Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Is there anything better than cookie dough? Normally, I would say, hands down, no.


Unless said cookie dough happens to be mixed into ice cream.

My boyfriend agrees. See, this is why we get along so well. He asks for cookie dough ice cream for his birthday, and I get to make it. And, of course, help him eat it.

Bonus: using egg beaters in the cookie dough means it still tastes how it should, but you aren't tempting fate with each huge spoonful of raw dough you shovel into your mouth.

Also, you get to make chocolate chip cookies with the leftover dough. Doesn't get any better.

For cookie dough, follow my never-fail recipe here.  Substitute egg beaters for the eggs.

For the ice cream, I improvised my own recipe using Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream's style.

Vanilla Ice Cream Base
1-1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1 TB plus 1 tsp corn starch
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 TB light corn syrup

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk together corn starch and 2 TB of the whole milk. In larger bowl, whisk together cream cheese, vanilla and salt. Set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, add cream, whole milk, sugars and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in corn starch mixture. Return to a boil and cook for one more minutes. Remove from heat and pour, slowly while whisking, into cream cheese mixture.

Chill in ice bath or refrigerator, then freeze according to ice cream maker instructions. When pouring into air-tight container, layer with cookie dough chunks. Cover with waxed or parchment paper to prevent freezer burn and allow ice cream to harden in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

For an even more decadent fix, serve ice cream over a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Double Layered Carrot Cake

I'm not that big of a cake person. I'd much rather eat a big gooey brownie or a fat cookie, than a nice, airy piece of cake. Unless, that is, the cake in question is carrot cake. That makes this cake so different? It could be the dense, moist cake with the added texture of carrots. Or the rich, orange color. Or it could be the layers of icing made entirely of cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Plus the sprinkled walnuts tend to put this over the top.

 Another reason that carrot takes the cake (pun intended) is that I don't make it very often. I rarely have cream cheese on hand and all that carrot grating isn't something I do in my spare time. Thus, the cake is a rarity and the pretty layers make it special, not your everyday dessert. Plus it's just plain delicious. 

And because I only do two layers on this cake, there's always extra batter for a few cupcakes. And who doesn't love cupcakes!

Double Layer Carrot Cake 

3 cups shredded carrots
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

Directions: Mix all ingredients well. Pour into two greased and floured round cake pans. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Check with a toothpick. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 stick butter, softened
8 oz. softened cream cheese
2 tsp. vanilla
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix well and spread on top of first layer. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first, then ice the top and sides of entire cake. Sprinkle with walnuts for an added crunch.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

When I woke up to the sun slanting through my window this morning, I got that feeling. The look, the smells, the sounds- It's beginning to feel like fall, my favorite time of year. And you know what fall means? Along with turning leaves, perfect days, flannel shirts and chilly hot chocolate nights? Pumpkin!

On this beautiful Sunday morning, I busted out the pumpkin for a delicious twist on everyday oatmeal. Because it is now officially in season (at least in my book) and pumpkin pie for breakfast is always a plus- healthy, hearty and wholesome.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal serves 1
1 cup dry oats (I use steel cut oats, but any kind works)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp vanilla
Milk to taste (I use almond milk)
Brown sugar or honey to taste

Directions: Cook the oats according to instructions. When done, stir in pumpkin and spices. Then add desired brown sugar, honey and milk. Sprinkle on dried cranberries, pecans, white chocolate chips, or anything else that reminds you of fall. Dig in and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ohio Sweet Corn Chowder

I recently tried a corn soup that just about knocked my socks off. It was creamy, rich, smooth, slightly salty and full of flavor. It tasted just liked a bite from a freshly buttered, salted, still-steaming ear of fresh Ohio corn.

I couldn't just settle for that one little taste. I had to make it myself. A whole pot of it for myself, in fact.

Ohio Sweet Corn Chowder
4 TB butter, unsalted
1 heaping cup onion, chopped
6 cups (48 oz) chicken stock or broth
6 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1-1/2 TB chopped fresh basil
1-1/2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 TB chopped fresh chives
1 TB sugar (or to taste)
dash of red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook on medium until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth, corn, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar and fresh herbs.

Bring contents of the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes. With a few minutes left, add the cream.

Here is where you have the choice of whether you want this to be chowder or soup. For soup: In batches, puree contents of pot in the blender (make sure you leave a hole or a crack in the blender lid for the air to escape. Just put a towel over top to avoid a mess. Trust me, the alternative is messy and hurts!). You could also use a hand blender if you have one. After all of the mixture is blended, serve.

For chowder (my favorite): puree about 1/4 to 1/2 of the mixture according to the above directions, depending on how creamy you like your soup, then return the puree to the pot (the creamier the like it the more you should puree). This way the soup has still has the texture of the corn kernels and the onions and the chopped herbs add color.

This is a go-to late-summer soup, made with the freshest Ohio ingredients. I garnished it with with more basil and sliced tomatoes, both straight from the garden. This might just be the best time of year.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream

Today I learned a lesson, that the hardest things in life are the ones worth doing. Like running seven miles. Or reading War & Peace. Or saying sorry. Or making this incredible ice cream. Those things might seem difficult, but you feel so good afterward that it's so worth it! Especially with this ice cream, because afterward you get to EAT IT. It's nutty and buttery and sweet and creamy, all in one. Ooops, where'd that whole quart of ice cream go?

I finally got up the nerve to try my favorite Jeni's ice cream, the one I always order when i go to her shops and the recipe I bookmarked the first time I opened my shiny new cookbook. I always turned to the page, read about browning the butter, panicked, and quickly went to another, easier ice cream recipe.

But not today. Today, I got my nerve up, tied on my apron and got those four sticks of butter out of the fridge and into the saucepan. Today, I browned that butter and made that brittle. Today, you can call me Jeni, because my ice cream tastes just like hers!

Is there anything better than butter? Yes, butter flavored ice cream.
Boiling Butter
Almonds, about to grow up into brittle.

Sweet, salty almond brittle. Delicious even before it joins the ice cream.

I did burn a batch of butter first, but hey, it was a learning experience. I now know when brown turns black and starts to smoke, the butter is most definitely burnt. The key to browning butter is to wait just a little passed when it starts to boil and begins to separate, turn light brown and perfect, and the butter solids, the flavorful bits, fall to the bottom of the pan. 

After that, the recipe is easy! And so worth it.

Brown Butter Almond Brittle, from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.
She describes it as Rich brown butter ice cream and salty, crunchy almonds: familiar and delicious. YUM is all I have to add.

Ingredients, makes 1 quart
Ice cream base (cook and freeze per Jeni's instructions):
2 cups whole milk
1 TB plus 1 tsp corn starch
1-1/2 ounces cream cheese
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 TB light corn syrup
1 cup almond brittle, but into bite-sized pieces.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hobo Dinners Go Californian

As you can tell, on my vacation, I did a lot of eating. Dinners at restaurants, picnics on the beach, tacos from food trucks... lots and lots of eating. But one of my favorite meals out of the whole trip had to be when we went camping at Point Mugu up by Malibu. We midwesterners usually just throw some hot dogs or burgers over the fire and call it dinner, but not in California. Either the food was amazing, or I was just ravenous after our long and beautiful hike, but either way these campfire hobo dinners are my new go-to meal when camping.

Californian Hobo Dinners (feeds 6 campers):
2 packs of bratwursts (I prefer spicy)
1 Yellow pepper
1 Green pepper
1 Red pepper
6 ears of corn
1 pack of whole mushrooms of your choice
1 zucchini
1 onion
4 large redskin potatoes
Siracha hot sauce
Basil pesto (from the Santa Monica farmer's market, so good)
olive oil
Salt & pepper
tin foil
Beer of your choice

For the veggies: Simply dice up the peppers, mushrooms, onion, zucchini and potatoes. Cut square pieces of tin foil, put a sixth of the veggies into it, add some olive oil, salt, pepper, a little pesto and as much siracha as you dare. Fold another piece of foil over top and place over, or even in, the camp fire. Let cook for about 45 minutes.

For the Brats: Fold a square of tin foil to make a boat for the brats. Put brats and some cut up onion into the tin foil boat. Add some beer, salt and pepper and allow to simmer over the fire until cooked to your liking.

For the corn: With the husks on, douse the corn in some olive oil and wrap them in tin foil. Place over the fire for about 30 minutes

Don't forget rosemary & herb bread warmed over the fire and smeared with the amazing pesto.

Then, voila, dinner is served.

My sister and her boyfriend pioneered this recipe on their camping trips and we perfected it at Point Mugu. This is so easy to just throw the ingredients in a cooler, especially if you pre-cut the vegetables, and throw them over the fire. Best served with cold beers, lots of extra siracha and finished off with our gourmet, triple chocolate s'mores (more on those later!). And as everyone around the campfire at camp spot #31 agreed, soy contento.

Point Mugu:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beach Eats

Can anyone guess my favorite part of vacation?

Seared ahi tuna sandwich on sourdough with pineapple, avocado, bacon and sesame in Santa Barbara.
Macadamia nut pancakes in Manhattan Beach. Ate every morsel.

Fire roll at Oki Doki. Tuna, Salmon, Albacore, Yellowtail, Avocado, Crab, Cucumber, Onion....all wrapped in SOY PAPER. No rice. With the. best. sauce.
Oishii Roll. Wrapped in cucumber. Yum.
Wine tasting in Santa Barbara. Pinot Noir please.
And also...
North Coast Ale sampler at Corks & Crowns. Santa Barbara, I think I love you.
 Don't forget...

Freshest fruit at the Santa Monica Sunday farmer's market.
Chocolate and salted caramel frozen yogurt. Good, but this ain't ice cream.
I even cooked... once. Omelet with sun dried tomatoes, sage, basil, pesto, portabella, colby and brie. Good morning.
Pesto. On fire-crisped bread. After a hard hike = heaven.
And of course my first purchase upon landing in California was... a loaf of bread. Typical.