DIY Homemade Vanilla – UPDATE and More!

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Internet problems have kept me from blogging lately.  But this morning it looks like I have a little window of opportunity and I couldn’t be happier about it! Speaking of happy — do you ever have one of those days … Continue reading

Abbey and Her First Pecan Pie – JD Style

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Abbey's first pecan pie finished
I cannot remember when I made my first pie.  But on the bright side I know it was when I was still in high school!  My sous-chef dish-washing mom has made pie for as long as I can remember and I inherited her love of making anything pie!

When granddaughter Abbey arrived for a visit we talked about the things she would like to do, making salsa, jam, and pie were all at the top of her list!

Abbey first pecan pie
I asked Jack Daniels for pecan pieif she had ever made a pecan pie.
She said she hadn’t and since we had just returned from a tour of Jack Daniel’s distillery, just down the road,  I suspected a pecan pie laced with Lynchburg’s hometown product was in our future!  FYI — the alcohol cooks out and the flavor really enhances the sweetness of a custard pie like pecan.

As I have mentioned earlier, I became an instant Grandma to Abbey in 1991 when I married her Grandpa Lee. Abbey and I are only 29 years apart in age – unusually on the light side for grandmother and granddaughter. It is a pecan-pie-slice-closerwonderful blessing for me having her young, creative and fun spirit in the kitchen! It is not only inspiring but also a barrel of laughs! Besides chattering about cooking and baking we throw in a measurable amount of discussion on topics like MEN, love, and the pitfalls and benefits of both! :)

Praying your week is also filled with the joys of spending time with those you love.

Happy Baking!

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”    Billy Graham

Pecan Pie Jack Daniel-Style

Yield: 6-8 slices

Pecan Pie Jack Daniel-Style

Cranking it up a bit with a splash of Lynchburg's hometown product!


  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 2/3 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup (Light or dark)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Pecan halves or pieces (can be roughly chopped if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup Jack Daniel Whiskey (Optional)
  • 1 Pie Crust ( I use Pillsbury, but homemade is good too!)


  1. Lightly spray pie plate with canola oil. Line pie plate with pastry shell, flute edges and sprinkle with pecans.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using a mixer or food processor. Add in next four ingredients mixing well.
  3. Pour filling over pecans.
  4. Cover outer pie crust with a pie ring or loosely with tin foil.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or longer if needed, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream.


(1) Pie will set slightly as it cools. (2) The pie ring or foil is necessary or the outer pie crust will brown too much during cooking.

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DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract – Perfect For Gift Giving

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vanilla box pretty
Do you have any bakers on your Christmas list this year?  YES?  Then this is the perfect time of year to begin a do-it-yourself gift giving Christmas project — Homemade Vanilla Extract! 

Last year my cousin Jill shared a recipe with me that she and her sister, my cousin Laura, have made for many years. She said, “once you make your own vanilla you will never want to use any other!” As the Christmas season came fast and furious I ran out of time to share it in time for your gift gifting.

But make vanilla I did!  And just as Jill and Laura promised — it is fabulous!
NOW is the right time to prepare for this easy and yet fabulous gift for this year.

vanilla beans
I ordered these Madagascar beans from Amazon but they are also readily available from many other sources, including my cousin Jill’s favorite place, Penzy’s Spices.

homemade vanilla start
Because I am an overachiever, I started out with 64 ounces of white rum.  I left a good amount of it in the larger container but poured some off into a couple of glass pints. (See recipe below.)  Once a week I shook each container replacing it in a cool, dark place.

making vanilla
After about 6 weeks I was ready to taste-test my first batch of vanilla.  The fragrance is strong and lovely. I particularly like the little specks of vanilla bean that stay in the vanilla.  (You can strain it if you prefer.)

vanilla box bulb
I ordered 4 ounce brown glass bottles from Amazon but I am sure you can use any favorite bottle, clear glass or brown glass.  I have also seen really cute bottles at Hobby Lobby.

vanilla decorated bottle
When I filled the bottles I added a few of the vanilla pieces. They will keep giving the vanilla flavor and add a few vanilla bean specks to your baking as well.

Vanilla clear bottle

I have used vanilla from this little bottle all year-long and have refilled it a time or two already!

Happy Gift Giving!
Blessings, Catherine

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

Once you have made homemade vanilla extract you will never want to use anything else!

NOTE: It is helpful to wear disposable gloves when handling the vanilla beans as they can stain your fingers.


