Monthly Archives: October 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract for a Sweet Disposition

This weekend, SensitiveHusband and I enjoyed listening to our local symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was so wonderful to hear this piece live, especially during the fourth movement when the chorus, soloists and symphony were performing the famous “Ode to Joy” segment. When we got home we enjoyed homemade chocolate chunk cookies, which contributed greatly to our pleasant evening.

I read a news article this week about a growing body of evidence that links what we taste and how we feel. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers reported findings that a person with a sweet tooth is more likely to have a sweet disposition and be more generous with his or her time. The findings also stated that food can affect one’s judgement – a person may be more critical of a situation after drinking a bitter drink, for example. Perhaps this is why my office has a candy jar rather than a rotten egg jar!

Last year my sweet sister-in-law, Bree, gave me a jar of homemade vanilla extract. She said that it was so easy to make – it just takes two ingredients – and the result lighter and fresher than the store-bought variety (without the corn syrup that is sometimes added too). I used her creation rather quickly so I started making my own. I even make extras from time to time and give them as gifts to sweet people in my life. They make great holiday gifts – and if you start now you will have time to prepare them for this year’s winter holidays.

The ingredients are 1 vanilla bean and 1/3 cup vodka. Cut the vanilla bean down the middle so that the flesh is exposed. Add the vanilla bean to a clean glass jar (I use the jar that the bean comes in). Add the vodka in the jar so that it covers the bean. Close the jar tightly and shake the bottle. Store the mixture in a dark, cool place for about eight weeks, shaking the bottle once a week. The mixture will start as a clear liquid and will end up as a brown liquid – vanilla extract! Use in all of your baking to enhance the sweetness of your desserts, and according to researchers, to sweeten your day too!

I am sharing my recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Katie’s French Language Cafe.


Happy Birthday Spaghetti Squash with Polenta

A few weeks ago I tried my hand at polenta croutons. The crispy cubes of cornmeal were nice accompaniments to a garden salad. Shortly after my first foray into preparing polenta, my friend/colleague Kristi made the polenta croutons and added them to a tasty vegetarian/vegan entree that she created.

Start with a spaghetti squash – Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush the flesh with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet and roast until fork tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and let sit at room temperature until just cool enough to handle. Scrape the flesh with a fork to make long strands; set aside.

Heat a skillet with oil on medium-high heat. Saute sliced onion, diced tomatoes, sliced zucchini, chopped garlic and capers. In a separate skillet, cook the polenta croutons. Place the sauteed mixture on top of the spaghetti squash and add polenta croutons to garnish. Serve hot and enjoy.

Thanks, Kristi, for this inspired dish. Have a happy birthday!

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.