Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My DIY Chai Tea Cocoa Latte Recipe

Y'all...I have an obsession. I love, LOVE chai latte's, especially the little pods for my keurig. I may have mentioned this in my last post. But I am not kidding. I can knock back a whole package in one sitting...errr drinking...

The problem? They are hella expensive. And loaded in sugar. Of course that is part of the reason they taste, just so damn good. Siiighhh

So after reading the label I realized, HEY! I have all the ingredients. I CAN MAKE THIS!

I used pumpkin pie spice because it is what I had on hand. It has ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Usually in a 2:1:0.5:0.5 ratio. Some brands use Allspice and Mace as well.

1 cup non fat milk powder (Not pictured)
1 cup non dairy creamer
1/2 cup each of the cinnamon and french vanilla creamer (again--using what I have)
2 cups instant powder
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger (Not pictured)
1 teaspoon cardamon*
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar (Not pictured)
1 tablespoon unsweetened, non-alkali cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon grated, dried orange peel-grind in a spice grinder 1st if you have one. (Not pictured)
(I am still playing around with thickening agents, so I will keep you posted)

*Cardamon is expensive. But trust me the flavor and aroma is out of this world. It is worth the investment.
**These ingredients and ratios are my preference. You may choose to adjust to your specific taste**

I know you are probably thinking--that is a lot of ingredients and some of them seem weird. I assure you the flavors work well together. Trust me, I am a former chemist. And I actually worked in food chemistry. I realize this isn't a traditional chai. But it is warm, earthy, spicy, sweet and creamy. It is yummy zen in a cup. It is like hugging yourself. Um, no--that is a straightjacket, heh. It feels like being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day but from the inside out. I love this stuff!

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Transfer to a blender or food processor in 1-2 cup increments and pulse blend for 30-60 seconds. Ummm, don't open it too soon or you will end up a facefull of dust. And it gets everywhere. Not that I did that or anything...

The powder will be a very light cafe ole color and will have a very fine texture.

I stored my instant mix in a mason jar. I don't know why I bothered labelling and dating it because it won't last that long.

I added 2 tablespoons to my cup.

You can use hot water (which I did) or heated milk. Stir and enjoy. I have not tried in my Keurig. I am ok with the kettle for now. Once I perfect my recipe I will need to trial run it with my refillable pod on the Keurig. I also added 1 packet of sugar substitute to my mug because I wanted my drink a little sweeter without adding sugar. This isn't sugar free but is lower sugar, which is good for my diabetes and much lower in sugar than the commercial mix/ pods.

I feel like I have the flavor profile close and creaminess down. The next batch I am going to add Mace, Allspice and increase the Ginger because I like my chai on the spicier side. Plus I want to play with the thickness of the beverage. Commercial mixes us all sorts stabilizers, emulsifiers thixotropic agents. So when you DIY or copy cat it takes few batches to get it just right. Don't get me wrong this is good. Damn good. But (as a former Chemist) I know I can make it better.  And I will, heh

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 Food Pantry Challenge_ Week 4

This week's  FPC was a marked improvement over last week's FPC. However this is a pretty accurate representation of how I am feeling about the food pantry challenge, haha

Friday  1/15/16-- left over, whatever you find on your own day. We ended up eating the leftover cheese coney's, salad and a handful of chips. There may have even been a bowl of cereal. It was a long, tough week. 

Saturday 1/16/16--was a simple brinner dinner. Cheese omelette's, toast and bacon. I also drank several cups of chai tea. I am addicted to that stuff! It is kind of expensive habit, so I have a DIY on this (upcoming post).

Sunday 1/17/16--The original dinner plan was for baked chicken, green beans and a butternut soup. The hubbs wasn't feeling it, so I swapped out for cottage ham (more of the left over xmas ham), green beans, and potatoes with a side of cornbread. It was much needed on a cold, blustery day. The hubbs requested the leftovers for his lunch.

