A Little Something Useful… Homemade Vanilla Extract

Have you ever been gifted a liquor that didn’t agree with you? At first taste, all is well, then like a bad date, leaves you full of regret with a monstrous hang-over? One of my friends gave me a bottle of vodka of said propensity. The cocktail made from this particular vodka was pretty smooth, so much so that I had another, complete with a full meal and dancing afterwards. The next day, I felt such a recourse, as though I’d been on a bender of cheap shots and mixed liquor all night. No thank you. However, when my friend gave me a bottle of the hellish vodka, I just smiled graciously and tucked it in the closet.

As the holidays approached, the availability of gourmet items like fresh vanilla beans were everywhere, yet the good vanilla extracts were SO expensive! Then it came to me: I’m gonna make my OWN darn extract! There’s nothing like homemade in my book, and with the hellish vodka, taking up space… why not put it to good use?

Now making vanilla extract is not an overnight thing. It takes the vanilla beans at least 30 days to cure. There are various methods to make extracts – you can use any high-proof alcohol of choice such as vodka, rum, bourbon, tequila or such; the alcohol does influence the flavor, as do the amount of beans used. I referenced this website to get me started: http://tipnut.com/homemade-vanilla-extract/ – which was really helpful. Generally, I fully endorse using alcohol that you would enjoy for cooking, but using the hellish vodka would be fine since extracts are used in small, concentrated doses. By the way, I decided to write about this after I’d embarked on my extract journey, so you’ll simply have to visualize the hellish vodka in it’s natural state – clear! So here goes:

Here are the vanilla beans I used – Generally 2 beans per pack; Trader Joe’s is inexpensive and quality.

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Split them down the middle – scrape the concentrated goodness into the alcohol

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Added them straight to the alcohol bottle – the sentiment at the bottom is pure vanilla! Shake up at least once a week, and let it marinate for at least 30 days – this has set up about 2 months.

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I just transferred the contents to this bottle which is much more convenient to use – As you can see, Trader Joe’s is my favorite store, and this organic maple syrup is love in a bottle! There were trace elements left to mingle with the vanilla.

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I especially like this top for easy pouring!

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This extract smell like vanilla heaven, and does not perish. It’s best kept in a dark, cool place. Next time you have a yummy dessert, use it!

Goodbye, hellish vodka. Hello, vanilla extract!

Have you tried this? What’s your experience?

Baking Soda… Have we met?

This post for my domestic divas out there who want environmentally safe multi-tasking products at their fingertips! Baking Soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, (NaHCO3) has been around since the 1800’s.  It’s most recognized as a leavening agent to help with the ‘rise’ in baked goods. It’s also a mild, yet effective cleanser, but  it’s not just for household use; here’s a list of uses that just might make you say “Whaaaat???”

  •  Antacid – Did you know that medicines like alka-seltzer gets the effervescent (fizzing) action from baking soda? It’s ‘fizz’ that is said to settle the stomach from minor bouts of nausea and heartburn. As always, used discretion and consult a healthcare professional for any prolonged discomfort. DO NOT USE if you suffer from any serious conditions like ulcers and such.
  • Kitchen cleanser – If you have expensive, non-stick cookware, or delicate materials like granite or stone, baking soda is the ideal cleanser. Tough enough for stains without harsh chemicals or damaging abrasives.
  • Toilet Bowl cleaner – This can double as a neat science trick for the kiddies! Combine a 1/2 cup of white vinegar with a 1/2 cup of baking soda directly into the toilet bowl…. watch the fizzing action! (and no, it won’t explode) Let it sit for 15 min. while you get some coffee, then come back to casually swish and flush… it practically cleaned itself!
  • Jewelry cleaner – I discovered this by accident. I’m a serial lotion-slatherer – the thick stuff – which leaves my rings dull, dull, dull. (I’m never smart enough to take them off) One day, I scrubbed my pots good with baking soda, and upon rinsing and drying, I was nearly blinded by my normally-dull rings. They were sooooo shiny! It’s been my go-to ring cleaner ever since.
  • Toothpaste/breath freshener – This is pretty well-known, as a toothpaste is manufactured by Arm & Hammer. I’m a fan!
  • Carpet & vacuum freshener – Do you have pets? This is essential for all those pet-parents out there! Sprinkle baking soda liberally on your carpet, wait 15-20 min, then vacuum up! It instantly refreshes the carpet and the vacuum, especially when dealing with potentially stinky debris like pet hair.
  • Drain cleaner- Baking soda eliminates accumulated germs and odors in kitchen and bathroom drains. This is more preventative, but still effective with clogs too. Tip 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by boiling water or 1 cup heated vinegar for tough odors and/or clogs.
  • Exfoliant for face and body – This is my FAVORITE use! Tough enough to clean out those pores, and get rid of dry, dead skin, leaving the skin baby soft… gentle enough to use every day! At least I do. Use it in your bath, scrub up in the shower… so invigorating! Store it in a snazzy little container, like this bamboo spice box with a magnetized lid (something similar –bedbathandbeyond.com):

  • Laundry booster – Baking soda boosts your laundry detergent’s cleansing abilities by regulating the water’s ph; keeping it from becoming too acidic, or too alkaline. In a ph-regulated environment, the laundry detergent’s much more effective on stains and odors. Learn more about ph here.
  • Fruit and Veggie Cleanser – Whether you buy organic or inorganic produce, a good wash in a sink of cold water and a 1/2 cup of baking soda will leave your goods squeaky clean! Try it sometime!

So, instead of spending tons of $$ on multiple cleansers and fresheners, make the investment of about $5.00 on a rather large box of baking soda.

You’ll get waaaay more bang for your buck!

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