Twelve days of food gifts: vanilla extract

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

This is not a gift you’re going to start making today and have ready by Christmas.

But do you remember a few months ago, when I started making vanilla extract?

homemade vanilla extract

Well, as a part of my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series, it’s now time to bottle ‘em, label ‘em, and give ‘em away! If you started vanilla extract when I did, I’ve got a printable for you.

Anyway, on with it.

vanilla extract

Vanilla Extract

Makes approximately 12 bottles

1.75 liter bottle of vodka
8 ounces vanilla beans

Transfer about two cups of the vodka to a measuring cup.

Using a sharp knife, slice down the middle of each vanilla bean. As you slice them, plop them into the bottle of vodka. I didn’t use the entire half-pound of beans — I saved several for other uses. If you don’t have anything else you want to use them for, just toss them all in.

Using a funnel, pour your reserved vodka back into the bottle until it is full. Find an interesting use for the rest of the vodka. I’m sure you’ll manage.

Put in a cool, dark place. Shake it up every few days or so to agitate the beans, and let it infuse for about two months; longer is better if you have the time.

Strain through a coffee filter to remove beans and sediment.

Decant strained extract into bottles. If desired, add one vanilla bean to each bottle.

For Gifting:
Amber Boston Round Glass Bottle 4 oz w/ Std Cap
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single .5″x2.75″ label)
printable (16 .5″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled bottle, and press firmly in the middle of the label.

If you’d like to protect the label from potential moisture-related accidents, cover the labels with clear contact paper before cutting them out.

Twelve days of food gifts: vanilla sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, this is the last infused sugar, I swear.

For those of you just joining, this is my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I post recipes and printables, you use them to make gifts. Simple as that. This is day nine. Almost there. Mother of god.

Anyway, this is the easiest infused sugar, because the vanilla beans don’t need to be peeled and they don’t make the sugar all weird and clumpy. Also, if you find that the sugar is not vanilla-y enough and you need to wrap it up and get it under the tree, just put a vanilla bean piece or two inside the bottle with the sugar and pretend you meant to do it that way the whole time. I won’t tell if you don’t tell, because that’s what I did.

What would I use vanilla infused sugar for? Well, what doesn’t taste good with a hint of vanilla? Exactly.

vanilla sugar

Vanilla Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
4-8 vanilla beans (scraped is fine)

Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise. If desired, scrape out caviar to use in another recipe. Put beans, scraped or not, in a glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for 1 to 2 weeks, until fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Remove vanilla beans. Then pack scented sugar into spice jars, adding a vanilla bean (or half of a vanilla bean) to the bottle if desired.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running if exposed to steam or moisture. But really, who are you kidding. This won’t last long enough in someone’s kitchen to have the label run, because vanilla sugar goes on everything.

Twelve days of food gifts: zesty salt’n'pep

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, so I’m just getting this in under the wire today. My mister and I threw a cocktail party yesterday. Aside from prepping all the food (which I of course forgot to take any photos of), there was plenty of socializing to be done. Needless to say, I spent today lazing around doing nothing (read: watching Serenity and several episodes of Freaks and Geeks).

But I’m doing it! I bring you day seven of the Twelve Days of Food Gifts.

This zesty salt’n'pepper mix? It’s a quickie. If you want to make it even faster, you can use pre-ground black pepper… but I think it’s worth it to grind it yourself — you can call it an arm workout or something. Or use a coffee grinder or spice mill.

And it tastes delicious on everything.

zesty salt'n'pepZesty Salt’n'Pep

Makes 4 jars

2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 heaping cup sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 heaping cup garlic powder

Mix it all together. Put it in jars. The end.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running if exposed to steam or moisture.

Twelve days of food gifts: orange sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Another infused sugar! I know. But they’re nice and easy so I made a few. There’s only one more. I swear.

For those of you just joining us, this is my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I’m making some edibles, packin’ em up, slappin’ some labels on there and putting them under the tree. And… posting everything here for you so you can do the same.

The orange sugar ended up being my favorite, which I didn’t expect. It infused the fastest, got the least clumpy and annoying, and the flavor is delicate but very distinctly orange.

What would I use orange infused sugar for? Sprinkling on top of cookies or muffins before baking (either chocolate or vanilla would be divine), and sweetening oatmeal.

orange sugarOrange Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
1 orange (organic recommended)

Scrub your orange very well.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the orange in strips. Put in glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for 5 to 7 days, until fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Pour sugar onto a baking sheet, spread out, break up clumps with a spoon, and let dry. Once dry, sift sugar to remove orange peels and break up any lasting clumps. Then, pack scented sugar into spice jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running. You’re a better person than I.

Twelve days of food gifts: lime sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Somehow, I have managed to not fall behind on this… so here’s another installment of my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I post recipes, links to packaging materials, and printable labels so that you too can give your friends and family awesome goodies.

Today… well, I told you it wouldn’t be the end of the infused sugars, right?

This lime sugar takes a little longer to infuse than the lemon sugar. Perhaps I should have posted this one first, huh? But besides that, it’s very similar in that it’s low-maintenance — just let it sit and do its thing.

So what would I use lime infused sugar for? Making mojitos, rimming margarita glasses, giving a kick to lemonade, and sprinkling on fresh fruit.

lime sugarLime Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
2 limes (organic recommended)
additional lime (optional)

Scrub your limes very well.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the limes in strips. Put in glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks, until very fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Dump sugar onto a baking sheet, and break up clumps. Let sit for several hours to let dry. To speed up the process, put in the oven on the lowest setting, and let bake with the door propped open, stirring frequently. Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and then repeat as necessary. Sift sugar to remove lime peels and break up clumps.

If more flavor is desired, zest in a small amount of lime peel to leave in (rather than sifting out), and let dry. Once completely dry, pack scented sugar into spice jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running.

Twelve days of food gifts: rosemary salt

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

So far we have a least two days of food gifts, as this is my second post in my twelve days of food gifts series for the winter holidays.

Basically, I post recipes, links to specialty supplies, and printable labels so you too can give awesome homemade comestibles to your friends and family.

On the savory end of the spectrum, today I’m making rosemary salt.

rosemary saltThis rosemary was, as is my habit, pinched from my friend’s yard. I’ll actually be sending a jar of this to the person who originally planted the bush. Full circle.

rosemary saltRosemary Salt

Makes 4 jars

1 2/3 cup fine sea salt
4 large (1′ long) fresh rosemary sprigs

Wash rosemary sprigs and pat dry. Make sure they’re fully dry before continuing.

Cut 3 springs of rosemary into thirds and crush the leaves gently with your fingers. Place in a medium pot. Cover with salt.

Heat over very low, stirring frequently, until whoever you live with walks into the room and says “why does the entire house smell like rosemary?” and rosemary is shriveled — about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Take the last fresh rosemary sprig and cut into thirds, then place in a clean glass jar. Pour cooled salt/rosemary mixture into jar. Shake well and seal tightly. Leave for 3 to 5 days, shaking at least twice a day.

Wash and dry your jars and lids at some point so they’re ready to pack.

When fully infused, sift salt and remove rosemary. Then pack into jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single label)
printable (3 labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

To protect the label from running if it is exposed to liquid, cover with clear contact paper before cutting out the labels. I was too lazy to do this, but maybe you aren’t!

Twelve days of food gifts: lemon sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Have you always wanted to give homemade gifts for Christmas, but not sure where to start or how to get it all done?

This year, as part of my twelve days of food gifts series, I’m showing you what all of my friends and family are getting under their trees this year. Not only that, but I’m going to try to help you duplicate it, quick and easy! I’ll provide the recipe, links to where I bought any specialty packaging supplies, and printable labels to slap on your delicious vittles and libations before sending them out the door.

So, we’ll see if I actually finish all of these. I can be a little too ambitious sometimes. Maybe it’ll be like, seven days of food gifts. We’ll see.

We’re starting with lemon sugar!

Scented sugars are really easy to make for gifts, as they require very little active work. You need some time to let the sugar infuse, but you don’t really have to do much besides shake the jar a few times a day. This is not the last infused sugar you’ll be seeing in this series, is what I’m saying.

So, what would I use lemon infused sugar for? Rimming cocktail glasses, sweetening tea or lemonade, and sprinkling on top of cookies.

lemon sugarLemon Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
1 lemon (organic recommended)

Scrub your lemon very well.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the lemon in strips. Put in glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for at least one week, until very fragrant. Shake at least twice a day. You will notice some of the sugar sticking to the bottom of the jar from the oils — that’s okay, just shake the best you can.

Wash and dry your jars and lids at some point, so they are good to go when you’re ready to pack.

Remove sugar mixture from jar and spread in a baking pan and let sit, uncovered, to dry out for several hours. To speed up the process, put in the oven on the lowest setting, and let bake with the door propped open, stirring frequently. Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and then repeat as necessary (if you bake for too long you may accidentally melt the sugar). Sift sugar to remove lemon peel and break up clumps.

Pack scented sugar into spice jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single label)
printable (3 labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If you want to go the extra mile, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out. This will protect the label from running if it is exposed to steam or liquid.

I, uh, did not go the extra mile.

It’s time to start making vanilla extract for holiday gifts

I’m way behind the times on this one, but I finally remembered far enough ahead this year. I’m making vanilla extract to give as holiday gifts! And, of course, use.

There are instructions all over the internet for this, but the basic idea is: put vanilla beans in some liquor. Let it sit and shake it up sometimes.

homemade vanilla extract

There are some options regarding what type of liquor to use. Vodka produces the cleanest vanilla taste, but bourbon and white rum are popular choices too. I saw a post that suggested using the mini liquor bottles to try different types if you want to compare the differences, which seems like a pretty fabulous idea.

However, for my purposes I decided to use vodka, because a clean vanilla taste is just what I’m looking for. I’d like to be able to use this in anything — basically, to replace store-bought vanilla extract. And I decided to use a big bottle, so I can give it away for holiday gifts, as well as having a lot left to use myself.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

1.75 liter bottle vodka (I used Tito’s Handmade Vodka because it is corn-based, and I have a couple of gluten-intolerant friends, and because I am apparently susceptible to the ads in Readymade Magazine)
8 ounces vanilla beans (I ordered Marky’s Tahitian Vanilla Beans pretty much just because it was eligible for Amazon Prime shipping)

Transfer about two cups of the vodka to a measuring cup.

Using a sharp knife, slice down the middle of each vanilla bean. As you slice them, plop them into the bottle of vodka. I didn’t use the entire half-pound of beans — I saved several for other uses. If you don’t have anything else you want to use them for, just toss them all in.

Using a funnel, pour your reserved vodka back into the bottle until it is full. Find an interesting use for the rest of the vodka. I’m sure you’ll manage.

Put in a cool, dark place. I have it in the basement, next to her cage. Shake it up every few days or so to agitate the beans, and let it infuse for about two months. Feel free to pour off little nips here and there to “test” it, and add more vodka as needed.

So, just before Christmas, I will be straining and decanting them into little bottles to gift, as well as a slightly bigger bottle to use myself. I’ll write an update at that time, I’m sure. Any suggestions for a source for some cute little vanilla-extract-appropriate bottles?

Today’s secret ingredient is… not-poultry seasoning

I know it’s pretty popular to substitute vegetable broth when a recipe calls for chicken broth in order to make it vegetarian. I generally don’t do this; substituting veggie broth sometimes works, but sometimes it just falls a little flat. It’s missing that something, you know?

I prefer to make not-chicken broth by dissolving this seasoning blend in either hot water or even veggie broth, if you have it on hand. Aside from making broth, this mix is also great to toss onto anything that needs an extra flavor boost — it’s a welcome addition to most roasted or sauteed vegetable dishes.

not-poultry seasoning

I found the recipe for this seasoning mix a million years ago (read: probably around 2007) on the open-source UnTurkey website and I have had a jar in my cabinet ever since. Generally, I adapt recipes I use pretty heavily. Not this one. It’s perfect just the way it is. Well, except for the name — Light Yeast Flavoring Powder sounds kind of gross. That’s why the jar in my cabinet is labeled as…

Not-Poultry Seasoning
From Light Yeast Flavoring Powder by UnTurkey.org

1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Measure everything into your food processor, reserving about half of the nutritional yeast. (I find starting with only half the yeast makes it easier to break the other spices down.) Process until everything is finely ground, about a minute. Add the rest of the nutritional yeast and process again until flakes are broken down and everything is combined.

Store in a glass jar in a dark, cool cabinet.

Not-Chicken Broth

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons Not-Poultry Seasoning, to taste
salt, to taste

Heat water or vegetable broth in the microwave or in a saucepan. Stir in first tablespoon of seasoning until dissolved, then taste to determine if you would like to add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon more. The amount used depends on the recipe the broth is being used for and your personal tastes. And then again, depending on the recipe and your personal tastes, feel free to dissolve in a bit of extra salt.

