Monday, September 28, 2009

A Debut Author's Guide to Getting Her Recommended Daily Dose of Caffeine

Okay. Let me explain something. My debut novel, According to Jane, is coming out TOMORROW! Yes, within 24 hours it'll be on the shelves (fingers crossed!) in every major bookstore in the country. To say that I'm going into my book launch as a well-rested and relaxed citizen of the greater Chicago area would be a more blatant act of fiction than the stuff I've been writing. Truly, I don't think I've gotten a good night's sleep since sometime in June--and I credit that one restful night to the cold medicine I was taking at the time.

However, I have tools. And, as incredible good fortune would have it, I received an extra-large supply of them because I was asked to be a Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew "Beta Tester" a few weeks ago. One thing the company asked us to do was to try to come up with recipes that used the new instant coffee. Well, c'mon! I love recipes. On my own, back in the summer, I came up with my favorite VIA™ beverage variation and asked blog visitors to do the same--just for fun! The other day, I made my fave brew again:

"Marilyn's Mocha"
1 packet of the Colombia VIA™ coffee
1/2 packet of hot cocoa mix (like Swiss Miss or Nestlé)
4 oz. water
4 oz. skim milk
Pour the water and the milk into a mug, microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, add the coffee and the cocoa mix. Stir well. Top with a couple swirls of whipped cream, if desired. For me, that's always desired, and I added a few cinnamon sprinkles, too! (**pictured below with pancakes**)

But a writer can't live on coffee drinks alone--although I'm proof that, really, she can try. So, I decided to round out my breakfast with coffee-chocolate-chip pancakes. Because I'm always pressed for time in the morning, I used a quick mix (all I needed to do was add water to prepare the batter--it was fast!) and a handful of chocolate chips...plus my Colombia VIA™, of course. Here was the result:

"Choco-VIA™-Chip Pancakes"
1 package pancake mix (I used Hungry Jacks Easy Packs Complete Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix)
2/3 cup water, heated
1 VIA™ packet
1/2 cup chocolate chips
A few swirls of whipped cream
2-3 tsp. butter (Hungry Jacks recommends Crisco, but I didn't have that in the house)
Add coffee to the heated water and let it cool. Empty it into a bowl containing the pancake mix and stir until the large lumps disappear. Add in the chocolate chips and mix gently. Heat lightly buttered skillet (medium-high) and pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook about one minute on each side or until done. On a plate, place the pancakes and top them with whipped cream and a few extra chocolate chips. Dig in!!

But, THEN, I decided I needed to get more creative. On one of the sites I visited, someone had used the VIA™ in a chicken recipe. Hmm, I thought. That's really interesting. I hadn't yet considered "caffeine + protein," but I liked the out-of-the-box aspect to it. What would happen if I tried "VIA™ + tofu"? Think about it... Tofu tends to take on the flavoring of whatever is added to it. Combine a coffee packet with some soy sauce, a dash of maple syrup, some brown sugar, perhaps, and we'd end up with a coffee-maple glaze, wouldn't we? Stir-fry some firm tofu, then sauté a handful of portobello mushrooms. Add a little glaze to both. Put the tofu and mushrooms over rice or noodles with the VIA™-soy-maple sauce on top and...voilà! A healthy and ever-so-slightly caffeinated vegetarian meal! Later in the day, I tried that, too:

"Tofu-Mushroom VIA™ Stir-Fry"
1 19-oz. package firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 package of your favorite noodles (I used extra-wide egg noodles)
1 8-oz. package Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup water, heated
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 VIA™ packet (I used the Italian Roast this time)
Sauté the tofu cubes in the olive oil until lightly golden, add in the sliced portobello mushrooms and stir-fry them together until tender. Cook the noodles in a separate saucepan. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir the VIA™ into the heated water until it's dissolved. Then add in the soy sauce, the maple syrup and the brown sugar until you have a smooth glaze. Dip a sautéed tofu cube into the glaze and taste it. If it's too thick for you, add a bit more water. Too sweet, adjust with a little more soy sauce, perhaps. Not sweet enough...well, another spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar should do it. Pour the glaze over the tofu-mushroom mixture and stir until evenly coated. Serve warm over egg noodles. Enjoy!

Anyway, it was fun to experiment, and I couldn't help but think I should make some celebratory treat for tomorrow morning...like, oh, Coffee Cake. Hee, hee! Get it? COFFEE Cake... Well, yeah, okay, I know, I know. Obvious joke. I mentioned I haven't been getting much sleep, right? I'm tempted to do it, though, and invite you all to have a piece with me :-).

BTW, if you happen to be surfing the Internet in search of fabulous places to visit, Lainey Bancroft's wonderful review of my book had me sighing in delight. And Laurel Ann's lovely review at Austenprose today made my heart sing. And then Robin Bielman astounded me with her generous giveaway, as well as her tremendously kind heart. And in the GCC, the talented Carolyn Jewel is hosting me today, too, and there's a giveaway involved with that as well, so please stop by!

Exhaustion aside, as far as having wonderful people in my corner as I approach The Big Day...I've been feeling really, really fortunate. Thank you all so much.


Pamala Knight said...

OMG Recipes!!!! Thank you dearest, for sharing your culinary prowess with those of us less fortunate.

I'm very stoked about the debut tomorrow (imagine the dancing banana right here) and hope to see you SOON!


Pamela Cayne said...

I think somebody's been doing the recipe experiment in nervous energy perhaps? Heck, it doesn't matter. You so had me at chocolate chip pancakes!

And I'm seeing Pamala's dancing banana and adding a cheerleading smiley-face to your release day!

Marilyn Brant said...

Pamala and Pamela~thanks to both of you--for your supportiveness, dancing fruit and smiles.
*hugs* to you both!!