Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pumpkin spice latte

There are about a million recipes out there for homemade pumpkin spice latte.
Starbucks makes the best of the chain brands, in my opinion.
It doesn't have that "dry spice" taste that Panera or Dunkin' has.
So, if I have to model my latte after something, theirs would be it.

I love love this time of year and to me, there is nothing like sipping on one of these on an early, crisp, Fall morning while the babies are still sleeping.
But, I refuse to:
a) leave the house in the wee hours of the morning to get said latte
b) pay that much.

So, I set out to combine a bunch of internet recipes to suit my own tastes.

As I said, I hate that "dry spice" tastes, where there are bits of cinnamon still left on my tongue.
So, I came up with this.
Hope you like it as much as I do!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Makes one.
*this is not a real latte.  This is my version.*
2-3 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup (recipe below)
1/2 mug hot whole milk
1/2 mug strong brewed Dutch coffee
Homemade whipped cream
Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine syrup and milk and whisk to combine and make a bit frothy.  Add coffee and stir.  Taste and add sweetener of choice or coffee till it's perfect.  Dollop on a ridiculous amount of whipped cream and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.  Be in heaven.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice...use my homemade version or use storebought
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup pumpkin puree....canned or fresh

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until thick and bubbly and the whole house smells great.  Strain through a fine sieve into a glass container and store the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

guest post: the family ware!

I completely missed this guest post by my lovely friend Courtney!  
Her family blog is amazing.
I literally aspire to be her.
I know that's a little creepy (sorry, Courtney!) but she does everything handmade and homemade for her two darling kiddos.
This pear sauce looks delicious and I can't wait to try it!

Homemade Pear (or Apple) Sauce

I love to hear ooos and aaaahs from friends and family when I get the chance to feed 'em.  There are, of course, those meals where everyone politely eats what's served, and I make a note that that experimental recipe was not a repeater.  However, when there's a success, it seems more often than not that it's a simple, homey, comforting dish.  Funny, isn't it?

Humble, ordinary, down-right delicious simplicity seems to be my recipe for success, and when it comes to all those apples and pears Fall bring, you can't go wrong with homemade pearsauce (or applesauce).

Not only is this homey, comforting dish easy to make, it’s also healthful, flavorful, versatile, and an awesome excuse to go ahead and indulge in that 38-pound box of local organic pears (or apples) from the co-op (ahem). Once you try it homemade, you’ll never go back… and what better fall afternoon project could there be if you have a kiddo or two dying to help out in the kitchen?

(And just wait and see what you can do with the sauce once you make it!)

Pear Sauce

Note: this recipe is a kind of use-what-you-have type of recipe- you can calculate the ratios of ingredients based on what you have, or you can just wing it, as it is very forgiving. If you are planning on canning your sauce, you can roughly gauge what you’ll need knowing that approximately 2 ½ pounds of apples or pears will yield 1 quart of sauce. For this recipe I’m calling a ‘batch’ 2 quarts.

5 pounds Bartlett pears (if making applesauce instead, vary the types of apples, and avoid the tart varieties like Granny Smith)
½ cup 100% white grape juice

Half pears and scoop out core using a melon baller. Trim stem ends and quarter the halves (so the pear is now in 8 pieces). There is no need to peel. Toss chunks into a large heavy-bottomed pot and add grape juice.

Cover and simmer on a medium-low heat, stirring regularly, for approximately an hour, or until larger chunks of fruit mash easily with the back of a spoon.

Cool to room temperature and either mash through a fine-mesh colander with a potato masher, or use a food mill like the one pictured (I got mine on You could even pulse in a food processor if you don’t mind the coarser texture of the peel mixed into the sauce.

