Thursday, July 29, 2010

Greek Panzanella Salad


Tonight we we had taco salads, and Mr. Vittles' always ends up being a serious creation.  So I make my tiny salad first, and then he piles whatever is left into a giant mixing bowl for himself.

This can take a while, so usually I walk away while the V Man crafts his masterpiece.  But this evening I forgot the salsa so I went back in time to see him brushing tortilla crumbs off his hands over the counter.

I gave him a sideways look, and he replied "What? I was gonna do it over the floor, but then I figured I better not..."

[wait for it] 

...since you're standing right here."

Sweet.  No wonder I feel like I could vacuum every single day in this house and it still wouldn't be enough.

But, I can't complain because he did fix a giant dent in the rear bumper of my car this evening (from an unknown source - The Perp is still at large!)  So I guess I'll keep him :)

Anyway, I also made this recipe tonight, because I've been dying to try it ever since I saw a picture of it on Alisa Burke's blog.  The recipe is originally from Food Network's Ina Garten, and every single review I read gave it 5 stars.

Yeah yeah, I know it has absolutely nothing to do with tacos.  But I was cutting up tomatoes and onions for pico de gallo & decided I may as well kill two birds with one stone.

So I kept on chopping away, toasted up some bread, and whipped up a vinaigrette - doesn't it all sound so easy?

After dinner, I noticed Mr. V still had a few rogue olive bits in his bowl so I asked if he liked the Panzanella.

"Yeah, it was good," he replied.  "I could have done without the olives though.  I don't mind olives.  But I don't really like them."

Hmm.  Do you not like them, or not mind them?

I'm gonna go with 'don't like them.'

FYI - this is an uncharacteristically female response on his part.  We women are always worried about hurting people's feelings, but usually men aren't so careful.  Maybe he was feeling badly about the crumbs.

...

Nah.

Ok, so maybe he was feeling badly about the other night when he decided to draw on my foot with permanent marker because... I refused to drop what I was doing and scratch his back.

This is what happens when two very stubborn people fall in love and get married. 


At least it's kinda cute.

In any case ... I did not follow Ina's recipe as closely as I would have liked, since I was working with whatever I had in the house.  I only had some green peppers from the garden, feta crumbles (not block), a regular cucumber, and white onions rather than red.  So I will post the original recipe's ingredients, since they are probably better than mine.  The only change I made to the directions was toasting the bread in the oven rather than pan-frying it. 

Greek Panzanella Salad
  • 2-3 T. good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted 
Vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
Preheat oven 400 degrees.  Place bread cubes in a bowl and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Bake 7-9 minutes, until nicely toasted. Add more olive oil as needed.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables.

Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

*For those of you unfamiliar with hothouse cucumbers, they are the really long ones you may have seen at the grocery store that come usually individually wrapped.  They have less seeds and if wrapped, the peel is not waxed.

Recipe Barely Adapted from Food Network, by Ina Garten

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whole Wheat Yogurt Waffles

 
Breakfast for dinner is the best.  We just ate these waffles with scrambled eggs and it was awesome.

But if the meatloaf I posted last week was like having a Big Mac & fries with a Diet Coke, this recipe is like having a green salad with vinegar... and a milkshake.

The waffle itself is super healthy.  Although if you eat it as Mr. Vittles and I did (as pictured), the real whipped cream brings the health factor down a bit.

However, neither of us put syrup on it because I doubled the sugar in the recipe (relax, its only an extra 2 tablespoons for the entire recipe - you'd consume way more than that if you drowned it in syrup!) and added a bit of sugar to the whipped cream.

Mr. V doesn't like healthy foods anyway.

When I asked my standard question during every meal "How is it?" I got the standard answer "It's good."

But when I replied "Good - not bad for being healthy," Mr. Vittles immediately turned his nose up.

"Eww. Healthy."

I think he was only half-kidding, and that's probably being generous.

