DIY Buzz: Coffee Roasting Class at the Institute of Domestic Technology

I have never been the coffee-aholic, and truth be told I make a terrible pot of coffee — I think it’s a mental block (I can’t whistle or snap either, go figure).  But Big N truly enjoys coffee.  Because he imbibes exactly one cup per day, he wants that cup to be perfect.  And even though I drink at most a half a cup of coffee in the morning, so do I.

I also can’t resist an opportunity to learn a new DIY skill.  So when my friend M turned me onto the coffee roasting class at Altadena’s Institute of Domestic Technology, I was game!  First, a bit about the Institute.  Altadena is becoming the hip place for foodies and DIY-ers to learn food making skills.  Hosted at the Zane Grey Estate, the Institute holds classes on canning, cheesemaking (it is home to about three dozen goats at present whose milk is used for the class), coffee roasting, cocktail crafting, and the next class I intend to sign up for: bacon curing!  (Note to the Westsiders- there is another location at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills which hosts similar classes).

Cupping Lesson M and I attended the Saturday coffee roasting class, taught by Plow & Gun microroaster Daniel Kent.  First, we experienced a blind sniffing and tasting “cupping” lesson to demonstrate the difference between beans sourced from various countries as well as the difference the degree of roasting (light to dark, aka City to French Roast) can make on a single type of bean.  Armed with our knowledge, we were then taught how to roast in the most simple of DIY gadgets: the Whirly Pop popcorn maker.  With nothing but an aluminum pot and a hand crank, we dumped our beans in our Whirly Pop that was already preheating on the stove, set the timer, started cranking, and then carefully checked as the beans went from yellow to gold to brown, and listened for the first crack (a popping sound) and second cracks (more like Rice Krispies) to determine when to remove our beans from the flame.  Whirly Pop

Once our beans hit the target temperature, we dumped them onto cookie sheets to cool, and then separated the newly roasted beans from the flaky chaff.  All told, the process was extremely simple; the hardest part was turning the hand crank constantly for about 12 minutes.  With a little practice, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to become more consistent with my roast quality (because small variations can result in big screw ups).  We left the class with a bag of our first roast (I roasted my Guatemalen beans to a light City roast) and a bag of green beans to try it again ourselves at home (for which I purchased my own Whirly Pop).

M and I had a great time and I definitely recommend attending a class at the Institute, though you better hurry because apparently word is catching on.   Martha Stewart herself has taken notice in this month’s Living magazine. Martha Stewart Living

One satisfied customer Since the class, I ordered 5 pounds of beans from around the world from trusted green bean sourcer: Sweet Marias.  I’ve been studiously practicing my whirly technique and giving away freshly roasted beans for my fellow coffee lovers to try.  I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that freshly roasted coffee tastes a gazillion times better than the preground stuff that’s been dying a slow death on the grocery store shelf for eight months.  And while I’m still no expert, the feedback on my beans has been pretty good.  Check out this satisfied relative!

Fresh Roasted Beans Oh, and the best part: Whole Foods sells a pound of our former favorite Kenya Grand Cru roasted coffee for $16-20.  I can make a fresher and better cup with Kenya beans purchased from Sweet Marias for about a third the price.  DIY-ers unite!

*first two photos above of the Institute of Domestic Technology courtesy of Heather Bullard

Green and Proud: The Green Shake

This St. Patrick’s Day, why not go green on the inside and out?

Now that I’m pregnant, I need my greens.  I created this concoction so I can get all of my nutrients in one goopy fell swoop.  My green shake is tasty too (and that’s saying something when you see all the healthy stuff I throw in it…).

This miracle shake contains everything you (and your baby if you have a bun in the oven like me) needs:

  • Berries – for antioxidents to promote cell strength and repel those pesky free radicals
  • Yogurt – for probiotics to promote good digestion
  • Protein powder – for amino acids to build strong bones
  • Chia seeds – for a power packed dose of Omega 3s for energy and heart health, as well as fiber for digestive health
  • Cod liver oil – for Omega 3 (DHA and EPA) and Vitamin D to promote a healthy brain for you and your growing baby, and a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, and for overall eye health
  • Green Powder – packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and chlorophyll, it supports immune function, kidneys, liver, blood, bones, colon, and overall longevity
  • Banana – for potassium of course, plus Vitamin A and iron, and it gives the shake a nice creaminess

One of these every other day and you’ll be feeling green yourself.  Erin go bragh all you want, you’ve earned the right after drinking one of these.

Try my recipe below. [Note- though I haven’t tried it for this purpose, I’m guessing this will also make a great Guinness hangover cure].

Happy St. Paddy’s Day.

Green and More Green Shake

Serves 2-3
Prep time 6 minutes
Meal type Beverage, Breakfast


  • 1 cup Frozen fruit (Your choice, I like to use a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries)
  • 2 scoops Protein Powder (I use whey but feel free to go veggie with Soy)
  • 1 Banana
  • 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Green Powder (I use Vitamineral Green by Healthforce Nutritionals, available at Whole Foods)
  • 2 teaspoons Arctic Cod Liver Oil
  • 2 cups Leafy Greens (Your choice: spinach, collards, kale, beet greens, mustard greens)
  • 2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • Any other vegetables you wish (Carrots, beets, etc.)
  • Fruit juice or water


Protein powder will begin to break down after a while.  Drink this shake within 24 hours.


In a very powerful blender (Vitamix or Blendtec work best), first blend your berries and greens until incorporated. Add water or juice if you need to get the blender going but don't add too much.
Then blend in yogurt, protein and green powders, chia seeds, cod liver oil.
3. Next add greens, then finally the banana. Add water or juice as needed until you have your desired consistency.
Drink and feel instantly healthy, like you can conquer the world. Enjoy.

Summer sippin': White Sangria

Summer is the perfect time to get a little crazy with the cocktails. I like to save my bold red wines for hearty colder weather meals. In the summer I enjoy dinner al fresco with a breezy rosé or crisp white.  When its time to get festive I like to mix up a nice white sangria.

Coincidentally, this afternoon my pilates trainer asked me if I had any good ideas for a white sangria that she can take on a picnic date this week.  Boy do I ever, and in fact I just made a delicious white sangria for the Core at our 4th of July weekend in Arrowhead.  Melon White Sangria Recipe below.

white-sangria ingredients

I used an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand because wines from this region are known for their tropical notes.  You can use a domestic Sauvignon Blanc or even a Gewurstraminer or dry Reisling.  The melon will complement the notes in these wines nicely.  Make up a pitcher of sangria and just before serving add a little ginger ale for a refreshing fizz.

Your guests will love the melon flavors with pasta salad, grilled fish with fruity salsa, ceviche, or carnitas tacos, my accompaniment of choice.  Be careful though, it may not taste too strong, but a few glasses of this stuff will have you singing the 80’s tune while dancing in your platforms.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Happy summer sippin’

White Sangria

White Sangria

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Meal type Beverage


  • 1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc (preferably from New Zealand)
  • 1 bottle Ginger Ale (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cup Honeydew (Cubed)
  • 1 1/2 cup Cantaloupe (Cuved)
  • 10-12 pieces Mint


  • 1 1/2 cup Watermelon (Cubed)


1. Empty wine into pitcher and add fruit. Refridgerate for at least an hour, up to overnight.
2. Just before serving, add 1/3 ratio of ginger ale to 2/3 of white sangria. Garnish with fruit.