Friday, September 25, 2015

foodie friday : pumpkin spiced

Like everyone, I love the time of year that pumpkin spiced coffees make their debut.  But I really hate spending the money on them.  For the past couple of years, I have kept my eye out for pumpkin syrups, but nothing ever tastes right.  I have tried making my own, but it always ends in disaster.  

Then one day it hit me.  Maybe I should be trying to make my own creamer.  Maybe then I can achieve pumpkin spiced success!  I have had numerous store bought pumpkin creamers and they are all just ok; and like the coffee shops, completely fake in the pumpkin department.  So I started searching Yummly, and after sorting through some weird recipes, I found one that sounded very promising.  Of course I tweaked it to my liking and pantry stock (which I will share below), but the bones of the recipe are from My Organized Chaos.

REAL Pumpkin Spiced Creamer
inspired by My Organized Chaos

1 C half-n-half
5 Tbsp pumpkin puree
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice (make it yourself)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 C milk

Whisk it all together in a bowl, pour into a saucepan and slowly heat until steaming.  Remove from heat and occasionally whisk to prevent a skin from forming as it cools.  I chose to strained mine while I bottled it up to get out some of the larger chunks of spices, but you probably don't have to.  Refrigerate and shake before each use since the spices settle.

I use about 2 tablespoons or more (+sugar) in a mug of STRONG coffee for a close likeness to what I would buy out, except for every morning, late morning, and afternoon pick-me-up in my house.  Whipped topping is optional and totally recommended.  Leftover spices and puree can be mixed in to plain yogurt for a special treat, your pancake batter, or maybe I should try making mini hand pies?!

The best part is, you can buy pumpkin puree year round.  And all together, this recipe probably costs about the same as one grande fake pumpkin spiced latte at your favorite coffee shop.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

visit to the Smokies

At some point at the beginning of summer, my mom and I planned a 2 night trip to Gatlinburg so that my Texas end of the family could meet Myles for the first time.  I had also not met their youngest addition; having not seen them since their oldest was 1 year old; the last time we went to the Smokies.  He is now 5.  We made sure to take them to all of our favorite spots from the dozen+ times we went there growing up, and a few new ones!

First we fed some ducks while we waited to be seated at a Mexican restaurant.

Then we threw some pennies in the fountain at The Village.  And did some shopping...

We picnicked at The Chimneys and let the kids climb down to the freezing mountain stream to throw lots and lots of rocks.

Myles started getting a little too brave while we were there so we had to keep a tight hold on him at all times!  Because this mom-of-the-year forgot his swim trunks so we couldn't get as all-in as originally planned.

We went to the Ripley's Aquarium as well!  Super fun with tired little kiddos.  It did have its great moments though.

Myles was super excited to get the opportunity to splash in some water.  I'm not sure if he really ever did touch the stingrays or horseshoe crabs.

We took them to Fannie Farkles to win some tickets.  Myles still loves his mardi gras beads that he bought with them.

That happened...  I now wish I had also gotten a picture of Myles by himself, but by the time they posed for this, he was just done.  I was rather amazed they sat still and serious for so long!

We enjoyed our little balcony overlooking the stream and mountain view.  Although the road noise was a bit much when motorcycles went through around middle-of-the-night o'clock, the Baymont Inn on the Parkway was really really great.  The rooms have been renovated, the view is awesome for being downtown, and we were greeted with a goody bag for each adult (snacks, water bottles, coupons) and for each kid (coloring books, crayons, snacks).

And I enjoyed the scenic drive back home.  Getting there was not scenic at all.  I'm pretty sure I was scared for my life on some of the backroads my GPS took me through.  

So so grateful mom went with us.  Not sure if I could have handled a hotel stay alone with Myles!  He really did great but 2 nights was enough time away from his normal sleep habits!  This trip also solidified his major obsession with having ice to crunch at all times.  

While I may not be thrilled with much of downtown Gatlinburg anymore, this place is still one of my favorite places to visit time and time again.  I am really glad we got to let Myles experience it, whether he remembers the trip or not.  That's what the camera is for.

Mom followed us back to SC, and after spending the weekend with Kyle, drove us back to KY for a weeklong trip where we got to SURPRISE my grandmother who had just had hip replacement surgery.  So that was our little adventure this summer!  Now we are looking ahead to our quickly approaching no-toddler-allowed cruise!  I intend to be a little faster with sharing that trip!

Friday, September 18, 2015

foodie friday : pork chop stroganoff

I ran across this recipe almost as soon as I downloaded Yummly to my Kindle.  Simple? Meat? Gravy? Mushrooms? Crock Pot?  Definitely.  This is a new favorite indeed.  And guess what?! 

Kyle likes it.  

Like for real.  No little shoulder shrug of semi-approval.  Full on, "yeah that is good!" approval.  Myles gobbled it up the first time I fixed it, this time however, he is sick with a mystery fever of some sort.  So he doesn't want to eat anything but cheese and cookies.  

Ignore the terrible quality of photos, I did have a toddler underfoot so you guys get the phone pics this time, no fancy camera use.  And everything in this recipe is brown...soooooo... not even a fancy camera will make it look pretty.  This is how easy it is:  mix the soup and gravy mix in the slow cooker.  Toss in sliced mushrooms (I use baby bella because that is what Aldis had for cheap but I don't think it matters), brown the chops in butter (just use boneless... it will save you the headache of searching for the bones when all that meat falls apart later), and deglaze the yummy brown  bits with a little water and toss that all on top of your shrooms.  Cook on low about 5 hours or so.  Mix in the sour cream with the rest of the gravy before you serve.  Real recipe is found at The Midnight Baker.

We enjoy these with some mashed potatoes; this time I roasted some delicata squash as our other side.  Haven't had delicata?  It is super yummy, like a mild butternut, but SO MUCH EASIER to deal with because you can eat the skin and it is much smaller.  Trader Joes finally has them back out for 99 cents each.  Love winter squash season!  Just cut in half, scoop out the seeds, slice 1/2 inch thick, and bake on a cookie sheet at 375F for about 30 minutes after you sprinkle on a little olive oil and salt, flipping them over half way through.  They are delicious cold the next day too!

Friday, September 4, 2015

foodie friday : rice&beans

please excuse the long hiatus, we have been enjoying summer with lots of visitors, a little travel, outside play, developing friendships, tons of books, and a couple of cleaning sprees.  I got out of my groove and I'm not apologizing for that; we had fun!

I specifically look for the combo meals at our Mexican restaurants that include both rice and beans.  But I rarely fix them at home.  The boxed rice is never that great, and the canned refried beans are just okay.  This week, I had the pleasure of taking a meal to our friends who just had their second babies, but I didn't just want to take them enchiladas.  So I searched through Yummly and Google and eventually found some super easy recipes to take along. In both instances, I made significant enough changes that I will just put my version of each on here.

Ok, so confession time.  The rice turned out a little dry.  And I would wager that it is because I let the liquid boil a little too long in the beginning, and then when it was time to pour it in, the cast iron dutch oven (I'm on a learning curve here, only second time to ever use it) was way too hot by that point and so it flash boiled to a scary degree and probably a lot of the liquid was gone from the get-go.  Also, if you didn't notice, this recipe is going to make a TON.  I needed to, since I was taking a good bit to friends, but next time I will probably half the recipe and either use only half the can of petite diced tomatoes (I did like the look of the chunks) or just a small can of tomato sauce.  You can see the original recipe here, I just changed it because I thought the extra steps were a little unnecessary.

The original recipe is for cuban style black beans over at skinnytaste.  I have never bought scallions, have never used red wine vinegar, and wasn't looking for cuban beans.  I just needed a kick-off point for how to doctor up some canned black beans.  It worked.  They were a little runny, so next time I will either add less water, or I will simmer uncovered for the entire time instead of holding in that steam.  Otherwise, Myles went to town on these things, and I kinda didn't want to share.  Not bad if you are like me and need an alternative recipe since you always forget to soak dried beans overnight for the authentic thing.