Monday 1/18/16--I was off work for MLK day. It was so nice to sleep in. I didn't feel guilty at all that the hubbs had to work. I just rolled right over and pulled the blanket over my head. haha  Tuna casserole was planned but since the hubbs had nixed the baked chicken for Sunday's dinner I made BBQ baked chicken and  Butternut veggie rice with a side of buttery brussel sprouts. I already had the chicken defrosted. The cool thing about the butternut rice is I found a package of fresh  butternut and veggies at the grocery. No extra prep work!

Butternut Vegetable Rice
1 cup of rice soaked for 30 minutes and rinse 2x
add rice to pan 2&1/2 cups of stock (I used vegetable) and 1 teaspoon of butter. Bring to boil and cook for 8 minutes. Add the squash soup blend. I also added 1 cup of misc. mixed vegetables I had leftover  (broccoli, celery, green peppers and diced carrots). Add 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon garlic,  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium. Let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed.  The butternut breaks down and combine with the rice starch it basically makes it's own sauce. A sprinkle of fresh ground himalayan sea salt finished it nicely. 

It turned out really well. I took the leftover rice in the day to work and sprinkled it with a little romano cheese. Yummy!

Tuesday 1/19/16--"Taco Tuesday" was replaced with open faced sloppy joes since I had rice for dinner and then again for lunch. I didn't have any buns in the freezer or time to make any, so I used toasted bread slices tossed a little shredded cheese with joes and called it open faced. Whatever works, ha. 

The next day was my work "tailgating" themed luncheon. So I made a monster batch (7 lbs!) of the most delicious, molasses, brown sugared, bbq'd baked beans. Which of course, we ended up having some with the sloppy joes. OMG-were they ever good. I know 7 lbs seems like a lot but there were approximately 150 people to feed.  I had to bake them in 2 batches and combine then when finished. All but about a cupful was eaten, so that was a good indicator that they were yummy.

Wednesday 1/20/16--Kielbasa and kraut was replaced by frozen pizza for the hubbs and a bowl of cereal and fruit for me. I was kinda sick of food after the tailgating party at work. 

Thursday 1/21/16--The sloppy joes from the original plan were moved to Tuesday. We ended up eating sandwiches and  I heated up some vegetable soup I had frozen from a previous batch. I  was glad for a quick fix because I worked over by 2 hrs and planned an early night. The forecast was calling for major snow so I had a 4 am wake up. bleh 

Wins for week 3
I was able to cook nearly everyday but didn't follow the planned menus.  Reduced food waste is great. Zero waste would be better.

I am not sure if this is loss or a win, but I didn't follow the meal plan except for 2 days.The objective is to use what I have on hand--which I did. and we didn't eat out at all this week, so that is a cost savings. 

Losses for week 3
  I can say that food waste is down considerably but we discarded 1 cup of baked beans, 1 &1/2 cups of veggie rice, 4 dinner rolls and 1 yogurt (the seal was punctured). With the exception of the yogurt the other food scraps were put out back by the woods for the critters.  

Oh the budget... Y'all--I am still struggling with this. I spent $71. Way, WAY over my target of $40. I definitely have some impulse buys,  after looking at the receipts, produce and back filling some staples are kind of pricey. For instance, coconut oil is $6, I spent $20 on fresh produce alone, and $14 in the deli. That was my entire budget. I am over budget by $77 for the month. I think a better budget would be $70 since that is the average over 3 weeks but I will see how things shake out next week. 

