Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peanut Crunch

You may think it is too late for cooking up goodies in your kitchen for Christmas 2014...but think again.  Here is a simple and delightful sweet 'n salty treat that you can whip up in a few minutes.  It is a great addition to the Christmas trays and also packages up nicely for a hostess gift any time of the year.  Thank-you to my friend Judy who shared this recipe on her blog many years ago.

  • 1 bag peanut butter chips
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 2 cups mini-pretzels, somewhat crushed
Place chips and peanut butter in a large, glass bowl.
Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
Stir until smooth. (Continue to heat in microwave for 20 seconds at a time, if necessary.)
Add peanuts and pretzel pieces.  Stir to coat evenly.
Spread on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove from the refrigerator and break the sheet of candy bite-sized pieces.
Place in a large container with a tightly fitting lid and store in the refrigerator until needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Making vanilla extract couldn't be easier!  
All you need are two ingredients...vanilla beans and alcohol.

Pure homemade vanilla extract smells heavenly...
adds intense flavour to baked goods...
and makes a fun little gift from the kitchen.

  • 12 Vanilla Beans 
  • 2 cups vodka 
 Rule of thumb ~ use six beans per 1 cup of alcohol.  (Never less.  More is better!)

  1. Split each bean in half lengthwise using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.  Leave an inch connected at each end of the bean.  (Just because.  For looks!)
  2. Place the beans in a clean jar.  Cover them with vodka to submerge completely.  Place the lid on the jar and give it a little shake.
  3. Put the date on the lid...just so you know how long it has been steeping.
  4. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for several months.  Shake occasionally.The longer you wait, the richer it is.
  5. Strain the infusion through a coffee filter to remove the flecks of seed.  Or, leave them if you prefer.
  6. Decant the extract into pretty bottles for gift-giving...using a funnel.
  7. Add more vodka to the 'spent' vanilla beans in the jar and make more vanilla!  Eventually the beans will need to be replaced...once all the flavour has been extracted.  I left the 'used' beans in the jar and added fresh ones as well.
Vanilla happens to be among the most expensive spices, since growing the seed pods is very labour intensive.  I ordered Madagascar beans on-line.  As for the vodka, I used the least expensive kind I could find.   Vodka is the preferred alcohol since it is virtually flavourless.

And that is the synopsis of my first foray into making vanilla extract.  The vanilla has been packaged and gifted...and the next batch is steeping in a dark corner of my pantry.  I thought I would share my experience with you now...to give you plenty of time to get your vanilla extract production going before next year's gift-giving season is upon us.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Brown Sugar Cookies

This is a tried and true recipe from long ago.  My boys always enjoyed these cookies at their friends' home...and brought the recipe home for me one day. Though they are a year-round 'lunchbox' kind of cookie...I like to make them at Christmas-time as well.  Create patterns by pressing the dough flat with the bottom of a fancy glass (or a vase, in my case) dipped in sugar.  The sparkling sugar crystals add a festive touch!

Brown Sugar Cookies
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  1. Combine melted butter and brown sugar.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth.
  3. Add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and stir until combined.
  4. Form small balls of dough (3/4" diameter) and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Press down with bottom of fancy tumbler dipped in granulated sugar.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven.  Leave on pans for several minutes; then transfer to wire rack to cool.
  8. Yield: about 5 dozen cookies