Creamy Fall Vanilla Chai Mix

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Nothing says Fall like a cup of creamy spiced vanilla chai.  One of my very best friends got me hooked on this mix many years back and since then, none of the coffee shop chai even comes close.  This is so creamy and has the perfect amount of spice.

I have been working on getting my food processor’s license recently and all of my recipes have gotten shuffled from their usual spaces so I lost the original recipe.  I spent some time yesterday searching for one that looked close and found this one over at https://katskitchen.wordpress.com.  It is almost exactly as I remember the other recipe so I whipped up a batch and am once again in creamy chai heaven. This takes no time at all to whip up and it makes enough to share (if you want to part with it).  You can put it in little jars with a cute label and instructions.  It would make a wonderful Teacher’s gift or Secret Santa gift as well.

Ingredients

1 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup French vanilla powdered non-dairy creamer
2 cups white sugar
1 ½ cups unsweetened instant tea (feel free to replace with instant coffee for a chai latte or Pero for a caffeine free version)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
¼ tsp white pepper

Directions

Place all ingredients in a mixer or food processor.  I suppose you could technically stir it all in by hand but the blender breaks the spices up really finely so you get the spice without the grit.

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Turn on your blender until the mix is all incorporated.

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Place in a jar or container that seals completely to keep moisture out.

Stir approximately 2-3 Tbsp of mix into 8 oz of steaming hot milk.  Shake a little dash of cinnamon on top.  Curl up on the couch with your favorite blanket and book/magazine,  lock the kids outside and take a moment to pause and enjoy the temporary bliss.

*If you want to serve the chai over ice, first mix a small amount of hot milk or water with the mix so it can dissolve, then fill the rest of the cup up with cold milk and ice.  Stir.

Pumpkin Week!!! Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I can’t wait for each and every recipe I have coming up for you this week.  I am a huge fan of pumpkin everything so I have more than enough FABULOUS recipes to give you a full week’s worth of pumpkin heaven.

With my hubby gone hunting and the rainy season started, the boys and I decided we would head down to our local farm stand and pick up some sugar pie pumpkins for a day full of baking.    They had so much fun getting all of the “guts” out of the pumpkins and separating all of the seeds so we could roast them.

Now, I can honestly say, I cannot taste a HUGE difference in flavor between canned pumpkin and fresh pumpkin puree, but if you are looking for a really fun, cheap fall activity to stock up on puree (which is generally pretty expensive otherwise) for the season, this is definitely worth it the effort.

Ingredients:

1-2 sugar pie (or baking) pumpkins – your local farmer or grocer will be able to point you in the right direction.  They are generally small, round, pretty smooth pumpkins with little speckles on them.
I roasted 2 pumpkins and got 10 cups of puree (which is equivalent to 5 cans of puree) and at $2/pumpkin, it is much cheaper.

Directions:

Cut pumpkin in half, vertically.  These pumpkins are generally pretty firm so be careful.  I find that a bread knife or serrated steak knife work better than my big sharp chef knives.  Cut right up to the stem on both sides then break apart with your hands.  You should then just be able to grab the stem and break it off pretty easily.

Remove the “guts” as my boys would call it.  Be sure to scrap the inside well with a spoon to remove any of the stringy pulp.  Separate the seeds into a bowl and rinse. If you fill the bowl with water, the seeds will float and the pulp will generally sink to the bottom.  Lay on a paper towel to dry.  We will be roasting them later this week 🙂

Line large cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place pumpkin halves face down on cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for approximately 90 minutes or until pumpkins are soft.  As you can see in my pictures, one of my pumpkins cooked much faster than the other so it was extra soft after it was baked.

Cool until you can handle them safely.  The skin of the pumpkin should peel off very easily.  After you have them peeled, cut into chunks and place into a food processor or blender.

Puree until very smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain excess liquid from puree.  It seems like the puree will just run right through but it won’t.  Don’t force it through the strainer, just let it drain naturally.  Let each batch drain for several minutes. *One of my blog followers recommends in the comments below to let the puree sit in the fridge overnight.  The liquid will all come to the top while the puree sinks to the bottom so if you are not planning on using it right away, this would be a really easy option. *

If you aren’t planning on using all of your puree now, divide it into freezer bags in 2 cup portions.  I like to fold the top of the bag over before I start measuring.  This will keep the top of the bag where you need a good seal from getting all gunky.  Press the excess air from the bag, label bag and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Breakfast Smoothies

I make these almost every morning for my boys for breakfast.  I usually wake up with a light tapping on my shoulder and two little voices asking me if I will make them a smoothie.  They are so healthy and delicious. Just like my boys, I look forward to my smoothie every morning.  You can add so many different variations to this recipe.  This is just the basic recipe, then you can add whatever your heart desires.

Ingredients:

2 cups sliced – or about 10 large frozen strawberries (If you use frozen berries, you don’t have to worry about diluting your smoothie with ice.  I buy the big bag from Costco.  They are such nice berries and by far the best price you can find unless you are picking them from your own garden.)

1 vanilla yogurt (My favorite is Yoplait.  I feel like it has the smoothest, non-tangy flavor)

1 ripe bananas (the riper the banana, the sweeter the smoothie – just don’t use the rotten ones.  Ripe bananas will eliminate any need for added sugar, sometimes I add 2 bananas if I am needing to get rid of them)

2 cups apple juice (you can use any kind of juice, I just find the apple to be the sweetest)

I have also added ground flax-seed, spinach, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or whatever seasonal fruit I have in my fridge or freezer.

Directions:

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until completely smooth.

If I do happen to make extra smoothie, I put it in popsicle molds and make smoothie-pops.  This is really fun because in the summer-time, the boys can have a popsicle for breakfast, which they think is so cool!

Orange Julius

Nothing brings back memories of my childhood like a cold, creamy orange julius. I made them for the first time in years this last weekend for my kids and my niece.  There was about 3 or 4 minutes of complete silence, followed by the slurping sound of 3 empty cups and straws then insistent begging for another round.  Honestly, if I would have had more orange juice, I would have gone for it because my cup was empty too.

Ingredients:

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate

2 cups milk

1/4 cup sugar (I feel like you could reduce this slightly)

1 tsp vanilla

10 ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.