Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream

Lat week, I finally walked into the AllSpice in the East Village in Des Moines, Iowa. I've had bottles of their balsamic vinegar, Tuscan Herb Olive Oil, and Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar at my house for a while--gifts from others. Everyone has told me I need to check the store out, and last week I finally did it. What a wonderful place! I usually get spices from Penzy's, but I like AllSpice because it has some unique things--including this vanilla paste. Interestingly, they also have these vats of various balsamic vinegars and olive oils with these tiny little cups into which you can pour little samples. The Blood Orange Olive Oil is next on my wish list. I'm trying to only do a little at a time.
At any rate, I used the vanilla paste (see below) first in the Refrigerator Toffee Shortbread Cookies. Yum. Next I just had to make some vanilla ice cream with it. I got the recipe from A Family Feast via Pinterest. I changed the eggs in the original recipe from 4 egg yolks to 1 whole egg and 2 yolks because in the past, the vanilla ice cream recipes that call for all egg yolks tend to taste too eggy for me. This ice cream is marginally eggy, but I think that's only because I'm sensitive to it. 
I really like this ice cream. It's super rich, so you probably won't eat a LOT in one sitting--or you may want to use it as a topping for pie. I don't think I'm up for making a pie today, so I may try this in a root beer float or something. Like I really need that. Maybe I do need to make a pie and invite some people over. Let me think about that.

Vanilla Ice Cream
    --adapted from A Family Feast


  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks and set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, mix the milk, cream, and sugar. Stir mixture occasionally and cook until liquid is very hot, but not simmering or boiling.
While whisking the eggs, slowly whisk in one cup of the hot liquid. Be sure to whisk briskly so you don't cook the eggs and curdle them.
Whisk the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot liquid, whisking to combine. 
Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat, pour into a heat-proof bowl (preferably with a spout--something like a 2 quart measuring cup). Whisk in the vanilla paste/extract.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is right up against the custard. Then press the ends of the plastic to the sides of the bowl.
Refrigerate the custard overnight (at least 8 hours) until very cold. 
Use an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to a plastic storage container and freeze. Freeze for about 1 hour for soft-serve ice cream, longer for firmer ice cream. Once it goes past 2 hours, though, it gets so firm you'll need to allow it to warm up on the counter for 10 minutes or so before scooping.
Makes about 1 quart of ice cream.

I am loving this vanilla paste. It's available online at
I had this bowl with Dove chocolate and toffee bits (see toffee recipe below).

English Toffee Bits

  • 1/4 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar 
  • 1/2 cup C & H White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper or non-stick foil. 
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread with a silicone (not rubber) spatula. Allow to cool completely.
3. Break toffee up into big chunks with your hands and then on a clean cutting board, chop into smaller bits. Be sure to taste some to see if it's good.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of toffee bits. Use the extra to make some toffee chocolate chip cookies or use as an ice cream topping. They'll keep in a zip top bag for a few weeks as long as you keep them in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Perfect Rice Pilaf

Perfect Rice Pilaf
If you're looking for a simple and fabulous homemade rice pilaf recipe, look no further. This is so easy and so delicious that I want to make it again for tomorrow night's dinner. Heck, I might want to make it for breakfast. My guests tonight LOVED the rice too, so although I doubt I'll actually make it for breakfast, I probably will make it again very soon. 
I used some homemade chicken stock along with a can of reduced sodium chicken broth, and it was perfectly seasoned. Very flavorful and very satisfying. The perfect side to a grilled chicken kabob dinner.

Perfect Rice Pilaf
    --adapted from Sarah's Rice Pilaf on

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock/broth
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, add the orzo pasta. Stir and cook until pasta is golden brown. Stir in onion, and cook until onion is translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Mix in the rice and chicken stock/broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. 
Simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. 
Turn heat off and allow to stand for about 5 minutes. Stir or fluff with a fork before serving.
Serves about 6

Toasty S'mores Rice Krispie Treats

Toasty S'mores Rice Krispie Treats
Toasting the marshmallows first makes all the difference.

