• Celebrate National Sticky Bun Day with This Satisfying Recipe

    by Amy Cimo | Feb 20, 2018

    Food writer Amber Wilson says that when she was growing up, waking up to sticky buns in the oven was always a good sign.

    “They were reserved for special weekend brunches or holidays,” Wilson says. “There was a celebration of sorts whenever we had them. I knew when I woke up to the scent of sweet, buttery sticky buns baking in the oven that that day was going to be sweet.”

    Wilson, a Louisiana native who writes about Southern cuisine and culture in her blog, For the Love of the South, says she now likes to pair sticky buns with chicory café au lait, which she says is “just a fancy way of saying half smoky, chicory coffee and half steamed milk sweetened with raw cane sugar.”

    Wilson, who has a cookbook on Southern food due out in March, shared her favorite recipe with us for National Sticky Bun Day, which takes place every Feb. 21. She says the key to these pillows of sticky goodness is the yeast dough, which requires a little patience while it rises but imparts a texture and flavor that’s worth the wait. Wilson adds pecans to add a touch of complexity that also serves as a counterpoint to all that sweetness.

    “These sticky buns are heavenly,” she says. “The dough is soft, sweet and buttery. The addition of the crunchy pecans adds a lovely contrast. It’s well worth the time and effort the moment these sticky buns cross your lips.”

    To complete your special-occasion treat, pair these sticky buns with Community® Coffee & Chicory blend, our version of the Southern favorite that combines rich, roasted Arabica coffee beans with high-quality chicory for a bolder, sweeter flavor than coffee alone. We recommend trying it café-au-lait-style with steamed milk for a traditional flavor.

    Pecan Sticky Buns

    Dough

    1/3 cup whole milk
    5 tablespoons sugar, divided
    1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
    2 large eggs
    2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 stick butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter

    Heat milk in a heatproof measuring cup for a few minutes, until a thermometer reads 110 degrees. Stir in the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Whisk to blend. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy. Whisk in the eggs.

    Combine the remaining sugar, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the milk mixture and the butter, one piece at a time until it’s fully incorporated. Mix on medium speed for one minute and on medium-high for five minutes.

    Brush a medium-sized bowl with melted butter, then place the dough into the bowl. Brush the remaining butter over the top of the dough. Chill for two hours, then let the dough rise in a warm area for 45 minutes.

    Topping

    1 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
    1 stick butter
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
    1/3 cup honey
    1/4 teaspoon salt 

    Spread the pecans in a dry pan on low heat. Toast just until fragrant, then set aside.

    Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, cream, honey and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for a few minutes. Pour one cup of the glaze into a 9-by-9-by-2-inch pan, being sure to coat all sides. Place 1/2 cup of pecans over the glaze in the pan. Set aside.

    Buns

    1 stick butter, room temperature
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    Dough, see recipe above
    1 egg

    Beat the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until creamy and blended. Set aside.

    Punch down the risen dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the butter mixture onto the dough, leaving an inch on all sides. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of pecans over the butter mixture. Roll up the dough from the side closest to you. Pinch the ends together once rolled completely.

    Cut into eight even slices. Place the dough, cut-side down, onto the prepared dish. Whisk the egg and a little water to create an egg wash, then brush it over the top of the dough. Place into a 350-degree oven; after 20 minutes turn the pan and bake for another 20 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over the buns with the rest of the pecans.


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  • Mardi Gras Is Just the Beginning of Louisiana’s Spring Festival Season

    by Amy Cimo | Feb 12, 2018

    As the holiday season comes to a close and the calendar turns over into a new year, Louisiana shifts into overdrive with world-class Carnival festivities across the state highlighting the music, food and culture of the region.

    “Life may slow down following the holidays for many, but for Louisiana, we’re just getting started,” says Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, the state’s top tourism official. “Our year begins in earnest every year following January 6. Louisiana is home to hundreds of Carnival parades and celebrations, as well other unique events.”

    The Carnival celebration kicked off on Jan. 6, the Twelfth Night, and will keep building until its Fat Tuesday crescendo, which this year falls on Feb. 13. From the legendary and nonstop revelry of New Orleans to the colorful traditions of Cajun Country, communities across the state offer numerous opportunities to experience a memorable Mardi Gras season.

    To mark these special celebrations, Community Coffee Company has launched the “king” of all flavored coffees, Community® Mardi Gras King Cake coffee, available online and in select stores across the American South. This limited-time-offer King Cake flavor features the same high-quality coffee beans that Community® coffee lovers expect, but with a perfectly balanced combination of cinnamon and vanilla. This blend provides a subtly sweet flavor that exemplifies the fun and spirit of the Carnival season fused with the company’s rich history.

    And after the last king cake is sliced and the final beads are tossed, Louisiana doesn’t power down for long before the spring festival season kicks into full gear. From the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to the rapidly growing Baton Rouge Blues Festival to the eclectic and infectious musical energy of Lafayette’s Festival International in the heart of Cajun country, there’s something for everyone looking to experience a piece of Louisiana culture.

    Here are a few festivals to check out before the summer heat slows the party down.

    BUKU Art + Music Project — March 9-10, New Orleans

    BUKU Art + Music Project is a quirky boutique event that combines a major festival with an  underground house party vibe, with a heavy focus on electronic dance music, hip-hop and indie rock. In addition to a huge lineup of national acts, the March festival in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District features dozens of pop-up street performances and art exhibits highlighting the youthful, creative energy driving the Crescent City. This event is for ages 18 and up.

    New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — April 27-May 6

    Heading into its 49th year, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest, is one of the premiere music festivals in the world. With an outstanding lineup of internationally renowned artists plus an eclectic selection of regional standouts across a wide range of genres, the festival attracts visitors from across the globe each year. The 2017 event drew more than 420,000 music fans to the Fair Grounds Race Course.

    French Quarter Festival — April 12-15

    For festival enthusiasts who can’t decide whether to prioritize food or music, French Quarter Fest offers an easy solution: nearly unlimited options for both. Enjoy all the entertainment you can take in with more than 400 musical performances on 23 stages throughout the French Quarter over four days, and sample amazing food from dozens of the city’s best culinary vendors.

    Baton Rouge Blues Festival — April 14–15

    Originating in 1981, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is one of the oldest blues festivals in America. Over the past 30 years, it has blossomed into a major event that attracts tens of thousands of blues enthusiasts to downtown Baton Rouge annually. The festival honors homegrown blues legends and internationally recognized artists on its three stages.

    Festival International — April 25-29

    The worldly, musical vibe of Lafayette’s five-day Festival International has helped it grow into the largest international music and arts festival in the United States, with a special emphasis on the connection between Acadiana and the French-speaking world. More than 300,000 festival goers converge on the city every year for musical performances by artists from more than 20 countries, along with workshops, exhibits, visual art, theater and other forms of performing arts. There’s a little bit for everybody at this event, including a growing list of international food vendors and a craft beer garden.

    Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival — May 3-13

    If all-day music festivals aren’t your thing, head over to southwest Louisiana for the long-running Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival. See Jean Lafitte force the mayor to walk the plank into Lake Charles or catch a parade of cannon-firing pirates at this family-friendly May festival.

    Crawfish Festivals — March-May

    Located in historic St. Bernard Parish, the annual Louisiana Crawfish Festival celebrates the state’s favorite springtime Cajun delicacy. Set for March 22-25, the event features a wide range of activities and musical acts, as well as a midway with carnival games and rides. Six weeks later and 120 miles down the road to the west, the long-running Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival has become one of the largest gatherings of Cajun musicians in the world. From May 4-6, the festival offers an opportunity to hear authentic Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop music from more than 30 bands.

    Bayou Country Superfest — May 25-27

    One of the final major events before the dog days of summer set in, Bayou Country Superfest features some of the most popular country music acts in the world on Memorial Day Weekend in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This year’s event will also include a “A Salute to America,” a huge fireworks display over the Mississippi River on Friday night, May 25, and a free concert May 26 at Champions Square in New Orleans.


