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How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Life, according to my belly, can be categorized into the following seasons: Soup season, grilling season, roasting season and baking season. We, dear friends, are in the heart of baking season! Our household has no concept of portion control loves good food. And while I can’t say that the food we eat is always good for us (it’s hard to claim that cake is healthy) we do strive to make everything with natural, wholesome ingredients.

That’s why last year I kicked our artificial baking supplies to the curb. No sprinkles, no colored sugar, no artificial food dye and no artificial flavorings. The flavorings were the most difficult to part with. Fortunately I learned to make homemade vanilla extract. It’s actually quite economical, all-natural and super tasty! When we ran out mid-year I made a second batch and also created some orange extract (which I’ve yet to actually use). So far, having homemade vanilla extract on hand has met my flavoring needs… save for one: Almond.

I miss almond flavoring.

There are some things that just need an amaretto-esqe touch.

Why is it then that it has taken me all of this time to think of making my own? (Silly me!) I wish I had started this a month ago so I’d have homemade almond extract in time for Christmas goodies.

At any rate, making almond extract (or any extract, for that matter) is so easy!

Click here for the recipe!

 
 

Minimally Process Cookies

cookies on plate

Earlier this month I shared this post about how to make natural, homemade vanilla extract. I had no idea it would be such a hit! After posting it, one reader emailed me with the following question:

“I have a question for you in regard to a comment you made about getting rid of all your artificial stuff. I was wondering the cookie recipe you used and if you would share it? My desire is to get rid of the artificial and harmful and make as much as possible from scratch. Thanks for the help.”

First of all, I was pretty excited to get this email because it was my first reader-I’ve-never-met-responding-to-a-blog-post email I’ve ever received. Second, I’m afraid I had to respond and let this dear lady know that the cookies I referenced in my vanilla post were… in fact… deliciously filled with processed food. I did get rid of all of my artificial “baking stuff” but the way I got rid of my white chocolate chips was by making (delicious) cookies with them. The cookies I made that day tasted unbelievably amazing! Besides highly processed white candy chips, they also contained processed white flour and processed sugar (both white and brown sugar). Here’s the original recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(These are NOT minimally processed – keep reading for the minimally processed recipe)

2 ¼ Cups Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon water

2 eggs

12 ounces chocolate chips

 Instructions

  1. Combine sugars and margarine with handmixer
  2. Add vanilla and water then beat until creamy
  3. Beat in eggs
  4. Add flour mixture (all dry ingredients)
  5. Stir in chocolate chips
  6. Bake at 375* for 10-12 minutes

Make Them Healthier

Despite the fact that the original recipe tastes amazing, this reader’s question sparked a desire in me to develop a less-processed recipe. To make the cookies healthier, I thought I would:

  • Substitute natural/organic whole wheat flour for white, processed flour
  • Use organic butter (I did this originally)
  • Use farm-fresh eggs (I did this originally)
  • Use natural/organic, minimally processed chocolate chips
  • Find a substitute sweetener to replaced the processed sugar

Possible contenders for sugar substitutes included:

  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Pure maple sugar
  • Pure maple syrup

I decided not to use stevia because I frankly don’t care for the aftertaste it leaves. I don’t have any maple sugar and it’s a wee bit expensive, so I skipped on that one too. Because I have a plethora of both honey and pure (made by my father-in-law) maple syrup at home, I decided to use these as substitutes for the white and brown sugars, respectively. But then riiiight before I mixed the cookie dough I remembered that I’m also not a huge fan of the aftertaste honey sometimes leaves when baked so I decided to go all in with the maple syrup.

When I was planning to use honey I did some research on baking with honey and found the following common tips:

  • Substitute 2/3 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe
  • Reduce the amount of liquid (i.e. milk) by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used
  • Add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the recipe for every cup of honey used
  • Bake at about 25 degrees lower than called for to prevent over-browning

Maple syrup is obviously different than honey, but I decided to follow these guidelines all the same. They seem to have paid off, although you may be able to get away with just 1 teaspoon of baking soda. (Git it a try and let me know what you think.) With all that in mind, I put together the following recipe. Is it good? Yes!! Is it as delicious as the first recipe? Not so much. But if you’d like something sweet and are eager to eat minimally processed foods, they will be very satisfying. The sweetness of the cookies is very subtle while still readily satisfying that sweet-tooth desire for something sugary.

I used Semi-sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks from Enjoy Life Foods and I purchased them at Sawall Health Foods for $5.19 (10 ounces). They are dairy, nut and soy free, are certified gluten free and are also vegan. The mega chunks of chocolate contain no artificial colors, preservatives or additives. (And they’re delicious!)

Minimally Processed Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ organic whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic butter, slightly softened

1 ¼ cups real maple syrup

1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract

2 natural, homegrown eggs

10 oz natural or organic chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter
  2. Mix maple syrup, vanilla and eggs together on low speed
  3. Add liquids to butter and mix for about 1 minute on medium speed (be careful!) or until well blended
  4. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add dry ingredients to liquid and mix (with hand mixer) until smooth
  6. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Spoon cookies onto un-greased baking sheet and bake at 350* for 10-13 minutes

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract in jar

We do a lot of baking at our house. Because we don’t eat artificial food dye and are trying to avoid artificial everything-else, I recently purged all of the unnatural additives from my baking cupboard. I pitched things like neon food dye, regular food dye, artificial vanilla and a slew of other flavorings like “butter” and “root beer.” All that remained was some pure almond and pure peppermint extract.

If you like to bake as much as I do, you know that a touch of vanilla is an important ingredient in many different recipes. In some cases I was able to substitute the almond flavoring, but you know that’s just not the same. Lucky for me I made a neat little discovery about homemade vanilla extract around Christmas time. (I wanted to share this with you earlier but since I was giving homemade vanilla extract as a gift, I decided to wait.)

The recipe for homemade vanilla extract is below. I’ve baked now with the recommended recipe (2 beans) and my own “recipe”, which really is just double the vanilla beans. Last week I used my double-vanilla extract for the first time. I could not believe what a huge difference it made! These were seriously the best cookies I’ve ever made. Ever.

view of homemade vanilla extract in jar from top

When you look straight down into the jar, you can see all of the vanilla beans laying on the bottom. It looks like there are more than four, but that’s just because I cut them in half so that they would lay beneath the vodka in the jar.

closeup of homemade vanilla extract in glass jar

Looking from the side, the homemade vanilla extract is much darker than artificial vanilla flavoring I’ve used.

 

Vanilla beans can be expensive. For those of you who are in the Kalamazoo area, we purchased our vanilla beans from Sawall Health Food Store. Don’t let the price per pound scare you! I don’t know exactly what it is, but the price is somewhere around $150/pound! I bought four tiny, practically weightless little beans for somewhere between $1 and $2. Vodka can range in price from $10/bottle to $60/bottle. In theory, the higher the quality of your vodka is, the higher your vanilla extract quality will be. We used a $20 bottle and I’m very pleased with the result.

Making your own vanilla extract is super easy!

Click here for the recipe!

 
 
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