Sunday, September 21, 2014

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Creamer

My disclaimer for this post is that I LOVE Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes, hot or iced. This recipe is not a replacement or copycat of a PSL, but it will help scratch the itch between your Starbucks runs.

Over Labor Day weekend, I spent some time searching for pumpkin recipes. I found recipes for bread, muffins, desserts of all kinds, and pancakes. But when I found this recipe for pumpkin spice creamer, I was really excited to try it. This week, in Houston, was slightly cooler and very rainy. It's our first hint that our seasons are changing from oppressively hot to mildly hot, our version of fall. 

This creamer involves just a few ingredients and it is super easy and fast to make. Simply combine a milk of some kind (I used half and half this time), some pumpkin, maple syrup, and a ton of spices in a saucepan.  Whisk until warm. Then stir in the vanilla extract and allow it to cool. I poured it back into the half and half bottle and relabeled it for easy storage. All in all, I think it took about 10 minutes from start to finish. And as a bonus, it cost less than $2 to make about 16 servings of creamer. You have to try this scrumptious taste of fall!!!!

2 cups (1 pint) half and half 
2 Tbls. canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
2 Tbls. maple syrup (use the good stuff, this serves as a sweetener as well)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 

1. Combine all ingredients except the vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until combined and mixture is warmed. 
2. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. 
3.  Allow to cools. Then place it in a container in the fridge. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sunday Lunch Prep

Ok - so I posted an innocent comment about packing up lunches for the week on Facebook and I got an onslaught of replies.  :)  I was there a couple of months ago too.  The dreaded lunch packing in the morning, just grabbing anything in sight and throwing it haphazardly towards the lunchboxes lying on the counter.  (Some mornings are still like that!) But for the most part, this is what Sunday lunch prep looks like now...

Stella's lunch (pink) and Jackson's lunch (right)

Lunches stacked up on one shelf in the fridge

I'll try to take better photos for this upcoming week, but in general here's what lunches look like in out house.  

Braeden & Jackson - We try to choose as healthy as possible foods.  We stay away from artificial colors and flavors.  I pack a main dish (protein), a chip/cracker, fruit/veggie, drink, and homemade snack.  Braeden definitely has an affinity for junkier foods than Jackson does.
Stella - Same as the boys but soy and dairy free due to her allergies.  Think Paleo life here!  :)
Dusty - likes some kind of salad around 400 calories.  He prefers vegetarian.  
Amy - I want it to taste good!!!!  But I'm also trying to stick around 500 calories.  

For this week, lunch prep went like this...

Braeden - He wanted PB& J!  He's on a kick.  But I don't pre-make sandwiches on Sunday.  I've heard of people making them on Sunday and then freezing them, but I haven't tried that yet.  I add in grapes, Ritz crackers, and my mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies and he's ready to roll.
Jackson - He wants Lunchables!  Our compromise is mommy-ables.  I picked up Ritz crackers, a Boar's Head uncured ham lunch meat, and cheese sticks.  Of course, nothing can touch!  I add in grapes and my mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies and he's all packed up.  These lunches I do fully make on Sunday.  Then each morning, I just grab out a container and put it in his lunch box.
Stella - She gets the exact same lunch, with these minor changes.  She gets a different dairy/soy free cracker and no cheese stick.  She gets all packed up on Sundays as well.
Dusty - He is hooked on this Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Salad.  We tried it with quinoa first, like the recipe said.  He LOVED it!  Then, the next week I forgot the quinoa when I went to the store and substituted orzo.  He SUPER LOVED it with the orzo.  It's a great sturdy salad that just gets better as it sits in the fridge.  
Amy - I'm taking a hard-boiled egg with a whole-wheat English muffin for my lunch.  I also eat my breakfast at school so you see my yogurt stacked up in the fridge too with a serving of granola to put on top.  

Check out the salad and the links for the handy containers are below!  Do you prep your lunches on the weekend?  Or do you make your lunches each day?  I'd love to hear some of your tips too!

