge a thin spatula underneath the egg and gently fold the cooked whites up over the raw yolk in the center. Try to pull up each “corner” to create a square package.

As soon as you have your whites neatly folded up, quickly but surely flip over the entire egg. You might need to tilt the skillet towards the spatula to provide an easier angle for flipping without splatting. Add a handful of the spiced chickpeas and let the egg cook for another minute. Serve immediately, while the egg is piping hot.

Enjoy!

* If you don’t have any of these spices, omit them. Or visit a spice shop to explore new flavors!

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Lisa on May 26th, 2015
Egyptian Lamb & Rice

Egyptian Rice & Lamb

Blending your own spices is fun and satisfying, plus it’s easy to tweak your blend if you need to. If any of the individual spices stands out too much, add more of the other spices to balance out the flavors; if you want a particular spice to shine more brightly, add more of that one. Flavor is subjective, so don’t be shy — tailor your blend to your taste buds. Feel free to tweak store-bought blends, too!

This North African dish features a spice blend called ras al hanout, or “head of the shop.” The phrase refers to the fact that spice sellers create custom blends for their customers, blends that are generally proprietary secrets. You could buy five different packets of ras al hanout in local markets, and each one would be slightly different. Cumin, ginger, coriander, and turmeric are the main spices I used, but those are my favorite key notes. You can change the proportions of the various spices or entirely omit them — be your own head of the shop!

Egyptian Rice & Lamb

For the ras al hanout*:
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of cayenne or Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

For the rice and lamb:
1/2 cup raw long-grain brown rice (or 2 cups cooked)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 pound ground lamb
1 T. ras al hanout
Feta for garnishing, preferably made with sheep and/or goat milk

To make the spice blend, put all ingredients in a small glass jar (I save and re-use my spice jars) and shake well to combine.

To make the rice and lamb, place the rice and 1 cup of water in a medium pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 40 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all of the water. I like to use the simmering time as prep time for my veggies.

Drizzle a generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until onions are softening and fragrant. Stir in garlic, tomatoes, lamb, and ras al hanout and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to break up the lamb. The lamb will be opaque when it’s done.

Stir the cooked rice into the lamb mixture, remove from heat, and serve immediately. Garnish each portion with a generous sprinkling of feta. Leftover lamb can be refrigerated for 4 days.

Enjoy!

* Ras al hanout also makes an excellent seasoning for seafood, chicken, and veggie dishes, or stir some into plain whole-milk Greek yogurt for an easy dip. Or sprinkle this blend on your next batch of popcorn! This recipe makes about 3 tablespoons, so you’ll have some on hand for future dishes.

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Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Salad with Mustard-Yogurt Dressing

Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Salad with Mustard-Yogurt Dressing

Who doesn’t love creamy dressings? Especially when paired with savory ingredients like the roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and feta cheese I tossed into this salad. Fortunately, it’s simple to skip the dubious “creamy” store-bought dressings (most of which do not contain actual cream or even any dairy product) and make your own creamy dressing by using whole-milk plain Greek yogurt as a base (which actually does contain cream). From Ranch to creamy Caesar, whole-milk plain Greek yogurt is your go-to ingredient!

I made this mustard-yogurt dressing by whisking together three ingredients: mustard, yogurt, and red wine vinegar. The slightly peppery smoothness of the dressing was the perfect bridge between the sweet tomatoes and savory/earthy caramelized onions and roasted peppers. And as a follow-up, the dressing was also a great accent for a simple feta and strawberry salad — that’s the combination I thought I’d try when I used the leftover dressing the next day. So many possibilities!

Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Salad with Mustard-Yogurt Dressing
Makes 2 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

For the salad:
1 large onion, sliced
Several large leaves of red leaf lettuce
1 roasted pepper, flesh only, chopped (I used jarred peppers — look for a brand that does not include sugar in the ingredient list)
Handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
Feta cheese, preferably made of sheep and/or goat milk (it’s more likely to come from pastured animals, whereas domestic feta made from cow’s milk is probably not coming from pastured animals)

For the dressing (these amounts are highly subjective; you’ll wind up blending to taste):
1/4 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

To make the salad, add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to a large skillet. Stir in the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the onion is turning golden brown.

While the onion cooks, rinse the lettuce under running cold water, then whack it firmly against the side of the sink to get most of the water off. Spread the leaves apart and place them on a towel, then fold into the towel and press gently to dry. I find this to be a far easier method of rinsing and drying lettuce than involving a salad spinner, at least when the lettuce in question is hearty enough to whack against the sink. (Which is quick and fun to do.)

Tear the lettuce into small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the pepper and tomatoes, then cut the feta into small pieces and add them as well. When the onions are done, they go into the bowl, too. Toss well.

Make the dressing by whisking together the ingredients in a smaller bowl. Taste and see if you’d like it to be more creamy (add more yogurt), more peppery (add more mustard), or more tangy (add more vinegar). If you like the flavor as it is but want the dressing to be thinner, whisk in a trickle of water or milk.

Add the dressing to the salad and toss again. Serve immediately. If you think you’re going to have leftovers, hold back some dressing for another salad — it will keep for a week on the refrigerator (or until the expiration date on the yogurt, whichever comes first). Feel free to add chopped cooked chicken or shrimp to the salad if you’d like, too.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on May 18th, 2015
Egg, Avocado & Tomato with Pumpkin Seed Garnish

Egg, Avocado & Tomato with Pumpkin Seed Garnish

Welcome to the first guest post on the site! This recipe and photo comes courtesy of my mom, who has lately taken to crafting innovative breakfasts that go way beyond the cereal bowl — as she says, she likes a breakfast that “sticks.” I agree. Starting the morning with something hearty means you’re off to a satisfying day. This five-ingredient recipe (okay, six ingredients if you count the extra-virgin olive oil) is quick to make, especially if you already have hard-boiled eggs in your fridge. Even if you don’t, though, they’ll be ready by the time you chop the tomato and avocado.

If you have leftover cooked whole-grain rice or cooked potatoes on hand, you can toss those in, too, and make this into a hash or pilaf. Or make a salad out of this by tossing it with lettuce. The pumpkin seeds give it a slight Southwestern flair, so you could wrap the egg-and-tomato mix in a tortilla and enjoy it as a burrito. The options are endless!

And for those who’ve asked me what kind of olive oil is the best, note the bottle of California Olive Ranch in the background. According to a University of California Davis study done in 2011, California Olive Ranch is one of the very few widely available extra-virgin olive oils that is truly extra-virgin. By that, I mean the COR oil scored perfect marks in the freshness category — its level of acidity was well below the level at which the oil is considered rancid. In comparison, most other olive oils failed miserably because they’ve been rendered rancid during processing. Sad but true: more often than not, the “extra-virgin” label does not mean what it should. So to answer the perpetual question of “which olive oil should I buy?”, my answer is “The one you see in this photo.”

Egg, Avocado & Tomato with Pumpkin Seed Garnish
Serves 2. Recipe can easily be doubled (or halved, for that matter).

2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 avocado
1 large tomato
Wedge of fresh lemon for squeezing
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Handful of raw or roasted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

Place the eggs in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for 10 minutes for soft-boiled eggs and 12 minutes for hard-boiled eggs, then submerge in cold water to stop the cooking process. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel and chop them.

While the eggs cook, cut the avocado and tomato into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with fresh lemon juice and the oil. Spoon onto two plates and top each with the pumpkin seeds and chopped eggs. Serve promptly.

