mom who works

the joys and challenges of being a working mom trying to find "balance"

Coolest product EVAH – the Handpresso portable espresso maker October 6, 2012

Filed under: food,work — Deborah @ 3:45 pm
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Handpresso WILD

Photo courtesy of

I love good coffee.

You could say (and many have) that I’m a bit of a coffee “snob.” Now I often say (as I often have) that I’m not a coffee snob, but I really only like to drink good coffee. If they don’t care and will drink the dreck that’s in the office cafeteria, who am I to judge?

My workplace does not allow employees to have “personal appliances.” So my dream of a nice little Nespresso or other good espresso maker tucked in a corner of my desk were dashed, and I had resigned myself to mediocre, or WORSE, coffee from the office cafeteria.

Then I discovered this little beauty – the Handpresso WILD. Looks a little weird, to be sure, but it produces, WITHOUT USE OF ELECTRICITY, a very decent cup of espresso. On par with what you’d get from those stovetop Moka pots you can buy at Italian grocery stores. Which is much, much better than what I get from the office cafeteria.

It’s ingenious, really. You use the bike-pump type handle to pump up to 16 bars of pressure (minimum you need for good espresso with crema). You put hot water in the little resevoir (readily available from our kitchen coffee maker’s hot water spout), then pop on an ESE pod (pre-fab espresso tea-bag type thingies) and voila! You have in your hands a nicely poured, hot espresso to enjoy – anywhere! They have a great story on their web site about how it was invented, and it seems they are coming up with new products all the time (I have my eye on the new Handpresso AUTO – so cool!). Well made product, that makes great coffee. What more could you ask for?


Affogato! June 12, 2011

Filed under: food — Deborah @ 9:04 pm
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Photo courtesy of

I have been on the lookout for new ways to justify my new coffee maker (besides drinking LOTS of coffee – ZING!), and have recently discovered this amazing dessert called affogato. It’s Italian (certo!) for “drowned” and it’s when you “drown” a scoop of gelato with espresso and/or other liquid goodies.

We just experienced a heat wave here in the Midwest, and we went from 50-degree weather to 100+ degree weather in the matter of a day (welcome to Wisconsin!). Suddenly, turning on the oven to bake some biscotti did not seem like a good idea.

We were browsing our neighborhood Italian market to pick up some antipasto makings, which just recently remodeled itself from a hole-in-the-wall to a more upscale version of itself, including a gelato bar. There was a sign for this “adult” dessert which seemed simple enough.

It’s literally as easy as putting a scoop of gelato or ice cream into a glass, and drizzling fresh hot espresso over it. Seriously.

Some sites recommend Frangelico, Kaluha or other alcoholic libations (check out the post on The Bitten Word on Tipsy Affogato – BTW, my drag queen name would be Muffin Fennimore), but I was so impressed with the simple original that I’m not inclined to go the Tipsy route just yet.

Try it today – you’ll love it.


coffee coffee coffee coffee May 5, 2011

Filed under: food — Deborah @ 7:38 pm
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Jura Z7 One Touch

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I recently had a business trip to Germany, and when I visited our European headquarters, I was introduced to what has turned out to be a little bit of heaven on earth. It’s called a Jura superautomatic coffee maker. Basically, you push one button – ONE BUTTON – and it will create for you the most delicious cappuccino, latte, or espresso you have ever had.

I could not believe this. I took photos with my blackberry and started texting my husband about it. I had about 100 cappuccinos in the space of 3 days. I obsessed.

Thankfully, hubby was equally obsessed. As soon as I sent the first photo he jumped into super shopper mode, and found not only the best brand, model and make of “superautomatic” (I had never even heard of this before or knew they existed) but also how to get the best deal on one.

One week after I returned home we opened up our very own Jura Z7 One Touch. I am obsessed.

Now I am not one to normally talk in casual conversation about the things I buy. But did I say that I’m obsessed?

When I wake up in the morning, I press one button and presto, delicious cappuccino. When I get home from work, I press one button and presto, instant espresso.

I am in heaven, and I am obsessed.


Bean Juice January 6, 2010

Filed under: food — Deborah @ 9:48 pm
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It’s a nearly nightly ritual at our house to have espresso and/or cappuccino after dinner. I know my Italian friends will pretend they don’t know me when they learn that I serve cappuccino after 11am, as that is sacriledge in Italy. Cappuccino is ONLY a breakfast drink, never served after noon. And, truth be told, it’s only hubby who drinks a cappuch after dinner. I tend to go for an espresso or a macchiato (espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk on top). A big cup of milk after dinner is just too filling for me.

La Pavoni EuropiccolaThat being said, it’s a nice little routine. Our trusty old La Pavoni Europiccola, which has been sent for service twice in the 15+ years we’ve owned it but still beats hands down any other home espresso/cappuccino machine, fires up with a pleasing “hissssss” every night once the boiler reaches full steam. We bought the Pavoni on the one and only vacation hubby and I actually took by ourselves 15 years ago, when instead of going to Disney (pre-kid, but hubby had never been), we decided to go to Italy. You see, at the time (pre-Euro), Italy was still the BARGAIN of Europe – the exchange rate from the lira to the dollar was almost 2-to-1  and so it actually cost us LESS than a trip to Disney at the time. We essentially established our own Italian import-export business by the sheer amount of stuff we brought back with us on the plane.

I had lusted after the La Pavoni at Williams-Sonoma, but wouldn’t even DREAM of spending the $700+ that they cost here at the time. Pavoni’s are true boiler-steam home espresso machines, not a “pump” machine like most cheaper consumer espresso makers are, and the Pavoni gets the closest you can come to cafe espresso at home. We were in Florence (Firenze) in this amazing kitchen store, when I spied the Pavoni. After confirming that they did, in fact, have them available in 120v for the US, we snatched it up for an absolute steal of about $150 after you converted the exchange rate from lira to dollars. Oh, how I miss the lira and the sheer bargains it once provided US travelers to Italy.

Even though technology has advanced, and there are fancier home espresso makers on the market now, I think I will never part with my old Pavoni. Here’s how to make a wonderful, after-dinner macchiato:

caffe macchiato step 11. Start with a single shot of espresso in a pre-warmed demi-tasse or espresso cup (I like to use really hot tap water and let it sit in the cup to warm it). For espresso, we like to use either Lavazza d’Oro or Illy (medium roast, or red label), which are both imported from Italy. They are pre-ground coffees, which some purists would find appalling, but unless you have a really high-quality coffee grinder and are able to get a really fine ground espresso from whole beans, the pre-ground from Italy is the way to go. We go through almost a can per month, so it doesn’t have any time to get stale or old.

cafe macchiato step 22. Steam your milk. I am generally making a cappuccino for hubby, so I just “borrow” a tiny bit of his steamed milk to top my macchiato. Just a small dollop will do (about a teaspoon’s worth). If you’re not also making a cappuccino, you need only a tiny amount of milk to steam.

3. Add a small spoon of sugar. Most US coffee purists would also find this appalling, but you will rarely, if ever, find an Italian who does not put at least a small amount of sugar in his cappuccino and espresso. It’s part of the complete taste.

It’s a little taste of Italy in a cup. Mmm.


Instant energy July 3, 2009

Filed under: general — Deborah @ 9:40 am
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From a new mommy blog – Milkshakes & Margaritas – comes a tip on how to tap into some instant energy: Mommy’s New Drug.