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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I remember a bottle of vanilla extract that my mother used sparingly that was a gift from my father's grandpa. The bottle was plastic, simple, and completely unadorned. It lacked aesthetic appeal, but the aroma and flavor were so irresistible, no one was concerned with the packaging.

With the explosion in popularity of cooking and specialty foods, vanilla has been elevated from pedestrian ice cream flavoring to ingredient of the gods. From extracts to beans, vanilla has achieved its rightful status as a culinarian's MVP. Chefs are using vanilla in ways now that no one considered in the past.

For a long time, home cooks only had access to vanilla extract, and worse, imitation vanilla extract. Small bottles with red caps were intermingled with seldom used spices in the back corners of kitchen cabinets. Used as an afterthought instead of a star ingredient, the vanilla products used in days gone by were mediocre at best. Very little consideration was given to this culinary wallflower, until attitudes about food began to change. With the increase in excitement regarding food and cooking, vanilla in America grew up. From extracts to the now celebrated beans, consumers have several choices when selecting the best flavoring for their next custard, cookie, or even salad dressing.

Did you know that there are more differences between vanilla beans from Madagascar & those from Tahiti than just the location of harvesting? Did you also know that vanilla is a member of the orchid family? There are many different types of vanilla available to the home chef, and they are certainly not all created equal. For instance, beans from Tahiti are thicker, boasting plump pods and lots of flavor. Beans from Madagascar (sometimes called Bourbon Vanilla Beans) are thinner, and often appear dry.

Vanilla is grown and harvested all over the globe from Mexico (its point of origination) to Bali, there are several places that export the precious flavoring to our kitchens here in the US.

Just like every other recipe you prepare, remember that when selecting ingredients at the grocery store, you should purchase the highest quality ingredients you can afford, especially when it comes to ingredients like vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, butter, etc.

Using quality vanilla extracts, pastes and beans in your recipes really does make a difference. Over the last few years, many people have cut back on luxuries, but the spending freeze seems to be turning to a thaw. If you're looking for a small way to splurge, try a bottle of vanilla bean paste to use in your baked goods and custards; you'll be hooked.

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Blogger Brent said...

Fantastic post! A few quick comments. When purchasing vanilla beans it is important that they are truly Grade A. Grade B or extract grade beans are dry and much less potent than Grade A vanilla. While Grade B offers significant discounts, the flavor and potency suffers greatly.

Madagascar vanilla beans should not be dry. If they are, they have likely been sitting for over a year, are not in an airtight container, or are not truly Grade A vanilla beans. All vanilla beans should be oily to the touch and have a wet appearance.

Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans are some of the most popular in the world. Indian, Tongan, Mexican, and Indonesian vanilla beans are also excellent and offer amazing flavors as well. These varieties can be found at, one of the world's best vanilla distributors.

Thanks again!

January 9, 2011 at 1:07 PM 
Blogger Product said...

Hey, was just browsing on the internet looking for some information regarding vanilla and came across your site. I am impressed by the information that you have on this site.
I would like to thank you for this post

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January 20, 2011 at 11:27 PM 
Blogger Product said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. I always like to hear other perspectives – and thank you for sharing yours.

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February 17, 2011 at 11:26 PM 

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