Candy Corn Tree

Who knew candy corn grew on trees?

 

Over the years, I’ve made some pretty amazing things with my own two hands. And yet, I think the object that has most impressed my family by far is this Candy Corn Tree I whipped up during our DIY segment of Sticks and Stones #13.

With a glue stick, $3 (candy corn was on sale!) and about 8 minutes, I was able to create something that my family thinks is crafting genius. And I can’t even take credit. I saw a similar picture online and re-created it with my own spin. A word of warning: if the environment gets really humid, the candy corn melts off the branch. But you can always glue more on to it.

I’m not sure what to take away from this lesson. That it doesn’t take much to create something spectacular? That I already knew. That maybe I shouldn’t try so hard? …..maybe. Or that candy, especially candy corn, always wins.

Whatever the lesson, check out how this bit of fall fun was made at Sticks and Stones podcast through our website or on iTunes. Happy Halloween!

Vanilla

Who says life is boring if it’s vanilla. Frankly, vanilla is a pretty nice flavor. So I decided to make my own.

A few friends went in on bulk vanilla bean buy a few weeks ago, and I finally got around to making my vanilla extract. Here’s how you do it.

1. Start with some good Bourbon Vanilla Beans. You can also use Tahitian Vanilla Beans or whatever else you can get your hands on. Too bad they don’t have Smell-o-blogs so I could give you a whiff of how great my kitchen smelled today.

Vanilla Beans

2. Split the beans down the middle with a knife, except for the last inch so they stay intact.

Split Vanilla Beans

All those moist seeds inside, plus the outer pod, are what make the yummy vanilla taste.

Split Vanilla bean closeup

3. Pour vodka into the bottle with the beans at a ratio of 6 beans to two cups of vodka. Hedge suggested adding a tablespoon of rum to make it a tad sweeter. You can also use brandy or rum instead of the vodka. Remember, all extracts retain their flavor because they’re preserved in alcohol.

Pouring vodka into vanilla beans

4. Cap off and store in a dark place for 6 to 8 weeks. The darker the liquid, the strong the vanilla taste.

Bottled Vanilla beans

Just a few hours after I bottled the vanilla it was the color of weak tea. There’s a batch of chocolate chips make with this extract waiting for me in mid-June (if I can wait that long).

This really is as easy as it sounds, which probably leaves you wondering, “Why haven’t I tried this?” A bottle of vanilla can be pricey. And so can the beans. A local grocery store sells beans for about $5 for a package of 2. Find a good place online to order in bulk, and you can get beans for less than a dollar a piece. Keep in mind that a pound of vanilla beans equals about 100 pods, so sharing is good.

By the way, this bottle held a double batch of 4 cups of vodka and 12 beans. If you don’t put in enough beans, you end up with vanilla vodka instead of vanilla extract. Either way, you win!

******Update: My vanilla is dark, dark, dark and it looks great. I can’t wait to bottle it and give it as gifts to everyone! ******