  • 3 to 5 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces alcohol such as vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar


  1. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces, depending on the size of the bottles you will use.
  2. Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol making sure they are completely submerged. Add sugar (optional).
  3. Infuse for at least 1 month. Shake the bottle and place in a cool, dark spot, shaking once or twice a week.
  4. After a month taste the extract and let it infuse longer if you want a stronger flavor.
  5. When extract is ready you may wish to remove the vanilla pods and decant the vanilla.
  6. Divide into smaller bottles. Vanilla beans can be removed or one or two pieces can be left in each bottle.


Vanilla can be made from white rum, vodka, bourbon, or brandy -- I used white rum and have been very happy with the flavoring. Madagascar beans are my favorite, but Mexican beans or other varieties can be used, depending on the flavor you prefer. *The sugar is optional.

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Awesome Fried Okra

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When granddaughter Abbey arrived she had driven from California via Colorado for the better part of a week. She was ready to get out of the car and to get busy in Grandma’s kitchen!

Our first evening meal together included garden-fresh fried okra.  Growing up in Colorado and California Abbey never had eaten okra.  I guess it really is a southern thing since I’d never even heard of it until I met my southern-born sweetheart!

The story of Abbey and okra was love at first bite! She couldn’t wait for a DIY lesson.  Well, I don’t really want to brag, but for a Nebraska girl I can turn out some awesome fried okra.

The local farmer’s market provided fresh okra and we added the fun as we cooked up this mess of tasty-finger lickin’ delights.  She and her Grandpa ate every one!  (They wouldn’t want me to share that with you, but hey — I’m a food blogger, when it comes to the kitchen, it’s all fair game!)

close up Okra
I realize frying okra isn’t rocket science.  But there is a particular sequence necessary to get perfectly breaded, nicely seasoned, non-slimy okra!

If you have a hankerin’ for a bowl of these tasty veggie bites, follow this recipe and you won’t be disappointed!

Blessings and Happy Cooking!


Awesome Fried Okra

Awesome Fried Okra

You don't have to live in the South to have this southern-fried awesome okra -- delicious on any table, anywhere!


  • 2 lbs. fresh okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick round pieces
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Oil* for frying amount dependent on size of frying skillet


  1. Rinse okra pods in water and dry with paper towel. Slice into 1/2" round slices being careful to keep the pods away from water and as dry as possible.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper.
  3. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well.
  4. Spread okra on baking sheet and allow to set while dipping and coating the rest of the okra.
  5. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. Fill with 1/4" to 1/2" oil up the sides of the skillet.
  6. Carefully add breaded okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, turning only once. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.)
  7. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, and then serve immediately.


* Oil used can be canola, corn, grape or coconut (without flavor). Use your favorite oil for frying. Butter will be too greasy.

This recipe adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen, Food Network.

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The Crowning Glory of Grandchildren!

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Abbey playing banjo
When Lee and I married in 1991 I instantly became “Grandma Catherine” to two little kids, Christopher and Abbey. Through the years we have been blessed with six more grandchildren but it is Chris and Abbey that provided all those firsts for us. First to travel with Grandpa on an airplane, first to go through Confirmation at church, first to want to always race Grandpa Lee up and down steps, first girlfriends and boyfriends, and first to graduate from high school and go on to college!

abbey banjo 2
Since college, Abbey has worked as a professional make-up artist in Los Angeles. California has provided a steady flow of clients for her and she perfected her craft as she worked her way up through the ranks of MAC cosmetics.

Abbey quilting

Abbey Making Her First Quilt

This past spring she began to think about her “hectic” life style and has felt a calling to a simpler way of life. So, in August she decided to take a sabbatical, put her belongings in storage and hit the road.

Abbey quilt 2

Perfect Seams Make For Perfect Quilt Blocks!

As she began making her way across country she stopped wherever she has family. August 21 she arrived at Bobo Hollow in Tennessee. I can easily and quickly confirm that our life will never be the same!

Abbey Quilting 2
Abbey is like a sponge soaking up any and all new adventures. She wants to learn anything and everything we are willing to share with her! What fun we have had and what joy she has brought to our home.

Over the next few weeks I will share several recipes with you that she has shared with me. We have spent a good bit of time in the kitchen and her passion for baking has blessed us with some awesome treats!

Abbey Salsa 3
Our first stop in the kitchen produced 20 pints of homemade salsa! We used my favorite seasonings from Mrs. Wages. I’ve tried others and even made my own seasoning mix, but Mrs. Wages is perfect every time. I am all about making it perfect every time! And now, Abbey knows that secret too.

Abbey First Salsa
I pray your weekend is filled with a sweet surprise or two. A sweetness like having your granddaughter fill your home with love and laughter!


Proverbs 17:6

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.

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