If you halve the recipe to make one portion, use half of the avocado and save the rest for later. Lightly press a piece of plastic wrap onto the unused half — the goal is to not let air touch the cut surface — and refrigerate for a day or two.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on May 14th, 2015
Summery Tomato & Sweet Potato Salad with Chives

Summery Tomato & Zucchini Salad with Chives

Got chives? Make salad! Or chive-seasoned butter — that’s another great way to use lots of fresh chives. If you’re one of the lucky folks who has chives sprouting alongside your house or in a windowbox, now’s the time to use them — for one thing, they’ll replenish themselves nearly overnight because they’re growing so fast right now, and for another, chives seem to be more mild when the days aren’t screechingly hot. They’re also more tender before they burst into bloom, at which point the flower-bearing stems seem to become woody to the point of inedibility.

Come August, my chives are more pungent than the sharpest onion, which means I have to cook them before I can use them. In spring and early summer, though, they provide a pleasant “onion lite” flavor that’s great for garnishing or using in dressings, dips, etc. This quick salad is a combination of summer favorites (tomatoes and zucchini) along with filling staples like canned white beans and sweet potatoes. The only seasonings are chives, lemon juice, and salt, but if you have other fresh herbs on hand, feel free to toss those in as well. Basil or dill would be particularly welcome!

Summery Tomato & Zucchini Salad with Chives
Makes 4 light servings.

1 sweet potato, trimmed but unpeeled, cut into 1/2″ cubes (I opt for the deeper red “garnet” variety whenever I can find it)
1 zucchini, trimmed, chopped
3 large tomatoes, chopped
15 oz. Great Northern beans OR other white beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed, OR freshly cooked corn kernels
Handful of chives, snipped or minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Sea salt to taste

Fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the cubed sweet potato and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Taste and see if you’d like to add more brightness (squeeze in more lemon juice) or salt. You might want to taste a chive before adding them so that you have an idea of how pungent they are, or add them gradually and taste the salad as you go. Leftover salad can be refrigerated for 4 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on May 11th, 2015
Potato & Salmon Hash

Potato & Salmon Hash

You’ve probably had beef hash for breakfast, but have you ever had salmon hash? It’s easier than beef-based hash — all you need is a can of salmon along with your potatoes, peppers, and onions. And although hash doesn’t typically include eggs, I stirred some eggs into this hash during the last few minutes of cooking to balance the hearty flavor of the salmon and to give it more of a “breakfast” feel. (Plus, eggs add rich flavor and texture to any dish.)

When you use wild salmon and eggs from pastured hens as the main ingredients, you’ll have an easy breakfast that’s anti-inflammatory along with filling. Even better? You can make a big batch of hash once and enjoy it all week — unlike beef, salmon has a nice texture served cold (or you can rewarm your hash briefly in a skillet with a pat of butter). Canned salmon is less perishable than beef, too.

Breakfast doesn’t get much simpler than hash! You could even use pre-cubed potatoes to shorten the prep time, although it only takes a few minutes to cut your potatoes into small cubes. And then dice your peppers and chop your onions while the potatoes are simmering — using hands-off cooking time as prepping time is always an efficient idea.

Potato & Salmon Hash
Makes about 6 breakfast servings or 4 main course servings.

4 medium redskin potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 sweet bell pepper (any color)
1 medium onion
6 oz. canned wild salmon, drained
6 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
2 tsp. dill
Sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
Sweet paprika for garnishing (optional)

Fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the cubed potatoes and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then drain promptly.

While the potatoes are cooking, trim away the stem and seeds from the pepper and cut the flesh into small squares. Chop the onion.

Melt a generous knob of ghee or butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the pepper and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the veggies are starting to become soft and fragrant. Add the drained potatoes and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the potatoes are firm and dry (you’re cooking away the excess water) and starting to turn golden brown.

