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Every year, I have good intentions of putting together a gift guide here of all my favorite cookbooks and kitchen items and whatnot, and every year, I never get around to it. So this holiday season to make up for lost time! I have quite the list for you.

Today’s gift guides are all books, so if you are not into that I apologize. However, I think books are the best gift to give and get, and so I can’t not make a big long list of all my favorites. But stay tuned: I will have kitchen items, non-cookbooks, and a kids’ guide for you soon. And! I’ve been working on a Holiday playlist over on Spotify, which you can find here. I’ll be adding to it a little more here and there.

First up, my favorite category: NEW BAKING BOOKS! Here we go…

Sweeter Off The Vine by Yossy Arafi – Here are beautiful photographs, recipes that always work, and a unique perspective on baking. I absolutely love Yossy’s book, and turn to it often. Favorite recipes: Yossy is known for her pies, so anything involving pie crust is a winner (see Cherry and Rhubarb Slab Pie, Pear Pie With Creme Fraiche and Caramel, and Tangerine Cream Pie),  I also love her Old-Fashioned Blood Orange Donuts and Apricot and Berry Galette With Saffron Sugar.

Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft – The first time I paged through this book I couldn’t stop whispering gorgeous at each and every photograph. The book succeeds at revitalizing ‘traditional recipes to suit modern tastes’. It is beautifully photographed, and includes helpful process shots for complicated recipes. On my to-do list: Marzipan Challah, Ricotta Streusel Babka, Sufganiyot (similar to a Boston cream doughnut), and Sticky Cinnamon Challah Snails (there are plenty of savory bread recipes, too, but I always gravitate towards the sweet).

Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin – Irvin’s book came out one week before mine, and it’s packed full of really great recipes with some serious twists on classics. Everything from cookies and bars, cakes and cobblers are covered in this book. I honestly can’t stop thinking about the Pumpkin S’mores with Maple Brown Sugar Marshmallows and Dark Chocolate (dang!), and can’t wait to try the Seville Orange Bars With Salted Shortbread and Gin Meringue.

Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss – I haven’t had a chance to start baking from this book yet, but have started reading it cover to cover, inspired by both Luisa’s writing and recipes. I’m starting with the Franzbrotchen (cinnamon-sugar buns) because they are the prettiest little buns I’ve ever seen, and I think they will become best friends with my tummy. Also the Brezeln (soft pretzels) are gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted to make Apfelstrudel but never have attempted, so this winter it’s on.

Golden by Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer – Golden comes from the ovens of London’s Honey & Co, which I have sadly never been to (one day, London, one day), and it is another book that I have a major to-do list for. Again, I’m drawn to the sweet (although there is savory here, too): Pistachio, Rose, & Strawberry Buns, Sweet Cheese Buns, Lemon Drizzle Cake with Elderflower and Marcarpone Icing, and Baked Apricots with Marzipan Filling and Almond Crumble are good starting points.

Panetteria by Gennaro Contaldo – Another gorgeous book, featuring Italian baking. I am smitten with the process shots featuring Gennaro Contaldo himself; they capture so beautifully the artist giving his life over his work: knowledge and pleasure and grace are in all the movements of his hands. I’m starting with the Focaccia Al Sale (Basic Focaccia with Sea Salt), then moving to mini pizzas with mushrooms and the Plum Cake Di Anna (chocolate chip and ricotta loaf cake).

The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois – If you’ve been following along here for awhile, you probably already know that I contribute to Jeff and Zoe’s Bread in Five site quite frequently (in fact, they have a giveaway going on right now for my book). I worked on this latest book with them as well – a week long photo shoot with lots of baking and food styling and washing dishes and fighting over music. It was a blast. This edition is revised and updated with new recipes. I love the Whole Wheat Brioche, Whole Grain Doughnuts (covered in cardamom-ginger-cinnamon sugar, of course), and the Whole Wheat Christmas Stollen is a must this year.

Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish – I was lucky enough to visit Ken Forkish’s bakery this summer, but I sadly didn’t make it into his pizza shop. Luckily, there is this book. The beginning chapter of this book ‘The Soul of Pizza’, is moving, highlighting famous pizza bakers and shops all over the world. I wanted to fly to each one, eat pizza forever, and then come home and try to recreate it. As that is not an option, luckily Mr. Forkish got to do that for me. I’ve made Grandma’s Pie (a sheet pan pizza) more times than I can count, and it is a family favorite every Friday night.

The Art of Pie by Kate McDermott – A wonderful book about making and baking pies. Ms. McDermott has been baking pies for years and years, and even has a pie camp (which sounds totally dreamy). The book is filled with practical tips and helpful information on making great pies, and whole chapters on making the crust, thickeners, and the Quintessential Apple Pie. Sounds like the perfect way to spend Christmas break to me.

Other baking books to check out: Bread Illustrated by Test Kitchen has some great recipes (like kolaches!), The Alternative Baker by Alana Taylor-Tobin for the gluten-free bakers in your life, Layered by Tessa Huff for baking, building and styling cakes, and The Everyday Baker by Abby Dodge won both an IACP award and a James Beard award, making it a total winner.



Molly On The Range by Molly Yeh – Molly’s new book is just as lovely and funny and fabulous as Molly herself. The photos are gorgeous, the illustrations lovely (there is even a page to color!) and the writing engaging. I’ve made the Dark Chocolate Scone Loaf, my kids are obsessed with the Chicken Pot Tot Hotdish, and there are so many things on my must-make list: Honey Ricotta Blintzes with Caramelized Onions, Scallion Pancake Challah, Rosewater Marshmallows, and Ginger Snow Cones.

Martha Stewart’s Vegetables by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living – This might be my favorite Martha cookbook (although, the Baking Handbook is pretty great). It is a beautiful collection of recipes, with simple yet lovely photographs for almost every recipe. Most recipes are savory, with a few sweet mixed in. I’ve made the Parsnip Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting, and will soon try the Cornmeal Shortcakes with Corn Ice Cream and Blueberry Compote, Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts, Beet Risotto with Beet Greens, and Skillet Pizza with Greens and Eggplant.

Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly – I grew up in potluck culture, so I was excited to see a modern take on something that scared me as a child (there are some pretty funky hotdishes that get brought to a church picnic, let me tell you). Kristin’s book does not disappoint, with plenty of delicious and un-scary meals to share with friends and family: Late-Summer Enchilada Pie, Smoky Squash Mac & Cheese, Grilled Corn Salad with Lime Mayo, and Greek Expat Potato Salad. And, since we were the family that only brought dessert to potlucks (bars, of course), I was happy to see plenty in the ‘Sweets’ chapter – Potato Chip-Crusted Magic Bars, Lemon-Olive Oil Zucchini Bread, Peach-Blueberry-Slab Pie, and Cranberry Jam Streusel Bars with Walnuts all sound good to me.

Simple by Diana Henry – I only discovered Diana Henry a year ago, although she’s been writing books for quite awhile. Sometimes I’m not hip to the scene. I was instantly smitten with her prose; her books are the kind to curl up by a fire with, with hot coffee and something sweet for nibbling within arms length.’ You know the scenario. You’re home late. You’re tired and worn out. You could murder a bag of potato chips and a gin and tonic (and consider  pouring yourself a glass, even though the tonic has gone flat.) This is the kind of night when you need a treat. Self-control has no place here. The key thing, though, is to give yourself a treat worth having: a slightly luxurious meal, but one you can make quickly’ (my favorite lines, from her book, A Bird in the Hand). Coffee-Brined Pork Chops with Hot Sweet Potatoes sound right up my alley, as well as Roast Citrus, Ginger, and Honey Chicken. The Lemon and Lavender Cake looks perfectly lovely, but Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream might be where I start things off. Also, when Yotam Ottolenghi writes on the back of your book that ‘Everything Diana Henry cooks I want to eat’, you know it’s going to be amazing.

