February 22, 2017

At first, I had big dreams for all the traditions we would keep each year with each new holiday, season, and event. Balloons for birthdays, gingerbread houses each Christmas, planting seeds in the spring, camping every summer, pumpkin patches in the autumn. I had lists of food to go with each season, imagining a feast to ring in each bloom, sweltering afternoon, falling leaf, and raindrop (aka winter in California).

But Groundhog Day would come and go, and no garden would be planted. We have yet to go camping as a family, and we only finally made it out to a pumpkin patch this past autumn. I felt like I was failing at traditions, and didn’t want to set anymore tradition-y goals lest I disappoint anyone (mostly myself) by not continuing them the following year.

Then one cool autumn afternoon, I decided to set my bar to very achievable, but still delicious and came up with this idea: We’d celebrate every new season with a beverage! Lemonade for summer, spiced apple cider in the autumn, hot cocoa in the winter, and… I’m still working on the spring drink. Any suggestions? I only have a month left!

I mean, I am always mixing up something delicious to drink anyway, so this felt like a natural way to celebrate each new season. I’m sure the drinks and our other traditions will continue to change and grow as our kids change and grow, but I love the idea of gathering family over food and drink and making our bellies happy while enjoying the company of the people we love most.

Someday, when the kids are older, I like to daydream that we’d hangout and chat over coffee. I really hope we are friends like that. I hope they’ll drop by at a moment’s notice and that I’ll always be ready to shake up something tasty for them. Maybe a mocha, a latte, or my recent fav: dulce de leche lattes.

I made this last week using my new Nespresso machine and these delicious Gourmesso Coffee Pods that Gourmesso sent to me to try out. These little pods make an amazing shot of espresso for way less $ than the original Nespresso capsules! I’d been hearing more and more about the Nespresso machines, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when my friend took all of thirty seconds to prepare a cup for me with his new machine that I finally started looking into this handy little system.

I have to say- the pods are SO incredibly convenient. For the last few years, I’ve been content with my Aeropress, but honestly I’m usually too lazy to bust out all the parts to make one cup of coffee. It’s also not convenient for a crowd, and I rarely offer to make coffee when we have company… but happily we can change that now! Come for breakfast, friends! Come for brunch! Not only will I serve you my favorite carby and bacony treats, but you will not have to BYO coffee any longer. HOORAY!

And if you’re lucky, you might even get in on some of this dulce de leche goodness. Dulce de leche is basically condensed milk that’s been cooked to the point of caramelizing, and it tastes every bit as delicious as it sounds. If you haven’t tried this stuff yet, get on it. It’s heavenly. You can find it in most big supermarkets near the condensed milk or in the “ethnic” aisle.

I’ve tried this recipe with both the canned (left) and the bottled (right) packaging. The bottled one is much easier to dispense and stir, but the canned one tastes just as good! 

I was inspired to make a dulce de leche latte recipe when I had some extra on hand after making this decadent chocolate-dulce de leche tart:

A happy problem. I already love coffee + condensed milk, so coffee + caramelized condensed milk was a no-brainer. I simply dropped two tablespoons of dulce de leche into my cup:

Added a shot of espresso on top:

Stirred, then topped with heated milk! And of course, some whipped cream! :]

MM-mm-mm-mm-MMMM!!! That is some warm-you-to-your-soul goodness!

If it’s a weekend, add a little splash of Kahlua and you have got yourself a party in your mouth- good enough to ring in any season of the year!

Dulce De Leche Latte
Makes 1 cup



  1. Add 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche to a mug. Add a hot shot of espresso on top and stir until completely dissolved and combined. Optional: stir in 1 tablespoon Kahlua.
  2. Top with 3-6 ounces of heated milk, depending on how you like your latte.
  3. Top each cup with a heaping pile of whipped cream.


13 responses to “Sipping in the New Seasons”

  1. Mark Ingham says:

    My Suggestion (since you asked?) 🙂

    Sparkling homemade ginger-mint for spring

    -Boil fresh ginger root to make ginger tea
    -optionally boil 1/2 of a vanilla bean too
    -Remove from heat and add a large handful of fresh peppermint leaves (or herbal mint teabags if necessary)
    -mix 50/50 with refrigerated sparking water to make it fizzy
    -it’s most refreshing unsweetened, but can be sweetened with maple syrup to taste

    Experiment now until you get the ginger heat level, mintyness, and sweetness to your particular taste

    This is a nice one for spring because peppermint comes up early in the spring and is fairly frost tolerant in my experience.
    To plant, bury a large pot in the garden. The pot will not need watering so much, but will still help keep it from taking over the garden. If possible, the best location is in a flower garden right outside the front door, or a planter or hanging planter on a porch or balcony. Peppermint, I find, is very popular with my kids, who will gladly help Keep it trimmed so that it doesn’t spread out of the pot. Generally, it’s so much more convenient to have tasty edible flowers, herbs, and berries where you walk every day or right outside the kitchen window than in a garden in the back that is almost always to far away to be noticed or grazed on a whim (see Permaculture ideas for more on integrating home and land architecture to minimize the element of human labor/ inconvenience).

