Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vanilla Ice Cream

My joy knew no bounds when the ice cream attachment for our KitchenAid stand mixer arrived. I wanted to hug the FedEx man (boy, wouldn't he have been surprised if I'd followed through!). Since that auspicious day we have tried a few different recipes, but keep going back to "plain" old vanilla. May I just say, there's NOTHING plain about this ice cream!

Maybe it's because I've been living overseas for over three years and haven't really gotten much in the way of decent ice cream during that time. Ice cream here is too sweet for our tastes; excessively sweet and generally fruity in flavor whether it's a fruit flavor or not. Call me crazy but to me there's just something WRONG about chocolate tasting fruity.

Which may be why I received more than a nod of approval from my husband for the purchase of said ice cream attachment. I think it's the first time I've ever seen him downright enthusiastic about a kitchen item!

Anyway, back to the vanilla ice cream. You do have to plan ahead since the mix has to be cooked, cooled, then chilled (preferably overnight) before you toss it in the ice cream maker. But not allowing for instant gratification is the only hard thing about this recipe. 

2 cups half & half (or one cup heavy whipping cream and 1 cup milk)
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 t. vanilla

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring half & half to scalding point (the milk begins to foam up around the edge of the pan). Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a large stainless steel bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Gradually pour hot half & half into yolk/sugar mixture, beating constantly so eggs don't curdle. If any lumps form, strain before cooking.
Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, cook until custard thickens enough that it coats the back of the spoon (170 degrees F/ 77 degrees C).
Immediately remove custard from heat and continue to stir a few minutes so it does not overcook.
Add the vanilla.
Cover and let cool to room temperature.
Refridgerate until completely cold (4-6 hours, or preferably overnight).
Make according to your ice cream machine instructions.*
Put into a container with a lid and freeze for at least 2 hours to firm up. Although if you have absolutely no self-control, you can eat it right out of the ice cream maker. It's like soft-serve at that point.

*With our KitchenAid attachment, it typically takes 15-20 minutes, depending on heat and humidity.

Cranberry Orange Scones

My first choice is usually a chocolate scone, but on occasion I'll be in the mood for something different. That's when I make these cranberry orange scones. Light, fruity and perfect with homemade jam or a little dollop of whipped cream (the real thing).

2 cups flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 T. butter
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 t. grated orange peels
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg, beaten
1 T. cream
1-2 T. coarse sugar

Mix dry ingredients. Cut butter in using a pastry blender (or two knives). Stir in dried cranberries and grated orange peel. Add wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Turn out onto floured surface, knead just a few times and form into an 8" circle. Brush with a bit of cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut into pie-shaped slices and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Banana Bread (or Cake)

This is a recipe for banana bread, but I most often bake it in a 9x9 Pyrex dish and serve it like cake. So it's up to you: bread? or cake?

2 cups flour
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla
2 (very ripe) bananas, mashed

Combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips in large bowl.
In small bowl beat oil and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, to oil mixture, beating to mix well each time.
Add vanilla and mashed bananas to wet ingredients.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until fully incorporated.
Pour into a greased bread or cake pan.
Bake at 350 degrees: 60 minutes in bread pan OR 45 minutes in cake pan.
Cool pan on wire rack.
Slice or cut and serve.

Homemade Tomato Soup

I grew up on Campbell's soups and still have a particular fondness for the Bean with Bacon and, of course, Tomato. One of my "comfort meals" is tomato soup and grilled cheese, and back when first married I served it to my husband at least a couple times a week. We were poor college students and it was a cheap meal. It wasn't until we'd been married about three years that Ivan finally (and gently) told me it was NOT one of his favorites :) Poor guy had not wanted to hurt my feelings.

But he changed his tune when I made this homemade tomato soup! You can't really compare it to Campbell's because they in no way resemble each other, except that they share the same name. 

1-14 oz can chopped tomatoes
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
bay leaf
2 T. butter
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream

Strain tomatoes (reserving juice) and spread on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
Meanwhile sauté onions and garlic in 1 T. olive oil over very low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes, the reserved juice, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add basil and cream, simmer 2 more minutes.
Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and discard. Puree in blender (I do this in one cup increments), being careful because it's really hot! [Or you could allow it to cool slightly, puree, then gently reheat.]
Serve plain or with toppings of your choice. Best as a side to grilled cheese!

dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt
T. shredded cheese

BEST Brownies!

Not that I'll say no to a cakey brownie, but I just prefer a denser, chewier version. If you're like me, then you will love this recipe! It's been my go-to brownie recipe for several years now. My one complaint is that unless I bring my own cocoa from the U.S., my attempts to make this fall far short of expectations. I'm not sure what they're cutting the cocoa with here, but it is about half as chocolatey as cocoa powder we can get in the states. Or less.

3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter, divided
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1-1/3 cups flour
1/4 t. salt
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Combine cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup butter and boiling water. Mix well. Add additional butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined. Stir in flour and salt and stir until dry ingredients are incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts (if using).
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is my absolute, most favorite soup EVER. I could (and have) eaten it five straight days in a row, and would have eaten more but I ran out. I found a recipe online and modified it to fit our tastes. It's not as spicy as some, so feel free to add more chili powder or other hot stuff if you like it hotter.

1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. oil
2 t. chili powder
1 t. oregano
1 can tomatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth*
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
2 T. chopped jalapeño peppers (optional)

Sauté onion for five minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently. Add garlic, chili powder and oregano and sauté 30 seconds more. Add in diced tomatoes with juice, chicken broth, corn, beans, chicken and jalapeño peppers (if using). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Serve with your choice of toppings. The tortilla chips are pretty much mandatory though, don't you think? Considering this IS chicken TORTILLA soup!

fresh cilantro, chopped
sour cream or plain yogurt
chopped green onion
avocado chunks
shredded cheese
tortilla chips

*I like to wait until we've roasted or grilled a whole chicken, then I throw the carcass and whatever chicken is left in the crock pot, cover with water and cook on low overnight. The next morning I have a lovely broth to use, along with the leftover chicken which is easily de-boned and chopped. But I've also been known to just use chicken bouillon cubes to make the broth, if I'm desperate for some of this soup and we don't have any plans to roast or grill a whole chicken.

Rosti Potatoes

I first had these had a Swiss-owned restaurant in Uganda, East Africa. I'm a HUGE fan of potatoes in all their glorious culinary forms, but that first helping of rosti potatoes almost pushed me over the edge. Talk about utter deliciousness! I tried to recreate it at home with no success. It wasn't until some years later that I had the brilliant (?) idea to look for the recipe online. DUH!

This is one of those recipes you have to plan ahead, because the potatoes have to be boiled the day before, and chilled overnight. But aside from that, this is a super easy recipe.

2 lb. potatoes
3 T. butter
1 t. salt
2 T. milk

Boil whole potatoes day before.
Cool to room temperature, then put in fridge to chill overnight.
Peel and grate potatoes.
Heat butter in skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet).
Add potatoes, sprinkle with salt, press flat with spatula.
Sprinkle with milk and cover tightly.
Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes.