Recipe: DIY 2-ingredient Vanilla Extract 🎀

The difference between an ‘okay’ baked good and a spectacular one can be as simple as using a high-quality, concentrated vanilla extract. By making your own, you control these aspects instead of dealing with imitation or watered-down vanilla with synthetic ingredients. Give us the good stuff!

Being a ‘planner’ type, starting to create and buy holiday gifts in July is not unprecedented. This year, we were curious about making our own vanilla extract since we use it in coffee, our 5 Spice Hot Choffee, baking and pretty much everywhere. How hard could it be? Spoiler: it’s so easy and also rather fun. We decided to make 12 bottles and gift them to friends and family. You can do the same. While this recipe doubles as a gift idea, it triples as a way of making the most divine vanilla bean sugar (more on that later).

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

Makes 12 bottles

Ingredients & Items needed

2 packs vanilla bean pods (the 2 packs will yield 40 pods and this ensures at least 3 pods per bottle)

10 liters of 80-proof vodka (we bought the 1.75 liter gluten-free, non-GMO Blue Ice Potato Vodka brand and took home 6 of these puppies)

12 swing-top bottles (33oz size)

Funnels, if you don’t have them already

Instructions

Use clean or sterilized bottles (because there are plastic pieces attached, we skipped that step and did a normal cleaning of the bottles and waited for them to dry). Slice vanilla bean pods lengthwise (to expose more of the bean to the alcohol) and put 3-4 in each bottle. Then, using your funnel, carefully pour the vodka into each bottle, dividing evenly between the 12.

If all of this feels too much, here’s the store-bought organic vanilla extract we’ve historically used that sparked the idea for this recipe.

Let’s talk numbers and value.

The vodka, depending on brand quality, varies in price. Our total ran about $180 for the 6 bottles, $40 for the organic vanilla beans, $30 for the swing-top bottles and about $7 for the funnels. That’s about $21.42 per bottle and you’re getting about 29oz ounces in each bottle, more than 3x the amount of the 8oz versions in the store that go for almost $40. In fact, let’s get granular: the store-bought version linked above is $4.65 per fluid ounce whereas ours is $0.74. The value of each bottle, considering the more concentrated and higher-quality ingredients used – in addition to the labor of love involved, is well over $135. That’s vanilla gold right there.

Make the recipe suit you! Smaller bottles (8.5oz vs. 33oz) would drastically bring down the amount, and cost, of alcohol and vanilla bean pods needed.

Tips & best practices: each bottle should have about 3-4 pods for maximum flavor. Start early for next year – similar to wine, vanilla extract tastes better as it ages. Give the vanilla beans as little as 8 weeks to infuse or wait 6-12 months for the richer flavor to emerge. Keep in a cool, dark place and shake bottles once a week.

We love doing calligraphy, but there are plenty of ways to create your own custom stickers for your gift bottles. Enjoy!

Client Spotlight: Lost 90lbs! 🎉

“I bought a size 8 in pants today. I used to be a size 18. I’ve dropped 90lbs (the same weight as my 12 year old!) and my last 5 pounds took a month to lose.

I feel wiser and I really appreciate you helping me think things through. When I started the program the first time, it was with the goal to lose weight as quickly as possible and stop feeling so bad about myself. I lost weight and slowly regained it because my mindset had not changed. This time around I realized that I needed the deeper healing approach and boy has it worked!

I cook much more than I used to and once a month I have a crazy meal where I have whatever I want. The weird thing is that I don’t treat it like I did before when I’d almost binge on my cheat day. I have what I want and move on with my day. Also, my taste buds have changed and old fast food favorites like a chicken sandwich and fries aren’t as good as I thought. Oh, and I think I’m getting to the point where I don’t like sugar. I avoided the cookie aisle but walked down it recently and nothing really appealed to me. I looked at soft chewy cookies, mint chocolate milanos, and Oreos but didn’t want them without milk. I left them all on the shelf and this would never have happened before. My last sweet was a doughnut from work and it took me a couple days to eat it. Because I don’t restrict myself, I don’t eat too much. I can eat soup or pizza for dinner and I feel good about my choices.

I’m dedicated to walking nearly every day and have looked for more adventures like exploring trails with friends. I know myself better too. My gym workout has to be in the morning or it doesn’t get done and I fight myself the rest of the day. I love the life binder you suggested and am trying to incorporate it more consistently. I love the structure of my mornings, my recipes, to-do list, and journaling. It’s repetitive probably but I like my meal options and not having to plan something on the fly.

What I love about working with you is that you help me get in to my own body and to examine my thoughts. What I carry with me is when you told me to trust the process and my journey, which has taken time. It felt like being pregnant and giving birth to my new self. Sometimes I felt like I was flying high and the weight was just melting off but other times I felt stuck at a plateau and was discouraged thinking I wouldn’t be able to move past it. You were able to guide me no matter the stage I was in and I always left our appointments feeling encouraged and ready to do my “homework.” This was never a Diet and you never let me give up on wanting better for myself.

