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I've been blogging over at Our Sleeping Flowers these days. Still me, and still delicious, come join me!

When I make a commitment, I may not follow through immediately, but I do follow through. It's something that teaches the husband a lot of patience because he's the type of person who is direct, immediate, and the example of strength to my weaknesses. A long time ago, I don't dare tell you exactly how long for shame, I received a package from Marx foods, an online fine foods store, to try samples of various products. I spent the time between receiving that sample package and now trying the samples in every way possible; took me long enough.

Herein, I will share with you what I received, how I used it, liked it, and would suggest using it if I were to buy more. If you can't find certain spices and herbs that are worth trying nearby, I would suggest ordering from marx foods. they have an array of lovely things to create with and were very kind. I like that they have descriptions and suggestions for use for every product. It'd be fun to order something every now and again just to try something new, or give as a gift to a beloved foodie friend.

vanilla sugar - this was actually a vanilla powdered sugar. I used it to roll cookies in, added it to my tea, oatmeal, and if I had more I would love to use it in icings, frostings and as a substitute for anything else that called for confectioners' sugar.

maple sugar - my favorite way to use this was in my oatmeal. I am sure it would be lovely in pancakes or other morning foods, and I would use it to substitute in all my baked goods as it is a vegan sugar and I love maple anything. I would buy this one.

granulated honey - of course I used this in my tea, but I liked it sprinkled over fresh fruit as well. It's a lot easier to use than the sticky stuff, especially if you want to bake with it.

demerara sugar - I use this one regularly, but I don't order it online as it is available just up the street. I use this one to bake with, mix in drinks, basically as my every need sugar.

coconut sugar - this was the most interesting sugar sample, one that I couldn't quite figure out how to use at first. I just added it to my oatmeal and liked the subtle taste of palm although if you're expecting a distinct and strong coconut taste, it doesn't have it.

truffle oil - I had never tried truffle anything before, but always heard the praise given to truffles and truffle oil in the highest culinary places. Plus Jamie Oliver says it's posh. I'm sad to say that I had a bit of a problem with it. The smell of the oil is so strong, the aroma overpowered my senses and made it difficult to taste anything else. I brushed it on pizzas and breads because a drizzle was too much. But even though the smell is intense, the flavor is subtle and intriguing. I keep using it because it's so interesting, I just have to plug my nose when I drizzle it.

vanilla beans - this was the most exciting thing to see, two bags of lovely vanilla beans. There were two types, madagascar and tahitian. The madagascar beans were long and skinny compared to the flat, broad, and shorter tahitian variety. I used the madagascar beans in things I wanted a pronounced vanilla flavor as they seemed more potent in smell, but the tahitian vanilla beans were easier to scrape the seeds out of. I use my vanilla beans in my baking, drinks, and I always keep the bean long after I've used it for flavoring more drinks and sugars. Today's zupas post tells you how to re-use that old dried vanilla bean by making vanilla sugar, check it out over at zupas today.

what's your favorite specialty food?

vanilla sugar
 2 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
an airtight container to store

Combine ingredients and store in airtight container for at least two weeks before using.

** If you want to make it using a fresh vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds of one vanilla bean and combine with two cups sugar. If you want to use everything, seeds and pod, increase the amount of sugar to 3 to 4 cups.

sprinkle on fruit, cookies, cakes, caramels. Add to teas, coffee, desserts, etc.

Here is a recipe for vanilla powder, like the one I used on these pfeffernüsse cookies.

vanilla powder
1 cup confectioners or powdered sugar
3/4 - 1 teaspoon corn starch
2 dried vanilla beans broken into smaller pieces or the seeds of one vanilla bean and the pod

Combine all ingredients in airtight container, mix well if adding the seeds. Let sit for one to two weeks. Sift out vanilla bean pieces before using.

Use to top anything you would usually use powdered sugar for. Use in icings, glazes, etc.

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