Last year, I came across a recipe for homemade vanilla extract. Much to my surprise, it contained two ingredients, a few minutes to make and about 1-2 months to sit on a shelf before using. It's one of the easiest and best things I've learned how to make. Store-bought imitation, organic brands are watered down, really expensive and just don't compare to the quality and taste of making it at home. Saving $3-$5 per bottle is well worth the five minutes it takes to whip up a few bottles.

Homemade vanilla extract also makes a thoughtful, inexpensive gift/stocking stuffer for a co-worker, teacher, hostess, friend, neighbor, etc. If you make them now, they'll be ready to give right around Christmas.

Organic vanilla extract

Shopping List:
• 1 bottle vodka (good quality)
• Organic vanilla beans (I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs)
• Glass jars (I bought my last set of jars from Mountain Rose Herbs, but you may be able to find them for less money locally or online.

Directions: Take a paring knife and cut one vanilla bean in 4 pieces, then cut each piece lengthwise. Put beans into a 4oz. glass jar and fill with vodka. You can also make a larger, mason jar full of vanilla extract if you're making it for yourself. Use 3 beans per cup of vodka. Let sit in a dark place for 1-2 months. The longer it sits, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be.

Uses:
• Baking
• Add to plain, cream top yogurt
• Add to protein shakes
• Add to a small jar of epsom salt or dead sea salt for a vanilla-scented bath salt
• Use the vanilla beans to make homemade, vanilla bean ice cream