My Favorite Things

I am starting a series called My Favorite Things, to showcase a few things a week that have brought joy. And while it focuses on things (sometimes), I hope that the posts translate to how joy can come from a handful of objects, and that fewer is, truly, better. It is also valuable to me that not all things are my own, neither are they all new. Lastly, not all things are physical, such as good mid-day lighting, or the first frosty morning. While it was originally created as a personal project aimed at de-cluttering my camera, always devoid of memory, it is also meant to be a weekly public reflection of my most gratifying moments. Without further adieu, here are this week’s favorites.

  1. This wreath

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… for signaling Fall at one of our favorite coffee spots.

2. This sticker

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… for re-vamping this phone case into something new.

3. This linen apron

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… for always being pretty, even when tossed haphazardly onto a chair.

4. This apple pie

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… the first of Thanskgiving pie orders from Aero Bakery.

5. These hardcover photo books

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… for a morning of perusing through mems, the makings of which were enjoyable indeed.

Cafe Nico

It’s winter time and citrus fruits abound. Sweet, juicy, and bright, the perfect contrast to gray weather and chilled bones. Hence, the perfect time to share an orange-infused latte recipe (‘cuz it’s been a while), as inspired by our favorite local coffee shop, Hopper and Burr’s. Introducing, Cafe Nico.

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This drink has it all. It starts with orange peel, simmered and candied with sugar and water to create a lusciously subtle homemade orange simple syrup. Nothing like a little zest to give you that early morning kick, much appreciated after an invigorating 6 am yoga session. A few teaspoons (plus or minus a dash) coat the bottom of a shallow mug, or better yet, a small 4 oz. glass, followed by a rich and creamy espresso pull. Currently at our house, we have the Decaf Sumatra Mandheling from Portola Coffee Roasters, with dark fruit, earthy, chocolate, and herbal notes, or the Karinga AB, also from Portola, with black currants, melon, lemon-lime, and herbal tones. The latter imparts an additional layer to this citrusy drink. To get an espresso assortment shipped to your door for everyday at-home coffee, may I recommend one of our favorite providers, Blue Bottle Coffee.

Rounding everything off, we sprinkle the top of the espresso pull with a dash of cinnamon, to add warmth to the winter season. If you are feeling up for it, I would mix in some orange zest with the cinnamon prior to adding it to the coffee. Off course, the drink wouldn’t be a latte without steamed milk. I find that the ratio of a 4 oz glass allows for equal parts orange syrup and steamed milk, which is my preferred combination. My favorite cortado cup is this black 4.5 oz Monty Milk Art Cups by Fellow. The latte will appeal to those looking for just a hint of orange zest. Whether you choose to drink in one gulp or in tiny sips, it is sure to take you to the warmer summer days ahead.

Tools You Need:

There are a few gadgets that you will need in order to make a Cafe Nico at home. These are some of our gadgets that we are impartial to.

  • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
  • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious pours ever since.
  • Espresso Machine – We own the La Marzocco Linea Mini. It is a high end espresso machine that my husband sold his motorcycle for after waiting ten years to buy it. We use it every day and are slowly earning back the money we spent buying it by not going to a coffee shop for our espresso based drinks.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 teaspoons of homemade orange simple syrup
  • 18 g of coffee of your choice, pulled as an espresso shot
  • Steamed milk of your choosing, the original recipe calls for half – and – half
  • Cinnamon (a dash)
  • Orange zest (optional)

The Process:

  1. Prior to making the coffee, I would pre-mix some orange zest (if using) with the cinnamon. The last thing you want to do is allow the coffee to cool while you scramble for this mixture. You want it to be prepared with a mesh strainer set aside or placed in a shaker for easier sprinkling.
  2. Place 4-5 teaspoons of homemade orange simple syrup at the bottom of your cup or glass. This is the part that allows you to control how citrusy and sweet the drink actually is. Mr. Debtist prefers only 3 teaspoons, whereas I almost always do the full five.
  3. Pull your espresso shot OVER the simple syrup. I use 18.5 grams of coffee ground at the setting of 6A using our Baratza grinder, extracted for 25 seconds to pull 1.5 oz of coffee.
  4. Sprinkle the top of the espresso with a dash of your cinnamon mix.
  5. Steam milk, and top off the drink.
  6. Allow this drink to get you through the winter. Summer is coming.

Frozen Sweet Latte Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It’s summer in Southern California, and my frugal self can’t help but turn on the AC once the loft nears 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In a moment of weakness (I blame the heat), we went to our favorite local coffee shop in Santa Ana last Sunday, to reap the benefits of their AC in lieu of turning ours on. Which also is a confession for: we ordered coffee at a coffee shop, something we haven’t done in a while. Despite the regrets of spending $11 in exchange for two hours of AC time (we stayed until closing hour), we were introduced to a splendid drink, which they call the Frozen Sweet Latte.

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Hopper and Burr’s Frozen Sweet Latte

The drink comes from a slushie machine, and while $5.50 a glass seems like a steep price, the joys of sipping one of these babies as icy crystals twinkle on your tongue is indescribable. It’s enough to evaporate any heat wave (well, the AC in the shop helped). Regardless, once we had a taste of their medicine, we just knew we had to replicate it, or at least try. Hence, the sharing of a similar, but slightly different, frozen sweet latte recipe. Without a slushie machine, we made up for their textured ice crystals with a more distinct taste of espresso. Here’s how you could avoid paying for coffee, and sit through another hot afternoon in a blazing room.

Makes 6 servings

Things you need:

    • Blender – You’ll need a blender to mix all this goodness right before serving. Having worked at Jamba Juice for almost two years, a blender was one of the first things to go on our registry. No Annie Banks Mackenzie crying over a blender as a wedding gift here (Father of the Bride fans, anyone?). This is the one we own.
    • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
    • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious cups of Joe ever since.
    • Espresso MachineThe La Marzocco Linea Mini is the machine we use for our espressos. It’s a high quality machine, and the price point reflects it. However, for my frugal readers who happen to buy an espresso drink every day, it will take approximately three years to come out even in terms of money spent on coffee. Just in case you care about the math.
    • Freezer safe bowl – Honestly, we just use a glass Tupperware to store the coffee in the freezer. We have a Tupperware set similar to this one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of espresso
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 cups of crushed ice

The Process:

  1. Pull 1 cup of espresso from the espresso machine. We had to pull approximately 4 espresso shots, at 20 grams of freshly ground coffee beans extracted at 25 seconds each shot.
  2. Pour the espresso in a freezer safe bowl. Add the sugar and mix until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add 1/2 a cup of milk.
  4. Freeze in the freezer for at least 8 hours.
  5. Thaw slightly in the fridge right before use. We placed it in the fridge for approximately one hour.
  6. Transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup of milk. Add 6 cups of crushed ice (depending on the consistency you want).
  7. Blend on high until thoroughly mixed. We still wanted some crushed ice pieces in there.
  8. Pour into 6 glasses. Sprinkle with freshly ground coffee.
  9. Enjoy with a metal straw.

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The Verdict:

Our version is definitely not as light as theirs, but if you really like the taste of coffee, the flavor stands out more in this version. If you could budget out $5.50 a glass, it’s still worth trying out their slushie machine version at Hopper and Burr. Really, the texture is better than ours! The owner, Severson, is doing other pretty neat stuff worth checking out too.