It Feels Like Winter!

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SNOW!!!!

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Yeah, I got excited ;-) So did two little boys who couldn’t wait to get outside! The first real snow of the winter (OK…almost winter….)

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Who knew a tree stump could be so much fun?

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We even spotted one of the bald eagles that live on our lake – it is hard to see, but there was a prime specimen in the middle tree, calling out.

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So my morning got blown out. And that was OK. Snow Day for the oldest, play day for the two youngest. Morning blogging? Nah, not important. They are! And Christmas (er, “Winter”) Break started today as well. Recipes and reviews can wait….

So tied into Christmas coming, and this being the last weekend before, I wanted to celebrate it by giving away my most recent e-book, Sweet Treats Done Naturally, for free, for the weekend! Today through Sunday, you can pick it up on Amazon for free. Just in time to get all that last-minute candy made.

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This was a fun book to put together, a compilation of some of my favorite recipes:

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Head over to Amazon and pick it up: Sweet Treats Done Naturally.

Have a great weekend – and I am not sure when I will post next before the end of the year. I am taking the next week or so off, but will be around on Facebook and Twitter. Just want to let my mind have a vacation!

Happy Holidays! 3 Free Week! Craving A Hot Latte?

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Today’s grab on Amazon is The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks, which if you love lattes, coffee and flavored syrups, this is the book for you!

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Want a preview of why you want this ebook?

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Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Creamy, spicy, and so much tastier than the $5 a latte you’ll pay at a certain chain…and you’ll have enough to make lots of them! So don’t wait to download your copy of The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks, it is only free on Amazon till Midnight today!

The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks

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The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks – Last week our second e-book debuted. One for the coffee lovers out there!

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I truly savor my morning latte every day. I should enjoy every sip of it, preferably with one (or more) of my handmade syrups.

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The full-color digital book comes with 9 hand-crafted syrups and 6 drink recipes – to get you inspired in the morning. I also have included tips on how to make ‘cheater’ lattes if you don’t have an espresso machine. And a bonus? Syrups make lovely holiday gifts!

The book is in our bookstore or it can be picked up at Amazon – The Natural Barista: Latte Syrups & Drinks.

Upcycled Advent Calendar

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Last year I wrote about the up-cycled advent calendar I made for the boys. 24 stage 2 glass baby food jars, cleaned and lids painted. Circling a mini 2 foot high tree, decorated in deep blue.

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The boys loved it, it went over well. 24 days of candy? Well, yeah, no wonder. I packed up the jars and tree, stowing it away.

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This year I updated it a bit, adding snowflake stickers to the jars, more ornaments for the tree, a matching mini tree skirt. The candy focus this year is allergy-friendly, so that Alistaire can have some as well. Last year it was only Ford and Walker, now I have 3 boys competing. And since I found naturally dyed peppermint candies even I can sneak one or two.

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Last year we didn’t put up the big tree, this year? I have the advent calendar ready, and Walker and I just finished a second 2 foot tree for the entryway. And come Thanksgiving, the big tree will be back up :-) It was missed last year! Last week I took the boys shopping for the annual picking out of an ornament for the tree, one each. Walker decided that he and B (Alistaire) needed Thomas and Percy ornaments. My little trees all match, my big tree…is a happy mish-mash from latte cups to trains, to snowhoes. That is a cool thing really!

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Now I wait till the big tree is up, then I can tuck the little tree in front!

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PS: My interview with Blogging On The Side was posted today – love it! Check it out if you have the time, there is always something new to learn from their site.

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Half-way today! It feels wonderful!

Food Gifts: Creamy Vegetable-Lentil Soup Dry Mix

Curious for ideas on savory, non-sweet gifts you could make up easily? Consider this one…which can be presented as a plant-based, minimally processed and vegan friendly gift, always a bonus? I adapted a recipe I saw in the 2012 issue of Better Homes and Garden Food Gifts:

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It is one of the thick “magazines” that are more like books, found in stores, near the checkouts or in the magazine aisle. I’d say it was worth the cost, of $10. What had gotten me to pick it up was for packaging ideas, of which it is stellar at. The recipes are well done as well. I did adapt it slightly, to reflect my taste in lentils (called for yellow lentils, I used French Green), varied the vegetables and used my handmade broth mix. I realize most people don’t have containers of dried veggies in their pantry, they should though! They last a long time, are handy in a pinch and in soups work the same as fresh. Buy in bulk and store in mason jars.