I guess if I had a job where I was literally running around a golf course for over 12 hours a day, I probably wouldn't care much what I put in my mouth either.

But alas, the activity level at my job equates more to that of a bump on a log.

So it's whole wheat yogurt waffles for me... at least until I get old enough to eat chocolate coconut blondies all day.

Whole Wheat Yogurt Waffles
  • 1 C. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 C. nonfat buttermilk**
  • 1 C. nonfat plan yogurt**
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. vanilla extract, (optional)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 C. sugar (or, you can use 2 T. if you plan on putting syrup over it)
Stir whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, yogurt, the 1 egg yolk, oil and vanilla (if using) in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until moistened.

In a separate bowl, beat the 3 egg whites in a grease-free mixing bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Whisk one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the batter. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.

Preheat a waffle iron. Brush the surface lightly with oil or spray with nonstick spray & cook according to waffle iron manufacturer's instructions. (Or: Fill the waffle iron two-thirds full of batter. Cook until the waffles are crisp and golden, 4 to 6 minutes, depending on how you like them.)  Serve with syrup, or powdered sugar, or whipped cream and fruit.

**Note: I made these waffles with nonfat Greek-style plain yogurt, not regular plain.  I like the Greek style because its heavier and has a ton of protein, but I'm sure you could use whichever you have.  Also, I rarely have buttermilk on hand but I always have milk - so I usually put 1 T. of vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup and add lowfat milk to the 1 C. line.  Stir a little & let sit a few mins and you have your own buttermilk substitute!  Also - if you don't have a waffle iron I bet you could make pancakes with this batter.

Recipe Adapted from Eating Well

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Coconut Blondies


The hubbs and I went to Grammy Vittles' house for dinner last week.  Her girlfriends Mae and Josie Vittles were visiting from Florida, so she had us and my stepdad over.

And oh my goodness.  I only hope that I can have as much fun as these ladies do when I am old and gray.

All three women are widows with condos in the same building on the beach in Florida.  My grandmother spends January through May there, and another month sometime in the fall as well.  (The rest of the time she lives about 5 minutes away from our house!)  And over the years the three of them have found wonderful friends in each other.

Mae, Grammy, & Josie Vittles

Mae and Josie spend an unfathomable amount of time together, and they argue like a married couple.  And after spending 15 straight days with them, I think they were getting on Grammy Vittles' last nerve!

For instance, Mae is always hot and Josie is always cold - so Gram V was doing a whole lot of thermostat shifting throughout their visit.  They also have a very particular way of doing things, and Lord help you if you get in their way!

But in the words of Chris Vittles, they are a hoot.  They had us cracking up.

At this point, I don't think any of them have much of a filter left.  "When you get to be our age," Mae explained, "you get to say and do whatever you want."

Mr. Vittles can hardly wait to get to that point. 

He's already got his fingers crossed for dentures.

"My teeth will be perfect.  Bright & white... straight as a whip..."

He is also anxiously awaiting the transformation of his eyebrows into furry caterpillars.

And at the age of 29, his brows are already growing at an alarming rate.  Not to mention, this trait does run in the family.  So this is a very real possibility.

 actual age simulation
 
As for me, I'm not too psyched for old age.

I already have a few rogue chin hairs I have to pluck, and as time goes on they're only going to make more & more friends. 

Yaya Vittles has been telling me since I was a wee Maggie "Don't get old, Mag."  If only I didn't have to!

But when I do get there, I think I'll say and do whatever I want, too.

And I will definitely eat as many of these blondies as I want.

Chewy Chocolate Coconut Blondies

  • 1 C. cup flour
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 C. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 C. chocolate chips or chunks
Topping:
  • 1/2 C. chocolate chips
  • 1 t. butter (which is 1/3 of a tablespoon)

Grease and flour an 8" inch square baking pan.  Heat oven to 350°.

Beat melted butter and brown sugar together until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla extract until well blended.

