How to make easy pumpkin pie pancakes

It is the season of feasting, and what better seasonal ingredient to overdose on than pumpkin? Our household cranks out pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so it was only time before we started spicing up the mix – with pumpkin, of course.

I recently stumbled across this blog post on Cait’s Plate about a sinisterly simple way to transform your pancakes into pumpkin permeated treats, and my housemate Hannah and I immediately became smitten with the idea of pumpkin spiced pancakes. It really is all too easy; all we had to buy was a can of pumpkin.

So here’s the not-so-secret recipe for adding a little seasonal spice to your breakfast routine. You make your pancake mix like always; any mix will do. We got a nicer brand, simply because according to Hannah, “pancake mix is one of the places in life where you don’t go for the cheaper brand.” – I can stand by that!

Once you’ve got your pancake mix ready to go, the fun comes in. We eyeballed the canned pumpkin addition, but about 1/3 of the can seems suitable. Just plop a heap of that orange goodness into your mix, stir it in, and taste. Spices are definitely your friend for this little cookout – don’t be shy with the seasoning!

Whip it all together, season your batter to taste (we like a lot of nutmeg), then you’re ready to pour your liquid gold onto a frying pan and watch it fluff up into a perfect pancake. I’m not the most skilled pancake attendant, but I did manage to make one pancake in the shape of a mouse. I’m pretty proud of it.

This simple fall-flavored breakfast treat couldn’t be easier to make, which instantly qualifies it as a new favorite. Grab yourself a can of pumpkin, experiment a bit with different spices and tastes, and dig in.

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Find the best (and worst) restaurants, local shops, accomodations, and more with me on Yelp

Writing restaurant, salon, and small business deal copy for LivingSocial has exposed me to the wonderful interweb resource that is Yelp. An outlet for rabid rants about poor customer service, rambling rave reviews about outrageous eateries, and a general source of excellent information, this site allows users – Yelpers, if you will – to contribute their opinions to a pool of star-rated write-ups that ultimately offer insight to the best, and worst, establishments in town.

Having to use Yelp reviews on a daily basis to gather information about merchants for whom I am assigned to write creative LivingSocial copy for, it was only a matter of time before I created my own account and began yelping. I quickly realized that this newfound addiction was a perfect companion for The Morning Fresh – it allows me to share my experiences at establishments all over the country.

Readers, whether you’re looking for a nosh-worthy Cuban joint in Key West, a home style eatery where you can score saucy barbeque in Mississippi, the best place to thrift in Tallahassee, or a sweet shop filled with secondhand climbing gear in Colorado, my Yelp reviews will help you find what you’re looking for. It’s admittedly a work in progress, but crafting Yelp reviews based on my travels has become a preferable distraction over my usual musings on Facebook.

Check out my Yelp reviews here.

Got an account of your own? I’d love to link up.

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Sampling spicy Pad Thai in the North Carolina country side

When Marlin offered to take me out for lunch in Brevard, North Carolina, I was expecting to encounter a home-style meal that involved heaps of barbecue sauce, but instead I was surprised with an Asian meal from the local joint, Pad Thai. Situated in a glorified shack on the side of the road, this eatery promised deliciousness from the minute we walked through the doors.

The menu was short and sweet. At the top of the laminated offerings, it listed options for pork, chicken, or tofu to accompany each entree. Next came two sections with different plate suggestions in either rice or noodle varieties. There were less than two dozen items to choose from, and honestly, everything seemed pretty similar save for an ingredient or two.

After much deliberation about whether I wanted broccoli or bamboo, noodles or nice, I ended up going with the most standard item one could order at Pad Thai: the pad thai. I opted for the mild heat level, while my dear, daring Marlin took a chance on the spiciest ‘Thai hot’ option. Our meals were quickly concoted in giant woks, and served with a wedge of lime and a small heap of crumbled nuts.



I couldn’t resist trying a bite of Marlin’s ‘Thai hot’ platter, and initially was disappointed by the lack of heat in my bite – and then it hit me. The sly chefs who prepared this meal tricked me into thinking I was the queen of spice until the slippery oil loaded with the heat from hell spread across my tongue, lips, and coated the entire inside of my mouth. I downed my water in a few seconds flat – and quickly gained a new respect for ‘Thai hot.’

Should I ever pass through Brevard, which I hope I shall, I would definitely stop by Pad Thai for another lunchtime visit. The meal was $6.50, and judging by the way I was clutching my full belly as we walked back to the car, it was well worth the price.

Click here to check out my Yelp review on Pad Thai.

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Mean Mr. Mustard in Hendersonville, NC – So nice, I ate there twice.

When I set off at the beginning of this adventure, I was prepared for a month of vagabonding and living out of my car. Upon hearing this, my gracious host in North Carolina set off on a mission to fatten me up with gourmet treats before releasing me back into the wild – and boy, did she succeed.

One of my favorite eats in downtown Hendersonville was a charming cafe perched just off Main Street. Its name is Mean Mr. Mustard, and you might be able to discern from the title that this dainty restaurant is entirely made in tribute to The Beatles. The restaurant owners spared no detail, covering the walls with Beatles art, albums, and other memorabilia. Even the salt and pepper shakers were miniature drums adorned with the band name.


I ordered The Eggman’s Basic, which is your standard breakfast spread with two eggs, hash browns, and bacon – plus a slice of their delicious homemade focaccia bread. I was in absolute heaven with my meal. Any time I go to a breakfast joint, I always order the traditional breakfast platter so I can compare notes with the other eateries I have sampled. To compliment my plate, I ordered a tall glass of “Lennonade,”  which was fabulous.


What really set this breakfast experience apart from any other was the atmosphere of Mean Mr. Mustard. The small building sat only a few handfuls of tables, and the intimate setting was amplified by the wonderful man who sat in the back corner playing acoustic versions of classic Beatles songs. Live music is no shocker for evening meals, but it was a really great way to start the day.

Our meal at Mean Mr. Mustard was so great that Dena and I returned the next morning after our yoga class with a group of hilarious women who kept me laughing for hours. On the second visit, I opted for lunchtime fare, and ordered a half Greek salad with half of a custom-made grilled cheese sandwich. Once again, the culinary creations at this restaurant had my taste buds begging for more. My next trip to Hendersonville will undoubtedly include a visit to Mean Mr. Mustard — and next time, I’m treating Dena whether she likes it or not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the orchards for an afternoon of apple picking.

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Boating to Key Largo, dolphin pods in the bay, and conch fritters at Alabama Jacks.

When reflecting on what I’ll miss about my fleeting time in Miami, spending time out on the boat is one of the biggest contenders. Propelling across the bay with nothing but the sun and the air and the salt affords for a true escape from the realities waiting at the dock. Our family boat, unofficially named the Rusty Bucket, is no sprawling yacht — just a cozy vessel for trips to the Upper Keys, and rides up the Miami River.

On this particular excursion, I accompanied my parents on a day trip down to Key Largo for lunch at a local gem, called Alabama Jacks. This joint embodied everything that the Keys represent; it was dirty, salty, full of beer, and offered finger-lickin’ grub all afternoon long. The elder Boue’s were pumped on the idea of chowing down at Alabama Jacks, but I had never experienced it before, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride down from Matheson Hammock in Miami.

The restaurant sits perched along a bank of Card Sound — basically at the base of the Keys, to give perspective to anyone who has had the pleasure of taking the beautiful drive down through the islands. The wood planks surrounding the establishment are mismatched and sloppily painted; this place has boater dive bar written all over it. We docked the boat along the side of the restaurant, and took the best table at the house in the back corner overlooking the water.


We ordered a combo platter with fried Mahi fingers, piles of conch fritters, crispy crab cakes, french fries smothered in cheese, and homemade potato salad. Served in a messy heap of seafood glory, everything was absolutely delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of oysters, clams, or conch, but the fritters at Alabama Jacks were too outrageous to resist. The conch was perfectly breaded and had an addicting crunch as you munched away. Top it all off with a cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.


While I deeply enjoyed my down-home, no-frills experience at Alabama Jacks, I would highly recommend that any visit to the area be taken via watercraft. Whether you roll up in a mega yacht, humble fishing vessel, or even a seaworthy canoe, half of the overall vibe felt at this restaurant is fostered by interaction with the water you sit perched above while getting your fill of seafood and salty air. Driving down to load up on conch fritters would likewise be enjoyable, but traffic and pavement shadow in comparison to a seaside ride.


On the way back to town, we encountered a pod of about six dolphins powering their way up the channel. We spent a few minutes chasing them around so I could get a good shot, and of course during the sole moment of perfectly exposed hind flukes from a dolphin just a few feet from the boat, I had put my camera in my lap to wipe the lens and missed the ideal opportunity. Here’s the next best shot:

Sadly, it will be at least until the next warm season that I’ll have a chance to head out on the boat again. I’ll be leaving on a six week solo trip on September 1, and won’t be back in Miami until the winter – which means no boat for me. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my fill of fresh air up in the mountains.

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Paella, produce and local pride at the 4th Annual Turkey Hill Farm Heirloom Tomato Feastival

No, that’s not a typo – the tomato-themed celebration held each year at Tallahassee’s Turkey Hill Farm is aptly called a ‘feastival’ because it is just that. The entire day is dedicated to stuffing your belly full of everything fresh.

It started with the freshly plowed dirt road we followed off Baum Road towards the small farm. We entered the festival and had Sharpie tomatoes sloppily tattooed on our hands before venturing towards the table-clothed picnic tables of the farmers market. On the way to the produce, we passed by a row of wildflowers and strawberry plants that were teeming with little bug buddies.

Of course, there were the freshly plucked tomatoes, from golden cherries and black prince ‘maters to green zebra varieties and meaty, dry ones to make sauces with. The first stop I made during the feastival was at the stand manned by Pattie Maney, who grows delicious tomatoes with her husband when she’s not painting beautiful creature art. For $2, she made me the best tomato sandwich I have ever dug my teeth into. I invested in two pounds of her plump little goldens and fatter ones in hues of purple and green.

We met up with our friend Rachel, who is actually related to the owners of Turkey Hill Farm. She gave us a little tour of their impressive garden area, which included peppers, tomatoes, squash, little purple eggplants, and even a noisy flock of geese. We picked a few juicy blackberries, then I somehow ended up back at the market area to buy even more tomatoes. I know, I have a problem.

 

It was impossible to ignore the paella made fresh before our eyes by a true Spanish woman herself. They made two giant servings – one vegetarian, and one with toppings like mussels, clams, squid, and all the traditional fixings. I was tempted by the seafood option, but ultimately opted for the meatless paella.

The feastival was byop (bring your own plate, and utensils), because the most intense portion of the event was the covered dinner potluck. We were ill-prepared and showed up empty handed, but the other guests more than compensated for our lack of a contribution with towering mounds of homemade goodness.

My plate was smothered in food, and I honestly struggled to clear my helping. Some of my favorite edibles were the fresh pearl mozzarella balls, the gooey cinnamon bun cake, and the savory tomato pie. We all sat in the grass and swatted at bothersome ants while we gorged ourselves on a bounty that rivaled any Thanksgiving spread.

Throughout all of this, there were continuous cake walks that offered a chance to take home some unbelievable baked goods in exchange for a dollar ticket and parading around in a circle while the boys of Two Foot Level cranked out groovy bluegrass tunes. Check out the ultimate prize from the cake walk, a fluffy vanilla masterpiece smothered with fresh fruit and a pistachio crunch.

The 4th Annual Turkey Hill Farm Heirloom Tomato Feastival was one of the best events I have ever attended in Tallahassee. I had a serendipitous afternoon where I got to celebrate my favorite type of produce, and blow all my cash on giant heads of garlic, sweet tupelo honey, and unforgettable paella. If you’re in town, you’d be a sucker to miss the 5th year of this feast.

I leave you with a photo taken by my very own photography wiz, Niko. He probably takes photography more seriously than I do, and loves to snatch my camera to take some experimental shots of random objects. I loved this picture he took of me holding a handful of Pattie Maney’s snack sized tomatoes. The lighting was horrible, but the one of the little stems came out so beautifully. Enjoy!

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Road Trip America – Frozen treats at Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado

After stuffing face at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, I didn’t think I’d have room for any dessert – but I was wrong. Local Denver lady Sara insisted that we head to the Sweet Action Ice Cream shop for some post-dinner deliciousness.

I had resolved not to touch a bite of ice cream, until Sara suggested that I try the salted butterscotch flavor – how could I refuse that? I ordered a single scoop, which was really two scoops, and dug in to one of the most creamy, salty treats imaginable.

My cup of frozen cream was flawless. The actual ice cream was thick and creamy, with none of that icy bite that I loathe. Every few bites would present a little crunch of salted butterscotch, delivered in modest amounts that never overwhelmed me. My only regret about my experience at Sweet Action is that I didn’t take the time to ask for a sample of the ginger peach flavor, which sounds out of this world. Return visit in the making?

The shop handmakes all their flavors, and is constantly updating their giant chalkboard menu with new offerings. They have all the usuals like milk chocolate and vanilla bean, plus a selection of unique concoctions like peach ginger, basil lime sorbet and pineapple upside down cake. For the discerning eater, they even have multiple vegan flavors available.

The store front itself doesn’t suggest the epic ice cream that awaits; all you see is white walls with few scattered paintings and an open air counter at the front of the shop. Don’t let their humble appearance fool you, Sweet Action recently earned accolades as one of the top ice cream stops in America by Food & Wine.


Have I mentioned lately how smitten I am with local businesses? Why would you ever go to an ice cream shop chain when you can have freshly made, locally influenced sweet treats? Top notch, Sweet Action!

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Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, Colorado

From the moment we arrived in Denver, Niko made his mission clear: He was in dire need of a micro-brew with excellent beer and pub food. We left the decision making up to the Colorado residents; McGoo and Rob did us good.

Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery is the dreamchild of two Denver natives, who grew up biking past a local dairy shop that would eventually be home to their award-winning brews in 1971. The atmosphere screams ‘pub,’ with dim lighting and heaping plates of grub. The playlist didn’t quite set the mood, with funky 90s reggae and pop hit that’s mildly disturbed my beer drankin’ attitude.

I ordered the tuna melt, with a side of mashed potatoes topped with Bull & Bush’s famous green chili. It was hands-down the best tuna melt I have ever had, excellently seasoned tuna, cheese and avocado smooshed on a buttery croissant. Niko got the Ruben sandwich and a Man Beer, plus a Hefeweizen that he had to order for me because I’m a fool and forgot my ID. The rest of the table order juicy burgers, in both beef and bison varieties.

Two very big thumbs up for this brewery. Our waiter was entertaining and honest – he frankly informed us that the burger of the month was pretty lame when we asked about it. The food, service, ambiance and company was superb. If you’re in Denver, be sure to check this place out for some great beer and grub.

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It’s time to go local, and you should to! Support local businesses to support your community.

I’ll admit, pinching pennies at Walmart has been a budgeting tactic of mine for the past four years. It’s simply too easy to save money at Wally World, but the time has come to ditch my selfish habits. Yes, shopping locally doesn’t always bring the deep discounts presented by big corporations like Walmart, but spending a few extra bucks on groceries will benefit my community and my health.

Do you really think that Walmart is concerned about the quality of their produce? It’s cheap, but it’s also laden with chemicals, and probably came from a corrupt field of genetically mutated garbage picked by underpaid, unappreciated workers.

Produce is the first area where I plan on making the switch – and I invite you to join me. Farmers markets are popping up all over the place, and it’s a trend train that everyone should hop aboard. Get your fruits and vegetables from a local farm; this produce will be handled with love, and you’ll be able to see exactly where your money is going. Did I mention how much better local produce tastes? Plus, shopping in an open air market beats the overbearing fluorescent lights of Walmart any day.

Need advice on some great local places to pick up your veggies in Tallahassee? Consider these:

  1. Bread and Roses Food Cooperative on Railroad Avenue – Always a favorite stop for healthy munchies, I recently discovered that Bread and Roses also carries a great supply of local produce. They are entirely volunteer-run, and offer hearty discounts for members. Regular food shipments arrive on Mondays, and Thursdays are their local produce day. Plus, they’re connected to the Fermentation Market – another superb local business.
  2. New Leaf Market and the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market – In addition to New Leaf’s constant supply of delicious health food, every Thursday from 3 – dusk, they host the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market behind The Moon. The market supplies fruits, veggies, seafood, meat, baked goods and more. New Leaf also participates in Local Business Saturdays, offering great deals for patrons supporting local establishments!
  3. The Thomasville Farmers Market – Just a 30 minute drive to Georgia will take you to a sweet open air farmers market that comes complete with the Market Diner, which cooks up fresh food using local ingredients. Totally worth the drive, and a perfect opportunity to explore Thomasville. Check out my previous post about the market.
  4. This last one will have to be further updated in another post. While scoopin’ dinner last week with Niko at the shopping center on the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle, we stumbled upon this newly opened produce market that appeared to be operated by a local farm. I have vowed to check it out after my Rocktown trip, and will dedicate an entire post to these guys – if it’s worthy!

The plan is to start featuring loads of locally owned markets, restaurants and shops on a frequent basis. If you’ve got any suggestions for a place I should feature, let me know and I’d be glad to check it out! I hope you all join me on this journey towards fully embracing local pride!

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Freshly baked cinnamon buns, rolled in BACON – of course I took it there.

I love bacon. I love bacon-covered turkeys for Thanksgiving; I love bacon-cooking alarm clocks – I love bacon. This morning, Niko and I took it to a new level with one of the greatest breakfast inventions ever to grace my kitchen: bacon-wrapped cinnamon rolls.

It’s been a while since I last updated with some tasty climber lady treats, so I figured I’d make my comeback with a bang. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I am obsessed with bacon.


Super simple to make. All you have to do is pan fry a few strips of bacon (we only made three in this batch in case it was a failure), and leave them slightly underdone. Then you unroll your tube of cinnamon buns, and unravel the buns that will be blessed with a slice of bacon.


Line up the bacon on top of your unraveled bun, and then roll that bad boy back up. Proceed with your cinnamon rolls as usual, and don’t forget the icing!


Genius, I know. Now it’s off to the rock gym! We’ll see how well I climb today with a belly full of bacon and cinnamon goodness – but it was totally worth it. Happy Sunday, readers!

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