Kitchen Concoctions

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon

Not a fan of Brussels sprouts? Give them a second chance and try these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon. These crispy, caramelized Brussels sprouts tossed with sweet apples and smokey bacon will surely become a fall favorite! 

When I first started blogging I had absolutely no direction. I just blogged whatever (as long as it had something to do with food), whenever I could. After about the first year I finally started finding my voice and was a little bit more focused. I had grand ideas of posting on a regular schedule and had special features I wanted to start.

Slowly these ideas started to become a reality. I found time to post regularly, posting 3-5 times a week. I started my cookbook of the month series which transformed into a magazine and website of the month series. I had a blogger spotlight series call “Bites with Bloggers” and did recipe round ups. I also had blog posts were I shared cooking basic 'how-tows” and shared “crafty concoctions”. I have spotlighted many different seasonal ingredients and shared a “foodie field trip” or two. Not to mention the hundreds of recipes I have shared all along the way!

Of course the main purpose of this blog has always been to share my old family recipes as well as the adventures (and sometimes misadventures) as I learn and try new recipes and cooking techniques. I have always loved it all. Simply sharing recipes and stories to all the special features. But this is a one woman show and blogging, every little detail that is involved in the process, is a lot of work. A work, of course, that I love!

And the last two years I feel like I have been more busy than ever. With life. With the couple of contract jobs that are my main source of income. With trying to balance it all.

But I have missed all those special things. I have missed getting a new cookbook and pouring over it and analyzing every detail. I have missed reaching out to my fellow bloggers and sharing their story. And I have especially missed my 'theme weeks,” where I pick an ingredient or holiday or cooking technique and highlight it by featuring it in a series of blog posts (mostly recipes, but FYI articles and sometimes crafts) for one whole week.

As I try to balance life, work and my passion and love for this blog; I hope to bring back some of those special features that I have always enjoyed sharing.... like those special theme weeks! This week is the first theme week I've had in a long time and it is to highlight my current favorite fall food... apples!

Yesterday, I shared a quick, easy, (almost) all-in-one slow cooker meal. I say almost, because while that recipe has pork loin, apples and sweet potatoes; I strive to have some sort of green veg or salad with every meal. These Brussels sprouts have become our new go to side dish. Yes! Brussels sprouts are our current favorite vegetable! With the addition of bacon and apples all roasted to perfect... I dare all you Brussels sprout haters to give these a try!

One Year Ago: Pina Colada Granola
Two Years Ago: Sour Apple Popsicles 
Three Years Ago: Pineapple Crush Smoothie
Four Years Ago: Georgia Peach Tea
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Chipotle Brownies

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Bacon
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 4

Crispy, caramelized Brussels sprouts tossed with sweet apples and smokey bacon.

5 strips of bacon
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 large Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Cameo or Johnny Gold apple, diced
¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Chop raw bacon into bite sized pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease from skillet. Return skillet to burner and add Brussels sprouts and apples. Cook Brussels sprouts and apples for 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat. Transfer Brussels sprouts and apples to prepared baking sheet and season with salt and black pepper. 

Roast Brussels sprouts and apples in preheated 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately topped with crispy bacon.

Serving suggestions: Since Brussels sprouts are in season in the fall and winter months, they would complement this Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes or Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese perfectly.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Easy Creole Potato Salad
Kale Salad with Creamy Anchovy Dressing
Raw Cauliflower Couscous
Braised Peas and Green Onions
Green Bean Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta

Monday, September 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Smithfield, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #SmithfieldAllNatural 

This sweet and savory slow cooker dinner is made with festive seasonal flavors of fall including apples, sweet potatoes and pork.

Whoa! I cannot believe that it is already the end of September! I used to say I would never comment about how quickly time passed or say to a young child “when did you grow up?” because well, time does go by so quickly and unfortunately to many parents disbelief children do grow up. But as I get older, I am more and more amazed, with every flip of the calendar page and passing season, just how quickly time really does go by. And even though time passes by more quickly than I would like, I feel like with each day I grow, learn and embrace life; a phrase, which I realize, makes me seem much older than I really am! Smile.

