How To Flavor With Vanilla

basket of vanilla beans - How To Flavor With Vanilla

Melipona bee pollinating a vanilla orchard

Image Credit: Athena Rayne Anderson 2008

Vanilla is a flavoring that is extracted from orchids, primarily from the flat-leaved vanilla Mexican species.

The first endeavors to propagate or grow the vanilla orchid outside of Mexico had shown to be in vain as this particular orchid has a synergetic alliance with its natural pollinator, the Melipona bee.

At least 40 species of this bee are known, and thrive in Mexico, as well as Argentina.

Other areas were the vanilla orchid is now successfully produced, such as in Tahiti and Madagascar among other places, is entirely dependent on artificial pollination.

The magazine – “Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution” states that the vanilla orchid is one of very few crops whose production depends entirely on artificial pollination.

How To Pollinate The Vanilla Orchid

This video provides details how to successfully pollinate the vanilla orchid that produces vanilla beans! This presentation was appropriated by the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Using Vanilla In Baking

When it comes to baking, vanilla is a very important ingredient, and there are 3 ways to use it…

  1. Vanilla Bean
  2. Vanilla Extract
  3. Vanilla Paste

Let’s examine the differences between these three and how to best use them in your baking.

Vanilla Beans

 Whole Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Whole Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans themselves provide wonderful flavor to any recipe that calls for it. The bean can cost between $7 to $13  for a small jar of two or three beans. They are a little time consuming to work with, but you will find the flavor they produce to be well worth the time.

You want to find vanilla beans that are plump and smooth with a slight shine and that are highly fragrant. Avoid overly dried beans. Using the vanilla in dessert recipes that call for it, gives the finished baked good an intense vanilla flavor that you might never want to go back to using another form of vanilla.

Be warned though, the bean can leave specks of brown throughout the baked good. To some this is great, but if you are baking a white cake, then employing the vanilla bean for such recipes may not work. That brings us to another form: vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract

 

Vanilla extract is the common form used in baking.

To acquire the extract, the bean is mashed, and it is infused with a mixture of alcohol, a clear drinking alcohol is used, like Vodka.

Vanilla extract readily available, not only as pure, but also artificially made. The extract is simple to measure out and use in your baking.

Vanilla Paste

Pure Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste

Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla paste, though spendy (between $12 to $16 for a 4 ounce jar), is the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing between vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

Vanilla paste is the flesh of the pod scooped-out, and make available at market in small jars. So you are getting all of the flavor of the bean without all of the hassle. It will still provide those flecks of color in your baking like the actual bean does.

For vanilla paste, consult the jar to see how much to use in your recipes. It usually shows the conversions between vanilla extract and the paste.

When in doubt, gradually add to your baking, tasting after each addition to help you determine the right amount of vanilla flavor.

Which One To Use

Most recipes do call for vanilla extract but if you do decide to substitute the bean or paste for the extract, you can. One bean actually equals about three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

The next time you bake, try using vanilla beans or paste instead of the more common vanilla extract. Of course, what you decide to use depends on your personal preference.

Link Here For A Selection Of Dessert Recipes From Splendid Recipes and More

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Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine

Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine

There are many varieties of vinegar’s. Like red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and white vinegar.

Vinegar’s are used for pickling, de-glazing pans, marinating meats, making sauces and is found in some desserts. White or cider vinegar’s are even used for house cleaning and disinfecting as well.

Commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine is red wine vinegar, and is a common staple in most French homes. Most red wine vinegar’s can be matured up to two years. White wine vinegar is tangy in flavor and can be used in place of lemon juice in sauces like, Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces, can also be used in making vinaigrette’s, soups, and stews.

It’s also an excellent base for homemade fruit or herb vinegar’s. Wine or white distilled vinegar’s are flavored with herbs, spices or other seasonings, like garlic, basil and tarragon, making a tasty and aromatic addition to dressings.  As for fruit infused vinegar’s, they are that commonly done with balsamic vinegar’s, like raspberry, blueberry or pomegranate.

From the kitchen to cleaning house, doing the laundry, and even used for medicinal purposes, vinegar is the most versatile of products, and versatile is defined as “capable of turning with ease from one thing to another.”

