Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Crunch Ice Cream

When it comes to ice cream, I used to be on the vanilla team in the battle of chocolate versus vanilla. As a kid, chocolate was rarely my flavor of choice, and I'd usually opt for vanilla if mint chocolate chip was not available. However, once I discovered the wonders of Ben and Jerry's and how they tweaked plain chocolate ice cream, I realized I had been missing out on this great flavor. Not only did I like chocolate ice cream, but it was even better with bits of brownies, marshmallows, or caramel. I decided to make this ice cream after I found some gourmet toffee in my sister's pantry. She claimed she would never use it, and I thought it would go perfectly in a batch of ice cream. After flipping through The Perfect Scoop for the 100th time, I decided to add the crushed up toffee pieces to a traditional chocolate ice cream. The result was phenomenal.

This is the one of the best chocolate ice creams I have ever had. The chocolate flavor is rich, but not too rich, the texture is creamy and smooth, and the toffee adds the perfect crunch. When making ice cream, it's sometimes difficult finding a recipe that will maintain a creamy consistency after it is fully frozen. This one, however, stays creamy and does not get hard and icy. It is everything that I would want from chocolate ice cream. If toffee is not your thing, feel free to add any other treat to the recipe, or just make plain chocolate ice cream.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Rugelach Pinwheels

Meet one of my top 5 favorite cookies, the rugelach pinwheel. Growing up, chocolate chip rugelach were my favorite variation, but now I love this one, which is filled with raisins, nuts, and jam. What makes these rugelach stand out from other cookies is the cream cheese based dough. The dough is very easy to make and it produces great results every time. It does require a couple rounds of chilling, but you can work around it. I sometimes make the basic dough a day or 2 before I use it. What's best though is that you can freeze the rolled up cookie logs for a few days or a couple weeks, which is really handy if it's just me in the house and I don't want to slice up both logs at once.

This is a really versatile cookie when it comes to the fillings. You can use almost any dried fruit and nut combination inside the the cookie, as well as different jams. I've used cranberries, currents, raisins, and pecans. When it comes to jams I usually stick with apricot since it's a mild flavor that i really enjoy in these cookies. I haven't tried a chocolate chip variation since the fruit and nut combo is my favorite, but I'm sure you would have a delicious result. I make these almost every time I visit my parents since my dad loves them (and I am never opposed to eating rugelach). They've always been a hit and have a flavor that works with every season. I'm sure people will be asking you for the recipe once you start sharing these.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lemon Ice Cream

I have to make a confession- the original plan for this ice cream included pieces of speculoos (crispy gingerbread) mixed into the final product. I baked the cookies a day earlier and had planned on using them, until I realized I should have added more spices to the cookie batter. This is what happens every now and then when experimenting with recipes. I think for every good recipe I find there is one that's pretty average. The speculoos were still good, but not quite right.

I went through with the ice cream plan anyway since I had all the ingredients ready and I love all lemony desserts. I added the sad excuse for speculoos to a small batch of ice cream and left the rest plain (I preferred the plain version). The result was a really creamy and light lemon ice cream. The flavor is not overwhelming, and hits the spot. Even my brother-in-law, the man who claims lemon desserts are awful, was loving this. The flavor of this ice cream makes it a really great summer treat, and I can imagine it would make a great ice cream pie.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almond Coffee Cake

I have a thing for almonds and all things almond flavored. Whether it's marzipan, almond extract, or almond paste, I love any baked good with that general flavor. I recently bought a couple tubes of almond paste and knew I wanted to bake a cake with one of them. The last time I baked with almond paste I made amaretti cookies, but the texture was a little too chewy, so this time I wanted to try something new.

This recipe makes a great coffee cake that showcases the delicious flavor of the almond paste. The original recipe comes from an old Junior League cookbook from San Francisco, but it is one of those timeless recipe that will always taste great. My sister described the texture as a combination of cheesecake and angel food cake. It's very moist and a little dense, but it still manages to feel light and airy. The crunchy top contrasts the soft cake, and is a great addition to an otherwise basic cake. If you like almond flavored sweets, you will love this coffee cake.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cream Biscuits

For a few years now, my sister has made these biscuits every Thanksgiving. I never asked her for the recipe, but last night she baked some to go with our dinner. I decided it was time to see how these were made since she always claimed they were really easy. These biscuits take about 10 minutes to whip up and put in the oven. I couldn't believe how simple the ingredients were since I always assumed there would be more effort involved.

They usually puff up more than what they did last night, thanks to self-rising flour that was no longer all that self-rising. You can expect them to puff up to about 1 1/2 inches with a good batch. They are delicious plain, or spread some butter on top. I'm so glad I can now bake tasty, homemade biscuits in about 20 minutes from start to finish.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tangy Strawberry Lemonade

For a few years now, I've wanted to try making homemade lemonade. I don't have any excuse for not making this sooner, but am glad I finally did. I wanted to make strawberry lemonade since I've already had my fair share of traditional lemonade this summer. My search began on the Food Network website, but once I looked elsewhere, I quickly found this recipe and knew it was what I wanted to make.

This lemonade is really tangy, but still sweet. Many recipes for strawberry lemonade include the pureed berry in the lemonade, but I like this one because it just uses the berries for flavor. To me, a glass of lemonade should not have seeds and berry pulp in it. Because this lemonade is smooth and does not have chunks of fruit puree in it, it also make a great cocktail. Add a splash of vodka and you have a refreshing, colorful adult beverage. You could also freeze this and make a delicious popsicle.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Soba Noodles with Fresh Vegetables

A while back, my sister's friend sent her this recipe for an easy soba noodle dish. If you've never eaten or cooked soba noodles before, don't worry. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, and though they cook quicker than traditional pasta, their taste is not too different. When my sister first made made this dish, I was instantly hooked. The dressing is delicious and pairs perfectly with the flavors of each ingredient, the veggies are crispy and fresh, and it still tastes amazing the next day.

I've had this a couple times now, and each time it has been slightly different. Once I was out of cilantro, but didn't feel like anything was missing since the dressing is so flavorful. Another time I forgot to use tofu, and realized that it does not play an important role in the dish. Feel free to leave it out and save yourself a step by not having to fry cubes of tofu. You can also play around with the vegetables used. Last time I made this, I added extra napa cabbage and edamame since I was trying to use them up.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I decided to bake some sweets for my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary last week. This is partly because I had no idea what to get them, partly because I love baking, and partly because my sister loves cupcakes. To spare my brother-in-law from his least favorite dessert flavor, anything lemony, I made him a chocolate cake, but the lemon cupcakes turned out better. Actually, they turned out much, much better. The cake was a crumbly disaster, with the only redeeming factor being the frosting, so I was relieved I made cupcakes as well.

These cupcakes are great and adorable. They're moist, and light, and the cream cheese frosting is a perfect way to top them off. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first made these as I'd never tried the recipe before, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I love lemon desserts to begin with, so finding another good lemon recipe is always a plus. These cupcakes will remain moist for a few days if you want to prepare them ahead of time, just make sure to keep them covered.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Linguine with Pea Pesto

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved sugar snap peas. My mom used to buy them at the grocery store or farmer's market and I'd snack on them the entire drive home. For some reason I have never really cooked with frozen peas until recently. I don't know why I avoided them, especially since they can be used in great dishes, like this linguine, and require much less work that fresh peas (I'm possibly the world's slowest pea sheller, and usually end up eating half of them in the process). I didn't have fresh peas around when I made this, and was still very happy with the results.

I wasn't expecting to love this linguine when I first read the recipe. I thought it would be good, but was not expecting it to be as delicious as it was. I was very pleasantly surprise by the flavor of the pesto and even though I wasn't all that hungry when I ate this, I still managed to clear my plate. Don't forget to add salt and pepper to the linguine at the end, otherwise it will taste slightly bland. My sister and I made this together and kept adding salt and pepper until the pasta reached a flavor we liked. This still tastes great on the second day, so don't worry if you have leftovers.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Sesame Soy Marinated Tuna

When you want a really quick, easy dinner, it doesn't get much better than having fish. This tuna takes about 5 minutes to put together, and even though it needs to marinate, you can work around it. I've often marinated the tuna overnight. It's even easy enough to do in the morning if you can set aside a couple of minutes. If you want to make your life simpler, you can use a pre-minced ginger and garlic, like Gourmet Garden, and spare yourself the chopping and grating.

There have been a few occasion when I've even taken this fish on a camping trip. I just put it in a Ziploc bag, leave it in the cooler, and grill it when hunger strikes. It's a nice change to the usual hot dogs and chili, and in my mind it justifies me eating lots of s'mores later in the evening. If you're making this at home, you can make some extra marinade, or reserve some from the main batch before adding the fish, and drizzle it over the tuna before you serve it. It's really flavorful on its own, but if you're a person who loves sauce, that would  be the way to go. If you like your food spicier, add some crushed red pepper flakes or finely chopped jalapeƱos to the marinade.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snickerdoodle Muffins

I realize cinnamon is not really a summer flavor, but I made these last week and loved them. I didn't feel like running out to buy ingredients and had all the ones in this recipe on hand, so I decided to give these muffins a try. Once these were baked, I ate three within 2 hours before realizing I needed to share the rest of them. They're easier to make than I initially thought and make a great, albeit not so balanced, breakfast.

These muffins are really delicate, so I would suggest using muffin liners. Since the tops are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, it not only makes them a little heavier, but the sugar might spread and stick to your muffin tin. Be careful when removing the muffins and gently cut loose any part of the muffin that sticks to the tin. Also, they taste great for about 2 days, but don't last much longer than that.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Earlier this summer, I tried making mint ice cream, but it was a total disaster. It tasted like frozen heavy cream with a hint of mint, which was not what I was going for. Since mint chocolate chip is one of my favorite ice cream flavors, I was determined to find one that actually tasted good. I decided I wanted to try a recipe that used mint extract to get a stronger mint flavor in the ice cream. My first attempt at mint ice cream required fresh mint leaves, which sounded really good, but the mint flavor was not intense enough.

I accidentally found this recipe while looking for some outdoor/camping cooking recipes. I knew I wanted to try it since the ingredients sounded promising and the pictures looked great. This ice cream reminds me of the mint chocolate chip flavor I grew up with. I'm not a huge fan of using food coloring (mostly because I never have it and usually forget to buy it), so I kept the color natural, but you could easily add a couple drops of green color to get the more traditional mint ice cream look.

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