Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Tasty Bits

Feel Good: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Soy Chai

As part of my Feel Good Experiment, I'm paying attention to what feels good, and that includes all those tiny wants. You know, when you're in the middle of something, but you think, I would really love a hot cup of tea. Well, now that I'm paying attention, I realize that I crave warm beverages a lot. All day. I want coffee in the morning, tea all day, and hot chocolate at night. But then I tell myself, Ok, just wait until you finish this email. Or, Get one later. And 8 hours later I still don't have my tea and it's time for bed and I say, Oh well, I'll get one tomorrow. 

Homemade soy pumpkin chai & pumpkin oatmeal. Yum.


Putting off a cup of tea might not be a big deal…once. But my daily deprivation, my unfun do-this-before-you-get-what-you-want game is a sign of something bigger. It's a failure to really listen in to what my body wants, and it's a symbol of all the other things I don't listen to (stretching a cramped leg, getting that Dr's appointment, a feeling that this project isn't quite-right).

So a cup of tea is the perfect place to start listening in to what feels good. It's small, it's risk-free, it's delicious and warming. And taking the time to make a perfect cup (and then enjoy sipping it) is a lovely reminder that I'm allowed to feel good, that I'm allowed to bring more good things into my life.


Yesterday I posted the above picture to Instagram and got a few requests for my recipe, so here it is, my guide to make the perfect cup:


Sharing pumpkin soy chai on the site today!

There are two steps to making this tea: make the pumpkin spice + brew the tea. The first step can be done way in advance – I make pumpkin spice in bulk every week and then add it to everything: smoothies, oatmeal, coffee, apple pie.

I started with this recipe, but tweaked it to fit my put-it-in-anything plans.

Pumpkin Spice for Anything:

1 cup of pumpkin puree
2 tsp cinammon
1 tsp ginger (I love it freshly-grated, but dried will work too)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (you might want more, but I don't really like it)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup soy milk *

Mix it all up with a fork. It'll still be a bit thick, but that's ok, because you're going to add liquid any time you blend it in to anything. Seal it up and keep it in the fridge for a week.


*Important note about non-dairy milk substitutions:

I prefer almond milk (and hemp milk) for just about everything: baked goods, on my cereal, smoothies…but NOT for this. Other milks get weird when you heat them up…almond milk gets bitter, hemp milk starts to curdle and rice milk heats fine, but it's just way too thin for a creamy drink. If you're going to mix this in hot tea or coffee or oatmeal, use soy milk.

(Could you use milk? Sure…but why would you? The soy milk has a sweet nuttiness that really plays well with chai)


Making the tea

2 Tbl Rishi Tea: Masala Chai (loose tea)*
1 cup soy milk
1 cup water

Bubbling soy chai;

Put the tea and liquids in a little pot and bring it to boiling. The directions tell you to boil it for 5 minutes, however! If you keep it all the way up at High for 5 minutes, it gets a little bitter. So I turn it down to medium (still boiling, but less angrily) right after if it comes up to boiling. Set your timer and enjoy the chai-y fumes.

While the chai is bubbling, scoop a big spoonful of your spiced pumpkin into the bottom of your cup. If your drinking cup has a narrow mouth, use a wide mouth bowl or measuring cup for the next step. I want the hot liquid to hit the pumpkin to dissolve it, so scoop the pumpkin into whatever you're going to strain your tea into it. While you're at it, get out your strainer.


Straining the chai


When the timer dings, pull the tea off the stove and strain it. The pumpkin should dissolve nicely, but give it a quick stir just to be sure. If you've strained it into something else, pour into your mug.


There you go! Delicious pumpkinness!

I love it in my oatmeal...

And if you've got a little tea left over, pour it into your oatmeal.
(Go on and add an extra scoop of the spiced pumpkin to your oatmeal while you're at it.)


A few other ideas:

  • The spiced pumpkin recipes all call for sweetener. If your tea isn't sweet enough for you, splash in some maple syrup. The soy milk I used had some sugar in it, so I didn't need any, but when I add the pumpkin spice to coffee, I usually do.
  • If you don't have loose leaf tea, use a tea bag (I like these) steeped in 1/2 soy, 1/2 water, then mix in the pumpkin.
  • If you've got the chai liquid stuff, mix it with soy as directed on the box, heat it up, then scoop in the pumpkin. (I like the Oregon Chai brand.)
  • When you're all warmed up (or sipping this butternut soup), make a pumpkin smoothie! 1 frozen banana, 2 scoops of spiced pumpkin, about a cup of almond milk, 1 Tbl of flax seeds: blend it all up.

What's your favorite feel-good drink of the fall?