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  • New Coffee Research a Cup of Heart Health Cheer

    by Amy Cimo | Feb 08, 2018

    More. Good. News. If you’re a coffee drinker – along with so many others around the globe – you’ll appreciate the latest preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s recent global scientific sessions.

    According to data analyzed by machine learning from the long-term, ongoing Framingham Heart Study, which records what people consume and their cardiovascular health, drinking coffee may be associated with a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke. Specifically, compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers were associated with a 7% decreased risk of heart failure and an 8% decreased risk of stroke for each cup of coffee consumed. Most of the people in the research consumed between 1 and 6 cups (8 ounces each) of coffee daily.

    Funded by the American Heart Association and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the research also looked at data from the Cardiovascular Heart Study and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. The same positive association between drinking coffee and decreased risk of heart failure and stroke was found in all three large studies.

    A few things to keep in mind when reading this and similar health news. This research has yet to be reviewed by peers and published, and it shows an association between coffee drinking and heart health versus proving cause and effect. The exact mechanisms of how coffee works need further study, but it may be the different phytochemicals and nutrients found in coffee beans that are linked to these benefits.

    In coffee’s case, a substantial number of large studies published in peer reviewed journals point toward the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption, including lower mortality, lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic diseases and suicide. So go on, raise your coffee cups to all of that and … cheers!

    Source: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions Presentation  M2070 Coffee Intake Affects Heart Failure and Stroke Survival and is Significant in Predicting Heart Failure and Stroke Risk.

     

    Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.


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  • Homemade Truffles and Coffee — the Perfect Romantic Gesture for Valentine’s Day

    by Amy Cimo | Feb 05, 2018

    Sure, flowers and a box of store-bought chocolates make a perfectly acceptable Valentine’s Day gift; there’s a reason why it’s a classic combination. But if you’re looking to put together a more personal romantic gesture for Feb. 14 this year, pairing a special-occasion coffee with a homemade chocolate dessert is an excellent way to show your special someone you truly care.

    Desserts, especially chocolates, can be intimidating for even experienced home cooks. That’s why we asked Isaac Fort, the pastry chef at Poupart Bakery, a long-running French bakery in Lafayette, for a decadent chocolate dessert that’s simple enough for just about anyone to make in their kitchen. His suggestion: Chocolate Ganache Truffles.

    These smooth and creamy spheres of chocolate have a rich, decadent flavor that is not overly sweet. Best of all they’re easy to make, which means they’re a perfect way for even a novice cook to create a homemade chocolate expression of affection. “All you need is a bowl, a pot, a whisk and three or four ingredients,” Fort says. “If you want to do something that you make yourself, that’s personal, and you don’t have a ton of skill, I think you can manage this. It’s not too difficult.”

    Chocolate desserts and coffee are a match made in culinary heaven. The richness of these tiny treats will pair nicely with Community® Private Reserve® Evangeline Blend™, which was created to honor the Acadian culture that supported the company in its early years. We blend 100 percent specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans and roast them to create a deep, semisweet flavor that will complement the bold flavors in these rich chocolate truffles.

    This Valentine’s Day, express how much your significant other means to you by surprising them with the combination of  top-notch coffee and homemade chocolate.

    Chocolate Ganache Truffles

    1 cup heavy cream
    8 oz. dark chocolate
    1 Tbsp unsalted butter
    Cocoa powder, crushed nuts or candy sprinkles

    It’s best to start with small pieces of dark chocolate. Chocolate chips work well, but a chocolate bar is fine if chopped into small pieces. Place the chocolate pieces in a medium-sized bowl.

    Put the cream and butter into a sauce pan and heat until it just comes to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolates and whisk together until smooth, then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. Remove and stir again. Repeat the process several times every 5-10 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken.

    Once it is thick enough, shape the chilled mixture into 1-inch balls (gloves may help with this step). Once you’ve shaped the truffles, roll them in cocoa powder, candy sprinkles or your favorite variety of crushed nuts for additional texture. Fort recommends crushed hazelnuts, which is a classic pairing with dark chocolate.

    Makes about 24 truffles.


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  • Today Is the Perfect Day to Celebrate Baked Alaska

    by Amy Cimo | Jan 29, 2018

    Baked Alaska, that classic and confounding dessert of ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue. How does the ice cream stay so cold in the oven?

    The magic and intrigue of Baked Alaska, which dates to the 19th century, stems from the combination of cold ice cream surrounded by a pound cake and flambéed meringue. The unusual combination of browned exterior concealing a cold suprise has impressed diners for well over a century.

    The origins of the dessert are not entirely clear. There are reports of Count von Rumford, an 18th-century physicist and inventor, discovering that the air bubbles inside whipped egg whites made meringue an effective insulator and allowed for exterior browning without melting the ice cream within.

    The name is believed to have been coined by New Orleans chef Antoine Alciatore, who in 1867 reportedly perfected and named the dish in honor of the United States’ agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia. Chef Charles Ranhofer of the New York City eatery Delmonico’s popularized the dish in 1894, calling it “Alaska, Florida,” in an apparent homage to its combination of hot and cold elements. The restaurant still serves the dish today.

    Whatever its origins, Baked Alaska has deep roots in New Orleans thanks to Antoine’s, which keeps the tradition alive today at its French Quarter location, some 150 years after Alciatore first offered it to diners. The French-Creole fine-dining locale serves the dish in an elaborate tableside show in which a server flambés the egg-white meringue on the outside to perfection.

    Although its popularity has waned over the years, Baked Alaska remains an iconic New Orleans dish worthy of a celebration. February 1 is officially National Baked Alaska Day, making it the perfect occasion to honor this classic American bit of culinary ingenuity, preferably paired with a high-quality cup of coffee.

    We suggest Community® Cafe Special® Blend, which was created for the finest restaurants and is commonly found on some of the best menus in New Orleans. This welcoming, medium-dark-roasted coffee, made from only 100 percent select Arabica coffee beans, has a full-bodied flavor with a smooth and balanced finish.

    Feeling ambitious and want to make Baked Alaska yourself? The Food Network’s classic recipe will take plenty of time, but not any special baking skills.


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  • How to Choose the Right Coffee Brewing Method for You

    by Amy Cimo | Jan 22, 2018

    There’s no shortage of options for creating an amazing cup of coffee at home. From the tried-and-true automatic drip coffee machine to a range of advanced brewing technologies, coffee enthusiasts have more options than ever to transform their favorite coffee into an exceptional beverage. So many, in fact, that the options can be overwhelming.

    John Giuliano, a coffee enthusiast and blogger at Brewing Coffee Manually, says the most important factor to consider when choosing a brewing method is how you like your coffee. For instance, if you like a cup of coffee with a fuller body and a little more grit, steer toward the French press or a metal filter cone. If you like a cleaner cup, a paper filter option might be superior.

    He suggests experimenting with coffee brewed with different equipment, either at home or at your favorite coffee shop. “Go to coffee shops and try coffee brewed with different methods, or invest in some basic brewers and try them out for yourself,” Giuliano says.

    Convenience and flavor are also factors to consider when choosing a brewing method. For example, the pour-over method offers a smoother flavor than most automatic machines, but making pour-over coffee for five people every morning is going to be tedious for even the most dedicated coffee enthusiast. Other techniques offer delicate and refined flavors but require a more complicated brewing process and expensive equipment.

    “I like most brew methods and I think the more that you use them the more comfortable you get with your personal preferences,” Giuliano says. “Once you have dialed in a brewing method, you are more likely to use it daily because you know what to expect.”

    Whatever route you choose, remember that a complicated or pricey brewing process doesn’t necessarily translate into better coffee. “The idea that proper brewing equipment must be expensive is a fallacy,” says Nate Smith, a coffee expert and blogger at CoffeeNate.com. “I've had terrible coffee from brewers that cost thousands of dollars. On the other hand, I've sipped incredible coffee that was brewed in a $20 press pot.”

    Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the right brewing method for your coffee.

    French Press

    If you’re looking for a great way to produce a more intense, rich cup than what comes out of your automatic drip coffee maker, the French press is an excellent first step. 

    Pros: A French press creates a full-bodied coffee experience that can be easily tweaked by adjusting the grind texture and brewing time.

    Cons: French press carafes are generally small, which makes them inefficient for making coffee for more than two or three people. Coffee brewed in a French press often has sediment at the bottom of the cup and some brews can be overpowering for some drinkers.

    Pour-Over

    Pour-over coffee is among the most basic of brewing methods, requiring only ground coffee, a filter and a filter holder. Filter holders range from basic plastic cones available from most supermarkets to custom-made glass, wood or ceramic mechanisms like the Hario V60 dripper.

    Pros: Simple to clean up and relatively easy to adjust for acidity and body, this method produces a smooth and satisfying cup of coffee.

    Cons: Designed to only brew one cup at a time, it’s not the most efficient way to make large batches of coffee. A gooseneck kettle generally is needed to avoid making a mess when brewing.

    Single-Serve

    Pros: Single-serve containers offer super convenient, quick and consistent brewing through appliances like the Keurig K-Cup.

    Cons: Generally not as cost-efficient as many other brewing methods, and creates more waste. Single-pod coffee makers are among the most expensive.

    AeroPress

    The AeroPress brewing method creates full-flavored but smooth coffee in under two minutes.

    Pros: The small and portable AeroPress shortens brew time to just a few minutes, which can eliminate the bitterness created by slower methods. Coffee is micro-filtered for a grit-free beverage, unlike a French press. The result is a clean and intense cup.

    Cons: Requires specialized filters and only makes a small batch with each pressing.

    Chemex

    The Chemex Coffeemaker, made from non-porous glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, is like a giant pour-over mechanism and is designed to brew coffee without imparting any flavors of its own.

    Pros: Unlike a typical pour-over filter holder, the Chemex produces up to eight cups of coffee in a single brew. It’s more effective at filtering out oils and sediment than a French press.

    Cons: Smith says that while the Chemex can “provide an exceptional cup of coffee,” it and the AeroPress may require more experimentation than the average coffee consumer is willing to go through. “If you choose one of these brewers, watch some tutorial videos,” he advises. “At the same time, remember that coffee brewing and quality are very much subjective. While videos and instructions give you a starting point, don't be afraid to tweak the recipes.”

    Cold Brew

    Cold-brew coffee is course ground coffee that is soaked in room temperature water for 12 or more hours. This method creates a strong and smooth coffee concentrate with a considerable caffeine buzz. 

    Pros: Creates a very smooth-tasting beverage and solves the problem of watered-down iced coffee.

    Cons: Cold brewing at home takes time. Strong caffeine levels may not be appropriate for all coffee drinkers.

  • 4 Ways to Get Organized for National Clean Off Your Desk Day

    by Amy Cimo | Jan 12, 2018

    Your messy desk could be holding you back — and you’re probably not alone. Workplace surveys have found that employers are less likely to promote workers with disorganized workspaces, and estimates for the cost of lost productivity annually from messy desks in the U.S. total in the billions.

    January 8 was National Clean Off Your Desk Day. So fortunately, there’s no better time to start tackling this common problem than now. 

    We asked Baton Rouge-based certified professional organizer Alyssa Trosclair to share a few strategies for decluttering and organizing your workspace, whether you’re toiling away in a busy office or paying bills in a quiet corner of your home.

    So brew up a pot of Community® Mardi Gras King Cake coffee and kick off the new year with a coffee-fueled organizing session that will help make 2018 your most productive ever.

    Tame the Paperwork Monster

    “If you don’t have something to handle paper, it’s the number one thing that will quickly take over your life,” Trosclair says. “Paper enters your home or your office daily, so it will pile up more quickly than anything else.”

    First, designate an inbox for incoming paperwork that’s separate from current projects or any other items you may have on your desk. It also helps to take steps to slow the tide of incoming paperwork. Opting out of mailing lists, such as catalogs, is a good start. For a more comprehensive approach, putting your name on a Do Not Mail List will drastically reduce the amount of paper you receive in the mail.

    Trosclair also recommends keeping a trash can, recycle bin and a shredder within reach of your desk. Get rid of unnecessary paper as soon as it enters your home or office — before it establishes a permanent place on your desk. The key is taking action as quickly as possible.

    “If paper can be handled in three minutes, handle it immediately,” she says. “If you handle it when it comes in, it’s a small, quick task. But if you let all those tasks build up, it becomes more of a project.”

    Let It Go — Literally

    The buildup of documents can happen in any workplace, but it’s more likely to become a severe problem for companies that aren’t clear about the rules for handling paperwork over the long run. 

    Trosclair encourages companies to establish clear retention guidelines so employees know how long they need to keep important papers. For employees, store archival paperwork well away from current documents that are needed on a daily basis when possible. Once the retention guidelines are in place, schedule the eventual document disposal on your calendar, even if it’s a year away, she says.

    “Put ‘shred that brown box in the storeroom’ on your calendar so you don’t forget to go back and actually shred the paperwork,” Trosclair says.

    Ask Yourself If You Really Need to See It

    Trosclair says clients often argue they are visual thinkers and have to keep everything in sight on their desk or they’ll forget about important tasks. “I think their intention is to keep everything out to remind them what to work on, but eventually there is so much stuff on the desk that nothing stands out,” she says. “You’re no longer getting those cues.”

    As an alternative, she recommends grouping related project materials in clearly labeled folders or binders. The goal is to start relying more on action items or a to-do list to prioritize your actions instead of the pile on your desk that catches your eye. “Let your priority be your cue and work on that stuff next instead of the thing on the top of the pile,” she says.

    Tackle Visual Clutter

    While nearly every desk has some sort of personal touches, sometimes those items can reach excessive levels and become a distraction or productivity killer. “Even if your desk is neat and organized, it’s going to look messy,” says Trosclair, who recommends getting rid of excess personal items, including trinkets, photos and memorabilia. “This will lead to increased productivity because you're spending less time looking for what you need and you're more focused on the task at hand,” she says.

    Another way to simplify visual clutter is to group related items together — such as past projects, current projects and office supplies — and create a home for each group based on how frequently you use them. For example, current projects should have a place of prominence, while office supplies can usually be kept out of sight.

    “Make sure everything on your desk has an assigned home,” she says. “Often people just stack things on their desk because they don’t know where else it goes.”

  • How to Eat Right for a Marathon

    by Amy Cimo | Jan 08, 2018

    Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice tackling your first long-distance running event, grit and determination are essential factors to navigate the grueling physical challenge of a marathon. But Sarah Cuff, a holistic sports nutritionist, speaker and endurance athlete, says fueling your body with healthy foods is an equally important element of success in a long-distance race.

    Cuff, who writes about the intersection of running and nutrition at her website Eat 2 Run, has guided numerous athletes through the training and race-day process for marathons and other long-distance races. She says her clients often try to navigate the nutrition process on their own at first, only to underperform or “crash” on race day. “Most people, they do their first one or two marathons and they realize something is missing, so they come to me,” she says.

    Community Coffee Company is a longtime sponsor of the annual Louisiana Marathon, which attracts thousands of runners to Baton Rouge each January. With that race approaching, we asked Cuff for insights into how she approaches eating right for a marathon.

    Whether you’re trying to set a personal best or merely survive those daunting 26.2 miles, these tips will help you maximize your performance.

    Adjust Your Diet Months Before Race Day

    Cuff says that among the most common mistakes for new long-distance runners is failing to take enough time to plan and adjust to a nutrition plan for the race. She suggests marathoners start focusing on nutrition two or preferably three months before race day.

