Brews, Bites & Bottles

[Vegan] French Toast Coffee Creamer

Brews, Coffee Snob, Recipes, VeganNatalie Wright
Vegan French Toast Coffee Creamer

Coffee creamer. Let's talk about it.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing better than a good cup of quality coffee straight up. But, every once in awhile, it's fun to mix it up with a flavored coffee creamer. Apart from the fun factor, I also find that having milk or cream in my coffee makes the acidity less harsh.

Since we started eating a more plant based diet, we've dabbled with quite a few non-dairy options. The creamer I've enjoyed the most is Natural Bliss Caramel Almond Milk Coffee Creamer by Coffeemate.

As of latte, I've been trying to make more recipes and things at home so I have more control over what goes into my body and helps me ensure I'm fueling myself with whole foods. Hence, here we are today with a little experiment I did to make DIY coffee creamer.

Made from whole fat canned coconut milk, it has a creaminess so very similar to what you'd find in a typical coffee creamer. This base can be used to changed out for different flavor profiles, but this time around I chose to do a sort of "french toast" vibe that is VERY pleasing in my morning java.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 3 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk ingredients together and store in an air tight container in your fridge. That's it! A delicious vegan addition to your coffee, if I do say so myself.

So, tell me, do you like your coffee black or with cream?

3 Ways to Improve Your Cup of Joe at Home

Brews, Coffee Snob, Local, What's the Deal WithNatalie Wright
3 Ways to Improve Your Cup of Coffee at Home

Coffee never tastes quite as good when you make it at home as it does when you buy it from a coffee shop, does it?

Of course, there's the idea that you don't have to make it yourself, so that in itself is an experience that makes it better than making it at home. But, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make your morning coffee even better:

  1. Filtered Water. The thing that makes the biggest difference in how your coffee tastes is the water you use. So often people say "I bought the same coffee that they use at my favorite coffee shop, but it just doesn't taste the same!" There are many factors that can be involved with the difference in taste, like the coffee to water ratio, but many times it's the water you use. Always be sure to use filtered water when making your coffee at home! By using filtered water, you decrease the chances of mineral buildup in your coffee maker which can ultimately alter the flavor of your coffee.
  2. Whole Bean Coffee. Buying your coffee whole bean makes such a huge difference in flavor. Coffee beans reach their peak in flavor just a few days after they've been roasted and should be enjoyed within the month, as long as it's stored properly (see tip #3). Also, after coffee beans are ground, they start to lose their flavor within minutes. For these reasons, it's best to buy whole bean coffee from local shops that roast smaller batches to ensure the freshest beans possible. 
  3. Proper Storage. There's nothing worse than buying quality coffee and having it lose its luster because of the way you store it. Coffee beans are best store in air-tight containers in a dark, temperature controlled environment as coffee's enemies are air, light and temperature changes (not too different from storing wine!). Purchasing an opaque container to keep your beans in will make the coffee stay fresher longer than if you keep the coffee in the paper bag you purchase it in. 

*Bonus Tip: Coffee Grind. How you grind your coffee beans makes a huge difference int he flavor. Read all about it in my previous blog post here.

What are your tips and tricks to make an excellent cup of coffee at home?

Healthy Matcha Frappuccino Recipe

Brews, Minnesota, Recipes, Tea, VeganNatalie Wright
Matcha Protein Shake

I recently discovered my new favorite protein shake recipe: Vanilla Matcha. 

It's always a treat when I find a recipe that not only tastes good, but also contains a lot of really good nutrients for me to start the day. Especially when it has caffeine. That's an extra extra treat.

I'm the type of person who has breakfast staples. I eat the same thing every morning until I'm sick of it, or until we run out of one of the ingredients and I have to change it up. This is especially helpful when we have 5 ripe avocados because I also love avocado toast. #basic.

But, have you tried avocado toast with Everything But the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe's? Life changing, my friends.

Anyway, back to today's topic. Today I'm sharing with you my healthy matcha protein shake recipe that could pass as a Frappuccino. This recipe contains vanilla protein powder, chia seeds and spinach (among other ingredients) to create a nutrient dense, protein filled meal for me to start the day. Check it out below.

  • Ingredients:
    • 3 Ice Cubes
    • 1 cup Coconut or Almond Milk
    • 1 tsp Matcha Powder
    • 1 tsp Chia Seeds
    • 1 tsp Raw Honey
    • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
    • 1/3 cup Vanilla Protein Powder
    • 1 cup Spinach
  • Directions:
    • Combine all ingredients and blend.
    • Enjoy! (duh)

What's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Matcha Protein Shake

Decadent Salted Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate, Minnesota, Recipes, BrewsNatalie Wright
Salted Hot Chocolate.jpg

It's April 14 and there's a blizzard in Minnesota.

