As the leaves start to change color and cheery pumpkins show up on doorsteps, summer seems like a distant memory and we're smack-dab in the middle of fall. And while pumpkin spice-flavored treats make their appearance just about, well, everywhere, do you even know what it contains? Here's what it is and why you should make it at home. (Hint: It's as easy as it gets!)



Guess What? There's No Pumpkin in Pumpkin Spice!

For years, I thought pumpkin pie spice actually had pumpkin in it. Silly me. How on earth would you get pumpkin in there? Dehydrate and powder it? In any case, pumpkin pie spice is simply a blend of the traditional spices that go into a good ol' fashioned pumpkin pie.

What's in Pumpkin Pie Spice?

If you go the store-bought route, pumpkin pie spice blends can vary by manufacturer, but typically contain the more sweet-smelling spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Allspice and mace are also common ingredients.



Why Should I Make My Own?

Making your own spice blend costs less than buying a big jar of something pre-made, especially if you already have most of the spices. It's also better to make smaller batches so you use up the blend before it starts to go stale and loses its flavor. Finally, you can tinker the formula to what you like: Go for some extra cinnamon, or skip the cloves if you can't stand the flavor. Trust me, once you've made your own, you'll never want to buy a commercial blend again.



How Do I Use Pumpkin Pie Spice?

While you can use it to flavor your morning latte, pies, and other baked goods, you can also sprinkle it over hard squash and roast, spice up some whipped cream, or mix it into some yogurt or ice cream base — it's quite a versatile spice blend.


Ingredients

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Method:

Measure: Measure out all ingredients in the order listed (to ensure you don't double up or leave one out) into a small bowl.
Mix: Whisk or stir to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Recipe and Image Credit: http://www.thekitchn.com/
Forget jars of red sauce — homemade marinara is where it's at. This tomato sauce takes 20 minutes to make and requires zero planning. If marinara doesn't already have a spot in your stable of easy weeknight recipes, it will soon. Here's a step-by-step look at how to make this super-simple sauce.



What Kind of Canned Tomatoes to Use?

Puréed tomatoes might feel like the obvious choice here, but I recommend using whole peeled tomatoes for your marinara sauce. These break down into perfect sauciness in about 20 minutes, but still retain a little substance, which gives the sauce some body — something sauces made with purée can lack. I've also used diced tomatoes, but find that these generally don't break down as easily or quickly; they're fine to use if you don't mind (or if you prefer!) a chunkier sauce.

Really, any canned tomatoes you have in your pantry can be used in a pinch, up to and including tomatoes that you've canned yourself. I'd only avoid tomatoes that have flavorings or herbs added to them — your sauce will be a hundred times better if you add these things yourself.

How to Use Homemade Marinara?

This marinara isn't just for pasta, although that's often its destination in my kitchen. You can also use this basic sauce for pasta casseroles like lasagna, to top homemade pizza, or to serve with roasted meat. You can even give it a quick purée and make a pretty darn good bowl of tomato soup!

The main takeaway here is that marinara is an easy, versatile sauce. With a few cans of tomatoes in your cupboard, you'll never need to buy jarred sauce again.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh thyme, basil, oregano, or other herbs
Parmesan cheese, to garnish, optional
Cooked pasta, to serve



Method:


Sauté the onions and garlic: Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.




Crush the tomatoes and add to the pan: Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pan with the onions. Crush the tomatoes in your hand as you add them, or smash them against the sides of the pan with your spatula. Alternatively, you can cut the tomatoes with kitchen shears while they're still in the pan.



Add the bay leaf and fresh herbs: Add the bay leaf, salt, and fresh herbs like thyme and oregano to the pan with the sauce. If you're adding basil, wait to add it until the end of cooking.



Simmer for about 20 minutes: Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue simmering until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.



Meanwhile, cook the pasta: While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta, toss together a salad, or finish any other meal components.



Serve the sauce: Remove the bay leaf and any herb stems. Serve the sauce immediately over pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for about a week or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe & Image Source: http://www.thekitchn.com/
Coming up with new recipes for the lunch box everyday can be quite daunting!

Here are some great ideas for kids lunch box. They are innovative and very easy to make.