Sunday, October 17, 2010

Breaking the Habit

I try really hard to eat real food. Whole foods, if you will. Unprocessed. Not from a box. As close to the source as you can get.

I don't have any particular health problems that make eating whole foods a must for me, I just want to be as healthy as possible. It's not always easy (or convenient) to eat real foods, but I've been trying to break my dependence on convenience foods by learning to make my own stuff.

For example, I bake my own bread rolls and pizza dough (and hot pockets!),

save money at Starbucks by munching on homemade pumpkin scones,

 simmer my own chicken stock,

and make salad dressing, frozen yogurt, "larabars," and (even though I can't believe I've never blogged about it) granola bars.

However, there is still one overly-processed, probably-slowly-killing me frankenfood that I simply have not been able to get rid of:

My fat free French Vanilla Coffeemate.

God, I love this stuff. I can't drink coffee without it. But I cringe every time I look at the ingredient list:

It's appalling, I know. That I would even dare to call myself a healthy living blogger after consuming this stuff on a regular basis since I was in high school is laughable. I am sure that when I die, autopsies will confirm that fat free French Vanilla Coffeemate was to blame.

I got tired of feeling sorry for myself this weekend and decided to take Coffeemate matters into my own hands. Surely, I thought (as I often do) I can make this myself!

I found several recipes, but ultimately decided to start with one I found on ModernBeet because it had three ingredients only. Excellent.

(I added some vanilla extract later because I found that the bean on it's own didn't give me as strong of a vanilla flavor as I had wanted.)

What you'll need:
  • 1 pint half-and-half or cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean (I got mine in the bulk spices aisle at Whole Foods for only $1.50!)
  • 1/2t pure vanilla extract
  • 2T + 1t sugar

I bought this particular carton of half-and-half (with the screw-on lid) intentionally so I could use it to store my creamer after I made it. I figured it would be much easier to store in this type of container than in a traditional milk carton top. I was right :)

What you do:
1. Heat the half-and-half in a small saucepan on the stove top until it is steaming, but not boiling.
2. Split the vanilla bean down the center with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds inside.

3. Remove the half-and-half from the heat and mix in the vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and the bean.
4. Cover and let the vanilla infuse until the mixture is cool.
5. Remove the vanilla bean, add sugar, and stir.

6. Pour into a bottle/jar/half-and-half container and refrigerate until ready to use.

I used mine this morning. The verdict?

Well, it's definitely not French Vanilla Coffeemate, but it's not bad either. It has a distinctly fresh smell and taste - maybe I'm just so used to the Coffeemate chemicals it will take a while for me to adjust? It's also not as thick as Cofeemate (and I do like the texture), but perhaps using cream instead of half-and-half would solve that problem?

I'll keep experimenting! You know, in the name of science :)