Aside from every recipe I've ever tried of Ina Gartens'...here's one more marvelous thing she taught me. Like ten years ago, when her first cookbook came out. Seriously, I bought it (hardcover, from an over-priced, specialty bookstore), and then devoured almost every dessert recipe.
About a month ago, I stacked a fistful of whole vanilla beans into mason jars and flooded them with vodka. According to Garten, this will create a potent vanilla extract in about a month.
And, I can happily report that a mere 21-days into this experiment...we are wickedly close to the final product. The best part? As the bottle empties, you can simply add more vodka to re-seep the beans. You can even cut open the whole pods and scrape out the beans for cooking, as well. Brilliant!