Search This Blog

Loading...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You too can make homemade ice cream!!!


So hubby and I received a gift certificate from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Naturally, I thought I needed a new pillow.  I chronically want/need new pillows.  I probably purchase four new pillows a year.  I'm sure they don't really break down that quickly, but I think I subconsciously attribute any back or neck pain to an old and broken down pillow.  But I digress.  After the pillow purchase, we still had some money left on our gift certificate.  It wasn't enough for the bread maker we wanted.  Who am I kidding, the bread maker I wanted.  So after serious consideration, I decided to get the Cuisinart Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Maker.  My husband requested vanilla ice cream, so I made him the vanilla ice cream that came in the recipe booklet enclosed in the ice cream maker.  It was actually really really good!  Then I decided to make the chocolate ale ice cream I had tasted at a brewery restaurant in Wilmington, NC.  I topped the chocolate ale ice cream with the salted caramel sauce I gave the recipe for a few blogs ago as well as crushed pretzels.  It was so amazing!  And finally, in order to use some of my fresh herbs I decided to make Strawberry Lime Basil ice cream.  What a great way to welcome spring!  It was incredible!!!

Don't have an ice cream maker?  Not a problem.  Consistency may be different, but just skip the ice cream churning and move straight from fridge to freezer.  

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch salt
whole vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together the milk, cream, half the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean and scraped seeds.  Bring the mixture just to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl.  Using a hand mixer on low speed or whisk, beat until mixture is pale and thick.

Once the milk and cream mixture has come to a slight boil, slowly whisk about 1/3 of the hot mixture into the yolk/sugar (I scoop it out from the saucepan with my 1/4 measuring cup and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.  Continue with this with another 1/3 of the hot mixture, then return combined mixture to the saucepan.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly over low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon, just a few minutes.  The mixture must NOT boil or the yolks will overcook.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and bring to room temperature.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Turn on ice cream maker, pour custard mixture into frozen bowl and let mix about 20 minutes.  Transfer to freezer to harden.  

Chocolate Ale Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch salt
5 large egg yolks

1 bottle ale beer, any brand will do
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Pour ale in small saucepan.  Bring to boil and reduce to about half the original volume (about 15 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk together the milk, cream, half the sugar, and salt.  Bring the mixture just to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl.  Using a hand mixer on low speed or whisk, beat until mixture is pale and thick.

Once the milk and cream mixture has come to a slight boil, slowly whisk about 1/3 of the hot mixture into the yolk/sugar (I scoop it out from the saucepan with my 1/4 measuring cup and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture).  Continue with this adding another 1/3 of the hot mixture, then return combined mixture to the saucepan.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly over low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon, just a few minutes.  The mixture must NOT boil or the yolks will overcook.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and bring to room temperature.  Stir the reduced ale into the cream custard and put in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or overnight.  

Turn on the ice cream maker.  Pour into freezer bowl and allow to mix about 20 minutes.  Move to the freezer to harden.

Strawberry Lime Basil Ice Cream
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest
5 basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb. strawberries, trimmed and quartered
juice of two fresh limes

Combine cream, zest, basil and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened (do not let boil).
Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, at least until cold, about 2 hours, and up to 1 day.

While custard is chilling, purée strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and lime juice in a blender until smooth, then force through fine sieve (to remove seeds) into chilled custard. Stir purée into custard.
Freeze in ice-cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.  So delicious!!!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Au Naturel: Going Green and Natural with your Beauty Products

It's likely that you and your family are taking part in the popular green movement in some way or another.  You probably recycle.  You might pick out organic produce for your family.  You shop at the farmer's market and purchase sustainable seafood.  You avoid Walmart at all costs.  You may even use reusable bags for your purchases at the grocery store or other retail outlets.  (I'm a reusable bag addict.)


But you may have never considered using natural beauty and household products.  And you should.  We don't think about the chemicals being leached through our skin and into our bloodstream from our lotions, shampoo, and cosmetics.  Even your deodorant contains harmful ingredients suspected of causing cancer and having other harmful side effects.  Foods can be filtered through the liver to eliminate harmful toxins, but there is no protection to the chemicals that reach your bloodstream through your skin.  And because these chemicals can be carted via the bloodstream anywhere in your body, you can't predict where you might see harmful side effects.

