Tag Archives: mint

How to Make Homemade Extracts – Vanilla, Mint & Lemon

How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Learning how to make homemade extracts for cooking is really quite simple, and I’m going to let you in on how easy it is! Yes, most extracts contain alcohol and though I’ve seen alcohol-free versions, I haven’t been stoked about using glycerine as the solvent. Considering I use these extracts in small quantities, I don’t have a personal objection to the alcohol content but as always, your Paleo is up to you alone to dictate. In this post, I’ll show you how to make vanilla, mint and lemon extracts using the same basic method.

How To Make Homemade Extracts?

You’ll need some sort of alcohol to help extract the organic (carbon-based) compounds that actually make the scents and flavors from the chosen plant material—in this case, vanilla beans, lemon rinds and mint leaves. Did you know that when you smell something, what you’re really sensing are tiny organic molecules that diffuse through the air, attach themselves to the olfactory receptors of the nose and send nerve impulses to your brain? Through experience and learning, you’ve come to associate these molecules with the foods that emit these “smells.” For example, vanillin is one of the predominant carbon-based compounds that makes the scent you know as vanilla. And while it can be synthesized by a series of chemical reactions in a lab, I think you’ll agree that getting it from a natural source is always better.

Small organic compounds like vanillin are chemically compatible with alcohol, meaning they’re soluble in it. When you make a homemade extract, you’re taking advantage of that fact. SCIENCE! For best results, remember to steep your extracts for at least 4 weeks before you use them and keep the plant material completely submerged so nothing molds.

How to Use Homemade Extracts?

I chose vodka for this recipe but you can use something like bourbon for the vanilla, which tends to pair really well. Use these extracts in any application you’d use store-bought extracts. How about using a dash of vanilla in my Apple Coconut Pudding or the mint in my Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups?

My favorite reason for making homemade extracts is that I know exactly what’s in them. So many of the store-bought extracts contain added sugar or other funky chemical ingredients. These also make fantastic gifts!

How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Ingredients for Homemade Mint Extract:

  • 1 cup good-quality vodka
  • ~1 cup organic mint leaves, packed
  • 8 ounce (240 mL) glass jar

How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Directions for Homemade Mint Extract:

  1. Pick the mint leaves from the tough stems and wash them. You want about 1 cup, packed.
  2. Add the leaves to the jar.
  3. Fill the jar with 1 cup of vodka and cap tightly. Make sure the leaves are submerged completely.
  4. Let the extract steep for at least 4 weeks for best results. At that point, I recommend straining the leaves out and discarding them.

Ingredients for Homemade Vanilla Extract:

How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Directions for Homemade Vanilla Extract:

  1. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla beans down the middle, lengthwise.
  2. Add the beans to the jar.
  3. Fill the jar with 1 cup of vodka and cap tightly.
  4. Let the extract steep for at least 4 weeks for best results.
  5. Hint: If the level of the vodka drops gradually as you use it, add more for a continuous supply of extract.

Ingredients for Homemade Lemon Extract:

  • 1 cup good-quality vodka
  • 2–3 lemons
  • 8 ounce (240 mL) glass jar

How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Directions for Homemade Lemon Extract:

  1. Wash the lemons and use a sharp knife to remove the outermost yellow skin. It’s okay if some of the white pith remains.
  2. Add the lemon skin to the jar. Use the flesh for something else or discard.
  3. Fill the jar with 1 cup of vodka and cap tightly. Make sure the skin is submerged completely.
  4. Let the extract steep for at least 4 weeks for best results. At that point, I recommend straining the skin out and discarding it.

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How to Make Homemade Extracts — Vanilla, Mint & Lemon | stupideasypaleo.com

Have you ever made homemade extract? Which one is your favorite?

Mint Holiday Recipes: 15 Minty Treats and DIY Gifts

Mint Holiday Recipes: 15 Minty Treats and DIY Gifts

Mint holiday recipes and DIY gifts are awesome: tingly, cooling mint makes its way into so many things at this time of year. What better to do than round up over 15 tantalizing minty creations from some of the best Paleo & real food bloggers into one ultimate post? It’s Mint Mania, folks! 

Guess what’s even better? I’ve collected both food AND body / skincare ideas…many of them would make FANTASTIC DIY gift ideas for the upcoming holidays (for more holiday gift ideas, check out my post here). 

Many of these mint holiday recipes call for peppermint essential oil (yes, it’s safe to eat) in very small amounts. Pay attention when adding because it’s powerful stuff. Not sure where to get high quality peppermint essential oil? Click here.

