Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix

I love warm drinks in the winter.  Coffee, cocoa, tea, even an occasional apple cider are all welcome.  What I don’t like is having to take a long time to make it, which is why we always have drink mixes around.  Not to mention, drink mixes make great gifts.

I considered using my Cinnamon Vanilla Warmer Mix to fill my etched jars, but I was in the mood for something new.  My kids have been drinking a lot of chai lately, so that was in.  My new favorite flavor is salted caramel, which meant I was going to need something that included that as well.  I ended up with two new recipes.

Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 1
Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 1

We’ll start with the chai.  I like it a little on the spicy side.  My son felt this was a little too peppery, but he doesn’t usually like even a hint of spice.  My daughter and I both felt it was perfectly seasoned.  However, if you’re like my son and want it on the mild side either reduce or eliminate the pepper and reduce the ginger.

Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 2
Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 2

Spiced Chai Tea Mix

3/4 cup dry milk powder

3/4 cup dry powdered plain creamer

1/2 cup powdered vanilla flavored creamer

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened instant black tea

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine all ingredients and process in a food processor until you have a fine powder.  To serve, add 1/4 cup mix to a mug of hot milk or water.  Makes about 3 1/4 cups of mix or 13 servings.

I originally planned to only make the chai, but as soon as the idea of salted caramel cocoa made its way into my head there was no going back.  I was nervous about getting the amount of salt right, but this is exactly the taste I imagined.  Make sure you’re using sea salt and not regular table salt or it will be too salty.

Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 3
Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 3

Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix

2 cups dry milk powder

1/2 cup dry powdered plain creamer

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup powdered dulce de leche or caramel flavored creamer

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients and process in a food processor until larger pieces of milk, creamer and salt are powder.  To serve, add 1/4 cup mix to a mug of hot milk or water.  Makes about 4 3/4 cups of mix or 19 servings.

Just talking about these is making me want a warm cup.  The only problem is, which one?

Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 4
Spiced Chai Tea Mix and Salted Caramel Cocoa Mix 4

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Muffins

It’s no secret that I love to cheat and start with a mix when making baked goods.  I’m capable of cooking from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I always have time to do it.  These muffins took me less than half an hour to make, and that includes gathering the ingredients, cooking time and cleaning up.  That’s almost faster than my son can inhale them.  Almost…

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Refrigerator Pickles

I make dill garlic to give out as Christmas gifts to our friends and family.  I’ve been doing this for years, and every year when I spot the fresh dill in the grocery store it’s a mad rush to get everything together and canned before it disappears.  This year, I finally planted my own dill.

As luck would have it, it actually grew.  As soon as the dill heads started blooming, I panicked.  Never having grown my own before, I didn’t know how long it would bloom, or how many it would make.  The mad rush was on again.

Those of you who have grown dill already know this, but there was no need to hurry.  I made the garlic a month and a half ago, and there’s still dill.  I kept looking at it sadly out the window, until I finally decided to try something I’ve always wanted to do:  refrigerator pickles.

Refrigerator Pickles 1
Refrigerator Pickles 1

I’ve canned pickles before, but I’ve never been happy with them.  The texture is weird.  Pickles should be crunchy, and mine just aren’t, no matter what I do.  These little babies, however, are crunchy, a little spicy and delicious.  I might not be able to go back to store-bought.  These aren’t the same, but I like them better.

Refrigerator Pickles

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced about 3/8” thick (I used a regular, garden-variety cucumber)

1 dill head

1 spring dill leaves

2 whole garlic cloves

2 – 3 slices, jalapeno, serrano or sweet pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon dill seed

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved.  Place the rest of the ingredients in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar.  Pour the vinegar mixture over.  Finish filling the jar with water.  Place in the refrigerator.  Wait a day or two before eating.  I can’t tell you how long they will last, because mine were gone in about 2 days.

Refrigerator Pickles 2
Refrigerator Pickles 2

I don’t know if it was necessary, but I shook the jar every time I opened the fridge to redistribute the spices.  As usual, I made my husband an extra-spicy jar by adding extra pepper slices, another 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes and, after putting on my hazmat suit, 1/4 teaspoon of ghost pepper powder.

Refrigerator Pickles 3
Refrigerator Pickles 3

I don’t know what I’m going to do when all my dill is gone, but I’ll definitely be planting it again next year!

