DIY Coffee Shop Drink: Maple Pecan Latte

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugarI have a serious confession to make.

*Deep breath.*

Ok. Here goes.

The truth is. I’m addicted to fancy coffee shop coffee.

{insert shocked emoticon}

I know, right? The fact that it’s crazy expensive and that I would never consider spending that much money on anything else so trivial and transient does not deter me. The fact that it’s hardly good for me does not deter me. The fact that it doesn’t satisfy me as much as I think it will does not deter me. NOTHING deters me!

So I put myself on a coffee shop fast. I did it earlier this year in January, and it actually really helped! But then I fell off the wagon and I’m back to my usual tricks again.

{insert tragically sad emoticon}

So another coffee shop fast for me.

Thank goodness I have this amazing little diy coffee shop trick up my sleeve. It makes withdrawal so much easier. 

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugar

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugarAre you also addicted to coffee shop drinks? Try my other DIY Coffee Drink recipes: 

Chocolate Orange Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Chocolate Orange Coffee

Lavender Sy Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoff Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoffeeshop

 

Cold Brewed Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Cold Brewed Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Brazilian Chocolate #diycoffeeshop

Brazilian Chocolate #diycoffeeshop

 

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

5 Fresh Ways to Use Fresh Mint #garden #mint #cleaneatingGot a mint plant (or two) that’s going crazy? Not sure what to do with it?

I hear ya! Mint is famous for flourishing whether or not you want it to, which can be good (Hey, it’s yummy! And good for you!) and bad (There’s only so much mint one person can handle at a time.). It’s kind of tricky trying to find different ways to use fresh mint when it’s coming out of your ears. I’ve done all the usual things with my fresh mint so far:

All of those things get old, though, after a while, so I put myself on a mission to find some fun and creative ways to use my mint plant. I’m looking forward to trying out these five fresh ideas for my fresh mint!

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

  1. Fresh Mint Iced Coffee – You know me, I’m always up for a good cuppa joe. So much the better if it’s made with an unexpected twist and an unusual ingredient. (Remember my Lavender Iced Coffee?)
  2. I never in my life would have thought to put fresh mint into cookies or cupcakes, but these bloggers totally went there! I’d like to try some Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies or Fresh Mint Chocolate Cupcakes!
  3. And while I’m baking, I think I shall have to whip up some Cranberry Mint Scones, which not only use fresh mint, but fresh cranberries, too! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  4. It’s admittedly not that odd for baked goods to incorporate a fresh mint flavor, but savory foods? This Moroccan Spiced Potato Pizza doesn’t have any cheese… but it does have fresh mint!
  5. Another yummy-sounding savory option is this Honey Mint Glazed Chicken. I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t already prepped all my chicken in marinades before putting it in the freezer!

 

Better than the Box – Chocolate Pudding

This post was originally published in 2009.  Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding One of my main goals on this blog is to prove to anyone who doesn’t believe me that cooking healthy foods from scratch is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Too many people think that cooking is either a great mystery they could never solve, or so time-consuming they would always be stuck in the kitchen. Instead, they rely on boxes (or bags or jars, or packages, you get the idea) that are quick and easy, but expensive and chock-full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.

There’s a better way!

You don’t have to be a gourmet and spend hours over your creations in order to serve healthy delicious meals to your family. So throw away the box and make something from scratch for a change. If I can do it, you can do it!

For example, chocolate pudding. For a long time, I never even ate pudding because I didn’t want to use the mix found in a box, but I thought that home-made pudding was too time-consuming and difficult. Then my diet was forcibly changed because of my son’s allergies: there were so many foods I couldn’t eat, that I began to think outside the box (literally!) for foods that I could eat. I thought I had kissed chocolate good-bye for a while, until I found an allergen-free recipe for chocolate pudding. And I realized that it was so quick and easy, I could make it any time I needed a chocolate fix.

Once I discovered that, I branched out and made all kinds of pudding: butterscotch, vanilla, coconut, etc. I used them to make trifles and parfaits for desserts to serve to guests. And the best part was, it was every bit as easy as using a box!

