Tag Archives: homemade gifts

Slow Cooker Peanut Clusters

Peanut clusters plated
I was tired. I had just finished eating my way through New York City.  Sitting with my computer on my lap I announced to my sous-chef dish-washing mom and Chief Culinary Consultant “I’m not making a bunch of sweet treats this year for Christmas.  We just don’t need the sugar or the calories.”

Sixty seconds later I read The Brown Eyed Baker’s blog post for Slow cooker Peanut Clusters.  By then mom was making sounds that sounded like … “but what about peanut clusters?”  My sous chef dish-washing mom is the peanut cluster maker in this family.  She has always used this recipe before. I can’t stand to see a grown woman cry so when I was grocery shopping I surprised her with  — unsalted peanuts, salted cocktail peanuts, semisweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and white almond bark!  And the recipe from The Brown Eyed Baker!

Alice Peanut Clusters
All is well at our house.  Christmas music is playing.  The tree is decorated.  Mom is happy.  The Chief is really happy.

Crockpot Peanut Clusters
And the entire house is filled with the fragrance of chocolate.

peanut cluster panfullNow, about the slow cooker aka CrockPot peanut clusters.  Ours is a 5 quart CrockPot and the ingredients filled it just below the brim.  The peanuts and chocolate are layered in the order listed.  The cooker is set on low for 2 hours. This is a “set it and forget it” recipe.  At the end of 2 hours, stir all together and spoon on to parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Once they cool, they set and are ready to devour.

Peanut clusters plated
These peanut clusters really couldn’t be easier.  But the taste won’t give away the ease of the recipe.  The peanut butter chips add a layer of richness that is quite lovely.

Sm Plate peanut clusters
This is homemade, decadent candy at it’s finest!  Fast, easy, and wonderful. Let the Christmas baking begin!

Blessings and Happy Baking!
~Catherine

Slow Cooker Peanut Clusters
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Homemade candy is one of the best gifts to give or receive. Slow cooker peanut clusters are one of the easiest to do!
Author:
Serves: 80 clusters
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 16 ounces salted cocktail peanuts
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips
  • 2 (10-ounce bags) peanut butter chips
  • 32 ounces white almond bark or vanilla candy melts
Instructions
  1. Layer all of the ingredients in order in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.
  2. Remove the lid and stir to combine. If not all of the chocolate is melted, cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes on low.
  3. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, scoop mounds of the clusters onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Allow to sit at room temperature until completely set, 1 to 2 hours. The clusters can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

 

 

 

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract – Perfect For Gift Giving

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