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6 Quick Steps To Make Your Own Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract

 

Did you know you can make your own pure vanilla extract at home with just a few ingredients? It’s not a mystery any longer and it’s a lovely gift to give to your favorite baker. As with any homemade product, there are several benefits to making your own. For one, you get to choose the quality of ingredients and know exactly what is in your vanilla extract. This means, you will have the highest quality vanilla extract available without anything artificial.

A few years back we decided as a family to give handcrafted gifts for the holidays instead of purchasing them. I was in search of what I could make that would be both fun and practical. That’s when I learned that I could make my own pure vanilla extract. Why had I not thought of this before?  Considering that nearly everything that is mass produced now were once made at home, it’s not that crazy of a thought that I could produce a gift that my family and friends would enjoy.

 

Vanilla bean pods

So what is pure vanilla extract? It is simply the extract (flavor and aroma) from the vanilla beans that have been immersed in alcohol (usually vodka because of it’s neutral flavor, but sometimes brandy or rum) over a period of time. The FDA requires;

“In vanilla extract the content of ethyl alcohol is not less than 35 percent by volume and the content of vanilla constituent, as defined in 169.3(c), is not less than one unit per gallon.”

So that means the vanilla extract you’ll find in the store, is 70 proof (35% alcohol) and it contains 13.35 oz of bean per gallon of alcohol which would produce a single strength vanilla extract. After more research I found that some bakers prefer a double strength vanilla extract and others do not. I am guessing it is a matter of preference.  I lean toward loving the scent of vanilla and enjoy baking with it so my recipe may have a wee bit more vanilla than others but since I’m making my own and not planning to sell it I can follow whatever guideline works for our baking needs and that is a nice pure vanilla extract that flavors our baked goods without overpowering them.

The vanilla bean grows from a kind of tropical orchid. The fruit starts out as a hard green pod and the greenish white flowers (missing in this photo) and in a natural setting are dependent on bees to pollinate them, but now in modern times they can be artificially pollinated.  These vanilla beans are picked unripe and then submerged in hot water to remove their protective cover and allow for the natural liquids to seep out. They are then allowed to dry in the sunlight and ferment. When they have turned brown and covered with a layer of vanillin crystals the vanilla beans are ready.

 

Kauai'i - Green vanilla pods on the vine -Steel Grass Chocolate tour

Unripe vanilla bean pods on the vine in Kauai

 

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4 Ingredient Nutritionally Packed Fresh Juice

 

 

I just love the feeling I get when I choose to make a juice. I know it’s good for me as well as super fresh. The vegetables are crisp and packed full of nutrients. This is my go to drink when I need a little boost. The light earthy aroma that fills the kitchen brings me back to when I worked at a juice bar in my 20’s. That was a great job and I think I drank my paycheck in juice.

Carrot Apple Ginger Beet Juice

Ingredient #1: carrots. Carrots rule, they are easy to grow in the garden or stand alone pots, they store well so you can always have a bunch in the refrigerator or cellar. Kids will eat them and the best part is they have a great history.

 

 

Carrot forest

Your best caption goes here! Write it in the comments :0)

 

Who knew that carrots and other root veggies are responsible for the earliest farming practices? If you did know this bit of trivia,  tell me about it in the comments :0) I’d love to hear from you.

It was the complete nutritional elements of the root vegetables, unbeknownst to those digging in the earth, for each root, rhizome, tuber and bulb were what kept people coming back to the ground and getting their hands dirty, until they decided to use implements starting with the stick then the hoe and  finally the plough.

 Ingredient # 3: beets. Beets are beautiful. Each time I halve a beet I am amazed at the intracity of the fractal like pattern within.Their earthy flavor and bright interior makes me smile. It is a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy attributes. Juicing is the best way to capture the high folate, magnesium and potassium each root contains. In the health world, beets are also known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory proprieties. I use a centrifugal force juicer that separates the juice from the fiber part of the vegetable. This means you miss the great fiber aspect to this beet however, there are ways to use this by-product of the juice insuring you don’t miss out on any of the benefits (but my hens might stage a protest if I didn’t share this with them!)

Halved Beets

 

Ingredient #3: ginger.  Oh, ginger is my friend. It keeps me warm, wakes me up and soothes my stomach. In this juice combo, it adds some kick depending on how much you decide to use, and brings the flavor of this juice from mild to complex. I’m not the only one who loves this rhizome. It is long believed that it took its name from Gingi in southern part of India, where it is thought to have originated.

Ingredient #4: apples.  The apple is beneficial in many ways and as the saying goes “one a day keeps the doctor away” I’m not sure how true this is or if anyone has ever researched the adage. I do know, that a medium sized apple contains a decent amount of vitamin C that our bodies need boost our immune system. During the winter, this can be helpful to fight against catching a cold or the flu that’s going around. Apples like beets, contain antioxidant properties due to the color of their skin. Go for the Ida Red or Red Delicious if choosing for antioxidant benefits. If those are not your favorite check out Lori’s blog where she lists top to bottom which apple has the most antioxidants.

Carrot Apple Ginger Beet Juice On The Chopping Block"

 

 

Carrot,Beet,Ginger and Apple Juice

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Keep in mind the flavor and nutrients are best when choosing to use fresh, sustainably grown products.

You will need a juicer to make this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 large carrots
2 medium sized beets
1/4 ” piece of fresh ginger
2 medium sized apples

Directions

1. Wash all ingredients
2. Quarter the beets or cut to size for your juicer
3. Slice apples to fit the opening of your juicer
4. Add ingredients with the apple last. This allows the apple, juiciest, to rinse the juicer making sure you get all the juice possible.
5. Serve right away, the best tasting juice is enjoyed right away. If you have any leftovers you can put them in the refrigerator and then shake or blend before drinking. Or add them to a popsicle mold and enjoy it on a hot day. This is a great way to introduce healthy popsicles to kids.

Enjoy!

 

4 ingredient Juice

Rachelle K. Weymuller head shot    Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

   “Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community

Keeping My 2015 Resolutions, How About You?

Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2015? I did. And I’m sticking to them. Yes; them. I made more than one resolution and so far it’s going great! The Doriesta’s must have made a few too or either that, or they figured many of us would be deciding after the holidays we could use a healthy recipe to nourish and energize us into keeping our resolutions.

So as you may have guessed, I am focusing on eating smarter. I think I eat fairly healthy already but I know I could eat smarter. Over time my habit of skipping breakfast and having just a coffee has worn it’s way into my daily routine but then I forget to get a good breakfast going until that crazy clock tells me it’s lunch. In our family we use the term ‘HANGRY’ that I now see popping up on t-shirts and posters so maybe we’re not alone. Do you know anyone who gets HANGRY?

Maybe Dorie does because she has come up with a fantastic and healthy way to keep the “Hangries” at bay with her Granola Energy Bars. Dorie, my family will be writing you a personal thank you card for this one.

These granola energy bars, take no time to make and if stored properly will keep for a week (if not eaten before).  Dorie suggests to cut them up into bite sized pieces and serve them with tea (maybe a way to keep the Hangries in us, civilized). I chose to cut them a little larger and store them in a glass container so I could grab and go. Unfortunately, I didn’t cut them soon enough and could have used them on my ski this morning. At the 8k mark I was sloooowwwig down just as my good friend and I were talking about kids eating habits and helping them to make good choices. Old habits die hard and I had to confess that I hadn’t eaten a fantastic breakfast this morning…hence my slower pace. What a good friend I had who, waited for me and gave me a scolding in a motherly way of course- thanks Stew!

 

Run Boris Run- The B Dog skiing Big Valley Ranch - Methow Trails

Run Boris Run

We know who did eat his breakfast and then slyly got another family member to feed him a second. Dog wisdom, Maybe I should follow Boris’s lead.

Dorie’s bars are pretty close to making granola but instead of spreading out the ingredients on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet, she instructs to firmly press the granola into a parchment lined pan and then bake it.

