Category Archives: Recipes

how to make your own coffee creamer.

I love coffee creamer. Maybe more than I love coffee itself. During my sentence employment as a Starbucks barista I started to appreciate coffee in and of itself a little more but in my soul I am a girly, frou-frou coffee drinker.

I’m down with that.

I don’t really have a complicated, picky typical order at the ‘Bux though, like many partners and ex-partners do. I’m a fan of a short Pike Place with 2 pumps Toffee Nut and lots of room for cream. My poison when I’d arrive for a 4:30am opening shift would be 4 shots of espresso — yes, four shots of espresso — with x pumps of caramel syrup (the number escapes me now) and whipped cream stirred in — a drink known to partners as “bunny juice.” (I quit the hard stuff though when I discovered I had become a host organism to a tiny human being).

Currently, my drink of choice is a grande soy caramel latte.

So, yeah. Not overly complicated, but definitely girly and frou-frou.

I figure I make up whatever indie cred I lost right there with my beer snobbery.

Anyway, so now that I don’t work for Starbucks and don’t get free partner bevs or a discount, and we’re down to one income, I make due with plain jane coffee at home. But where I get fancy is the coffee creamers.

They are delicious. But they are soooo bad for you. There’s not a stitch of “real food” in them. It’s all partially hydrogenated soybean oils and corn syrup and gross gross icky gross.

Every time I drink it I think, I am shortening my life by a few hours or days. Mmmmm. *slurp*

I posted on Facebook the other day extolling my love for terrible, terrible, delicious coffee creamer, and my friend Krista commented that she had figured out how to make her own coffee creamer to avoid the bad stuff. I was intrigued, so I did some research and discovered a few recipes.

This website has quite a few different flavors to make, but I opted for the almond orange cappucino flavor, because my friend J. is kind of obsessed with almond-flavored anything, and I wanted to see what the hub-bub was all about. And, the end result was so easy and so yummy and so not full of trans fats that I may never buy coffee creamer ever again.

First, you take a can of sweetened condensed milk and pour it in a clean Ball jar. Then, add 1 1/2 cups of nonfat milk. Then, remember you wanted to write a blog post about making coffee creamer and go and find your camera and take a picture.

Then go get your kids and teach them about density, because the condensed milk is more dense than the nonfat milk so you’ll need to stir it up really well to get it all mixed up.

Add some flavor extracts — I’m pretty sure you could do whatever your heart desired, but like I said, I wanted to do something almond-y so I added 1 tsp of almond extract and 1/2 tsp of orange extract. Then I put the lid on the jar and shook it really well, so it was all creamy and frothy and yum, like so:

Then I poured some to my steaming cup of Cafe Verona:

Why yes, that is a box of Huggies in the background.

And yes, my ISO is set too high and that’s why the picture is grainy.

But the coffee creamer was yummy. I wasn’t crazy about the orange flavor, so I think I might just do almond extract next time.

Oh, and that website I linked to earlier says it’ll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. As if it’ll last that long. But remember your lesson in density and shake it up each time you use it to keep the condensed milk from settling on the bottom.



curried split pea soup: a tutorial of sorts

You all may have noticed the prevalence of curried split pea soup on my menu plans recently. I’m telling you, this soup is so yummy. I mean, it’s an Alton Brown recipe. I’m not sure how you could go wrong with that. But what makes this soup so amazing is it’s simplicity. I used to think of split pea soup as being a sort of fussy meal — multiple pots, frying up bacon, or having leftover ham on the premises, which we never do, because we don’t eat very much pork. I was also under the impression that split pea soup took a long time to make, and with a 1-year old, time is of the essence. So I kind of wrote off split pea soup.

I don’t exactly remember how I came across this soup recipe, but immediately I liked that it didn’t take forever to make, and it didn’t seem overly complicated. So, without further ado, I will show you how you, too, can produce a delicious, hearty soup for your family.

First, the ingredients:

That’s a bag of split peas, chicken broth, an onion, butter, curry powder (not shown…but important), minced garlic, and kosher salt. The original recipe only calls for 12 oz of split peas, but I had a 16 oz bag, and what would I do with a random 4 oz of split peas? So I use the whole bag.

I was out of chicken broth at the moment, so I used water and chicken bouillon. That’s what’s in the ziploc bag. I would have much preferred real chicken broth, but I had to make do.

Because I used the bouillon and it’s already super salty, I left out the kosher salt, but I wanted to include it in my picture because it made the picture look better.

