Friday, September 16, 2011

The Perfect (Seasonal) Coffee

Image: Stuart Miles /
Well, we're into autumn in full swing (when is the first day of autumn anyway?...for me it's always been right after Labour Day, but that's probably just a Thunder Bay thing), and that means a whole season is coming up that's buried in apples and pumpkins, and right around the corner from that...CHRISTMAS!!

Yeah, I'm stupid for Christmas. It's just a fact. And I'll be sharing some of my favourite holiday recipes on here as well...but not yet.

First I want to just give you some ideas for spicing up your morning coffee. You can go all-out with the full version at the end, or try this simple one:

To reduce your sugar intake, increase fat burning and add a little protein all you need to do is swap in some stevia for your sugar, add a dash of cinnamon, and replace your regular milk with almond milk. The almond milk does change the flavour a bit (for the better, I think), as it has a mild nut flavour to it. You'd be surprised how much sugar a couple spoons of sugar and a dash of milk really amounts to, and using stevia and almond milk will eliminate this altogether.

The cinnamon acts as a catalyst for your metabolism and affects insulin senistivity, so any starches you do consume at breakfast don't trigger storage the way they normally would (at least, not to the same extent). This combination is really tasty, but if you live in a more northern climate there's something else that happens when you taste cinnamon during cooler months. Studies are showing that cinnamon + cooler air = feeling really good.

Weird, right? But you know how certain foods trigger certain memories? We call this "comfort food," and it turns out that even if you're not from a cooler climate originally, the taste of cinnamon has this calming effect, which in turn releases chemicals that give the user a sense of wellbeing. You just feel better about life in general, because it reduces stress hormones and improves your mood. It's not that cinnamon does this directly as a chemical reaction (the way chocolate does), but rather that the scent of cinnamon triggers that emotional response which in return provides some psychological benefit, which in another turn lowers blood pressure, reduces the heart rate, and generally picks up your mood for the day.

Or maybe it's just a reminder of mom's apple pie. I'm good with either explanation. But I'd rather have the pie.

A note of caution: Don't overdo the sprinkle of cinnamon. It's a hard substance, and won't actually dissolve in your coffee. If you leave it sit too long, or you add too much, it will form a sludge at the bottom of your cup. Just a dash.

This is important for my full-blown "Christmas Coffee" recipe below. The reason for putting the spices on top of the coffee is that they will form a sludge if you put them in first with the ground coffee on top. This will clog the filter and cause it to overflow. Learned that the hard way.

This recipe took a lot of trial and error, and like most things that I make up in the kitchen is probably still a work in progress. Start with this and adjust as needed to your own taste. But don't add cinnamon to your cup if you do it this way!

To make a 10-cup pot of Steve's Christmas Coffee, use whatever mix you normally use for a regular pot (I grind my Kicking Horse beans fresh for each pot--usually a half-cup of beans for a 10-cup pot).

Put the coffee in the filter basket FIRST. On top of the ground coffee, add 1/3 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. of ground cloves and 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg. To the coffee pot itself add 1/4 tsp. of vanilla. My preference is to add the vanilla to the empty pot before it starts brewing (so I don't forget, which I always do). If your coffee maker heats up the hotplate too quickly (so that it burns the vanilla before any water hits it), you can add the vanilla to the pot of brewed coffee instead.

Enjoy! (and merry pre-Christmas!!)


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