Homemade Vanilla Extract

This couldn’t be easier to do, and is a great homemade gift to give out to friends and family during the holidays! All you need are good vanilla beans, vodka, and a little patience. They will last forever, just like the vanilla extract you’d buy at the store. Definitely have them sit for about 6 months before using it though so that it has had time to sit.

Ingredients:
48 good vanilla beans (8 beans per bottle)
1 liter bottle of vodka

I bought my madagascar vanilla beans on http://www.beanilla.com, where they have a nice variety of vanilla, as well as bottles to purchase which is convenient. I bought my bottles at Fishs Eddy here in the city though, one of my favorite stores!

Start by slicing down the center of each vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife, not so hard that you cut through to the other side though. You are opening up the beans so that the vanilla is exposed. It smells SO good! Fill the bottles with 8 beans each. You will need at least 8 beans per bottle to get the full strong flavor for the extract. Lastly, fill each bottle with vodka covering the beans to the top and seal the tops. When buying the vodka, you don’t need anything super fancy. I went for something on the cheaper side, but not so cheap that it reminded me of my college days. Shake each bottle gently to release some of the vanilla from the beans. Place in a cool dry space and shake once a day for a week or so, then you can just give them a shake every couple weeks following that. You’ll notice that they get darker and darker over time. It will will be usable within 4 months, but I recommend letting it sit a little longer. The longer the better!

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After one week…

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This is after about 4 months…

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Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean + Goat Cheese Enchiladas

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I’ve never had enchiladas like these before, and normally wouldn’t think to fill them with vegetables and goat cheese…but it was really delicious! I made the enchilada sauce myself too, which is very easy to do. The last time I made these I just used Trader Joes enchilada sauce, which is really good and has quite a kick to it!

Ingredients: (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)
2 zucchinis, diced
1 summer squash, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed
5 oz soft goat cheese
8-10 corn tortillas
2 ripe avocados
Fresh cilantro
Lime

Enchilada Sauce:
25oz canned tomatoes
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
5 jalapeƱo slices (or as much as you want!)
3/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sour cream
S&P

To get started, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Dice up your zucchini and squash and toss in olive oil and S&P. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.

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To make the enchilada sauce, simply place all the ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. You’ll then want to heat it on the stove top before eventually pouring it into the baking dish.

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Next, add your zucchini/squash to a bowl with the rinsed black beans and half of the goat cheese. Mix together. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to photograph this process, but I’m sure you can close your eyes and just image me doing it! I like to warm my tortillas over the gas burner to heat them up and brown them a bit. Lay the tortilla flat and add your filling. Fold in the sides and roll up from the bottom. Place each enchilada in the baking dish (which has about half the warm sauce on the bottom already). Once the dish is filled, brush the tops with olive oil then cover with the rest of the sauce and goat cheese. Cook on 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with a lime wedge, avocado and fresh cilantro!

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Vegetarian Borscht

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I absolutely love Veselka’s borscht in the East Village. If you haven’t had it, then stop reading this and just leave. Go there immediately. You can find their recipe online actually, but it takes a couple hours to make. I was looking for something a little quicker and landed on this vegetarian version. It came out really nice, and definitely gets better after a day or two. I want to take the time to make their version one day. If I could make that at home, I’d never have to leave the house.

Ingredients:
4 large beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3/4 pound of cabbage, shredded
1 onion, sliced
2 large carrots (or 1 carrots and a few parsnips, like I did)
5 cups vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
S&P

Start by cutting up the carrots, parsnips, and beets into little matchsticks. Next slice your onions, and shred the cabbage. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a big soup pot and add the onions, garlic, beets, carrots and parsnips. Cook for about 10 minutes, until everything softens a bit and the beet color starts to take over.

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20121216-192711.jpgWhile your veggies are cooking, add your vegetable stock to a separate pot and bring to a boil. When the vegetables are ready, add the cabbage as well as the hot stock. Mix well and S&P to taste. Let cook for 30 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cider vinegar. Spoon into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream!

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A Healthy (and delicious!) Chocolate Chip Cookie

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These are really great and easy to make. But the best part is that you don’t feel so bad after eating a million of them!

Indredients:
3 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil (microwave a little as it will be hard)
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
1 teaspoon baking power
6-7 ounces dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Mash your bananas until it looks like, well, baby food. Add the vanilla extract and coconut oil. Mix well. Next get your dry ingredients into a separate large bowl- oats, coconut, cinnamon, salt, almond meal and baking powder (to make the almond meal, just pulse the raw almonds in a food processor until it resembles a sand texture). 20121215-001050.jpg20121215-001118.jpg20121215-001130.jpg

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well then throw in the chocolate bits.

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Form small balls of the dough (about 2 teaspoons worth) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, two inches apart. Place in the oven for about 14 minutes or until golden brown (and not burned on the bottom!). Let sit for a few minutes before eating…all of them.

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Pasta with Pancetta and Leeks

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I had a few more leeks leftover this week and was craving some pasta. I found a recipe with leeks and pancetta, which sounded really good. And it was! Some creamy pasta dishes can be a little too much, but this was light enough that I didn’t feel like I was eating a bowl of thick cream. I’ll definitely be making this again!

Ingredients:
12oz box of pasta (I used farfalle)
2 large leeks
3 ounces pancetta
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sherry wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (half & half would work too)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
S&P

First, get your pasta cooking. I always salt my water and add a tiny bit of olive oil, while helps the pasta from sticking. Chop the pancetta and add it to a hot pan, cook over medium heat. While that cooks, slice the leeks. Trim them where the green areas start to get dark, toss the dark parts. Wash the leeks really well to make sure no dirt is wedged between the layers. Thinly slice the leeks. Once your pancetta is browned, add the leeks and cook for about 8 minutes on medium low heat. Then add the butter! Cook another 5 minutes or so until everything is nice and cooked down.

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20121209-184656.jpgAdd the sherry wine and cook for another two minutes. Turn down the heat to a low simmer, and add the cream. After a minute or so, turn off the heat and add the pasta. I find that it is best to add scoops of pasta at a time and not to dump the whole thing in there at once. There’s nothing worse then when you add too much pasta and don’t have enough sauce to cover it all. In cooking you can always add things, but you can’t really take it out once it’s in there! Lastly, fold your pasta into the sauce and add your parmesan cheese. Serve right away. Enjoy!

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Apple, Leek, and Smoked Mozzarella Calzones

I had bought some pizza dough at Trader Joes and decided to try making calzones. It was actually a lot easier then I thought it would be! I saw an interesting recipe that used apples and smoked mozzarella, so I thought I’d give it a shot and also add some leeks as well. They came out really nice, very light and flavorful. I’d definitely make these again!

Ingredients: (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)
Pizza dough, made or store bought
1 leek, sliced
1 half onion, sliced
1 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 medium apple, diced
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup smoked mozzarella, diced
Handful of fresh thyme
Handful of fresh chives
Olive oil
Pepper

Thinly slice the onions and leeks. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onions. Cook for a couple minutes to break them down a little, then add the leeks. Continue cooking until lightly browned. In the meantime, dice up the mozzarella and chop the chives and thyme.

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Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Flour your surface, roller, and dough. Roll it out into a rectangle shape. Keep flouring the dough as you go to help it keep its shape. With a shape knife, cut 4×4 squares. Pile the toppings in the center of each square, don’t stuff it so much that you can’t close it though! Next, fold one corner to the opposite side and press together. Use a fork along the edges to seal them up! The dough will soften and get sticky, so try to be quick when filling/sealing. Brush the tops with olive oil and put in the oven for 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before eating. I ate mine with a little side of sour cream.

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