Monday, February 18, 2013

On the menu board for the week of February 18th

On the menu board for the week of February 18th:

If you're anything like me, you often fight the "what's for dinner" battle.  I LOVE to cook at home, but it does take a little bit of planning.  Defrosting meat or picking up produce or making sure that you have a side dish, there's quite a bit that goes into planning a family dinner.  I've tried half-a-dozen different solutions but I've finally stumbled onto a system that works for me.  I sit down and plan out a month's worth of meals at a time.  And then each week, I write the menu on our chalkboard wall next to the fridge.  I defrost any meat that we need and make a list of produce to pick up from the grocery store.  

Monday:  chicken taquitos - No special recipe here.  But I have to thank Dr. & Melanie Bellinger who taught me you just have to heat up the corn tortillas a bit more so that they don't fall apart when you're rolling them.  :)
Tuesday:  breakfast tacos with chorizo, country potatoes, and fruit
Wednesday:  pork fried rice - Wednesdays are our fast dinner nights.  So I'll cook the brown rice of Tuesday night and slice the pork thin.  Then when I get home on Wednesday night, all I have to do it throw everything together.
Thursday:  alfredo mac & cheese - My kiddos wouldn't have anything to do with alfredo until I called it white mac & cheese.  :)  I substitute the cream for 2% milk - yummo!
Friday:  almost always pizza night in our house.  But I found this adorable idea on Pinterest and so this Friday will be Angry Bird pizza night! Check out the idea here.
Saturday: grilled brats
Sunday:  copycat Chik-fil-a nuggets.  This is a new recipe for me and I'll let you know how it goes...  Check out the recipe here.

My plan is to post my menu plans each week.  I think it will help me stay organized and if it can help someone else tackle their what's for dinner battle then that's awesome too!  

Bread Basket - English Muffins

Bread Basket - English Muffins

I LOVE English Muffins!  Ever since I was a girl, these were a special treat.  Lately, I've been working on making all of the bread that my family eats.  Number one because it is way cheaper!  Number two because I'm really intrigued by clean eating and trying to minimize the amount of preservatives that my family consumes.  This recipe is also a great way to sneak in some more whole wheat to my family's diet.  So a few weeks ago, I stumbled onto this recipe on Pinterest and I just couldn't wait to try it.  This last Saturday, I finally had my chance.  A few edits and then English muffin bliss   They were delicious.  An amazing cross between a biscuit and bread.  They didn't have the characteristic nooks and crannies that I am used to, but they were tender and had a fantastic flavor.  You definitely MUST give these a try for your next breakfast treat.  :)

1 c. milk
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. warm water (105-110 degrees)
1/4 oz yeast
3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
cornmeal for pans

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water.  Stir to combine.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. In a small pot, combine the milk, butter, and sugar.  Stir over low heat until the butter is melted.  Allow to cool until it is between 105-110 degrees.
  3. (I used my KitchenAid for this part, but it can also be done by hand.)  In the mixer bowl, with the dough hook attachment, combine the 3 cups of all purpose flour, the yeast/water mixture, and the milk/butter/sugar mixture.  Stir to combine.  Once incorporated, all the whole wheat flour.  Allow the mixer to run for about 3 minutes to lightly kneed the dough.  Then, allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the English muffins.  Do not twirl the cutter as you cut out the muffins.  Carefully place each muffin on the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with corn meal.  Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 45 minutes.  Dough should at least double.  
  6. Heat a cast-iron (or other heavy bottomed) skillet over medium-low heat.  WITHOUT adding any grease, carefully place muffins in the pan, careful not to overcrowd and ensuring that muffins are not touching.  Cook muffins on each side for about 8 minutes until well-browned.  Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.  
  7. Split English muffins and enjoy!
* Yields about 16 muffins.
**Adapted from My Fair Baking Recipe (

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Dusty and I took our first jobs after college in New Orleans.  We absolutely LOVED it there: the people (especially our friends at St. John), the food, Mardi Gras, and so much more.  We lived there for just over 15 months until Hurricane Katrina relocated us back to Houston.  One of the new foods we tried and fell in love with were beignets.  There was nothing like walking around in the French Quarter and stopping into Cafe du Monde for a cup of coffee and an order of these sweet, fried, delicious treats.  When we moved back to Houston, I tried everything to recreate the experience at home.  I've used the box mix you can find in the grocery stores and several other recipes.  But this is hands-down the best recipe I've ever found.  I prepared the dough in the bread machine but you could adapt this recipe to be made without it too by blooming the yeast first and then adding the remaining ingredients.


