making morning coffee a little better

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Like most people I know, I like to have coffee in the morning to wake me up. And since I often work from my home office, “picking up a cup on my way into work” means making it in my kitchen! Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the past few years that will help perk up your morning coffee (pun intended!):
– Always use fresh filtered water
- Switch to a metal coffee filter, which lets more flavorful oils through than paper filters
- Add a pinch of salt to the grounds before brewing to help combat bitterness.
Want to spice things up a little? Try adding one of these to ground coffee before brewing: cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, almond extract or vanilla. Or, on special mornings –- stir in a spoonful of Nutella before adding frothed milk or creamer. Mmmmmm. Do you have any coffee tricks of your own? — Rebecca F.

Photo credit: Rebecca Firlik

get whipped with alcohol infused whipped cream

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There are few things that whipped cream can’t improve on. Pie, milkshakes, cake- there’s a whole list of already fantastic things that whipped cream makes even more fantastic. The question remains, how do you improve on whipped cream? Enter Cream: an adults only, alcoholic whipped cream. Cream comes in six flavors: caramel, cherry, chocolate, raspberry, orange, and vanilla. Their website is chock full of recipes for shots, hot drinks, cold drinks, and (of course) desserts that are sure to be just as well-received if not slightly more sophisticated than Jell-o shots at your next bash. — Katie D.

throw some back, give some back: one hope wine

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When not editing Shelterrific, I like to enjoy a nice glass of wine occasionally. Ok, more than occasionally. And sometimes when I’m editing. There, I said it. So what could be better than a little philanthropy with my glass of Cab? ONEHOPE wines, a new label from winemaker scion Rob Mondavi Jr., is doing just that: donating an impressive 50% of its profits to various causes, from autism reseplace to AIDS awareness. The wines are sourced from California grapes primarily grown in Napa and Sonoma, and are available in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel. I was able to taste a few at a recent event, and found both the Cabernet and the Zinfandel to be very drinkable and food-friendly — and affordable at a $9.99/ bottle price point, though the website lists the prices at twice as much. It’s readily available at wine retailers everywhere (hopefully for the price I saw them at). Drink up! — Megan B.

drink up with fun and fabulous shot glasses

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With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, my mind, like a good Irish girl, goes immediately to whiskey. Honestly, I’m more of a gin gal, but I really love these fun shot glasses nonetheless — and they’d all do fine to toast Erin Go Bragh with a shot of “top shelf” Jameson (though a purist may swear it has to be out of Mullingar pewter to count). — Megan B.

Above: Not so good at sharing? Then the Mine and Yours shot glasses will distribute the hooch between you and your guests “fairly” — $12, from Gama Go.
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These Swedish shot glasses by Giarini from huset may be a splurge at $70, but oh, are they pretty. They’d make a great wedding gift, too, just sayin’.

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Channel your inner Dillinger with these Mug Shots, $16.95 for a set of 6, at Neatorama. ‘Cause you know all those gangsters drank whiskey.

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Or if your tastes tend to the more literary, than combine your drinking with some light reading: Great Thinkers shot glasses, $14.95/4, at Shakespeare’s Den. And what could possibly be more Irish than toasting with a quote from The Emerald Isle’s own W.B. Yeats — “”The problem with some people is that when they’re not drunk they’re sober”. Wiser words have never been written.

kinda genius: capresso milk pro frother

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In an effort to simplify and be more budget-conscious, I decided not to replace my very loved Gaggia espresso machine when we recently moved back to the States. Instead, I make my morning coffee the Italian way, with a very affordable stovetop espresso maker. And I’m OK with that. But a girl can still have her thick, luxurious froth, can’t she? With the Capresso Froth Pro, that’s a resounding “si!” I had been lusting after a Nespresso Aeroccino Plus ever since my friend bought one a few years back. But the Capresso won me over with its lower price (around $50-60) and ease of cleaning (it’s even dishwasher-safe.) I’ve been using it for about a month now, and I have never enjoyed such rich foam outside a coffeehouse. The unexpected bonus is that it turns a package of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix into something out of a Swiss après-ski place. And when iced coffee season rolls around, the Capresso can do cold froth, too. Thank you, Capresso, for putting a little barista-ness back in my morning latté. — Ginny F.