Mint Mojito Jelly

When I planted mint between my front yard and driveway, I was told I was crazy.  It would take over and I’d have mint everywhere.  Well, crazy or not, that was exactly my intention.  I have a huge mass of the stuff every year and it smells wonderful.  A pleasant side effect is that with the abundance of mint I have I can play with it as much as I like.

Mint Mojito Jelly 1
Mint Mojito Jelly 1

I can dill garlic every year in late August or early September, because that’s when fresh dill is available.  We give it out as Christmas gifts to anyone we know that wants some – and I’m up to about five dozen jars.  Whew.

When my daughter helps me, we usually end up making some jelly or jam as well.  We’ve make mint before, but this year we decided to change it up a bit and make some reminiscent of a mint mojito.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a drink flavored with mint and lime.  You can’t go wrong with lime.

Mint Mojito Jelly 2
Mint Mojito Jelly 2
Mint Mojito Jelly
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 8 cups water
Mint Mojito Jelly 3
Mint Mojito Jelly 3

Bruise mint leaves a bit with a fork or by twisting.  Add to the water in a saucepan.  Boil over high heat until reduced by half to 4 cups of liquid.  Mine took about 20 minutes.  And my house smelled fantastic.

Mint Mojito Jelly 4
Mint Mojito Jelly 4

Strain.  Discard the leaves.  To the water, add:

  • one box powdered pectin

Stir until dissolved.  Add:

  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice

Bring to a boil.  Boil one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.

Mint Mojito Jelly 5
Mint Mojito Jelly 5

If you’d like a greener color, add a couple of drops of green food coloring.

Mint Mojito Jelly 6
Mint Mojito Jelly 6

Ladle into sterilized jars.  Process 5 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Mint Mojito Jelly 7
Mint Mojito Jelly 7

This makes about 8 pints.  Thinking ahead, these would make a great Christmas gift, decorated with a little festive red ribbon. Oh yeah, it’s coming.

Mint Mojito Jelly 8
Mint Mojito Jelly 8

Who knew Mint Mojito was good with peanut butter?

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I almost hate to say this, because I know there are MANY people out there who disagree, but I like boxed cake mix.  It can be used to make lots of things besides cakes and comes in so many delicious flavors.  We’ve been making a big effort to eat healthier around here lately, but I believe in moderation rather than deprivation, so sometimes cake makes its way in there. I came across this recipe from Big Red Kitchen this morning, which was the catalyst for everything to follow.  It sounds delicious as is, but my mind immediately spun toward one of my husband’s favorites – carrot cake.  He finished my living room today (yay - photos to follow after I mop the floor!) so I was happy to be able to show my appreciation through sugar-loaded baking.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 0
Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 0

The original recipe above only uses two ingredients.  I used both of those, but added a few more of my own.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist French Vanilla, because it’s what I had)

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

15 oz canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups shredded carrots

1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet.  Mix until combined.  Pour into a muffin tin or 12 small canning jars, sprayed with pan spray.  The batter is very thick, so you’ll want to spread it out a bit.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 1
Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 1

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes if you’re using jars.  It will probably take less with a tin.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 2
Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 2

I originally planned to sprinkle these with powdered sugar and stop there, but I knew the family would like them better with cream cheese frosting.  Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turns out, all I had was a tub of pineapple cream cheese.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz tub pineapple cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1 – 2 teaspoons almond milk (any liquid will do)

Combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar with a mixer, adding milk as necessary to gain the desired consistency.  Frost cupcakes.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 3
Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 3

I can’t even begin to tell you how good these are.  They’re a little sweet, so next time I’d probably use plain cream cheese, but the pineapple flavor with the carrot cake is worth it.  It also makes them rich enough that one is enough, which is a good thing when it comes to desserts.  I put them in the refrigerator a couple of hours before anyone ate one, and they’re especially good cold.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 4
Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes 4

I’m anxious to try these with some other flavors and fruit.  Chocolate and banana anyone?

Breakfast in a Jar

All the staring at jars last week for my Friday Favorites made me realize I hadn’t shared this recipe with you.  I’ve been eating this concoction for breakfast for the past few months and I’m not sick of it yet, so that’s a good sign.  And it’s good for me.  Gasp.

