A number of years ago, I flew to Miami for my very first food blogging conference. Because of the time difference between California and Florida, I intentionally arrived at the hotel well in advance, almost 36 hours before the event started.
During my first full day on the east coast, I ended up making a few new friends while sitting in the lobby and waiting for the pouring rain and hurricane warning to pass. Jane, one of the first new people I met, walked over to introduce herself, and after realizing that she actually lived three miles away from my parents, we couldn’t stop laughing. What a small world!
The next morning, she and I met in the grand ballroom for breakfast. When the conference hosts finished welcoming us and explaining more about the various sessions, we stood up and headed out to the smaller meeting rooms to learn about a plethora of topics like Pinterest, filming recipe videos, and writing cookbooks.
In between sessions and meals, the conference hosts scheduled free time to let us wander through the expo, set up in the long corridor outside of the ballroom. Dozens of sponsors had set up booths, and I joined the crowds of food bloggers stopping by each one, handing over my freshly printed business cards and chatting with the brand representatives.
Although a few other food bloggers warned me, my eyeballs still nearly popped out of my head at the amount of free products and swag those expo sponsors gave us. I expected the traditional businesslike thumb drives with more information… But not the plastic tumblers for iced coffee, bags of crackers and shortbread and fruit snacks, coarse turbinado sugar and oranges to make our own sugar scrub, t-shirts and aprons printed with brand logos, or spatulas with matching measuring cups and paper cupcake liners. Just to name a few.
I needed a second suitcase to bring it all home!
Yet one of my favorite gift items was the smallest (and easiest thing to pack!): a single Madagascar vanilla bean pod, carefully enclosed in a plastic tube to prevent it from getting crushed. On my flight home, I thought about different recipes to use it in. Ice cream? Pound cake? Frosting? Scones, like the little ones from Starbucks?
Somehow, even after all of my years of baking, breaking open that vanilla bean pod completely intimidated me… Partially because I knew how expensive and valuable high quality vanilla beans are! But after I used that one from the conference, I realized there was a much easier option…
Vanilla bean paste! And that’s exactly what I used to make these Healthy Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies! They have that iconic rich, indulgent, almost buttery flavor of fresh vanilla beans, but you don’t need to slice open or scrape out a single vanilla bean pod.
Even better, these healthy vanilla bean sugar cookies are easy to make (no mixer required!) and incredibly soft and chewy, even with no refined flour or sugar. Plus they’re just 20 calories!
Continue reading & see the rest! ›› Healthy Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies