Monday, April 5, 2010

Coffee Days and a Muffin Debate

drip coffee and an iced chai latte at The One

Oh ... coffee. Can you remember when you started drinking coffee? I think I really started during my first year of university when I bought a travel mug. I was hooked. Over the years, my coffee tastes have definitely changed. I started with flavoured coffees and put tons of cream and sugar into it. Then, I think I moved on to specialty coffees - the lattes and the mochas. I remember a favourite drink of the mine at Second Cup, called the Red Eye Mocha. It was a double shot of espresso, chocolate syrup and medium roast coffee. I liked it because it was cheaper than a latte or a cappuccino, but it still felt special, plus, I could stay awake through the most boring classes. And then, the years of instant coffee. I fell into the instant coffee habit during my last years of university and my first years of teaching. To this day, the taste of instant vanilla hazelnut Nescafe brings back memories of Jean Leloup playing on the computer CD player and writing paragraphs and paragraphs on the french adverb.

Wonderful as those days were, they are all behind me. I left the specialty coffees behind (here's a great comment about specialty vs. drip coffee: scroll down till you see NONFAT LATTE drinker) and reserve them only for a special treat. The instant coffee I definitely don't miss, and was actually the reason why I only have specific "coffee days." You see, drinking a huge cup of instant coffee everyday for 2 years really takes a tole on your body. I decided that in order to appreciate coffee more, I'd have to abstain, and only have it a few times a week. Weekends are a given. What's brunch or an afternoon venting session without a cup of coffee? But during the week, coffee days are only Tuesdays and Fridays, and they are savoured to the fullest extent. And let me tell you, absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. I appreciate coffee so much more now; I've nixed the sugar, but I still put in a splash of cream, milk or soy depending on my mood, and I make it last as long as I can. My first sip of coffee on a Friday morning almost feels as if it goes straight to my veins and energizes me for the whole day. Coffee is great.

Now, you almost always need something to go with that coffee, and for me, nothing's better than a nice, healthy muffin. So, my sister has a strong opinion about muffins. She thinks that muffins are pointless because they're just as bad for you as a piece of cake, but they don't taste as good. our debate almost always goes like that:

Her: "I'd rather just have a piece of cake and totally enjoy it, than have a muffin, not enjoy it so much and still get all the extra calories."

Me: "So why don't you just get a healthy muffin?"

Her: "Healthy muffins are gross. Instead of not totally enjoying it, I just don't enjoy it at all and then what's the point? Muffins are pointless, you see?"

So, she does have a point. A lot of commercial muffins are really bad for you and don't taste that good. But the debate doesn't have to end here. What if we made delicious and healthy muffins ourselves? Wunderbar! What an idea! Coffee days just got better! I'll leave you with 2 recipes for healthy and tasty muffins (not the cupcake kind, but the kind that's both a treat and a wholesome snack) plus a list of my favourite coffee spots so you can make the most of your coffee days.

Lemony-Pink Muffins (makes 12)

1/2 cup of quick cooking oats (3-5 minute kind)
3/4 cup of buttermilk ***
1/4 cup of canola oiljuice and zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of red berry jam (raspberry, strawberry .. lingon berry from Ikea... )
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (in the bulk store, it's "whole wheat soft")
a pinch of cardamom2 tablespoons of ground flax
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

1. Put the oats, buttermilk, oil, vanilla lemon juice and zest in a large bowl and mix a
round. Let the oats soak for about 10 minutes. Go grab your coffee! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat the egg with the brown sugar and cardamom and add it to the oat mixture. Stir gently.

3. Sift in the flour, baking soda and flax. Stir until just combined. Don't over mix!

4. Add the cranberries and pumpkin seeds and give it one final mix.

5. Spoon the batter into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean and your kitchen smells lemony.

6. Enjoy with your coffee! Keeps well for a few days in an airtight container.

***I don't usually use buttermilk, but I had a carton that needed to be used up. Usually, I'd just use a mix of yogurt and milk. Although using the buttermilk gave the muffins a lighter more melt-in-your-mouth texture, I'd probably still stick to the skim yogurt and milk mixture. Choice is yours though!

See the writing on the mango? I came home one day and saw a mango-note on my kitchen counter from my Dad. If you can't read it, it says " Keep for another few days." No .. my family is NOT weird...

Tropical Mango Lime Muffins

1/2 cup of quick cooking oats
3/4 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
juice and zest of half a lime
1 large egg
1/2 cup of brown sugar (not packed)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
2 mangoes, diced up

1. Put the oats, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and lime juice and zest in a large bowl and let it soak for 10 minutes. Yay! Have another coffee! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat the egg with the brown sugar and add it to the oat mixture. Stir gently.

3. Sift in the flour and baking soda and stir until just mixed. Lumpy batter = perfect!

4. Add the mangoes and coconut and give it one final mix.

5. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

6. Enjoy, fresh from the oven and make the most of your coffee day. Keeps for about 2 days in an airtight container on the counter. Refrigerate if you're keeping them for longer (fresh fruit in muffins unrefrigerated=mold!)

Coffee days!!!
The One in the Only - chocolatey espresso, cinnamony drip coffee
Second Cup - old stand-by on weekdays, Hazelnut cream and Bavarian Chocolate and my favourites
The Coffee Tree - in the West end, saved for adventures, they roast their own beans
Nuts make the World go Round - little coffee stand in Kensington, funny owner, great brewed coffee when I need an extra one on weekdays
Tango Palace - just down the street from me, lots of interesting specialty coffee, good flavoured brewed coffee
T.A.N Coffee - very cool space, strong, strong coffee, another adventure spot in the west


  1. OMG, I love the mango note!!!! And that mango-lime muffin recipe sounds pretty yummy...and would go great with coffee. Any way to make a healthy muffin with chocolate in it? ; )

  2. thanks gigglejuice. noted: healthy chocolate muffin. i'm on it! :)