Breakfast 1
Breakfast 1

To be honest, this started as Breakfast in a Plastic Container, but I store them in the freezer and the lids kept breaking when I tried to pry them off.  They are prettier this way, and the lids don’t break, but they do freeze my hand.  An insulated jar-holder might be in my future.

Breakfast in a Jar

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats (you could use quick-cooking, but I like this texture better)

1 teaspoon ground flax seed

1/2 teaspoon chia seeds (if you aren’t familiar, I found them in the health food section and they look like poppy seeds)

1 teaspoon mini chocolate chips

1/2 tablespoon shredded coconut

1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds (toast on a pan in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes)

Combine in a jar.  If you’re not going to eat it right away, store in the freezer.  The flax and chia seeds keep better there. 

When you’re ready to eat it, add:

2 – 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, to taste (I prefer it a bit creamier)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey, also to taste

Breakfast 2
Breakfast 2

Stir well and enjoy.

Breakfast 3
Breakfast 3

The first time I made this, I used honey Greek yogurt, until I realized it was the full-fat version and the nutrition stats stung a bit.  I switched to nonfat plain and added honey.  With the chocolate chips and coconut you could leave it out, but I like things a little on the sweet side.  I think a little peanut butter would be tasty in here too.  Mmm.

Breakfast 4
Breakfast 4

I make a dozen or so of these at a time, then I can just pull one out and add the yogurt and honey.  I’ve found these keep hunger at bay until lunch, unlike some quick breakfasts I’ve tried in the past.

Join me again on Wednesday for a jar-inspired dessert I made for my family last weekend!

Caramel No Bake Cookies

I’ve been volunteering in the College and Career Center at my kids’ high school for the past couple of years.  I’m assigned a group of teenagers, and my job is to help them figure out how to achieve their post-high school goals.  We help them find scholarships, information on colleges, internships, military contacts, volunteer opportunities, etc.  You’d think that would be enough…

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Cowboy Caviar

I meant to share this recipe with you before the holidays, but time refused to slow down to the pace I needed.  Go figure.

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I’m not sure whether to call this a dip, snack or a side dish.   Maybe appetizer?  All I know is, it’s fantastic and we eat it often.  My friend Melinda, who is an amazing cook, brought this to a party at our house once, years ago, and we’ve requested it at every one since.  The recipe she shared with me also has a place of honor in my cookbook AND I have a photo of the recipe in my cell phone in case I’m at the grocery store and decide we need to make it soon.  Yes, it is that good.

This is very easy to make, and open to variations if there’s an ingredient you don’t have or don’t like.  For instance, the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil, but because we’re trying to eat healthier, I cut it back to 1 tablespoon.  Melinda recently started substituting Serrano peppers for the jalapenos, which gives it a little different flavor and is just as good.  We leave out the tomatoes because someone in our house doesn’t think they’re edible.

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003

Cowboy Caviar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 (15 ounce) can blackeye peas (drained)

1 (11 ounce) can white shoepeg corn (not drained)

3/4 cup chopped cilantro

3/4 cup chopped green onion

1 – 2 jalapenos, chopped

2 avocados, chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Combine all the ingredients, except the avocados and tomatoes.  Mix well.  Add the avocados and tomatoes and mix gently.  Makes about 4 cups without the tomatoes.

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A few notes:

-  I usually chop the garlic, cilantro and jalapenos in the food processor because it’s easy, but I like the texture better when I chop everything by hand.

-  This tastes better if you make it the day before you want to eat it so the flavors get a chance to blend.

-  I almost always make a double batch of this and I’ve found that one bunch of cilantro and one bunch of green onions are the perfect amount.  If you’re making a single batch, you’ll need a half bunch of each.

-  If you’ve never heard of shoepeg corn (I hadn’t before this recipe), it’s a white corn with smaller-than-average, tender kernels.  I haven’t had a problem finding it from Green Giant in the canned vegetable aisle.

-  I use my home-canned dill garlic and dill jalapenos in this most of the time.

-  This is great with lime-flavored tortilla chips.  We tried it with Popchips this time and that’s also delicious.  If they start making lime-flavored Popchips it would be heavenly.

For those of you counting calories, 1/2 cup of Cowboy Caviar has 164 calories (without the tomatoes) and it makes a great salad when you throw it on top of spinach.  Enjoy!