homemade vanilla extract

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As a frequent baker, one thing I constantly go through is vanilla extract. And honey, let me tell you, that stuff ain’t cheap. At nearly $20 a bottle, it turns baking into quite an expensive hobby. But all that changed when I decided to take the leap and start making my own.

Vanilla beans are generally not too cheap on their own either, but a wonderful blog friend told me about a website called Beanilla that not only has great-priced vanilla beans, but they have lots of sales throughout the year too! I saved even more money by buying “Grade B” beans for the extract – they aren’t great for baking but they’re perfect for making extract.

To make your own extract, all you need is three things: vanilla beans, alcohol, and a container to put them in. It’s really that simple. I use Svedka vodka because it’s neutral, it’s relatively smooth (and it’s super cheap – about $16 for 1.75 liters), but you could use any type you like. You could also substitute bourbon, brandy,  whiskey, or rum in place of the vodka depending on what type of flavor you’re looking for. Vodka will produce the most neutral flavor for you, closer to what you’re probably used to using, where the others will give you more depth of flavor.

The ratio is simple So, let’s say I buy my 25 vanilla beans for $16, then I add my vodka. You can use from 4 to 7 vanilla beans per 8 oz of alcohol. I used 5 or 6 (depending on the batch) and they came out great. Assuming I use 5 beans per batch, I will get 5 servings from my 25 beans – about $5.36 per 8 oz of vanilla extract. Which beats the pants off of my usual go-to brand… and that’s assuming I only use the beans for that batch.

You see, I haven’t even told you the best part yet. The best part about all of this is that when my reserve gets low, I can just top it off with more vodka and give it a quick shake – and voila! More extract! That gives me an almost infinite supply* 100% pure vanilla bean extract, no additives or chemicals. All from the comfort of my own home. (Yes, I realize eventually the strength will diminish and I will have to get new beans eventually, but until then…)

homemade vanilla extract

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 to 7 vanilla beans
  • 8 oz vodka (or alcohol of your choice)
  • 1 non-reactive container (see notes)

Instructions

  1. Wash & sanitize your container.
  2. Place vanilla beans into said container.
  3. Cover beans with alcohol.
  4. Close and give it a shimmy-shake.
  5. Yes, it's seriously that easy.
  6. Place container in a cool dark place (like your pantry?) and give it a shake about once a week for 6 to 8 weeks, until the alcohol turns a gorgeous dark brown color.
  7. At this point you can either a> strain the beans out using cheesecloth and transfer to another container or b> keep vanilla beans in the container and top off with additional alcohol as needed. Once your extract begins to lighten in color, you will need to add fresh vanilla beans to the mixture. I have not yet encountered this situation.
  8. Use in place of regular vanilla extract.

Notes

Mason jars work well for this, as do adorable swing-top bottles like the one pictured above.

To speed up the infusion process, you can chop your vanilla beans into smaller (1 to 2-inch) pieces.

http://wee-eats.com/2015/02/03/homemade-diy-vanilla-extract/

thursday things

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When I logged in this morning I noticed an unusual amount of traffic from Reddit. When I followed the trail to the source I discovered this picture… featuring a League of Legends character running across my biscotti. And it made my mother-freaking day. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into LoL lately and it might have just given me the push I need to start…

Other things that made my day this week include this tiny human who for some god-forsaken reason decided to turn Oreos into mascara… WHY ON EARTH you would waste PERFECTLY GOOD Oreos to make cosmetics is beyond me… Unless you wanted an excuse to to eat your eyelashes….

After the cronut and the cragel our slutty friend, the croissant, is at it again by now breeding with a cookie to create the “crookie”… WHEN WILL THE MADNESS END!?

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Cheetos has created a sweet cinnamon snack, aptly named “Sweetos” which I can only assume is essentially a bag of cinna-twists (in untwisted form). I’m so down.

Although I’ve mentioned it with basil before, we finally have a definitive list of foods that will magically regrow themselves.

Scientists have found a way to let our astronauts enjoy espresso in space. Next up, maybe we will cure world hunger… but at least we found a way to fix space caffeine-withdrawal in the mean time.

The Super Bowl is taking place in my general vicinity this year, but I would be much more excited to score tickets to the Puppy Bowl. And by “score tickets” I really mean just roll around in the pile of Puppy Bowl pups.

And I could give you a super bowl round up but first I want to let you see this video of Will Ferrell blasting this cheerleader in the face with a basketball. I could watch this freaking loop ALL. DAY. LONG.

Super Bowl Recipe Round Up

Pretzel Bites from Yours Truly (cut the ropes into 2-inch pieces for bites)

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Hot & Cheesy Crab Dip from Foodness Gracious

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Sugar & Spice Cocktail Nuts from Some Kitchen Stories

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Make some chili to eat as-is or to put on hot dogs, or even some chili-cheese tots!

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Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip from FoodieCrush

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Spinach-Ricotta Turnovers from A Periodic Table

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Fig & Prosciutto Flatbread from right here

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Popcorn Party Mix from Smitten Kitchen

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cheddar crisps

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As someone who enjoys baking, sometimes I tend to forget about the other half of the world. You know, that “savory” half. Baking isn’t all about cupcakes and muffins.

