How to make: Vanilla Extract

 

How to make: Vanilla Extract
 
Have you ever wondered how they make vanilla extract, or been curious why they can taste so different from brand to brand? Well some brand actually use chemicals in the processing of their extracts, leading you ingesting poisons you would rather not have, but I have a solution for you! Just make you own like I do. Now that might sound confusing and borderline scary, but once you try this I promise you'll never buy the junky overpriced stuff in the store.
Author:
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 10 long sized (6-7") vanilla beans (see notes)
  • 14-15 ounces clear and unflavored vodka
  • 16 ounce GLASS container , amber works best
  • scissors
Instructions
  1. If your beans are older you can snap them, otherwise, use your scissors and cut 10 beans into ½ inch - 1 inch pieces and put them inside a glass container that's at-least 16 ounces and has a tight fitting lid. Pour in 14 - 15 ounces of a clear unflavored vodka. I just use the cheapest vodka at the store, but if you want you can use the more expensive stuff. The important part is to not get flavored vodka or a mix vodka, this will ruin the final flavor and is a waste of good vanilla beans.
  2. After you add the vodka, put on the cap and shake gently to help the process along. You will notice that it will already turn a slightly browner color and you might see little black specs, this is normal and is what will make your homemade extract 100 times better than store-bought in the end. Put your extract in a darker place, away from direct sunlight. An amber bottle will help with this, but since they're hard to find, storing away from sunlight works best. For the first week, try to shake it once a day, I find this helps give the best results.
  3. Minimum time for soaking is 2 weeks, this will give a weaker flavor, but still comparable to something in the store. One month is best for a full flavored extract that is slightly stronger than double strength at the store.
  4. At this point you can strain out the vanilla pods in a coarse mesh strainer (you want the seeds to fall through) or you can leave them in there. After about 2 months time, the extract will not get any stronger. At this stage you will have something super flavorful that makes this more than worth your while. As seen in the video it bests VERY dark and wonderful. The smell is something that cannot be described and the taste is nothing like vanilla from a bottle in the super market.
Notes
Some of you might be saying to yourself that making homemade vanilla extract would cost a small fortune, and you very well could be right. If you go to buy vanilla pods in the store they're usually 2 pods for 10 dollars USD, however, I have been using vanilla beans purchased off the Internet for years now with no issues. I purchase mine on eBay from a VERY well known and respected seller,CLICK HERE, please note that I am NOT being paid to advertise these people, I just like their products. I use grade B or extract grade vanilla, planifolia aka Madagascar bourbon beans. You can use grade a but it does not yield any better results, I have tried it. You can also use Tahitian vanilla but they do tend to be more expensive. I always suggest buying a pound of beans, this saves you a lot of money on shipping and the final product. After shipping it only costs about 31 dollars and will last you many years. Over time they dry out and are only good for extract, but I am on 3 years and the beans still produce an amazing flavored extract. Store vanilla in a tight fitting container, like a quart sized wide mouth mason jar away from direct sunlight. If your vanilla gets white mold of them , obviously throw them away or compost them.
 

Sesame Soy Asian Inspired Vinaigrette

This is my go to dressing. This recipe can be vegan friendly if maple syrup or another liquid sweetener like agave is used. It can also be a raw dressing depending on your ingredients. If making this for someone with gluten issues, please insure you use gluten free tamari/soy sauce, AND gluten free vinegar.

Ingredients:

1 cup grape-seed oil or extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sesame seed oil*
2 1/2 tablespoons whole sesame seeds
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 – 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground is best
2-4 tablespoons honey or liquid sweetener of choice**(see notes)
Ginger***(see notes)
Directions:

In a large bowl (high sided works best), add in your vinegar, soy sauce, and honey or other sweetener. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of oil. This should take 1-2 minutes of vigorous whisking. The trick is to make a dressing and not oily vinegar, there is a difference. Once you have 1/2 cup of oil in, try your sauce and if desired add the rest of the oil. At this point if you’re using it, whisk in the sesame oil as well. Once all your oil is whisked in, add your extra flavors or extra sweetener if desired. I used whole sesame seeds and black peppers. Stir in and you are done!

To store this dressing use a mason jar or repurposed glass jar with a tight fitting lid OR use a VERY well cleaned salad dressing bottle, I like the ones with the caps on the lid that restricts the amount that comes out at one time. In the fridge this will last for weeks, maybe a month or so I have never tried it that long. Before using, shake really well to re-emulsify and you’re ready to go.

*If you do not want to use or don’t have access to sesame oil, you can substitute it with regular oil or leave out entirely.

**If you are vegan or simply do not use honey, feel free to use maple syrup or agave. If neither appeal to you, try making a simple syrup by boiling 1/4 cup water with 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk well to ensure no grainy texture. Once cooled, substitute this in for honey. Start with 1 tablespoon and try it from there as this changes the flavor.

***If you want to add a ginger flare to this dish, use a microplane or fine tooth grater and grate some ginger into the bowl. I would suggest 1/2 – 1 tablespoon. Whisk this in with the sesame seeds. Optionally you can add other flavors such as fresh garlic or chili flakes to change the flavor.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: If you are making this and/or cooking for someone with gluten allergies or celiacs disease. Make sure to purchase ingredients that are certified gluten free, and clean your utensils very well. Better safe than sorry.

Nutritional information is per tablespoon, Thanks!

Grocery Haul Farmers Market 08/12/2012

So I’m a notorious insomniac and usually don’t go to bed until around the time the sun is going to come up! Lately I have been making a big effort to not do this anymore. I will talk about this more later, but I needed to share that so you would understand how amazing it was I was up at 8am on a Sunday morning! I admittedly haven’t gone to a farmers market lately due to various reasons, but I was so happy to go. I woke up my husband and we walked the 2 miles to the market. I was pleasantly surprised that more of my favorite vendors had started doing the Sunday market. I think I did very well with my purchases. I did “splurge” a little on things like the onions and peppers, however they were needed for recipe videos like Tofu Scramble and Pickled peppers mix! (videos coming soon, promises!)

Here is what I purchased with totals:

2 cans Dole pineapple juice (not from concentrate) $1.50 ea
1 free water bottle (BPA Free)
2 free packages Dill pickle canning mix
2 free package instant pectin
3.5kgs tomatoes, red/yellow mixed. $11.00 total
just over 1lb purple carrots, $2.75 total
1 bunch Italian parsley 99¢
6 HUGE cucumbers $2.00 total
4 yellow onions $2.00 total
3 sweet peppers $1.00 total
6 HUGE zucchini $2.00 total
2 eggplant $1.00 each
1 heavy red cabbage $2.00
mix of 10 hot peppers $1.00 total

Total: $29.74!!!

My cat decided to come outside and inspect my haul after we finished the video. I don’t share enough cat photos, so you’re welcome! ^.^& before anyone gets stupid, no I wasn’t choking her, its just looked like that because I was holding her under her arms.

Fruitarian Grocery Haul – 06/28/2012


(click on the image to enlarge, this is my actual receipt with personal stuff blocked out)

Today I went grocery shopping at walmart and got just a few items. As you know I’ve been doing a low fat high carb raw vegan challenge. This grocery haul reflects that. This will be my food for the week.

51 pounds of bananas (29 cents a pound)
14 pounds of peaches (99 cents a pound)
15 pounds of tomatoes (69 cents a pound)
a 15 pound watermelon (1.98)

In total, only cost me $32.96! Pretty cheap for one week huh. Yes I have leftover avocados from last week’s haul and I do have 3 large heads of lettuce in the fridge, however I’ll probably just eat what you see in the video.

Healthy Snack Idea – Bell Pepper Strips w/ Dressing

Have you ever wanted something sweet and salty to snack on? I had that craving tonight. Unfortunately, we usually go for the less healthy options. Here is what I came up with, and It was really good. This would be especially good in late spring when bell peppers are in season and extra sweet.

Ingredients:

2 medium sized bell peppers or 10 mini bell peppers
2 tablespoons of fat free Italian dressing
1/4 tablespoon vegan mayonaise or your favorite mayonaise
a few dashes of tobassco (I use chipotle flavor), amount is up to you

Directions:

Cut the bell peppers into strips. In a small bowl add dressing, mayo, and tobassco and mix until combined.

That’s it, super simple! Makes 1 serving in a few minutes. I suggest using different colors of bell pepper:
Red is the sweetest, followed by orange, then yellow, and finally green, purple, and white.
I used mini bell peppers which look like this: