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

Chocolate Mousse Cake

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The uniqueness of this cake is that it is both cake and mousse in one.  Dense and killer-rich, it delivers an intense chocolate flavor that isn’t diluted with flour.  I often cover this cake with a simple chocolate glaze made from the same chocolate as the cake and enough butter to give it some gloss.  A slender piece served with a raspberry liqueur or espresso provides an elegant end to a memorable meal.

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Fava and White Bean Salad With Mint, Vanilla and Pistachios

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Every spring I look forward to at least one dish that includes fava beans. Like artichokes and asparagus, favas burst delicious green energy flavor. Truthfully, I never tasted favas until well into adulthood as my mother, who spent summers on her grandparents’ farm in Canada, always said that fava beans were animal feed. To that I say, “It’s good to be a cow.”

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Salmon with Curried Rum and Vanilla Sauce

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Commercial salmon season just opened on the California Coast. Sport fishing for salmon has been open for several weeks now and a friend of mine who crews on a few sailboats out of Moss Landing has shared both the prized Dungeness crabs and fresh salmon fillets from her friends at the harbor. In exchange, I’ve sent fresh pineapple upside-down cake back to her friends as a small thank you. What I’ve found is that those who fish love freshly baked desserts. Works well for all of us!

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A Sugar That’s Actually Good For You!

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Given all the bad press on the evils of sugar, we know we need to be judicious about our intake, but it’s oh-so-difficult!  We’re hard-wired to love it; sweet is the first taste sensation a newborn baby experiences, and for many of us, sweets are downright addictive. Given that we’re constantly reminded to limit our sugar consumption to prevent obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and tooth decay, you can imagine my surprise when my favorite sugar — maple syrup — was recently declared a super food!

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Butterscotch Cake

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This decadent rich cake can be served throughout the year but is perfect for welcoming Spring. You can enjoy it with or without the frosting or chocolate honeycomb, or you can serve it plain with a dusting of powdered sugar. As strawberries become available, enjoy it with a big of caramel topping or whipped cream and sliced berries. Any way you serve it, it will be enjoyed!

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Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb Crisps

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While these deliciously crunchy candies do not actually contain honey, the bubbles that give them their light air airy texture and their deep golden color, conjure up images of  bees and nature’s sweet treat. Perfect for topping cakes and desserts or just served on their own, we think you’ll be pleased with their surprising texture and rich flavor.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Peppermint Crisps

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This time of year it’s impossible to miss all the cute Girl Scouts selling their cookies on every corner, and no cookie sells better than the traditional Thin Mints. While the Girl Scouts are starting to offer gluten free options, not all of the girls carry them and they’re not yet available in every variety of cookie. We think these Gluten Free Chocolate Peppermint Crisps, are a good runner up to this American classic, and when you make them at home you can enjoy them year ’round!

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What’s New at the 2016 Fancy Food Show

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Visiting the San Francisco Specialty Food Show is always a January highlight for West Coast food professionals. It’s like a giant no-host cocktail party but with samples of 80,000 foods and beverages but no cocktails. Although I don’t remember when I first attended a show, it was sometime in the late 1980s. At that time, the event was housed in the main hall at Moscone Center, and it was possible to walk the entire show, visit with vendors and eat yourself silly in one day. Walking even one full row meant required a certain amount of discipline, however.  Chocolates, olive oil, lots of cheeses, more chocolates, olives, sausages, hard candies, scones and soda might all be in the same row. It took me several shows to remember that I didn’t have to taste everything, no matter how enticing, especially in random order. Fortunately, there were pitchers filled with water strategically placed to clear jaded palates.

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Let Them Eat Cake Pudding!

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It’s the end of the holiday season.  You’re cleaning out the refrigerator and discover a big chunk of stale pound cake wrapped in foil. Or, there’s the nut cake you were gifted; you’ve meant to serve it before now but it’s gotten too dry. No need to waste what you’ve already got as stale cake just begs for new life!

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Chocolate Cream Scones

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Who wouldn’t want a plate of scones fresh from the oven? Especially cream scones! Delicate, tender, with flecks of melted chocolate, these scones were originally the brain-child of the chocolate diva, Alice Medrich. My friend and co-instructor of classes on vanilla at our local community college, Anne Baldzikowsky, tweaked the recipe slightly by dusting Rain’s Choice Vanilla Sugar over the tops of the dough, making them sparkly and slightly crunchy.

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Vanilla Cream Frosting

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Have you noticed how many baked goods will lead with “Vanilla” but the cake, cookie, etc. tastes completely bland and doesn’t have the signature flavor of pure vanilla? If so, you will really enjoy this recipe. Not only does vanilla flavor come through loud and clear, the Mascarpone frosting is so good you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful right from the bowl! A perfect recipe to give as a thank you gift, but make sure you make extra for yourself!

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Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream

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Adding a little creme fraiche when you are whipping cream will help to stabilize it. No deflating, leaking or other problems, and no need to add cornstarch or gelatin to keep the whipped cream looking good on top of the pie or cake. Creme Fraiche is a lightly cultured cream so it has a pleasant tartness to it — not too pronounced but just enough to give the whipped cream a slight edge.

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Pomegranate Molasses & Vanilla Chicken

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I’m  currently enamored with the combination of pomegranate molasses, Mediterranean spices and ground vanilla beans. Sweet, tart, salty, savory. With a fast turn of the wrist you can make a “same old” weeknight meal into an “oh yeah!” dinner. This recipe is liberally adapted from Sunset Magazine. They also used carrots but I think Maui or cippolini onion chunks, or sweet potatoes would be dynamite thrown into the pot with or without the carrots. I had asparagus roasting on the rack above the chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how well it blended, but I wish I’d also had some potatoes roasting too. In other words, adapt, adapt, adapt. I’m thinking pork chops or even pork tenderloin would soak in all this juicy goodness. What about you?

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Grilled Snapper with Tropical Fruit Salsa

 

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One of the pluses about living on the Central California coast is the fresh fish! I live down the street from a couple of fishermen and occasionally I go out on the Bay with them, though I admit, it’s more for the boat ride and being on the water than it is for the fishing. What I’ve learned as they’ve reeled the fish in, is that the markets use names like “snapper” and “cod” when the fish is actually one of the many varieties of rock fish. I mention this because it really doesn’t matter what firm-fleshed white fish you use to make this and many other fish dishes. It’s more about choosing fresh fish that ideally is also sustainable. If you are concerned about what fish to choose regarding sustainability, check fishwatch.gov.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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