baking, recipes

Va Va Vanilla

Next time you feel a little down, take a whiff of a little vanilla extract. Vanilla has been shown to help people feel relaxed when stressed. This is likely why vanilla serves as the base fragrance for candles and is commonly added to perfumes and other body care products.

Vanilla is also an ingredient that is widely use to enhance the taste of treats such as ice cream, cookies, cakes, and even candies.

Karen’s Believe it or Not:

Do you know that vanilla actually comes from the pods of an orchid?

Wha-wha-wha-WHAT?

You betcha! Vanilla doesn’t start out in the liquid form you see in that little brown bottle of vanilla extract you buy from the grocery store. Vanilla comes from the pods of the Vanilla Orchid. It’s the only orchard among the 20,000-some varieties of orchids out there that bears something edible.

Vanilla extract is the most common form of vanilla. The extract is made by steeping the vanilla pods in an alcohol solution for several weeks. The end result is a clear, dark liquid with a rich vanilla scent and taste.

And believe it or not, you can make your own vanilla extract at home. The rich aroma and taste will make you want to mix your own at home all the time!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

20 vanilla pods
1 750 ml bottle of 75-80 proof vodka

1. Decant the vodka into a pitcher. Save the empty vodka bottle and cap.
2. Chop the vanilla pods into 1-inch pieces. You don’t need to split the pods and scrape them. Put the vanilla pieces in the empty vodka bottle.
3. Pour the vodka back into the bottle. It probably won’t all fit, so have some cranberry juice or orange juice handy and have a quick toast to your awesome kitchen skills!
4. Screw the lid back on tightly and give the bottle a good shake.
5. Place the bottle in a cool, dry place. Shake the jar every day or every other day to distribute the mixture.
6. The vanilla extract will be ready to use in about 6 weeks. It will keep indefinitely. No need to strain out the vanilla pieces. Just let ‘em keep swimming in there.

Use your homemade vanilla extract for all your cooking and baking needs, but beware – this homemade extract is so good, you may never go back to the grocery store for the prepackaged stuff!

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog. And hope you’ll come back for more!

Take care of yourself, be nice to yourself, and be well. And until next time – veg in, don’t veg out!

Karen

Want more recipes and tips like this? Head on over to www.thecaringcoachingcenter.com for all this and more. And while you’re there, grab your copy of my book Your Best Year Yet! 365 Days of Little Changes That Add Up to Big Results! It’s available now @ www.amazon.com. It’s the perfect book to kick off 2016 the right way! Enjoy!

Karen Ann Kennedy’s commitment to wellness and service is at the heart of her life and career. As a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a decorated United States Army veteran, and a longtime Human Resources Director, it is only natural that Karen would launch The Caring Coaching Center, to support others in reaching their health, fitness, and lifestyle goals. As the company’s President, CEO, and “Coach in Chief,” Karen provides individual, group, and corporate health and wellness coaching that is flexible, fun, and free of denial. As Karen likes to say: “Little changes. BIG results!”

Thanks to her studies at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, Karen is well versed in the importance of nutrition and healthy living. Karen also has extensive experience in compassionately coaching and counseling others through her work in human resources and volunteer management, having worked in this industry for over 20 years.

Karen shares her knowledge and passion for healthy living as a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Known for her bright smile, boundless energy, and approachability, Karen is an in-demand speaker who has presented training programs for many prestigious organizations and schools in the Philadelphia area, including The National Constitution Center, The Urban League of Philadelphia, Constitution High School, Planned Parenthood of New Jersey, The Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, City Year of Greater Philadelphia, and the Upper Darby School District.

Karen is also a decorated veteran of the United States Army, serving her country for eight years including a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, and now residing in Ocean City, New Jersey, Karen offers Caring Coaching to clients nationwide. In addition to coaching, she loves cooking, marathon running, and writing her blog, Carrots Don’t Scream When You Boil Them.

Karen is also the author of Your Best Year Yet! 365 Days of Little Changes that Add Up to Big Results! Available on http://www.amazon.com.

Standard
baking, Holiday Baking, Uncategorized

Going Against the Grains

The holidays are upon us and I’ve got a sudden itch to get in the kitchen and start baking stuff. Of course, I’ve been trying to avoid white flour and white sugar, and, I’m aware of all the people out there with gluten sensitivities, so I want to bake items that can be enjoyed by everyone.

There are so many different types of flours and grains out there, and I find it very confusing. I thought it might be helpful for you (and for me) to have a breakdown of some of the different types of flours and grains that are available. Hope this helps make your holiday baking stress-free!

Wheat Flours
Wheat flours contain gluten so if you are baking for someone with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you’ll want to steer clear of these four flours.

