Friday, August 22, 2014

White Chocolate Ice Cream with Candied Cherries & Stracciatella

Sadly, summer is coming to an end. I feel like it has flown by way too fast. Even though autumn is my favorite season, I'm just not ready for pumpkins. I am more than willing to stay stuck in summer if it means I can enjoy cold treats like this: White Chocolate Ice Cream with Candied Cherries & Stracciatella.
The recipe is from - where else?! - A Perfect Scoop. I never much cared for white chocolate as a kid. My appreciation for it has grown with my age. White chocolate is tricky, though - it can be bad, chalky and pasty and just disgusting. Or, it can be a very high quality one that is so smooth and creamy. That's what I envisioned for this ice cream.
I wanted to mix something into this ice cream, just in case the white chocolate flavor wasn't strong enough or satisfying enough. The stracciatella from the Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato we made in July seemed like a good idea.

In his book, Lebovitz suggests candied cherries as a mix in for this ice cream. I like cherries a lot and it was tempting, but I kept remembering the laborious process of making candied orange peel and thinking, no, candied cherries will be too much work, too time consuming, we have so many other things to accomplish over the weekend.
But then I actually took the time to flip to the candied cherry recipe and read it. Oh my gosh - so simple! Basically, cook cherries in a pot with water, sugar, and lemon, cool, refrigerate then drain and chop before mixing into ice cream. So we decided to make the cherries.
So worth it. This is a really, really good ice cream. One of our favorites. I know I have been saying that about every ice cream we've made this summer, but this summer, we've made some really, really good ice creams. The white chocolate ice cream definitely has a very nice white chocolate flavor, it's smooth and rich and creamy. The wee bits of stracciatella add a nice chocolaty crunch. And the cherries - something about cherries and chocolate - so tasty! They were not too sweet/sugary.

Another make again ice cream. Pretty soon we're going to have way too many 'really want to make again' ice creams and not enough time in the summer to make and eat them.

White Chocolate Ice Cream recipe here.
Stracciatella recipe here.
Candied Cherries recipe here.

*After churning and placing in the freezer, it took 36-48 hours for the ice cream to be more frozen solid and less melty soft. We still ate it after 8-9 hours in the freezer, but it was very soft and melted quickly. It got better (taste & texture) as it aged.
**We used Lindt white chocolate candy bars (not baking bars or baking chips)
***We used chocolate chips for the stracciatella even though the recipe says not to use them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. At the end of May/early June, we planted sunflowers. We've been watching the seeds grow and grow and grow and at last, we have sunflowers. Huge ones! The flowers are bigger than SP's head! They're planted where we cannot really see them from inside the house, so SP cut some for me and we put them in a vase.
The stems are so thick and the flowers so huge and heavy that moments after the top photo was taken, the three sunflowers decided to make our evening a little less sunny and they tipped their vase over, sending water everywhere. Grrr!

So we got out my great-grandma's super heavy glass water pitcher for one sunflower and we dug out an old, large utensil holder for the other two. No more tipping over! They make me smile every time I go in the kitchen.
2. Tomatoes! Since that photo was taken last weekend, we have eaten the majority of the tomatoes. Some were from our garden, some from the CSA, and some from the farmers market.
3. Last weekend our Saturday Dinner Out was at Burgatory. I'm a little addicted to the bacon jam and the sweet potato chips plus this special shake sounded yummy: Strawberry Nutella. It was indeed yummy - and spiked with Amaretto.

4. Somehow I have 3 library books and just 6 days to read them before they all are due. Oops. I spent yesterday reading the 'lightest' of them, Unlucky 13. These Women's Murder Club books are so... fluffy. I've been reading them since they first came out, but they've definitely declined in quality.They no longer seem well written or thought out and the characters are not really all that interesting anymore. The 3 story lines seemed a little ridiculous and one never really got resolved. Pirates attacking an Alaskan cruise ship? Belly bombs? A heart-broken crime journalist thwarting/out thinking a devious criminal who has eluded police for quite some time?

5. We're still loving Sherlock. The Leftovers got a little more interesting last week, enough that we'll watch the last 2 episodes. True Blood finale this weekend! I've enjoyed parts of this season (Eric & Pam), but overall, it's been a little disappointing and dragging a bit.

6. That's all for Thursday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Universe Is Out to Get Me

1. I know, it's not Thursday, but there are a lot of thoughts this week. So today is going to have some of them. The not-so-happy ones. The ones that make me think the universe is trying to tell me something. Or simply drive me crazy.
2. Let's start with a small annoyance. My lunch turkey. Giant Eagle Market District House Roasted Turkey. It's supposed to be slices of in house roasted turkey. Instead it's crumbles of roasted turkey. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make a sandwich with those wee crumbles? Or to eat a sandwich of wee crumbles? Let's just say the dustbuster is working overtime this week. Thanks, Market District, for selling lunch meat that crumbles when you touch it.

3. While I'm thanking companies, let me thank Cinemark for NOT sending Tuesday's correct movie times to the Tuesday newspaper. We've been trying to find time to see Guardians of the Galaxy and we finally decided to make the time and go last night. Dinner was super quick and easy. SP was home by 7 pm. I checked the movie times in the newspaper yesterday morning when I read the paper and confirmed that it was at 8:45 pm, just like it has been for 2+ weeks.

Except that when we got to the theater, we discovered it wasn't. There were no evening showings of that particular movie because there was a special event. A special event that wasn't listed in the newspaper.

So. Annoyed.

4. So we went to Lowe's to return the ceiling fan/light remote. My office ceiling fan/light has not worked for 2+ years. I've been managing with 2 lamps, but they really do not offer enough light when it's dark outside. Evening darkness is coming earlier & earlier. So I made it quite clear we need to remedy this situation.

We assumed the problem was the existing remote and transmitter because 2 years ago when we popped a new battery in, nothing responded. So we finally bought a new remote. But SP says he needs to completely remove the ceiling fan to locate the old transmitter and put in the new one. Removing the huge ceiling fan isn't something he can do by himself, and I cannot help.

So last Sunday, after determining that any fan removal would require assistance, we again tried a new battery in the old, existing remote. Maybe it just needed a good long rest?

The fan will now operate, but the light won't. Changing the light bulbs didn't help either.

So now we think it's not the remote. It must be the light part. So we returned the remote we bought last weekend and looked at new ceiling lights. However, when we painted 6 years ago, we didn't completely remove the ceiling fan, so there's some question of the size of the hole in the ceiling and the area of 6 year old paint and the area of older than 6 years paint on the ceiling - we really do not want to re-paint the ceiling. And I won't be happy if I see the old paint next to our paint.

We spent quite some time in Lowe's trying to find a light that we liked that would completely cover any potential paint mess and sit flush against the ceiling to hide any ceiling mess.

Stay tuned for more on this exciting project.

Lesson Relearned: Nothing is ever an easy fix in this house.

5. After Lowe's we returned home and watched another episode of Sherlock Holmes and then it was bed time. I was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, when I was attacked by a MONSTROUS MAN-EATING spider. It popped out of the vent and sat on the bathroom floor, between me on the toilet and the closed door offering escape. I was trapped. I was terrified to turn my back on it and scoot onto the wheelchair and terrified I'd run it over with the wheelchair while trying to escape and then have gross spider guts on my wheelchair. So I did what any sensible girl would do.

I screamed so loud for my husband that he thought I fell again and broke another bone. I screamed his name over and over until I heard him pounding up the stairs and then I started screaming for him to kill the monster.

He agreed it was large for a wolf spider. Who knows what it had been feasting on but it was HUGE. He got a shoe and smushed it, thus saving me from the monster. And then I made him use a Clorox wipe to clean the floor so that there wouldn't be any disgusting spider gut residue.

6. It's only fitting that I be attacked by a giant spider just hours after seeing the first stink bug on the kitchen window. Yup. Must be time for the little stinky monsters to wiggle their way inside for the winter. Time to douse the kitchen windows with stink bug killing bug spray.
7. Last weekend, we were exiting a store in Robinson and as I looked out at the huge parking lot for our car, my eyes were caught by a car with the driver door smushed in. It looked awful in the bright sunlight. Who on earth would have that kind of awful bashed in door from an accident and not fix it and... OH EFF THAT'S US WHAT THE EFFFFFFFF???????

Sometime in the last week, someone, something, smushed the driver door. We have no idea what. Or who, because the jerk didn't leave a note. I took some photos with my phone and this week I emailed them to my brother.

My brother was a material science engineer who did internships at a steel mill roll manufacturer and at a steel company and then after graduating was hired to work at Honda. We have a Honda. He knows about Hondas - and about car metal and car doors and car bodies.

His opinion: some jerk ran a bicycle handle bar into the car. They creased the door with quite some force and scratched the paint as well. And, did I mention, DIDN'T LEAVE A NOTE.

We have no idea where we have been in the last week that a bicycle could've hit the car. We live in the suburbs and go to places like Costco and Walmart, with huge parking lots and no bicycles around. He parks in a garage at work. In a garage at home. I'm thinking maybe it was actually a shopping cart, but seriously, who forces a shopping cart between cars with such force that it creases metal and scratches paint???

So we're getting some quotes on repairing it. The car is only 4 years old, and we have been hoping to keep our Honda for 10 years like we did with the last one. We're just annoyed that someone was so stupid and rude and now the repair cost is on us because they didn't leave a note because THEY ARE A JERK.

8. Did I mention the car needed $500 of 'routine maintenance' to pass inspection last month? Yeah. So really not happy with additional expense on the car.

9. Not to mention the likely extra expense of renting a car while ours is fixed. We have only one car because only one of us drives. I no longer drive because I do not feel safe driving given my health issues.

10. Our car luck this year? Not good. Not only ours, but remember me writing about getting rear ended in OR while sitting at a red light? Yes, the insurance for the guy who hit us is covering the entire cost to the car rental company, but we got a copy of the bill, and it was a little over $2,000 for the car repair and then another $1,000 in fees from towing, rental replacement, lost rental income, etc. Yikes!

11. On the bright side, we have finally decided on a tree company to remove the dead trees and overgrown trees (7 trees being removed and 5-6 pruned). And we lined up the guy to clean and seal our deck since it has been 2 years. But between the car and trees and deck and ceiling light... thousands of dollars are flying out of the bank account. Kind of stressful.

12. Oh and lucky us - the niece who just turned 4 and lives in the east is having a birthday party this weekend and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels outbound (going east) are going to be closed this weekend. According to the news, the last tunnel closure resulted in delays of up to 2 hours. The detours are through/around Squirrel Hill and Oakland area, where all the Pitt students will be moving into their dorms this weekend. Oh joy! There are some steps we can take to get where we need to go and not be on the parkway, but at a certain point, I'm not sure how much they'll really help given where the detour takes you and the fact that college students are returning this weekend.

*sob* do you see why the universe is out to get me? *sob*

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Orange Mint Julep

Around here, Sunday afternoon is cocktail time. Sometimes cocktail hour starts at 3 pm, sometimes as late as 6 pm, but almost every Sunday, we take a break from whatever we are doing and sit down to enjoy a cocktail (or wine, or beer). Much as I really like the Old Fashioneds SP makes for me, this past weekend, I was in the mood for something a little different, but something still with bourbon: Orange Mint Julep.
I saw this cocktail in an issue of Bon Appetit several months ago, before the mint started growing. I've been not so patiently waiting for our mint to get big enough to try this drink. Of course by the time it was big enough, I had forgotten all about this cocktail! Then last week when I was adding newly ripped out recipes to my recipe binders, I saw it and decided it was time.
There's a little bit of advance planning required. One, having orange bitters on hand, although I suppose aromatic would be OK. And two, making the orange simple syrup. Simple syrup is easy. This one required the addition of orange peel and a couple of hours to cool & steep before straining out the orange peel.

Minty, citrus-y, cool, refreshing -- this is really, really tasty! Our refrigerator doesn't have an automatic ice cube dispenser/ice crusher and we didn't feel like digging out the blender to crush ice, so we just used one of our super large ice cubes.

Now we have 2 kinds of bitters: original aromatic and orange.

And we have leftover orange syrup for next weekend since I had only one cocktail and SP chose beer.

I think I know what I'm sipping next Sunday afternoon...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Homemade Cheese Ravioli

I'm not sure what I've been waiting for, but this post has been in the draft folder for 6 weeks. Homemade Cheese Ravioli. I love pasta. I love cheese. And when TXSIL was visiting in July, she offered to teach me how to make homemade ravioli. I was pretty excited!  

Homemade pasta is not something we've tried. Every so often we think, oh, how difficult can it be, maybe we should buy the stand mixer pasta roller attachment, wouldn't homemade pasta taste good. But we never do. TXSIL has been making homemade pasta for a while (and homemade gnocchi, too, something else we want to try) and she swears it's quite simple, if a wee bit time consuming until you get the hang of it. 

So on a rainy Tuesday in July, as the nephews watched The Simpsons movie and BIL... did something... and SP was at work, TXSIL and I embarked on a ravioli adventure!
The cheese filling. Much like lasagna filling: ricotta, shredded mozzarella, shredded parmesan, fresh basil & oregano, salt & pepper, and egg.
The homemade pasta dough: flour, water, eggs, salt. She makes her pasta dough in the stand mixer, using the paddle and then the dough hook.
The workout: rolling the pasta dough. I suppose you could use a rolling pin. You could buy/use the stand mixer attachment. Or you could borrow your MIL's hand crank pasta roller, which SIL did. The ravioli adventure almost came crashing to a halt when we discovered the countertop was too thick for the machine's clamp. Uh-oh. We ended up bringing up a Costco folding table from the basement and clamping the machine to the edge. I was a little worried about stability, but it seemed OK as we continued.  

I wish I could say it looked easy, but, nope. I was glad I was not the one feeding each blob of dough through 3 times to get the proper thickness. Lots of cranking. It looked like a great arm workout! But also it looked tiring. And a little annoying.

SIL has this kind of hand crank pasta roller at home. The previous day, at her MIL's house, she had helped her MIL try out her recently purchased KitchenAid pasta roller attachment. SIL says that it took a bit to get the hang of it, and that while she doesn't mind (too much) the hand crank, the stand mixer attachment makes it so much easier and faster. 

I think if SP & I decide to pursue this homemade pasta business, we'll splurge on the stand mixer attachment. I know I won't be able to do that much hand cranking of pasta dough, and I'm pretty sure he'll end up despising homemade pasta if he has to hand crank all that pasta dough!
SIL brought her ravioli mold with her, all the way from Texas! While she was cranking dough, I sat at the other end of the table. In front of me was our wooden rolling board, the ravioli mold, a rolling pin, a cookie sheet, the bowl of cheese, and lots of extra flour. Flour seems to be key when working with pasta dough.

The hand crank roller didn't allow her to make a good enough and wide enough sheet of pasta to cover all 10 ravioli spaces, so we did just 5 at a time. 
Dip the sheet in flour, place flour side down on the ravioli mold.
Gently press down in each ravioli section to make a depression for the cheese. Spoon in cheese.
Dip the next sheet of pasta dough in flour. Place it, flour side up, on top the cheese pasta. 
Using the rolling pin, roll over the pasta dough/ravioli mold to seal the edges and 'cut' the individual ravioli. 
Turn the mold over and give it a good whack to release the ravioli. Place them on a floured cookie sheet. Optional: make a hole with a toothpick in each ravioli to help prevent bursting during cooking(I did this in maybe half the ravioli, but so far, none have burst so I'm not sure how much it really helps).

When a cookie sheet is full, put it in the freezer for 1-2 hours, until the ravioli are frozen and ready to be stacked in a container (we put wax paper between each ravioli layer in our plastic container). 
To cook, boil water, add ravioli directly from freezer (no need to thaw), and boil 13-15 minutes. Top with sauce of your choosing (we made a quick marinara sauce) and maybe some fresh basil and enjoy!
These are really good! I am quite impressed with my 'sealing shut' skills - like with the pierogie, so far, none of my ravioli have burst open! My arms got tired towards the end and I couldn't push down enough to cut/separate the ravioli so I used a fluted dough cutter to separate them. 

A HUGE thank you to TXSIL for making us 5 dozen ravioli! We only have about 15 left - we just ate some last week and they still taste really good, so we know they can be frozen for at least 6 weeks. We both still want to try making our own pasta - we'll see if we actually try it! It sure is tasty!

TX SIL's Pasta Dough Recipe:

3 cups flour
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
warm water, start with 2 tbsp

In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, dump in flour and make a well in the center. Add a pinch of salt. Add the eggs and 2 tbsp warm water. Mix until the ingredients are blended. If the dough seems dry and does not form into a ball, add more water. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add a bit more flour.

Change over to the dough hook attachment to knead the dough. Do not set the mixer higher than 2. Knead until the dough is soft and pliable, about 5-10 minutes. If the dough hook is having trouble (it slows down, almost to a standstill) the dough is probably too dry so add a little more water.

It's ready when you have a nice, soft dough ball and the dough doesn't stick to the dough hook or the bowl.

*Makes enough pasta dough for about 3.5~4 dozen ravioli

TX SIL's Cheese Filling Recipe:

1 lb ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3/8 cup shredded parmesan
1 egg
chopped fresh parsley (or dried)
chopped fresh oregano (or dried)
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

*Makes enough for about 3.5~4 dozen ravioli
**Use as much/as little fresh/dried herbs as you like

***We got about 5 dozen ravioli because we made about 1.5 batches of pasta dough and about 1.5 batches of cheese filling. Also, TXSIL thinks she may have rolled the pasta sheets a bit thicker than she usually does.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tomato & Mint Salad

Right now we have a lot of tomatoes. We also have a lot of very happy herbs on the deck. I've been trying to use more of the fresh herbs - I feel like we aren't using enough of them! But I am a little bored with tomatoes & basil.
I just ripped out a bunch of new recipes from my food magazines, so I had to put them into my binders of recipe clippings, so I got to revisit all the recipes I've ripped out and saved. This one caught my eye: Tomato Salad with Mint Dressing. It turns out it's from the February 2005 issue of Food & Wine. So I've it a long time and never actually tried it!
I decided to make this as a side for with our grilled chicken the other night. It's so simple - you don't even need a recipe. Sometimes I just need to look at all my clippings to get inspired. Tomatoes and mint instead of tomatoes & basil. A basic dressing. So simple, and so obvious that I never thought of it on my own!
I omitted the garlic and did not add the mint to the dressing. Instead, I chopped the tomatoes, put them in a bowl, added salt and pepper, stirred, added chopped mint, tossed, and then poured the olive oil~red wine vinegar~lemon juice dressing over it all. It was a very welcome and tasty change from the usual tomatoes & basil with balsamic.

Recipe here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Otis the Groundhog and the Bunny visiting at the same time
1. We see Otis the Groundhog almost every day. This year, we've been seeing a bunny a lot, too. Sometimes they visit at the same time. The bunny has been trying to get to the beans we planted but usually he eats the grass and daylilies. Also, he doesn't seem scared of us. When we pull in the driveway, he just sits and stares at us, daring us to run him over. We're thinking we need to name the bunny - maybe Beanie or Buster.
2. We are finally getting lots and lots of tomatoes from our garden! SP lined them up like little tomato soldiers on the windowsill. They're tasty and super juicy.
3. We're also getting lots of  zucchini but not so much that we cannot handle eating it ourselves, maybe 2-3 a week. We're trying to pick it before it gets too large - last year we ended up with some monster sized zucchini.

4. We finished the last of the garden kale this past weekend (grilled kale chips). Sadly, the cucumbers seem to have been choked out by the zucchini. Maybe next year we'll have to start a second raised bed?
5. This week, one of SP's co-workers is on vacation and offered up his CSA box. We used to belong to Penns Corner CSA, but it seemed like we weren't able to use up our weekly box before stuff started to go bad. Plus, we got a lot of things that we tried in the first few years, realized we don't really enjoy, and then got annoyed every time they showed up in subsequent years. We ate a lot of stuff that we didn't really enjoy plus we gave a lot away (so many radishes given away). After 4 years, we decided to stop subscribing to the CSA and instead grow our own/go to the farmers markets.

Anyway, back to the CSA, we got 2 cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, carrots, and kohlrabi. I don't think we ever received kohlrabi when we belonged. I'm kind of excited about trying it, but am not sure what to do with it.

I ate a peach for breakfast and it was delicious. I was going to take a photo, but as seems to be the case lately, I forgot!

6. We finished watching Season 4 of The Walking Dead. It got much better, but I am kind of annoyed that it sucked me back in! Guess we'll be watching the new season starting in October.

7. Yes. We're still watching The Leftovers. At this point, with, I think, 3 episodes left, we may as well finish the current season. Too bad it got renewed for a second season. Why is it so hard to quit shows we start watching but aren't all that excited about?!

8. We watched a PBS show about Sherlock Holmes one night (we recorded it many months ago) and that inspired us to start watching the BBC Sherlock Holmes show. So good! It makes us laugh a lot.

9. For reading since last Thursday, I started reading Brad Thor's latest, Act of War, and I finished reading the latest issues of all the magazines we receive. As usual, I ripped out a bunch of recipe ideas. It looks like dinners this weekend and next week will involve overdosing on peaches & tomatoes!