Two glasses of coffee with cinnamon sticks

How to Spice Up Your Coffee This Holiday Season

The holidays are back and it’s time to spice up your beverages! That includes your regular cup of joe. Wondering how to do this? Fear not. From Moccocan spiced coffee to cinnamon brews, we have the best recipes for you to put the kick back into your caffeine hit.

Cinnamon Brew

This is a tasty coffee makeover that adds fragrance to your brew. The trick is to add powdered cinnamon to the coffee grounds before you start brewing. The end result is a warm spicy drink that will kickstart your morning.

Ingredients

  • For a 6-9 cup serving: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon will do. 
  • For a pour-over coffee: About 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for every 16 ounces of water.

Instructions

  1. Mix the spice into the coffee grounds in the filter. For a more aromatic brew you can also add a little nutmeg into the brew; mix the nutmeg grounds and cinnamon in the ratio 1:1.
  2. Add sugar or cream and adjust to taste. A more exotic taste can also be achieved by substituting cinnamon with ginger grounds. You can also experiment with a mixture of cardamom and ground ginger for a more herbal taste.

Vanilla Syrup   

Vanilla is one of the easiest spices to come by. With a little know-how you can turn your coffee into flavored drinks using these beans. Vanilla extracts will do for either hot or cold coffee; it can also come in handy when brewing your own cappuccino or latte. 

Ingredients

Vanilla beans (one or several will do depending on your serving)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

The trick here is to dissolve vanilla (extract and the insides) in your sweeter before adding it to your coffee. 

  1. Split the bean long-ways and pour out the insides, scrape off to get every ounce of the creamy spice.
  2. Place the scrapped vanilla insides in a pan, add sugar and water. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved or turned into thick slurry. 
  3. Remove the creamy mixture from heat and add the vanilla extract to enhance the taste. Let the mixture cool down completely.
  4. Use a fine sieve to remove the beans’ fragments as you transfer the slurry into a serving (pourable) container. 
  5. Use the extract to your taste whenever you need to sweeten your coffee. 

The mixture can last for up to 2 weeks by keeping it cool it in a fridge 

Mint Syrup Coffee

Cold brew coffee with mint and sugar

Mint will not only flavor your drink but it will also leave your kitchen with a sweet, fresh fragrance. This delightful recipe calls for a herbal mint of your choosing. We recommend sprig leaves which are known to be highly concentrated with the minty aroma. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10 sprig mint leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat the water to boil and add sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the leaves and let them steep in the mixture as it cool down. To get all the flavor by ensuring the leaves are completely submerged.
  3. After 3-5 hours, remove the leaves and store the liquid in a lidded container.
  4. Pour to taste whenever you crave a cup of coffee.

The mixture is good for up to a week if kept cold in a fridge.

Spiced Eggnog Coffee

Adding eggnog in your coffee will add a little over 100 calories to your drink, but the taste is well worth it. Take a cup of this creamy delight in the morning; this will do for most of your energy needs during the rest of the day.

Ingredients

  • A few teaspoons of eggnog
  • A pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the nog in a sauce pan and cook while stirring (do not let it boil)
  2. Add a pinch of nutmeg if you desire.
  3. Pour in a cup of black coffee and you are ready to go.

The drink can be taken with whipped cream for a more holiday feel

Moroccan Spiced Coffee

A touch of African coffee could be the warming up your body needs this holiday. This Moroccan brew ups your coffee’s flavor by adding a bit of peppery taste. Yes, that’s right… ground black pepper corns can be added to beverages. The brew is made spicier by adding freshly ground cardamom, cloves and cinnamon into the mix.

Ingredients

Ground coffee to your taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • A pinch of ground green cardamom seeds
  • 1 cup roasted coffee beans
  • Hot milk, sugar or cream as desired

Instructions

  1. Mix the freshly ground pepper, cardamom ginger, cloves and coffee beans in a blender. Whirl the mixture until it’s finely ground.
  2. Boil 4-5 cups of water.
  3. Pour milk in a saucepan and heat it but don’t let it boil.
  4. Pour the coffee plus spice mixture into the filter and pour the boiling water over it to extract the different flavors. Continue adding the water slowly allowing it to drip through the coffee grounds.
  5. When using a French press: pour the coffee plus spice mixture into the press pot. Pour in the boiling water and let the mixture steep for about 5 minutes. Bring the plunger down and serve.
  6. Add milk and sugar or cream as per your desire.

Spiced up White Coffee

Eggnog with cinnamon stick

A cup of white coffee can be made more enjoyable by adding a few simple spices. The recipe for this requires a one-time serving for a small gathering. Think of this recipe as a better alternative to chocolate flavored coffee. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves
  • A pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Instructions

  1. Warm the milk over medium heat (do not let it boil)
  2. Add the spices and stir to make a thick cream
  3. Whisk the mixture if you wish to make a light froth
  4. Pour the cream in a serving container and let your guest add it to their cups of black coffee.

The mixture will not last even when put in a refrigerator; serve all of it in one sitting.  

Almond Spiced Coffee Blend

Not everybody is up for milk; if you’re lactose intolerance or if you simply enjoy animal products, almond milk will do for a cup of creamy coffee. While you are it why not spice it up with a few ground flavors.

Ingredients

  • Almond milk to your taste
  • 2 teaspoons roasted ground coffee
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • A pinch of nutmeg and cardamom 

Instructions

  1. Add 8 cups of water to your coffee maker 
  2. Add coffee and the ground allspice 
  3. Brew as per machine instructions and use a paper filter to get rid of spice fragments
  4. Add almond milk and sweeter to taste 

Spiced Marmalade Coffee

Bring out the holiday cheer by making some fruit-spiced coffee. Orange marmalade in particular will add a citric-taste and sweet aroma to your brew. So the next time you are at the farmers’ market, be sure to pick up a few ripe oranges ready for marmalade coffee. Add some spices to your shopping list and let the holidays come to life.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup of marmalade
  • 3 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Mix the ground cloves, cinnamon and coffee and place them in your coffee filter. 
  2. Add the marmalade into the coffee in it semisolid form.
  3. Add water and let the mixture brew as per instructions.    
  4. Stir before serving to ensure that the marmalade is well dissolved and thoroughly blended 

Honey Spice Latte

A cup of latter with a small jar of honey

By combining several spices you can create a magical latte. In addition to sugar, add a little honey to your coffee. Honey is packed with amino acids and several other minerals that are extremely beneficial for your metabolism. If you have a sweet tooth you can add some molasses; this will also give the brew a richer texture and add on flavor. 

Ingredients  

  • 1/2 cup ground coffee
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A pinch of cloves

Instructions

  1. Mix the spices, sugar, honey, milk and molasses in a saucepan.
  2. Cook the mixture over medium heat while stirring for consistency (Do not let it boil). Remove from heat and blend the mixture for a few seconds until it’s foamy.
  3. Add the ground coffee to 5 cups of water in your coffee maker and brew as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Pour the coffee brew into five cups and divide the spicy mixture among them. 
  5. If whipped cream is your thing, use it to garnish this homemade latte.

Cinnamon Mocha Coffee

This is one of those brews that can be quite expensive at your local cafe. So instead of spending precious dollars over just a single cup, consider buying a few spices to brew a serving worth at least 5 cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cocoa 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Mix the sugar, milk, cocoa, and vanilla in a saucepan.
  2. Cook the slurry in medium heat for about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the granules and milk get to blend completely. 
  3. Mix coffee and ground cinnamon in your coffee filter and 4 to 5 cups of water. Brew the mixture according to your liking or the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Serve the hot milk mixture and pour in the cinnamon spiced coffee 

Thia drink can be garnished with whipped cream or with a few cinnamon sticks.

Tips for Better Coffee

Using the recipes above you can whip up a few spices and really go beyond the ‘coffee with cream and sugar’ routine. However, to get the best out of your coffee brew, here are a few tips and tricks to spice it up further:

  • Make patterns on your latte; this is a fun way of getting people into the holiday mood. If a barista can do it, why not you?
  • It takes time for hot coffee to cool down, so when you are pressed for time, just make a ‘cold power’ brew.
  • Use ‘Robusta’ coffee when going for maximum caffeine brews – ‘Arabica’ packs about half the caffeine levels of the former.
  • When using ‘drip’ to make coffee, first run hot water through the coffeemaker to heat it up before you start brewing- this makes the end result more desirable.  
  • Prefer French press over drip coffee when you want a strong brew.

The Take-Away

You can make your coffee time more memorable by adopting the above recipes. These are coffee brewing methods that are meant to make your drink spicy, strong and flavored. Some of the spices that will help you in this include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, peppercorn, cocoa and nutmeg. To enhance the taste of your brew, you can go with natural sweeteners such as honey and molasses. If minty is how you like your cup then try freshly ground green sprig leaves and to cap it all, consider making your coffee fruity by adding some orange marmalade.