By now, with it being the end of September, and a month (or more) well into the new school year; I am sure we are all readjusting from the lazy days of summer and settling into our “back to school” routines. While back to school schedules vary from family to family, I can confidently say that it means a busy time for most.

From early mornings to after school PTA meetings, soccer practice, choir concerts and upcoming holidays, filled with fun seasonal festivities; life is full in more ways than one! For us, back to school means I am back in the classroom teaching culinary arts to eager young minds and sophisticated adults. And for Eric, it means after years (and years) of working and going to school full time, he is finally in the homestretch!

It also means we are going non-stop and often in opposite directions. If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed a common trend with my updates. “Busy day means I am throwing this in the crock-pot now so I don't have to worry about dinner later!” then linking to one of our favorite, go-to crock-pot recipes. As much as I love to get in the kitchen, and mix and chop and taste; the truth is, that often crazy back to school schedules mean I rely heavily on my crock-pot to help me crank out dinners we can actually sit down and enjoy together!

My latest crock-pot concoction? A hearty (almost all-in-one) meal that highlights some of those delicious seasonal flavors of fall! Not only is this simple slow cooker meal perfect for your busy back to school routine, it is loaded with apples, sweet potatoes and a succulent Smithfield All Natural Pork Tenderloin, all conveniently available at my local Randall’s store. For me, I love the way apples and pork perfectly complement each other, so combining them was a no brainer. Since this recipe makes a tasty, flavorful sauce I was this close (insert finger quotes) to making mashed sweet potatoes to serve with it. And while that would have been amazing, hello, the whole point of cooking with my slow cooker is so I don't have to put so much effort into the dinner hour! Adding the potatoes directly to the slow cooker was a huge time saver (and cut down on the amount of dirty dishes!) and still yielded a fantastic meal! This crock-pot dinner is almost complete as is, serve with a simple green salad or roasted Brussels sprouts, like we did, and bam! dinner is done!

Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes 
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes Cook Time: 4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low Serves: 4

A sweet and savory slow cooker dinner with apples, sweet potatoes and pork. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (2-3 pound) Smithfield All Natural Pork Tenderloin
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1-inch pieces
2 large Granny Smith, Cameo or Johnny Gold apples, diced
1 cup apple juice
½ cup apple jelly
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut pork loin in half, if needed to fit in slow cooker. Season pork with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Add pork loin to skillet and brown on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer pork loin to a plate and set aside.

Place diced onion, sweet potatoes and apples into the bottom of a large slow cooker. Place browned pork loin on top of apples and sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together apple juice, apple jelly, mustard, apple cider vinegar, spices and dried herbs. Season to taste with remaining salt and black pepper. Pour apple juice mixture over pork loin in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.

Make this Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Apples and Sweet Potatoes and bring dinner back to the kitchen table on a busy school night! Grab this $1 off Smithfield All Natural Pork Products (while supplies last) available through the Safeway Just4U online portal and get slow cookin'! For more information about Smithfield All Natural Pork products, available at Safeway family stores (including Tom Thumb, Randall’s, or Genuardi), visit Smithfield online or on Facebook!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Snickerdoodle Pudding Cookies

I know I have said it before, but and I am going to say it again (Wait! Don't go!).... one of the many things I love about blogging is all the wonderful people I have gotten to know over the years. I would have never imaged almost 6 years ago, when I started blogging that I would get to meet so many nice people and become close “real life” friends. In fact, I know it would be hard to believe, but I have always tended to be a shy and quite person. Blogging gave me the opportunity to share my voice. To be heard.

But blogging gave me more than that.

You would think that blogging would be lonely. Sitting behind a computer at home. Dancing around a kitchen to only the sounds of the dishwasher running (for the umpteenth time that day) and some 80's pop or country music blaring in the background.

But since blogging has given me the opportunity to connect with other bloggers and fellow foodies, in real life, I have been able to push myself even further out of my comfort zone and conquer some of my shyness. In fact, as you read this I will be at a blogging conference, mixing and mingling with other bloggers, a few I know well, others, well, not so much. A blogging conference that I was on the planning committee (so I hope everyone has a great time!), something that I would have never imagined doing in the past!

