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Ice cold: A chilly coffee comparison.

Gimmee that BUZZ.

What’s more fitting on a Monday than a look at ALL of the iced coffee and cold brew I’ve been guzzling these past few months? Let me set the record straight though, before I get any further: I drink hot, black coffee every morning. Around three mugs of the stuff.

And I’m not looking to give it up any time soon. But, I started looking into cold coffee drinks (particularly ones that are low-calorie) to give me a boost in the afternoons – but only on days when I’m taking dance in the evenings. I already have enough trouble sleeping.

So, thus began my hunt for the perfect afternoon coffee cocktail, and might I add, I live in a pretty perfect place for this experiment? Besides Seattle, ok. So, here goes (in no particular order):

Starbucks Doubleshot Light Espresso Drink – Years ago, I started a personal boycott of Starbucks because they support Monsanto financially. At the time, I had books, mugs, a GOLD Starbucks card, and I tossed all of it. Since then, I think I’ve had two Starbucks drinks and then I bought a pack of these Light Doubleshots. Unfortunately for me, they are low-calorie (70 cals for 1 can, which is half the usual stuff) and they only have 5 grams of sugar. Plus… they’re delicious! Damn you Starbucks for your well-priced caffeine (it’s about $5 for a 4-pack), and shame on me for being non-stop basic.

Starbucks Doubleshot Protein Coffee – Please see above comments regarding Starbucks. I saw a commercial for the Protein Coffee and couldn’t wait to try it – I mean, how perfect! One can of this has 20 grams of protein, but it IS a bigger can (which means more sugar). I’ve tried the vanilla and the caramel flavors, and like the vanilla better, but it is definitely sweet.

Picnik Butter Coffee (Cappucino) – Picnik is a paleo restaurant in Austin, particularly known for their butter coffee. Butter coffee is made with grass-fed butter and MCT oil, which works to help the body burn fat, and release caffeine sloooowly for a longer buzz. Yes! While I could technically get butter coffee anytime, Picnik bottled the stuff and you can buy it locally or online. The cappucino flavor was probably one of my favorites out of this ENTIRE list.

Blue Bottle New Orleans Iced Coffee – Despite NOT having a location in NOLA, Blue Bottle makes chicory style iced coffee, and serves it up in tiny little milk cartons you can buy at Whole Foods. And I kind of freaked out when I saw it. So I got some, and it was quite delish.

Chameleon Cold Brew Organic Vanilla Coffee – This stuff is $3 for a single-serve bottle, buuut I’m going to say it’s worth it, especially if you really love good coffee. It’s quality stuff and there’s no added sugar, but it’s packed with flavor. If you’re not aware, cold brew is actually brewed with warm water instead of hot, which results in a beverage that’s actually higher in caffeine and has less acidity. That’s why everyone loves it so much!

High Brew (various flavors) – This is ready to drink cold brew right in a can, and aide from the Starbucks’ Doubleshots, this is the next-best affordable coffee at the grocery. Because of this, I’ve tried pretty much every flavor on the shelf: Creamy cappucino + protein (this is my favorite), Mexican vanilla, salted caramel, and black + bold (only 20 calories). All of these are fantastic!

Hey Day Vanilla Cold Brew Coffee – Another cold brew coffee, which is a little more expensive, but also comes in a bigger can. I’ve only tried the vanilla, but it was very yummy!

…What coffees are you guys drinking this summer? Although I’ve clearly picked a few favorites, I’m not afraid to venture out and keep this taste-test going! Cheers to your afternoon, office-appropriate buzz!

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Get your {Holiday} bake on!

Let's get this delicious party started!

Let’s get this delicious party started!

When I was a kid, my dad and I baked quite a bit when the holidays rolled around. Ok let’s be honest, he probably did most of the baking while I did the subpar decorating and taste-testing. Nonetheless, it was a tradition that I remember fondly.