    “When you look at what you want to be doing the week of your marathon, especially on race morning, it’s really important to have practiced it so your body is very familiar with all of these foods,” she says. “The last thing you want to be doing is jumping in and trying out a bunch of new things that are supposed to work, or work for other people but may not work for you.”

    Eating better foods is also important throughout the training process. Long runs and workouts are stressful to the body, Cuff says, so it’s important to nourish your body with nutrient-dense, healthful food to help it recover properly.

    “I want my clients to arrive to the start line completely injury-free,” she says. “I want them to have done all their training — and to do all your training you can’t get injured, you can’t get sick.”

    Practice Your Pre-Race Meals

    In order to have enough energy to get to the finish line, runners must have proper intake of carbohydrates and glycogen, the primary fuels that muscles use. Cuff says that for a long-distance race like a marathon, even if you fill up your glycogen stores completely beforehand you’re still going to have to take in additional calories through gels or other foods during the run.

    “But if you can do a really good job of taking in a carbohydrate-rich breakfast the morning of, and eating carbohydrate-rich foods the day before, you're going to not have to worry so much about taking in fuel while you’re actually out there,” she says.

    Cuff says it’s risky to just carb-load before your big race without a complete understanding of how it will affect your body. Her solution is to carefully plan and practice both your race-day breakfast and your night-before meal long before the actual race.

    She says the meal the night before should be a simple pasta or rice dish with tomato sauce. It should generally be low-fiber, low-fat and low-protein. “We don’t need a big hunk of protein right before a marathon,” she says.

    When planning, consider whether you’ll be eating at home or on the road at a restaurant. She says most restaurants are willing to accommodate runners with a simple high-carb meal not on the menu. “You can pretty much walk into any restaurant and ask for white rice with tomato sauce and some carrots and they’re going to serve it to you,” she says.

    Eat Early and Smart

    “The food you put in your body on race morning can really make or break you, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system,” Cuff says.

    On race morning, Cuff says marathoners should aim to eat breakfast three to four hours before the race begins. For early race starts, that means waking up well before dawn to take in the necessary calories. “You can go back to bed after eating your breakfast,” she says.

    For a marathon, a runner needs to take in 2 to 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight before the race, which can seem like a daunting task for some athletes. Cuff says she’ll wake up three hours before her race and have a bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit and a banana, along with a glass of tart cherry juice, which she says is effective at lowering inflammation in the body.

    “The lower inflammation is in the body the faster and longer we’ll be able to run,” she says. “Eventually there will be inflammation in our body and it will slow us down at some point in the marathon, but the longer we can keep it low, the better.”

    She’ll add a banana muffin and some dried fruit an hour later. An hour before the race, she takes a triple shot of espresso, which is a legal performance enhancer that has been shown to help many runners.

    “If I don’t have that I notice the difference,” she says. “For some people, they are responders to caffeine. For them, using caffeine as an ergogenic aid can make a huge difference in their performance.”

    Plan to Refuel

    During the race, experts recommend taking in 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Most popular commercial gel packets are about 24 grams a piece, which means consuming one roughly every 50 minutes or so will prevent a crash during the race. Cuff says you can’t expect your body to handle taking in carbs mid-race perfectly without some practice.

    “It sounds easy but it is a challenge, so the only way to really prepare your body for that is to practice every single week,” she says. “Every long run you do, you’re putting the gels in your body, you're getting your body used to it. Our body is trainable. If you go up there the very first time and you decide it doesn’t work for you, go out there and do it again.”

    “It’s just a matter of practice, practice, practice, and it will come together by the time race day comes around.”
  • Kick Off a Healthy New Year and Celebrate National Drinking Straw Day with These Fun Drinks

    by Amy Cimo | Jan 03, 2018

    Way back in 1888, inventor Marvin C. Stone was awarded a patent for the paper drinking straw, setting off a beverage-sipping revolution that continues about 130 years later. Each Jan. 3 people across the United States celebrate his tubular invention on National Drinking Straw Day by kicking back with their favorite beverage.

    But as the calendar turns over into 2018 and New Year’s resolutions come into play, many people become increasingly conscious about the health consequences of the liquid portion of their daily diets. “Sugar-sweet beverages add tons of calories, and added sugars and can lead people down the wrong path,” says Kathy Garvey, a registered dietitian in New Orleans. “So watching what you drink is a simple way to clean up your diet.”

    Luckily, it’s possible to celebrate the beauty of the beverage without derailing your healthy goals for the new year. We asked Garvey for a few fun-yet-healthful drink options that she suggests for her clients to make at home as they bounce back from the annual circuit of decadent holiday meals and parties. So grab your favorite straw and give these tasty beverages a try.

    Lime Basil Spritzer

    This refreshing and surprisingly complex beverage is an excellent cocktail alternative for those looking to take a break from alcohol after the holiday season and before Mardi Gras.

    First, combine several fresh basil leaves with lime juice and let them steep together for a few hours in the refrigerator. Remove the basil and add 1-2 tablespoons of the juice to a 5-ounce glass of sparkling cider or sparkling water. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil. “It’s a delicious and light treat,” Garvey says.

    For an adult version perfect for an early-season Mardi Gras outing, simply replace the cider with prosecco, the crisp and fizzy wine with a delicate citrus flavor.

    Straw Suggestion: Multicolored tropical umbrella straw.

    Low-Sugar Chocolate Milk from Scratch

    A new year often spawns a renewed focus on workouts, but all of that additional exercise should be supported by appropriate nutrition to help your body recover. 

    “Chocolate milk has some good evidence behind it as a recovery drink, which is related to the carb-to-protein ratio,” Garvey says. However, many mass-produced chocolate milks can contain large quantities of sugar or corn syrup as well as preservatives.

    The solution, Garvey says, is to make your own from scratch. Start with your favorite variety of milk and add some cocoa powder and a half of teaspoon of maple syrup. Whisk it together for a satisfying beverage that will help you bounce back from your new year’s workout routine. For an extra-hearty drink, turn your homemade chocolate milk into a full-fledged shake by blending in half of a frozen banana.

    Straw Suggestion: Classic red-and-white paper straw.

    London Fog Latte

    This drink popped up in the Pacific Northwest in the past decade but has since gained popularity nationwide. It’s a simple yet satisfying concoction of three ingredients: tea, milk and vanilla. Garvey says this is a perfect treat for clients who are tea enthusiasts but trying to limit sweet drinks. 

    Traditionally made with Earl Grey Tea, the recipe also works well with Community® Porch Breeze® Green Tea, a delicately flavored variety made from a special blend of steamed tea leaves. While the tea is brewing, heat some milk — cow’s milk, almond milk and coconut milk all work well — in a small saucepan on medium. Whisk the milk for a few minutes, getting it hot and frothy without letting it boil. Add about half a cup of the milk to the tea, along with a dash of vanilla extract or vanilla syrup for a bit of sweetness.

    “It tastes like you’re drinking a marshmallow without adding a bunch of sugar,” Garvey says.

    Straw Suggestion: Hot-beverage silicon straw.

  • Hot Chocolate With A Kick

    by Amy Cimo | Dec 22, 2017

    A good cup of hot chocolate — homemade, with quality ingredients, and definitely not from a packet — is a powerful thing.

    The basic recipe for hot chocolate is simple — dairy and chocolate. But for new spins on this classic treat, we turned to Anne Milneck, a chef and owner of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge. As a Girl Scout troop leader, she credits cocoa for bringing her girls together around many campfires. One of her favorite tricks: A little heavy cream.

    “Maybe not on a daily basis, but certainly when we’re gathering with friends and family, a splash — OK, honestly, a glug — of heavy cream is added to the milk,” she says. “A little half-and-half or heavy cream ups the decadence and enjoyment factor.”