Mint Holiday Body Care and Skin Care Ideas

Mint Chocolate Whipped Body Butter from Living the Nourished Life

Peppermint Whipped Body Butter from Thank Your Body

Cooling Peppermint Toner from Homemade Mommy

All Natural Homemade Toothpaste from Thank Your Body

Chocolate Mint DIY Lip Balm from Homemade Mommy

Chocolate Mint Love Butter from The Paleo Mama

Whipped Peppermint Tallow Body Butter from Homemade Mommy

Mint Holiday Treat Ideas

with mint

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups from Stupid Easy Paleo

DIY Mint Extract from The Prairie Homestead 

Creamy Chocolate Mint & Chia Seed Portable Instant Smoothie Mix from Green Thickies 

Pineapple Mint Sorbet from Healy Real Food Vegetarian

Mint Chocolate Chip Green Smoothie from Green Thickies

Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Peppermint Hot Cocoa by Primally Inspired

Shamrock Shake from Primally Inspired

Mint Cheesecake Brownies from Living Low Carb, One Day at a Time

Peppermint Chocolate Truffles from Homemade Mommy

Peppermint Brownie Roll from Primally Inspired

Which mint holiday treat is most appealing to you? Do you have a favorite that’s not on the list?

Mint Holiday Recipes: 15 Minty Treats and DIY Gifts

 

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter CupsDark chocolate mint coconut butter cups are so tempting that I only make them once a year at the holidays as sweet little homemade gifts for family & friends. They’re pretty easy to make and you can put together a large batch relatively quickly. Trust me, they’re always a huge hit!

Not a fan of mint? You can leave out the peppermint extract and just use vanilla extract. They’re still good, but if you’re a fan of peppermint patties, you should give it a try. You can also buy pre-made coconut butter if you’re short on time.

Ingredients for the Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups: 

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups

Directions for the Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups: 

  1. In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the coconut, vanilla and sea salt.
  2. Allow to process for several minutes – scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple times – until the coconut starts to become smooth. You may need to add melted coconut oil (1+ Tablespoon) to adjust the texture and make it stickier.
  3. Optional: add the peppermint essential oil and combine well.
  4. Remove to a separate container. You may have extra coconut butter left over. Trust me, you’ll find some way to eat it…it’s really good.
  5. Break chocolate into chunks and put in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high, stirring frequently, until melted. The time completely depends on how dark the chocolate is, percent-wise and how powerful your microwave is. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You could also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate on the stovetop (my preferred method).

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups

Assembling the Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups: 

  • Cupcake wrappers (large or small, your choice)
  • Mint coconut butter filling from above
  1. Place a spoonful of melted chocolate into the wrapper, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon to create sides and a bottom. Refrigerate until hardened.
  2. Then, scoop a small amount of the filling into the cup and flatten until it covers the bottom. Hint: one batch of the coconut butter filling should make ~6 large cups or 10-12 small ones.
  3. Place another spoonful of melted chocolate on top and smooth out. Refrigerate to harden.
  4. Store in the refrigerator for best results. May also be kept frozen!

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups

Change it Up:

Dark chocolate mint…are you a fan? Let me know in the comments below!

Dark Chocolate Mint Coconut Butter Cups

Cool Paleo Melon Mint Smoothie

DSC_0724 I’ll admit to not being a huge melon fan, but a few weeks back, while strolling around the local farmer’s market, I sampled a smoothie like this one and knew I had to recreate it. The mint gives it a freshness and earthiness that perfectly compliments the melon, and the coconut milk brings a bit of creaminess.

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.
  2. Serve with a garnish of fresh mint if you want to be a little fancy.

Easy Breakfast Salad

DSC_0776 I’ve taken a liking to making what I call breakfast salad. It’s usually a mash up of different mildly flavored veggies or leftover fruit that’s in my fridge, and the exact ingredients are always different. Sneaking in more veggies is something I’m always trying to do, and this cold salad served in the morning is a good way to do that. You could easily prep this the night before to save time in the a.m. Easily doubles for two servings.

Prep time: 10 min     Cook time:  0 min     Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 an orange, segmented or cut into supremes
  • 1/2 a black plum, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of jicama, cubed
  • 1/2 an avocado, chopped
  • 1Tablespoon of chopped mint or parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DSC_0765 Directions:

  1. Combine all the veggies, fruit and herbs in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Squeeze the lemon juice on top.
  3. Gently stir to combine all the flavors. If you’re preparing other breakfast items like eggs, make the salad first so it has time to sit and let the flavors marry a bit.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fourth of July Salsa

DSC_0792 Happy Independence Day! Summer is in full swing, and you’re sure to find an abundance of red, white and blue-themed recipes to put on your table. This fruit-based salsa is festive and easy to throw together for a holiday BBQ or party. Even though fruit is the star, it’s balanced out by a bit of heat from the jalapeño, acidity from the tomato and lime, and freshness from the mint. This would also be fantastic with some cubed avocado, served over grilled chicken or salmon. Eat up!

