Vanilla Extract: Phase One

Posted by: on Jul 10, 2012 | 2 Comments

Vanilla Extract: Phase 1

It may be July, but I already have Christmas gifts on my mind. I knew I wanted to give vanilla extract a try after seeing how easy it can be to make. I recruited my mother-in-law to help with the project. We pick up several liters of decent vodka. I had ordered these pretty bottles with airtight stoppers and Madagascar vanilla beans. Each vanilla bean was slit in half with two per bottle. Each 8.5 fl. oz. bottle were filled to the base of the neck with vodka and now they will sit for several months. The color will darken to a deep amber as the vanilla steeps. When I head back the west coast, my mother-in-law has generously agreed to shake them every few weeks so they will be ready for Christmas gifts in December.

To see examples of the what the finished product will (hopefully) look like check out: Annie’s Eats and Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy.

Vanilla Extract

1/4 pound Madagascar Vanilla Beans
12 8.5 fl. oz. airtight bottles (or any airtight bottle you have on hand)
4 1.75 liters of vodka

Split the vanilla beans, drop at least two pods into each bottle and fill with vodka and allow to sit for at least two months in a cool dark location shaking occasionally.


Lentil and Almond Granola

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2012 | 5 Comments

Cinnamon Lentil Granola

When I saw this recipe for Lentil Granola at Stone Soup, I knew I would have to try it immediately. I used to eat oatmeal and granola all the time before I went grain-free for health reasons a year ago. I made a few changes to the recipe to make it Specific Carbohydrate Diet friendly. This includes soaking the lentils overnight to remove some of the starch. This does change the texture a bit and affect the cooking time so you could follow the original recipe if this isn’t an issue for you. Many people don’t eat coconut on the SCD, so you could also leave it out and this would still work well. For anyone following this diet, you know it can be difficult to find substitutions for grains, but this is really good.

The mellow flavor of the red lentils is absolutely key for this recipe, and you can find them in just about any market. They are my go-to choice for soups so I actually had all these ingredients on hand. You could add dried fruit or other nuts to this granola. I found that I really liked it with just lentils and coconut. I will be posting another variation of this recipe soon that is perfect if you prefer your granola to have more crunchy clusters.

Lentil and Almond Granola
Adapted from Stone Soup

4 cups pre-soaked lentils *see note below
1/2 cup honey
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the lentil. Cook for about 2 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool. In the warm pot stir together the honey, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla. Add the lentils and combine well. You can taste it at this point to check for sweetness. Spread the mixture onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes. Add the almonds and stir well. Bake for another 45 minutes stirring after about every 15 minutes. Add the coconut after 45 minutes have passed. Turn the oven up to 325 degrees and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are golden brown. Allow to cool in the oven for a crispier granola. I kept this refrigerated in an airtight container.

* To prepare the lentils, rinse well in cold water. Soak overnight in the refrigerator and rinse again prior to use. I have an hand held strainer that I can fit into a large bowl to prevent this from turning into a huge mess!


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted by: on Jun 3, 2012 | No Comments

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whenever I ask J what kind of cookies he wants me to bake, he says chocolate chip. These were going to be Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies, but he convinced me to make them Oatmeal Chocolate Chip. We agreed to disagree on the merits of dried fruit in cookies. Since I don’t actually eat them, he won. I still think this recipe would be great with dried cranberries or the nutmeg and raising that were called for in the original recipe. Old fashioned oats and dark brown sugar give these cookies a nice chewy texture. Just be very careful not to over bake them. J liked these so much that he took a few for breakfast. They are oatmeal cookies after all!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker’s Recipe for Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies 

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dried cranberries or raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a mixer cream the butter and sugars. When fluffy add the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients, oatmeal and chocolate chips. Stop the mixture as soon as they are combined.

Using a rounded tablespoon of dough, roll each cookie into a ball. Allow each cookie about 2 inches to spread. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about two minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely.


