vanilla & cinnamon extracts – make your own

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i am personally not a huge DIY-er. i am not crafty, as as much as my mom sweetly says “honey you can do it”, i honestly have no desire to be.  if my husband were a part of this conversation, he would tell you the infamous first-year-of-marriage farm table story, where i begged him to let us buy this old farm table for me to refurbish. it sat on our back porch in north carolina for A WHOLE YEAR without being touched. when we moved, we had to throw it off the balcony into a dumpster because of all the wasps nests that had set up shop all over it… ::sheepish grin::
hey, i was busy with other things. like figuring out how to be a wife.

but there is one exception to my not being crafty: vanilla and cinnamon extracts.
i decided earlier this year to try it, probably because that meant i could source and buy cute little bottles and print out these really cool labels for them (being the design nerd that i am, this got me really excited). and aside from the obvious reason that it’s way cheaper, i like that you can control the flavor.

wondering where you might use the lovely-sounding cinnamon extract?
try this glorious, crumbly cinnamon coffee cake.

vanilla extract
makes one cup/8 ounces of extract


3-4 vanilla beans

1 cup/8 ounces medium- to high-quality vodka, bourbon, or brandy (**see note below**)


1. clean & dry a small, 8 ounce kerr/mason jar or bottle – set aside.

2. using a sharp knife (if you have one, a bird’s beak paring knife works like a dream) cut the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, exposing all of the inside but not cutting all the way through the bean. cut in half or into 3 pieces and put into jar or bottle and (using a funnel for a bottle) top with vodka or brandy. make sure the beans are completely submerged in the alcohol. give it a good shake.

3. allow extract to sit for 8 weeks in a cool & dark spot, shaking the jar(s) every few days or so.

cinnamon extract

makes one cup/8 ounces of extract


4 cinnamon sticks

1 cup/8 ounces medium- to high-quality vodka


1. clean & dry a small, 8 ounce kerr/mason jar.

2. place cinnamon sticks in jar and pour vodka over the sticks. make sure the sticks are completely submerged in the alcohol. give it a good shake.

3. allow extract to sit for 8 weeks in a cool & dark spot, shaking the jar(s) every few days or so.

– after making a jar, i usually put a post-it note on the outside with the date that i made the extract. then after the 8 week period, i put on a nice sticker label.
– for vanilla extract: using vodka will create a cleaner extract, without much extra flavoring besides the vanilla itself; and using brandy or bourbon will create lots of rich character. (brandy and vodka are my 2 preferred extract alcohols.)
– after the 8 weeks and once you start using your extract, make sure to give the jar a good shake before using each time, to combine and in case anything has settled to the bottom.
– if you want to make more than one 8 ounce bottle, below i’ve done some multiplication for you:
2 cups of extract = 16 ounces = 1 pint = 6 vanilla beans (or 8 cinnamon sticks)
4 cups of extract = 32 ounces = 2 pints = 1 quart = 12 vanilla beans (or 16 cinnamon sticks)
– if you are looking for cute bottles or vanilla beans, beanilla is a great website. also, amazon sells good quality vanilla beans.
– which vanilla bean to use for your extract? if you want bold and smoky, go for a mexican bean. if you are wanting rich and creamy, use madagascar beans. if you want a chocolate-cherry/floral aroma, buy a tahitian bean.
– when you’ve used all of the extract, you can just add 1-2 new fresh vanilla beans (or 1-2 cinnamon sticks) and refill the jar with alcohol, shake, and let sit 8 weeks. how economical is that?!

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helpful resources:  joy the bakerspoonforkbacon, and beanilla.

spiced pumpkin baked french toast


i know fall is over and it’s just plain cold winter now, but i am still loving the pumpkin flavor in everything. (a few of you know exactly what i’m talkin’ about!) i worked on & tweaked this recipe until it was just right, and believe me, it took a few times. (but the little she was just fine having it so often for breakfast… ummm and so was my tummy.)

i love that this recipe is so simple.
you make it the night before, refrigerate it, and then in the morning, just pop it in the oven. that makes my life easy these days, and anything that makes my life EASY? i am ALL over it.

spiced pumpkin baked french toast


1 loaf french bread (my loaf was especially large, so i used 1/2, about 5 cups total)

7 eggs

2 cups milk (2%, skim, almond – any kind)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves

2-3 tbsp brown sugar (for topping)

butter, for greasing the dish


1. butter a 9×13 baking dish. tear the bread into chunks, or cut into small cubes, and place in the dish evenly, pressing down just a bit.

2. in a large bowl, whisk the eggs. add milk, vanilla, pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves & whisk well until everything is incorporated.

3. pour mixture evenly over bread. using your fingertips, press down on the bread to make sure every piece has soaked up the mixture. cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

4. in the morning, preheat the oven to 350. uncover the dish and sprinkle the french toast with 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar. bake for 40-50 minutes (the shorter time will give you a more bread pudding-like french toast. baking for longer will give you a firmer texture & crispier on top.)
let cool for a few minutes, then serve with fruit (i highly recommend pomegranate seeds)


variation: one time i made this, i omitted the granulated sugar from the milk mixture. it made the french toast less sweet and, therefore, perfect for a topping of maple syrup and powdered sugar – oooh, and a little homemade whipped cream. with the sugar, it’s sweet enough (in my opinion) to just serve with fruit. whichever way you like your french toast, you decide:)

chewy chocolate spiced molasses cookies


the other night i attended my first ever cookie exchange.
super fun & super yummy.. except. a party where there is a large table covered with loads-o-cookies and you can’t eat any of them?! not right.

the good part came when i got to take a big plate home and share them with the hubby, who happens to have a devoted & unhealthy attachment to sugar cookies. (read: i didn’t get to eat any sugar cookies that night).

the reigning winner of the cookie exchange for the past few years just happened to be a lady whose husband made the winning cookies for her (you know who you are:) so i probably don’t have to tell you there were a lot of sweet ladies at the party who were out to take him down this year.

the competition is pretty much based on looks and not taste, so i knew i wouldn’t take the gold medal home this year (not with all the “melted snowmen” and reindeer cookies with pretzels for antlers) BUT as for when each lady got home and tasted these babies – yeah, i felt good about that. these cookies are a grown up, holiday version of everyone’s favorite chocolate chip cookie and are simply yet complexly (is that a word?) delicious! (adapted from an old martha stewart recipe)

chewy chocolate spiced molasses cookies
makes 18 large cookies


2 tsp baking soda

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 cups all purpose flour (just a little heaping)

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup molasses

one 12-oz bag mini semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup granulated sugar (for rolling)


1. preheat oven to 325. line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. in a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 3 tsp boiling water; set aside.

3. in a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until combined. in another bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. slowly add to butter/sugar mixture & mix until almost combined.

4. add baking soda mixture and molasses; mix to combine. stir in chocolate chips. mix well.

5. using a 2 inch cookie dough scoop, scoop dough and then roll in granulated sugar. place cookies on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 18 minutes. let cool 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.


pumpkin bourbon milkshakes

my mother-in-law found this gem of a recipe and brought them over for one of the many desserts we had for thanksgiving this year.
i don’t have much to say but PUMPKIN. and BOURBON. and ICE CREAM.
need i say more?

pumpkin bourbon milkshakes
recipe via sunset
4 1/2 cartons – 14 oz each – vanilla ice cream
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup milk
1/2 cup bourbon (can be omitted, if desired)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
fresh whipped cream

1. blend a third of the ice cream, pumpkin, milk, and bourbon at a time in a blender until smooth, adding sugar and spices to the last batch. pour into a large bowl and stir to combine.
2. ladle milkshake mixture into 8 tall glasses and top with whipped cream, if desired, and a dash of nutmeg on top.

note: to make ahead OR if you are wanting a thicker milkshake – do step 1 up to one hour ahead & freeze in an airtight container. stir well before ladling into glasses.