I should title this post "How Do I NOT Weigh 300 Pounds?" because I've already made focaccia, gluten free rolls, cookies, ice cream and these over the last 32 hours. It sounds crazy when I say it like that, but I do have my reasons that I won't bore you with right now. Even the reason I made these is a little irrational, but my excuse is that I'm a teacher on summer vacation and I have guests coming over for dinner tonight. That said, here's how I came upon this recipe.
I know that the whole s'mores everything craze is well overdone, but you know what? S'mores are delicious. They just are, and I've had this mega-bag of crisp rice cereal on my hands for about a month now. I keep meaning to use them up, but rice krispie treats are so boring. Then today I thought about s'mores rice krispie treats. I was sure someone else had done it before, but I was wondering if anyone had gone to the trouble of actually toasting the marshmallows before assembling the treats. For me, the burnt sugar taste in a s'more is one of its most charming attributes. I looked up several recipes via Pinterest, and some common themes were Golden Grahams cereal, toasting marshmallows on top, and the use of chocolate chips. None of those would do for what I had in mind. I'm sure if I search harder, I'll find someone who's done the pre-toasted marshmallows, but for now, I'm saying I made this recipe up. If you've done something similar, or seen something similar, please comment, and I will revise with a link to that recipe.
Now, how do these taste? Better than I even thought they would--all the taste of s'mores in an ooey gooey square. The toasted marshmallows make the difference. I think I may even try regular rice krispie treats with toasted marshmallows. There's the classic Hershey's flavor, and a little graham cracker crunch, and the toasty burned marshmallow flavor. Oh my goodness. These are good. Really, really good. I think I need to stop now. You need to go and try making these. Do it.

Toasty S'mores Rice Krispie Treats


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 25 large marshmallows
  • 3 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 4 whole graham cracker wafers
  • 1 large (4.4 oz.) bar of Hershey's Milk Chocolate

Turn your oven broiler on.
Place a large pot on the stove to wait.
Cut chocolate bar into small pieces and set aside.
Cut graham cracker wafers into small pieces as well and set aside.
In a non-stick brownie pan (8x8 or 9x9), place the butter and then place pan in the oven for about 1-2 minutes, or until butter is pretty much melted. Remove pan from oven and swirl melted butter all over and partially up the sides of the pan. Set pan down and arrange marshmallows flat sides up and down in a 5x5 array (check out my math word there). 
Place pan back in the oven for 1-2 minutes under the broiler until marshmallows are toasted to your liking. I like mine almost black, and they start to smoke a bit in the oven before I take them out. When marshmallows are good and brown, take them out and immediately scrape them and the butter into the waiting pot on the stove. Use a silicone spatula to get out all of the butter and marshmallow.
Turn burner on low, and then stir marshmallows and butter until thoroughly melted, but be sure not to over cook.
Add rice cereal and graham cracker pieces. Stir until completely incorporated and then pour carefully into the used pan. With the silicone spatula or a knife, roughly spread the mixture to cover the whole pan. Sprinkle chocolate pieces over the top as evenly as you can and then place a piece of wax paper over the top. Gently press everything into the pan to fill in the gaps. If you have too much chocolate in places, use a knife to reposition them and then press down again. 
Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Makes 16 servings

Friday, July 25, 2014

Refrigerator Toffee Shortbread Cookies

Refrigerator Toffee Shortbread Cookies

Crispy crunchy toffee gives these cookies a great texture and special flavor.

These cookies are almost just like Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies I made a couple of months ago. I'm on a refrigerator cookie kick, though, so I decided to roll the dough, refrigerate, and slice. Also, I made good toffee for this--not the defective crunchy caramel I used in the other cookies. I was really shooting for a crisp little toffee cookie like my mom gets at Smart & Final in California. Well, in the end, these are bigger, but taste great. They don't have that artificial flavor charm that the Smart & Final cookies had, but that's fine by me.

