its that time of year again….

Chicago surprised us with a chilly weekend which has me REALLY excited about Fall. Sweaters, boots, scarfs, warm soups, stews, lots of baking, and…. pumpkin spiced things.

I usually treat myself to 1 Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks each year. and then, after finishing it, I suffer from buyers remorse because I think of all of that sugar, non-organic almond or soy milk they use, and the likely scary ingredients included in their “pumpkin spice” flavoring.

This year, especially Friday as I was wandering the streets of Chicago enjoying the sudden crisp in the air, I decided that  I would just make my own pumpkin spiced things so that I wouldnt have to deal with that buyers remorse anymore. Plus, making my own means that I can enjoy more of this Fall flavor over the course of the next couple of months.

Lucky for me, one of my favorite bloggers, 100 Days of Real Food, posted these recipes on Facebook last week, which timed out perfectly.

I took her general recipe and tweaked it a bit:

3/4 cup steamed Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk
2 shots espresso or coffee (I like strong coffee drinks; you could use 1 shot if you want it a little milder)
1 tsp Organic Maple Syrup
1 tbls Organic Pureed Pumpkin
1/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (I made my own using this recipe from another favorite blogger, My Baking Addiction)

and the result? a delicious pumpkin-y morning drink without the worry.

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I’m going to continue playing around with this recipe along with other pumpkin spiced recipes as Fall approaches….

Spring Break 2013.

In hindsight, I should have done a lot less “having fun” and “relaxing” and “spring cleaning” and a lot MORE  “studying” and “prepping for midterms” over my Spring Break…… but alas, I cant turn back time and change that.

The good news is, I had a great, fun, and productive week anyway (regardless of what my midterm grades were).

Here’s a peek into my Spring Break thanks to Instagram:

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coffee. lots and lots of coffee.

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baking. lots of baking.

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I tried out FoodBabe’s Decadent Pound Cake with Chocolate Frosting… which is now a new favorite in our household.

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spent two different days in Laguna Beach with my brother. It truly is a peaceful and fabulous place.

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Laguna Coffee Co = amazing.

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Ziggy loves the beach.. and the City of Laguna Beach is extremely dog friendly.

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I spent a little time day-dreaming of a beautiful home on the beach.

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love brother & sister days of fun.

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checked out the new Stone Company Store in Oceanside… fantastic dog friendly patio!

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and made lots of yummy & healthy breakfasts since I wasnt have to dart out of the house to get to class.

Bran Muffins, a snacking staple to have around the house.

I always like to have some healthy, filling muffins around the house (and in the freezer!) for snacks, additions to breakfast, or even dessert.
So I’m pretty much always on the hunt for new muffin recipes to try out.

I tried this recipe for Bran Muffins that I found at 101 Cookbooks, yesterday.
It turned out great! Most and slightly fluffy but with the density you expect from a good bran muffin. I added walnuts and dried cranberries to mine… but the sky is the limit for what you can put in them.

Yogurt & Honey Bran Muffins
(recipe from 101 Cookbooks, who adapted the recipe from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons raw natural cane sugar OR brown sugar
2 cups full fat yogurt (I used Fage greek yogurt)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey, preferably a light honey such as clover
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of add-ins of your choice – dried cranberries, walnuts, etc (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees, racks in the middle.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, salt, baking soda and sugar.

Beat together the yogurt, egg, honey, and butter in a second larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and fold in until everything comes together. Fold in any optional add-ins, raisins, nuts, and the like. Resist overmixing.

Either grease a muffin tin with butter or line the tin with muffin liners.
Fill each 3/4 full. Bake 12 -17 minutes, until muffins are golden on top and cooked through.

Makes about one dozen larger muffins OR about 18 regular sized muffins.

and, these pair great with a hot cup of French Press coffee… which is exactly how I am enjoying mine this morning.

holiday recap, part one: Thanksgiving.

We spent Thanksgiving in Fresno (as we have every year since we started dating). I drove to Santa Clarita on Wednesday evening to meet up with Aaron at work and then we were on our way North as soon as he wrapped.

We decided to stop in Bakersfield for a little snack to break up the drive. I only allow myself to splurge on In-n-Out once or twice a year and trust me when I say this time was particularly delicious. However, once I devoured it (and for the record: I wasnt able to finish it all) I quickly remembered why I only eat this every six months or so; its just so high in sodium and so filling that it left me feeling tired and miserably full. Luckily we still had a 2 hour drive ahead of us, so I was able to sleep through my food coma.

The drive was painless (and quick considering I napped for the majority of it!) and we went to sleep not too long after we arrived at Aaron’s parents house.

Thanksgiving morning was nice and relaxing. Normally Thanksgiving morning is full of prepping, cooking, and baking… but this year it was pleasantly restful. I spent a large portion of the morning sitting on the couch in my flannel pj’s drinking coffee, snuggling Ziggy, and doing a little online shopping from my iPad.

Our first Thanksgiving stop that afternoon was filled with football, good food, and of course: fantastic wine. I was glued to the TV for the last bit of the Texans game (that went into overtime) but made my way to the table for Thanksgiving meal #1 as soon as the game was over (the Texans won!)

While eating our feast, we manged to go through several bottles of Justin Isosceles wine (one of my absolute favorites) and were spoiled with some really great vintages…. and 2 of them were even Isosceles Reserve!

We then relocated to Thanksgiving meal #2… where we ate even more great food and drank even more great wine (there is never a shortage of wine… or food in Fresno).

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was spent at the Fresno State/Air Force football game. We arrived early for the [very impressive] tailgating festivities and got our fill of early morning booze and breakfast tacos before the game started.

Sunday morning we packed up the car and made the drive back to LA earlier than normal in order to avoid the “return to LA” traffic on the Grapevine. We made it back home in pretty good time and spent the rest of the day unpacking and resting up for our final weeks of school (finals!) and work before our holiday hiatus and the hustle and bustle of Christmas began.

San Francisco: running, food, and shopping.

A few weeks ago I met my mom in San Francisco for a long weekend of food, shopping, and running a half-marathon. The whole purpose of the trip was the half-marathon but it should come as no surprise that our entire weekend was centered around food.

We arrived Thursday night and met up at SFO before taking the BART into the city. We stayed at the Hilton in Union Square which is a short walk from the Powell BART station.

We checked into the hotel and quickly made our way to our dinner reservations at Hops&Hominy. For a place with hops in the name, their beer selection was pretty disappointing. They did have Autumn Maple from The Bruery (which we ordered) but there were only about 6 beer options to choose from and only 2 were California beers. The food was good, but not anything super special. Id say this place is best for an after work drink and an appetizer, but thats about it.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel, took in the amazing view from our 36th floor room, and quickly called it a night.

The next morning (Friday) we got a little bit of a slow start thanks to my migraine headache. Luckily it went away enough for us to venture out just in time for the NWM Expo to open. We were able to pick up our race packets, experience the expo, and make it to the NikeTown store to shop and find our names on the wall without too much chaos or too many long lines.

We took a cab over to the Ferry Building and walked around a bit. I just love the Ferry Building. We stopped at my favorite stores: Miette, Heath Ceramics (they also have a location in our neighborhood in LA, which is actually where I get all of my Weck jars) and Village Market. We actually didnt get a latte from Blue Bottle (which is surprising) but we had just finished a latte when we arrived.  We had lunch at Market Bar and then made our way back to Union Square. We found the lululemon store just south of Chinatown and helped stimulate the economy a little bit and then we wandered around a little more and made it back to our hotel in time to change and cab it to our dinner reservations at Baker & Banker.

I highly recommend Baker & Banker. Small place, great food, great wine selection, and great service. We left overly full and a little giggly from one too many glasses of delicious wine. We took a cab back to our hotel and were in bed soon after.

Saturday was a gorgeous day.
We woke up to this view:

We walked over to Farm:Table for breakfast; which is a super cute and super small place in the Union Square/Nob Hill area. They only have one table which is designed to be a community table and their menu is small, but the food is delicious and they have a great latte. I really cannot recommend this place enough, but please be advised that this place is small. Most of the locals were coming in for a latte to go.

After breakfast we made our way to the Mission area. We got another cup of coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters and then went and grabbed some of the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had at Tartine Bakery. With our goodies in tow we walked over to Dolores Park and enjoyed them while enjoying the unbelievably beautiful day.

About the time we were done devouring our pastries at the park, my Aunt came and picked us up. We drove around the city a bit and then found ourselves sitting in another park by the marina starting at the Golden Gate Bridge.

We made our way back to our hotel and met up with my dear friend Sarah and her friend Andrea for a drink at Urban Tavern that was located at the bottom of our hotel. Then we made our way to our dinner reservations at Cafe Tiramisu. The restaurant was nestled down an adorable alley. Dinner was wonderful, the wine was wonderful, and the company was fantastic.

Sunday morning we woke up at 4:30am. We got ready, had our coffee, and made our way to Union Square to meet up with Sarah at the starting line around 6am. The race finally started at 7am and we enjoyed 13.1 miles of beautiful scenery, chilly temperatures, and lots of hills. Mom and I finished the race (so proud of her!) and we were eager to get our Tiffany finishers necklaces and get back to the hotel to shower.

Unfortunately, getting back to Union Square ended up being much more difficult that we had planned (trust me when I say it was a nightmare) But, after a couple of hours of trying and a city bus later, we finally made it back.
We showered, put on our necklaces, and headed to our lunch reservations at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus. Lunch was great and we enjoyed a much-needed bloody mary, but we were both pretty tired from the days events.

As a gift to us for finishing the race, Dad treated us to a handbag from Louis Vuitton. So, even though we were exhausted, we managed to find the energy to do a little shopping before heading back to the hotel to pack our suitcases, order room service for dinner, and fall fast asleep.