Coconut Quinoa Pudding Parfait

Posted by: on Jun 6, 2011 | 6 Comments

Coconut Quinoa Pudding Parfait


I like to mix things up for breakfast. I am always on the hunt for healthful and different ideas that often leave J asking, “What exactly IS this?”. Barley, oatmeal, quinoa, it is all fair game on our breakfast table in savory and sweet variations.  This only takes a bit more effort than standard oatmeal, and I think it looks so pretty dressed up with early summer berries. The pudding can easily be made the night before and the parfaits assembled in the morning. Of course, it could also be served for dessert. I think it is best at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Coconut Quinoa Pudding

Adapted from the Quinoa Pudding from Whole Living

3/4 cup rinsed quinoa
4 cups coconut milk (I used an already blended coconut milk as opposed to the canned variety)
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
3 whole cardamon pods
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp cornstarch

For the parfaits:

2 tbsp dried unsweetened coconut, 1 1/2 cups mixed berries, additional cinnamon if desired

Bring the quinoa and 3 cups of coconut milk and cardamom pods to a boil, simmer stirring often for about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine, eggs, cornstarch, honey, salt and cup of coconut milk. Combine until the mixture is well mixed with no lumps and stir very slowly into the pot over low heat. As the mixture thickens add the shredded coconut and remove the cardamom pods.  When the pudding has thickened remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

For the parfaits: Using a tall glass layer 1/4 cup of pudding topped with dried unsweetened coconut, cinnamon and berries, ending with the berries on top. Serve immediately.

Please visit the other desserts that are part of the Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies!


Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

Posted by: on Mar 15, 2010 | 16 Comments

I wanted to make something simple in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  I had seen Ina Garten make this recipe into shortbread fingers on Barefoot Contessa, and then I was reminded of them when I saw them on Brown Eyed Baker’s blog.   As with any shortbread, this is all about the butter.  I sometimes buy fancy European butters for special baking projects, but I always have Cabot butter on hand.  The quality is great, and I like supporting a co-op.  If you ever have the chance to visit the creamery in Vermont, I recommend it.  We visited on a slow day and our guide shared so much information on the dairy industry and cheese making.

I found this dough to be even more crumbly than I expected.  I added a teaspoon of water and it helped it come together.  This issue had been noted a few times in the comments on the Food Network site.  Due to the richness of this cookie, I decided to roll these a little thinner than the 1/2 recommended.  Mine were closer to 1/4 inch and shaped into large and small rounds.  They were perfectly done in ten to twelve minutes.

Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten, My notes are in parentheses

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
(1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, optional)
(1 teaspoon water, if needed)

6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. (OR roll into 1/4 disc and use cookie cutters to shape into circles. Bake for 10-12 minutes)

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don’t trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it’s completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.


Peanut Butter Cookies

Posted by: on Mar 7, 2010 | 5 Comments

These peanut butter cookies were a labor of love.  I like peanut butter and jelly or savory peanut noodles, but peanut butter in candy or baked goods is just not my thing…at all.  Well, J has been asking me to make peanut butter cookies for awhile.   So, I gave in and made a quick batch.  I doubled the amount of peanut butter in the original recipe to prevent cookies from being too dry and to add more peanut flavor.  I used unsweetened natural chunky peanut butter and they were still plenty sweet.  I took half a taste and let me tell you these are hardcore peanut butter cookies.  The flavor is intense and probably best paired with a cold glass of milk. They would probably be good drizzled with melted chocolate for those that like Peanut Butter Cups, but J wanted to keep them simple.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Adapted from

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup salted butter

1 cup chunky unsweetened peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

Sift together flour and baking powder; set aside. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars; beat in vanilla and egg. Stir in flour mixture, blending well. Shape mixture into 3/4-inch balls; place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten each cookie with the tines of a fork.  Cookies will not spread much so they can be placed fairly close together.
Bake peanut butter cookies at 375° for about 10 to 12 minutes.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted by: on Mar 2, 2010 | 7 Comments

I think that every baker has a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Most basic recipes are really very similar and pretty simple.  With all simple recipes it comes down to getting the method just right and using the best ingredients (like good chocolate).  My husband is a chocolate chip cookie aficionado, and I make these cookies more than any other.  I like that they can stand up to the addition of whole grain flour.   Of course they are good made with chocolate chips,  but they are even better made with broken up dark chocolate bars.  The chocolate will melt through the cookie as it bakes and really adds to the overall flavor.  I recommend under baking these just slightly so they are a little chewy in the middle and still crisp on the bottom.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Tyler Florence’s Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur brand)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)

2 large eggs

1 (8-ounce) block dark semi-sweet chocolate coarsely chopped or 1 scant cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; cream together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the vanilla and eggs. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and continue to mix until a smooth batter forms. Turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chunks or chips using the spatula.

Use about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie.   Press down the tops of the dough slightly and bake until the cookies are light brown, about 15 minutes.  Watch cookies closely to prevent overcooking.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a rack.


Pumpkin Cupcakes

Posted by: on Feb 25, 2010 | 5 Comments

I figured I should post these before the season for pumpkin feels like it has passed completely.  Although spring is around the corner today is perfectly wintery.  Pumpkin is one of my absolute favorite flavors, and I use canned pumpkin year round.  This recipe makes one loaf if baked as a quick bread.  I love that it makes moist cupcakes that go amazingly well with cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Recipe for Pumpkin Bread from Simply Recipes with adjustments for cupcakes/muffins

1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
Just under of 1/2 cup vegetable oil (safflower or a light olive oil works well)
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
(1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat your oven to 350. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, & baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, & spices. Pour into the bowl w/ dry ingredients & mix just until all are combined. Pour into lined muffin tins, this should make 12 muffins. Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan, cool on a rack.

I love these with cream cheese frosting: 1 pound confectioners sugar, ½ stick of butter, 6oz pack or cream cheese, 2 tsp. of vanilla. I like to put a few walnuts or pecans on top when I have them.

I happened to have some extra pumpkin and also made a classic pie and tarts with a graham cracker crust.  It was part of a pumpkin dessert feast. :)


Cinnamon Rolls

Posted by: on Oct 16, 2009 | 6 Comments

I have a stack of magazines and filed recipes that I have every intention of trying one day.  Most have been clipped from Bon Appetit and the now defunct Gourmet magazine.  Even though I have this stack or recipes, I almost always search online before making something I have never made before.  I settled on this recipe for Cinnamon Rolls and realized it was the exact same one from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette that I had in my files.  Let me start by saying that this is a really good recipe.  The steps are simple, but I had to adjust the amount of sugar to keep it from being too sweet for our tastes.  I also didn’t think it needed the cream cheese icing.  I just used a simple vanilla confectioners sugar glaze.  These freeze amazingly well after they are baked and can be defrosted in a minute in the microwave.  I am thinking that these might make nice Christmas Eve gifts.

Cinnamon Rolls
From Bon Appetit by Molly Wizenberg with my notes indicated in parentheses
1 cup whole milk (I used low-fat)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup)
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

I omitted the Cream Cheese Glaze and instead used a sparing amount of the following: 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp of milk.

For dough:
Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up. (I forgot to do this step the second time I made these and they were still fine.)


Ginger Peach Skillet Pie

Posted by: on Sep 5, 2009 | 15 Comments

I recently saw a pie baked in a cast iron skillet at the King Arthur Flour Blog.  This sounded like a pretty fantastic idea and I vowed to try it.  The cast iron helped the base layer of the pie bake evenly and warded off any sogginess.  It also looked pretty cool and rustic.  I felt like the edges on this would be pretty likely to burn because this pie bakes at a high temperature.   I just tucked the edges of the top crust under to seal it.  The fresh local peaches that I had ranged from pretty good to lackluster in flavor.  I decided to give them a boost with some fresh ginger and brown sugar.  This pie really needs to sit for a while for the juices to cool before you slice it.  It is best served with vanilla ice cream of course.

Ginger Peach Pie
Pate Brisse divided into 2 crusts ( I replaced 2 tbsp of the butter with shortening because of the high temperature this bakes at)
6-8 peaches peeled and sliced
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar (you may need more if the peaches are especially tart)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten lightly with a tbsp of water for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 425

Roll one half of the dough to fit the pan.  Mix the peaches with the spices, lemon juice and flour and place in the pan.  Roll the other dough to fit the top and seal the sides. Cut steam holes in the top of the pie and brush with  egg wash and top with a sprinkle of sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 and lower to 350 and bake for about 50 minutes covering the outside crust if necessary.   Allow the pie to cool for several hours at room temperature.