I call for a variety of dried vegetables in the recipe, you can of course cheat and use a pre-made mix of dried vegetables, I like making my own though (and I have plenty on hand after this past summers dehydration runs I did – of which I did a number of blog posts here and on my other blog) as the mixes often have way too much onion and parsley to bulk it up. Dried onions and Shiitake Mushrooms are both sold at Costco, onions with the spices, mushrooms are in the produce section.

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Creamy Vegetable-Lentil Soup Dry Mix

Ingredients:

Also Needed:

  • 1½ cups unsweetened non-dairy milk, non-dairy creamer or dairy milk or half and half or undiluted evaporated milk (see below)

Directions:

If you have bought dehydrated vegetables they are normally dice size. If you are drying your own vegetables, cut them into dice size or small pieces before drying.

Layer the vegetables in a clean 16 to 20 ounce jar, pressing down to pack.

Mix the broth through garlic, add to a snack size bag, seal tightly and lay on top of vegetables.

Sort the lentils to endure there is no field debris, pack in a sandwich bag, lay on top.

Seal jar, decorate as desired.

Include with jar, printed or written on a pretty card:

To Make Soup -

Remove lentils, rinse and drain. Add all ingredients to a large saucepan with 4 cups water.

Bring to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Stir in milk or creamer, let heat through for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 1 gift/1 batch soup.

Note:

We made our soup mix up and used a 12-ounce can of fat-free evaporated milk. The soup is very thick, it would work well as a sauce over rice as well. Feel free to use 5 cups water at the start if you like it thin. I enjoyed how hearty it was!

~Sarah

PS: I’d consider gifting it with a quick bread or scone mix, also presented in a jar, for a nifty gift. I served our soup with Walnut-Rosemary Bread.

Three Nifty-Giftys in Jars (With Recipes)

I was feeling inspired so made up a few gifts to hand out, accompanied by jars of jams and butters I had made this summer. Having wandered by Whole Foods “Gifts From the Kitchen” I tried a few out. What is neat is each recipe has a printable gift tag with baking directions. The mixes are designed to fit in a 1 quart mason jar (wide mouth works best). Click on the title of each recipe to see the Whole Foods recipe, plus to get access to the tag. Two cookies and a savory quick bread (to counter act all that sugar!)

And yes, these are not health food. They are tasty though….

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For a vegan cookie, use melted Earth Balance Buttery Stick (or favorite vegan margarine) and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water for the egg.

Gingersnap Cookie Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1¾ tsp ground ginger
  • 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

Also -

  • 1½ sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg

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Directions:

Add the brown sugar to a clean 1 quart (wide-mouth) mason jar. Press down firmly to pack (a potato masher helps). Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, pour over sugar (a canning funnel helps), rap jar gently on counter to settle. Sprinkle ginger, cinnamon and cloves on top, seal jar. Decorate as desired and tie a gift tag on.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, line tow baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add butter and eggs, beating in with a hand mixer.

Make balls, a 1 Tablespoon Disher helps, rolling hands to compact. Bake 12 to a sheet, for about 14 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 1 quart jar to give away, and about 3 dozen cookies.

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For a vegan cookie, use melted Earth Balance Buttery Stick (or favorite vegan margarine), vegan-friendly chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water for the egg.

Oatmeal Cookie Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup Dried Cranberries
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Also -

  • 1 stick + 2 Tbsp (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg

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Directions:

Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Pour into a clean 1 quart mason jar (wide-mouth), using a canning funnel. Rap jar gently to settle the flour.

Add remaining mix ingredients in layers, pressing down after each layer (a potato masher helps). Seal jar and decorate as desired, attaching a gift tag.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Add the dry mix to a large mixing bowl, beat butter and egg in with a hand mixer.

Drop by Tablespoon balls on the sheets. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden, 10 to 14 minutes.

Make 1 quart jar, and about 2 dozen cookies.

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This savory quick bread can be made vegan easily. Use an unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk for the dairy milk. I made my loaf with unsweetened almond milk and palm sugar.

Walnut-Rosemary Oat Quick Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp dried crumbled rosemary
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • ¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped

Also -

  • 1½ cups milk (dairy or unsweetened non-dairy)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

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Directions:

Whisk the all-purpose flour, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda. salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add to a clean 1 quart mason jar (wide-mouth) using a canning funnel. Rap jar gently to settle flour, add whole wheat flour, oats and walnuts to the jar in layers, pressing down after each addition (a potato masher helps).

Seal jar, decorate as desired and attach a gift tag.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350°, oil a 9×5 bread pan and lightly flour it (shaking out excess).

Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, stir in milk and oil. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 50 ,minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn out on a cooling rack. Let cool fully before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf, store leftovers in a bread bag.

~Sarah

A Hearty Pizza Crust & A Nifty Gifty

On Cyber Monday (can we pleasepleaseplease retire that term?) I caved and bought some goodies online. I am a sucker for gourmet boxes of food that come with free shipping (who isn’t?). I saw the deal via a Mambo Sprouts email. Then I promptly forgot about it till I heard UPS running away the other night. A big box sat outside. Oh wait, was this my goodie goodie box from Cucina Antica Gourmet? Oh yes it was. For $27.95 I got all this shipped to me, shipping included. It was well packaged as well. Frankly I ordered it so I could try the pumpkin sauce…..I had seen their products before at our local natural foods store, PCC, but hadn’t taken the leap to trying it.

If you have anyone to get a gift for, consider this box. It is cool, tasty and ummm…tasty. Fancy-pants too.

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In the box was a 16 ounce jar of Pizza Sauce:

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Well that meant I “needed” to make pizza. The menfolk of course were thrilled. The sauce is “accidentally” vegan (bonus) and oh-wow-so-good smelling. The kind where you crack open a lid and it smells as fresh as when it was made. This is good stuff. No questionable ingredients, no sugar, just wonderful flavor.

I spread it over two massive pizzas. Leftover pizza is a wonderful thing. At least in our house! The crust I adapted out of my copy of 300 Best Bread Machine Recipes.

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Why did I pull my Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme Breadmaker out of the cupboard and use it to make the dough? I couldn’t knead the dough. Why? Because my trainer at the gym worked me so hard I apparently had two useless arms on Tuesday…lol! Kirk normally sees the trainer we both go to 3 times a week, Monday he has a 1 hour workout. This Monday he was slammed with work – he was gone at a conference most of last week – so he said “want to take my place?”. Better that than us losing the money. I hadn’t done a 1 hour workout since spring of 2011. And John, our trainer, doesn’t take it easy on me. He has me back in the gym and his goal is to get me back where I was between babies. Anyhow, the thought of kneading dough wasn’t a pleasant one. So I let Super Machine do 99% of the work for me. Hehe.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast

Directions:

Add ingredients in order required for your bread machine (mine is liquids, flours, sugar and salt, yeast on top). Turn on ‘Dough’ setting, let machine do its magic (mine takes 1 hour, 50 minutes).

Lightly flour a work surface, take dough out of bread pan and lay on the flour. Cover with a large mixing bowl, let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare toppings as desired. I like to sauté the vegetables until golden. Preheat oven to 400°.

Divide in half, roll out to size desired (I made ours rectangles, baked on parchment paper lined baking sheets).

Pop the crusts in the oven, bake for 10 minutes, flipping rack position halfway. Take out and top as desired. (Be that traditional or vegan….)

Return to oven, bake for about 20 minutes, changing positions halfway through.

Let rest for a couple of minutes, then slice and serve.

Makes 2 large pizza crusts.

~Sarah

Dark Chocolate Truffles

I’d call this lazy candy making, for really you don’t have to do a lot, no thermometers or boiling pots of sugar are involved and you get luscious bites in the end! Who wouldn’t want a small container fo these to nibble on? And they are simply elegant.

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate  chips (vegan if desired)
  • ¼ cup organic virgin coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

Add the chocolate chips, coconut oil, water and salt to a double boiler (or a heat-safe glass bowl over a pot), with a small amount of water in the lower pot. Heat over medium till the chocolate has melted, stirring gently.

Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Scrape into an 8×8″ glass pan, set in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. (Should you say….oh forget about it and come back the next day, take out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften a bit)

Place the cocoa powder in a bowl. Line a plate with parchment paper.

For best results wear food grade gloves. Using a 1 Tablespoon Disher, scrape across the chocolate to scoop up. For smaller truffles a 1.5 Teaspoon Disher, works well. Roll into smooth balls quickly. Gently drop the balls in the cocoa, roll to coat.

Set on the prepared plate, refrigerate to harden, store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Makes about 12.

~Sarah

Handmade Gingerbread Latte Syrup (With Latte Recipe)

It’s blustery, cold and did I mention mega-windy outside? That means…it is the perfect time for a morning latte!

