DIY Pumpkin Spice Coffee

It's Friday! We made it! Hurrah!

Now that our collective celebration is out of the way, let's get down to the fun stuff. Last night I baked a pumpkin pie (which I'm crossing my fingers that the crust cooked all the way through, but won't know for sure until it's go-time), made white turkey chili for dinner and curled up to watch Fringe. Is anyone else watching? It has been so outta control good this season. Plus, an hour of Joshua Jackson ain't so bad either. I'm so excited for spending time with friends and family this weekend and for getting to rock my brandy new Giants zip up on Sunday!

Anyhow, after two weeks of sipping on delicious pumpkin spice coffee, I thought it time to share my tale with all of you!

Today's recipe is a result of my plight of righteous indignation over expensive coffees and other coffee-laden drinks. You see, all summer I've had an injured wrist. After finally having it looked at by none other than a hand specialist, I found out that the problem was all stemming from a cyst - aka a giant egg on the top of my wrist. After a not-so-pretty shot and a splint, I was sent on my way. And since I was such a good patient, I felt that my inaugural pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks was just the ticket as a reward for my good patient behavior. You know, like I'm an eight-year-old.

Imagine my outrage that a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte was nothing short of $5.17. I mean...seriously? Ok for a once in a while splurge, but how could I possibly justify over $5 per day to get my pumpkin spice fix? There had to be a better way.

And that's when I came across a yum-inducing recipe for Coffee Shop Pumpkin Syrup on Savvy Eats. Bingo. I altered the recipe a bit to eliminate more sugar and overall, this recipe really hits the mark for a super delicious autumn coffee. Oh and minus all the extra calories of a latte!

DIY Pumpkin Spice Coffee
*Adapted from Savvy Eats
2 tbsp canned pumpkin
1/4 C Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 C + 2 tbsp water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves (or leave out altogether if you have an aversion to its pungency)
ground coffee (as much as you want to make)
half and half or milk of your choice

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine pumpkin, Splenda, water, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Stir together until ingredients have melted together. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens, resembling syrup, but making sure that it doesn't get too thick. Stir frequently so that it doesn't burn. This entire process took about 5 minutes. I had many reservations about the Splenda's ability to syrupify, but it worked! Hurrah for not wasting calories! I poured mine into that pretty saucer you see above to cool and then transferred it to a plastic container and stored in the fridge.

Now it's morning and time to put it altogether! Get your coffee grounds and make your coffee as usual...

I store my Dunkin' Donuts original blend in this pretty mason jar that I scooped up for just a few buckaroos at Michael's. Isn't it so much nicer than dealing with that awful and annoying bag that coffee comes in?

Since the syrup has a tendency to sink to the bottom, I mixed a teaspoon of the syrup with a bit of half and half (ok, more than a bit...I like my coffee creamy! You see why I don't have calories to spare on extra sugar) in a mug and microwaved it for about 20 seconds so that the syrup could dissapate into the cream. Yum!

Not to mention that adding warm cream to the hot coffee makes all the difference in the world! I carry mine around in a sweet tumbler that I bought at Target a couple of years ago. Add any further sweetner that you deem necessary and you're set with your cheap DIY Pumpkin Spice Coffee! Now do the happy dance because you are saving mucho moola with this creation.

So there you have it. A cheap and easy way to enjoy an autumnal favorite. What do you think? Do you ever prefer to DIY things in the name of saving a few bucks? Am I the only one outraged by the prices of Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops? And bonus question, what are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Soup Season

Today is a good day. Not for any particular reason. But there are a few things making me happy today.

  • Shaun made a delicious dinner last night for us and we ate together in front of the television so we could catch up on Castle & Jersey Shore (yep, Jersey Shore). Love those kinds of nights.
  • The Jackson Browne station on Pandora + the fact that he wrote Somebody’s Baby
  • The fact that my workout at the gym today was better than yesterday
  • It’s cool and sunny here in Manhattan and it feels oh-so-fallish
  • I have a grand plan to bake some delicious muffins tonight so that I can use the remainder of my uber yummy tart cherry jam

Oh and stay tuned for the wrap up of Shaun whipping up some whole wheat spaghetti and turkey meatballs. And now onto yet another reason why I love the Fall. Not only is it totally appropriate to OD on apple and pumpkin things, but it is also the opening of soup season! There's nothing I love more than a delicious, warm, comforting bowl of soup on a chilly day. And friends, when I say I love soup...I mean, I love soup. As in I can effectively eat it every single day for lunch from now until the end of March (not that I plan to, but you get the point). And yesterday was the seasonal kickoff, if you will.

The soup of choice? Butternut squash! Though my favorite butternut squash soup to date was devoured at Lincoln Center's Winter's Eve in 2007 and was served up by Cafe des Artiste. Those were the days before the blog, but can you tell that I was meant to be a food blogger? The fact that I'm still dreaming about soup from 3 years ago that I had at a street fair frightens me in that it makes my life seem kind of...sad. But I'll say it's just passionate.

This butternut squash soup, however, was warming, creamy and delcious, if not quite Cafe des Artiste quality. I picked it up at a local TriBeCa spot, Beach Street Eatery.

Once the cool weather strikes, I'm a frequent patron of Beach Street Eatery since it's a short walk from the office and they offer up new soup flavors everyday with free samples to boot. This is not, however, to discount 'wichcraft, which is located just across the street from Beach. 'wichcraft has my second favorite soup of all time, Tomato Parmesean. But that's a story for another time.

So how about you? Do you have any go-to cool weather foods? A bowl of soup? A hot cup of tea? A tray of hearty pasta? Dish 'em!

Four Cheese Mac 'n Cheese at Mac Bar

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While I typically try to bring my lunch to work 4 out of 5 days per week (saving money + eating healtheir = good, plus Shaun often packs my lunch for me which equals a triple score!), Fridays are always reserved for ordering in. A few of us usually order sushi, but this past Friday we veered off course a little and ordered from SoHo's Macbar. Located just a short ways north of the office, Macbar is a restaurant dedicated solely to serving up delicious mac 'n cheese. Oh New York how I love you so. Never underestimate the power of taking one dish and running with it, all the way to creating a restaurant around it. Like Rice to Riches in NoLiTa, there's nothing more fun than a themed joint serving up variations of one delicious dish. Especially when it's yummy comfort food like mac 'n cheese.

With a plethora of options to choose from, including mac lobsta', mac stroganoff and mac reuben, I went with the old standard, Four Cheese. Chock full of gouda, queso fresco, emmental and fontina, this dish was cheesy yet not overly heavy. It seems couterintuitive to call this dish light - because it wasn't - but it also wasn't sittin' heavy after devouring a small container of it, which many a mac 'n cheese tends to do. While it was delicious, the smokiness of the gouda overpowered the dish a bit. I could have gone for more of a gruyere twist rather than the gouda.

So what do you think? Are you a fan of mac 'n cheese? Do you have any specialty store or restaurants near you that make you happy?

PS - If you like what you see on The Avid Appetite, and you're intrigued by my Coconut Shrimp Curry, please vote for me to advance to Round 3 of Project Food Blog!