Monday, October 28, 2013

5 Favorite Fall Sippers

Nothing pairs better with a book on an autumn evening or Sunday afternoon than a mug of something warm, spiced, and sweet.  Today I'm sharing five drinks I reach for when I'm turning pages in the fall.

1. Pumpkin Spice Latte
Of course, you can't have a list of hot fall drinks and exclude the Pumpkin Spice Latte!  I make my own syrup following this recipe and add it to strong coffee and warmed milk or half & half.  I adjust this recipe slightly by substituting the ground ginger for ground allspice and really overdoing it on the pumpkin puree (which isn't possible but amounts to about 1/3 cup).

2. Maple Spice Latte
I had a Maple Spice Latte a few weeks ago at a French cafe in Brookside (Kansas City).  It is reminiscent of a Pumpkin Spice version, but much subtler and more delicate.  Maple and cinnamon just go together so well.  Here's my version of the syrup.
1 cup water
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine everything in a saucepan, let simmer for 20 minutes, strain in a fine mesh strainer, and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Add with warmed milk to strong coffee or espresso.

3. Red Tea Latte
The last latte on the list is a simple Red Tea Latte.  My mom tried one at the cafe in the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Simply steep a red tea bag (Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla Red Tea is divine) in boiling water for about twice as long as recommended, warm a little milk or half & half in a saucepan, whisk to create foam, and add to the tea.  You can stir in sugar if you like, but I think it's wonderful without any sweetener at all. Try it with your favorite novel.

4. Spiced Apple Cider
Heat some local apple cider on the stove.  Maybe add a cinnamon stick, maybe a clove or two.  Put the cider in a thermos.  Take it and someone special to a park and marvel at the leaves.

5. Trader Joe's Harvest Blend Herbal Tea
This tea is just The Essence of Autumn, dried out, bagged up, and presented to you in a little golden box with a tea-sipping fox.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking some up.

Enjoy these drinks and the fall weather!

Friday, October 25, 2013

5 Classics for Halloween

With October thirty-first less than a week away, urges for scares and thrills have been dancing around in my skull.  When you think of Halloween tales, you might think of ghost stories, told around a blazing bonfire, preferably paired with s'mores.  But a creepy classic and a mug of hot spiced cider while snuggled on the couch works just as well.  Ever since my sister Jill read Dracula for her history class, she has been raving about it.  The classic vampire novel seems like the perfect Halloween read.  But why stop with Stoker?  Poe and Shelley deserve some All Hallow's Eve time, too.  So here is a list of classics I've been wanting to read that also create some Halloween spirit.

1.  "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving.
Ghosts of Revolutionary War heros and score-long naps.

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker.
The original modern vampire novel.

3. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. 
Shakespeare's darkest tragedy. Witchcraft, murder, tyranny, Scotland.

4. "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe.
Anything by the master of horror will chill your bones, but these two tales of murder and guilt are gruesomely popular.

5.  Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Published when she was 21 years old, the daughter of feminist heroine Mary Wollstonecraft spins a tragic tale of an evil scientist and his horrific monster.

Happy Halloween reading!