Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pumpkin Ice Cream

First off... Hello to any visitors that came over from Jen's blog!!

Below is the recipe I used for the pumpkin ice cream we had last night for dinner.

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
(Source: based on the recipe I used for the PB+cookie ice cream I made in July) - makes 1 quart
1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 ounces light cream cheese, at room temperature
2 c. fat free half and half
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 T. dark corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
[I used 1 t. for the version I made last night and it was a little overpowering. I think 1/2 to 1/4t. should be plenty]
1/4 t. ground cloves
*Optional: Gingersnap cookies for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch. Whisk thoroughly so the cornstarch doesn't clump up. In another large bowl, whip the cream cheese, pumpkin, salt and spices until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of milk with the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and simmer over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. You may need to pull the mixture half off the burner so it doesn't boil over.

Take the milk mixture off the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes - no more.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese+pumpkin until smooth. Chill completely - overnight, ideally.

After mixture is completely chilled, pour the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it's frozen, scrape the ice cream out of its freezing chamber and into a large bowl. Serve immediately with a gingersnap cookie or pack the ice cream into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Because this recipe included a lot of fat-free ingredients, minimal sugar and no eggs I was really interested to calculate the nutritional content. I use a website and based the calculation off the assumption that 1 quart = 8 servings. I think it actually will contain more, but just in case I want to eat a *big* bowl, I thought I'd go with fewer servings. Needless to say, I liked the numbers even if they do equate to a C+.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leek Soup

I was at our local farmer's market last Thursday when I ran into my neighbors. We discussed our purchases and I mentioned I bought leeks. They asked what I was going to use them for... and frankly, I didn't know. I just wanted them. Ina Garten uses leeks in her recipes and I figured with a little research I'd find a use for them...

However my neighbor saved me the trouble. She told me about a leek soup recipe that her family loves and is super easy. Of course I asked for the recipe. On Monday when our dogs met up to play in our yards, she brought me her recipe to share! I made a few changes to the original, but all in all it was her recipe. My changes are listed below.

Leek Soup
(source: my neighbor)
3 T. butter [I used 4 T.]
3 large leeks* (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 4 1/2 c) [I used 4 leeks]
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced [I used 3 potatoes]

4 1/2 c. chicken stock [My soup was THICK! So I used more stock to thin, as recommended below]
salt + pepper, to taste

Melt butter over medium heat. Add leeks and stir to coat with butter. Cover and let simmer until leeks are tender, stirring often (~10 minutes). Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes soften, but do not brown, stir often (about 10 more minutes). Add chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender (30 additional minutes).

Puree soup in batches using a food process, blender [or in one fail swoop using an immersion blender] until smooth. Return soup to pan and thin to desired consistence with additional stock, if soup is too thick.

Serve immediately.
*Ina Garten always talks about how important it is to thoroughly clean leeks. They are made up of lots of thin layers that can easily trap sand. I trimmed and halved them and then ran them under water, cut side up to make sure any trapped sand was able to escape.

{4 large leeks, trimmed, cleaned and halved}

{leeks thinly sliced and melted butter}

{3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced}

{leek + potato + broth}

{me and my immersion blender at work}

{blended, before the addition of more broth}

{final product... looks kind of like applesauce, no?}

Clearly this is not the most aesthetically-pleasing soup, but it definitely is a palate-pleaser!! I wish I would have taken a picture of Rich's face as we sat down to eat. I tried to get him to do it again, but he wasn't interested. Let's just say he was doubtful this would be very good...

The verdict? It's good! Really good!! Even Rich agreed it was tasty. He thought next time I shouldn't puree it... but I kind of liked it that way. Maybe next time I will puree half and leave half au naturale; that might be a good compromise.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Craft #9: Canning

Yup... another food craft but again, something I've never done "on my own" before, so I'm counting it. [And when I say, "on my own," I really mean that my mom was there to show me the process.]

Each year my mom plants a bunch of tomato plants in her garden and each year she ends up with quite the bounty. Rich and I asked if we could get in on some of that action and my mom did not disappoint. For a large part of August and September we have had a large dish filled with tomatoes on our counter top [see craft #7 photo of finished loaf]. Rich and I couldn't eat them fast enough and didn't want to miss out on their amazing flavor, so I asked my mom if she would help teach me how to can.

My mom has been canning as long as I can remember. When I was super young I only remember her canning pickled beets. Then when I was in high school she started making her own salsa which lead to pickles, green beans and banana peppers. She doesn't can as much any more, but still probably ends up canning something once a year.

September's Cooking Light issue had a blurb about how to make the end-of-summer tomato goodness last into fall. Following their suggestions, we made a tomato sauce that we will be able to use as a base in soups, pair with pasta or eaten on it's own as a soup later this year.

Cooking Light: Blanch tomatoes for 30 seconds in boiling water; peel, seed and chop once cooled. Then simmer slowly with basil and sauteed onions and garlic for a sauce that can be bagged and frozen.

Our version of End-of-summer tomato sauce:
2 yellow onions, diced and sauteed
1.5 heads of garlic, minced (what I had on hand)
1.5 packed cups of basil, chiffonade (approximation, I didn't measure)
5 lbs. garden fresh tomatoes (another approximation)
salt + pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil. Place tomatoes in water, after 1-2 minutes remove tomatoes using a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath. Once cool, remove tomatoes from ice bath, peel, slice in half, gently squeeze out seeds and place in a large bowl. [repeat this process until all tomatoes have been peeled, sliced and squeezed]

Dice onion and saute over medium heat with 2 T. olive oil until softened. Mince garlic and add to onions, saute until garlic is softened. Add tomatoes allow mixture to warm, then add basil followed by salt and pepper to taste. Allow sauce to thicken over medium-low heat (if mixture begins to boil, reduce temperature), approximately 10-15 minutes. We tasted again at this point to make sure the sauce was fully seasoned and then started the canning process.

To can: start with sterilized jars. We let them run the jars and rings in the dishwasher first, not the lids. Once ready to start canning, bring a small sauce pot of water to boil and add lids. Ladle sauce into jars. [Be sure to keep the mouth free of sauce. If you get sauce on the mouth, just wipe with a wet rag.] Once jar is filled, use tongs to remove a lid from the boiling water. Place lid directly on top of jar. Using a rag, hold the lid in place while ring is screwed on. Place jars together and place a towel over them to retain warmth. In a few hours you should hear the jars *pop* indicating they have sealed.

In all we ended up with 7 quarts of sauce and... it was really, really easy!!! I wonder what else I can can! :)

{my mom squeezing the seeds out of the tomatoes}

{tomatoes, post-squeeze}

{sauce, pre-thickening}

{ladling sauce into jars And yes, I really am that red; I got sunburned at yesterday's Gopher game.}

{putting on the lid}

{My first canned good!}

{the loot - they all sealed!!}

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mr. Jones and them, they're gonna be big stars...

{Hangin' around}
Rich and our friend Heidi love Adam Duritz and his band the Counting Crows. I am not sure that Rich is a bigger fan of anyone else on the planet.

Earlier in the week Heidi had sent an email that read, "Does anyone else think that there is a decent chance of Adam being at the game on Saturday? No concert scheduled, so I don’t see what else he would do with his day." And sure enough: Adam really was at the game!! [Adam is a huge Cal State fan and apparently he has an "All Access" pass, per the tag hanging from his belt loop.] I am soooo happy that Rich and Heidi were able to pose for a photo with him!! They just adore him; it seriously brightened everyone's day!!

*Final score: Golden Gophers: 21, Golden Bears: 35

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Game at the Bank {more pictures}

{our tailgating setup}{craft #8 in use}{view from the other side}{walking into The Bank}{our seats}
{current players saluting 400 Gopher FB alumni}
{excited} {the band}
{opening kick off}{and that's another Golden Gopher... FIRST DOWN!!}
{TOUCHDOWN!}{Final Score : the first TCF Bank Stadium victory was locked up in "The Vault"}{Minnesota Hail to Thee}

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Game at the Bank

This is video of the fly over before the first Gopher game at TCF Bank Stadium. Our opponent was the Air Force, so we had a fighter jet formation fly over before the team came out on to the field. If it wasn't for the lady sitting next to us I would have missed the whole thing [you can hear me yelling that to Rich in the video]. The whole stadium was electric with excitement; it was awesome!

Oh and the Gopher's won... so that was awesome too! Final score: 20-13, Minnesota.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Craft #8: Bean Bags

Remember Rich's craft from July? I was also involved in one aspect of the craft. And we were working on a deadline; it needed to be completed prior to the first Gopher Home Game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, September 12th. This craft involved something I haven't touched in years: a sewing machine and I was super excited!!

My mom has a sewing machine so we partnered together to make these bad boys. I started out slow, really, really slow... I think it took 2 hours to make the first 5 bags. The second set of 5 however took much less time -- maybe even less than 45 minutes. [Note: Rich is a perfectionist, so we naturally wanted to make sure the bags were perfect... in case he checked the measurements. :) We were very careful to make sure the bags were the appropriate dimensions. Now I'm not saying that was the reason it took me ages to sew these, that was due to my rusty sewing skills. I guess I'm just making sure, in case Rich reads this, that he knows we were very meticulous about creating a consistent product that met the outlined specifications.]
{cutting the fabric to make white and maroon bean bags}
{sewing the first bag}
{I was very focused}
{but finally finished the first one}
*My mom will want you to know the pile of stuff in the background is not clutter or garbage, but unwrapped Christmas gifts... so if you think you are getting a gift from my parents, don't look too hard or you'll know what you are getting.
{we ironed the bags before we filled them}
{each bag was filled with 16 oz. dried split peas; my mom sewed most of them shut}
{but I sewed the last bag closed}
{...just about done...}
{ta-da! finished products}
{in front of the picture of me and Goldy, circa 2003} {Our completed craft*}

*I want to point out that Rich made these cornhole/bean bag boards all by himself; he started with plywood and 2X3s, created the design, painted and assembled them. Aren't they gorgeous!?!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Craft #7: My Daily Bread

I know I said that I wasn't going to count making food as my craft of the month, but bread is different; I had never before in my life baked bread with yeast, sans bread maker. BTW - not sure if I've ever mentioned it... but I bread. Love it!!

Several months ago I heard about the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day written by Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoe Francois [both are Minnesotans!]. I've looked at the book several times on Amazon but haven't yet purchased it. The basis behind their process is mix together the ingredients, let the dough rise and then refrigerate the dough for up to 14 days - using dough as needed to bake bread. What a great way to introduce myself to bread baking no need to knead, rest/rise and repeat!

I got really excited about this possibility, so I googled the book and found a site where Jeff had provided the basic master dough recipe along with instructions. I had all four ingredients on hand and instantly mixed together the dough.
{ingredients: flour, kosher salt, yeast + water}
{the dough, immediately after mixing}
{the dough, after 90 minutes of rising}
{the dough, after 120 minutes of rising}
{bread, immediately after going in the oven}
{bread, almost done baking}
{finished product, cooling}
{check out that crumb!}

I baked my first loaf of bread!! I am not good with shaping the loaf, but my first attempt was identifiable as bread {a plus} and tasted really good {huge bonus}. I've made a few other loaves since this one and they have all turned out... minus the misshapen-ness.
In a few months I hope to tackle bread that requires kneading, resting, rising and shaping, but for now I'm pretty happy about this version. I am my own bread-maker - so cool!!