CHAI TEA CONCENTRATE

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I have this thing with chai tea, and specifically chai tea concentrate.

A bit of a love affair, you might call it.

Sure, I looove the traditional iced chai tea latte. And yeah, I drink it warm…a lot…once the weather cools down.

But that’s just the beginning. I put that shit in everything.

Chia pudding? Did it. Banana smoothie? Did it…and continue to do that one on a weekly basis.

Needless to say, chai tea concentrate and I are no strangers. And there are some pretty good ones that can be found in the grocery store. But I have a really hard time finding ones that are not suuuper sweet.

Like, way too sweet.
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And sometimes, I enjoy that. But other times it’s just not how I want to start my day. So I tried making my own, and it was pretty easy! And really easy to customize, both in terms of sweetness and flavor.

If you like your chai with a lot of cinnamon, add extra cinnamon sticks. Not into licorice flavor? Nix the anise seeds. Start with this recipe and play around with it to get your favorite mix!

Then go make a Banana Chai Smoothie. Trust me.
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CHAI TEA CONCENTRATE

Makes about 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
2 inches Ginger root
3 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
10 allspice berries
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
6 green cardamom pods
1/8 tsp. whole anise seeds
4 cups water
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
5 black tea bags
1-2 tbsp. sugar (optional)

Instructions
Use a spoon to peel the skin from the ginger root. Thinly slice and set aside. Use the side of a knife to gently crack the green cardamom pods and set aside.

Add 4 cups of water to a medium sauce pot and place over medium-high heat, covered. Once the water comes to a boil, add the sliced ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, peppercorns, cracked cardamom pods, and anise seeds. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes, remove the pot from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the tea bags and place the cover back on the pot. Let the tea bags steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth 1-3 times, until it is free of as much grit as possible. Stir in the sugar as desired.

Serve warm or cold with equal parts milk. Refrigerate in an air-tight container.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE CREAM

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Welcome to the first full week of October, everyone!

Obviously I made some soup. Some very autumnal soup.

Don’t worry, though. It’s not pumpkin spice soup. It’s Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese Cream! Fancy, right?
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Really it’s just a bunch of fall flavors roasted in the over or sautéed in a pot. Then pureed until unrecognizably smooth! You can do this, I promise.

It’s also a bit of a work out. Not really, but peeling butternut squash can be HARD. There’s like 3 layers to get through. Worth it, though!

The squash is roasted with some Granny Smith Apples. They are my favorite and not hard to peel. Win.
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You have some flexibility here as to the consistency of this soup. Add more stock to make it thinner, less to keep it thicker. I kept mine thick and it was awesome, but I realized halfway through I was kind of just eating well-seasoned baby food.

But I mean, there was goat cheese involved and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets if you ask me.

So whatever.
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The goat cheese cream makes this soup feel really grown up! It’s pretty subtle in flavor and adds just a little tang to the soup. It works.

If you’re feeling really crazy and fall-y, put this soup in a Rosemary Thyme Bread Bowl. Dreams will come true. Promise.
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BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE CREAM

Ingredients
For the Butternut Squash Soup:
1 whole butternut squash
3 granny smith apples
1 yellow onion, diced
4 small (or 2 large) carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus 1-2 cups
olive oil
salt & pepper

For the Goat Cheese Cream:
2 parts goat cheese
1 part cream (or whole milk)

Instructions
To make the soup: preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Peel your butternut squash until you get to the orange flesh. Slice it in half down the middle, and then cut each piece in half again. Spoon any seeds out from the lower cavity. Cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.

Place the squash pieces on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Use your hand to toss to coat. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden but still somewhat firm. While the squash bakes, peel the apples. Cut into pieces roughly the same size as the squash.

After 20-25 minutes, remove the squash from the oven. Add the apples to the same sheet tray and stir with a spatula. Place back in the oven to roast for another 10 minutes.

