Visions of Azucar Plums

December 11th

When working in Nicaragua in May, I had a chance to take a long hike through the rainforest. While knee-deep in jungle, my guide pointed out a vanilla tree dripping in long, bright green pods. I nearly jumped out of my skin I was so happy. Vanilla beans for my taking! I carefully removed six long pods and brought them home, tucked in a sock, thereby breaking several teeny tiny international laws.

vanilla sugar process

I decided I’d use them to make vanilla sugar for holiday gifts. The directions are very simple — place 2 cups of sugar and one vanilla bean in a jar. Seal the jar for 2 weeks. Remove the bean. Viola — vanilla-flavored sugar.

saving jars

I saved every jar I could for several months and then took the opportunity to clean out my fridge to find a few more. With 10 jars, 1 giant bag of sugar and 6 vanilla bean pods I set out to make my project. It was only when I sliced open the first pod did I realize my grave error. The pods were green because they hadn’t matured. Even though they’d turned a beautiful coffee brown when drying in my pantry, they’d never fully germinated. There were no vanilla beans inside.
Considering I had all of the other ingredients, I went to the market to buy the missing piece. For $12, I purchased two tiny vanilla pods and made do.

vanilla sugar tags

On another note entirely, thank you for all of your well wishes with the race. They worked! I set another personal best time and was really happy with my progress. Something about my training is going right!

.5 marathon, tucson


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28 Responses

  1. Wooohooo! Congrats on the race. And I love that little stamp on your vanilla sugar cards. Where did you find it? Great idea~

  2. Oh, and I wont tell the Nic. govt about your little indiscretion. At least you didnt smuggle a baby out like I wanted to do.


  3. congratulations to you!!!!

    your vanilla sugar sounds yummy. i’ve often thought of making it, too, but don’t have a cheap vanilla bean source. (i saw *one* bean for $7 in the store …)

  4. Too bad about the pods!! That would have been so awesome!

  5. Hey! That fabric looks strangely familiar… πŸ™‚ I’m loving the homemade gifts! And congrats on the run.

  6. Mmm! Vanilla Sock Sugar!

    Congrats on the 1/2 marathon. You are my hero.

  7. Congratulations on your run. Also, I wanted to let you know that you have been an inspiration to me with your “food stamp” experiment. With your entries, and Oprah’s “pay it forward” experiment where she gave audiences $1000 to give away, I thought of my own holiday experience. So I bought some local grocery gift certs and handed them out in the parking lot of the store. It was an eye-opening, heart-warming experience.

  8. Sassy, that’s awesome!

  9. I LOVE the packaging Kelli! To me, clear jars with a red ribbon & little tag are sooooo perfect! Wonderful classy idea πŸ™‚

    Congrats on the run too!!!

  10. What a cute idea, and handy too! Plus, vanilla is the best flavor in the whole world… who wouldn’t love to get vanilla sugar!

    Congrats on the race too. That is just awesome! πŸ™‚

  11. Great job on everything! Was it super-hot during your run? That stamp of the mixer on your labels is the cutest!

  12. Qué lindos Kelli, it’s a great idea! thank you for sharing!

    Felicitaciones por tu competencia, un abrazo.

  13. Congrats on the run…I stopped by specifically to see how it went. I was thinking about you yesterday (while my lazy butt was on the couch ;-().

    Great story on the vanilla beans, too. What a bummer, but at least you were able to make do and continue the project.

  14. Cost Plus sells very affordable vanilla beans.

    Um, could it be APHIS rules you were breaking??

    Congrats on the race.

  15. Congratulaions on the race. Was that picture taken before or after? You look too good to have just run a marathon.

  16. YAY! I’m so proud of you – kicking ass as always! I couldn’t help but leave you a little message while you were out running — good thoughts…

    Cute idea, the vanilla sugar. I bet that’d be good in some black tea.

  17. yay to you! So pleased for you that the race went so well!

    I love your “mix and mingle” stamp – and I love that when your smuggled beans turned out to be a disappointment, that you didn’t let that stop you! I think vanilla sugar is a wonderful gift idea!

  18. Congrats on the run! I set a personal best record on my anti-run, too, but I highly doubt that’s as celebration worthy.

  19. LAW BREAKER! LAW BREAKER! see with my caps on the vanilla bean anti-smuggling police who monitor your site will hear me. You keep this up, the TAA will ban socks on planes, then where will we be?

    Congrats on the run!

  20. big congrats on the race. i am *so* proud of you πŸ™‚

    and i admire your restraint on the vanilla beans…lol. i would have had a hard time not risking jail time to take as many as i could fit in my hot lil hands. sorry it didn’t work out in the end, but i love your gift presentation. i keep saying that i am going to make some, but the price of those vanilla beans sends me cringing…lol.

    that stamp looks like a stampin’ up stamp…am i right?

  21. I guess karma applies to smugglers too? πŸ™‚ Such a bummer, but duly noted.
    Many congrats on the race.

  22. sad little barren vanilla pods! But your gifts look wonderful. What lucky friends you have πŸ™‚

  23. Congrats on the race! Strange about the bean pods? My friend used to work for Hagen Daz and he was trained to taste vanilla products and identify the source of the bean. So if we are out eating a dessert, he’ll say, “Madagascar.” or “Mexico.” Pretty neat.

  24. So wonderful about the race! Bummer your beans weren’t mature, but such a great gift idea. I love the little mixer stamp on your gift tags, too.

  25. The vanilla sugar is a fabulous Christmas gift and your little story about your…ah…surreptitious travel with vanilla beans made me smile. It’s a shame that it was all for naught. Good for you about your successful race–all your hard work is paying off.

  26. Congratulations for the race!!!
    About the beans…..Kelli breaking the law???? Tsk tsk tsk…..

  27. oh no! vanilla bean emergency. i was so rooting for you with that bit of sock subterfuge you pulled off to export the pods. and look at you on your race day! ever the athlete! hurray for a personal best time.

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