Love & Lemons Cookbook by Jeanine Donofrio – This cookbook is what I aspire to in my everyday eating life: simple, clean recipes that bring healthy to my mind and body. In reality, there is too much butter and sugar in my way to make this a reality, but I do try. The photography throughout the book is gorgeous, and you will want to make everything: Strawberry Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts, Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper Soup, Spring Onion Pizzas, and Swiss Chard and White Bean Tacos are on my current list. A great cookbook to give on Christmas to help someone jump-start the New Year with good eating.

The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell – I had the pleasure of meeting Imen this summer, and have so enjoyed her beautiful book. ‘Recipes and Adventures From My Life on an Irish Farm’ is the subtitle, and as you can imagine, the book is filled with gorgeous photos and unique recipes from her life in Ireland. I swooned over the Hazelnut and Vanilla Slice, and have so many items up next to make: Queen of Puddings (jammy cake covered in piles of meringue), Smoky Dark Chocolate Porter Cake, Irish Pancakes, and Sweet Farmer Cheese Danish with Elderflower Glaze. There are plenty of savory recipes, too.

Mad Hungry Family by Lucinda Scala Quinn – 120 Essential Recipes to Feed The Whole Crew is the tagline here, and the book follows through. There are Double-Decker Pork Tacos, HamJam Cheddar Puffs, Chicken and Black Been Nachos, Nesting Noodle Rice Pilaf, Open-Faced Vegetable Omelet as perfect mains, plus chapters on potatoes, salads, breakfast, and sweets (Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Potstickers? Yes please.)

The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini – I really like this book. As someone who grew up all meat and potatoes, cooking with a huge variety of vegetables is not my forte. Not because I don’t like how they taste, but often because I don’t exactly know how to cook them best (ask my husband about disasters with eggplants part 1 and 2). This book is incredibly helpful – it shows how to cut vegetables properly, gives the author’s favorite cooking methods for simple, straight-up cooking, and then highlights favorite recipes for each vegetable. There are also plenty of butcher’s tips and butchery essentials. So simple, yet so genius. It’s a great gift for a new cook, or someone (like me) who isn’t always quite sure the best way to roast an eggplant.

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho – I am determined to learn how to cook Chinese food well this year. Both my kids go to a Chinese Immersion school, and as they are constantly surrounded by Chinese culture, they often want to eat Chinese food (although, I don’t speak Chinese, and always want to eat Chinese food, too). But, in all honesty, I’m not great at making it in my own kitchen. Enter this beautiful, beautiful book by Kian Lam Kho. I’m completely smitten with it, and have been reading it like a novel, unwilling to put it down. Chapters include ‘Harnessing the Breath of a Wok,’ ‘The Virtues of Slow Cooking’, and ‘Enriching With Smoke’; all focusing on mastering techniques while providing references to history and culture. If you are even the teeniest bit interested in cooking Chinese cuisine, this book should be in your cookbook library.

Other cooking books to check out: Small Victories by Julia Turshen is beautiful and so well-written, The Gourmet Kitchen by Jennifer Farley: a great collection of recipes ranging from breakfast to dinner, and of course, dessert, Adventures in Chicken by Eva Kosmas Flores, a book of chicken recipes sure to please everyone.



SaraBeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by SaraBeth Levine – This might just be my favorite baking book. It’s definitely the one that made me fall in love with laminated doughs. The photographs are quiet and beautiful, there are process shots to help with complicated recipes, and everything I’ve made has turned out perfectly. I’m especially smitten with the puff pastry dough as well as the danish dough. It’s a gorgeous book, and a good addition to any baker’s library.