While the apples and squash roast, heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 2-3 tbsp. olive oil and then the diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the squash and apples from the oven. Add them to the pan along with the garlic, ginger, and fresh thyme. Stir to combine and let cook 1-2 minutes.

Add the 4 cups of stock and salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat, bringing the liquid to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, and either blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender or food processor.

To make the goat cheese cream: microwave the goat cheese for 15-20 seconds at a time until it is smooth and easily spread. Mix with the cream using a fork until the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Drizzle over warm soup and enjoy!

SPLURGE OR SAVE: HOME OFFICE

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We’re down to one last room in our apartment to complete, and it’s going to be a home office! We both work from home often, so we’re really excited to have a designated space for us to get our shit done. Especially excited to maybe start eating dinner at our table more often, given the hope is it won’t be covered in laptops and chargers and papers and whatever else. #AdultGoals.

In pulling it together, though, I’ve learned once again just how expensive it can be to design a space like this. Or, if you look hard enough, how inexpensive! Below I’ve pulled together two really similar schemes. One’s a splurge coming in well over $2k. The other one comes in at a mere fraction!

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Splurge

Desk | Interior Homescapes | $1,687.50
Chair | CB2 | $229.00
Lamp | Zara Home | $169.00
Wall Art | Urban Outfitters | $59.00
Pencil Holder | Anthropologie | $48.00
Total: $2,192.50

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Save

Desk | Overstock.com | $175.99
Chair | IKEA | $19.99
Lamp Base | Target | $29.99
Lamp Shade | Target | $16.99
Wall Art | ModCloth | $24.99
Pencil Holder | Target | $14.99
Total: $282.94

So, what do you think? Splurge or Save? Or meet in the middle?

VEGAN WAFFLE FROM THE RESOURCE GIRLS

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You guysss! I have a little treat for you today from the lovely ladies over at The Resource Girls. Cat and Lauren do it all over there: fashion, fitness, finance, food and friendship.

Obviously I’m most interested in the food, so they were kind enough to share this awesome Vegan Waffle recipe! Here’s what Cat had to say about it:
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I LOVE breakfast, so it should come as no surprise I’ve been around the breakfast block a time or two. I’ve mastered omelettes, scrambles, french toast, pancakes, good coffee, you name it. However, my waffle game was lacking. Lacking until I met my boyfriend and he introduced me to his vegan waffles.

I have to admit I was skeptical at first (who makes waffles without eggs or milk?). If he hadn’t won me over with his handsome smile and perfect hair this recipe would have done the trick.

These waffles taste like Christmas morning – warm, a little bit sweet, gooey on the inside with a touch of cinnamon to top them off. Is your mouth watering yet?
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I think the reason I most love breakfast is because it brings people together. I can’t count the number of great conversations and laughs I’ve had over something syrupy and a hot cup of coffee. Breakfast just feels like home. An amazing breakfast is the key to a great day.

Dust off that waffle maker and get to baking. To say they’re a game changer is an understatement and there isn’t one unhealthy ingredient!  That’s a win in my book.

These gems are best served with a table full of company and endless amounts of coffee. I would wait to tell your guests their vegan until there are only crumbs left. They probably won’t believe you anways! Like I said, I was skeptical too, that is until I took the first bite.
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VEGAN WAFFLES

Makes 2 large waffles


Ingredients

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pancake Mix
¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill 100% Whole Ground Golden Flaxseed
1
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. cacao powder
1 ⅓ cup of almond milk

Optional: almond butter, fresh strawberries, and agave syrup for topping

Instructions
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Your batter should be a little lighter than pudding consistency.

Heat your Belgian waffle maker up and spray with cooking spray (I prefer Pam Coconut Oil). When the ready light comes on, pour the batter in the waffle maker. Now sit back and let that thing do it’s job!

Most waffle makers have a ready light that will turn on when your waffle is done. If not, you can usually see the waffle peaking out from the side of the waffle maker. It should look more cake like and less batter like with the top and bottom a golden brown color. Also there should be no steam escaping out the sides.

We use Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter as the first topping, then we layer on some fresh strawberries or jam and finally top it off with a little agave. These are great with whatever fruit you have on hand or even maple syrup. Be prepared to serve second helpings!

PUMPKIN SPICE OATMEAL

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Alright, I did it again. Perhaps too soon. I’m slowly wading into “pumpkin space down your throat” territory, and it’s not even October yet.

First the Pumpkin Spice Syrup and now this. I know.

But truthfully, I’m just trying to prepare you. Because it may not have yet, but at some point in the next 6ish weeks you’re going to get struck by that feeling. That pumpkin spice feeling.

And now, when it happens, you’ll be ready! So really, you’re welcome.
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This recipe is fairly similar to the apple cinnamon oatmeal I posted last fall. It’s made in a slow cooker over the course of a few hours. But, you can make about two weeks worth and reheat it in the mornings!

I like to make this oatmeal on lazy Sunday mornings. That way, when I’m still in my PJ’s at noon I feel somewhat productive anyway.

I sweetened this oatmeal very lightly and top it with a little drizzle of maple syrup when I eat it. Because I’m a grown up, and I’m allowed.
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PUMPKIN SPICE OATMEAL

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients
2 cups steel-cut oats
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
12 whole cloves
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
8 cups water
1 can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 – 1 cup brown sugar (optional)

Optional Topping:
chopped pecans and maple syrup

2 1/2 hours on high, add pumpkin and turn to low. Then another :30 on low

Instructions
Add the oats and dry spices to a slow cooker. Mix with a fork so the spices are mixed in with the oats. Add the water and vanilla extract. Turn the slow cooker to “high” and cooke for two hours.

After two hours, add the pumpkin and stir to combine with the oats. Turn the slow cooker to “low” and let cook another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar. Taste for sweetness, and add more as you like. Let cool to room temperature and transfer to an air-tight container. Store in the refrigerator.

To reheat: Add about 1 cup of the oatmeal to a microwave-safe bowl and add 2-3 tbsp. milk. Microwave for one minute on high, and then stir so the oatmeal absorbs the milk. Top with pecans and maple syrup as desired. Enjoy immediately!

ROASTED RED PEPPER FETA DIP

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I think this needs to prefaced with the fact that not only is this roasted red pepper feta dip delicious, it requires only four ingredients. FOUR!

Red bell peppers, feta cheese, olive oil salt. Done. That’s it.

This recipe also makes a sizable amount of it. But you’re going to need it, trust me.
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Crazy things happen when you roast bell peppers in your oven. Have you tried it? they get all charred and black and kind of look like they just got beat up.

Then you arranged them in a special aluminum foil packet…that is not actually special at all. But! When you take them out, all that charred skin has peeled away from the flesh of the pepper. It almost feels like plastic.

Peel that junk off and you’re left with soft, sweet, bell peppers that have the most wonderful flavor.
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Then blend it together with some feta cheese and oh my goodness. I hope you’re ready for this! Fresh and creamy and tangy. That soft sweetness from the peppers balances the normally stinging flavor of the feta cheese.

Let’s just say it works. It really works.

You can serve this dip on its own with some vegetables pita bread and make lots of people happy. If you want to take it to the next level, make some hummus and baked garlic fries to go along with it.

That will likely please just about everyone in the room!
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ROASTED RED PEPPER FETA DIP

Makes about 2 cups of dip

Ingredients
3 red bell peppers
6 oz. feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt

warm pita bread, for serving

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the bell peppers whole on a sheet pan or directly onto the center rack of your oven. Roast for 20 minutes, and then carefully turn over. Roast anther 15 minutes.

During the last 15 minutes, prepare a large piece of aluminum foil for each pepper. After 15 minutes the peppers should have black, charred spots on their skins. Carefully remove them from the oven and place each on its own piece of foil. Carefully seal the foil into a package so that no steam escapes. Set aside to steam for 10 minutes.

