A Smoothie Life Hack for the Ages

I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so one of the biggest challenges to the whole wellness/smoothie life thing I’ve committed to is, how do I get a smoothie and a cup of coffee into me during my 20-minute drive to work? I need the coffee to do the smiling and the talking (very important in the business we call retail), but I need the smoothie and the protein to not starve to death within my first hour of work. I’ve never been a chugger of liquids—my La Croixs always go flat before I finish them, and I’m used to dealing with watery iced coffee and cocktails. I needed a solution—one that didn’t involve me actually waking up earlier, duh.

So, many moons ago, while make the baby steps towards the wellness journey on which I now find myself, I discovered a little website called Nutrition Stripped. The lifestyle site is run out of Nashville by dietician/nutritionist McKel Hill. It’s basically a smoothie-recipe Mecca. As the completist I am, I pre-ordered McKel’s cookbook and everything. It’s been a big hit here at the Fig household.

So, when I discovered the Mood Boosting Cocoa Smoothie, it was my Eureka moment.

It puts the coffee IN the smoothie!

I’ve made this smoothie, like, a hundred times, with minor variations here and there based on ingredients I have on hand. I’ve been adding spirulina to get those greens! But when you have something every day, you’re bound to get a little restless and want to try new things. Therefore, I give you, The Strawberry Morning Milkshake! It’s just a variation on McKel Hill’s theme, credit where credit is due, but my oh my is it a delight.

Strawberry Morning Milkshake

makes just under 4 cups, serves 2

  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen*
  • 1/2 c. chopped strawberries (about 4 large strawberries), fresh or frozen*
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 scoop Vega vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 c. to 1 c. of cold brew
  • 1 c. unsweetened organic almond milk

In a high-powered blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth! Serve immediately, and refrigerate leftovers for up to two days.

If you have a normal blender, like me, add all ingredients except almond milk, and process at a slower speed until smooth. Then add in your almond milk and go to town on that high setting!

I prefer a thinner smoothie, so I add all of the coffee I possibly can to this. But if you want a classic milkshake feel, I’d keep the 1/2 c. cold brew : 1 c. almond milk ratio.

*I recommend frozen fruit for this recipe, both for the temperature of the smoothie, and the milkshake-esque texture.

Optional Add-ins for Optimal Nutrition

  • 1 tsp spirulina*
  • 1 pitted date (for sweetness)
  • 1 c. baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds or flax meal
  • 2 Brazil nuts

*The spirulina will slightly alter the color and taste of the smoothie, so I recommend trying it once without to get a frame of reference.

So, there you have it. A full cup of coffee and enough protein and nutrients to keep you full until your lunch break. No compromises necessary! You’ll be able to finish this on your morning commute in between embarrassing performances of every song from Hamilton. And if you think strawberries and coffee are an odd combination, have faith, don’t forget your vanilla protein powder, and enjoy!

—DellaBites

 

 

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That Bulletproof Coffee Trend

So, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve heard of Bulletproof Coffee. When you Google it, about 1,000 think pieces about it come up; some people praise it like it’s Sliced Bread 2016, others mock it for being possibly the world’s stupidest idea. I haven’t tried the real thing (drinking butter seems highly gross to me), but I do drink a lot of coffee, so any way to pack more nutrition into it seems like a good idea to me!

Lucky Goat coffee beans, chia seeds, organic coconut oil, & cinnamon

 

An amazing dairy-free version already exists, via Nutrition Stripped, but as I don’t have powdered medicinal mushrooms or maca at my disposal, I thought I’d try my hand at a layman’s version. Vegan living isn’t that hard if you’re creative in the kitchen!

I only used ingredients that I always keep in my house, and it tastes pretty delicious! I can see myself making this on work mornings to stave off hunger until break time.

Frothy Power Coffee

serves 1, hot or iced

8 oz. cold brew or freshly-brewed hot coffee

2 oz. unsweetened organic almond milk

1 tsp. organic coconut oil

1 tsp. chia seeds

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. of nutmeg

sweeten to taste (I recommend 100% maple syrup)

Pour all ingredients into a blender until frothy and then serve! A word of caution—if you choose to serve this cold/iced, the coconut oil will start to solidify over time, giving the drink a chalky consistency. Hot is probably the way to go for those of us with texture issues!

All the above measurements are estimates. You know how you like your coffee! If you take your coffee black, skip the almond milk altogether and sub in more coconut oil. Add some cocoa powder to make it a mocha or blend in some fresh raspberries. Totally customizable.

