2 Fantastic DIY Favors
Vanilla Extract and Hot Chocolate
My home made Christmas presents were such a blast that I just can't help sharing them with you. I come from a large extended family dominated by strong women who like to eat. My mom has four sisters and if your family sounds like mine, then I'm sure they'll love these treats.
Whoever ever said vanilla was blah, obviously wasn't using the real thing. The scent of vanilla mixed with alcohol is sensual. What I love about this recipe that it's really easy to scale up. The vanilla extract takes about eight weeks to make, but there's no harm if you start later or earlier. If the extract won't be done in time, write the due date on the label. If your relatives use vanilla beans, tell them to chop up their used beans and add them to the extract. If they replace the alcohol each time they use it, they have their very one vanilla extract maker!
makes 14 4 ounce bottles
2 handles (735ml each) of inexpensive vodka or rum
20 vanilla beans (I used Madagascar Bourbon) or 3 vanilla beans per cup of liquid
14 clean 4 ounce glass bottles (I bought amber-colored ones from online).
1. Cut the vanilla beans into thirds. Put a few vanilla bean slices into each bottle.
2. Fill each jar with vodka. Screw the lids on tight.
3. Label and the extract will be done in about eight weeks.
It's that easy! For folks who don't bake, include some recipes for simple sugar scrubs. Vanilla extract can also be used to scent the home. Soak a ball in vanilla extract and leave it in the fridge. You can even use it as a mosquito repellent.
Hot Chocolate Mix
This look less than an hour. Two, if you count my lame attempts at label making.
fills 12 1/4 pound bags
20 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
2 cups of cocoa powder
1 vanilla bean
1. Split vanilla bean length wise and scrape the seeds into the sugar. If you have time, bury both ends of the pod in the sugar and leave overnight. But if you're in a rush, save the scraped vanilla bean for another use.
2. Working in batches, grind the chocolate with a food processor. Don't let the food processor get hot or it will melt the chocolate.
3. Add the ground chocolate to the sugar mixture. Add the cocoa powder and whisk to combine.
4. Package the cocoa mix in small cellophane bags or jars. The mixture is good for six months.
5. To serve, mix two tablespoons with eight ounces of hot milk or 1/3 cup of milk powder with 8 ounces of hot water.