As I sit here writing this, I'm surrounded by cozy blankets, candles lit and the view of snowing falling outside. If this was 3 months ago, I would've thought the snowfall was beautiful. Today, not so much. I'm antsy for warmer weather, green grass, sunshine and flowers in bloom.

All this to say, I'm still thinking of ways to stay warm around here, so a new hot chocolate recipe seemed to be the perfect thing to soothe myself this weekend.

I give you: homemade, decadent salted hot chocolate.

With simple ingredients, this drink is rich and chocolaty with just the right amount of saltiness. Ideal for a cozy night in and a good book. 

Enjoy!

print recipe
Decadent Salted Hot Chocolate
With simple ingredients, this drink is rich and chocolaty with just the right amount of saltiness. Ideal for a cozy night in and a good book. 
Ingredients
  • 24 ounces Milk of Choice (I used almond)
  • 1/2 cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
Instructions
1. Heat milk and vanilla extract on stove until warm.
2. Add chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sugar and sea salt to milk mixture.
3. Whisk ingredients until chocolate is melted and cocoa powder, sugar and sea salt have dissolved.
4. Pour into two mugs.
5. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

Hot Cocoa with a Mayan Twist

Brews, Hot Chocolate, RecipesNatalie Wright
Mayan Hot Chocolate

This may be my most favorite creation yet. My take on a Mayan Hot Chocolate. It. Was. Bomb.

This recipe uses a combination of almond milk, vanilla, semi-sweet chocolate chips, cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and cayan pepper, it was the perfect blend of sweet, spice and richness.

The ultimate warm and cozy drink for a chilly evening.

Check out the recipe at home so you can try it on your own! Modifications can be made by using your milk of choice, melting chocolate of choice, or amount of cayan. This recipe makes 2 servings. 

Enjoy!

print recipe
Mayan Hot Chocolate
A hot chocolate that is the perfect blend of sweet, spice and richness. The ultimate warm and cozy drink for a chilly evening.
Ingredients
  • 20 ounces Almond Milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup Mini Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1 heaping tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Cinnamon
  • 1 pinch Cayan Pepper
Instructions
1. Pour milk into a small saucepan with chocolate chips and vanilla extract.
2. Cook on medium low heat and whisk continuously until chocolate is melted.
3. Add cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and cayan pepper. Whisk on medium heat until all the powders have dissolved.
4. Immediately pour into two mugs and enjoy!
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings

My Cold Weather Starbucks Drink

Coffee Snob, BrewsNatalie Wright
What to Order at Starbucks

I am a self-proclaimed coffee snob.

For a long time, I would turn my nose up at Starbucks and not even give it a chance. Why? Their coffee didn't taste good to me, their froth was bubbly like dish soap, and their drinks had half the amount of espresso and double the amount of extra fluff.

Well, my friends, I have seen the light and have discovered a few drinks that I actually like at Starbucks. 

Considering I write this as I stare out the window at (yet another) snow storm in Minnesota, I thought I'd share with my Starbucks drink of choice for when it's cold outside.

Presenting: the Flat White with coconut milk.

Why I like this drink: the Flat White at Starbucks uses more espresso than in their "regular drinks" and the froth they use on this drink is 100x better than a traditional latte (i.e. more froth less bubbles). And the coconut milk because, vegan.

So, there you have it! What I will actually order at Starbucks. Are you a Starbucks person? What's your coffee drink of choice?

Starbucks Flat White with Coconut Milk

Makin' Matcha

Brews, New Things, Review, Tea, What's the Deal WithNatalie Wright

Another day, another latte made in my kitchen. Today's choice? Matcha made with Jade Leaf's Organic Matcha and almond milk.

So, what's the scoop on matcha? Why is it so good for you?

The word "matcha" actually means powdered tea. Matcha powder is literally tea leaves that have been ground up into powdered form. This way, you get the potency and flavor in the powder that would normally be discarded once you're finished steeping your tea.

Matcha is a great source of antioxidants and boosts your metabolism. It contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but the tea gives more of a focused "alert" effect rather than a caffeine buzz. I really enjoyed this as I didn't feel jittery but still felt awake and energized.

How did I make the latte?

I used one heaping teaspoon of matcha, about 8 ounces of almond milk and a touch of honey to make this recipe. I started by warming the almond milk on the stove. Once it started to simmer, I whisked in the matcha powder and honey. I then frothed the mixture with my handheld milk frother before pouring into a mug.

And there you have it! A homemade matcha latte. I loved how creamy this was and the hint of sweetness it had. It wasn't overpowering and was great for a chilly day. As described above, I also enjoyed the caffeine content and found that it was a nice change from a regular cup of coffee.

Have you tried making a matcha latte at home? What did you think?

Photo Jan 28, 8 56 06 AM.jpg

DIY Chai [Latte]

Brews, Coffee SnobNatalie Wright
Photo Jan 22, 3 11 40 PM.jpg

Well, I tried out my new handheld milk frother. 

As a former barista, I had high hopes for the type of froth I could make at home, which were really unrealistic. Nevertheless, I decided to try making my first DIY latte.

My latte of choice? Homemade chai, mostly because it was the afternoon so I didn’t want to have caffeine (though I am a coffee addict, I cannot drink caffeine after 1 o’clock in the afternoon). I ended up making my own chai out of spices we had around the house and heating it with almond milk on the stove.

So, how’d it go?

Let me tell you. Handheld milk frothers are not nearly as good as the real thing. I loved that it made the drink extra creamy, but I’d have to give it 5/10 stars in the actual froth category. 

My homemade chai was more spicy than sweet. As someone who likes her chai more sweet than spicy, it was a little disappointing. But, that’s why we try new things to figure shit out, so now I know what to do differently next time. Here’s my (non-measured) spice breakdown in order of most to least amount used in the recipe:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Black Pepper

I combined these spices with the almond milk and whisked on the stove until it started to simmer. I also added vanilla extract and honey to the almond milk for some extra sweetness.

Once the flavors were combined, I turned off the heat and frothed the mixture right in the pot and poured into my mug.

And there you have it, folks. My DIY chai latte. Not my best creation, not my worst. But, I have high hopes for next time.

Tea. That changes color?

Natalie Wright
Photo Jan 07, 9 54 30 AM.jpg

Yep, you read that right. For Christmas this year, I was gifted a tea that claims to change color when you add lemon.

The creator, Yumchaa, is a tea company located in the U.K. and strives to provide teas that are innovative and high quality (i.e. teas that change color). They even have a spot on their website where you can look at teas based off the mood you're feeling.

Introducing, Yumchaa's Blue Voodoo tea: the tea that changes color. A green tea with goji berries, lemongrass, pomegranate seeds, cornflower blossoms and blue pea flowers. 

I was definitely skeptical at first of their claim at first... would it actually be a noticeable color change when I added the lemon? Here's the verdict:

  • Pre-Lemon: blueberry flavor, bluish green color
  • Post-Lemon: blueberry lemon flavor, bluish purple color

I was impressed with how vivid the color was in this tea and that it was a noticeable change, it really was beautiful (see photos below that don't actually do it justice).

If you like blueberry and pretty colors, give this one a try!

Wake Up Winter Tea Review

Brews, Minnesota, Tea, ReviewNatalie Wright
Photo Nov 14, 6 53 47 AM.jpg

Yet another reason to love Trader Joe’s: their seasonal teas. This season, TJ’s has a couple really great options. My favorite? Wake Up Winter Tea.

It officially feels like winter here in Minnesota so this tea comes at no better time. A perfect blend of cinnamon, orange, ginger and cloves, this spiced black tea screams Christmas and also, cozy up with me in the morning.

This tea would pair well with scones, biscuits, other breakfast carbs, or simply on its own.

Another option? Try this tea steeped for a bit longer with a bit of steamed milk to create a spice tea latte. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but I think the tea’s flavors would balance really well with some milk. Speaking of lattes, it is on my list to purchase a milk frother so I can make lattes at home, stay tuned for that in a blog post to come!

So, Trader Joe’s, you have done it again. But are we really that surprised?

In Good Company: Duluth Coffee Co.

Minnesota, Local, Coffee Snob, BrewsNatalie Wright
Photo Nov 04, 11 16 59 AM.jpg

Over the weekend, my mom and I had the opportunity to check out Duluth Coffee Company on our day trip up North, and it was worth writing about.

This coffee shop is nestled in downtown Duluth and has a cozy hipster vibe to it. Duluth Coffee Company is both a coffee shop and roastery, so you know this stuff is fresh. The shop sources their beans from individual farmers or co-ops, roasts their beans in store, and then crafts tasty beverages for their costumers.