There are endless ways to enjoy this super easy drink, without bankrupting yourself at the health-food store.

Well, I’m off to start cooking brunch! We ran out of tempeh so I can’t make my kickass “bacon.” So much sadness!

Happy brewing!

—DellaBites

Easiest At-Home Pumpkin Spice Latte Ever!

Fall is taking its sweet time arriving this year. Here we are, nearly mid-way through September, experiencing a veritable heat wave. Some schools actually let out the other day because without A.C., this humid heat can actually be dangerous. We don’t have A.C. I’m a survivor!

Actual screenshot from Tuesday. I was in a tank-top and shorts and still nearly died of heat stroke.
Actual screenshot from Tuesday. I was in a tank-top and shorts and still nearly died of heat stroke.

Since it is projected to cool down today, I wanted to celebrate with a pumpkin spice latte (also known as the siren song of all basic white girls). Pejoratives be damned, I love a pumpkin spice latte and will never be ashamed of it!

Here’s the thing about PSLs, though:

  1. They don’t typically contain pumpkin. This is fine: they are pumpkin spiced, which simply means that they are flavored with spices typically used to prepare pumpkin pies.
  2. Takeout PSLs are loaded with sugar, and certain syrups contain artificial ingredients and food dyes. Gross.
  3. PS syrups can also contain sweetened condensed milk or powdered dairy, which makes them far from vegan-friendly.

So, PSLs, while being delicious, aren’t perfect. The great thing about our online Pinterest-y, DIY  culture is that we can take our beloved (pricey) takeout and mimic it at home for a fraction of the cost and calories! Win!

There are so many amazing PSL recipes online. Some involve homemade simple syrups, others actually provide directions to making homemade pumpkin spice almond milk! I was looking to create a drink that could be whipped up with no prep in those last three minutes before you have to leave the house for work. Plus, my at-home PSL can be made entirely without dairy or sweeteners! However, I’m no hero, so the recipe will have 2 suggestions for the sweet-toothed among us.

Gear:

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  • 2 shots of espresso (my favorite system is the Aeropress)
  • almond milk (or your preferred alternative)
  • ice (or a milk heater/frother if you prefer hot)
  • Spice Islands Pumpkin Pie Spice (available for cheap at most grocery stores)
  • brown sugar to taste (or all-natural maple syrup)
  • a kettle (this one is on my Amazon wishlist)
  • filtered water
  • reusable cup and straws (optional, but encouraged)

Heat your kettle until boiling, and then set aside.

The first step is personal: how sweet do you like your coffee? Some days I want to be kicked in the face with potency, other days I want something “wimpy” with the sweetness of melted ice cream.

Place your desired amount of brown sugar or all-natural maple syrup into the bottom of your cup. Add two or three shakes of pumpkin pie spice (the flavor is surprisingly strong, so the amount you add is your personal preference). Next, add a tiny dab of hot water (more if using solid sugar, less for maple syrup) from the kettle, and stir until the consistency of your sweetener is syrupy.

The pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, mace, and cloves. So if you love flavored coffee but hate added sugar, you can just blend this with the hot espresso!

Next, it’s espresso time. As I mentioned, my favorite espresso-brewing method is currently the Aeropress system. It’s cheap, easy-to-use, easy-to-clean, and produces consistently great espresso. My favorite tutorial is below, from the ABM site:

Finally, milk! I actually add filtered water to my espresso, which technically qualifies this drink as an Americano, rather than a latte. I find lattes to be too milky and thick, and prefer a thinner, smoother beverage. For a hot latte, add your warm, frothy milk to the espresso and fill to the top. For an iced latte, fill your cup 1/2 to 2/3 of the way with milk, and finish with ice.

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For decadent presentation, especially with a hot latte, sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top and enjoy! Tastes best with a doughnut, of course.

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This morning I’ll be enjoying my PSL with Edith Wharton.

If you’re a pro at your espresso-brewing method, this whole process takes about 2 minutes, including grinding your beans. I usually put on my mascara while I heat my kettle—multitasking ftw!

What’s your favorite fall drink?

