FlexBrew Coffee Maker review and Happy Mother’s Day

I have been a coffee lover for years, but coffee never felt like an essential part of my life until I had children.  Now I have a hard time getting through my day without a cup.  My husband, who rarely enjoyed a cup of coffee when we first started dating, now drinks more than I do!  He’s even become an afternoon coffee guy.  Kids will do that to you.  Not sleeping as much as you should, and running after toddlers all day long will have that effect!  But a little sleep is an easy sacrifice to make for my kids.  Every minute I get to spend with them is so precious, and I never take one minute for granted.  It requires some late hours working and housekeeping after they’ve gone to sleep, but it is worth it.  I would much rather be up late finishing up my daily chores activities, if it means I can give my undivided attention to my children when I get home from work.

And now for the coffee.  We have been Keurig users for a couple of years.  The Husband leaves before me during the week and usually takes his morning coffee at work.  I, however, work from home sometimes and these days one cup of coffee rarely cuts it!  It feels wasteful to use K-cups when I plan on drinking more than one cup of coffee.  Or on the weekends when we’re both home and drinking coffee in the morning, it would make more sense just to make a pot.  We also keep our old coffee pot in the basement for use when company is over.  Obviously that is easier, and more economical, for serving with company.

I was very excited when I received the opportunity to try this new coffee maker from Hamilton Beach.  The best of both worlds in one machine!  It is always nice to find a product that will eliminate another and free up some space on my counter.  We used this maker in lieu of our other ones for two weeks.  Below is my breakdown of the good and bad.  Overall I thought it was a good product.  It did leave a few things to be desired, but it’s a great option for those who use both types of coffee makers and only want one machine.

Image courtesy of Hamilton Beach.

PROS:

  • one machine that can use both K-cups and brew a whole pot of coffee
  • aesthetically pleasing design, color matches other appliances in my kitchen
  • performance of brewer was adequate for our level of usage
  • easy to use, once you get used to how it works, and reading the water level
  • comes with reusable single serve filter
  • competitively priced
  • single serve side is high enough to fit most travel mugs right under the brewer
  • programmable timer

CONS:

  • both sides heat up when brewing
  • no automatic water shutoff on the single serve side, so you can only pour what you need in the reservoir
  • water reservoir has 2 compartments, so it is difficult to see the water level
  • does not come with a reusable filter for the 12 cup carafe side

This Mother’s Day I’d love to say that a great gift from my husband would be for me to be able to sleep in.  And even though a morning to sleep in would be amazing, (and probably much-needed) it’s not realistic.  Besides, it would be more appropriate to spend the morning snuggling in bed with my little ones since one of them at least will be up early! This Mother’s Day I hope all of you moms out there are able to enjoy this special day with your children, big or small.

Maybe I’ll get to enjoy my morning coffee in bed at least… :)

Here are a few fun coffee recipes with a little kick that you can whip up for Mom at your Mother’s Day get-together on Sunday. Mom’s need liquor as much as they need caffeine sometimes.

Iced Coffee Cocktail from Jelly Toast

Dublin Iced Coffee from Bon Appetit

Keoke Coffee from POPSUGAR

*I received a Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew Coffeemaker free of charge.  This is an honest review of the product.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

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Shamrock Shake Celebration Cake

shamrock shake cake

Oh yes, it’s that time of year!  I actually haven’t had a shamrock shake in years, but I still feel like I should go get one every time March rolls around.  There are plenty of copycat recipes out there to make your own version of the fast food treat at home, but I was feeling like I wanted to put my own spin on it.  I’m on a cake kick as well.  Ever since I had kids, I feel like I need to perfect my cake-baking skills.  I am a long way from perfecting these skills, but I also feel like I have come a long way since I really started cranking out cakes a couple of years ago.  I only wish I had more excuses to make them!

