Maple Almond Latte

This Maple Almond Latte is a quick and easy way to turn an ordinary cup of coffee into something extra special!


I drink coffee every day, without fail. In fact, being a creature of habit of almost robot-level proportions, I’m a bit militant about it. Get up in the morning, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth (yes, before breakfast, I know it’s weird), make coffee. This is my essential morning routine. In fact, when my husband and I recently binge-watched our way through the TV series¬†Alone, where contestants fend for themselves in the wilderness, living off the land for up to 100 days, I wasn’t thinking so much about how much I’d miss my family and friends if I were on the show. I was thinking: I could NOT go without coffee that long.

So it’s a little strange how little I seem to experiment with the stuff. I’m a drip-coffee-plus-creamer gal to my core.

Before I got tuned in to (mostly) healthy eating and ultimately became a nutritionist, I was no stranger to the Starbucks super-sized dessert disguised as coffee. Many of my college study sessions were fueled by grande brownie frappuccinos. (The only reason they weren’t venti is I was too poor.) Once I realized that I didn’t really want to drink so many calories, though, I gradually transitioned to my standard order of coffee plus cream, even at coffee shops. Now, I’d say I get it 90% of the time.

Then again, as a foodie, I can’t help the occasional experimentation with my favorite beverage. Especially with fall at least sort of on the horizon–it arrives in Phoenix around November 15th–hot coffee calls my name with increasing frequency. Maybe there’s more I could do with my same old, same old cup of drip coffee.

Yea, verily, there is. With just a few simple ingredients, this recipe for a Maple Almond Latte is proof that it doesn’t take special equipment or fancy add-ins to elevate a simple cup of coffee into something a little more special. And, bonus–it doesn’t take that much time, either.

The latte is made simply by pouring brewed coffee over maple syrup, then adding a bit of almond extract. Milk heated in the microwave and shaken turns into the frothy stuff of lattes you’d look for at Starbucks. Dust with cinnamon for added sensory experience and you’re all set. If you’re a fan of anything maple or almond, I think you’ll dig blending the two dreamy flavors together.

My favorite part? Drinking this aromatic latte doesn’t mean taking in a whole meal’s worth of calories, or a donut’s worth of sugar. At 96 calories, it’s the perfect slightly sweet drink to pair with an afternoon snack without filling you up well past dinner.

Maple Almond Latte

A coffeeshop quality drink (with half the calories) in just 5 minutes! Sweet maple and earthy almond flavors blend perfectly with coffee.
Prep Time5 mins
Servings: 1
Calories: 96kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. brewed coffee (I used a dark roast)
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/3 c. 2% milk
  • 4 drops almond extract
  • cinnamon, to dust on top

Instructions

  • Brew coffee.
  • Wihle coffee brews, heat milk in a mason jar or other sealable container for 30-45 seconds until hot. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or until milk gets frothy.
  • Pour maple syrup into a mug, then stir in coffee, frothed milk, and almond extract. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon, if desired.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

Peach Green Smoothie

Happy New Year! I hope this holiday season has been treating you well. Get anything cool for Christmas? My husband got me a Nutribullet–aka mega blender extraordinaire. My previous blender was, shall we say, lacking in power. By which I mean it was a hunk of garbage that took 15 minutes just to make a smoothie. And since I love smoothies as an easy afternoon snack that packs in nutrients from fruits and veggies, I’ve been wanting a more capable blender for quite some time.

So far, the Nutribullet delivers! (Even though I gave my husband a hard time about buying me something so pricey and nice.)

The blender comes with a smoothie-cup attachment that screws directly onto the base, which of course is super convenient. I decided to try it out with this refreshing peach green smoothie!

I’m not usually one for green smoothies, but with holiday indulgences edging out my veggie consumption the last week or so, something green sounded like it would hit the spot. To get my eight-year-old daughter to try it with me, I told her it contained a secret ingredient that she had to guess. Once she saw the grassy green color of the smoothie, she had some pretty good guesses, like cucumber and mint–but she certainly didn’t taste the true reason for the lovely green: spinach!

Even I couldn’t tell this smooth concoction contained leafy greens.

Instead of tasting bitter or savory, this smoothie was pure refreshment. (My daughter even said she wants me to make it again.) The peach, honey, and banana shone through for an afternoon pick-me-up that made me wonder why I don’t pop spinach into more smoothies. With its fiber, calcium, and vitamins C and K, it’s a great way to get some extra nutrients around the holidays or any time. If you can’t even taste it, might as well toss it in!

And now that I have the Nutribullet, anyone want an old blender?

Green Peach Smoothie

This fruity green smoothie is so refreshing! Despite its green color, peach flavor shines through with a sweetness that covers the spinach hidden inside.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen sliced peaches
  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
  • 3/4 c. plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  • Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

When I think of smoothies, I don’t often consider lemon as a particularly tempting flavor. Lemon in cocktails, muffins, or chicken recipes? Yes, all the way. But lemon in a smoothie? Sounds a little odd. I would think the tangy taste would be a bit too overpowering for a snack as tame as a smoothie–or that putting lemon juice in with dairy would produce something curdled.

Then again, lemon yogurt was always my favorite growing up, and I think we can all agree that lemon sweets are some of the best around. (P.S. I just counted, and just on this blog I have 13 recipes with lemon as their primary flavor.)