Slowly beat in the flour until blended, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake.

Let the bars cool slightly before drizzling with chocolate (melt chocolate & butter together in microwave-safe dish, in 10-second intervals, & keep stirring until smooth - then use a spoon to drizzle over bars).  Cool completely before cutting into small squares.


Recipe (barely) Adapted  from Southern Food on About.com

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake


I'm not much of a drinker these days.

There are few things in the average person's life that feel worse than a bad hangover. 

But now that I'm older and wiser, and (for the most part) have learned to drink in moderation - I would say that the number one reason I drink infrequently is because most alcoholic beverages just don't taste good.

Now Mr. Vittles and probably most of the men (not to mention about half of the women) I know would argue that beer is amazing, but I beg to differ.  Just my own personal taste.  So I just stick to the occasional glass of wine or fruity cocktail (like pina coladas or margaritas -yumm!).

You see, I need every single calorie I consume to be devoted to delicious foods and drinks.  I can't be wasting them on things that taste bad (unless its something healthy - then at least I'm getting something out of the deal).

Now somehow, Fourth of July turned into the Weekend of Rum.  And thankfully, I can say the booze calories were definitely not wasted.

This was the weekend of the barbecue where I made this rum cake (and the sugar saucers).  The cake was pretty awesome - dense and rich with a hint of rum.

Also, family friend Bob Vittles decided that the 4th was going to be Rum Day at the beach I go to, along with my dad & stepmom and their friends.

The drinks all tasted awesome (meaning - the other stuff covered up most of the liquor taste!)  I made Rum Punch to share, and other rum drinks on the 'menu' were Dark & Stormies, Hurricanes, Key West Splashes, and some Mango Rum Mixers.

Not to mention, another beach-goer offered us margaritas... made with 151.

!!

Needless to say... after a few of drinks out in the hot sun, I was feeling pretty Dark & Sleepy.  I had to actually pass on one round because I wanted to make sure I could drive myself home.

Good thing I learned from Pappy Vittles to 'go easy"!

Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake
  • 1 C. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus 3 tablespoons for dusting pan
  • 1 1/2 C. brewed coffee
  • 1/2 C. dark rum
  • 2 sticks (1 C.) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.  Butter 10" bundt pan well, then dust with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, knocking out excess. (Note: If your pan is not 10" its ok - I used a 9" bundt pan and made a tiny cake in a small glass pyrex dish with the leftover batter.)

Heat coffee, rum, butter, and remaining cup cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking, until butter is melted.  Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes. 

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well.  Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined (batter will be thin and bubbly). 

Pour batter into bundt pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.  Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.  Loosen cake from pan using tip of a dinner knife, then invert rack over pan and turn cake out onto rack. 

You can dust the cake with powdered sugar, glaze it, and/or serve with fresh whipped cream.  (As you can tell in the picture, I attempted to glaze it  - but the glaze turned out really thick.  It tasted good, it didn't look so pretty!)

Recipe Adapted From Epicurious.com

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bacon Cheeseburger Turkey Meatloaf


So this recipe is kind of like when a person orders a Double Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries ... and a Diet Coke.

Health-wise, I would say its only redeeming quality is the ground turkey in place of beef.

Taste-wise is another story.

This is delicious.  I'm just saying.

And that actually means a lot coming from me, because I'm really not a meatloaf kinda gal.

But I promise if you like meatloaf, cheese, and bacon (either separately or all together) you will love this.

The hardest part, however, was to make it look appetizing.

Usually Mr. Vittles fixes his own plate (yeah... this isn't 1953), but this time I put one together for him just for photographic purposes.  (My favorite part of the meatloaf is the end piece, and lets face it - meatloaf butt is just not cute.)

So he came meandering into the kitchen as I was getting the camera and I yelled "Wait! Don't touch that yet!  I have to take a picture of it."

His response was "Relax. I know better than to touch the meatloaf without clearance."

