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

Brunch

Fresh Berry Vanilla Shrub

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Have you noticed how food trends and recipes are recycled — what’s long forgotten is once again the next best thing? Except it often reappears transformed. As an urban culture obsessed with food, we have access to endless ideas and techniques to tease out the best.

I especially noticed this about the trending popularity of shrubs. Shrubs are an old beverage. Old as in 1500’s Renaissance era old, maybe even older. The word comes from the Arabic shurb, drink and/or the Hindi Sharbat, a brightly flavored syrup made from fruits or flowers and herbs, blended into cold water and enjoyed as a refreshing beverage.

When I was growing up my mother talked about drinking raspberry shrub at her grandparents’ farm in Ontario, Canada. While I adored anything raspberry, I couldn’t get past the vinegar, a key ingredient in shrubs. She said it was such a refreshing drink on a hot day. I wondered how anything containing vinegar could possibly be refreshing. Drinking something as sharp as vinegar on a hot day — really??

Fast forward to the current cocktail trend. For the last several years I’ve watched bitters, tonics and shrubs evolve to near rock star status in blogs, natural food stores, tony bars and  upscale restaurants. I flirted with making it, but held off until a recent blog on Food 52 brought me to the cliff’s edge.

I jumped…and I’m sooooo happy I did.

The Queen’s Best Stuffed Russian Eggs

Are you crazy for stuffed eggs too? Really, I can’t imagine spring and summer picnics – inside or out – without these silky smooth, delicious gems.

What’s interesting is there are so many variations, both regional and individual. Years ago I had a boyfriend who always referred to them as Russian eggs. I actually prefer that name over “deviled” or “stuffed” but I was curious if Russian eggs contained specific or unique ingredients.

Artichoke Saute with Honey Mustard Sauce

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 If you are fortunate enough to live where you can get the small artichokes, here’s a delicious recipe for you. And if you can’t get baby artichokes, check your market for frozen artichoke hearts. You can substitute two packages of frozen artichokes for the fresh ones. They won’t be quite the same, but they’ll most certainly be tasty.

Peperonata on Soft Polenta

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 With so many of us dealing with food allergies such as wheat, gluten or dairy, as well as wanting fresh entree ideas that can be made ahead of time for weeknight dinners, I’ve been rewriting some of our recipe base to brighten up our meals and make them both healthy and weeknight friendly.

Jam Cakes

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Jam cakes are a quick-to-make dessert with ingredients usually found in refrigerators and pantries. The recipe makes six or more cupcake size “cakelets,” depending on the size of your tins.  You can use whatever type of jam you’d like. In the photo above I’ve used raspberry jam. In the photo below I used lemon curd. The cakelets were very lemony and delicious. I’ve also sometimes skipped the glaze and used powdered sugar instead. Perfect for an afternoon treat or packed for lunch at school or work.

Chestnut Jam Tart

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Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Chestnut Jam Tart
Makes 10 servings

Alice says, “A jam tart seems like a relaxed, simpler-to-make linzer torte, with an Italian accent instead of a German one. A jam tart is called fregolata in Italian, and it’s pretty and festive and giftable, too. I thought it fitting (and extra delicious) to swap the usual shortbread crust for a chestnut crust. The dough is quick to make by hand and is then pressed flat into a tart pan with no worries about the sides since the dough forms its own edge as it bakes. Any jam will do for the topping, but the prettiest and most flavorful are red fruits like cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry, or even strawberry. The jam is topped with crumbled bits of dough and sliced almonds and pushed into the oven to do its own thing.”

Sikarni

 

This recipe comes via Janet Sawyer, who got the recipe from Lalu Mahato, head chef at Nepal’s Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, which was opened by Edmund Hilary.  A long journey, but a lovely way to enjoy yogurt as a breakfast or dessert. If you’re serving it as a dessert, it would match well with our Cardamom, Pistachio and Vanilla Shortbread.

Conchas – Sweet Mexican Breakfast Bread

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Sweet Breakfast Breads with Flavored Shell-Shaped Toppings
From Yucatan: A Culinary Expedition by David Sterling
David says, “The Conchas I enjoyed on my first trip to Mexico many years ago still stand out as the benchmarks: gently sweet, yeasty dough–almost creamy–topped with crumbly, sugary caps in different flavors. None that I have tried since come close to that original ecstasy–except for homemade ones. “Conchas” means “shells” and refers to the characteristic pattern traced in the flavored toppings.”

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

If you are unfamiliar with lassis, they are a traditional Indian yogurt-based beverage designed to refresh and to cool you down. They can be served any time of day or in the evening.  This is a sweet lassi which also contains rose water an ingredient used in beverages and desserts in India. If you don’t have rose water, don’t worry; it’s not essential.

Two Light As a Cloud Pancake Recipes

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 I’ve combined these two pancake recipes together as they’re both unusually light pancakes as well as high protein. I couldn’t decide which one I like better so you get two to choose from! I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do. Be sure to check out the recipe for Maple-Vanilla Walnut Syrup below the second pancake recipe.

Buckwheat Pancakes with fresh Pecans and Blackberry Syrup

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Away from the Kitchen by Dawn Blume Hawkes
 Recipe by Chef Robert del Grande

There is something about the sound of “buckwheat” when you say it before “pancakes.” It suggests another depth of flavor—an old-time flavor, a bit of tradition, something a little more intriguing than the usual. Buckwheat adds a wonderful nutty, earthy flavor and a deeper, richer color to pancakes. It gives the pancakes a nice country feel. When you add the pecans and the blackberry syrup, it becomes another wonderful world.

Lemon Trifle with Berries

Lemon Trifle with Berries

If you have teenagers, you’ll probably want to skip this blog as the main ingredient in trifle is stale cake. If you actually do occasionally have stale (or extra) cake — with or without teenagers — read on!

If you’re unfamiliar with trifle, it’s a British invention for using  stale cake. Which does lead one to wonder if stale cake is a common problem for the Brits because their teenagers are sent off to boarding school.

Amaranth Porridge

Courtesy of Carol Fenster, PhD, from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes

Carol says, “Historians tell us that amaranth was a primary food for the ancient Aztecs (and also other indigenous cultures in Mesoamerica as well as Incan culture; Ed). Known as one of the most nutritious grains on earth, it is an excellent choice for the gluten-free diet. Here, it is cooked into a hearty porridge. Make a batch and refrigerate it; eat it throughout the week for a good start to your day.”

Gingerbread with a Lemon-Vanilla Glaze

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I always associate gingerbread as just right for a cozy evening at home when it’s chilly outside. Of course it’s terrific any time of the year, and if you’re a ginger lover, this is an especially good recipe as it has both powdered and crystalized ginger as well as complementary spices that enhance the flavor. It’s also quite moist as it contains applesauce and has a delicate lemon-vanilla glaze.  Gingerbread served warm from the oven with whipped cream is hard to beat, but it’s also good lightly toasted with butter or cream cheese on a leisurely weekend morning.

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

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