Trish Toomer Enjoys Cooking At Home, For Coffee Shop

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Trish Toomer has a love of cooking like her mother and grandmother. She enjoys cooking for her family and making pastries and biscuits for Toomer’s Coffee Roasters in Opelika, which she and her husband Sandy own. The Toomers enjoy traveling. Trish is pictured enjoying pasta on a trip to Italy. Photo special to The Observer

By Ann Cipperly

With a love of cooking, Trish Toomer not only prepares delicious meals for her family but uses her culinary skills to create yummy pastries for Toomer’s Coffee Roasters in Opelika, which she and her husband Sandy own. Three and a half years ago the former missionaries opened their coffee roasting and shop under one roof, roasting low acid coffee beans from around the globe that are shipped to nearly every state in the country.

Trish learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, who were both excellent cooks. Trish’s Grandmother Iva lived in Cabin Creek, West Virginia, which was a coal mining town. She sold hot dogs and homemade chili at lunch time to coal workers. After she moved to Charleston, West Virginia, she managed and cooked in a restaurant nearby in St. Albans.

When she was growing up, Trish and her family lived in Hurricane, West Virginia.

“My mother was a fabulous cook,” Trish said. “She made delicious roast and potatoes, fried chicken, homemade biscuits with sausage gravy and other downhome recipes. I have never been able to make fried chicken like my mother.”

Her mother always had a hearty Sunday dinner after church, as it was a time everyone in the family gathered together. Her father was a shift worker for Union Carbide in Charleston, West Virginia. Trish’s three older brothers were involved in football and other sports, and they had jobs during summer. Sunday dinner was time for the family to all be together There was always a roast or fried chicken served.

Trish remembers many Sundays her mother looked like June Cleaver from “Leave It To Beaver” standing at the stove wearing her church dress and high heels finishing up Sunday dinner. Her mother was known in the family for her pies and cobblers. She made blackberry cobblers using piecrust in a 9 by 13 pan with a piecrust on the top.

“My mother loved to cook and care for her family,” Trish said. “I inherited all of that.”

Trish met Sandy when she moved to Birmingham in the late 70s for a job in the banking industry. Sandy grew up in Vestavia Hills in Birmingham. He was a student at the University of Alabama when he and Trish met. They married a year later in 1979 before his last semester.

After he graduated, they moved to Houston, Texas, in 1980. Trish continued to work in the banking industry. While there, their first child, Harrison, was born. In 1986, they moved to Conyers, Gorgia, where Sarah was born.

While they were living in Conyers, the Toomers felt God leading them to be missionaries. Growing up, Trish never thought of being a missionary.

“It was just brought to us,” she said. “As you follow the Lord, He leads and that is where He led us.”

The family lived in Costa Rica for a year while Trish and Sandy were in language study, and their children attended school there.

After three years of training, Sandy became a missionary pilot, flying small planes in and out of the jungles of Ecuador with a group called Mission Aviation Fellowship. They spent eight years serving in Latin America.

Cooking in Ecuador included an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Tasty fresh fruit juices, including passion fruit and mora berries, which are similar to blackberries, were their favorites. The Shrimp Pastaza is an Ecuadorian family favorite.

When Sandy was selected as a recruiter for Mission Aviation Fellowship in 2002, they decided to live in the Opelika-Auburn area since Trinity United Methodist was a supporter of their mission work, and they had friends here. The area was also near Birmingham where Sandy’s father lives and the Atlanta airport.

Harrison had finished the 10th grade and Sarah the 8th grade in Shell, Ecuador, when they returned to the states.

While the Toomers were deciding what to do next, they visited a friend from mission training days and learned he had started a coffee shop in 2003. The friend was buying and selling coffee shop equipment, as well as teaching how to roast coffee.

The Toomers became interested and decided to open a coffee shop. They opened their first shop in the back of Courthouse Antiques in 2004, which was in the previous Johnson Galleries building. Since there was not a coffee shop in Auburn at the time, they opened Toomer’s Coffee a year later at University Village Shopping Center on South College.

In 2006, they purchased a coffee roaster, and Sandy attended training from the company president at their headquarters. Soon after he began roasting coffee beans they began selling their coffee beans online, and the wholesale business continued to grow.

They sold the Auburn coffee shop in 2013 to focus on their wholesale business selling to other shops around the country, which was quickly growing. Their next step was purchasing a building rather than renting. When the building at 1619 Thomason Drive in Opelika became available, they purchased it in 2018. After painting and sprucing up the space, they moved their roaster to the new location.

They left the front room of the building open. The wholesale business was doing well. People began knocking on the door to buy their coffee once they heard the Toomers were there. They had purchased coffee at their previous location.

Since the building was in a good spot between Tiger Town and the hospital, Sandy and Trish decided that they needed to open Toomer’s Coffee Roasters to serve coffee again. Trish found an espresso machine and equipment for sale in Louisiana that was only six months old.