    You can also try out different combinations of chocolate:

    • White chocolate is made of sugar, milk and cocoa butter, minus the cocoa solids.
    • Next up the ladder is milk chocolate, a solid chocolate made with milk.
    • Semisweet chocolate is frequently used in cooking as is dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa.
    • Dark chocolate is produced with a higher percentage of cocoa, usually mixed with cocoa butter but also various mixtures of milk.
    • There’s also cocoa powder, which is commonly used in baking. There are two kinds of powder: natural cocoa and Dutch-process cocoa. Natural cocoa is more acidic than Dutch-process, which is made with alkali to neutralize the acid so it more easily blends with liquids.

    Finally, consider subbing in coffee for milk or hot water, to turn your hot chocolate into a mocha. Community® Cafe Special® Decaffeinated is a great choice for nighttime sipping.

    Here are three recipes Milneck says she’ll be making on repeat this winter.

    Aztec Spiced Cocoa

    • 2 tbsps. Aztec Spiced Cocoa mix (Includes Vietnamese cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt and other spices)
    • 1 cup milk or brewed coffee (to make it a mocha)
    • Half-and-half or heavy cream, to taste
    1. Add the base liquid (milk or coffee) and cocoa mix to your mug.
    2. Stir to combine.
    3. Add half-and-half or cream and top with marshmallows.

    White Chocolate Mocha

    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup half-and-half
    • 4 oz. white chocolate
    • 2 tsps. vanilla
    • Pinch of salt
    • Brewed coffee
    1. Pour all but the coffee in a saucepan. Stirring frequently, heat until the chocolate is melted, then whisk constantly for two minutes. Do not allow to boil.
    2. Pour half a mug of coffee and top with the white chocolate mixture. Garnish with whipped cream or marshmallows and, if desired, a sprinkle of cinnamon.

    Homemade Marshmallows

    • 1 cup cold water, divided
    • 3 ¼-ounce packets of plain gelatin
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • 2 tsps. vanilla puree
    • ½ cup potato starch
    • ½ cup powdered sugar

    1 tbsp. vanilla bean powder 

    1. Line a 9-by-9-inch square pan with foil and coat with nonstick spray. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to bloom.
    2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the remaining water, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring often. When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to clean any sugar crystals that have formed. Do not stir after this point.
    3. Boil until the thermometer reaches soft-ball stage — 240 degrees. This will take 15-20 minutes.
    4. With the mixer running, pour the hot syrup in a slow stream down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. This will prevent splatter and burns. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 15 minutes until the mixture is very thick and stiff. Pour in vanilla puree and beat for about 30 seconds to incorporate.
    5. Using a wet spatula, press the mixture in the prepared pan. Keep rewetting the spatula as needed and smooth down the mixture. Cover with foil and allow to cool for several hours at room temperature; there’s no need to refrigerate.
    6. Combine the potato starch, powdered sugar and vanilla bean powder in a large bowl. Turn the marshmallows onto a silicon mat, sheet of parchment or cutting board. Cut into large squares and toss each marshmallow in the mixture to coat all sides. Tap off excess and place on a platter. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to four weeks.
  • Take Flight with These Tips

    by Amy Cimo | Dec 18, 2017

    Happy National Aviation Day! And it couldn’t fall during a better season because the holidays are all about travelling to see friends and family. Whether you’re picking up family from the airport or you’re doing the travelling yourself, give these helpful travel tips a quick look.

    Planning a family vacation can be exhausting, so use your flight time to catch up on that much needed sleep. If you tire yourself out a bit before a long day of travelling, once you’re settled on the plane and relaxed, sleep will come naturally.

    Southwest Airlines® allows you to maximize your comfort level while staying close to your loved ones by choosing your seat. Book your seat according to the side you normally sleep on. The window seats on the left side of the plane offer more space to sleep because the seats are off center. Also, Southwest Airlines® also offers Community® coffee so you can enjoy a boost of caffeine before jumping into your vacation schedule.

    Once you finally reach your destination, the stress of finding your passport, making your flight, and retrieving your luggage disappears. Be sure to leave room in your luggage or carry-on for souvenirs and gifts you may pick up during your trip. Now you can relax and enjoy the journey.

  • Holiday Gift Ideas for the Coffee Lover in Your Life, and How to Wrap Them

    by Amy Cimo | Dec 07, 2017

    The arrival of the holiday season means the scramble to find the perfect gift for family and friends is officially underway. Chances are there is a coffee lover on your list, and we’ve got you covered with an eclectic selection of coffee-related gifts — from brewing equipment to specialty coffees to tools that can help anyone make a better cup of coffee at home.

    But finding the gift is only part of the challenge. Once you’ve landed the perfect present, it’s time to wrap it. Don’t just put it in a gift bag with some tissue paper, especially if it’s for a close family member or friend. Darcy Lee, owner of Heartfelt, a San Francisco gift shop known for its meticulous and creative gift wrapping, says taking a little time to wrap a gift in an interesting way can make for a more special moment and show you care. “I have wrapped thousands of presents, and I love that ‘aha!’ moment when I hand over the gift to a pleased customer,” she says.

    Here are a few gifts that are sure to please any coffee lover on your holiday list this year, along with Lee’s tips for how to add a personal touch to make each one of these gifts special.

    Hario Coffee Hand Grinder

    hand grinder
    Ask an expert for the quickest way to improve your coffee experience at home and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you to get a better grinder for your coffee beans. Common electric grinders that use metal blades can pulverize the beans and typically result in an inconsistent grind. When it’s time to brew, the hot water will extract flavor from bigger pieces and tiny specks of coffee in an inconsistent manner. This hand grinder breaks down coffee in a more uniform way without using blades.

    How to wrap it: Lee says to find a gift box that will hold a pound of coffee and place a sheet of tissue paper in the box (not scrunched up; more as a lining). “There are many great print tissues on the market, or you can just use a plain solid sheet,” she says. “Buy a pound of coffee beans and pour them into the box until it is half full, then place the hand grinder into the box and pour the rest of the beans until it is full. Add bows and ribbon to make the gift box go from plain to pretty. Choose a color that coordinates with the box, and voila!”

    The Chemex Coffeemaker, made from nonporous glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, is like a giant pour-over mechanism and is designed to brew coffee without imparting any flavors of its own. Unlike a typical pour-over filter holder, the Chemex produces up to eight cups of coffee in a single brew.

    How to wrap it: “This classic design deserves the best,” Lee says. “Take the box the Chemex comes in and choose a heavy, strong wrap that can withstand box corners. There are many Italian-made wraps that fit this description.” If your wrapping paper is thinner, place a piece of tape at the spots that hit the four corners so that they do not poke through the paper. “Sometimes it’s fun with wrapping to choose colors or patterns that go with the item — for instance, a coffeemaker might inspire brown and white paper or a vintage ’50s-style print that goes with the era of the design.”

    GET IT

    6-Cup Chemex Coffeemaker

    chemex coffeemaker

    The Chemex Coffeemaker, made from nonporous glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, is like a giant pour-over mechanism and is designed to brew coffee without imparting any flavors of its own. Unlike a typical pour-over filter holder, the Chemex produces up to eight cups of coffee in a single brew.

    How to wrap it: “This classic design deserves the best,” Lee says. “Take the box the Chemex comes in and choose a heavy, strong wrap that can withstand box corners. There are many Italian-made wraps that fit this description.” If your wrapping paper is thinner, place a piece of tape at the spots that hit the four corners so that they do not poke through the paper. “Sometimes it’s fun with wrapping to choose colors or patterns that go with the item — for instance, a coffeemaker might inspire brown and white paper or a vintage ’50s-style print that goes with the era of the design.”

    GET IT

    ‘Brew: Better Coffee At Home’

    brew better
     This book by coffee expert Brian W. Jones demystifies the complexities of specialty coffee, teaches you how to buy the best beans and brewing equipment, offers in-depth primers for mastering various slow-coffee techniques like pour-over and French press, and offers dozens of recipes for coffee-based drinks and cocktails.

