Like most people, I like convenience.  I don’t have much spare time to make things that can easily be purchased in a store.  But, there are some things that can be made from scratch without taking up a lot of time.  It’s a definite plus to control the ingredients that go into the staples we use in baking.  No preservatives.  No weird stuff no one can pronounce.

Three things come to mind that can easily made at home – peanut butter, vanilla, and Nutella.  Yes, Nutella!

We’ll start with peanut butter because it is the easiest.  I wasn’t a believer, either, until a few months ago.  It’s so incredibly easy you will wonder why you haven’t been doing this for, well, forever

Homemade Peanut Butter

What you will need:

1 jar (16 ounce) dry roasted peanuts (I use lightly salted)

2 tablespoons peanut oil (optional)

Food processor

Pour the peanuts into the food processor and add peanut oil if you are using it.  Process on high for 3 to 4 minutes and then scrape down the sides.  Process on low an additional 3 or so minutes until the peanut butter is the desired consistency.   Pour into an air tight container and store in the refrigerator.  It will keep approximately one month in the fridge.  You can add honey if you like or any other flavoring.

Homemade Nutella

I found the easiest recipe on Babble.  The most time consuming part of making this is removing the skins from the hazelnuts.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup powdered milk
1 Tbsp. mild-flavored honey
pinch salt
1 heaping cup chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or chips
1 scant cup chopped milk chocolate, or chips

Directions: 

On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the nuts in a 400ºF for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and their skins begin to pop. Transfer to a tea towel, gather into a bundle and rub together to remove as much of their skins as possible. While warm, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and blend until they go from finely ground to pasty and thick, like natural peanut butter.

Meanwhile, warm the milk, powdered milk, honey and salt in a small saucepan just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat. In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave), melt the chocolates, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate to the ground nuts and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well blended and as smooth as you can get it. Makes about 2 cups.

Homemade Vanilla

Have you noticed how expensive vanilla is?  The real stuff, not imitation vanilla.  If you bake a lot, it doesn’t last very long.  Well, good thing it is super easy to make.

What you will need:  

Good quality whole vanilla beans (see below)

Unflavored vodka (any brand, the cheap stuff will do)

Glass bottles with caps (8 oz)

Directions: 

Using a sharp knife, slice each vanilla bean in half.  then starting about 1/4″ from one end, cut the vanilla bean lengthwise

Place 6-8 vanilla bean pieces (that would be 3-4 whole beans) in each 8 ounce bottle. Using a measuring cup or funnel, pour vodka into each bottle completely covering the  beans in the liquid.

Tightly cap each jar and store in a cool, dark location (like a closet) for at least 6 weeks.  Check the bottles once a week and gently shake each to mix.  The longer it ages, the more intense the flavor will be.  The beans can be left in the jars or removed after about 8 weeks.   If you leave the beans in the jar, be sure they are always covered by liquid.

It is very expensive to buy vanilla beans in the grocery store.  I would suggest ordering in bulk from Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Premium-Madagascar-Vanilla-JR-Mushrooms/dp/B000CR1ELU/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1374449572&sr=1-1&keywords=vanilla+beans

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