Whole garlic and garlic cloves on a wooden chopping board

8 Foods for a Stronger Immune System

You have probably heard the term “immune system” so many times throughout your life, but do you know what your immune system actually is? 

Your immune system consists of a network made up of organs, tissues and cells, and these protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious compounds. 

Do you suffer from recurrent infections, digestive problems, inflammation or an autoimmune disease? 

If your answer is yes…

Then this means that your immune system is weak, and would really benefit from a boost.

Around 70% to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why the food you eat will have a direct impact on how your immune system functions. To really strengthen and support your immune system, here are eight foods that you should try to incorporate into your diet. 

Garlic

Just about every type of cuisine in the world makes use of garlic, and it has long since been used as a method of fighting off infections.

How exactly is it able to do this?

Well, garlic contains a compound known as alliin. When a garlic clove is crushed, or even chewed, the alliin within it turns to allicin.

The allicin within garlic contains sulfur, and this is what gives garlic its distinctive smell. It is also the reason as to why garlic smells its strongest after it has been crushed, compared to when it is a whole clove.

However, allicin is quite an unstable compound, meaning that it doesn’t stick around for too long.

What happens to it?

It turns into other compounds that contain sulphur, and these are what give garlic its medicinal properties.

There is plenty of research out there that shows how garlic is not only able to prevent you from falling sick in the first place, but also affects how quickly you recover when you do fall sick.

Those who consume more garlic will not only have a lower risk of catching a cold or developing an infection, but they will also feel better so much faster.

Of course, in order for the allicin in the garlic to work properly, you need to make sure that you always crush garlic and leave it to stand for ten minutes before you use it. This will enable the allicin to convert into medicinal compounds.

Wondering how much garlic you need to eat in order to experience its immune benefits?

As much as possible! But at least one clove per meal would be ideal.

Blueberries

Blueberries may be small, but they are actually packed with a number of important nutrients, all of which really support the immune system. 

There is one compound in particular that blueberries contain that set them apart from the other superfoods out there…

This compound is known as pterostilbene. When consumed, it boosts the way in which the CAMP gene functions. The CAMP gene, which stands for cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, is responsible for creating specific proteins that protect the body from bacterial infections.

In addition to pterostilbene, blueberries also contain high levels of: 

  • Vitamin A 
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants 

Infographic on the benefits of blueberries

Can’t stand the taste of blueberries? 

Other dark berries, such as red grapes, cranberries and mulberries, also contain pterostilbene, although in smaller quantities. 

Cinnamon

Now that the festive season is approaching, cinnamon is a spice that you will likely encounter more frequently, and, in addition to adding a distinct flavor and scent to foods, this spice is also a powerful immune booster.

When consumed, cinnamon is able to increase the amount of T regulatory immune cells, also called Tregs, within the body.

What do Tregs do?

They basically control the way in which the immune system responds to foreign invaders, as well as those that are coming from the body itself. This not only helps to prevent autoimmune diseases, but also strengthens the immune system, enabling it to better protect itself against infections.

Of course, there is one downside to cinnamon…

The majority of popular recipes and dishes featuring this spice tend to be laden with calories and other unhealthy ingredients, all of which will only put a damper on your immune system.

Looking for a healthy way to cook with cinnamon?

Give some of these ideas a try:

  • Cinnamon French toast
  • Cinnamon chicken curry
  • Honey-cinnamon roasted chickpeas
  • Baked cinnamon apple chips
  • Cinnamon muffins
  • Cinnamon almond butter

You may need to get creative when it comes to using more of this spice, but the benefits that cinnamon brings really makes this worthwhile.

Turmeric

You have probably already heard of turmeric being called a superfood lately, with this ingredient becoming increasingly popular in recent years.

Why?

Because a number of studies have now been carried out that prove its many benefits, one of which is the way in which it boosts the immune system. 

How does it do this?

It all comes down to a compound called curcumin, which is what gives turmeric its vibrant yellow color.

While curcumin is mostly known for its anti-inflammatory properties, research shows that curcumin is also able to enhance antibody responses within the body, strengthening the immune system.

However, there is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to consuming turmeric…

Turmeric in its raw form is not easily absorbed by the body. In order to maximize its impact, turmeric should be gently cooked, and mixed with an oil, as well as black pepper.