But not as QUICK, you say. Almost as quick, I say. It took me approximately 10 minutes, start to finish. Anybody can find 10 minutes in their day to fix themselves a chocolate treat!

I thought home-made pudding was hard, but it’s actually quite EASY. What makes it difficult is using an egg, because the egg(s) has to be tempered, or gradually heated so that it doesn’t cook before it’s thoroughly mixed in. That problem is easily avoided by not using an egg! You’ll find most pudding recipes require an egg, but as I discovered, vegans and food-allergic folks know that pudding without an egg is every bit as good. An egg adds richness to pudding. So if you want your pudding a little richer, go ahead and fuss with the egg. But if you just want some pudding, forget the egg. You won’t miss it!

It’s CHEAPer than buying the box. I bet you don’t believe me because those boxes are pretty cheap. Aside from the milk (which is not included in the box anyway), the ingredients in this chocolate pudding cost less than $0.40, even if you don’t buy them on sale.

It may not be HEALTHY, but it’s certainly healthier than what’s in that box. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? Sugar, modified food starch, cocoa, disodium phosphate, natural & artificial flavors, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, monoglyceride, diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Colors, citric acid, BHA. Yum. I don’t even know why they need all those food colorings, because, as Matthew McConaughey says in “The Wedding Planner”, “Chocolate’s already brown.”

Have I convinced you yet?



Once it’s reached the right consistency, remove from the heat and add the 100% chocolate bar and vanilla. At this point, you can get creative and try adding different things. For example, chocolate chips instead of the chocolate bar. Or different flavorings instead of vanilla. I have also used a mixture of coffee and milk to make a mocha pudding. Mmmm, that was yummy.

Pour the pudding into serving dishes and place in refrigerator to cool. If you plan on serving to guests, you may want to consider placing some plastic wrap tightly on the surface of the pudding while it cools to prevent a skin from forming. I don’t bother when it’s just for myself, or if I’m going to stir it up and use it in something else. Garnish as desired:

Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding Sharing at Try a New Recipe Tuesday

 

A Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

**This post was originally published in 2009.  Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal Summertiiiiimmmeee… and the livin’ is eeeaaasssyyyy…

Fish are jumpin’ … and the cotton is high…

And I don’t feel like cookin’….

Oh wait, that’s not part of the song. But it should be! Who wants to cook on a hot summer day? Not me! So I decided NOT to cook today, but I still felt like I should feed my family, so I compromised: Cold Plates!

An Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

This is one of those ideas that’s just so brilliant, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner! All one has to do is assemble a variety of cold, fresh foods, make it pretty and put it on the table. Presto, Change-o, Dinner! Simple as that.

I used some cold ham slices as the main portion of the meal and augmented them with some scoops of tuna salad. Then I added in some various fresh fruits and veggies, some cheese for my DH, and some pickles. A dollop of honey mustard served as a dipping sauce for the ham. Usually, bread of some sort is served with a cold plate, but I had none, so I offered crackers on the side.

The nice thing about these cold plates is that I could customize them to our different dietary needs. Here’s my plate with strawberries and unpeeled apples and apricots:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal
Here’s DH’s plate with cheese and peeled apples instead:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealEven our Certain Little Someone had his own cold plate (not that he ate it all! He was mostly interested in the watermelon and sweet potato fries!):

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealSharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Tasty Tuesday

Fruit Punch Ice Pops

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatOh the dog days of summer! Great for lying in the shade on a sultry day and enjoying an ice pop and hoping it helps cool you down.

Just not those nasty ones that are full of food dyes, fake colors, nasty sugars, and other assorted ickyness. They’re so easy to make yourself that there’s no need to resort to such.

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatHonestly? Making an ice pop is simply a matter of freezing juice in a lickable format. So if you have popsicle molds and juice, you’re in business. Even if you don’t have popsicle molds, you can make do with cups and craft sticks. The juice is kind of essential, though, no getting out of that one.