These cookies I am sharing today are called Snickerdoodle Pudding Cookies, but I think they should really be called Friendship Cookies. I have been making pudding cookies for years and I am always thinking up new twists and flavor combinations. However, I can't believe I never thought to make a Snickerdoodle version, not only rolled in cinnamon-sugar but full of cinnamon chips!

And why call them Friendship Cookies? Well, because I have shared these cookies and a cup of coffee with many friends, including several blogging friends (like my friend Monica who is the Queen of Snickerdoodle), that are now my real life friends! : ) Plus these cookies freeze extremely well, so when I make a batch I always freeze half so that I can have cookies whenever a friend calls! 

One Year Ago: Pina Colada Granola 
Two Years Ago: A Guide to Apple Varieties 
Three Years Ago: Ranch Crackers {Plus Tips for After-school Snacks}
Four Years Ago: Georgia Peach Tea
Five Years Ago: Emeril's Slow Cooked Bam-B-Q Baked Beans

Snickerdoodle Pudding Cookies
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Bake Time: 10 minutes Yields: about 3 dozen cookies

Soft and chewy cookies loaded with cinnamon chips and dusted with a hint of cinnamon sugar. 

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose lour
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10 ounce) bag cinnamon chips

Cinnamon-sugar Topping:
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla extract and mix well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, pudding mix, cream of tarter, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.  Carefully, fold in cinnamon chips.

In a small bowl stir together 1/3 cup granulated white sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to for cinnamon-sugar topping. Using a large tablespoon, scoop dough and roll into uniform balls of cookie dough. Roll dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on the baking sheets 2-inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and set in the middle. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies freeze well. To freeze, scoop dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar as directed. Place dough on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet in freezer and freeze until dough is frozen and firm, 2-4 hours. Once frozen, place cookie dough balls in freezer safe zip-top baggie or container. When ready to bake, bake frozen dough balls in preheated 350 degree oven for 12-13 minutes.

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod as seen on Recipe Girl 

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Honey Snickerdoodles
M&M’s Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Banana Nut Oatmeal Cookies
The S’more Cookie 
Fall Trail Mix Cookies 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese {Plus Sparkling Pumpkin Themed Place Settings)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SparklySavings #CollectiveBias 

I have always said that I think everyone, should work a retail or restaurant job at some point in their lifetime. These jobs provide important life skills, that I strongly feel get left behind and are often not 'taught' else where. Like being on time, money management, cleaning skills and being nice to others; just to name a few. For me one thing I learned was being meticulous about every detail. When I worked retail, I had to 'walk the aisles' making sure everything was in the right place, pulled to the front of the shelf and straight. To this day, you can often catch me adjusting an item on a self (at a store I don't work at) to make it looks perfect. With the restaurant jobs, I learned about proper place settings (I am sure my Southern Mom who taught us etiquette and proper place settings as children, is gasping right now... that I didn't listen to her all those years ago) and how even though dirty dishes were put through the clean dishwasher using restaurant strength dishwasher detergent, there could be 'spots' left behind.

You see, if you have ever worked in a restaurant then you know all about polishing silverware and wine glasses. The dreaded task of polishing is because of all those water and detergent spots left behind by the industrial strength dishwasher. I can't even begin to tell you how many years of my life were spent holding wine glasses over pitchers of steamy water and carefully rubbing away any spots with a crisp black linen (not white because white linens can sometimes leave fibers).

Just like the obsessive straightening of products on store shelves, I can’t let dinner (especially a dinner party) at home or out on the town pass with 'spotted' dishes! Clean, beautiful dishes are a must (hello... I'm a food blogger!)!

I learned early on in blogging, that I didn't have time or want to spend time doing dishes all day. I would rather be cooking, photographing, writing or engaging with you all on social media! However, the truth is, most days I am loading the dishwasher at least two, sometimes three times a day! Rewashing and polishing dishes, well forget about it. That is why I am so happy I discovered Finish dish detergent at my local Walmart so many years ago! Seriously, my kitchen, this blog, could not run without that stuff! My dishes come out sparkling clean every time (even with the hard water we have) with no spots or residue... which means I can do more of what I love best.... cooking, creating and hosting fun themed dinner parties!