Why?

The oil helps to carry the curcumin while the black pepper significantly increases its bioavailability.

Turmeric golden paste is a great way to consume the herb, as the recipe takes into account all of the above, and can be cooked up in less than ten minutes. This can then be taken on its own a few times a day, or mixed into your meals.

Turmeric paste in small clay bowls surrounded by turmeric powder

Wondering if you can just take a curcumin supplement instead?

Yes, but you likely won’t experience the same impacts when it comes to the benefits of this. Eating whole foods always tends to be more beneficial for the body, as not only will you be consuming the curcumin, but also the many other medicinal properties that the turmeric contains.

Kefir

Just like some of the other immune-boosting foods on this list, kefir has become quite popular lately. 

What is it? 

It’s a fermented drink made from milk, almost like a thinner and lighter version of yogurt. However, while yogurt contains just a couple of strains of beneficial bacteria, kefir can contain ten times this amount. 

Kefir brings with it a number of different health benefits, and, when it comes to the immune system, these include:

So, where can you get kefir from? 

One option is to purchase it, and you will usually find it at health food stores, with more grocery stores now stocking it too. 

However, there is a downside to this…

In order to be sold commercially, kefir needs to be processed. Even if this is minimal, the heat used ends up destroying a significant amount of the beneficial bacteria within the drink. 

For the very best results, you would be best off making kefir at home. There are several how-to guides out there that will walk you through this easy process.

Green Tea

Just about every type of tea is extremely beneficial for the body, but green tea is especially powerful when it comes to strengthening the immune system. 

Why? 

Because it contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, also known as EGCG. This is an extremely powerful antioxidant that has been proven to significantly enhance immune function. 

Wondering why black tea doesn’t contain this antioxidant, since both teas come from the same plant? 

Well, tea leaves for black tea are fermented, whereas tea leaves for green tea are steamed. The fermentation process for black tea destroys a large amount of the EGCG within the leaves, whereas the steaming process preserves this antioxidant. 

Not only that, but green tea also contains L-theanine. This is an amino acid that boosts the way in which your body’s T-cells are able to fight germs. 

Don’t like the taste of green tea? 

Many people find green tea to be too bitter. 

Here are a few tips to counter that: 

  • Use hot, rather than boiling, water, since boiling water brings out the bitter flavors of the tea
  • Add in a small amount of honey to sweeten the tea
  • Add in a few drops of fresh lemon juice to enhance the perfume and reduce the bitterness of the tea 
  • Mix a couple of sprigs of mint in with your leaves before topping with water, which is a common practice in Morocco 
  • Drink it iced, rather than hot, as this reduces its bitterness
  • Purchase a high quality green tea  

Dark Chocolate

Love chocolate? 

Then you will be happy to know that dark chocolate is fantastic for strengthening the immune system. 

Of course, this means that the chocolate needs to contain at least 70% cacao, as this ensures that there are high levels of flavonoids within the chocolate.

What are flavonoids? 

They’re antioxidants that do a number of different things within the body, including increasing the amount of antibodies that the body produces. This then gives the immune system a huge boost. 

Thinking you can eat copious amounts of dark chocolate now that it’s been proven that this is a beneficial food? 

Unfortunately not. You still need to moderate how much dark chocolate you eat, since this food is still high in saturated fat and calories. 

If you know that you shouldn’t be consuming any extra calories on any given day, you could always give some dark chocolate a sniff instead, so long as you can resist the temptation to eat it! 

This may seem cruel, but it’s actually beneficial. 

Wondering how?  

Research shows that even the smell of dark chocolate can trigger the body to produce double the amount of antibodies in just 20 minutes. In the study carried out, this boost in immunity lasted for over three hours, although it did decrease as time went on.

Citrus Fruits

Whenever you’ve had a cold, people have likely advised you to eat oranges, or drink warm lemon water. 

Ever wondered why? 

It’s all down to the vitamin C content in citrus fruits, which amp up the body’s production of white blood cells. 

What do white blood cells do? 

They are cells within the immune system that protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious diseases. These cells flow through the blood all over your body, fighting against bacteria, viruses and other unwanted compounds. 

Vitamin C is extremely important when it comes to creating these. 

Since the body doesn’t produce vitamin C itself, it can be easy to become deficient in the vitamin, meaning that your white blood cell count declines. This weakens your immune system, meaning that you will fall sick faster, and take longer to recover. 

