The countdown is on, can you believe it? 52 days until Christmas!
I just officially booked my trip to Germany and Prague for Christmas, and then Amsterdam for New Years! I’m so excited that I get to spend the holidays in Europe this year, why? Christmas Markets! Plain and simple. Mulled wine, holiday food and cities completely alive with all things Christmas! For those who know me well, you know Christmas is my all-time favourite holiday. I’m a huge holiday person, I absolutely love all the festivities and family activities that come along with them. Typically my decorations start going up November 1st, because what better way to welcome November than getting a kick start on Christmas. Unfortunately, I don’t own any Christmas decorations in Belgium, yet, but not to worry because that’s what this week is for.
The odd part about reaching November 1st this year was that Sunday I was sitting in a park reading my book and enjoying the sun – in a t-shirt! Brussels, 18 degrees and sunny in November, who knew?! But the nights are quickly getting shorter and so this week I used the evenings to do some more baking. I finally got around to roasting my first pumpkin! I couldn’t resist because I had to try a few more pumpkin treats before fall is over and Christmas is in full swing.
I roasted a small sugar pumpkin which took about 40 minutes in the oven. The skin easily fell off and after a few minutes in the blender I had about 2 cups of homemade pumpkin puree! First thing was first, I needed to try a new recipe my sister sent me from Oh She Glows. The best part about having sisters and friends, who love food as much as I do, is the constant flow of delicious new recipes that get sent back and forth on the daily. Seriously, if you look at our conversations half of the messages are pictures of food and links to recipes. My sister has me hooked to the food blog Oh She Glows, so when she sent me the Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins recipe I just had to try it. It’s the perfect mix between Christmas and Fall!
It took me the whole day to find molasses in anticipation of this recipe. Actually, no one had even heard of it or, more likely, they didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I finally found it in the USA section of the big supermarket. Luckily, Google told me it could also be called “black treacle” otherwise I would have passed right by the jar. It doesn’t matter though these muffins were DEFINITELY worth the search. I have yet to find Chai seeds here so I substituted the egg back into the recipe, sorry vegans, but otherwise no tweaks needed. These muffins are perfection. I could have eaten the whole batch right there but I restrained myself. I saved one to eat for dessert and froze the leftovers to take for breakfasts – these muffins work for any time of day!
But the real reason I wanted to make more pumpkin puree was to finally treat myself to some pumpkin spice lattes. At Thanksgiving I attempted a Pumpkin Coffee Creamer and was NOT satisfied with the results. Not enough pumpkin flavour and not creamy enough for my liking. It just wasn’t the delicious PSL that I was craving. Luckily, Oh She Glows – I‘m obsessed – came to the rescue with her Salted Pumpkin Spice Syrup. This syrup is so quick and easy and lasts in the fridge for weeks. I finally get to sit down in the afternoon before practice and enjoy my frothy almond milk pumpkin latte, I honestly think they’re better than Starbucks!
After waiting so long to enjoy my favourite fall coffee, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with my Christmas favourites. With molasses on hand and all the syrup ingredients still on the counter it seemed only right that a Gingerbread Syrup was next. I can’t believe it took the absence of a Starbucks to realize I should have been skipping the $5 lattes long ago for these homemade variations! It’s so easy to make, starting with a simple syrup base (water and sugar), you can add any flavours you desire. You can substitute more natural sugars like palm or coconut, or even cut half the simple syrup with maple syrup for less refined sugars. My grocery store actually does carry 100% Canadian Maple Syrup, but having already used up my two bottles, I just used brown sugar for this syrup.
Homemade Gingerbread Syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat until slightly thickened and all sugar is dissolved. Cool and strain into a sealable jar. Will last refrigerated approx. 2 weeks.
Now all I have to decide is.. Gingerbread or Pumpkin.
I used up the last of the pumpkin, how does 2 cups go so fast?, for breakfast this morning making pumpkin pancakes. You can’t buy the easy “Just Add Water” mixes that got me through university here, so I followed this nice light recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes. I added chocolate chips, because pancakes truly aren’t the same without them, and thoroughly enjoyed these pancakes with a pumpkin spice latte. I even snuck some pumpkin spice syrup on my last pancake for double the pumpkin flavour. Too much pumpkin? I think not!