I am sitting at a Starbucks writing this so I might get struck by lightening, but here goes.
I don’t like the pumpkin spice latte.
There, I said it!
Now, before an angry fall lover strangles me with a scarf or whacks me over the head with a gourd, hear me out. I love fall too, but have you tasted a pumpkin spice latte? It doesn’t taste like pumpkin. There’s some sort of squashy flavor in there sure, but I’m not sure what it is. My suspicions were confirmed when a investigative food blogger the Food Babe wrote this post to confirm: no pumpkin in the pumpkin spice latte. I’m not as extreme as the Food Babe, I try to eat healthy foods as much as possible but I do enjoy the occasional fall treats including my variation of the pumpkin spice latte- more on that later. Here are a few of the best:
I live in Wisconsin so I expect a crazy winter, but the past few months have been harsh even by Wisconsin standards. I grew up in Virginia, and one winter day my mom came outside while I was blowing bubbles. She asked what on earth I was doing. I told her that I heard if it’s cold enough, bubbles will freeze. She laughed and told me it had to be a lot colder than 40 degrees. At the time, I remembered thinking I would probably never be anywhere cold enough to freeze bubbles.
Fast forward 20 years and here I am! I never forgot that day, nor my dream to make a frozen bubble, so I mixed up some soap and went to open my 3rd floor balcony door…. and it woudn’t open! Upon closer inspection, the door was crusted with ice on the INSIDE. Wow. Ice prevented me from completing my ice experiment!
So the bubble experiment is on hold, so here I am writing a blog post instead, and trying to come up with Wisconsin foods to keep me warm. Here are four of my favorites:
Day at the Beach Sugar Cookies – If you can’t go on a vacation to somewhere tropical, bring the tropics to you with beachy foods like these Day at the Beach Sugar cookies. A margarita would also do the trick.
Beer Cheese Soup– I shared this recipe a few years ago and it’s one of the most popular posts on this blog! I have a theory that people in Wisconsin need beer cheese soup to survive. If you’re really in need of some soup comfort, serve this soup in a bread bowl. YUM!
Engine House 19 Chili Mix – Chill does not taste the same in the summer, so make as much as you can before the snow melts! This chili mix from Engine House 19 has all the spices you need ready to go in a convenient package. Be sure to try Engine House 19’s other tasty food mixes like beer bread mix and hunter stew mix.
Coffee and Mug Gift Set – When it’s this cold out I have a hot drink with me almost 24/7, and to me, hot drinks just taste better out of a ceramic mug. This gift set includes two bags of coffee and a mug, so it makes a fantastic gift for anyone who is dealing with the polar vortex, which I heard on the news today includes everyone in the USA except for South Florida and Hawaii.
What foods do you eat to keep warming durning the polar vortex?
When you think of Wisconsin you think of cheese and bratwurst, but maybe you should think of coffee! That’s right, Wisconsin makes some awesome java and other great coffee related treats. Here are 5 of my favorites.
1. Berres Brothers – Berres Brothers makes flavored coffees in every variety you’ve ever heard of, and some you haven’t. Enjoy classic flavors like chocolate mint or vanilla nut, or try something new like streusel cake or my personal favorite, Highlander grogg. A Berres Brothers samples makes a fabulous gift. Shop for samplers here.
2. Kringle- Coffee and Kringle are a perfect pair. Kringles have layers of flaky pastry, a sweet filling and icing on top. They flavor resembles the Danish breakfast pastries you’re used to, but the size will impress you… a Kringle can serve 8-12 people! Kringles ship nationwide at Wisconsinmade.com.
3. Wisconsin Coffee of the Month Club- A coffee of the month club subscription makes the ultimate gift for a coffee fanatic. Each month, the lucky recipient of the coffee club will get a package shipped to their door with a different type of Wisconsin coffee. Sign up the coffee lover in your life here.
4. Door County Coffee, now in K-Cups! – Coffee drinkers love the energy boost their favorite beverage provides, so it’s not surprising that many of them are on the go and want their coffee fast! That’s where the Keurig comes in. It’s a special coffee brewer that uses pre-portioned coffee containers called K-Cups. K-cups eliminate the need to measure grounds or use filters, making the coffee brewing process easier and cleaner. One of my favorite Wisconsin coffee companies, Door County Coffee, now offers their coffee in K-cups- shop here!
5. Espresso Oreo Ice Cream – The Chocolate Shoppe in Wisconsin prides themselves on the crazy flavors they come up with, and Espresso Oreo is the perfect example. This tasty concoction has espresso flavored ice cream and “heaps of oreos”. I don’t know about you but that’s my favorite way to eat Oreos- in heaps!
There’s a new place for coffee in Madison, Wisconsin and
it’s called Colectivo Coffee. When it first opened it was an Alterra coffee,
and I’m not sure why the name change or if they are still associated with
Alterra, but either way, I love this place! Here are five reasons why this is
one of my favorite spots in Madison.
