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Vanilla: Not Just for Baking. Who Knew?

Connecticut Cookie Company Vanilla

Green tea, ginkgo balboa, Bullet Coffee, goji berries. Vanilla may just be the new super item. If it’s not a super food, it’s at least overqualified as a multi-purpose household bit of magic.

Here’s a short list of some magical things real vanilla extract boasts about on it’s curriculum vitae:

  1. When added to household paint it neutralizes the smell.
  2. Perfume: as natural as it gets, dab vanilla behind your ears and on your wrists for a warm scent.
  3. Apparently vanilla is a hunger buster. This works by inhaling a large whiff before eating, in the theory of tricking your body into thinking you are more full than you are.
  4. Add several drops of vanilla oil or extract to a few cups of water in a spray bottle and use to scent rooms, your car or carpets. Not sure if this would work directly on Fluffy, but it’s all natural and wouldn't hurt to try! Litter box? Not potent enough to take that on.
  5. 5) Vanilla is packed with antioxidants. Blend into your favorite scrub and massage onto your skin in the shower.
  6. As a mom who loves to get outdoors with the kid, this one is my favorite: bug spray! The perennial search for a healthy, natural way to repel mosquitoes is over. This should be an even ratio of extract and water, then sprayed on to people or place. I can’t wait to spray all the doors and thresholds to the house in summer and give this a try.
  7. Vanilla extract relieves minor burns. Apply directly to light sunburn or other minor burns to relieve the sting.
  8. Sore throat soother.
  9. Stress release. Purportedly, vanilla is a calming agent and can relieve anxiety and nervousness. The extract healthily slows down one’s heart.
  10. Vanilla oil (not the extract) is an aid in relieving menstrual cramps. A great idea is to take a hot bath with the oil added in. Couldn’t hurt to massage some into your lower back after the tub. Perhaps this supports the tendency to eat more chocolate during this not-so-fun time-of-the-month, since most chocolate desserts have vanilla in them. I’ll explore that someday in a thesis.

I’m even more impressed with vanilla than I was before and you should be, too. If you’re not, start from the beginning and read this again. Vanilla sold at CTCOCO.

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Homemade Vanilla


I have a quilt my maternal grandmother made me. She made one for each of us, her five grandchildren, and mine is made with even squares of printed fabrics: stripes, small florals, plaid, paisley and one charming print of Wrigley’s gum. It is cozy and colorful and brings back memories of comfort and of her house where each of the fabrics had a first life as a shirt or dress or pillowcase.

I inherited many things from Grandma Brook including her sewing machine and a necklace from the 20s I wore as “Something Old” on my wedding day. But the most precious thing she passed on to me is her talent in the kitchen. She used vanilla brewed at her local pharmacy in Indiana, and that is the magic that made her pumpkin pie mysteriously delicious. To this day, I cannot perfectly recreate either that pie or her chocolate meringue, but the vanilla she used is the vanilla I use, and now I brew it myself from the original recipe pharmacy shared with me. It is the cornerstone of my baking, the cornerstone of my own business.

Like the quilt, I will pass my love of baking and the vanilla recipe on to my daughter. And like Grandma’s pie, maybe there will be something of mine she can’t get just right, but will build on it and make it her own, as all baking evolves. She is already a help in the kitchen, and I hope she is replicating my memories of family time related to crafting food from scratch. To see her curled up in her Great-Grandma’s quilt to watch a movie makes me sad that they never met, but fills my heart to see generations of us connected.

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