The HERO of Any Flavoring Collection!

Most people know it as one of the world’s best-loved dessert flavorings—next only to chocolate. You can find it in anything from biscotti, pound cake, yellow or white cake, sugar cookies, buttercream frosting, frozen custard, ice cream, tapioca pudding, vanilla pudding, creamy scones, bundt cake, shortbread cookies, blonde brownies, Rice Krispie® bars, fruit shortcake, caramels, cheesecake, custard pie, orange Julius. And so much more. I’m talking about vanilla, the hero of any flavoring collection.

But it does so much more than add incredible flavor to thing. For instance, have you ever considered the health benefits of vanilla? While it might not taste great by itself (and isn’t often used by itself), vanilla is a safe and healthy additive for many reasons!

First of all, it’s RICH in antioxidants, doing a tasty job of protecting you from free radicals and toxins. Next, vanilla promotes heart health. One of the active ingredients in vanilla, vanillin, has been shown to lower bad cholesterol.

Vanilla is also very good for your skin, because it’s highly anti-inflammatory. And research shows the aroma of vanilla soothes and helps with depression. Lastly, there’s a reason some shampoos and hair products contain vanilla. It has a significant effect on your hair! Again, it’s the antioxidants we can thank for that. Aside from helping repair cells, it also helps prevent damage to your hair follicles. This promotes healthy hair growth and delays hair loss.

So back to the idea of it as a flavoring: Vanilla is so much more than "plain." Warm, floral, and inviting, America's long-time favorite flavor infuses everything with a creamy sweetness that can't be beat. And because of its creamy sweetness, any recipe containing vanilla can easily be made with less sugar than is called for.

Finally, do you have a favorite vanilla flavor? Madagascar vanilla extract has a creamy, sweet flavor, while our Indonesian vanilla has woody, smoky undertones. Want something familiar and full-bodied? Then merely opt for Pure Vanilla Extract.

And don’t you love that you can easily make your own? Just place 2 or 3 whole vanilla beans in some vodka or rum, cover the top of the container, and store in a dark place for 6 or 7 weeks. That’s it. We’ve often done this in October and given our homemade vanilla as Christmas gifts. Talk about a no-muss, no-fuss, and sincerely appreciated gift!

I’ll close with one of our favorite recipes—one I learned to make when I was about 10 years old. It’s the original Orange Julius. This is the perfect recipe to let your children and grandchildren mess with. It’s a tasty and easy way to help them get comfortable in the kitchen!

Original Orange Julius

6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup whole milk (while lowfat is OK, the creamier the better; our preference is half ‘n half or even cream!)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until well mixed and consistency is smooth. Enjoy immediately.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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