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Moroccan Carrots

by Lydia Whitlock — Oct 25th, 2016

Moroccan carrots are a fairly ubiquitous dish, and with good reason. The common thread throughout the many variations is the combination of sweet, earthy carrots, tart lemon juice, a luxurious amount of olive oil, and the perfect blend of spices. 

This version adapted from Zahav is a genius take on the recipe, using the liquid in which the carrots cook as a super carrot-y addition to the dressing. Served chilled, these carrots are a great accompaniment to a grilled meat or as an addition to a mezze platter. And, if you're looking for an easy make-ahead side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner that's a little off the beaten path, try this one!


  • 6 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed, from 1-2 oranges
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped
  • 1 Tbs. mint leave, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Aleppo-Style Chili Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin


  1. Lay the whole carrots in a large, deep skillet. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and just barely cover the carrots with cold water. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10-12 minutes, until carrots are just beginning to soften. This may take more or less time depending on the size of your skillet and your carrots, so take care not to overcook them.
  2. When the carrots have just started to soften, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool. Don’t throw away the cooking liquid! That will become your dressing.
  3. As the carrots cool, reduce the carrot cooking liquid by simmering over medium-high heat, until it becomes almost syrupy, about 10 minutes. Again, this will depend on the size of your pan, so use your best judgement -- you don’t want it to be too watery. Once reduced, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, just to take away the raw edge.
  4. Remove the liquid from the heat and whisk in the olive oil, orange juice, Aleppo-style chili flakes, ground cumin, cilantro, mint, and 1 tsp. Kosher salt, or more to taste.
  5. When carrots are cool enough to handle, slice lengthwise, then crosswise into half-inch half moons. Toss the carrots in the dressing and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to allow the flavors to meld.

Serves 6 as a side dish. Adapted from Zahav

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Focaccia with Smoked Paprika Butter

by Lydia Whitlock — Oct 14th, 2016

Both of these recipes are kind of magical -- they take super simple ingredients like water, flour, butter, salt, and Vanns Smoked Spanish Paprika and turn them into beautiful, impressive golden brown focaccia and a deeply orange-red, perfectly flavored smoked paprika butter to be spread on top. It makes a great appetizer for any occasion, but be careful that your guests don’t fill themselves up on it! It’s a little bit addictive.

The focaccia and butter can be used separately, of course. The focaccia, carefully halved horizontally, makes for a luxurious sandwich bread, while the smoked paprika butter is great for adding a smoky flavor to savory dishes -- toss a knob in at the end of pan-frying a piece of fish, or frying eggs, or even use it to finish off a pasta dish! The possibilities are endless. (I wouldn’t recommend using it as a cooking fat, however; the spices in the butter tend to burn if heated for too long at cooking temperatures.)



Smoked Paprika Butter:


  1. Make the focaccia: Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the warm water and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated -- it will form a very sticky, wet dough. This is good! This is what makes the end result so tender and moist.
  2. Pour ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil into a large bowl, one that will give the dough room to rise significantly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 8 hours or for up to 2 days. The longer it rises, the better the flavor, in my opinion, but if you’re short on time, 8 hours still works!
  3. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F and oil an 18” x 13” baking sheet. Transfer the focaccia dough to the pan and use your hands to spread it out over the pan as much as possible -- it will try to spring back from the corners, but some gentle, patient pushing will make it stay.
  4. Place the dough in a warm place to rise again, until it about doubles in bulk. This can take 20 minutes in the summer and an hour in the winter, so pay attention to its original size. When the dough is ready for baking, it should be room temperature, fully spread out on the sheet, and looking nice and fluffy.
  5. Pat down the dough to an even 1-inch thickness and then poke your fingertips into it at 1-inch intervals to make a series of dimples over the whole surface of the dough. Drizzle the entire surface with some extra-virgin olive oil -- this helps it get a beautiful golden-brown color -- and sprinkle generously with some English Flake Sea Salt.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the top is a beautiful golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then remove from the pan.
  7. This bread is best eaten the same day or, at the very latest, the next day. “That’s a lot of focaccia to eat in one day!” you might be thinking. Well, even though it’s delicious, I agree. This bread also freezes quite well -- cut it into single-serving rectangles and freeze it in a freezer bag. It will defrost and crisp up nicely in a 350°F oven later on. If you’re planning to make sandwiches with it, cut it in half horizontally before freezing, for a much easier and faster defrosting process.
  8. Make the butter: blend all ingredients together thoroughly, making sure there are no white streaks. The butter will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for a few weeks.

