Recipe – Granola Bites


Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids, primarly obtained from pods of the Mexican flat-leaved vanilla species. The vanilla orchid must be pollinated in order to produce the fruit from which the vanilla spice is obtained. Although one species of bee, the Eulema, found in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, northern Mexico, and occasionally in the U.S., is known as the orchid bee because it will pollinate the vanilla orchid, the majority of vanilla orchids are hand pollinated by a method discovered by a 12-year-old child in 1841. Growers tried to introduce the orchid bee in Europe, but the little buzzers weren’t interested in helping out.

There are three major species of vanilla; all are found in Mesoamerica. Because the cultivation of the plant is so labor-intensive, it is the second most expensive spice (after saffron) to produce. Nevertheless, it is widely used in baking, perfume production, and aromatherapy.

The fruit of the vanilla orchid is actually a seed capsule containing tiny, black seeds. The seed capsule ultimately ripens, opens at the end, and then dries out. The seeds can be seen as black specks in dishes prepared using whole natural vanilla. Both the pods and the seeds are used in cooking.

Source: Wikipedia

While researching for this article, I discovered that vanilla extract is 35 to 40 percent ethyl alcohol. Interestingly, almond extract is 90% alcohol. All extracts contain alcohol. Alcohol-free vanilla flavoring is available at certain stores or you can substitute an equal measure of maple syrup.

Recipe – Granola Bites


1 cup rolled oats

A pinch of salt

A pinch of ground cardamom

A splash of maple syrup

1/4 cup almond butter

1 Tbs. honey (a vegan substitute option is agave syrup)

1/4 cup dried berries, such as cherries, cranberries, or raisins


With a fork, stir together oats, salt, and cardamom in a medium bowl. Stir in maple syrup, almond butter, honey, and dried berries.

Once the mixture is mixed well, use your hands to roll into one-inch balls.

If the mixture is too dry to roll into balls, add a bit more honey or almond butter.