After my apple dinner party a few weeks ago, I have been toying with the idea of having a another fall themed dinner party. My brother-in-law suggested pumpkin, and the wheels in my head immediately started turning! Oh the possibilities for a pumpkin themed menu, tablescape and place settings!

Even though our official pumpkin dinner party isn't for a few more weeks, I started testing recipes and pulling out my sparkling clean dishes to play around with place settings. I instantly fell in love with this large white plate with smaller green plate combo. Topped with a real (or silk in my case since it is still 90+ degrees here) fall leaf and a cute mini pumpkin... well I just couldn't help myself and sequel with excitement! I am loving these themed dinners and am now I uber excited for this one!

As far as our menu? Well I think a popular comfort food with a fall twist is calling our name! This Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is full of cheesy goodness and has a lovely, nutty autumn flavor... perfect for the much anticipated first day of fall.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes Cook Time: 10-15 minutes Serves: 4

A fall twist on a classic comfort food! 

2 cups elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 ½ cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups shredded fontina cheese


Preheat broiler to high heat. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook. As directed, for 6-7 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to boil up and becomes foamy. Continue cooking and stirring until butter starts to smell nutty and turn golden or toasty brown in color, about 6-8 minutes.

Slowly stir in flour and stir for 1 minute. Stir in milk, stirring until fully incorporated and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and pumpkin puree. Add 1 cup each of white cheddar and fontina cheeses; stirring until the cheese is melted.

Drain macaroni, reserving 2 tablespoons of starchy pasta water. Add 2 tablespoons pasta water and cooked pasta to cheese sauce, and stir until well coated. 

Pour pumpkin mac and cheese into an 8x8-inch square casserole dish or individual ramekins. Top with remaining cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbling and brow.

Serve topped with fresh sage or a dash of cayenne pepper, if desired.

Don't waste anymore time or money doing dishes! Combine this coupon with Walmart's Rollback prices (good through October) and grab some Finish at sparkling savings!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tips for Hosting a Co-ed Baby Shower or Diapers Shower

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BabyDiapersSavings #CollectiveBias 

I've mentioned before that I love to plan parties and get-togethers. They are a lot of work, but there are certain life events that everyone deserves to have a special day all of their own. Birthdays, graduation, weddings and the arrival of a new babe, well these are just a few of life's special moments! Recently I helped host a co-ed 'diaper' shower for one of my cousins, a new Dad-to-be. Since the shower was taking place the weekend of another family get-together, and since my cousins and I are all very close, we decided to host a co-ed diaper/baby shower; to help stock their home with loads of diapers and other baby needs!

While co-ed baby showers used to be less common, I think they are becoming more and more popular! I have hosted co-ed baby showers for co-workers, specifically for a manager who's wife was having a baby; and for a group of close-knit friends. And honestly, I don't know why co-ed baby showers are not more common, since both Mom and Dad-to-be should be honored for their upcoming life changing event!

Since hosting a co-ed baby shower can seem a bit intimidating, and since I have had the opportunity to host a few in my day, I thought I would share a few co-ed diaper/baby shower tips! Tips for hosting a co-ed diaper shower:

Invitations: For a co-ed shower keep the invitations basic and to the point. If hosting specifically a diaper shower, encourage party attendees to bring diapers and wipes with a creative mention like, “Help Mom and Dad to be, get ready for diaper duty! Bring diapers galore, in various sizes, because it will be a doozy!” Don't forget to address the invitations to the couple or to the entire family depending on the type of shower.

Games and Entertainment: Since even most women I know aren't fans of baby shower games, men certainly aren't going to be that gung-ho! So let's just skip the games for co-ed showers and let the party be about mingling and honoring the parents to be. Play a good mix of music softly in the background and allow time for the new parents to take turns opening gifts together. If you must have games, consider one of these more co-ed friendly options like karaoke, playing poker with a baby twist (like using colored diaper pins instead of poker chips), or playing charades with a baby theme. 

