Tag Archives: baking

Homemade Vanilla Extract

10 Jan

I’d seen and heard about making your own vanilla extract for a while and thought it would be a nice Christmas gift. I finally got around to it at the end of November (If you’re going to make some for gifts you should really give your self 2+ months, but I just labeled mine with ready to use on 1/28/13).

It’s really easy to do, and generally comes out to be a better price on vanilla extract than you get at the store. There are tons of instructions to be found around the internet, but I followed Joy the Baker’s. She has an awesome blog and cookbook, so I trust that she knows her stuff.

I hunted the internet for some good prices on vanilla beans and bottles and ended up using the following items for mine:
Alcohol – Sky Vodka
Vanilla Beans (I found a coupon code for OliveNation that saved me a bit)
Of course if you’re just making extract for your own kitchen you could just throw the beans in the vodka bottle!


After I got the vanilla beans and vodka in the bottles I made some labels to match my Pepper and Jelly labels. I have to say, I’m pretty excited to make some treats with my vanilla!


Wheat Bread

23 Dec


I spent some time in the kitchen one weekend making mini loaves of wheat bread for my department at work. I figure the season is full of unhealthy treats so a semi healthy one is nice. Growing up my mom would make this recipe for my brother and my teachers each Christmas. Like I’ve said before I’m a little bit terrified of recipes that involve yeast, but I’ve made this one for two years now and been 90% successful. I did have a little mishap with too much rising and not enough cooking, but more on that in a minute.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is the scan my mom emailed me when I asked for the recipe last year. The worn condition of the recipe just says it’s going to be good doesn’t it? My mom got this from one of her co-workers probably 30 years ago.

Wheat Bread Recipe

Wheat Bread

2 pkgs. of yeast (I use rapid rise, but be sure to let the bread rise for less time especially once it’s in the pans!)
1/3 c. honey
1 T. salt
1/2 c. shortening
warm water3 c. wheat flour
3-4 c. white flour


  1. Dissolve 2 pkgs. yeast in 1/2 c. warm water (steaming or 100-110 degrees)
  2. Stir in:
    1/3 c. honey
    1 T. salt
    1/2 c. shortening
    1 3/4 c. warm water
    3 c. wheat flour
  3. Beat until smooth.
  4. Stir in enough white flour (3-4 c.) to make dough easy to handle. (Meaning not sticky. I usually end up dumping the partially mixed mess out onto the counter and mushing it around with my hands to mix in the last bit.)
  5. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). (I keep adding bits of flour while doing this to keep the dough from sticking to my hands and the counter. I get nervous at this point, but just pay attention to the dough and after about 5 minutes you’ll see how it’s changed and really is smoother and will stay in a pretty ball easily.)
  6. Place dough ball in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover with a dish towel, and let rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 hours (around 1 hour or a little less if using rapid rise yeast). You’ll know the dough is ready if a finger indention remains when the dough is poked.
  7. Punch down the dough; divide in half. Form each half into a loaf (fold the sides and ends under to make a smooth rounded one), and put in greased bread pans.
  8. Let rise until double, about 1 hour. (Keep an eye on bread at this point because if it goes past double you’ll have bread with a large cavity inside. Mine went about 30 min for rapid rise yeast.)
  9. Heat oven to 350; bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from pans and cool.

Some tips
-Like I said rapid rise yeast means your rising time is cut in half.
-My kitchen is usually chilly, so when it comes to the rising part I turn my oven on the lowest setting and set the bowl and pans on top of the stove so it has a little extra warmth.
-If you make mini loaves cooking will only take 15-20 minutes.
-If you’re making big loaves or have two ovens it’s probably ok to double the recipe, but trying to fit 15 little loaves of bread in a single oven will probably lead to some burnt and some under cooked. (On the plus side you’ll learn where the hot spots are in your oven!)
-I found that foil pans don’t cook nearly as hot as actual bread pans, so when I checked to see if they were done I’d pop the loaves out of their pans a bit to see if they were done on the bottom.

Do you have any favorite recipes you cook at Christmas?


Christmas Time is Here – Gift Ideas

29 Nov

Christmas and the weeks surrounding it are my favorite. I love to put up decorations, drive around and look at the pretty lights, attend holiday parties, shop for or make gifts and give gifts. I do enjoy receiving gifts too, but I really love to think up something special that my friends and family will enjoy and then surprise them with it. I don’t have any pictures of all the things I’ve done the past several years, but honestly I would spend hours scouring the internet for the perfect thing to make (until Pinterest came along and now I just keep running lists!), so all of my ideas were someone else’s first. So without further ado here are some possible things to gift people with.

Little wristlet via: Splityarn

Mini pies in jars via: not martha

Fabric roses via: Everyday Chaos

Magnets via: not martha

T-shirt infinity scarf via: A Bit of Sunshine

T-shirt fringe scarf via: P.S. I made this

Granola via: Chocolate & Zucchini
(This is some seriously good granola that you should at least make for yourself!)

Baby taggies

Ornaments via: Paloma’s Nest
(I love the simplicity of these to commemorate the date. A friend hosted a get together and we made ones similar and had them fired at a local clay shop.)

Calendars via: Rifel Paper Co.
(This is my 2013 calendar, and there are tons of others to be bought. However with a design program (or through a printing company) and a little time you can make one that’s personalized with your own photos or art).

Shop local – a few years ago I promised myself that every gift I purchased would come from a local shop. It was a fun little challenge and made for unique gifts. I ended up buying things like a case of pop from Pop’s, canned goods from Forward Foods, a headband from ShopGood, a funky pair of socks from Blue 7, candles from A Story of Hope, and a tie rose from a booth at Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar.

I’ve got a few different things up my sleeve for this year, but I don’t want to ruin any surprises, so I’ll share them after they’ve been gifted! Good luck on your Christmas shopping or creating!

Thanksgiving Rolls

19 Nov

I’ve always considered bread making hard. My first experience as an adult making bread on my own was a quick bread. I didn’t let it cool long enough before putting it away, and when I came back to have some a few days later it was all moldy. So for several years I didn’t make bread.

Last year I got the guts and made wheat bread. Yes it was time consuming, but not so hard. So this year I tried out some Thanksgiving rolls.

Last night a group of friends got together for a Friendsgiving and it was my job to bring rolls and cranberry sauce. I was nervous about trying a new yeast bread recipe, but I think these rolls were even easier than the wheat bread!

The recipe is my grandma’s go to roll recipe, but I’ll have to get back to you on where she got it from.

Hot Rolls

2 pkgs. dry yeast
2 c. Warm water
1/2 c. Sugar
1tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Oil
5 1/2 c. Flour


  1. Add 2 pkgs dry yeast (I used rapid rise) to 2 c. Warm water (follow the temp recommendations on the pkg)
  2.  Add: 1/2 c. Sugar, 1tsp. Salt, 1/2 c. Oil
  3.  Add 3 c. of flour, mix well, and add 2 1/2 more cups of flour and mix.
  4.  Put dough on floured board and knead well. (I did mine 5-10 min. Until it was smooth and elastic).
  5.  Make dough into small golf ball sized balls and place in greased pan. Be sure to leave a little room for the rolls to expand.
  6.  Let the rolls rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hrs.
  7.  Bake 450 degrees for 15-20 min. (Mine baked pretty fast so I ended up taking the first batch out after 10 minutes and turning the temp down on the 2nd batch. Just keep an eye on them.)
  8. Butter the tops of the rolls while they’re still hot.
    Makes around 2 dozen.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

2 Oct

Nate’s birthday was last week, so for his birthday dessert I whipped up these crunchy peanut butter cups by the Blue-Eyed Bakers. They were surprisingly fast and easy. The peanut butter mixture really tasted like store bought ones even. A lot of people in the comments said they had trouble with the chocolate setting so I did half the milk amount, but other than that I followed the recipe!

Cookie/Oreo/Fudge/Brownie Bars

7 May

We have a great little tradition in my department at work where we take turns bring treats to staff meeting. So on Monday every other week it’s someone’s job to bring a treat. Today is my day.

I recently had a really delicious chocolate chip cookie, oreo, fudge, brownie dessert at a birthday party, and decided it was a good dessert to share with my co-workers. I searched around the internet and found several similar recipes, but here’s what I did.

Cookie/Oreo/Fudge/Brownie Bars

Box of chocolate chip cookie mix (plus the ingredients called for on the box)
Box of brownie mix (family size) (plus the ingredients called for on the box)
Package of Double Stuffed Oreos
Jar of hot fudge

1. Mix up the cookie dough as directed and spread it in the bottom of a parchment paper lined 9×13 pyrex
2. Put down a layer of Oreos
3. Spread with a knife some hot fudge over the Oreos (I probably used 1/3 of a jar)
4. Mix up the brownie batter (I just used the bowl from the cookies) as directed and spread it over everything else
5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes

Several of the recipes I found had you make homemade cookie dough or brownie batter which I’m sure would make this even better, but if you don’t want to spend too much time in the hot kitchen the boxes made this really quick and easy.

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