Serves 8-10 as an appetizer. Adapted from Saltie and Prune.


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Carrot Cake for a Crowd

by Lydia Whitlock — Oct 5th, 2016

Making dessert for a crowd can be difficult. Something like a pie is almost big enough, but you'll have to carefully dissect it into tiny slivers to really make it work. A layer cake looks spectacular, but presents the same slicing problem. The way to go is with a rectangular dessert, like a cobbler or a sheet cake. When I think of sheet cakes, I think of the typical yellow cake/chocolate frosting combination, which, while satisfying, isn't particularly sophisticated. But this sheet cake is a different animal -- a moist, well-spiced carrot cake topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting.

The crushed pineapple in the cake batter creates a perfect texture, while the optional step of soaking the raisins in some whiskey before stirring them into the batter adds a little zing to the flavor. A hearty helping of cinnamon and vanilla round out the flavors to create something that is flavorful and indulgent, but not at all heavy. Bring it to a summer barbecue or a fall potluck -- the crowd will definitely be pleased!



  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Vanilla Extract
  • 3 cups peeled and grated carrots, about 4 large
  • ½ cup canned crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ¼ cup whiskey, optional


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13” baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Line with parchment paper if you’re at all concerned about the cake sticking.
  2. If you’d like to add a little extra zing to the cake, place the raisins in a small heatproof bowl, and heat the whiskey in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling. Pour the whiskey over the raisins and allow to plump for 15 minutes. Drain the raisins and set aside. Or, you can just add the dry raisins to the cake!
  3. Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and sugars in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one.
  4. Using the stand mixer, a handheld mixer, or just elbow grease, beat the softened butter into the flour mixture until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla until well combined. Finally, add the carrots, crushed pineapple, and raisins, stirring until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan -- it’s a bit thick, so it will take some smoothing to even it all out. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan before carefully turning out onto a platter or cutting board.
  6. While the cake cools, make the frosting. Put the cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
  7. If you’re taking this cake to a party or other location, I recommend you store the icing in a separate container in the fridge and ice the cake once you arrive. It’s easy! Just spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake, slice, and serve.

Serves 15-20. Adapted from Serious Eats.

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Chipotle Black Bean Dip

by Lydia Whitlock — Sep 26th, 2016

This dip recipe is simple to make, looks great, and is quite healthy, with no added fat and a nice punch of fiber from the black beans! What else could you ask for? Oh right, it tastes great as well! 

The beans are spiced with Vanns Chipotle Chili Powder, Vanns Mexican Blast, and Vanns Ground Cumin for a nice smoky punch, as well as Vanns Onion Powder and Vanns Garlic Powder, which give them the sweet pungency of those two alliums, without the overpowering flavor that can often come with adding them raw. Bright cilantro rounds out the mix. It’s a great appetizer for any meal, and, as a bonus, a wonderful quesadilla filling as well!



  1. Combine about three-quarters of the black beans and the other ingredients in a food processor and process until well-mashed, but still slightly chunky. You can adjust the texture to your liking by giving the mixture more or less time in the food processor. Stir in the remaining black beans and season to taste with salt.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips. Or, spread on a flour tortilla, top with cheese, fold in half, and toast in a skillet with a bit of vegetable oil for a tasty bean quesadilla!

Makes 2 ½ cups.

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Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

by Lydia Whitlock — Sep 18th, 2016

Spaghetti squash is kind of a magical vegetable. If you cut it open before cooking, it looks like a normal, solid, bright yellow squash. But after cooking, with a simple scrape of a fork, it separates into impressively long, slightly crisp strands! There are many recipes out there that substitute this squash for pasta, and with good reason -- it’s almost as satisfying topped with tomato sauce as actual spaghetti is. But I find there are fewer recipes that treat this vegetable as an actual squash, complementing its flavor rather than trying to hide it. 

But this recipe treats the squash as squash, giving the whole thing a quick cook in the microwave before tossing the strands with a beautifully spiced butter. The strands soak up the flavor of the spices perfectly, and the dish manages to be both light and luxurious, the butter lending just the right amount of indulgence to the steamed vegetable. 



