Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin… I’ve Gone Pumpkin Crazy!

When I’m bored, I bake. And since I’ve been back in Miami this summer, I’ve done a lot of baking. Along comes pumpkin spice season and I think I’ve lost my damn mind.

It started with pumpkin donuts, made with coconut flour. Decent, but the texture of coconut flour bothers me. Too spongy and wettish or something, which in itself is odd because coconut flour absorbs so, so much moisture. You’d think baked goods would be dry. And as you can tell from the picture below, I failed on the glaze.


Moving on to my next project, which was pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds. I discovered those at Trader Joe’s last year and wanted to create my own with a fraction of the sugar by using Splenda brown sugar blend. And no, it doesn’t have aspartame like tons of websites would like you to believe. Sucralose. It’s right there on the label. In fact, I’ve been using both version of Splenda baking blend a lot recently.

Which leads me to my most recent experiments, also inspired by these wonderful gifts from heaven from Trader Joe’s.


Seriously, if you haven’t tried these, go to your nearest TJ’s and pick up a box now. They are tiny and so good and so, so bad for you. So much sugar!! I mean, they’re ice cream sandwiches, so sugar is to be expected. But, I knew I could do better and a bit healthier.

I set out to make my own and dammit, I have conquered this bitch!

The ice cream is an Atkin’s recipe. I modified it some by using Splenda bake mix instead, because I didn’t have Xylitol. I also used 2 teaspoons of my own pumpkin spice mix in place of the spices listed in the recipe, and food coloring to bring out the orange color a big more – 12 drops of yellow and 2 drops of red.

Mmmmmm… Pumpkin ice cream! 🍦🎃

A video posted by Tqwana (@theqissilent416) on Sep 26, 2016 at 2:47pm PDT


Now, the cookies. I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies using almond flour (yes, I know it’s expensive) that I figured I could also play around with to get those soft, chewy ginger cookies.


I ate about 4 of these once they were completely cooled. I regret nothing.

And bam! Look at these beauties!!

My version of Trader Joe’s pumpkin ginger ice cream thingies. I think I’ll blog this experience tomorrow.

A photo posted by Tqwana (@theqissilent416) on Sep 26, 2016 at 4:04pm PDT


And then I got fancy and decided to roll one in my pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds. I’m a genius, i tell ya.



So, here are all the recipes. Happy baking!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground all spice

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. 

Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups raw pepitas
2 tbsp. Splenda brown sugar bake mix
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (see above)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar free maple syrup (I used Smuckers breakfast syrup)
1 1/2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter

Mix everything together until all the seeds are coated, then spread the seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 300° for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet, then store in an airtight container and try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Chewy Ginger Cookies 
1 1/4 cup of blanched almond flour (don’t get the one with the little brown spots from the skin)
1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar baking blend
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup Canola oil

Mix everything in a bowl using a fork, which helps to break up the clumps in the almond flour. Start with the dry ingredients, then add the wet. Divide the dough with your hands into 16-18 little balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and press down to flatten slightly. Don’t press down too much, because the cookies will spread on their own. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet. 

***Assemble the ice cream sandwiches by using a cookie scoop. I believe it’s the mid-sized one, #40, which is a little over a tablespoon measurement or 1 1/2 tablespoons. I added the ice cream fresh out of the ice cream maker. Press down only a little, then put the sandwiches in the freezer to firm up before eating. ***

hp script book

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Originally posted on Around the World in 80 Books

By Tqwana B.

4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆

hp script book

Little Brown UK
July 31, 2016



It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

4 stars for nostalgia and 3 stars for story

First, some conditions of this review:

  1. It is spoiler free. I will #keepthesecrets.
  2. This is based solely on the words on the page. Plays are meant to be read aloud and performed. I’m sure it’s magical – pun intended – on stage. The stage directions have my mind spinning wondering how they pulled them off.
  3. If you read spoilers after the first previews, they are true. I wanted to not believe them b/c they seemed too on the nose as far as Albus’ Hogwarts House and such. But, then again, I though RAB being Regulus was too obvious to be true, and we see how that turned out.
  4. This is the rehearsal script, not the final one. I hear that comes out next year in a Definitive Edition. I hope that means Act III is shorter. Geez…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is finally here! And I’m a little bit disappointed. This is probably the first Potter book I didn’t read in one sitting, and considering it’s a script and a very short read in relation, that’s saying something.

I loved being back in Harry’s world, but this read like fan fiction. Really good fan fiction, but fan fiction nonetheless. The story is in part created by Rowling, but you can tell right away, it’s not her writing. And while some of the characterizations were spot on, Harry and Hermione for example, there were others that seemed off. Ron leaned too much on the comic relief movie version than the more well-rounded but still funny version I loved in the book series. Two others from the past just didn’t feel quite right either.

The main plot involving a time-turner is pretty far-fetched and slightly ridiculous, even for a book series about witches, wizards, and magical creatures. The villain is also pretty obvious from the beginning. Again, very fan fiction-ish motivation. I’m sure I’ve read one with a similar villain.

Don’t expect a continuation of the Golden Trio’s adventures. This is firmly a story about the Potters (most of them anyway… I missed Lily and James Jrs.), which is the strength of the play and the part I loved the most. This is Harry’s story as a father and a husband, and Albus as the son who reluctantly lives in his shadow and does some very stupid things because of it. Of course, Ron and Hermione are there and even have some very adorable Ron and Hermione moments. But, Harry turns to his wife (Ginny’s great. I adore Ginny), as he should, and probably has more screen time with Draco Malfoy than Ron and Hermione combined, which is expected considering the nature of the story.

And then there’s Scorpius. I love Scorpius Malfoy! All the adoration that Draco undeservedly received, Scorpius more than earns. He’s probably worth the price of the ticket alone.

Still, this is a Potter story, a glimpse into adult Harry’s life, so I can’t dislike it. It’s what most of the fans have wanted since “all was well.” In fact, I want more. There’s still 19 years in between that we can explore. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne still confront many of the themes we’re used to from the books, with loneliness and acceptance at the forefront. I just wish it surrounded a plot that wasn’t so outlandish.


REVIEW: The City of Mirrors (The Passage Trilogy #3) by Justin Cronin

26891429The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Originally posted on 80 Books Blog

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

After the anticlimactic resolution of The Twelve (never mind all the rape), I had low-ish expectations for The City of Mirrors. Overall though, I can say I liked it.

This third installment is both a resolution and an origin story of Zero, who suffered from, of all things, a broken heart. That was probably the weakest part of the book. I expected more from the man who waited 2 decades to exact his (not so) grand plan to have a different motivation. What we’re given is a sort of Helen of Troy in Liz Macomb – the face that unknowingly launched a thousand virals, to paraphrase Marlowe. There is some irony in Zero’s hatred of his creator, Jonas Lear, for his leaving Liz to die alone. Zero’s own grand scheme means Liz waited alone in the afterlife for his arrival.

Yes, there is an afterlife, which we’ve seen before in the trilogy. Though this book is heavier on issues of spirituality, faith, and morality, especially in regards to the cost of scientific advancement. It’s why we have the virals in the first place. Maybe the book leaned too much on this message and not enough on the basic plot. Amy was still more plot device than a fully realized character. Even the final confrontation between Zero and Amy found her lacking the skills to really beat him. This was really Peter, Alicia, and Michael’s story. And Sara’s to a lesser extent.

I wavered between giving The City of Mirrors 3 stars and 4 stars, so it’s more 3.5. Despite the things I didn’t like, it is still a book that sticks with you.

View all my reviews