Arts & Crafts

a pretty sweet gift

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!Β  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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49 Comments

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

    Super cute gift idea!

  • Reply
    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.

  • Reply
    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. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Anna
    December 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm

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

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

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

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

    Classy πŸ˜‰
    I love gumdrops!

  • Reply
    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!!!!

  • Reply
    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!

  • Reply
    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!

  • Reply
    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!!

  • Reply
    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!

  • Reply
    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.

  • Reply
    Nora
    December 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    MMMMM love vanilla beans! Love homemade frosting!

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

    Love both ideas. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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).

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

      Oops, I meant sultanas!

  • Reply
    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?????
    love,
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

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

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

  • Reply
    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.

  • Reply
    Fancy
    December 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Jenna!!!
    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! πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      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!

  • Reply
    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.

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

    What a great idea!! Vanilla sugar!
    And bahaha @ the tree. Love it πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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 πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Danielle
    December 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Perhaps the sweetest of them all πŸ™‚ yum! I hope to visit Madagascar some day…

  • Reply
    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 πŸ™‚

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

  • Reply
    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 πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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 πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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!

    • Reply
      jenna
      December 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

      absolutely!

  • Reply
    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 πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    nicole
    December 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Fun idea and simple enough!

  • Reply
    Amber K
    December 13, 2010 at 8:33 pm

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

  • Reply
    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!

  • Reply
    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!!

  • Reply
    mom
    December 14, 2010 at 5:19 am

    Very funny, Jennifer…..

  • Reply
    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?

  • Reply
    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?

  • Reply
    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!

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

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

  • Reply
    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!

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

    What a thoughtful gift!

  • Reply
    Maria
    December 14, 2010 at 6:26 am

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

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

    Jenna!!

    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!!!

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

    Jenna!!

    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. πŸ™‚

    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!!

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

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

  • Reply
    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!

    Gracie

  • Reply
    homemade snickerdoodle mix β€” Eat, Live, Run
    December 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    […] I separate the dry ingredients from the sugar by sealing the sugar in a little plastic baggie (vanilla sugar would be great!) and then stuffing it in the jar after the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and […]

  • Reply
    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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