There are some very cool things we can do with pure vanilla besides bake:
1. It eliminates stubborn bad odors in the refrigerator--just wipe down the inside with it. Then to prolong the fresh vanilla scent, soak a cotton ball or small piece of new sponge with vanilla and leave it in your refrigerator. We do this to counteract the lingering smell of cut onion.
2. It deodorizes the microwave also. Just pour a little vanilla extract in a bowl and microwave on High for one minute.
3. It neutralizes the smell of fresh paint. We like that aroma, but for those that don't, mix 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into the paint can when you open it. The vanilla doesn't affect the paint and the house will smell delicious!
4. It sweetens the overall smell of the home. It's an old Realtor's trick (along with baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies). Put a drop or two of vanilla extract on a light bulb, turn on the light, and your house will be filled with the lovely scent of things baking in the oven.
5. It sweetens the smell of the car. Soak a few cotton balls in pure vanilla extract and place them discreetly under the front seat. This is a non-toxic way to enhance your ride!
6. It perfumes or slightly flavors granulated sugar. Just store your vanilla beans in your sugar in an airtight container. Both the beans and the sugar benefit.
7. It relieves minor burns. When you've just experienced a kitchen burn (grabbing a hot pan handle or being splattered by hot grease, for instance), quickly dab on some vanilla extract. The evaporation of the alcohol in the vanilla cools and soothes the burn.
8. It is a skin saver and soother, thanks to its antioxidants. Because it can prevent damage from environmental pollutants and toxins, you might want to try this delicious reviving scrub recipe:
5 vanilla beans
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 drops vanilla essential oil
3 drops vanilla extract
Squeeze lemon into a bowl; discard seeds. Slice open vanilla beans lengthwise; scrape out seeds with spoon. Add vanilla seeds, brown sugar, vanilla oil and extract to lemon juice. Mix well. Apply scrub to face (avoiding eyes) and massage in for a few minutes. Rinse with warm water, then splash with cold.
9. It is a hunger buster. Smelling a satisfyingly rich scent such as vanilla can trick your brain into thinking you've eaten more than you actually have, says researchers. This cues the body to feel content sooner, thus you'll eat less. Hmmm, who knew?
10. It's a soothing bath additive. Alice adds it to her bath water (about 1 tablespoon) along with 2 cups of epsome salts.
11. It repels bugs--they don't like this smell. Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with 1 cup water and wipe the mixture on your exposed skin to discourage mosquitoes, black flies, and ticks.
12. It makes a natural and delicious perfume. While bugs don't like the smell, people do. Once in awhile, dab a little extract behind your ears and on your pulse points. Notice all the extra hugs and snuggles you get! (Alice's hubby, Rich, likes eau de vanilla almost as much as he likes eau de bacon and eau de gravy!)
Finally, food-wise, beyond baking: Add it to your milk for a nice flavor snap. We like to add it to the egg mixture when making French toast. It's also a nice addition to the pancake and waffle batter, and Alice adds it to her morning green smoothies and when making homemade cocoa.
The uses go on and on. What do YOU do with vanilla? Please take a minute and pass on your ideas. We have a beautiful bottle of PURE vanilla extract we will be giving away to the best idea that's shared--so don't be shy. Just comment with your idea (here on the blog, not on Facebook) and email us with your address and we'll ship it off to you! How cool is that?
While these ideas may not necessarily make it easier to get family dinner on, they certainly enhance the atmosphere. So until next time, here's to family dinner made easy while we do some cool things with vanilla!