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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - Part One

Most of my favourite recipes are deceptively simple. In all things I'm value-minded. I like to get a great deal and I like to spend minimal prep and cooking time for maximum flavour. Generally the simpler a delicious dish is to make, the higher it is in my ratings and rotation because simple is often better.

This ice cream is is the opposite of simplicity.  Special equipment, multiple steps and even multiple days are needed to complete this recipe, but I can assure you it is worth it.  I wouldn't make it or recommend it otherwise.  

I love mint chip ice cream. It is my absolute favourite. But even better than whole chocolate chips or chocolate chunks is stracciatella, made by drizzling melted chocolate into the cold ice cream and then stirring to break up the chunks into irregular sized chocolate bits. It integrates the chocolate into the ice cream and gives it a delicious, crunchy texture.

For this recipe you need an ice cream machine. Mine cost about $30 and even though I use it rarely, it's worth it.  Now I don't have to sadly turn the page when I see ice cream recipes in magazines.  I can try them if I want!  I plan to try some frozen yogurt recipes as well for a healthier treat. 

At least a day before you plan to eat the ice cream, put the insert for the ice cream maker in the freezer. You can leave it in there all the time if you have the space so you can make ice cream with less planning ahead, but I don't have extra room so I have to plan ahead.

For most ice cream recipes, you'll also want to make the ice cream base a day ahead so it has time to cool completely and meld the flavours before freezing. I'm using this recipe from David Lebovitz which makes an amazing, rich and delicious ice cream with a custard base.

The first time I made this recipe, the custard broke. It was thin and separated, not thick and creamy. I went ahead and froze it in the ice cream machine anyway and it worked out ok, but this time I used a thermometer when making the custard and it was creamy and much tastier.

First prepare your mint.  If you have mint in the garden, that's ideal because you need a lot.  I actually have chocolate mint growing which I used for this but regular mint is fine.  

The recipe calls for 2 cups packed mint leaves but I weighed it to be safe. It was 80g. 

You also need 1 cup whole milk, 

1 cup whipping cream (plus another cup later), 

And 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt.

Warm the mint leaves, sugar, salt, cream and milk together in a pot. Don't let it boil, just warm until steaming then remove from heat, cover, and let it steep for about an hour.

After an hour, strain the mixture through a fine sieve and press on the mint to extract all the minty flavour. I used my hands to squeeze it out.  

Then discard the solids and rewarm the minty milk in the pot.

Meanwhile, you'll need to separate 5 eggs.

Place the yolks in a medium bowl and save the whites for another use.

Whisk the yolks. Here comes the tricky part. It's not too tough but needs close attention.

Add a ladleful of the hot milk to the yolks to temper them.  This brings the temperature of the eggs up without cooking them so you can add them into the hot milk without shocking them into scrambled eggs!

Once the eggs are added back to the pot, use a candy thermometer to heat the mixture to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  The custard should thicken to coat the back of the spoon, but the temperature is more important at this point.  

Once at temperature, strain the mixture back into a bowl containing the final cup of whipping cream.  I'm using a locking plastic container that I'll cool the mixture in and store the ice cream in later.

Stir the mixture over an ice bath to quickly cool it down.  As you can see, temperature is the key in ice cream making. 

Once cool, store this in the refrigerator overnight before turning it into ice cream in Part Two!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Short & Sweet Sunday - Tzatziki

Tzatziki is cucumber garlic dip/spread that is very easy to make.  It is great on Greek-style foods like souvlaki and gyros and it is delicious on pita.  We used it as a topping for boiled potatoes and it made them super delicious!

All you need is Greek yogurt, cucumber, a garlic clove and some salt and pepper.  I added fresh chives and dill.

Finely chop the cucumber, garlic and herbs and add them to the yogurt, sprinkling it all with salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Mix well and chill for about an hour to let the flavours meld.  This is great as a dip or as a topping for chicken, pork, rice or potatoes.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Home Made Guacamole

So easy and delicious. This simple dish has gotten me more amazed compliments than anything else I've ever made. I shouldn't even share how simple it is, but everyone deserves to reap the accolades of home made guacamole!

My recipe varies based on what peppers and ingredients I have on hand, but here's the basics:

Ripe avocado, red onion, garlic, jalapeno and/or chili peppers, lime - and tomatoes if you like.

Chop the garlic, onions and chilis in a small food processor until very finely chopped.

Open the avocado and remove the pit.

Scrape the avocado flesh into a bowl with a spoon and then mash it with a fork.

Add the juice of one whole lime and plenty of salt.

Add the minced onion, garlic and chilis and mix.

Serve immediately if possible or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The lime should keep it from browning for a few hours.

Serve with tortilla chips, chicken fajitas, fish tacos, taco salad, or anything you like. Double or triple the recipe with several avocados and more chili and lime and watch your friends go bananas for it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Carrot Orzo

This is one of those recipes I just picked at random to use up what I had in the crisper, but it turned out so amazingly delicious it'll be a staple in our house from now on!

We have some small carrots ready in the garden and I also had these coloured carrots from the market to use. This recipe from Epicurious called for packaged baby carrots but I used these colourful fresh carrots.  You also need orzo, vegetable or chicken broth, garlic, chives and rosemary.  Also parmesan cheese, not shown.  Plus I added some snowpeas from the garden.

Chop the carrots in a food processor into small chunks using the pulse button.

Meanwhile, toast the orzo in some butter and oil.  

Then add the chopped carrots and saute for a few moments.

Then add broth and water for 2 3/4 cups liquid total, plus a minced garlic clove.

Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Add snowpeas and continue to cook for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, chop the chives and rosemary.

Remove orzo from heat and add herbs along with some grated parmesan.

We served this with some barbecued chicken drumsticks and it was a delicious combination.

We loved this side dish and will make it often now that we've tried it. The great thing about this dish is it will be equally tasty in the winter as it is with fresh summer veggies. Try this! You'll love it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Taco Salad

I love main course salads. A meal in a bowl. One of my favourites is taco salad, but I'm a little picky about how it's made and this is not a light choice, so we don't have it often.  It is a delicious treat though!

Here's what you need:

Ground beef, black beans, taco seasoning, lettuce, green onions, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa.  Also and avocado, not pictured.  

I make my own taco seasoning which I use on chicken for fajitas as well as beef.  If you can't read the bottle, I combine 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tbsp salt, and 1/2 tbsp black pepper.  

I try not to use ground beef too often. I just don't consider it a healthy choice. But it is so delicious in this taco salad it's worth it as an occasional treat. You could also use ground chicken or turkey for a lighter meal.  And you can use very lean ground beef without compromising flavour. 

Cook the beef in a skillet until it starts to brown, then add a large chopped onion and some diced jalapenos.

Once the beef is cooked and the vegetables are softened, add a few tablespoons of the taco seasoning and about 1/2 cup of water.

Simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed, then add black beans.

I also added some salsa.  You can add it to the beef or add it to the salad at the end, whichever you prefer.  

Meanwhile, assemble the salad. This is romaine lettuce from our garden but you can use any greens.

Add chopped avocado.

And top with some grated cheese and broken tortilla chips.  These are baked chips which work well in this salad. 

Next, smother with the beef, onion, bean mixture and top with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped green onions.

There's no "dressing" on this salad.  The saucy beef and sour cream combine to dress the greens.  Extra tortilla chips to scoop up the salad wouldn't be a bad idea. Or a fork. 

The leftover beef is awesome on nachos or in tortillas as tacos or burritos.