DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

latte2October starts next week and with October comes an influx of pumpkin flavored everything. It’s something people are obsessed with – particularly the pumpkin spice latte that coffee shops re-introduce to the public every fall for a limited run. One man went so far with his obsession, he made it his mission to put pumpkin spice syrup on everything: pizza, bacon, yogurt, curry. Pumpkin spice is good, but we’ll stick with the coffee idea! Here is a recipe for DIY pumpkin spice latte:

When people refer to pumpkin spice, what they really mean is pumpkin PIE spice. Pumpkin pie spice is exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of spices mixed together (you can buy it premixed) to add to pumpkin and other ingredients to make our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies:pumpkindishes

  • 4 parts ground cinnamon
  • 4 parts ground nutmeg
  • 4 parts ground ginger
  • 3 parts ground allspice

A homemade pumpkin spice latte is straightforward:

  • 2 cups milk (whole milk works best)
  • 2 TB pumpkin puree
  • 2 TB granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup espresso
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Pumpkin pie spice for sprinkling

latte1Directions: In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, bring the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, and 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to a simmer, whisking slowly to combine the ingredients evenly and so the milk doesn’t burn. For frothy milk, transfer the milk to a blender, add the espresso and vanilla and carefully blend on medium-high speed (do not close the lid all the way, the heat from the milk will cause the lid to pop off when you blend). If whipped cream is enough froth for you, stir the espresso and vanilla into the sauce pan and whisk well. Divide between two mugs, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

The homemade pumpkin spice latte goes well with homemade apple muffins. If you can’t get enough pumpkin, the latte also goes well with pumpkin rolls, pumpkin muffins or even pumpkin pie. Enjoy your lattes!pumpkins

 

Behind the Scenes: LTD’s Food Stylist

JasonAs LTD Commodities customers, you know we have a wide variety of products – from garden tools to Superman Socks – but you wouldn’t know what we have without great pictures. To make those pictures great, we have different stylists for different products and we have one stylist – Jason — who devotes his days to food. We stopped in behind the scenes at the photo studio to ask Jason a few questions about his work while he put together some Halloween-themed dishes.

LTD: How did you get into food styling?

Jason: I was a visual merchandiser for a retailer for many years where I was responsible for setting up scenes in my store to make shoppers want to buy items. I like to cook, so I used my visual background to take pictures of the food I make and it turned into a career.

LTD: What do you use to inspire you?

Jason: I use my favorite magazines to inspire me. There’s an Australian food magazine that I look at where the food photos are absolutely amazing. I strive to be as precise and creative as their stylists.

LTD: What is the most difficult part of food styling?

Jason:  Working with food that’s not camera-friendly is difficult. I have to make ingredients do what they’re not supposed to do. For example, I have to make whipped cream stay perfectly fluffy for the entire shoot when normally it would melt into the mug of hot chocolate it is sitting on top of.

JasonLTD: What are the three most important things to remember when styling?

Jason: 1. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again.

2. What I’m looking at is not what the camera sees. I have to style from the camera’s point of view, not mine.

3. Be open to other people’s suggestions; sometimes great ideas come from others’ input.

LTD:  Do you have a favorite product you styled for?

Jason:  I love styling for cookbooks because I can make the dishes in the book and that’s what I love doing at home.

JasonLTD: What is the most satisfying part of food styling?

Jason:   Those shots where after I see the finished product, I can say “wow, that makes me hungry.” That and seeing the smiles on coworkers faces when I get to serve them the food I just worked on.

We’re excited to be on Jason’s team — he makes great food look even better. Keep your eye out for his work — with the holidays coming up, he’s staying busy to show you our favorite holiday gifts.

Football Season Begins: 4 Man Cave Essentials

mancaveEveryone needs a place to call their own, and that includes the man of the house. The man cave creates a space where he can relax and do as he pleases without fear of interference from the ladies. It is a place where he can enjoy an adult beverage, yell at the TV, play games, and hang out with the guys. It can be the basement, attic, a rehabilitated office, or a shed. A man cave does not need to be fancy, but here are a few things a fully functional “mantuary” needs. Here are 4 man cave essentials.

mancaveSeating The main point of a man cave is to create a comfortable place to relax. That requires plenty of seating. No man cave is complete without at least one recliner. Nothing makes a guy feel like the master of his domain like putting his feet up. Take the recliner one step further with a reclining sofa or sectional that provides seating for visitors. If your man cave has a bar, stools are mandatory. Beanbag chairs are classics, and you can opt for sofa-sized ones or special designs that convert to guest beds.

Refrigeration Since no one wants to constantly run back and forth to the kitchen for drinks and snacks, the man cave needs a place to keep them chilled. It can be as simple as an old refrigerator or mini fridge appropriated for the room. If beer is your beverage of choice, try a fridge with a built-in tap . There even are appliances specifically designed to hold and cool a keg, as well as dispense beer. DIY kits help you convert a fridge to a drink dispenser. Keep your drinks and food even closer at hand with a coffee table with a built-in cooler.

Entertainment The crown jewel of any man cave is its entertainment system. Often, the entire point of establishing a man cave is to have a place to host game day parties or to watch favorite movies and TV shows. A flat screen TV, as large as you can afford and the room can hold, and a DVD player are absolute musts. Include a game console for days when nothing is on. Don’t forget tables and equipment for other pastimes, like pool, foosball, darts, and poker.

mancaveDécor The thing that really sets the man cave apart from the rest of the house is its décor. It is a spot where a man can escape from the pastels, floral prints, and matching furniture that fills most homes. A sign on or near the door should make it clear visitors are entering a male sanctuary. Look for one with the logo of your favorite team, or get a personalized one with your name. Beer-themed decorations are very popular, but do not limit yourself to that. Show off your sports memorabilia, or transform the space into a tribute to your favorite pop culture icons. Do not forget posters from your favorite movie. A man cave with an attached bathroom is the ultimate in luxury. If you are so blessed, make sure to extend the décor into the bath.

 

Cheese Pizza Day: 6 Tips for Homemade Pizza

cheese-pizzaMark your calendars: National Cheese Pizza Day is September 5th. There are few foods that can instantly put your smile on a face the way pizza does. It’s the food for all ages – young and old enjoy pizza in all shapes, temperatures and texture. Frozen, delivery or homemade, even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good. But, of course, when you’re making homemade pizza, you want it to be better than pretty good, so here are 6 tips for great homemade pizza.

Weigh it Baking is a science. All professional bakers measure ingredients by weight using a digital kitchen scale. Using a scale makes measuring more accurate and, in turn, more tasty. It’s not a must for making great pizza, but it certainly makes a difference. Besides, learning to measure opens up a new world of professional recipes you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Plan Ahead Just about every pizza dough recipe you find requires it to be refrigerated overnight. When you’ve mixed together the yeast, water, salt, and flour, kneaded it and let it rise, it’s very tempting to skip the refrigeration step – don’t! Pizza dough ferments while it’s in the refrigerator. One night of fermentation is great, but three nights makes it super. This is how they do it in New Haven. If you’ve ever had New Haven apizza (that’s not a typo – that’s what they call it in New Haven), you’ve had some of the best pizza in the world.

cheese-pizzaRoll it Out In movies and TV shows you see people spinning and tossing pizza dough out over their heads to make a perfectly circular pie; what you don’t see is that it takes years of practice to make it look that easy. Tossing pizza dough is really hard. Don’t be ashamed of using a pin. It’ll make nice circles and it won’t take you years to do it.

