Friday, February 22, 2013

Va-Va-Va-Vanilla Extract!

I purchased some Mexican Vanilla Extract from a friend several years ago.  It was completely authentic and easily the BEST Vanilla Extract I have ever tasted.  I savored it.  I used it in everything.  I loved using a teaspoon here and a tablespoon there.  Then, my friend moved away, several states away.  My source for this excellent extract dried up.  The label on the bottle was in Spanish and didn't have an address  so I was at a loss to get more.  I tried a local Mexican market, but unfortunately, all I could find was a "Mexican Vanilla Blend."  Blend?  Huh?  This is unacceptable.  It contained Mexican vanilla, yes, but it also contains an artificial vanilla flavoring - vanillin.  YUUUUUCK!  Nope, that is not for me.  Martha Stewart drilled into my head as a young baker that only pure vanilla extract was good enough to put into my creations. 

What was I to do?  My stores of outstanding vanilla were dwindling, and while I can buy "Pure Vanilla Extract" at my local grocery store, it simply isn't the same as the robustly flavored vanilla extract to which I and my baked goods have become accustomed.  I was just about to get desperate and make a run for the border when I came across THIS.  Kelsey Nixon (remember her from The Next Food Network Star) gives a great, EASY recipe for making your own vanilla extract.  There isn't even any cooking involved!  SAY WHAT?!?  I can make my own vanilla extract!?!  Well alrighty then,  let's get to it.  

To make vanilla extract Kelsey says you need three things...

1. Vanilla Beans
2. 80 proof Vodka
3. A glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid

That's it.  I can totally do that.  Let's get to it!

See -- Three things!
You want to use non-reactive glass bottles with tight fitting tops.  I got mine HERE and HERE.   

Kelsey Nixon used a smaller glass bottle (half the size of mine) and only five beans.  My bottles hold 1 liter of liquid so I am using 12 beans.

These are plump, moist, beautiful beans!  I cannot wait to get working!

 *There are three common varieties of vanilla beans: Mexican, Tahitian, and Madagascar.  Each type of beans has special qualities making each better suited to specific uses.  The Madagascar vanilla bean is the most common type of vanilla.  This is the type that is most often found in grocery store vanilla.  Tahitian vanilla is the most aromatic.  It is best used for things where the smell is the most important factor.  Mexican vanilla beans pack the most flavorful vanilla punch.  Click HERE for more information about vanilla beans.  MMMMM!  They are the beans for me!

Use a sharp knife.  Slice each bean down the center lengthwise.  Keep all of the tiny seeds inside the bean. 

This process smells so great!  Stick the sliced beans into the bottles.  If you use a smaller bottle, you may need to cut the beans in half the other direction too. 

Don't spend a lot of money on fancy vodka.  Don't get anything with a flavor.  The most important thing is the proof.  GET 80 PROOF!  By the way...I don't drink alcohol.  I've never purchased alcohol before.  Should I be offended that I wasn't even carded at Costco?  SIGH!  My 1.75 liter bottle at Costco was $13.99.  Ironically, it was across the isle from a Crystal Skull full of vodka for around $75.00.  Nope, I didn't get that.   That is a little too Indiana Jones for my taste.

Pour (use a funnel)

Glamor Shot!  Notice how clear the vodka is. 


Side-by-Side after a good shake.
Store in a cool, dark place. 
Don't judge my cabinets.  :)  I'm just trying to keep it real!  Take  your bottles out once a week and give them a good shake.  In 6 to 8 weeks your extract will be ready to use!  Now you go make some extract!

This is how the liquid looks after one day of soaking. 

This is what you have after 4 weeks of soaking.  

This is how the extract looks after 6 weeks...

The extract is really smelling more like vanilla and less like vodka.  Yummy!

I waited 8 weeks for maximum potency before I decanted my homemade extract.  Strain the extract through a coffee filter.  Leave the vanilla beans in the bottle.  Cover the beans with new vodka and make more extract.  Add a new bean every now and then.  You'll have new vanilla extract almost indefinitely!

Make sure your bottle is DRY!

Water will ruin your new extract.  Even one drop will destroy all of your patience and hard work.  I let my bottle dry for over a day and a half.  I even used a blow drier.  Blowing down the neck of the bottle was not very effective, but blowing the warm air onto the bottom of the bottle did a great job.  It warmed the glass and caused the small beads of water to evaporate.  It didn't effect the larger beads of water. 

New extract on the left, ready-to-use extract on the right!

I can't wait to try it!

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest!  Come follow all of the craziness!

You might find these other cooking posts at Greetings From the Asylum interesting...What do you think....

Hamburger Cookies make great treats for when it is your turn to bring the snacks to preschool.  I recreated the Orange Blossom Lemonade from my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant that is now a pancake place.  You could also try my recipe for Green Chili Shredded Beef.  It is for the crock pot so it is E-A-S-Y and DELICIOUS!

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dress Up Your Drawers!

As you may know, I am redoing my daughter's bedroom.  Yesterday I showed how adding a little fabric dressed up THIS bookcase.  Today I'll show you how I fixed up the open-backed spaces in the shelf.  I picked up four of these small canvas storage drawers like THESE.  I added a little paint and...Voila! I had this....

My daughter saw her shelf and said, "I LOVE IT!"

My canvas drawers a slightly smaller than the ones linked above.  That was important because I had some electronics connectors and plugs taking up some of the space in the middle right square.  See...

The smaller sized drawer doesn't even touch the plug!

O. K.  Here's what you need to make these cute drawers...

Four canvas storage drawers.

I picked up mine at Walmart.  They come in several different colors.  Choose the ones that match your decor.

One smiling girl, some acrylic paint, stencils, spouncers.

It was all I could do to work on this project without this girl on top of me.  She wasn't interested in the Super Bowl which you can just make out in the background playing on the television.  

This plate is left over from my son's first birthday.  (He's seven.)  I'm not a hoarder, really I'm not!

I needed only a small squirt of paint.  I used the medium and small sized spouncer to fill in the stencil.  The medium-sized spouncer fulled in the larger spaces easily.  I needed the small spouncer to get into the corner details.  You could also use a sponge brush. 

I laid out the stencil and held it down while I painted.  The stencil was small, and the canvas took the paint nicely so I didn't need to tape the stencil down to the drawer.  I know, I was living on the edge.  I am just lucky it worked out.  

Here are the finished drawers.


All four drawers

Left and right drawers
Top and bottom drawers

The finished shelf is perfect!  My daughter can't wait to fill them up with all of her precious treasures. 

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook and HERE on Pinterest.  Come check me out there!

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my post for this 4th of July Wreath.  Find out how to make your Toddler his or her own textbook HERE.  Get ready for Easter with some Thread-wrapped Easter Eggs.  

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dress-Up Your Bookcase!

For Christmas, my daughter received a paint bucket, roller cover, and a paint brush.  Her face was priceless.  She had gotten the shaft in the present department, and she knew it.  However, once I explained that she was getting her room redecorated, she was excited about her present.  The task was supposed to take up the vacation time between Christmas and New Year's.  Illness made that impossible, but the room makeover is underway!

We painted the walls white and added lots of pink accents.  I have been looking for decorating ideas for the last several weeks.  I even set up a secret board on Pinterest!  She needed a bookcase to hold all of her treasures.  I wanted it to have some personality.  I came across THIS, which gave me the idea to do this....

A quick fabric makeover for a build-yourself shelf!

I picked up THIS little kit at the store and set about putting it together.  It was a really easy project.  It took about an hour to assemble (and that includes my extra work covering the backs).  Four of the nine cubes are open to the back.   The other five have a closed back.  I covered the cardboard backs before I nailed them to the back of the bookcase.  Here's how...

Assemble your bookcase.
 Use a large open space in your house to put your bookcase together.  It is really simple.  

These are the fabrics my daughter chose for her room.  They are absolutely perfect! 
My daughter always wonders why my favorite color is green.  She says that it is not a girl color.  I disagree.  Green is an awesome girl color.  She prefers pink so with these fabrics we have the best of both worlds! 

Fold the fabric several times.
I laid a cardboard back on the folded fabric and cut several covers at once.  I opted to use the paisley fabric on the four corners and the green in the center.  I left about two inches on each side for folding and securing.  

Cut the fabric at least 2 inches larger than the cardboard. 
Fold over the corners and secure them with packing tape.  Pull them tightly.  The cardboard pieces came folded in half.  I weighted them down with my pinking sheers to keep them from folding while I did the taping. 

I had to use my pinking sheers because I could not find my sewing scissors.  Can you believe that!  Shameful, truly shameful.

The cardboard backs had tiny divots to show you where to place the nails when securing the cardboard to the back of the bookcase.  I used a pen to transfer the marks to the fabric from the cardboard.  That way I would know where to pound the nails. 

Look closely,  you can see the marks.
I started by nailing the center panel because it was the most difficult to reach AND because it needed to be in place before the outer panels were secured.  Each panel took 12 nails.  It is a wonder that I only have one bruised thumbnail.  It did not feel good. 

Securing the panels!  Watch out for your thumbs. 

I LOVE how the bookcase turned out, and more importantly, my daughter LOVES it.  It is perfect for her dolls, books, jewels, and such.  Here are a few close-ups of the cubby holes. 

Corner squares
Center square

The center square fabric is difficult to see, but it looks awesome especially as a contrast to the paisley fabric at the corners.  It looks great peeking out from behind her books and toys.  See...

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the lamp.

I have plans for the open-backed cubbies too.  My plan involves these canvas drawers.  Check back or click HERE to see what I do with them.  

Canvas drawers

I would love it if you became a follower of my blog.  You can find me HERE on Facebook too, and of course, I'm HERE on Pinterest!  

Here are some other crafty things from my blog you might enjoy!

Make your own Hide And Seek Bag!  This headband looks great on little heads and even not-so-little heads - Twisted Flower Headband.  Put together a Lined Canvas Backpack just in time for travel season. 

Thanks for visiting!