I absolutely loved the parchment idea because once the bars had cooled I just popped the whole thing cleanly out of the casserole dish. This was an added bonus since we are still without hot water (long story but the short version is no boiler= not hot h2o) and our “Glamping” is going on week two. Maybe I’ll write about that another time, there are a few gems to tell for sure.

 

Caramelize Life makes Granola Energy Bars with Tuesdays with Dorie

Just out of the oven!

Once out of the dish the bars were ready to be cut. At the time I chose the usual long slices but now that I think about it I could have pulled out my sweet cookie cutters and made some fun shapes. If you have a little one at home they would probably really enjoy a specialized energy bar in their lunch. I wonder if my tween and teen would? Maybe I’ll have to test it out… next time. I do plan to put these into my repertoire since they were super quick and easy to make and the ingredient list can be varied to whatever you might have on hand in the pantry. Keeping with the ratio of two cups oats : two cups of your favorite; seeds, nuts,dried fruits and sweets(chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger,etc) then a binder of brown rice syrup, honey or maple syrup and butter. If you are dying to know the full recipe check out page 238-239 in Baking Chez Moi. 

 

Granola Energy Bars- Tuesdays With Dorie and Caramelizelife

Yum!

 

Tuesdays with Dorie Greenspan and Baking Chez Moi is an open group dedicated to baking through Dorie’s latest books. To see more of the groups experiences with the Granola Energy Bars click on the link.

 

Head Shot Rachelle Rachelle @ Caramelize Life
Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community

 

 

Caught by Surprise – Whipped Cream!

Oh, goodness. I had it in my mind that this Tuesday with Dorie was a bye week (they were following the Seahawks schedule right?) But my handy computer reminded me that it’s a pick your own recipe (from either Baking Chez Moi or Baking with Julia) week with the Doristas. Which means this is a great opportunity for those of us who have either missed a recipe in the line up or want to make something fun that’s not on the schedule.
I was on top of it at the beginning of our holiday celebrations but this one snuck up on me. Not to worry; Doire’s books have a fantastic variety of delectable choices to pick from but my timing was the limiting factor. We already had a spiced ginger birthday cake in the works for tonight. So what goes well with cake? Whipped cream of course!

But wait, there’s more!

Are You Hungry for Bûche de Noël?

 

 

Yes, is the answer!

Christmas tree outside

Because making bûche de Noël is not for the light of heart. Yes, it’s true, it takes all day to make and the NY Times’ Melissa Clark doesn’t lie. I had that thought as I was closely following Dorie Greenspan’s recipe and techniques for her new Gingerbread bûche de Noël. I would glance up at the clock and see the hours disappear thankfully, it’s the solstice and I’ve got time and more of it! Good thing I didn’t make this yesterday ;0)

Melissa Clark teams up with Dorie Greenspan here in a NY Times video (I wish I would have watched the video before making mine) the link also includes the recipe just incase you would like to try it out too. Or, you can learn more from NPR and their take on the Yule Log.

Caramelized Almonds

Almonds ready to be caramelized

Despite the fact that this recipe takes a bit of time, it has been a great experience and I am happy to report that I was successful and we will be enjoying a lovely Gingerbread bûche de Noël tonight while we celebrate solstice and my father’s belated birthday.

Solstice, Birthday, Noel

Solstice, Birthday, Noel

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Making Divinity On A Snowy Day

 

Sunlit snowy day

 

Today was going great. I was well into my day of holiday treat making with Dorie Greenspan’s Truffles resting in the refrigerator when I thought to myself “why not try a new recipe? I’m on a roll right?” I have had The Casual Baker’s Divinity recipe printed out for just the right moment, and reading through the ingredient list I was pleased as punch with myself finding that I was well stocked. So off I went into the land of Divinity.