They opened in November 2019 selling espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, as well as regular brews. They also sell bags of coffee beans and ground coffee.

They use coffee beans roasted with infrared heat. Ninety-eight percent of coffee is roasted using a flame bed, which tends to “burn” the beans. The infrared method roasts the beans from the inside out. It keeps down the bitterness and acids. All of their coffee beans, even the light roasted, have low acid.

Trish prepares food for the coffee shop. She keeps it fairly simple and fresh with blueberry scones, Italian sausage and cheddar cheese biscuits, assorted baked oatmeal bars and two small cakes, a chocolate cake with an espresso filling and a pound cake. They are called “cakes for two” since they are the perfect size for sharing.

Trish’s recipe for the baked oatmeal, which was the signature baked item at their Auburn shop, is a whole oat, gluten free product without flour that is a cross between a cake and cookie. A square of the baked oatmeal is delicious by itself, or it can be put into a cup with hot steamed milk poured over it, then topped with cinnamon, dried cranberries and pecans.

Generally, Trish will prepare more than one flavor, which includes apple cinnamon, pumpkin pecan and a dried sweet cherry with chocolate and dried cranberries with pecans.

Since the coffee shop closes at four in the afternoon, it gives Trish time to grocery shop and prepare a meal at home. One favorite is the salmon burgers. They can be mixed up and frozen or cooked and frozen. She plans to have something ready to prepare quickly on busy days.

Cabbage and sausage is a another favorite and helps keep them on their low carb and keto diets. She will make an Italian “stew” that is blend of different meats, such as grass fed ground beef, Italian sausage and leftover steak, if she has it. She adds onions and peppers, and then a jarred pasta sauce. She serves it in bowls without pasta, more like a stew with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on the top.

Being on a keto diet, Trish will make Italian and Mexican meat sauces and serves them in bowls instead of using pasta and rice. The Tex-Mex Pork Wraps can be served on top of riced cauliflower rather than tortillas. While she will sometimes make riced cauliflower, she has found it in the frozen section of the grocery store for quick meals.

Sarah is following in her mother’s footsteps with a love of cooking. She is now a superb cook and baker and currently working in food service.

The Toomers are now in their 18th year in business in Lee County, and most people know them for their coffee, although 80% of their business is bags of coffee shipped around the country. They are consulting with churches on opening coffee shops for outreach and sell their coffee wholesale to churches. A percentage of everything they sell is given to missions.

Trish and Sandy are glad to have settled in the area and with their coffee shop in Opelika. Any time of day, the aroma of coffee drifts throughout the building, and sometimes it is mingled with the sweet aroma of one of Trish’s fresh pastries being baked.

Check the recipes for Trish’s scrumptious dishes that she enjoys preparing at home.

Salmon Burgers

1 ¼ lbs. center-cut salmon fillet, skin and bones removed

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. grated lemon zest

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 scallions, chopped

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. panko breadcrumbs

Salt and fresh ground pepper

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Tartar sauce and arugula for topping

4 Brioche Buns

Cut ¾ of salmon into ¼ inch pieces. Put in a large bowl.

Cut remaining salmon into chunks: transfer chunks to a food processor along with mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, zest and cayenne. Pulse to make a paste.

Add pureed salmon to the bowl of diced salmon. Add scallions, 2 Tbsp. of panko, ½ tsp. salt and black pepper to taste. Gently mix until combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil.

Divide salmon mixture into 4 burgers and place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Spread remaining panko onto a plate, and press both sides of the salmon burgers into the breadcrumbs. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add patties and cook until browned on the bottom (3 to 4 minutes), adjusting heat as necessary. Turn and cook until the other side is browned and patties feel springy in the center (3 to 4 minutes). Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and drain.

Meanwhile place buns cut side up under the broiler until toasted.

Serve salmon burgers with tartar sauce and arugula.

Italian Sausage and Cabbage Dinner

Trish’s One Pot Quick Meal

1 head green cabbage

1 lb. Italian sausage (hot or mild)

1 sweet onion chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

Olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Hot chili pepper flakes, to taste

Crumble and cook Italian sausage in olive oil using a large Dutch oven over medium heat until fully cooked. Add onion and bell pepper, salt and pepper, cook and stir for about 3 minutes until browned.

Rough chop the head of cabbage and place on top of sausage, add 2 cups of broth and stir.

Cover with a lid and steam until cabbage is slightly crisp tender.

Add balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes (about a tsp. for me) and taste. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in shallow bowls.

Tex-Mex Pork Wraps

1-2½ lb. boneless pork loin roast (trimmed)

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 (4.5 oz.) cans diced green chilies

¼ cup chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ cup cilantro

Flour tortillas

Mix sauce ingredients in a slow cooker.

Add pork and spoon sauce over pork just to cover.

Cover the cooker and cook on high for 3 ½ hours or until pork is fork tender.

