I wonder as a I wander

I had a raging caffeine headache yesterday — rather, a lack-of-caffeine headache — and it made me wonder: What would happen if everyone in the world gave up caffeine for a week?

No coffee. No tea. No cola. No energy drinks. (OK you can still have chocolate — it has very little caffeine and I’m not a sadist.)

Would snappiness, even violence, rise as the world endured a massive headache? Or would it get slower and sleepier as everyone lost the will to keep moving? Or maybe we’d all draw closer, kinder, gentler in a massive wave of commiseration.

Would office napping become accepted — even encouraged — when no one, not even the boss, could stay awake by 2:00 p.m.?

What would people do with their time without waiting in the the line at BigBucks or McD’s drive-through or the corner coffee shop or hanging out at the communal pot at work?

Would everyone gain weight by substituting sugar for caffeine?

It would be interesting to find out — but only for a week, as the loss to the economy could be devastating.

I’m contemplating doing one of those “cleanse” diets after New Year’s — you know the kind, no caffeine, no sugar, no animal products, maybe even no gluten. I’m curious how it would make me feel, and if I could really do it. I’ve done my Lenten stints of no coffee, or no chocolate, or no sweets over the years, but there was always some other vice to sustain me. This cold-turkey purge would be a first. I understand you feel pretty lousy the first 2 or 3 days, then suddenly you’re sleeping better, you feel lighter, you have more energy.

Just thinking about it makes me woozy.

But no matter, that’s 3+ weeks and 50,000 calories away. Today… today it’s 16 days until Christmas and I have dozens of cookies to bake and decorating to finish and gifts to wrap and a few things to buy and caffeine and sugar are the friends I’m not supposed to hang out with but are too cool to resist.

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
~ T.S. Eliot

A lotta latte for less

I’m addicted to McDonald’s iced coffee. At $2.13 for a large, it’s a bargain compared to Bigbucks and the flavors are good — lately I’ve been into caramel (and I’ve been hoarding dollar bills, dimes, and pennies in the car). It’s not low-fat, but you can get sugar-free vanilla if it makes you feel better — sometimes I do. I love that it’s big enough to make the 36-mile, 1-hour drive from my mother’s to home a lot more enjoyable.

An even better bargain is this recipe I found a couple years ago in Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It makes a whole pitcherful of iced latte, is easy, affordable, and gets rave reviews from friends, and most importantly, from me.

The worst part is you have to be patient and plan ahead — it needs to steep for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Here’s the recipe as presented in BH&G — with my variations in italics.

Cool Coffee Latte

  • 1-3/4 cups (5 ounces) good-quality medium roast coffee beans
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 4-1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk (I use the “enriched” skim we buy)
  • 1/2-cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk (I freeze the remainder from the can in a 1/2-cup portion to use next time)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I use 1-1/2 to 2 tsp. vanilla)
  1. Place coffee beans in a food processor (I use a coffee grinder) and process 45 seconds or until coffee is coarsely ground and no whole beans remain. (This takes much less time in the coffee grinder.)
  2. Combine coffee and 5 cups cold water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Combine low-fat milk and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to milk mixture. (I just use vanilla.) Cook 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not simmer), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Strain coffee mixture through a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve into a bowl. Discard cheesecloth and solids. (I skip the cheesecloth and strain a couple times, using a fine metal strainer first and then a reusable coffee filter I have — actually that I bought just for this purpose.) Pour coffee mixture into a pitcher. Yield is approximately 3 cups coffee extract. (I always seem to get more — 4 cups at least.)
  5. Remove vanilla bean from milk mixture, and discard. Add milk mixture to coffee mixture just before serving. Stir well to combine.

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 cup per serving) (Again, I always end up with more.)

The recipe says this is best if used within 2 days, but I usually have it on hand longer — a week or more — since I’m the only one drinking it. It still tastes great.

I love it so much I bought a pitcher on eBay just for it.

Sure makes opening the fridge a whole lot more exciting on a warm summer day. And it makes everything else a little more exciting, too. Try it — you’ll see!

straining combining 2
ready to go
hello beautiful
work aid

He was my cream, and I was his coffee —
And when you poured us together, it was something.
~ Josephine Baker

Oh for the love of…coffee

OK, time for a break from the morbid “oh we’ll all get old and destitute” posts of late.

Today’s topic, much more stimulating: java, joe, café, kaffe, black gold, leaded, unleaded…the all-American drink…coffee! My friend and fellow blogger Mel recently wrote a post about enjoying the “simple things in life.” She mentioned coffee, favoring a French press brew.

Me, I’ve been rediscovering the joys of the java after a 5-year tea kick, during which coffee has been de rigueur only with a big sloppy breakfast at a place with Eat’n or Bob or Diner in the name, or with dessert somewhere other than home. Part of this is because my husband doesn’t imbibe (nor do his parents), and I got out of the habit of making it just for myself. Plus I really do love my green tea — it’s a morning ritual I’ll never abandon, and it’s just so darn good for you.

But lately, as I’ve been running back and forth to the hospital, a big steaming sippy-cup from Panera’s or McD’s has become my reward, my treat, my $1.50 (or $1.64) pat on the back. I actually don’t like the regular brew from Bigbucks (although a venti non-fat chai latté is nirvana in a cup). They make their money off of me anyway, in 20-cents-a-teabag increments for my must-have Tazo Green Ginger every morning.

But coffee? Coffee’s different. Who doesn’t remember their first time? What a rite of passage it was. So much anticipation after smelling that wonderful, sensuous scent filling the house from the percolator and then wafting upwards from mom’s cup, seeing the beautiful caramel color as she added cream (most likely, canned milk), and observing the ritual of pouring “coffee with dinner” in a real cup and saucer that always marked a special occasion or a post-get-together nighttime “lunch” with my grandparents or other relatives around the table.

Then you take a sip, and it’s the most disgusting horrible taste you can imagine. (Much like your first taste of beer.) How can grown-ups drink that swill?

Well, you learn. Although I didn’t really drink it until college, not like today’s high-schoolers filing into Starbucks by the dozens. (Where do they get all that money?)

These days, my brother has turned coffee-making into weird science, with a funky gravity brewer that looks like something that rightfully belongs on a Bunsen burner to be handled only while wearing goggles and gloves. (The resulting brew is so strong it’ll curl your hair.) My sister favors her French press. Me, I like a good-ol’ 2-minute drip. My absolute favorite thing about our family vacations is that by the time I get up, someone has already made a pot and it’s there waiting for me with a carton of half-and-half right next to it. Seriously, I love that — make me coffee every day and I’ll follow you anywhere.

It really is the simple things that make life so enjoyable. These days, walking into that hospital with a large half-caf with cream in hand, or heading home with one sloshing over in my too-small cupholder after a long, trafficky drive, I’m facing the world a little happier and a little more self-indulged. Not bad for a buck-fifty.

Just around the corner,
There’s a rainbow in the sky.
So let’s have another cup o’ coffee,
And let’s have another piece o’ pie.
                        ~ Irving Berlin, 1932