In The Kitchen With…Lissa

Everyone waits with baited breath and eager anticipation for Starbucks to bring out the Pumpkin Spice latte each year. Okay well, almost everyone. Not me. I tied one once and promptly returned it. It was too sweet for me.

So, while the majority of latte drinkers seek out the Pumpkin Spice, I await the Gingerbread latte. It’s not advertised as much anymore and I’ve been in several Starbucks stores that won’t even make it. Makes me very sad. I had to take matters into my own hands more this year than usual. Instead of buying gingerbread syrup for the latte, I decided to make my own.

The internet has more food blogs than one could visit in a year, even if you tried to visit one several in one day. And because there are so many food blogs, there are many recipes for homemade gingerbread syrup. I’ve only tried one so far, and it’s very good. When it’s gone, I’ll try a different one simply because that’s what I do. I like trying different versions and modifying, tweaking…

Most of the recipes I read through use whole spices. I don’t usually have whole ones. I might invest in them for the next time. For now, I had to find an equivalency chart for whole spices to ground spices. I had to fiddle with the amounts a bit, but it worked just fine, I think. The chart I used was Cook’s Thesaurus: Global Spices

The recipe I tried came from the blog, The Galley Gourmet. I’ve visited this site many times and really like her recipes.

Homemade Gingerbread Syrup:
(modified from The Galley Gourmet)

Homemade Gingerbread Syrup
makes about 1 1/4 cup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses (the only molasses I have is Sorghum, but Blackstrap would be good)
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (though I think I added more like 1 Tablespoon)

In a medium saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth or very fine mesh strainer and transfer to a container to cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The vanilla is my own addition. It cuts the sharpness of the spices and adds a bit of sweetness in a way that only Vanilla can.

If you are looking for a Gingerbread latte recipe, the Galley Gourmet has one on her site as well. I never follow a latte recipe exactly because some days I want it stronger and some days I want it sweeter.

Usually though, a latte is 2 oz espresso, 3/4 cup steamed milk, 1-2 Tablespoons syrup (gingerbread, cinnamon, caramel, etc…), and whipped cream or the froth from the milk. I add a dash of nutmeg to the top of the whipped cream… Yummy!

The Gingerbread latte is my holiday indulgence. I make one several times a week. If I bought one from Starbucks (when I can get them to make one), I’d be broke very quickly. My espresso machine was relatively inexpensive given how often I use it in the fall and winter. After the holidays I usually make caramel or cinnamon lattes, sometimes a mocha (I’m still trying to get a mocha right).

For now though, enjoy…

~lissa

In The Kitchen With…Coffee Creamers

Coffee. I love coffee. We all know that. I also like my coffee sweet. I’ve tried it black, straight, strong, weak, medium, fresh ground, pre-ground, cheap, and not so much… No matter what the brand, the price… I don’t like straight black coffee.

When I started drinking coffee, I started out on the sweet kind and well, you know how it goes.

My preferred coffee of choice now is cold-brewed iced coffee, but I drink my fair share of hot coffee. I drink flavored lattes only on rare occasions now, because frankly they’re too sweet and too heavy. I like a good mocha and my favorite is from Caribou Coffee. They have a dark chocolate campfire mocha that’s amazing. It’s the only mocha I like really and I only have one of those every now and then. They are rich and sweet and so yummy that I can’t have them very often.

I have found in my drinking of and experimenting with coffee that different sweeteners work better in hot coffee than in iced coffee. Some don’t really work in either one because, if you like your coffee sweet, you’d have to use so much more than the suggested serving size of 1-2 tablespoons.

When I would get iced coffee from the coffee shops, I’d get a shot of vanilla or caramel syrup followed by milk. Sometimes soy, sometimes almond, sometimes regular. When I started moving away from refined sugars, I stopped buying iced coffees already prepped behind the counter. I’d instead use sugar in the raw and half and half. That one works in hot coffee too and isn’t too bad. It wasn’t enough though, I still needed to play and try things out.

My favorite store bought creamer was Bailey’s. Their caramel was my favorite, their French vanilla, a close second. And unlike most of the other coffee creamers on the market, there was no partially hydrogenated oil in it. And at the time, I wasn’t concerned with the fact there was sugar AND corn syrup AND artificial flavors. Eventually, I did become interested and stopped using them. That was a very sad day. I tried Coffee Mate’s new Bliss creamers and they were very good, only sugar, cream, and milk. Still though, one needed to use more than the recommended serving size if one was going to be able to taste it. For a small cup of coffee, 6oz, 2 tablespoons was good for me. In a large cup, 10oz or more and we’re talking 4 maybe 5 tablespoons depending on the strength of the coffee.

All this aside, I do understand why there are serving sizes and my coffee seems to be the one area I have the biggest portion dilemma in.

For the time being, I am using So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut creamer. It is great in hot coffee. It is awful in iced coffee.

I’ve tried Silk French Vanilla Soy Creamer and I don’t like it in either hot or iced. Almond milk and regular soy milk? Same thing. Rice milk? Ick!

The flavored coffee creamers in the stores are delicious. But I don’t know how much sugar is in them, what kind of cream, or milk. I don’t want artificial flavors, oil, water, corn syrup. So Delicious has organic coconut milk, and does have sugar in the form of dried cane syrup. I don’t use a lot of it at one time. It doesn’t have an over the top coconut taste either and that’s great considering I don’t really like the taste of coconut.

One of the things I love for iced coffee now now is homemade coffee creamer. I’ve used three different recipes… And the one with Sweetened Condensed Milk (Organic), Milk (Organic), and homemade vanilla extract is my favorite for iced coffee. I’ve used Eagle Brand Fat Free Sweetened Condensed Milk too and nothing in the flavor is compromised. It’s a very thick creamer and I measure it out to my tastes.

For this kind:

1 1/2 cups milk (2% for me)

14oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 T pure vanilla extract

Put in a glass bottle or jar and shake vigorously. Keep refrigerated and shake before use.

I’ve made it with evaporated milk as well and didn’t care for it as much, but it’s still good and I may try it again…

12 oz can evaporated milk

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 T pure vanilla extract

Put in a glass bottle or jar and shake vigorously. Refrigerate. Shake before use.

The other that I’ve tried is from one of my favorite food blogs… Deliciously Organic. She has a ton of flavors and even an organic dairy-free, sugar-free recipe. This is the recipe, I’ve used before and it’s excellent.

French Vanilla

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 vanilla bean

Whisk together milk, cream and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cut vanilla bean in half, and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and vanilla bean to milk mixture. Turn off heat, cover the pot and steep for 30 minutes. After mixture has steeped, strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. (If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, simply replace it with 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract)

This a thin creamer but it’s delicious.

And here’s the sugar-free/dairy-free recipe from Deliciously Organic… (she even has an Almond Joy flavor)

French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

For the creamer:
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons date paste (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Will store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one week.

Here’s the recipe she uses for the date paste:

Date Paste

For the syrup:
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 cup hot water

Directions:
Place dates in a blender or food processor. Turn blender or processor on and slowly add in hot water. Leave the machine on for about 1 minute, until smooth. Pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

I haven’t tried the sugar-free/dairy-free recipe yet, but one of these days, I will. I’m always up for trying new things.

If you’re so inclined, give some of the homemade creamers a try…I haven’t yet tried to make homemade sweetened condensed milk. It’s on my list though. I do make my own homemade vanilla extract.

What do you use for creaming and sweetening your coffee? I want all the details…grins.

~lissa

In The Kitchen With…Lissa

I made a cake over the weekend. It was one of those to-die-for cakes. It was chocolate, coffee, whipped cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, and it melted in my mouth. It was one of the best chocolate cake recipes I’ve ever made and I will be making at least the cake part of it again. Soon. Like next week.

Cappuccino Cake. Just the name brings to mind all sorts of yumminess. I mean, really, how could I, Lissa Matthews, be expected to resist the temptation of a concoction of such a delicious thing? It was gone by the next day and NO, not because I ate it all. My daughter’s friends came over and they had some, my son had a slice, I took several slices to the girls at the dental office, and I had a slice. And we aren’t going to discuss the 4 cupcakes the leftover batter made. Nope. We aren’t.

Before I give you the recipe, I will say I did modify things a little. The cake called for 2 extra large eggs, I used 2 large. I used Olive Oil instead of vegetable oil, and I used 2 cups of Sucanat instead of white granulated sugar. I love the way it works with chocolate recipes.

For the whipped cream cream cheese frosting, it called for frozen whipped topping, thawed of course. I made my own whipped cream for it. It took a little extra work and the end result was a little softer and than had I used the frozen kind. My reasoning was simple…the frozen kind is made from water, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and high fructose corn syrup. Those are the main ingredients. Mine was made with organic heavy cream, two tablespoons of organic powdered sugar, and real vanilla extract (homemade).

Either way, the cake had to be refrigerated. And was better the next day after making it.

Cappuccino Cake:

For the chocolate cake:

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups Dutch cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with parchment. Lightly grease the parchment paper and sides of pan with butter or cooking spray.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

With mixer still on low, add the hot coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pans from oven to cooling racks.

After cakes have cooled, carefully turn one layer out onto cake plate.

For the frosting:

Ingredients:

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup strongly brewed coffee, at room temp

1 (8oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

cinnamon and chocolate chips for garnish

Instructions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffly.

Mix in coffee until well combined.

Fold in whipped topping.

Refrigerate frosting for 30 minutes before spreading on cake.

To Frost Cake:

Turn one cake layer onto serving platter.

Spread 1/2 the frosting over cake.

Top with remaining cake layer and remaining frosting.

Sprinkle cinnamon over top of cake.

Sprinkle chocolate chips around outer edge of cake.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing.

Store in refrigerator.

http://www.cajunsugarpie.com/2012/04/cappuccino-cake.html

It really is a divine and delicious cake. For the coffee parts, I actually brewed K-cups. LOL… This was a recipe that made this author incredibly happy with every bite!

~lissa

Lissa’s Birthday Giveaway #5

When I started this week with blog posts and presents to giveaway, I didn’t know what to expect in the way of responses, but y’all have blown me away with them. I have laughed, I have spewed the elixir of like that is coffee, I have cried. Some of the very sweetest and most heartfelt comments have been left by you guys for me, for other authors, for those in your lives… So, thank you.

Now, onto today’s present. You will have a week to get your responses in. A week to tell people about it. A week to plot and plan on how to get rid of your competition. I will pick the recipient Saturday morning, March 3rd at 10am EST.

Of course, you’re wondering what it is, right? I know. But, I did tell you at the beginning of the week what the big gift was, remember? No? Hmmm… very naughty of you.

Yep. A Keurig. I am giving away the Keurig B60 Special Edition. It has the option of 3 cup sizes. It has a 48oz water reservoir and depending on how much coffee or tea or hot cocoa you drink in a day… It has a pretty blue display where you can set water temp, time to come on, time to go off, etc… This is the model I have and I love it.

Even if you don’t drink coffee, as I said, you can use the hot water for tea or cocoa. There are K cups for both of those or you can just dispense the hot water into a cup and go about it that way.

I am a coffee whore. This is no surprise to my regular readers. I drink it nearly every day. I have multiple gadgets and paraphernalia and coffee brewing apparatuses. I enjoy it and honestly, I haven’t even been drinking coffee 10 years yet. I think I’m only 7 years into it and less than 5 years into regular non-froufrou coffee. Y’all know I still love my lattes and won’t ever give them up, though they are a once in a while thing and not an everyday indulgence. I drink it when I’m writing and I like having a cup of something, either coffee or cocoa when I’m reading. There’s just something cozy and nice about it…

And a Keurig makes it fast! So, I wanted to share that with you by giving you one.

What do you have to do? Well, yesterday I asked you to tell me what author you’d most like to meet. Today, I want to know who in your life, in the world, in your fantasies, you’d like to share a cup of coffee/tea/cocoa with. Give me one person, past, present, future…famous, or not…family or friend…author or blogger, etc… that you’d most like to sit down with and talk.

I haven’t asked any of you to follow my blog, sign up for my newsletter, join my Facebook page… If you’d like to do so, I’d love it. More readers for me… But these are not required. Should you choose to do one of them, over on the sidebar —–> is where you’ll find all the information you need.

So, who’s ready? Remember, you until 9:59am EST, Saturday, March 3rd to get your comments in. I usually ask you to leave your email address so I can contact you, however concerns have been raised and are definitely valid. Sometimes an email address will come across in my email from the commenter, sometimes one won’t. If you win and I have your email address then I will contact you. If you win and I don’t have your email address, then it will be up to you to contact me within 3 days of the winners being posted. You can contact me at Lissa AT LissaMatthews DOT com (lissa@lissamatthews.com).

All winners from all giveaways here on my blog this week will be posted here and will be contacted or will need to contact me.

Here are the links… Giveaway #1, Giveaway #2 & #3, Giveaway #4

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask…

~lissa