I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet

Grismelli – Vanilla Scented Cornmeal Cookies


Years ago Earl Darny was the pastry chef at Bay Wolf Restaurant in Oakland, one of my favorites in an area filled with amazing restaurants. Earl gave me this recipe saying, “This is one of my favorite cookies.” He later went on to open his own bakery.

I finally made them for the first time this afternoon; they’re fairly addictive.

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Frozen Custard with Chocolate, Mexican Cinnamon, and Chile


Helado de chocolate mexicano
From Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, by Chef  David Sterling

David says, “When I eat this memorable and rich ice cream, I am always reminded of what the Mayas must have experienced when they were spiritually transported by chocolate. Since there are no recipes for chocolate desserts in regional cookbooks, I based my formula for this ice cream on what we know of the Maya and, later, Aztec recipes for the chocolate beverage

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How to Make Perfect Cheesecakes


 It’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t like cheesecake. There are several camps, however, regarding  which type of cheesecake is best.  Some of us like thick, satiny super creamy cakes; others like  drier, fluffier cakes. A third camp loves the savory version — no sugar but lots of delicious cheese — and yet another faction especially likes flavored cheesecakes — pumpkin, chocolate, blueberry — the list is endless. Finally, there’s a really big camp  filled with those devotees who love any version.  Just bring it on!!

Although cheesecake’s a snap to assemble, things can easily go south during the baking process. Cracked top anyone? Leaks dripped on the oven floor? Lopsided? Oh well…

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Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings


Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven up Greens, Grains, Slaws and Every kind of Salad by Michele Anna Jordan; The Harvard Common Press; 2013-07-19

Although I can’t remember quite how I first  met Michele Anna Jordan, I have been a fan of hers for decades. She stayed overnight at my home years ago when she did a reading at a local bookstore, and I remember being entranced by her knowledge of wine and food. We both also share a love of vanilla though Michele is a savory food and good wine gal (but always wears a vanilla-based perfume), and I’m a “Sure I like savory foods but I also want dessert!” queen.

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Share — The Cookbook that Celebrates our Common Humanity.

16256838As a member of a number of culinary organizations, I’m always excited to see the wonderful array of cookbooks that fellow culinarians publish each year. Getting a coveted review in the New York Times or making the  holiday short lists in the national press can elevate some lucky authors to magnificent sales and notoriety, but there are so many books that don’t make the cut for whatever reason or aren’t glamorous  yet are valuable gems.

One such book that has caught my attention is Share: The Cookbook that Celebrates our Common Humanity. With  a foreword by Meryl Streep, Share  has created some buzz, and there are contributions from well-known people, but it’s not a sexy book with a glitzy cover and over-the-top recipes that will sit on coffee tables and look glamorous, whether or not it’s actually used. Instead, Share highlights how food is our common denominator, a way to nourish us physically, mentally and spiritually. And it speaks of how food can provide employment, economic stability and environmental sustainability in the developing world. Additionally, all of the profits from book sales go to Women for Women International, a non-profit that provides opportunities for women who have survived rape, torture and war.

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I Scream Sandwiches

I Scream Sandwiches by Jennie Schacht (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; May, 2013)

Nothing screams SUMMER! louder to any kid than the ice cream truck bell or a trip to an ice cream shop.  For kids lucky enough to have a mom who makes homemade ice cream, it’s summer heaven, but even a dive into a store freezer for an ice cream sandwich will do in a pinch. You may remember, however, that unless you score an “It’s It,” most ice cream sandwiches have soggy cookies and artificially flavored ice cream.  We tolerated them — and kids still do — because they are cold and sweet.

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Desserts in Jars

By Shaina Olmanson; Harvard Common Press; May, 2012

Looking for a creative, playful cookbook as a gift for a friend? One that doesn’t break the bank but is filled with great ideas? If so, I recommend Desserts in Jars!

When I first learned about this totally fun book, my
assumption was that it would be filled with gift ideas to make and then  give to friends. The gifts would then be baked or prepared by the recipient.. While one chapter in the book is dedicated to just that, the majority of the book
is about creating delicious and fanciful desserts and either serving them in any of a large variety of Mason (or other) jars or baking or freezing the desserts in jars as gifts.

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Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

By Alice Medrich (Artisan Books, 2012)

Dessert: Who doesn’t love it? Even those of us who have sworn off of sugar or beg-off to hold at-bay another pound, secretly have illicit thoughts of a rich, warm morsel from the oven in deep winter, or an icy granita or a cone filled with buttery, creamy ice cream on a blistering day.

Okay, maybe I’m projecting a little too much. Truth is, I love dessert! Years ago I had a conversation with a five-year-old boy, and we admitted to each other that we didn’t have a sweet tooth; we had sweet teeth – a mouth full of them! My grandsons would agree that they too would walk a mile in the snow for something chocolate.

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Things To Do With Vanilla Ice Cream


Courtesy of Alice Medrich, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

This is a selection from Alice’s book that directs readers to different recipes she has in the book. You will need to read the book for the recipes that are highlighted, but this will give you good ideas for adorning vanilla — or other– ice creams. First, how about a recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream?  And if you’re not up for making your own, buy the best quality vanilla ice cream you can afford as many don’t actually contain pure vanilla extract!

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125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes

Working, as I do, in a health-oriented organic market, I encounter people with food allergies and gluten sensitivities on a daily basis. Further, I’m allergic to wheat and the majority of my family is gluten-sensitive. As a result, I’m very aware of the challenges faced by all of us who want to eat with friends and go to restaurants in a culture where wheat or gluten is in most processed foods and ubiquitous on menus.

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Choclatique: 150 Simply Elegant Desserts

How would you like to have traveled to 130 countries in search of the best chocolate? From the Amazon rain forest to Bali, The Philippines to Thailand?  Sounds deliciously exotic and exciting, doesn’t it?

Ed Engoron, co-founder of Choclatique and an award winning chef who studied at the Cordon Bleu, has done that and much, much more in his lifetime.  Now he has taken his years of experience, knowledge and adventures and parlayed them into his new book, Choclatique: 150 Simply Elegant Desserts (Perseus Books, 2011). Written with Mary Goodbody, Ed has used a unique technique, something I’ve never encountered before.  Each recipe is based on one of five chocolate ganaches. 

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Food Jobs

Nearly all of us dream about what it would be like to change careers. This can be both exhilarating to imagine ourselves following our passions or dreams and also more than a little daunting.  What exactly will it take to reinvent myself?  Is there a market for it?  How do I start? Sound familiar?

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