Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Favorites

 First of all, I would like to show you all the crazy phenomenon that is my yard right now. We have had some nasty, rainy, gloomy weather for about a week straight and my yard is now a field of mushrooms. I've never seen anything like it. At first I thought our house was sitting on something really weird and gross but then I heard on the radio that the mushrooms are everywhere. I took the time to look around and they are - in fact - everywhere; so now I don't feel so bad. 

I've never seen mushrooms grow like this before! But they spring up within a day or two and so I'm out pulling them by hand (yuck!) three times a week so the dogs don't eat them. Luckily the dogs only seem to like things they can actually play with like sticks or squirrels , so the mushrooms don't seem to interest them but I'm not going to take chances. 
This is the neighbor's yard and they have just as many so I don't feel like I'm the only one with a rotting yard. I did find out that my mushrooms are growing off the roots of a dead tree stump so until we get that removed, the yard dries up or it freezes, we have a mushroom farm. 

Now to the fun fall things. First up: Butternut squash. It comes around every fall and you either love it, hate it, or don't know what to do with it. 
It's pretty easy, inexpensive and makes a unique side dish. If you're unfamiliar with it, butternut squash is firm until cooked (think: potato) and has a slightly sweet but mild taste.
All you have to do is cut in in half, and bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Once it's cool enough to touch, peel it and gut it out (the round part has seeds like a pumpkin). 

You can serve it in slices, or mashed up. It's really good with a little butter and cinnamon and a few roasted nuts if you're feeling adventurous. Pureed it makes a great thick soup for a chilly day. 

I have a second food culprit for today. It is the signature of fall for many people: the pumpkin spice latte, "pumpkin pie in a cup".  A Starbucks 12 oz Pumpkin Spice Latte has 300 calories, and 38 grams of sugar. Not to mention the artificial flavorings and modified food products used for the pumpkin sauce, it all just seemed a little less appetizing (ingredients listed here; pumpkin, ironically, is not an ingredient). Not to mention the $4+ it costs for a single drink when you can make it at home for about $.90 or about $.60 if you don't use organic. (Yes, I did the math!)

There are a ton of recipes for similar drinks out there and it really comes down to taste. Some people like it sweeter, some people like it spicier, some people like it more pumpkin-y. Here's one I've used for the past few days so modify it to your heart's content!

What You Need:
  • Canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • Milk product of choice 
  • Sweetener of choice (sugar, agave nectar, stevia, honey)
  • Cinnamon, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Nutmeg, Allspice (or any combination of similar spices)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz espresso or 4 oz strong regular coffee
What To Do:
  1. In a saucepan heat 6 oz of water if you're using espresso or 4 oz water if you're using coffee. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin puree and stir until dissolved. 
  3. Add 1-2 tbsp of sweetener to taste (obviously less if you're using stevia, use your judgement).
  4. Add vanilla and your spices to taste. I don't measure anything but it's probably 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg and just a sprinkle of allspice. Clove would probably be good here too, I'd just keep adding them and tasting it until it's where you want it. 
  5. Once the spices are dissolved, add 1 cup of your favorite milk product. I like unsweetened organic soy. 
  6. Reduce the heat and add your coffee/espresso. 
  7. Here is where I finish but it does not yield a frothy latte. You can toss the whole thing in a blender to froth it up, or give it a few stirs with a handheld milk frother. Top with whipped cream and spices if you like and enjoy!

Put the extra pumpkin in a container and store it in the fridge to use the rest of the week. Or use it for yummy pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread!

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