Forgive me for stating the obvious, but today we’re finally hitting on the key ingredient in every kitchen – vanilla extract! Who doesn’t have a bottle of vanilla extract in their kitchen? It gets used in everything. In fact, yesterday the boys and I baked our favorite chocolate cake, and even that called for two teaspoons of vanilla extract.
My fist exposure with homemade vanilla extract was a few years ago when I received a bottle from my BFF for Christmas. It was amazing, and I cherished that bottle, wanting to use it but also keep it for ever because it was just so good. As you’ll see, DIYing your own extract is so easy that I probably should have reigned in my emotions a bit…
The key to make a quality vanilla extract comes down to two things : 1. quality beans and 2. time.
For this bottle of extract I used 8 Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans and 1 cup of vodka. Split each bean by slicing through it lengthwise, then place the beans in a jar, add the vodka (making sure that it covers the beans), and let sit for at least two months.
After that time, you don’t have to remove the beans. In fact, you can let the extract sit longer to get a richer flavor. And as you use the extract, you can top it off with more vodka to keep your batch going.
For how simple this recipe is, there are many ways to personalize it. Try different vanilla beans for different flavors (for example, Ugandan beans are supposed to have a more smokey flavor). You can also use different alcohols. I used vodka because it’s flavorless, so I would really only taste the vanilla from my beans, but you can substitute rum or bourbon. Personally, now that I have this bottle, I’m excited to experiment with a few more bean/alcohol combinations.
And if you just happen to have a big bottle of vodka sitting around, don’t forget that with a single vanilla bean and a few days, you can turn it into a smooth vanilla vodka! If you’ll remember, Calder made fun of my idea to make vanilla vodka, but the joke’s on him because that stuff was so good that it’s already gone and I’m thinking about making another batch (maybe with lime this time!).
Hey there, it’s almost the weekend!… and maybe you live somewhere that will actually feel spring-like on this last weekend in March? Our forecast was looking good, but now it’s taken a turn towards cold. So I’ll likely make one (or two) of these, curl up by the fire, and pretend that the snow has melted away.
Both of the ideas are variations on traditional drinks. We just substituted plain vodka for our (super-simple) homemade vanilla vodka and made another tweak here or there.
This recipe for vanilla-infused vodka includes lime zest. I knew that I didn’t want to limit my bottle of vodka to recipes where I wanted both the vanilla and lime flavors, so I skipped the lime, but both of today’s drinks include lime, and it really is a great pairing. So much so that it’s worth considering keeping a bottle of vanilla-lime vodka on the shelf.
Just a simple twist on the traditional Moscow Mule. Mix together ginger beer, vanilla vodka, and a splash of lime juice. So simple and so delicious!
This second drink is just a touch more exotic than your typical vodka tonic in that we add a splash of lime shrub. We make a vodka tonic with the vanilla vodka, add about a tablespoon of lime shrub, and then a spray of fresh lime juice if you have it.
yum & yum
Oh my goodness. We can’t stop with the banana cream pies! If you’re following our Instagram feed, you have all the proof you need (not one, but two pies in one week!)… and no joke, there are perfect bananas on the counter and plans for another pie (fortunately we have guests ready to dig in – we’re not that crazy).
Do you have any snow on the ground? We had a fantastic snow day yesterday! I read that Boulder’s 16+ inches in yesterday’s storm is more than the average snow for the month. I was so distracted by the sledding, matinees, and requests for banana cream pie, that I forgot to post. And I think Sarah’s off taking photos of staircases and doorways, so who knows when we’ll hear from here again ;-)? Anyway, today we’re sharing an amazing use for vanilla, and I really hope you’ll give it a try.
When we picked vanilla as the ingredient of the season. I knew I wanted to experiment with some savory dishes. That said, I didn’t have anything in particular in mind, and never in my wildest dreams did I see this savory roasted chicken on the horizon! We eat a lot of roasted chicken, and I’ve become so partial to our chicken with the flavors of preserved lemon and olives, but this dish is far on the other end of the spectrum. The flavors are more subtle, of course there’s the vanilla, but there’s also a mild nutty-ness from the browned butter. It’s a nice compliment to our repertoire of chicken dishes.
Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve made some vanilla-infused vodka (great for milkshakes!) and a double vanilla cake. Today we’re venturing out of the kitchen and using vanilla essential oil. If you like experimenting with essential oils, check out our archive of posts.
It’s been almost two years since we shared a room spray, which is surprising because these are so easy to make and do a fantastic job of freshening up a room without any of the overbearing artificial fragrances found in many store-bought sprays.
Whereas the rosemary and peppermint created an energizing combination, the lavender and vanilla combination in this spray provides a calming aroma. I added some fir balsam to this spray because I wanted something a little more complex. The fir balsam essential oil does a great job of bringing some of the outdoors in when it’s still a touch too cold to have the windows open here in the mountains.
To further enhance the vanilla aroma of the spray, I used our vanilla-infused vodka for the alcohol.
Ingredients and Hints :
- 3 ounces filtered water
- 8 drops vanilla essential oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
- 8 drops fir balsam essential oil
- 1.5 ounces alcohol (I used our vanilla-infused vodka!)
- spray or misting bottle
Pour everything into the bottle, give it a good shake, and spray away! You will have to shake it before every use. Really, it’s that simple!
And as we mentioned in the previous room spray post:
- If you don’t have the alcohol, you can use all water, but the aroma won’t linger as long.
- Of course, you can use any combination of oils, and increase or decrease the number of drops depending upon how intense you want the scent to be
Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. We’re looking forward to a few months of both sweet and savory dishes using vanilla.
Right after Sarah and I picked vanilla as the ingredient of the season, this recipe for a double vanilla butter cake was published on A Cup of Jo, and I knew we had to try it! This cake is so delicious served plain, but we also enjoyed ours for breakfast with a side of berries and as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee. Calder said that it reminded him of cakes he was served in Germany… and while I don’t have a specific example in mind, as soon as he said that, I couldn’t agree more, and was immediately transported back to my time there, having a snack on a train or stopping in to a little cafe for breakfast.
The original recipe called for both vanilla extract and vanilla paste, thus the double in its name. I didn’t have paste, and at first I wanted to make some, but after looking up a few different recipe and seeing that each one used different techniques, I felt unprepared to waste my precious beans on something I wasn’t sure about. Maybe I’ll do a bit more research and discuss vanilla bean paste in another post. Instead, I took the author’s advice and substituted vanilla extract for the paste, but then I used vanilla sugar (details at the end of the post) to dust the pan, keeping with the call for two types of vanilla.
Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. We’re looking forward to a few months of both sweet and savory dishes using vanilla. Plus, we’re a huge fan of milkshakes, so if you like today’s post, you may want to check out our matcha tea milkshake and hazelnut liqueur shake!
I made a bottle of vanilla vodka last week, as you’ll see below, it’s super easy to do, and it’s even better than the store-bought vanilla varieties because this is made with 100% real vanilla, nothing artificial here… and then we added candy-coated malted eggs.
Truth be told, vanilla vodka has never been on my radar, but since I’ve experimented with making the tea infused and rosemary infused vodkas, vanilla and vodka seemed like an obvious pairing. It wasn’t until after I made it that I wondered what to do with it. Calder said “throw it away”. Thanks. Then I did a Google search and came upon a comment board where multiple people recommended giving it away. What’s wrong with everyone?
Every season we like to pick one ingredient and focus on a variety of ways to use it both inside the kitchen and out. You may see the ingredient pop up in drinks, savory and sweet dishes, and cosmetic potions.
When you saw this post title, did you have a gut reaction? Are you excited for all things vanilla? Or are you thinking “ugg, how plain”? In the past I’ve definitely thought of vanilla as a plane-jane flavor and would skip it over something more exciting, but lately I’ve come to appreciate vanilla’s warm and calming scent and flavor.
We’re looking forward to a season of vanilla projects, from the simple vanilla sugar sweetening our morning coffee to experimenting with vanilla-scented homemade perfumes and air fresheners. What do you say? Are you game to play along? Any favorite uses for vanilla beans?