Hot Polka Dot
30May/11

How To Tuesday: Very Vanilla.

It takes a few vanilla beans, a splash of vodka and a heap of patience to make your very own vanilla extract. Considering the price of vanilla extracts and beans I think it's well worth the wait. You get the most out of those pricy beans and definite bang for your buck.

Since starting my vanilla extract I read on the almighty internets that the only way to make a true vanilla extract is to obey the ratio of 6 or even 8 vanilla beans to 1 cup of alcohol. Anything less and you're just making vanilla flavoured vodka. Sigh. Where I buy my vanilla beans they come 2 to a vial for about $4.50 so 6 beans is going to put me back $13.50 and that's only going to be a hair more cost effective than buying it in the store once I go about the business of buying the vodka.

So I leave the choice up to you. If you'd prefer a more potent extract and have a cheaper source for beans then, by all means, stuff six of those suckers in the jar. If you're like me and can't justify the expense then just work with what you've got. You can always splash a little more extract in there for good measure because who doesn't like a little extra vanilla goodness?






































All you'll need is...

3 - 6 vanilla beans
1 paring knife or pair of scissors
1 cup vodka
1 airtight jar (preferably dark glass)

Note: Vodka is the preferred alcohol to use when making vanilla extract because it has a neutral flavour and does not impart it's own flavour to the mix. Feel free to use rum, brandy or even gin if you'd rather infuse the extract with a little something extra.

Using your knife or scissors slice each vanilla bean in half lengthwise leaving one end intact to keep the halves connected. Place them in the jar and cover them with the vodka.

Store the jar in a cool dark place for at least 2 months. Make sure to give it a shake every few days to encourage extraction. It can last for years and get better with age just like a fine wine. Enjoy!







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26May/11

Bloomin’ Cake.


Today you can find me over on The White Library. I made a super pretty super tasty Chocolate Covered Almond Cake for Sandra and her beautiful blog.

It seemed only fair after she revealed her secrets to designing the perfect dessert table. If you didn't visit The White Library yesterday then make sure to stop by and see the details of this bloomin' cake.








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25May/11

Guest Post With The White Library: Dessert Tables 101.

I am so happy today to bring you a little something from the lovely Sandra of The White Library. It's a beautiful blog that's a dedicated daily resource for entertaining, weddings and inspired living with a vintage flare. It's full of everything from inspiring party ideas to unique DIY solutions. What's really special about Sandra is that she's the genius behind Sandra Downie Event Designs, the wedding and design firm that designs the most creative and breathtaking events. It's pretty obvious she has a certain insight into designing the perfect dessert table so today she's going to talk a little bit about how you can create an easy and lovely dessert table yourself.

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24May/11

How To Tuesday: Chopped.

I gave myself a much needed manicure and set about showing you the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to chop an onion.

First let's talk about knives. I would suggest using a chef's knife or santoku. It's very important to use a knife that you're comfortable with. Not too big, not too small, not too heavy and not too light. Consider yourself the Goldilocks of knives. It's dangerous to use a knife that isn't comfortable in your hand because you can easily cut yourself. I enjoy my set of KitchenAid knives because they are light and solid with an ergonomic handle that fits perfectly in my small hands. Lee prefers his set of Henckels knives because of their heft and large wooden handles that are perfect for his large hands.






































Now, there's a sweet spot at the base of the handle that's meant to grip with your thumb and first finger. This is the natural point of balance between the blade and the handle that makes it easy to rock the knife back and forth.

Lop off the end of the onion then turn it on it's end and slice straight through the root leaving you with two equal halves. Peal the skin off the one half and set aside other other.






































Make three to four horizontal slices toward the root but not through it. Place it face down and make a few vertical cuts perpendicular to the horizontal ones, making sure to leave the root intact once again.






































Pivot the cutting board and, with your fingers curled in for protection from the sharp blade, chop the onion across the vertical cuts. Discard the chunk of root and marvel at your perfectly chopped bits of onion.








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18May/11

As Nature Intended.


Have you ever caught yourself marveling at the absolute perfection of nature? Fluffy clouds inexplicably shaped like familiar everyday objects. Beautifully red and romantically heart-shaped strawberries. Honeycombs, flawless hexagons built by determined bees and filled with the sweetest honey. Shimmering lustrous pearls hidden inside unassuming oysters settled on the ocean floor. Bits of simple twigs and grass interwoven into a crib for eager baby birds all the while perched precariously in a tree braving wind and rain. The impeccable arc of a rainbow reflected off the tiniest raindrops brightening even the dreariest days.

Maybe I have too much time of my hands. It's an excellent possibility.

Today, while snapping photos of our budding crab apple tree in my pajamas, socks and sandals, I was visited by a little ladybug. She lazily buzzed down to the branch I was focused on and landed lightly on this sweet little flower bud. She was all too ready for her close up, sitting patiently and politely while I maxed out the space on my camera on her sweet little self.

Sometimes if you sit still long enough you notice these things. The consummate beauty of the world lays itself before you in the form of a shining beetle, ripples in a pond or a puffy bunny-shaped cloud.

The key is not to mess with nature. Take it as it is and appreciate it in its entirety. In the spirit of that lesson I've made Almond Butter. Simply almonds, toasted and pureed with a splash of oil and a hint of sea salt.

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