Monday, November 25, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I had no idea I could make my own vanilla extract!  This Homemade Vanilla Extract would make a perfect gift for the holidays and it is so easy to make too.  I did some online research and it seems that there is no reason to use fancy alcohol so a mid-range will do.  I estimate 3 vanilla beans per cup of alcohol so if you have a larger jar, you may adjust accordingly.  The vanilla beans smell so good and I read that you can make vanilla scented sugar.  Just place a vanilla bean in a jar of sugar and that's it!  How easy is that?  Enjoy!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

1 cup alcohol (vodka, rum or bourbon)
3 vanilla beans


Split vanilla beans using a small paring knife.

Place vanilla beans in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

Pour your alcohol of choice into the jar with vanilla beans. 

Push vanilla beans down so they are submerged.

Seal the jar and store in a cool, dark place (i.e. back of cupboard) for at least 1 month. 

Shake jar once a week.  

Notes: The vanilla extract will keep for up to 1 year at room temperature.  You can top jar off with enough alcohol to keep vanilla beans submerged.  Replace vanilla beans as they start to lose their flavor (about every 3 to 6 months).

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Hi readers and blog followers!
I decided to have an online/catalog thirty-one party based on so many compliments I’ve received on my bags.  I use them all the time for carrying foods/dishes (utility tote) and groceries (thermal bag).   They also make great gifts, perfect for the holidays.

Here's the website info:  Click on My Parties at the top of the page.  Click "Sophie's Pre-Holiday Catalog Party", click "shop now".

It is best if you order online :)  Feel free to share with your family, friends and/or coworkers!

November Customer Special & Details:

*  For every $35 you spend, you can get a MEDIUM Utility Tote for only $7!  How awesome is that?  It is the best deal and I used my medium utility tote all the time!

*  Personalization is $7 for any item specified with an "E". Icons are also available for $10.

Just let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Southwestern Style Chicken Soup

This Southwestern Style Chicken Soup is my new favorite soup (it used to be the lasagna soup, which is still a favorite btw) because it is so flavorful.  I love the lime and cilantro in the soup so I would not leave those out, especially the lime.  It is also a great way to use up any leftover cooked chicken.  Another plus is that this is a gluten free meal and it is healthy.  Feel free to add more veggies, this soup is versatile.  Overall, this soup is warm, hearty and perfect for fall. Enjoy!

Southwestern Style Chicken Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced (I used 1 medium sized red onion.)
1 hot pepper, diced (I used a Hungarian wax pepper.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups vegetable broth (or use chicken broth)
¼ cup uncooked white rice (or use brown rice)
1 teaspoon cumin
15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or any white bean)
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
½ cup frozen corn 
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I used 1 lime.)


Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Add in onions and peppers.  Sauté for about 3 minutes until slightly softened and add in garlic.  Sauté for an additional minute until garlic is fragrant. 

Add in broth, rice, cumin, and beans.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.   Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover and stir in chicken, corn, cilantro, pepper, and salt.  Simmer for additional 5 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly heated.

Remove from heat.  Stir in tomato, avocado and lime juice.

Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Apple Cider Ice Cream

This Apple Cider Ice Cream tastes just like apple pie to me and its so good!  This ice cream is full of flavor and is perfect for fall.  I brought this ice cream to work and everyone loved it.  My cousin already thinks this apple cider ice cream will go great with pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  So I will definitely have to make another batch.  I did make a few changes from my past ice cream recipes since I had limited ingredients when I decided to make this apple cider ice cream.  The ice cream isn't as creamy as it could have been but I had a coworker who told me she prefers a less creamy ice cream.  If you use heavy cream instead of the half and half and double the egg yolks to 6, then you will have the creamy consistency.  Enjoy!

Apple Cider Ice Cream

2 cups apple cider (I used a cranberry and apple cider)
¾ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups half and half (or heavy cream)
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks


In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, whisk apple cider, sugar and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until reduced by half, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, bring half and half or cream and milk to a simmer.  

Beat egg yolks in a small bowl.  Slowly ladle a cup of the warmed milk mixture into egg yolks and whisk.  Make sure the eggs do no curdle.

Whisk in egg mixture to saucepan with milk mixture.  Add in reduced cider.

Whisk to combine and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. 

Allow mixture to cool and refrigerate until chilled.

Process chilled mixture in your ice cream maker.

Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

Craving Chinese food?  This Chinese Chicken and Broccoli stir-fry dish is so simple and delicious.  It is better than Chinese take out because you know exactly what you are putting in your dish.   This is great served over rice of course.  Overall, this dish took me about 30 minutes to make including the rice.  I just started the rice in my rice cooker first.  As a note, if you don't have the Shaoxing Chinese rice wine, you can substitute sherry, gin or dry white wine.  This dish definitely satisfied my Chinese food craving.  Also, I recently made an apple cider ice cream for the first time and tested it out with coworkers today - yup, it was a hit!  I'll be posting that recipe in the next post :)  Enjoy! 

Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon water

For marinade
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon vegetable oil

For sauce
¼ cup and 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used low sodium.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)


In a bowl, mix the marinade ingredients and add chicken.  Toss to evenly coat chicken and allow chicken to marinate while preparing the sauce and broccoli.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes.   Drain and set aside.  Be careful not to overcook the broccoli since it will be added to the stir fry later.  You may also cook the broccoli in a steamer.

In a bowl, mix sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and half the sauce mixture.  Cook the chicken for about 7 minutes until cooked through.  Add in broccoli and remaining sauce and 1 tablespoon water.

Continue to stir and cook for additional 2 to 3 minutes to thicken sauce or until broccoli is tender, but still crisp.

Serves 4 to 6.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I made chocolate cupcakes with this Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting for Halloween last week.  I brought them for a coworker's retirement party and they turned out great.  My friend gave me all the Halloween decor for the cupcakes so it was perfect.  I would definitely be using this Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting recipe for future cupcakes because it is so easy.  I love a recipe with only a few ingredients.  Sorry I am also behind on posting recipes but I got obsessed with watching Breaking Bad and I have finally finished all 5 seasons!  The show is so addicting and I couldn't stop because it is that good.  So go watch Breaking Bad if you haven't already and try this frosting, enjoy! 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup unsalted butter or 4 tablespoons, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla


In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy.

Slowly add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

Add in vanilla.

Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.