Pumpkin Spice Season: Pumpkin Spice Lattes


Starbucks really jumped the season this year – Pumpkin Spice syrup in August? Guess they figured if Costco has Christmas up on August 1st, they can push their seasons as well. I loved the “secret” get-it-early push. Oh please. Come on, give me to at least the 1st. I wanna pretend it is sweater weather….I was trying on sweaters yesterday and sweating to death in the tiny changing room.

Truthfully, I could have pumpkin treats year round. But…SB’s PSL isn’t something I can drink every day. It is worse than drinking a caramel latte made with the sauce. Not exactly lightweight in calories, fat or sugar content. A grande, made with whole milk and whip cream? Over 400 calories, nearly 50 grams sugar, and ouch…I gotta not look at nutritional stats. I had a free one yesterday, and after a third of my drink I tossed it. It was way too sweet. I couldn’t taste the coffee at all. It was just numbing sugar. And more so, isn’t vegan – even with soy milk, if you care. We can do better!


Fall is coming, so let’s celebrate with 5 Days of Recipes, all featuring the heavenly aromas of Pumpkin Spice! And up first? Pumpkin Spice Syrup and Pumpkin Spice Lattes (ooh, bonus day – you get two recipes!)


Pumpkin Spice Syrup


  • 1½ cups water
  • 1½ cups organic sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (about 4″ long each)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ cup pumpkin purée


Add the water, sugar and cinnamon sticks to a tall saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add in remaining spices and pumpkin, stir in. Cook for 5 minutes more, stirring often, do not let boil.

Let cool for 30 minutes, then strain through a Jelly Strainer Bags. Transfer to a glass storage container, seal and refrigerate. A tall olive oil bottle with pour spout works great.


Don’t press hard on the jelly bag, or too much solids will pass through. I rest my bag in a fine mesh strainer, over a bowl. Discard the pulp and cinnamon sticks left in bag.


Pumpkin Spice Latte


  • 2 to 3 Tbsp pumpkin spice syrup
  • Milk, of choice
  • 2 shots espresso
  • Whip cream, if desired
  • Pumpkin spice blend, for topping


For a grande latte, steam about 1½ cups milk to desired temperature. I go for about 150° to 160° personally.


Pour syrup into mug, add in about half the milk, while pouring shots:


Add in shots, down the center of mug, top with remaining milk. Decorate top as desired.


When using non-dairy milks, use unsweetened and organic for best results. Almond often steams easiest, with little carry-over taste. I find that soy fries on the steaming wand, so have a wet rag ready when you take the wand out of the pitcher.  Rice tends to be watery, coconut is delicious, but has a very pronounced flavor when warm. As always, if you drink dairy, whole tastes best.


I realize of course that not every one has an espresso machine on hand. I was a barista in my 20’s for 9 years. This is the machine we run on: Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine. No, it isn’t cheap. It runs beautifully – and is pretty user-friendly (also easy for the non-barista to master).

So…the other thing is yes, you can warm milk in a saucepan and use double strength brewed coffee – but that isn’t a true latte. Please, consider an espresso machine if you love lattes. Find a barista who is nice, and ask them to teach you the basics. I did this for many customers. Once you learn how…next thing you know, you’ll have a showcase machine and all the tools to go with it 😉 And a tip jar on your counter! Your machine will pay for itself quickly if you are a daily drinker!

See you tomorrow and have a wonderful Labor Day!



Gingerbread Cake Drizzled with Lemon Sauce

It was a birthday in the house this week, and yes, I know that gingerbread screams of fall. Yet, that someone with a birthday loves a spice cake.

An adapted recipe from the recently released Easy Everyday Gluten-Free Cooking: Includes 250 Delicious Recipes, from Robert Rose. I was reading through the cookbook, looking for inspiration and happened to see the gingerbread. I liked that it wasn’t a frosted cake – and was only one layer.


An interesting full-range gluten-free cookbook which kind of brought up something for me, that happened last weekend. I had heard a lot of good about Haley’s Corner Bakery, a few miles from where we live. It is a gluten-free bakery. I was hoping I’d find something for Alistaire, even if it was just a loaf of bread. Well…maybe I needed that sharp dose of reality – that I probably won’t be able to walk into a restaurant or bakery ever for him, for a treat. A lot of gluten-free recipes are bound with eggs. And I don’t blame them! The recipes with eggs work better most times. If one wants to bake vegan and gluten-free, you have a real learning curve. (It didn’t help either that the items with nuts were parked next to the nut free ones. Pretty cookies. Ah well!)

So, as I flipped through the cookbook…I got thinking about what we and the baby would all equally like, minus the eggs. I like when my mind has to tinker.


I adapted the recipe I chose to be not only gluten-free, but vegan, so that Alistaire could enjoy it as well. I was trying to decide between Ener-g Egg Replacer or flaxseed meal, and after talking it over on Facebook, I realized Ener-g would make for a lighter cake.

Two little boys fighting over who was getting bites. Alistaire was miffed that Walker was jumping in his way 😉 I was quite happy with my adaptation. The cake was moist, mildly spicy and rich with molasses.


Gingerbread Cake (Adapted from page 272)



Preheat oven to 350°, lightly oil an 8×8″ glass baking pan.

In a small bowl, pour boiling water over shortening. Set aside to melt and cool slightly.

Beat Ener-G Egg Replacer with warm water, set aside to thicken.

In a mixing bowl, sift together bean flour, sorghum flour, tapioca, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Resift and set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat Ener-g mixture, molasses and sugar. Add shortening mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients. Mix until just blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Let stand for 30 minutes before baking.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Flip over onto a plate, then onto another plate, to serve.

Serve with warm lemon sauce.


Lotsa Lemon Sauce


  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 small/1 large lemon)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter or Earth Balance Buttery stick


In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water, lemon zest , lemon juice and butter. Heat over medium for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Serve warm preferably.

Makes about 1½ cups.



FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy of the book.

Zucchini Bread From Learning To Bake Allergen-Free

When I need inspiration that isn’t coming from the ever-growing stack of cookbooks waiting to be reviewed…I go wandering on Amazon. Amazon rarely fails in this: if I know a cookbook I like, I have many others presented to me that are similar. Then I go to the library’s website and start searching. Being that our county library system is massive (how big? 48 libraries!) and one of the most used in the US (it is a yearly battle between KCLS and one in New York – 22 million items circulated alone in 2012!)…well most times I can get the books I see on Amazon. It gives me a chance to find authors I might have missed and avoid stinkers (which is one reason I like the luxury of getting so many review copies of cookbooks!)l My goal was to find more inspiration in baking for Alistaire and the family. Finding gluten-free books isn’t hard, but those that are also egg, nut and peanut free? It gets a lot thinner in choices. Real thin. I picked up a pile of books and started flipping through. The first two went back into my library bag. One claimed to be nut free but wasn’t (really??), the second one used a GF flour mix in every recipe that was nearly all garbanzo bean flour (my stomach said nooo thank you!).

The third in my pile had me happy. It was that special-needs diet cookbook I was dreaming of. How had I missed it before? Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts by Colette Martin. And more so, it follows pretty closely to how we eat, unprocessed and plenty of whole foods. And will walk the shaky/nervous/overwhelmed through it (yes, it is a crash course, but there isn’t a learning curve  with allergens…ugh). And this is a relatively new book, having come out last year, with plenty of color photos, sprinkled throughout.


This made the most ethereal loaf of zucchini bread.


Ummm…this was beyond fantastic. Consider it this way: zucchini bread is usually a heavy loaf that is dark in flavor, texture and heavy in the stomach. This wasn’t that. The vanilla slips through, mingling with the sugar. It doesn’t taste gluten-free. Or allergy-friendly. If you brought it out and kept quiet, it would disappear quickly. Walker and Alistaire happily had it for dessert, and Walker ate what baby didn’t finish.



I took the boys out to the garden, and we picked a couple of small zucchini to use in it. There is something so cool about having fresh produce on the vine, waiting for you!



It never got above 65° today. What a way to celebrate the first day of August. No measurable rain in all of July, first day of August and it opens up dumping and cold. Loved it! The plants did as well….

The bread pulled together quickly, and was in the oven before we sat down to dinner. This could become a go-to for all those squash plants 😉 Yellow squash would be so pretty.



Zucchini Bread, pages 102-103 (adapted for our dietary issues)


  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend (see notes)
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum (see notes)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer + ¼ cup warm water, mixed
  • ½ cup oil (called for grapeseed, used olive oil)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (called for hemp, used coconut milk)
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups zucchini, shredded



Preheat oven to 350°, spray or lightly oil a 9×5 bread pan.

Mix together the flour, xantham gum, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Blend together the egg replacer mixture, oil, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl, with a hand mixer on medium speed, for 1 minute.

Gradually add the flour mixture, blending on medium speed until the batter is smooth.

Add the zucchini and mix for an additional 2 minutes, until combined.

Scrape batter into the loaf pan, smoothing out. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick or thin butter knife comes out clean in the center, and the top is turning golden. My loaf took a full 60 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, gently flip over to remove, let cool on a wire rack before slicing (a serrated bread knife works well). Once cool, store covered, eat within a day or two for best taste!


I used Trader Joe’s all-purpose gluten-free baking mix, a comparable version is King Arthur’s.

If the GF flour mix you are using has xantham gum, do not add any to the recipe. I used the GF mix I have, it imparts a light flavor, where other ones such as Bob’s Red Mill have a heavier taste (it has beans). Use what you prefer, but keep that in mind.

Overall, I bake with So Delicious coconut milk. I like the texture/flavor. My husband prefers to avoid Hemp products. As for the oil, I cook with only two oils: olive and coconut. Maybe I am used to it, but I love olive oil in baked goods. I don’t fine it strong at all.


Allergy Friendly Chocolate Covered Cherry Granola Bars

I am slowly finding more ways to adapt and make treats for my boys, that work for Alistaire’s allergies and yet have everyone else happy. And this brings me to something. I have to remember every day to not judge others though, which is never easy – no matter your background.

I follow a few allergy support groups for moms online and found myself feeling way out. I think what it is, is that in blogging I am surrounded by others who see the world in a similar view. And being an avoid cook, I am willing to make whatever I can from scratch to avoid potential issues with my family’s diet. Suddenly, I was reading threads on how moms could still buy highly processed foods and what was potential cross contamination or contained peanuts/nuts. And I found myself feeling overly pious/nose in the air “Why can’t you people just BAKE YOUR OWN bread! Arguing if Sarah Lee bread is OK? That Hostess products from certain plants are nut-free?. Make them donuts from scratch!” Oh wait, not everyone cooks, creates or even knows where to start. Before I spout off…I have to back up and think it out. When all you (my readers) ask something, you expect hand-crafted answers. They are just trying to get through the store. And so…I suddenly felt like a natural food freak from the town of Hippyville, Crunchtown, where these ladies are from Anytown, Middle America. I have some advantges in a way – I like cooking/baking, I know how to shop for special needs diet already and have local access to natural food stores. But more…with his having 5 food allergies, it is past the point of finding processed foods he can have. He is in a niche of a niche. There are only a handful of companies that make safe foods – no gluten, eggs, dairy, peanuts or tree nuts. So I guess I don’t have to worry if boy can eat Hostess Ding Dongs safely. He will never have one!

I go buy the theory of “If in doubt, go without” – which means I bring B’s food along (that is safe) or I make it. Which I might add, I read that one in the newest issue of Living Without Magazine.