We made red and green m&m cookies – at that time they were sold in the cookie dough rolls. And we made a slew of sugar cookies, which we used cookie cutters with, and then decorated them with icing, sprinkles, and red hots. We had a giant ceramic Santa cookie jar to store them. One year we made a gingerbread house with snowmen made from popcorn balls.

Since then, I have always looked forward to spending many hours in my kitchen, baking up something tasty for the holiday season. But, I’ll be honest, there are many times I set myself up to bake all sorts of different treats, and then realize I’m in way over my head, and I get frustrated.

Which is why this year, I’m starting early, and I’m freezing my treats along the way, so at the end of the road, I’ll have batches of different goodies to ship off, share, and of course, eat!

Two weeks ago, I made shortbread cookies dipped in milk chocolate, and mailed them to Indiana. And then I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to bake this year. Here’s what I’ll be whipping up:

Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

Sooo pretty!

Sooo pretty!

I actually got this idea from reading the Big Lots’ Blog! I love a bargain, and Big Lots is always offering tips on DIY projects. I saw these cute cookies and they looked fairly easy to create at home.

For these cookies, you’ll need 1 box of gingerbread cookie mix (I got this one), 3 cups of white chocolate chips, 3tb of shortening, and colored frosting (if you want to decorate them) – sprinkles would be a good choice, too!

Follow the directions on the cookie mix, and let the cookies cool completely.

In a bowl, add the white chocolate chips and the shortening, and microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring along the way. Do this until the chocolate is slightly runny.

Dip each cookie into the white chocolate mix, and lay on parchment paper to set. Let set and decorate with frosting. If you’re using sprinkles instead, sprinkle before the white chocolate sets completely so they will stick. Ta-da!

Snickerdoodle Blondies 

I would have never put a Snickerdoodle on my list for holiday baking, until I watched one of the “What’s Gaby Cooking” snapisodes last week. These looked sooo yummy, and easy, to top it off – are you sensing a trend yet?

What's Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

What’s Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

For the Snickerdoodle Blondies, you will need 1 cup melted butter, 2 cup light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract, 2 large eggs, 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. For the topping, you will need 1/4 cup of white sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment for 1 minute until combined. Add the vanilla and eggs, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients into the bowl/stand mixer, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda and slowly mix until just combined. The batter will be a bit stiff, but that’s normal.

Spray a 9×9 baking pan with baking spray and line it with parchment paper. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top and transfer it into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Once the blondie brownies have baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

I made these last weekend, and I’ll be honest, mine kind of turned out more like coffee cake, but hey, who doesn’t love coffee cake?

Chocolate-covered Spoons

Festive & yummy!

Festive & yummy!

I have always wanted to make these, primarily for hot chocolate, but honestly, I think they’d be good in a cup of coffee, or warmed milk (or Almond milk, of course!).

To make these spoons, you need heavy-duty plastic spoons, or even wooden spoons. Then, get semi-sweet chocolate chips, and/or white chocolate chips. You can melt them on your own, or mix them with heavy cream or shortening if you want.

The only other thing you’ll need is toppings (optional)! I got red and green sprinkles, crushed peppermint candy, and red and green icing. I also have some leftover cinnamon chips, and I think I may attempt to add a little peanut butter to a few spoons.

You could really put anything on top – marshmellows, crushed toffee, cookie bits, or anything that would taste great melted in coffee or hot chocolate (or eat while drinking a glass of wine, let’s face it). To make the spoons, you simply dip the spoon in the melted chocolate, then add the toppings before it cools completely. Let these cool on wax paper, and you can package them using festive clear bags and ribbon. I’m really excited to make these!

What are your baking traditions around the holiday, if any? Planning on making anything new this year? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your kitchen this holiday season. P.S. We’re expecting snow flurries in Austin today! Perfect reason to hole up inside if you’ve got the option 😉

Things I’m loving right now.

