Vanilla beans can get quite dry and hard when left in your pantry for an extended period of time. They get so hard that there isn't much you can do with them except throw them into your sugar to make vanilla sugar. But what after that? There are hundreds of vanilla seeds within these pods that are just begging to be used! Well, here's another tip for using up these very valuable beans:
Place dry vanilla beans in a coffee grinder and grind away until you have a fine powder. This is vanilla powder and can be used to flavor your cakes and other baked goods (it gives a nice vanilla-speckled look to the finished product). You can also use it in savory recipes that require vanilla, such as the one for my Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce, part of my 2012 Thanksgiving Menu.