I am always looking for fun and personal gifts for my friends and when I was first deciding what to do for holiday gifts I was facing unemployment, so I needed to think of gifts with a budget.

I was inspired by a blog post from Metrocurean for homemade vanilla extract and decided to make most of my gifts this year. I knew I wanted to make the vanilla extract and since I love spicy food, I decided to make my own spice mix. Finally, I have been wanting to make homemade Kahlua for a while after a friend sent me a recipe.

In addition to making my gifts, there were a few food related presents I wanted to give that I found on the internet and through some of my favorite blogs. I got a cool cheese board from WoodBob.com who makes cutting boards and cheese boards out of states for one of my friends.

Another food related gift I got were posters from the United Plates series by artist John Holcomb (I also got the Texas poster for myself). Not all of the posters make sense but the are pretty cute and I can’t wait until he makes an FDR poster for his US Presidents series.

I really enjoyed making these gifts and look forward to ideas for next year.

Vanilla Extract
4 cups of vodka
12 or more vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Place the beans in a large, glass jar and pour the vodka over them to cover. Cover with the lid and store in a dark place for about six weeks, shaking from time to time to encourage the extraction.

Strain through a cheese cloth and pour into small bottles. Add used vanilla beans for decoration.

Fields of Food Spicy Seasoning
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced dried onions
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Mix all ingredients well and store in an air tight glass jar. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Homemade Kahlua
4 cups very strong hot coffee
2 1/2 cups of sugar
2 cups of everclear
1 cup rum
1/2 vanilla bean split

Make coffee. In a larger pitcher add sugar to hot coffee and stir until sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool and then add the everclear and vanilla bean and transfer to a new bottle.

Let mixture sit for at least a week, shaking 1-2 times a week. The longer you let the mixture sit, the better. After the desired mixing time, remove vanilla bean. Strain through a cheese cloth.

Food for Thought:
-I found some really cute jars, flasks, and bottles at Crate & Barrel Outlet Store and The Container Store. I also did some branding for myself by purchasing a bird stamp that I used to decorate the labels.
-I have an obsession with birds, mostly mockingbirds from my favorite book: To Kill A Mockingbird. The mockingbird also happens to be the state bird of Texas.
-I added rum to my friend Nicole’s recipe because Kahlua is a rum based coffee liquor.
-I began using white pepper in a lot of my Latin seasonings after working at El Chico (a Tex-Mex) in college.
-I used Texas chili powder for half the spicy seasonings, but unfortunately I could not track any down at the local grocery stores.
-Vanilla beans can be very expensive. I found affordable beans at Whole Foods (about $8 for 2 beans). They also have a variety of different vanilla beans from around the world.