Posted in Beverages, Coffee!, Mom Life, Recipes

Mid-Afternoon Mocha (AKA My Motherhood Essential)

It is no secret to those of you who have been reading for awhile that I love coffee. In fact, even if you’re new to the blog, the title and the cover photo make that pretty easy to decipher. What you may not know is that I didn’t really drink coffee until I became a teacher. Yes, I drank a variety of steamed milk beverages throughout high school and college (ah yes, the days of Dunkaccinos- anyone else?? Do those even exist anymore??) but I didn’t pick up the true coffee habit until my first year of teaching in DC. Then in the years following the habit evolved into nothing short of a passion. Of course as many of you know, I had to make the switch to decaf around Fall 2015 because my body suddenly decided caffeine was no longer a friend, but a foe. The silver lining is that I didn’t have to make a switch to decaf during the early days of my pregnancy, and no one found it at all suspicious that I was drinking decaf before I shared the news. See, there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough…or wait awhile.

Coffee = Love.
(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

Anyway, fast forward last Spring and again another big life change only deepened my love of/passion for the gift that is coffee.  I know so many people warn you that there is no tired quite like parents of a newborn tired, and while I do agree with that assertion, I think people leave out an important piece of the parenting puzzle: the sleep deprivation continues. Is it better than those newborn days? Absolutely. You will get more than a 90-minute stretch of sleep (hopefully). But at least in those early days, you’re likely on maternity and/or paternity leave, there are plenty of people offering meals, laundry help, etc. and you hopefully started out without a massive sleep deficit (unless you’re one of the unlucky ones like myself who didn’t sleep super well toward the end of pregnancy). As your baby progresses through all the challenges of growth spurts, travel, teething, and the “insert-month-here” sleep regression, the sleep deprivation only continues to accumulate. Not to mention, you might be back at work and you don’t have a newborn anymore so people expect you to be a functioning member of society again and usually aren’t showing up at your door with random casseroles and offers of assistance.

So what do you have to sustain you- aside from the cutest little snuggle-bunny you could hope for? That’s right, coffee. And thankfully for me, since Little Man was born my body decided it was more than fine with caffeine again. So coffee and I now have an even closer relationship, something I wasn’t sure was even possible. I am also fortunate because I live in a city. There are five coffee shops (soon to be 6) within a half-mile walk from my front door. We still brew a large pot at home every morning, but sometimes when I need that mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Little Man and I trek to one of the local establishments for a breath of fresh air and a dose of caffeine. However, as in most of the country, this winter has been a cruel one in Boston. Not to mention when you’re living in one of America’s most expensive cities, #budget factors in. So lately I’ve developed a bit of an afternoon naptime routine: Little Man goes down for his nap and I enjoy a delicious homemade Mocha, usually while I run around trying to get a few things done, emails sent, and phone calls made without interruption. (I’m a part-time Director of Religious Education for a local parish this year so the at-work hours are great, but it leaves some administrative tasks for naptime.) Granted that means the days when Little Man skips his afternoon nap can be doubly difficult, but such is life with a little one.

Every once in awhile I savor a moment of calm during naptime.
Given the fact that winter has lasted quite long this year, I have had plenty of time to try out different recipes and have finally arrived at one that I love: it is simple, quick, and delicious. Granted, I am fortunate to have some fantastic coffee accoutrements at my discretion thanks to our wedding registry and various gifts from family. All you need is cocoa powder, sugar, hot water, milk of your preference (almond for me!), and espresso!
Mommy’s Magnificent Mid-Afternoon Mocha (only 5 ingredients!)
 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon hot water
3/4 cup almond milk*
double shot of espresso

1) First mix equal parts cocoa powder and sugar in the bottom of your mug. I personally use a little less than a tablespoon of each for my perfect taste but you may need to adjust according to your own taste.

2) Add a teaspoon of hot water so that the cocoa powder and sugar create a mocha syrup of sorts.

3) Heat 3/4 cup of almond milk* in a frother and start brewing your espresso.
(You can just warm it but I promise the frother makes a big difference!)

DeLonghi EC702 espresso maker

Chef’s Star milk frother
4) I pour half of the espresso into the mug, then add the milk, and then add the remainder of the espresso. I like to think it better distributes the taste 🙂

5) Mix and enjoy!!

*I feel like I need to give a strong recommendation regarding the almond milk. I have made many a beverage over the years with various brands of almond milk and the frothing never really works. Even baristas at coffee shops will warn me that almond milk doesn’t really do that. However, I recently found these two varieties which create the kind of froth I used to only visualize in my dreams of dairy-filled days gone by. 
#1 personal favorite: Mooala!
My personal runner-up: So Delicious Organic Almondmilk

Wherever you are in life right now- whether it’s an actual baby keeping you awake, an older “baby” that still has your heart and your worries, or a proverbial baby (like a start-up, a new job, a new life adventure, etc.) that keeps your mind racing at night, consider me your personal cheerleader. You’re not alone, there are countless others sitting up with you in the dark at 3 AM, and it will all be worth it in the end. And in the mean time, we have coffee.

