A tip from my random kitchen experimenting: when you use vanilla beans in your cooking, don't discard the pods after you've scraped out the seeds. Instead, cut the pods into 1- or 1.5-inch pieces and drop them into a small, covered jar that holds about a cup of vodka. Keep the jar in the pantry where you'd normally keep your vanilla. Shake it gently every other day or so, and in 2 months or so you'll have a nice jar of homemade vanilla extract. As you use your vanilla, just keep dropping in more scraped pods and adding dashes of vodka. If you want, you can just split a pod, chop it without scraping the seeds, and add that as well. That'll power-pack your extract. You'll never need to buy vanilla extract again. If you want to give it for a gift, just strain it through a super-fine sieve or some cheesecloth into a small, decorative jar.