Decor: Keep any decorations minimal, yet practical! I love making diaper cakes and wreaths. They are very easy to create and match the party theme. Use rubber bands or string to secure the diapers so that the diapers can later be used by the new parents. Another option is to make simple center pieces using common baby items (like bottles, bath toys, block letters, etc.), that the parents-to-be can take with them. Or pick a co-ed shower theme, like "bun in the oven" and simply host a backyard cookout. Another suggestion for a shower for a baby boy, is to chose a more manly shower theme, like sports, hunting and fishing, etc. (tailored to the Dad's interests) that will set the new Dad at ease as well.

Food: My best co-ed baby shower tip? Don't go light on the food! I recommend, if possible, to host a co-ed shower in the evening. This time is usually more convenient for couples, however, with it being prime dinner time, a meal would be best served. If a full meal isn't in the budget, chose a variety of appetizers and finger foods. While salads and fruit/vegetable trays are common at baby showers, consider adding more “guy food” like chicken wings, cocktail meatballs, sandwiches or even pizza to the spread to feed all those hungry appetites!

Stick to a budget: Hosting a baby shower for the new Mom's closest friends and family can be expensive, let alone when you double the guests and invite significant others or children. Don't be afraid to ask for other close friends to help host the party with you and split the expenses (and work) associated with the party. When I plan a baby shower, I usually head to Walmart to get everything I need. From food to paper goods, I can get all the party essentials and stay on budget. In fact, after hosting my first baby shower several years ago, I learned about Parent's Choice Diapers. They are super affordable and came recommended by several friends and family members. I felt confident that the new parents could actually use the diapers I used to create the diaper cake without any problem and I could stick to my budget. You can also keep costs low buy hosting the shower on non-meal time hours (earlier in the morning, late afternoon, or later in the evening) and serve a menu of snack foods instead of a main meal.

Gifts for Dad: Since Dads are usually left out of all the baby shower fun, show them some love and support with some special gifts just for them! A fun and cheesy “Number 1 Dad!” coffee mug with a few bags of gourmet coffee and a note saying “You're gunna need this!” is cute and will be appreciated. Or give the parents-to-be gift cards to a local restaurant and movie theater for 'one last' romantic night before baby arrives.

Another creative gift idea just for the new Dad? A Daddy Diaper Duty Tool Kit! This gift is not only funny, poking fun at the age old joke that Dads won't change diapers, but is practical as well. Simply stock a tool box or tool belt with everything a Dad might need for changing diapers; including goggles, clothes pins for his nose, rubber gloves, and more! My sister suggested a similar gift to give to my cousin at his shower. Not only would this give them things they needed for their baby on the way, my cousin would know he had all of our support!

Daddy Diaper Duty Tool Kit Supply List:

Tool box or tool belt
Parent's Choice Diapers
Wet wipes
Diaper rash ointment
Rubber gloves
Clothes pins
Face mask
Hand sanitizer
Mini trash bags
Camo apron
A rubber toy (for baby)

Hosting a baby shower? Or want to create your own Daddy Diaper Duty Tool Kit to bring as a gift? Click here to find a list of all Walmart stores that carry the new and improved, more absorbent Parent’s Choice diapers. And if you are a parent with diaper age children, did you know you can save about $240 per year with Parent's Choice Diapers compared to other national brands. Be sure to grab this coupon for $1.50 off one (1) Parent’s Choice infant diaper jumbo bag or box to save even more!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Homemade Maple Syrup {for Pancakes and Waffles}

When I was little, one thing that I loved about traveling was staying in a hotel. I am sure this was the case for most kids, the excitement about getting to be far from home and staying in a different place; was kind of like a slumber party for the whole family!

Since I have had the opportunity to travel a lot, I have stayed in a lot of hotels. From fun and magical hotels (with Mickey Mouse shaped furniture) at Disney World, to hotels with bunk beds for all the kids, to super modern hotels in Europe, and small beach side B&B's; each of them special and unique in their own way.

In addition to taking in all the scenery, fighting over the complementary mini bottles of shampoo and lotion (you know, because my sisters and I thought they were soooo cute!), and being in awe of the hotels with indoor swimming pools (seriously... this little Texas girl could not believe her eyes the first time she saw an indoor pool at a hotel up north); getting to eat at the complementary breakfast buffet was top on our favorite things list!

Maybe it was the self serve waffle bar, or assortment of “mini” boxes of cereal or maybe it was just the fact that we had so many choices right at our fingertips, but we loved breakfast time!