And, finally, the most important part:

My crock pot.  The original recipe isn’t a crock pot recipe, but it was really easy to convert. And less time in the kitchen = more time doing something else, which is a good thing.

OK. So, get out all your ingredients. Then pour the split peas in a colander and rinse ’em and sort ’em, like so:

Make a note to remove the watermarks all over your sink later.

OK, that’s not actually part of the recipe.

But this is: take 2 tablespoons of butter and throw it in the crock pot. Then chop up an onion and throw that in, too:

Then learn how to keep your camera strap out of your frame.

Oh wait, that’s not part of the recipe either.


Add some minced garlic. And by “some” I mean, “as much as your family likes”. The Birkels like garlic a great deal, so I added more. I couldn’t tell you how much though.

Why yes, I am using one of Sam’s baby spoons to “measure” out garlic.

And then….this:

Curry powder. If you’re not a fan of curry, I’d say to just use the amount the recipe specifies, which is 1 tablespoon. If you like curry, pour it on.

Then, add 4 cups of broth. The original recipe calls for 5 cups, but I reduced it by one cup since it’s a crock pot recipe so there won’t be any evaporation. Plus, we like a thicker soup.

Here comes the hard part. Turn your crock pot on the highest setting if you’re making this at noon or later like I do; if you are on the ball and throw stuff in your crock pot early in the day, use a different, lower setting. But be forewarned that I have never made it that way, so I don’t know how it would turn out.

Then walk away. Come back in 4-5 hours, and stir the soup a few times with a wooden spoon. The original recipe asks you to use a stick blender and blah blah blah. I’ve found that just stirring with a spoon makes it the right consistency, like so:

Dish out into bowls and eat! I’ve found this recipe feeds Tim, Sam and myself adequately, but we like eating. That said, I still don’t think it makes a ton of soup, but it’s easy to double.

(And that’s iced tea, not wine, btw).

Curried Split Pea Soup

serves 3-4

based on this recipe from the Food Network

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

minced garlic to taste

1 (16 oz) bag split peas, picked over and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth, or water with bouillon

1-2 tablesoons curry powder, or to taste

Add ingredients to crock pot. Set crock pot on desired setting. Come back at dinner. Eat.

Particularly yummy with fresh bread.

thanksgiving recipe reviews

This year for Thanksgiving I made two different dishes, two times.  I’m always a little wary of making an untried recipe that people other than us will have to try, because what if the food is gross? This year, I’d say one dish was a hit and one dish was a miss.


Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Cornbread from Smitten Kitchen.

The first time I made this dish was for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, on Thursday. Everyone raved over it, but I wasn’t totally satisfied with it. The fact that I accidentally used a 9-in pan when in fact the recipe called for a 10-in pan may have had something to do with it — the pan was overfilled so it spilled over the sides (all over the bottom of my oven) and the middle took way longer to cook, so the edges were more brown than I would have liked. This was easily remedied though — I only filled the 9-in pan 2/3rds of the way full the next day for the Birkel Thanksgiving dinner, and poured the excess batter in a small bread pan. It turned out wonderfully. My father-in-law said he could “eat [the cornbread] indefinitely,” so it seemed to be a big hit. I’ll definitely add this recipe to my Thanksgiving repertoire.


Turnip Gratin from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Oh, how excited I was about this recipe. The moment it appeared in my Google reader, I was drooling.  I dreamed about turnips in all their cheesy, melty, fattening glory for days leading up to Thanksgiving. Sadly, though, this recipe just didn’t meet my expectations. I probably added too much chicken broth and heavy whipping cream, so it was too liquid-y, even both times I made it. The first day I tried to hand-cut all the turnips but my slices weren’t thin enough, and consequently, the turnips weren’t as tender as I would have liked them to be for a gratin recipe. I even cooked it for longer than the 20 minutes the recipe calls for. The second day I got wise and used my food processor to slice the turnips, which resulted in much thinner slices, but they still didn’t end up tender enough. I didn’t use Gruyere cheese, either — I was going to, but then I saw that it was $15.99 a pound so I called Tim and made him look up substitutions for Gruyere all while reminding him that if I had an iPhone, I could look up cheese substitutions from Marsh myself (He wasn’t convinced that this was a good enough reason for an iPhone. I’ll keep trying). Anyway, both families were polite but I didn’t get the rave reviews and eye-rolls and moans and groans I was hoping for. I’ll keep it in mind though — I think if I researched some other turnips gratin recipes and perhaps parboiled the turnip slices first, it could be a winner.

All in all two wonderful Thanksgivings. We’re very blessed to have two amazing families. Sam is one loved kid.