—DellaBites

Iced Crack

And by “iced crack” I mean cold-brewed coffee! Cold brew is all the rage right now, and for very good reason. For those of us who like their coffee very milky *raises hand*, it is an elixir from heaven. No joke, I can drink this stuff black with no sugar. When I finally perfected making this, I drank so much of it I barely slept for a week. My fiancé says that I have ruined him for all other coffees. He calls it “Fig-proof”, as in, he can’t possibly screw it up, no matter what he does to it or puts in it. You can find recipes for cold brew anywhere on the internet (Pinterest is a lifesaver), but if you’re reading this and you haven’t yet tried to make this at home, DO IT and stop paying $3+ a cup to get it at Starbucks!

Here’s my method.

Preparation:

Supplies
Supplies

You’ll need whole bean coffee in your favorite blend, quart sized mason jars (or a gallon jug, whatever), and a coffee grinder. A funnel is optional, but encouraged. I like to buy my coffee in bulk, since I make this cold brew every 2-3 days. Trader Joe’s has a great selection of inexpensive, quality coffees. Costco is another great place to get bulk whole bean coffee in brands like Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Grind your beans to a slightly coarser grind than you would for auto-drip coffee. Not as coarse as a French press, not as fine as espresso. Eyeball it.

The golden cold brew ratio is 1 cup ground coffee to 4 cups cold, filtered water (or .25 cups coffee to 1 cup water if you’re making batches smaller than a quart). This might as well be printed in the Bible. You can go stronger, but you’ll just end up diluting your prepared drink more later.

Halfway there.
Halfway there.

Measure your coffee, grind it up, and add it to your water. This is where the funnel comes in handy. I’ve wasted so much precious coffee by spilling it all over my counters. I like to use mason jars to steep my cold brew because they have measurements on the sides, and I’m all about reducing the amount of dishes used in any given meal prep.

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After you finagle the grounds into the jar, then comes the fun part. Screw on a lid (I like these Ball brand plastic storage caps as they don’t rust, are dishwasher safe, and come in wide-mouth and regular size) and shake it like a Polaroid picture or James Bond’s martini. Dance while you do it!

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Blouse is Zara via Buffalo Exchange.

IMG_8751Let it sit for 12-24 hours. I usually make mine in the evenings and strain it before work in the morning. The straining is the tough part. This took me a while to perfect. Finally, I consulted the Pinterest oracle and learned that cheesecloth is the way to do it. I have heard that nut milk bags work beautifully.

I place a mesh strainer, lined with a small piece of cheesecloth, over a 2qt or larger pitcher. I agitate the jars one last time so that the grounds don’t come out in one giant clump, and slowly pour it out through the strainer and into the pitcher.


Another method, which I use semi-frequently, is to pour your cold brew and grounds into a French press and strain them that way. When I use this method, I still like to pour the coffee through the cheesecloth so that the finished product isn’t cloudy.There’s no way to completely avoid sediment in your cold brew, but it sinks to the bottom of the container so it doesn’t interfere with the overall coffee experience.

Serving:

As soon as the cold brew has been strained, it’s ready to drink! It will come out slightly stronger than regular iced coffee, so I recommend diluting it slightly with filtered water. Most sites say a 2:1 coffee to water ratio, but I use slightly less water, as my coffee only steeps for 12 hours and I take it with ice, which dilutes the mixture over time. Apart from the dilution, prepare your cup exactly as you would any other cup of coffee. My absolute favorite way to take it is with unsweetened almond milk and all-natural maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

 

All of the almond milk, all the time.

Happy brewing!

-DellaBites

 

Currently enjoying my cold brew on break at work with some Trader Joe’s goodies.

 

East Bay/San Francisco Guide [Consumerism Edition]

As I mentioned in my last post, we went to the Bay Area to visit family, and thus didn’t get to do most typical “touristy” activities, i.e. a selfie with a Golden Gate backdrop. However, we did make it a priority to support small, local businesses (especially coffee shops). We stayed in San Leandro and Castro Valley, but we managed to journey into San Francisco twice during our stay. Here are some of the businesses we visited and loved!

San Francisco

Greetings from Pier 39, home of tacky tourist destinations and sea lions!
Greetings from Pier 39, home of tacky tourist destinations, Alcatraz, and sea lions!

The coffee in my hand in this picture is from The Plant | Café Organic at Pier 3. They served Blue Bottle, so I actually got to try it! *round of applause*

Haight-Ashbury Area

In addition to its cafés, boutiques, and tattoo parlors, this area actually had a specialty sock shop! I bought my fiancé a pair of robot socks shortly after we moved in together, so we couldn’t resist adding to the collection.