From-scratch chipotle mayonnaise, the best condiment

What’s the deal with everyone dipping everything in ranch dressing? I mean, I like ranch dressing, but when did it sneak in and become The Condiment?

I guess I understand; it’s creamy, it’s mild. It’s inoffensive enough to put on anything, and you get the extra fatty calories that make anything taste better.

Well, I am suggesting an update to The Condiment. Not to something healthier — of course not. But to something tastier. Something with a little bit of a kick to it. Something that still goes well with everything, but with an extra spicy boost.

Something like chipotle mayonnaise.

from-scratch chipotle mayonnaise

Who’s with me?

I’ll start off by saying, this recipe requires an immersion blender. I have this one, but they can be found for cheaper and they’re all pretty much the same. The price doesn’t even matter, because it will be worth it even if you only use it to make mayonnaise — it makes the process so much quicker. Seriously, the first time I made mayo from scratch, I figured it’d just be once for kicks. Lo and behold, I make it all the time. It’s so much better and it’s so quick and easy with a stick blender. Buy one. You won’t regret it. Also, you can use it to make pureed soups!

This recipe uses raw egg, which means two things:

Use fresh, local eggs if you can get ‘em. An excuse to go to the farmer’s market! The incidence of Salmonella poisoning from raw or undercooked eggs is very low (something like 1 in 30,000) but if you’re buying from a small farmer who cares about their chickens, you’re better off than buying from a factory farm. I’ve also seen the recommendation, since Salmonella usually lives on the shell rather than inside the egg, to put your egg in boiling water for five seconds before cracking it.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems may want to avoid eating your amazing mayo. You should disclose the raw egg status and let people decide on their own whether they want to take the (really tiny!) risk.

From-Scratch Chipotle Mayonnaise

1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon mustard, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
a wedge of lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil
2 chipotle peppers from the can
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can the peppers were in)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get yourself a clean and dry glass jar with a widemouth opening. I love the jars that roasted red peppers often come in — the head of my immersion blender fits perfectly. If you can’t find a jar that will accommodate yours, just make it in the beaker that came with your blender and transfer it when you’re done.

So throw your egg in there. Some people just use the yolk, I use the whole thing because I don’t have time for all this separating business — who does? Anyway, it works either way. Also, the finished product will look less yellow if you use the whole egg.

Add the mustard, vinegar, a couple squeezes of your lime wedge, salt, and oil. You can use up to a cup of oil if you want more mayonnaise. Unless I’m truly feeding a crowd, I make as little as possible to ensure I can get through it all. (If you use more oil, you’ll want to add more chipotles, adobo, garlic powder, and oregano to taste.)

An egg has a lot of water in it, and as we know, water and oil do not mix. So your oil will just sit there, separated, on top of everything else in the jar. Put your stick blender down to the very bottom of the jar. Turn that sucker on and watch the miracle of science right before your eyes.

The bottom of the contents of the jar will begun to emulsify, creating a thick, white, mayonnaise. Slowly raise the blender up out of the jar, bit by bit by bit and be amazed as the oil is incorporated and you’re left with a jar full of creamy mayo. You can obviously stop right here to have good old fashioned mayo (though I usually use lemon juice instead of lime for that).

But remember? Chipotle mayo!

Throw in the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic powder, and oregano, and go to town again with the immersion blender. Make sure you get the peppers finely chopped and everything is evenly distributed.

Now, this is the most important part. Taste it. Add freshly ground black pepper and/or more adobo sauce if you’d like to amp up the heat, and more of any of the seasonings if you feel they are underrepresented. Add more lime juice if you’d like to loosen up the consistency. Mix it all up and you’re good to go.

It really does taste the best if you give it at least 30 minutes to chill. Store it in your tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator. Use within 4 days ideally, but use your best judgment in how it looks and smells and sometimes you can get a week out of it if you’re lucky (or desperate). The good news is, it’s so easy to whip up a new batch that you don’t have to take the risk!

Serve as a dip with pretty much any kind of fried food. Spread on a sandwich. Use it to make egg or chickpea salad. Make my fabulous chipotle cheddar deviled eggs. Or just lick a little bit right off the spoon when nobody’s looking.