Door County, the sweets edition

This gallery contains 12 photos.

With a tween daughter at home, I’ve given lots of thought to friendships: how they’re made, how fragile they can be, what makes a good one, and so on. While I didn’t especially enjoy those middle school years myself (though … Continue reading

v, vanilla bean

This gallery contains 6 photos.

T, Tofu. U, Udon. Welcome, my food for fun friends, to V! Today I join Shanna, Sofia, and Ngan as we continue to cook our way through the alphabet. My culinary colleagues smartly assigned V to vanilla bean and I’m … Continue reading

minty muffins? and just two more things

There’s nothing like the thrill of finding something completely new in the food world, though I’m often humbled by how little I know about what’s out there. Take Biscoff: After discovering it here on WordPress, and writing it up myself, I was mildly aghast at having been in the dark about this peanut butter-style spread made out of COOKIES.

Seeing mention of ice cream bread in an electronic newsletter was another wow, though I also wondered why I hadn’t heard of such a thing. Its simplicity–only two ingredients–appealed as did the concept of making bread from ice cream. How could I not give it a go?

Instead of a loaf pan, I used muffin cups (yes, amb, the liners are Valentine’s Day leftovers 🙂 ) and also subbed in 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt for the self-rising flour.

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

mint chocolate chip ice cream + self-rising flour

in the cups

in the cups

cooling it

cooling it

On paper it looks good: leavened flour plus ice cream, which is dairy, fat, sugar, and flavoring. It could work, right? They certainly looked tasty.

they look like cupcakes

they look like cupcakes

But they were meh at best. The texture was borderline gummy, and the flavor fell flat. Perhaps a dash of vanilla extract or even an egg would have helped, but I don’t feel strongly enough about this project to keep working at it. Why throw perfectly amazing ice cream away when it’s so tasty as-is?

But if you’re up for the challenge, I encourage you to give it a go and report back. Can you turn this recipe into something worth making?

As long as we’re here, I also want to give a shout-out to Bandhna and Trace in the Kitchen for their kind nominations. Bandhna, who tossed the Liebster and Versatile awards my way, writes with great enthusiasm and fun about life, travel, food, fashion, and technology. Her Foodie Fridays can’t be missed and even her fashion posts have been known to be almost edible 😉

You’ve met Trace here before and her posts are always worth a read. We share strong opinions about peanut butter as well as a love of all things food. Trace, to you I say: Thanks for the Sunshine, Sunshine 😀

I admit to not playing these awards games very well. While I for sure want to send oodles of thanks and appreciation to Bandhna and Trace, I’ll skip the Q & A part and send you here for further “nominations.” There are so many amazing blogs out there and to narrow it down–as well as find blogs that have yet to receive these awards–continues to stump me.

In the spirit of “just one more thing” (any other Columbo fans out there?), I’ll finish off with another Minnesota Soybean guest blog link. Go ahead and get your cinnamon-roasted soynuts on and circle back next week for more fun in food.

campy food and more

My husband and I both camped when we were younger and want to enjoy these trips with our family as well. Yet, it went so poorly with babies that we set those plans aside a few years until our daughters were at a better age for travel. Last year we hit South Dakota and it went amazingly well–we wanted another week of camping this summer. So we headed to Minnesota’s North Shore, which offers miles of gorgeous Lake Superior views.

Hiking, shopping, tenting–all good. But my favorite part of camping–and travel in general–will always be the food. Memories of childhood camping include my mom planning menus and packing food in crates and coolers. Mom is far more organized than I, so my planning and packing efforts pale in comparison, but just the same I love to think through meal possibilities and pack accordingly.

Then there are meals out, which I like having at one-of-a-kind stops along the way. (Though there’s compromise as kids and husband appreciate the Taco Bells and Subways of the road.) I armed myself with a ripped-out feature from a local paper titled Destination Duluth: Where to eat right now, circling the places I wanted to hit. And…

toasting

toasting

Breakfast

Many of my husband’s family’s friends gave us camping gear as wedding gifts, most likely with the hope of taming the “city” in his “city girl” bride. One such gift was a camp-stove toaster, which toasted sourdough English muffins for egg sandwiches. We’d also brought an Italian-spiced bacon from a favorite meat market and I’m already planning a return trip for more.20130816_081949

Lunch

Typical drive-in food at A & Dubs.

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

Chicken basket, fries, cole slaw. The butterscotch malt? Already gone!

The Duluth Grill makes a great case for going your own way. Originally partners in the Ember’s chain, the owners tell of the day they ran out of pancake mix. Choosing to make their own ‘cakes from scratch–which tasted better and cost less–was a light-bulb moment. Their partnership with Ember’s eventually flamed out and they now have vegetable and herb gardens (the server’s shirts read “Veggies fresh from the parking lot.”) and serve imaginative fare–some out-there, some more down-home–all of it made onsite using local and organic ingredients. My one regret was not having room for the When Pigs Fly sundae: vanilla ice cream topped with cherrywood-smoked bacon, pecans, homemade caramel sauce, and Hawaiian red sea salt.

buffalo tofu strips

buffalo tofu strips

bison burger with homemade onion rings

bison burger with homemade onion rings

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

ratatouille over polenta sprinkled with goat cheese

beet lemonade--surprisingly tasty!

beet lemonade–surprisingly tasty!

20130813_113627While not technically a lunch stop, I enjoyed wandering a downtown outpost of the Duluth Farmer’s Market. My favorite find: curry coconut granola.

Supper

My oldest daughter likes to have her night as head chef to serve up Girl Scout Gumbo (no scouts were harmed in the making of this dish, haha). A hearty mixture of potato, ground beef, bell pepper, alphabet soup, and onion, it goes over especially well when camping.

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

girl scout gumbo with a side of veg

Hobo dinners are another childhood camping memory, so these fire pit-roasted beef-and-veggie packets were on our list. We changed it up by using chorizo instead of beef and I’ll never go back. The chorizo’s spices (and fat) gave the veggies immeasurable flavor and tenderness.

hobo dinner chorizo-style

hobo dinner chorizo-style

I’d read earlier about cooking breadsticks over a campfire, so had made up a ziploc of dry mix at home and added the liquids at the campsite. They were tricky to cook on a stick, as they tended to droop with the heat and fall into the fire. And cooking too close to the flames left them charred. What finally worked? Laying them in a skillet and turning them often.2013-08-12 18.37.09

Dessert

banana boats with c chips, mini 'mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

banana boats with c chips, mini ‘mallows, and cut-up caramel pieces

Banana boats and s’mores. Typical campfire treats, but the s’mores were extra special this year as I’d made graham crackers à la Smitten Kitchen before leaving home.

gimme s'more!

gimme s’more!

skidmarks on my heart

skidmarks on my heart

Positively Third Street Bakery: This tiny gem’s cookies sold out quickly. We never made it before noon in our two visits (to go back twice in five days says something about how badly we needed these cookies), so only had a few to choose from. Handwritten labels listed basic ingredients such as butter and sugar, but each variety had an extra “something.” Adventure, perhaps. Or Joy, Love, Good Times. Our favorite is the Skidmark: deep chocolate, hit of espresso, chocolate chips, etc. And the “special ingredient”? Burnt rubber–what else?

Betty’s Pies is state-famous (though the website claims world fame) for its North Shore location and crazy good pies. Just as fun is the kitschy blue-and-white checker decor.

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate a la Betty

apple, coconut cream, 5-layer chocolate à la Betty

Another bit of culinary fun my oldest brought to the trip was ice-cream-in-a-bag. In a 1-quart ziploc, she combined 1/2 cup milk (didn’t seem to matter if it was full-fat, skim, chocolate, nonfat half-and-half–everything worked), 2-4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and pinch of salt. After sealing the bag, she put it in another ziploc and surrounded the sealed bag with rock salt and ice. Five or so minutes of tossing the bag from one hand to another (wrapping it in a towel makes it easier to handle) turned out top-notch soft-serve ice cream. Because we’d picked up malted milk balls at a candy shop that day, we crushed a few and mixed them into the ice cream for a bit of texture and extra flavor.

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

ice cream in under 10 minutes, better than DQ

Northern Waters Smokehaus came highly recommended from multiple sources. A quick-order sandwich shop, they also smoke and sell their own meats and if I lived in Duluth it would be a regular stop. Their sandwiches are inventively named (my bahn faux mi layered Berkshire Ham, paté, carrot, cabbage, cilantro, quick pickles, hoisin, chili sauce, and butter–can you even imagine?); I beg you to click on the above link for a taste of their creativity.

a really good sandwich

a really good sandwich

Just for Fun

PhotoGrid_1376430421888Fizzy Waters focuses on sodas of all kinds–vintage and craft especially–as well as a smaller selection of old-fashioned candies. My daughters enjoyed a turn at the make-your-own-soda fountain and I’m giving my youngest the prize for most innovative with her version of Chocolate Sprite.

Duluth Coffee Co. is said to be the antithesis of Starbucks and I can see why with its dark and spare space. As a non-chain fan (see above), I adored it. This coffee is served all around town for good reason. Roasted in-house, it’s fragrant, well-balanced, deep, and dark. I took home a bag–despite the steep price tag–as I need that coffee magic every morning in my own kitchen.

We were glad to come home to warm beds and indoor toilets, but there is so much more food to be enjoyed that we’ll be back. I anticipate a Duluth Dining II post (camping optional) sooner rather than later.

because sometimes one ice cream flavor just isn’t enough

Seems the blogosphere has been heating up. True, some bloggers are now enjoying a winter season (talking to you, Peckish Kiwi), but for the most part I read of folks pert-near melting from high temps. Becky, Deb, Lilly Sue, Cheri, and so many others have been advising us on how to stay cool. Even in Minnesota, where winter kicks in late October and sometimes stays put until April, we’re looking at high temps and dastardly humidity that make indoor cooking unfathomable. For my part, meals this week have been no-cook, grilled (thanks to the fine folk at Patrons of the Pit for teaching me there are few foods that can’t be grilled), or cooked up in the slow cooker.

The soaring mercury also has me thinking ice cream (though ice cream thoughts are always near regardless of what the mercury is doing) and plentiful fresh produce offers hosts of options. Nearly 30 pounds of pick-your-own berries (when local fresh produce shows up in Minnesota, we consume with a vengeance) and a neighborly gift of MORE BANANAS helped me narrow these options. My ice cream cravings would be satisfied in flavors of banana and strawberry.

First, those bananas. What to do with more bananas? I’d already baked bread, cakes, cookies, and bars. I’d made a smoothie. I’d roasted and pureed the flesh for mashed banana at a moments’ notice. But, I had yet to make ice cream. Stories of “healthy” banana ice cream had always intrigued me as it was purported to taste like ice cream, while being nothing more than frozen frappéed bananas. It seemed a good way to burn through the six bunches I had recently acquired, so I peeled, pureed, froze. I also mixed in chopped chocolate just because I could.

banana "ice cream" in the making

banana “ice cream” in the making

Verdict? Not bad. Though I’d compare it to an icy popsicle more than I would ice cream. In the end, the poor banana faux ice cream didn’t stand a chance as it was compared to my next project: Killer strawberry ice cream.

Turning again to Humphry Slocombe, I pureed 2 cups sliced fresh berries per instructions for Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream. (This wicked-cool ice cream has the same naming origins as does HS’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream, featured here.) A no-cook “custard” made this the perfect frozen treat to make on a sweltering day in a non-air conditioned kitchen.

berries + cream=bliss

berries + cream=bliss

And when I put these ice creams side-by-side for their deLizious facebook post

can you spot the imposter ice cream?

can you spot the imposter ice cream?

a clear winner emerged. The strawberry ice cream was rich, creamy, tart, sweet, and pink; a frozen ball of brown banana was going to play second fiddle.

Wanting to give the banana ice cream another shot, I thawed it slightly, then beat it with an electric mixer (a food processor was used the first round) to whip more air into it along with ingredients I hoped would enhance flavor: ground cinnamon, vanilla, peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and bourbon (!). It was much improved with a stronger flavor profile and slightly creamy texture. But it was also still basically frozen banana.

creamier and a fuller flavor, but it still ain't ice cream!

creamier and a fuller flavor, but still not ice cream

If this were a contest, the strawberry ice cream wins. But there’s always room for more than one ice cream–real or faux–so will enjoy each flavor for what it is. The banana as a sweet and sort-of healthy treat (adding bourbon, etc zapped much of its nutritional merit) and the strawberry as a decadent summer I-shouldn’t-really-eat-this-whole-bowl-but-I-just-can’t-stop-myself sort of thing.

If you need a summer cooler, I’d recommend whipping up bananas (with beaters instead of in a food processor) and freezing the puree. Stirring in plain or vanilla yogurt would be a good move, too, adding creaminess. But don’t stop there. Go ahead and make HS’s sensational strawberry ice cream as well. It’s as simple as pureeing those 2 cups fresh hulled berries (straining if desired, though I did not) and whisking together with 2 cups cream, 1/2 cup condensed milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (!), and 2 teaspoons salt. Chill thoroughly, then process in ice-cream maker.

tastes like summer

tastes like summer

So, chill out, beat the heat, stay cool. There are more summertime clichés I’d like to use here, but that strawberry ice cream is melting and it’d be a shame to let it go to waste. Rushing off to catch it now, but will see you next week. Thanks for stopping by!

special ed. with pink mushroom cake, vodka gummy bears, and a bourbon ball

Summer crazies have temporarily stalled out food for fun, but I’m back tonight with a special edition highlighting three unrelated tales of fun food and drink:

Tale 1 First, a look back at last post’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream. I had lamented that this Humphry Slocombe recipe seemed a lot of work and though it was tasty, wondered if it had been worth the effort. The ice cream accompanied a birthday cake for my oldest daughter and what with those summer crazies, I made yet another cake soon after for another birthday party.

now that's a cupcake

now that’s a cupcake

I used a much-loved cake pan, which when sprayed well enough with baking spray makes two cake layers that come together to make one big cupcake. (When not sprayed well, it makes a big mess.)

All went as planned until it came time to frost. Many a poorly decorated cake has been featured at food for fun (here and here, just for starters), so it should come as no surprise that this one got out of hand as well. Instead of the sweet “cupcake” I’d planned, it looked more like a big pink mushroom. (Or where Smurfette calls home per deLizious facebook post.)

again, best-laid plans

again, best-laid plans

As with my other decorating disasters, the cake tasted far better than it looked. The big surprise, though, was how amazing the HS chocolate ice cream was served alongside. Whether it had aged a bit in the freezer, mellowing its flavors, or was simply a better match for white cake than it was chocolate trifle, I know not. But that ice cream really dazzled here.chocicecream

A word about the cake: Mr. Wonderful White Cake recipe was found in Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook. Corny name aside, it’s one of the best white cakes I’ve had.

do you like the cake saw?

do you like the cake saw?

Mr. Wonderful White Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two cake pans or spray with baking spray.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, butter, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer 3 minutes or until smooth. Add egg whites; beat 2 minutes longer. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cakes directly to wire racks to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Tale 2 Another bit of cocktail news means that Weary Chef can’t be too far away. I found a link through one of her Happy Hour posts for vodka gummy bears and was smitten. With young kids underfoot, there are always gummy bears to be found, and I loved the idea of infusing them (the gummy bears, not the kids) with vodka.