Prep time: 10-15 min     Cook time:  0 min     Makes: ~3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, sliced in half
  • 1 ripe white peach, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 a tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 a jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (or leave seeds in for more heat)
  • 1 Tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop all the fruit. Mince the jalapeño pepper. Stack the mint leaves on top of each other and roll lengthwise. Slice thinly.
  2. Combined all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. For best results, let the ingredients hang out and get friendly for at least an hour before serving.

 

Paleo Fresh Spring Rolls

DSC_0830 The other day, I wanted fresh spring rolls. Badly. I also happened to be staring at the collard greens in the grocery store and this idea was born. I know you love quick and easy recipes, but I’ll be honest: this one is a bit more labor intensive because there is more cutting / chopping than usual and it depends which sauce(s) you make on the side. I could see these being an awesome weekend treat or something neat to bring to a summer party. All the components can also be prepped ahead of time and refrigerated for a day or two before use.

The really cool part is that the kelp noodles look just like the vermicelli that comes in fresh spring rolls, but if you can’t find them, you could surely leave them out. I served my rolls with Umami Mayo but I think they’d be killer with Melissa Joulwan’s Sunshine Sauce, my Paleo Sweet and Sour Sauce or my Paleo Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce on the side for dipping. Dipping rules.

Prep time: 45 min     Cook time:  10 min    Makes: 6 full rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of collard greens (you need one whole leaf per roll)
  • 6-7 medium-sized raw shrimp (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, dark green tops removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, basil or cilantro leaves
  • 1 package kelp noodles (you’ll use about half), optional
  • 1/4 cup of Umami Mayo for dipping, optional

Directions:

  1. You’ll need to blanch the collard leaves so they become more pliable and lose some of their bitter flavor (this can be done ahead of time). Set up a large bowl with ice water. Bring a very large pot of water to boiling. Dip the WHOLE collard leaves in the boiling water for 1 minute. Immediately place them in the ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside. DSC_0810
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp, if needed. Into a small skillet over medium heat, place the raw shrimp and 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cover and steam until the shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Slice in half from head to tail.
  3. Rinse and drain the kelp noodles. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the carrot, cucumber and green onion. How thinly you slice them depends on how much chewing you want to be involved. DSC_0808
  5. Now that the collard leaves are cool, remove the tough stem with a sharp knife by cutting upward toward the top of the leaf in an upside-down V shape. The leaves will roll better. DSC_0821
  6. Now assemble a wrap: Lay the collard leaf on a flat surface. Place two halves of shrimp at the top of the leaf. DSC_0813 Next, put a small amount of kelp noodles (a little less than a 1/4 cup worked for me). DSC_0814 On top of that put a few mint leaves, and two or three slices EACH of carrot, cucumber and green onion. DSC_0815 DSC_0816
  7. Now you’re ready to wrap, burrito-style. Gently but with a bit of pressure, roll from the shrimp end toward the stem end. DSC_0817 DSC_0818 Once you’ve rolled over once, fold in the sides and then finish rolling all way down. DSC_0819
  8. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  9. Slice each wrap in half and serve cold with your choice of dipping sauces, if desired. DSC_0832

 

 

Paleo Cucumber Mint Raita

DSC_0478Dipping food in a sauce makes it way more fun to eat, am I right?! Recently, I made some lamb / beef skewers and thought they’d pair really well with a raita. Traditionally, raita is a meal accompaniment in Indian cuisine and is made of yogurt, vegetables like cucumber and spices. It’s meant to cool the palate, especially during a spicy meal.

I knew yogurt wasn’t going to work for this Paleo version, so I settled on coconut cream and the result was pretty awesome. It’s got a hint of sweetness which is balanced out by the lime and the cucumber and mint are refreshing. Raita is best served chilled and eaten while fresh, but you can store it covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Definitely plan ahead so you can chill the can of coconut in the fridge for a day before making the recipe!

Prep time: 10 min     Cook time: 0 min    Makes: 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 large English cucumber, finely chopped ( about 1.5 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for 24 hours so the cream will solidify.
  2. Carefully open the can and scoop out the solidified coconut cream into a medium-sized bowl. Save the water to adjust the consistency of the raita.
  3. Peel the cucumber and cut it lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Chop it finely. Also chop the mint. Add the cucumber and mint to the coconut cream.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. If needed, add a bit of the coconut water to thin the consistency of the raita. It should be relatively thick like a dip, not watery like soup.
  5. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill and then serve.

