a pretty sweet gift

by jenna on December 13, 2010

Last week, I received these fresh vanilla beans as a gift from Nicole, a reader all the way in Madagascar!

I resisted the urge to bake thirty batches of the ultimate vanilla frosting, and instead decided to make some simple holiday gifts, because well, tis the season!

These vanilla sugar jars are ridiculously easy to make and practically last forever. They’re perfect for foodie gifts and look super cute when tied up with ribbons and fun fabric!

I love a sprinkle of vanilla sugar in my morning cup of tea, and it adds a little a little somethin-somethin’ to lattes and cappuccinos, too.

Try it sprinkled on gingerbread cookie dough right before baking!

And, all you do to make this special special sugar is just add a vanilla bean or two in a jar along regular granulated sugar.

Done and done.

You don’t have to make such a big jar as me, either. I like the idea of using recycled spice jars for this!  Just grab some holiday ribbon and go to it. I get the majority of my ribbons and fabrics from Beverly’s.

Makes me wish I knew how to sew.

And, if vanilla sugar ain’t your thing, you can always give the gift of a gumdrop tree.

These things never go out of style, even though you may try to sell them at family garage sales for five dollars.

it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey December 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Super cute gift idea!


Kendra December 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Oh my gosh, vanilla is my favorite thing ever. I would so love vamilla from Madagascar. My friend once brought me some from Haiti and it was amazing.


Sarah @ See Sarah Graduate December 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm

haha, LOVE it and the gum drop tree. I definitely have a few of those laying around at my parents house. :)


Anna December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm

LOVE making vanilla sugar. I just posted today about making vanilla extract from beans, in fact.


Erin (Travel, Eat, Repeat) December 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Wow, I’ve never seen actual vanilla bean. How interesting looking!


Annie@stronghealthyfit December 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Classy 😉
I love gumdrops!


RhodeyGirl December 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm

When we left Bora Bora the chefs from our cooking lesson came running after our boat to give us tons of beautiful fresh (vacuum sealed) vanilla. I finally used the last of it last month, and boy was I sad!!!!


Stacy @ Every Little Thing December 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm

What a great gift! My aunt is from Madagascar and it’s amazing the food they make there. She loves everything hot, hot, hot!


Marie December 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Yum, I’ve never had vanilla sugar before. I’ll be on the lookout for some vanilla beans for sure. I love this gift idea!


Stephanie P December 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

This is such a great idea! I have a few people that I wasn’t sure what I was going to give… well now I know!!


Jessica @ How Sweet It Is December 13, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I love this idea. What I wouldn’t give for some of those vanilla beans!


Michele @ Healthy Cultivations December 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

What an incredible gift from a reader. You must be overwhelmed with gratitude!!! Vanilla beans are worth their weight in gold — almost literally.


Nora December 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

MMMMM love vanilla beans! Love homemade frosting!


stacey-healthylife December 13, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Love both ideas. :)


Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN December 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

How awesome! And I thought I was lucky getting sultans from England, after an Australian reader mentioned them in her comment and I said I didn’t know what they were. (fyi–I can’t tell them from raisins).


Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN December 13, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Oops, I meant sultanas!


Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes December 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

I make my own vanilla all the time, but have yet to make vanilla-sugar…why?????
cathy b. @ brightbakes


Krystina (Basil & Wine) December 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I would absolutely LOVE to get vanilla sugar as a gift.


Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman December 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Isn’t fruit cake the gift that keeps on giving? As in, most families regift the same brick year after year? I’d rather have vanilla sugar.


Fancy December 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Hi!!! What kind of baking pan is that with the gingerbread cookies on it? I always see you using it and I am very curious! :)


jenna December 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm

that’s just a regular baking sheet lined with a Silpat! You can get silpats at any cooking store and they work basically as reusable parchment paper–highly recommend one!


Jasmine @ Eat Move Write December 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm

I literally laughed out loud at the picture of the $5 gum drop tree. That’s just too much.


Paige @ Running Around Normal December 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm

What a great idea!! Vanilla sugar!
And bahaha @ the tree. Love it :)


Natalia - a side of simple December 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Wow, Madagascar? I really like the gift idea and the ribbon and fabric are the perfect “Little House” touch 😉


Danielle December 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Perhaps the sweetest of them all :) yum! I hope to visit Madagascar some day…


Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) December 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

This is so ironic…I was JUST writing a friend an email about maybe making my own vanilla extract, i.e. soaking vanilla beans in vodka for like 3 months and stirring daily and then straining. It sure is cheaper and no doubt tastes awesome, but I wonder if it’s worth the work. Seeing these vanilla beans of yours moments after i JUST sent her an email makes me feel inspired :)

I love homemade gifts and mason jars and ribbons….for sure, all of that stuff is the stuff of LOVE and is lovely!


britt December 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

great gift idea! any gift that involves mason jars and ribbons is a keeper in my book :)


Stephanie @ The Travelling Tastebuds December 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Wow… that is SUCH a nice gift from a distant reader. Vanilla beans are super expensive… but make such a difference when baking with them. I definitely prefer them to vanilla extract. What nice readers you have :)


Ravenous Rowie December 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Great idea! If you are using a tiny jar for the sugar, can you cut a vanilla bean in half? I totally want to make these for some of my friends!


jenna December 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm



Krista (kristastes) December 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm

This is an awesome idea — I saw it in the whole foods online gift guide and I SO want to do this…now if only I had a Madagascar hookup :)


nicole December 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Fun idea and simple enough!


Amber K December 13, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Vanilla sugar? Oh my gosh, I’m in love.


Heather (Heather's Dish) December 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

i’ve wanted to make vanilla sugar since i saw the barefoot contessa do it years ago…i love your idea to add it to a cappuccino though!


Vanessa December 14, 2010 at 3:57 am

That is an amazing gift. Although I think I wouldn’t know what to do with all those vanilla beans!!


mom December 14, 2010 at 5:19 am

Very funny, Jennifer…..


Christina December 14, 2010 at 5:21 am

Love vanilla beans.. I need to find some stat!

QUESTION: From your “an update” post.. where did you get that hat?


megan @ whatmegansmaking December 14, 2010 at 5:38 am

Great idea with the vanilla sugar! If you use a smaller jar, do you just cut the vanilla bean in half or something?


Mary (Sisters Running the Kitchen) December 14, 2010 at 5:52 am

Wow! I can’t believe you received that gift from a reader in Madagascar!!! That’s amazing! Around me, Madagascar Vanilla Beans are a hefty price…for just 2!


Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun.blogspot) December 14, 2010 at 6:02 am

Vanilla beans are always soooooooo expensive. You hit the jackpot, lady!


Rachel Wilkerson December 14, 2010 at 6:16 am

What a cool gift that she sent you!! And way to turn that into a great Christmas gift!


R @ Learning As I Chop December 14, 2010 at 6:20 am

What a thoughtful gift!


Maria December 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

Vanilla beans make the perfect gift!! I would love a bundle!


Nicole from Madagascar December 14, 2010 at 7:19 am


I’m so glad that you liked them and could make gifts with them!!!

I’m a Canadian that has been reading Jenna’s blog FOREVER!!! I moved to Madagascar a year and a half ago and buy a lot of vanilla.

Its about 1/1000 of the price here as it is in North America.

A few months ago Jenna had wrote a post about vanilla and I thought that she should have the real deal!

Can’t wait to see what else you come up with!!!

Happy Holidays!!!


Nicole from Madagascar December 14, 2010 at 7:24 am


Ak! I’m having comment posting issues today!! Let’s see if this one makes me through.

Glad that you enjoyed them and that you are making a gift with them!!

I’m a Canadian living in MG for a year and a half now and a Jenna-blog follower for at least twice as long. :)

After Jenna did a post on vanilla awhile back, I felt it was only fitting that she had the real thing to try!!!

Can’t see what else becomes of them!!
Happy Holidays!!


Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble December 14, 2010 at 10:15 am

Those vanilla beans look beautiful! and must smell amazing!!


Gracie December 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

The vanilla beans look absolutely heavenly and I’m sure the aroma made it all the more plausible!

I’m on the look out for vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar now!



Lacey @ Lake Life December 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm

That is such a great idea! Isn’t vanilla bean expensive though? I don’t have any readers from Madagascar lol.


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