Keepin' It Fresh

non alcoholic drinks refreshing - stephanie brubaker

Sparkling Black Currant Punch

Posted by | Recipes, Seasonal, Steph B | No Comments

I love to make special, non-alcoholic drinks for friends and family; not having a mini bar should not mean you are destined only to a glass of water all evening!  Start with pretty bottles (I purchased mine at IKEA; they are pictured above) and good ingredients and you’ll be on your way to a delightful evening.  Since black currant juice is a beautiful, deep color and boasts a tartness that cannot be beat, it’s a great base to this simple, but delicious drink.  Please note that each of these ingredients can be found at Trader Joe’s.  Enjoy!

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Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes - stephanie brubaker

Big Batch Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

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Every time I make pancakes, I am blown away at how many pancakes my kids can pack down!  Unless they consume no less than 8 pancakes, they find themselves hungry.  So this type of mealtime mayhem motivated me to come up with a made-from-scratch buttermilk pancake recipe that satisfied our family of six.  Also,  I highly recommend using King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour.  They will never ever suspect it’s anything but plain, white, all-purpose flour!

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tropical refresher mocktail - stephanie brubaker : stephmodo

Warm Weather Mocktails: Tropical Refresher

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Welcome to a three-week series on delicious “mocktails” you can easily make at home…no mixology experience required!  All you need are quality juices, fresh herbs and a few beautiful, glass bottles with pretty tops.  I purchased mine at IKEA (they are pictured above) and have been quite pleased so far (note: these recipes are made for this size bottle so use this as an excuse to stock up!).  Also, I recently discovered that many of the juices at Trader Joe’s are not only cost effective, but high quality as well.  The 100% pineapple juice can’t be beat, nor can the $2 orange juice; both found in the refrigerated section.  In fact, all of the ingredients in this recipe can be purchased at TJ’s, making it a one-stop shop.

One of my favorites in this series is this Tropical Refresher.  The mint adds a nice kick, which makes me crave Summertime.  This year, I would be a-okay with skipping Spring, in order to jump right into warm weather and cool drinks.  In the meantime, I will be making this again soon to tide myself over.  Enjoy!

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stephanie brubaker - hot chocolate web version

Half a Heart: Peppermint Hot Cocoa for Valentine’s Day

Posted by | Celebrate, Holidays, Steph B | No Comments

If you’re like me, you still have a few mini candy canes hanging around from Christmas.  Well, who says candy canes are just for Christmas?  After all, one candy cane is shaped like half of a heart.  Why not put two hearts together and call it hot cocoa for lovers? Très apropos for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, I’d say.  So, keep those candy canes stashed for another few weeks and consider this hot cocoa idea your Plan B if you don’t nab a reservation or a babysitter come February 14th.  Extra points if you drink your mugs beside the fire.

What you’ll need:

Good quality hot chocolate mix

organic milk

mini candy canes

freshly whipped cream

Note: I highly recommend owning a Mr. Coffee Cocoamotion if you enjoy hot chocolate.  The Cocoamotion creates perfectly frothed, hot cocoa in minutes.  You don’t have to worry about burning the milk if you have to step away for a moment, or worse, hot chocolate bubbling over the edge of the pan all over the stove.

Alternatively, you could put together a Peppermint Chocolate Affogato by using this recipe and then substituting good quality peppermint ice cream.

stephanie brubaker - chinese chicken salad

Favorite Dinner Salads (that Won’t Leave you Hungry!)

Posted by | Menu, Recipes, Steph B | No Comments

While I enjoy eating salad and try to serve one every night for my family, it’s typically not the only thing on the menu.  Rather, I enjoy salad as more of a side show, not so much a main course.  I suppose this is because I am typically still hungry after meals which only consist of just a salad.  However, there are five salads on rotation in my household that are hearty enough to count as main courses, dinner salads, if you will.  Each one calls for protein of some kind, so you can count on feeling satisfied after consuming all those leafy greens.  As an added bonus, most of these dinner salad recipes are kid-friendly!

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stephanie brubaker - parmesan rinds

Kitchen Tip: Save Your Parmesan Rinds

Posted by | FYI, How To, Steph B | No Comments

Since I serve some type of pasta to my family about once a week, I almost always have a wedge of Parmesan on hand (Parmigiano-Reggiano being my favorite–you can find it at Costco for a good price). That being said, I go through quite a few wedges over time (my kids enjoy it straight up and in heaps).  For a long time, I would toss the remaining parmesan rinds, not envisioning any type of use for them.

Then, one day I read about a chef creating a cookbook, one that included a recipe calling for a parmesan rind.  This chef received criticism for the recipe because it was considered “stuffy” or “unapproachable”.  For me, it was one of those ah-ha moments…now I knew exactly how to use these leftover rinds!  Henceforth, I began keeping the rinds in my cheese drawer, wrapped in parchment paper. Whenever I created a soup that I would consider garnishing with some fresh parmesan, I would throw in a rind with the broth. Minestrone, French Lentil, Roasted Cauliflower, etc.  The rind adds a richness to the broth, but not in an overwhelming way.  With a few more cold months ahead of us, give this little kitchen tip a try.  I think you will really enjoy it!

Thanksgiving Dinner Favors

Posted by | FYI, Holidays, Steph B | No Comments

a la modo pie boxes kraft lidded

With Thanksgiving Day a little over one month away, it’s time to start thinking about some of the details that make this special meal so memorable.  First, figure out who you would like to spend the holiday with this year and extend an invitation before calendars begin to fill. In order to ensure you aren’t a stressed out host, be sure to take your guests up on their generous offers to contribute to the meal; after all, one can’t have to many pies on hand!  You won’t regret it come Thanksgiving Day when you’re up early brining your bird (these bags and this brine will make your life easier). Next, order your turkey from your local butcher or fine foods market (or, better yet, look for a local farm that raises turkeys and order direct).  If there is one thing that makes a big difference on Thanksgiving, it’s a good bird.  And last, consider this cute way to package up leftover slices of pie for guests.  You can find these in my etsy shop (yes, this is my side business!) throughout the year, but they are especially fun for Thanksgiving.  Customize the boxes your own way with a Thanksgiving-themed stamp and some pretty twine or grosgrain ribbon.  Just be sure to save a few slices of pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning!

image via A La Modo

Easy Appetizer: Favorite Artisan Cheeses for a Holiday Cheese Plate

Posted by | FYI, Holidays, Steph B | No Comments

How many of you will be googling, “easy appetizer” over the course of the next month?  I’m sure there will be many!  Well, here is my favorite easy appetizer–an artisan cheese plate dotted with texture, color and great cheese.  The first step to creating a well-executed cheese plate is choosing a cheese that most people will enjoy.  My favorite crowd-pleasers are:

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Easy Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Posted by | How To, Steph B | No Comments

When it comes to canned pumpkin, I opt for the organic store brand at Whole Foods because the color is brighter and I feel like the flavor is more fresh than Libbys.  But every now and then I decide to put the cans of pumpkin aside and make my baked goods extra special with homemade pumpkin puree.  It’s really not difficult  to make so don’t feel intimidated by the process.  In fact, you could easily involve a child in this activity it’s that easy.   If you have five minutes, you have time to make homemade pumpkin puree from scratch.  Just try it once and see what you think!

 When choosing a sugar pumpkin (also known as a `pie pumpkin’), choose one that feels heavy.  One that gives you the impression that it is dense inside and full of all sorts of goodness.

View the “how-to” after the jump…

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