I always thought that someday, when I earned enough money, I would only buy the best ingredients for my recipes, shop exclusively at local markets and places like Whole Foods, buy only artisan cheese, local honey, fresh pasta. You know, that kind of thing. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money, nor did my mother's family when she was young, but there was always good food. My grandmother always believed it is important to eat well. We may not have had a lot, but we always had good meals, cooked by and eaten in the company of the people who loved us most, so we never felt poor.
I still hope that day will come that I am able to buy the finest of ingredients, but in the meantime, I am doing the best I can making good food with the best stuff I can buy. I did, however, decide to splurge recently on some ingredients for my holiday baking. I love to shop from the King Arthur Flour company. The products are fresh, wonderful, and everything I have tried is very high quality. I regularly buy their cinnamon mini chips for the scones I make. This time, I decided to buy some real vanilla beans to make my own vanilla extract. They arrived in a plastic vial, plump and pliable, much healthier looking than the ones I had eyed at the supermarket. This falls into the category of a recipe for an ingredient, and I completely stole the idea from Ina Garten. The problem is that I should have decided to do this a few weeks ago, as the vanilla extract will not be ready for my holiday baking. I am consoling myself with the fact that I will have some awesome New Year baking going on in my house. Just in time for dieting. So after the Christmas bills are paid, I will still have my little slice of luxury: juicy vanilla beans and delicious homemade vanilla extract made from real vanilla beans and good vodka, ready to be used in a
Vanilla Extract (adapted from Ina Garten)
2 or more vanilla beans
8 oz. good quality vodka
Place the vanilla beans in a mason jar. Cover with the vodka. Let sit at room temperature for a month or until the vodka has turned into vanilla extract and the beans are more pliable. This can sit at room temperature indefinitely.