THE BACK STORY: Hey there! Thank you for stopping by! I’m a young soul living in a 52 YO body. My problem is that I love to eat! So, I’ve had to learn how to balance my love of comfort food, pastry and sweets with real, whole foods. And yes, they have to be comfort foods. I struggled for years in my relationship with food, trying different ‘diets’, working out like mad. It wasn’t until I discovered real food, slow food, is key to my ability to be healthy and maintain an agreeable body weight…. and of course, consistent exercise (of which I’m not very good at as of late)! This discovery would change everything I knew about food, how I approached it, prepared it, prepared for it… and the time I spent thinking about it. It changed my lifestyle.
I live with my husband, my high school sweetheart, Rob, in beautiful Port Ludlow, WA (previously Whidbey Island, WA). I’ve always loved to cook good food yet it hasn’t always been good and healthful. About 22 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 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. She’s the one who first recommended I blog about the now most popular recipe on Vanilla And Bean: this Lemon Garlic Orzo with Roasted Vegetables. When friends and family discovered I shifted to a vegetarian lifestyle, some looked at me and wondered how I was still standing.
For more about what you’ll find on Vanilla And Bean and Most Popular Recipes, visit my Start Here page.
A GLUTEN FREE TRIAL: 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 recipes and, I’ve discovered how delicious baking with 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 VEGETARIAN 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, healthy 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 and the reason behind the second most popular recipe on Vanilla And Bean: Pickled Jalapeno Peppers!
BEFORE VANILLA AND BEAN: My professional background was previously in science education. I taught at science museums and middle and elementary school science classrooms and completed my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards during my eighth year of teaching. Although I loved teaching as a profession, I found I needed a change as my interests and motivations shifted.
I took a leap and left my career in education after nine years to investigate a totally different career path. I headed to pastry school, exploring the world of baking and pastry in the French style at South Seattle Community College. The pastry school students prepared pastry, desserts and bread for the campus restaurant and cafe’ as well as for special events in the community. It was a hands on production bakery experience. Unfortunately, the Baking and Pastry Program Closed in 2018. Completing my AAS in Pastry and Baking was rewarding, challenging and an experience I’ll always appreciate.
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 and watched tutorials and have practiced. A lot! I continue to learn and develop my skills. I had 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 on my blogger resource page.
NO STRICT DIETING: Eating healthy vegetarian food 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 is taking long walks in the neighborhood or 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! The Pacific Northwest is a pretty remarkable place to call home.
» My ideal day includes a morning chocolate green smoothie, catching up with Rob, a yoga sesh and/or taking a spin with Peloton, pulling some weeds or tending to the garden when it’s warm out, 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.
» When in season and on any given Saturday or Sunday, you’ll find me at the Farmers Market or at a farm stand checkin’ out what’s in season and supporting local food.
» Some things few people know about me is 1. I’ve watched Downton Abby at least 9 times (the whole series!). 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. Social media stresses me out!
Cooking + Baking Notes from Traci
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 an electric convection oven. Oven temperature fluctuations, uneven baking and burner types can vary.
I recently switched to all electric/induction from cooking/baking with propane. What a difference! Not that one is better than the other, but the way things cook is definitely noticeable. I’m finding electric to be my preference. Use your intuition and make adjustments when needed.
I enthusiastically recommend an Oven Thermometer with an Air Probe. 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 oven temperature 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. Always bake with fan assist (or convection) if your oven is equipped with it.
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 conversions page.
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 – my favorite sourdough book
- Alternative Baker
- King Arthur Flour, The Baker’s Companion
- How Can it be Gluten Free Cookbook Vol 1 & 2
- The Grand Central Baking Book
- Vegan Chocolate
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
- Bouchon Bakery
- Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Most importantly, if an event/holiday is coming up and you want to make a recipe from Vanilla And Bean, please make the recipe at least once before the event just to make sure it suits your flavor palette and needs, AND you can tweak it if needed!
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 fresh and tasty 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 on 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!