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Homemade Coffee Creamer

I’m a cream-and-sugar girl. On special days, an Irish-Cream-in-the-coffee girl. During Advent (not a day before, regardless of how well the marketing taunts), an eggnog-in-the-coffee girl. Oh, do I love eggnog as creamer. Or maybe coffee in my eggnog.

I’ve been learning about ice-cream, and usually stick to a traditional custard as my base. The custard is so delicious straight off the stove, one day I thought, I’m going to make an extra batch, without the egg yolks, and keep it as a coffee creamer. I stirred equal parts cream and milk in a glass bowl warming atop a simmering pot of water, whisked some turbinado sugar into the cream mixture to dissolve, and removed from the heat. Then I stirred in a spash of vanilla extract and a tiny spash of almond extract. So good! The consistency stayed perfect in the fridge.

A few weeks later, my sister found the recipe below on-line. I like the use of maple syrup. Actually, Carrie of Deliciously Organic offers several variations. See what you think!

Cinnamon Strudel Creamer

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (I prefer a glass bowl resting just over simmering water in a pot, a.k.a. the double broiler method.) When the mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat. Stir in extracts. Strain through a fine mesh sieve*, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.

For reference, these are the ingredients in Nestle’s Coffee-Mate, Original Flavor, taken from their website:

INGREDIENTS: WATER, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, AND LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE (A MILK DERIVATIVE)**, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CARRAGEENAN.

Be encouraged. Be healthy. Be homey. What’s extra fun is that I enjoy sharing this with visitors, but as my husband drinks his coffee black, it’s otherwise the only thing in the fridge that’s Just For Mama.  :)

*If you don’t want to use a sieve, simply omit the cinnamon. The residual cinnamon powder is what the sieve serves to reduce.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Chocolate syrup is one of those things I can’t bring myself to buy anymore. It’s often made of corn syrup, cheap cocoa, and preservative. This recipe below, from 52 Kitchen Adventures, takes 5 minutes and uses simple ingredients. I’ve made it before, and loved it. It kept nicely in the refrigerator.

Here’s my thought for the day: the globalized chocolate industry is known for exploitation of laborers. Chocolate and coffee are the two items I especially try to buy fair-trade. — And hey, if it’s expensive, eat just a little of the really good stuff! Additionally, I suggest that a company which chooses fair labor practices may well carry that integrity through in processing, to where it’s reflected in the nutrition and taste of the finished cocoa. (Now, just because I said nutrition, doesn’t mean I think the syrup is health food. Did you see the Nutella commercial where they claim to be part of a nutritious diet? It was so outlandish it made me laugh, but they lost a law suit in the aftermath.)

On to some good news…

  • 1 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 t vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cocoa powder until most of the lumps are gone. Add a small portion of the water and whisk to form a paste, then add the remaining water and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes, until thickened, continuing to stir frequently. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, then stir in vanilla extract. Store in air tight container in the fridge for 2-4 weeks.

To make chocolate milk, add 1 tablespoon of chocolate sauce to a cup of milk and stir until combined.

Homemade Grape Nuts

Years ago, I regularly bought Grape-Nuts from the warehouse store for my husband. He reads science journals as part of his work, and one day came across a study questioning the safety of consuming high doses of folic acid specifically in supplement form, such as in commercial cereal products. In its natural state, within leafy greens, beans, fruit, and nuts, the body won’t absorb too much. This study, however, linked over-consumption of the supplement form to long-term negative impact. It broke Jared’s habit. I considered buying Ezekiel 4:9’s variety, but as that’s even more expensive, we just modified our breakfast routine.

Enter this recipe from Tasty Kitchen, which I’ve written out below. He loves it! We sprinkle it on yogurt parfaits, and when I’m not around, Jared eats it by the bowl. You’ll notice this is a twice-baked recipe. Make sure to sneak a taste after the first baking, in what I call the “brownie” stage.

  • 4-½ cups Sprouted Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I use Arrowhead Mills.
  • ½ cups Light Brown Sugar. I use turbinado or rapunzel, instead. They’re each a less-refined variety of sugar, and each brownish.
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cups Molasses. I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Molasses. It is incomparably good! I didn’t think I was a molasses girl until I tried this.
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • ½ cups Butter, Melted

Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in the wet ingredients. Spread in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350ºF for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Cut the cake into squares and crumble with your fingers. Put the crumbles onto two large baking sheets with sides. Bake at 275ºF, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of 60 to 90 minutes, or until grape nuts are dry. The timing will depend on the size of your little pieces. Cool on the baking sheets and then transfer to jars for storage. Will keep for several weeks.

Yield: about 3 quarts, depending on the size of your grape nuts.

Thanks, Tasty Kitchen! This are now a staple in my kitchen!

My friend Stacey introduced me to this wonderful dessert. It’s delicious, but I love it also because it’s one of the few dishes, not to mention desserts, which I serve raw. I’ve served it to both family and friends, and will continue doing so. Stacey is more generous than I in her description detailing, so most of the instructions below are her words…

  • 2 ripe avocados (not smushy but soft to the touch)
  • 1 nice pour of  vanilla plus more if desired for your whipped topping
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons of high quality cocoa
  • a few dashes of salt
  • 1/2 cup of raw honey*
  • Heavy whipping cream (as much as you want to achieve your desired consistency; start with a just a little and add more as you taste test)

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  The key to this recipe is finding the signature pudding that fits the taste buds of your family.  Beyond the fact that all avocados have a unique size and therefore may alter the desired amounts of the other ingredients, you also may find that your crew likes more honey or more chocolate or a creamier consistency.  So, taste as you go, which makes the whole experience more fun anyways.

Use any leftover cream that you have to make homemade whipped cream. Place the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. If desired, add a pinch of raw sugar and a bit of vanilla to the cream.   You can even add a a little pour of flavored liquor if you’d like.  We’ve tried Chambord (a French raspberry) and loved the subtle berry flavor it added.  Beat the cream with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form; this should only take a few minutes or less.

The pudding serves well in ramekins  or cocktail glasses and should yield about 6 nice portions (but this again depends on the size of your avocados and the amount of the other ingredients you add).  The pudding will store in the fridge for a couple of days, and the cocoa wonderfully serves to preserve the avocados.

*My mother-in-law once asked, “Isn’t all honey raw?” Most commercial honey is heat-processed, giving it a smoother consistency, but compromising taste and nutrients. I buy raw honey in bulk at a farmer’s market.

A Hat Story

Jared bought a hat. The days have come where a hat is important to shield an otherwise uncovered head. And he was ready to climb beyond the baseball cap theme of boyhood. He selected one…

Ta-Da!

But there’s more. He tossed a second hat, a clearance-priced one, into the cart. When it arrived, he told me to put it on. Then he said he liked it better on me than on himself, and that that was unfair. On one hand, it is unfair. I don’t need a hat the way he does, haven’t waited for one the way he has. On the other hand, it is automatically true that when I look good, he looks good. :)

A hattish couple

The end.

Wednesday Thoughts

For the next three days, I’ll be attending my first home-schoolers’ conference. Last summer, I didn’t want to attend one. It required a small amount of pocket money, and I felt wary of what I imagined would liken to a pep-rally of home-schooling enthusiasm and propaganda. I’m clearly not opposed to home-schooling; I just know there are a hundred different approaches, some healthy and some not, and one thing I seriously caution against is believing that this venture is the thing that will change the world for my child. It’s to our family’s pleasure and benefit, and ultimately committed to the Lord for what He’ll see fit to bring about in the future. I do it with hope. It is not my Hope.

This conference will be smallish. I definitely have a share of experience and research behind me, so my own opinions are already planted, leaving less room for confusion and sway. And this will be with like-minded parents in that we’ve all chosen a Classical approach. Most significantly, it’s where I’ll receive training to be a tutor in the co-operative we’re joining this year!

Anyway. I wanted to share two short thoughts, and be on my way today.

  1. I read yesterday, tucked inside a whole paragraph of good ideas for Language Arts education, “The best way to help your children learn to write well is to practice writing your own essays and stories.” Ouch! I got stun-gunned! Maybe I’ll be inflicting my not-together thoughts upon this site a little more often.
  2. Vitamins A, D, E, and K, readily found in milk, are fat-soluble, meaning our bodies need fat in order to sufficiently adsorb them. This is why my family drinks whole milk. This is also partly why consuming fats with vegetable-rich meals is critical. (Along with that pleasing taste motivates us to eat our full portion of nutrient-dense foods!) The trick, for me, is using quality fats. Moderate butter, olive oil, cream, yes. Donuts, chips, not so much. Now, look, I did it! I said something in Science!

Dear Noah, Summer 2012

Dear Noah,

You are coming home today! It’s kinda weird, but your first week-long trip away from home, to be with your grandparents in Midland, didn’t rattle me much. I think there are several reasons:

I know you’re safe. Grammie and Grandpapa do things differently than I, but they love you so. They’re eager to spend time with you, and show you the world. They care about your full person — and hey, they raised your father, who is only my favorite man on the planet.

The fun is good for you! Truthfully, I’d like to give you more fun experiences. I love going on theater dates with you. I love that Uncle Aaron gave you a bike, that Grandpa Eric gave you a chess set, and that you’re learning to tear ’em up. You have the most rockin’ Legos set I’ve ever seen. But… Papa and I have to balance our resources, which means exercising care in our spending. Really, we’ve struck gold: I get to spend my days reading books and having conversations with you. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And if Grammie and Grandpapa can liven up your world with zany experiences for a week, I’m all for it. (Besides, Chuck-E-Cheese is not a Mama activity; it’s a Grammie-and-Grandpapa activity. For the record.)

I trust you. I’ve seen who you are as a seven-year-old, and you rock my world. You are the kindest person I know. You know there’s truth, and you also know people try to make sense of the world with competing ideas. You’re not supposed to be at an analytical age yet, but as far as the deep truths go, I think it’d be hard to sell you a casual falsehood. On that note, you’re a great conversationalist. I can only imagine how much Grammie and Grandpapa must be enjoying your company.

It’s not just theological truths — you know how to stand up and tell someone to back off. That is a virtue in our home. You are exceptionally polite; but you know there’s integrity in your core, and that it is not your duty to engage in someone’s harmful idea, regardless of their status. I’m so proud that you know this.

When you were two and three, you and I did things hand-in-hand, constantly. It was valuable and fun! Braeden doesn’t get that side of me so much. He has a big brother in you, which is awesome. But I’m not available to him as directly and immediately as I enjoyed being to you. This week was a perfect time for he and me to enjoy one another. It was a perfect time for me to reflect on how I can foster that direct relationship throughout the year. He’s eager to have you back!

You, sir, make a tricky situation for me: I need to cap off our first grade records, and plan for second grade. When you’re home, however, I want to spend time with you! Reading The Odyssey has been so much fun. If we finish up, we’ll come to Roman history, and will be farther along for approaching second grade. See how this thinking is actually negligent on my part? You’ve been away, so I’ve done my reading/revisiting/planning for what will be our second grade goals and implementations. Oh, and by the way: I agreed to tutor a class in the new homeschool co-operative we’re joining! I’m so excited! I definitely need to have my thoughts organized.

You’re coming home today! I made strawberry-basil ice cream to celebrate, which I believe is your current favorite. There will be plenty to share with Grammie and Grandpapa. I can’t wait to see you!!!

Love,

Mama