    How to wrap it: “An original way to wrap a book is to take an old sheet or two of newspaper,” Lee says. “Wrap the book first in tissue or newsprint with no printing on it to protect the cover of the book. For the next layer, wrap the gift in newspaper as if that is your gift wrap. Add a bright ribbon and a personalized enclosure card. It will be the talk of the holiday party.”

    GET IT

    Takeya Pitcher for Cold Brew or Iced Tea

    TakeyaThis versatile 2-quart Takeya pitcher is perfect for making cold-brew coffee or refreshing iced tea. For tea, the pitcher features the patented Flash Chill method, which chills freshly brewed tea in seconds.

    How to wrap it: “Personalize this one for the person you are giving it to,” Lee says. If they are a tea drinker, add Community® Porch Breeze® tea to the container; if it’s for a cold-brew enthusiast, add a bag of ground coffee or Community® Cold Brew coffee. “The box this comes in is super easy to wrap, so one standard sheet of wrapping paper will do the trick,” she says.

    GET IT

    Community Coffee Special Blends Sampler

    sampler
    Give the gift of refined Southern taste with this assortment of delicious Community® specialty coffees that are sure to please even the most discerning coffee drinkers. The set contains one 12-ounce ground bag each of Evangeline Blend, Louisiana Blend®, Founder's Blend and Espresso Blend.

    How to wrap it: “These four bags of coffee could be wrapped in four different patterned papers,” Lee says. “Choose papers that all have the same color, then stack the wrapped bags together and tie together with raffia or your favorite ribbon. Remember to match the colors of the paper with the ribbon colors.”

    GET IT

    Tailgate Traditions Tumbler

    tailgate tumbler
    There’s no shortage of travel coffee mugs on the market, but this 16-ounce Tailgate Traditions Tumbler stands out as the perfect beverage holder for any event you attend this year. The double-walled Tervis tumbler will keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold. It features a snap lid with an open/close slider.

    How to wrap it: “I like the idea of wrapping a travel mug in an old map,” Lee says. “We all use our phones and have maps lying around not in use. Match one of the map colors with your ribbon and you are ready with an original, eco-friendly gift.”

    GET IT

  • How to Host a Delightful, Stress-Free Holiday Party

    by Amy Cimo | Dec 04, 2017

    The holiday season should be a time of celebration among close friends and family — and few events represent that spirit of thankfulness and revelry better than a holiday party.

    For the party host, however, a year-end celebration is not always a purely joyful time. With guest lists, menus and decorations to coordinate, hosting a holiday party can quickly get overwhelming, sending stress levels into unfestive territory.

    Fortunately, all it takes is a little planning and preparation to actually enjoy your holiday party just as much as your guests. Here are a few tips from event-planning veterans to help make it happen.

    Start Planning Early

    Chef Bobby Breaux of Chef Bobby & Dot Catering in Kaplan, Louisiana, says the most common mistake party hosts make is waiting too long to start planning for a holiday event. This is especially problematic if you plan to order any of your food from an outside source like a caterer or restaurant.

    Breaux says his business spikes during the holiday season, which means his team typically needs several weeks’ notice to make sure they can schedule cooking time for every party’s food. Breaux’s kitchen, for example, cooked 110 briskets last holiday season, along with enough rice dressing for 800 people every three days. That means last-minute requests are likely going to be a problem.

    “I’d probably start planning almost a month ahead,” he says. “If they wait until the last minute, most caterers and restaurants are busy and may even stop taking orders.”

    Heather Sewell Day, owner of The Red Cake, a Baton Rouge-based event-planning company, says to start with the basics when planning your party: Choose a guest list, determine a budget and select where you’re going to host the event — such as your home, a restaurant or another venue. Once you determine those basics, you can move on to the items like food and drink.

    Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Little Help

    Breaux says he finds holiday party hosts are less likely to attempt to prepare every dish on their own these days, opting instead to focus on their favorites. Caterers can pre-make some of the most difficult holiday dishes for parties so that they can be heated up on the day of the event. If you place them in a nice dish, nobody has to know where they came from.

    “A lot of people don’t cook everything on their own anymore,” Breaux says. “More and more people do the dish that they like to do and the rest they pass on to somebody else.”

    If You’re Doing the Cooking, Keep It Simple

    Chef/owner Karen Ferries-Yoon of The Cocktail Party Chef in New York City specializes in stylish versions of savory and sweet hors d'oeuvres. While some of her party creations are quite intricate, she suggests home party hosts focus on dishes with as few ingredients as possible that still pack a punch of flavor. “Most important, it has to look beautiful,” she says.

    She says one of the simplest and consistently successful recipes for home cooks is baked parmesan crisps, a two-ingredient dish that can be made quickly in batches of 15-20 per baking sheet. First, pour a heaping tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese onto a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Cook for roughly 10 minutes at 350 degrees until they form a flat, cracker-like consistency.

    “As they come out of the oven, just sprinkle some black pepper and you’re done,” she says. “People love these. It’s a great bar snack.” You can add a little parsley or basil for a splash of color, she says.

    For a simple and sweet party treat, Ferries-Yoon recommends melting some chocolate, adding some pomegranate seeds and pumpkins seeds, then spreading it out on a cooking sheet. Let it set in a freezer or refrigerator for an easy-yet-complex dessert that is perfect for the holiday season.

    When venturing into more complex recipes, she says, party hosts should try to focus on their strengths and dishes they know will be successful. “If you have things in your repertoire that you know how to do, then make them,” she says. “This is not the time to try something new.”

    When Decorating, Turn to What You Already Have

    Creating a festive aesthetic is vital for setting the mood at your gathering, but you don’t have to make a huge investment to make things look nice, particularly around the holidays. Day suggests appropriating some holiday decorations from around your house for your table spread.

    “You don’t have to spend a lot of money on flowers and things like that, especially during the holidays,” she says. “You can cut some limbs off your Christmas tree to use around your platters. You can bring in some Christmas ornaments and tuck them inside the limbs of the trees, rather than spending a lot of money on flowers.”

    Don’t Forget the Hot Beverages

    If your holiday gathering comes with cooler weather, be sure to offer your guests some warm-beverage options — such as hot chocolate and coffee — to close the festivities out properly.

    Community® Private Reserve® Founder’s Blend, a premium coffee that blends flavors from four distinct South American and African growing regions, is the perfect beverage to close out an occasion as special as a holiday party.

  • Creating Lifetime Readers: The Church Academy

    by Amy Cimo | Nov 26, 2017

    On average, Americans spend two hours each day watching TV and only seven minutes reading. This is a shocking statistic, especially since the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education. Without literacy skills - the abilities to read, to write, to do math, to solve problems, and to access and use technology - today's adults will struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as community members and employees. Currently, more than 20% of adults read at a level that is too low to earn a living wage.

    However, educators at The Church Academy are working to combat these statistics by placing a riveting novel in the hands of each child at their school. The Church Academy’s educators know that illiteracy and low-literacy rates are completely preventable; that’s why they decided to use their hard earned Community Cash for Schools® funds to enhance their library’s book offerings by buying new books for their students.

    The Outsiders, Holes and Stargirl are just a few of the novels middle schoolers are reaching for. New, fresh books that students really want to jump into is the key. Teachers are hoping to start a reading obsession with their students that will help to prepare them for the rest of the academic career and future.

    The funds earned from the proof of purchase redemption program are the reality of support from parents, teachers and the local church. Every Sunday the Church serves Community® coffee at each of their three church services. They then collect and donated the labels to The Church Academy. Students need help to thrive, and this partnership of business, community and the school helps to build a support system that creates lifetime readers.

  • Picking the Best Coffee to Complement Your Dessert

    by Amy Cimo | Nov 20, 2017

    Whether it’s a jolt of caffeine and a sweet treat to cap off a fine dinner or a flaky pastry with an afternoon brew at your favorite shop, coffee and desserts are a match made in culinary heaven.

    As the coffee industry continues to grow and consumer tastes become more sophisticated, the culinary world is focusing more attention on how to more effectively select desserts that complement the complex flavors of different high-quality coffees.