I did exactly as instructed and was unimpressed when unveiling the batch a week later. My cute little sugar bombs had melted into the vodka, leaving me with a thick (albeit colorful) syrup. Anyone who has read food for fun knows that this wouldn’t stop me and I was forging ahead regardless. I mixed some of this goo with carbonated water and loved that it was sweet, fruity, bubbly, and boozy. It went down easy for sure. I’m curious as to why my bears melted down when I Sing in the Kitchen seemed to keep hers intact. Maybe gummy bear brand matters? Regardless, it was a fun cocktail.

the bears make it silly, but it's still a goo cocktail: refreshing and potent

the bears make it silly, but it’s still a fine cocktail–refreshing and potent

Tale 3 You’ll need to hop over to Blog of Funny Names for this tale. A recent guest post highlights another Kentucky favorite: Ruth Hanly Booe and other funnily-named folk who made Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls the internationally known confection they are today.

Many thanks for stopping by during what I know is YOUR crazy-busy life. Your visits here are always appreciated 🙂

best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

With my oldest daughter’s birthday on its way, I got in gear to bake an amazing cake. (There was that pony cake to match, if not top.) And because she loves chocolate, I also wanted to make her a batch of brilliant chocolate ice cream. But…

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

After enjoying a Swiss-roll type of cake at a local diner, we knew we’d found  the perfect treat for her big day.

A quick internet search for “homemade chocolate ding-dong” (Can hardly type this with a straight face, but that’s the snack cake I thought I was going for. My Hostess-savvy husband has since pointed out that ding-dongs are not cake rolls. Just the same, the name stuck.) brought me to Smitten Kitchen’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll. I could do this.

Turns out I couldn’t. The fact that there was no flour in the cake should have concerned me, but I figured SK knew what she was doing (and I’m sure she did–her cake roll turned out quite nicely) so jumped in.

My mistake was taking the cake out of the oven too soon; it was overly moist and stuck to the dish towel. But, I was trying to follow SK’s advice to not overbake lest it become too dry for rolling. Not ready to admit defeat (I had six eggs and six ounces good chocolate already invested), I set it aside to deal with later.

so not was I was going for

so not was I was going for

Next up was the ice cream, so I turned to trusty Humphry Slocombe for their Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate recipe. Intriguing! Though I was making this for an 11-year-old, I loved the name and had been eying the recipe since buying the book. (HS claims they had no intention of making flavors as mundane and ordinary as chocolate, but when their customers wouldn’t let up about it, they developed this rich, velvety chocolate ice cream and gave it an in-your-face name. You can read Attempts in Domesticity’s post for more on their Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream.)

This ice cream was a tough gig. First step was melting sugar into caramel, then adding water (though I subbed in coffee), cream, and milk before tempering with egg yolks and adding shots of cocoa powder and a final blast of dark chocolate. Lots of muscle was involved when my caramel hardened and I had to cook and stir, cook and stir to melt it down again. But I don’t go down easily in the kitchen and was proud to emerge victorious. The resulting custard was dreamy and dark, and I chilled it overnight.

churning the dark chocolate custard

churning the dark chocolate custard

Humphry S had described this ice cream as being pudding-like, so I wasn’t surprised at the thick custard that greeted me the next morning. But I was surprised when it didn’t freeze while churning. After a half-hour or so, I took matters into my own hands and set the canister in an ice-water bath and beat it with a hand mixer. The dark brown chocolate gradually lightened as it filled with air and when it was light enough to overflow the canister, I transferred it to another container for freezing.

look at how much lighter it is!

a lot lighter

Back to that cake: Rolling didn’t seem an option, so I did what any self-respecting failed cake baker would do: I made a trifle. Into a lovely glass bowl went layers of crumbled moist (flourless) chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, sprinkles of cacao nibs, and a killer chocolate ganache. Birthday cake? Not really. But we stuck a candle in it and called it good.

pre-candle

pre-candle

The birthday trifle certainly didn’t need a rich ice cream to accompany, but I’d gone to the trouble of making that d@mn stuff, so serve it up we did. More frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream, it was light, ethereal, and almost otherworldly. If I made it again, I’d serve it solo and let folks enjoy it for the rich and creamy and deeply flavored chocolate treat that it is.

Did my daughter enjoy her birthday desserts? Sure. Though it seemed over the top, especially on a weekday evening when dinner was slotted between an afternoon playdate and evening tennis lessons. This may have been an instance when a simple cake and store-bought ice cream would have been sufficient.

over the top birthday treats!

over the top birthday treats!

But homemade trifle and creamy-rich chocolate ice cream should be celebrated and I don’t regret the time and effort that went into making either. It was a bit more of a battle than I’m used to, but a kitchen challenge is a call to action and backing down was never an option. Happy Birthday, my dear Clare. May you dodge the bullet of inheriting your mother’s crazy-obsessed food DNA.

a very long introduction, three recipes down, one to go

Needing a topic for this post, I thought back to starting food for fun. With so many great food blogs already out there, I knew I needed a niche. While I didn’t know what that niche would be (still not entirely sure, btw), I jumped in and started writing. Topics have been chosen solely because they inspire or excite me enough to want to share.

A backward glance, though, tells me that I often jump over inspired and even excited to arrive at obsessed. (About an hour after having this thought, I read a friend’s post which highlighted this very word–nice.)

You’ve read of obsession with all things marshmallow (here and here). You’ve read a post outlining obsessive stalking following of The Weary Chef’s Happy Hour. (A much earlier post had offered only four cocktail recipes.) You’ve seen batch after batch after batch of homemade ice cream, one even damaging my phone. Then there were the four batches of caramel sauce (in. a. row.) to achieve a dark enough color. And the most recent “project” using 24 overripe bananas in as many hours? Yes to obsessive. With the banana post in particular, more than one facebook comment suggested that I was possibly a bit bananas myself.

So here’s my question: Do folks blog because they are obsessed enough about a topic that they absolutely have to write it up and put it out there for others to read? Are all bloggers bananas?

Everyone writes for their own reason, so I wouldn’t presume that all come from a place of obsession. But I know absolutely that there’s oodles of passion behind a blogger’s reasons for writing, no matter the topic. And maybe your blog serves the purpose that mine does for me: to legitimately attend to my obsessions.

And with this thought, I return to my original question (feel free to head up to the top again as it’s likely been forgotten during this long-winded intro): What to write up next? I didn’t like the idea that came to me as it seemed repetitive. But. What’s an obsessed food writer to do? It seemed that food for fun was to go bananas AGAIN. (Sorry guys. I really fought this one.)

You’d think the smoothie, roasted puree, and cake made last week would have satisfied my banana fever, but the siren call of four bunches of browned bananas clearanced out at 99 cents was too much for me to resist. I snapped the bananas up and roasted them Perky Poppy-style, using brandy instead of last round’s rum. (I also skipped the butter and the resulting puree was as divine as the last batch.)

The puree went into Barefoot Contessa’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, which could pass for dessert as easily as they could breakfast. The bananas are added to the top of the ‘cakes before flipping, adding a flavor hit bar none. (“Bananas in a basket!” read one facebook comment.) Thanks, amb, for pointing me toward a killer recipe.

Barefoot Contessa's were prettier, but they couldn't have tasted any better than this stack

Barefoot Contessa’s were prettier, but they couldn’t have tasted any better than this stack

Though some would have stopped at one banana recipe, I had Trace in the Kitchen’s Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies to make. Only changes: upping the 3/4 cup chocolate chips to 1 cup as that last 1/4 cup was begging to be used and adding a dot of Marshmallow Fluff to each dough ball just because I could. These cookies were as tasty and soft and dreamy as Trace had promised.

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Next up was Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread, which included the extra step of draining thawed frozen overripe bananas, then reducing that liquid by half and stirring it back into the puree. It calls for whole wheat flour–a plus–and its crowning touch is a layer of shingled banana slices sprinkled with caster sugar. The cupboard bare of caster sugar, I grabbed a bottle of coarse pink sugar (found in the cupboards of moms of young girls everywhere), though next time will use coarse sanding sugar as the pink didn’t do it for me. But the banana bread itself was a winner. Removing some of the water from the mashed bananas heightened their flavor, making the final bread richer and more darkly banana-y.

not sold on the pink, but Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

not sold on the pink, but Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

Also on my list were these delicious-looking peanut butter banana chocolate bars from Kelli’s Retro Kitchen Arts, though a closer look revealed banana cake mix, not fresh bananas. The photo looks so amazing, I’ll eventually find a way around the cake mix dilemma and come up with a version for my brandy-roasted bananas.

And that, I hope, is the end of my banana tale. I raise a (Weary Chef) cocktail to bloggers everywhere, celebrating our obsessions, passions, and willingness to share. Thank you for reading about mine.

amazing muffins and crazy ice cream part II

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and salted caramel sauce--it doesn't get any better than this

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and salted caramel sauce–it doesn’t get any better than this

Last week, food for fun featured a muffin recipe that had knocked my socks off. But the post was left only partially complete as there had also been mention of combining the much-loved muffins with vanilla ice cream. What with my fondness for homemade ice cream, this wasn’t a casual statement. I was going to make that ice cream. The tale picks up here…

bake sale goodies

bake sale goodies

A few weekends back, I worked at a culinary garage sale for Les Dames d’Escoffier. Money was raised for Urban Roots, an amazing local inner city youth gardening program, and it was a fun way to spend a Saturday. There were bake sale treats to be enjoyed as well as fun kitchen and garden items looking for new homes.

Though officially working  the sale, I managed to find a good number of items that needed their new home to be mine. One such purchase was Cooking Wizardry for KidsPublished in 1990, this old-school spiral-bound gem offers basic-but-fun recipes and sweet cartoon illustrations. The Make Your Own Favorite Restaurant Food chapter dates the book especially with recipes for exotica such as milkshakes, pizza, chicken nuggets, tacos, burgers, sub sandwiches, and salad bars. (Though the chicken stir-fry was probably quite progressive at the time.)

In that same chapter were two recipes for ice cream. One used only a blender, and I’ll be giving it a whirl eventually. But the other, subtitled “With a Microwave Oven and an Ice Cream Freezer,” intrigued me most. It cooks the custard base (which contains flour of all things) in the microwave, chills it, then churns in an ice cream maker. Turns out the method works well.

This ice cream easily accompanies Super Muffins and would pair well with cake or cookies, too. It would also be lovely topped sundae-style or served solo. However enjoyed, this ice cream wins Best Garage Sale Find Ever.

Make-Your-Own Ice Cream Project (With a Microwave Oven and Ice Cream Freezer)

I’ve topped it here with a recipe from Lilly Sue and her fab Bites and Brews–her chocolate beer sauce is a revelation. Lovely poured over ice cream, it’s also worth drinking by the cupful. This stuff made me swoon.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In 1-quart glass measure, mix sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup milk until smooth. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup milk. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Stir well. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes longer; stir. (Mixture should be smooth and slightly thickened.)

In small bowl, beat egg lightly. Pour small amount of hot milk mixture into egg, stirring constantly. Whisk egg mixture into hot milk mixture until smooth. Microwave on HIGH 30 seconds; stir. If mixture is not yet beginning to boil, return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Cover; refrigerate at least one hour, but preferably overnight. (Mixture must be thoroughly chilled before churning.)

Before churning custard, whisk in cream and vanilla. Process according to ice cream freezer manufacture’s instructions. Makes 2 cups.

there’s beer in my ice cream

You’ve read about Humphry Slocombe’s ice cream book here before. Foodforfun has also detailed the purchase of my new ice cream maker as well as the adventures that followed. Today I’ll further those adventures and offer up a tale of combining two rock-star consumables: beer and ice cream.

I’ve enjoyed mixing stout and other dark beers with vanilla ice cream as a float, both in restaurants and at home. The caramel, chocolate, and coffee notes in a dark beer play off the creamy, cold chill of vanilla ice cream to make a fantastically fun adult dessert. (Though don’t even think about combining ice cream with high-hop beers such as pale ales. This can only end with a “yuck” and subsequent dump down the drain.)

Always up for pushing the culinary envelope, I wondered what would happen if beer was an ice cream ingredient, rather than just a pour-over. HS came through for me with multiple beer-flavored ice creams in its above-mentioned cookbook. Butter Beer intrigued me most (though Guinness Gingerbread might be next on my list), so I gave it a whirl. Introducing it as “a simple flavor that combines two of our most popular flavors, Brown Butter and Stout,” HS offers this as one of many wildly amazing flavors sold in its San Francisco shop. And because I was obsessed smart enough to buy the book, I can enjoy it in my Minnesota kitchen as well.

The Butter Beer verdict? Still swooning as I write. Flavors of oatmeal stout, cream, and browned butter played off each other well, melding to make a rich and creamy and not-too-sweet batch of ice cream. While “yeasty” seems more of a thumbs-down sort of descriptor for ice cream, it was a plus in this case, as the slightly sour and yeasty notes balanced the deep earthy sweetness offered up by the molasses and brown sugar. (In the Did You Know category: brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses mixed in. Make your own by stirring together 2 tablespoons molasses for every cup of white sugar. After picking this tip up over two years ago, I’ve yet to buy packaged brown sugar.) But back to Butter Beer ice cream–amazing solo, it would also pair well with chocolate syrup or blend with malt powder for a killer malted milk.

While I’m nuts about this discovery and thrilled to have answered my question of how beer-flavored ice cream would taste, I’ll  note that my husband and parents–willing taste-testers, all–turned up their noses at it. Butter Beer is not a flavor for everyone. But anyone who loves a culinary adventure and loads of complex flavor will enjoy very much.

oatmeal stout-browned butter ice cream

oatmeal stout-browned butter ice cream

Butter Beer Ice Cream

from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle oatmeal stout
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

In large heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, tilting pan back and forth to cook evenly, 5 minutes or until butter starts to brown lightly. (As the recipe wisely notes: “careful! brown is good, black is burnt”)

Immediately add stout and brown sugar to saucepan; stir to dissolve. Cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until reduced by half and is slightly sticky to touch. Add molasses; stir until well blended. Add cream, milk, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling.

Fill large bowl or pan with ice and water. Place large, clean bowl in ice bath and fit bowl with fine-mesh strainer.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and granulated sugar until well blended. Remove cream mixture from heat. Slowly pour about half of hot cream mixture into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer yolk mixture back to saucepan with remaining cream mixture; return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with rubber spatula scraping bottom of saucepan so it doesn’t scorch, 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid begins to steam and you can feel spatula scrape against bottom of pan.

Remove custard from heat; immediately pour through strainer into clean bowl set up in ice bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally. When custard has cooled, cover bowl tightly. Refrigerate 1 hour or preferably overnight. When ready to freeze custard, transfer to ice cream maker; churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Can be stored frozen up to 1 week. Makes 1 quart.

culinary mash-up: chickpeas, margaritas, shabu-shabu, ice cream cake

This weekend I enjoyed one of the craziest–and most fun–meals I’ve yet to experience. Gracious friends invited us over for shabu-shabu–a Japanese dish that owes its name (if Wikipedia is to be believed) to the sound the food makes as it cooks in bubbling broth–along with the host’s amazing margaritas. Already known for his margaritas, our friend had kicked things up a notch after a recent trip to Cozumel. He promised they were even Better now that he was using a homemade lime sour mix. I was asked to bring dessert and also slipped in an app as I’d just seen a Must-Make-This-Now recipe in a recent Bon Appetit.

So, we have Bacony Roasted Chickpeas: a Mediterranean-American-Italian appetizer.

tasting as good as they look

tasting as good as they look

They were simple to make–just a handful of ingredients–and went down easy with the made-to-order margaritas.

margarita anyone?

margarita anyone?

The shabu-shabu was also great fun. Think fondue with an ethnic, less kitschy twist. Our hostess had set it up perfectly: Both halves of the pot held boiling broth, though one half also had a few drops of hot sauce added. Ingredients from the trays of prepped food (gorgeous shrimp, fish balls, mochi, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, sprouts, udon) were tossed into the broth with chopsticks, then fished out when cooked as desired. Between “interactive eating” and the fabulous ingredients, this meal was as stellar as they come. As we enjoyed tossing and fishing (and eating), we patted ourselves on the back: save the tequila in the drinks, this was crazy-healthy party food.