1. Whole wheat flour has a pronounced earthiness with raw-sugar overtones and a bit of bitterness similar to that of red wine or coffee. Whole wheat flour is great for hearty chewy breads, cookies, and brownies.
2. Whole wheat pastry flour is a more finely ground flour that tastes just regular whole wheat flour. It’s best used for tender crusts, cakes, and pancakes.
3. Graham flour is a coarsely ground flour from hard red wheat berries. It has a rustic taste with faint honey notes. It’s an excellent flour for crisp crackers and pie crusts.
4. Spelt is a terrific one-to-one substitute for all-purpose flour. It has a sweet and mild taste, reminiscent of toasted walnuts. Spelt flour can do anything that white flour can do, so if you’re trying to avoid the white stuff like I am, spelt is a great alternative.

Hearty Grains
Barley and rye are probably the most commonly-known flours (next to white flour) and boast a rich, malty flavor. Both have small amounts of gluten, so again, if gluten is not your friend, these will not be your friend either.

1. Barley flour has a caramelized nutty taste similar to that of browned butter. Barley flour can be used to make smooth and buttery cookies, cakes, quick breads, and crusts.
2. Rye flour is milled with the germ, bran, and endosperm, and then sifted. The taste echoes that of malted milk. The darker the flour the stronger the flavor, so it’s best to think about what you are baking when choosing your rye flour. Rye flour can be used for breads, crusts, cookies, scones, waffles, and pancakes; so as you can see, it’s a very versatile flour.
3. Oat flour has a milky, mild sweetness and is great for chewy muffins, cookies, scones, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles, and works best when it’s combined with other grains or white flour. If you are baking for someone with just a mild gluten sensitivity, mixing a little oat flour with your white flour might be okay (but you’ll want to check with them first).
4. Buckwheat flour is ground from fruit seeds related to sorrel and rhubarb. Buckwheat has a nutty taste that may make you think of mushrooms or red wine. When mixed with wheat flour, it can make amazing griddle foods like pancakes, crepes, and waffles.

Ancient Grains
Technically, these aren’t all that old, but they have been dubbed “ancient grains” recently; probably by all those marketing gurus out there. These grains can be used in baking when combined with other flours, such as wheat or white flour.

1. Amaranth is a fine, powdery grind from the seeds of a leafy plant. It has a distinct grassy taste that is an acquired taste for some. It’s great for making denser baked goods like muffins, cookies, cakes, pancakes, and waffles.
2. Quinoa is not just for salads and porridge, it can also be used for baking, again, when combined with other flours. It has a hint of toasted sesame that adds a rustic, hearty flavor to baked goods such as moist and chewy cookies, muffins, cakes, and quick breads.
3. Millet is a finely ground grain with a mild and sweet taste. It’s best used for more delicate baking like cakes and cakey cookies.

There you have it, your go-to grain guide for holiday baking! Hope it helps!

While we’re here, please allow me to take a moment to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. You can be sure when I count my blessings this year, I’ll be counting all of you twice!

Take care of yourself, be nice to yourself, and be well, and until next time – veg in, don’t veg out.

Karen

Have you gotten your copy of Your Best Year Yet! Now’s the time! Snag your copy and get ready to follow along as I take you through 12 months of practical, easy-to-implement strategies to help you control your finances, cook more healthy foods, get out there and exercise, organize your life, and improve your relationships!

Get your copy today at www.amazon.com

Karen Ann Kennedy’s commitment to wellness and service is at the heart of her life and career. As a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a decorated United States Army veteran, and a longtime Human Resources Director, it is only natural that Karen would launch The Caring Coaching Center, to support others in reaching their health, fitness, and lifestyle goals. As the company’s President, CEO, and “Coach in Chief,” Karen provides individual, group, and corporate health and wellness coaching that is flexible, fun, and free of denial. As Karen likes to say: “Little changes. BIG results!”

Thanks to her studies at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, Karen is well versed in the importance of nutrition and healthy living. Karen also has extensive experience in compassionately coaching and counseling others through her work in human resources and volunteer management, having worked in this industry for over 20 years.

Karen shares her knowledge and passion for healthy living as a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Known for her bright smile, boundless energy, and approachability, Karen is an in-demand speaker who has presented training programs for many prestigious organizations and schools in the Philadelphia area, including The National Constitution Center, The Urban League of Philadelphia, Constitution High School, Planned Parenthood of New Jersey, The Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, City Year of Greater Philadelphia, and the Upper Darby School District.

Karen is also a decorated veteran of the United States Army, serving her country for eight years including a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, and now residing in Ocean City, New Jersey, Karen offers Caring Coaching to clients nationwide. In addition to coaching, she loves cooking, marathon running, and writing her blog, Carrots Don’t Scream When You Boil Them.

Karen is also the author of Your Best Year Yet! 365 Days of Little Changes that Add Up to Big Results! Available on http://www.amazon.com.

Standard