RKW_0105

In my own defense, there was no way for me to know what was in store for me. I laugh at myself right now, perched at the kitchen bar typing away after making the whimsical decision to make divinity. Glancing over with a heavy sigh at my green marble countertops and previously spotless stove-top now covered with Divinity guts. A sticky, gooey mess; I’ve gone and candied my stove-top. My youngest, the ever happy soul that she is, has set to scooping up the goo and has turned it into her own candy project; far be it from her to let sugar, water and organic corn syrup go to waste.

What happened, you ask? All was going just fine; I was cruising along solo in the kitchen (read: without distractions).  I find that I need a distraction free space while making candy, but somehow it didn’t dawn on me that making candy was exactly what I was doing (Yes! I did read the recipe thoroughly but was thinking more meringue than candy). I’ll blame it on the absence of a second cup of coffee.

In walked D2 (Daughter #2) who set about to do her English assignment at the kitchen bar. “This is great,” I thought to myself, bursting with pride “she is self-motived and getting her work done.” …until the questions started rolling in. Distraction number one. Next, my husband walked in and started a great conversation (distraction number two) which took me away from the stove-top. Have I provided enough foreshadowing for you to guess what happens next in our holiday tale of woe? From the other room where I was in deep discussion, I heard my pot boiling over…”Oh, SUGAR!” I rushed back to the stove and it looked like a mad scientist’s bubbling mushroom spilling over the sides; an oooey-gooey syrupy monster. 

I tried to save it. I really did. I grabbed the printed directions and the candy thermometer to get my bearings. The temp read 253º, not 255º as required but I couldn’t get it higher without it growing into another bubbling monster so I poured it into my previously prepped foaming egg whites poste-haste which, as you may have surmised is not exactly how Sheena S. of the Casual Baker had envisioned the optimal scenario. I put the hand held blender to work, but two minutes into the seven called for it became readily apparent that this was a bad idea. I was splattering Divinity monster guts everywhere. It was supposed to be thick, but after double the time called for it looked just as runny as ever. I switched to a bigger bowl and stationary mixer as a last gasp effort to save my Divinity. Too little too late; nothing would save our stickily intertwined fates from a fall from grace of epic proportions.

stay-puft-marshmallow-man1

So what’s a girl to do? I peeled away my printed directions that were now at one with the counter and started to read the comments after the recipe directions. And here it was that I learned from the Divinity lovers community that Divinity is a fickle creature. Some even purported that if it is raining outside she refuses to take on the task because that subtle amount of moisture can make the difference “between bites of divinity and a puddle best consumed with a spoon” (KitschenBitsch). Others go on to say that 255º (let alone 253º!) is a tad low and they like to wait until the candy reaches 350º.

Well Kitschen Bitsch, you are correct. It is snowing lovely large flakes of frozen rain outside and I have a big fat puddle inside. Once again the weather has ruined my attempts and it has nothing to do with the distractions. Thanks for the easy out, until a sunny day when I’ll attempt it again!

Wishing you wild adventures from our kitchen to yours,
Head Shot RachelleRachelle @ Caramelize Life
Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community

3 Things That Could Happen When You Send Your Husband To The Supermarket.

Do you know what happens when your husband is at the Supermarket? There should be t-shirts made that say:

Supermarket T-shirt

What happens at the Supermarket stays at the Supermarket

What happens if said Supermarket provides vehicles with four multidirectional wheels and your husband is actually a large kid trapped in an adult body?

#1. I’m thinking first he will find the biggest object and turn it into a life sized toy.

#2. Next he will recruit someone to document the trip.

#3. Then he will share it with his buddies, one of them would be my husband (another large kid trapped in an adult body), who in turn will join the cause and support him in the fight against the evil grocery powers that be.

Then someone else’s husband (it takes teamwork to fight those evil grocery powers) will add the finishing touches.

 

 

Mission accomplished!