He is learning.

So I snapped some shots- you know, really getting up in the meatloaf's grill?

But this was a tough model.  The pictures were so... blah.

Tyra Banks would not be pleased.

"Ugh," I whined, "it's hard to make meatloaf sexy."

Mr. Vittles suggested I put some lingerie on it, but I'm not sure that would have helped.

Just now, I put up the two best pictures I took and asked him which he thought looked better - 1 or 2?


"I don't know," he said.  "They both look gross.  I guess the first one because it has noodles in it."

Encouraging!

So you'll just have to take my word for it.

I swear this meatloaf is hot.

Bacon Cheeseburger Turkey Meatloaf
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/4 C. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/2 C. seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 T. ketchup
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/ 2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. dried mustard
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1.3 lbs. ground turkey (prepackaged its usually this size, but anything around a pound is fine)
  • 8-10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 oz. cheddar or your favorite cheese, grated (naturally, I used pepperjack for Mr. V)
Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Prepare pan for loaf (**see note below). Combine the eggs through the onion powder in a bowl and mix together.  Add bacon and cheddar cheese and mix.  Then add ground turkey and mix with your hands until incorporated well.

**You can put the meatloaf in a loaf pan or shallow pan if you want, but I'll tel you how I like to cook meatloaf - line a baking sheet with foil.  Place a cooling rack on top of it (like the kind you'd use to cool cookies) and place a sheet of foil over that as well.  (I would recommend non-stick - if you don't have it, then lightly spray the foil with non-stick spray).  Using the tip of a knife, punch small holes all over the middle of the foil like so, but maybe a little closer together in the middle:


The idea is to give the meatloaf support, but allow the fat to drip through so its not just sitting in grease (and also not have a huge mess to clean up!)

Bake 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare glaze in a small bowl or measuring cup & mix until smooth:
  • 1/4 C. ketchup
  • 1 T. spicy brown mustard
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 1 T. Frank's Sweet Chile sauce (optional)
Pour glaze over meatloaf and spread completely over the top.  Bake an additional 15 minutes, and remove from oven.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing & serving.


Recipe Heavily Adapted from Paula Deen on the Food Network

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Salsa Verde


Ok so this has nothing to do with cooking - but I am totally freaked out right now.  And unfortunately Mr. Vittles is not home tonight, meaning I have no one else to share this with but all of you.

So I think by now you know how much I despise moths.

I had them on the brain earlier today because Mr. Vittles showed me a picture he snapped of a moth at the golf course, which spanned the length of a Bic pen.

I know this because there was a pen next to it in the picture.

Naturally my first thought was, Eww, he got close enough to that thing to put a pen next to it??

But now that I think of it - man, what a jerk my husband is.

"Hey I know you're deathly afraid of these things, but I saw this mammoth moth and thought of you."

Gee, thanks.

(Reminds me of when my college "friends" Nat and Flav Vittles brought me back a giant, framed moth from their summer trip to Spain, and then insisted we hang it on the wall of our apartment.)

So then on Graphics Fairy, a vintage clip art blog I like to look at, I see a recent post of this moth drawing:


Which I am sure to some people is very... lovely?  But to me it is positively revolting.  This image will probably give me nightmares, and sadly I'm not joking.

The caption says that it's from an early natural history book, and the moth is called a "Death's Head Hawk Moth."

See, Moth = Death.  I knew it.

Anyway, the most disturbing part is a comment that a reader left, saying that they are native to Europe & Asia (thank goodness) and they have a strange ability to squeak when irritated.

Umm... first of all, I'm not sure what constitutes moth "irritation".  Second of all... squeaking?  I don't really know what that means, but regardless it's creepy.

So then as I was doing some internet research on this filthy creature (rule #1 - know thy enemy!) I actually SAW a moth fluttering out of the corner of my eye.

And... I dropped my laptop.

The last time I did that I broke the power cord - thankfully, this time no damage was done.

Which is especially good since it was actually just a feather from our little parrot that got swept up in a breeze from the fan, and not a moth at all.

Our Senegal Parrot, C.J.

Ok!  Well on that note... I guess you're probably looking for a recipe.

I really have no good 'story' for this salsa so this is probably as good a time to post it as any.  I just felt like trying out a green salsa recipe because I always enjoy it at restaurants.  This one isn't quite as good, but it's pretty darn close.

So, uh, that's it.  End of story.

If you need me, I'll be in bed with the covers pulled over my head.

Salsa Verde
  • 8 tomatillos, husked & chopped into large chunks
  • 3 shallots (or, 1 medium onion), chopped into large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped chiles
  • 1/4 C. fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor.  Using pulse setting, coarsely chop.  Cover & chill in refrigerator.

Recipe from AllRecipes.com

*Note: For anyone who has never worked with tomatillos - they come in a papery husk that you have to peel off and then you'll want to wash them thoroughly (they have a sticky exterior).  Otherwise, they are basically like a green tomato, just with more seeds.

 tomatillos

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sweet & Sour Chicken


To be honest, Chinese food is a tough one for me to replicate.

Or, should I say replicate well.

I feel like it's always better from a restaurant, so I usually steer clear of it altogether.

But a couple weeks ago, we had a break in the heat and I guess was feeling bold - so I decided to try my hand at making this chicken.

And oh my goodness.

The coating.  The frying.  The baking.

Sweet mother of chicken madness.

This dish seriously took me half the evening to make.

At the time, Mr. Vittles was helping my brother-in-law Nick Vittles change the tires on his truck (among other things that I can't even name).  They started tinkering about the same time I started cooking, so I figured they'd be ready to eat when dinner was done.

When the chicken came out of the oven, it looked good - but given my track record, I didn't know what to expect. 


I popped a hot, sticky niblet in my mouth and ... it was amazing. 

Barely able to contain my excitement, I set out the pan, along with some jasmine rice and sauteed snow peas with sesame, and leaned out the window.  "Dinner's ready!" I called.

Silence.

Then, "We're not ready yet.  Be there in a bit."

And... I went from flying high to crashing in a fiery wreck.  After all that work, I sat down to eat this ALONE.

Well not entirely alone, if you count the Real Housewives of New York...

"Bethenny, could you pass the snow peas?  Kelly, would you care for a Xanax with your chicken?"

It was downright depressing.

But, as promised, the guys came in about half an hour later - and even cold, said it tasted pretty incredible.

So if you want to try this recipe, learn from my mistakes.

Wait for an evening not only when you have lots of time, but also when your dinner partners are ready to chow down at a moment's notice :)

Sweet & Sour Chicken
   
Chicken:
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.

Sauce:
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced – about 6-8 minutes.

Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sugar Saucers


I hope everyone is enjoying their 4th of July!

I made these sugar cookies yesterday for a barbecue I went to at Pappy and Candi Vittles'- her sister Aunt Barbra and my cousin Tiphani Vittles were up visiting from Florida.

We don't get to see them often so I wanted to make something extra special.

This... was not it.  (The extra special dessert I made was a chocolate rum bundt cake.  More on that soon!)

But I wanted to make something else to nibble on, especially since I didn't think my cousin Tania Vittles' 11-year old and 4-year old sons would be having too much rum cake :)

I saw these cookies on Annies Eats a couple weeks ago and I thought they looked awesome.  I wasn't too sure about the lemon, though, so I found the original recipe posted somewhere else on Key Ingredient.  I also made them a little smaller since I was bringing them to a party.

Mr. Vittles saw what I was making and commented that he thinks sugar cookies are best when they are undercooked.

This isn't unusual.  Mr. Vittles makes no bones about the fact that he likes soft cookies.