Lemony Herb Sauce

Lemony Herb Sauce  Stupid Easy Paleo This sauce got invented to accompany some awesome beef & lamb kofta (meat on a stick) that I made recently. All I can tell you is to hold onto your hat because it packs a wallop of flavor…the brightness of the lemon, the freshness of the herbs and a bit of texture from the pistachios are perfect. I’m typing this and my mouth is literally watering just thinking about it.

It’s versatile enough to drizzle over really any kind of meat or fish and even fresh veggies. YUM!

Prep time: 5-10 min     Cook time: 0 min    Makes: ~3/4 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Chop the parsley, mint and pistachios. Combine in a small bowl with the sea salt.
  2. Squeeze the juice from one lemon (~1/4 cup) into the bowl, being careful to catch the seeds. I squeeze the lemon into my cupped hand, letting the juice strain through my fingers.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk at the same time.
  4. Serve with meat or veggies of your choice. Will keep refrigerated for 1-2 days but is best used fresh because of the herbs.

Lamb Kofta (Meat on a Stick)

DSC_0490Recently, I ate dinner at a restaurant that served Azerbaijani ground lamb on a skewer, and the taste exploded on my tongue. If you need a geography refresher, Azerbaijan is just to the east of Armenia (which is just to the east of Turkey). The meat was perfectly flavored and tender and let’s be honest…any kind of food on a stick is just more fun than the rest. I found myself on a mission to make something similar and ended up with a mashup of kofta – basically seasoned ground meat usually shaped into meatballs – and kebab.

I polled my Facebook readers (if you haven’t, go like my page now because I post up content that doesn’t make it onto my website…unashamed self-promotion!) to see if they’d prefer  lamb or beef in a recipe (this one) – and a majority said beef. Kofta can come in many variations with different ground meats, so I decided to make mine with a mixture of lamb and beef. To be honest, ground lamb straight up is too strong for my tastebuds! If you wanted, you could do all beef, all lamb or something else.

If you don’t have skewers, you could make these into meatballs or even burger patties. Let your creativity and your tastebuds be your guide…no need to be fussy! I served mine with two dipping sauces – a Paleo version of an Indian raita and a lemony herb sauce. Both were super damn tasty but are in no way mandatory.

Prep time: 20 min     Cook time: 15-20 min    Makes: ~12

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb ground lamb (I used half lamb / half beef)
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (or 1 tsp ground coriander)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Directions:

  1. Soak 24 bamboo skewers in water for at least 6 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  3. Combine the ground beef with the onion, garlic, salt, herbs and spices in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands to distribute the ingredients.
  4. Shape the meat into sausage-sized cylinders around two skewers (about 1/3 cup meat per skewer). Place in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the meat is cooked through but not overdone. You could also grill the skewers.
  6. Serve with lemon herb sauce or Paleo cucumber mint raita for dipping.

Watermelon Mojito Salad

IMG_4131It’s rare that I drink these days…it’s pretty counterproductive to my training and makes me sleep like crap. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it sometimes – and occasionally it’s a bit longingly. The other day, I thought of one of my BFF Greg and our Thelma and Louise inspired road trip last summer (well, there wasn’t any Brad Pitt and clearly we didn’t die) but we sipped on lots of wine and sunbathed our way across Palm Springs, LA and Santa Barbara. It was pretty awesome. In any case, whenever I think of Greg, I also think of booze for some reason. Hi Greg! Love you! To make a long story short, I decided to make a mojito-esque – but clearly non-alcoholic – dish that would capture the flavors of this iconic Cuban drink. Plus watermelon. I love watermelon.

Prep time: 15 min     Cook time: 0 min    Makes: 5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1.5 cups seedless cucumber, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, sliced thin (“chiffonade” if we’re being fancy about it)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • Zest from two limes
  • 1 Tbsp Kasandrinos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the rind off the watermelon and cut into medium-sized cubes (about 1/2-inch).
  2. Peel the cucumber – if you prefer – and cut into similar sized cubes.
  3. Slice the mint leaves thinly. To chiffonade, stack the leaves on top of each other. Roll them up lengthwise into a bundle, then thinly slice.
  4. Combine these ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. In a smaller bowl or a small jar, combine the lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir (or shake) well to combine. Pour over the watermelon and cucumber and stir well.
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