Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I'm really excited to share one of my latest projects with you: Homemade Vanilla Extract.

Vanilla Extract is compose of two ingredients: Vodka and Grade B Vanilla Beans.

One of the many things I love about this project is that it's inexpensive. Also, if you like to bake as much as I do, you know Vanilla Extract is an essential in your pantry. To this day, one of the gifts I remember most from my parents is a bottle of Vanilla Extract from Mexico.

Ready to get started? Here's what you'll need:

1. Vodka (I got the cheap stuff, but use whatever you'd like.)
2. Grade B Vanilla Beans (I got Tahitian, rather than Madagascar Bourbon, for no particular reason, from this seller on ebay.)
3. Bottles (I bought amber-colored 8 oz bottles locally from Mountain Mama Natural Foods.)
4. Full page shipping label paper (shown below, bought at Walmart)

So here's what you do:

1. Prepare three vanilla beans for each 8 oz jar you'll be using. In order for the beans to fit into the jars I chose, I had to cut an inch or so off of the ends (I put them aside for use in my grandfather's homemade Kahlua). Then, I took my kitchen shears and split them up the middle, leaving the tops connected, rather than splitting them all the way.
2. Put the beans in the jar. Using a funnel, fill the jar with vodka.
3. Place the cap back on and set aside in a cool place and give it a good shake once a week. Do this for two months, when it will be ready for use. Top off with more vodka as needed - those little beans will keep on doin' work for you.

I wanted to be able to use whatever I bought for labels in a creative way, so instead of messing with a predetermined size, I bought the full sheet shipping labels. This way, I could cut them into ovals, or hearts, or stars (or rectangles, which I ended up doing anyway). But I can also use them in different ways for different projects. I'm good with that.

I used the business card template in my word processing software (Pages for Mac), which gave me the approximate size label I was looking for. I imported a picture of my son, chose the font I liked (Courier), rearranged a few things, and came up with the label you see.

There you go! Homemade Vanilla Extract. Here's the cost breakdown per bottle:

Vodka: 1.06
Vanilla Beans: 0.55
Label: 0.07
Bottles: 1.40
Total: 3.08

Have you seen how expensive store-bought Vanilla Extract is? This is a deal! (And you could save even more money if you find cheaper bottles - which I didn't have any luck with.)

You still have time to make these as Christmas gifts. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Uh-Mazing Cherry Crisp

I made cherry crisp a few days ago. It was so good, Scout would come home from work and immediately say, "You didn't eat all the cherry stuff, did you?"

Yesterday my answer was, "Yes-but-I'll-make-more-I-promise."

I got the recipe online, but used canned cherry pie filling instead of fresh cherries. (Thanks, ABW, for unloading all of your pie filling on us!) Making this was free (I had all the ingredients on hand). On another note, I've never even heard of an 11x7 inch pan, so I used my 9x9. It turned out perfectly. Oh, and I use salted butter in most of my baking. It gave this dessert a nice flavor contrast.

Today I'm making blueberry crisp with the same recipe. Scout will be pleased.

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup cherry juice blend
  • 4 cups pitted tart red cherries
  • Few drops red food coloring, optional

  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted


  • In a bowl, combine salt, sugar and flour; cut in butter. Press into a greased 2-qt. or 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.
  • For filling, combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in juice. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Fold in cherries and food coloring if desired. Pour over baked crust. Combine all topping ingredients; sprinkle over filling.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges. Yield: 6-8 servings.
Now, go make some!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rearranging Some Things

If I'm gonna blog more, I've gotta have the place organized. You may see the stuff on the sidebar lookin' all jacked up for a while. For now, take a look at one of my new favorite frugal blogs, Fabulessly Frugal.

See you soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

The creamy pesto went terribly wrong. Sorry for getting your hopes up, Jon and Abbey. :)

For now, I'm going to share with you one of my favorite frugal recipes: All-Purpose Cleaner, provided by one of my frugal heroes, Amy Dacyczyn.

Save up some store-bought cleaning solution bottles and go to town:

1/2 cup ammonia
1/3 cup vinegar
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 gallon water

Mix it all up in a bucket and pour it into spray bottles. I also like to add a few drops of home fragrance oil. I had this on hand (from Bath & Body Works). It smells like heaven.
Heaven that's practically free. And makes me smile while I disinfect my counter tops.

Let me know if you end up making some (and if you like it).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Quest to Become the World's Best Housewife

I can't find a job. To be honest, I don't really want to work outside of my home - and this is a recent revelation.

I finished college to stretch my brain and secure my place in the job market. No one told me that if the economy failed, a college education would mean next to nothing. Even if you're a teacher.

After being frustrated, anxious, and annoyed by my professional situation, I've decided to say, "Screw the economy. I'm gonna be the best damn housewife/mother that the world has seen." (Ok, maybe that last part is a stretch. But I'm going to try.)

I'm also striving to be a better blogger. Posting once every eight months is not what I would consider acceptable. I hope to have a tutorial up tomorrow for Old Spaghetti Factory's Creamy Pesto salad dressing! See you then...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Garage Door Makeover

My garage door finally matches my shutters:

I twitched every time I looked at the brown. Wouldn't you?

The weather stripping needed to be replaced as well:

There were cracks all over the place:

As I took the shutters down to wash and repaint them, I started getting irate at the previous contracter/diyer/remodeler who did the painting/repairs/remodeling/etc. There were thickly dried paint drips all over them. Some of the slats weren't even painted completely. They were most likely forty years old and starting to rot. I spent an hour sanding and scraping one of the shutters without much progress. I was not feeling warm and fuzzy.

I HATE lazily done home repairs. I don't get it. If you're gonna spend money to do something, do it CORRECTLY, even if it's "just" paint. You know what I'm sayin'?

In the end, I put my heart health ahead of saving a few bucks, so I sold the shutters on Craigslist (to a girl making a headboard out of them - fun, huh?) and sprung for inexpensive vinyl shutters at Lowe's.

Better, yeah?
Unfortunately, the Colorado heat has scorched my lawn. I'm hoping to get it back to green once it cools down a little bit!

Linking to:

The DIY Show Off

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In the Meantime...

My dear friend, Abbey, whom I've known for over 15 years, has a new foodie blog. She's an amazing mom, has an amazing husband, and knows how to throw down in the kitchen. I wish I could go to her house every night for supper.

Check her out, then come back here and see if I've gotten my crap together (it's doubtful).