Recipe: Earl Grey Shortbread

Earl Grey Shortbread! Recipe from @amysnotdeadyet #vegan
Today I'm super excited to be doing something completely different: collaboarting with Amy to share a vegan (and non-vegan) recipe!

This recipe is so simple and so straightforward, it was uber-easy to make it vegan: I just substituted Earth Balance butter for regular butter. That's it! I've included the vegan recipe below, but you should definitely click through to see Amy's pretty illustrated recipe.

These cookies are what I think of as proper British biscuits. Not overly sweet or powerful, they're fragrant and mild and just the right kind of sturdy to stand up to a warm cup of tea. We used Earl Grey here, but I'll be making these again with Vanilla Rooibus (and vanilla instead of orange zest) and Ginger tea (ooh, with fresh grated ginger instead of zest!). Because of the short time and limited ingredients, these are the perfect thing to make when you're staying with friends and want to impress them with your sophisticated baking.

I was worried that the vegan butter might not create the right kind of texture, but these were like a perfect cookie pie crust. Sturdy, with little crumbling in your hand, but a lovely crumby-ness once you bite.


Vegan Earl Grey Shortbread

Time: About 10 minutes to blend up, 1 hour in the freezer, 15 minutes in the oven.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves (from about 2 bags)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tablespoon finely grated orange zest


1. Whisk flour, tea, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Put butter, sugar, and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.
3. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper; shape into a log. Roll in parchment to 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Freeze 1 hour until firm, or chill overnight in fridge.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment.
5. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.
6. Enjoy with a big mug of tea and an episode of Dr. Who.
A few notes
1. I used Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey (because it's what I had, because it's my favorite!), but the tea leaves are not ground up small. They're long and lovely…but much too big for this recipe. I crushed 'em up a bit, but when I remake this recipe, I'll be sure to grind them even smaller, because wherever the pieces were too big, they added a touch of bitterness to that bite of cookie.
2. The top of your cookies probably won't get golden, because vegan butter doesn't do that the way real butter does. To see if they're done, check the bottom, which will be a nice golden brown color.
3. The Earth Butter gives it a pleasant, mild butteryness, but I bet you could kick that up another notch by replaced a tablespoon of the powdered sugar with brown sugar (that'll give it that buttery/carmely-ness you associate with butter cookies).
Additional toppings:
Because these cookies aren't sweet, I started thinking about tasty toppings to sweeten 'em up a bit.
I dipped a few in chocolate, because I'm crazy like that. To do that, melt some chocolate chips (or a dark chocolate bar) is a small, flat-bottomed ramekin. Dip the edge of the cookies in the melted chocolate and set aside to harden, or munch them while gooey. Mmmm.
Next time I make this, I might make an orange glaze, by mixing a 1/4 teaspoon orange juice with a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar. Adjust the sugar until you've got the consistency you want (add lots more powdered sugar and really whip it up for a full-on frosting.)


To see her darling illustrations (and get the non-vegan version), visit Amy.


PS. This is totally new for me, and I'd like to know what you think! Would you like more vegan recipes? Should this collaboration be a recurring thing?

Gluten-free Thanksgiving

I know I don't write a lot about baking and food.
But I always mean to.

It's a big part of my life and the opportunity to bake whenever the mood strikes is one of my favoritist parts of being self-employed.

My inspiration in sharing is Shauna's gluten-free Thanksgiving baking extravaganza.
This weekend, I'll be updating this post with my gluten-free contributions to my Thanksgiving dinners (yes, plural). You can follow (in pretty much real-time) on Twitter (me or everyone with the tag #gfbakingchallenge).

The Recipes

Here's what I'll be baking from (with changes noted in each section):

Gingerbread cookies + pie crust
Cornbread casserole


Remember that I mentioned multiple meals? The first one is tomorrow with my family and the second is on the actual Thanksgiving, with Jay's ginormous family.

We have to travel to get to the actual Thanksgiving, so I'll need to make the stuffing that I'm taking at least a day in advance (refridgerate it and then bake it when the turkey comes out of the oven). Since the thing with Jay's family is HUGE, I don't want to take an untested recipe (especially since I'm not entirely sure it will hold up with making it so far in advance), I'm testing the recipe this weekend for my mom's meal (you'll note, I don't mind serving her an untested recipe!).

All that to say: I made the stuffing this morning, but I'll be making it again this Wednesday. We'll see how this turns out.


I followed Shauna's recipe pretty much exactly except:

  • I started with Bob's Red Mill Wonderful White Bread. It's a mix that is so simple to make. I bake a loaf nearly every week and it's my toast, my sandwich bread, my everything.

Sauteeing for stuffing

  • I only had one loaf, which was plenty, because I'm the only one that has to be eating this stuffing (at both Thanksgivings, there'll be a big, platter of glutenous, meat-filled stuffing).
  • To the meat-filled point, I used veggie stock instead of chicken stock.
  • Since I had less bread, I used slightly less stock (maybe 3/4 of a cup).

This is what it looked like as it went into the fridge. Tomorrow I'll put a picture of here of how it looked baked (and how it tasted).


I'm using this recipe, only for the gingerbread.

I'm using the dough to make a crust that my mom will fill with her cooked-down-pumpkin + spices mixture tomorrow.


The changes I made it were simply because I don't have the 500 kinds of flours it calls for. Here are my substitutions:

30 g buckwheat flour = 30 g sorghum flour (I had it on hand, I have no idea if it's an appropriate substitution)
30 g teff flour = 30g amranth (I had it, it seemed properly hearty)
50 g sweet rice flour = 50 g brown rice flour


Oh, and I used only 1/4 tsp of pepper instead of 3/4 because, well, I just don't want peppery cookies.

And that's the great thing about this recipe: it made enough for a pie crust (pictures tomorrow!) and enough for a few cookies.

To bake the cookies, I rolled out little balls, rolled them in sugar, baked them until they looked done (I was pressing out the pie crust and lost all sense of time…I might have overbaked them a smidge). Delicious!

Cornbread Casserole

Tomorrow morning I'm making a casserole like my grams used to make: cornbread dough (I'll use this, but she used the jiffy box) + one can creamed corn. Stirred all together and cooked for 30 minutes it is DELICIOUS. Just the right amount of corny-ness, but bready enough that it doesn't feel like a vegetable.

More about how it goes tomorrow.

It’s time to make the…

Donuts! The following is a photolog of the making of these donuts, last Saturday afternoon:

rolling the dough (after it's risen for an hour). Note the French Press coffee maker wearing it's handknit cozy!

Cutting out the donuts, using the only round thing I had available.
You can see that I also used some square cookie cutters.

Fresh out of the oven, doughy and puffed!

After their bath of cinnamon and brown sugar! Yum!

Sugar-Free Baking

Growing up, we gave Christmas cookies as gifts to anyone not closely related.

Starting at Thanksgiving, my mom and I would start making the longer-lasting cookies (or making sugar-cookie dough and freezing it for later rolling and baking). We'd go to church the Sunday before Christmas, loaded down with tins filled with a variety of cookies, wrapped in ribbons, tagged for everyone we knew (luckily, it was a small church). As I grew older and my younger brothers and cousins were born, we started holding annual Cookie Parties: days filled 4 little boys kept busy rolling, decorating, baking and sugar rushes for all. Most of cookies from these years were best given to parents who could appreciate the ‘skill' of the decorator.

Now that I live hours away from my family, I miss a house filled with cookie smells and countertops that are as piled with cookies as the sidewalks with snow. Last year Mom waited to have the Cookie Party until I was home to help, but this year the boys are older (7 & 8) and they wanted to have their friends over, so they're forging on without me.

I'm also feeling the tug to create my own memories, with my own little family. For the first time ever, Jay wanted to contribute to our Handmade gifts, so as we sat down for a ‘planning meeting' last weekend. I was overjoyed that he thought cookies would be a fantastic gift for his family that we're visiting next week! I immediately started jotting down all the cookies I wanted to make (chocolate chip, decorated sugar cookies, snowballs, brownies, 7-layer cookie bars…) and then it hit us: his family is diabetic. They can have a little sugar (they love my apple pie), but a whole tin of cookies? At least some of them need to be sugar-less. This is a test of our creativity, since, as Sister Diane writes, sugar does a lot more than just sweeten the cookies.

All of my Google-skillz are being tested as I search for sugar-free cookie recipes, but I'm not happy with the quality of the recipes I'm coming up with.
Any suggestions?

Pumpkin loaf

breakfast with Stephanopoulos

The pumpkin loaf, it is DI-vine. I altered it a bit (because that's how I roll) and so this is my take on it:

2 cups white sugar (I will be using cane sugar)
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup fresh ground flax seed (it substitutes 1:1 for oil, did you know that? I didn't!)
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (actually, I might have forgotten the 1/2 cup, I got distracted)
1 cup wheat flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips (After I measured 1 cup, there was just a bit more left, so I tossed it all in…and really, it could have used even more!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (the original recipe said 3, but I found it just made 2, sort of flat, not filled to the brim loafs…next time I'm gonna make it in just one, so it has that puffy, super-full look)

In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, flaxseed, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill loaf pans 1/2 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from pans. (I never wait this long, we dug in about 15 minutes after it came out of the oven)

Slice and eat. Or warm up and spread some cream cheese on top. Or some peanut butter. I like it for breakfast (the chocolate chips don't count due to the healthful benefits of canned pumpkin!)

Let me know if you make it!