Handmade Baking by Kamran Siddiqi – Another really great baking book. Kamran’s Quick Puff Pastry recipe is fantastic, and his Everyday Chocolate Cake is A++. The photographs in this one are stunning, and the recipes are classy but approachable, which sort of reminds me of Kamran. (We’ve never met, but he comes across online as kind and classy and thoughtful.) Another book I use all the time.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich – Alice Medrich is the baking cookbook queen. I appreciate all her books, they are so well done: flawless recipes, and solid writing and research. Pure Dessert is the first Medrich cookbook I ever owned – all the rest had been checked out time and time again at the library, when I couldn’t afford my cookbook habit. This one is special, and helped pave the way for baking with alternative flours as flavor flours. The Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies are holiday favorites.

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson – Want to make the best sourdough bread ever? Chad Robertson will teach you how. I have made the Basic Country Bread, starting from the beginning and making my own starter, feeding it every day for two weeks, and then then making the leaven and mixing the dough. It was work, but worth all the time. The loaves turned out lovely and delicious, and when I have the time, they are a favorite to make. This is a great gift for anyone interested in making bread.

Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady – I’ve had a crush on the Seven Spoons blog for a long time – Tara’s writing and photographs are captivating – evoking both thoughtfulness and stillness to one’s soul. Her recipes have always been winners, so when she put out her own book, I knew it would be well-loved in my kitchen. This book is worth every cent for her biscuit recipe alone, and also for the Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage rolls (which I made once at a party and they disappeared in 4 minutes flat), but there are so many other good ones as well: Bostocks, Caramel Apple Pie, Twangy Blueberry Sauce, Bee-Stung Fried Chicken, and Chicken and Couscous with A Punch Relish just to name a few.

How To Eat by Nigella Lawson – The recipes are great, but I love this book for the head notes alone. Witty, honest, thoughtful, and evocative, Ms. Lawson appears to effortlessly express how she feels about food. There are no photographs, just endless word pictures.

Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce – Another cookbook celebrating flavor flours, and another book with A+ recipes. I’ve made a lot of sweets from this book, and they all have been stellar. Chocolate chip cookies made with only whole wheat flour, Pumpkin Pancakes, Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes, Iced Oatmeal Cookies, Banana Walnut Cake, Spelt Pie Dough, Olive Oil Cake, Grahams, Ginger-Peach Muffins, and Onion Jam have all been wonderful.

Ripe by Nigel Slater – Another beautiful book, and one I read over and over. Mr. Slater’s prose is almost poetry. Like a snowflake, the perfectly ripe pear is a fleeting thing. Something to be caught, held tenderly, briefly marveled at, before it is gone forever…An apple is about a loud crunch, a quick hit, a fruit to be enjoyed on the run. The pear is of a more gentle nature, something to take our time over. At its point of perfections, an apple shouts, a pear whispers (from Ripe). I mean, couldn’t it be:

Like a snowflake,
the perfectly ripe pear is a

Something to be caught,
(held tenderly)
briefly marveled at
before it is gone

An apple is about a loud crunch,
a quick hit

the pear is more of a gentle nature,
something to take our time over.
an apple shouts!
a pear


*(And the photographs! Absolutely dreamy. It’s basically a perfect book.)

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg – I use The Flavor Bible constantly. It’s a guide to modern flavor pairings, and an invaluable resource. Making something with peaches but not sure what flavors to use? Just open your Flavor Bible, and in alphabetical order, you’ll have a list of everything: allspice, almonds, basil, brandy, creme fraiche, ginger, hazelnuts, lavender… the list goes on and on. There are also notes from well-know chefs giving their favorite flavor recommendations as well. It’s a great book for anyone who loves to cook and bake.

So there is part one! If you are hesitant to buy books, don’t forget Mr. Darcy’s words: ‘I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.’

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

It’s finally time: The Vanilla Bean Baking Book is available for pre-order!

This cookbook is brimming with over 100 baking recipes and nearly 200 photos; everything from Mixed Berry Muffins and Creme Fraiche Scones to Ganache Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream and Cherry-Strawberry Slab Pie. It can be purchased early now, and will be sent out or available on bookstore shelves November 8th. This also happens to be Election Day, so depending on whether your candidate wins or loses, you could find it useful for either comfort baking or celebrating. I’m hoping to celebrate, with my Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream (found in the Party Cakes chapter).
vanilla bean baking book
I spent almost two years working on this book. When Avery approached me, I had never taken on a project this big before, or one with multiple deadlines. It required figuring out how to balance both work and home life, which was quite a challenge initially. My work space, the kitchen, is the center of our home, and a place that is needed for more than just recipe testing. My family came to find the sink and dishwasher were forever overflowing with bowls, whisks, knives, measuring cups, and spatulas. The noise of the mixer was a consistent background hum, the refrigerator always packed full, and the oven made our kitchen a constant blazing furnace. I would frantically text my husband at work with grocery lists: butter, chocolate, sugar, flour, eggs, and more butter! It was a struggle at times for all four of us to flow well with evidence of the cookbook piled everywhere, but eventually I managed to find a rhythm to testing recipes and writing. I baked all day while the kids were at school, and then wrote each night, after they were tucked into bed. It helped to have a supportive family during these months; my husband and kids encouraging and helping me.

I must admit I am feeling many different emotions presenting you with this sneak peak; excitement and nervousness, mixed with joy and fear. I worked so many hours on these recipes: testing and retesting, then retesting again. I don’t know how many times I made my All-Butter pie crust, or Easy Danish Dough. So many I can’t count them. My husband told me the brownies were perfect after months of testing, but I made them six more times anyway, trying to get them just right. I finally did. My father-in-law came over every day to pick up cookies and pies and cakes and bars, my husband brought the same into work each morning. If there hadn’t been a deadline in place, I might still be in my kitchen, making that Orange Cranberry Bundt Cake ‘just one more time.’ But now I’m here, on the other side of the work, with a collection of recipes and photographs on printed paper. I’m so excited, and (dare I say) proud, to share this book with you. My hope is for this book to become a trusted, go-to reference in your kitchen, well-worn and used; pages earmarked, smudged with chocolate and cake batter, and filled with your pencil marks and notes.
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book is divided into seven chapters: Morning Baking; Quick Breads, Muffins, and Everyday Cakes; Party Cakes, Pies, and Tarts; Cookies and Bars; No-Churn Ice Cream; and Homemade Staples. Recipes range from simple to complex, but there are visual guides to help with recipes that are a bit more work. Some of my favorites from the book are: Pumpkin Scones, Apricot Danish, Ginger Chocolate Bread, Honey Cake, Blackberry White Chocolate Cake, Peach Caramel Pie, my new and improved Chocolate Chip Cookies, and S’mores Ice Cream Cake (which I am bringing to you tomorrow, so stay tuned!).

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book is available for pre-order! You can order from the links below, as well as from major retail stores:
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / BAM / IndieBound / / /
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

You can also follow along on Instagram! My hashtag for the book is #vanillabeanbakingbook

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
-William Carlos Willams
blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog
I couldn’t resist posting that Williams poem to go along with a recipe involving plums. I’ll never forget reading it for the first time in my 9th grade English class, and becoming immediately enamored with playful poems that didn’t rhyme or seem to follow any rules. I went home and tried to mimic his style in pages of my journal, writing the worst poems known to man. But the attempts were sincere, and somewhere in my box of memories there is a stack of poems about peaches, plums, and dreamy boys who never noticed me.

Plums do make a good breakfast, however, and if you happen to have some of this crumble left over the next day, heating it up and topping it off with a little yogurt (or ice cream) is definitely a good idea. This summer crumble comes from Kate Doran‘s new book, Homemade Memories. Highlighting favorite childhood treats: ice creams, cookies, doughnuts, pudding pots, cakes, and every sugar-dusted possibility in between, it’s a collection of recipes perfect for any nostalgic baker. (Side note: I may have to give in and add this dish towel to my collection at some point.)
blueberry, almond, and plum crumble | the vanilla bean blog

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chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Back when I worked at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, I spent a lot of time making banana bread. It was one of my daily tasks, and after weeks and weeks of mixing and mashing I could have made the bread in my sleep. However one Friday afternoon, after making it had become more routine than pleasure, I had four loaves that sunk in the middle and tasted terrible. I had no idea how it happened, as this recipe was etched in my soul for all eternity. Larry (the coffeehouse owner) walked over to my prep table to take a peek at the wasted loaves, and I’ll never forget his words. “The kitchen gods are always watching,” he said. “You may think you have a recipe down, and that you can never make it wrong, but the minute you feel you own a recipe, or have pride approaching your workspace that lacks any form of humbleness for your ingredients and movement, the gods will remind you, and teach you respect again.” He said it in all sincerity, and in such a strong, kind voice, that those sentences have never left me in my own kitchen.

Which brings me to chocolate pots de crème. It was Thursday. I was just going to ‘whip these up, easy,’ while also interacting with two little ones who were officially on summer vacation and were already bored, working on three other things in the kitchen for blog posts and our own evening meal, and trying to clean my house for dinner guests. I rushed around, unfocused on what I was doing: the chocolate looked completely melted, it must be. I didn’t bring the eggs to room temperature, but they will be fine. But what came out of my oven, 30 minutes later, was not creamy chocolate pudding. The top was bubbly and the darkest brown, and the bottom almost gray with tiny flecks scattered throughout it. I didn’t stop to really notice this, however, and threw them in the fridge to cool. “They’re fine! How bad can pudding taste?” Actually very bad, as my dinner guests and I found out later that evening. Grainy, gray pudding is not what one wants to serve new friends who just finished asking you questions about your food blog. Larry’s words came to mind as our guests graciously finished their cups and said kind things. I had forgotten to take that moment to breathe, feel my ingredients, linger in the whisking and melting and pouring. I had served myself humble pie (or, pots de crème, I guess), aware of the gods above.

Later that week I made the dessert again, taking my time to get things right. I’m happy to report it is delicious: creamy and dreamy, as I knew it would be. I offered up thanks to the heavens, grateful for hard lessons that eventually bring beauty.
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Vibrant Food Cookbook
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Months ago, Kimberley Hasselbrink from A Year In Food asked on Facebook if anyone would be up for testing recipes for the book she was working on. I immediately emailed her; I had been a fan of her site for such a long time. A few weeks later she sent me some to test: Cornmeal Pancakes with Kumquat Syrup, Autumn Breakfast Bowl, and Summer Berry and Peach Crisp. I knew right away this cookbook was going to be on heavy rotation in my home.

One thing I love about The Year In Food is Kimberley’s unique, yet unpretentious recipes. I always leave her space wanting to make something; I may have to pick up an ingredient or two, but the recipes are beautifully simple and never boring. So here’s another cookbook to add to your wish list: Vibrant Food.

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pear + blackberry tartlets | the vanilla bean blog
sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

lovers go and lovers come
awandering awondering
but any two are perfectly
alone there’s nobody else alive

(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes)

not a tree can count his leaves
each herself by opening
but shining who by thousands mean
only one amazing thing

(secretly adoring shyly
tiny winging darting floating
merry in the blossoming
always joyful selves are singing)

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love”
-E.E. Cummings
pear + blackberry tartlets | the vanilla bean blog
Spring! Is here! At least, our fingers are crossed it’s staying around for good. You never know in these parts.

A few things:
*If you’re a Flight of the Conchords fan, you may enjoy the new show Short Poppies,(on Netflix) starring Rhys Darby (who played Murray).

*Diala’s Kitchen! So beautiful.

*If you ever wanted to know how to make that Big Mac sauce at home, a chef from McDonalds shows you how (it’s not a joke, by the way. But it should be?).

*Two days left to vote in the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards!

*I’ve been enjoying Kate’s mixes.

*Burundi Beans are here! I’ve written about my lovely friend Kristy from Long Miles Coffee Project here and here, and you can find out about where to buy Burundi beans here. Support their amazing project!

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waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blog
As soon as you announce to the world you are going to have a child, the world responds with its wisdom. It’s a lengthy monologue, a blast of ice cold wind in your sweet, glowing face; sentence after sentence of contradictions insisting that you heed its warnings. Vaccinate! Don’t vaccinate! Breastfeed! Formula! Co-sleep! Never! Cloth Diapers! Disposables! Let them cry to sleep! Don’t let them cry to sleep! Snacks! No snacks! Television! No television! (And on and on and on and on…)

But while the world may know about its own children, it doesn’t understand mine; the height and depth of these two tiny beings that reside with me. It may even have an arsenal of books with facts and statistics, but still it never took any time to distinguish my daughter’s hurt cry from her tired, or figure out that when she formed her mouth to look like a tiny bird beak there was exactly 49 seconds to feed her or she would rage. The world never saw my son successfully wiggle his way out of swaddled blankets each and every time I attempted to wrap him tightly, or saw him cry himself to sleep though I held him so close. The world didn’t watch like I have, instead it took every opportunity to shout answers while I whispered questions that had none. All I could do was wake each morning and gather: every laugh, every cry, every breath; hoping that by doing so I could somehow make sense of things. waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blog
waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blog
waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blog
waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blog
waffles with fig compote and orange-honey crème fraîche | the vanilla bean blogAnd the good news is, I can. Days have passed, even years, and all those collected moments have started to fit together, slowly connect. I know so well why my son has growled at older kids in the park, why my daughter freaks out every time she puts on socks, or why she is terrified when someone is sick. I know why they will both laugh until they cry at the word ‘goobertubes’ and why three chocolate chips can heal all wounds. They are little things, responses that make no sense to an outside observer; they are moments easily judged by someone passing by. But I know, I know so well, how we got there.

So hey, sweet world, I see your What To Expect and raise you my handwritten journals, my stack of photographs, my folder of Mother’s Day cards and unicorn-princess drawings. I’m confident, terribly confident, I’ve finally got this hand.
It’s a virtual shower for The Faux Martha! And these are her most amazing waffles, all jazzed up just in time for cool fall mornings. So much love to you, Melissa! My only advice is to trust yourself, and watch quietly, carefully. And, for more waffle-shower love, check out these posts:

Whole Wheat Chive Waffle with Poached Egg from Sonja and Alex of A Couple Cooks
Almond Chia Seed Waffles from Nicole of Eat this Poem
Banana Nut Waffles from Kathryne of Cookie and Kate
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Waffles from Alison of This Homemade Life
Yeasted Waffles with Berries and Cocoa Sugar from Kasey of Turntable Kitchen
Vanilla Vegan/Gluten Free Waffle Ice Cream Sammies from Laura of The First Mess
Monte Cristo Waffle Sandwich from Heidi of Foodie Crush
Whole Grain Vegan Flax Waffles from Jeanine of Love and Lemons
Spelt Waffles with Cinnamon Peaches from Naturally Ella
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A Trio of Summer Beverages
It’s the summer of fun! For reasons before mentioned, I am lining up guest posts for this summer. First up is Carey from Reclaiming Provincial. I somehow only recently discovered Carey’s space a few months ago, but fell in love instantly with her gorgeous photographs and recipes. She’s amazing.

Hello, everyone! I am excited to be sharing something in Sarah’s gorgeous space. I have long admired her work, and the unique sense of peace that it brings to me whenever I am here. Her hushed images and sincere words have a knack for finding their way to the very core. This is a quiet, honest, and beautiful place to be. And I am thrilled to be here with all of you today!

I have often felt a strong seasonal connection to Sarah, despite the fact that we live in different parts of the country. We seem to experience the same sort of yearly patterns—fleeting autumns and springs that give way to endless winters and sweltering summers—as well as the moods that result from dull, grey snow that hangs around for far too long, or humidity that makes you perspire with every breath then sadistically refuses to evaporate the beads of sweat from your skin. And when Nature decided to throw some unseasonably hot and humid weather at us here in the northeast the other week, I started obsessing over summer drinks filled with herbs and so. much. ice.

The weather has since cooled off, but the brief hot spell was a reminder that summer is just around the corner. And I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Sarah’s break than with three delicious beverages that are perfect for sharing with loved ones and making the heat a little more bearable. Happy Summer, Sarah!
A Trio of Summer Beverages
A Trio of Summer Beverages
“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story—his real, inmost story?’—for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us—through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives—we are each of us unique.” —Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

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coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
So here it is! The new site! With cupcakes to celebrate! I am totally overwhelmed by it. Melissa and Erin have outdone themselves, and I’m so lucky to reap the rewards. I am totally in love with my new logo, and must admit when Melissa sent it over to be reviewed I got teary-eyed; it just was so perfect. And, the social media icons are easy to find! I have a search bar! You can follow me on email! I have a super rad recipe section! (And, as I’ve gone through each and every post this weekend, I remembered recipes I  had totally forgotten about, like olive oil ice cream, and creamy carrot orange soup, and beet cake with chocolate, and peach-sausage pizza.)

I really cannot rave enough about Wooden Spoons Kitchen. These ladies went above and beyond for me, answering every.single.question. with fast replies, tweaking things just how I wanted them quickly and happily, and creating a gorgeous site in record time. I highly highly recommend them.

So, now, take a look around! Let me know what you think. (I’m still tweaking some spacing issues on older posts, so just ignore giant paragraphs, and imagine breaks and indentation).  xo
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
coconut cupcakes | the vanilla bean blog
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A few weeks ago Hannah from Honey & Jam commented on Twitter that she could ‘really use a piece of pie right about now.’ I had just made a pie; it was sitting proud and pretty on my kitchen counter, and so I tweeted back, wishing I could send her over a slice. Stephanie from Desserts For Breakfast and Beth from Local Milk also chimed in, and we all wished for a pie date. So we decided to come as close as we could, creating a virtual pie party for today. And so, here it is, at my house.
I open the door to my home and the smell of warm peaches filter past, spilling off the front porch into the cool, crisp air. You were thinking I’d do pears, or apples, but I tell you I couldn’t resist that last crate of peaches at the co-op, and that I was missing my dear Grandma Ethel, who made the tastiest peach pie this side of the Mississippi. You sit down while Ella Fitzgerald sings soft and sweet, and I fill your cup full of deep, dark coffee while your foot taps along to the music. We talk slowly at first, with purposeful questions, but soon we pick up speed, feeling comfortable glimpsing into other worlds. We eat together, our tiny jar pies disappearing quickly, the sweet peaches giving us all one more day of summer to hold on to. Little hands and eyes peek over the table, shyly wanting to meet everyone, and also hoping for tiny pies of their own. They are given what they’ve asked for, with smiles all around. We move on to topics of food, and cookbooks, while exclaiming frequently how amazing this modern world is, how we are all sitting here together, each of us from so far away. There is a break, our spoons rattle and clang around our jars, our cups are stained black but empty. Ms. Fitzgerald is now whispering, lamenting so quietly that our time is up, we must move on, get back. And so, the door opens and closes again. I pick up the jars, and spoons, and cups and bring them to the sink. Drifting, dreaming in an azure mood I sing along with Ella. Stardust gleaming, through my solitude. There is one pie left, forgotten on the counter. I put the jar in the fridge, thinking of how tomorrow, somehow, I will eat it alone, yet still be near {just a click away!} to so many good souls.
{For these jar pies I used Deb’s Peach Pie recipe. My Grandma made a killer pie, but sadly never passed the recipe on. These little lovlies turned out great, but I had forgotten to use Cook’s Illustrated’s wonderful tip of placing the pies on a preheated baking sheet, so the bottom crust ended up being a bit soggy. Next time, next time.

Also, stay tuned for pie posts from the lovely ladies at Local Milk, Desserts for Breakfast, and Honey & Jam. I can’t wait to come over.}