So, in addition to oranges and lemons, what other citrus fruits are there? 

Here are some of the most popular: 

  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Mandarins
  • Pomelo
  • Yuzu

Need another reason to eat more citrus fruits? 

Well, in addition to boosting the immune system, citrus fruits also: 

  • Improve heart health 
  • Protect against, and fight against, cancer 
  • Protect the brain 
  • Reduce the risk of kidney stones 

Wondering if you can just drink the juice instead of eating the whole fruits? 

While citrus fruit juices do contain plenty of nutrients, they are also extremely high in sugar. This can end up causing more harm than good when it comes to your overall health. 

When it comes to keeping your body healthy, your focus should always be on your immune system. In order to keep it strong and working optimally, your diet is so important, so make sure that you are incorporating immune-boosting foods into each meal. 

Various spices in bowls and spoons

Eat Well: Foods for a Peaceful Life

Most of our lives are lived at a breakneck speed rushing from one commitment to another. Sometimes, it seems that the last thing we have time for is to eat mindfully and for our physical health. However, eating not only helps improve our physical health, it truly does affect your mood. A diet high in sugar, fat and junk tend to leave you susceptible to mood swings as your body goes from sugar to sugar crash throughout the day. Not only does your mood fluctuate, but poor diet has been linked to anxiety disorders, depression and lack of energy. Check out the following tips on choosing foods for a more peaceful life.

Large cup of coffee with coffee beansDrink Your Coffee
Sure, energy drinks and soda are quick, convenient and available everywhere. And in the short term, they seem to be awesome because caffeine triggers the release of dopamine in the brain which increase clarity and focus. However, with the caffeine boost from sugar laden drinks also comes with a mood busting sugar crash. However, you don’t have to go without caffeine, simply switch to coffee. A 2011 Harvard School of Public Health survey found that women who drank at least two cups of coffee daily were at a 15% lower chance of suffering from depression. Additionally, coffee contains plant-based nutrients that work in the body in a manner similar to how anti-depressants work. Like anything, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation as too much stimulation can lead to anxiety and trouble sleeping.

Salmon dish with side salad Scarf Some Salmon
Today, people are pretty programmed to avoid fatty foods, but a little bit of fat can go a long way in improving your mood. However, your diet is probably significantly lacking omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish, such as salmon, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain contains more omega-3 fatty acids than anywhere else in your body. Research supports the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a part of psychiatric treatment. These may help even out moods and decrease depression. Experts suggest that you aim for two to three servings of salmon (or other oily fish such as sardines or mackerel) per week.

Carved turkeyGobble up Some Turkey
You know that you tend to feel drowsy after a big Thanksgiving meal and you most likely know that the turkey is the cause. Turkey contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that the body does not produce on its own. Tryptophan is important because the body requires tryptophan in order to make the feel-good chemical, serotonin. Experts recommend ingesting about 320 milligrams of trytophan each day. A four ounce serving of turkey or chicken is plenty to receive your daily amount. If you aren’t a big fan of turkey, or you’re vegetarian/vegan, you can find the same amount (320mg) of tryptophan in one cup of soybeans.

Bowl of spanish Eat Your Spinach
Eating spinach may not result in the immediate muscle-boosting strength that Popeye got, but it does significantly impact your mood. Spinach is high in the B vitamin, folate. Research shows that when you have a high concentration of folate in your blood, you are less prone to bad moods, clinical depression and you think more clearly. In just 1/2 cup of cooked spinach (or 2 cups raw) women receive 33% of the recommended daily allowance of folate. An important thing to note is that folate is water-soluble, which means that you do not store it in your body. Because it isn’t stored, you need to consume it continuously to reap the zen benefits.

Various spices in bowls and spoons Spice up Your Life
Besides not being good for you, lots of salt on food as the sole flavoring can get boring. Instead, experiment with different spices to create dishes that will blow your mind. One of the most highly touted spices is tumeric. The reason experts advise tumeric is that it contains curcumin, which gives tumeric it’s signature yellow color and acts as a natural anti-depressant. Some preliminary research suggests that curcumin also lowers levels of chronic stress and that it also stimulates the release of both serotonine and dopamine.

Foods are not only meant to nourish your body, but to nourish your mind. Improve your mood while keeping stress levels at bay by chowing down on some of these super good mood foods.