Homemade Kahlua

Homemade rum and coffee liqueur, better known as Kahlua, is so much better than the original. The main reason, it’s way less expensive than buying it from the store. One liter bottle of rum, some very strong coffee, sugar and vanilla will yield a little more than three liters of this rich, delightful, coffee spirit.

I usually use Bacardi rum, but if you like a little more kick, 100 proof vodka or even Everclear grain alcohol (if you can get it) works just as well. Your wallet and your taste buds will thank you. In total, homemade Kahlua costs between $23.00 and $30.00 for three liters of the liqueur ($7.67 – $10.00 per bottle). Whereas, one liter of the original will cost you about $30.00.

A breakdown of your costs are simple. $15.00 (liter of Bacardi Rum) – $22.00 (liter of 100 proof Smirnoff Vodka or Everclear). $2.00 for a 2 pound bag of light brown sugar (I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, but we’re using a lot of liquid that needs to be sweetened. Plus, if you measure out and firmly pack the brown sugar, it’s only about 5 cups). Approximately $1.00 for a strong brewed pot of coffee. This recipe would be an even better bargain if vanilla weren’t so expensive. If you can get an 8 oz bottle of vanilla for $20, using 2 oz (1/4 cup) will add $5.00 to your total.

Don’t use a bunch of your individual coffee pods for this recipe, as it will make your cost even more expensive than the original. Well, maybe not. I haven’t actually done a cost analysis on it, but I drink way too much coffee for those to be cost effective for me on a daily basis, so I don’t imagine it would be economical in this recipe either.

Vanilla has always been on the expensive side, but the last few years, it has really skyrocketed. A higher demand for pure vanilla as opposed to imitation has caused a shortage and driven up the price. It might be fun to experiment with hazelnut extract or almond extract instead of vanilla to see if we can make this recipe even more economical. Plus it would be some fun flavors to add to your favorite cocktail.

After you’ve made the recipe, you should pour the liqueur into glass bottles that have been sterilized then store in a cool, dark place for about 2 or 3 weeks. This product tastes much better after a few weeks, but if you absolutely can’t wait to try it, it is perfectly good to sample it today. I like to make a double batch and make gift bottles for friends and still have an ample supply for me.

Homemade Kahlua

An excellent substitute for  your favorite rum and coffee liqueur. This recipe yields about 3 liters and is easy enough to make, you can double or triple the recipe. 
Course Alcohol, Beverage
Prep Time 10 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 3 Liters
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 liter rum (or vodka)
  • 1 pot strong coffee use 1 cup ground coffee
  • 2 lbs light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Using a 12 cup coffee maker, brew one cup of coffee grounds with one full pot of water.

    Homemade Kahlua ingredients
  2. Pour brown sugar into a large heat resistant bowl or pot. Pour hot coffee over the sugar and stir until well dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour)
  3. Add rum (or vodka) and vanilla. Stir until well blended. 

  4. Store in a cool, dark location for 2-3 weeks. 

Have you tried this recipe or experimented with other extract flavors? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Cranberry Orange Scones

What would Sunday morning be without fresh baked, buttery delicious, melt in your mouth, scones. Whether you’re hosting a family brunch or just lounging around having a relaxing day, these scones won’t take up all your free time to make them.

I’ve experimented with many different variations of this recipe and have a few suggestions that are key to creating the best scones.

  1. The butter must be kept as cold as possible. I usually dice the butter into cubes then put it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. If at any time, while you’re rolling and cutting the shapes, the butter becomes soft, you should put the dough in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s important to keep the butter cold right up until you put the scones in the oven. Cold butter, as it melts in the dough, is what gives the scones a flaky texture.
  2. Using frozen cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries, will help keep the dough cold as you’re working with the dough.
  3. If you’re going to switch out the frozen cranberries for dried cranberries, you’ll need to increase your cream in the dough by 1/4 cup. The frozen cranberries will provide extra moisture to the dough where the dried cranberries need the extra moisture to  reconstitute to their original state.
  4. Likewise, if you’re using dried cranberries instead of frozen, you’ll need to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup. Dried cranberries have added sugar, so you won’t need the extra sugar in the recipe.
  5. Make sure your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin are all well-floured while working with the dough.
  6. When you mix the dough, only work it until it is blended and form it into a ball. Don’t over mix it and don’t worry about lumps in the dough. You need to have lumps of butter in the dough for the scones to become flaky. Over mixing the dough will make them tough.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Easy to make scones. Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Make them as the recipe calls or swap your favorite ingredients. 

Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 20
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Scones

  • 4 1/2 cups flour divided
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter diced
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

Egg wash

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 extra large egg

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tsp orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Dice butter into cubes and place in the freezer until you're ready to add the butter to the dough. Cut the cranberries in half and return to the freezer until you are ready to add them to the dough.

