Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homesteading 101 - Substitutions and Solutions

The last time we were at Costco I stocked up on half and half. Without half and half, I find coffee totally un-consumable.  At which point I become unbearable, being that I am not a morning person in any sense of the word.  

In an effort to be prepared we bought three half-gallon containers of half and half.  It comes ultra pasteurized so the sell by date was sometime in mid-October.  Generally, when we lived “in town” I would buy 1-2 of these containers at a time.  I have never once had a container go to the dark side, and spoil.  I packed the containers tightly in a Coleman “Max Cold” ice chest, along with some frozen vegetables and headed for the homestead.  About 5 days later the cream began to spoil.  I dumped it, in disbelief at my misfortune and cracked open the next container. Confirmed the refrigerator is in fact as cold as it needs to be and chalked it up to a rare event and gave thanks for having a back-up supply. Two days later that was spoiled.  The third, opened, and it was already gone.  Disaster.  

I came out here prepared though, I bought a case of shelf-stable creamers at Costco as well “Mini-Moo’s”, which I knew would take about a dozen for a single cup of coffee, but knowing my attachment to half and half, a dozen small creamer containers in the trash would be worth it, because again without coffee I just might give up on everything.  

Somewhere in the manufacturing or shipping process a Moo must have burst and dripped cream all over the place. The result is a box full of Moo’s that have a distinct spoiled half and half aroma, which conjures up feelings of chunky cream and the failed trio of half-gallon goodness that fed the compost pile.  Sadness.  

This launched my desperate attempt for a good coffee creamer out here on the edge of nowhere.  I’m not one of those people that can happily get by on 2% milk in place of half and half.  I soon realized I had my work cut out for me.  The first “recipe” said to mix half and half from pantry ingredients by using a combination of milk and butter.  Excited and hopeful, I attempted it, and it failed....miserably.  It was the sorriest excuse for half and half I could have concocted.  

Back to Google.  “homesteading substitutions + half and half” resulted in a common theme: sweetened condensed milk and half and half.  To which I say “If I had half and half, I wouldn’t be here looking for substitutions”.  Then I did what I should have done in the first place -- call my Mom.  I told her about what I had tried then about the sweetened condensed milk, she interjected “All the old girls used evaporated milk -- that’s what Grandma used to use.  Do you have any?”.  Why yes, I just happen to have a can. No really.  In a desperate attempt to create the most well-stocked pantry known to man, I made it a point to pick up at least two of everything, a food-inspired version of Noah’s Ark, if you will.  Next, I did more research.  

I had seen “Allergy Free Alaska’s” post last week, basically it was her take on a sugar-free, vegan, and dairy-free pumpkin spice coffee creamer (link:  I really enjoy reading her posts and we seem to share the same passion for creating a recipe that has dietary restrictions and has some sort of food allergy and sensitivity component, with bonus points for transforming the recipe into a vegan one.  I consider it a culinary challenge of the highest order.  If you are able to work with multiple dietary restrictions and personal food choices, and create a culinary masterpiece - it’s like winning the gold medal in the Cooking Olympics.  So I took the framework that Allergy Free Alaska had set up in her Pumpkin Pie Spice Coffee Creamer, and ran with it.  Basically I added back in all the things she had aimed to take out, while admiring the craft she put into creating the vegan, dairy-free and sugar-free recipe.  

As I began mixing the ingredients together as sort of magic was in the air.  The color shifted with the addition of each ingredient, looking more appetizing as I went on adding things here and there - smells of fall baking filled the air.  Hopeful.  Excited. Could it be I was about to create culinary magic and whip up something better than I could ever find “in town”?  
Perhaps if you are a normal coffee drinker and follow the directions and suggested ratios per your coffee pot, you may be on to something without the addition of dairy products to the original Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte recipe.  However, I have never been on to read the directions, let alone follow them, and so the creamer failed.  Sadness.  


I heard my Mom’s voice whispering in my ear, it was saying “Evaporated milk......evaporated milk....” and something about “Do what your Mother told you to do the first time...”, and I began debating the merits of adding another ingredient to my failed concoction, potentially wrecking the whole works and having a failed recipe that would need to be somehow transformed into culinary magic in another incarnation.  I grabbed the can opener, said a silent prayer and went for it.  The addition of the evaporated milk created the rich, deep creamy color and offset the pumpkin orange tones, lightening things up a bit and looking a lot like a thin pumpkin pie filling.  I added this creamer to some coffee, stirred well, took a deep breath and a long lingering sip.  I am pretty sure angels started to sing the moment the pumpkin deliciousness hit my tongue.  Success. Culinary magic.  Bliss.  

Now I am feeling hopeful that I might actually manage out here - without half and half, but instead with willpower, determination and a little magic.  Looking out the window, watching the river run and the snow capped peaks tower high on the horizon, I feel like I have landed at the best coffee shop anywhere.  Savoring the moments.  

Cheers and Happy Fall to You All!   -Honey Mama 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte 

1 C Vanilla Almond Milk
14 oz Coconut Milk 
10 oz Evaporated Milk
1/2 C Regular Milk or Dry/Reconstituted 
1/3 C Brown Sugar 
1 t Vanilla Extract
1/2 C Pure Pumpkin (Canned)
1 t Cinnamon
1/2 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Cloves
1 T Butter 

Rocket Fuel Grade Coffee

Combine all ingredients (except coffee) in a sauce pan until it reaches a low simmer, stirring constantly.  Pour into a glass or stainless steel container with lid.  Enjoy. Refrigerate. shut off the burner, stir well. I ended up adding in the remaining failed half and half mix of butter and milk, because I thought it wouldn’t hurt.  I don’t know that I would do that again, but it seemed to work well on this go round.

For one grande sized latte:

12 oz  Rocket Fuel Grade Coffee 
4 oz Pumpkin Pie Spice Cream
For best results:

Heat creamer up on the stove in a small saucepan, until it reaches a low simmer.  Add the coffee in, stir well. Pour into mug. Enjoy. Cheers!


Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan until it reaches a low simmer, stirring constantly.  Pour into a glass or stainless steel container with lid.  Enjoy. Refrigerate. shut off the burner, stir well.

It could be “The Lodge Effect” at work here, but I am pretty sure this latte is far better than Starbucks ever put out in their fall feature drink line.   

Suggestions for alterations: replace the brown sugar with maple syrup, add in more vanilla, add in more pure pumpkin puree in the mix.  Or just leave it the way it is, because you can’t really top perfection.