Monday, January 09, 2012

counting our vanilla beans

After the expensive holiday season, I can’t help but feel a little jittery about the year ahead, when I listen to the news about the financial situation, especially in Europe.  I feel so helpless…people losing their homes.  Losing their jobs.  Or retirees with no money to retire with.  It feels like such doom and gloom, such dire straits.

I wonder if things got this way because as a society, our generation felt entitled.  Entitled to oversized houses, fancy cars, luxurious vacations and exotic meals at restaurants.

Don't get me wrong.  I love luxurious, beautiful, and fancy, just like the next person.  However, as much as I love the finer things in life, I sometimes wonder if that aspiration has attributed to the escalating notion that we need to show that we have more. I once stood behind someone at Starbucks, who ordered a small (Grande) cup of coffee, but asked for it to be put in a large (Venti) cup.  She didn’t want to be seen drinking from a small cup!

I think it hit me right then.  Was I in Starbucks to be seen?  Is the liquid in the cup worth that much more than the one I make at home?  I think I'll just count my blessings that I actually have a home, and enjoy all the things I can do inside it.

Vanilla Bean Hot Chocolate
(recipe adapted from Epicurious)

  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split crosswise 
  • 1 1/2 pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process

  • Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
  • In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. (Process in two batches if necessary.)
  • Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.
  • Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.

To serve
  • For each serving, heat 8 ounces milk in small saucepan over medium heat until scalded (or microwave 2 1/2 minutes at full power). 
  • Whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup mix. 
  • Serve with unsweetened softly whipped cream or marshmallows.

Enjoy your luxurious home.


  1. This looks delicious, I love vanilla, in any form! Did the person ordering the small coffee in a large cup have a stroller? I used to do that so it didn't spill when I pushed the stroller. If not, then it's defiitely an odd thing to do, I agree. Good post!

    1. I love vanilla too! (especially the scent!). Nope, no stroller...just a well heeled individual, so yes, just a little odd to do. Thanks for visiting!


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