My self-talk is healthier, my sleep is really good and menstrual cycles are better. I realize that in working with you that it was never about the weight I wanted to lose, it was about the life that I wanted to live and now am living. I love myself more and act like it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Name withheld

Columbus, Ohio


This client is a gem and a double-winner. The first time we worked together, this client was fresh off another ‘diet’ (read: deprivation state). She thought she needed less calories, more rigid meal-planning, harsher exercise – more of everything that was mean to herself in order to lose weight. Though she did lose weight the first time, the method wasn’t sustainable. As we often say, you can’t really hate your way into sustainable weight loss, but you CAN love yourself there. It was a message that wasn’t ready to be heard at the time, but in this last year we’ve seen the biggest, most beautiful transformation of this woman’s mind and SOUL…and the body has followed. When you’re ready to ditch diet mentality and love yourself into the body and life you want, we invite you to a complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call to get started.

Review: True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen at Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio

It was another hot day in Phoenix when we first went with our friend to True Food Kitchen. Because we were both dietitian-foodies, we had tried all sorts of local restaurants and smoothie shops…but this restaurant was different. We found out that it was created by our long-time hero, integrative physician Dr. Weil. The food was authentically good – healthy and delicious (so nice when we don’t have to choose between the two). It’s fresh without trying too hard.

During one of our last visits to the Arizona True Food Kitchen, we expressed to our waitress how Columbus could be a great place for another location. When she returned, after speaking with her manager, she told us that there was one on the way. We could scarcely believe it. So we rather (im)patiently waited. And waited some more. AND THEN…

It looked like our wish was about to come true. We mentally planned a jubilant parade through Easton to celebrate the opening.

But you all know what happened. Covid. So another year of waiting.

It was a moment of absolute glee when we were able to visit last week. Did we go a bit overboard? Yes. After hours of wistfully looking at the menu and planning, we were finally able to pick up a rather gigantic order so that we could try nearly everything, and report to all of you. Ah, the things we do for love & food.

Their fall menu had just come out; here’s what we ordered and recommend:

The Butternut Squash Pizza. Oh my goodness, the pizza. There is an evening we’ll never forget that took place in Akron, Ohio. We gathered with a group of friends at Vegeterranean (R.I.P. 2011) and, in one of the best decisions of our life, ordered a butternut squash pizza with carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar. It was so very good, we rather desperately wrote down the ingredients and then stored it in our recipe binder, with the hopes and plans of recreating it. Alas, it has not yet happened and the restaurant is no more. Buuuut….remember this moment from Ratatouille?

True Food’s pizza transported us back in time, while keeping our taste buds mindfully primed for the next exquisite bite. (Vegan and can be made gluten-free)

Grass-fed burger – this was for Mr. Chef, but we’ve had it before in the past and remember the deep, umami flavor from the carmelized onions, parmesan, and mushrooms.

Squash soup. This one was a great surprise! Sometimes squash soup can be a bit boring, but this was anything but bland. The blend of spices in the hot soup conjures up hygge-inspired evenings cozied up with blankets, a warm fire, and company of a loved one.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole. This was another favorite from the AZ location and last week we froze it to keep as a meal for when we weren’t wanting to prep dinner. That evening came and the dish reanimated very well after a proper defrosting and cooking. Definitely recommend. (Vegetarian, gluten-free)

Side of Sweet Potato Hash. This order included what looked like overly-roasted spuds and yet the insides were a bit tougher and undercooked. Having had this side before at the other location, we’re not giving up and will order it again.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Hands-down a winner. The miso sesame vinaigrette, along with the mushrooms and chili threads, created a savory appetizer.

Tuscan Kale Salad. We forgot to order these without breadcrumbs so Mr. Chef was the lucky recipient of both salads. His review: “it had a tangy, citrus-y dressing and if that weren’t enough, it had parmesan cheese on top. The kale itself is good, so it’s a bit like gilding the lily.”

Desserts

Flourless Chocolate Cake. Back in the day when eating gluten-free wasn’t very cool and restaurants pretty much had only baked goods with regular flour, this dessert was a gold mine. We ordered it every.single.time we went. All you need to know is that it contains chocolate, caramel, and ice cream. This dessert is all that and a sprinkle of cacao nibs. (Vegetarian, gluten-free)

Squash Pie. The flavor was very good and reminscent of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. The crust was crisper and the portion more generous than anticipated.

Chocolate Chip Cookies. Gluten-free & vegan, cakey and chocolately. We ordered a half-dozen. Only one survived past Day 3.

While we haven’t seen old favorites, such as Kale-aid juice and the Inside-out Quinoa burger yet, we’re thrilled to see what each season will bring to the menu of True Food Kitchen.

Our aim, despite our perhaps rather obvious obsession with this place, is to provide a balanced review. If you like what you’ve read, take a little trip over to 4052 Worth Ave at Easton Town Center. There’s a good chance you’ll catch us leaving there with a pizza.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro

Ingredients

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt

Dressing:

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (including tender stems)
1 teaspoon of lime zest or lemon zest
2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt

Instructions

Turn on your grill and let it heat up
Peel the sweet potatoes (feel free to leave some skin on if desired) and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch thick pieces
Coat the sweet potato slices with olive oil and add salt to taste
Combine all the dressing ingredients into a bowl
Once the grill is hot, put the sweet potato slices on the grill
Cover, and let cook for about 3-6 minutes on each side
Mix the sweet potatoes in the bowl with the dressing
Enjoy!