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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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Chicken Breasts Diable

Celebrating life, community and new experiences.

Double Digits! WP 2013

We celebrated my youngest’s birthday when she rolled into proud double digits. It is our family tradition to honor a new year with a special dinner.  The previous year she choose Lamb with her family-famous quote “Lamb is my cake” when asked what she desired for dinner. This time she chose her favorite steamed beets with melted chèvre and being a member to the French Friday’s with Dorie I decided to try a new recipe from her most loved cookbook Around My French Table – Chicken Breasts Diable.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Thank you to all the wonderful Mothers in the world who make life sweeter for everyone.

Lilac Sugar

To keep the sweet aroma of lilacs after their bloom is done, and around our house that happens quickly, gather some lilac flowers now and layer them in a jar with sugar alternating sugar and flowers. Set the Lilac Sugar in a cool dark place for 2-3 weeks and then you will have a lovely scented sugar to use in tea, baking or sauces! I think using the sugar to make cupcakes with candied lilac flowers would be superb!

Whistler me 2010  Rachelle Weymuller @ Caramelize Life
Making Life Sweeter Through Food, Travel and Community

Can You Cook With Dry Ice?

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Dry Ice with a Green Laser

The 4 pints of ice cream that we received yesterday is almost gone. No, really. You may be thinking, “How can this be?” Sad though we are… there are only a few spoonfuls left, but our bellies are smiling. The dry ice the pint containers were shipped to us in has completely evaporated into thin air...poof!

Green Laser Light, Water & Dry Ice

The good news is, the magic of this May Day gift hasn’t dissipated into the either just yet. Thoughts about how much fun the dry ice was are still kicking around in our heads. Yes, we know it’s not a toy and every precaution needs to be adhered to, to be safe. But we are not the only ones who find the stuff FUN!

Dry ice-foggy, my memory begins to clear.  One of my favorite gifted recipe books (which I have yet to produce anything from, but adore drooling over the ideas within) is The Fat Duck Cookbook written by the British self taught kitchen wizard Heston Blumenthal. A mad scientist in his culinary circles, he’s pulling at the ears of the scientific world through his unrelenting curiosity (I think this is the wish that nearly every parent has; to keep curiosity alive through adulthood) he creates works of art such as his Radish Ravioli of Oyster (pg.340-341)…for those of you who don’t have this beautiful book you’ll need to close your eyes… no…tighter, so your thoughts are pitch black.

Now construct an image of a space aged glowing globe, with walls made of vellum thin sliced radishes. This glowing radish globe is suspended weightlessly against the black background. Envision a single ring of sliced radishes mimicking a Saturn-esque planet.  I have read that if this work of art radish dish were ordered in his restaurant The Fat Duck, it would be accompanied by a single iPod to further set the mood and complete the experience of the senses. I imagine this to be an encounter that memory never forgets.

Further research shows that Mr. Blumenthal also enjoys the use of liquid nitrogen when cooking. In an article from the Independent he offers a few recipes  to those of us less mad, home-cooks where he can extend his restaurant goal; to invoke the feeling of excitement in his patrons [The Fat Duck History pg 113]. I am sure one could create the mood of excitement in the kitchen if one were inclined to whip up fresh ice cream in 90 seconds!  I know I could (and possibly earn a few cool mom awards as well. 😉

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Dry Ice and Food Coloring!

Still curious? The list is long for dry ice uses, some I would never have thought of but one I might try is the method of flash freezing fresh fruit. I could see this speeding up my current process of freezing fruit overnight on a cookie sheet and allowing for more garden time!  I found this handy site if you would like to learn more.

Happy Weekend to you!

<img src="https://caramelizelife.com/rachellekweymuller.jpg" Width="604" height= "401" alt= "rachellekweymuller weymullerphotography" title= "rachellekweymuller weymullerphotography"/>   Rachelle @ Caramelize Life
Making Life Sweeter Through Food, Travel and Community!

Parfait! A Perfect May Day Surprise!

The tradition of May Day is celebrated around the globe. Each culture has its own take but the traditions boil down to spreading kindness to another.

As a kid I remember leaving little bouquets of hand picked flowers at our neighbors door and enjoying the anonymous aspect of it, or at least I thought I was being sneaky, I’m sure they knew.

Hand picked flowers Hannah WP

Now a quarter mile from my next adult neighbor and further from those with children, no flowers land on our doorstep and well we haven’t a doorbell either, no fun meter here. Yes, life is hard here in the countryside. However, due to modern technology we no longer hike up hill both ways in a snow storm to get to school, we drive and thankfully so does the UPS truck.

Image 30 no logo WP Parfait

You see May Day surprises are still possible. May 1st I found a peculiar box at our front door. Yes, I know who physically left it and so does my dog who is now enjoying his treat.

Image 31no logo parfait box WP

I look really surprised

Peculiar because it had ICE CREAM printed all over it. Could it really be? You gotta hand it to today’s transportation system. I knew you could ship live baby chicks but ice cream too? Parfait I say, well not really but that too was printed all over the box as well.

Image 28 no logo parfait WP EVA

Giddy with curiosity that someone would send us ice cream and full of excitement my family opened the box. Front and center we find a “caution dry ice” letter. All of a sudden this gift has an added bonus, ice cream and a learning opportunity/science experiment!

Image 29 caution parfait WP

Image 25 Eva no logo WP Parfait Image 26 Image 32

Image 34 Parfait no logo Eva ice WP

Finding out what happens when…

Image 37 Eva, dry ice Parfait

Dry Ice mixes with apple juice

Image 33 Eva Dry Ice Parfait WP

The excitement begins!

Image 36 Eva Dry Ice Parfait WP

pretty fun…

Science!

Science at it’s best…and fun to watch too!

Image 14 May Day Glo WP

Or, in the sink with water!

Upon further inspection we found the packing slip which spilled the beans on the delicious flavors within.

~Meyer Lemon
What they say it tastes like: Imagine the same sweet and tangy goodness of lemon curd frozen into a smooth and creamy ice cream. We use Meyer lemons, which are thin-skinned and delicately perfumed.

~Mint Stracciatella
What they say it tastes like: Our mint doesn’t taste like candy canes, but rather fresh mint, straight from the garden. That’s because we steep our custard with real organic spearmint leaves from Marigold and Mint. Our delicate, chocolate flakes are made using TCHO organic chocolate and traditional Italian methods.

~Fleur de Caramel
What they say it tastes like: A traditional French caramel with a silky texture and beautiful amber color. We use just the right amount of genuine Fleur de Sel to bring out the deep caramel taste. Neither overly salty nor cloyingly sweet.


~ We also found out who the sender was…Thank you Ira and Courtney for sending such a fun and yummy gift!

funny factoid:

For all those who have spontaneously declared some sort of resolution and broken it before it began…I’ll add I too can sympathize. Not just 2 hours before that peculiar box arrived I had spurted the words ” I think I’ll give up sugar for the month of May”

…maybe the second half of the month of May.

Bon appetit!

Head Shot RachelleRachelle @ caramelize life

“Making Life A Little Sweeter Through Food, Travel and Community”

Bunny Eggs Because It Is Not The Easter Chicken

I don’t usually post on Sundays but I couldn’t resist. This morning my 10 and 13-year-old were discussing the reason behind the Easter Bunny and his connection to hiding eggs. Our conversation wandered up and down hills and back again with my youngest declaring that it should have been the Easter Chicken!

Easter Bunny

But she might be partial to chickens 🙂

Halloween 2011

Happy Easter to you!

Head Shot Rachelle

Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

“Making Life A Little Sweeter Through Food, Travel and Community”

A Spring Morning Routine

Spring is here and my late morning routine begins again!

Favortie Morning Routine rachellekweymullerphotography.com

Carrot + Apple + Ginger

This week we’ve been busy behind the scenes planting, cooking, tasting, planning and working on the site. We are looking forward to sharing with you soon!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend…

Head Shot Rachelle

  Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

“Making life a little sweeter through food, travel and community”

 

It’s A Comfort-Food-Farro Kind Of Day

Spring is here, no wait… it’s not, oh here it comes… Nope. Now it’s snowing. Don’t get me wrong:

I LOVE SNOW.

But I can see grass now. It’s over, I can’t go back, I’ve gone and done it. The potting shed is clean and the seeds are calling my name.

RKW_4449 Seeds
Ok, so it’s mud season; the fifth season (right after Winter; just before Spring)  Mud season is when we are thankful for all wheel drive and a high clearance vehicle, when I get to be a little crazy at the wheel, just to get up the mile long road we call a “driveway.” Mud season is when the dogs’ paws are caked with the newly emerged earth and their fur becomes the transporter for all that was outside to now reside inside. My neighbor tells me “You’re out numbered” (kids, dogs, cats, bird, bunny, chickens… oh and our exchange student’s fish-Fishy (guess who’s fish it will be in July?)) she advises to “Just let go.”

I think it will be my new mantra.

RKWeymuller Mud Season

This morning I practiced that mantra and put on slippers (dirt goes unnoticed better that way) and made emmer pancakes; a little comfort food for a cold damp day. I was surprised by the fact that breakfast, from egg-crackin’ to clean-up, took little more than 20 minutes. The aroma wafting from the griddle pulled my little sleepy heads out from under their covers and had them at the kitchen bar in no time. I had that Proud Mama moment of knowing that I’m providing a healthy, beginning of the day meal (that they will actually eat) for my active kids. Hopefully they’ll be satisfied until lunch.

Oh! Lunch! I plan the day from one meal to the next. Last night I tried something new; the farro boldly went where only basmati rice had been before…the rice maker. Yup, hoping it would transform our long stove top cooking times to that of a care free slow cooker experience. I am happy to report:  <<genius!>>  It worked! And today I have fresh farro for lunch, via my rice maker.  (Enter celebratory music and little happy dance that you really don’t want in your head).

RKW_4493 Farro, Goat Cheese, Kate and tomat salad

Spinach and Blue Bird Grain Farro Salad:
serves 2 for lunch

1 cup farro
3 cups washed baby organic spinach
A handful of sweet cheery tomatoes halved
1/4 cup goat cheese(Sunny Pine Farm)
dash of lemon pepper
pinch of salt

Stove top method:  Add the Farro to a medium pot with 3 cups or so of water and 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer for 45-50 minutes.When farro grains are plump, soft and still chewy remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
Or
Rice Maker method: I use a 1 cup grain to 1 cup liquid and set it to gaba (longer time but great for more nutrients) brown rice mode. But follow your rice makers directions for brown rice.

~Saute baby spinach with a little water and a dash of lemon pepper and a pinch of salt, until it wilts then remove from heat
~fill warmed bowl with farro
~crumble goat cheese onto the farro
~top with wilted baby spinach and halved tomatoes

Enjoy!

Head Shot Rachelle  Rachelle Weymuller @ Caramelize Life
“Making Life Sweeter Through Food, Travel and Community”

Seed Dreaming

A Friday photo to send you into the weekend.

Today we are day dreaming of seed starting and garden days. Making our lists and checking them twice!
Tell us what you’ll be planting this year.

 

RKW_4362 Seed Cataloguing 2/2013 WP color

Seed Dreaming

 

And the winner for the Food with the Highest antioxidant Content is…. (drum roll please)

~Join us for our two-part series on the food with the highest antioxidant tour

Part 1

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pure and simple, dark chocolate and cacao nibs top the charts in antioxidant levels ~ beating out acai berries, kale and broccoli on the Oxygen Radial Absorbance Capacity scale (more on this scale below). Shocked? I sure was when I recently learned this bit of information. Un-shockingly, my children were already rehearsing their “eat your broccoli” retorts.

Can it really be true? How did I stumble upon this fantastic news?

It all started when my daughter exclaimed, “chocolate grows on trees!”

Tour brochures lined up on our vacation condo’s counter top: chocolate, coffee, rice, taro etc. Eenie, Meeny, Miney, Moe…
Well, Miney and Moe are actually kids named Hannah and Eva and I guess that makes my husband Eenie and by default I’m the Meeny.

The meany who wants to add an educational aspect to our Hawaiian vacation. I’m sure you can see where this is going…

Steelgrass

Taro is island specific but no votes there; of the ag tours, rice (unfortunately), had no tours on our free days so the choice was between coffee and chocolate. I love both but would rather have the kids hyped up on vitamin B-12 goodness than buzzing on caffeine. Thankfully, they agreed.

After a little research, and a recommendation from some friends, we decided to check out the STEELGRASS family chocolate tour, which had an added bonus that included a voice over studio on site with the likes of Ben Stiller and Jack Black…read: now husband is on board too.

I spoke with Tony Lydgate, Steelgrass family owner, to confirm our Chocolate from Branch to Bar reservation and he said tours start at 9 am. I’m thinking; who doesn’t like chocolate for breakfast? The kids sure thought this was an excellent idea and that maybe the sun had gotten to my senses, but no one mentioned anything about that.

The evening prior to our tour, the children slept soundly with visions of Hawaiian chocolate dancing in their heads. Up bright and early like I’ve only seen on christmas morning they were ready to go devour their breakfast! It’s healthy right? Local, sustainable, organic, without additives; all the checks were there for our foodie family list, so why can’t we eat chocolate all the time? All you parents out there get ready because those answers we tell our kids that it is a treat are now debunked and I hear doctors are recommending a daily dose of dark chocolate.

Studies have found that eating dark chocolate daily can reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.  What? I guess the trick is on me for wanting an educational tour, now our tour guides Michelle and Annabelle have my kids full attention and I’m taking notes on this brilliant way to educate all ages.

So the tour begins, by sharing that chocolate is made from cacao and yes, cacao grows on trees. But before we learn more about cacao our guides direct us through their grove of meticulously labeled tropical fruit trees, educating our tour group through our senses about each fruit.

No crazy Wonka tour here, all children and adults munched freely on sustainably grown, Tahitian Lime and sugar cane (known as KO) a sweet and tangy lime aid in yo’ mouth combination. Longan or Dragon Eye fruits that would be perfect in a bowl on Halloween, crimson red Mountain Apple and Lilikoi (passion fruit) and more, all without incident.

Soursop (Custard Apple)

Dragon Eye

Dragon Eye

Lilikoi (Passionfruit)

Blissfully meandering through the tropical trees, learning about Egyptian paper making from papyrus trees and smelling the bark of a cinnamon tree ~ the mission of our tours guides emerges.

This fantastic way of bringing in unassuming students, thinking only of chocolate bars to impart knowledge about sustainable agriculture, is like tossing zucchini into chocolate cake without the kids knowing.

A Truffula tree right? Nope it’s Papyrus

Cacao is a tree, and in order for us chocolate lovers to fully enjoy the purest foodie dark chocolate scrumptious delights, we need to understand that our delectable bar only needs four ingredients: cacao, sugar, vanilla and an emulsifier like soy lecithin or cacao butter. But from Branch to Bar so much more goes on behind the scenes.

Cacao Trees

Cacao trees with colorful pods

It’s a meeting of the minds at the Lydgate Farm with PhD’s, Oxford alumnae, musicians, artists and others that form a team who have come together to develop a sustainable agriculture program to teach others the same.

By sharing the behind the scenes chocolate creation process, Steelgrass shows the many stages of the production, and in so doing, they also show the excellence that comes from being a steward for sustainable agriculture on the Hawaiian Islands.  We learned that it takes healthy pollinators not limited to bees for the fruit trees but it’s tiny gnats that are able to pollinate the petite cacao flowers.  They use companion planting as a natural pest control and rely on collaboration and cooperation between neighboring cacao farmers.  This is their  hypothetical insurance policy, if disaster hits in the form of bugs, weather or other, then the diversification of plants, their various locations and different cacao farms, help ensure sustainability.  This all falls under the umbrella of the Kauai Cacao Cooperative for creating a homegrown chocolate industry on the island.

It is incredible to think that all these aspects and hard work go into making that dark flavorful chocolate available and so good for us to enjoy.  Once you understand you can’t forget and now that price of the chocolate bar makes sense. But it is perfect because, unlike milk chocolate where I could keep on eating more and more, I find that a small amount of dark chocolate hits the spot and I am satisfied…better for the environment, better for me..it’s a win~win.


Honey on bamboo

Honey on bamboo sticks

Join us next week for part 2 of our chocolate tour adventure!

Aloha kakou,

Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

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