photo via the kitchn

gingersnap cupcakes with vanilla bean cinnamon buttercream

these cupcakes are to-die-for, y’all.
they also rivaled little she for top billing at her first birthday party.
i made the mistake last time of making them in mini cupcake cups instead of the standard size.
read: i ate way more than my share of these babies. dude, i was fighting people off most of the party.

gingersnap cupcakes with vanilla bean cinnamon buttercream


1 stick softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup gingersnap cookies, ground very fine in a food processor
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed (if you’re unable to find vanilla bean, check out the vanilla bean tip here)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


1. preheat the oven to 350.  in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  add in eggs & molasses until well combined.

2. in a large bowl combine the flour, ground gingersnap cookies, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  add half to wet ingredients, then add half of milk and vanilla, ending with remaining dry ingredients and milk/vanilla (mixes a lot more thoroughly this way).

3. scoop batter into a cupcake tin (i line mine with paper cups) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center.  remove and let cool completely.

4. to make frosting, beat softened butter and powdered sugar in mixing bowl until smooth. then slowly add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in to get a smooth thick frosting.  when cupcakes have cooled, spread frosting over the tops of the cupcakes and serve.

makes 12 cupcakes
recipe via picky palate

cinnamon coffee cake

this coffee cake is is becoming my go-to for brunches and celebrations, one that will never fail and never fail to please a lot of people. also, one that will never fail to make me eat half of the pan and fight people off for a piece. it is perfectly moist and the thick crumb streusel topping is crazy-good.

(original recipe from saveur)

cinnamon coffee cake
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (plus more to grease the pan)
3 3/4 cups flour (plus more for pan)
1 1/4 cups, PLUS 2 tsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp PLUS 1 1/2 tsp packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp PLUS 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
6 tbsp sour cream
2 eggs
2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 325. grease an 8×8 baking dish with a little butter and sprinkle with a little flour. set aside.
2. to make topping: in a bowl, mix 8 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 6 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp salt, until smooth. add 1 1/2 cups flour; mix with a fork until crumbly. chill.
3. to make filling: in a bowl, mix remaining 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and pecans. cover & set aside.
4. to make cake batter: in a large bowl, whisk together remaining 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 tsp salt, and baking powder. in a small bowl, whisk together remaining 8 tbsp melted butter, milk, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon extract, and eggs until smooth. pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients; whisk to combine. pour half the batter into prepared baking dish. sprinkle filling evenly over top, then pour remaining batter over it. break up chilled topping with fingers and sprinkle over top. bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes; until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. let cool before serving.

itty bitty cinnamon rolls

this is genius. really.
and i owe it all to a very, very old southern living cookbook that i thumbed through while staying at my dear friend, tanna’s house in okc.
this recipe has come in handy a lot this summer when we are not home very often and our kitchen food supply is hilariously low. i usually have crescent rolls in the fridge (due to the husband’s affinity for them), so this recipe gets made a lot on the rare mornings we are home.
and it gets eaten extremely fast.

itty bitty cinnamon rolls


1 8oz can refrigerated crescent rolls

1-2 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

2/3 cup powdered sugar

2-3 tsp milk

1/4 tsp vanilla


1. preheat oven to 375. lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan or pie dish.

2. unroll crescent roll dough and separate into 4 rectangles. pinch perforations within rectangles to seal. lightly brush dough with melted butter (this helps the sugar & cinnamon stick, but you can omit this if you’d like). in a small mug or tiny cup, stir together sugar and cinnamon and then sprinkle mixture evenly over rectangles.

3. roll dough up, jellyroll fashion, starting with a long side. pinch edges to seal. using a serrated knife, gently cut each log into 5 slices and place in cake pan.

4. bake for 15 minutes or until rolls begin to brown.

5. while the rolls are baking (or cooling), combine the powdered sugar, milk, & vanilla and stir until smooth. drizzle over the warm cinnamon rolls.