The Vanilla Bean Blogger Dreams of Paris and Could Eat Pizza Forever


Photos: Courtesy of Sarah Kieffer

This week, Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog gave us plenty to chew on: Between her indulgent salty bourbon squares and pan-fried onion dip, our holiday entertaining plans are set. Thank goodness for her bright, refreshing winter salad with citrus dressing, which hopefully will help get our eating habits back on a healthful track in January.

While we learned a lot about Kieffer this week—she spent time baking in a fraternity house and has a teeny tiny kitchenwe still had a few more questions for the Minnesota resident. Below, she dishes on the glory that is goat cheese–stuffed turkey, being creeped out by cottage cheese, and her ultimate food vacation. (It’s Paris.)

What’s your favorite food?
I could eat pizza forever.

Go-to kitchen utensil:
Spatulas! I use one every day.

Most underappreciated ingredient, in your opinion:
Vanilla! Just a tiny bit adds depth and flavor. I especially love this vanilla. It’s aged for a year and insanely good.


Breakfast bread.

Kitchen “sin” for which you won’t apologize:
I never whisk my flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl when baking. I just add and mix them one at a time to the standing mixer.

Essential cookbook:
I have to name a few: The Complete America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook for everyday everything. I turn to it for meals and a starting point for trying new recipes. For baking, there are so many, but anything by Alice Medrich. She’s a genius. The Bread in Five series made bread easy, and I use their books all the time. Also some Nigel Slater for inspiration and thoughtfulness.


Buttermilk cake with rhubarb buttercream and cardamom cream.

Culinary “eureka!” moment:
Fifteen years ago I had one of the best meals of my life at Lucia’s. At the end of the meal we ordered dessert—basil ice cream with chocolate cake. It was crazy good. Then and there realized I needed to try new things more often, both in baking and in life.

Splurgiest kitchen purchase:
My pistachio-colored Kitchen Aid mixer.

You’re about to bite the big one. What’s your last supper?
My brother-in-law is a chef, and one year for Thanksgiving he made this incredible turkey—the skin was stuffed with goat cheese and fresh herbs, and then the whole thing was cooked with bacon over the skin. So I’d have him come over and cook that for me, along with anything else he wanted to. Followed by Lucia’s basil ice cream and my favorite chocolate cake.


Brioche cinnamon rolls.

Proudest food moment:
Making a successful Thanksgiving dinner.

Kitchen skill you want to learn:
I don’t really know how to cook meat. I can do chicken and turkey, but everything else isn’t cooked much in my kitchen, and often seems rather intimidating.

Hamburger or hot dog?
Hamburger (preferably from Anchor).


Gorgonzola-apple quiche.

Worst kitchen blunder you wish you could undo:
Once in college, I accidentally baked a Band-Aid fresh off my finger in a loaf of bread, didn’t realize it, and served it to my friend. She still brings it up to this day.

Ingredient you just can’t stand:
Cottage cheese. It gives me the creeps.

Dream vacation spot (for eating, of course):
Paris! I’ve never been, but we’re saving up for our 15-year wedding anniversary. I’m already dreaming of bread and wine and Eiffel tower selfies.


Baked banana doughnuts with cacao nibs.

Ingredient or tool that you always buy in bulk:
Parchment paper. I get a big box from a restaurant supply store that lasts forever.

Oldest thing in your kitchen:
My husband’s grandmother’s waffle iron—it even has a cloth cord.

Toughest dish you’ve mastered: 
Bread. It took me YEARS to get our dinner boule how I wanted it: a golden brown, crispy crust, and a holey interior that’s both creamy and dreamy. I’m still not totally there, but very close.

More from Sarah Kieffer:

Salty bourbon squares to help you handle holiday stress

The perfect pan-fried onion dip for festive family gatherings

A winter salad with citrus dressing to brighten even the gloomiest day

Who’s your favorite food blogger? Tell us below!