2/3 cup milk
1/4 water
1 egg
1 Tbls butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
cooking oil for frying
sifted powdered sugar for dusting

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Add all ingredients (except the oil and powdered sugar) in the order listed to the bread machine.  Select the 1 1/2 pound dough cycle.  When the cycle is complete, remove dough from the machine.  Punch down.  Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
2.  Divide the dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 9-inch square.  Cut into 16 squares.
3.  Fry dough squares (2 or 3 at a time) in hot oil (at 375 degrees) for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.  Using a slotted spoon, removed from oil and drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

adapted from Better Homes & Gardens:  The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking

Friday, June 29, 2012

Funfetti Sandwich Cookies

From the first minute that I saw this recipe, I just knew I HAD to try it.  You see, I LOVE sprinkles.  Not in the childish, just add a couple to the top of your ice cream, way.  No, no, that's not nearly enough sprinkles.  Instead, my mom (and now Dusty) have always teased me that I need some ice cream with my sprinkles.  I love Funfetti cake mix too.  This recipe was really simple and turned out deliciously!  Braeden and Jackson agreed with me that this was one of our new FAVORITE cookie recipes and they will definitely be showing up in our cookie jar quite a bit.  So grab a mixing bowl and these ingredients and get to work.  I guarantee you're going to love these cookies too!

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Red, White & Blue Jimmie sprinkles
2 tablespoons Red, White & Blue nonpareil sprinkles

For the Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Blue food coloring (I used powdered)

Preparation Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and egg. Beat until well combined.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix on low speed until ingredients are combined. Gently mix in the sprinkles. Don't over mix or the sprinkles will bleed into the dough.
4. Form cookie dough into small balls, about a teaspoon in size. Place cookie dough balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges. The cookies will harden as the cool, so don't over bake.
5. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
6. While the cookies are cooking, make the buttercream frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until nice and smooth, using the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once sugar is fully incorporated turn the mixer up to medium speed and add in the salt and vanilla extract. Add the heavy cream and mix for 3 minutes or until frosting is smooth. Check the consistancy of the frosting, if it is to loose, add more powdered sugar. If it is too stiff, add a little more cream. Mix in food coloring and beat until you have your desired color.
7. To make the sandwich cookies, pipe (using a pastry bag or plastic bag) small dollops of frosting on a cookie and sandwich another cookie on top. Store cookies in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
Check out the Fourth of July version of this recipe @

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chex Muddy Buddies

Okay - I'm on a total sweet kick!  :)  I had a couple of boxes of Wheat Chex that were going to expire in mid-July.  So I checked the pantry and I had all of the ingredients to whip up a batch of Muddy Buddies or Puppy Chow, as my husband calls it.  I've had Muddy Buddies with Corn Chex and Rice Chex but my absolute favorite kind is made with Wheat Chex.  The Wheat Chex makes this yummy treat so crunchy and delicious!!!  It took just a few minutes to prepare this recipe so grab a box or two of Chex, some chocolate chips and head to the kitchen.  Your sweet tooth will definitely thank you!!!


cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex®, Wheat Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation Instructions:

1.  In a large bowl, measure out 9 cups of cereal.  Set aside.
2.  In a 1 quart mixing bowl, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave for 30 more seconds or until smooth.  Stir and then pour over cereal.  And mix to coat cereal evenly.
3.  In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, add half of the cereal mixture and half of the powdered sugar (3/4 cup).  Shake to coat all of the pieces.  Spread on waxed paper to cool.  Repeat with the remaining cereal mixture and powdered sugar.  When completely cool, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  

Adapted from: