Friday, April 13, 2012

I scream, you scream, we allll scream!!!

Today as I sat at my desk bathing in the wonderful splash of sunshine my oversized windows so willingly grant me, I took a long, slow sip of homemade blueberry lime soda and contemplated ice cream. Yes, that most delectable of frosty, creamy treats.

Some day soon we'll begin to hear those iconic theme songs from terrifyingly worn down and devilishly enticing trucks as we desperately search our pockets for change among the lint. I don't care how old you are, there's something magical about ice cream coming out of a truck. As the bubblegum eyeballs start to droop and unnaturally red and blue rivers swell and deluge your hand you will be transported to a simpler time. A time before dirty dishes and overflowing trash cans and ingredients listings. Well, a time before you noticed those things, anyway.

It kind of throws me for a loop going to the grocery store and looking at the ingredients listings. I nearly slapped my own face off once while checking out a container of ice cream.... Do you know what's in ice cream nowadays?!?!? .... No, seriously. Do you know what it is? Because I can't even pronounce half of it.

You know what's in MY ice cream nowadays?

Meet our cast of characters for today.

Last year, the boy and I dug up a yellowed, hand-cranked ice cream machine from an ancient pile of kitchenware and took it upon ourselves to experiment. Through research, as well as trial and a lotttt of error, I have learned a couple of things. First of all, even bad ice cream made at home is better than most ice cream pre-packaged and on sale at your local grocery store. Honey is a great, distinctive sweetener that you probably wouldn't normally find in a cardboard tub but that is definitely worth experimenting with. And... Ice cream is crazy easy to make. So much so that I would very highly recommend you experiment like crazy with all sorts of flavors and proportions. And have fun with it! Here's a great, basic recipe with a very subtle and cleansing flavor.

Honey, Ginger, and Vanilla Ice Cream.

1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2% milk)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 egg yolks (Save the whites! I'll be posting an egg white brownie recipe next!)
1/2 cup honey
1.5"-2" fresh ginger (Juice it. Yields about 1-1.5 teaspoons of ginger juice.)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Separate the egg yolks.

Peel the ginger.

Juice the ginger.
(Note: If you do not have access to a juicer or fresh ginger, it would also be just fine to use 1/2 a teaspoon of powdered ginger.)

Into the bowl containing the 5 egg yolks, add the ginger juice as well as the 1/2 cup of honey. Whisk them together until they are fully combined and spontaneously sprout a giraffe. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and vanilla. Place on medium heat, stirring constantly until it becomes foamy.

(See! Foamy!)

Once the dairy mixture 'foams,' remove it from the heat and grab a ladle.

Grab your bowl full of egg yolks! One ladle at a time, slowly incorporate the heated milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture while CONSTANTLY whisking. This will temper the egg yolks and prevent them from becoming scrambled eggs when they are added to the larger pot of hot milk. Don't be afraid to keep adding hot milk until your egg bowl is almost full... I am very much guilty of excessively tempering eggs but I am also pretty good and making sure they don't turn into breakfast. So... y'know... just keep adding milk until you're good and ready to stop doing so. I'm not going to judge you, friend.

Put the pot back on the burner on medium-low heat. Slowly pour your egg mixture into the milk pot, stirring constantly for about five minutes. If you start to see little granules or anything that even remotely looks like scrambled eggs, IMMEDIATELY remove your pot from the heat. (Don't worry, it's not ruined! The next step will fix everything!)

Once the ice cream mix has cooled to room temperature, run it through a strainer juuuuuuust in case there are any lumpies. Cover your bowl/container of ice cream mix with cling film and place it in the fridge for 3 or so hours. (For me, 'or so' hours means 'I usually forget about it for the rest of the night and don't come back to it until the next day. Whoops.)

Once the ice cream mix is chilled/you remember you were chilling it, pour it into your ice cream machine and churn it to your heart's content. (Note: "To your hearts content" means "However your instruction manual says you should churn ice cream.") Our ice cream machine doesn't have instructions, so I pretty much just churned it until it became about 1 1/2 times its size and was soft and delicious but held itself together without being soup.

Ta-da! You've made ice cream! I know, it's practically like magic.

Now, I may have used an ice cream machine to make this stuff, but in a pinch you can just pour the ice cream mixture into a zippy, fill a larger one with ice and rock salt, put the 'ice cream' bag into the ice/salt bag, and shake like crazy. I promise you, this technique will work.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that the instructions for making ice cream without an ice cream machine are not entirely clear. This technique employs the use of two different zip-top bags. The first bag, containing the ice cream mixture, is to be sealed and then placed in the second bag, containing the ice and rock salt. The rock salt is included because it makes the ice even colder than normal, allowing for the ice crystals to form in the ice cream while being shaken. Once the inner bag containing the ice cream mix thickens enough after having been constantly shaken, remove the ice cream bag and put the ice cream in the freezer. You can absolutely put the bag straight into the freezer, although it is easier to scoop ice cream if it's in a tupperware of some type. The bag with the ice and rock salt is then discarded. Hope this helps!

Have fun, and enjoy!

As always, be brave in the kitchen. The rewards are always worth the risk.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Beginnings.

This week I looked around and noticed... It's Spring! The weather is to die for, the flowers and trees are beginning to greet us, and the strawberries are starting to taste sweet again. It feels like the perfect time to start something new and wonderful, and that's exactly what I intend to do.

Other than in my kitchen and to my friends, I've never really considered helping other people cook. There was always this nagging confusion whenever one of my friends didn't know how to cut into an onion or had never heard of mac and cheese not from a box (Although there's something just so satisfying about that powdered cheese substance. I swear it's got crack or something in it.) or didn't know there were types of lettuce other than iceberg. For me, cooking has just always been a part of my life, and I've always used it as a means of communicating my love to people. I never saw it as being complicated or a skill that maybe not everyone had gotten a chance to fully develop... Until recently.

A simple text message from a friend whom I had invited over for vegetarian tacos and homemade jalapeƱo poppers was what got me thinking. She said "I'm so excited. You cook the best food!" Which to me is basically the greatest compliment in the world, but it's kind of baffling at the same time. Tacos are amazing, don't get me wrong, but are they really worthy of such an enormous declaration? Is anything that I cook really so spectacular that I can confidently agree that yes, I DO cook the BEST food? And then it dawned on me... After years of having friends terrified of their own stoves and ovens, afraid of the dangers of straying even a little bit from a very precise recipe, or simply uneducated in the ways of basic produce having been raised on fast food and freezer meals... It's not that I'm the BEST cook, it's that I am one at all.

Cooking comes so naturally to me, I think, because I'm not afraid of messing it up. There are few things that can't be repaired with a bit of cheese and ketchup in the event that they truly are disasters, but don't let the fear of failure keep you from trying! The best advice I think anyone ever should live by, regardless of whether or not it is in the kitchen, is to BE BRAVE. So what if you mess something up?! You learned from it, didn't you?!! Next time don't cook the pasta so long, or forget to put the eggs in the batter, or confuse the chili powder for cinnamon! It's not the end of the world if it doesn't come out just right, it's only the beginning of your experience. Experiment with things! Dream big! Don't be afraid to try something out, even if it sounds ridiculous! Your kitchen isn't going to judge you-go ahead and let it meet you.

I think, also, it is important to remember to HAVE FUN! Food is one of our biggest communication tools. When someone is feeling sad, we give them cookies to make them feel better, or soup if they're sick, or cake if they're celebrating, or a whole feast if you're really looking to make a statement! Don't get stressed out about sticking to things strictly or how time consuming or tedious it looks like it's going to be... Just enjoy it! Your food will always taste better if you're happy while you make it.

So that's why I'm here, talking to you and sharing pictures of some recently-planted herbs. This is a new experience for me, and like all the dreams I have for those little seedlings I really want this to flourish and become something I can share with the people I love. The people you love. Let's start this journey together.

Be brave, and don't worry... I'm here to help.