Homemade Vanilla Extract


Make vanilla extract as a Christmas gift for Stephanie’s coworkers.




  • Ingredients
  • Equipment:
    • gallon container
    • 2 oz. glass bottles with caps
    • white vinegar for sanitizing
    • turkey baster



Making the Extract

  1. Fill container with vodka
  2. Slit beans lengthwise with a sharp knife
  3. Place in vodka, close tightly.
  4. Store in cool, dark place for 2 months.

Fill Bottles

  1. Sanitize bottles in 50/50 vinegar-water mix for 10 minutes
  2. Dry
  3. Use turkey baster to fill bottles (weigh on a scale to ensure even distribution)
  4. Cut some vanilla beans in thirds (cross-section) and place in bottles.
  5. Cap.
  6. Label.


Results and observations:

Very fragrant. There seems to be enough flavor left in the beans to be able to repeat the process.



Pasta 3 Ways


To turn a simple pasta dinner into an hours-long ordeal. Sauce from Smitten Kitchen.




  • Double recipe Fresh Pasta for 2 dough.
  • Equipment:
    • Pasta roller
    • Food processor
  • For pasta filling and sauce
    • 100 grams sliced almonds
    • large handful of basil leaves
    • some parsley leaves
    • olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • handful of spinach
    • 2-3 oz Parmesan cheese


Start making the filling and sauce while the pasta dough is resting.

Step 0. Decide that a homemade sauce isn’t gourmet enough and that you’re a fancy pants cook who is going to make tortellini instead.


  1. In a pan/Dutch oven/skillet, toast the almonds in a teaspoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Pulse in a food processor until the almonds are about the size of orzo. (Or however fine you want them.) Leave aside in a bowl.
  3. Add  basil, quarter cup of olive oil, pinch of salt, garlic cloves, into food processor and process until smooth.
  4. Switch out the chopper for the grater in the processor and grate cheese. Fold into sauce with a spatula.
  5. Fold in about 80 grams of the almonds.


  1. Sautee shrimp with 1 clove of garlic and one teaspoon of olive oil.
  2. Add bunch of fresh parsley.
  3. Chop finely (quarter-inch shrimp pieces),  place in bowl
  4. Mix in the rest of the almonds
  5. Salt and Pepper to taste
  6. Add some other seasoning if you want

Pasta Making

  1. Roll the pasta really really thin. I got it to about a #6 on the KitchenAid pasta rolleer
  2. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut the pasta sheet into circles.
  3. Add a half-teaspoon of the filling into the center of the circle. Brush edges with a little water.
  4. Fold it into a semi-circle. Fold corners towards each other. Pinch them together.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for a while.
  6. …..
  7. Get tired. Decide tortellini was a poor life decision and that ravioli would be easier.
  8. To do, start with step 1 (roll the pasta thin).
  9. Cut the sheet into a clean rectangle.
  10. Spoon out a teaspoon of filling with onto one half of the sheet about .75 inches away from each other (and a half inch from the edge).
  11. Dab some water onto one edge of the sheet.
  12. Fold over the pasta sheet. Squeeze out air and press the pasta together around the filling. Slice halfway between the filling mounds.
  13. Run out of filling.
  14. Turn the rest of the dough into tagliatelle.

Cooking the Pasta

  1. Bring salted water to a boil.
  2. Boil pasta for 4 minutes.
  3. Drain pasta, conserve quarter cup of pasta water.
  4. Use about 1 cup of the pasta sauce, add some pasta water to the pot and heat.
  5. Toss with pasta.
  6. Eat.

Results and observations:

Nom. But next time I’ll go straight to the regular pasta and toss in the shrimp.




Our kitchen notebook

Welcome to my first blog post since studying abroad in college! I just finished my PhD in September, and I now have much more time to perform experiments in my second laboratory, our kitchen. I am a biochemist with a background in working with yeast, and I love to bake. My husband, Ryan, also enjoys cooking and baking and, conveniently, photography. During grad school I kept an electronic, but private, laboratory notebook, and I thought it might be fun to have a public lab notebook blog for our kitchen experiments. You can expect roughly weekly monthly posts in a roughly scientific format. I promise to report both successful and failed experiments, and I welcome discussion of the results and conclusions!