Thursday, October 30, 2008

"I" is for Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Thanks to our old-fashioned ice cream machine and the mighty strength of our windmill arms, we made some before the cold weather came.

It's creamy and rich, similar in taste to a frozen version of crème patisserie. It's very easy to eat. At least, I found that to be true...but, really, I dare you to show me an ice cream that isn't.


8 egg yolks
1 pint (2 cups) whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. real vanilla extract, or to taste

Heat milk in a pan until it's very warm but not boiling. In a bowl, beat and mix together the egg yolks and sugar until thick. Pour the milk into the mixture of egg yolks and sugar while stirring. Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, stirring until the custard thickens. Do NOT bring to a boil. When you can see a film form over the back of your spoon, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. When the custard base has cooled, stir in the cream and the vanilla. Cool mixture completely. Transfer the mixture into an ice cream and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions, or, like us, according to the mighty strength of your windmill arms!

Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Looking at these pictures makes me miss summer's bounty. Ah, well. This is a fresh tomato salad with a light vinaigrette. And, for heaven's sake, be generous with the feta. When you're treating yourself to feta, you may as well go all out.

Go to the garden (sob!) and pick a generous amount of sweet sungold and cherry tomatoes and some oregano. Slice the tomatoes in half and toss them in the desired amount of the following dressing. Let sit for a bit, top with crumbled feta, and eat. I haven't tried it with dried herbs, but if you do, remember that every tablespoon of a fresh herb is roughly equal to one tsp. of the dried herb.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup oil (I think I used a mixture of canola and olive oil)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
finely chopped fresh oregano, to taste, about 1 tsp. (next summer, I'm trying it with basil)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
pinch of sugar, to taste (about 1/2 tsp.)

Combine all ingredients and let sit for a few hours.

Millie's Blueberry Oven Pancake

Step 1: Find a recipe you want to make from this box. Choose OOH-LA-LA OVEN PANCAKES.

Step Two: Read and follow directions. (Make sure you're wearing a mushroom hat.)

Step Three: Lick your fingers. Often.

Step Four: Put the dish in the oven to bake and go outside and hop around for a while.

Step Five: Take it out of the oven.

Step Six: Share. Eat it all up, with syrup, and repeatedly remind all of your family members that they "should thank you because you made this yummy breakfast all by yourself."


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

1 cup flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 cup chocolate chips, if desired (or berries or nuts or raisins...Millie used probably around 3/4 cup
of blueberries)

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, beat egg and milk until well-combined. Stir in melted butter. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir just till combined. ("Lumps are okay!")

Grease the pan and pour the lumpy batter into it. Add chocolate chips or berries to the top. Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. When cool, cut into squares, and serve with your favorite pancake toppings.

Killer Dill Dip

At least I think so. (And it's perfectly safe to eat, you literalists.)

I made this for Millie's birthday party. Maybe I think it's excellent because I'm a sucker for dill dip, or maybe it's because the crispy, chewy bread Titi brought and with which I pared the dip was tippety-top, or maybe, just maybe, this is a killer dill dip. I dunno which is the truth, but I loved it even so.

4 oz. mayonnaise
4 oz. salad dressing (Miracle Whip kind)
8 oz. sour cream
several tablespoons finely chopped onion
at least 2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
3/4 tsp. sea salt
about 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
about 1/8 tsp. lemon pepper
celery seed, crushed in a coffee grinder, to taste (or, if you're smart and have celery salt in the house, just use that!)

Mix all together until smooth. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight to let flavors meld. Serve with veggies, crackers, etc.

Tomato Spinach Spread

Yes, this is a funny picture. The dip looked so pale and blase that I grabbed a red pepper from the windowsill to add some color to the picture. Just pretend the spread is wearing a giant, red hat.

This is a good vegetable spread and is delicious on well-baked, crusty bread, pita, or veggies. I won't rave over it like I did the dill dip because I prefer the dill dip. Just think of this as the dill dip's shy, little sister sitting in the corner wearing a bright, red hat. Cute, but for those who love ol' Dill, just not as eye-catching.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne, plus more to taste
dash cumin
dash garlic powder, to taste
a generous tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
3 giant roma tomatoes, or 2 regular tomatoes, chopped (let juice drain off before adding to the spread)
1 package (10 oz.) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.
1 small onion, finely chopped

Beat cream cheese, sour cream, milk, and seasonings until smooth. Stir in tomatoes, spinach, and chopped onion. Chill for a few hours to let flavors meld.

Fresh or Canned Salsa

I've given the recipe for Garden Salsa before, but this is a more typical salsa. We love it, and our family (okay, it's mostly just John and I) can easily go through almost a full quart in one night.

When it's fresh, we eat it from a spoon, but we prefer it on chips if it's cooked and canned. (These pictures are of pre-canned, fresh salsa in wan, electric light.)


About 12 cups chopped ripe tomatoes (I used a mixture of red and sweet yellow)
About 1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped bell peppers
3 large onions, chopped
about 1/3 pound jalapeno peppers (remove seeds) finely chopped -- Use rubber gloves to avoid burning your hands (Use more or less depending on your tastes and the heat of the peppers. Heat can vary from pepper to pepper, so you might want to add these, to taste.)
about 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup white vinegar
fresh cilantro, chopped, to taste (I probably used about 1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro)
1 and 1/2 tablespoons salt (I used coarse ground)
About 1 and 1/2 - 2 tsp. cumin powder
A few hearty shakes chili powder
*additional cayenne powder, to taste
two 8 oz. cans tomato paste, to thicken salsa

If eating as fresh salsa, John and I like less cumin than we like for the cooked. Let your taste buds guide you. (I sound like a culinary Yoda.)

