Homemade Vanilla Extract: A DIY Gift Idea

I'm choosing not to stress and to enjoy my final Christmas preparations. Homemade gifts are one of my defense mechanisms against the holiday hangups. Instead of battling feuding families in malls, hit the wine and spirits shop (extra bonus: might as well buy yourself some wine while you're there) and your favorite spice store. Two stops, and you'll have the makings of homemade vanilla extract. Cue up your favorite holiday albums (Mariah Carey and She & Him, for me please), spike the egg nog, and then, it's as simple as pouring liquid over vanilla beans. 

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Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover

Take a long look in a full-length mirror. Does your neck lurch forward? Do your shoulders slope to one side? When you see yourself in photos, do you think, “Damn girl, stand up straight,” only to realize you were standing at your straightest? Then you, my friends, might need a doctor… a spine doctor!

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

The above was my scenario. My many years of hunching over a drawing board, crouching over photo sets and then slouching into my computer had caught up with me- in a gnarly way. These poor posture habits had longer lasting and riskier effects than simply making me look slouchy in photos. We pay so little mind to our spine, and yet our very health and our very lives depend on its maintenance.

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lucky for me, chiropractics found me. The Urban Farmer’s brother once wanted to be a medical doctor, only to realize the main stream medical system doesn’t prioritize health and prevention, focusing rather on fixing. In chiropractics, he discovered the fundamentals and a means to helping people live their best lives. He found a world in which health, nutrition and fitness combined to serve people, so he devoted himself to the spine and became Dr. Alex Pattison. I believed his words and explanations, but more than anything, I believed the way I felt within a few adjustments.

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

If this sounds preachy, I can’t help it. When I find something good, something I believe in, I want to share it, want to sing it like Julie Andrews on those Austrian hills. Chiropractics often get a bad rap, as a scam or hoax, but I know Alex as a family member, as a doting father, as a loyal friend and as a doctor. I know him to be incredibly informed and earnest in his pursuit to make our city a healthy one. I also know Alex to be a whiskey aficionado. 

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

This past Christmas, I drew Alex’s name from the hat for the family secret Santa. Rather than simply giving a bottle of whiskey, I played my graphic-designer-boyfriend card (did you know the Urban Farmer is also a design wiz?) to create a custom label to celebrate his love of whiskey and his devotion to spinal health. Introducing Doc Pattison’s Miracle Elixir

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

To personalize the bottle even more, I concocted a Spice Infused Whiskey, a fiery flavor reminiscent of a fireball, derived from our forefathers.

Spiced Whiskey in a Custom Labeled Bottle for the Whiskey Lover // www.WithTheGrains.com

Below you’ll find the historical reference for this “receipt,” as it was called in the day. (The “Dulcify” step is my favorite!) You’ll also find the modernized version, designed to be fun and not kill you, by Steven Grasse, author of Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History, and the man behind Art in the Age, a personal favorite of mine. So toast some spices, toast a glass, find yourself a chiropractor, and let’s all toast to health and longevity!

Here’s to you Doc Pattison!

p.s: If you’re interested in creating a custom bottle design to give as a gift, get in touch!


Spiced Whiskey
from Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History

The Historical Recipe

Take of cinnamon, ginger, and coriander seed, each 3 oz. – mace, cloves, and cubels, each 1 1/2 oz.- Add 11 gallons of proof spirit, and 2 gallons of water, and distil [sic]; now tie up 5 oz. of English saffron, – raisins (stoned) 4 1/2 lbs.- dates, 3 do.- liquorice root, 2 do.- Let these stand 12 hours in 2 gallons of water, strain, and add it to the above. – Dulcify the whole with fine sugar.

-From Five Thousand Receipts in All Useful and Domestic Arts
by Colin MacKenzie, 1825
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Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

My dad had a penchant for infomercials. We had miracle mops that you never had to touch with your hands, all of our silver was pristine, and he could wax our cars to a mirror-like shine. Then came the big guns- the Ronco dehydrator with extra trays for maximum output. Our small kitchen became a virtual beef jerky factory. The scent of liquid smoke and hickory lay heavy in the air. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a tad overwhelming.

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

A Ronco dehydrator is one apparatus you will not find in my kitchen, so when I had an itch to craft a natural element for this holiday season, I had to find an alternative method. It turns out, as one might expect, an oven, a cooling rack and a sheet pan can do the same trick.

The key ingredient is time- about 6-12 hours, so pop those slices in the oven before bed, and you’ll awake to a refreshing citrus scent in the morning. The landscape will be a winter wonderland, birds will somehow be singing, the kitchen will sparkle, and peace treaties will teeter on the horizon. It’s amazing what a warm oven and a little citrus on a winter morning can do!

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then, start crafting!

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

Oven Dehydrated Citrus for Holiday Decorating // www.WithTheGrains.com

My main motivation for these organic ornaments was the purchase of “Fronds Ferdinand,” our new Norfolk Pine, but I’ll also be sharing some other ideas for dried citrus, so stay tuned and good luck with holiday stresses.


How To Dry Citrus Slices in the Oven
Adapted from LiveStrong.com

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Valentine’s Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift

Outside, the sloppy mix of rain and ice falls at an intense angle, and the distant hillside has lost its detail, now appearing as a giant, sleepy, gray elephant. Inside, the sunset painted hyacinths fill the room with their intoxicating perfume. The scent transports my mind to lavish gardens and flowering trees in California and that narrow window in the spring, when the campus lilac bushes bloomed and lightened an otherwise stressful commute. We give flowers to lift spirits, a power I am appreciating more and more.

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

These hyacinths are fragrant remnants of a Valentine’s Day well celebrated, of brunching, of sappiness and of lazing away a Sunday as Sundays should be. I know there are commercial ties to this holiday, but I love it anyways. I love the extra incentive to show a caring gesture, like a card that reads “You’re Perfect (even if you cut your sandwiches like an idiot).” I love champagne toasts, pajama dress codes and puns on top of puns. I love my beekeeper, and I love to show it.

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the Urban Farmer pointed out, Saint Valentine was the patron saint of lovers and beekeepers, appropriate, since I was inspired to celebrate my favorite beekeeper this February 14th.

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

In my ode to my favorite beekeeper, I wrote:

Here’s to history (a beekeeping poster), here’s to sweetness (honeycomb chocolate & Honey Lavender ice cream), here’s to health (fresh bee pollen), and even to a little buzz too (wine)! 

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

And because beekeepers need to eat, there were Multigrain Chocolate Chip Raspberry Pancakes with Raw Cacao Whipped Cream spiked with Snap and a ruby red champagne toast!

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com
Multigrain Chocolate Chip Raspberry Pancakes with Raw Cacao Whipped Cream spiked with Snap Liquor, topped with a Dark Cherry

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

Valentine's Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes & A Honey Themed Gift // www.WithTheGrains.com

It was a Valentine’s Day well spent with gifts that will keep giving. I hope your Valentine’s Day was just as sweet! Did you give any edible or themed gifts of your own?

Quelcy Signature

Chocolate Chip & Raspberry Multigrain Pancakes with Spiked Cacao Whipped Cream

About This Recipe: You will never see me recommend a box cake mix (sacrilege!), but when it comes to pancakes, I do like to use Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake Mix. The blend combines corn flour, whole grain wheat flour and brown rice flour, packing a lot of grains into one mix without over burdening your pantry. Alternately, you can use my Whole Wheat Pancake Recipe (skip the bananas).

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