    A solid starting point for pairing coffee with sweet foods is the richer the dessert the darker the coffee. Nathan Smith, a coffee expert and blogger at CoffeeNate.com, leans toward bolder brews when enjoying them with sweet foods. “Good coffee goes well with anything,” Smith says. “I usually prefer lighter roasts, but I don't mind a dark roast when paired with a sweet dessert.”

    However, the science and art of pairing foods with coffees can go well beyond this simple guideline.

    Spencer Turer, director of coffee operations at Coffee Analysts in Vermont, argues that restaurants and cafes should consider offering more coffee options to diners with their dessert courses. He says consumers are more knowledgeable about coffee than ever before, and pairing the right coffee with desserts or other food items can enhance the dining experience.

    The goal when pairing, Turer says, is to find flavors that are pleasing together — known as harmony — even if they are contradictory tastes like sweet and bitter. Conversely, pairings should avoid combining flavors that conflict with each other in an unpleasant way or overpower the palate and change the characters of either item. The only way to figure out what works is to taste as many things as possible, Turer says.

    “You should be tasting coffee, tasting desserts, tasting savory foods,” he says. “If you really want to do this well, you should always be tasting food and beverage products and developing your palate.”

    Turer is quick to point out that there is no universality when determining which coffees complement different desserts because food preferences are inherently subjective. But the researcher has prepared intricate menus of coffees and desserts for representatives of the coffee industry in the recent years and developed combinations that work well.

    Turer says the richness of deep chocolate flavors in a dessert like a devil's food cake pair well with a complementary coffee of similar character. He has also combined the complex flavors and heavy sweetness of a Kentucky bourbon pecan pie with a sweet, clean coffee with low acidity, dark chocolate and molasses characters. The coffee and dessert had similar profiles but offered enough contradictory flavors to keep each item separate on the diner’s palate.

    For pairings, Turer suggests steering clear of high-acid foods with strong bitter or sour flavors because they can overwhelm the palate when combined with coffee.

    “If the flavor of one product contradicts the flavor of another product because it’s saturated your palate to the point that you can’t taste through it, then you know those food products shouldn’t be paired together,” he says.

    Whatever combinations you develop, remember that pairing coffee with desserts should be an enjoyable experience. Here are some of our favorite Community® coffee flavor combinations for different types of desserts to get your started.

    Chocolate Desserts

    Sample desserts: Brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate cream pie.

    Recommended coffees: Café Special, Signature Blend Dark Roast, Coffee & Chicory, French Roast, Brazil Santos Bourbon, Evangeline Blend.

    Creamy & Tart Desserts

    Sample desserts: Bananas Foster, cheesecake, crème brûlée, tiramisu, vanilla ice cream, lemon pie, cream pie.

    Recommended coffees: Breakfast Blend, Café Special, Colombia Toledo-Labateca, House Blend, 100% Colombia Altura

    Complex Multi-Flavored Desserts

    Sample desserts: Peanut butter and chocolate pie, chocolate truffle cake, peanut butter and chocolate cake.

    Recommended coffees: Café Special, Coffee & Chicory, Signature Blend Dark Roast, French Roast, Founder's Blend.

    Fruit Pastries, Rich Cakes & Pies

    Sample desserts: Crème crûlée with berries, carrot cake, seasonal mixed berries, fruit pie, cobbler.

    Recommended coffees: 100% Colombia Altura, Breakfast Blend Café Special, Amber Sunrise, Blend House Blend.

    Breads & Dense Cakes

    Sample desserts: Angel food cake, bread pudding, crumb cake, pound cake.

    Recommended coffees: Breakfast Blend, Café Special, House Blend.
  • 5 Tips to Create a Thanksgiving Table That Will Wow

    by Amy Cimo | Nov 13, 2017

    Food, family and friends are always the foundations of a memorable Thanksgiving gathering, and creating an unforgettable experience starts with designing a warm and inviting space to enjoy the meal.

    “To sit down at a beautiful table setting makes the anticipation for the meal that much more exciting and special,” says Heather Sewell Day, owner of The Red Cake, a Baton Rouge-based event-planning company. “Guests feel that they were thought of and that their presence at your table was deliberate. And if you start the night with a fabulous-looking table, the food tastes even better. It's the little details that people remember and talk about at the next gathering.”

    Here are a few tips from experts on how to create a table that makes a lasting impression for one of the most important meals of the year.

    Personalize Your Place Settings

    Julia Usher, a pastry chef, food writer and author, says she creates custom, crafty place cards with the names of her guests for special-occasion meals, often incorporating objects such as small glass perfume bottles into the setting. She suggests affixing small name cards to the bottles with some colorful string to create a keepsake of the event that guests can take home.

    “It just makes them feel special, because it’s clear you’ve tuned in to them and you’re thinking of them,” she says. “Just the very act of writing their name and making that setting unique says you care. I think that’s really important.”

    To take the settings to the next level, she suggests adding a function to the bottles by filling them with salad dressing.

    If bottles aren’t practical for you, don’t worry. For a one-of-a-kind look, Usher suggests starting with vintage menus or postcards that you can scan and update on a computer to incorporate guest names and information about the special day.

    Don’t Be Afraid of Heights

    Day suggests thinking vertically when constructing your Thanksgiving table design. Easy ways to add an element of height to your table include flowers and candles, but even your food offers an opportunity to stretch your tablescape upward.

    “It’s always nice to not put everything in chafing dishes,” she says. “Stack things on cake platters and use height on your table to give yourself a really interesting tablescape.”

    The technique works best with cold foods, so Day suggests incorporating more of those options into your Thanksgiving meal.

    Mix and Match

    If you’re having a large gathering for Thanksgiving and are worried that you don’t have enough of the same place settings for all of your guests, Usher suggests using the circumstance to your advantage.

    “If you find you don’t have a full set of china, to me that’s not a big deal,” Usher says. “It’s actually a nice opportunity to pull out what you have and see what works together. As long as you stick to a reasonably tepid color palette, you can get away with lots of different patterns and textures in the settings, even if you’re mixing and matching.”

    Usher says she likes to layer her table with richness and a diversity of styles, adding layers of detail that together make a unique impression. To achieve this, she says, she relies on a combination of vintage salvage and handmade items to create one-of-a-kind place settings.

    For example, she says, she might create a charger for the place-setting out of a vintage tin roof tile, or take cheap plastic chargers and decoupage them with paper or fabric that matches the overall theme of the gathering.

    Embrace Bold Colors

    Fall and Thanksgiving are known for earthy tones, but adding an unexpected color like blue or even purple to your table will update your look and give it an unexpected twist, says Chris Nease, editor and stylist with Celebrations At Home.

    “For example, blue pairs well with golden yellow, burnt orange or beige/brown,” she says. “Purple adds dimension to a mix of gold, orange and green. Incorporate the color through card stock place cards, napkins, glassware or flowers, and transform your traditional setting into something unique.”

    Don’t Forget About the Coffee

    One tried-and-true way to impress your guests is to offer them a special coffee after the meal. Community® Private Reserve® coffees, a collection of specialty-grade blends and single-origin coffees representing generations of coffee expertise, are a perfect finish to a Thanksgiving meal.

    Try the Founders Blend, skillfully created by our fourth-generation owner Matt Saurage in honor of his great-grandfather and Community founder Cap Saurage. This coffee blends flavors from four distinct South American and African growing regions, creating a deliciously complex cup.

    Another crowd-pleasing option is Evangeline Blend™, with 100 percent specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans roasted to create a deep, semisweet flavor to honor the Acadian culture that is important to Community.

    These premium coffees are an excellent complement to a Thanksgiving meal designed to create warm feelings and a lasting impression.
  • Connecting Over Coffee

    by Amy Cimo | Nov 10, 2017

    For military children past and present, a hug and a kiss from mom and dad isn’t always possible. Their parents are frequently called to serve overseas and attend trainings for extended periods of time. These separations can be tough on those military kids, but we’re partnering with the USO of North Carolina to help strengthen those families by connecting them to family, home and country.

