Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ice Ice Baby!

If you haven't heard, the East Coast is having a heat wave. I swear I don't think I've been able to open the windows in my beautiful new house more than five times since the beginning of June. So I COULD write about something that would require turning on my stove. Or...

I could write about ice!

Ice made out of anything but water, to be exact. I was inspired by an article I found in Food Network magazine about all the things you can use to make ice: juice, soda, coffee, flavored water (which, I mean, duh! How come this article took so long to come into my life?!) Because I'll tell you something - I hate ice. I mean, I love it for some purposes, but NOT in my drinks. For one thing, I feel like I have to maneuver around the ice to get my drink, and I hate picking through my food. Secondly, ice waters down the drink - there's no two ways about it. But ice made out of Coca-Cola doesn't water down my Jack and Coke at all. When it melts, it tastes like Coke. It's like magic!

We've learned a few things about making ice out of non-water liquids.
1) In order to make ice from things other than water, you need to have good ice cube trays. Because occasionally, if you are trying to pop out one ice cube at a time, you may need to use a butter knife to pry the ice cubes out and with cheaper plastic you can chip your tray. We had some from the dollar store that started to chip and put little blue pieces of plastic in our drinks. Ew. I bought mine at target for $1.50 each. It’s worth it.
2) Some ice trays aren't made well and when you try to stack them on top of each other, one falls into the other, squeezing the liquid out all over your freezer. I recommend cutting a piece of cardboard and laying that between the ice trays - I used the cardboard from the bottom of a case of water bottles.
3) Coffee is sticky when frozen. I have no idea why. I didn't sweeten it before I froze it. But I’m not going to do the research to find out why because you don’t really care and neither do I. Just trust me – it’s sticky.

These days, my own home-made iced coffee is the reason I freeze coffee into cubes. It saves me money, but it does add a few more minutes to my morning routine, which I'll admit I am not crazy about: I am running out the door with no time to spare in the morning just like everyone else. However, avoiding spending 4 bucks on an iced coffee and being able to control what goes into my latte makes it worth it. Here's what I do:

Bonnie's Faux Vanilla Iced Latte
1/2 cup Strong brewed coffee (or if you have an espresso machine, more power to you)
1 cup 1% Milk
Three Coffee Ice Cubes
Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup (or whatever - even just sweetener would be good.)
16 oz. Stainless Steel Thermos

Prep coffee maker: I use Chock Full of Nuts brand and use 1 TBL per .5 cups water. Turn the coffee pot on, make yourself some breakfast. The coffee will brew quickly.
Once coffee has finished brewing, turn off the machine. If you have time, leave the coffee in the pot. If not, pour coffee into a glass or ceramic vessel, anything that will allow the coffee to cool quickly - stainless steel is NOT good for this. Coffee should cool enough in about 15 minutes in a regular coffee mug, although, without a spout, you will need to be creative about how you pour it into the thermos.
Add coffee ice cubes to thermos and chill the thermos with cap on for 10 minutes or more, if possible.
Add cooled coffee.
Add Milk
Add Syrup.
Shake or swirl as your cap allows.

Take that, Starbucks! Just kidding, I still love you. But as a lady on a budget, I love being able to enjoy a cold coffee drink in the morning and spending my money on other things - and I really enjoy this drink as much as an iced latte from a coffee shop. Honest!

A note on the stainless steel thermos: if you have a coffee mug that has a stainless steel veneer on the outside and plastic on the inside, I hate to break it to you, but you don't own a stainless steel thermos. With this drink, you'd probably enjoy it fast enough that you wouldn't need a thermos, but a word to the wise: stainless steel thermoses are awesome and WORTH the money. The model I own keeps coffee that I poured in at 6:00AM hot until 4:00PM - no joke!

A thermos, or "vacuum flask", must boast a stainless steel INSIDE as well as a thermal "vacuum" that makes a thermos, well, a thermos! Wikipedia let's us know what's up:
A vacuum flask, colloquially called a thermos after a genericized ubiquitous brand, is a storage vessel which provides thermal insulation by interposing a partial vacuum between the contents and the ambient environment. The evacuated region of the partial vacuum removes material that could serve as a heat conductor or carrier, enabling the flask to keep its contents hotter or cooler than its surroundings.

Sounds fancy, eh? Yet, so simple...

Two models we currently own, both with pros and cons:
Klean Kanteen Dishwasher safe, but the sippy cap is not also insulated, so your coffee will warm up or cool down faster than...
Nissan Thermos NOT Dishwasher safe so it's gotten some stains that can't be scrubbed off after two years. However, this is the model I use, and you really can't beat the insulation. PLUS, the lock is so durable that you can turn it upside-down or throw it in a purse, and it won't leak. The only time it's ever leaked on me is when I didn't dry the threads of the screw-top thoroughly before putting on the lid. It's pretty sweet. There are lots of models on Amazon, with varying prices and colors.

I apologize for the longer post but in the name of coffee and perfect mixed drinks, I feel we must be thorough! Now go make yourself some ice cubes of your favorite mixer and get ready to enjoy your drink from beginning to end, no matter how long you sip. :)

See you next time! And if you try to the "faux latte", post how you made yours in the comments!