I have these Zoku Mini Pop molds which I actually bought at Michaels’ with a 40% off coupon, but you can also get them from Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime. They’re the perfect size for little mouths and quick snacks!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatThe Boyz created this recipe together as a Summer Camp at Home activity: they each chose 2 kinds of fruit and I determined the quantities. It turned out to taste exactly like fruit punch!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreat

Sharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Try a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday

Copycat Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This post was originally published in June, 2009.  Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad I haven’t blogged in a few days because we went up to Lancaster, PA to visit with some family and have a short mini-vacation. Vacations are always fun, but, especially when it’s such a short vacation, it’s sometimes hard to get back home and go back to the daily grind. So I decided to bring some of my vacation home with me.

I decided to bring home with me some yummy food I ate while on vacation. Of course, I couldn’t actually bring back the food itself, since it would have gotten quite yucky waiting to be put in my fridge (ew!) so I just brought back the ideaof the food I enjoyed so I could recreate it at home.The first dish I enjoyed was the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera. What I like about their chicken salad is that the apples are dried, not fresh.  Not your leathery, smushy kind of dried, but more like an apple chip dried. The combination of the sweet crunchy apple blended so perfectly with the other flavors in the salad, that it was super delicious!Unfortunately, the only dried apples I had on hand at home were the leathery, smushy variety which simply would not do for my purposes. So I set out to make myself some apple chips.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

First, I cored an apple and sliced off the ends. I could have peeled it as well, but I opted to leave the peel on for color. Besides, the peel was left on in the Panera salad, and since I was attempting to recreate my vacation, I had to follow it as closely as possible.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad
Then I sliced the apple into thin, even slices (unfortunately, some of them I sliced a little TOO thin) and soaked them in lemon water for a few minutes, to limit browning. This step is not necessary unless you want them to be as white as possible.

drying apple chips in ovenThen I lined a baking sheet with wax paper, greased the wax paper and laid the apple slices out in a single layer, with plenty of room between slices. I put this in my oven, on the lowest setting possible (which happens to be 200 on my cheap-o apartment oven) for about 45 minutes. It would have been better to use a lower setting for a longer period of time, but alas and alack, that was not possible for me!

And here are the apple chips, ready to be put into my Apple Chicken Salad.

 Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

Sharing at Mommy MondayTry a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday 

Something From Nothing: Bread Crumbs from Stale Bread

Something from Nothing: bread crumbs from stale breadWait! Before you throw it away, think for a second. Can you use it for something else? Frugality is not only saving your money when purchasing, it is saving your money by getting everything out of what you have already purchased. I read somewhere that the frugal person’s motto was the same as the environmentalist’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If we all followed that motto, we’d save a lot of resources, in our homes and around the world.

For starters, what about that stale bread? Or those end slices no one wants to eat? Whatever you do, don’t throw them away!

Here are just a few ideas of what you can do with stale bread:

  • -bread pudding
  • -croutons
  • -stuffing
  • -french toast
  • -grilled/toasted sandwiches
  • -and my personal favorite, bread crumbs

How to Make Bread Crumbs

Whenever I have stale bread, or leftover chunks or pieces, I never throw them away. Instead, I use it to make bread crumbs. If I don’t have time at the moment, I bag them and put them in the freezer until I do. Some people keep a bag in their freezer for just such a purpose; every time they have some extra bread, they throw it in there and make a big batch of bread crumbs when they’ve collected enough.

Bread crumbs can be used for a variety of purposes, the main one being to bread meat such as chicken or fish before baking it. This adds flavor and texture. Bread crumbs are also used in meat loaf, or as a topping for a casserole or cooked vegetables. They also add nice crunch and a pretty touch sprinkled on thick soups, such as potato or chowders.

There are about as many different ways and methods of making bread crumbs as there are uses for them, but this is what I do:

Easy Bread Crumbs
Rip the bread into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until fine. Add spices to your liking (I like to use Italian spices such as oregano, basil, parsley, etc.), even grated parmesan cheese or garlic or onion powder, and pulse once or twice in the processor to blend it together. Spread in a fine layer on a cookie sheet and leave in a warm oven until very dry. I like to leave it in there for quite some time – half an hour or so – just to be sure all the moisture is gone so I can store it longer. Cool the bread crumbs and store in a tightly covered container (I reuse an applesauce jar for this purpose) in the cupboard. Alternatively, you can store it in a plastic bag in the freezer.

