Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Apparently there’s this thing called vanilla sugar.  And I could’ve been baking with it all these years!  It’s used in a lot of European cookie recipes and things like that.  But I made it for some chai mix.  It’s really easy to make and I have heard that it’s really expensive if you buy it from a store.  It’s really just regular white sugar and vanilla extract.  Be sure to use pure vanilla extract, not vanilla flavoring, or imitation vanilla.

I needed three cups for my recipe so I made that much, but this recipe can easily be scaled either up or down.  The vanilla sugar will also keep, just store it the same way you store white sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

3 cups sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix the sugar and vanilla extract together as much as you can.  I found it helped to use the back of a spoon to mush out the lumps in it.

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Leave the bowl lightly covered overnight.  I used a Pyrex and just placed the lid on top, but didn’t fully put it on.  When you come back to it, it will be hard and stiff.  Just stir it back up and break up any more lumps.  Use in whatever yummy recipe you’re making!

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In the recipe, I had to pulse the mix in a food processor, so I didn’t really stir it up after I let it sit overnight.  I just dumped it in with the rest of the ingredients and let the food processor stir it for me.

Also, It makes your kitchen smell amazing!

Anyone got any other good recipes to use this in?

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Charitable Gift Ideas

In honor of all these great gift giving holidays, I thought I’d make a list of great charitable gifts you can give to that person who has everything.  Or at least someone who realizes that other people in the world don’t have much of anything.

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Heifer International has almost every farm animal you can think of as well as shares starting at only $10.  There’s also a children’s book about an African girl who gets a goat from America.

I once gave my niece 4 spayed and neutered cats as a gift.  Not the actual cats, but I made a donation in her name to The Animal Rescue Site.

The gift that keeps on giving, a Kiva microloan that can be reloaned as soon as it’s paid back.  I’ve been reloaning the same $50 for about 6 years now.  Essentially I’ve lent $475 to a variety of people all over the world.  Also, if you use my link, we’ll each get to make a free $25 loan.

Oxfam International is the gold standard of this type of gift.  They have a wide variety of types of gifts from carpentry tools to midwife training.  Even manure as fertilizer!

This last one doesn’t have specific ‘gifts’ to give but I’d like to include a donation to the MPS Society as a worthy gift to give.  My younger brother has this degenerative genetic condition and instead of favors at our wedding, the hero and I made a donation to the MPS Society.

Finally, consider donating to any charity that means a lot to you or the person you’re giving the gift to.  Bonus points if you make a card that’s clearer than the one I gave my niece.  She first thought I was just trying to depress her.

Infused Cranberry Vodka

Recently I found a bag of cranberries on clearance at the grocery store.  I snatched them up and brought them home without knowing what I wanted to do with them.  I ended up coming across the idea for infusing vodka.  There are flavored vodkas that you can buy but I bet those have a lot of artificial flavors and added sugars.  My version is all natural.

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I used a 16 ounce bottle to infuse this in and didn’t measure exactly.

Cranberry Infused Vodka

a couple handfuls of cranberries

around 12 ounces of the cheapest vodka we could find

Take each cranberry and cut two small slits in it.  Put the berries in the jar and pour the vodka in.  Shake the bottle daily for a week then strain the berries out and enjoy.  Store in the freezer until you’ve drunk it all.  It turned pink within a few hours and after the week was up it was a bright red.  If I hadn’t made it, I would’ve sworn it had food dye in it!

We had it mixed with orange juice one time and pomegranate soda another.  It was really good.  When I first took the berries out both the hero and I tried it but it was just too strange to sip vodka.  I froze the rest of the berries and I think I might need to make some more of this vodka.

I’m really excited about infusing vodkas now.  I’ve got a pomegranate one in the works now and a few more ideas that I’m throwing around.

Versatile Blogger Awards or Cool Blogs for You to Check Out

I have been honored with a nomination to the Versatile Blogger Awards by Top of the Tent.  First, I would like to thank her.

Second, I’d like to explain what this award is.  Basically, once you get nominated, you then send on the nomination to 15 other great blogs.  Just spreading the blog love around.  You are also supposed to give a list of 7 things about yourself.  But I’m going to make you wait until after the nominees (don’t get too lost in the links!).

So third, on to my nominees: (in no particular order)

http://davenportdiy.blogspot.com/

http://inthehollowheart.blogspot.com/

http://loveandbiscuitsblog.wordpress.com/

http://ourfamilyfoodadventures.com/

http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/

http://www.overboard-comic.com/

http://www.littlehouseliving.com/

http://captaincrafty.com/

http://dailygreen.blogspot.com/

http://witchininthekitchen.com/

http://juliacpeculiar.wordpress.com/

http://thegeekanthropologist.com/

http://pintsizedpioneering.blogspot.com/

http://tressabelle.wordpress.com/

http://cantgoogleeverything.blogspot.com/

Finally fourth, 7 things about myself…(again in no particular order)

1. I have flown an airplane (not take off or landing, but flown it once it was in the air)

2. I can juggle fire (poi specifically)

3. I used to work as a costumer at a theatre

4. I absolutely cannot keep houseplants alive at all

5. I hate emoticons

6. Whales terrify me

7. I do believe in fairies *clap clap*

Thanks again Top of the Tent!

Seasonal Produce: December

  • oranges
  • lemons
  • limes
  • grapefruit
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • kale
  • turnips
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • carrots
  • beets
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • chestnuts
  • apples
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • cranberries
  • kiwi
  • fennel
  • pears
  • persimmons
  • pomegranates
  • leeks
  • sweet potatoes
  • radish
  • winter squash
  • tangerines
  • pumpkins
  • quince
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • horseradish
  • parsnip

Did I miss anything?

