Homemade New Jersey Deli Bagels

There are a lot of things I miss about New Jersey.  I miss being familiar with a place because I grew up there.  I miss the weekly football gatherings at my dad’s house, having about 50 authentic Italian restaurants within a 5 mile radius, only being a few (traffic-filled) minutes away from Manhattan, the “accent” that I didn’t realize existed until I moved to Kentucky - and I miss the bagels.

Every deli in New Jersey sells bagels.  I’m not sure which are better, New York bagels or New Jersey bagels, but I have to say the texture and flavor of both are something I haven’t found anywhere else.  We have a Panera nearby and they definitely make a decent bagel - but the slightly dense, slightly sweet, slightly salty, steamy and rich bread encased in the chewy caramelized crust of a fresh New Jersey bagel just can’t be beat.

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Offbeat’s Picks: Know Hope Burlap Bags

It’s no secret that I love all things coffee—coffee ice cream, coffee décor, coffee soap…and of course, coffee beverages. This past summer, my coffee-roasting brother invited my husband and I to attend CoffeeFest with him at Navy Pier in Chicago. Let me think…an entire convention dedicated to the love and art of coffee?! I’m in!

I definitely enjoyed watching some master baristas and chatting with quite a few coffee connoisseurs, but the coolest find was from an organization called Know Hope. We walked up to their booth and found awesome bags, journals and wallets made out of recycled burlap coffee sacks donated by roasters.

I love a good upcycled product as much as the next DIY blogger, but the best part about these bags is how they help kids in need. Know Hope is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization and the proceeds from their products are donated towards serving children around the world by providing food and humanitarian relief.

Who knew you could do so much good with some old burlap?

Coffee Cupping and a Giveaway! (Giveaway Closed)

Have you ever stopped to truly taste your coffee? I don’t just mean taking a sip and commenting on whether you like it or not. I mean taking a sip and being able to identify whether it tastes citrusy, chocolatey, floral or earthy. Pondering how the coffee feels in your mouth and how the aftertaste differs from the first note of flavor.

Welcome to the art of coffee cupping.  Coffee cupping involves observing the taste and aromas of a cup of coffee. This practice is what the pros use for quality control as well as determining how to roast specific types of beans and creating blends. Even if you’re not a coffee expert, learning the basics of cupping will take your morning beverage routine to a whole new level.

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DIY Clamped Mason Jar Vase Centerpiece

So one day I was browsing through an interior decorating catalog when in the corner of my eye, I saw what I thought was a centerpiece composed of a row of glass bottles clamped together.  When I actually looked at it, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was, but I was so intrigued by the idea that I decided I had to make it myself.  Once I get something in my head like that, I turn into some sort of robot programmed to complete a mission.

I recruited hubby to go to Lowe’s with me to find all the pieces we’d need to create the imaginary centerpiece.  Because of my deep love for mason jars, we picked up a few of those (instead of bottles), and hunted down all the other pieces in about 15 minutes flat.  I have no idea how we found all that stuff so fast.  It was like I developed some sort of sixth-sense while I was in mission mode.

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Learning (and relearning) to Knit

It seems like every year, or maybe even every six months, I pick up a new hobby. I make something my new obsession, run out and buy everything I need, and then two weeks later all my new purchases go untouched. Take my knitting for example. Last year, a few girls from my small group at church taught me how to knit. Despite the fact that I had to unravel the same scarf like 47 times before I got it right, I loved making it!

But then after making a few scarves for Christmas gifts last year, those knitting needles went untouched…until last week.

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DIY Roasted Red Peppers

I LOVE roasted red peppers. Love, love, love, love, love. OK, you get the point. I love the sweetness partnered with the toasty flavor from the small flecks of char still left on the pepper. Add a little olive oil and you’ve won me over.

But here’s the problem—if I bought roasted red peppers in the grocery store as often as I eat them, I’d go broke. At my local grocery store, 12 ounces of roasted red peppers (8.25 ounces drained) goes for about $3.79. I mean, one jar may not break the bank, but I’d like this roasted goodness to be a staple in my house, not a delicacy. A 12 ounce jar contains 1 to 1.5 bell peppers, which I can roast for about $1.50-$2.25 when the peppers aren’t even on sale.  With my conservative estimate, you’re saving at least $1.54 each time you roast at home rather than buy the jar. And if you grow red bell peppers in your home garden this is practically free! You can’t beat that!

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Perfect French Press Coffee

So it seems like we’re unintentionally running with the coffee theme these last couple days! Between Tiff’s AMAZING soap recipe and the tutorial for today, I think it’s time to stock up on some coffee beans! Well, it’s always time to stock up for me…I just can’t get enough coffee! (Can you tell I’ve already had too much today!?)

Anyway, I’ve got to tell you my EXCITING news. I’ve reached a monumental moment in my coffee life. I’ve ditched the drip! Despite the fact that my drip maker has a wonderfully convenient timer that will automatically start brewing my morning addiction before I even make it downstairs, the reality is that’s it’s just not my favorite way to make coffee anymore.

My hubby and I have enjoyed experimenting with different brewing methods, and one that I love is using a French Press. You’ll get a bold brew that really highlights the natural flavors of the coffee. You can also get a press that makes a great looking pitcher. You’ll definitely impress your dinner guests when you pour this at your table!

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