While ingredients found in health and beauty products are monitored by the FDA, these products are not put through the rigorous testing required by drugs and foods.  Further research is needed to determine the long term effects of these ingredients on the human body.

Further information can be found about health and beauty products at the following websites:
http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/the-safety-of-personal-care-products.html
http://www.marieclaire.com/hair-beauty/trends/articles/beauty-earth-friendly-4
http://lotionsecrets.com/glossaryharmful.html
http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=704811

A quick study of my usual products' ingredients was enough to scare me into changing over to more natural and organic products.  I will detail my new products for you here:

Indigo Wild Zum Bar:  This all natural goat's milk soap comes in a large variety of yummy scents like Clove-Mint, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lavender, and Sea Salt.  My personal favorite scent is Rosemary-Mint, it is so refreshing and invigorating in the morning.  I've also tried Frankincense & Myrrh which is a lovely warm sweet scent, Cinnamon which is spicy but not recommended for sensitive skin (I use it in my kitchen), and Almond which is light and sweet.  They have an unscented bar for those of you who would prefer not to commit to one of the amazing flavors.  The Zum Bar is ultra moisturizing and doesn't leave my skin feeling dry or itchy.  I might switch my scents around, but I will be sticking to this soap for my body.

Giovanni D-Tox System Purifying Body Bar:  I'm using this detoxifying bar on my face to amazing results, recommended to me by one of my local organic store clerks.  Normally, I would never use bar soap on my face.  But this woman's skin is flawless and I thought I would give it a try.  (The bar is only $4.99 at Apple Crate in Fayetteville.)  My skin instantly cleared up from the dry scaly patch of skin I was experiencing and my normal hormonal breakouts have greatly diminished.  I suffered a few minor breakouts upon the switch as this new soap pulled the toxins out of my skin but nothing terrible.  And can I mention that the soap smells absolutely amazing???

Giovanni D-Tox System Replenishing Facial Moisture:  I follow my skin cleansing regimen with this light moisturizer.  After putting this lotion on your skin feels immediately moisturized without feeling heavy.  Lightly scented and goes well under makeup or at night.

Tom's of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant 24 Hour Protection:  So this one was kind of difficult for me.  I went from using the Dove Clinical Protection to this aluminum free natural deodorant and the odor protection is not the same.  However, if you apply once in the morning and then again in the afternoon you won't be smelling too terrible.  And as you continue to use the natural deodorant more and more, it seems to be more and more effective.

Tom's of Maine Whole Care Toothpaste:  I think this toothpaste does a much better job cleaning my teeth than regular toothpaste.  I don't mind the taste (I'm using the Peppermint flavor right now) but hubby thinks it's far too chalky.  For me, I like it much better than the Crest I had been using, but some might find the flavor offensive.

Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Pomegranate & Soy Shampoo and Conditioner:  This shampoo and conditioner smells great and leaves my hair clean and bouncy.  I admit the shampoo doesn't lather like Panteen would, and the Conditioner doesn't feel as rich as regular conditioner in the shower, but the result is the same as other hair products I have used.  I may switch to the Burt's Bees More Moisture Raspberry and Brazil Nut shampoo and conditioner just because my curly hair requires more moisture on a regular basis than normal hair, but I would definitely recommend this line of products.

Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 30:  This product gets really bad reviews, but it works really well at it's main purpose; sun protection.  Yes, it's hard to rub in.  Yes, it can leave a white film on the skin.  Yes, it's difficult to remove without soap and water.  But it does a hell of a job protecting your skin from the sun and I think it smells great.  I've used this for years as I tend to have an adverse reaction to sun screen.  You don't have to worry about burning when you use this product.  For me, I'm willing to give up the vanity of the slightly white skin after use to a horrible sunburn.  I use in conjunction with the Lifeguard's Choice Lip Balm to keep myself safe from the sun.

Indigo Wild Zum Body Shea Butter and Meadowfoam Seed Oil Lotion:  This natural lotion smells great (I use the Lavender scent) and applies evenly and smoothly.  Isn't as moisturizing as my old lotion and requires more than one application a day.  I will be looking for something a little more moisturizing.

Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid:  Works just as well as Dawn, smells even better.  I use the Lemongrass and Clementine Zest scent and just love it.

Palmolive Eco+ Phosphate Free Gel Dishwasher Detergent:  Smells great, works well.

Organix Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner:  Lola puppy is even getting in on the natural products!  I wash her in this shampoo and conditioner (yes, I condition my dog's hair...  doesn't everyone???).  It smells absolutely amazing, "like a trip to the tropics in a bottle" as said on the Organix website, and leaves Lola soft and fluffy.  She has problems with dry skin and this seems to give her some relief.  I've used it on my hair when I've run out of shampoo and it's rich and luxurious.  I highly recommend for you or your dog!  They have a wide variety of scents for different hair needs.  Give one a try!

I haven't yet been able to phase out my regular makeup to a new line, but expect to do so as my current makeup runs out or expires.  As I try new natural and organic products I will report to you their pros and cons.

Some people argue that they would love to be more organic and natural but can't afford to do so.  Most of these products are comparable to or cheaper than their chemical filled counterparts.  Deciding to try a more natural approach to your beauty regime doesn't have to mean a complete overhaul all at once either.  Do as I'm doing by phasing out the chemically altered products with more natural products as they run out.

With my mom currently fighting cancer, it is important for me to do what I can to protect my family.  Some argue (hubby included) that these chemically enhanced products are safe.  Others argue that the harmful ingredients found in these products are present in such small numbers that they are safe for regular use.  All I know is that the number of cancer cases is higher than it has ever been.  My mom has never been exposed to known carcinogenic or harmful products but she still has cancer.  Limiting my family's exposure to unnatural chemicals is one thing I can do to protect my family.   While the research isn't there to know if my actions are helping my family, it surely isn't hurting them.  And we will work to continue to phase out all unnatural chemicals from our household.

But I'll never give up my Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.  Hopefully it won't kill me.    

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Potato Chip Chicken with Butter Chive Potatoes... oh and Salted Caramel Sauce

Have you missed me since my last blog??  There has been a lot going on here in my little family.  I had an interview, we visited hubby's mom in South Carolina, spring cleaning, herb planting, and making my home eco-friendly and organic. Perhaps I will expound on that later.

First, I want to share with you one of my favorite easy meals.  I make this for my husband when I'm feeling less than ambitious or creative in the kitchen.  It is always very well received.

Potato Chip Chicken

2 chicken breasts, pounded until a uniform thickness
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup crushed potato chips (can be slightly stale)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Oil for browning (I like peanut oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Salt and pepper chicken breasts generously.  Place flour, egg, and potato chips in separate shallow dishes.  Mix thyme with potato chips.  Dredge breasts in flour, then egg, then coat in potato chips.  Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Brown breasts on each side.  Transfer to baking dish and bake until juices run clear and center meat is no longer pink, about 25 minutes.

Variations:
-Substitute potato chips for a butter cracker like Town House or Club.  Prepare same way.  When I make these I usually leave some chunks of cracker a little bigger for crunch.
-Don't have dried thyme??  Use dried basil, oregano, or parsley.
-Use 3/4 cup finely ground pecans mixed with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs in lieu of potato chips for a different kind of flavor.  I generally fry breasts or tenders through when using this breading and serve with honey mustard sauce for dipping.

Butter Chive Potatoes

4-5 medium red skinned potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt and White Pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and melt butter over hot potatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Top with chives and mix into butter and potatoes.

These recipes are my own.  Nothing fancy but they are easy and pleasing to the palate.  Follow with Salted Caramel Sauce over chocolate ice cream topped with crushed pretzels!  Delicious!

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 and 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 and 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Measure ingredients and have at the ready.  Combine water and sugar in saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring just until sugar is dissolved.  Once it comes to a boil, DO NOT TOUCH THE SUGAR MIXTURE!  Stirring will cause it to clump into a hard candy mess.  Boil until the sugar browns to an amber color, about 10 minutes.  Pour in heavy cream and whisk until mixture becomes smooth.  Add vanilla and salt off the heat.  Stir until combined.  Cool to room temp and store in the fridge for up to a month.

The salt and the sweet are a perfect combination to combat PMS cravings!