Like, he loves the Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chip cookies.  Which are super fake & gross tasting, in my opinion.  (Sorry Nabisco, but they are.)

In this case, however, I happen to agree with my husband. I like sugar cookies to be slightly crispy on the outside and give way to a soft center, and these cookies fit that bill. 

Plus... I'm too lazy to roll and cut the cookies.  These still look pretty, and allowed me to use my new red white & blue sprinkles, without all that trouble :)

Sugar Saucers
  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or silicone mats, or grease generously with butter or cooking spray.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed about 1 minute. One ingredient at a time, add the vegetable oil, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, egg, and vanilla, beating on medium speed after each addition until completely incorporated.

Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt all at once, using a wooden spoon or the mixer set on low. (The dough will be soft.) Refrigerate the dough about 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to handle.

Using a tablespoon-sized scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared sheets. They should be 2" apart.  Flatten the dough evenly with your finger or palm to 1/4". Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges turn golden.

Recipe from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather, on keyingredient.com

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Growing up, my mother liked to grow her own herbs  - among many, many other things.  (Ah, if only I inherited her green thumb!)  And I can remember her saying how mint bordered on being a weed, in the sense that it quickly took over whatever spot it inhabited.

Boy was she right.

If you recall, I received a lovely Easter herb basket from Pammy and Douggy Vittles.  And in said basket was some mint.

Well a little over a month ago I had to transplant the mint into its own pot because it was literally strangling everything else in the original basket.

As it stands now, I would say that 'flourishing' is an understatement.  Despite the fact that some sort of bug appears to be nibbling on the leaves (which I have been after Mr. Vittles to take care of with his arsenal of insecticides from work) this plant is healthy as an ox.

But mint isn't like parsley or cilantro.  You don't use it in a myriad of dishes.

At least not ones that I'm aware of?  When I think of mint, I imagine ice cream and mojitos.

So my first order of business was to make some fresh mint ice cream.

Mind you, fresh mint isn't exactly like mint extract.  If you think you're going to make this ice cream and its going to taste like mint chocolate chip from the grocery store, think again!  I don't really know how to describe it, but it's definitely different.

Mr. Vittles came home while I was steeping the leaves and asked if I was "boiling salad."


Which I thought was a pretty good indication he was not going to like it - however, when it was done he said it was "really good."

So don't let the fact that it's not neon green turn you away.

Also - if you don't have an ice cream maker, don't let that stop you either.  I just found this great article on how to make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker on another of my favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker.

Yay!!  You know what they say - I scream, you scream... :)  Enjoy!

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • 2 C. half and half
  • 1 1/2 C. fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. light cream (or heavy cream, if you have it or you prefer it)
  • 1/2 - 2/3 C. mini chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, heat half and half over medium heat.  Add mint leaves and bring to a simmer.  Remove pan from heat and cover, allowing to steep 30 minutes.

Once mint has steeped in half and half, prepare an ice bath (large bowl or pan of water with ice cubes).

Strain out mint leaves over a bowl, and discard the leaves.  Return half & half mixture to saucepan, and place over medium-low to medium heat until steaming but NOT simmering.

In now empty bowl, whisk egg yolks and then whisk in the sugar.  Pour in about half of the half & half mixture on the stove into the bowl with the sugar & yolks, and whisk to combine.  Pour contents of bowl into saucepan and whisk entire mixture (this is called "tempering" the yolks - if you add them all at once to the hot liquid they may curdle which is not good!)

Stir and cook about 6-8 minutes longer, until a custard forms (and coats the back of a silicone spatula/spoon).  Remove from the heat and place immediately in ice bath.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once mixture is cooled, add in the extract and stir to combine.  Then add the cream, but do NOT stir.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

When mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  You will add the chocolate at the end, when the ice cream is almost frozen, and allow to churn 15-20 seconds to mix in the chips.

Loosely Adapted from Ice Creams and Sorbets by Lou Seibert Pappas
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