Since my birthday is on Friday I thought that a little cake this week would be in order!

shamrock shake cake

If I had to make this cake again, I would be a little more careful with my measuring.  The cake itself turned out a bit dense, probably due to too much flour and a bit of over-mixing.  It’s difficult to be quite as precise and needed though when you have two little rug-rats at your feet trying to get their tiny fingers into the bowl frosting!  However, the frosting flavor was spot on!  It’ll really give you that minty flavor you’re used to with the shake!  The key is using the clear imitation vanilla extract, and mint extract (not peppermint or spearmint), but a generic “mint” flavoring.

I made a Swiss meringue buttercream for this cake because it is a little less sweet than American buttercream.  This cake is all kinds of sweet, so the sugary American buttercream might be a bit too much if you want to be able to eat a full slice.  Don’t forget the cherries on top!

Shamrock Shake Celebration Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-8" or 9" layer cakes
 
Ingredients
  • Cake:
  • 2¾ cups cake flour
  • 1⅔ cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs whites plus 1 whole large egg
  • 1 cup full-fat vanilla yogurt or 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract
  • Frosting:
  • 5 large, fresh egg whites
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons mint extract
  • 1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • green food coloring
  • maraschino cherries for topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. For the cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8" x 2" or 9" x 2" round pans by greasing and flouring; or lining with parchment, then greasing the parchment.
  3. Mix all of the dry ingredients on slow speed to blend. Add the soft butter and mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand. It may form a paste, depending on the temperature of the butter, how much it's mixed, and granulation of the sugar used.
  4. Add the egg whites one at a time, then the whole egg, beating well after each addition to begin building the structure of the cake. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt (or milk) with the vanilla and almond extracts. Add this mixture, ⅓ at a time, to the batter. Beat 1 to 2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for 8" or 9" rounds. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan, cool on a rack completely before frosting.
  7. For the frosting:
  8. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F.
  9. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so).
  10. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Add extracts and salt, and beat until well combined.
  11. Put about 1-1½ cups of frosting into a piping bag with a star tip. This will be used as your "whipped cream".
  12. Add green food coloring to the remaining frosting and mix well. Frost with green frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Then pipe the white frosting whipped cream dollops in the center and perimeter of the cake. Top each dollop with a maraschino cherry.

Cake adapted from King Arthur Flour, frosting adapted from Sweetapolita.

shamrock shake cake

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Chicken Parmesan Soup in the Slow Cooker

slow cooker chicken parmesan soup

Despite the fact that it is now March, and the first day of spring is only a few weeks away, I am still bookmarking and pinning hearty winter fare.  There is still snow on the ground, more in the forecast, and we’re looking at another stretch of single digit days in the coming weeks.  (sigh) That is depressing…

This is one of my favorite slow cooker recipes because it does not require and pre-cooking or browning, like many slow cooker recipes out there.  You can just throw everything into your slow cooker and let it do it’s thing!  This is a crowd-pleaser, and all you need is a loaf of crusty bread to soak up that sauce and your meal is complete.

If you really want to up the flavor, try throwing in your leftover Parmesan cheese rinds in there and take them out right before serving.  If you’re not saving your rinds, you should be.  They add a great dimension of flavor to stews, soups and sauces.

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup, adapted from Food 52

Chicken Parmesan Soup in the Slow Cooker

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 14 1/2 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • (optional) Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy!)
  • 4 ounces uncooked dry gemelli or penne pasta
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Instructions

In the slow cooker, stir together the garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, chicken, broth, onion, the cheese, rinds (if using), basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours, or on low for 7 hours.

Transfer chicken breasts to a cutting board and coarsely shred them; return them to the slow cooker. Discard cheese rinds, if using. Stir in the pasta. Cook on high for 30 minutes longer or until pasta is cooked al dente. Serve garnished with more Parmesan cheese and chopped basil or parsley.

http://www.theculinaryenthusiast.com/2015/03/03/chicken-parmesan-soup-in-the-slow-cooker/

 

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