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the salmon, eggs, and dill. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through and opaque. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with paprika if you like. Leftover hash can be refrigerated for a week.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on May 7th, 2015
Broccoli Slaw Scrambled Eggs

Broccoli Slaw Scrambled Eggs

Nothing beats eggs for breakfast — just crack and cook for 3 minutes. So simple. Sometimes, though, I want something past the basic scrambled or poached egg, something that doesn’t involve a lot of chopping or pre-cooking. (Western omelets are delicious, but far more suitable for lazy Sunday morning breakfasts than weekday I-want-it-fast breakfasts.) Enter the world of pre-shredded slaws: broccoli and carrot slaw, cabbage slaw, Brussels sprouts slaw. More and more crucifer- and root-based shredded veggies are popping up at grocery stores in the refrigerated section. Makes sense considering that those veggies are hearty enough to shred and then store. Of course, they won’t be as fresh as the veggies you shred yourself on the spot, but still, slaws are too handy to pass up.

Shredded crucifers and roots only need a few minutes of sauteing or steaming to greatly improve their flavor and texture, which makes them great last-minute additions to stir-frys — they add a pop of color and a slight crunch in exchange for the effort of snipping open their bag. In this case, I sauteed the slaw for a few minutes before adding the egg since egg cooks so quickly. Three minutes of sauteing the slaw + three minutes of cooking the egg = a breakfast that’s speedy and delicious. The dill and Parmesan are optional, but considering that they add flavor and not time, I say go for it!

Broccoli Slaw Scrambled Eggs

In a medium skillet, melt a generous knob of butter over medium heat. Add broccoli slaw (or any kind of slaw) and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until the slaw is softened. Figure on a handful of slaw per serving.

Reduce heat to medium-low and crack in eggs (preferably from pastured hens), assuming 1 or 2 eggs per serving. Add a generous dash of dill. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often so that the eggs cook softly and evenly. Serve with a generous dusting of grated Parmesan.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on May 4th, 2015
Chocolate Tea

Chocolate Tea

Ever since I got my milk frother, I’ve been trying to figure out more fun drinks that would benefit from being topped with foamy milk. Coffee is an obvious one; tea is a close second. Hot chocolate would be great with frothed milk, too. Then I started wondering about combining all of those concepts — what about making chocolate tea with my French coffee press? As luck would have it, I had both raw and roasted nibs in my cupboard. It only took a half-second of wafting the aromas to know that roasted nibs were going to make a richer infusion for tea, so I toasted the raw ones before sliding them into the French press and adding a few roasted nibs for good measure.

Turns out that chocolate tea is incredibly simple and refreshingly light-tasting. It lacks the depth of a chocolate bar, of course, but in a way, chocolate tea probably tastes more like cocoa beans than a bar does, because there isn’t any other flavor muddying the cup — no vanilla, no sugar, nothing else. I was surprised at the faint floral note I detected in the tea. Grinding the nibs might result in a deeper flavor, or perhaps letting them brew overnight would draw it out more, but I wanted to try the easiest option first. (And steeping the beans too long might make them taste bitter — like black tea and many other foods, cocoa beans contain tannin.) If you have nibs and a French press, give chocolate tea a try!

Chocolate Tea

You’ll want roasted cocoa nibs, so if you only have raw nibs, dry-toast them in a skillet over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, shaking the pan often, until they’re fragrant and turning brown. Immediately remove to a French press. I used about 2 tablespoons of nibs for my 2-cup French press, but this is hardly a tried-and-true ratio — it’s just the one I happened to try first. (And it seemed to work.)

Cover with boiling water and let infuse for a good 30 minutes before pressing the filter down onto the nibs. Pour into a pretty teacup and top with frothed or steamed milk if you like.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on April 30th, 2015
Bacon, Pecan & Sesame Mix

Bacon, Pecan & Sesame Mix

I often make my own spiced nut and seed trail mixes — it’s easier and cheaper to just take what you’ve got on hand, mix them with your favorite spices, and bake everything at a low oven temp — but I had never thought of including bacon in my mixes. Thus my surprise when I saw a BBQ-themed trail mix in Saveur with bacon as a main ingredient. That’s different! And incredibly appealing to someone who prefers savory over sweet. The recipe had sweet elements, too, in the form of dried apricots and figs, but I stuck with a 100% savory approach.

