Homemade vanilla extract takes just two ingredients — vanilla beans and alcohol — and you can be as straightforward or creative as you like. Though it does take a bit of patience as you wait for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans, the delicious results are well worth it.
Q: Do your readers have any suggestions for thoughtful and creative (yet rather inexpensive) DIY gifts for the holiday season? I'm thinking of infusing sea salt with lavender and rosemary and giving it away in little jars — and I'm looking for more ideas like this!
Q: I'm giving some delicious chocolate sauce as a gift for Christmas. I have always let it cool and then refrigerated it. Is there a way to seal it in jars without canning or changing the characteristics of the sauce?
Chewy caramels and caramel sauce, we love. Cleaning the sticky pot shellacked with sugar residue after making those caramels, we love not so much. Here's a trick that will save you some time and save your poor arms a lot of scrubbing! (Hint: It involves laziness.)
A year ago, if you had asked what my favorite foods were, I would have replied, bread, butter, bread, almonds, bread ... and did I mention bread? I pitied my gluten-intolerant friends and rolled my eyes at the trendiness of "everything-free" diets. So of course it happened: I found myself struggling with health problems, followed by the discovery that I, too, was one of those people who couldn't tolerate gluten, dairy, nuts, or refined sugar. As someone who loves and works in food, this seemed like a tragedy. Little did I know it would reinvigorate my cooking, not to mention my health and happiness.
Here's how I cut out my favorite foods and what I learned along the way...
Q: My boyfriend's mother loves those little mint nonpareils. You know, the pink green and yellow ones with the tiny white sprinkles. Is it possible to make them yourself? A DIY version would really wow her.
It has taken me far too long to discover how amazing — and how astoundingly easy — it is to make my own limoncello. I had this hazy idea that limoncello must be a closely guarded secret kept by a sect of weathered Italian grandfathers with wooly driving caps and secretive, knowing smiles. Just me? Well, it turns out all you need to make truly incredible limoncello are some good lemons, a bottle of stiff vodka, and just a little patience.
Q: I'm hosting a holiday cocktail party and have a menu of both sweet and savory snacks. The spread is already vegetarian friendly, but it's dairy-heavy and I've just found out that one of my guests is a vegan. Any ideas for vegan hors d'oeuvres that aren't just a veggie plate with hummus?
For over a year now, we've been talking with cooking experts (chefs and cooks, cookbook authors, food writers, recipe developers) about what they feel are their top five essential things a home cook should know, do, own, or understand in order to be a great cook.
In honor of the Big Feast day tomorrow, we combed our Expert Essentials archives, pulling out nuggets of kitchen wisdom to help you make it though your cooking marathon with body and mind intact. Read on for our special Thanksgiving edition, with appearances from Deborah Madison, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigel Slater, and more of our favorite voices in the kitchen.