  1. Pierce the squash all over with a small, sharp knife, going about one inch deep to prevent it from bursting. Place the whole squash on a plate in an 800-watt microwave, and cook on 100% power for six minutes. Carefully turn the squash over to its other side and microwave at 100% power again, until the squash feels slightly soft when pressed, eight to ten minutes more. Let the squash cool for five minutes. 
  2. While the squash cools, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When foam has subsided, add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic has just turned golden. Stir in the spices and remove the pan from heat.
  3. Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise -- it may still be quite hot to the touch, and will give off steam when opened. Scrape out the seeds in the middle with a spoon and discard.
  4. Using a fork, scrape the strands of squash away from the sides and into a bowl, making sure they separate well. 
  5. Put the squash in a bowl and toss well with the spiced butter, salt, and cilantro. Serve warm.

Serves 6 as a side dish. Adapted from Gourmet.


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Indian-Spiced Cashews

by Lydia Whitlock — Sep 16th, 2016

These toasted and spiced nuts couldn’t be simpler, and couldn’t be more of an impressive dish to toss together to bring to a cocktail party. A combination of earthy coriander, cumin, and turmeric play beautifully off the natural nutty sweetness of cashews, with cayenne and salt adding a pop of salt and spice. 

I recommend you use the whole cumin and coriander seeds for this recipe, as toasting them beforehand really brings out the flavors in a lovely way. But since this is a dish that’s supposed to be easy and simple, I’ve included amounts for the ground spices as well.



  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant, about 1 minute. Grind medium-coarsely in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. If using pre-ground spices, skip this step.
  3. In a shallow baking dish, spread the cashews out in an even layer and roast until barely golden, 7-10 minutes.
  4. Put the roasted cashews in a medium bowl, drizzle with melted butter, and toss with the toasted spices, cayenne, and turmeric. Salt to taste with sea salt and toss again to coat evenly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 1 ½ cups. Adapted from One Good Dish.

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Mesquite Barbecue Beans

by Lydia Whitlock — Sep 14th, 2016

It may be September, but barbecue season isn’t over yet! While the weather’s still warm, and friends are still throwing meat and vegetables on the grill, it’s time to give this hearty, crowd-pleasing side dish a try. You’d never think that beans could be a showstopper of a dish, but these have the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, smoky and spicy. Vanns Mesquite Barbecue Rub adds a little twist of wood-fired flavor to the dish. The final product may look like more beans than a crowd could ever hope to eat, but I’m willing to bet that they’ll all be gone by the end of the day.

A note: if you'd like to make these beans for some vegetarian friends, omit the bacon and use 2 Tbs. vegetable oil to brown the onions and other aromatics. Adding a teaspoon of Vanns Smoked Spanish Paprika in Step 4 will add back some of that smokiness that you lose with the bacon!


  • Water
  • 2 Tbs. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 lb. dried pinto or navy beans
  • 8 oz. sliced bacon cut into ½-inch strips
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium jalapeño, stem and seeds removed, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 Tbs. yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. Vanns Mesquite Barbecue Rub
  • 1 Tbs. hot sauce, such as Sriracha


  1. Add 8 cups of water and 2 Tbs. Vanns Kosher Salt to a large bowl or other large container and stir until salt is dissolved. Add beans, cover the container, and let soak overnight at room temperature. When you’re ready to make the beans the next day, drain and rinse.
  2. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove. When hot, add sliced bacon and cook until its fat has fully rendered and the bacon is a crisp, deep golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, move the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving as much bacon fat in the pan as you can.
  3. Keeping the dutch oven over medium high heat, add the diced onions to the pot. Cook until the onions are softened and browned around the edges, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Lower heat if necessary. Stir in the minced jalapeño and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the cooked bacon back in, and stir in the chicken stock, 3 cups of water, and the drained and rinsed beans. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, and preheat the oven to 300°F while the beans simmer.
  4. When the hour is over, add the ketchup, brown sugar, honey, molasses, mustard, vinegar, Vanns Mesquite Barbecue Rub, and hot sauce, and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover the dutch oven tightly and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook in the oven for 4 hours, stirring every hour or so, until the beans are creamy and tender. The best way to test them is to taste them!
  5. Remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Season with kosher salt to taste and serve immediately. You can also store these beans in a container in the fridge for up to 1 week -- the flavors will intensify as time goes on, so making them ahead is a great idea! Reheat over a gently flame before serving.

Serves 8 - 10 as a side dish. Adapted from Serious Eats.