In the end….I am responsible for him. And I want him to enjoy the foods he can! It encourages me to keep making more, trying new ideas. In this one I adapted a peanut and nut filled recipe and made it for him. Delicious!


Allergy Friendly Chocolate Covered Cherry Granola Bars



Spray or lightly oil a 9×13″ pan. Line with parchment paper cut to fit bottom of pan, and up the end sides. Spray or oil the paper.

Mix the cereal, oats, cherries and chocolate chips together in a large bowl.

Add the Sunbutter, honey, maple syrup and brown sugar to a medium mixing bowl, heat in microwave for 1 minute on high. Remove and stir until smooth.

Add to dry mix, stir till thoroughly combined with a silicone spatula. Pack into prepared pan, pressing down evenly.

Let cool for an hour, cut with a sharp knife into bars. Wrap each bar individually. For best storage, keep in refrigerator or freezer until snack time.


On crisp rice cereal, I have found the store brands to be safer than the name brand – mostly due to the ingredient list. Does one need high fructose corn syrup in it? No. So read the labels, you might find the generic looks better as well.

I don’t often keep quick oats in the house, so I take regular old-fashioned oats and run them through my mini-food chopper to blitz up a bit. This works just fine!



I was inspired by a quick recipe I saw on Keeley McQuire’s blog and made an adapted batch for Alistaire to nibble on. Turned out everyone else liked them just as much…..even the Teen. But first I had to lure the littlest back inside to enjoy a snack made just for him!



Being that they didn’t need a food processor, I had them ready in under 10 minutes (most of which was Walker trying to help me….)



One thing I changed was using 1-minute quick oats instead of rolled oats. The texture is finer and easier for Alistaire to chew.





Mix the oats through honey together in a medium mixing bowl. Make balls with a 1 Tablespoon Disher, packing tightly with hands and rolling into balls.

Add powdered sugar to a shallow bowl, roll balls in sugar. Store balls in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.

Makes about 14 balls.


You can make your own oat flour easy enough. Grind oats in a mini food chopper or blender.

Read powdered sugar labels. Some contain tapioca starch, others cornstarch. I have good luck with Wholesome Sweeteners organic.

I tried out a new-to-me honey in this recipe, Golden Blossom Honey:



I had received samples of it recently, the Sunballs were its first use. Taste wise?  Clear, mellow, fruity. It wasn’t what I was expecting from commercial honey (I am not a fan of most honey-bear honey found in stores. It is often so intensely sweet it isn’t palatable) I would put Golden Blossom Honey in the “I’d have it in tea” category, meaning I liked it quite a bit. And to my Mother In-Law (who I know will read this!), it is sold in Florida. You need to pick me up some 😉


Date Bars For My Youngest

Alistaire has changed, he is a big boy now. He looks at our food longingly. He wants what we have, to not be segregated due to his allergies. I went back into my copy of Enjoy Life’s Cookies for Everyone!: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free Treats that are Safe for Most Anyone with Food Allergies, Intolerances, an, to make a new recipe for him to enjoy. I picked the Date Bars on page 107 and adapted them to coconut oil, rather than shortening. I have really enjoyed this cookbook, I first found it long before allergies were even an issue in our family. Now? I have a vast array of sweet treats I can offer the littlest. No eggs, gluten, peanuts, nuts and so on 🙂


His face was beaming happiness.

Little man couldn’t get enough of it!


Baking for my children makes me happy, being able to create for the baby? That is more than happiness.


Date Bars

Cookie Base:


  • 3 cups medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1½ cups water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar



Preheat oven to 350°, lightly oil or spray a 9×13″ glass baking dish.

Place the dates, water and sugar in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until thick and mostly smooth. Set aside to cool while the crust is prepared.

Add the cookie base ingredients to a food processer, process until finely crumbed. Divide in half, spreading on half in the prepared dish, pat down firmly. Spread date filling over crust, smoothing out. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture over the top evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool partially on a wire rack, cut bars while still warm (but not hot).

