Cooking + Baking Notes from Traci – first things first
While I cannot be in the kitchen with you, I can provide guidance through each recipe. I encourage you to use your judgment throughout the cooking/baking process and taste as you go as each person’s palette is different. Our ovens are probably not the same. I bake in a convection oven. Oven temperature fluctuations, uneven baking and burner types can vary. I cook/bake on/with propane which burns hotter than natural gas and electric. My simmer on low may mean simmer on medium for you. Use your judgment and intuition and make adjustments when needed.
I enthusiastically recommend an oven thermometer! I’ve baked in commercial bakery and home ovens, old, lightly used and brand new ovens – they all have their own personalities with temperature variations and fluctuations. Knowing the temperature of your oven is important for the best outcome, especially when it comes to baking. I keep a close eye on my oven thermometers (I use two just to be sure) when testing/making recipes for the blog so that I am as accurate as possible with including the proper baking temperatures/time in my recipes.
Working with cake batter, pastry and sometimes cookie dough can take practice and a bit of technique. If a cake doesn’t turn out just right or scones didn’t quite come together, keep practicing. Knowing how a dough should feel or cake batter should look takes hands on experience. My recipes are for non high altitude baking. For details on conversions see King Arthur Flour.
I’ve listed a few excellent baking and pastry books I have on my shelf that you may find helpful (these are affiliate links):
- Artisan Sourdough Made Simple – the best sourdough book on my shelf
- Alternative Baker
- How Can it be Gluten Free Cookbook Vol 1 & 2
- Bread Toast Crumbs
- The Grand Central Baking Book
- Vegan Chocolate
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
- Bouchon Bakery
- Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
- King Arthur Flour, The Baker’s Companion
Most importantly, if an event is coming up and you want to make a recipe from Vanilla And Bean, please make the recipe at least one time before the event just to make sure it suits your flavor palette and needs, AND you can tweek it if needed!
I live with my husband, my high school sweetheart, Rob, my biggest fan on beautiful Whidbey Island, WA. I’ve always loved to cook good food yet it hasn’t always been good and healthful. About 18 years ago, I made the switch to a mostly vegetarian lifestyle from a Texas born and raised meat centered, eat it at every meal, lifestyle. My switch to vegetarian eating began out of my concern for the consequences growing meat and harvesting unsustainable seafood has on our planet. Food is yet another opportunity to for me to choose how I live in my effort to reduce my impacts on Earth. My sister had a hand in influencing my decision as well, having just recently switched to a mostly plant-based diet. When friends and family discovered I shifted to a vegetarian lifestyle, some looked at me and wondered how I was still standing.
GLUTEN FREE: Mid 2018 I transitioned to a gluten free lifestyle due to a pesky hypothyroid that recently became more sluggish. I worked with my Naturopathic Doctor to tease out if gluten is impacting my thyroid or other things I’m unaware of. After SO much testing and on again off again gluten eating, I’m happy to say I’m back to my glutenous ways! Moving forward, I’ll still be sharing gluten free recipes from time to time because the Vanilla And Bean community responded well to gluten free eating and, I’ve discovered how delicious baking with some whole grains can be! Of course I’ll continue to label and categorize gluten free or not foods on my recipes and in the recipe index.
MY JOURNEY: My first few years as a vegetarian were a bit challenging as I replaced a lot of the meat I previously ate with vegetarian processed food that resembles meat. But over the years, I’ve learned how to phase out almost all of the processed foods and create whole food, vegetarian meals through trial and error, and with the help of lots of cookbooks and outstanding food blogs. Through my vegetarian lifestyle shift, I’ve also learned why ‘diets’ don’t work and the importance of consuming whole, plant centered food. I love sharing delicious food with others and the bounty of local and organic (when possible) produce that I prepare in my kitchen. It helps that I live amongst beautiful and productive family owned farmland that has thriving farmers markets and many community supported agriculture options. Inspiration is everywhere!
BEFORE VANILLA AND BEAN: My professional background was previously in science education. I taught at science museums and middle and elementary school science classrooms. Although I loved teaching as a profession, as the climate of public education evolved, I found that I needed a change as my interests and motivations shifted. I took a leap and left the security of my career, after nine years of teaching, to investigate a totally different career path. I headed to pastry school exploring the world of pastry in the French style. It was a most rewarding and challenging experience. Afterwards, I worked in a little organic bakery where pastries and artisan breads are produced. In the mean time, I started Vanilla And Bean to express my creativity and love of delicious food through photography and writing, bringing you the culmination of what I have learned over the years through my kitchen, via Vanilla And Bean.
MY PHOTOGRAPHY: Although I have no formal photography training, I have attended multiple small group classes, read excellent publications and have practiced. A lot! I continue to learn and develop my skills. I’ve dabbled in photography in the past, and have always enjoyed it, but never got serious about it until I wanted to shoot photos of the food and pastries I made. I have more information on how I approach my photography here.
NO STRICT DIETING: Eating a variety of foods including organic and local when possible, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds is what I focus on for feeling great. While I eat a lot of vegan foods, I do eat eggs and dairy, and source those foods the same as I do plant based foods – organic and as local as possible. I enjoy sweets not only because I love creating delicious pastries, and desserts, but I enjoy eating and sharing them too. Always in moderation of course.
» One of my most favorite things to do is taking a long walk on the prairie with the Olympic Mountains in view or taking a hike in the forest or mountains.
» If I could live anywhere in the world, I think I would live on Orcas Island, WA, although there are many destinations I’d like to travel to so this is still open for discussion! Whidbey Island is a pretty remarkable place to call home, so I’m not so sure I’d move anyway.
» My ideal day includes a morning chocolate green smoothie, catching up with Rob, pulling some weeds or tending to the garden when it’s warm out, snuggling Claire (still missing her, she passed away three years ago), taking a long walk, spending time in the kitchen preparing delicious foods, photographing what I prepare and creating meaningful content for my readers on Vanilla And Bean.
» If I had a million dollars I would build a small, green built cottage on Orcas Island or here on Whidbey with some acreage, move there, continue to share food love through Vanilla And Bean, do some traveling and give a large percentage of it away to causes we support.
» Some things few people know about me is 1. I’m a Bachelor/Bachelorette junkie. 2. Led Zeppelin is my all time favorite band. 3. Spending time in nature, studying birds in their habitat and listening for their calls/songs keeps me grounded. 4. Instagram stresses me out!
Thank you for being here! I value your visit and hope that you’ll consider leaving a comment or joining Vanilla And Bean’s email list to receive weekly fresh and fabulous recipes from my kitchen. If you have any questions, comments or just want to share what you made, please feel free to contact me at traci(at)vanillaandbean(dot)com, or here at my contact page. Be sure to tag and notify me on instagram (#vanillaandbean @vanillaandbean) if you make one of my recipes. I love seeing what you’ve got cooking in the kitchen! I look forward to hearing from you!