Archive | July, 2011

Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

29 Jul

I have never been a fan of plain vanilla ice cream. It lacks that something special that I need in ice cream. But if said vanilla ice cream is speckled with beautiful little vanilla beans then I’m totally down. After making these yummy Apple Hand Pies, I knew a fresh vanilla bean ice cream would be the perfect accompaniment. After a quick search I came up with some tasty looking recipes but for some reason, I felt I needed to continue my quest. Shortly after, I came across this cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream recipe. I don’t know what could be more perfect to go with apple pie!

I love cinnamon anything but I have never tried cinnamon ice cream. After trying this, I don’t know why I waited so long. The combination of vanilla and cinnamon is sweet and slightly spicy. It was truly the perfect compliment to the cinnamon-y apple pies.

Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
recipe from Smells Like Home

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
10 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken up
5 large egg yolks

1. Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium  saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and  add the bean into the warm milk as well.  Add in the broken-up cinnamon sticks.  Cover,  remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Over  medium low heat, rewarm the milk mixture.  With a slotted spoon, remove  the cinnamon stick pieces and discard.  Pour the remaining 1 cup cream  into a large bowl and set a mesh  strainer on top.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the  egg  yolks.  Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks (you can also  use a large ladle here to reduce the mess of pouring), whisking  constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof  spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and  coats the spatula.  Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it  into the cream.  Stir until cool over an ice bath.
5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (overnight is best).  When ready to  churn, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to  the manufacturer’s instructions.

This recipe is linked to:
Sweet as Sugar Cookies
A Well-Seasoned Life

Apple Hand Pies

26 Jul

Joel loves apple pie. But I am no good at making them. The crust is always all wrong, it’s sticky and ends up tough. I can never crimp the edges and it always looks like a big, hot mess. When I asked Joel what dessert sounded good, he suggested apple pie since he never has it. I cringed and then a magical thought popped into my head. Why not hand pies? I’ve been seeing them all over the blog world recently and figured this was the perfect opportunity for me to give them a whirl.

I searched online and found a recipe that sounded relatively easy. And luckily it turned out to be. The dough came together so easily in the food processor and I literally only had to knead it twice. It rolled out thinly without much effort. The only little problem I had with the dough is all the chilling time it required.

It is super important for the butter to be cold and diced into small chunks.

The pie crust should look like sand when it is ready to be kneaded.

Then simply knead the dough until it comes together then refrigerate for an hour (or overnight as I did).

I didn’t have the right size biscuit cutter (4 1/2 inches) so I used one of Noah’s baby bowls to cut the mini pie crusts which worked out perfectly. I got exactly 15 crusts out of the dough just as the recipe stated.

Fill the pies with 1 tablespoon of filling then crimp closed with a fork.

Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse sugar, bake and enjoy!

Apple Hand Pies
recipe from DisneyFamily.com

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks frozen butter, cut into little cubes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ice-cold water
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large granny smith apples, peeled and cut in large dice
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar

1. Place flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade attachment. Pulse just until it looks like coarse sand. In another bowl, whisk together sour cream, water and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the liquid mixture to the flour and butter, pulsing just until a rough ball forms. Pour out onto a lightly floured board and knead until just combined. Pat dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
2. Meanwhile make apple filling. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add apples and sauté for 3 minutes or until beginning to soften slightly. Add cinnamon and brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes more, or until brown sugar melts. Remove from heat and cool completely.
3. Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in half. Roll each portion of dough to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut into circles, about 4 1/2 inches in diameter (the rim of a small bowl works well if you don’t have a biscuit cutter that size). Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment. Scraps can be re-rolled and cut again. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator and repeat with the other ball of dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place about 1 tablespoon of apple filling on each round. Lightly brush edges with water, and fold over, using a fork to crimp edges together. Place back in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes. Remove from fridge. Brush the tops of each pie with an egg wash (whisk 1 egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water), and sprinkle with sugar. Pierce each pie with the tip of a knife. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

This recipe is linked to:
Sweet as Sugar Cookies
A Well-Seasoned Life
This Week’s Craving
Holiday Sweet Swap

Lukie’s Pasta Salad

23 Jul

Lukie's Pasta Salad 2

This is one of my favorite pasta salads (although I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pasta I didn’t like). My mom works in an elementary school and they have lots of potluck lunches. My family has benefitted from this fact for many years as we have picked up many family favorites from said luncheons and this pasta salad is no exception. It has been named “Lukie’s Pasta Salad” after the woman who always brought it.

The sugar and sweetened condensed milk give the salad a deliciously sweet taste which is not overpowering due to the mayo and zingy vinegar. It does seem like an odd list of ingredients, but trust me…it’s good!
Lukie's Pasta Salad 1

It is super important to make this pasta salad the night before. It gives the noodles time to soak up the delicious sauce and thicken up. If you don’t make it beforehand it will still be good but will be runny and the flavors won’t be as developed.

Lukie’s Pasta Salad

1 lb. penne or spiral pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 (15 oz.) jar mayo
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
Medium green pepper, diced
Small onion, finely diced
1/2-3/4 cup shredded carrot

Mix together all ingredients and chill overnight.

Noah’s 1st Birthday!

19 Jul

I cannot believe my baby is one! This has been the most rewarding, special, exhausting, amazing, sleepless and blissful year of my life. Becoming a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done and Noah is my greatest joy! I look at him everyday and wonder why I am so lucky. God blessed me with a happy, beautiful blue-eyed boy and I will be forever in awe. I am still a bit in shock that it’s already his 1st birthday. This first year went by so fast and I get a little teary eyed thinking about my baby not being my “baby” anymore. He is such a wild and curious little man and he has to know everything that’s going on. He keeps me on my toes and is always up for a good chase.

Noah absolutely loves Elmo so we decided that was a must for the party theme. I hit up Party City for much of the decor and got the cute streamer idea for the dessert table at Annie’s Eats.

His amazing cake is from The Cake Specialist and it was absolutely delicious. This is our go to bakery (even though we no longer live in Nebraska – my parents always come up for special occasions so they bring it up for us). I considered making his cake myself but I really wanted a tiered cake which I have never attempted and I didn’t want my first try to be for such an important event. And I was trying not to go overboard (wasn’t successful there) so I would stress out (lost on this one too).

The bakery made a special smash cake just for Noah. We thought he would totally destroy it but he ended up digging in then looking at his hands in disgust, opening and closing them because of the frosting. He tried a little bit but was just too disturbed about the frosting all over his hands.  

He did enjoy the cake when it was fed to him though. He demolished the Elmo cookies I made at a surprising rate. I was pretty proud of how they turned out, especially since it was only my second time decorating sugar cookies. They took FOREVER so I’m glad that he enjoyed them so much!

The menu consisted of burgers, brats, pasta salad, potato salad, layered salad, fruit and veggie trays with yummy dips, baked beans, mac-n-cheese, Elmo sugar cookies, cake and ice cream. I will be sharing the recipes very soon with you all.

The party was just perfect and was everything I wanted for our little man. Thanks to our family and friends for helping make this such a great and cherished day for us! We created some priceless memories that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Happy Birthday my love, you are amazing and I love you with all my heart!

Linked to Everyday Sisters Sharing Sundays!

Classic Southern Desserts Series: Browned Butter-Pecan Shortbread

17 Jul

I think I may have died and gone to heaven….and I didn’t even follow the recipe.  After hours of cooking and cleaning, I finally got around to making these cookies.  I had browned the butter hours earlier and I had to get these going.  My mom was coming to visit so I was rushing through trying to get these thrown together before she arrived.  I saw brown sugar listed then sugar but what I failed to noticed as I quickly skimmed the recipe was that it was powdered sugar, not granulated.  Ooops.  This wasn’t my first baking blunder and I know it won’t be my last.

Would these have been better with the powdered sugar?  I’m sure.  They probably would have been more airy but in the end they were still pretty divine and that’s all that matters!  I mean, how could you go wrong with all that butter and the pecans can’t hurt either.

I love that this recipe consists of only 5 ingredients that I always have in my pantry and fridge.  Though they have few ingredients, they do have a few extra steps.  Browning the butter adds about an hour and 15 minutes to the prep time (browning and cooling) but it gives the cookies a distinct, nutty flavor that is totally worth the time.  I’ve never browned butter so I wasn’t sure if I cooked it long enough but by the taste of the cookies I think that I did.

The chilling time of 4 hours is also something you need to plan for that is very important.  If the dough isn’t chilled, it won’t cut easily.  I only chilled mine for 2 hours and it worked just fine.

The cookies have a nice crisp exterior and are soft and crumbly when you bite into them.  I can’t imagine how amazing they would be with the powdered sugar!  They totally brought me back to my childhood.  Pecan Sandies were one of my favorite cookies and these totally taste like them….but better if you can believe it!

Browned Butter-Pecan Shortbread
recipe from Classic Southern Desserts by Southern Living

1 1/2 cups butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted pecans

1. Cook butter in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown. Remove pan from heat immediately and pour butter into a shallow dish. Do not cover. Chill 1 hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify.
2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugars, beating until smooth. Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in the pecans.
3. Shape dough into 4 (8 inch) logs. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap and chill 4 hours or until firm.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds; place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks and let cool completely.

DIY Chalkboard Herb Pots

13 Jul

I know this is not my usual post but I figured since it’s food related and really fun that I would share it with you all. I don’t have a green thumb. I forget about my plants and they die a dry, crunchy death. After watching too many food documentaries (Food Inc., Ingredients…) I decided it was time to give growing some of my food ingredients on my own (and try harder to buy local). Because of said lack of green thumb I decided to start out small with fresh herbs.

Living in Minnesota means unbearable winter temperatures and I wasn’t sure if they would survive so I decided to plant them in pots so that I could bring them in for the winter (if they are still living that is). Chalkboard paint has been all the rage lately and I thought it was the perfect solution for decorating my pots. And if I killed something, I could simply erase what had previously taken up space there, plant something new and write the new item on the pot. I’ve had the herbs for several weeks now and they are doing great. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I can’t wait to feature some recipes using my own fresh herbs! I chose to grow oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary, parsley, dill and basil.

First, gather all the needed supplies: terracotta pots and saucers, chalkboard paint, craft paint, paint brushers, painters tape, herbs seeds or seedlings.

Tape off the rims of your terracotta pots. Then paint the bottom half of the pots with your chalkboard paint (I used the type from the can but I think a spray paint version is also sold). Wait at least 30 minutes then apply a second coat. Let dry overnight.

Remove tape then carefully paint rims with a color of your choice. I used cream to keep them simple and classic but you could use bright, funky colors to punch them up. Paint saucers to match the rims.

Plant your herbs or plants and remember to water! Note: my chalkboard paint said to wait a few days before writing on the surface so make sure to read the label.

Pasta Carbonara

11 Jul

I absolutely love this pasta that my aunt forwarded to me many glorious months ago. My mom made it for me shortly after I had Noah so whenever we eat it my mind always drifts back to that time. I love how food can create, evoke and cement memories in our lives.

It’s creamy, cheesy, bacon-y…pretty much what dreams are made of. But with the all those delicious ingredients the calories really start to add up. I have adapted this recipe to lower the calories so that we can enjoy it a bit more without feeling so guilty. I use less butter and 1/3 less fat cream cheese which is reduced from 8 ounces to 5 ounces. Sure, it’s still not the healthiest thing you could eat but it’s better than the original. I personally think it tastes just as good and my husband didn’t even notice a difference.

This pasta tastes very similar to alfredo sauce so if you like bacon and alfredo this is sure to be a new favorite! Sometimes I throw a couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the grill then slice them thinly and serve it over the pasta. It’s also very tasty and pretty with some steamed broccoli tossed in or on the side.

Pasta Carbonara
recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

3 cups uncooked tube pasta
6 bacon strips, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups milk (1%)
5 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup butter or margarine, cubed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels. In the drippings, saute garlic until tender.
2. Add the milk, cream cheese and butter; stir until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and bacon; heat through. Drain pasta; toss with sauce.

 

Fruit Infused Rum

8 Jul

I hope that you all had a great 4th of July! We drove down to Nebraska where my parents live and had a great time. We spent the whole weekend either outside swimming, at the zoo and of course blowing up lots of explosives! It was great spending lots of time with our family and friends. Living so far away we really cherish the time we get to share with our loved ones.

Speaking of summer and outside fun, I have the perfect idea to spice up your summer cocktails. Infuse your favorite liquor with you favorite summer fruits.  Many bottled liquors and mixes taste artificial but this is sure to taste pure, especially if you use fruit that is in season. The possibilities are endless with this booze infusion.  Combine your favorite liquor and fruit to create a fresh, clean tasting liquor that you cannot find in any store.

I just started a pineapple rum and a strawberry rum about a week ago so I have not tasted them yet but I wanted to share this with you now so that you could try it out this summer.

First, clean and prep your fruit. Get rid of anything you wouldn’t eat (pit, cores, stems, seeds, skins depending on the fruit). Then dice into chunks and place them in a clean mason jar.

Pour in your liquor then seal the jar tightly and store in the fridge until you reach your desired taste. It could take as little a week or as long as a month depending on the strength of the fruit.

Use your imagination to create your combinations. We aren’t big drinkers and the only liquor we really like is rum so we stuck to that but tequila, gin or vodka would also work perfectly for this. Try cherry vodka or mango tequila.

I’m thinking of using my infused rums for daiquiris, mojitos or homemade spiked lemonade.

Idea from bonappetit.com.

Linked to Everyday Sisters Sharing Sunday!

Chipotle Pork Tacos

5 Jul

This simple marinade makes a taco that is sweet, spicy and smoky. The chipotle peppers are what give the smoke and heat so those can be adjusted according to your taste. I think it’s perfect just how it’s written. I put more peppers in them once and my husband’s eyes watered the whole time he ate (he is not a fan of spicy foods).

These are great for a busy weeknight since they basically take 3 minutes to put together and only about 8 minutes to grill. I throw all the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag, close it and shake it up. Then I marinate the pork all day.

These delectable tacos are on our regular summer menu rotation and my husband always cheers when I tell him that we are having them for dinner. We also enjoy them a lot in the winter using my grill pan instead of the outdoor grill.

If you are looking for an easy, tasty weeknight meal give these a try!

Chipotle Pork Tacos
recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

4 boneless pork loin chops, cut 3/4 inch thick
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Dash ground cloves
2 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons) – I also add about a tablespoon of the sauce from the can
4 cloves garlic, minced
Flour tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomato
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream

1. Place chops in a resealable bag. For marinade, combine vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, salt, cumin, pepper, clove, chipotle peppers and garlic. Pour marinade over pork; seal bag. Marinate in refrigerator for 2-4 hours, turning bag occasionally. Drain, discarding marinade.

2. Preheat grill. Place pork on grill and cook until no longer pink (6-8 minutes). Slice pork across grain into bite-size strips.

3. Place tortillas on grill for 20-30 seconds or until warm. Serve pork on tortillas with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries

3 Jul

I am a perfectionist. I expect everything to be done just right (especially when I am doing it myself). I put way too much stress on myself because I won’t let anyone help me, then it all builds up and I crack. This is something I’m trying to work on and admitting it should be my first step, right? All this talk is currently in relation to Noah’s upcoming FIRST birthday party. Of course everything has to be planned out weeks, if not months, ahead of time. Everything has to be homemade and I usually won’t accept any help that is offered (I’m stubborn too). My mantra is to “let people help and let things go” this time around. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Well, with the festivities only weeks away my brain is on overload which quickly causes my stress level and blood pressure to rise.  But when I saw these beautiful berries at Herzog’s Country Fresh I knew that they would help melt the stress away, if only for a few minutes. And what could be better than stuffing them with a cheesecake-like filling? Dipping them in chocolate too? Is that what you said? I thought of that but decided to use a little restraint but oh that would be good!

The original filling recipe tasted too much like plain ole’ cream cheese to me so I added quite a bit more powdered sugar to sweeten them up. It turned out a little runny but was really yummy (like pumpkin roll filling if you have ever had it). My strawberries were pretty small so I used a 1/4 teaspoon to scoop out the middles. Then I piped in the sweet cream cheese. Cut a bit of the bottom off of the strawberry before hand if you want them to stand up.

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries
12-24 strawberries, depending on size
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional toppings:
Blueberries
Slivered almonds
Melted chocolate

1. Clean and dry strawberries. Slice off top and a bit of the bottom of the berries then scoop out the tops.
2. Place cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in a food processor. Place the filling in a piping bag and pipe into the strawberries. Top with blueberries or other topping options.

Linked on Cupcake Apothecary and Everyday Sisters Sharing Sunday!

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