Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

What’s in the kitchen pantry: Sweet and low priced

Friday, January 31, 2014
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Beauty and the beast.

Beauty and the beast.

During the crisis that left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water, I began making mental notes about the products I use and the ingredients I eat or drink.  I started this little internal survey after opening a box of facial lotion and reading the active and inactive substances that are supposed to make me look 10 years younger.  I held up the box and told my husband, “This may be a good example of the pot calling the kettle black.”

I color my hair three or four times a year, and I bleach my teeth every six months.  I’ll rub an apple on my shirt and then take a huge bite out of it, and every so often, I’ll sneak a few grapes out of the bag and eat them…unwashed. Last summer, my daughter got a chemical burn from swimming in a local pool that had just been treated with a sizable load of chlorine to make the water crystal clear. But our worst offense, one that makes every cancer survivor wince, is the amount of artificial sweetener poured into our glasses of iced tea and mugs of hot coffee … every day.

I know. This stuff has been reported to cause cancer in lab rats, yet I rip, pour, stir and sip anyway.  But I’m trying to do better for myself and for my family, so I’ve taken to the Internet and to culinary magazines to find a solution that won’t sacrifice taste or our lives.

It’s called….agave nectar.

This amber liquid, a type of syrup, is expensive.  This is probably the reason why I’ve ignored it on grocery store shelves.  However, celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis swears by it, and if she can wolf down bowls of pasta and chase it with cups of sweetened cappuccino, then I’ll have what she’s having.

During a recent shopping trip, I rediscovered gourmet foods and spices at Home Goods in the kitchen department. I used to walk by these shelves and assume the food was old or so bad the stores had to ship products to outlet centers for a quick sale.  I learned that most of these items are simply overstocks — it’s perfectly good and well within “best by” dates.

And whaddya know? Home Goods at the Shoppes at Trace Fork sells all kinds of agave nectar! Cheap, too!

I forked over $2 and change for a pretty bottle of sweetness and raced home to try it in a cup of Starbuck’s Mocha.  I wasn’t sure how much to use, but the famous chef from Italy tells us to use “just a little bit — just a drop to sweeten it up.”  So I squeezed just a little bit, swirled a spoon to release the color from jet black to chocolate brown, and then I sipped. I waited.  I sipped again.

Maybe just another squirt.

A few seconds later, I had used half the bottle.

Agave nectar may be called “honey water” by our friends in South America, but this girl from Charley West calls it Karo syrup. Conscious consumers rightfully feel better about using natural products as opposed to “packets of poison”, but experts say a dollop of agave contains 60 calories. White table sugar contains 40 calories.  Perhaps less is more.

My First Buzz

Monday, July 11, 2011
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Not your mother's cup of coffee.

I can’t speak Starbucks. As much as I’d like to float up to the counter and request a hot-tall-skinny-upside-down-with-whip-caramel-macchiato, or a triple-grande-140-degree-no-foam-cinnamon-dolce-latte-with-caramel-on-the-whip, I’ll never be that well versed.  Or that hyperactive.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at the Beckley Travel Plaza to visit the famous coffee shop, and for 35 minutes (yes, I know…how stupid), I waited – and watched – the world go by.  There was an endless flow of vanilla, white mocha, cap and frap…and teenagers. I was shocked by the number of kids standing in line, waiting for 23 ounces of cold caffeine topped with enough sugar and fat to cause juvenile diabetes to surge.  Parents shelled out $4 and change for glorified milkshakes (at 9:15 a.m.), and handed their children straws to stab into layer after layer of empty calories.  Yet when my order was announced – a tall cappuccino – all eyes shifted to Plain Jane who just needed a little something for the road.  Boring.

Forgive me for sounding old, but when I was growing up, coffee was an adult beverage. Pouring that first cup was a rite of passage; a toast to becoming a young lady! Coffee was a drink that men and women of mature age consumed in the morning while reading the newspaper, and after dinner while watching 60 Minutes.  There was a saucer under that cup, too.  Today, a paper cup comes with a cardboard sleeve.

In a recent study, researchers found that 40% of the 18-to 24-year-olds who responded to the National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Drinking Trends 2011 survey said they are drinking coffee daily, compared with 31%  in 2010. Why? They have more money to spend on caffeine.  But the younger kids who don’t have jobs?  They’re just wasting their health and accelerating life, some doctors say.

Studies also show that caffeine severely impacts the amount of sleep kids get on a daily basis, a major problem because rest is critical for girls and boys whose minds and bodies are still developing.  Coffee has the same effects on the body as energy shots and drinks, a type of legal, liquid speed.

I took my first sip of coffee when I was a senior in college. I needed something hot to thaw out a frozen body that walked across campus on a winter morning. Black, strong and bitter, I couldn’t believe how horrible it tasted, or how people consumed cup after cup day after day.  I experimented with sugar packets and powdered creamer, whole milk and half ‘n half, artificial sweeteners and flavored syrups.  Finally, I found my drink of choice: dark roast coffee with a generous splash of 2% milk and one Sweet ‘n Lo. That chemical reaction took years to come together.

Now, a Keurig coffee maker is my appliance of choice – my one stop, one cup, one buzz of the day.  I love playing barista in my own kitchen – walking up to the counter, dropping in a K-Cup and waiting 30 seconds for Café au lait.  But you can bet your last Star Buck that I won’t be pouring a cup for my daughters any time soon. We’ll be sticking with the seasonal small-hot-cocoa-with-mini-marshmallows.

Because childhood is good to the last drop.

Need Starbucks 101?  Here’s step-by-step help for ordering a complicated cup of Joe: