Vanilla Vanilla Vanilla

My husband sees no need for other flavors when it comes to cake, ice cream or really anything else baked or of a confectionary nature. Being a chocolate lover I could never concede in agreement but vanilla is an unrivaled building block and is indeed quite fantastic when done properly. 

Ever since Alton Brown opened my eyes to vanilla sugar I have gone rather bananas with it. 

In the past couple weeks I have used it in French toast, vanilla ice cream, oatmeal, sautéed apples and pumpkin pie ice cream. It’s just that amazing! It also ends up saving you a bit of money in the long run. I cringe every time I purchase vanilla beans because, as you know, it’s anywhere from $6-$10 for a couple! With vanilla sugar you can nix the vanilla beans in a recipe, replace the sugar with yours, and add a dash of vanilla extract for further fortification. 

My favorite vanilla sugar application this week has been sautéed apples with homemade ice cream. I peeled and sliced up about eight Granny Smith apples. I put 2T butter in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Once melted I threw in the apples, covered them generously with a 1/4-1/2cup of vanilla sugar and gave them a quick toss. I then added a good heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of salt, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla extract. I didn’t really measure anything so start small, taste and adjust. Let them hang out this way until you start to get a gooey faux caramel happening and turn off the heat. Let them cool until you’re ready to serve.

  
I know there are weeks where babysitting and making your own ice cream just isn’t gonna happen. Grab a good quality vanilla from the store and do the apples yourself. You’ll still have a deliciously easy dessert that’ll be ready in less than 20 minutes!

  

Happy Fall Y’all! 

How NOT to Carve a Chicken

It’s really sad when there have to be two bad kitchen days in a row. Yesterday I burned our grilled cheese sandwich to where it could easily have been charcoal (And Sometimes Lunch Today is Tomorrow’s Briquette) … and today … well I had one of my more embarrassing kitchen moments to date. “Yes, the Chicken Has a Breast,” would have been a title worthy of encapsulating the experience, but that was a touch too dramatic even for me. So without further ado may I present “How NOT to Carve a Chicken.”

To set the stage for you, we are in the thick of potty training, and today had been full of accidents and melt-downs. It had been an emotional day and I think we all needed that 8 o’clock bed time to come a little swifter.

I decided by accident number three and melt-down number four that this day needed a simple dinner solution. I put a whole chicken in the crockpot, atop some onions and carrots, coated it with olive oil, and massaged it with salt, pepper and, and some herbs. I put the crock pot on full whack and let it go.

Before I go further here is a helpful history tid bit. I am not comfy with whole carcasses. The first turkey I ever made ended with the neck flying across our kitchen because I didn’t realize it was in the chest cavity. The first chicken I ever made I left the paper pouch with the heart and liver, in the chicken as it cooked, which gave everything an odd flavor. The second chicken I roasted turned out decent, as did my second turkey, but that ladies and gentleman has been over a year ago. Needless to say this is not my area of expertise.  

Empirically the chicken turned out well today. I missed the nice crispy skin that happens when you take the time to babysit it in the oven, but the flavor was nice and it was moist. It exited the crockpot and was placed on my cutting board to rest. I had thrown some red bliss potatoes on the stove earlier and they were now tender. I drained them and threw them in a bowl with some cream, butter, salt, pepper, parsley, and did a rustic, lazy mash. I set out a serving plate, grabbed my knife and went back to my chicken. I made the normal cut down the middle, which as I remembered, is usually how you release the breast meat from the ribs. There was little to no meat. I was confused and as I looked at this chicken the back seemed crooked and weird, and the legs and wings looked odd too. 

“What on earth was wrong with this bird! I can barely get meat off! Why would this chicken have ever been butchered? It doesn’t have a breast!”

After trying to field my thoughts and after hacking this poor, deformed chicken to death, I set my knife down and just wanted to cry. As I stood there distraugh the light went on. I returned to my cutting board and gently flipped over the bird. And wouldn’t you know … the chicken has a breast! 

No I didn’t take a picture of the mayhem that laid on my cutting board. I had had enough real life for one day and seeing my husband smile as I told him what I did was quite enough. We had a good chuckle about it and ate our breast meat. So today I learned that when you carve a chicken make sure your bird is right side up, and make sure you brush up on proper carving skills before diving in. 

Happy Bird Roasting! 

Do you struggle with carving or simply lack experience? Here’s a great video from Jamie Oliver’s team. Next time will be better. 😉

Jamie Oliver: How to Carve a Chicken

Lunch today is Tomorrow’s Briquette 

It’s not all lovely meals and rainbows when you’re a mum. Sometimes lunch today is tomorrow’s  briquette.

So you have a grilled cheese on the stove. It’s getting all golden and lovely as it dances along in a buttered skillet when you hear those beautiful words

“Mommy I have to go potty!

The grilled cheese is now left to its own devices while you run after your daughter to the bathroom … hoping and praying this time we hit the potty not the floor! After sweet success you then get so enraptured with the fact that you got to flush instead of reach for your disenfectant that you start to build a princess castle out of mega blocks … per your toddlers request.

Minutes later however your nostrils are alerted to the fact that you HAD a sandwich on the stove! I type in the past tense because it is no longer a sandwich.  It could now pass for a charcoal briquette at your next grill out!

So yes, today’s lunch ended up being odd since I burned (beyond salvage) the main event, but the princess castle turned out pretty well. I had one happy little lady and I’ll take that over a good grilled cheese any day!

Vanilla Ice Cream Via Alton Brown

Remember how last week I made vanilla sugar and used it in my Whole Wheat Vanilla French Toast? Well what I failed to mention is why I had originally made vanilla sugar in the first place. The short story? Alton Brown made me. I had never heard of vanilla sugar, let alone had a recipe call for it, but he said it was essential. When Alton Brown says something like that, you simply do it. Haha. So if you’ve made vanilla sugar and haven’t used it in an ice cream application yet, do yourself a favor. Put down your electronic device immediately! Wait! Look at the ingredient list first and THEN put down your electronic device! Hop, skip, drive, take the train or whatever your mode of transportation is and get to the store. Here’s the link. 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/vanilla-ice-cream-recipe.html

Happy Churning! 

Experimenting with Mint Chocolate Chip

My ‘little’ brother, who isn’t so little anymore just turned 23. In commemoration of his birthday I decided to attempt to conquer a mint chocolate chip ice cream that tasted something like the mint chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins. It was his absolute favorite. We had a Baskin Robbins within walking distance of our home growing up. It wasn’t an easy distance exactly but it was doable. There was a Dairy Queen much closer but sometimes that just didn’t cut it. Mint chocolate chip was a flavor that everyone in my family could agree on. Occasionally I would join my dad in the chocolate peanut butter camp (which was his favorite), but whenever dad would bring home a quart it was always mint chocolate chip. We didn’t get ice cream often so when we did it was a special treat.

Thus in honor of my brother, whom I love dearly, here goes my attempt at Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream. I hope he likes it. 

What flavors remind you of your years growing up? 

Baskin Robbins Inspired Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream             

Yields 1 generous quart 

Ice cream Base 

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 5 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1 t. Vanilla extract 
  • 2 t. Peppermint extract  

The “chocolate chip part” of Mint Chocolate Chip

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup dark chocolate 
  • 2 T. coconut oil or canola oil or vegetable oil 

  
Directions 

  • Place cream and milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Add salt, peppermint extract and vanilla. 
  • In small mixing bowl separate eggs and whisk yolks together until slightly lighter in color. 
  • Remember my post on what to do with those unused egg whites? Don’t throw them out. Do something fun with them! Need to revisit? Click here
  • Add sugar to egg yolks and whisk until well incorporated. 
  • Gradually add about 1/2 the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture to temper. 
  • Add the egg mixture slowly back into the saucepan and continue cooking over medium-low heat until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. 
  • Remove from heat and leave until room temperature, then store in fridge until fully chilled, preferably overnight. 
  • Before churning prepare “The Chocolate Chip” part by putting 1 cup dark chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl along with 2T of oil. Microwave for 60 seconds then stir until smooth. Set aside to cool. 
  • Churn ice cream according to manufacture instructions. In the last few minutes of churning slowly trickle in the chocolate until you have as much incorporated to your ice cream as desired. 
  • Store in freezer to fully firm up until ready to use.  

Recipe adapted from Recipe 4 Living

  

What to Do with the Egg Whites

I love ice cream! I love making ice cream! I love eating ice cream! Lately I have been making it to order for people in our apartment building, so I’ll often have 24 egg whites hanging out in a bowl with no idea what to do. 

I googled “what to do with egg whites” and all sorts of lovely recipe solutions presented themselves. I also found out some handy storage facts. 

Egg whites aren’t good for more than two days (in your fridge) after they are separated from their yolk. Egg whites also freeze really well if you plop them in ice cube trays and transfer, once frozen, to a freezer bag. They are happy here for 3 months! Huzzah! 

So next time you make ice cream or have to separate eggs for any reason don’t discard the part that didn’t get used. Transform it and have fun using it in a way you may not have expected to! Make meringue or lovely marshmallows or even chocolate mousse! For more ideas go to bbcfood and check out their page to read more. 

Whole Wheat Vanilla French Toast … Trust Me

French toast is never something I have succeeded at making. My previous attempts have always been too eggy with lackluster flavor, which is why I am excited to announce this recipe. If you have spent any time perusing this blog you know I have an affinity for ice cream. As a result there is always a supply of heavy cream and eggs in our home. Yesterday morning my three year old, who loves Wallace and Gromit, noticed me staring down the contents of our fridge. When I asked her what she thought we should have for breakfast she said:

“I would like syrup, eggs, milk, and cracking toast like Gromit.”

And there you have it! Inspiration! I knew then that I had to tackle my failed past of French toast. I started with a base of cream and went a bit mad scientist from there. This recipe has two “secret ingredients” …  three if you count a lot of love, as my mum would say. 

The first secret ingredient is Whole Wheat Bread. This is where you’ll have to trust me. I’m talking plain 100% whole wheat sandwich bread. Have no fear! Your French toast is still going to be soaked with creamy, vanilla goodness but I found the wheat bread imparted fantastic nuttiness and great texture.  

 

The second secret ingredient is Vanilla Sugar which is simply sugar blended with vanilla bean seeds, and stored. If you thought sugar couldn’t be more delicious then you haven’t tried this! Trust me when I say it makes a lovely difference in amping up the vanilla flavor. I guarantee you’ll start using it in other recipes too! Plain sugar just won’t be enough. 

Well I hope you enjoy this small play on French toast and stay tuned for more ice cream recipes. It’s September and still in the upper 90s here in Dallas, so I don’t think the frequency of churning will fall any time soon … But then you know my views on that. Ice cream is perfectly lovely in February. 

Whole Wheat Vanilla French Toast       Servings: approximately 16 pieces 

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 16 slices (approx. depending on size) 100% wheat bread. (crusts removed) What I used was about a scant 1/2″ thick.   NOTE: save the crusts! Put them in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for future bread crumbs. 
  • 1/2t cinnamon 
  • 1/2t salt 
  • 1t vanilla extract 
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar. *         
  • 1/2t baking powder 
  • 3 eggs 

Directions 

  • Remove crusts from bread. 
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a serving plate on the rack.
  • Heat a skillet or grill pan over low-medium heat and spray with your non-stick spray of choice. (I used coconut oil)
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together all other ingredients until well incorporated.
  • Dunk as many slices of bread as can comfortably fit in your skillet at once until well saturated. Mine took about 10 seconds per side. 
  • Place in skillet until deep golden brown on bottom side. I have a very enthusiastic electric stove top. I set my burner to 4 which turned out about right. The full out medium 5 setting was too hot. Each side took about 6 minutes but yours may be different. You might experiment with a single piece to make sure the inside is cooked and the outside is a nice deep golden color.   
  • Flip and do the same to the other side. 
  • Keep repeating until all bread is cooked and keep cooked slices in warm oven.

When ready to eat, spread with butter, dust with powdered sugar, and happily garnish with syrup. 

 

* I used Alton Brown’s vanilla sugar recipe but did not have a vanilla bean on hand. Instead I added 1T of vanilla bean paste. After an hour it would be fit for using in the French toast but allowing it the full “steep” time is best.  Make some in preparation for this recipe and have fun experimenting with the other 2/3cup you’ll have left over. Roll some sugar cookies in it or add it to one of your favorite sweet breads maybe. The opportunities are endless.

 

Happy French Toasting!