Category Archives: Drinks

Hot Caramel Apple Spice Drink That Rivals Starbucks!

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Caramel Apple Spice
Caramel Apple Spice

My Chief Starbucks-loving husband and I had an appointment about an hour away from our home.  Since we were leaving early in the morning, I knew it meant a stop at the Starbucks down the road. [Side note: I don’t drink coffee.  I have never drunk coffee.  I like to cook and bake with coffee granules but do not care to drink it.  For me, Starbucks is a clean bathroom on the way to wherever we are going or coming from!]

On this particular day, I came out of the bathroom andThe Chief was still in line.  I wandered over and as he ordered I said to the Barista, “what do you have that isn’t coffee based?”  She immediately, “OH!  You must try the Caramel Apple Spice.  Caramel. Apple. Spice. What’s not to like?   At this point, I did something that is pretty uncharacteristic for me.  I just said “okay.”  I didn’t ask how much$. I didn’t look for calorie count (mistake) I just said “okay.”

But wait there’s more! Click to continue reading

DIY Better Than Starbucks Hot Chocolate

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“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”  (which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:23

My husband regularly receives Starbucks cards as gifts from friends and family. On a recent trip to New York he and our friend Russ were on a grocery run. A grocery “run” in Manhattan means just that. They head out on foot, rain or shine, and make the 3 block walk to the grocery store. They buy just the amount of groceries they can carry back home. This particular day it was cold, windy, and a little rainy. They stopped at the corner Starbucks for something warm. My chocolate-loving sweetheart ordered hot chocolate. When he arrived back to Hephzibah House where we were staying, he exclaimed “Starbucks hot chocolate is some of the best I’ve ever had!” I thought this must be pretty special hot chocolate since he KNOWS his chocolate!

After arriving back in Tennessee, armed with a newly gifted Starbucks card, he headed to Starbucks to purchase a can of their hot chocolate to enjoy in the comfort of home. Sadly, there was no hot chocolate to be found among all the stocking stuffers and Christmas-blend coffee.

Not to be discouraged from his quest for Starbucks Hot Chocolate we made a stop at the corner Starbucks in a town a few miles down the road where my sous-chef dish-washing mom had an appointment. We were quickly told by the clerk stocking the ample supply of coffee mugs that Starbucks “decided not to stock the Hot Chocolate in their stores. But, we could buy it online!”

 Ah, I did feel sorry for my chocolate-loving husband and I suggested he just use his gift card to buy a hot chocolate to drink there, since we had driven 30 miles to get there and all. “No thanks” he quietly said. He was out of the mood. He slipped his gifted Starbucks card back into his wallet and headed for the door.  I won’t go so far as to say he was pouting …

On the way back home I did what I usually do in the car and that is to read up on some of my favorite blog posts. When what to my startling eyes did appear “Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix” posted by the Brown Eyed Baker. The recipe came from Cooks Illustrated. That is when the idea popped into my head that I could make better than Starbucks hot chocolate.

I started with the basic recipe as created by Cooks Illustrated and posted by the Brown Eyed Baker. But my hot chocolate mix has to extraordinary. It has to be so rich and creamy my chocolate-loving husband will say, “now this is better than Starbucks!”

I changed two ingredients to make that happen. I used half dark chocolate cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate bakers bar.


The result – “Babe! This is better than Starbucks hot chocolate!”

End of story.

Happy Baking,

P.S.  What a fabulous and easy Christmas gift this makes!

DIY Better Than Starbucks Hot Chocolate
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A decadent and delicious hot chocolate perfect for gift giving!
Recipe type: Hot Drink
Serves: 12 servings
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chunked or chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • ½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until ground to a powder, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months.
  2. To Make Hot Chocolate: Heat 1 cup of milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to steam and bubbles appear around the edge of the saucepan. Add ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) of the hot chocolate mix and continue to heat, whisking constantly, until simmering, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Pour into a mug and serve. Marshmallows and whip cream optional but wonderful.
(Recipe adapated from Cook's Illustrated via The Brown Eyed Baker)