These are a simple, crisp cookie. Sweet, buttery, and crunchy from the toffee. You can bake them for a shorter time to keep them softer, but I like them crisp. The humidity is fighting with me anyway, though, so these will get soft in a few hours, I'm sure.
I'm glad I had to give most of these away, because they are really delicious, and I'm likely to eat too many.

Refrigerator Toffee Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup butter,softened, but cool
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ heaping cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate chunks (optional)
  • 3/4 cup toffee chips (like Heath Bits, or use recipe below)

Cream butter and sugar.
Add vanilla and egg. 
Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture.
Stir in toffee bits and chocolate, if you're including it.
Divide dough in half and place each half on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. With your hands, shape each half of dough into  a rough log. Then roll up in the paper and try to shape smoothly. (There are various techniques for doing this. Check out YouTube. One day I'll do a quick video and put it here.) 
Place cookie dough rolls in refrigerator and chill for at least one hour. 
When dough is chilled, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, cut 12 quarter-inch slices of dough and place evenly on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 325°F for approximately 12-15 minutes.
Remove to wire rack to cool.  Then store in an airtight container.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies
Dough logs
I only put chocolate in half this batch.

English Toffee Bits

  • 1/4 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar 
  • 1/2 cup C & H White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
1. Line a square Pyrex pan (8X8) with parchment paper or non-stick foil. 
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread with a silicone (not rubber) spatula. Allow to cool completely.
3. Break toffee up into big chunks with your hands and then on a clean cutting board, chop into smaller bits. Alternately, you can place toffee in a gallon zip top bag and hit/roll it with a rolling pin until you have bits. Of course, you'll get some toffee powder too, but that's okay. Don't store the leftovers in this bag, though, because there will be holes in the bag after pounding the toffee. 
Be sure to taste some to see if it's good.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of toffee bits. Use the extra to make some toffee chocolate chip cookies or use as an ice cream topping. They'll keep in a zip top bag for a few weeks as long as you keep them in a cool, dry place.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

I took lots of pics of these with my phone.

Yesterday I was experimenting again with my Colorful Sugar Cookie recipe, trying to get a cute new design. As I was working, I got the idea to make them into lemon sugar cookies by adding some lemon zest and lemon extract. I think part of this is due to the fact that the Iowa State Fair is coming up in a few weeks, and I'm toying with the idea of breaking my two-year boycott and entering the fray again. So I'm in that mode, trying to figure out how I can win. I don't know if these will win any ribbons--the whole judging thing is pretty subjective--but I know that I really like these. I'm going to have to freeze the remaining dough or I just might eat them all. 
These cookies are buttery, lemony, and just sweet enough. Simple and straightforward carbs. Yum. I may try making sandwich cookies out of them tomorrow, but for now, I really like them just the way they are. 
If you don't care about creating a cute design in these cookies, you don't have to go through the trouble of coloring and shaping the dough. I mean, I would still shape them into logs or something, refrigerate, and slice, but it's kind of a hassle to color and shape. I mostly do it for the challenge and for pics for my blog here.

Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

     *Note: If you don't want to color the dough and try to make a design, just shape the mixed dough into one or two logs, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least one hour before baking.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Yellow gel food color
  • Cream butter, sugar and lemon zest.
  • Add vanilla, lemon extract, and egg. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture.  Mix completely, but take care not to over mix.
  • Divide dough in half. In a separate bowl, add about 1/2 teaspoon yellow gel food color and mix until it's a bright yellow. You may need to add more to get a bright enough color.
  • Divide the uncolored dough in half, place one half between two sheets of parchment, and try to roll into an approximate 12x8 inch rectangle. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Do the same with the other half of dough. Then place dough sheets on baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Divide yellow dough in half, and roll one half into a rectangle between two sheets of parchment, just like you did with the two pieces of uncolored dough. Place on top of the other dough sheets in the refrigerator.
  • Divide the remaining yellow dough into sixths and roll each into a log about 5-6 inches long. Place on parchment or wax paper and refrigerate with the rest of the dough for about 30 minutes. 
  • After 30 minutes, roll each of the six yellow logs out into a 12 inch rope. Refrigerate.
  • Take one of the sheets of uncolored dough and cut lengthwise into six roughly equal strips. Place one yellow rope into the center of each uncolored strip and wrap uncolored dough around the yellow as far as you can, but it probably won't wrap all the way surrounding the yellow. That's okay.
  • Refrigerate those wrapped ropes for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Place the remaining uncolored sheet of dough on top of the yellow dough sheet. Then arrange the 6 ropes into a larger log with the uncolored dough in the center--exposed yellow dough to the outside. 
  • Gently tighten up the contact among the ropes to create one log. 
  • Then roll up the bi-colored log within the two layers of dough beneath. Gently squeeze and smooth the resulting log. I use the parchment paper as a barrier between my hands and the dough, but I need to adjust the paper here and there. As you gently squeeze the log, also try to roll and pull it to make it almost as long as the parchment. Try to make is a smooth log. Wrap up the parchment and wrap again with plastic wrap or place in a covered container that will hold it (I have a half sheet pan with a plastic lid for this).
  • Refrigerate log for about an hour before trying to slice and bake.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • When ready to bake, slice dough into 1/4 inch thick circles.* Place dough circles on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each cookie, and bake at 325°F for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until edges are browned.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.  Then store in an airtight container.  These cookies remain good for about a week.  They're one of the few cookies I don't have to eat within one or two days.
Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies

*For smaller cookies, cut each slice into fourths and bake for 9-12 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because I was happy with the look of the cookies,
I decided to cut them smaller to increase the
randomness of the design.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Removing Cooked-On and Baked-On Stains from Cookware

This happens more often than I like it to.
Just add the baking soda to the wet pan.
Ta da! Clean!

I make popcorn and a smoothie almost every morning for breakfast. The popcorn gets popped on the stove in the pot you see pictured here. Sometimes I let the pot get too hot and some of the canola oil ends up solidifying on the bottom of the pan. I've recently discovered a way to get that sticky stuff, and other baked-on, cooked-on stains off my cookware. The solution was right in my cupboard: baking soda.

If the stain is on something you've just cooked, allow the cookware to cool off enough to touch, but don't let it cool completely. If it is something that's already cooled or had the stain for a long time, run some hot water over it to heat up the stain.

Make sure the cookware is wet and sprinkle on a good amount of baking soda. 
Add water if needed to make a sandy paste. 

Using an old dish sponge, scrub the baking soda over and into the stain. You should notice it starting to smear and lift off immediately. 

Some stains are tougher than others, but I always get the gooey oil residue out of my pots and pans this way.

I've also done this on Pyrex--you know, the brown stains on the edges that won't go away? The baking soda works. Of course, the more stained it is, the tougher it will be to remove it, but once it's clean, you can keep up with the baking soda treatment to keep it clean.

Anyway, there you go. Hope it's a helpful tip!

P.S. Baking soda has also worked great for getting food and stains off of my Le Creuset cookware and my Pampered Chef stoneware.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Puff Pastry Pizza Pockets

Here's another one of those recipes that makes me feel a little crazy. I mean, crisp, buttery puff pastry enveloping a pocket of pepperoni and melted cheese? There's really nothing healthy about that action, but I did it anyway. I had the dough, so why not? I knew these would be tasty, but I hadn't anticipated what a great sensory experience these would be. Dipped in the pizza sauce, these are quite salty--but a good salty. Flaky, crisp and buttery on the outside, but tender, melty and cheesy on the inside. Mmmm. I only ate two of these, my friend ate one, and my eating buddy Ezra ate the rest. Yes. He ate six of these and he didn't even get sick. 
The recipe below is for 9 pizza pockets, but it only uses a quarter of a puff pastry dough recipe. So, really, you could quadruple the filling part and make way more (and freeze the unbaked pizza pockets that you don't want to eat right away). You could probably even divide the dough into thirds and then try making 16 pockets from one third of the dough. I just wrote the recipe the way I did it because I know it is true and it's what you see in the pics. This is an amazing dough with so many possibilities. This savory application has to be one of my favorites so far.

Puff Pastry Pizza Pockets

  • 1/4 recipe of Puff Pastry (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian shredded cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup diced pepperoni
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the cheeses, Italian seasoning, and the diced pepperoni. Set aside.
Roll the fourth of dough out into an approximate 12 x12 inch square. Trim the sides with a pizza cutter to "square it up" to approximately a 9 x 9 inch square. (Save and bake the scraps for snacking.) Cut the large square into nine three-inch squares. Brush two adjacent sides of each square with water. Place about 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon of cheese/pepperoni filling into the center of the square. Fold over into a triangle and press edges to seal. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. When you've made all 9, take a fork and press fork around the sealed edges to ensure a seal. Then take a sharp knife and poke 2 vents in the top of each triangle. (At this point, you can either freeze turnovers on a wax paper lined sheet pan and then transfer to freezer bags so you can bake them up later a few at time.)
Bake at 400 degrees for 14-17 minutes. If you're going to bake the frozen turnovers, place as many as you want to bake, about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow them to sit at room temperature while you allow the oven to get to a nice 400 degrees Fahrenheit (I recommend at least a 30 minute preheat).
When turnovers are golden brown and puffed, remove from the oven. 
Serve hot with warmed pizza sauce.
Makes 9 small pizza pockets

Puff Pastry
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the salt. Cut cold butter into half-inch slices and add to the flour mixture. Toss until butter pieces are coated with flour and separated from each other.
Stir egg and ice water together and then pour all at once into the flour/butter mixture. Using a spoon quickly mix until you see no obvious wet spots. Butter will still be in large pieces and "dough" will be in shaggy bits and there will still be lots of flour that's not mixed in yet.
Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper (or a lightly floured pastry cloth if you have one). Knead the dough ten times or so by pressing and pushing dough together, using the parchment between your hands and the dough, to form a rough square shape. Using a little extra flour for the rolling pin, roll dough into a 15x10 inch rectangle. Fold 2 short sides to meet in the center. Bring the top edge down to meet the bottom edge to form 4 layers. You will now have a long rectangle about 7 1/2 by 5 inches.
Repeat rolling and folding process once more. Wrap dough in the parchment paper you're using, and then wrap that in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 20-30 minutes. Repeat rolling and folding process two more times, and then chill the dough another 20 minutes before forming the pizza pockets.
Once dough is chilled, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Use dough within 24 hours.
Maybe try making some Dutch Letters, Mini Apple Turnovers, or Two-Bite Chocolate Croissants with the remaining dough. Or you can just make more puff pastry pizza pockets and freeze them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

S'mores in a Pan

S'mores in a Pan

If you spend any time at all looking at food on Pinterest, you've seen this amazing take on s'mores. It's such an ingenious idea, that I don't know why we all hadn't heard of it before Pinterest. I actually think these taste better done with the Hershey's chocolate, but all I had on hand was the Dove. As you can see by the empty pan at the bottom of this post, nobody cared that it wasn't Hershey's chocolate. 
I made this pan of s'mores as part of my friend Jen's gluttonous visit to Iowa last week. I overheard her telling her food envious husband about it when she told him, "You broil chocolate and marshmallows in a pan and then you eat it with graham crackers like chips and salsa!" Great description, Jen. And it was loads of fun eating waaay too much with you last week. Let's do it again next year.

S'mores in a Pan
     --originally from Dessert for Two (I think)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place chocolate evenly over the bottom of a 8"x8", 9"x9", or 7"x10" pan. Top chocolate with mini marshmallows.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, and then turn on the broiler. Broil until marshmallows are toasted to your taste, keeping an eye on it the whole time. Marshmallows burn fast--but you should already be aware of that if you've made s'mores before.
Place hot dish on a heat-proof surface and serve hot with graham crackers that have been broken into their four sections. Be very careful not to burn yourself.
Serves 4-6

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