Our featured recipe is – Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine -, and yes it uses red wine, and red wine vinegar. Here is what you will need.

herb - wine marinade for Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine2/3 cup red wine

6 tablespoons tomato paste

3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked from steams

3 sprigs marjoram, leaves picked, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

½ cup red wine vinegar

3 1/2 pounds of chicken parts, legs, thighs, or breast, with bone and skin

Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, optional

1 pound tri-color baby potatoes, do not peel

3 small red onions, quartered

6 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise

½ cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

chicken marinading in herbs and red wineMix together the wine, tomato paste, thyme, marjoram, and vinegar. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (optional), then place in a large bowl with the wine mixture. Coated the chicken pieces well, and set aside in the refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

vegetables arranged in a glass baking dishPlace the potatoes in a medium to large saucepan of cold water, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes, drain.

Arrange the onions, carrots, and cooked potatoes in a large glass baking dish and pour in the water. We were not able to purchase the tri-colored baby potatoes, so we used small red potatoes cut in half.

marinated chicken and vegetables in a glass baking dishArrange the chicken pieces skin-side up on top of the vegetables. Pour the marinade over the chicken-vegetable layer. Cover with tin foil and roast for 30 minutes.

Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine - fresh out of the ovenRemove the foil and baste the chicken with the cooking liquid. Roast another 15 minutes, uncovered, or until the skin is crisp.

Platted - Roasted Herb Chicken In Red Wine and VegetablesPlate and serve.

Here’s another recipe using white wine, that we are sure you will also enjoy. Link here to view: Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Vegetables with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce. You will enjoy the aroma of the fresh tarragon, in this recipe!!

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Asparagus with Garlic and Smoked Bacon

Asparagus with Garlic and Smoked BaconAsparagus is packed with antioxidants, and ranks among the top vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.

Vector of Nutrition facts asparagus

                                Click To Enlarge

Asparagus has between 5 and 12 percent of your daily need of vitamin-C, B-6, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Those nutrients are a great combination, as vitamin-C needs zinc for absorption, and magnesium hitches a ride with vitamin B-6 for absorption as well.

Asparagus has been studied and noted to combat age-related ocular diseases, arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.

It is also an effective diuretic for water retention related illness, like PMS, arthritis, and rheumatism.

How To Cook Asparagus

We have noted some of the many health benefits of this spire like vegetable, so you can understand the importance of cooking it right, so as to enjoy them.

These quick-cooking, water less methods will preserve the fabulous nutritional content and antioxidant power of asparagus, either roast, grill, or stir-fry.

Our featured recipe  – Asparagus with Garlic and Smoked Bacon – is prepared as a stir-fry. We also suggest this recipe as a prepared side dish to accompany your turkey dinner left overs from last week (Thursday, November. 26, 215).

trimmed AsparagusHere is what you will need.

1 pound asparagus thin stalks, trim ends, cut 1-inch lengths

1/2 pound pasture fed bacon, flavor is your choice – we used a smoked bacon from Whole Foods Market

5 garlic gloves, chopped

cooking smoked bacon and garlicCut bacon into 1-inch slices, place into a large pan over medium heat. When bacon is 1/2 cooked add garlic and stir until you smell the garlic, about 1 minute.

Asparagus with Garlic and Smoked Bacon in a Ceramic Coated Frying PanNext add the prepared asparagus and continue to stir until bacon is cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Asparagus with Garlic and Smoked Bacon with Turkey Dinner Left OversPlate and serve with your favorite main dish.

Enjoy our other recipes here at – Splendid Recipes and More – using asparagus…

Roasted Trout with Baby Potatoes and Asparagus

Balsamic-Honey Glazed Chicken and Asparagus

Asparagus and Bacon Cream Pasta

Bacon Eggs and Asparagus Benedict

Mushroom Tortellini with Asparagus

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8 More Uses For Your Lemon

 There are many uses for a lemon, with the most common being used in culinary cooking and baking desserts. Oh and not to forget drinking lemon juice with warm water in the morning to get the digestion moving.

There are in fact 8 more uses for that lemon you have in your kitchen. Let’s see what they are.

Your Cutting Board

A combination of Himalayan salt and lemon juice is said to be the top cleaner for your cutting board.

lemon slice on a cutting board After using the board rinse it under running water. Next sprinkle the board with salt, and rub 1/2 a lemon (cut side down) over the surface of the cutting board .

After dubbing the intire surface, let the board sit for about 10-15 minutes, and rinse again with water. The two food items together remove orders, germs, and help prevent stains.

Harden Brown Sugar

What a drag when you go to reach for the brown sugar, and it has harden.

To soften it up, just add the peel of half a lemon to the packaged brown sugar, and allow to sit overnight. The sugar will absorb the moisture of the lemon peel, tuning that harden brown sugar soft and manageable once more.

Wilted Leafy Greens

leafy green lettuceDon’t you just hate it when you want to make a salad, and you find your leafy greens have wilted in you. No worries though.

Just add cold water to a large bowl. Next add the greens and juice from 1/2 a lemon, and place in your refrigerator for about an hour, then dry the greens thoroughly.

Smell Fresh Refrigerator

Who knew a cottonball with a few drops of lemon juice could remove food orders from your refrigerator.

Faucets That Sparkle

Hard water stains on faucets can be removed with a cloth that has been dampened with lemon juice. Just rub the hard water spots until they disappear.

There are still more uses for that lemon, such as for a sore throat. Just add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to 8 ounces of warm water, then gargle and swallow. Lemon juice is so strong that it kills germs and bacteria.

You can even soak your finger nails in lemon juice and warm water for 5 minutes, once a week to remove any stains from your nails.

Lastly, after you have juiced your lemon for the above uses or any way you use your lemon, do not through away the peel. Freeze it.

 Place the peel in a zip-lock baggy and place in the freezer. When making a dish or dessert that calls for lemon zest, and you rich for the lemon, but so sad it’s not there. Don’t fret, the frozen lemon peels to the rescue.

Just grate the frozen peel, and you have fresh lemony zest. You can also do this with lime and orange peels.

What other uses do you have for your lemon, besides cooking and baking?

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread

Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Breadmultigrain Wasa crackersWasabröd is a Swedish company that is the largest producer in the world of Scandinavian style crisp bread.

Wasabröd produces a wide variety of crisp breads, with the original crisp bread made of rye. Other additions since 1919 include sesame,wheat, oats, flax seed, and other grains. Like matzo, Wasa is noted for its shelf longevity.

Wasa crisp bread is popular during the EuropeanOktoberfest‘ (a festival that takes place from mid-September through October).

Oktoberfest comes once a year, with vibrant music, over-flowing beer, sausage, and colorful German costumes. It is a festival held every Fall to celebrate German heritage, and includes lots of great finger foods.

Our featured recipe is an inspiration of the German festival and the Wasa crisp bread: Greek Yogurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread. Here is what you will need.

Prepartion per serving:

1 multigrain Wasa crisp bread

2 teaspoons Greek yogurt dill spread

1/4 cup chopped red cabbage

1 fresh basil leaf, medium to large

1 slice uncured lunch meat, your choice, without nitrates

steps to preparing food ingredients with Wasa crisp breadYou can find the recipe for the Greek yogurt dill spread by linking here: Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

Prepare the yogurt-dill spread. Cut basil leaves from stems and wash (pat dry). Spread yogurt-dill onto a piece of Wasa crisp bread. Next top with a slice of lunch meat. We used a smoked black-forest honey ham. Next top the meat with a fresh basil leaf, and top that with the red cabbage.

multigrain wasa with cabbage - ham - and a greek yogurt dill spreadYou don’t need to wait util the next Oktoberfest to enjoy this healthy and awesomely delicious finger food. When making your shopping list be sure to include a package of Wasa Crisp Bread (your favorite), and the accompanying ingredients. Oh, and it makes a great party favorite finger food.

For more great ideas to topping Wasa Crisp Bread link here: Wasa – Since 1919.

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Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Lentils as well as any legume are an inexpensive source of protein, as well  as fat-free, high in fiber and rich in a number of essential nutrients. Adding lentils to your diet offers a number of health benefits, from controlling your weight to promoting heart health.

varieties of lentils You need 25 to 30 grams of fiber everyday, and one half cup of lentils will supply 8 grams of that fiber. Fiber in foods helps suppress appetite, helping you to manage and maintain a healthy weight.  Eating a diet that is rich in dietary fiber also decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in your body.

If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, fiber rich foods can also help in the regulation of sugar in the blood stream.

According to the World Health Organization iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, and 1/2 cup of lentils provides 3.3 milligrams in a 1/2-cup serving.

Keep in mind though, that your body can’t absorb as much iron from plant-based foods, including lentils as it does from meat sources. Eating lentils with a food rich in vitamin-C, such as sweet peppers, can help improve absorption.

As you might have guessed by now our featured recipe has lentils, and to  help your body take advantage of the iron in them, the recipe includes vitamin-C sources, including green beans, carrots, and celery.

Our featured recipe is: Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium rainbow carrots, sliced (colors include yellow, purple, and red)

2 medium celery stalks, sliced

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 cups dried green lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 medium purple sweet potatoes, 1/2-inch dice

9 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 – 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Himalayan salt and fresh ground black pepper

Whole leaf cilantro and plain Greek yogurt, for garnishing

chopped vegetables for Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Prepare vegetables and in a extra- large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables while stirring until they are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Next add the garlic and curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Next add 7 cups of fresh water and the green lentils. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook 10 minutes.