    • joellen says:

      Thank you, Mark!! I love hearing from readers! I should ask things more =D.
      The recipe sounds delicious- I will try it at least during the spring season, if not on the first day :). I also super appreciate your gardening tips- it’s as if you knew I have a black thumb. One of my goals this spring is actually to figure out how to plant fresh herbs so they’re super accessible. We have a couple of south-facing windows in and near the kitchen that get a lot of light- one is like a bay window and the other juts out of the walls of the house with glass all around, so it would get a ton of light. I’m not sure that’s actually good for plants (too much sun??), but I am hoping to use one of those spaces to keep potted herbs. This way I could, like you said, have tasty edible herbs right where I can see and use them every day. I’m also wondering about using wine barrels as planters, maybe by the front door. I would love any tips you have before I kick off my research- it sounds like you have a lot of expertise in this area!

      Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Florence says:

    I heard someone say at a conference, don’t try to make traditions for your new family, or to push onto it those of your previous family (the one you grew up in), but don’t worry in the least, your new family’s traditions will just make themselves. For example, my husband and I once stopped at a McDonald’s on the way back from my unpleasantly (and depressingly) far away job, and it became “our” McDonald’s, the place we go for a date, or for a family special treat. It became a happy memory. And it’s some way from where we and our families lives, so it really is like OURS, since nobody we know ever goes there.

    • joellen says:

      I love that. It takes so much pressure off, and the traditions can feel so much more special when they’re organic like that. Thank you!

  3. Angela says:

    Love your drinks, Jo! The first picture also brought back happy memories 🙂

    • joellen says:

      Thank you! Hah back when we thought having one baby was hard :D. (And those with 3+ are laughing at us now :)).

  4. Mandi says:

    Can you share the recipe for the chocolate-dulce de leche tart too?! If it was any good. 🙂

    • joellen says:

      Oh yes, it was GOOD. I have it in a cookbook and haven’t typed it up yet, but I found it over at this blog. Looks like the same recipe I used! Also, I wanted to note that when I made it, it seemed super jiggly and not set. Usually I feel like the outer edges are set and the inside is a little jiggly before I take things like this out… but this was just all jiggly. Against my intuition, I took it out anyway and let it cool. I tried a slice after it had cooled on the counter- it was kinda messy and jiggly… BUTTTTT after I had refrigerated it for a while (maybe 1-2 hours?), it grew firm and was easy to cut and eat. So the main thing is, don’t worry too much if it looks rather jiggly when the baking time is up- chilling it should do the trick. Hope you enjoy! It’s very indulgent and decadent and I don’t think you will regret it if you <3 chocolate :D.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I have enjoyed reading your blog for a few years now, so I feel like I should introduce myself before giving a drink suggestion. I found your blog with the article on apologies, which my family has used ever since. I love to hear my kids say things like, “I’m sorry I shouted at you. It was wrong because you are my sister and I should love you and take care of you, not yell at you. Next time I will try to stay calm and talk to you. Will you forgive me?” Thank you for that.
    I also value traditions, and we have developed more than I can maintain! We also have drink traditions – wassail at Christmas, hot chocolate when it snows. Sometimes I find that my kids think of something as a tradition that I only remember doing once – coming in from playing in the rain and taking a bath and eating hot pudding is apparently one for my 8 year old. I discovered that this week when I offered her pudding for dessert and she asked to take a bath first!
    One of our spring foods is a strawberry soup which my husband turned into a smoothie and we all adore. It’s strawberries (you can use fresh, frozen, or thawed) with thick plain yogurt (like Fage or Mountain High) and heavy cream blended til smooth, sweetened to taste (a little brown sugar is nice) and flavored with a spoon of vanilla and a dash of nutmeg. The texture should be thick, like a milkshake. We eat this year-round now that strawberries are cheaply available from Florida and California all sorts of crazy times of the year, but I think of strawberries as a spring food and thus offer it as a suggestion.
    I also have a lovely orange-mint icee drink that feels springy to me, but it has some white wine in it, and I’m guessing you want to keep these toddler friendly. I also have a recipe for Spring Citrus Punch which serves a crowd. I could email you those if you liked.
    Good luck choosing a spring drink, and thanks for the glimpse into your life and for sharing your helpful ideas.

    • joellen says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you so much for the introduction and message! I am thrilled to hear how well the apology is still working for your family all this time later.
      Your drink suggestions sound delightful! Sounds like such a fun home to grow up in. And I totally hear you on the traditions you didn’t even know you had haha :). Cute story about your eight year old!

      Thanks again for the comment and suggestions!