Many posts ago, I shared my recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latté that was knock-your-socks off amazeballs. Well, what if I told you that I've found a way to make it even better? After much research (a.k.a., drinking many lattés) I've come to the conclusion that Starbucks' secrets are the following: a whole lot of foam, and a delicious array of flavour syrups.

Now, you can have both of these, easily.

First off, let's talk a bit about the foam. A latté just isn't a latté without a fluffy pillow of foam piled high on top. Well, thanks to my latest collaboration with Stokes, I have discovered the holy grail of pillowy foam makers. This compact countertop machine heats and froths milk in seconds! Seconds! I've owned it all of 4 days, and I'm already addicted.

A note about soy froth: soy milk will not froth up like regular milk - UNLESS you're using a special formula made for frothers. Luckily, this stuff exists in Canada - you just have to know what to look for. Soy Nice has three options: Barrista Blend, Soy Nice for Coffee Original and Soy Nice for Coffee - Vanilla. If you want froth, these are your best buds. After a LOT of experimenting, these were the only non-dairy products that we found that behaved like regular milk does. Note: I have not been paid for this review - this is my 100% honest opinion. (But, hey, Soy Nice, if you're reading, I wouldn't mind some free stuff *wink wink!*)

Now, about those syrups. Sure, you can go out and find flavouring syrups and spend tons of money for a bottle of sugar and artificial flavouring... OR you can make your very own at home in under 15 minutes. Yes, you! The best part is that there's nothing artificial about it - just a couple of simple natural ingredients that you probably have lying around in your pantry, just waiting to become the star in tomorrow morning's cup of joe.

Now you just have to decide: coffee or tea? Cinnamon or lavender? Or, just be like me and have one in the morning, and one at night. Enjoy!

Flavour Syrup Recipes

Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)

Lavender Syrup 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lavender flowers

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved. Strain & transfer unused portions to a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.

Cinnamon Bun Latté
Make this tasty treat even more indulgent by topping with whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream if you're keeping it vegan) & drizzle with extra cinnamon syrup.

1/2 cup hot brewed coffee (or 1/3 cup espresso)
3/4 cup milk, or Soy Creamer (not soy milk - see note above!)
2 tsp cinnamon syrup (or more, to taste!)
sprinkle cinnamon, for garnish

Pour coffee into a large mug and stir in syrup. Pour milk into frother (it should reach the lowest fill line) and turn on the heat setting. Allow to heat, and froth. Pour hot milk & froth over coffee. Use a small spoon to remove extra froth. Garnish with additional cinnamon or a cinnamon stick. Serve hot.

Vanilla Rooibos Latté with Lavender
The perfect evening drink with soothing lavender and naturally caffeine-free rooibos tea.

1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup soy creamer
2 rooibos tea bags
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 tsp lavender syrup
lavender petals, for garnish

Bring soy milk to a simmer with tea bags, syrup, and vanilla bean inside. Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, froth soy creamer. Transfer to a mug & top with creamer and extra lavender flowers for garnish.

Sometimes, you have a carton of milk in the fridge, and you truly believe that that carton is full. You start making a recipe, then, when it's time to add the milk in, you realize that somebody put it back in the fridge with nothing left inside. Even if that somebody who left the one drop of milk in the carton is you... you now have a problem: what to substitute in your already started recipe? Buttermilk in a roux? BUTTERMILK. IN. A. ROUX. Why haven't I thought of this before? It's deliciously cheesy tasting and low-fat at the same time. Win-win.

This recipe started out with a couple of sweet potatoes that absolutely needed to be used up, and my discovery of a big jar of macaroni at the back of my cabinet. A little roux, some spices, a little bit of green onion, and we're in business. Sweet potato macaroni and cheese - what are you waiting for?!

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson

500g peeled and cubed sweet potato
1 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
6 chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

buttermilk sauce ingredients
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp dehydrated onion
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp black pepper (or more, to taste)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with chopped sweet potato inside.
Cook for about 10 minutes, until tender enough to mash.
Drain & transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Roughly mash until broken down. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth - lumps are fine!
Fill the pot back up with water and bring to another boil. Add pasta and cook about 6 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and toss with sweet potato.
While you wait for the pasta water to boil, begin the buttermilk sauce by melting butter over medium heat, then whisk in flour.
Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly.
Add dehydrated onion, paprika, smoked paprika, mustard & pepper.
Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking frequently.
Once the sauce has thickened, pour over sweet potato and macaroni mixture.
Stir in green onions.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Transfer to oven safe dish (or multiple small oven-safe dishes for single-serve possibilities!)
Top with shredded cheese and extra green onions.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until cheese on top has melted.
Serve hot!

Living in Montreal, we have the privilege of shopping at a variety of different markets from all over the world, all within a 60km radius. From Lebanon to China to the Caribbean to Russia, there is a little corner for everyone, and every food. It's truly heavenly for foodies like me - having a chance to discover new foods each time I go to the grocery store. This week, I discovered Markouk (Markook) bread - an unleavened wheaty delight. (Available at Adonis for all of you Montrealers!) It's perfect for wrapping sandwiches, or eaten on it's own with nothing but honey & labneh. Alternatively called Shrak, this flatbread is similar to an extremely thin whole wheat pita, and popular throughout the Middle East.

I rarely have labneh on hand, but I do always keep some Balkan yogurt around. Inspired by za'atar pitas (my favourite way to eat bread!), I decided to put together a sumac-laced yogurt spread. Tossed together some mushrooms and chickpeas, and within 20 minutes, I had myself a fantastic dinner bursting with colour and flavour.

Savoury Yogurt Spread with Sumac & Dill
an original recipe by allison sklar

1 cup greek or full-fat Balkan yogurt
1/2 tbsp sumac
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp dill seed (or 3 tsp chopped fresh dill)

Mix all ingredients together and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.
May be made in advance and stored in the fridge up to 5 days.

Flatbread (Markouk) Sandwiches with
Chickpeas, Mushrooms & Arugula
original recipe by allison sklar

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
454g (1lb) fresh white or cremini mushrooms
2 tsp dried tarragon (or 4 tsp fresh)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup baby arugula (rocket)
2 tbsp grapeseed, vegetable, or canola oil

1 large markouk bread, or two small pitas
Extra arugula, for garnish

Heat oil for one minute over medium high. Roughly chop mushrooms and toss into pan. They should sizzle when they hit it. Stir once, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking, undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, until mushrooms begin to shrink. Add chickpeas & spices. Stir. Continue cooking over medium heat until chickpeas start to have golden spots. Add arugula & cilantro and cook until wilted.

Cut markouk in half. Spread each folded half of markouk (or pitas) with yogurt mixture.
Top with chickpea mix & handfuls of fresh arugula.
Enjoy hot.