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Falafel Sandwiches with Awesome Condiments

by Lydia Whitlock — Aug 17th, 2016

These falafel sandwiches are straight-up amazing. The falafel is flavorful, crisp, and light, so good that even by itself it’s a wonderful thing. But add in fluffy pita bread, some spiced, spicy herb-chile sauce, some pickles, and a little smear of something creamy, and you’ll end up with something that is all about contrasting flavors and textures, something that’s crunchy and warm and savory and spicy and sour, all at the same time, all in the right amounts.

This falafel is barely more difficult to make than the falafel that comes from a boxed mix, and the end result is so much better, with a much more varied and crunchy texture and a much deeper flavor, thanks to the dried spices and fresh herbs that get blended into the mix. The deep frying may be a bit of a hassle, but it’s worth it, especially if you consider that you can save your frying oil for two more rounds of falafel, which I suspect you will be making soon after trying this recipe. Note ahead of time that the chickpeas will need to soak overnight, so account for that in your planning.



  • 1 ¼ cups (250 grams) dried chickpeas
  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced
  • 1 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Cayenne
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Ground Coriander
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Ground Cardamom
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • 1 ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • About 3 cups vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or sunflower oil, for frying

Pickled Red Onions:

Zhoug (a spicy herbal hot sauce with the texture of a salsa. It’s a wonderful addition to the traditional falafel-tahini sauce combo):

Tahini Sauce:

  • ⅓ cup tahini paste
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane or minced
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt, or to taste

To Assemble Sandwiches:

  • Fried Falafel
  • Pita Bread
  • Labneh or Greek Yogurt (optional)
  • Zhoug
  • Tahini Sauce
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables (such as turnips, beets, carrots, optional)


  1. To begin, soak the chickpeas overnight, covered with water at least twice their volume. You can make your condiments the night before or the day you plan to fry the falafel. Note that you’ll need to let the ground falafel mix sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour, so you can easily make the sauces during that time.
  2. Make the falafel mix: Drain the chickpeas after soaking overnight, and stir in the onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Put the mixture in a food processor in two batches, and pulse until you have a finely chopped mixture that is even in texture but not mushy or pasty. Place the chopped mixture in a bowl and stir in the spices, baking powder, salt, flour, and water. Cover and refrigerate for at least hour.
  3. Make the Pickled Red Onions: Thinly slice the onions. You can do them in rings, or slice the onions in half and do half moons or slice from pole to pole for more gently-curved shreds. Separate the onions slices and place them in a colander. Set the colander in your sink and pour all of the boiling water over them, making sure to get each onion piece. 
  4. Place the onions in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving -- longer is better. The onions will keep for several weeks in the fridge in a tightly-sealed container.
  5. Make the Zhoug: combine all ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse a few times until you get a coarse paste. It should be a coarse texture, more of a salsa than a pesto. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
  6. Make the Tahini Sauce: Stir all ingredients together until evenly combined. Add more water if needed -- you want a sauce that is creamy and smooth and can be drizzled on a sandwich.
  7. To fry the falafel, fill a deep, heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan with enough oil to come 3 inches up the sides. Heat the oil to 350°F. Prepare a large plate or tray with a layer of paper towels.
  8. Moisten your hands, and press 1 Tbs. of falafel mixture into a ball. Make it as compressed as possible. A loose falafel ball will dissolve in the oil, leaving behind only tiny golden bits. Lower the falafel balls into the oil, frying in batches for about 4 minutes, until the outsides of the balls are a crisp, deep golden brown. Remove the balls with a slotted spoon to your prepared plate or tray and allow them to drain. You can keep them warm in a low oven if needed.
  9. Assemble the sandwiches: Toast the pita breads lightly, so that they’re warm, but are still soft and flexible. Spread each pita bread with a spoonful of labneh or yogurt if you like. Top each pita with three falafel balls, and run a spoonful of zhoug down the line of falafel balls. Add pickled onions, sauerkraut, and/or other pickles to taste, and then drizzle the entire sandwich with some tahini sauce, 1-2 Tbs. of it -- you want the sandwich to be well-flavored, but not too wet.
  10. Wrap the pita around the sandwich contents, and enjoy! These sandwiches also travel fairly well and taste good at room temperature -- wrap the completed sandwiches securely in tin foil, and you have a wonderful picnic at the ready.

Makes about 20 falafel, or 6 sandwiches worth, with a few left over for snacking. You can also throw these on top of a salad, or serve them with the tahini sauce and zhoug on the side for dipping. Adapted from Jerusalem.

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Nut and Seed Crackers with Rosemary

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 26th, 2016

These crackers are delicious -- light, crunchy, full of the textures and flavors of nuts and dried fruit, with a hint of herbs and spices. They’re amazing on a cheese plate. Seasoned with Vanns Dried Rosemary, they have a piney, sophisticated flavor, perfect for goat cheese, but any cheese will make a happy partner. Feel free to experiment with different nuts, dried fruits, and spices as well!


  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (if using larger pieces, chop to be cranberry-sized)
  • ¾ cup pecans (or walnuts, or almonds, or any other nut you’d prefer)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat, rye, spelt, or other whole-grain flour
  • 1 Tbs. Vanns Rosemary
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup yogurt mixed with 1 cup milk)
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly coat a loaf pan (or 4 mini loaf pans) with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with very hot water. Let them soak and plump for at least 15 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Place the pecans on a baking sheet in an even single layer and toast in the oven until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly, then chop them roughly on a cutting board while the pecans are still a bit warm.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, Dried Rosemary, baking soda, Kosher Salt, and brown sugar, making sure to break up any big clumps of brown sugar. Pour the buttermilk over the dry ingredients and stir gently until no more dry flour remains. Be careful not to overmix.
  5. Drain the cranberries after at least 15 minutes. Add the cranberries, chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to the batter and stir gently to mix them in evenly.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), making sure to divide it evenly if using mini loaf pans. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes (for mini loaf pans) and 35-45 minutes (for a regular loaf pan), until the tops have risen to domes and turned golden brown, and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove the loaf or loaves from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a rack. If you are using a large loaf pan, you can slice the loaf in half lengthwise at this point, in order to create bite-sized crackers. Or you can leave the full-size loaf whole and have larger crackers -- it’s up to you!
  8. Wrap the loaves tightly in foil and freeze until solid, overnight. You can stop at this point and leave the loaves in the freezer for up to 3 months, pulling them out to make crackers whenever you’re in the mood!
  9. When you’re ready to make the crackers, preheat the oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove one of your loaves from the freezer, unwrap it, and slice it as thinly as possible with a serrated knife, aiming for a thickness between ⅛-inch and 1/16-inch. Lay the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. The crackers can be quite close together, but be careful not to let them touch. Slice as many crackers as you want, then bake for 15 minutes. Flip the crackers and bake for another 10-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them. They’re done with they feel dry to the touch, are golden brown, and are curling up a bit at the edges. Don’t worry if they still feel a bit soft in the middle -- they’ll crisp up as they cool.
  10. Cool crackers completely on a cooling rack and serve! Goat cheese and brie go wonderfully with these crackers. You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for around two weeks, if they even last that long.

Makes around 12 dozen small crackers. Adapted from The Kitchn.

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Homemade Gin

by Lydia Whitlock — Jul 12th, 2016

It's really summer now -- time for barbecues, picnics, and that ever-refreshing simple summer cocktail -- the gin and tonic. But sometimes the drink can get a little monotonous with affordable storebought gin. The solution? Make the gin yourself and tinker with the flavor profiles to create something that you really love!

Did you know you can make gin at home? And it doesn’t even involve a bathtub or a still or any kind of equipment that looks like it came from Prohibition times! All you need is some vodka, some aromatics, and some time. 

This gin will be warmly flavored, with floral notes from the Vanns Dried Lavender and chamomile. But you can experiment with your own flavor combinations -- try steeping the Vanns Juniper Berries for another 12 hours for more juniper flavor, or adding a little bit of Vanns Dried Rosemary or Vanns Cinnamon Sticks (in moderation -- those flavors are strong!)

This gin makes for a truly special gin and tonic, one where the flavors of the aromatics really shine through and combine beautifully with the tonic and a squeeze of lime juice. But try it in any cocktail in which you’d usually use gin -- you’ll be surprised by the amazing results!




  1. Place the vodka and Vanns Juniper Berries in a sealable glass jar and allow to steep at room temperature for 12 hours, covered.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the jar, seal the jar, and shake to mix everything up. Let steep, still sealed, at room temperature for another 36 hours.
  3. Strain the solids through a fine-mesh strainer, or a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth. Make sure you got everything -- a gin and tonic with a chamomile leaf floating through it isn’t the best. Pour the now-gin into a glass bottle or clean jar and store at room temperature for up to a year.

Makes 2 cups gin. Adapted from Serious Eats.

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