For meat loaf and some other uses, you may want soft bread crumbs. In this case, all you need to do is pulse the bread chunks in the food processor a couple times until you have coarse crumbs. Keep those crumbs in the freezer until your next meat loaf!

Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cake I always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cake Recipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour

Lavender Syrup

Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoilsI never ever would have considered lavender as a beverage flavoring were it not for a pleasant occasion a month ago or so when my sister and I went to a favorite coffee shop in Maryland, one we are rarely able to visit but enjoy very much. As we perused the lengthy menu board, the final item on the list caught my sister’s eye and she exclaimed that she *HAD* to try it. 

What was that concoction she had to try? Lavender Iced Coffee. 

Hmmm, I thought, unconvinced,but in the end, decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and give it a try. It sounded refreshing, and didn’t seem like it would be too horrible, plus I love to try new things.

A Refreshing New Twist

Word. It was amazing. Refreshing, yes! Also, quite delicious and crave-worthy. In a remarkable turn of events, however, I completely forgot about it once I got home and only remembered it when I was trying to brainstorm essential-oils-based refreshments for a class I was teaching.

In a flash of inspiration, I recalled the herbal goodness of the lavender iced coffee I had enjoyed, and realized it would be ridiculously easy to duplicate it by quickly boiling up a simple syrup and adding some lavender essential oil to it.

Easy peasy! And, of course, this versatile lavender syrup can be used for much more than coffee – splash it in lemonade, tea, punch, or anywhere else you’d like a dash of flavor.Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoils

Recipe: Lavender Syrup

Summary: a refreshing flavored syrup you can add to hot and cold beverages

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 drops lavender essential oil*

Instructions

  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  3. Cool to room temperature and add lavender oil. Store bottled in the refrigerator.

*Most lavender oil available on the general market today is more than likely adulterated in one way or another. I only use Young Living lavender oil because I know that Young Living controls the process from planting the seed in the ground to putting the seal on the bottle, and I know there’s nothing in it but the best and finest lavender oil available!

Kumquat Bars

2015's answer to Lemon Bars. Sweet and tart, creamy filling, crumbly crust. Lemon bars are SO last century. Join me in the twenty-first century (2015 people!) with a delicious twist on the old classic that takes it to new heights… a simple switch of key ingredients and you have an impressively exotic dessert that tastes just as good as (better?) than the original.

I’m talking kumquats. “Say wha?” I hear you mutter. Yep, kumquats! They look like baby oranges but taste like grumpy grandpa lemons. In other words, adorably cute but ferociously sour. Some people like to pop the little cuties right in their mouth, but I can’t personally even give a little lick without puckering up all over like I just drank lemon juice out of the bottle.

A delicious 21st-century version of the classic Lemon Bar.

However! Like their yellow and green counterparts, kumquats pair nicely with a bit of sweetener to create deliciously sweet-tart desserts, no pucker involved.

I whipped these bars up on a whim the other day, basically just switching out the lemon juice in a lemon bar recipe with kumquat puree, resulting in an orange-colored version of the favorite lemon bars. I was quite pleased to have my brand-new WonderMix at my disposal for the creation of the recipe, because its blender attachment made whipping up the puree and adding it to the filling mixture a total breeze. I love having appliances that do more than one job… and consequently take up less real estate on my countertop, which is quite valuable these days!

Blend and Mix with one machine!

Want to win one of these beauties? Check out our giveaway coming this Friday – May 8!

As a matter of fact, I have been experimenting quite a bit with this new mixer, and am looking forward to sharing more of my recipe creations with you in the very near future. This lovely little machine makes quick work of just about any dough or batter, giving me more time to try my favorite sort of experiment… the kitchen kind!

Wondermix

Enter to win your very own Wondermix this Friday, May 8!

Win your very own WonderMix! Enter the giveaway here!

Deliciously beautiful kumquat bars - a new take on the old-fashioned lemon bars.