Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

DIY Latte



A couple of weeks ago, during the prolonged spiral of illness at my house, my daughter discovered the movie Ella Enchanted and rewatched it daily for the duration of her fever. When I asked her whether it was too scary for her little brother, she said, “Well, it does have a bad guy in it. He doesn’t look scary, but he’s a sneaky bad guy…and those are the worst kind!”

In the weeks since then, I’ve developed a healthy respect for sneaky weather systems, as well. Winter has finally arrived, and we’ve been clobbered repeatedly (and happily, for the most part) by snow storms that weren’t meant to amount to anything…but did.

This morning is just the latest example. I bundled up the kids in their winter boots, tucking their tennis shoes into their backpacks, and hurried them out the door for our blustery walk to school only to discover, as my littlest guy hit the street and instantly landed on his backside, that the “isolated flurries” had gathered momentum, coating everything with a layer of extra-slippery powder. And it was still coming down. In fact, the further we walked, the whiter the air became until we were struggling to see where the un-shoveled sidewalks gave way to the road. Our eyelashes were flocked…and our hats and our gloves. And the kids were laughing as we walked into the wind.

I’m pretty sure I once saw something like it in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.

After delivering each of them to their classrooms, I paused in front of the double doors to contemplate the dizzy swirl of snow, and I deliberated whether to forge ahead with my usual morning walk along a trail that winds for almost exactly 10,000 me-sized steps, or whether to pick my way home immediately and get warm. You might think this question should not have presented itself as a question at all: Anyone in her right mind would have walked home, drawn a bath, and congratulated herself for having a warm, empty house on a snowy morning. Clearly. However, sometime during the past ten years, my husband seems to have persuaded me of the (possibly foolhardy) value of discomfort and the (dubious) honor of being tough. So off I went, foolhardily cold and dubiously tough, earbuds in place, hat pulled low and collar pulled high, into the sneaky mini-blizzard.

The walk had its moments of stark beauty–as when a red-tailed hawk swooped spectacularly low  over the trail just ahead of me–but, mostly, I froze my hiney off and fantasized about the cup of coffee I would make as soon as I returned to my blessedly empty, cozily warm house on a snowy morning.

In an hour’s time, I made it home, and I made the cup of coffee. And the contrast between the sharp cold of the outdoors and the creamy warmth of that cup rendered every step of the walk worth it.

I can’t contend that this is a true recipe, but it is a true friend: I drink at least a couple of cups this way every day, so it accounts for a frightening percentage of my daily caloric intake without contributing any actual nutrition, but it also makes me happy, so I’ll defend its role in my daily routine.

It relies on one of my favorite possessions:


Isn’t it beautiful? <Wistful sigh>

A milk frother of the low-tech variety. I’ve owned about ten of these in the last five years because I kept breaking them…until I discovered this particular model which is glass-free and also free of bolts and screws and metal coils, which tend to get gunky and/or broken. Amazon tells me that I bought it more than a year ago, and it’s still in perfect working order!

I believe you could put almost anything in this frother, aerate it, and improve its mouthfeel and flavor. That said, this is what I put in mine:

  • Milk (sometimes with a splash of half-and-half because, frankly, more fat makes it taste better!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Strong brewed coffee (It doesn’t need to be hot for this particular concoction. When I have hot coffee, I froth only the milk, which is more traditional, but less interesting, right? )


  • Agave syrup (which tastes caramelly and clean–no hint of the tropical about it, despite its exotic name)


I stir it all up and put it over medium heat until it’s simmering.


Then I pump the handle up and down several times and let it sit for about 30 seconds (to allow more of the liquid to settle out of the froth) before pouring it into my mug.


Then I drink it.


Come visit me, and I’ll make you a cup!

P.S. Not snowing at your house? When it’s not cold outside, these are just as good on ice!



7 thoughts on “DIY Latte

  1. This could greatly reduce the cost of my latte habit. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. No kidding, right? At $18, that little milk frother would pay for itself in no time! There’s a good reason Starbucks doesn’t stock them!

  3. hey I don’t like you spreading ideas like this… bad for business! 😉

  4. I have fallen in love with agave in my coffee, too. YUM! I’ve been using this new almond milk that is sooooo good. Think I need to get one of these things asap! Does making these bring back memories of the time you spent working in the coffee shop? 😉 What was the name of that place? Used to love coming by there.

    Can you believe this: Macy has fallen in love with coffee drinks. Granted I mostly have her get decaf, but she cracks me up. It’s like her tastebuds are early bloomers. I didn’t like coffee till Jamocha Snowballs that summer after Junior year!

    • Did somebody say, “Jamocha Snowball”? (I just tried to put a picture of my after-lunch iced coffee drink into this comment, but WordPress won’t let me. Poo! I’m pasting it to the bottom of the post instead) In any case, I just sent you an early birthday present. 🙂

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