The Blonde Cuban

Blonde Cuban

So it’s about time I tell you about my new job…. my new job that I’ve had for almost 4 months. Yes, your favorite starving artist has done the cliche starving artist thing and got a night job working as a barista at a local hipster coffee hang known as the Bourgeois Pig. I have to say, I really lucked out. The shop is literally on the same block as my apartment. I walk 20 seconds to the end of my street and I’m at work. I make people coffee, sass them up, get some laughs, and generally have a great time while making some extra cash. I’ve even met a few producers and film makers – hot damn. It really is the perfect job both for my life (bank account) and my personality. And of course, I get hands on experience in a whole new culinary realm.

Funnily enough I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, particularly not espresso (we are exclusively and espresso bar btw). Generally it’s too intense and bitter for me, but I do love things that TASTE like coffee… like ice cream… and ice cream…. It should come as no surprise that a few weeks in I began to experiment with my own concoctions. The single life-changing discovery that I owe to the Pig is the Cuban Coffee – a shot of espresso that is made with cinnamon and raw sugar layered into the actual espresso. It’s divine. But, being the coffee wuss that I am, I needed to make it into a latte to really be able to enjoy it. Thus, my signature drink was born: the Blonde Cuban. It’s an iced double shot Cuban latte with two pumps of vanilla made with almond milk. Refreshing, a little sweet, with that essence of cinnamon running through. Yum. Stop on by and I’ll make you one. More to come I’m sure…

Purple Smoothie

Purple SmoothieDid you know that foods that are naturally purple (like blueberries or acai berries) are exceptionally high in antioxidants are therefore are super good for you? It’s true. Back in 2010 when I first began my weight loss journey, before I discovered juicing, I would have a purple smoothie every morning with a slice of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread. It is such a good breakfast. In fact I may just have to start doing it again.

Blend all of the ingredients below in a magic bullet or whatever blender system you have. I specify the Sambazon variety of acai berry juice because this is the brand they carry at Costco – it’s 2 bottles for $10, whereas one bottle will run you around $7 at Whole Foods. I also get all my frozen berries at Costco. Usually I buy one of their huge bags of frozen strawberries and either frozen blackberries or whatever berry blend they have available. It lasts for weeks and is such a good bang for your buck. As far as bananas go, the more ripe the better. If you like your smoothies extra thick and cold you can freeze the bananas once they’re ripe and add them to  your smoothie that way. At the end of the day, it’s your smoothie, so put in whatever you like – I’d love to hear your variations!

The Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup Sambazon acai berry juice
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 large frozen strawberry
  • 1 generous squeeze of honey
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground flaxseed
  • pinch of old fashioned rolled oats
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

Now I am not an advocate of protein powders and the like because at the end of the day they are super processed products that your body will have trouble digesting. However, if you must, this smoothie will be a perfect vehicle for that or any kind of powdered or liquid supplement you take.

The Green Secret

Green Juice ArrayHave you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and just feel thinner? That sensation that your body is shrinking from the inside out and you know when you get on that scale the numbers are going to be down. This has happened to me two days in a row… and it feels beyond fantastic. After battling with my body for weeks I feel that I finally have it under control and I am finally reaping the benefits of all my hard work. Alleluia!

Now is the perfect time to talk about one of my “secrets” (though it really isn’t a secret) and that is juicing. Green juice to be exact. I know many people cringe at the thought of drinking juiced kale or spinach. And rightfully so – by itself that sh*t is nasty. But when you combine greens with the right blend of fruits and other veggies, it becomes a refreshing, healing elixir that you’ll never want to live without. I have juice for my breakfast pretty much every day – I find I get the most out of it in the morning on an empty stomach. When I’m really feeling ambitious I will also juice for either lunch or dinner. The philosophy behind juicing this is that you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients of an entire bushel of fruits and vegetables – an amount you could never eat in one sitting – condensed into a beverage that you can drink down in no time and will be easily absorbed into your body.

If you’re a long time follower of my blog, you may recall a post from many months ago where I spoke of my recipe for the magic green elixir. I have since changed my recipe and I think it’s a winner:

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 2 or 3 leaves of beet greens (see below)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 beet
  • 2-3 small apples
  • a 1-inch chunk of ginger
  • 1 lemon

When I buy beets they come with huge beautiful greens attached to them. Instead of throwing them away, I juice a few stalks along with the kale. It’s delicious. Also when blueberries are in season I will juice them in here as well for an antioxidant boost – it’s phenomenal. I also have been adding an aloe solution to my juice for an extra cleansing kick. I use Herbalife’s aloe, but I am sure you can find a good one at Whole Foods. It may seem crazy, but I promise this will not only help you lose weight, but it will do wondrous things for your overall health.

