Alcohol Infusions

Start with vanilla extract, and then expand your repertoire to drinkable liqueurs. Get alcohol infusion recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
It seems that almost every baking recipe, and many other sweet treats, call for vanilla extract. Although the price of full beans and their extract may tempt you to substitute imitation vanilla, the cooks in my family were firm believers of using the real deal long before Jamie Oliver told the world that the fake version comes from the beaver anal gland. He didn’t have that quite right, but other sources of synthetic vanillin include coal tar, paper waste, and cow poop, which don’t sound any more appealing. Since companies are only required to use the label “artificial vanilla” or “imitation vanilla,” you’ll never really know what you’re eating.

When a 2017 cyclone wiped out a large chunk of Madagascar’s vanilla crop, prices for beans skyrocketed. So in splurging for the real stuff, you can get the most bang for your buck by making your own extract from vanilla beans: Scrape out the seeds needed for your recipe, and then use the pods for your extract, like you would for vanilla-infused sugar. Once you realize how easy it is to infuse this vanilla flavor, you’ll be on your way to making alcoholic infusions you intend to drink—liqueurs like triple sec.
Learn to make Homemade Vanilla Extract and Homemade Orange Liqueur

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Gnocchi

Gnocchi is easier to make than you might think: you just need some basic ingredients, a few tricks, and time. Get gnocchi recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Italy ruined gnocchi for me, much in the way Morocco ruined couscous: After tasting the real thing, I’m no longer impressed with the convenience-food versions that dominate in America. Although potato dumplings and steamed semolina seem vastly different, they have a surprising number of things in common. Both have reputations as difficult yet delicious delicacies. This has led companies to manufacture replacements you can grab off a shelf in a box. Neither vacuum-packed gnocchi nor instant couscous comes close to its freshly made counterpart.

Fortunately, both are easier to make from scratch than you might think. They take time, and some special tools help give the best results, but you really only need some basic ingredients and a few tricks to create the real deal.
Learn to make Homemade Potato Gnocchi and Homemade Pumpkin Gnocchi

Bean Snacks

Homemade bean snacks shine as both party treats and everyday munchies. Get healthy snack recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
We often think of beans in two stages: rock-hard dried beans and soft cooked or canned legumes. But there’s a third stage that will have you reaching for beans instead of potato chips or cheese puffs: the crunchy stage. If you’re a fan of healthy snack substitutes, you’ve probably bought bags of chips, crisps, crackers, or other snacks made from legumes. But there are plenty of advantages to making your own.

Commercial brands likely have more salt, sugar, and other additives than you expect, and some versions rely on deep-frying for crispness. By making your own, you control all of those factors; and let’s face it—if you’re eating a snack because you think it’s healthier, it really should be healthier. Even the healthiest commercial bean snacks tend to come in single-use packaging that’s unhealthy for our planet. You’ll pay a pretty penny for them too.

I started experimenting with homemade bean snacks for Twice as Tasty Live events, and they’ve become favorite everyday munchies. Larger beans, like chickpeas, we eat out of hand, but smaller ones, like lentils, are best spooned onto other dishes.
Learn to make Baked Chickpea Snacks and Crunchy Baked Lentils

Bean Soups

Soups fill our winter evenings, and the most filling ones start with beans. Get bean soup recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Soups fill our winter evenings, and the most filling ones start with beans. I love cooking with dried beans and tend to store many types in quart jars—which means I often have jars with just a scoop of beans left that I want to use up before I restock. Mixed-Bean Soup is the perfect option. You can use just about any bean in it, including lentils and split peas; the more variety, the more color and texture in the final soup. I often start by emptying as many jars as I can and then adding whatever beans I have in larger quantities, 1/2 cup at a time. Sometimes I even toss in leftover pearl barley.

In many ways, a soup with many types of beans resembles the bean soup mixes you can buy prebagged and tied with a pretty ribbon. But you’ll spend a lot less money if you buy the beans separately in bulk. You’ll also save money and have more control over the salt content and other additives if you started with dried instead of canned beans. And once you start cooking with dried beans, you’ll discover plenty of other uses for them, including—on this blog—pinto or kidney beans in Red Beans and Rice, black beans in veggie burgers, and chickpeas in falafel and this week’s other recipe, a Moroccan bean soup.

Learn to make Mixed-Bean Soup and Harira