Vices (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Homemade Frappuccino)

We all have our vices.

Some are relatively harmless, like genre fiction or drinking too much tea.

Others are really bad news, like chronic infidelity or meth.

When it comes to traditional vices, I am as boring as it gets. I do not smoke, gamble, or watch television, and I fall asleep on my wife’s shoulder after one drink. I have no interest in romance novels (bad for your brain), infidelity (bad for your marriage), or methamphetamines (bad for your brain, your marriage, and your teeth).

Nonetheless, like everyone else, I have my guilty pleasures. The ones I can disclose without compromising my postulancy for Holy Orders include:

1. Bingeing on far more library books than I could ever ever ever possibly have the time to read, even if I quit my job. I say that checking out thirty to forty items at a time increases circulation and helps the library get more grant funding. My wife says that teetering home on my bike with a dozen hardcovers atop the handlebars is dangerous, and that the overflow stack of books in front of the living-room bookshelf is taller than the actual shelf.

Technically, we are both right.

2. Having startlingly bad taste in music.

It doesn’t matter what style or era; if a song is universally panned by critics, I know every last word. I love commercial hip-hop. I love treacly praise music. And sometimes, when I am standing behind the altar at church, gazing upon the consecrated elements, the following lyrics course unbidden through my head:

I don’t need you, or your brand-new Benz, or your bougie friends;
I don’t need love lookin’ like diamonds, lookin’ like diamonds …

3. Having a sweet tooth that would make Willy Wonka blush.

I just can’t help it. My self-control in most areas of my life is exemplary, but I can’t walk past an ice-cream shop without hearing its siren song. I am capable of eating raw cookie dough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I once spent an entire 90-minute meeting — a tense, high-stakes budget meeting — sneaking glances at a platter of doughnuts on the other side of the room, wondering whether anyone would notice if I got up for a second apple fritter.

Although I can’t seem to kick the sugar habit, I try to steer clear of chemical preservatives and industrial food, which means that I make a lot of treats myself.

Normally, homemade desserts are the best thing since, well, homemade bread. Nigella Lawson’s strawberry shortcakes are to die for. Smitten Kitchen’s homemade Oreos are, if possible, EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING.

Homemade Frappuccinos are not in quite the same category, at least not if your tastes have been forever ruined by Starbucks.

However, the recipe below has the following perks:

1. Drinking one every day will not set you back $130 per month. Think of all the things you can do with an extra $130 a month! Maybe I’ll buy myself five copies of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook!

2. It is a teeny tiny bit better for you than the green mermaid version, not that a 400-calorie coffee beverage sets the bar high.

3. It’s easy to make and tastes almost like the real thing.

Note: Recipe heavily adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie. Except that I cook everything with butter and eggs and refined sugar, and also I hate almond milk, we are exactly alike in every way.

Ingredients (for 1 giant serving, 1.5 medium ones, or 2 small ones)
2 teaspoons or 1 packet instant coffee
1 scant tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups milk (dairy or nondairy), plus an extra cup or so for blending
Whipped cream (optional)

Ice-cube trays
Reusable plastic tumbler, for that luxurious Starbucks feel (optional)


1. Mix dry ingredients.

2. Add vanilla and 2 cups milk, and stir until well-combined.

3. Pour into ice-cube trays and freeze. (For a stronger flavor in your final product, set aside some of the liquid mix in your refrigerator.)

4. Place 8-12 of the cubes in your blender. They will be sticky, and you may have to pry them out of the tray with a table knife.

5. Add a slosh of milk and/or the liquid mix you so carefully refrigerated, and blend. Continue to add liquid and blend, a little at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

6. Pour into your elegant reusable plastic tumber. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Embrace those vices. You’ve earned it.

7. Say grace. Here’s one that’s often on my mind:

I put my hands up; they’re playing my song.
The butterflies are flying away;
I’m nodding my head like yeah,
Moving my hips like —

No, my mistake. That is not a grace. That is the chorus to Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” Here’s what I meant to say:

‘Neath these tall green trees we stand,
Asking blessings from thy hand.
Thanks we give to thee above
For our health and strength and love.

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5 Responses to Vices (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Homemade Frappuccino)

  1. P. Dosch says:

    Sounds yummy! So glad your vices are so enjoyable and non-destructive of you or anyone! Love reading your ponderings!
    Aunt Peggy

  2. P. Dosch says:

    P.S. How do you prepare the Strawberry Shortcake with American measurements and ingredients?

    • Catherine says:

      Nigella’s Americanized cookbook says:

      2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      5 tablespoons sugar
      1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
      1 large egg, beaten
      1/2 cup light cream
      1 large egg white, lightly beaten

      11 ounces strawberries
      1 tablespoon sugar
      few drops balsamic vinegar (optional but so delicious)
      1 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

      And she recommends a 2.5-inch round cutter — I just use the top of a pint glass.


  3. Maureen says:

    I have so many library books at home now that I had to bag them up and hide them in the closet before the company comes tomorrow night.

    Recently, I was denounced at the Rancho Bernardo Library (by a volunteer, I believe) because I had TOO MANY BOOKS ON RESERVE! ( A must read: gods in Alabama).

    Rita Rose knows Taylor Swift by voice (on Grandma Peggy’s car radio.)

    I love Nigella–she enjoys life!

    Is that Audrey?


    Aunt Maureen

  4. Jon says:

    I love Taylor Swift more than you can possibly imagine.

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