Happy New Year! (and Homemade Vanilla Extract)

Happy New Year!  This is my first post celebrating the beginnings of a new year, and also my first post in over a month.  I’m slacking in the blogging department.  But what a perfect segue to announce my first New Year’s resolution, which is to blog as frequently as I had been before transitioning to my new job.

I had been wondering what my New Year’s post was going to be, and then I realized that I had a picture of our holiday gift give-a-way for friends/family in my blogging queue.  I was supposed to blog about these cute apothecary-looking bottles before heading off to NYC for Christmas, but alas, life just got hectic.  [I hope that my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy "patients" (aka, fans) will forgive me for my lack of posts.]

Our “thing” for the Holidays is to make a HUGE batch of salted caramels and saltine toffees, which is always a big hit amongst our family/friends.  Instead, we were inspired to do something different this year.  Err, I mean, last year.  Actually, I think we were still experiencing some PTSD from the previous year of candy wrapping for the Holidays.  PTSD from candy wrapping, you ask?  Well, we stayed up to 2:00 a.m. to finish wrapping our caramels and toffees, while on the brink of breaking up because we were so cranky and tired.  So, to spare our relationship, it was better that we did something that didn’t involve strips of wax paper and anything sweet :)

We really wanted to do something that tied my first year of blogging in with our holiday gift give-a-ways, so what not a better way than with homemade vanilla extract in a “medicine” bottle?

Homemade Vanilla Extract

2 high-quality vanilla beans
1/2 cup vodka
4 ounce amber bottle

Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans in half, and then lengthwise to split them open.

Put the vanilla beans into the amber bottle and add the vodka. Seal bottle with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark area for for two months. Shake the bottle every once in a while.

Top off with vodka after a few uses to extend the life of the vanilla extract. If you notice it start to weaken, add another split vanilla bean.

Vegan Cornbread

Does your pup lick you incessantly?  My little boy, Shiu Mai, does.  [Yes, he is named after the pork and shrimp dumpling you find at Dim Sum restaurants.  My other pup's name is Cha Shiu Bao.  They're small, white, and so cute just like the Dim Sum treats.]  He sits on the bed, and waits for me to come out from my shower so that he can lick the lotion off my arms and hands.  In fact, he has spent the last 10 minutes licking off the lotion from my left arm as I type this post.  It’s as if I didn’t put on any lotion.  Why bother, I wonder sometimes.  But how can I get mad at him?  Just look at him.  Isn’t he a cutest little guy ever?  I’d like to think that this helps soothe any anxiety he has.  But who am I kidding?  I think it’s because he really likes the taste of lotion.  Animals and their idiosyncrasies.  I just love it.

He usually follows me to the kitchen as I get ready to cook.  He hovers around (im)patiently waiting for something to drop onto the floor.  He looks up and begs with his sweet brown eyes for me to “accidentally” drop something onto the floor.  And when he realizes that maybe there are no treats this time around, he traverses his way back to the couch and hunkers down on my pillow heartbroken.  

Vegan Cornbread (slightly adapted from Food)

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1.5 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup canned corn, drained
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spray an 8- or 9-inch pie tin with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the ground flax seeds, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the flax seed-water mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn heat off and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Add the ground flax seed mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat until just smooth, but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared baking pan, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, cut into wedges, and serve.

Caprese Bruschetta

caprese, caprese salad, caprese bruschetta, bruschetta

We love basil.  We love bread.  We love mozzarella.  We love garlic.  We love tomatoes.  We love all these ingredients combined into one little morsel of love.  We love a lot.

What do you love?

Caprese Bruschetta

One loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 ripe roma tomatoes, seeded
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive, plus extra for brushing bread
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Position rack to the center of the oven.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dices, and the bocconcini into 1/4-inch cubes. Place the tomatoes and mozzarella in a bowl, and mix in the finely minced garlic, dried oregano, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Mix well, and then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Lastly, toss in the chopped basil and incorporate into the tomato mixture.

Slice the bread diagonally into about 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush each slice of bread with extra virgin olive oil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 5-6 minutes, or until the bread begins to toast.

Arrange the bread on a serving platter, oil side up. Spoon tomato mixture onto each slice of bread. The bread will get soggy, so this must be served and eaten immediately. Conversely, you can also have the guests spoon the tomato mixture if they desire to do so at their time and convenience, and to their liking.

Makes 12 slices of bruschetta.

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