Unlike last year when my US Road Trip made the blog nearly every day, this year's vacation was shorter, much more family-filled (think fourteen people to organize for dinner every night) and involved much less culinary creativity. Then again, why get creative when you can grill every night to this sort of view.
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. However, as someone who doesn't have a grill for most of the year, I always find recipes where you need one frustrating, so I will spare you the (amazingly yummy) details and head back to recipes you can make with little or no special equipment.
I had marked this recipe on the defunct blog Antics of A Cycling Cook a few years ago (yes that's how long the turnover is in my bookmarked recipes file) and finally got sick of paying lots of money for tiny tiny bottles of vanilla extract and decided to give it a try. Hands down the easiest recipe in the world, cheap in the long run, and made my baked goods so much better. I topped it off and gave it a good shake before vacation and came back to amazing vanilla extract. I highly recommend doing it yourself!
One small bottle of alcohol
(I used a 20cl bottle of cheap Armagnac from the supermarket. Sam used cheap vodka. Anything will do - brandy, light rum, etc - but you don't want the alcohol flavor to overpower the vanilla so I would avoid dark rum and stuff like that.)
5 vanilla beans
(This is the expensive part but worth the investment because you can use the same beans to make lots of vanilla. Sam suggests buying vanilla beans online because it's much cheaper.)
Split the vanilla beans almost all the way down lengthwise, leaving the base intact. Put them in your chosen bottle of alcohol. Shake well and let sit in a cool, dark place for 8 weeks. Shake every once in a while.
I just top off the Armagnac every so often and give it a shake. You can replace an old bean with a fresh one every once in a while to keep the vanilla flavor strong. Et voilà!