Monday, January 16, 2012

Cold and Flu Season and Garlic Penicillin

With winter comes the inevitable cold and flu season.  Everywhere you go you see someone coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses in misery.  So far this year our winter has been mild with less snow than usual.  Our household has been lucky enough to have escaped both colds and the flu for now.  I'm sure one of us will get sick sooner or later, we always do.  When that time comes I will be making up a dose of my fabulous Garlic Penicillin.

Garlic Penicillin 
-6 minced garlic cloves
-olive oil
-2 cups of chicken broth
-1/4 tsp parsley
-1/2 tsp dried rosemary
-1/4 tsp. dried thyme
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)**
juice of 1/4 of a lemon

Saute garlic briefly in olive oil. Add broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Add herbs and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add juice from 1/4 of a lemon.  Serve immediately.  Sip carefully as it's pipping hot! 

        If you're serving broth to kids, omit the cayenne pepper.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cupcake Love!

Once again I have been MIA for a while, life does get in the way. Having dial up at home isn't very blog friendly either.  Today while waiting at hubby's office, I figure I will update the old blog with my latest new found addiction!  Cupcakes!  Not very figure flattering I must admit and I certainly shouldn't be making them for my diabetic hubby.  I guess I really should experiment with something sugar free, but come on!  We're talking cupcakes here!!  

Does anyone not like cupcakes?  Cupcakes come in an endless amount of flavours and styles limited only by your imagination.  Cupcakes are all the rage right now.  Just watch an episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network to see what I mean.

Why stop at regular old vanilla or chocolate  when you could have something fantastic like the Rolo cupcake shown up above, made by Jamie at My Baking Addiction?  Or a Chocolate S'mores cupcake made by Glory at Glorious Treats?

Looking to make a gift?  How about cupcakes in a jar?  They are easy to make and easy to give.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, check out these Butter Beer cupcakes over at Squirrel Bakes?

Maybe you want something more fancy.  Have a peek at these little works of art by Cupcake Delights?  Personally I don't have the patience to do all that, but they are beautiful though.

I know, right?  Pretty darn fantastic!!

If you want to know how to decorate your cupcakes like a professional, there are lots of videos on the internet.  The place where I found out about the types of icing tips to use was at Glorious Treats.  I even found my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe there.  It is moist and flavourful and is my new base recipe for my Black Forest cupcakes and any other that has a chocolate cupcake base.

Hosting a baby shower?  A kid's birthday party?  Anniversary party?  Heck even for a wedding.  Why not make cupcakes?  Just want some for yourself?  Go ahead and make a batch.  Right now.  Today.  I'm sure you will be glad you did! 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract Tutorial

One of my favourite smells in the whole world has to be vanilla!  If you like to bake like I do, then I'm sure you've noticed the price of those tiny bottles of the "pure" vanilla extract.  Ok, you can buy the cheap "artificial" stuff but did you know that the cheap stuff gets its flavouring from a wood by product?  Ewwwwwwww!

I didn't start off looking to make vanilla extract.  Actually, I was looking at homemade yogurt recipes (I'll post about that later).  I came across this site with a homemade yogurt tutorial that also had a vanilla extract tutorial which got me intrigued.  It never occurred to me that you could make your own.

When I priced the beans at the grocery store, they were rudely expensive; 2 beans in a little plastic tube for $8.00!!  And who knows where they came from!  On the advise of another vanilla extract maker, I went to ebay where I found a great deal on beans.  This company called Vanilla Products USA has excellent prices.  Even after paying shipping it was much cheaper than buying from the grocery store. 

Items needed:

-Vanilla Beans (a minimum of 8 vanilla beans for every cup of alcohol) **(see note way down at the bottom)

- vodka that is clear, neutral with no flavour or heat.  I chose Banff Ice (rum can be used if you want the extra flavour)
-clean glass jar(s) with tight fitting lid that will hold more than you intend to make
- scissors or sharp knife
(If you want to sweeten it add corn syrup, 10% by volume)

1.  The first thing you need to do is to determine how much extract you want to make and how many beans you will need.  I chose to make 5 cups for this batch, so I needed 40 beans.  I chose to use 8 beans*** per 1 cup of alcohol. 
For a good quality pure vanilla extract you need to use a minimum of 8 beans per cup of alcohol.  If you use any less than this you are really only making vanilla flavoured alcohol and not extract. 
When choosing your jar, make sure it will hold more than the desired amount.  For example, I used a 6 cup jar to hold my 5 cups of alcohol.  The beans will raise the level of liquid in the jar.   
2.  Use kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut beans in half, then cut lengthwise down each bean to expose the seeds (caviar).  I like to leave an inch at the end still connected, but you don't have to.  If you are using a shorter jar, you can cut the beans into smaller pieces. 

There's no need to scrape out the tiny seeds, because they'll come out to do their magic when you shake the jars.

3. Put vanilla beans in your chosen glass jar or bottle.  I use a Mason jar.  Cover completely with the vodka, then give it a good shake.  Make sure the beans are covered with the alcohol or they will dry out.  Store your jar in a cool, dark place. 

4.  For the first week, give the bottle a good shake once or twice a day. Let the vanilla steep 4-6 months before using, giving the jar a good thorough shake on occasion. The longer it ages, the more the flavour will mature, much like a fine wine. After a month of sitting you will notice the smell of the vanilla will be stronger.  The liquid will be slightly syrupy and the colour will be much richer.

5Once you have decided it's ready to use pour ½ cup or so (straining with coffee filter is optional) into a small jar/bottle for regular usage. As you use this bottle top off on occasion with the larger jar. Once you have used half the larger jar, top it off with more vodka and occasionally add a fresh bean or two, giving it a good shake before each use. In this way your vanilla extract can last for several years.


This picture shows a bottle of extract that is two weeks old, on the left, compared to the one made writing this tutorial, on the right. You can see how the colour gets richer as it sits. The alcohol will continue to extract flavour from the pods for up to 6 months, but will continue to mature for up to two years . It’s a good idea to make a good size batch initially and just keep a small bottle of extract in which you would just refill when needed. That way when you top off the larger bottle with more alcohol, you will be able to use the small bottle until the bigger bottle is ready.

You can make vanilla sugar by putting a split vanilla bean into a jar of white, granulated sugar. You can also put 1 dry bean (for 1 cup of sugar) in food processor and process until the bean is ground fine. Great way to infuse the sugar with vanilla flavour for baking.

“13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of extract is single fold (single strength) vanilla extract. As most vanilla beans are ~120/pound or 7.5 beans per ounce of weight. A gallon of extract is 128 fluid ounces, so that would mean ~98 beans per gallon or -six (6) whole beans to make ONE cup (8 fluid ounces) of single fold vanilla extract…Anyone who tells you any differently is just teaching you how to make vanilla flavored booze.”

To make an extract you must use at least 0.8 ounces (6) vanilla beans per cup of final extract. Hand extracts should use extra beans because they lack the efficiency of mechanical extraction processes. I recommend 1 ounce (30 grams, 7-8 beans) per 1 cup (250ml) of 40% (80 proof) alcohol. ( Found:

*** note:

With the grade b Madagascar beans, it took 8 beans to weigh 0.8 oz. Therefore, I chose to use 8 beans per 1 cup of alcohol for my extract.   

I wanted to make my vanilla even stronger, so I have been using 10-12 beans per cup of alcohol and letting it steep a minimum of four months before using. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Blank Canvas

An uncut piece of fabric is a wonderful thing to someone that likes to sew.  It's a blank canvas and the potential is endless.  What will it be this time?  A new tote bag?  Oven mitts?  An apron?  Not this time.  Sometimes I buy a piece of fabric because I like the colours or pattern used.  Sometimes I just want to experiment.  This time I had a plan. 

My blank canvas became two simple little sun dresses for two very special little girls that are daughters of a friend of mine.  They were patterned after the "pillowcase" dress that so many people in the crafting world are making nowadays.  

These dresses are so cute and easy to do.  You can make them out of a pillowcase or you can just use a piece of fabric like I did.  There are lots of tutorials on line, both for the dress version as well as for a nightgown version.  Just take your pick.  There are plenty to be found to choose from.  Pick your favourite or design your own.  If you do decide to make one, I'd love to hear about it.   

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Perfect Pie

Ok, I'll admit it...I have a very large sweet tooth!  I try to limit the sugar, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

Enter the perfect pie! Making a good pie can be a challenge. I figured there had to be some secret that I just didn't know about.  Determined to figure it out, I went straight to my favourite recipe site to find out what the secret was.  What I found was there's actually more than one secret to the perfect pie and you can find them all right here.  One of the most important secrets is to "handle" the dough as little as possible and keep everything chilled...cold utensils, cold ingredients etc. 

With rhubard growing in the garden, I decided to go for it.  I decided to attempt to make the perfect pie.  I used this recipe for the crust but used half butter and half shortening instead of just shortening.  For the filling I used a mixture of rhubarb and apple. 

This was the best pie I've ever made!  My family agreed.  They licked their plates clean, literally and even ate their crust, a sure sign of a winner!   

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

I love yogurt!  I mean, I really love yogurt!!  I love yogurt with toast for breakfast.  I love it topped with fresh fruit for a snack.  I love adding frozen fruit and whirling it in the blender for a nice thick smoothie.  Did I mention that I loved yogurt?

I've eyed up those yogurt makers that you can buy, secretly wanting to get myself one.  Imagine my delight one day casually reading blogs when I came across a recipe for making yogurt in your crock pot!  Who knew?!  Another that caught my eye was this recipe.  There are plenty of tutorials online.  That got me looking for more recipes to make my own yogurt.

I tried a couple of the tutorials that I found, but none I made turned out thick enough.  While runny yogurt is great for smoothies, I wanted something I could eat with a spoon.  I read all the comments and different ideas and took what I thought were the most useful to make my own version.  What I came up with is thicker than the others as well as nice and creamy.

Homemade Yogurt 
-1 litre (quart) 1% milk
-1 litre (quart) cream, (I usually use 5% or 10%)
-1/2 cup non instant powdered milk, (available at Bulk Barn)
-1/2 cup of plain, room temperature, unflavoured yogurt containing only milk ingredients and live cultures, nothing else added (such as Organic Meadows or Astro),  

-5-500 ml (2 cup) Mason jars 
-large pot
-oval Crock pot, large enough for the jars to sit in
- thermometer (check that it will read the temperatures needed)

Step 1:
Put clean jars and crock pot on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200F (100C) degrees for abt. 5 minutes.  Then turn off oven leaving the light on.  If oven has digital control, set to abt. 108F (43C) degrees and turn on the oven light.  Leaving the light on helps to keep the oven warm enough.
Step 2:
Measure out the ½ cup yogurt “starter” and set aside so it can come to room temperature.

Step 3:
Pour milk and cream into large pot, stir gently and cover with lid.  Heat on med/low temperature until temperature reaches abt. 140F (60C) degrees, no higher than 145, stirring occasionally (takes about ½ hour). DO NOT LET IT BOIL!! 

Step 4:
Gently stir in the powdered milk until dissolvedYou want to stir gently because if you add too much air to the milk it will slow down the incubation time. 

Step 5:
Remove crock pot and jars from oven.  Fill kitchen sink about ¼ full with cold water.  Immerse pot of hot milk in the cold water making sure not to splash the water into the milk.  Stir constantly (but gently) until milk temperature drops to about 110-112 F (43-45C) degrees.  Remove from sink.    

Step 6:
Add the ½ cup of room temperature yogurt to the milk mixture, stirring gently, but thoroughly. 

Step 7:
Carefully ladle/pour warm milk into the warm jars (a funnel is helpful).  Set jars into crock pot, then, put crock pot on cookie sheet in oven and place near oven light.  Your oven should still be warm from preheating the jars.  If not, turn it on as low as it will go to produce a small amount of heat, then shut it off again. 

Leave jars undisturbed for 6 to 7 hours in oven with light left on.  The oven light will help retain the heat.  Do not open oven door at all during the incubation time.  When the time is up you will notice that your yogurt is thicker, but it’s not quite ready yet.

Step 8:
Loosely put lids on jars and refrigerate until completely chilled, at which time it will have finished thickening. Tighten lids.  DO NOT STIR YOGURT until you are ready to use it, adding the flavourings to sweeten by gently folding it in.

(Homemade yogurt topped with rhubard sauce and blueberries)

Some of my favourite flavours to add to my yogurt are; maple syrup, strawberry jam, cinnamon, vanilla, rhubarb sauce, blueberries or bananas. Flavour individual servings as needed.

You can use the yogurt plain like sour cream in baking recipes.  If you want it thicker, line a small strainer with a coffee filter and sit it over a bowl to drain the whey (the liquid that usually separates when the yogurt sits).  Add desired amount of yogurt and let the whey drain until it’s as thick as you want it.  The longer you let the whey drain off the thicker it will become. If you want to use it for cream cheese, let it drain for a couple days, then add seasonings if desired. 

The whey that drains off is just as nutritional as the rest of the yogurt.  You can use it in baked goods to replace milk, water or sour cream in baked recipes.   

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nice To See You!

It's been awhile since I've checked in and I've been busy.  Not one post all winter!  Shame on me.  I love to see what everyone else is up to on their blogs, but mine gets forgotten.  I have been busy though and I've done a little sewing, a little cooking among other things and thought today would be as good as any to post some updates.

My garden is all nicely tilled up and waiting to start again.  I have it all planned out and now just need to get planting.