Monday, March 16, 2015

Starbucks Copy Cat Chai Tea Concentrate

My boyfriend loves Starbucks chai tea and buys the Tazo chai tea concentrate. Well, that stuff is expensive. Not as expensive as buying one at Starbucks, but expensive none the less. Sometimes I can get the concentrate on sale at Target for 2 for $6.00, but that's about the best deal out there that I've seen. I've tried other brands and he doesn't like them. They were too spicy, too sweet, not spicy enough, too weak or just off. I finally found Tazo Chai Tea DECAF. I had no idea that decaf would be so hard to find. Once I found it I was on a quest to find the perfect sweetness and strength.

I tried at least three different versions before getting it to where he liked it. It's definitely cheaper than buying the concentrate. You're paying a lot for water when you buy it that way. Now that it's getting warmer, he won't drink it as much, but now I'm prepared for this Autumn.

Starbucks Copy Cat Chai Tea Concentrate

Yield: 2 cups, or 4 cups chai tea mixed with milk
Prep Time: 2 minutes, plus steeping 
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

3 Tazo Chai Tea Bags
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups water

Boil three tea bags in two cups of water on the stove or in the microwave for two minutes. Let steep for 10 minutes until dark brown. Add two teaspoons of honey and two teaspoons of sugar and stir until dissolved. To make a Chai Tea Latte, add 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup concentrate and heat until desired temperature. Or chill and serve over ice.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tear Free Potty Training

When my son was two years old and then three and even four people would ask me how I potty trained him. I always say it was really easy and I had no problems at all. Then they look at me like I have two heads and ask how that's possible.

I stumbled upon a website when my son was about three months old about Elimination Communication (EC). I had no idea what it was and had never heard about it before. You can look it up, but in a nutshell it basically says that the same way your baby tells you they are hungry, tired, hurt, etc., they also tell you they have to pee or poop. And as a society we tend to "teach" our children to do their business in a diaper. Most third world countries don't have diapers and use this method very effectively. All you have to do is put your infant on the toilet when they normally eliminate; after a meal and when they wake up from a nap, and eventually, when they are able to, they will go to the toilet on their own.

So naturally I thought this was crazy, but had to give it a try. Holy Crap It Worked! My son was three months old when we started this and he peed or pooped right after he ate and right when he woke up from a nap. It honestly saved a ton of diapers. We used a little potty. Not a toddler potty, but a Baby Borne. It's smaller than a toddler potty. And it's much easier to clean up as well.  Just a few swishes of water, dump it into the toilet and it's good to go. Of course every once in a while I gave it a good cleaning. The same as any toilet.

Apparently there are some hard core peeps out there who choose to go diaper free, but I was not one of those individuals. More power to them. I was what's called a part-time EC'er. I did it most of the time, but I didn't stress about it. If he went in his diaper, which he did frequently, I didn't worry about. it. I didn't just do it at home either. I did it at restaurants, friend's houses at the mall, basically wherever. I held my son away from me by the legs, so everything went easily into the toilet.

We also did baby sign language, which helped tremendously with ECing and communication in general. Every time he sat on the potty, we would give him the "potty" sign. It's not a sign we made up, but actually the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for toilet, aka, I gotta go.

He was eight months old the first time he had a dry diaper all day. That included a five hour car ride. I just continued to put him on the potty after he ate and when he woke up from a nap. He got on quite the schedule. I can't exactly remember, but I know at 11 months, he was signing he had to go to the bathroom and he would crawl there. We always kept the potty in the bathroom. It was easier and I figured that way, he knew where you did your business.

I'm venturing to guess that he could have been completely potty trained by about 15 months, but honestly I got lazy. He was still waking up every two hours at that point and I was exhausted. Matter of fact, he woke up every two hours until he was about 17 months old. He was a terrible sleeper and didn't start sleeping through the night until he was three and a half. That's a story for another time. So, I probably could have had him potty trained, but I was so tired, I didn't have the energy. His dad had recently gotten deployed and we had to put our house on the market and EC was the last thing on my mind.

Even though I got a bit lazy with it, I continued to do Elimination Communication and I changed my last poopy diaper when he was 18 months old. Peeing took a bit longer and he was completely potty trained by two years, two months. I generally put him on the toilet every two hours. No tears. No fuss. No more crap! He still peed in his sleep now and again, but I wasn't worried about that. He stopped peeing in his sleep close to three. Potty training was a non issue in our house.

I"m fairly certain, my mom would shoot me if she knew I posted this photo. We were visiting her and I couldn't resist taking this photo. Mt little guy was probably about 5 months here. 
Technically Elimination Communication is not potty training. So, I don't know that my headline is totally accurate, but I was always patient with him. When he got to be a toddler and he didn't want to get on the toilet every two hours, I didn't make it a big deal. When he went, I always told him, good job. But again, I didn't make it a big deal. There were no rewards, no candy, no stickers, just good old fashioned patience. And it worked. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Have you ever heard of Elimination Communication? Did you try it? I'm curious about others experiences with it. I've told many people about it, including my mom friends and none have done it and most have never heard of it.

For those of you who have a toddler and are ready to start potty training, just remember to be patient and it's never to early to learn the cues your child is trying to tell you.

Good Luck.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No Bake Coconut Almond Bars

I love it when I come up with a recipe and it's a hit. I'll be honest, it took two tries to get this one right, but I think I've got a winner. It started off as a copy cat Kind bar, but we decided they were too sweet and too nutty. They tasted like a candy bar. They're delicious don't get me wrong, but I wanted something a little different. I decided to add some oats in there, so it wasn't so nutty. Plus nuts get expensive. I don't want to make homemade granola bars that cost more than store-bought ones. I figured these cost about .45 cents each to make. Not cheap, but definitely cheaper than store bought. And way more tasty. They almost remind me of a coconut almond rice crispy treat.

I did a bit of research and discovered that brown rice syrup and honey was the way to go. I try to use natural ingredients. Or minimally processed stuff. I usually tend to go the maple syrup or honey route, but I thought I would try the brown rice syrup. I couldn't find it in my regular grocery store and even asked, so I had to go to a specialty store. Then, the other day I just happened to see it hiding in the gluten free section. What a strange place, but that's where it was. It runs about $7 at my local store. About the same price as honey around here.

There's not too much to making these, but you will need a candy thermometer, so I would suggest buying one. Don't borrow one. They aren't that expensive and since you're going to wind up making these all the time, I would just go ahead and buy one.

Have you every boiled sugar before? If not, the sugars go from just covering the bottom to practically overflowing. It doesn't seem to take long either.  Be careful when you boil the sugar, because if it touches your skin it sticks and you'll get a nasty burn. I always make sure my son isn't home or is glued to the tv when I'm making these. You really need to pay attention to boiling sugar. Don't walk away. This is why you need the candy thermometer. You need to get the sugar to firm ball stage. (No, this doesn't mean it's cold in the kitchen.) It's the gage on the candy thermometer. I don't like my granola bars too hard, so firm ball seems to be the best. If you like yours a little harder, go ahead and play hard ball, but I wouldn't go any higher than that. So many innuendos here. :)

These make 20 bars, which in my house maybe lasts about 4 days. Five if I hide one or two.

I've also got a spicy nutty bar coming soon. It's definitely an acquired taste, but I really like them. It incorporates sweet, salty, and spicy in one bite. I love it when that happens.

No Bake Coconut Almond Bars

Yield: 20 Bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

2 cups coconut
1 1/2 cups crisp brown rice
1 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup honey
1/2 cup brown rice syrup 

In a large mixing bowl add dry ingredients and set aside. In a deep saucepan add honey and brown rice syrup. Cook on medium high until firm ball stage using a candy thermometer. Remove and add vanilla. Pour into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread into a greased 9x13 inch glass pan. Oil the bottom of a drinking glass and press down firmly and evenly. Let cool for 20 - 30 minutes. Turn out onto cutting mat and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, if they last that long. 


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spinach Tortillas

Ever since making homemade tortilla some time ago, I can't seem to go back to buying them. I've had store bought tortillas once and they were gross. My boyfriend told me that he never wanted to eat store bought again. I took that as compliment. Everything homemade just tastes better. Of course food always tastes better when someone else makes it.

In an effort to make things a little healthier, I decided to make some spinach tortillas. I love spinach, but when it comes to adding them to things like tortillas or pancakes, I don't want any of the spinach flavor to come through. I guess I got the right ratio of spinach to flour, because you couldn't taste any spinach flavor at all. I will say that they are a little less chewy than regular tortillas, but no one seemed to mind.

We made burritos with them and they disappeared rather quickly. My son kept threatening to take one off the plate as I was photographing them. He's a carb guy. Anything bread, he eats. So if I can make his carb loving diet a little healthier, then I will. Especially since this kid doesn't like vegetables.

Making tortillas is always time consuming, but well worth it. Every once in a while, I threaten to spend an entire Sunday making tortillas and freezing the leftovers. The freeze well and taste just as good as the day you made them.

Spinach Tortillas
Yield: 8 Large Tortillas
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 - 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

2 1/3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out the tortillas
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup spinach

Mix flour and salt in a stand mixer or large bowl. In a blender, add spinach, water and olive oil. Blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. If dough seems a little sticky, add a teaspoon or two of flour. Separate into eight balls. Roll very thin with a rolling pin. On a hot griddle or dry pan, cook until bubbly; about a minute. Turn and cook until brown spots appear. Cool on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Snippy Doodles

This is my grandmother's warn and well used Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. There are several cookies and bars that I'm looking forward to trying. I wonder if they still publish any of these old recipes in their newer books.

Snippy Doodles are one of the recipes my grandmother used to make from her Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. These little bars are cake-like and go really well with a cup of coffee or tea. They are fluffy and soft with a tinge of cinnamon and sugar. The remind me of snickerdoodle cookies, but in a bar/cake form. I like them the way they are, but I think I might try to make them a little thicker and heavier like a brownie next time.

Snippy Doodles

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
Yield: 18 bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

2 tablespoons shortening (I used butter)
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 well-beaten egg

Thoroughly cream shortening or butter and sugar; add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk and egg. Spread thin in waxed-paper-lined 9-by13 inch pan. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 15 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and continue baking 10 minutes. Cut in squares. Serve warm or cold. 

Note: I greased a 9x13 inch glass pan and they came out easily. I did use cake flour, but my grandmother noted that she used regular flour. It says makes 18 bars, but I cut 24 smaller bars. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What's Old is New Again

When my grandmother passed away several years ago, I inherited her cookbooks. She was an avid baker and baked nearly every day. My mom said that when  she was a kid and came home from school there would be some sort of dessert on the table. Sometimes it wasn't a baked good, but a pudding or something, nonetheless every day she made something. I cannot possible imagine making a sweet treat every day of my life. First off, I'd be enormous. Second, that's not very healthy, even with all natural ingredients, that's a lot of fat and calories. I guess there's a reason why she had such high cholesterol. Although I almost never saw her eat any of it. My grandfather was the one who liked the sweets.

She made a wide variety of recipes, which we always called, Grandmom's Cookies or Grandmom's Applesauce Cake. She did make up her own recipes for things, but she also did a lot of baking from the Better Homes and Garden's cookbook. She wrote many notes in the book...use 1/2 cup of sugar instead of 3/4 cup or V. Good when she liked it. The book was obviously used hard. At some point in time, my grandfather duck taped it. It's the 16th printing and the most recent year printed is 1948.

I've decided to make some of my favorites from the cookbook, as well as some new recipes that I've never had before. A lot of the recipes call for shortening, which I don't use, so I'll replace that with butter. Otherwise I'll try to keep to the same recipe.

My sister and I would sometimes fight over who was going to get the last cookie or bar. I didn't tell her I'm making these desserts even though we live in the same town. No, it's not because I want to hoard everything for myself, it's because she's currently on a diet. Isn't that nice of me. :)

I currently live in her house and use her rolling pin to make some of her recipes. Every time I taste one of the things she used to make, I'm transformed back to a little girl eating that item at the kitchen table. It's kind of strange, but neat at the same time.

I recently made Snippy Doodles out of the book. They lasted about a day and a half, so I guess I know why my grandmom baked every day. Recipe and pictures of the Snippy Doodles to follow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Warning: This is a long post with lots of photos. Really bad photos.

Last year I went a little nutty making Valentine's Day "envelopes" out of felt for the kids in my son's preschool class. Ok, there were only six kids, total, but still it was probably a little overboard for four year olds. I saw a few ideas on Pinterest and went with two. I did envelopes for the boys and hearts for the girls. Luckily there were three of each. I already had the felt, velcro and thread, so they didn't cost me anything, but if you buy felt, be sure to buy the cheapest stuff out there (craft felt). Usually you can get it on sale for around $2.50 a yard. If you have the felt rectangles, you could use those too, just make them a little smaller than I did.

Red and White Craft Felt
Red Thread
Pinking Shears
Velcro Strips
Sewing Machine

Being as they were for kids and I knew they would probably get thrown away right after Valentine's Day , I wasn't worried about them being perfect. So the sewing and cutting could have been better. Somehow I didn't think I would get critiqued from a four year old.

I started with the envelopes first and cut two pieces out of the white felt. And a felt red heart. The big piece is approximately 12" wide by 15" high. The smaller piece is about 12" wide by 8.5" high. On the inside of the smaller piece I used a large bowl to cut out a half circle. You could leave it straight across if you want. I wanted the half circle, so you could kind of see what was inside. Then I sewed a zigzag stitch from the corners of the smaller piece towards the top middle section about a half inch shy of the top to represent the where the pieces are glued together. Then I hand stitched the velcro on. I only had light brown velcro, so that's what I used. If I were to buy some, I would buy white. After that, I pinned the two pieces together to form an envelope and zigzagged around the whole thing using about a 1/2" seam. I used my pinking shears and went around the whole thing. Then I stitched the heart on the opening of the envelope and I was done.

Next up was the heart. I used a piece of paper to use as a template for the heart since I wanted them all to be about the same size. I cut out a white heart and then cut out a red heart using a slightly smaller template. Once I was done cutting out all of the red hearts, I cut the template in half width-wise a little bigger at the bottom than at the top. I measured how wide the heart was and cut a strip of white felt about an inch wide. I sewed the white strip to the top of the half heart. Then willy nilly cut a scallop design. Like I said, these were for kids, who were probably going to trash them, so they didn't need to be perfect. Next up was sewing the hearts together. Pin all the heart pieces together and sew around the outside. You're almost done. All you have to do now is cut the scallop edge around the outside. I think that took the longest of anything. Next time I would probably use my pinking shears.

The kids seemed to like them, especially the girls.

Happy Valentine's Day.