Meal plan for week 4
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
01/22/16 01/23/16 01/24/16 01/25/16 01/26/16 01/27/16 01/28/16
Kielbasa Home made Potato soup **Free Day** “Food Hangover” Home made Leftovers
Sauerkraut meatball hoagies Sandwiches It's my Birthday soup cheese pizza Fend for yourself
Mashed potatoes french fries fruit cups Go Shorty salad side salad That box of cereal is calling your name!
dinner rolls

Restaurant better be good! sugar free Lime jello w/
Or eat a poptart, I don't care
applesauce cups

No cooking for me! Mandarin oranges
Just wash your own dishes...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Copycat Baking Quick Mix

Y'all, do you use Bisquick, Pioneer, Jiffy or a store brand quick baking mix? I do.  I actually like the quick mixes because the quick mix offers the busy cook  a time savings for recipe versatility. The caveat is they are kind of pricey, depending on brand and size, with prices ranging anywhere from $3.99-$7.00 a package.  The truth of the matter is, most people already have the ingredients on hand, and can make up their own quick mix.

Ingredient list
10 cups of AP unbleached flour
1 cup of powdered non-fat milk
3/4 cup powdered buttermilk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup double acting aluminum free baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

I combined all ingredients in the bowl of my kitchen aid stand mixer and stirred for 10 minutes using the wire whisk attachment. The contents were transferred to a plastic cereal container (with pour spout), labelled and stored in the fridge.

I  did not add in the shortening. I will cut in what I need (or add oil per the specifics of the recipe) when I pull from the mix. Commercial mixes have a host of preservatives and shelf storage stabilizers.; whereas, mine is limited. I would rather err on the side of caution in terms of potential microbial content

++Note, the volume of liquid, temperatures and times noted are what work in my environment, altitude and oven. Some adjustments/ modifications may be necessary for your use++

Heat oven to 425°F
Combine 2 & 1/2 cups baking mix with 1/2 cup shortening cut in until it resembles course crumbs. Begin adding 2/3 -3/4 cup warm water (or milk). The amount of liquid depends if your house is humid or not. I have found on cool, dry days I need more liquid; on warm, humid days I need less.  Stir until a soft dough ball forms. Dough will be slightly tacky but pliable. On lightly floured surface, knead dough about 6 times and roll to 1/3 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut using a flour dipped cutter. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Heat oiled griddle to 350°F
Combine 2 cups baking mix, 1 cup water (or milk)*, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg (or equivalent egg substitute), 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine all ingredients until incorporated. Batter may be lumpy.  Pour batter as 1/4 -1/3 cup dollops on a hot, oiled griddle,. Let the pancakes cook undisturbed, until the edges are dry and air bubbles form in the batter. Flip and cook until golden brown.

*For thinner pancakes increase the total liquid by 1/2 cup
**Waffles increase eggs to 2, use 3 tablespoons oil instead of butter and 1 & 1/2 cups milk

Apple Butter Streusel Coffee Cake
Heat oven to 350°
Combine 2 cups mix, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 egg, 2/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons oil or 1/3 cup applesauce, and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Blend until well incorporated. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch pan. Dollop 2/4 cup apple butter over batter, then gently use a knife to swirl in apple butter. Streusel--In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon baking mix, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon melted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of batter in pan.  Bake 25-28 minutes (a toothpick inserted will be free of batter), the cake will have puffed and it is golden brown. Mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of milk, mix until uniform. Transfer icing to a plastic baggie, snip a small edge of the corner and pipe icing drizzle over a slightly warm coffee cake (The icing should hold it's shape when piped, if it doesn't the coffee cake is still too warm)

Honey Butter Cornbread
Heat oven to 350°F
1 & 1/2 cup baking mix, 1 & 1/2  cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup honey, 2 eggs (beaten), 1 & 1/4 cup water (or milk), and 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon melted butter. Combine all ingredients until well blended. Batter may be lumpy. It will definitely be thick and somewhat sticky because of the honey. Pour into a well sprayed 8 or 9 inch pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

There are so many other uses for the baking mix. As a coating/ breading, scones, shortcakes, pierogi dough, a quick pizza crust, sweet or savory quick breads, fritters, and brownies--YES-brownies! You are limited only by your imagination.

What are some of your go to quick mix recipes?