Mom and I both got a Miel (essentially a honey latte) made with almond milk. Duluth coffee Company makes their Miel with local honey, and tops the drink with delicious frothy goodness in the shape of a heart. The drink was smooth and creamy with the perfect hint of sweetness to compliment the mellow (but still present) coffee flavor. I have to say, it was the best coffee drink I’ve had in a long time.

My only complaint about the Duluth Coffee Company is that the shop is in Duluth and not in St. Paul. We can’t have it all, can we?

Fair Trade Coffee Buzz

Brews, Fair Trade, What's the Deal WithNatalie Wright
nousnou-iwasaki-45718.jpg

Fair Trade seems to be a sort of buzz word these days. Coffee shops are utilizing it, the coffee beans you may buy at the grocery store are using it. But, what does it really mean? Does it matter whether we purchase beans that are Fair Trade? What are the benefits, or are there even any?

Let's start with the basics. Fair trade’s definition according to the World Fair Trade Organization is, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”

To put it simply, Fair Trade means that farmers and workers are compensated fairly for their products and services. The benefits lie on the other side of your coffee cup in the hands of those who planted and harvested your coffee beans. 

For me, Fair Trade makes me think of the idea that we need to take more time to think about where we get our resources from. Whether that be our food and beverages, the products we put on our body, use in our household, the entertainment and media we consume… to me, it matters. To me, the choices I make create a ripple affect and an impact: even if that impact starts small, the ripples grow bigger.

Although Fair Trade is “hot right now” I’d say it’s something that’s trending that should continue to do so. Every little positive step we can take is another step towards a positive change.

Herbal Coffee: should you try it?

Brews, Coffee Snob, New Things, What's the Deal WithNatalie Wright
IMG_3284.jpg

As a coffee lover, I'm intrigued with nearly anything that includes the word "coffee" in the title. I've heard some pretty positive reviews about herbal coffee as of late and was curious what all the fuss was about.

I think it's pretty cool that there's an option for people who want to avoid the caffeine and acidic properties you'll find in a traditional cup of coffee. Not to mention the health benefits you may receive herbal coffee like improved digestion, increased focus and nutritional content. Using ingredients like dandelion root, chicory root and carob, companies are able to make a natural product that tastes similar to what people already love.

As a caffeine lover, full disclosure, I did try this Teeccino coffee in the afternoon rather than using it as a replacement for my daily cup of joe. No one is a happy camper when I don't have my caffeine in the morning. So, my caffeine addicted self brewed a cup of Teeccino's Dandelion Dark Roast at 2 p.m.  using one of their convenient tea bags. All you have to do is boil up some water and put the bag in.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the packaging was how GOOD it smelled. The combination of chicory root and carob in this blend made it smell like a mocha in a coffee shop. I let the tea bag steep for a few minutes until I thought the color looked right (I'm very good at following directions) and drank the tea without adding any cream or sweetener.

VERDICT: The flavor really did taste like a good cup of coffee, to me. It was not as strong as I would've liked, but that was definitely due to human error as I should've let it steep longer. Apart from that, I have no complaints. 

If you're looking for a non-caffeinated coffee option, I would recommend giving this a try! If you're a die hard caffeine fan, this is probably not your cup of tea (ha). 8/10 stars.

Bulletproof Coffee Bandwagon: On or Off?

Brews, Coffee Snob, Fair Trade, Minnesota, What's the Deal With, New ThingsNatalie Wright

Has anyone looked around lately and noticed that people are putting butter in their coffee these days? Why hello there, Bulletproof Coffee.

When I first heard about the idea of blending butter and coconut oil with your cup of coffee, honestly, my first response was disgust. Then intrigue. So much so that I caved and decided to try it myself.

Before I tried this concoction, I wanted to figure out why: WHY do people want to blend their coffee with things that don't really sound like they pair well. Essentially, what I hear, is that the combination of coffee with the healthy fats in Bulletproof can energize your brain function and promote fat loss with minimal cravings. 

Which sounds great, in theory, but I want something that actually tastes good. And my mother always taught me not to knock something before I try it, so here we are. 

The Process: For my at home version of Bulletproof Coffee, I used Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend (for no other reason than you are supposed to use organic fair trade coffee and I like a light roast), Trader Joe's ghee, Aldi's organic coconut oil and a little bit of honey. To start, I brewed my coffee in a regular coffee pot, then I poured about two (hot) cups into my Magic Bullet and added one tablespoon of Ghee, 1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut oil and about a teaspoon of honey. Blend for about 20 seconds and there you have it. Bulletproof coffee.

Initial Thoughts: I've tried this twice, and the first version I made was WAY too buttery. It's weird to drink coffee and having the leading flavor be butter and not coffee. The second time around I used a little over half the amount of ghee and a little extra coconut oil and it was much, much better. Once you get over the fact that you are drinking oil, it's really not bad. The butter and coconut oil add a really smooth and creamy texture with a nutty tint to it. I did notice that I needed less coffee than I usually do (the first time I did this I got pretty jittery, so I made less the second time), and it gave me really good focus and energy without a caffeine crash. I can't speak much to a suppressed appetite as I'm not super hungry in the morning to begin with.

The Verdict: Bulletproof coffee is definitely a bit more labor intensive than just brewing a pot, but for the lack of caffeine crash and the mental energy it provides, I'd say it's worth it. At this point, you won't see me making this everyday, but definitely on a weekly basis.

What's your verdict? Are you yay or nay for the Bulletproof Coffee Bandwagon?

 

 

What's the Deal With: Grinding Your Coffee Beans

Brews, What's the Deal With, Coffee SnobNatalie Wright

Many questions can be asked as we navigate our way through the universe that is coffee. With many questions, there are also many opinions. Mine is just one of them, and these are only a few questions that may be asked, but here we go.

WTF is up with grinding coffee beans?

Question 1: Do I buy whole bean or ground at the store? Always, always, always buy whole bean coffee as much as you can because the majority of the delicious flavors we find in a cup coffee come from the oils found on our coffee bean (no different than the many flavors in wine that come from the vessel they are aged in). When we grind our coffee beans, the oils evaporate at a far quicker pace than keeping them whole in an air tight container.

Question 2: What's the difference between a blade grinder and burr grinder? It comes down to control. You have far greater control of how fine or coarse your beans are ground when it is a setting rather than just using your eyeballs. 

Question 3: Why does how coarse or fine you grind your beans even matter? This one comes down to taste. The quicker the water can go through the coffee beans, the less flavor you will have because it can't absorb as much. This is why the longer brew processes (cold press) use a coarser grind: the coffee oils (AKA flavor) has time to seep into the water, and the quicker brew processes (espresso) use a finer grind.

It seems like there are numerous ways that people create their own perfect cup of coffee. What's yours?

P.S. For the record, my hands were not used in the making of this photo.

 

Calm and Clarity to a Gloomy Day

Brews, Local, Fair Trade, Pacific NorthwestNatalie Wright

There's something about drinking coffee on a stormy morning that just feels right. The comfort of holding a ceramic mug full of a warm, tasty, CAFFEINATED beverage to start your day.

This morning was gloomy, but what was in my coffee cup certainly wasn't. Today's choice was a birthday gift from my wonderful cousin who lives out in Washington. And, boy, is this coffee wonderful, just like her.

Vashon Island Coffee Roaster's "Rainier Rising," roasted in Washington state, filled my cup this morning and I have no complaints about that. A perfectly smooth cup of coffee, this light Italian roast has earth tones with just the right amount of smoke. A cup of coffee that could pair with just about everything.

Want to know a cool fact about Vashon Island? Their beans are secured through The Vashon Island Coffee Foundation, which strives to assist the communities who produce their coffee beans with fair wages and an encouragement of education and independence. Knowing where your coffee comes from, and knowing that the organization practices fair trade with a high quality product, makes that cup even better. 

Cheers to making gloomy mornings better with companies that are doing good and creating great products!

That MN Nice

Brews, Minnesota, LocalNatalie Wright
img_0675.jpg

One word that can describe me? Coffee snob. I drink coffee on a daily basis (and by daily, I mean at least 2 or 3 times per day).

My caffeine addiction is fueled by only the good stuff, and Stonehouse Coffee & Roastery is certainly one of the good ones. My good friend Hilary and I discovered their coffee when we took a weekend trip to Nisswa, MN last summer. We quickly fell in love with their lattes, and couldn’t help but take some of their precious beans home with us.

Bean of Choice: Minnesota Nice. I mean, how could I not? Their tagline “Seriously Good Coffee” lives up to its name. It. Is. Good. Smooth and easy to drink, with just the right amount of sweet and spice.

So good, in fact, that I order the beans from the comfort of my St. Paul apartment so that I can indulge on mornings like today.

My favorite thing to pair this coffee with? Scones. I love a good scone, and this coffee stands up with the best of them.

Anyone else a coffee snob like me with an expensive addiction?