Keep it Loose Professionals and serious pizza makers toss the dough, top it and slide it into the oven with the help of a pizza peel (like a big paddle) and a lot of semolina or cornmeal to make it loose so it doesn’t stick to the peel. To do that without everything falling off into your oven in one big lump also takes a lot of practice. But you can skip the practice and the equipment (unless you’re aiming for authentic). Parchment paper or bake mat work just fine to replace the cornmeal and the pizza peel. Roll your dough out on the paper, top it, carry it to the oven and lower it onto the pizza stone. Easy-peasy, pizza-cheesy.

cheese-pizzaKeep it Flat The best homemade pizzas are made with pizza stones, but you don’t have to have one to make a pizza good. Flip over a cookie sheet and use the bottom for your flat surface. Make sure you preheat the oven with the pan inside (as you would with a pizza stone) so it’s hot when you slide your pizza in. Alternatively, you can assemble it all in a cast iron skillet and bake it just like Pizza Hut.

Get it Hot! Turn your oven up as high as the temperature can go – most ovens won’t go much higher than 500°F. The dough has to be baked all the way through without burning the cheese on top. The high temperature for a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) allows the pizza crust to get crispy and the cheese just hot enough to bubble and melt.

Pizza is hard to make – which is why there are so many alternatives to making it at home. But eating a pizza you created yourself is way more satisfying than anything you can buy. Happy Cheese Pizza Day!

Relaxation Day: 5 Ways to Relax Before School Starts

The first day of school is just around the corner. It’s a stressful time of year, but, luckily, August 15th is Relaxation Day and we’re using it as a reminder to loosen up before everything turns topsy-turvy with the new school year. Here are 5 ways to relax before school starts.

Dog

Image source: Chapple via Flickr

Take Time for Your Pet Having a dog or cat around to bond with has shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. In fact, at some university campuses, they’ve employed therapy dogs for students to visit when school becomes too stressful. At Harvard Medical School, you can even “check out” a dog just like you check out a book. If it works at Harvard, it may just work for you.

Exercise A good workout may not sound appealing, but aerobic exercise can actually help you relax. It lowers stress hormone levels and releases endorphins – the feel-good chemical. In addition to releasing endorphins, according to a study from Princeton University, exercise re-organizes the brain to shield it from stress. Take 30 minutes to jog down the street and you’re on your way to relaxation.

neck-massagerTouch There aren’t many people out there who would turn down a massage. In addition to feeling good physically, it can reduce anxiety, stress and aggression. Australian researchers examined the effects of daily massage on participants over seven weeks and tracked their anxiety and aggression levels. They found massage reduced stress and anxiety almost instantly. A daily massage may not be a reasonable activity, but the effects may warrant having a massage ball or neck massager handy at all times.

Play with Your Kids You only have a few weeks left to spend time with your kids, so playing with them is a no-brainer. What you might not know is studies show playing reduces stress. Researchers at Kansas State University found the more time mothers spent engaging with their children, the less overwhelmed they felt. You love being around them anyway, that they make you feel relaxed is an excellent bonus.

chocolate-cupcakeEat There are all sorts of soothing foods you can eat to relax. At the top of that list is dark chocolate. It contains Tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin which can help your sleep and improve your mood. Tryptophan is found in a variety of foods – honey, spinach, cheese, eggs, duck, to name a few. When you’re planning your next meal, make it a relaxing one and be sure dark chocolate is for dessert.

Anytime is a good time to relax, but sometimes we have to make a point of working it into our schedules. Make Relaxation Day your notice to slow down before things hit hyper-speed on the first day of school.

5 Summer Cocktail Ideas for Lounging on Hammock Day

hammock-1July 22nd is Hammock Day — which is perfect for the middle of July because all we want to do is lounge in a hammock and sip a cold cocktail. So we came up with a list of fun and easy cocktails to drink on Hammock Day.

CocktailsTea with a Kick

Peachy Hard Iced Tea 

  • 1/3 cup peach liqueur
  • ¼ cup TB spiced rum
  • 1/4 cup peach schnapps
  • 1/8 cup vodka
  • 1 cup sweet tea
  • Lemon wedges

Combine the first four ingredients and pour over two glasses of ice. Stir in tea. Squeeze in lemon to taste. Makes about 4 servings.

Citrus with Spice

Moscow Mule

  • ¾ cup vodka
  • Fresh lime juice from 1 lime
  • 3 cups ginger beer

Combine vodka and lime juice in a shaker with ice and shake it up. Pour over four glasses of ice and top with ginger beer and gently stir. Garnish with lime slices. Makes about 4 servings.

Cocktails-2

 

Berry with a Bang

Berry Shandy

  • 3/4 cup blackberries or raspberries, muddled
  • 4 bottles light beer (a lager like a pilsner is best)
  • 1 (12-oz.) container frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 TB blackberry or raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup vodka

Stir together ingredients. Pour over ice. Garnish with lemon slices. Makes about 6 servings.

Melon with Marvel

Watermelon Sangria

  • 1 small watermelon, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 750ml bottle white wine (dry is best – a sauvignon blanc or a white Burgundy would be ideal)
  • ¾ cup vodka
  • ½ cup triple sec
  • ½ cup simple syrup

In a blender, puree watermelon into a juice and strain through a sieve or a cheese cloth to remove chunks. Combine the strained juice with remaining ingredients and refrigerate for two hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over ice. Makes about 7 servings.

You don’t have to have a cocktail to enjoy the day in a hammock, but if you have a hammock, this is a reminder to get out there and enjoy it while the weather is lovely.

Happy Hammock Day!

Who We Are Following

The Internet is exploding with new slants and twists to simplify and enhance our lives. We’re on Pinterest, Twitter and the blogosphere, watching for what’s trending, what’s useful and what we think you might like. Here’s our list of who we are following:

theidearoomAt  theidearoom.com, Amy, as a science teacher turned-DIYer-blogger-crafter, shares fun projects to inspire even the craftiest of people. She has tips on everything from dealing with a child’s temper tantrum to creating a DIY vertical flower bed. For June, our favorite was her 30 day photo challenge post. Inspiring indeed.

Every-MileEverymilesamemory.com chronicles Pat and Cindy Bonish’s travels in their RV. They’ve been on the road for the last two or so years, living, loving and taking pictures of all the places they’ve seen around this beautiful country of ours. Their story is inspiring and their pictures are enviable. Their latest adventure was to Cedar Key, Florida; check it out and you won’t be able to trade in your house keys for RV keys fast enough.

Pinterest

PinterestJen Simpson  pins and pinspires. Her boards vary – she throws a “pet-shaming” board in between her breakfast recipe and home improvement boards and you might even find a board dedicated solely to Valentine’s Day wallpaper. However unpredictable her pinning ideas are, the inspiration is always consistent.

Mandy Naranjo is full of tricks and tips to share and we’re so glad she shares them with us on Pinterest. She’s not short on ideas for what to do with a box full of buttons or what teens can do with their extra energy. DIY and crafts are what on Mandy’s mind and, you know, great minds think alike.

TwitterTwitter

@craftaholicanon If you have a DIY or craft question, @craftaholicanon will answer it. Really. Just tweet her – she’s standing by with a response or she’ll find someone who can give you the answer. In addition to answers, she also offers craft tutorials, creative ideas for the family and holidays.

@allthingsthrift tweets from every angle to keep things affordable whether you’re making holiday decorations yourself or you need a new blueberry recipe. Hair tutorials, DIY day bed pallet projects and a July 4th wreath are all on @allthingsthrift’s Twitter feed this month.

Pinners, tweeters and bloggers – there are a lot out there with great ideas; these are just a few we think are worth following.

Items We Adore: LTD Product Picks for the Week

Getting organized often seems like a daunting, as well as expensive, task. However, just a few quick changes can make your life more efficient, freeing up more time to relax with a pitcher of lemonade or iced tea. LTD’s Product Picks of the Week get you started without breaking your budget.

Slim-can-and-spice-racks

Get maximum kitchen storage in a minimum amount of space with the wooden Slim Can and Spice Rack.

Brick-or-siding-clips

Use these Brick or Siding Clips as an easy and simple way to decorate vinyl sided or brick walled homes.

2-pc-quilted-auto-organizer-sets

Keep everything a driver needs at hand with a 2-Pc. Quilted Auto Organizer Set.

set-of-2-silicone-counter-gap-covers

Prevent spills and dust collection in hard-to-reach places with a Set of 2 Silicone Counter Gap Covers.

Shatter-resistant-pitcher

The ergonomic design of the Shatter-Resistant Pitcher makes it easy for anyone to pour themselves a drink.

Fried Chicken Day: Best Places for Fried Chicken

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

July 6th is National Fried Chicken Day… Everyone has a different idea of how it should be done, but there isn’t a wrong way to do fried chicken. Here are some of the best places for fried chicken around the country.

Texas In Texas, Houston’s Barbecue Inn takes the top spot for fried chicken. It’s been in business for almost 70 years and everything is old-school – it’s the type of place where kale is used as a garnish, not in a salad and the only other green you might find on your plate is a side of creamy cole slaw. But you’re not going for the vegetables, you’re going for the fried-to-order chicken that is worth the wait.

Florida Jumbo’s Restaurant in Miami serves up crispy fried chicken every minute of every day. The food is consistent and it should be – just about everyone who works there has been there for decades with an extensive menu to match; you don’t have to stop with the fried food (conch and shrimp are also favorites), you can get everything from a chicken liver omelette to sweet and tasty fried plantains.

fried-chicken

Image Source: Robyn Lee via Flickr

Pennsylvania Good ‘n’ Plenty in Smoketown not only gives you home-style fried chicken, they also serve it to you home-style – which means you might be seated next to a stranger, sharing a pitcher of iced tea, eating all you want for one price. But if you want to try the fried chicken, you have to keep up with their menu – it’s on a weekly rotation.

Ohio At Mya’s Fried Chicken in Columbus they keep it simple; they have to because they’re working out of a truck – and only on the weekend. Chicken, biscuits and a few sides are what’s on the menu, but do you really need more? Not in Ohio.

Fried-Chicken

Image Source: Maigochan via Flickr

California In Los Angeles, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is a classic spot to get breakfast any time. They serve just about every part of the chicken next to waffles, biscuits or potatoes smothered in gravy. But if you’re craving chicken and waffles while you’re in LA, be prepared to wait; the lines there are legendary.

Wherever you are on July 6th, there’s bound to be a great fried chicken place near you. Do yourself a favor and order a few drumsticks for the occasion; you won’t regret it.

Pinteresting Picks for June

It’s the last day of June and summer is in full-swing — we can tell just by looking at our Pinterest boards. We looked at our most pinned products — they’re all very different, but there’s definitely a summer theme to the selections. Here is our list of Pinteresting Picks for June.

Splish-Splash

Your kids will jump at the chance to make waves in this Banzai Splish Splash Pool. Overflowing with nearly 8 feet of fun, this inflatable water playground gives toddlers a cool retreat from the heat. Six activity stations include a rainbow canopy, whale slide, water-spraying starfish stacker, baby dolphin rider, clamshell sprinkler and water-spraying pool rim. Simply attach to your garden hose and let the fun begin.

 

Gnome-Tree

Solar Gnome Tree House will put a smile on the face of everyone who sees it. This whimsical garden accent features windows that light up using the power of the sun. Turns on automatically at dusk.

 

Smores-Grill-Rack

Prepare everyone’s favorite campfire treat on the grill with this S’mores Grill Rack. The stainless steel platform holds graham crackers and chocolate on top, while the sides can hold marshmallows on two of the four included skewers.

 

Body-Pillows

A 52″ Bright Body Pillow is a fun and comfortable addition to your bedroom. Cradle it for extra support while sleeping on your side. Lean back onto it when reading or watching TV. Works as a decorative pillow for your bed as well.