Archive for DIY

DIY Vanilla

There was a time, a long time ago, when I would have been happy with artificial vanilla. But today? Not a chance. Sure, real vanilla extract is more expensive, but it’s just better! It tastes better, and it makes everything you put it into taste better, as well.

So, imagine my dismay when I recently rolled into Costco to buy Vanilla and found it had more than doubled in price! What I normally pay $12-14 for was now nearly $40!

DIY Vanilla Extract

Turns out there’s a world-wide shortage of vanilla. Vanilla pods come from the pistil of a rare orchid, and they are very time- and labour-intensive to grow. High demand has lead to a shortage everywhere, causing prices to escalate.

So, I can’t afford to buy vanilla, but the prospect of going back to artificial vanilla was not appealing. So, I started doing some research: could I make my own DIY vanilla extract cheaper than it would cost me to buy it in the store?

Turns out, you can.

So, a 437 ml bottle of vanilla at Costco (which is probably the best price around) is currently $38.95.

Here’s how much it costs to make DIY Vanilla Extract: 

  • 2 Tahitian vanilla beans: $10 (Gourmet Warehouse, you can also buy it online)
  • 375 ml bottle of vodka: $15
  • 500 ml mason jar (I had)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I had on hand as well)

So I spent $25 for 500 ml of vanilla extract–not cheap, but still much cheaper than $40!

It’s also really simple to make, but it does take time. If you start it right now, though, you’ll have to gift for Christmas presents! This stuff is getting to be more precious than bitcoin!

How are you coping with the current vanilla prices? Got any tips to share? Drop them into the comments below.

Coconut Milk Substitutes

A couple weeks back, I was craving a vegan dessert that used coconut milk as its base. Now, normally, I keep a can of coconut milk in my cupboard at all times. It’s easy enough to do–shelf-stable, and good for so many applications–both savoury and sweet.

But for some reason that day, my cupboard was coconut-milk free! I had used up my last can and not replaced it.

Coconut Milk Substitutes

So I started thinking about substitutions. What could I substitute for that can of coconut milk?

There are surprisingly quite a few options. I tried them all out, and here’s what I found:

  1. Make your own coconut milk. Click here to learn how.
  2. Use a powdered coconut milk. I bought mine at the Bulk Barn, but there are several large manufacturers who also sell it in grocery stores. I’ve seen Grace Brand, for example, in my local Loblaws. Basically, you use a couple tablespoons of the powder and stir it into water or another non-dairy milk.
  3. Pure Creamed Coconut. This little pouch contains the milk, solids and fat from the coconut, so it gives you a more balanced coconut milk. Again, you just add a few tablespoons to water to create your coconut milk. It’s available in grocery stores beside the canned coconut milk.

 

I tried all 3 coconut milks, and examined them both for texture (thickness, creaminess, etc) and taste against canned coconut milk, and of the 3, the Pure Creamed Coconut was my favorite.

While I like the idea of making my own coconut milk, it does leave behind a lot of solids, and unless you use those solids in some cookies or energy balls, that means waste.

The coconut milk powder that I bought required me to mix it in with a non-dairy milk. I didn’t like this idea for two reasons: first off, you have to have non dairy milk on hand, and you may not. Secondly, the coconut milk just tasted like cashew milk (which was the base milk I mixed it into). What I have to experiment with is mixing the coconut milk powder into water and seeing how that turns out.

The Pure Creamed Coconut was my fave and the most like canned coconut milk of the three. However, there were a few small solids in there, so just be aware that it may not be as smooth and creamy as your regular canned coconut milk.

One last tip: if you are using pure creamed coconut, it helps to soak the unopened pouch in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes or so before you use it to soften it up.

Have you used coconut milk substitutes? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

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