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Amoeba Music

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Amoeba is the Shangri-La of Record Stores. There are three locations (we visited San Francisco & Berkeley—I shopped at their Hollywood store on my last trip in 2013). This place makes Newbury Comics look like a sick joke. Their prices are outstanding for used CDs, which are great quality unless otherwise denoted. I bought way more albums than I intended to…but who can resist $1.95 for a Sondre Lerche CD? C’mon. My fiancé loves this place because of its expansive World Music section (he was on the hunt for obscure Turkish artists the whole time). They even had a John Zorn section!

We call this photo
We call this photo “Zorn Porn”.

Stanza Coffee (I can’t find a proper website for this shop!)

Stanza is a super adorable little café on Haight St where we hung out for a while before heading out of the city. Great coffee, great vibes, great logo.

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Decades of Fashion is a vintage clothing and costume shop that is a version of heaven. I found vintage blue Louboutins there in my peculiar size (9.5) for $195 and I DIDN’T buy them for my wedding. I am a moron. I will never forgive myself. I might have to actually call the shop and have them special order the shoes to me. I nearly cry every time I think about this.

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DoF even had a friendly shopcat named Halston. Such a handsome boy!

Flywheel Coffee Roasters

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Cold Brew of the Gods. As you can see in the first photo, the menu here is incredibly simple (and stunningly displayed). They don’t even have flavored syrups! This place is the coffee purist’s dream! Gorgeous rustic/industrial décor, amazing coffee—a perfect place to hang out.

The Mission District & Valencia St.

Amazing and authentic Mexican food, street art, eclectic shops, and Boba Guys. What could be better? Full disclosure–Boba Guys was closing up when we arrived, so I didn’t actually get to try it, although it was on my must-do Bay Area list (next time!!!). Some cool places we stopped into were Afterlife, Needles & Pens, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records/Lost Weekend Video, Dijital Fix, and Borderlands Books (which earns hella bonus points for selling naughty vintage postcards and having an adjoining café). We had massive veggie burritos and Sierra Nevadas at La Corneta Taqueria. I bought brand new copies of NW by Zadie Smith (hardcover!) and The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for $6.95 each at Dog Eared Books. I’m tellin’ you.

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the condiment bar at borderlands café. this picture speaks for itself.

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Aquarius Records

I’m surprised my fiancé didn’t shed happy tears upon entering this place. It. Was. Dope. You know how you have to scour a normal record store for their experimental section, which consists of about 5 CDs? Aquarius is basically a massive experimental section. I had only heard of, like, three bands in the entire store. For such a small place, they had a huge world music section as well. It’s so cool to see that specialty record stores can still exist and thrive in an Amazon-dominated world!

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Oakland

Mua

image via google
image via google

We only got to stop at Mua for a drink (it was a Sunday night and they closed fairly early). I had a Mexico Mule, which is lunazul reposado, lime, cilantro, and ginger beer. Amazing. Their menu looked absolutely incredible—my cousin vouched for it. Tons of vegetarian options! I will definitely be coming back here on my next visit to the Bay.

Café Van Kleef

image via google

We stopped here for a drink after Mua closed down. The huge selling points of this Oakland institution are its kitschy, cluttered décor and its fresh squeezed greyhound. No lie—they have grapefruit halves in bowls that they actually juice in front of you.

Berkeley

Bleecker Bistro (another website here, which appears to be for the same establishment?)

image via google
image via google

Best breakfast burrito of my life + a pitcher of Bellinis for $10. Can’t be beat. We stopped here on a whim for brunch one day and I’m so glad we did. They put scallions in their homefries and keep hot sauce on every table! Super reasonable prices for all of the food and drinks. I’ll definitely be back on future visits.

Buffalo Exchange

image via google

Okay, so technically these shops are all over (we have one in Allston). I fell in love with this place in 2004 when my cousin found a PJ Harvey concert t-shirt at their Long Beach location. Such an awesome shop with a great selection and great prices. For under $20, I bought an adorable Zara blouse in addition to the Free People dress pictured below. Who knows? Maybe it will end up as my reception dress…

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Philz Coffee

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Philz Mint Mojito has ruined me for all other coffees. I (sadly) only got to go to Philz once (a fucking travesty, let’s be honest), so I can’t report on their other concoctions, but their concept is so fresh that I can’t imagine they’d serve anything less than heavenly. Their slogan, as you can see above is “One Cup at a Time”, which literally means that each cup of coffee they serve is made to order (they use the pour-over method as far as I can tell). I’m sure this falls under the trendy, touristy Bay Area shop category, but I don’t care at all. #TeamPhilz

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Right next door to that particular Philz location is this marvel of a shop:

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You choose a doughnut and they fill it in front of you with the filling of your choice (such as creme anglaise, chocolate, or jelly). It’s like the In-N-Out of doughnut shops: there are only like 4 things on the menu, but they are fantastic and in my mind, iconic. A+++, 5 stars, 2 thumbs up.