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the flavor of lemon–especially when paired with raspberry–in this easy smoothie turned out refreshing and delicious. The sunshiney tartness mixed with that pretty rosy color just stole my heart. And my mouth.

Plus, a lemon raspberry smoothie gave me an excuse to use the candied lemon slices I bought from Trader Joe’s, which I didn’t actually need, but were so cute and appealing I couldn’t resist. (Like so many other things at Trader Joe’s.) Now that the package is open, I guess I’ll have to go and make those other 13 lemon recipes and garnish the heck out of ’em.

Looking for more lemony goodness this winter season? Try some of my other recipes!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade

Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

This lemon raspberry smoothie with the prettiest pink color makes a refreshing, tangy snack.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Servings: 2 smoothies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. frozen raspberries
  • 1 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. almond milk
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a small lemon
  • whipped cream, for topping

Instructions

  • Place raspberries, yogurt, honey, and among milk in a blender. Zest lemon directly into the blender, then juice the 1/2 lemon directly in as well, straining for seeds. Blend well and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to your diet, there’s no such thing as a “detox.” Your liver and kidneys serve as your body’s built-in detoxification system, and there’s not much you can do to make them function better.

That being said, on this day after Thanksgiving, we could probably all use a “detox” in the sense of something light and healthy to get back on track after the inevitable holiday indulgence. A smoothie is my snack of choice after mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie…and pizza. (No, my family Thanksgiving tradition doesn’t involve pizza. It’s just that when you eat dinner at 3:00 PM, you get pretty hungry by about 9:00.) Though I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of all those foods, the key to health is balance, so I’m leaning toward the skinny side of the food spectrum today.

This Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie is inspired by the Chunky Strawberry Bowl at Jamba Juice. Strawberries, banana, peanut butter, and oats may sound like an odd combination, but from the first time I tried the Jamba Juice version, I was hooked. There’s something almost comfort food-like about the sweetness of the fruit blended with wholesome oats and stick-to-your-ribs peanut butter. I’ve been recreating it at home for awhile now.

When it comes to making your own smoothie instead of going to Jamba Juice, there are a couple of distinct advantages: 1.) you won’t pay a whopping $7.15 for it, and 2.) it doesn’t have to set you back 570 calories when all you want is a snack. Plus, on Black Friday, you don’t have to leave your house. That’s my kind of detox. ūüôā

Wishing you a delightful remainder of your Thanksgiving weekend!

 

Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

Fruity and filling, this smoothie is a healthy snack choice!
Course: Beverage, Snack
Servings: 2 smoothies

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 c. frozen strawberries
  • 3/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 c. almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

When it comes to Christmas, I am big on tradition. Really, when it comes to any holiday. There were beloved holiday experiences that repeated themselves every year when I was growing up–like gingerbread house parties, for example–and now, as a parent, I am strongly committed to instituting and¬†observing¬†traditions for my own family. They certainly don’t have to be the same traditions that I grew up with (I mean, dressing up like clowns for Easter is kind of weird, right?)¬†as long as they are wholesome and relatively easily repeatable.

You may think, “Sure, traditions are fun, but they’re not that big a deal.” I believe, though, that they are a big deal because of two things¬†they create: family unity and family identity. As for unity, when we all enjoy the same activities together year after year, it can only bring us closer to each other. As for identity, having a sense of family personality¬†is crucial. In a world where the family gets less and less respect, we have to try that much harder to instill in¬†our children¬†the conviction that family is fun, positive, and–perhaps most relevant to observing traditions–unique. As my kids go out into the world, I want them to know what it means to be a Garone. I hope they come to believe it means being creative, hospitable, and community-oriented (and also appreciating¬†Dr. Doofenschmirtz from¬†Phineas and Ferb¬†as the most underrated cartoon villain of all time).¬†And when my kids grow up, I want them to recall lovingly the great times we had together and ultimately pay¬†that forward to their own families.

This peppermint hot chocolate has become one of our Christmastime traditions, sipped alongside¬†watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Something about these two activities in conjunction has worked its way into the fabric of our family lore.¬†It’s been years since I switched from¬†packaged mix to homemade hot chocolate, and somewhere along the line started adding peppermint extract to it to give it a special holiday flair. My daughter, middle son, and I think it’s spectacular. Creamy, richly chocolatey, and of course, perfectly pepperminty. The other two members of our household prefer the original version. Now we live in a House Divided: the Peppermints and the Originals. (Maybe one Christmas we should¬†get team jackets with our preferences¬†written on them, a la the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies from¬†Grease.)

peppermints

originals

How’s that for family identity?

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

So whatever your family traditions at Christmastime, may I suggest making¬†this delightful hot drink one of them? I hope it adds to your family’s sense of unity and identity.¬†Grinch viewing optional.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Beverage
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 c. very hot/boiling water
  • 3 1/2 c. milk (I use 2%, but any kind should work)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. peppermint extract (depending on how much you like peppermint flavor)
  • 1/4 c. half and half
  • whipped cream, for topping

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and pinch of salt. Stir in hot water.
  • Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peppermint extract.
  • Distribute evenly into 4 mugs and stir 1 Tbsp. half and half into each. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.