Shabu Shabu

Shabu-Shabu

boiling broth

boiling broth

Those back-pats ended, though, when the ice-cream cakes came out. With extra mint-chocolate chip ice cream on hand, I’d made two layer cakes of chocolate cookie crumb crusts (14 or so ounces cookies crushed to crumbs and mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter, then pressed into a 13x9ish-inch pan and frozen), a thick layer of minty ice cream, generous drizzles of homemade hot fudge sauce, and clouds of sweetened whipped cream. With cases of Girl Scout cookies in the basement, I couldn’t resist topping the cakes with cookie pieces. One cake might have done it for the amount we needed; I made two so I could stir creme de menthe (3 or so tablespoons) into the ice cream that went in the cake for the grown-ups. It was Grasshopper Cake, after all.

finale!

finale!

Adding the pepperoni pizza ordered in for the kids, this was quite a feast. A culinary mash-up indeed. Here’s to great meals and great friends and great times. If you want to entertain, but worry think that you can’t come up with the Perfect menu, take a page from this post. The foods don’t have to go together. They need only to be made (or purchased) and eaten in the spirit of friendship.

for kids of all ages: minty ice cream shake

One of the joys of having young kids around–whether yours or someone else’s–is the built-in excuse to indulge your sweet tooth more often. While true that I’d probably buy cases of Marshmallow Fluff and place (alarmingly) frequent Plush Puffs orders even if I didn’t have little ones underfoot, it might be a bit harder to explain.

So, when my 10-year-old brought me the recipe section of her American Girl magazine (yes, the AG doll empire includes a magazine) and asked me if we could please make the Grasshopper Shake because didn’t it look a lot like a McDonald’s shamrock shake, I was all over it. We happened to have mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer, so it was easy to whip up a creamy, minty batch of delish.

Because we were going for a shamrock shake clone, we tweaked the recipe a bit, nixing the Oreos and adding a bit of vanilla extract for flavor depth. As well, the green food color was skipped as it didn’t seem necessary.

Whipping the shake up was easy-breezy as we loaded ingredients (2 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract) into the cup of an Oster My Blend. A quick twist of the cup set the blender whirring and when finished, it was as simple as unscrewing the blade and pouring the shake into a glass. Had it been a to-go drink, a separate lid could have been snapped on for drinking on-the-run.

sleek!

sleek!

taking it to-go

taking it to-go

We were staying put, though, so poured the thick shake into a malt glass and topped it with whipped cream and green sugar sprinkles. Our “shamrock” looked nothing like the fluorescent-hued fast-food shake. The chocolate pieces (they’re not chips, no matter what the label says) muddy the color, though they also add a bit of texture and lots of sweet chocolate. As for the mint flavor? It’s there in spades. Feel free to cut the amount of extract in half if you prefer your mint flavor a bit more subtle.

I’m hoping that my daughters pick up on my love for healthier fare as well, but for now, they have my number: My inner child isn’t all that Inner when it comes to sweet treats.

homespun shamrock shake

homespun shamrock shake

wrapping up deLizious loose ends

This has been a week of some culinary success as I wrapped up loose ends on three projects. Because the projects were started here, with you, I wanted to report back on what went down.

First, the caramel sauce: In an earlier post, I’d learned how to avoid crystallization by covering the pot while the sauce boils down. Because the water is trapped in the pot, the evaporation and browning occur much more slowly than if the pot boiled uncovered. (But if it boiled uncovered, I’d have to wipe down the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush, and that method rarely ends well for me.) The result of my four (yes, I made caramel sauce four times in a row) trials was light caramel, followed by just a wee bit darker caramel, bit darker yet, then my final batch of still blonde caramel.

four (very blonde) shades of caramel

four (very blonde) shades of caramel

The book I took my recipe from mentioned an ultra-dark, nearly burnt caramel sauce that sounded divine. This is what I wanted. I tried again this week and was thrilled with my final batch of deep, dark, caramelly caramel that was just this side of smoky in flavor. Sea Salt Caramel success could finally be checked off my list. The difference this time? A digital thermometer ensured the recommended end-point of 355°F. With my closed-pot method, this took over half-an-hour to achieve, but so worth it. The sauce was finger- and bowl- and spoon-licking good.

Salted Caramel Sauce (finally) done right

Salted Caramel Sauce (finally) done right

Since there’s finally an amazing caramel sauce in the house, I needed ice cream. After enjoying buttermilk ice cream from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones (this was quite an adventure–read about it here if you like tales of intrigue, loss, and ultimate triumph), I wanted a shot at the book’s crème fraîche flavor.

First step was making crème fraîche–already a favorite kitchen project of mine. Recipes are easy to find online, but my version whisks together 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and lets it sit overnight in a warm place before refrigerating for storage. Next, the ice cream: The recipe mirrors the one for the buttermilk version except for losing one egg yolk and replacing the buttermilk and vanilla (stirred in just before churning) with 1 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice. It’s a tart little number, slightly sour but still sweet. More decadent than the buttermilk, which had a simpler flavor, the crème fraîche was second on my list. That said, it’s a fun flavor and I’d make it again.

homemade crème fraîche ice cream

homemade crème fraîche ice cream

My final wrap-up was the launch of my new deLizious website. Fifteen years ago I started Food Communication Services; last year I decided it needed freshening up. This blog was a part of the re-launch, as was a new name, new logo, and facebook page (all fun food and drink all the time!). The biggest piece of the pie was a new website and I’m thrilled to finally see it live. Many thanks to all followers and readers and commenters and likers. deLizious wouldn’t be as much fun without you! With gratitude, I send you crème fraîche ice cream and caramel sauce wishes:-)

twice as good together

twice as good together

the most expensive ice cream I’ll ever make

With Minnesota’s recent frigid blast of cold weather, I’d bet there’s been lots of baking going on. Baking seems meant for cold days, which was reason enough for me to whip up a loaf of banana bread and multiple batches of chocolate chip cookies (science fair time!). But I’ve also rebelled and made what is most definitely not winter fare.

A library borrow–Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones–was my inspiration. There’s plenty to this lovely book (sugar cones, shortbread, cakes, herb-and-spice ice creams, fruity ice creams, decadent ice creams), but I was drawn to the simpler flavors. Buttermilk ice cream was a must-make as I’m always trying to push through a 50-pound bag of buttermilk powder I couldn’t resist buying a few years back. (I’m a sucker for good deals.)

Despite the 5°F high yesterday, I set about to make my own ice cream. My snazzy little ice cream maker (it’s red!) meant that all I had to do was cook up a custard, cool it down, age it overnight (hardest part as I wanted to churn it immediately), then spin it the next day to freeze.

Thinking it would make a fun blog post, I started snapping photos as the custard just approached a simmer. One hand on the phone, one hand on the whisk–recipe for disaster. As my phone splashed into the hot custard base, my heart sank. Knowing I’d burn my hand if I reached in, I frantically pulled open drawers looking for a pair of tongs to extract the phone. I removed it from its case and wiped it down and was thrilled when it still seemed to work. After only briefly considering tossing the custard (nah), I soldiered on, cooking and then cooling the base for overnight refrigeration.

custard sans cell phone

custard sans cell phone

Trying to receive a phone call later that night, I realized the phone was indeed damaged. Which makes this ice cream a spendy one. Never one to hold a grudge, I churned the ice cream this morning and found it to be every bit as tasty as I’d imagined. Rich, very slightly tangy, sweet, creamy, lush. A drizzle of homemade Hershey’s syrup (as easy a DIY as they come–you must make this and keep it on hand at all times) made it Perfect.

amazing buttermilk ice cream with diy Hershey's syrup

amazing buttermilk ice cream with diy chocolate syrup

Subzero temps and having to shell out a chunk of cash to replace my phone–two downers for sure. But there’s no changing the weather and what’s done is done, so I’ll enjoy my buttermilk ice cream and keep paging through Sweet Cream for the next batch of ice cream inspiration. Crème fraîche (on page 38) is looking pretty good….

Buttermilk Ice Cream

adapted slightly from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

  • 3 large egg yolks (original recipe was for 5)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup 1% or 2% milk (used 1%)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (whisked together 1/4 cup buttermilk powder, 1/2 cup water, and enough fat-free half-and-half to yield 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In medium heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar.

In heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together cream, milk, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Heat over medium-high heat just until barely simmering. Reduce heat to medium. Gently stir 1/2 cup hot cream mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly; repeat. With heatproof rubber spatula, stir cream in saucepan as you slowly pour egg mixture into pan. Gently cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened, coats back of spatula, and holds clear path when you run your figures across spatula.

Strain base through fine-mesh strainer into clean container. Set container in ice-water bath; let cool, stirring occasionally. When completely cool, remove from ice-water bath. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.

Whisk buttermilk and vanilla into cold base. Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy immediately or transfer to chilled container and freeze 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.

ice cream with attitude

A few years back, my husband and I were in San Fransisco for a wedding. Prior to the trip, I’d seen mention of a San Fransisco ice cream shop flavor called Secret Breakfast in Bon Appetit. SB boasted bourbon and crumbled cornflake cookies and was sold at Humphry Slocombe. Knowing I would soon be in San Fran, I promised myself a visit and taste of what sounded like an amazing flavor.

Of course I forgot the article with the shop’s name and address when we headed to California, but armed with phone book and GPS, my husband and I found Humphry Slocombe, home of Secret Breakfast. Parking not to be found, husband dropped me off and drove around the block until I returned from the funky little shop with what I had come for. Secret Breakfast was lovely indeed, one of my all-time favorite food memories.

Imagine my thrill when I saw that Humphry Slocombe now had a cookbook. And imagine this thrill multiplying when I saw it included the recipe for the bourbon-and-cornflake flavor I’d enjoyed at the shop. This discovery led to me eventually buying the book as well as an ice cream maker.

Yesterday, I churned my first batch from the book. With its 1/2 cup bourbon, Secret Breakfast remained relatively soft even after 20 minutes of churning. Following the recipe instructions exactly (so not my strong point) meant I strained the custard and aged it overnight before running it through the machine. The resulting flavor-packed, rich, sweet, creamy, and smooth ice cream made the extra steps and time well worth it.

Amazing ice cream recipes are easy to find these days. But if you like attitude with your food, I highly recommend hunting down the HS cookbook and reading it first page to last. Like its namesake retail shop, it’s full of sass, inspiration, and recipes that wow.

bourbon and cornflakes–a secret breakfast indeed