At this point, you could serve it, still warm, or you could return sauce to pot and simmer on very low heat to reduce and thicken. If you would like to spice it up a bit, add 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp powdered ginger, and a pinch of cloves as it simmers (your house will smell awesome). In a jar with a tightly fitted lid, sauce will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

But wait, there’s more. You could take your pear (or apple, of course) sauce- immediately after mashing, before adding spices- and turn it into pear butter! Have a crock pot? Try this:

Double up on the pear sauce recipe above, and after mashing or running through a food mill, pour into a crock pot. To the plain, thin sauce (if your sauce is actually quite thick at this stage, add some more white grape juice):

1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
The zest of an orange
1 cup orange juice (or ~3 TBS frozen orange juice concentrate)
2 cups brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a crock pot, put the lid on slightly ajar (to let steam escape so butter will thicken), and cook on low for 8-12 hours or overnight. Butter is at the correct thickness if a spoonful dolloped onto a plate holds together without juice leaking from the edges.

Try one- or both- of these recipes, and I promise: Your house will smell amazing, your kiddos, friends, and/or family will thank you, and you will be hearing oos and aaahs the whole season long.

Note: if you are in to canning and would like to ‘put up’ the pear/applesauce or butter, you’ll need to fill ‘sauce jars to ¼” headspace and process for 15 mins in boiling water bath for pints, and 20 mins for quarts. For the butter, fill to ¼” headspace and process in boiling water bath for 5 mins if using pint jars and 10 mins for quart jars. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

pumpkin pie spice

Did you enjoy all the guest posts???
I hope so.
I did!
I'm still a-cuddling but I thought I'd share a quick couple recipes with you.

First up, homemade pumpkin pie spice.
Next is homemade pumpkin spiced latte.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Makes about 3 tablespoons....but I always double or triple for the holidays!
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg - use fresh!  There is a huge difference.
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all spices and put into an old, clean spice container.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

guest post: kumquats and such!

Today, we have a great recipe for pumpkin cookies from a fellow military spouse, Jennifer!  I met her through our first duty station and we had our first babies within two months of each other.  Made for some great play dates :)
Hope you enjoy!

Fall is my favorite season for a myriad of reasons.  But the most important reason is: readily available canned pumpkin!  (Yeah, it’s available year round in lots of grocery stores, but it rates its own display this time of year!)

I can’t wait to take advantage of this fall perk and made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  

They are actually like little bites of cake because they are so soft and fluffy!  A perfect fall treat!


1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use an entire bagJ)
Optional addition: Walnuts

1.        Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt.  Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir into the pumpkin mixture. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
2.        Add vanilla and chocolate chips (and nuts if you choose)
3.        Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Monday, October 15, 2012

guest post: baby food!

Today we have a post from my bestie.
She just had her second child and makes her baby food from scratch.
I loved making all of M's food from scratch and I'll do the same for Baby J!
Hope you enjoy!

Chicken, Pastina, and Squash

This would be for babies who are over 6 months. Mine loves it!

1. Poach 1 chicken breast in half water and half low-sodium chicken broth. You can use whatever spices you want - I did rosemary, garlic powder, and some parsley.

2. Cook half a package of pastina (the little tiny pasta stars).

3. Cut up one butternut squash into cubes and steam it until it's nice and soft.

4. Mix up all the ingredients in a blender (I use the Beaba Babycook) and add water as desired to make the right consistency.

5. Taste it!

6. Put it into containers and freeze until you are ready to use it!

Sweet Potato, Spinach, Peas, and Leeks

For babies that are 6+ months

1.     Peal the potato and dice up into small cubes

2.     Clean the spinach leaves and peas

3.     Cut up just the white part of one leak and make sure it is cleaned well, they tend to have a lot of dirt on them

4.     Steam the sweet potato, spinach, peas, and leek together until soft

5.     Puree in a food processor or blender until the right consistency for your baby

6.     Taste and put into containers to freeze

Apples and Pears with Cinnamon 

1. Skin and cut up 2 apples and 2 pears. I used red delicious, but it doesn't really matter.

2. Steam the fruit until it is soft.

3. Put into your food processor and add a pinch of cinnamon - taste it to make sure it is enough, but not too much for your baby.

4. Blend until smooth.

5. Freeze until you are ready to use! 

On a side note - my hubby loved this one! He thought I just made applesauce! :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

guest post: semper wifey!

Hi!  Another guest post today...this time from my friend from college and the USMC, Katie.  She has a great little blog, Semper Wifey, and is inspirational in every way!
....well, maybe not in her brownie making abilities ;)

Around my kitchen, I am often referred to (by myself) as a domestic diva. I cook, I bake, I do it all! However, I oftentimes ignore my little mishaps around the kitchen, such as almost setting the house on fire every time I try to fry okra, or giving us salmonella by undercooking the chicken, or (maybe worse) causing TMJ because I have overcooked the chicken and turned it to rubber. But sometimes one cannot ignore the signs of a wannabe domestic diva.

The Perfect Brownie pan is probably the only thing I have ever considered ordering after seeing the infomercial on TV. After countless attempts at baking my own perfect brownies (without the fancy pan) and failing miserably, I knew I needed help. Lucky for me, my mom bought me the "As Seen on TV" brownie pan for Christmas, saving me from the humiliation of calling a 1-800 number to order this kitchen gadget and, in turn, admit that I am not a domestic diva.

Unfortunately, the brownie "machine" (as Hubby refers to it) is not foolproof. Even with this
gadget that assured me that perfect brownies would be awaiting me in my oven when the timer dinged (dang?), I managed to produce little brownie bricks. Actually, one large brownie brick with the divider stuck in the middle. I have been assured by Hubby that it was strictly user error and that I should give the "machine" another chance. I think that I should face reality. Baking brownies will always kick my butt, even with a foolproof Perfect Brownie pan.

Friday, October 5, 2012

guest post: the triple dish!

Let's kick off this month of brilliant guest posts with a friend from college, Briana!
She has an awesome little site, The Triple Dish, that she runs with two friends and they cover everything from fashion to food to fun!
She agreed to put together a post for me and just read below for some awesome tips on my favorite herb, basil!

Eating, Storing and Freezing Basil

The season of basil is about to come to an end, so in effort to use all of the basil growing in my garden I have been brainstorming ideas to store it. That way, in the winter, I will not have to pay an arm and a leg for a sad looking bundle of basil from the grocery store!

What do you do when you have this much basil!? (Do not follow my poor gardening by letting your basil plant grow flowers; it changes the flavor of the leaves!) I blame the ridiculously large spiders that have made my garden their home…

After you have made enough pesto to last a lifetime…get creative! Here are some other ways I have successfully stored basil:

1. Freeze the full leaves. This way they can easily be crushed into soups, flavored water, cocktails and just about any dish you can think of! (Chilled and frozen basil will often lose some of its bright green coloring; do not worry if it has a brown tint). Wash and separate leaves, pat dry, lay flat on a baking sheet, freeze for 30 minutes, remove and carefully place in a zip top bag and then put back into the freezer!

2. Freeze homemade pesto, or a puree of basil and olive oil. (I like to store things in plastic zip top bags, but you can also freeze the basil and olive oil mix in ice cube trays)

3. Make Basil Butter! Great on breads, shrimp, pasta and I cannot stop thinking about making homemade pretzels coated in this! Bonus; this butter freezes well!
Combine 1 stick of butter, 1 cup chopped basil, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1/8 tsp pepper and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix together and tightly wrap in plastic (you can shape the butter however you like)!

There are tons of delicious ways to use basil (you all should definitely check out Katie’s strawberry basil ice cream!). I use it the most to make this healthier pesto and basil flavored drinks.

Monday, October 1, 2012

a new baby in the kitchen!

Welcome to the world, baby Jack!!

we are so excited you are finally here.

so, needless to say, for the next month, I'll be giving up blogging in lieu of cuddling.

I hope you enjoy the line-up of superbly special guest bloggers I have ready for you!
I'll be checking in every once in awhile.
but, mostly, I'll be snuggling my newest baby.
(and doting on my oldest baby!)

see you in November :)
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