 

 

Head Shot RachelleRachelle @ Caramelize Life  ~having fun
Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community

 

~Credits to:
Video and Super power wielding : Steve and Nate Hirsch
Super sound effects: E.A Weymuller
Superpowered visual effects: Paul Bagnulo

Turning Lemons into…

 

It seems as though the downpour of the four letter word, the one starting with the 18th letter of the alphabet, the one that rhymes with pain and shall never, in a ski town, be spoken out-loud during the winter has arrived, unceremoniously and uninvited. Our little mountain valley is begrudgingly receiving copious amounts of this four letter word. It would have been very welcome this past July when we were on fire. However, when given buckets of  **** in December, it has us all out doing our special chicken dances in the snow…or what’s left of it anyway.

 

First, we need to get our yodels fine tuned so we can wake up Ullr and remind him he’s slacking on the job. Next, we need to find whatever social media scheduling app Boreas is using to remind her that she is, after all, in the snow business and that, yes, we need more snow. Ullr, please blow this tropical pineapple express outta here. Heck, one of my children even double checked to make sure our rain stick was placed in the freezer for the winter just to seal the deal.
Rain Stick in the Freezer

In the winter we are a ski town and with that comes the need for snow. This summer we were metaphorically dealt lemons and I watched our community make lemonade by the helicopter load. Yesterday, it felt like lemons were falling from the sky in so many ways. That snow we depend upon, was being washed away by the ****. When the snow arrived unannounced in November we were thankful. Thankful to have a starting base for our skis to slide upon. However, with its über heavy, moisture laden load, the storm also took out beautiful old trees and in turn, our power. Again, like before, I was hearing from those who lost everything this summer, comments like “fitting we are having thanksgiving by candle light”. By now, one has to begin wondering “how much lemonade we can consume here in our little valley?” As I gaze out my windows, another damp gray day is holding on like a soaked towel that fell in the pool. The fact that it’s so very close to being winter, I’ve decided to make limoncello instead. Maybe Ullr will swing by for a nip!

 

Lemoncello

 

 

 

We formally invite Khione, goddess of snow, to join us for the holidays. We’ll set up the guest room and she can stay until March.

The Rugelach That Won Over France – Tuesdays with Dorie

 

This was Eva and my first time making rugelach so of course, I searched google images to get a better idea of what we were setting out to create.
The images were enticing and we both were excited to make a new sweet treat. Once our eyes curiosity had been met, of course we then wondered where, in history, did rugelach originate? Yes, I’m one of those people who own books like A History of Food and The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion  and those books have been known to take up residence on my nightstand. Silly, I know, but I have found myself laughing out loud to some of past superstitions.  So, of course, I am going to research the roots and cultures who brought this treat to us and to top it off, it’s a great teaching moment for homeschool.

My highlight from the research is learning that rugelach can be spelled so many ways. Sweet news to me so I can stop, rechecking how to spell this word once and for all!  Karen Hochman shares that it’s known to be spelled any number of ways; rugelah, rugalah, rugelach, rugalach, rugulah, ruggelach, and ruggalach. She also gives the best historical view into the land of the European Jewish pastries that I could find. If your interest is peeked even a little you should check it out here .

At first read, I noticed Dorie wrote of peanuts being part of her rugelach, that won over the Air France attendants so I set out peanuts, only later to frantically re-read again and again the ingredient list looking for the peanuts we missed. There are none in this recipe, instead Dorie calls for pecans. Since pecans are not my or any of my family’s favorite nut I swapped them for almonds.

RKW_0605 RKW_0613 Dough at "curd" stage. BCM 12-9-14

RKW_0612

I measured all ingredients meticulously but in the end, I was left with over a cup of unused filling.  I think we may not have rolled the dough thin enough. This was apparent because we only had one revolution making a circle and not multiple spiraling layers as we had seen on google images. We did find, using the Wilson pie mat, like a sushi mat, made the dough easier to roll allowing us to keep pressure on the nut mixture and prevent the dough from cracking. Now all we need to do is make more! Which we’ve already started and there’s another batch chilling in the fridge for later.

RKW_0091

The finished product!

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The texture combination of gooey interior, flakey exterior and crunch made these taste pretty good and yes, even this non-coconut lover had seconds!