And honestly, sometimes there are only so many sweets you can take… I mean it’s rare but every once in a while I hit a wall where I feel like I am literally going to hurl if I see one. more. freaking. cookie. Like for real.

Enter: these crackers. Your saviors. They are here to give you a delightfully salty treat when one more cookie is the last thing you need. They are light and crisp and packed with cheesy flavor, thanks to the extra sharp cheddar.

You don’t have to use cheddar, but you will want to use a nice strong cheese to make sure your flavors stand out. Some browning on the bottom of your cracker will also help you in this department, as will a sprinkle of smoked paprika on top… if you feel so inclined.

cheddar crisps

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse butter until it is broken up. Add the cheese, salt, and spices and pulse until the mixture forms small curd-like pieces.
  2. Add flour and pulse until the dough forms into a loose dough with pea-sized clumps, about 1 minute.
  3. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and knead it gently until a cohesive dough forms. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or until firm.
  4. Working 1 disk at a time, roll the dough out between sheets of parchment to 1/4-inch thick. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, cut into round disks (I used a 1-inch cutter), placing the rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps and re-roll and cut the remaining dough (I did this twice). Repeat with second disk of dough.
  5. Place baking sheet, lightly wrapped with plastic, in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees. If desired, sprinkle disks with sea salt and bake for 15 to 17 minutes until the bottoms start to brown.
  7. Once you remove them from the oven, sprinkle them with sweet or smoked paprika and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

* Dorie uses Gruyere in her book, she also recommends Comte or Emmenthal as well. Any semi-firm cheese should work here.

* This dough can either be rolled and cut, as in the directions, or chilled into a log and sliced into 1/4-inch disks. Whichever you prefer.

http://wee-eats.com/2015/01/27/cheddar-crisps/

[ Recipe from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan]

it’s national peanut butter day! (+ a giveaway!)

IT’S NATIONAL PEANUT BUTTER DAY! And it’s no secret around here that I love peanut butter. Like, to an unhealthy extent. Like, eat-it-straight-out-of-the-jar-with-a-spoon extent or a substitute-graham-crackers-for-spoons extent or a literally-everything-is-better-with-peanut-butter-extent.

So yeah, a lot.

So below you’ll find some of my favorite peanut butter recipes…. and a chance to win your own peanut butter prize pack!

Peanut Butter Eggs from Wee Eats

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 Fluffernutter Cake from Life Tastes Good

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Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies from Some Kitchen Stories

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Reese’s Pieces No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie from Wee Eats

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A Periodic Table’s Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layer Cake from Wee EatsDSC_5996-2

Wit & Vinegar’s Baked Peanut Butter Oreo Doughnuts

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Buckeye State Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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Movita’s Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies 

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My Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Bundt Cake

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Peanut Butter Granola from Pinch of Yum

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So… How about that giveaway?

Mr. Eats, knowing my deep love of peanut butter, insisted that I host a giveaway for National Peanut Butter Day  0 So, What do you get?

One lucky winner will receive their choice of :

PB2 Prize Pack: 

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1 container of regular PB2 and 1 container of chocolate PB2 – This stuff is great for smoothies or for baking (you can use it in place of peanut flour in recipes, or to give an extra peanut butter kick to anything you’re baking!) Learn more about PB2 on their website!

PB&Co Prize Pack

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Winner will receive one of each Peanut Butter & Co flavor: Smooth Operator, White Chocolate Wonderful, Crunch Time, and Dark Chocolate Dreams. These peanut butters are great for your pb&j sandwiches or to use as a dip!

Enter using the Rafflecopter below! The lucky winner will be chosen Sunday, Feb 1st. Contest ends at 11:59 PM (EST) on Jan 31st. Good luck! Entry only available for US & Canada residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

thursday things

whole 30 chipotle steak salad

Cooks & Books rounded up some of the internet’s healthy and delicious recipes and was sweet enough to include my barbacoa steak salad (pictured above). You can see that recipe and more on their website!

Nigella Lawson is now on instagram.

F&W claimed they were showing us how to poach a dozen eggs at once… although it’s actually more of “how to bake a dozen eggs at once” but who’s really paying attention anyway?

Nabisco has outdone themselves again with Red Velvet Oreos – which will be made available to us normies on Feb 2nd. At which time, as your faithful Oreo tester, I will promptly scoop some up and let you know how they are.

red velvet oreo

Matthew Inman created a Kickstarter campaign to launch the best card game since Cards Against Humanity… and reached 10,000% of their goal in less than 7 hours.

Conan O’Brien visited the Taco Bell HQ and created a few of his own menu items.

Meanwhile Japan taught 100 robots how to do the robot and revolutionized the dessert world with clear mochi cake.

As I’ve been approaching the end of yet another Whole 30, I feel healthy and energized! I’ve been eating lots of whole-30-approved things like stuffed peppers, lettuce wraps, steak salad, and healthy stir fry

All while experiencing some serious cravings for things like…

This poblano mac and cheese from Annie’s Eats

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A Periodic Table’s mochi cake.

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Movita’s finnish pulla

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These multigrain pancakes with bananas foster syrup from Crumb.

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And this meatball sub from Serious Eats

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Are you sensing a theme here?