Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter-Spiced Cafe Con Leche (Coffee with Milk)

When I was growing up, my Mom would make "cafe con leche" (a close relative of cafe au lait or the ubiquitous latte) for weekend breakfasts, and sometimes in the afternoons to enjoy on a cold winter day. She'd brew a pot of strong Cuban coffee, and while that was brewing she'd scald some milk (whole milk, none of that lowfat or skim stuff) on the stove. When the coffee was ready, she'd pour equal amounts of coffee and hot milk into a cup or mug and stir in plenty of sugar (usually 2 or 3 teaspoons). MMMMMmmmmmm, better than any over-priced, fancy coffeehouse beverage!

I remembered my Mom's cafe con leche today as I sat bundled up on our RV couch, forlornly looking out the window at the cold rain (and occasional sleet) that was keeping us indoors in the middle of the day. I decided to make my own version of cafe con leche, using decaf (I had already had enough real coffee earlier in the morning), skim milk and Splenda sweetener (to cut back on fat and calories), and flavoring it with some wintery spices left over from Greg's pie-baking (he's become quite adept at baking all sorts of delicious pies).

I started brewing a pot of decaf using a little less water than usual, for a stronger brew. While the coffee was brewing, I heated an equal amount of skim milk on our stove, and stirred in a dash of ground nutmeg, a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon, and about a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. The fragrance of the spices as the milk simmered reminded me of pumpkin pie, and blended nicely with the aroma of the brewing coffee. When the coffee was ready, I ladled some of the hot spiced milk into our mugs, to fill them halfway. I then added a heaping teaspoon of Splenda (feel free to use real sugar or a different sugar substitute) to each mug and finished filling the mugs with the freshly brewed coffee. After a quick stir, I took a sip...... YUM! Soon my hands and tummy were warm again, and my lite version of cafe con leche turned out to be quite satisfying to the palate thanks to the spices. And all in all, it took less time to make than driving out to an overpriced coffee house (assuming I could find one in this neck of the woods) to purchase a similar beverage.

The bone-chilling rain did pass eventually, and during a foray to a little country store I discovered a previously unkown local barbecue sauce which I look forward to tasting. If it's a winner in the flavor department, then it just might become one of the new products we'll add this year at the Carolina Sauce online store. But now it's time to go play in our little kitchen and whip up something tasty -- and gently zesty -- for our dinner....

Zestfully yours,

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