It’s funny in the Pacific Northwest…if you are of a certain age, you probably have worked as a barista at some point. Espresso stands were our signature in the late 80′s and mid 90′s, then morphed into coffee shops. My first job as a barista was in college. All in total I worked as one for 9 years – most of my 20′s to be precise. I worked for most of those years at a coffee shop on The Island, working my way up to being the opening barista (which was the best shift, although the busiest). I liked the work, I liked my customers and my job was flexible (which as a single mom to my oldest son it was important – work early, get most of the day off and 3 days a week off to hike with him!) When I moved off the island, I retired from my espresso-pulling days. Kirk often “joked” about getting an espresso machine, so I could make him lattes like back when I met him ;-) Considering that the type of machine I would want was outrageously expensive then, we never got one. Well…until recently. Kirk surprised me with this machine as an early Christmas gift:

A Breville BES860XL Barista Express Espresso Machine with Grinder. A few years back, machines like this cost a lot more. Prices have come down, we got ours brand new for about 45% off MSRP. It seems to fit well in the realm between pro machines and lousy wastes of money (think cheap machines at Target that do NOT give real espresso, but rather give coffee with a bit of crema). More so, it is easy to learn how to use it, the machine can be run on auto settings (for grinding the beans and how long the shots run) or you can pick your own settings. Best of both worlds. Probably one of my few gripes is that you cannot steam milk while pulling shots, but really, that isn’t a huge issue when one is making lattes for only 2 people, and not an unending line of customers. Classy lines, nice design and it works. Being that I know my way around espresso machines my learning curve was short. First thing I do after coming into the kitchen is plug it in and turn it on. By the time I have the kids corralled and happy, the boiler is ready to go. I can’t say everyone will be able to pull perfect shots or steam velvety foam but ya never know. Lets just say there was a reason I helped win “Best of” for the shop a few years in a row (feels weird tooting my horn, but I really loved making coffee!). Now Kirk happily gets a hot latte every morning. And hey…..it doesn’t take that long to pay the machine back if you are a daily latte drinker. Two drinks a day could have it payed off in 2 to 3 months. But more so, if you are watching what you put into your mouth…well, you really want to read bottles of syrup for lattes. Which 10 years ago I can tell you I never did. One thing that made our shop stand out was the impressive collection of flavors we carried. I could make nearly any latte a customer could dream up (I made a Granola Bar Latte that was locally famous…..) So whenever a new syrup came out I’d whine at my boss to get it. Only thing is…most syrups have preservatives. One reason they can be shelf stable for up to 2 years. And they are over priced – consider this, at a restaurant supply store (they all carry espresso gear put here), a bottle runs for about half or less than what it is in a store. If you buy a bottle of Torani syrup without a coupon or on sale, you can spend $6 to $9 a bottle. A double batch below is a fraction of that. With no preservatives. Or caramel coloring. This for example is $7.95!

This is what syrup should be like – thick and delicious! It doesn’t need coloring. Nope!

Gingerbread Latte Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar, preferably organic
  • 2½ tsp ground dried ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Add the ingredients to a heavy medium saucepan, bring to boil over high. Turn to medium-low, simmer for 15 minutes – do NOT leave while simmering as it can boil over easily.

Let cool, then transfer to a jar, store in refrigerator.

Makes about 1¾ cups.

PS: The jar I used? It is a recycled and sterilized Bhakti Chai bottle. They are beyond gorgeous bottles! Props to them for finding such pretty bottles.

Gingerbread Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1½ cups milk (favorite dairy or non-dairy, preferably unsweetened)
  • 2 Tbsp Gingerbread syrup (or to taste)
  • 2 shots espresso

Directions:

Make sure your espresso machine is preheated properly, running hot water through the group head to warm up the portafilter, and heating one’s mug as well.

Steam milk to preferred temperature (I aim for 165° to 170°, I like it hot). Add syrup to warmed mug, mix with half of the hot milk. Pull 2 shots espresso, add to mug down the center, gently pour in the remaining milk and swirl foam on the top.

Serve and drink immediately.

On milk amount:

I prefer to use about 1¼ cups milk, once I add the espresso and syrup I have a tall drink. 1 cup will give you a very strong-tasting short latte, 1½ cups will give you closer to a Grande.

~Sarah

April Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

I had so much fun in March, I had to do it again – that is I was in Foodie Pen Pals for April! This month I was paired to send a package of goodies to Lisa. I received a package from Crystal, who blogs at Crystal’s Cozy Kitchen. Crystal sent me a lovely package full of tasty treats. The vanilla bean shortbread cookies were the best part – they are made for Walmart but are just what shortbread should be – a short list of ingredients, indulgent and fattening ;-)

There was a jar of unsalted cashew butter from Kettle, a box of Kashi TLC cookies and a package of  Blue Diamond Pecan Nut-Thins crackers. The crackers are gluten-free, I have had their almond ones before, the pecan ones are even better. A well enjoyed box of goodies!

Want to join or check it out?

The Lean Green Bean

~Sarah

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