Next add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook, with the pot covered, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Nest add the green beans and can of diced tomatoes with juice, and cook until warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove bay leaf from stew pot, and add the chopped cilantro and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Bowl of Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and whole cilantro leaves. Enjoy!!

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Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad

Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Lettuce Salad

We have been trying out some new flavors lately, and they are really an excitement to the palate. Greek food is a Mediterranean cuisine. Contemporary Greek cooking uses a lot olive oil, including lemon juice, vegetables, herbs, grains, bread, wine, fish, lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork. We have to say the use of rabbit in their cuisine was new for us.

It is very important to never forget olives, cheese, eggplant, zucchini, and yogurt. Greek desserts also are known for their use of nuts and honey. Some of the desserts are Baklava, Greek Rice Pudding, and a Quick and Easy Greek Yogurt Dessert, that consists of only 4 ingredients, strained Greek yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest and juice, biscuits Petit beurre.

Wow that all sounds so delicious, doesn’t it? All of those wonderful desserts including main dish meals found their way into Greek cooking, as Greece has a culinary tradition of some 4,000 years. Yes, 4,000 years to perfect their flavorful culinary meals and treats (dessert).

Ancient Greek cuisine rarely included meat (lamb, poultry, pork, and rabbit) in their food preparations as it was not readily available. But fish was always available, as well as today, their more common source of animal protein.

Their favorite beverages are Portokalada (orangeade) and Lemonada (lemonade). These beverages have been popular in Greece since 1971. These refreshing beverages are served everywhere, in Greek homes, cafes, taverns, and restaurants. They are made with fresh strained orange juice or lemon juice, and mixed with the choice of carbonated water or flat mineral water, and sugar is added to taste.

What do you know about the Greek history of food? Let’s know by leaving your response in the comment section below this article, thanks.

Now for our featured recipe: Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

First let’s prepare the marinade for the chicken, then set it aside to prepare the salad dressing. Here is what you will need.

Greek Marinated Chicken

1 cup Greek strained yogurt, plain

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon dried oregano

1 medium lemon

½ teaspoon Himalayan salt

Freshly cracked pepper corns

¼ bunch fresh cilantro

3½ to 4 pounds chicken (mix of drumsticks and thighs)

adding lemon juice to marinade for Greek Marinated ChickenFor the marinade, mix together in a large bowl the yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and freshly crushed pepper corns. After mixng ingredients thoroughly, add lemon zest and lemon juice, and mix in.

adding chopped cilantro to marinade for Greek Marinated ChickenChop a big handful of cilantro, or about ¼ bunch, and stir it into the marinade. You can use parsley, if cilantro doesn’t agree with your palate. We could not find any history of the use of cilantro in Greek food, though cilantro is cultivated in Southern Europe where Greece is found.

marinating chicken

Add the chicken pieces and marinade to a large glass bowl, making sure all chicken parts are covered with marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or albumin foil, and place in refrigerator for a least 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinading, let’s make the Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing for the salad. Here is what you will need.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons pear nectar

1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sweet garlic Dijon mustard

One half of a 6-ounce ripe red Bartlett pear, cored and diced, do not peel

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, with herbs

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly crushed pepper corns

ingredients in a nutri-bullet for Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

 

Blend together in a blender, or food processor (we used our Nutri-Bullet) the oil, pear nectar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, diced pear, cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.

Pour into your favorite dressing server, or a jar and set aside in the refrigerator.

ready to bake  Greek Marinated ChickenNext preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If it has been 30 minutes, remove chicken from glass bowl and place into a 9 X 13 glass baking dish. Bake chicken for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is cooked (about 165 degrees internal temperature) and golden brown on top. Set aside to cool about 5 minutes, meantime prepare the Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

Here is what you will need.

1 head butter leaf lettuce, cut into 4 wedges

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

1/2 half of a 6 ounce ripe red Bartlett pear, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced

1/3 cup pecan pieces

1/3 cup dried fruit mix, such as blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and raisins

Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear DressingPlace the Butter leaf lettuce wedges on 4 salad plates or one side of a dinner plate. Arrange the avocado slices, pear slices, pecan pieces, and dried fruit over the lettuce. Drizzle with the dressing.

close-up Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce SaladNext add to each plate two pieces of cooked Greek Marinated Chicken and serve.

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