    For military children, Ashley and Aubrey, their father’s year-long deployment meant that they would have to go to sleep without a bedtime story from dad. Their father was heartbroken at the thought of ending their nightly story time tradition. But after some research and some assistance from the USO of NC, he was able to make recordings of those bed time stories, so that his daughters could hear their father’s voice even when he was thousands miles away. 

    Families and friends bond in so many ways, through reading a bedtime story, from sharing a meal, or even chatting over a cup of coffee, Community Coffee wants to be there to help military families build lasting connections.

    That is why we support the USO of North Carolina year-round. Just like us, they care about helping you celebrate the little victories and traditional holidays. From taking a break from military life and enjoying a free cup of Community Coffee at one of the USO of NC’s 10 locations across the state, to care packages and holiday gifts, to life changing programs providing military families with the tools to overcome the challenges that accompany military life, the USO of NC stands by the side of those who serve.

    Even as they’re leaving the military, the USO of North Carolina stands with them, guiding them through their transition to successful veteran status, resume workshops, one-on-one assistance and so much more.  

    This Veteran’s Day, please join us in recognizing our nation’s service members, past and present for the service and sacrifice. Less than one percent of our nation serves in the military, protecting the additional 99 percent, and our team at Community Coffee is honored to support them through our partnership with the USO of NC. 
  • HOW TO: TACKLE BLACK FRIDAY

    by Amy Cimo | Nov 06, 2017

    If you’re looking to tackle one of the biggest retail sales days of the year, you’re definitely not alone. Millions of people turn up at all hours of the day, night and early morning in hopes of getting the best bargains on the hottest items. Preparing ahead of time with some tips and tricks can help you make the day successful, and hopefully, fun.

    Step 1: Make A List! And check it twice. Plan your purchases. Jot down who you’re shopping for and some gift ideas for each. This way you’ll be able to shop more efficiently by targeting the areas of the store you need to hit and avoiding impulse buys. By the way, coffee is always a great gift. Also a good idea – set a budget.

    Step 2: Do Your Research! Most retailers release their deals ahead of Black Friday. Take some time to research the ads and find out who has the best deals for the items on your (already made) list. You may also find great deals on items you hadn’t yet considered. Sites such as RetailMeNot and Offers.com can jumpstart your savings plan. After choosing your target locations, map out your route. Likewise, some retailers may actually start their Black Friday deals days or weeks in advance. Take advantage of the less busy times and get your shopping done even earlier!

    Step 3: Fuel Properly! Regardless of the hour you actually start shopping, it’s bound to be a long day of hustling. Start with a good protein-packed breakfast to help keep you full and energized. Make these Mocha Banana Pecan Overnight Oats ahead to save time. Pack snack bars or almonds for any cravings throughout the day. And don’t forget the coffee. Use a durable travel tumbler to bring your coffee with you. If you want an extra kick of caffeine, try Community® Cold Brew Coffee – brew it up ahead of time and doctor it to your taste preference. With a smoother taste and more caffeine than traditional hot brewed coffee, it’s perfect to keep you moving throughout the day.

    Step 4: Take Advantage of Convenience Shopping! You may be able to find your favorite in-store deals on the store’s retail website as well. Find out if the bargain you’re hunting is available online and shop from the comfort of your own home. Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday) has also become one of the largest shopping days of the year…and the easiest way to shop in your pajamas. Retailers target online consumers with huge savings that are equivalent to – or even better than – Black Friday deals. Community® coffee fans can expect to find some great savings and free shipping offers on Cyber Monday. (Hint, hint!)

    Step 5: Reward Yourself! OK, so you did your research…you found the deals…you braved the crowds…and, most importantly, you survived. Treat yo’ self! After grabbing gifts for friends and family, you deserve something special, too. Enjoy some “me” time and a relaxing day at home with a cup of Community® limited-time offering Dark Chocolate Peppermint coffee. Or go out for your favorite activity and grab a gift for yourself.

  • Brighten Up the End of Daylight Saving Time

    by Amy Cimo | Oct 30, 2017

    Fall is a great time of year. Nature’s beauty is revealed in warm, neutral colors, the heat of summer fades into the cool autumn air, and pumpkin is all around. With the change of seasons also comes the change in days; more specifically, the end of Daylight Saving Time on November 5. The days will be shorter and the nights will be colder. It can be challenging to not let the loss of daylight keep us from achieving the same amount of productivity. However, with some creative ideas and a few inspirational tips, you can keep marching forward and feel better than ever.

    Decorate

    A change in décor will liven up any space. Fall colors are great for creating a warm, homey feel. Get inspired with these Fall DIY ideas. Also try out some coffee art – use leftover brewed coffee as paint, create some coffee bean jewelry, or use coffee filters for a new crafty project.

    New Workout Routine

    Keeping your body healthy is essential for managing the dreaded time change and the hit to our natural circadian rhythm, but doing the same exercise day after day can be boring. Change up your workout routine and give your body a fresh start for Fall. Take advantage of free trial offers in your local gyms and try out a new place. Specialized training studios will often offer the first class free, so give something different a chance, such as yoga, barre, cross-fit…you may find something you decide you can’t live without! And if you’re a runner, don’t forget about our tips on preparing for cold weather races.

    Fall Cleaning

    Losing extra hours of daylight can be depressing, but taking some time to freshen up your home or de-clutter closets can help brighten up the fall evenings. Have a Fall cleaning and get your home and closet ready for family gatherings and cooler days. Get rid of the things you don’t need and pull out your favorite sweaters and jackets. Breaking out those boots may be just the mood enhancer you need!

    New Recipes

    With the holidays quickly approaching and holiday parties in full effect, it’s a perfect time to try some new recipes. Spice up your kitchen with seasonal favorites or show your skills with a new treat, such as this coffee-infused mochi. Pick up some fruits and veggies at your local farmer’s market to incorporate into colorful new dishes. And don’t forget the coffee – Community® Dark Chocolate Peppermint coffee is only available for a limited time! It’s a delicious treat for your guests during those holiday parties.

  • Halloween Tricks & Treats

    by Amy Cimo | Oct 23, 2017

    Fall is just around the corner, and before you know it there will be little vampires, princesses, and ghosts knocking on your front door in search of candy. This Halloween impress your guests, young or old, with spooky DIY decorations and delectable, goulash treats.  

    The spookiest way to light up your front porch is with candles. This quick DIY puts an adorable twist on a classic Halloween character. Add a festive, fall flare to your house with these easy mummy mason jar candles.

    If candy apples are your favorite sweet treat, this recipe was made for you. These marble candy apples are perfect for any Halloween party, and are actually fairly easy to make, as long as you have a candy thermometer. No matter what the theme of your Halloween party is, these candy apples are sure to dazzle your guests.

    Looking for something festive to do with those leftover Pumpkin Praline Single-Serve Pods this fall? We’ve got the perfect DIY for you. For less than $1 these recycled K-Cup Halloween lights will surely impress coffee lovers and kids alike.

    For those picky partygoers try these vegan, gluten-free bloody cups. This simply sweet treat replaces the peanut butter in a peanut butter cup with raspberry sauce. The dark red filling makes them perfect for Halloween. This 20 minute task requires only 3 ingredients, so it’s the ideal last minute party recipe.

    There are two things that everyone loves, a good party and a cute favor. Surprise your guests with these tissue paper pumpkin favors. Start by wrapping up your favorite treats and then open up the pumpkin to get the candy inside. Every guest young or old will be impressed with these adorable, delicious party favors.

    After your party concludes with nothing more than success and smiles it’s finally time to relax. If you’re still hungry for the taste of fall these mummy pumpkin cookies are delicious, flaky, and packed with fall flavor. Make this festive treat even better by enjoying it with a hot cup of Pumpkin Praline Community® coffee.