I offer this as just one caffeine-filled option to brighten your day (and your eyelids). And though every once in awhile, an outing to your favorite local coffee joint is a much-needed treat, this should carry you over through the other days…and leave a much smaller dent in your bank account. The next time you find yourself fighting that mid-afternoon energy battle, brew yourself a hot cup of mocha deliciousness and think of me doing the same in my little corner of the world.  Cheers to you, my friend. May your coffee be hot, your body be re-energized, and your (probably brief) moment of calm be beautiful.

Posted in Beverages

Polar Vortex…or Perfect Storm??

If you’re reading this from, well pretty much anywhere in the United States, chances are you are bundled up in layers, curled up near the fire, hugging the space heater, etc. There’s no other way to say it: IT. IS. COLD. Though I must say between the term “polar vortex” and watching the giddy news reporters bundle up in layers to report on location, I have found this whole phenomenon to be rather entertaining. It also makes me exponentially aware of how lucky I am to have heat and a warm shower.
Of course, there is one realization I had this week that was accompanied by a twinge of sadness…no more Swiss Miss hot chocolate. To me, those little packets are synonymous with snowstorms and cold weather. I remember many a childhood snow day spent sledding, then removing snow pants, boots, plastic bags, gloves, hats, etc., dumping them into the dryer and running to the kitchen for some delicious hot cocoa.

Well this week has proven to be a bit different than those beautiful childhood memories of snow days. Little Blue has yet to return to me (if you didn’t get to read my previous post, he’s getting outfitted with a transmission that’s willing to face 2014). He’s a smart little guy…choosing the coldest week in 2 decades to hide out in a garage where no one forces him to drive in subzero temperatures. However his gain has certainly been my…well let’s call it adventure. I was out the door at 6 AM both Saturday and Sunday to make the mile and a half trek to my shift at the hospital. Now remember I love to run; thus,  typically a mile and a half walk is a welcome treat and a great way to start a day. Well I must say I learned a few things this weekend: 1) A mile and a half walk is not a treat when the ground is covered in snow and ice. It also takes significantly longer than a brisk fall mile and a half trek    2) Some residents around here are not the best shovelers. I forget I was spoiled in the Poconos where shoveling is an art mastered by the age of 10;    3) This city does not have enough streetlights. Seriously, people. Black ice is hard enough to see when there is light, let alone when there isn’t! I fell twice. And it gets worse. I had received the most AMAZING Christmas gift. It’s a Starbucks coffee thermos but it’s magical. When you bring it into any Starbucks during the month of January, they fill it with coffee FOR FREE. Any Starbucks, anytime. For a whole month!! Well on my 2nd trip down to the ground, that empty thermos fell out of my bag and, as I focused on breaking my own fall, it rolled away into the street where of course it was promptly run over by a pick-up truck. My month of free coffee was gone in the blink of an eye, transformed into shards of plastic splintered all over a dark, icy road.

Not the best beginning to a new year I must say. However I forged onward, confident that things would turn around. Well, today 2014 took another interesting twist. My phone rang after school today and it was the director of my apartment complex. They completed a routine radon gas testing 2 weeks ago in my building…yep, you guessed it: my apartment failed. There are elevated radon levels which need immediate attention. They’re coming tomorrow to inspect and determine whether it can be fixed in a timely manner. If not, I’m packing my bags again. Granted, it will be to another apartment in this same complex…but still. I FINALLY had unpacked almost every box.

So now I’m in a waiting game. I’ve decided to rename 2014 the Perfect Storm Year. In just 7 days I’d say it has certainly lived up to that title. Don’t worry, it’s still the Year of Love too…I mean through it all, I am still lifted up by the love of the people around me who continue to make me laugh, give me rides, and take me to dinner to forget about my worries, if even for just a little while. And of course, the plus side to all of this? I’ve spent a lot of time indoors and thus mastered something that’s even better than hot cocoa. I MASTERED THE GINGERBREAD LATTE!!! I know, it’s a teeny bit late for the holiday season…but I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a sweet treat to warm up with, this is it. I curled up on my couch, this cup in one hand, grading in the other and for just a brief moment all seemed right with the world again.

Here is the recipe. Make it , enjoy it, love it. And most importantly, stay warm!!

Katie-safe Gingerbread Deliciousness/Polar Vortex Comfort Beverage
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 Tablespoon coconut sugar

Heat all of these ingredients in a saucepan until bubbling. Then pour into a cup of STRONG coffee (or espresso if you have one of those makers!) I also sprinkled some nutmeg on top.
Bonus: It smells AMAZING!!!

And if you could, please say a few prayers for Little Blue, my poor apartment…and on a more serious note, all those people who aren’t as fortunate as we are to have warm homes and hot showers, especially on these bitterly cold nights.

Come on, 2014. I still believe in you. I know you’re just waiting for 28 to arrive…I’m over 27 too 🙂