Vanilla Extract Update and Hot Chocolate Mix

An update on the vanilla extract project.  Last month, I added 20 vanilla beans to a 750 ml bottle of plain vodka.
vanilla extract
After doing the math, and adding more people to the gift giving list,  I went back to the liquor store to buy more vodka and discovered vanilla vodka!  So, to this bottle, I added 10 vanilla beans, (because I didn’t think I would need as much) shook it well, and placed it in a cool, dark place.
Once a week, I shake each bottle (because the beans sink to the bottom),
vanilla extract
open them up and take a swig sniff and check on their progress.
Almost one month later, the vodkas have taken on a pretty amber color.

vanilla extract
vanilla vodka on the left, regular on the right
I could probably drink use it now, but I will practice my patience skills and leave it alone for a few more weeks.  As a diversion, I will concentrate on finding pretty containers for packaging.
I found these bottles and labels at Hobby Lobby.
vanilla extract vanilla extract chalkboard label vanilla extract lable pen vanilla extract label and pen
I waited until they were 50% off and loaded up.  I used 13 bottles for gifts and still had some vanilla leftover for me.
Another gift that is super easy to make is homemade Hot Chocolate Mix.  This has been a long time favorite in our family.  I remember my mom making this for us years ago and, even though I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years, it’s still a winter time staple in my house.
To begin, you will need a very large bowl.  To this bowl,  add 3 cups confectioners sugar (I sift mine through a fine mesh strainer but you don’t have to do this)
hot chocolate mix
3 cups non-fat dry milk and 1 cup coffee creamer (I used French vanilla)
hot chocolate mix
Add 2 cups miniature marshmallows (optional)
hot chocolate mix
and 1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (once again, I sifted mine but you don’t have to)
hot chocolate mix
At this point, the mix is done.
hot chocolate mix
However, if you so desire, you may add any extras you want.  Mini chocolate chips are a good choice for an extra jolt of chocolate.  Do be forewarned that chocolate chips don’t totally dissolve when hot water is added.  Instead, it forms a fudgy sludge layer in the bottom of the cup.  Problem?  I think not.
Mix well.  Use 1/4 cup of mix per 6-8 oz. of hot water.  Makes about 8 cups of mix and needs to be stored in an air-tight container.
hot chocolate
my 30 year-old Tupperware container still does the trick
For gifts, a 2 cup container is a good size for this, but you can use anything as long as it’s an air-tight container.  I like to use mason jars because I always have these on hand, and they can be painted or wrapped in a variety of ways. Be sure and label your creation with directions (I’m loving the chalkboard labels) or make your own with stencils or scrapbook paper.  You might even save room inside the jar for extra marshmallows or chocolate chips. Oh, and don’t forget the scoop!