We got up early on Monday morning and took the BART to SFO.
After going through security I saw this sign:

I had heard of SFO having yoga rooms available in their terminals; I’m so glad that I was actually able to see one! Hopefully this trend catches on and they put them in airports all over the country.

While walking to my gate I heard someone say “Tanis, is that you??!!” and I turned around to find one of my good friends from high school who I had not seen in 10 years! Luckily we were early enough to the airport that we were able to sit and catch up for about 45 minutes. It was so great seeing Evan after all of these years; I am so glad he noticed me! Its such a small world.

my morning coffee.

I couldn’t agree more. Especially during the cooler months (and its finally getting cooler in Southern California). I absolutely love mornings that require being bundled up in a blanket or a hoodie and my not-very-cute-but-very-warm Ugg slippers with a hot cup of coffee in hand.

I am definitely a morning person. My younger self would have laughed at the thought that I would eventually enjoy getting up early and would do it voluntarily. I was never one that could sleep until noon or later (like so many of my high-school and college friends could) but I wasn’t one to pop up at 6 or 7 am either. My wake-ups hovered around 9 or 10am for most of my young adult life; but around the time I moved to Chicago my love for both coffee and mornings grew. I remember getting up early on the weekends so that I could go grab a latte and wander around the city before everyone else woke up and when I moved to Los Angeles I spent my weekends doing the same. Getting up early, stopping by Starbucks for my daily Triple Grande Soy Latte and wandering around my neighborhood for hours if my schedule allowed.

I was one of those people at Starbucks that the baristas knew. I would walk in and they would know my name, my order, and would even notice if I cut my hair. I went there every. single. day. and got the very same order each time. I’m going to admit, it was more about the experience than the quality of the latte. It was good, but there are so many other places that offer a better product. I just liked my daily morning routine with the added social aspect.

Once Aaron and I moved to our current apartment it was a little too far for me to drive to that same Starbucks every day. and the one near our new place wasnt nearly as easy to get to and the people wernt nearly as nice. Luckily, Aaron’s parents gave us an amazing espresso machine one Christmas that I instantly fell in love with. It is an incredible machine and probably one of my favorite appliances, ever. We use it each and every day and only go out for coffee on rare occasion.

So my morning routines have changed a bit over the past couple of years. Instead of getting up early and going to get my morning coffee fix at Starbucks; I am able to enjoy my coffee right in the comfort of my own home.  If I have somewhere to be (school, yoga, etc) I will get up extra early so that I have time to enjoy my cup of coffee (or two) while catching up on my favorite blogs, snuggling Ziggy, and maybe even doing a little online shopping 🙂

My morning coffee time really is my favorite part of my day.

And the cool thing is: if I decide I want to treat myself and go to Starbucks- I go to the same one I frequented daily… and they still know my name and my order.

a taste of Summer.

This Summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. Between a 6 week summer school course, Aaron having to have a [very unexpected] appendectomy, and just some general craziness…. it seems to have gone by too quickly. How is it already August?

Luckily, I have captured some of what we have been up too during our limited “free time” thanks to Instagram:

 [the occasional relaxing morning with coffee and a good read]

 [my newest obsession: Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars and Talenti Gelato!]

 [sushi on a dog friendly patio]

 [hidden beneath a beer cap]

 [Omusubi lunch in Santa Monica]

 [my new favorite summertime breakfast: oats, chia seeds, 
walnuts, and almond mik; chilled over night in a Mason Jar]

 [we were missing Chicago, so we ordered some local deep-dish from Hollywood Pies.
Its not as good as Chicago, but it works in a pinch]

 [road trip snacks: ThinkThin bars and GT’s Kombucha]

 [Aaron ran some errands one day and returned with some of my favorite things!]

[Whole Foods was having a beer sale, so……]

 [written at the bottom of Melgard Public House’s menu]

[homemade pizza night with friends]

 [crockpot cheesecake made in individual ramekins; topped with strawberries]

my top 3 favorite coffee beans:

Its pretty obvious that I love coffee… hell, part of my blog name is even dedicated to the stuff. My first thought in the morning is “I cant wait to enjoy my hot cup of coffee while I read my favorite blogs”.

Ive tried many different types of coffee beans in my day and over the years Ive managed to narrow down my favorites to the following 3:

Now, I cant really rank these in order from #1 to #3 since they are all pretty equal in their deliciousness, so I will list them in no particular order…

Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco California

[photo from This Yuppie Life]

[photo from Blue Bottle Coffee]

Carpe Diem Coffee, from Spring Hill Coffee Roasters, Mobile Alabama

Urth Cafe Coffee, Los Angeles California

mmm, coffee. I cant wait to enjoy some tomorrow morning.

** please note, this is based on whole bean, brewed at home in my espresso maker coffee… this does not reflect my favorite lattes purchased on location. Tune in later for that entry.

coffee FYI:

have you ever stared at the Starbucks menu wondering what the heck some of the drinks actually are? what is the ratio of foam? no foam? water? how much water? and, most importantly, how much caffeine is in there?

here’s a little image to help decode the [sometimes confusing] coffee lingo: