Thursday, July 20, 2017

Christmas in July: Chalkboard Paint Projects

I've found all kinds of uses for chalkboard paint lately! Here is an idea for chalkboard labels that would make a great gift or just help you organize your own kitchen. They're quick and easy, so if you're running out of summer (like me), this is a great way to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time!

A favorite gift that I am going to be giving away this Christmas season is homemade extract. This summer I discovered how easy it is to make your own extract, and it tastes amazing in things like ice cream and yogurt. This really is a unique, thoughtful, and practical gift because it's hard to find real vanilla. Whether buying a bottle of imitation vanilla extract at the store or buying vanilla ice cream, vanilla is not really what you're getting. And don't worry! It's safe to give to a family with young kids. Check out this article from Leaf: Is Alcohol in Vanilla Extract Harmful to Give to a Toddler?

To make vanilla extract, you just need 2 ingredients (vodka and vanilla beans) and a little time. I found this recipe from Natasha's Kitchen, and it includes a cute printable (pictured on the right). There is a place on the label to write the date that it will be ready to use, but after I used the first bottle, I refilled it, and I couldn't change the date, so I decided it might make sense to turn it into a chalkboard label instead.

All you need is chalkboard spray paint, a little glass bottle, and some paper with a hole cut in it. I used a circle punch, but a cricut machine or just tracing and cutting out a circle would work too.

Just tape it on and spray paint the circle. I hand wrote the label when I was done, but I'm looking forward to trying this trick for writing nicely on a chalkboard from The Wedding of my Dreams.

The vanilla recipe worked great, and I quickly made as many bottles as I could. I kept 2 for myself– one to use and one to steep. I leave the vanilla beans in the jar, and when it's empty, I just fill it up again and give it a shake once a week until it is ready to use. It takes 2 - 4 months before the vanilla is ready, so now is a good time to start, especially if you are giving it as a Christmas gift.

My FAVORITE thing to make with my homemade vanilla (which tastes SO much better than the imitation vanilla you buy at the store) is ice cream! I don't have an ice cream maker, and I am nothing fancy in the kitchen, but this ice cream is the best thing I've ever made from scratch! It's 3 ingredients and super easy to make. I first learned how to do this from Zoom Yummy's recipe: Easy Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream without a Machine. I will never buy ice cream from the store again! This ice cream looks and tastes like real ice cream (or even better!) and it doesn't have any preservatives in it. It does still have a lot of calories though. I guess you can't have everything!

After I fell in love with this ice cream, I started playing around with different flavors. Cookies and Cream ice cream is delicious and still very easy to make. I just had to add one more ingredient–Oreos. You can check out Zoom Yummy's recipe for step by step directions on how to make the original ice cream. Her recipe uses 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, but I wanted to use the whole can because I didn't know what to do with what I had left over, so I adjusted the amounts. Beware it makes A LOT of ice cream if you use the whole can. I had to put it in 2 separate containers. I also made mine a little less sweet in order to use the whole can, but since I added cookies, it was still very sweet and delicious! 

Here is how I made the Cookies and Cream variation:

2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
1 14oz can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
3 teaspoons homemade vanilla extract
Oreo cookies (crushed up)

I used an immersion hand blender to mix the heavy whipping cream until it formed stiff peaks, just like you would when making whip cream. You can use a mixer to do this, but I love this immersion hand blender. It works so fast; it's like magic! 

Next fold in the vanilla and sweetened condensed milk with a spatula. (You don't want to use your mixer or immersion hand blender anymore or your heavy whipping cream will turn into butter!) I specifically put Eagle Brand in the directions because I used generic once, and it was not great. The color and consistency changed the way the ice cream looked. It tasted okay, but it was definitely not as good. The ice cream was clumpy and more of a caramel color, so I suggest sticking to Eagle Brand. I might also try making my own sweetened condensed milk next time with The Gracious Housewife's Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe

Then put 8 - 10 Oreo cookies (or amount to your taste) in a ziplock bag and crush them. You can use a rolling pin or just a mason jar to crush them like I did. Then fold the Oreos into the ice cream and freeze! Yum! 

The basic idea for making any kind of extract is the same, so I'm making a few more kinds of extract. I am growing chocolate mint and sweet mint herbs (which I got in the herb garden at Home Depot at the beginning of summer), and I'm turning them into extract too. Just cut up leaves to fill the jar about 1/4 of the way full and fill the jar up with vodka (I use Skyy Vodka). Be sure to cut up the leaves to release the juice. Then shake about once a week and in a 2 - 4 months, you will have mint extract. That's it! 

Mason jars are always a practical and cute way to give a gift or just store things in your pantry. I usually use a wet-erase marker to write what is in the jar or the date, but it always seems to wipe off. Then I decided to try making the tops into chalkboards. It seems to stay on so much better, and it looks cute! I saw mason jar chalkboard lids for sale on Amazon for a little over a dollar each, but I can make them MUCH cheaper myself. It's very easy too! 

I just laid the tops on a tarp and sprayed them with chalkboard spray paint. That's it! You can reuse old lids to give them new life too. I ran the spray-painted lids through the dishwasher before I used them, and they still look great. 

Now I'm going to put these 2 easy projects together to make a cute neighbor or co-worker gift. I used the chocolate mint extract to make another homemade ice cream variation: No Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Like Mother Like Daughter. SO good! I think the green ice cream looks very Christmasy, so a pint of homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with a chalkboard lid (the recipe made about 2 pints), a bottle of Chocolate Mint Extract, and the recipe for the ice cream will make a great homemade gift! Since the gift-giving season is still 5 months away, I'll have to eat this pint of ice cream myself! 

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