Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

Today is National Coffee Day.  I love my morning cup of coffee . . . I'll drink it black or with a little milk in it and I love cappuccinos.  My current favorite Starbucks order is a grande soy misto with whatever dark roast they're brewing (not a big fan of Pike Place).  I've had a pumpkin spice latte already this season it was way sweeter than I remember.  When I came across this recipe on Pinterest, I couldn't believe I haven't thought of making my own creamer before!  I'm hooked and I'll be making lots of other flavors too.  You can bet that when I open my Bed & Breakfast someday, I'll be serving coffee with this pumpkin spice creamer!

Have a hot cup and a happy day!

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer (makes about 1 cup)

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream (you can also do all milk or more cream or use almond milk)
2 T canned pumpkin
2 T maple syrup
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash of salt

Heat the ingredients in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes (don't boil).  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

It's officially fall!  Although the kids have been in school a few weeks, today marks my first day back in the classroom after 7 months.  In fact, 7 months ago today, baby girl was born!  I'm thankful for the time I had at home and for the flexibility that a teaching job provides me but leaving the baby for such a long time made me a little sad this morning.  I'm sure she'll be having fun with Daddy & her big sisters and won't be as sad as I am.
It even rained a little bit this morning and cooled down to feel more like fall than the 90 degree days we've been having around here.  These cookies have a distinctly fall flavor with pumpkin and spices.  I've made snickerdoodle variations in the past but this is probably my favorite.  I only had whole wheat flour when I made these and they still turned out light and delicious.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies (makes about 4 doz)
from Baked by Rachel

1 c. butter, softened
1.5 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. pumpkin puree
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour (or combination of whole wheat and regular)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

For topping:
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix until barely combined.

In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients.  Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into batter until mixed.  In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients.  Shape balls of dough that are about tablespoon sized and roll in the topping mixture.  Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake for 11-12 minutes.  Cool on pan for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crispy Fish Nuggets

I've been trying lately to make kid-friendly food for the whole family and to also feed my family more fish.  When I saw this in the most recent Cooking Light, I bought the ingredients that day.  My husband and I loved these (especially with the tartar sauce from Trader Joe's that has jalapeno in it) and the girls ate them dipped in ketchup but didn't love them.  Cod is really healthy for you - aside from the general benefits of omega-3s in your diet, it packs a whopping 22 grams of protein and only 100 calories in a 5oz serving.  It's a "lower  mercury" fish as well which is important when you're feeding kids.

A few recipe notes:  I found great frozen Alaskan cod at Sprouts.  I don't like my cutting boards being smelly from fish so I cut my cod filets into pieces while they was still nearly frozen solid (no runny fish juice).  The more uniform the size of your nuggets are, the more evenly they'll bake.  Toasting the panko makes it crispy instead of getting soggy at all.  

Crispy Fish Nuggets (4 servings)
from Cooking Light October 2013

1.5 lbs cod, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
 2 T water
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a large skilled over medium-high heat. Add panko and thyme and toast for 2 minutes or until golden brown, shaking pan often.  Add salt and pepper to the panko mix.  Make 3 shallow bowls:  One with the flour, a second with the water and egg, and a third with the panko mix.  

Take a piece of fish, dredge in the flour, dip in the egg mixture, and coat with the panko.  Place it on a greased baking sheet (I lined mine with foil and sprayed with olive oil spray).  Repeat until all the pieces are done.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the outside is lightly brown and crispy and the inside is moist and flaky.  Serve with tartar sauce.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fresh Fig Bars

We planted a mission fig tree in the backyard of the first house we lived in when we got married.  That tree was meaningful to us - when it didn't grow and bear fruit, right away we worried . . . a fig tree that withers is never a good sign.  Then, it bore fruit.  Much fruit.  The branches weren't sturdy enough to hold the weight of the neighborhood squirrels so our harvests were plentiful.  I love to eat fresh figs just plain but with so many, I started to look for other ideas.

Many recipes that I found called for dried figs, not fresh ones.  But, there were two recipes that became big hits around our house and one was for these fig bars.  We moved from that house in 2008 and since then, I haven't had a good supply of fresh figs.  But, this year my mother in law started bringing me figs from her ranch and I dug through my gigantic 3 ring binder of old recipes in search of this recipe.  I have made some tweaks to the original recipe (although I have no idea where it was from) and was super happy with how this batch turned out.

GF note:  Because these bars aren't cake-like and there isn't any leavening, I think that almond meal would work fine in place of the all purpose flour.

Fresh Fig Bars (makes appx. 30 bars)

1 cup sugar
8oz fresh figs washed and stems removed
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Crust and topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (+ 1-2 T for topping)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour, divided
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/3 c. raw sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roughly chop the figs (leave the skin on).   Combine sugar, figs, and water in a medium saucepan.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened, stirring often (mixture will still be runny).  At this point, I like to use my immersion blender to make the mixture smooth (it will still have the seeds).  A blender will also work or you can leave it like it is if you don't mind the chunks of skin (or if your kids aren't picky like mine).  Set the filling aside to cool.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add salt and vanilla and mix until well blended.  Stir in 1 3/4 cups flour and the oats until well mixed and crumbly.  It will seem dry but spread 2/3 of the flour mixture evenly on a ungreased 9x13 pan.  Pat it down well.  Spread fig filling evenly on top.  Add 1/4 cup flour to the remaining flour mixture.  Crumble and spread all over the top.  Sprinkle almonds on top (if desired).  Dice 1-2 tablespoons of cold butter in really small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until light brown.  Cool in pan and cut into bars.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Salted Caramel Sauce

We had a fun family BBQ on Labor day to mark the end of summer.  Oh wait . . . it's been over 90 degrees ever since then :)  Well, to mark the end of summer vacation before the kiddos headed back to school.  It was a really fun afternoon and to keep things easy, I opted for a simple dessert:  ice cream.  I bought vanilla and a couple of dairy free flavors and then made some toppings.  The first was chopped up strawberries with some sugar and the second was this salted caramel sauce.  I've wanted to try my own salted caramel for awhile.  When I made Des's Pumpkin Bread Pudding for Thanksgiving, I used a jar of sauce but I bookmarked this recipe.  It was really easy and it's soooo tasty.  Since having it on ice cream, we've also made milk shakes with it - yum!!  It may make an appearance in my Christmas gifts this year so if you're nice to me between now and then, you might end up with a jar :)

Salted Caramel Sauce (makes 1.5 cups)
from "Cooking Channel TV"

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt (I used coarse salt and crushed it a little with the back of a spoon)

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combines the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring - this is important for a good result.  Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 6-10 minutes.  Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream.  The mixture will steam and bubble like crazy - be prepared.  Stir in the unsalted butter and salt.  Whisk until the butter is all melted.  Transfer to a dish and cool.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back to School

I'm not going to lie - my kids are adjusting better to Back to School than I am . . . and I have two more weeks before I even start teaching again!  It's a new schedule with a lot to coordinate - school lunches, early dismissal days, early bedtimes, early mornings, clean clothes and uniforms, homework and the list goes on.  I'm generally a pretty organized person and that's served me well the last 2 weeks - I make school lunches the day before and put them in the refrigerator, set out clothes the night before, have calendars and lists galore - but I'm still running late, perpetually feeling like I'm forgetting something, and a little frazzled.

What helps me and my kids get through the morning is caffeine (for me, not the kids) and some kind of healthy breakfast.  These days, breakfast needs to be quick.  So, here are a few of our family's favorite recipes for those busy mornings:

Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Healthy Pancakes
Swiss Muesli
Granola - first recipe
Granola - second recipe
Granola Bars

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When you were five

When you were five, you lost two teeth and learned to ride a bike and made new friends and told everybody you were in "transitional kindergarten" when I would say "preschool."

You made friends with kids of all ages and in all different classes at your school and we often ran into people who knew your name when we went places in Claremont.

You became a big sister for the second time and were so proud of baby Jordyn.  You did great holding her and making her smile and taking care of her in the car by putting her pacifier back in.
You started gymnastics and it wasn't uncommon to see you upside down standing on your head or doing cartwheels everywhere we went.

You loved fancy dresses and Star Wars and your favorite shows were Wild Kratts and Horseland.  You loved to climb trees, read books, and play tennis.

Your teacher Ms. Gloria had the same birthday as you and taught you the sounds that all the letters made.  You asked me a lot how to spell things or what words meant and to read things to you that you couldn't quite read yet.  Instead of asking "why?" you ask me "what if . . . " and have an incredible imagination.

You wore a headband almost everyday and told me that was your "style."  While purple had been your favorite color ever since you knew what colors were, it changed to yellow this year which I think suits your sunny and vibrant personality!

You looked forward to fun things and holidays, counting down days. You are especially pleased about turning 6 . . . it "sounds older" and is one of your "favorite numbers" and you keep telling me "it's going to be the best year ever."  I hope it is a great year for you . . . I can't wait to see what 6 has in store for my oldest, biggest girl.  I became a mom 6 years ago and you've taught me more about life than I could have imagined.  I love seeing the world through your eyes!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chia Seed Muffins

I love these chia seed muffins from Le Pain Quotidien and will sometimes plan my running route to end  in the village so I can pick up one of these and an almond milk latte.  I have looked up recipes online of people trying to replicate  these muffins but never tried them . . . and then, I found out the new LPQ Cookbook has the real recipe!   As I suspected, there isn't added sugar, and although a lot of bloggers guessed dates or date sugar, it's just the banana and agave that give them their sweetness.   It seems like a ton of chia seeds when you mix them in but I double-checked the amounts and what is below is correct.  Yummy deliciousness.

*If you don't have or want to use a stand mixer, just stir the wet ingredients and salt together with a fork until it's smooth, add the flour and baking soda and finish the recipe as directed.

Le Pain Quotidien Chia Muffins (20 muffins)

4 small ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup yogurt
2/3 cup canola or soy oil
2/3 cup agave syrup
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 2/3 cups chia seeds (plus more for topping)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  line a muffin pan with 12-15 paper muffin liners.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the bananas briefly to eliminate any lumps.  Add the liquids, salt and vanilla, and process for 30 seconds.  Then, add the flour and baking powder and process for another 15 seconds.  Be careful not to overmix or the muffins won't be as light and airy.  Stir the chia seeds into the mixture using a spatula and let stand for 20 minutes.

Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each liner to the top, then top with the extra chia seeds (or slices of banana).  Bake for 30 minutes or until risen and golden.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Creatures in Costa Rica

My kids love being outside and seeing animals "living free and in the wild."  Our recent trip to Costa Rica went much more smoothly than I anticipated and my girls absolutely loved it.  Today, Middle said to me, "I'm sad mama because I wish I was at Costa Rica still."

There is a lot I could write and share (if you are ever headed that way, please drop me a line!) but I don't want this blog to start boring you with family vacation shots.  However, I do want to show you some of the amazing natural encounters we had in the country.

And, I know she's not an animal, but this is one of the cutest babies I've ever seen :)