If you’re in need of a juicer, I highly recommend this Breville on amazon for $150. Its feed tube is extra wide so you can put in whole apples and cucumbers and carrots without having to cut anything up in advance. Considering it’s a product I use every single day, the price is a super deal.

If you’re still in need of convincing, you can read about some of the benefits here. I also highly recommend checking out a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This film is what turned me on to juicing in the first place and presents a very compelling real-life case for making juicing a part of your life.

Quick Fresh Ginger Ale

Quick Fresh Ginger AleSo this has been a week focused on digestion… yeah. It’s never a fun thing to have to think too much about, but such is my life. This morning I took a mental survey of anything that I could eat or drink that could possibly aid me in my gastro turmoil. It’s pretty well known that ginger does wondrous things for ailments, particularly the tummy. For some reason when I thought of ginger, I was reminded of an absolutely sublime fresh made ginger ale I had a restaurant a few weeks ago (I’ll tell you which restaurant in another post). As I gushed over the amazingness of the ginger ale, the adorable waiter we had was very proud to report that he had made it himself. Being unable to resist my overwhelming charm, he even told me how he made it. I was astonished by the simplicity of the process and warned him that I would steal it. Today, I have. And what I love is that it has all the freshness of real ginger, all the satisfaction of drinking a soda, and yet is perfectly healthy.

Here’s what you do. Take a giant chunk of ginger, about the size of the one pictured here, and run it through a juicer. Now I know not everyone has a juicer and for those who don’t…. I got nothing, sorry. Pour 1 ounce of the juice into a 16-ounce glass. Add one tablespoon of raw organic agave syrup and mix thoroughly. Fill the rest of the glass with cold sparkling water or club soda (I used Pellegrino because I’m super classy). Voila. The freshest most refreshing ginger ale you’ve ever had, sure to help that upset tummy.

And please be warned, freshly juiced ginger is really really potent stuff. Like, it burns. No joke. So start with the ratio I’ve given you and feel free to make adjustments based on your own tastes.

Also, I highly recommend adding fresh mint or some fresh lemon juice. Yum!

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate with Mint

I realize that many of my east coast readers are experiencing their first taste of winter this week. What better time to whip out this classic.

Now when I talk about hot cocoa, I’m not talking about that packet you empty into your mug and fill with hot water. Please. I’m the starving artist – I don’t do packets. For me, hot chocolate is an art; the embodiment of winter comfort. It takes so little time, effort, and money to make it fresh. And there’s something about spending a few minutes at the stove to bring it together that brings such satisfaction. So put that packet down and let me show you the way.

All you really need to know for real homemade hot chocolate is the ratio 1:1:1. 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to 1 tablespoon of sugar. Perfect hot cocoa every time. Now if you’re like me, you never have milk in your fridge, so what I do is buy one of those little plastic pint bottles for 99 cents, which is two cups (let’s be serious, you’re going to want to drink two cups worth. Besides most mugs are well over 1 cup). I always have cocoa powder and sugar in my kitchen, so really I’m getting servings to hot cocoa for 99 cents – not too shabby. To make, I get the milk heating over medium heat in a saucepan and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently until it just comes to a boil.

Now you could stop here and you’d have decent hot cocoa, but I take it a few steps further to make it extra special. First, I take about two teaspoons of corn starch, place it in a small lidded container, add about 1 tablespoon of water, put the lid on and shake vigorously to combine. This is called a slurry and it is meant to thicken. So, just as the hot cocoa comes to a boil, I add in the slurry, then I add in one small handful of semi sweet chocolate chips. Whisk until combined and thickened. Kill the heat and you’re ready to serve… unless…

Again, you could stop here and have amazing hot cocoa, but this is where you can really spice it up. A shot or two of Baileys is always a good thing. A few drops of vanilla extract would also work well. You could put in some peppermint Schnapps or you could put in a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat. For this batch, I had a very special ingredient on hand that I found in the farmer’s market last week: chocolate mint. It’s a legitimate herb that tastes legitimately like chocolate mint. It’s amazing. After killing the heat I stirred in about 10 leaves and let it steep for about 5 minutes before serving. It was outstanding. Now I’m not proposing you go on a quest for chocolate mint – regular old mint you find at the grocery store will work beautifully here as well. Or, you can take a shortcut and just add a few drops of peppermint extract. Lovely.

Hope this helps to combat the snow! Recipe is in PDF format below

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate