Drum roll please…

Spiced Vanilla Caramel Apple Pork Lollipops with Pecan Gremolata.  Tropical Vanilla-Coconut Banana Split. Croissant French Toast with Vanilla Orange Butter. These are but a few of the 10 finalists when we asked to see your unique recipes that showcased the rich flavor of Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract. And after spending this week in the kitchen making the contest recipes, I’m thrilled to announce a winner!

Judging the contest was a pure pleasure for me, but also one that required work – those recipes won’t cook themselves! Feel sorry for me yet? Ok, while I’m being a bit silly I must say that it’s inspiring to see the creativity and artistry that came across in the 10 finalists of the contest. And I wish you could have spent some time in the kitchen with me, the smell of rich vanilla made me wonder if neighbors would soon knock at my door.

In judging, I began to look for recipes that featured creative uses of Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract, specifically how much or how little would be needed to truly impart its mellow characteristic flavor. There were sweet recipes; there were savory recipes; each of them completely delicious. I was faced with a challenge in picking my top three and sat at my desk for what seemed like hours trying to decide. But decide I did.

The three semi-finalists included one savory and two sweets: Vanilla Mochi Donuts from Jenn Fujikawa, Aromatic Harvest Spiced Apple Corn Fritters from Wolfgang Hanau (I love that name!), and Vanilla Butter Poached Halibut with Ancho-Orange Drizzle from Jamie Miller. After careful consideration the winner of the Spice Islands Flavor Explorer: Vanilla Challenge is… wait for it, wait for it…

Jamie Miller’s Vanilla Butter Poached Halibut with Ancho-Orange Drizzle! This delightful recipe blends unique ingredients in a familiar yet original way and you’ll just have to make it to see what I’m talking about. It goes like this: halibut is poached in lots of butter and vanilla extract for a few minutes, infusing it with a sweet buttery flavor that’s enhanced with a few minutes of broiling time and a dash of salt. It’s then topped with an ancho orange drizzle made with fresh orange zest, ground ancho chili and rice wine vinegar; a thick savory sauce that gives the nutty butter flavors a great acidic contrast. This dressing is reminiscent of teriyaki but veers off in its own citrus direction, it’s truly delicious.


2 teaspoons orange zest
2 teaspoons Spice Islands Ground Ancho Chili
⅔ cup sugar
⅔ cup rice wine vinegar
1 ½ cups unsalted butter
4 6-8-ounce halibut fillets
2 tablespoons Spice Islands All Natural No Corn Syrup Added Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Mix the orange zest, ground ancho chili, sugar and rice wine vinegar together in a medium saucepan.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and mixture becomes a thick syrup, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Preheat broiler.
4. Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan at least 2 inches deep, and wide enough to contain butter and halibut.
5. Stir in vanilla, and then add the halibut. Partially cover and cook for 5 minutes per side, turning once.
6. Place halibut skin-side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until light golden brown.
7. Place fillets on a serving dish and drizzle with ancho-orange mixture.

Jamie’s entry is the Grand Prize winner, and that means a year’s supply of Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract and $500! The first and second runners up won’t go home empty-handed. They will also receive a year’s supply of Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract in honor of their delightful sweet treats. And here they are!

Aromatic Harvest Spiced Apple Corn Fritters from Wolfgang Hanau are warm, pillowy fritters with just the right touch of sweetness and spice. Fresh corn is cut off the cob and combined with freshly chopped apples and then added to a very simple and easy fritter batter. Dropped by teaspoonfuls into hot oil, they fry for just a bit before draining and then a sprinkle of sugar that’s been mixed with ground cinnamon gets dusted on top. The apple is a wonderful touch; the taste conjures up flavors of apple pie and corn bread simultaneously. This would be a wonderful pairing with a savory dish like ribs or roasted chicken but I wouldn’t mind them as a dessert, either!

Vanilla Mochi Donuts from Jenn Fujikawa is our second runner up and I knew I was going to love these when I read her recipe. These donuts are made from sweet rice flour and incorporate Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Beans in wonderful ways. (Vanilla sugar is one of my most favorite things ever and I always keep it on hand!)

Like the recipe above, the dough is dropped into hot oil which causes the donuts to increase in size. After they reach their golden brown color, they’re drained on a wire rack and then topped with vanilla sugar. I could easily eat every single one of these, thank you Jenn!

Thanks to each of you who submitted recipes, there were dozens and it made the selection quite a delicious challenge!

I’m off to make the winning halibut recipe for dinner to share with friends this weekend and I hope you give it a try. We’d love to know your thoughts!

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