Monday, February 25, 2013

Homemade vanilla extract & vanilla sugar

Good morning and happy Monday!  Another week has begun.  I am pretty tired this morning because I stayed up waaay too late last night watching the Oscars.  Did you all watch?  I was so excited to see Ann Hathaway win for Les Mis.  She gave an amazing performance in that movie.  The musical number on stage last night gave me chills. Also, doesn't Daniel Day Lewis seem like the nicest guy in the world?! I haven't seen Lincoln yet, but I really need to.  Ben Affleck's speech brought tears to my eyes.  (I'm a real sucker for award shows and acceptance speeches) Anyway, I can't wait to see what my fashion blogger friends have to say about the red carpet. I really loved Sandra Bullock's dress.  I'm wondering who else will agree with me....

But I digress - Today I'm going to share with you how to make vanilla extract and vanilla sugar.  Two of the most essential ingredients in baking, but also the easiest to make at home.  My mother has been making vanilla extract at home for years and years.  In my opinion it's much better than the store bought variety.  It's pure and has much more flavor. I can't say enough about it.  I use vanilla extract in just about everything - from pancake batter, to granola, to cupcakes.  It's my go to "not-so-secret" ingredient.  In case you don't know, here's how to make it.

The general rule is 3 vanilla beans to 1 cup of vodka (6 beans to 2 cups of vodka, etc).

Cut one end off the beans and split lengthwise to expose the seeds. 

Drop in a jar or bottle filled with your vodka. Mason jars work perfect for this. (*side note: you don't have to use really expensive vodka*)

Seal tightly and leave for 2 - 3 months. Over time you will see the color of the vodka will have changed.

With a funnel fill your prettiest bottles and jars. 

Homemade vanilla extract is not only easy but it makes a wonderful gift!  These bottles were actually from my bridal shower.  My mom made the vanilla and it was given away (with a pretty ribbon attached) as favors.  Great idea, right?!

For vanilla sugar you will need 1 vanilla bean and 2 cups of sugar.

Split bean open and scrape out the seeds.

Put seeds in a mixing bowl with the sugar.  Mix and mash them in as much as you can until you see  little bits of vanilla evenly distributed throughout.  Add the empty pods and bury them in the sugar as well.

Seal tightly into an airtight container.  Let sit 1-2 weeks.

Use in coffee, on toast, and when baking all your sweets.  Vanilla sugar is lovely : ) 

Smells nice too! Ahhh....

Have a wonderful day! xo

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I've been craving doughnuts. Big Time.  As a rule, I usually don't eat them.  I Love them. Who doesn't?  But there is too much guilt involved.  I always have regret afterwards.  Did I really need that doughnut? Was it worth it? It's sitting on me. Now I feel awful. I have read that there are less calories in a plain doughnut than a bagel, but it does not matter, I still feel guilty. Even with all that cream cheese,  I eat bagels all the time.  Crazy.

When I heard about baked doughnuts (what?!) I was intrigued.  A doughnut that is baked and not fried.  Tell me more.  Could they be just as good?  Let me tell you, the answer is YES! 

I have been seeing recipes for baked doughnuts on the blogs for the past few months and have been on the hunt for a doughnut pan.  I hated the thought of buying a special pan to make just one thing. It's not very practical.  But then I came across this Nordic Ware one at Target for under $10.  I made the splurge and I'm so glad I did! I will be using this pan very often!

It just so happens that the day after I bought the pan one of my favorite blogs - Shutterbean- posted a recipe for Ina Garten's Cinnamon Sugar Baked Doughnuts.  It was meant to be!

Sunday morning I created my own little doughnut shop in the kitchen. I had fun making them, but not as much fun as my family had eating them.  There is nothing like a warm doughnut right out of the oven, freshly dipped in cinnamon & sugar.  Oooh Yaaaa!

This is pure Happiness....

recipe from

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

for topping:

4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 

Spray the doughnut pan with non-stick spray.  Fill the wells a bit more than three-quarters full with the batter. 

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the wall of a doughnut comes out clean.  The doughnuts will be puffed and lightly browned.  Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently invert the doughnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet. 

For the topping, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Brush the warm doughnuts with the melted butter, then dip them into the cinnamon-sugar mixture on one or both sides.

I did both sides : )

This recipe makes six doughnuts, but you can certainly double it for a full dozen.

When the mess was all cleaned up I found some quiet time to enjoy a doughnut (or two...please don't judge...they are baked for heaven's sake...), my coffee, and a magazine full of Spring inspiration! With all the snow we've had lately I was in need of something bright and cheery.  It worked! I felt so happy afterwards, and not one bit of guilt. 

Ok, half the guilt, but that's better than before...xo

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ordinary Life: My week in pictures

This week I'm starting a new series on my blog featuring random pictures from my week.  I always find it interesting when other bloggers do this so I thought I would give it a try. 
Here's what this week looked like. 
Red carnations in my mom's kitchen.

I purchased this Nordic Ware donut pan at Target.  Guess what's coming soon?  So excited!
Valentine cookies cooling on the counter.

Treated myself to a croissant on Thursday.  Croissants are my favorite! It made my day : )

Comfy bed that's hard to get out of.

Apple pie love on Saturday morning.


Pancakes and cinnamon chip scones on a snowy morning. Recipe coming soon!

This is car mania. Think we have a few repeats!?

Spent some precious moments by myself  browsing at a book store. 

Enjoyed a mocha latte and found a few things I liked.  I love bookstores so much.  love...

Made a batch of cranberry almond granola for my hubby.  
Reorganized the coffee table.

Morning light in the kitchen.

Wearing pink and feeling festive.

I made chocolate covered strawberries for a family dinner on Saturday.


It's Lent so we'll be having pizza on Friday's for next few weeks. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Fudge Cake

We had a blizzard this week! And it was a biggie.....but I'll get to that in a minute.

First I want to talk about Valentine's Day.  What are your plans?  Are you the stay at home type or do you like to dress up for a night on the town? I gave up on going out on Valentine's Day years ago.  My expectations were always too high. We would make big plans and always come home disappointed by an overpriced and over crowed restaurant. In my opinion not worth it.  Now we eat at home, and then go out some other time to celebrate the "holiday".  I put holiday in quotations because my hubby doesn't consider Valentine's Day a real holiday, he just goes along with it just to appease me.  {But let's be real, we girls know it to be true.}  I much prefer a leisurely Sunday breakfast or lunch where we can take our time and not be herded like cattle. 

Nowadays Valentine's Day has taken on a new meaning.  I love writing out valentine's with my son for his friends at school.  It all seems so innocent and lovely.  Just the way it was meant to be. 

Three things about Valentine's day that I do like to abide by: Number one, I always wear pink.  Number two, I like to have fresh flowers even if I buy them myself.  And number three, I have to have something chocolate : )

I made this cake over the weekend while we were snowed in.  I was a little early, but it goes a long way.  And what better to have in the house during a blizzard!

Here goes....

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil:

1 stick butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tbs cocoa powder
1 cup water

Sift together:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar

Pour chocolate sauce over dry ingredients and mix well. 

Add 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp vanilla.  Beat well.

Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

While cake is hot frost.  Frost the frosting....

1 stick butter
4 tbs cocoa powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1lb box confectionery sugar
1 cup nuts (optional)

Bring butter, cocoa, and buttermilk to a boil and remove from heat.  Add rest of ingredients and frost cake by carefully pouring the hot frosting over the hot cake.  When the frosting cools it will be the consistency of fudge.  Fudge on top of chocolate cake....So good!

We had a snowstorm to beat all snowstorms. It was incredible.  Even more so was the fact that we didn't lose electricity!  It flickered three times (just long enough to make my clocks blink!) but thankfully came right back on every time.  School and work were cancelled on Friday and we were officially snowed in for the weekend.  When all was said and done I had 24 inches of snow outside my house! (you can double click the pictures for a closer view)

See that green box in the bottom right corner?  That's my mailbox! It was completely covered!

It was a winter wonderland and my little one couldn't wait to get outside and play in it!

Unfortunately he found that once he got outside he didn't like it that much.  The snow was too deep to walk in and he kept getting stuck!  After about 20 minutes (which by the way was exactly how long it took to get him suited up for this little outing) he decided that the chocolate cake in the kitchen was more appealing than being outside.

I had to agree! Hubby on the other hand had a lot more snow-blowing to do...xo

It rained today so much of the snow has now turned to slippery slush.  School has been cancelled for the past two days because the sidewalks are still covered and not safe to walk on.  Not the worst storm we've ever seen, but definitely a whopper! 

If you are reading this from somewhere warm and sunny I am jealous of you ; )

Happy Valentines Day! I hope your day is filled with love and happiness AND chocolate!

Danielle xo

PS for more Valentine inspiration check out last year's Valentine's Day post here where I share with you my recipe for chocolate pudding cake.  And also here for all things PINK! one of my most popular posts. 

PSS And just in case you didn't know I'm on twitter.  Please follow my daily musings @heartfelthome24. I keep forgetting to tell you that!

Ok, that's all for now.  RHOBH is on. I just have to.