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Castro Valley

Valley Java

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Valley Java was one of the best coffee experiences we had in California. The café is all organic, and sells a variety of equipment and goods, including local honey! I had a caramel macchiato with almond milk and a jalapeño bagel with cream cheese. Swoon-worthy stuff. The owner, Vince, who was from Hong Kong by-way-of Connecticut, was an absolute sweetheart! Love meeting fellow New Englanders on the road! He called me “Classic Lady”, flattering me by saying I looked like an old-timey movie-star. My fiancé never fails to mention this detail when we talk about our trip.

San Leandro

Sunshine Coffee Company

I sadly didn’t get any pictures of this hidden gem. It’s tucked away in an industrial park, but it’s worth popping into your GPS. The proprietor served me, and since I used to manage a coffee shop, we got to chatting about vendors and brewing methods. He’s a firm believer (as am I) in the magic of cold brew, and his coffee certainly showcases that. It’s so smooth you can drink it black, and I take my coffee very almond-milky. César (which I gleaned his name is from the Yelp reviews—many apologies if I’m wrong) is pursuing his dream without investors, so the décor leaves something to be desired, but I wish him all of the success in the world, and sincerely hope his operation goes bicoastal!

Sabino’s Coffee

image via yelp

Sabino’s Coffee is right off the 580 in San Leandro, and it’s yet another suburban gem. It’s totally unassuming, but when you walk in, you can tell they mean business. This was perhaps my favorite iced coffee during my entire vacation—VERY high praise. They also serve Vietnamese coffee, which my fiancé is obsessed with, so that’s a huge selling point. Also—pro tip—this café is hella cheap. I paid around $5 for a prepared iced coffee, a hot Vietnamese coffee, and a to-go black iced with no ice (which made us 2 cups later in the afternoon). Coffee is obscenely expensive in California, so this was a breath of fresh air. If you live in the East Bay you have to drop by Sabino’s.

Porky’s Pizza Palace

I don’t have any pictures of Porky’s since I didn’t technically “go” here, but this was my fiancé’s late cousin’s favorite pizza place, so on the anniversary of his death we ordered their pizza as part of a weekend-long celebration of him. It was really special to be a part of such an emotional family gathering.

I can see why Porky’s was his favorite though. This pizza is so legit. The veggie is outstanding—it’s absolutely smothered with veggies, from fried eggplant to artichoke hearts. I hear they also have an amazing selection of beers—something we’ll have to put to the test next time.

image via google

Rasputin Music

Okay, so technically this is in San Lorenzo, but it’s right on the line. We went to four Rasputin locations (this one, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Pleasant Hill). This place rules. Can’t you tell from the smile on his face?

He was pretty jazzed up when he finally found his beloved Selda CD.
He was pretty jazzed up when he finally found his beloved Selda CD.

Rasputin is a used CD-buyers wet dream. I bought a Joni Mitchell CD in perfect condition for $0.95. They have thousands upon thousands of CDs priced from $0.50. I think we spend the bulk of our travel money at record stores.

And last, but certainly not least…

In-N-Out Burger is a California institution. It is both the only fast food I will eat AND the only meat I will voluntarily eat. I make sure to swing by once every time I’m on the West Coast. Not everyone shares my rabid enthusiasm for this burger joint, but it definitely has a cult following. I got a t-shirt when I was there. No judgment!

 in-n-out offers computer/iphone backgrounds on their website. bless. source: http://www.in-n-out.com/downloads/wallpaper.aspx?f=1024x768/1024x768x-1.jpg
in-n-out offers computer/iphone backgrounds on their website. bless. click through for source.

Fuck a golden arch. In-N-Out is Where-It’s-At. Two words: Animal Style.

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From all appearances, it seems like all I did in California was eat and drink coffee. It’s not very far from the truth, but we did spend a little bit of time in nature. But that’s a topic for another post.

Until next time,

DellaBites

P.S. Shout out to Peet’s for being as common in the Bay as Dunks is here. We’ve got to class it up, Boston. Peet’s is the shit.

*All images are my own unless otherwise noted.