Low Cal Low Fat High Flavor — Iced Coffee

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I was helping my friend Susan put away her groceries and she pulled a 4-pak of Starbucks frappuccino coffee out of the frig.  She said, “here, give this to your husband.”  I said, “don’t you like it?”  She answered, “not at 200 calories per bottle!”  WHAT! 200 calories! Really? What is in there?  Coffee, milk, SUGAR and preservatives.  Susan likes iced coffee but not to the tune of 200 calories for 9.5 ounces.  As I was driving home I was thinking I could surely make iced coffee with less than 200 calories. As a part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program, I had just received a wonderful box loaded with recipes and samples of Sweet ‘N Low.  I got my little gray cells a scrambling thinking about how I could make iced coffee that Susan would drink.  Turns out I can make an iced coffee with less than 32 calories and it is absolutely delicious!  Shame on Starbucks.
A year ago my long-time friend Sue (of Victorio fame) told me about a recipe on the website of The Pioneer Woman.  My true confession is that until that time I hadn’t even heard of The Pioneer Woman. I know, I know, where have I been? Sue said Ree had just posted a recipe for Iced Coffee and that I should check it out.  One year later (slow learner here) I remembered that conversation and quickly Googled The Pioneer Woman Iced Coffee.  This recipe I am sharing is adapted from her recipe.  She makes her iced coffee 2 gallons at a time and since I am pretty sure I don’t need 2 gallons of iced coffee mix, I will share a recipe that makes one quart.  Since I have a French Press (that we don’t use) I started with that.  But you can use any container that will hold a quart of water.  Then I ground coffee beans to make 1/2 cup ground.  Ree says you can use “any ol’ coffee.”  I think the better the beans, the better the coffee, but you decide.

I added the coffee to one quart of cold water. 

I gave it a little stir and let it sit for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours.  This doesn’t need to be refrigerated at this point. Just set it on the counter and wait …
About 14 hours later I filtered the coffee. Since I was using a french press, which has a fine metal mesh filter, I used that first by pushing the coffee grounds to the bottom of the container.  I wasn’t sure if it actually filtered all the grounds so I also filtered through some muslin cloth.  If you aren’t using a french press, just skip this step and move right to filtering with a cloth.

When talking to Sue about this step she said, “uh, why don’t you just use a coffee filter?”  Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?  Okay, use cheese cloth, a piece of muslin OR a coffee filter 🙂 Because I had used the french press first, when I poured this through my muslin filter there was very little sludge and grounds left to filter.  I just poured this off into a glass measuring cup.  The results … pure, delicious, liquid gold!

Here is where the fun starts!  The first iced coffee was an afternoon treat for my Chief Culinary Consultant.  The Chief loves his coffee strong, creamy, and a little bit sweet.

I filled a mason jar with ice. (I was delivering this to him out in the shop and a mason jar fit the decor perfectly.) The newly made cold-brewed coffee was next.  Then I added two packets of Sweet ‘N Low which is about 1/2 teaspoon and 2 tablespoons of 2% milk.  I gave the whole thing a little stir and sipped a little taste.  WOW, this is good — even for a non-coffee drinker like me!
I added a swirl of real whip cream and delivered this liquid gold.  After a couple of sips he said, “it is every bit as good as the Starbucks frappuccino.”  Then he added, “no, it is better than Starbucks.”  Smart Man.  The remaining coffee was delivered to Susan and she was thrilled!

Iced coffee to cool off on a hot August day – wonderful.  Homemade and preservative free – great.  31 calories per drink – priceless!

Oh but wait … there’s more!  Just in case you want to really cool-off and crank this coffee drink up a notch, here are a couple of my favorite suggestions Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua or Frangelico Liqueur.

AND  to avoid watered down iced coffee…freeze some extra coffee into cubes and add coffee cubes to your drink instead of regular ice cubes!

Thank you to Sweet ‘N Low for sponsoring this fun coffee drink and especially for making it possible to be sweet and NOT 200 calories!

~Blessings, Catherine

As part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker Program, I received Sweet ‘N Low product and a stipend”.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:14,20 NIV

Frozen Hot Chocolate & Good-Bye July

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Good-bye July!  I know we still have a couple of days left of July but I never mind seeing it in the rear view of my memory.  Since July is typically way hotter than I like, I never mind saying goodbye. What it means to me is that I survived another southern summer month of July and that I best be deciding what kind of  birthday treat I am going to make for my Chief Culinary Consultant who will be celebrating a birthday next week 🙂  I have narrowed it down to – chocolate.  Actually, for the Chief’s birthday chocolate is a given.  I’ll let you know next week where it goes from there 🙂  Speaking of chocolate, did you see this post from The Brown Eyed Baker for Frozen Hot Chocolate!
Michelle put together a recipe of hot chocolate from scratch, put it in the blender with ice and milk and came up with this awesome frozen hot chocolate.  Me?  I hit the EASY button, took out a packet of Swiss Miss, added 1/2 cup milk, blended well.  Then I blended in 1 cup of ice and topped with whip cream.  The whole process took less than 1 minute and my family was d-e-l-i-g-h-t-e-d with this summer treat!I hope you are having fun this weekend and enjoying all that the summer sun has to offer.  If you are looking to spend a little time in the kitchen, don’t forget about these fun dishes.

Green Bean Buddies
Apple-Blackberry Crostata

And, if the garden, or your neighbor, has blessed you with a bag of fresh cucumbers you may be needing this recipe:  Crispy Cucumber Freezer Pickles


“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Psalm 112:5 NIV

~Happy Cooking and Sweet Blessings, Catherine


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