Egg Salad Without Mayo

I really don’t like mayonnaise, but I do like egg salad.  Here’s my version that doesn’t use mayo along with my serving suggestion of a sandwich.

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Egg Salad Sandwiches

6 hard boiled or baked eggs

3/4 cup dill pickles (we made these from cucumbers from the garden last summer)

1 1/2 cup cottage cheese

6 or so leaves of arugula lettuce (about the only thing that sprouted in our garden this winter)

12 slices of sandwich bread (bonus points for homemade bread)

Chop the eggs and pickles into small chunks and then mix them and the cottage cheese together in a big bowl.  You can play around with the ratios to taste.  Make 6 sandwiches with a scoop of the egg salad and a layer of arugula leaf.

I think it turned out really well.  My dad, who doesn’t like egg salad, even said it was “alright”.  Since his highest endorsement is “pretty good”, I’ll take that as a compliment.

Update On My New Loom

You may remember the loom I got at the Ladies’ Homestead Gathering of Statham meeting.  I asked my mom to help me get it working and she referred me to a weaving friend of hers.  She helped me get it working and taught me that it is a mix between a table loom and an inkle loom.  She showed me how to thread a string heddle and showed me her collection of various patterned weavings.  She also let me try her spinning wheel and now I want one!

I started with a really simple thin strip just to get the feel of the loom and understand how it works.  Since we (yea really she threaded it, but I watched!) threaded it with alternating colors of yarn, I got lots of little stripes.

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I’m excited about starting my next project, I just have to decide what I want to make.  Any suggestions?

Minion Friendly Footwear

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It might seem a bit strange that the minion, who’s over 1 year old, should just now be getting shoes, but until now she hasn’t needed them.  Babies who aren’t walking outside or on other dangerous surfaces don’t need shoes.  I understand that in some places it gets cold.  I live in Georgia but I have heard myth of this thing called winter.  In those cases socks and soft shoes can be used to keep your baby’s feet warm, but hard soled shoes should be used sparingly.

Stiff shoes can constrict a baby’s foot if they are worn too often and cause the foot to develop differently than if it were in its natural, unrestricted state. The bones in babies’ feet don’t harden until they are about 5 years old, so anytime before that, they are much easier to mold.   This is an extreme example, but think about the damage Chinese foot binding did.  Even once your baby starts walking, you want to keep their shoe wearing to a minimum so that their feet can continue to develop naturally.

Once you are ready to put your baby in shoes, make sure you find the right ones.  There should be a pinky width behind your baby’s heel and you should be able to lay your thumb in front of their toes.  Keep in mind, though, that these measurements are using a stereotypical mother’s hand.  If you’re a man or a larger woman, take that into account. Firm but flexible soles are the way to go and a fabric upper is best.  You should be able to pinch a bit of the fabric off the top of your baby’s foot to make sure they’re not too tight.  And when in doubt about sizing, go with the larger size.

Finally, once your baby starts walking around in their new shoes (only outside right?) keep an eye out for any red spots, rubbing, or blisters and try to prevent problems before they get bad.

Want, Need, Made, Read or Gift Giving Simplified

With the upcoming winter gift giving holidays coming up (and some already here…Hanukkah, I’m looking at you), I thought I’d tell you about the gifts we’re giving to the minion.  I’m not going to make a simple list of the particular gifts we’re giving her, but I will explain our overarching philosophy.

Parents buying gifts for their children has recently gotten out of hand.  From parents tackling each other over the hot toy of the season to families going into debt to buy the kids the latest greatest tech, not to mention the insanity of black Friday. To help us avoid that, we use this simple philosophy; want, need, made, read.  That is a gift she wants, a fun toy or something.  A gift she needs, clothes or something similar (we gave her coconut oil for use as a diaper cream last year).  A gift one of us has handmade.  And a book to read.

There a lot of different versions of this floating around some include wear, watch, dress-up, eat, create, listen to, among other things.  I encourage you to decide what will work for your family.  If you’re really into music, maybe you want to include a listen to.  Or maybe you don’t consider clothes a gift so you’d exclude the wear.  Obviously if you don’t like making things, don’t include a made.  Figure out what list works for you and go with that.

Does your family have a gift philosophy or do any of these ideas appeal to you?

 

Cooking with Turnips Successfully

When I bought the turnip, the guy at the store was rather skeptical about me cooking it.  He told me he’d only heard of people shredding it and making slaw.  But I think doing it in the slow cooker was a total success.  I am also starting to fall in love with my slow cooker.

Turnip, Potato, and Carrot Stew

1 peeled turnip

4 carrots

3 russet potatoes

1 small red onion

1 tetrapack or can cream of mushroom soup

rosemary

parsley

water

green onions

Chop up the turnip, carrots, potatoes, and onion and throw them in the slow cooker.  Put the cream of mushroom soup in and then add water until you’ve basically covered all the vegetables.  Sprinkle in a bit of rosemary and parsley, I used dried, but if you have fresh, I’m sure that’s much better.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve with chopped green onions on top.

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If I made it again, I’d probably add more carrots, but it was pretty good.  It could’ve used a bit more flavor but I’m not sure what I should’ve added.  I would’ve liked more mushrooms than just the few in the soup, but the hero isn’t a huge mushroom fan.  Any suggestions on what I should add next time?