Today when I travel, I often think back to those fun family vacations. Now when I check out the hotel breakfast buffets, I often chuckle to myself. I see families with small children running around trying to make choices from too many options. I see people all lined up at the Texas sized (and often shaped) waffle iron, since often this is the only 'hot' item found at many of these buffets. I then grab some lukewarm coffee and I sit. I take it all in and I remember back to those crazy days spending time with family.

While I try and relive these special memories as often as possible, enjoying breakfast at home or brunch at a popular local restaurant when traveling; eating a big, hot breakfast is a rarity. But every so often, we have a lazy Saturday morning at home, or I crave breakfast for dinner, and whip up a big batch of pancakes or waffles, crisp up some bacon and make some fluffy, cheesy eggs.

Nothing beats a hot, chewy waffle with every nook and cranny filled with syrup! Mostly, for at least the past few years, we usually have pure maple syrup on hand to use for our waffle cravings. But when we run out, this recipe for Homemade Maple Syrup is fantastic! It is hands down my number one go to for waffle or pancake syrup (we haven't had the store bought stuff in our house in years!). With the exception of maple extract, every single ingredient in this five ingredient recipe can be found in your kitchen right now!

In case you were wondering, yes, some of these photos may look familiar! I whipped up this syrup when I made these Light and Fluffy Waffles a few months ago and even shared it a while back with this recipe for Pancake Mix. However, I decided it was finally time for this family favorite recipe to have a blog post all on it's own!

One Year Ago: Sweet Potato and Leek Quiche
Two Years Ago: In Season: Eggplant
Three Years Ago: Slow-Cooker Chili Boiled Peanuts
Four Years Ago: Georgia Peach Tea
Five Years Ago: Spiced Buffalo Burgers

Homemade Maple Syrup {for Pancakes and Waffles}
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5-8 minutes Makes: about 1 ½ cups

A sticky and sweet homemade maple syrup perfect for topping pancakes and waffles. 

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon pure maple extract

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water to a boil. Slowly stir in both sugars, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and maple extract. Serve warm.

Note: Leftover room temperature syrup can be stored in the refrigerator, in a plastic storage container or glass jar, for about 1-2 months. If desired, heat in microwave for 15-30 seconds.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup
Southern Butter Pecan Syrup
Chocolate Syrup
Strawberry Syrup
Cornflake Waffles with Honey Sauce

Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Flavored Water Recipes {with Simple Variations}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HealthyHydration #CollectiveBias #Ad 

Despite having a whole selection of drink recipes here on this blog, water is pretty much the only thing I drink! Hands down it would be one of my three items if ever I was stranded on a desert island, and no coffee is not the first thing I go looking for in the morning, but a tall glass of ice, cold water! Fortunately, never in my life have I struggled to get my “8 cups” a day, because drinking water is so natural for me. That is, until I moved into my current home. I don't know if it is just the area I live or the pipes, but the water here is not refreshing (I swear even my friends and family have had detailed dinner conversations about mysterious “floaters” they sometimes see in the tap water) and used to leave me struggling to get my recommended water intake.

Missing my refreshing, ice cold water (and tired of embarrassing dinner conversations) I went on a mission to get refreshing, clean water back into my daily routine! One thing that helped, was getting bottled Ozarka water by the case load at my local Walmart store. I always try to keep several of these individual bottles of water in my fridge, so that I can have cold water to grab on the go when I am headed out the door to go workout or teach a class. They have also been great to have on hand when I have guests over and don't want to be embarrassed by my awful tap water. These individual Ozarka bottles are also super convenient for guests to take water with them on the go as well, and not have to worry about them taking any of my cups or glasses.

However, even though bottled water is convenient for all those reasons plus many more (can we say camping, tailgating, birthday parties, road trips, wedding 'welcome' bags...etc.), I feel like am always running out of bottles and taking loads to recycling. It would be awesome and super convenient if my local Walmart carried the the 5 Gallon NestlĂ© Pure Life bottle water containers. These would be perfect for at home drinking, cooking or “fancier” entertaining when I may want a pitcher of water instead of individual bottles. Not only that, the 5 Gallon NestlĂ© Water bottles are made from PET plastic which is BPA-free and are better for the environment because the bottle can be returned to the store for refilling (which is also more cost effective in the long run) and ultimately recycling. For more information and water tips visit Ozarka online and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Even though I love my water, sometimes I want something with a bit more flavor and personality, while still being healthy. That's why I love all natural flavor infused waters. These waters are so refreshing and easy to throw together. They are great as a late afternoon water break, or can be sipped all day long. While the recipes I am sharing today are for one, feel free to double, triple or quadruple the recipe, as I often do, to serve as an elegant drink at a baby shower or at home spa day with friends.

Here are a few quick tips for homemade flavored infused water:

  • Make several batches and/or varieties of flavored water at one time, and store water in mason jars or plastic reusable bottles with tight fitting lids, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. This means that as soon as you get thirsty you have a refreshing, healthy and flavorful drink ready to go! 
  • While I am providing five different simple flavored water recipes today; I have also included notes on ways you can change the base recipe. However, feel free to create your own concoctions by mixing different fresh fruits, fresh herbs and spices or even adding some sliced jalapeno for a spicy kick! 

5 Flavored Water Recipes {with Simple Variations}:

Apple Spice Flavored Water
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 Wait Time: 10 minutes Yields: 2 cups

1 (16.9 ounce) bottle Ozarka Water (or 2 cups)
10-12 thinly sliced apple wedges
1-2 dashes apple pie spice (or cinnamon)
Ice, optional for serving

Pour water into a large glass. Add apple slices and apple pie spice. Let water sit, to infuse with flavors, for 10-15 minutes, or over night, in the refrigerator. Serve with ice, if desired.

Change It Up: Add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Or replace apple with pears.

Cucumber Lime Flavored Water
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 5 Wait Time: 10 minutes Yields: 2 cups

1 (16.9 ounce) bottle Ozarka Water (or 2 cups)
4-5 slices cucumber
3-4 slices lime (or ½ lime, juiced)
Ice, optional for serving

Pour water into a large glass. Add cucumber and lime slices. Let water sit, to infuse with flavors, for 10-15 minutes, or over night, in the refrigerator. Serve with ice, if desired.

Change It Up: Add 1-2 sprigs fresh mint. Or omit lime and add 2-3 sliced strawberries.

Ginger Pear Flavored Water
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 5 Wait Time: 10 minutes Yields: 2 cups

1 (16.9 ounce) bottle Ozarka Water (or 2 cups)
1/3 cup finely chopped pears
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Ice, optional for serving

Pour water into a large glass. Add chopped pears and fresh ginger. Let water sit, to infuse with flavors, for 10-15 minutes, or over night, in the refrigerator. Serve with ice, if desired.

Change It Up: Omit pear and add lemon or cucumber slices.

Lemon Basil Flavored Water
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 Wait Time: 10 minutes Yields: 2 cups

1 (16.9 ounce) bottle Ozarka Water (or 2 cups)
2 sprigs fresh basil (about 10 basil leaves)
4-5 slices lemon (or ½ lemon, juiced)
Ice, optional for serving

Pour water into a large glass. Add fresh basil and lemon slices. Let water sit, to infuse with flavors, for 10-15 minutes, or over night, in the refrigerator. Serve with ice, if desired.

Change It Up: Omit lemon and replace with 2-3 sliced strawberries. Or omit basil and replace with fresh thyme.

Sunny Citrus Flavored Water
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 Wait Time: 10 minutes Yields: 2 cups

1 (16.9 ounce) bottle Ozarka Water (or 2 cups)
1-2 lemon wedges
1-2 lime wedges
1 orange wedges Ice, optional for serving

Pour water into a large glass. Squeeze juice from fruit and add juice plus fresh fruit wedges to water. Let water sit, to infuse with flavors, for 10-15 minutes, or over night, in the refrigerator. Serve with ice, if desired.

Change It Up: Omit one citrus fruit from above and replace with 1 grapefruit wedge. Or simply add grapefruit in addition to the other citrus fruit listed in recipe. Or add 3-4 fresh sage leaves.

What is your favorite flavors for infusing water?

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