baking, recipes

Va Va Vanilla

Next time you feel a little down, take a whiff of a little vanilla extract. Vanilla has been shown to help people feel relaxed when stressed. This is likely why vanilla serves as the base fragrance for candles and is commonly added to perfumes and other body care products.

Vanilla is also an ingredient that is widely use to enhance the taste of treats such as ice cream, cookies, cakes, and even candies.

Karen’s Believe it or Not:

Do you know that vanilla actually comes from the pods of an orchid?


You betcha! Vanilla doesn’t start out in the liquid form you see in that little brown bottle of vanilla extract you buy from the grocery store. Vanilla comes from the pods of the Vanilla Orchid. It’s the only orchard among the 20,000-some varieties of orchids out there that bears something edible.

Vanilla extract is the most common form of vanilla. The extract is made by steeping the vanilla pods in an alcohol solution for several weeks. The end result is a clear, dark liquid with a rich vanilla scent and taste.

And believe it or not, you can make your own vanilla extract at home. The rich aroma and taste will make you want to mix your own at home all the time!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

20 vanilla pods
1 750 ml bottle of 75-80 proof vodka

1. Decant the vodka into a pitcher. Save the empty vodka bottle and cap.
2. Chop the vanilla pods into 1-inch pieces. You don’t need to split the pods and scrape them. Put the vanilla pieces in the empty vodka bottle.
3. Pour the vodka back into the bottle. It probably won’t all fit, so have some cranberry juice or orange juice handy and have a quick toast to your awesome kitchen skills!
4. Screw the lid back on tightly and give the bottle a good shake.
5. Place the bottle in a cool, dry place. Shake the jar every day or every other day to distribute the mixture.
6. The vanilla extract will be ready to use in about 6 weeks. It will keep indefinitely. No need to strain out the vanilla pieces. Just let ‘em keep swimming in there.

Use your homemade vanilla extract for all your cooking and baking needs, but beware – this homemade extract is so good, you may never go back to the grocery store for the prepackaged stuff!

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog. And hope you’ll come back for more!

Take care of yourself, be nice to yourself, and be well. And until next time – veg in, don’t veg out!


Want more recipes and tips like this? Head on over to for all this and more. And while you’re there, grab your copy of my book Your Best Year Yet! 365 Days of Little Changes That Add Up to Big Results! It’s available now @ It’s the perfect book to kick off 2016 the right way! Enjoy!

Karen Ann Kennedy’s commitment to wellness and service is at the heart of her life and career. As a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a decorated United States Army veteran, and a longtime Human Resources Director, it is only natural that Karen would launch The Caring Coaching Center, to support others in reaching their health, fitness, and lifestyle goals. As the company’s President, CEO, and “Coach in Chief,” Karen provides individual, group, and corporate health and wellness coaching that is flexible, fun, and free of denial. As Karen likes to say: “Little changes. BIG results!”

Thanks to her studies at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, Karen is well versed in the importance of nutrition and healthy living. Karen also has extensive experience in compassionately coaching and counseling others through her work in human resources and volunteer management, having worked in this industry for over 20 years.

Karen shares her knowledge and passion for healthy living as a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Known for her bright smile, boundless energy, and approachability, Karen is an in-demand speaker who has presented training programs for many prestigious organizations and schools in the Philadelphia area, including The National Constitution Center, The Urban League of Philadelphia, Constitution High School, Planned Parenthood of New Jersey, The Penn Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, City Year of Greater Philadelphia, and the Upper Darby School District.

Karen is also a decorated veteran of the United States Army, serving her country for eight years including a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, and now residing in Ocean City, New Jersey, Karen offers Caring Coaching to clients nationwide. In addition to coaching, she loves cooking, marathon running, and writing her blog, Carrots Don’t Scream When You Boil Them.

Karen is also the author of Your Best Year Yet! 365 Days of Little Changes that Add Up to Big Results! Available on