Remove pork to a cutting board and shred.

Pour sauce into a serving bowl; stir in cilantro and shredded pork. Serve with flour tortillas. Makes 8 servings.

Trish’s Sunday Breakfast Bowl

In an iron skillet:

Cook in 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat:

1 large sweet potato cut into small cubes (leave the skins on)

Stir and place the lid on the skillet. Stir often, until the sweet potato is fully cooked.

Add to the skillet:

Half an onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

Crushed red pepper (just a little)

Cook and stir until the vegetables are crisp tender and browned on the edges.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat. Divide into 2 large shallow bowls and top each with a fried egg (or 2) cooked over medium is best and a sprinkle of your favorite shredded cheese.

Shrimp Pastaza

An Ecuadorian Favorite

1 lb. extra large wild caught shrimp (raw, peeled and deveined)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1½ cups orange juice

½ cup white wine

⅛ cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. yellow mustard

2 Tbsp. butter

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Stir together orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, red pepper and mustard.

Sauté shrimp in olive oil for about 3 minutes, flip shrimp and add sauce ingredients.

Cook about 3 minutes more, remove shrimp, so not to overcook.

Add wine and reduce sauce slightly, add shrimp back along with 2 Tbsp. of butter.

Salt to taste.

Serve over rice or with buttered noodles.

Sarah’s Brussel Sprouts

1 bag Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:

¼ cup honey

⅓ cup sherry vinegar

3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 scallions, chopped

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 450 and heat baking sheet.

Toss sprouts in extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place sprouts on hot baking sheet cut side down.

Roast 20 to 25 minutes until browned.

While roasting, bring honey to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir often until honey is a deep amber and caramelized. Foamy is alright but do not burn.

Remove from heat and add vinegar and red pepper and whisk until smooth.

Return to heat and add butter and salt, whisking constantly until glaze is glossy and slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer sprouts to a large serving bowl and add glaze, scallions and lemon zest. Toss to combine and serve.

Honey Tarts

This is a family favorite recipe given to Trish by her friend Lucy.

Pastry:

3 oz. pkg. cream cheese

½ cup butter

1 cup sifted flour

¼ tsp. salt

Filling:

1 egg

½ cup honey

1 Tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. vanilla

⅔ cup pecans, chopped small

For pastry: Let cream cheese and butter soften to room temperature and blend.

Stir in flour and salt and chill. Pinch into small balls and mold into tart tins.

For filling: In a medium bowl, beat eggs; blend in remaining ingredients.

Fill each tart ¾ full. Bake at 375 degrees. Makes 24 tiny tarts.

Buttermilk Cookies

Trish’s mother’s recipe and Sandy’s favorite

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift with the baking powder and salt)

Dash of salt

1 tsp vanilla

Extra flour

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs (1 at a time) and beat well.

Mix soda with buttermilk and add alternately with flour mixture.

Beat well and add vanilla.

Drop 1 spoon of dough at a time into a small separate bowl of flour.

Cover the dough ball with flour and then shake off excess. Gently place the dough ball on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with all the cookie dough. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Blackberry Pie

3 cups fresh blackberries

1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/8 tsp. salt

1 recipe of plain pastry

1 Tbsp. butter

Combine berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Line pie pan with pastry; add filling. Dot with butter and cover with top crust.

Bake in a very hot 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 to 30 minutes longer. Makes one 9 inch pie.

Tomato Chutney

This is good served with greens or roasted green beans.

14 oz. can tomatoes, whole, chopped but not drained

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 green bell peppers chopped fine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. ketchup

6 drops Tabasco sauce

1 tsp. black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower heat.

Allow to simmer for 2 hours or until cooked to a thick sauce.

Dark Sweet Cherry Pie

This is a family favorite any time of year, but it especially looks great on a holiday table.

Two 1 lb. bags frozen dark sweet cherries

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. butter

1 oz. Amaretto liqueur

Pastry for a 9-inch pie and extra for lattice top

Place frozen cherries in a saucepan over low heat. As cherries begin to thaw, they will become juicy. If needed, add 1/4 cup of water to cherries.

Combine sugar, flour and salt; add to cherries.

Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly.

Add Amaretto and cook for 2 minutes longer.

Remove from heat and add butter, let stand while preparing pastry.

Line 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Fill with cherry filling.

Cover top with strips of pastry in a lattice pattern. Seal and flute edge of pastry. Sprinkle top with sanding sugar (a large crystal sugar).

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until bubbly in center and lightly browned on top.

Let rest on a baking rack.

Maxine’s Pecan Pie

Mix in a 1½ quart bowl:

¾ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt

Stir in:

1 cup dark corn syrup

Beat in:

2 eggs (one at a time)

Mix in:

½ cup evaporated milk

1 cup pecans

1 tsp. vanilla

Pour mixture into a 9 inch unbaked pie crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes or until firm.

Cool before serving.

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