Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Syrup: for Coffee, Lattes, and Tea!

My friend and colleague Natalie asked me this week if I had ever tried to make pumpkin spice syrup for mixing into coffee. ("Pumpkin's back!" The commercials have been pummeling this into our brains over the last couple of weeks.) She had tried a recipe she found online, which included pumpkin puree. The syrup that she got was tasty, but very thick and sweet. When she stirred it to her coffee it settled on the bottom, making for weak pumpkin spice taste for most of the coffee and then WAY too much sweetness and sludge at the end of the cup!

Noodling it through at home (and realizing at 9:00 that evening that I had no pumpkin puree on hand) I decided to make a simple syrup with just the pumpkin pie spice.  A favorite quote from Garrison Keillor is, "Pumpkin pie is just a vehicle for nutmeg." Pumpkin love (pie, bars, bread, pumpkin spice lattes) is really just about the spices.

The syrup itself is pretty easy and requires only a few minutes cooking time on the stove. The spices took some adjusting, as at first the cinnamon was the only thing I could taste. It was scrumptious, and tasted like those little cinnamon candies - but not like pumpkin pie. Boosting the allspice and especially the nutmeg and ginger did the trick. Once cooled the syrup is thin, which means it mixes into hot drinks very smoothly and doesn't settle to the bottom. 

Natalie tried it in her coffee and later in some hot Chai tea. She declared it to be perfect! "It was so good and reminds me of Fall. I am so excited I can have pumpkin coffee with going bankrupt at Dunkin' Donuts!" 

Aww, she's as sweet as this syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup

1-1/2 c. granulated sugar
1-1/2 c. water
1-3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in the spices. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. 
Pour through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a glass mason jar (to strain the syrup.) Allow to cool completely. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.  

Makes about 1-1/4 c. of simple syrup.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Retro Weekend at the Drive-in!

Just a quick post to share that our local drive-in theater, Sunset Drive-in is playing FOUR retro movies this weekend, and I am psyched! We're going with a couple of other friends and their families and have to choose between these amazing line-ups:

American Graffiti followed by Animal House
E.T. followed by Ghostbusters

How on Earth do I choose between these movies?? I shared in the "Songs of Summer" Bloghop post that 'Green Onions' from the American Graffiti soundtrack is my Number 1 song of summer, and the movie is a favorite of mine as well. This was the first retro movie that Sunset announced would play this weekend, so the choice was easy. Now they have added E.T. and Ghostbusters, both of which are awesome and have the irresistible pull of being favorite movies of childhood, of the 80's. 

I do not know what I will do. It may be that I will jog a loop with a portable radio to my ear, circling by each screen throughout all four screenings. While eating Reese's Pieces, of course.

Which retro movie line-up would you choose? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple Almond Tart

Pastry, Apples

The Armchair Squid and his family invited us over for a wonderful pasta and meatball dinner on Saturday. 

It was such a lovely afternoon, spending time with good friends, a dreamy, ethereal selection of music playing in the background, and anticipating a wonderful homemade meal! Our friend Paul brought loaves of his crusty bread, and we brought this Apple Almond Tart for dessert. We chatted and played games, while the kids played outside in the crisp air. 

Then it was time to eat. And this perfectly civilized gathering with perfectly civilized people devolved into a feeding frenzy. We devoured the bread, the pasta, the meatballs, the perfectly dressed bowl of mixed salad greens. Armchair Squid's Wife and I drank almost all the Chianti (wait, was it just me? Did I leave any for her?) Haley drank all the ginger beer. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Garden Geek 2014, vol. 4

Pictures from the Spring and Summer garden.

Two pictures of sleepy, chilly bees. On a cloudy, very cool evening I found bees resting on almost every Coreopsis bloom in the garden. (Resting that is, until I poked them to confirm they weren't dead.)

Lovely, blushing blooms on a Strawberry Shortcake Hydrangea.

 A Black-Eyed Susan fading out with flair!

I believe these butterflies are named Peck's Skippers (Walter Peck of the Environmental Protection Agency,  Third District?) and there are dozens of them every day all over the Butterfly Bush plants we have next to the house. It was hard to get a clear picture of them. Though they weren't afraid when I got close to them they seemed to mischievously wait until I started to press the shutter to suddenly dart away!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Rosemary & Garlic

Brussel Sprouts

I enjoy Brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts
It was not always the case. As a kid it was one of the most reviled vegetables I knew, second only to cauliflower. Steamed or boiled - whatever it was that my mom used to do to them, I would see those sprouts on my dinner plate and start to whine.

...and push them around on the plate. And dramatically crumple over the side of my chair, tears streaming, playing the part of the tortured child faced with ugly, steaming sprouts. I would try to sneak them down to the floor for our dachshund to eat, but even the overweight, ever-hungry dog would have nothing to do with Brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts roasted