If eating as fresh salsa, which John and I could eat all the livelong day, just make sure the peppers and onions are finely chopped into very small pieces. We used a food processor for this part to make it easier. Also, chop the tomatoes first and let them sit by themselves for several minutes in a large bowl. Then drain off all the extra fluid. I did this several times to avoid a really soupy salsa. If you want to can the salsa, first drain the tomatoes in the same way, and then combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn heat to low. Simmer for ten minutes before ladling into hot jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space at the top, adjust caps, and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. The jars should be covered with water by about an inch, if possible.

Yield: about 7 pint jars

Hot Milk Sponge Cake

This is the simple cake I frequently use as a base instead of a more typical yellow cake. It's got a rich flavor and is the perfect complement to basic cream filling, a bit of jam, and fluffy flour frosting. When I make it for layer cakes, I double the following recipe and bake it in two round pans instead of the recommended square pan. The recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter

Grease a 9x9x2-inch baking pan; set pan aside. Stir together flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs for about 4 minutes or until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the dry mixture; beat on low to medium speed just till combined.

In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk and butter till butter melts; add to batter, beating till combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or till a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

More Spiedies

I've given a spiedie recipe on here before, but you could always use another, right? For those unfamiliar with spiedies (for shame!), here's a brief introduction. And for those who like even briefer introductions, spiedies are similar to marinated chicken kebabs, only they're marinated for a longer period of time and, if you're a spiedie purist, eaten in a certain manner.


boneless, skinless, chicken breast, cubed (about 4?)

1 cup oil (I use canola)
4 tbsp. lemon juice (or more)
1/3- 1/2 cup white, apple cider, or red wine vinegar, depending on your taste
1/3 cup minced onion
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
pinch of sugar
sprinkle of cayenne
1 and 1/2- 3 tsp. fresh, finely chopped oregano
2-3 tbsp. fresh, torn basil
1 tbsp. fresh, chopped parsley
2-3 tsp. fresh, finely chopped rosemary
5 cloves fresh, finely minced or pressed garlic
a shake of ground thyme or some fresh, chopped thyme if you have it (I didn't)
*My amounts always vary. Use more or less of the above spices depending on your tastes, and since marinades usually have a one-to-one ratio of acid (vinegar/lemon) to oil, I sometimes increase the vinegar and lemon juice slightly, to taste.
**Dried spices may be substituted, of course, and I do so in winter. Rule of thumb: 1 tsp. of dried spice equals 1 tbsp. of fresh.

Mix all ingredients together, add cubed, raw chicken, and marinate for a minimum of two days. Spiedies are generally marinated for 3 days or even up to a week, though I think my record was 6 days. It's hard to not grill them when you know they're in the fridge...

When ready to cook, either grill on skewers or broil in the oven until cooked and lightly browned but not dry. Serve over salad, as the meat course in your meal, or, if you're a purist, wrapped up in a slice of soft Italian bread. Drizzle with fresh marinade, if desired. (I sometimes boil the leftover marinade to cook any bacteria and use that for drizzling.)

KEEP READING! Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Soup

Essentially, this is another tortilla soup recipe, but you really haven't seen this one before! I made this last week in a fit of fall madness. You know, the madness that demands that you roll in the leaves and run in the wind and...make soup.

You can forget Not-Mindy's-Tortilla-Soup because we like this better. John and I prefer the taste, and the girls don't weep because it's too spicy. Cheers all 'round! It's quite similar, but less spicy, depending on how many sauteed jalapeños you add (or don't add) to your bowl; it has a hint of lime, a touch of spiciness, a smoky undertone thanks to the liquid smoke seasoning, and corn that rounds it all out with a bit of sweetness. We rarely have bacon, but the first time I made it, we had some left over from having visitors. We've had it since sans bacon, and it's still really yummy, but if you're anything like us, bacon makes just about anything better.

Add bacon, you vegetarians! Go ahead! You know you want to!

These are the amounts I wrote down the first time I made it. The second time I just threw all these ingredients in, to taste. If you want, do thou likewise.

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 large carrots, sliced into coins
6-8 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced or pressed
2 red peppers (or one red and one green or, sigh, NO peppers if your garden is now hibernating)
frozen corn (we used maybe half of a quart bag of garden corn)
4 jalapeño peppers, finely diced, if you like things hot (I saute and serve them separately)
4 cans black beans or the equivalent of freshly-cooked ones
4-6 cups chicken broth
tomatoes (we used one quart of canned garden tomatoes and a small can of store-bought, diced tomatoes; you can do the math)
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
healthy splash of lime juice
about 3/4 tsp. hickory smoke flavoring (We bought a bottle to make beef and chicken jerky ages ago, but we found it on a clearance shelf, so I don't really know where to find it. Look for some without preservatives and MSG.)
splash of Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
dried cilantro, to taste

Saute diced onion, carrots, and red/green sweet peppers in a bit of olive oil until onions are translucent and carrots begin to soften. Add minced garlic for the last minute. Puree (or if you have no gadget to puree, smush) half of the black beans into a smooth-ish paste along with a bit of chicken broth. Put the pureed beans into a big soup pot along with the remaining black beans, the chicken broth, the carrots, onions, and garlic, the corn, and liquid/dry seasonings. Okay, just add everything but the bacon, cheese, tortilla strips, and sauteed jalapeños to the pot. Warm it all through while you're making tortilla strips and bacon and sauteeing the jalapeños. Spoon into bowls and...

top the soup with
crisp, cooked crumbled bacon
shredded Monterey jack cheese
baked corn tortilla strips (see instructions at the bottom of this recipe)
finely diced jalapeños that have been sauteed in a bit of olive oil or butter
none of the above, although I highly recommend the bacon and tortilla strips.