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How to Make Vanilla Extract and Fall Garden Update

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Christmas is coming up in just a few and now is the perfect time for making your own homemade vanilla extract. It is very simple to make and much more economical than buying vanilla extract in the teeny tiny bottles from the store. All it takes is vanilla beans, vodka, a bottle and some time.

There are lots of different kinds of vanilla beans from different regions including Madagascar, Tahiti, Mexico and Tonga. My personal experience with making vanilla extract involves using grade b Madagascar vanilla beans that you can buy online. You can get grade a, which is whole vanilla pods free of any dents splits or marks. I went with grade b. Grade b is vanilla pods that may have dents tears or marks on them and are slightly cheaper. You are cutting them up anyway so to me it didn’t matter if they had imperfections.

What you’ll need:

a jar that seals well, like a mason jar about 3-4 vanilla beans per cup of vodka(My experience has been with grade b Madagascar beans) vodka (any type will do) I have also heard that you can use brandy or rum, but I have not tried it a dark place to store your vanilla at least 2 months to allow it to age

How to make your gourmet vanilla extract:

Use a sharp knife and carefully slit your beans down the middle to reveal the grainy insides of the bean Cut the beans into sections that are small enough to lay flat at the bottom of your jar (use 3-4 beans per cup of alcohol) Pour the alcohol over the beans and securely attach the lid Give the jars a good shake Set the jars in a dark place and shake it about once a week or so for 2 months. The extract will keep indefinitely. You need to make sure that the beans stay covered by the alcohol or they may mold. But, as long as they remain submerged, you’re good to go.

See how the alcohol darkens as it ages and mingles with the vanilla bean?

For the vanilla you’re keeping for yourself you may want to just use an old maple syrup container that has been cleaned and sanitized. If you’ll be giving the extract as gifts you may wish the purchase cute containers to give it to family and friends. I’ve seen plenty of nice little mason jars at thrift shops and big box stores that are reasonably priced or you can look to buy some online like the ones below:

Even if you don’t use them all for vanilla gifts they’d be great for storing food or craft supplies. Or, I have another gift idea coming up that you could use some of these jars for as well. You can get a pack of about 6 of these cute little jars for about 15 dollars.

These are a little more pricey, but they would be great for storing vanilla extract or even personal servings of kombucha or water kefir! If you go with a plain jar you can always add your own personalized labels to jazz things up. Check out the great free printable at My Baking Addiction. Pin It

 

To make the gift extra special you could include a few of your favorite recipes either hand writeen or typed up. One of my favorite christmas presents ever was a collection of hand written recipes. A few recipes using vanilla that I love include Amazing Whole Grain Brownies, Baked Blueberry Oatmeal and Healthier Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

Enjoy your vanilla making! I bet you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff :)

Fall Garden Update

And as far as my fall garden it is coming along quite well. I’ve been meaning to update for a while. The broccoli did especially well. You can see that it kind of overshadowed the beets and the spinach and they haven’t gotten quite as large as expected due to the shade from the broccoli-zilla plants.

I was so proud to have my best kohlrabi that I have ever grown that were so beautiful and looked absolutely delicious… and can you guess what? This innocent looking little (80 pound!) dog stole them right out of the garden and ate the two very best ones!!!!!

But we have lots of gorgeous little sugar snap pea blossoms…

And some little peas

And God really always amazes me with all of his beautiful creations. Look how those little stringy bits grow so beautifully and intricately. They’re like a little work of art :) ” For from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.” – Wisdom Chapter 13:?

 

Are you growing a garden? Dreaming of a spring garden?

Have any tips for making vanilla extract or a source for cute bottles?

 

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5 Minute Candied Nuts

I don’t know about you, but around here things get super busy at this time of year and there is not a lot of spare time to spend in the kitchen. These simple candied nuts are made on your stove top in less than 10 minutes. Butter, sugar and the nut of your choice are cooked in a skillet for about 3 or 4 minutes. Next, you spread them on a greased tray or parchment paper and sprinkle with salt for a perfectly salty and sweet treat. I’ll go ahead and warn you that they are dangerously addictive!

They would make a perfect last minute gift packaged in a mason jar with a beautiful ribbon and are great to set out as a treat for guests to munch on. Store them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. You can easily toss in a few of your favorite spices such as cinnamon or even a bit of cayenne pepper for a treat that is spicy and sweet.

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Healthy Snack Ideas for Christmas

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The season of Christmas get togethers, class parties and family festivities is upon us. So many times these are potluck type events where we are supposed to bring a dish. It is always nice to have some healthy options available that are tasty and sometimes fun as well. Here are a few ideas to inspire you, including some simple dishes that can be thrown together at the last minute with no cooking required.

Veggie tray with dip from Betty Crocker- a few dip ideas include: creamy basil dip, black bean hummus, peanut butter dip and crock pot hummus. Santa Strawberries from Tumblr- (use poppy seeds for eyes and easy DIY whipped cream) Herbed Cheese Spread garnished with fresh herbs and berries from Southern Living. What a simple, yet lovely presentation! Santa Hat Brownies from Bored Panda. These would be perfect with amazing whole grain brownies baked in mini muffin tins. Snowman Shooters from The Family Kitchen Fruit Christmas Tree from Little Wonder’s Day (Check out her other cute variation as well!) Cheese Christmas Tree from The Nibble These olive and cream cheese penguins from The View From Great Island are simply adorable. Simple candy cane snack from Make and Do Friend. These would be a fun “project” for kids! Christmas Cheese Platter from Beauty and Bedlam Fruit Tree from What’s the Buzz This vegetable tree from Taste of Home is made with a wide array of fresh veggies and almost looks too good to eat!

For more healthy holiday ideas check out our series of 12 Weeks on Healthy Christmas Ideas including tons of stocking stuffer ideas, gift ideas, homemade body/lip balm and more!

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Easy Eggnog Recipe

Easy Eggnog

Who knew making your own eggnog is as simple as throwing a few ingredients in the blender? Use milk or cream along with egg yolks, vanilla, spices and a bit of syrup. This delicious beverage is a tasty and rather nutritious wintry treat to enjoy any day. This recipe came from Lindsay over at Passionate Homemaking and was slightly adapted to taste. If you’ve never visited Passionate Homemaking, you’ll want to stop by, as she shares about natural and intentional living with a Christian twist.

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