The Modern Latte Goldilocks

pumpkinOK, enough messing around — I have found the perfect pumpkin spice latte. I know you’re all chuckling to yourselves right now, probably shaking your heads sadly as you realize yes, I’m obsessing about a tasty seasonal drink again. But since you all know me well enough to know my quirkiness and coffee devotion is just another of my cutesy quirks, humor me for, oh, one more blog post. (Or a few more — it depends on how much I’d like to wax philosophical here. I’m thinking very much.)

My friend Kelly’s birthday was this past weekend and, devoted friend that I am, I forgot. In order to make it up to her, I hopped in my car and got myself over to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts this morning. I managed to get inside with all of my appendages, which was a miracle in itself — those people in the drive-through line do not play. I was pretty sure one angry SUV driver was going to mow me down as I dared to cross in front of him to, you know, get inside the shop. I can barely open my eyelids too, people. Let’s play nice.

So I narrowly make it inside, order Kelly’s birthday donuts and casually glance around at all the brightly-colored ads around the store advertising — what else? — the pumpkin-flavored stuff they have. I resisted the temptation to get a pumpkin donut or muffin but the allure of a frothy, delicious latte was way more than I could handle. I may put on a great show, but my self-restraint can only take me so far!

And let me tell you — it’s perfection. Yes, I will boldly say that Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin spice latte is the best pumpkin spice latte. Ever. Starbucks’ is great, yes — and I do enjoy the frappuccino version, too. But it’s got a tinge of bitterness to it and, no matter how much cream or sugar you pour in that puppy, you’re always very much aware that you’re drinking coffee. And Panera’s latte? Yummy, yes, but it’s actually overly sweet. Like licking pumpkin syrup from the bottom of the cup. Much more of a dessert than anything.

So here I am: Meg, the Modern Latte Goldilocks. Because Dunkin’s version? Oh, yes — it’s just right.

Do yourself a favor and grab one. Like, today, if you can. Because I have a feeling a nationwide Dunkin’ Donuts latte shortage will be happening in the very near future . . . because, you know, I’m really thirsty. And fall comes but once a year!

Just can’t beat the peach milkshake

peach_milkshakeLooking for a little slice of heaven during the hot, sticky days of summer? Travel no further than your local Chick-Fil-A, where I gained about 10 pounds on Tuesday consuming one of the most delicious confections mankind could dream up.

Oh, yes — I’m talking about the Great Peach Milkshake. I’m happy to report that this delicious treat is available in both a small and large size, but that “small” will just about make you bust a gut regardless. And to be honest, the calorie count isn’t too different for both of them (I say just go for the gusto).

News of the Great Peach Milkshake spread like wildfire around my office a few weeks ago. Chick-Fil-A wisely ran an ad in our paper, and Brandon stuck it on a message board near our collective desks. He was the first to try one and kind enough to let me get a taste. That spoonful was enough to send me over the edge . . . but as I’m working hard to get in shape, I dutifully refrained. Even when I went to lunch with my cousin and grandmother last week, I steadfastly refused their kind offers to get my own shake — which required Herculian self-control I didn’t know I possessed!

But I cracked.

Oh, I cracked.

Crumbled. Completely betrayed myself, consuming a peach milkshake on Tuesday with the ferocity of my dog around a full, unattended plate of barbeque chicken (he knows good BBQ, what can I say?).

And it was worth every whipped-cream-covered, cherry-rich, fruity spoonful! It reminded me so much of this amazing peach ice cream I once had from a local market with my sister and grandmother — completely intoxicating! (Maw Maw, if you’re reading this, it’s impossible to forget that dessert!)

My only caution? Don’t check out the nutrition facts — it’s hard to forget what has been painfully revealed! (But if you’re not the type to respond well to mandates, click here.)

Drinking on the job

drinksIn keeping with my recent thoughts on vices, I have yet another confession to make: I like to drink.

But not alcohol, mind you — oh, no. Not interested. I mean flavored tea, sparkling water, diet cola, Red Bull, hot tea, coffee, espresso, lattes, fruit punch, Sprite, and . . .

I’m sure you can see where I’m doing with this!

On my desk at any given time, you’ll see a littering of cans, bottles and mugs. I’ve tried to keep this under control — honestly — but, well, I get a smidge lazy about my recycling and have a tendency not to dispose of things as fast as I should! Since we don’t have a designated recycling program at my office, I store everything until I can drag it all home in bags for curbside pick-up. And that process can take months — especially when I have something like the above snapshot on my desk daily!

I guess I should be thankful that I’m not a chronic work snacker. I purposely don’t keep any junk food within arm’s reach, choosing instead to shove a mug of tea into my grasping fingers. Any nearby crackers, chips or popcorn would be swallowed whole in a matter of seconds — and that’s why I have to keep all forms of delicious candy away from me, too! (I’m sure my incredibly good-looking dentist would approve.)

And now I’ll return to guzzling my kiwi watermelon spring water from Archer Farms, followed quickly by half a can of Red Bull. Good day to you!

New tea lattes at Starbucks

tea_lattesStarbucks never ceases to come up with amazingly enticing drinks and drag me, cold and unwilling to part with my cash, into their cafes! The newest creation? Tazo Tea Lattes featuring flavors as delicious-sounding as Apple Chai, London Fog and Vanilla Rooibos. Can I even pronounce “Rooibos”? No. Will that stop me from storming in this weekend, passing over my awesome coupon for a free drink and my handy gift card from Nichole? Absolutely not! Being the ridiculous Anglophile that I am, I’m sure I’ll take photos with my “London Fog” drink, too.

I’ll report back with my in-depth drink analysis and photo shoot pics. And in order to have a truly comprehensive discussion, I just might have to try all three! Let’s do this.

Gingerbread makes way for gingersnap

gingersnap_latteMy realization of this is probably way late, but where is the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks? In November I stumbled into a store with my boyfriend, bleary-eyed and cold in D.C., and got that momentary jolt of anticipation thinking I could find my beloved Gingerbread drink. And what did I find? Something called . . . the Gingersnap Latte. Really? Gingersnap? With crystallized pieces of ginger? Doesn’t really sound that tasty to me.

But I had to try it, of course — and I’ve had it once more since then. It’s okay. Nothing to write home about — or blog about, since that’s more likely — but decent. It still boasts the frightening nutrition facts I’m used to — 13 grams of fat in a grande (small) with 2% milk; 42 carbohydrates — but does have 11 grams of protein. I can deal with that; I usually don’t drink lattes as meals anymore! Being away from the bookstore has had one positive effect . . . on my weight and my wallet. Though the ginger burns my throat a little.

On the bright gingerbread side, I can still grab my beloved drink at our Seattle’s Best Coffee at Borders . . . and I get a gingerbread man cookie inside the drink. On top of the whipped cream!

If I were feeling adventurous, I could actually make a Gingerbread Latte at home. Lots of recipes are circulating the Internets, but this one looked fairly simple. I don’t have the right the equipment nor the know-how, but for those of you who may be inclined to whip up this seasonal favorite on the weekend and have an espresso machine (lucky!), please see below . . . after the jump!

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Fluffy hot chocolate — yep, I’m in!

hot_chocolate I’ve decided there are some things I need more of in my life — and some things I need far less of! And landing squarely in the “must have more!” category is hot chocolate.

As the weather starts getting colder and I can no longer find my beloved pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, I have to get crazy and find something new to enjoy. I am a fan of hot apple cider and various other caffeinated drinks, but I don’t think anything can beat the feeling of holding a mug of delicious, simmering chocolate with a huge dollop of whipped cream or, if you hang out around my house, tons and tons of mini marshmellows.

Now, I’m no hot chocolate snob. I grab the Swiss Miss and pour in the little dehydrated marshmellow bits as often as the next drink lover. In fact, some of my all-time favorite hot chocolate moments involve drinks using just hot water, a mug, some chocolate powder and a microwave.

When it snows in Southern Maryland, things basically shut down. We’re not well equipped for cold weather or, as the case may be, ice covering our driveways, roads and places of employment. So when the first few flakes would fall and the blessing of all blessings would be sounded out on the radio and TV — A SNOW DAY! — Kate and I would grab our boots, shovels and big coats and pad out to help Dad dig out the driveway. And after the labor was done, of course, it was time for . . . hot chocolate. With tons and tons of marshmellows!

I think maybe I’ll do something crazy this year, though — making hot chocolate. From scatch. With milk . . . on a stovetop! I know, I’m thinking big these days! But here’s a cool recipe, submitted by Jo Ann Schimcek, I found on Allrecipes.com — my go-to for matters such as these. Sounds easy enough that even I could do it . . . hopefully. And it has melted marshmellows!:

Fluffy Hot Chocolate

hot_chocolate_recipe

Ingredients:
• 8 teaspoons sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking cocoa
• 4 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs.

Must have sweet tea

I’m somewhat of a tea fanatic — hot tea, cold tea, even lukewarm tea. White, green, black. Sweet, unsweet, fresh brewed, canned, bottled . . . All delicious. All equally appealing.

One of my favorite lunch break treats is the 23 oz. can of Arizona “Southern Style” Sweet Tea. Yes — 23 whole, delicious ounces. This is a seriously large can of tea. Even still, I plunk it down on my desk and ration out my sips appropriately. If I grab lunch from a local sub shop at noon, picking up my usual roast beef sandwich and Arizona tea, will the can last me the four or so hours left in the work day once I get back?

Disappointingly, the answer is no. I think I’m going to have to start getting two cans. Or rinsing out my office mug more so I can actually have hot tea in the afternoons . . . That would actually be quite pleasant, I think. Hot tea? You can could freeze whole slabs of meat in our office. It’s the balmy temperature of a subzero freezer . . .

And as further proof of my tea obsession, please see the below photographic evidence from a recent outing with my mom and sister:

Before . . .

Before . . .

. . . After

. . . After

And we drank straight out of the pitchers. That is dedication! Hey, it was a barbeque place . . . Before you start thinking I completely lack decorum . . .