I cut 16 bars. Wrap extras in plastic wrap, freeze on a baking sheet till hard, then package in a freezer bag.


I chilled a wrapped bar and took it on my Sunday hike. For second breakfast, it was so tasty. It fueled me on my way out! Even after I squashed it with my camera 😉 Oh yeah, that is Mt. Rainier.




Gluten-Free & Vegan Marionberry Cobbler

I finally broke down and picked up a bag of Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. After my not-so-good experience with Bob’s Red Mill AP Flour mix I had been very hesitant to try any of the others (let’s just leave it at we don’t care for heavy bean based flours). I had an idea though and seeing as the ingredient was short, and everything Alistaire could have, I decided to try it out. From looks of it (and from researching online) it is very similar to King Arthur’s Multi-purpose GF Flour. Both are a mix of brown and white rice flours, tapioca starch (flour) and potato starch. Unlike the heavy bean based flour mix we had last time, this one was light and airy – and there wasn’t any triggers in it for him.


I converted a wheat flour recipe but didn’t use any gums for this. I liked the texture – halfway between cobbler and a molten-lava style cake. Crisp on top with a caramel-y like cake pudding layer under, then berries.



Which was very delicious, especially with Marionberries brought hom on Saturday from the farmers market.


Gluten-Free & Vegan Marionberry Cobbler


  • ½ cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sucanat sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 4 cups fresh Marionberries


Preheat oven to 350°. Add coconut oil to an 8×8″ glass baking dish, let melt in oven as it warms up.

Rinse and shake off berries, spread on paper towels.

Meanwhile, whisk flour through salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in milk. Take the pan out of the oven, spread the batter in, sprinkle berries over the top. If desired, dust a little more sugar over the top (gives the crust a crunch).

Bake for about 60 minutes, until crust is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold.


Gluten-Free & Vegan Zucchini Bread

Eeeeh! My summer squash plants have finally started to produce. Maybe not too exciting to most, but for me…I had all my early squash die and had to be re-seeded in May (live and learn, I planted the plants way too early. Seeds were a better choice, in May).


I try to pick them small, when they are tender and have few seeds developed. At this stage, no longer than my hand, they are perfect for most anything  especially raw zuke noodles. And that is why I planted so many seeds. I want a lot of raw noodles come August 😉 Still, I had 3 to pick, just enough to make a loaf of bread that Alistaire could enjoy. We also picked our first “baby” carrots, the first globe zucchini, patty pan and lots of berries.



A stumbling block for cooking is finding gluten-free recipes/concepts I can adapt that are not only GF, but vegan and nut-free. Oh yeah, that is so not an easy task I am finding. So much GF uses eggs to bind or have gone the paleo route of using almond flour. Not that I don’t like those ways, don’t get me wrong. But with his allergies…I am finding yet another way to cook. Yet again. The goal though is simple: it has to fit his dietary needs and taste good. Beyond that, I am pretty open-minded now.

The bread was a success. Everyone liked it, and Walker was happy to help chow it down – and the baby ate his share very happily, daintily with a fork 😉


Gluten-Free & Vegan Zucchini Bread




Little hands interrupting my photo shoot. Alistaire saw me working and came running up to check it out.


Preheat oven to 350°, lightly oiling or spraying a 9×5″ bread-loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, oil the paper as well.

Stir brown sugar through salt in a large mixing bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk olive oil through cider vinegar.

Grate the zucchini, using a box grater. Press gently in a fine mesh strainer to remove as much moisture as possible. Knock onto paper towels, roll up and press again. Unroll and fluff up, then measure. I used 3 small zucchini.

Whisk zucchini into wet ingredients, then scrape wet into dry, stir until mixed.

Spread evenly in prepared pan, bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a butter knife in center comes out clean. Turn out on a cooling rack, let fully cool before slicing, with a serrated knife. Store wrapped.

Makes one loaf.


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