va-va-vanilla

i always like to make gifts for christmas. sometimes it’s a painted ornament, photos or some other craft i come up with. this year my over all theme (yes i do that) was baking/cooking stuff, so i was thinking of putting together some cookie mixes or making macarons or pies in jars. truth be told i just got married in early november, i was mentally exhausted and needed a quick but awesome homemade gift, so i dug through the internet and came up with vanilla extract. awesome, impressive and super easy.

ordered bottles here. (went with the 5 oz.)
ordered vanilla beans here. (went with the bourbon ones)
had a giant bottle of vodka from a party. (it was sky, don’t think it matters though)
made labels.
added washi tape. (left over from the wedding)

poured about 2/3rds cup vodka in and added to vanilla beans, i cut them down to fit, and put on the cap, from my research most recipes called for 1 bean per 1/3rd cup. let sit in cool dark place and ready to use in 6 weeks.

ended up with:
i paired these with some measuring spoons and a cookie cutter. or if i was doing a larger gift i added in a cookbook, for some friends i got signed copies of this! for the fam i wanted to make a recipe book with our  family recipes. at first i was thinking of doing them through blurb. but i only had about 40 recipes typed up and only about 15 pictures. that would seem like a very short and boring cookbook. but then i stumbled across tastebook. awesome! i could do 20 recipes, add more, and oh man, this is the kicker… it lays flat. that is my biggest issue with cookbooks, now that i have a cookbook stand, it helps but i end up using a bag clip to keep it open. the fam absolutely LOVED the books. i look forward to adding every year to it and finding new recipes that our family loves.

any suggestions for future foodie gifts?

 

christmas baking fail & cheer

After my epic rolo pretzel thing (is there a name for those? And do NOT replace caramel kisses for rolos!) fail, I had to make some sort of holiday treat. So while at my local Trader Joe’s I happened to find a small pile of Candy Cane Jo Jo’s. Have you ever had these? Pure candy cane heaven in a box. I had had the idea early in the holiday season to make Candy Cane Jo Jo truffles. Of course when I wanted to make them my Trader Joes was out, so I lost all hope and opted for the pretzel things, which I will not get into, but may cry about. On Saturday, I found the small pile and had to buy 4 boxes (this does not include the two boxes that were enjoyed with milk weeks earlier). So score I was out to make my Candy Cane Jo Jo truffles!

I used 1 + 1/3 boxes of Candy Cane Jo Jos, 1 block of cream cheese softened, 1 box of baker chocolate and some semi sweet chocolate chips, 5 peppermint candy canes crushed.

Mash up Jo Jos, I like to use a pastry blender, add in cream cheese, mash in with pastry blender or if you like to get dirty, use your hands. After well mashed, roll into 1 inch balls, place covered in fridge for at least an hour (I tend to do over night). They are much easier to dip when chilled. I put the candy canes into a zip lock and took my meat tenderizer to it, which felt so wrong, they were sweet, innocent candy canes… I melted the chocolate per the directions (I used the microwave method, less to wash). Use a spoon or fork to dip, place on parchment to let set, sprinkle with crushed candy canes.

Enjoy with milk!

I tend to like my cake/jojo truffles on the drier side, you can adjust cookie to cream cheese ratio to your liking.

missing fields…

i have grown up around chicago and there are certain things you do as a chicagoian around christmas.

1. eat at the walnut room
2. see the windows
3 visit christkindlmarket
(amongst many other things, but these are my top 3 must do for the season)

we went early this year on a saturday, not the best choice but we do what we must to keep the traditions alive. i tend to hold this tradition with my brother but my mom went this year too. when we were little we rode the train down, waited 3 hours in line, ate in the walnut room, got our santa bear mugs, saw the windows and made our way to the museum of science and industry, saw the trees around the world, saw the babies in jars, picked out and ornament and made our way home. so now as adults we modify by going to the walnut room, walking around the store for hours and usually find something new to do.

see 1- must order the fields special, ever have this? soooooo good!

is it a salad or sandwich? you tell me...

see 2- so far i have not mentioned the “m” word… but i must…i have to say macy’s ruined this for me. the windows used to be whimsical fun and told a classic fairy tale or even newer stories such as harry potter. even the inside of the store’s decorations matched the stories, like if it was cinderella, there would be glass slippers and mice around the store, but then macys happened and the windows are an after thought of their current marketing. this years windows featured a weird story promoting their celebrity ornaments, lame, i did like the semi-steampunk look, but seeing pictures of the macys windows in new york, these looked half-assed. i won’t even post pictures because i don’t want to see it again.

see 3- going on a saturday was a huge mistake, it was wall to wall people you couldn’t tell a line from a group of people standing there. but somehow, magically we got our annual boot mugs! sans hot chocolate, (not a fan of the mulled wine) because we couldn’t figure out where the stand with the mugs with hot chocolate was.

Our new thing this year was going to magnolia, yes THE magnolia bakery, i didn’t even know there was one in chicago. i am so on the cupcake bandwagon, so i thought i was in the know. i was too overly excited about this that i forgot to take pictures, this is my second post and this was a couple of weeks ago, i’m new to this ok? we ordered a gingerbread, red velvet and a mini key lime cheesecake, to quote Lazy Sunday, “they have all the bomb frostings” is 100% correct! the frosting is light and airy, but still creamy and not too sweet. the cupcakes on the other hand, were baked the day before, the overall flavor was good, but the cupcakes were dry and dense. The cheesecake on the other hand was perfection, very close to a key lime pie, on the lighter side and had the perfect amount of tartness.

fun fact: they still have the mugs in the walnut room, no santa bear though… and here is the tree…. not good….

intro

hello internet world. here i will present the musings of a chicago suburban girl’s cooking/baking/eating adventures. a few things, i like to cook, bake & eat. i cannot be dubbed as a true foodie as i don’t particularly like seafood and don’t have the pallet of a food critic. so i go with the term pseudo foodie, which is much more fitting. i am willing to try most things though, but seafood just grosses me out. warning: in no way am i a professional writer, chef or baker, which will make this much more interesting.

things to look forward to in 2012:
baconfest
mission to find and eat from a food truck
restaurant crits
sweet saturdays

fun fact: i double the garlic in every recipe it is called for.