  3. Whisk one egg and the 2 tbsp of milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup sugar and orange zest. Add the butter and mix at the lowest speed. Be sure to scrape the bowl to ensure that the butter is mixed with the flour. The cubes of butter should reduce to about the size of marbles.

    Scones ingredients
  5. Lightly whisk the remaining 4 eggs and combine with the heavy cream. Gradually pour this mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Mix just until combined. 
  6. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 1/8 cup of sugar over the cranberries and mix throughout the cranberries then add to them to the dough. Continue to mix on the lowest speed of the mixer, just until the cranberries are mixed in.

  7. Sprinkle flour on your work surface, rolling pin and hands. Transfer the dough to your work surface. Knead the dough into a ball. Being careful not to overwork the dough. It is normal to have lumps and to see bits of butter.
  8. Roll the dough evenly over your work surface until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Flour a round cutter so the dough doesn't stick to it. You can use any shape cutter you wish, but the larger the cutter, the longer you will need to bake the scones. I use a 3 1/2 inch round cutter. Transfer the cut out shapes to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

    There will be remnants of dough leftover after cutting out the shapes, simply gather up the dough, form a ball and roll out the dough again. Repeat this until there is no more dough remaining.

  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire top of each scone and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the top of the scones are slightly browned and the sides are firm.

  10. Transfer the scones to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, add the orange juice to the confectioners sugar and whisk into a smooth glaze. Once the scones have cooled, using a pastry brush, dab the glaze over the top of the scones.

    Scones with glaze

Have fun experimenting with the recipe. You can swap out different berries or other fruit, add nuts or chocolate chips. Yes, you can even add cheese for a scone that is better than a dinner biscuit. Let me know how your scones turned out in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Hamburger Pie Casserole

I know casseroles aren’t a favorite for everyone, but I love them. They are easy to make, limit unnecessary dishes, they can be made ahead of time and are usually large enough to have leftovers for lunch another day. I have a friend who won’t eat any casseroles. He doesn’t like various foods touching each other. So, I guess I won’t invite him over for dinner tonight because this casserole has ground beef, tomato soup, veggies, mashed potatoes and cheese all mingled together in one dish.

This particular casserole is a version of a favorite dish of an ex-boyfriend. I got the recipe from his mother many years ago. He would probably eat this every night if it was offered to him. The relationship didn’t last, but the recipe lives on with some minor adjustments.

One thing you’ll learn about me is there aren’t many things that I won’t put cheese on. I. Love. Cheese. If I could figure out a way to incorporate cheese with my raisin bran in the morning, I would. This is one of those dishes that doesn’t really “need” cheese, but cheese and mashed potatoes go well together, so it seems obvious to include it.

If you like this dish, for a variation, try substituting the ground beef with shredded chicken. Swap the tomato soup with cream of mushroom and exchange the cheddar for Swiss.  It’s just as easy to make and your family won’t be disappointed.

Hamburger Pie Casserole

This casserole is easy to make, but if you're pressed for time, you can use instant mashed potatoes and save some prep time. 

Course Casserole, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8 approximately
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 3 cups corn
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 medium potatoes diced
  • 2 10 3/4 oz cans tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 oz cheddar cheese shredded or sliced
  • 2 tsp salt divided
  • 1 tsp pepper divided

Instructions

  1. Peel, dice and rinse the potatoes. In a medium pot, cover with cold water and add 1 tsp salt. Cover with a lid and, over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

    Hamburger Pie Casserole Ingredients
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

  3. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain the fat. Add the diced bell pepper, diced onion, garlic, remaining salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally until onion and bell pepper are tender. Approximately 10 minutes.

  4. Add the corn and tomato soup. Continue simmering and stirring until thoroughly heated.

    Hamburger Pie Casserole filling
  5. Thoroughly drain the liquid from the potatoes. Add the remaining salt and pepper. Add a cold stick of butter to the potatoes and replace the lid on the pot to allow the butter to melt. After the butter has melted, gradually add a little milk at a time. Depending on the density of the potatoes and the desired texture of the potatoes, you may not need the full 1/2 cup of milk or you may need a little more. Mash until no lumps are visible or use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes until they are light and fluffy.
  6. Spoon the ground beef mixture into a casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of mashed potatoes around the casserole and carefully spread the potatoes without pushing them down into the ground beef mixture. Once you have spread all the mashed potatoes, top the casserole with cheese and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

    Hamburger Pie casserole assembly
  7. If you're making this casserole ahead of time, don't top with cheese until the casserole is almost done baking. You'll want to bake the casserole, covered with aluminum foil, for approximately 45 minutes. You can remove the foil and add the cheese during the last 10 minutes of baking. 

What is your opinion on casseroles? Is a meal untouchable if the foods are touching? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Taco Night

Does everyone love tacos as much as I do? Tacos have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I think all kids love tacos though, right? I can remember finding out we were having tacos for dinner and just couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could help make them.

