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Summer Brunch with Kate Banks

Summer is officially here. To celebrate Helen Jon’s most-favorite season, the fabulous Kate Banks, co-founder of Vain Foods, treated us to a delicious summertime brunch. With the perfect menu, enjoyed in an out-of-this-world-beautiful setting, we talked shop. Specifically, vanilla…

Read our interview, get to know Kate, and discover your inner-vanilla-mojo. You won’t be sorry you did!

(And, as an extra-bonus, we’ve included Kate’s brunch recipes!)

Happy Summer, everyone… and bon appetit!


Tell us a fun and surprising way you like to use vanilla?

In my coffee! Right now, my favorite is iced coffee with our Spiced Vanilla Drops. Take cold coffee concentrate, add milk of choice, and sugar of choice, and then top it off with a few drops of Vain Spiced Vanilla. Yum. 


What is the most under-the-radar way you’ve used your vanilla?

Try adding it to a home-made cereal snack mix, like a Chex Mix. Trust me, you – and your guests – will love how it takes this to the next level. No turning back once you’ve tried it. Vain, not plain, as we like to say!


What makes Vain Vanilla so special?

It’s not a secret. In fact, you can see it right through the bottle! Every bottle contains a whole vanilla bean, and that makes all the difference! Plus, you can keep that bean and use it again later. (For instance, try putting the bean in your sugar canister. Or you can steep the bean in a custard for enhanced flavor... or poach fruit with the bean... or stick the bean in bath salts. In other words, get creative, there are no limits! (And, of course, share with us what you do, what you love, to share the vanilla-wealth.)


Why vanilla? What is one of your favorite “traits” or aspects of vanilla?

Vanilla is one of the most flexible ingredients. It can be used in whatever style you dream up, however you entertain, simple or fancy or somewhere in between. It is that extra-something-special that you can add to a basic, every-day food, drink, what have you – to amplify the flavors and elevate the experience. It’s super easy to use, it never expires or goes bad, it can be added to your favorite mixes to make basic desserts special, I could go on and on!

Truly, vanilla is magical. It adds a complexity of flavor, a mix of sweet, floral, earthy and spicy. And it is so much fun to experiment and play with. That is why I love vanilla. Vain, not plain - it’s really that good – and that fun!


Do you have a favorite summertime (read: quick and easy!) dessert that showcases your vanilla?

Sooooo many. Too many to count, and the ideas keep percolating! How about a delicious Strawberry Shortcake with Vain vanilla? It's easy to make and absolutely in my summertime rotation.

To whip it together: add a capful of our Vain vanilla (you choose the flavor, but I’m thinking our Tanzanian Vanilla in Spiced Rum, along with a ½ teaspoon of sugar, to fresh strawberries and let them macerate. Also, add a tablespoon or so of the same vanilla you used with the strawberries to your whipped cream. Put this delectable concoction together and make a very delicious, unforgettable strawberry shortcake. Or, add that to store-bought pound cake or on top of a delicious vanilla ice cream. Yum!!


What’s one of your most-favorite ways to incorporate vanilla into a summertime gathering?

We pulled together a few, fun recipes for a summertime brunch that I hope you all try out – I think you and your guests will enjoy them! Also, when looking for that perfect something to bring as a hostess gift, I recommend a bottle of our vanilla. It’s an unexpected, thoughtful, useful, and really wonderful way to say thanks.

At the end of this blog, I’ve shared some recipes for a great, super-special, but not-fussy summertime brunch, which I hope you all will try out and, of course, love and enjoy.


Is there a favorite Vain moment or anecdote that you can share with us?

There are so many. One of my favorite things is when people tell us how our vanilla has added a whole new dimension to a tried-and-true recipe. One woman wrote to us to say how she had been making her mom’s chocolate cake for years, from the recipe found on the back of the Hershey’s chocolate box. The first time she used our Vain vanilla, instead of her more run of the mill brand, everyone noticed, commented, and loved it. It’s that kind of thing that makes us feel incredibly gratified.


Summer Brunch made extra-special with Vain Vanilla


The secret to what makes this summertime brunch menu sing is the addition of Kate’s one-of-a-kind specialty vanilla. Go ahead and treat yourself to some Vain vanilla, try some of these recipes, or whip up some magic of your own. And let us know what you think!


  • Peach Streusel Muffins with Vanilla Citrus Butter
  • Fruit Salad with Vain Vanilla Vinaigrette
  • Bacon with Vanilla Brown Sugar
  • Ginger Apple Spritzer


Peach Streusel Muffins with Vanilla Citrus Butter

Yields 12 standard muffins


1/3 cup (packed light or dark brown sugar)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup all-purpose flour


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
1/2 cup yogurt
2 teaspoons Vain vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (measured correctly)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons milk (any kind)
1 and 1/2 cups peeled, chopped peaches (3 peaches)


1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream (or milk for a less creamy texture) + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



First, make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, combine both sugars, the cinnamon, and melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour. The crumb topping will be thick and crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the muffins: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat on high until creamed, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, all-spice, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and slowly mix with a whisk. Add the milk, gently whisking until combined and little lumps remain. Fold in the peaches with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

Spoon the muffin batter evenly between all 12 muffin tins. There may be enough to make a 13th muffin in a second batch, depending if there were a few extra peach chunks thrown in. Fill the muffin tins until they are full all the way up to the top. Press a handful of the crumb topping into the top of each; crumble it with your hands to make some big chunks.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees, then keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 15-19 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the glaze:  Whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle over warm muffins.

Make ahead tip:  Muffins stay soft, fresh, and moist in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up (if desired) before enjoying.


Vanilla Citrus Butter

1 stick softened unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 vanilla bean (optional)
1 teaspoon Vain vanilla extract, I used our Uganda Vanilla Extracted in Orange Spirits



Place softened butter in medium bowl. Add lemon zest and orange zest to bowl, along with caviar scraped from vanilla bean and vanilla extract. Use a spatula to combine all ingredients. To store, you can shape into a log using waxed paper, or simply place in a small bowl or ramekin. Cover and refrigerate. Perfect on muffins, pancakes or used on grilled fish or chicken.


Fruit Salad with Vain Vanilla Vinaigrette

2 apples, chopped (I like Fuji or Pink Lady)
2 oranges, segmented
1 pear, chopped
2 cups green grapes, cut in half
16 oz. fresh strawberries, quartered



1 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Vain vanilla
zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 lime
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon minced fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lime
fresh pepper and fleur de sel to taste



Whisk all ingredients together. Will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Assemble the salad: Place chopped fruit in a large bowl. Toss with desired amount of vinaigrette. Start with 1/4 cup.


Bacon with Vanilla Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Vain vanilla extract



Combine the vanilla bean scrapings and the brown sugar together in a small bowl. Using your fingers lightly rub the vanilla into the brown sugar.

Place the bacon in a single row on a metal cooling rack. Place the rack onto a baking sheet covered with a Silpat or aluminum foil. Spread the brown sugar onto the bacon slices. Bake at 375 degrees until browned and crispy, approximately 25 minutes. Cool.


Ginger Apple Spritzer

4 oz hard sparkling cider
4 oz ginger beer
1 teaspoon Vain Apple Brandy vanilla



Pour hard cider and ginger beer over a glass full of ice. As a final touch, add the teaspoon of Vain vanilla. Don't stir!


Thank you, Kate! We can't wait to start cooking!



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