Once the peppers are done steaming, carefully remove them from their foil packets. Place on a cutting board and use a pairing knife and your fingers to peel as much of the skin away from each pepper as possible. Try to peel as much from the tops and bottoms, too.

Pull the stem from each pepper and as much as the seeds as you can and discard. Place the peppers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the feta cheese and the salt.
Process until the mixture is combined, and then slowly stream in the olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.

Serve with warm pita on the side. Dip can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.

ROSEMARY THYME BREAD BOWLS

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Oh hey there! Happy first day of autumn!!!

Also happy day of the season premier of Nashville. I spend the summer binge watching it from the beginning just in time to start planning my entire week around the new season airing. There’s nothing like a Hulu-induced primetime televisions obsession.

Also there’s nothing like soup…in a bread bowl! Because isn’t that one of the reasons we really love soup, anyway? Even if not in a bread bowl, I’m usually breaking up crackers or a baguette and tossing it in there…wishing I was just eating out of a bread bowl.
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So I just went ahead and made some of my own. With some beautifully fragrant and flavorful herbs, of course!

I made these bread bowls on the small size for a few of reasons. Mostly, they’re perfect to have for a lighter lunch or having soup with a salad of some sort. They’re also great to serve with some sort of soup or chile with your full football spread.

Also though, sometimes I like to enjoy soup and a bread bowl without the guilt of eating a loaf of bread the size of my head. So there’s that.
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If you’re planning to serve these with a soup that won’t jive with rosemary and thyme, just leave the herbs out. Generally, though, the flavor goes pretty well with any fall flavored vegetable soup.

If you want to get insane and put some mac and cheese in there too that would definitely work. Make it cauliflower mac and cheese to keep that angel on your shoulder in check.
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ROSEMARY THYME BREAD BOWLS

Makes 4 small or 2 large bread bowls

Ingredients
2 1/4 tsp. dry active yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm (not hot) water
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
sea salt for topping

Instructions
Add the sugar and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer.* Add the warm water and stir lightly with a fork. Let sit 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy. Add the flour, kosher salt, rosemary, and thyme. Using the dough hook attachment, stir the mixture on a low speed. Once the dough starts to come together, slowly stream in the milk.

Keep mixing the dough until it comes together into a wet but firm ball. Oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, line two small baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Kneed lightly until the dough is one smooth ball. Cut into 2 even pieces if making large bread bowls or 4 small pieces if making small bread bowls. Shape the pieces into balls and place on the baking sheets. Cover with a clean baking towel and let rise an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add the egg to a small cup and mix with an equal part water. Brush the top of each bread ball with the egg wash and top liberally with cracked sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes, and then remove from the oven to brush with the egg wash again. Bake for another 10 minutes for small bread bowls and 15-20 for larger, or until the bread bowls begin to turn golden.

When cool enough to handle, remove the bread bowls to a cool rack until ready to serve. Heat your soup in a separate pot. Use a small knife at an angle to cut a hole around the top of the loaf. Use your fingers to remove the core of the bread along with the lid. Fill the bread bowl with soup and serve the top on the side.

*If you don’t own a stand mixer, mix the dough by hand and kneed on a floured surface. Oil the bowl and return the bowl to rest.

PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP

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This post is for everyone who’s in danger of going broke and/or being chronically late for work due to the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

And be honest. I know there’s more of you out there than you’re willing to admit.

I think I’ve found a pretty decent solution for you. Sure, it’s a compromise. Unless you own your own espresso machine, it’s likely going to result in pumpkin spiced coffee. But that’s better than nothing!
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Plus, if you’re in that weird in-between that still has you needing iced coffee in the mornings (or afternoons) this is going to be a perfect bridge into autumn.

Pumpkin Spice syrup is really simple to make. It’s made exactly like simple syrup and seasoned with the flavors that make up “pumpkin spice:” cinnamon, allspice. ginger, and nutmeg. I also used brown sugar to make the flavor a little bit richer.

Keep a little jar of this magical stuff in your fridge and get that coffee shop taste in your favorite mug at home – for the cost of a normal cup of coffee, and not your job!
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PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP

Makes about 3/4 cup syrup

Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole allspice berries
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Instructions
Add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Whisk the mixture as the sugar starts to melt, careful not to let it burn. Once the sugar starts to melt, add the cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, ground nutmeg and ground ginger. Keep whisking. Once the sugar is completely melted, remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Once the mixture has cooled, remove the cinnamon sticks. Carefully strain it through a fine mesh strainer or some cheese cloth. Use to sweeten coffee and cocktails just as with simple syrup. Store the syrup in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

APPLE BOURBON PUNCH

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I think it’s safe to say that for every pumpkin-lover, there’s someone who praises fall as apple season. At the risk of sounding anti-pumpkin, I have to say I’m definitely one of the apple folk.

So for every one person that’s freaking out about the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, there’s someone who’s going to looove this Apple Bourbon Punch.

Also, for everyone who loves bourbon, you’re welcome.
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Just like this Spiced Cranberry Mimosa, this is another one of those cocktails that’s just as easy to make a single serving as it is a large pitcher, making it optimal for any day of the week. It’s exactly what I want to be drinking at pretty much any fall gathering!

This cocktail combines bourbon, hard cider, and traditional spiced apple cider. One thing to remember about this: the sweetness of the ciders you choose is going to determine the sweetness of the drink. Especially in the case of hard ciders, sweetness varies greatly by brand. Some are very dry and others like soda.

Make this cocktail for yourself on weeknights when the air smells of fall and the leaves start to change. Make it to share with friends while watching a football game or enjoying a fire. Make it, love it, and share it!
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APPLE BOURBON PUNCH

Ingredients
1 part bourbon whiskey
3 parts spiced apple cider (cold, non-alcoholic)
3 parts hard apple cider
sliced apples for garnish

Instructions
To make individual cocktails: fill each glass with ice. Pour the bourbon, spiced apple cider, and hard apple cider over the ice. Gently toss back and forth into another glass 2-3 times, until the ingredients are well combined. Garnish each with 2-3 apple slices and enjoy immediately.

To make in a big-batch: add the bourbon, spiced cider, and hard cider to a large pitcher or drink dispenser (do not add ice. Add 2-3 apples worth of slices. Serve over ice and enjoy.

FALL BOOTS UNDER 100 DOLLARS

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Boot season is here! Boots are easily one of my favorite things about fall. I’m pretty much always cold, so I relish the moment it becomes ok to wear boots everyday. Plus, they’re super comfortable and stylish! I’m in the market for a few new pairs this season, so here are a few fall boots under 100 dollars:

1. Nordstrom | Matisse ‘Frontera’ Tall Boot | $98.95 I love having a basic riding boot in my wardrobe at all times, and these Matisse boots are just my style. The buckles give them just a little edge. But other than that, they’re plain enough to go with anything.

2. Modcloth | Travel Buddies Bootie in Taupe | $49.99 These are perfect to just pull on in the morning and run around in all day! They’d look great with leggings or skinny jeans. These are the kind of boots that can pull together any everyday, casual look, but the stitching still gives them a touch of character.

3. Urban Outfitters | Monty Two Zipper Boot | $79.00 I love these boots. Their design is clean and smooth, but the zippers on each side gives them so much edge. You could easily dress up a pair of black leggings with these boots, or top off an already killer outfit.

4. DSW | Roxy Indio Combat Boot | $59.95 Lace-ups have always been my favorite boots of all. I love these in particular because they very much have that badass, combat-boot feel. But they’re softened a little bit by the feminine crochet detail. I love the color, too!

5. Macy’s | Sugar Tuko Fringe Booties | $69.00 This is for all of you who’ve jumped on the fringe train, and they might be cute enough to make me do the same! I love that these are clearly a Western style boot, but without being a full-on cowboy boot. The fringe is just enough to sway when you walk, but nothing overboard!

So, what do you say? Are you ready for boot season?