1. Great place to work. If I need to get
some work done, I’m very particular about my working noise
level, especially when I’m writing. Too much noise and I can’t concentrate, too
little noise and I get antsy. A coffee
shop, and Collectivo in particular, makes the perfect noise level. Add in some
reliable wifi and some caffeine for fuel and I’m at my productivity max.
2. Inside seating, outside seating, and
halfway point. If you want to enjoy your coffee inside, there’s plenty of
tables and comfy spots, if you want to eat outside you can sit in one of the
colorful chairs that remind me of the nearby Union Terrace. Can’t decide?
Compromise with a covered but open area in between.
3. Coconut macaroons. Try one. Break your
diet if you have to, these are SO worth it.
4. Friendly baristas who are as excited about
coconut macaroons as I am. Since I work in customer service, I have high
expectations and in all of my trips to Collectivo Coffee I’ve never had a bad
experience, in fact, the baristas are as excited about the coconut macaroons as
5. More than just pastries. Coconut macaroons aren’t the only tasty treat on the menu. If you are in the mood for a more hearty breakfast, there are a variety of sandwiches available. They even use locally sourced food like Nueske bacon.
As you can tell, I love coffee shops and coffee in general. Check out some of my other blog posts about coffee:
Maple Bacon Latte
Tips from a Coffee Snob
Food and Coffee Pairings
Today I read a post from my blogger friend Patti called 5 Things You Would Learn About Me If You Walked Through My House. I learned some fun facts about her, for example, I had no idea she was famous for her gumbo! To continue the fun, here are five things you will learn about me from my kitchen:
1. I’m not a neat freak. Chances are you will find some dishes in the sink if you visit my kitchen, but the floor is probably clean since my dog takes good care of that.
2. I’ve been to 42 states. I enjoy traveling and everywhere I go I collect refrigerator magnets. My favorite one is the potato couple from Idaho. My goal is to visit all 50 states before I turn 30.
3. I drove the Wienermobile. I drove the Wienermobile for a year and proudly display this Wienermobile bank in my kitchen. I also picked up most of the magnets on my tour of the hot dog highways.
4. I love coffee. You might notice my Keurig machine and my gigantic coffee grinder. I also have a French press for when I want to get super fancy with the coffee. For most people this would be overkill but I am quite the coffee snob, in fact, you can check out my blog posts about being a coffee snob here.
5. I collect kitchen timers. In addition to my refrigerator magnet collection I also like to collect fun timers which I line up on the back of my stove. I got this idea from a TV personality, do you know who?
The pig timer is my favorite, it was a gift from my mom. She visited the Culinary Institute of America and brought it back for me. It has a string around it so that the chef in training can wear it around her neck so that when the timer goes off, she knows it’s her food that’s ready and not someone elses. I don’t have that problem since I’m the only chef in my kitchen, but I sometimes wear it just for fun.
What does your kitchen say about you?
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen this gorgeous (or to some people, grotesque) maple bacon latte already. This bacon beverage from Yola’s Cafe in Madison, Wisconsin caused quite a stir among the Facebook fans. Reactions ranged from “amazing” to “vomit”.
I admit it’s not for everyone, in fact, I’m usually a straight coffee girl. As a former barista I know how much sugar goes in those flavored lattes and it makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. But for something as kitschy as the maple bacon latte, I allowed myself a splurge.
I felt like I had a part in the creation of this latte madness. The Yola’s Cafe Facebook page annouced they were thinking about adding it to the menu. Someone suggested including a slice of bacon as a stir stick and I chimed in that bacon bits should be sprinkled on top. What I thought was a stroke of latte genius turned out to be kind of gross though, since the bacon bits sunk to the bottom and turned in to mush. The bacon stir stick however, genius! As I walked out of the cafe with a latte in one hand, and munching the bacon from my other hand, I decided every coffee house beverage should come with a side of bacon.
I enjoyed this kooky drink! It’s definitely not an every day occurrence, but a fun treat. What do you think? Would you drink a maple bacon latte?
Have you ever had a bite of chocolate cake, then a sip of coffee and noticed how the coffee tastes even better than usual? Careful pairing will make you enjoy your coffee and food even more. Not sure which coffees go with which foods? The coffee snob is here to help! Below are a few of the coffee varieties from the Wisconsinmade.com Coffee of the Month Club and some foods to try with your cup of joe.
Columbian – The medium acidity, strong body and hints of caramel flavor make Columbia blend a perfect pair for zuchinni breads or carrot cake.
Coasta Rican – This full bodied coffee makes a great partner for lightly flavored baked goods, so try this with a fruity muffin instead of sugary Kringle.
Guatemalan– This richly flavored, heavy bodied brew can stand up to a chocolate Kringle or even a caramel apple.
Kona- An aromatic cup of Kona coffee goes well with oatmeal, but tastes even better along side oatmeal cookies or O&H Bakery’s famous Seven Sister’s Coffee Cake.
Visit my Coffee Tips post if you can’t get enough of my ex-barista coffee snobbery, and for more tasty coffee and food pairings, check out this helpful chart.
For me, good coffee is hard to come by, I confess I am a big coffee snob. During the week I grab a quick cup on the way out the door but on the weekends the snobbery is in full force. I grind my own beans, use a French press instead of a drip coffee maker and slowly slurp while I contemplate the acidity and earthiness of my coffee. See, I told you I was a snob! Coffee is a hobby for me. There are so many ways to make it, so many varieties to try and making a cup of good coffee is an adventure! If you want to discover the wonderful world of coffee, here are a few tips to get you started. The tips get progressively harder and more time consuming so start with number 1and work your way up to 5!
1. Make sure you use the right amount of grounds. Not enough grounds will make your coffee taste bitter. Make sure you use 2 heaping tablespoons for 6 ounces of water. A coffee scoop that holds 2 tablespoons (like the one pictured above) will make it easy to get the right amount each time.
2. Find the variety that you like. I didn’t like coffee for the longest time and then I started to realize I enjoyed certain types of coffee. I prefer coffee with less acidity and an earthy flavor. Many people prefer more acidic coffees and some people think that “earthy” coffee tastes like feet. Everyone has a different preference so find the coffee that’s right for you. Try a coffee sampler gift basket with many small bags of different varieties, or join a coffee of the month club to have different types of good coffee delivered to your door each month. You’ll discover a favorite in no time.
3. Buy whole beans and grind your own. Once the coffee beans are ground they start to lose flavor so it is best to grind your coffee right before you start to brew. Coffee grinders come in many different sizes and price ranges, and you can usually find a small one that will do the job for $20 or less. Just make sure to use your grinder for coffee only! Grinding spices in your coffee grinder will change the flavor of the coffee. If you don’t have a grinder, grind it at the grocery store or have a coffee shop do it for you.
4. Try using a French press. A French press is a carafe that you can make coffee in. You just add the grounds, pour in boiling water, let the coffee sit for 4 minutes and then press down a plunger that holds the grounds at the bottom so they don’t end up in your cup. This takes more time than a drip coffee maker so it isn’t very practical for the grab-and-go coffee drinker, but makes a great weekend treat. The French press method allows for more of the oils in the grounds to get into the coffee, making it taste much better than the drip version.
5. Roasting your own beans. This is the next step in coffee snobbery for me. Wisconsinmade.com offers a coffee roaster and bags of un-roasted beans for roasting your own coffee in your oven at home. I haven’t tried this yet, but so far the lesson I learned is the more time you put into your coffee the better it tastes! I will definitely be trying this soon so check back for more blog posts about coffee.
Sunday I baked this cream cheese, cranberry coffee cake and took it to Judy’s house. We joked that Judy was practicing for the holidays because she served her guests a giant, noon-day feast, royally finished-off with apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate petifours, vanilla ice cream, and my cream cheese, cranberry coffee cake. With satisfied bellies, we sat around the oak dining table, enjoying steaming cups of coffee. Yes, we were relaxing on a Sunday afternoon.
We kept saying we should do this more often. We felt so calm, just hanging out eating and talking. I guess we all were practicing for the holidays. I mean, folks say the purpose of the holidays is to relax with people we care about. Holiday foods are our signal that the day is special. Time to forget chores. Time to relax.
But Judy’s feast was a gigantic signal. No wonder we don’t relax more often if our signal takes that much time and effort to make. We need a smaller signal.
The air is too frigid to feel the sun. Tree branches glazed with ice look like glass. Icicles cling to rooftops. Out our window, the frozen beauty envelopes us.
But inside, we’re heating water until steam streaks from the kettle. The whistle announces it’s time to pour boiling water over tea leaves and coffee grounds. Meanwhile, milk, sweetened with sugar and cocoa, warms on the stove.
We sip our steaming breakfast drinks to warm our bodies, and prepare our spirits to wait for the bus outside in the bitter cold. All done, lest our hearts and minds become as ice.
We each have our favorite, soul-nourishing beverages. My husband favors tea; these days he’s appreciating green teas. My children ask for peppermint tea with honey when they wake, and for hot chocolate after playing outside. My essential beverage is coffee, – rich, dark-roasted coffee, freshly-ground and freshly-brewed. I can take on the world if I’m sipping coffee.
But these are our favorites. I know other folks start their morning with colas or chais, lattes, or juices. I’m curious, beer-for-breakfast aside, is there a breakfast beverage that typifies Wisconsin? Or do we again show our independent spirit by the diversity of drinks which we select to begin our days? What do you think? What do you drink?
Is it true that the fast-paced lifestyle of Americans drives us to grab more easily portable breakfast drinks like bottles of soda? Are the high-caffeine energy drinks replacing tea and coffee because they travel more conveniently and give a powerful jump-start to the day?
And what are our teenagers choosing to drink for breakfast? Do they choose differently when they transform into adults? In other words, will steaming hot breakfast beverages fade into the past as we rush to the future?
What do you think? What do you drink?