If you would like to make these royal treats just like Dorie does you can find the recipe over at Leite’s Culinaria. If you would like to read about how this recipe worked for Dorie’s group Baking Chez Moi here’s the link, maybe you’ll want to join us? Before I finished making my rugelach, I found myself reading the groups posts and found Mardi’s experience to be super helpful thanks Mardi!

Happy Baking!

Next up for Tuesdays with Dorie is a Gingerbread Bûche de Noël.

Rachelle and Eva

p.s. This is unrelated to the post other than I would really like to figure out how to get my smaller photos to line up horizontally rather than vertically. On my edit page they show up beautifully sequentially left to right  If anyone has any info on how to do this I would love to know!  Merci.

Cranberry Crackle Tart- Tuesdays with Dorie

Cranberries come twice a year and in my mind are associated with turkey and all the fixin’s. Would I have picked this recipe and said “that’s what I want to make!”? Probably not. This is why I am enjoying the Tuesdays with Dorie group right from the start. In life, it’s great to try new things. Eating my own words as a parent “try it, you won’t know you don’t like it until you try it.” Eva asked me if I like meringue; yes I do. Then, if I liked sweetened cranberries; yes, I do. So she said “Why not put them together and try it?”

The timing was apropos for cranberries, it is Thanksgiving in the US, one of the two times a year I think about these little red bursts of flavor. And we did need to bring a special dessert to our gathering, so this is it.

Winter storm arrives

Eva and I set about pulling our ingredients from the pantry and preparing our crust.  Little did we know (or even our National Weather Service let on they knew) but winter decided to arrive all at once. Heavy, wet snow sticking to itself like packing peanuts to a fleece shirt. As those fat wet flakes congregated on wispy willow branches and fruit trees we paused our work in the kitchen. We donned our hats and rain coats and headed out to save our favorite trees from the weight of the new fallen snow. Like bears looking for honey, we shook the base of the trees as best we could to relive the branches of their heavy load. Sometimes one of us would shake it just right to get the other full of snow. That, Eva thought was the best! However, we paid careful attention to not be in their path as the branches sprung back up as though they were happy to be free.

After we were satisfied that the tree branches would make it we returned to our baking task but quickly noticed our power was out.

BCW Galette Dough

 We set aside our dry ingredients and went about lighting candles and finding headlamps.

Galette Dough Ingredients

Funny things happen when distractions changed our direction. We had put our “ice water” in the freezer to chill however, when the power went out…

Ice water/ Frozen water BCM

 Now that we have “frozen water” we prepped the dish for the crust.

Thankful -buttered dish

 I couldn’t help myself.

Galette Crust

Still thankful under the dough.

Beans for weight!

 Our first time using beans as weights for galette crust under candlelight.

Cranberry Crackle Tart

I have to agree with Dorie in her opening description about Americans in Paris, Thanksgiving, and finding all the ingredients that confirm our nostalgic senses that it is this time of year.

It reminds me of a wonderful Thanksgiving we spent in Paris. Our French hostess, married to an American, set out to make a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for her international guests. She had emailed her Mother in-law for all the family recipes and without knowing what the dishes were supposed to look or taste like she busied herself to tracking down the exotic ingredients. Our gracious hosts went so far as to borrow a friend’s flat that was large enough so they could accommodate our three families. She made many trips bringing all the provisions from it seemed, almost every arrodissement of Paris, which I thought was a feat in itself, let alone preparing the whole meal singlehandedly. Of course I am not surprised, Pascale is a Superwoman. As I write this post, I just found out that she has written and published a cookbook!

Cranberry Crackle Ingredients

The ingredients are straight forward and few.

Cranberry Crackle Tart

The finished Tart!

Cranberry Crackle Tart

This Cranberry Crackle Tart traveled well and was devoured by a large group of ski racers during our Thanksgiving Ski Camp held in Canada this year.

New traditions, trying new things and being thankful no matter where we are this time of year.

~In gratitud Rachelle and Eva @ Caramelize Life

Making Life a Little Sweeter through Food, Travel and Community

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