My love of tacos didn’t fade into my adult years. I make some variation of them every week. Ground beef, chicken, steak, fish and even pork tacos. Skillet fried, soft shell, crunchy, casseroles, prepared as a dip or, even like the crunch wraps from Taco Bell…just for fun. There are a million ways to change them up, so they never get old. I love to add mango with fish and avocado for a healthier version. Or mix things up with teriyaki or buffalo sauce too. We’ll have fun making up different combinations another time, but for today, I just want to share a simple recipe to get you started.

my version of a taco bell crunch wrap
my version of a taco bell crunch wrap

What makes the taco so good? The seasoning, of course. I admit that, long ago, buying the single packets at the supermarket was very convenient. That’s what my mom used and it was easy. When I started cooking for myself, it never occurred to me to make my own seasoning. Back then I worked two or three jobs and didn’t have time to experiment.

Then, one day, I was craving some chicken tacos, but I didn’t have any seasoning and my car was in the shop, so I couldn’t go to the store. What could I do? I rooted through the spice rack and tried a little of this and little of that, until I found a combination that resembled the tacos I was used to. It took a few experiments after that, but I finally improved my recipe to be a little spicier than the store-bought mix. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

This recipe makes enough seasoning for 5 meals. Just store the seasoning in an air-tight container and you’ve got a head start for your next taco craving. Or, if you’re looking for an easy gift idea (see below) for coworkers, neighbors or a unique hostess gift, get some jars, make some cute hats and labels, buy your spices at the big box store and make a ton of the mix. People will taco bout what a great gift idea it is. (Sorry, please forgive the pun.)

Gift Jar with hat
Gift Jar with hat
Taco seasoning mix
5 from 1 vote
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Taco Seasoning Mix

Quick enough to make for tonight, easy to make ahead of time or for unique gifts.
Course Spices
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 5 meals
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 3/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 5 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together until well blended.  Store in an air-tight container.
    Mix seasoning thoroughly
  2. Brown ground beef (or meat of your choice) in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Drain the fat then add 3 tbsp of the seasoning mix and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. The cornstarch in the mix will help thicken the sauce.
    Add seasoning and water
  3. Assemble your tacos with toppings.

    Taco toppings
  4. Enjoy

    Tacos

What is your favorite taco? Comment below and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

Welcome to my very first blog post and Happy first day of Spring 2018, the vernal or Spring equinox. The one day of the year when we have equal lengths of night and day. The day we should be able to look forward to the warm weather and put away the snow shovels, but with another storm on the horizon, I guess I’ll wait to put them away and just make some soup instead.

Living in Maine, I’m used to the winter and the massive amounts of snow we get, but we’ve been beaten up by Mother Nature these past few weeks, so I was looking forward to the first day of Spring. Much to my dismay, it was 16 degrees when I woke up this morning. This is not the way I wanted to start Spring. Not to mention that my mailbox was still half-buried from the last snowstorm and was in desperate need of digging out. So, by the time I was done with the outside chores, I was ready for a warm bowl of soup.

I love this recipe. There are many different variations that all work with the same basic recipe. I used to make plain Cream of Broccoli Soup, then one day I had leftover home-fried potatoes from breakfast. I knew it wouldn’t be enough for another meal and I don’t like to waste food, so I saved it and put in my bowl of cream of broccoli soup for dinner. Now, this is one of my favorites.

It’s so versatile. You can substitute the broccoli with cauliflower, asparagus, corn, or even mushrooms, if you like. If you don’t have time to home-fry the potatoes, you can leave them out. As an added treat, I like to add cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles.

What kind of soups do you like on a cold day? If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.

 

 

Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup
5 from 1 vote
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Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

Easy to make cream of broccoli and potato soup. Top with bacon crumbles and cheese for a heartier soup. For a quicker soup, leave out the potatoes. You'll still have a hearty, satisfying soup. Cook up a few extra potatoes while you're at it and set aside to have with eggs and bacon for breakfast the next morning.
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 bowls
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 tbsp butter divided
  • 6 medium potatoes cubed
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup celery approx 2 stalks diced
  • 1 pound frozen or fresh broccoli chopped to bite size pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups milk divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese optional
  • bacon crumbles optional

Instructions

  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil and 2 tbsp. butter over medium/high heat until butter has melted. Add cubed potatoes and stir until the potatoes are well coated. Add salt and pepper if desired. Heat uncovered for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are browned. Cover and continue cooking over heat reduced to medium/low, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
    Ingredients for Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup
  2. While the potatoes finish cooking, in a separate medium pot (about 5 quarts), add chicken stock, broccoli, onions and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are done to a desired tenderness. Add 2 cups of milk and the remaining 6 tbsps. of butter. Continue simmering until the butter has melted.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and the flour. Whisk thoroughly to remove any lumps. Gradually add this mixture to the soup, whisking constantly. Cook for at least 5 minutes so you thoroughly eliminate the raw flour taste. Soup will thicken as it cools.