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How to make your own Vanilla Extract

How to make your own Vanilla Extract

Some people use vanilla extract in passing. Some people use it like it’s going to go bad tomorrow. I’m the latter. Since I’ve started making my own vanilla yogurt and homemade granola I am using more vanilla extract up than I really thought possible. So, I thought that it would probably be prudent to just make it myself and save a fair amount of money. 🙂
To buy an “inexpensive” store brand 2 oz. bottle of vanilla extract I recently spent $5.49.
Today I spent $8.79 on the vanilla beans and $13.26 on a 750M bottle of Fris Vodka. Which is the least expensive bottle I found at our local package store. Total = $22.05.
750M is about 26 oz. So, let’s do the math. (I am a math teacher after all. 😉 ) If I bought 26 oz. of vanilla extract at $5.49/2 oz. then I would spend $71.37!!!! OMG So, basically I am saving $49.32 making my own.

Steps to saving nearly $50.

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  • Select an inexpensive bottle of vodka and some vanilla beans. The recommended ratio is 3 beans per cup of vodka. I only have 2 beans, so I may go get some more to add to the bottle.
  • Slice the beans in half length wise to expose all of the yumminess inside.IMG_20130802_164646
  • Add the beans to the bottle and shake it up. At least once a week give the bottle another shake. After 2 months it should be ready to use. You can see the little flecks of vanilla floating after I shook the bottle up here.IMG_20130802_164847

I think I can handle that! 🙂 I added a label so that nobody would think this was available for evening cocktails.

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How to season Cast Iron

How to season Cast Iron

I have a large collection of cast iron. It used to be the only thing I cooked in. I use some other pots and pans now too, but I still love my trusty cast iron. When seasoned properly they are WAY better than any non-stick cookware you’ll ever find.

1. First wash your pot in hot, soapy water. This is the ONLY time you will use soap on your cast iron. Dry it completely.

2. Rub a thin coating of shortening on the inside and outside of the pot. I use a zip top bag as a glove, but you can use any soft cloth or paper towel too.

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3. I put the pot upside down in a cold oven. Be sure to put it over a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees F and let it bake for an hour. After one hour, turn the oven off and let the pot cool in the oven.

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4. After my pot had mostly cooled I took it out of the oven. The inside didn’t look quite as shiny as I wanted, so I sprayed it down with some pan spray and gently wiped it out. Now it’s just cooling down for me before I put it away. IMG_20130801_190240

It is very important to store your cast iron in such a way that air can circulate around it. A lot of folks store them in their oven or in the drawer just under if you have one. I have this cast iron wall hanging that I got from Garden Ridge years ago that I use to hang my pots on. They are seriously bolted into the rafters about 4 inches or more.

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Cooking with cast iron is very easy, but there are a few things to remember.

  1. Always pre-heat your pan pretty good before you put anything into it. I usually spray a little pan spray or drizzle some olive oil into it each time I am going to cook as I’m pre-heating it.
  2. Cast iron gets VERY hot so I almost never put it on high heat. I use med-hi as the highest setting and then after it’s heated well I lower the temperature to medium.
  3. Never put hot cast iron into the sink. Let it cool at the stove for awhile. You may crack it if the temperature change is too severe. I had this happen once. I was NOT a happy girl. A well-meaning person was helping out with the dishes.
  4. Never put it into a dishwasher or use soap or any dish washing detergents. It will strip away all of the seasoning you just did and you’ll have to do it again. I just use some nice HOT tap water and a scrubby brush. For hard to remove food or grease build up you can use steel wool, and SOS pad or even sand paper to get it off, but you’ll have to cure it again (re-season it).
  5. After you have cleaned your pot with hot water and a scrubby, then dry it completely and lightly spray it with some pan spray. I usually wipe it down with a paper towel after that too just to keep it from being too runny.

If you have a pot that is completely rusted it is still salvageable! I actually found one of my favorite oblong roasting pans at a yard sale for $3. It was orange and rusty, but still solid. I took it home and cleaned it as best I could…which didn’t do much. Then I put it in the oven and turned the oven on the self-clean cycle. After the cycle was finished I carefully took the cooled pot outside and knocked the rust off over the garbage can. Almost all of it was gone! Then I cleaned it again and seasoned it. Now that is one of the best pots I have and I wouldn’t part with it. 🙂

How to slice home made bread

How to slice home made bread

If you’ve ever attempted to slice home made bread and ended up with smooshed, too-thick slices, or too-thin slices then this post is for you.
I love to make home made bread. It’s far more delicious and healthy than store bought, not to mention much more cost effective. The only thing that ever really kept me from baking it more frequently was the slices. I wanted to be able to use it for sandwiches, toast, you know…normal bread things. But, somehow I always ended up with less than fabulous looking slices. And then, I discovered the best tool in my kitchen to use was my electric knife! Yay! 🙂
First you need to make sure that your bread is completely cooled. If you want to slice off a piece to butter right out of the oven, that’s ok, but for slicing the whole loaf…wait until it’s completely cooled.
To make sandwich slices line the knife up about the size that you recognize a store-bought slice to be, then zip through it. I like to start the slice and then hold the slice onto the loaf while you continue to slice. It keeps the bread intact a little better.

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Take your time and go through the whole loaf.

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I store mine in a gallon zip top bag. They are now ready for some amazing sandwiches! 😉