Vanilla Bean Syrup

Vanilla Bean Syrup

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A small glass jar of Vanilla Bean Syrup resting in a wooden tray draped with a laced napkin.

Some of the simplest things are the most delicious. The combination of vanilla and sugar is just such an instance. This classic combo comes together as Vanilla Bean Syrup when you combine with water and give it a gentle simmer.

You might be asking what need you might have for this jar or aromatic sweetness? Let me give you plenty of reasons. One of my favourites is to flavour specialty coffee and teas like my Baileys London Fog. There’s no need to spend copious amounts of money at a fancy coffee shop when you can make your favourites at home. My second favourite way to use it is for brushing onto cakes. It adds tremendous moisture and flavour to cake layers or the tops of sweet loaves. But the list is longer yet, drizzle it onto fruit salad, ricotta pancakes, plain yogurt with fruit (that way you control the sugar), smoothies and cocktails. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Syrup resting in a wooden tray lined with a laced napkin and a stainless steel pot sits in the background.

Vanilla Bean Syrup
Print Recipe
    Servings Prep Time
    2/3 cup 10 minutes
    Cook Time
    5 minutes
    Servings Prep Time
    2/3 cup 10 minutes
    Cook Time
    5 minutes
    Vanilla Bean Syrup
    Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      2/3 cup 10 minutes
      Cook Time
      5 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      2/3 cup 10 minutes
      Cook Time
      5 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: cup
      Instructions
      1. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds with a small spoon or knife.
      2. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until mixture comes to a simmer and sugar is fully dissolved, stirring often. Once at a simmer, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla beans.
      3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then refridgerate in a sealed jar for up to 1 month.

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      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous

      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous

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      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous served in a shallow black bowl.

      Spicy Peanut Chicken with Couscous comes together in a snap and is full of flavour with just a touch of spicy heat.  The best part about this dish is the peanut sauce.  It’s so versatile and wonderful with the chicken.  But you don’t have to stop with just using chicken.  Drizzle the peanut sauce over noodles, drizzle on roasted salmon or use as a dip for beef skewers.  My recipe for Peanut Sauce makes about one and a half cups and freezes well, giving you no excuse not to have some on hand. It may need a good stir and a splash of water or coconut milk to set the consistency the way you like it and depending on what you’re using it for.

      It’s best to get your pan good and hot with a drizzle of oil to give the chicken chunks a good sear.  Having golden, carmelized bits adds extra flavour and helps to seal in the moisture of the chicken.  You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast for this recipe.  Both work well, so it comes down to preference. Marinating the chicken in soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic also add extra flavour to this dish.  It’s not completely necessary but something I like to do when I have the time or remember to do it.

      Peanut sauce in a mason jar on a wooden plank garnished with peanuts and mini peppers in preparation for Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous.

      I love instant couscous for its ease of preparation and fun texture.  Instant couscous cooks at a 1:1 ratio and is ready in about 10 minutes from start to finish.  I like to make mine with chicken broth for added flavour but water works fine too.  It’s a great side dish for those nights when you need something quick and it’s delicious served with Spicy Peanut Chicken.  If you’re not into the couscous, by all means, serve the Spicy Peanut Chicken over noodles or rice.  Enjoy!

      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous served in a shallow black bowl.

      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous served in a shallow black bowl.
      Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous
      Print Recipe
        Servings Prep Time
        3-4 people 30 minutes
        Cook Time Passive Time
        15 minutes 0-3 hours
        Servings Prep Time
        3-4 people 30 minutes
        Cook Time Passive Time
        15 minutes 0-3 hours
        Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous served in a shallow black bowl.
        Spicy Peanut Chicken and Couscous
        Print Recipe
          Servings Prep Time
          3-4 people 30 minutes
          Cook Time Passive Time
          15 minutes 0-3 hours
          Servings Prep Time
          3-4 people 30 minutes
          Cook Time Passive Time
          15 minutes 0-3 hours
          Ingredients
          Servings: people
          Instructions
          1. Cut chicken into thin slices and combine with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and 2 tsp oil. Cover and keep chilled for an hour if time permits or up to 3 hours in advance.
          2. Bring chicken broth to a simmer. Stir in couscous and cover with a lid. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
          3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tsp oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add chicken slices and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, tossing occasionally for about 6 minutes.
          4. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 3/4-1 cup of peanut sauce. You want enough to coat the chicken and make it saucy. Allow peanut sauce to warm but don't let it get too hot or it may separate.
          5. Fluff couscous with a fork and divide between serving bowls. Top with chicken, a drizzle of sauce and garnish with green onion, cilantro and chili peppers if desired.
          Recipe Notes

          -You can use my delicious Peanut Sauce or store-bought peanut sauce.

          -Prep time does not include making the peanut sauce.

           

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          Baileys London Fog

          Baileys London Fog

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          Baileys London Fog served in a glass mug resting on a silver tray lined with a blue napkin and garnished with cookies.

          Maybe we’ve been doing it all wrong?  I think it’s safe to say that if you like coffee you’ve probably had it spiked with Baileys Irish Cream.  But it’s generally not something we think to pour into our tea.  So I’ve gone ahead and not only added Baileys Irish Cream, but also Grand Marnier to a London fog latte.  It’s really quite delicious!!

          Ingredients for Baileys London Fog on a silver tray lined with a blue napkin.

          The Baileys Irish Cream smooths out the tannins of the tea and adds an extra layer of creaminess while the Grand Marnier plays off the orange notes already found in the Earl Grey tea.  So go ahead, relax and enjoy your favourite London fog latte at home… but with a punch.  You’ll wonder why you haven’t done it sooner. Enjoy!

          Baileys London Fog
          Print Recipe
            Servings Prep Time
            2 servings 15 minutes
            Servings Prep Time
            2 servings 15 minutes
            Baileys London Fog
            Print Recipe
              Servings Prep Time
              2 servings 15 minutes
              Servings Prep Time
              2 servings 15 minutes
              Ingredients
              Servings: servings
              Instructions
              1. Brew one cup of strong Earl Grey tea by steeping 2 tea bags for 5 minutes.
              2. Heat and froth milk using your preferred method. I used an electric milk frother.
              3. Divide Baileys Irish Cream and Grand Marnier between two tall coffee glasses.
              4. Add 1 tsp of vanilla syrup to each.
              5. Add 1/2 cup of hot tea to each glass and stir.
              6. Top up the glass with an approximate 1/4 cup of hot milk and additional milk froth.
              7. Serve immediately.
              Recipe Notes

              -You can use purchased vanilla syrup.

              -Make your own vanilla syrup by bringing a 1/2 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and add 2 tsp vanilla extract or fresh vanilla beans from 1/2 a vanilla pod.  Allow to cool and then strain if using fresh vanilla beans.

              -If no vanilla syrup is possible, sweeten to taste with sugar and add a splash of vanilla extract.

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              Graveyard Brownie Bites

              Graveyard Brownie Bites

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              These chocolatey Graveyard Brownie Bites are fun Halloween treats. They’re easy to make and great fun for everyone. Get the kids involved dusting the tombstones, crushing cookies and squeezing on the blood for some spooky fun!

              Brownie bites stacked three high on a wooden rack scattered with cookie crumbs in preparation for Graveyard Brownie Bites.

              The two-bite brownie base is key for these tasty treats. They’re soft and chewy but hold up well to be decorated any way you’d like.

              Thin chocolate wafer cookies are very versatile and in this recipe double as the dirt and tombstones. The tombstones are created by cutting the wafer into thirds, tapering the cut inward towards the bottom. The sides that get cut off are crushed and used for decorating as dirt. I was able to find edible candy bones but use what you can find. Spiders and worms would also be great choices. Finish by decorating with red decorator gel to mimic blood Wilton Red Gel from Amazon. The most important thing to remember is to have lots of fun creating a spooky sweet treat.

              Graveyard Brownie Bites resting on crumbled cookie dirt scattered with sculls and bones.

              Graveyard Brownie Bites resting on crumbled cookie dirt scattered with sculls and bones.
              Graveyard Brownie Bites
              Print Recipe
                Servings Prep Time
                36 mini brownies 60-80 minutes
                Cook Time Passive Time
                12 minutes 60 minutes
                Servings Prep Time
                36 mini brownies 60-80 minutes
                Cook Time Passive Time
                12 minutes 60 minutes
                Graveyard Brownie Bites resting on crumbled cookie dirt scattered with sculls and bones.
                Graveyard Brownie Bites
                Print Recipe
                  Servings Prep Time
                  36 mini brownies 60-80 minutes
                  Cook Time Passive Time
                  12 minutes 60 minutes
                  Servings Prep Time
                  36 mini brownies 60-80 minutes
                  Cook Time Passive Time
                  12 minutes 60 minutes
                  Ingredients
                  Servings: mini brownies
                  Instructions
                  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
                  2. Prep 36 non-stick mini muffin tin cups by either spraying generously with non-stick spray or greasing and flouring. See note.
                  3. Chop the semi-sweet chocolate and measure out 4 ounces. In a large bowl combine the 4 ounces of chocolate with the butter and microwave at 30-second intervals until melted, stirring often.
                  4. Whisk in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fully combined.
                  5. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt directly into the bowl. Whisk to combine just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
                  6. Scoop the batter into prepared mini muffin cups using a level 2 tbsp scoop.
                  7. Bake on the centre rack for 12 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely in the pan.
                  8. Meanwhile, prepare the tombstones but slicing each cookie wafer into thirds, tapering the bottom slightly inward toward the center piece to create a tombstone shape. Reserve the side pieces that have been cut off.
                  9. Crush reserved cookie wafers that have been cut off the sides to a fine crumb that resembles dirt and set aside.
                  10. Dust each tombstone piece with a small amount of powdered sugar by rubbing the sugar lightly onto the cookie wafer.
                  11. Melt the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave using 30 second intervals and stirring often until melted.
                  12. Remove brownie bites from the pan and spread the tops with a small teaspoon of melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with crumbled cookie wafers and press lightly to adhere.
                  13. Push a tombstone wafer into each brownie bite, cutting a small slit in the brownie if needed to push in far enough to hold in place.
                  14. Decorate with candy bones, spiders, or worms as desired. Drizzle with red decorating gel to mimic blood. Serve and enjoy!
                  Recipe Notes

                  - I have used both pan preparation methods with similar results.  The key is to allow the brownie bites to cool completely in the pan before trying to remove them.  Loosen the tops from the pan with a sharp knife if necessary. Twist the brownie lightly to loosen and the brownie should pop out.

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                  Corn and Bacon Quiche

                  Corn and Bacon Quiche

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                  A slice of Corn and Bacon Quiche served on a small cream coloured plate with the whole quiche sitting in the background.

                  Let’s celebrate World Egg Day with some delicious food!! Friday, October 11th is World Egg Day so it seems only right to enjoy this amazing Corn and Bacon Quiche.  It has all the goodness of eggs and is stuffed with bacon, corn, peppers and onions.  Oh yes, and lots of cheddar cheese.  It also has a hash-brown crust making it gluten-free as well.  It’s a high quiche with lots of filling that envelops the potato crust making it very hearty and great for brunch, lunch or dinner.

                  Ingredients for Corn and Bacon Quiche arranged on a wooden cutting board on a yellow napkin.

                  So why does the egg get its own day?  It’s simple, eggs are extremely nutritious, high in quality protein, very economical, versatile and delicious of course. So yes, I believe the egg does deserve its own day!

                  An asssembled but unbaked Corn and Bacon quiche on a wooden cutting board resting on a yellow napkin.

                  Corn and Bacon Quiche tips:

                  -Make sure all frozen ingredients like the potatoes and corn are completely thawed and patted dry if necessary.

                  -Use a deep-dish pie plate for this recipe, one that is at least 1 1/2″ – 2” deep and comfortably holds 32 ounces of liquid. There is too much filling for a standard pie plate.

                  -Don’t over bake the quiche. It should jiggle slightly in the center when it is done and it will continue to firm up as it rests.

                  -Be sure to rest the quiche before slicing. This allows the quiche to firm up and will help with slicing and keeping all the ingredients together instead of spilling out when cut.

                  Corn and Bacon Quiche
                  Print Recipe
                    Servings Prep Time
                    6-8 servings 45 minutes
                    Cook Time
                    35-40 minutes
                    Servings Prep Time
                    6-8 servings 45 minutes
                    Cook Time
                    35-40 minutes
                    Corn and Bacon Quiche
                    Print Recipe
                      Servings Prep Time
                      6-8 servings 45 minutes
                      Cook Time
                      35-40 minutes
                      Servings Prep Time
                      6-8 servings 45 minutes
                      Cook Time
                      35-40 minutes
                      Ingredients
                      Servings: servings
                      Instructions
                      1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
                      2. Brush a 9.5" deep dish (1 1/2"-2" high) pie plate with a tbsp of melted butter.
                      3. Pat potatoes dry with a paper towel if needed. Toss potatoes with remaining 2 tbsp of melted butter and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.
                      4. Press potatoes evenly into the pie plate and up the sides to form a crust. Using the back of a flat measuring cup helps to press it down.
                      5. Bake potato crust for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
                      6. Meanwhile, chop bacon into 1/2" pieces and saute in a medium skillet until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate reserving 1 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan.
                      7. To the same skillet add diced onion and red pepper and saute until starting to soften about 3-5 minutes.
                      8. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and sour cream until combined. Whisk in cream, basil, remaining 3/4 tsp salt, white pepper and chili flakes.
                      9. Sprinkle the bacon, onion and red pepper evenly over the cooked potato crust. Top with an even layer of corn and cheese.
                      10. Pour egg mixture evenly over everything. Shake gently to allow ingredients to settle.
                      11. Bake on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes. The center should jiggle just a little while the outer edges are firmer to the touch.
                      12. Allow the quiche to rest for 10 minutes prior to slicing. Slice into 6-8 wedges and serve immediately.
                      Recipe Notes

                      -I used white pepper to avoid having black flecks in the quiche, however black pepper is just as good.

                      -Be sure to use a deep-dish pie plate as the filling will not fit in a standard pie plate. It needs to comfortably hold 32 ounces of liquid.

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                      I may receive compensation for purchases made through this site, at no cost to the purchaser. Compelled to Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com