How to Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

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The ingredients list of a recipe is a precious thing. Each item has its purpose whether it’s for leavening, binding, texture, or flavour. Vanilla extract can (and will) be found in almost every recipe to awaken the flavour of your baking even if vanilla is not the main event featured in your dessert. She is always there.

And how often do we “settle” for artificial vanilla extract? I’ve definitely arrived at the grocery story and stared at a self where a large bottle of artificial vanilla extract ($3.99 CA) towered over a tiny bottle of pure vanilla extract ($12.99 CA) and thought, “Good enough.”

While vanilla bean pods aren’t that cheap either (I believe Bulk Barn carries them at $7.99 CA for two pods), making your own for that amount will definitely leave your pantry with more than 43 mL of vanilla extract. And all you need in addition to vanilla pods to make that happen is vodka.

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Bacon Jam is My Jam

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And now for something completely a little different.

When you think about jam, a medley of fruit usually comes to mind. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, currants, apricot, and but not limited to pear (cinnamon pear is my favourite jam and I only seem to find it at hidden farmers’ markets.) It turns out anything can be “jammed” and bacon is no exception. The sweet element comes from the caramelizing of onions but the wow factor as to how it’s used is completely up to you.

(But seriously, if this doesn’t make its way into a grilled cheese sandwich, I don’t think I can help you.)

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Ferrero Rocher Mini Cupcakes

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When the holiday season rolls around, I’m guaranteed to find Ferrero Rochers under the Christmas tree each year. They are not for me. They are for everybody… or at least anybody who remembers that my mother always wraps a few containers of these delectable chocolate morsels for the usual holiday sweet tooth craving.

To me, Ferrero Rochers are a Christmas thing. Always have been.

But here’s the thing about Ferrero Rochers… they are made available all year round.

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A Hacker’s Guide to Homemade Ice Cream

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We are deep into summer and I regret to say that I’ve been neglecting my oven (as well as this blog) during these heated months.

What’s a girl to do?

Alas, lo and behold there is a no churn/no machine/no ice + salt method for making homemade ice cream that can be found on various sites on the Internet Super Highway. It only has two ingredients in its base recipe; the rest is your imagination and pantry capacity.

So chill out and check it out!

Base Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients

500 mL heavy cream
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  • Whip heavy cream to soft peaks.
  • Stir in sweetened condensed milk and continue to whip cream to stiff peaks.

Chocolate
Mix in ½ cup chocolate syrup (chocolate sundae topping works). I also happen to have a package of Soma’s hot chocolate mix which is filled with shaved dark chocolate so I stirred in about ½ cup or more of that.

Vanilla
Stir in 1 tbsp. vanilla extract and the seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod.

Caramel
Substitute the sweetened condensed milk with dulce de leche.

Blueberry
Add a cup of frozen blueberries.

Pistachio
Add a package of Pistachio Jello mix (Warning: the finished texture will be different from the others. Like, should I be concerned that this recipe melted at a completely different rate than the others?) Coarsely chop pistachio nuts and stir into cream mixture. Feel free to add some green food colouring to the mixture.

  • Put mixture in a freezer-safe container and chill for about 6 hours.

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Pistachio Ice Cream

Tres Leches Cake (Hola, cariño!)

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Hola, cariño. ¿Quieres un poco de torta Tres leche?

I really am lucky to have such amazing friends who will invite me over for a taco night dinner. And I gladly pay that favour back by providing an apt dessert. While there are more appropriate Mexican-themed desserts to make such as flan, empanadas, or churros, the light tres leches cake (or milk cake) was the perfect end to a favourful fiesta.

And super easy to make as you’ll soon find out!

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Chocolate Toffee Squares

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These are dangerous! A delicious cookie base topped with double the dose of chocolate and toffee bits to boot. This recipe comes from the book aptly titled “Bars & Squares” by Jill Snider — a book I rarely use though I often thumb through it. It has so many great sounding recipes, it’s a wonder I don’t put it to good use more often (oh I know, lack of pictures). However, these squares didn’t have a picture but rather a short list of ingredients and make a tonne of squares to either share or stash.

Lesson: Don’t judge a recipe by its lack of professionally edited photo.

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Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars

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For never was there a story of more hell than this of my weakness for salted caramel.

And by “hell” I of course mean Heaven because there truly is no greater come-to-Jesus moment than savouring a bite of decadent creamy cheesecake smothered with a layer of smooth salted caramel.

This recipe was really an amalgam of several similar salted caramel cheesecake recipes I found on the Interwebs. The result was a product of my pantry not being completely stocked up. For example, I didn’t have Oreo crumbs so I went with a classic graham crumb crust, which also meant I had to add just a little bit of sugar to compensate for the sweetness that Oreo cookies would have provided. To make the caramel topping, I needed to add whipping cream but all I had was cream liqueur… and that’s a little peek into my life so we should just move on.

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