I also shortened the ingredient list for the mix and sauteed the ingredients rather than baking them. I didn’t dry out the bacon for an hour and a half in the oven, either, so this version should be refrigerated. My logic was that I’d rather refrigerate the mix and be able to make it in ten minutes, thirty if you count the hands-off oven time for cooking the bacon. A good trade-off! Bacon smells so great when it’s cooking that I didn’t think I could bear being in a bacon-scented house for a full one and a half hours without eating the whole darn tray of bacon.

Bacon, Pecan & Sesame Mix
Makes about 2 cups.

For the spice blend:
1 T. sesame seeds
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
Dash of cayenne
1/4 tsp. sea salt

For the mix:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw pecan halves
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw cocoa nibs
4 strips cooked bacon, preferably from pastured hogs
Generous pat of butter, preferably from grass-fed cows

To make the spice blend, mix the ingredients in a small bowl. Place the cashews, pecans, and pumpkin seeds in a large skillet over medium heat. Dry-toast, stirring/shaking the pan often, for 5 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant and starting to turn golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the cocoa nibs. Continue to toast, stirring often so that the small nibs don’t burn, for 3 minutes or until the nibs are fragrant.

Stir in the bacon, butter, and spice blend and continue to cook over medium-low heat for several minutes, just until the nuts have absorbed the melted butter. Scoop onto a large plate to let cool. Completely cooled mix can be refrigerated for a week.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on April 27th, 2015
Coconut Milk Latte

Coconut Milk Latte

Of all the non-dairy milks out there, coconut milk is my favorite for so many reasons. It’s naturally sweet, yet whole coconut milk contains enough saturated fat to blunt the impact of its sugars and give it a low glycemic impact. (And one of those medium-chain saturated fats is lauric acid, which is antimicrobial and antiviral.) Its fat content also means that whole coconut milk is shelf-stable, while nut and grain milks have a much shorter lifespan. And unlike soy milk, coconut milk is not one of the top eight allergens in the country, which means more people can enjoy it.

Whole coconut milk naturally separates into coconut cream and coconut water just as unhomogenized whole dairy milk separates into cream and milk. That means you can scoop out the coconut cream and use it as cream (and use the water as water) or stir the two together to have coconut milk. If the room temperature is warm enough — say, over 78F — you can just shake the can a few times to have a smooth, homogenized milk. Alternatively, you can warm the milk until the fat melts into the water and it homogenizes.

I recently purchased a milk frother that makes lovely cold or hot foam, and I realized that I can add my separated coconut cream and coconut water to it, press the button for hot foam, and wind up with light, fluffy, and completely smooth coconut milk foam. How handy! Much easier than stirring or shaking. Now I can make a silky latte whenever I want one. Even better, I can create perfectly blended coconut milk for any beverage or main dish. But whether you have a milk frother or not, just plunk a few cans of whole coconut milk in your pantry, and you’ll have fresh, creamy milk whenever you want it!

Coconut Milk Latte

All you need is a can of whole coconut milk, your favorite brewed coffee, and if you like, a splash of vanilla extract. You can use a hand-held milk frother to create the foam, or perhaps you already have a milk frother. Or you can warm the coconut milk until it’s completely blended, then place it in a jar and shake the heck outta it.

Just pour your coffee into a pretty mug, add the vanilla, and pour the foamy milk on top. The frother I used is the Epica, which so far has been well worth the $36 I paid for it on Amazon. Cold frothing seems to make more foam with my whole dairy milk, but for the coconut milk, hot frothing is better — then the otherwise-chunky saturated fat will melt into smoothness as the frother warms it. As for the coffee, I like to cold-brew mine and then enjoy it chilled or warmed.

Enjoy!

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