Creativity in a Cup: How to Jazz up Coffee!

Hi there, friends! I hope your Sunday morning was a pleasant one! Though I’m posting in the evening, coffee is always on my mind, hence the title of today’s musing! Of course, per usual, I’ll share with you my eats from this morning (FYI – I have a NEW yogurt find to share with you!):

Breakfast (Sunday, July 14, 2013):

1 container Green Mountain Maple Greek Yogurt (One of my newest yogurt finds! I was so excited about this yogurt, for the sole purpose of it’s flavor – Maple! I’m a big fan of maple syrup, so when I spotted this yogurt one day while browsing the aisles, I just HAD to have it. The consistency was runny, however, unlike many other yogurts, so it seemed to even out once I stirred it a bit, but the maple flavor was very, very mild. In fact, I found it to be drastically too mild, which was very disappointing. Though, I have my own low-sugar maple syrup I may mix into plain Greek yogurt one day very soon to create my own maple Greek yogurt to my taste specifications).

1 cup Giant store-brand Puffed Rice Cereal (Speaks for itself, simple yet satisfying).

1 cup Kashi Simply Maize (Ahh, I am forever hooked on this cereal. The subtle sweetness is definitely what does it. If you haven’t tried it yet, splurge, if you can and purchase a box – it can be on the pricey side, but occasionally will be on sale).

1 Banana (Okay, so I know I have professed my profound love for bananas numerous times already here on the blog, however, today’s banana was a disappointment, I’m sorry to say. To start, the peel was strangely difficult to remove, unless it was me, and I was imagining things, but anyhow, after I finally managed to remove the peel, the banana itself tasted off. Here’s to hoping tomorrow’s banana is much more tasty!).

Maple Greek YogurtPuffed Rice CerealKashi Simply MaizeBanana

Back to today’s musing: Coffee! For several years, coffee has been one of my all-time favorite beverages to consume, no matter if it is 90-degrees or more outside, or 20-degrees. There is something about it’s familiar, nostalgic aroma, its comforting, warm taste, all of which soothes me. For me, coffee has the ability to calm me when I’m feeling stressed and it’s also something I look forward to each morning; a steaming mug of coffee, which I like to “jazz” up, with my own little techniques, which I’d like to share with you today, so someday soon, you, too, can delight in a delicious mug of coffee (if you aren’t, already!).

COFFEE BREWING METHODS & TYPES OF COFFEE:

  • “Pod” Brewing Machines – For those of you who might be unfamiliar with what I mean by “pod,” I am referring to the small “disks,” “k-cups,” etc, which are purchased in boxes and simply inserted into a machine such as a Keurig, Nescafe Gusto, Tassimo, Flavia, among several others. They are frequently found not only in offices, but also in homes, for easy, simple brewing. In most cases, a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, latte, and now, even cold beverages can be brewed in these machines in a matter of a minute or even less. Most of the time, the coffees in these pods or k-cups are exceptional and of high quality, or at least, in my opinion, they are. Companies such as Starbucks, Wolfgang Puck, Dunkin Donuts, New England Coffee, Melitta, Green Mountain Coffee, Snapple, Timothy’s Coffee, Caribou Coffee, among countless others, now produce pod and k-cup versions of their bagged and brewed coffees. With a machine like this, you are essentially provided the ability to create a makeshift “coffee-shop” in the convenience of your home, office, dorm, or overall place of residence. The only downside, is that the pods/k-cups can be pricey per box, but there are often published coupons, and also, a vast selection at Bed, Bath and Beyond, who, if you know them well, are VERY generous with their 20% off and $5 off $15 purchase coupons (which, QUICK TIP – can STILL be used even if expired!).

Keurig MachineK-Cups

  • Traditional Coffee-Maker – While I do own my own Keurig machine and have done so for numerous years, I still love my Cuisinart Coffee Machine and use it each day. I like to balance my use of the Keurig machine and k-cups, because as I mentioned, they are on the pricier side. Nowadays, many companies are producing high-quality bagged, ground coffee. For me, personally, flavored coffee is what I seek, and tend to purchase. Companies such as New England Coffee produce excellent, high-quality, delicious flavored coffee (i.e. Hazelnut, Chocolate Cappuccino, French Vanilla, Blueberry Cobbler, etc). Other companies, such as Millstone Coffee and Melitta also produce delicious blends and are easily found in grocery and discount stores (i.e. Target, Walmart).

Cuisinart Coffee MakerMelitta CoffeeNew England CoffeeMillstone Coffee

  • Instant Coffee – Several companies such as Maxwell House, Folgers, and Nescafe Taster’s Choice produce packets or small bags (resembling tea-bags) of coffee! They are typically cheaper than ground or whole bean varieties and can be easily prepared by simply placing it in a hot mug or cup of water. They also come in flavors (vanilla, hazelnut, decaf).

Instant Coffee packets

LIGHTEN UP YOUR COFFEE:

When I say lighten, I am referring to the addition of milk (dairy or non-dairy), a milk alternative (i.e. non-dairy creamer), half & half, something to turn the coffee either a lighter shade of black, brown, or in some cases… more or less, on the whiter side (Hey, it’s okay, creamers ARE very tasty!).

  • Regular Dairy Milk (Whole, 2%, 1%, Skim – when I visit Starbucks or a traditional coffee-shop, when a non-dairy creamer such as Coffee-Mate is available, I tend to use a touch of skim milk).

Regular Milk

  • Non-Dairy Milk (Today, the varieties in this category are particularly plentiful – coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, flax milk, hemp milk, rice milk – I’m a big fan of Silk, Almond Breeze, and 8th Continent, all of which make coconut, almond and soy milks, plus, coupons are always available for printing on Silk’s website! Additionally, Almond Breeze makes a unique blend of Coconut/Almond Milk, plus, chocolate varieties are available in almond, coconut, and soy milks, which would provide a delicious “mocha” taste to coffee!).

Coconut MilkGood Karma Flax MilkSilk Almond MilkAlmond Breeze

  • Non-Dairy Creamers (i.e. Coffee-Mate – my all-time favorite and go-to creamer, I tend to use the traditional, fat-free powdered variety, but they are available in a host of flavors, such as Caramel Macchiato, Mocha, and even Girl Scout cookie flavors! Another company, International Delight also provides a wide array of flavors, such as Peppermint Patty, Chocolate varieties, etc. It appears there is a flavor for mostly anyone, from a more mild, traditional or “plain,” flavor to those whose sweet tooth beckons! A unique coffee experience can surely be crafted when using either Coffee-Mate or International Delight!). Yum! Also, Silk produces a creamer for coffee in flavors such as French Vanilla and Hazelnut.

Coffee-MateInternational Delight

  • Half & Half (Of course, Half & Half is a popular choice in homes and coffee-shops and now is produced by organic companies, such as Organic Valley and even So Delicious, which produces a “Coconut Creamer”).

Half & Half

SWEETEN YOUR CUPPA’ JOE:

Years ago, I preferred my coffee sans any kind of sweetener or sugar. However, one day, my mom introduced me to a small, yellow packet of goodness, something which I became quite fond of and is now a staple in my coffee, each day (Splenda!). While it may not be the healthiest of choices in the opinions of some, it’s a taste I’ve become accustomed to and feel it brings my coffee to life!

  • Splenda – My sweetener of choice, it is several times sweeter than traditional sugar, sans calories for one packet. There is also a variety of Splenda with the addition of fiber, as well as a variety with a french vanilla, mocha, or hazelnut flavor, however, these tend to be tricky to find. To be honest, I prefer traditional Splenda to the flavored ones.

Splenda

  • Stevia/Truvia – A naturally-derived, calorie free sweetener, which has become increasingly popular through the years. While in Portland, Oregon a couple months ago, at a restaurant, I discovered Stevia actually comes “in-the-raw,” similar to the “Sugar-in-the-raw.” I’ve had Stevia before and am on the fence about it.

SteviaStevia Truvia Sweetener

  • White Sugar

White Sugar

  • Sugar-in-the Raw – A natural traditional sugar, derived from pure sugar cane. If I were to use regular sugar, I would most likely opt for this variety.

Sugar in the Raw

  • Flavored Syrups – ANYBODY who knows me, knows I love my flavored coffee syrups! For my birthday and several other occasions, I have been gifted various flavored syrups. Two brands in particular are my favorites – Torani and Da Vinci. Both companies produce high quality syrups, sweetened with Splenda (if using the sugar-free variety, they also produce traditional sugar varieties). Available flavors range from unique (Sugar-Free Peanut Butter, Kahlua, Chocolate and the new Torani Sugar-Free S’mores, to traditional flavors such as Vanilla and Hazelnut). Adding either a little or a larger amount, the addition of flavored syrup can make a rather plain, or bland tasting coffee become that of a treat! It’s also a great addition to homemade iced coffee, if sugar/sweetener packets are difficult to dissolve in cold beverages).

Torani syrupsDa Vinci syrup

So there you have it, just a couple of my tips for jazzing up your traditional cup of coffee! What I like about coffee, is the ability to be creative, test the waters, but most of all, create a unique experience, different from the last! Enjoy!

QUESTION: How do you take your coffee?

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