Summer is right around the corner, and although it’s about to get nice and hot here in Baton Rouge, there’s a few things I’m appreciating lately — the little things that make me smile each day. So, here’s my list of current obsessions:

Eyebright Soothing Eye Lotion by Liz Earle — I got a sample of this in my Birchbox (another thing I’m loving) last month. When I saw it, I wasn’t that excited… until I tried it. According to the bottle, “Naturally active ingredients include eyebright, witch hazel, aloe vera and cornflower to help tone, cool and refresh tired, puffy eyes.” This stuff wakes up my eyes like nothing I’ve ever tried! I even use it when my contacts are in and have never had any issues. Although the sample bottle is pretty big (you only need a few drops each day), I will probably have to purchase this when I run out.

I love a mud mask.

I love a mud mask.

Pores Be Pure Skin-Clarifying Mud Mask by Formula 10.0.6 — I bought a sample pack of all sorts of different products by Formula 10.0.6 from Ulta and I’m impressed. Their products are affordable (no more expensive than other drugstore brands), and they always seem to work great. My sample pack had a bottle of the Skin-Clarifying Mud Mask with strawberry and yarrow, and it leaves my skin feeling nice and smooth. Win!

Lemon water — Since it’s getting hotter out, I’ve been trying to make an effort to drink more water; like, a lot of water. I bought myself a new water container that I take everywhere (I even tuck it into bed with me). But the truth is, I’ve never really liked drinking water, so I need ways to spice it up. And lately, just adding a squeeze of lemon has helped me down a few containers each day.

Turns out, lemon water has some great benefits: aids in digestion, reduces cravings, helps to flush toxins from the body, is great for the skin, and boosts the immune system, among other things. Check out this water bottle that aids in adding ANY fruit or other foods to your water!

The Nike Studio Wrap has changed my workouts!

The Nike Studio Wrap has changed my workouts!

Studio Wrap Shoes by Nike — I’ve had these on my wish list for awhile now, and a few months ago I found a pair at TJ Maxx. They were my size, and a great bargain, and I’ve been wearing them for my workouts ever since. For the longest time, I completed my boxing/kickboxing workouts barefoot. Until my gym switched from a mat to a harder flooring. I needed more support on my feet, but my tennis shoes were getting in the way, and sliding on the floor (not good for plank position). The wrap shoes grip the floor while providing support for the balls of my feet. They are great for yoga, too!

Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray — I have been wanting beach hair for months and was delighted to discover that it’s possible for a small $8. This stuff gives my hair a nice texture, smells great, and isn’t too sticky like previous beach sprays I’ve tried. I spray it on when my hair is damp (after letting it air dry), give it a little scrunch, and I’m out the door. Want more beach hair tips? Check out my previous blog post on this tricky hair style.

Flavored coffee — I get up every morning (every single morning) at 6am. Coffee comes first. I set my coffee pot the night before so all I have to do is pour a cup when I shuffle the 20 steps from my bed to my kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed my coffee black. No sugar, no creams, no syrups. So, there’s not much room for variety unless you get a flavored coffee. Voila! Right now I’m drinking a red velvet coffee, and I recently bough a bag of coconut coffee that I’m excited to try. It just has a subtle flavor that makes me happy as I start my day.

So, what are your favorite things right now?

Guide to coffee.

I love me some coffee!

I love me some coffee!

Every night, I set my coffee pot to start brewing early the next morning — 5:47 to be exact — it gives me enough time to hit the snooze button once (okay twice) and still have the coffee brewed and ready for me to drink.

When I finally get out of bed, I shuffle to the coffee pot, pour my cup, and then I can do other important things like pee, remove my mouthguard, and feed Blanche. Coffee comes first. Always.

But I got to thinking, that sure, I know a little about coffee — enough to buy a good bag and make a decent pot of it. I know what I like to order at Starbucks. I know what to drink when I really need to get my blood pumping. But certainly theres tons to know about the good stuff. And so, I present: my guide to coffee.

ROASTS

Light — According to Red Rooster Coffee, there’s been a rumor since the 70s that says there’s a caffeine difference when it comes to the roast. Not true! All roasts have the same amount of caffeine (thank God). The difference is lightly roasted beans are smaller, because the roasting process hasn’t expanded them as much. There’s also the taste. Light roasts are milder in taste than medium or dark roasts; think about light beer vs. dark beer.

Medium — The National Coffee Association (NCA) states that, “Medium brown in color with a stronger flavor,  and a non-oily surface. This roast is often referred to as the American roast because it is generally preferred in the United States.”

Dark — The longer the coffee bean is roasted, the more flavor it develops. However, Zagat says, “When you approach the darker side of the roast, beans start to lose their origin distinction. A dark roast coffee will have flavor notes that rely more on the roasting itself than the unique character of the bean. It will also lose brightness, and gain bitterness, along with a fuller body.”

Breakfast Blend — This is usually a lighter mix of coffee. Here’s what Starbucks says about their Breakfast Blend, “A shade lighter than most of our offerings—more toasty than roasty—it was the result of playing with roast and taste profile together for a flavor that appealed to a wider range of palates. Perfect if you want to wake up to a less intense coffee but still want a lot of character, it’s lively with a citrusy tang that gives way to a clean finish.”

OTHER

Espresso — This is the intense experience of coffee that most Europeans prefer and believe Americans are too scared to try. Proper Espresso is served in small demitasse-style cups and consumed promptly after extraction (GoCoffeeGo.com).

Macchiato — This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the nectar of the Gods. I order it so often, my Starbucks barista has educated me on it: Macchiato, pronounced “mah-key-ah-toh,” literally means “marked” or “stained” in Italian. Traditionally, a Caffé Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato is a shot or two of espresso, with just a small amount of steamed milk that “marks” the espresso, though in some regions, the steamed milk comes first and the espresso makes the mark.

Cafe Latte — A coffee-based drink made primarily from espresso and steamed milk. It consists of one-third espresso, two-thirds heated milk and about 1cm of foam.

Mocha Latte — Like a caffè latte, it is based on espresso and hot milk, but with added chocolate, typically in the form of sweet cocoa powder, although many varieties use chocolate syrup. Mochas can contain dark or milk chocolate.

How do I usually drink my coffee? Every night, I set my coffee pot to brew around 8 cups the next morning. Right now, I’m drinking a red velvet blend, so it’s got hints of chocolate in it. I usually go for medium roasts. I drink my coffee black, but if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll toss in a tablespoon of unsweetened vanilla coconut milk (Trader Joes’ is the best). How do you take yours?

Boyfriend Recipe: Mocha Chip Cookies.

I need.

I need.

Many years ago, when I was a different person, I was seriously in love with a man I loved to cook and bake for. I felt like if I did things that a perfect girlfriend would do, then he’d see that I could be a perfect wife, too.

But my plan failed miserably. However, I’m still left with a recipe for these delicious, drool-worthy Mocha Chip Cookies!

My then-boyfriend had an affinity for Taylor Swift, so when I read an article that said Taylor Swift made Mocha Chip Cookies, I found a recipe, and whipped them up, immediately.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 pound of margarine
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso, coffee, or cappuccino powder mix with 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • 18 ounces of chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts are good, too)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the margarine, sugars, chocolate syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beat until smooth (about 5 minutes). Add in the dry ingredients, coffee mixture, chocolate chips, and nuts. Mix by hand with a wooden spoon until mixed.
  4. Drop on a baking sheet by rounded teaspoons, about 2-inches apart, and bake for 12-14 minutes.
  5. Let cool — if possible — and eat!

Coffee.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am a hopeless romantic. And Google’s latest commercial for Chrome, pulls at my heartstrings every single time.

Would you go to coffee?