Thursday, July 16, 2015

In the absence of Blue Bell...Banana Pudding ice cream!

I LOVE Banana pudding. If you gave me the choice between plain old banana pudding and oh, I don't know, double chocolate whiskey bread pudding with caramel sauce, I'd choose the banana pudding every. d*mn. time. Even if it was just the cold jello-pudding version and not the warm homemade baked custard kind that my mama and grandmother always made... if it's on a menu (or the buffet), I'm going to eat it...  Which is why it's ALSO one of my mostest favoritest flavors of bluebell ice cream.
Which is ALSO why I've been more than a little heart broken that I haven't been able to lay my hands on Blue Bell since April.  So, I figured I needed to attempt my own batch of Banana Pudding ice cream just to, you know... tide me over.

Well y'all. This stuff is dynamite. heavenly. as good as the Blue Bell kind (if not a teeny bit better...but probably only because I made it with my own two hands and eggs from friends). If you find yourself in the same fix I'm in without Blue Bell..or you just want to knock the sock off of a guy or gal with an amazing homemade dessert, this is your recipe. for serious. Also, it's basically homemade banana pudding (the boiled custard kind) thrown into an ice cream freezer. What could be better than than?

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

What you need:
2-3 frozen bananas
2 cups heavy cream
2 cup white sugar (divided)
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks
1-2 cups of tiny vanilla wafers

What you Do:
 I start by separating my eggs into a small to medium bowl and mixing in the sugar to the yolks. 
Then I warm the milk and cream in a saucepan until it steams but IS NOT boiling, stirring it pretty regularly. Then, I take a few quarter cups of the steaming milk and pour it slowly into the bowl with the sugar and eggs. This warms the egg yolks up slowly so they don't get all scrambly I add about 1 cup of milk/cream into the sugar/yolk mixture and then pour the sugar/yolk mixture back into the saucepan. (that's been taken off the heat)
Once you've combined the egg, sugar, cream, and milk, add in the vanilla and then return the saucepan to the heat. You'll want to bring the temperature back up to almost boiling here, but mostly just steaming, so as to cook the egg and NOT curdle the milk. While you're doing this, you'll need to be stirring the whole time until it has thickened enough so it will coat the back of a spoon.

 At this point, I cooled the custard base for about 45 minutes (read here to see how to use an ice bath) and then mashed up the banana and used an immersion blender to puree it into the custard. (so gorgeous. sooooo smooth).
Once you have a beautiful cool banana custard base, use your ice cream maker according to the directions to freeze it. Crush or break your nilla wafers into smaller pieces and once the base gets thick, toss them in so they mix in evenly. You don't want too many BIG pieces (although a chunk here and there can't hurt). thought about leaving banana chunks in the custard, or throwing in a couple of slices later on while it froze in the ice cream maker, but worried I'd chip a tooth on the cold, frozen banana pieces. But feel free to test out and let me know how it goes!)I like to put my finished product in the freezer for an hour or two to really let it set, then I'd serve it to everyone I know. Watch out Blue Bell... I may not need you after all. ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Kale Greens & Toasted Pecan Pesto

How do you feel about pesto?

Me? I can mostly take it or leave it. UNLESS it's on a pizza. but then I pretty much always take ANYTHING and EVERYTHING if it's on a pizza, so that's not really a fair thing to say. I think it's something to do with the pine nuts and all that basil. 

Anyway, a friend of mine, some other of my favorite mamas, and I were talking about getting kiddos to eat veggies (so far the sweet potato & spinach mac 'n cheese and veggie puree' squeeze pouches have been my only success stories) and my friend said that kale pesto was THE way to go. On sweet potatoes, on pasta, whatever. It was GREEN and her little lady ate it up. 

I know that pine nuts are standard in pesto, but I kind of think they taste like a neighbor had given me a HUGE sack of pecans a while back that I'd frozen, and I had a block of parmesean, and kale isn't that hard to come by, so I was game. Also, this is Mess of Greens, so you KNOW I was going to "southern" it up some way, right? (In fact, I considered using turnip greens, which may be a recipe coming soon... but since I was making this for Wagner I thought nutrient rich kale was the better choice.)

Guess what? It worked. I have a stock pile of it in my freezer RIGHT now and my little dude is a big fan. And so is my big dude.

Want to try it out (for pizza, or pasta, or sandwiches, or toddlers?) here you go.

Kale Greens & Toasted Pecan Pesto 
Serves: A zillion

What you need: 
First things first, do you have a food processor? If not, stop here as an immersion blender wand just won't do.
1 Bunch of kale (5-6 cups)
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup olive oil
1 cup pecans, toasted
Kosher Salt (a teaspoon or two)
A squeeze of lemon (not necessary, I just like lemon)

What you do:
Start with the toasted pecans. Turn your oven onto broil, and spread your pecans out onto a baking sheet or pie pan. Spray them lightly with cooking oil spray, and put them in the oven until they turn a nice deep golden brown (probably not more than 5 minutes). While you're toasting those peacns, shred your Parmesan cheese, wash and tear up your kale leaves (if it comes in a bag, check for tiny pieces of stem, and if it's a bunch of kale, pull the leafy greens from the stem. you don't need that part if you're new to the world of kale).

Measure out the oil and smash the garlic. Dont' get carried away smashing or mincing as you're going to be thowing it all into the food processor in a minute anyway.

Throw all of your ingredients into your food processor and blend away. (I had to do mine in two equal sized batches, which turned out just fine).
Once you've got a lovely green paste, you're set! serve over pasta, on pizza, over toast. or just eat spoonfuls from the blender. I won't tell. ;)

Genius plan: Sweet potato & Spinach mac & cheese

 As the mom of a toddler who hates (HATES! DESPISES! DETESTS!) all green vegetables that aren't either roasted, pureed, or fried, I've had to get creative about how to serve them to my little guy. What he doesn't hate, though, is cheese. and what does he LOVE? well, mac 'n cheese, of course. like everyone in all the land. My plan? combine what he hates with what he loves.... *diabolical laugh*

I've had some die-hard mac-n-cheese fans turn up their noses when I've mentioned adding vegetables to their most favorite food, but (and I can say this from actual experience and from the perspective of someone who REALLY loves Mac'n cheese,) it's deeeeee-licious. Want to test it out on your own picky eater? (...or yourself. No judgement. I eat this off my little guy's high chair tray BEFORE he can. it's that good. I'm not ashamed about it. ;) Here's the recipe!

What you need:
1 sweet potato- peeled and cubed
1 bunch (or 1/2 bag of spinach)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 minced clove of garlic (you can use onion here or a shallot to make it fancy, but I like the garlic)
3 cups of pasta (I prefer small shells to macaroni... I like the way it scoops up the cheese sauce)
1/2 cup of Parmesean cheese
1 cup skim milk
1 cup of fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Boil the sweet potatoes and mash them with 1/4 of a cup of the milk (if you have an immersion blender, this is the time to break it out to really make the sweet potato smooth.) I've heard of baking/roasting the potato first, but seriously? when the Mac 'n cheese craving strike who has time to wait for a POTATO TO BAKE? Torture. Boiling is the way to go here, even if you loose a bit of sweetness.

While boiling the sweet potato, also make your pasta... when al dente, drain and sprinkle with olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
Rinse your spinach, and tear it apart. (You can have whole leaves, but prefer the smaller pieces.)
Heat the rest of the olive oil in a saucepan and sautee' the garlic until it's fragrant. Pour in the remaining milk, and then add in the parmesean and mozzarella cheeses. Stir this until it makes a smooth, creamy cheese sauce. (I forgot this step the second time I made it, and ended up just pouring the milk and the cheese in separately over the pasta. It still works, and tastes good, BUT the macaroni gets a bit goopy rather than creamy. in fact, see below for the goopier result).
Once the cheese has melted and combined with the milk into the sauce (truly, don't forget this step. It's a MUCH more gorgeous result), pour it over the pasta and then add in the spinach. Stir until wilted, then salt and pepper to taste. The sweet potato creates this gorgeous orange color... it will trick any toddler or kindergartener into thinking it's from the kraft box, but with SO MUCH more flavor and healthiness. Veggies (superfoods, even! Can you imagine this with KALE?) and mac 'n cheese. What? You're nominating me for the MacArthur Genius grant?! Well, I'm flattered, but not surprised. Also, I probably don't deserve it as there are lots of other sweet potato mac 'n cheeses out and about on the interweb... but mine may be the easiest (which is great when you're feeding a ravenous 1.5 year old) ;)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Your New Summer Staple: Bourbon-Peach Ice Cream

There's one thing every good southerner knows... know matter how you take your bourbon, it's going to be so good.

Some people like it in a pecan pie, others on the rocks... my friend Shelton introduced me to a Bourbon and Ginger cocktail a few years ago and something about that combination is dynamite. In fact, it's my winter go-to cocktail. But then, there's this other summertime combination that really knocks my socks off... bourbon and peaches. The sweet juiciness of the peaches is just complimented so beautifully by smooth, warm bourbon and this is definitely true when they come together in a silky, simple custard-based ice cream.

Every May I break out my ice cream maker and try a couple of new recipes... this year I tried double chocolate chocolate (Boone's new favorite), sweet corn (recipe to follow soon!), and today's gem... bourbon-peach. A couple of years ago I tried a bourbon peach popsicle... it was good (and healthy), but in my opinion the bourbon flavor was just a little too strong and kind of overpowered everything else and burned your throat a little bit. I learned my lesson and dialed this down a bit so it's there, but only really in service of the sweet, ripe, fresh peach flavor.

Just FYI...When I made some for my mama and aunt they sat with the entire tub and nearly ate it all in one sitting. It's that good. Don't make this if you're watching your weight, or hoping to have some leftover for guests, or any other reason you might have for not wanting to eat ALL OF IT at once. ;)

Also, PLAN AHEAD. The peaches need to steep in the bourbon for at the VERY least an hour and then the custard takes awhile to cool... so don't go thinking you can whip this up right before your guest arrive. You need to give yourself (at the very least 2.5-3 hours) and really, to play it safe I start the night before.

Bourbon-Peach Ice Cream
Makes probably one to two quarts (I eat it too quickly to really know)

What You Need:
4 ripe large-ish peaches, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 cup white sugar (divided)
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup bourbon (I personally prefer buillet)

What To Do:

As I said above, you've got to start steeping your chopped peaches in the bourbon and 1 of the cups of sugar. I kept mine in the fridge overnight the first time (but only because I realized that I'd stupidly forgotten to freeze the ice cream maker bowl. stupid, stupid, stupid.) Although it was an accident, the peaches' sweetness really turned out great and the juice created by the sugar, peaches, and whiskey probably benefited from the extra time... so I did this again the second time I made it. and the third time I think I waited maybe 3 hours? Once you feel like it's steeped to your liking, strain the peach/bourbon juice into another container and keep it.

Once your peaches are ready to go, you can start with your pretty classic vanilla ice cream custard. Truly, this is the key to the richness of the ice cream.
People do this all kinds of different ways, but I found this way to work the best for me...

I start by separating my eggs into a small to medium bowl and mixing in the sugar to the yolks. Then I warm the milk and cream in a saucepan until it steams but IS NOT boiling, stirring it pretty regularly.

Then, I take a few quarter cups of the steaming milk and pour it slowly into the bowl with the sugar and eggs. This warms the egg yolks up slowly so they don't scramble (gross). I probably stir in at least 1 cup of milk/cream into the sugar/yolk mixture and then pour the sugar/yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Some people use cheesecloth or some other way to strain any egg that might have cooked in this process, but I've found if you go slowly enough,  you don't really run into this problem, so I leave out that step. But, just in case, you can use a fine strainer or cheesecloth if you're worried about cooked egg in your ice cream.
Once you've combined the egg, sugar, cream, and milk, add in the vanilla and then return the saucepan to the heat. You'll want to bring the temperature back up to almost boiling here (you don't want to curdle the milk but you DO want to cook the egg) stirring the whole time until it has thickened enough so it will coat the back of a spoon. At this point, pour in your bourbon/peach juice that you reserved after straining it. (it'll be hard, but try not to drink it beforehand)

Now  you've got a gorgeous warm peach-flavored custard. Your job now is to cool it so that it doesn't unfreeze your ice cream maker bowl (which would be a mess). I've found that the method from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream cookbook works pretty well. To do it, I take a bowl and put a gallon sized plastic bag into it and then pour the custard into the bag, seal it, and lay it in an ice bath for 30 mins to an hour. (I use a roasting pan and LOTS of ice water as my ice bath.)

Once the custard has cooled down and feels about the same temp as the ice bath, you can go ahead and pour it into your ice cream maker and follow whatever directors you've got for that. At the very end.... right before the ice cream gets firm, I pour in the chopped peaches and let that mix in. Let freeze a little longer until firm, and then serve.
Y'all, it's so, so good. I know the custard is a little involved and sometimes it's all you can do to wait overnight to make a delicious ice cream that you want to EAT RIGHT NOW, but really, once you try it you'll understand. truly. bourbon and peaches... a combination for the ages.

What's your favorite way to have your bourbon?

Peaches, Berries, Mint: Summer in a Bowl

Aside from homegrown tomatoes, fresh corn,  and swimming pools, I think homemade ice cream is the best part of summer, hands-down. Which is why I'm sharing 3 ice cream recipes this week... get churning!

I was taking dinner to a friend with a new baby, and figured that dessert was the best part of any meal. I had a ton of peaches and Louisiana strawberries, and had a huge mint patch in the backyard, so i figured I'd see what happened if I made a mint-fruit combo. I didn't want to risk making it too wild and crazy since it was for someone else, so I made a mint base, then made two separate combinations... and it was one-thousand percent worth it. Something about the mint ice-cream base brings out the summery-ness and freshness in the fruit. After tasting this, I'm not sure that I'll ever make strawberry ice cream again without it. Or peach.

What You Need:
1 Cup of packed fresh mint leaves (Some people get super serious about this... the "kinds of mint" discussion, but let's be    real, I used whatever mint has taken over and grows in my backyard. and it was delicious.)
5 small ripe peaches OR 3 cups hulled strawberries
2 cups sugar, (divided) and 2 T sugar (for strawberries)
3 cups half and half
3 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon butter (for peaches)
Sprinkle of kosher salt (for peaches)

What to do:
First, you've got to either roast your peaches (roasting brings out the water which makes the peaches smooth and creamy) or macerate your strawberries (to release the juices).

For the Peaches:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Halve the peaches, rub them with butter and sprinkle them with salt. Heat them in a heat-proof skillet or pan until bubbly, then roast them for 10-15 minutes on 350 degrees.

Peel the peaches and puree' them with a food processor or hand blender, then push them through a fine meshed sieve to make sure you have a smooth, juicy puree'.

For the Strawberries: 
Hull your strawberries, cut them into fourths and sprinkle them with 2 or so tablespoons of sugar. Cover them and let them sit for at least an hour (although mine sat overnight and had a TON of delicious juice). Once they're good and macerated, puree' the strawberries and then strain the juice into another bowl.

Make the mint ice cream base:
This is similar to the base I made for the peach-bourbon ice cream, in that it starts as a vanilla custard. This time, though, I went with a SERIOUSLY creamy mixture of 3 cups half and half and 3 cups heavy cream (I know! But it was for a new mom! She's earned it!)

Heat the half&half, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan just until it steams (not boiled! don't curdle it!) While it's heating, whisk 1 cup sugar and the egg yolks until the yolks lighten a little bit.

Once the half & half has steamed, pour two cups slowly into the egg yolks and whisk. This heats up the eggs slowly, so they can be poured into the half and half without scrambling them (this. is. key.) Stir in the heavy cream into the egg mixture and heat it again until it's steaming again. At this point, turn off the heat and put the cup of mint into the mixture to steep while it cools. You could use an ice bath (see here) but this time, I poured mine into a gallon plastic bag and left it in the freezer for an hour so it would cool.

Once the base has cooled, strain the mint and pour the liquid into your ice cream maker. Add in whichever fruit juice you made, and then add in a couple of spoonfuls of the puree' for good measure and a little texture. Freeze it according to the directions of your ice cream maker, and get ready for something delicious. 

You can see that I ate both the peach & the strawberry in the same bowl... I HIGHLY, STRONGLY, SUPER-DUPER recommend this.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mess of Greens Soup

 So, here you have it... literally a recipe for a "mess of greens." It's about time, right? 
You may have tried some of my other New Year's Day recipes (see pickled peas, black eyed pea hummus or lucky soup) but unlike all of those recipes that focus on black eyed peas, greens play a starring role in this year's dish to bring us all luck and money in 2015. I was lucky enough to have a friend bring me a gallon bag of mustard and turnip greens from her winter garden yesterday, PLUS a gallon bag of shelled pecans (y'all. aren't I so lucky?!?) and I'd had some pretty delish turnip green soup at Turnrow books a couple of weeks back, so it seemed like a no-brainer. My dish is pretty standard compared to the other ones you find on the interweb, except I gave my broth a spicy kick with some red pepper flakes, and use bacon AND ham (why choose just one?). Hope you enjoy!

What you Need:
One can of black eyed peas
2 quarts of turnip greens (around 4 bunches or probably one or 1.5 bags of prewashed)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 strips of bacon
1 package ham pieces or 1 ham bone
4 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
What you do:
Let's face it, every good southern vegetable recipe starts with bacon. This one's no different. You brown the bacon and the ham pieces, then use the grease to sautee' the onions and garlic until transluscent.

Once the onions and garlic are cooked, you add in the chicken stock and the red pepper flakes. (I bet I gave this about 8 good solid shakes)

Once that's at a good rolling boil, you can toss in your greens. Make sure you wash your greens super well to rid them ofgrit (My friend brought a mix of mustard and turnip greens, because that's what came out of her garden (can you stand it? FRESH greens right out of a winter garden!) so there was basically NO grit on these babies. but supermarket greens, or even freshgreens when the weather hasn't been rainy can get pretty gritty). Also, make sure to take out all the little veins and stems and tear the leaves up into 1cm x 1cm pieces.
Once those have been stirred around a bit, add in the ham and bacon (that you've chopped up) and the water. You want it all to simmer together for a good hour to an hour and a half at least.
Once the greens are beautifully wilted and the flavors have melded a bit, stir in the black eyed peas. The peas here really aren't a integral part of this recipe like they've been in my previous New Year's fare. This year I decided to let the greens take center stage and let the peas just add a little texture.

I let the soup simmer for another hour on low at this point and added in a bit more water because it was getting too thick. Eyeball it and if you think it needs more broth, a little more water can't hurt. Watch out if you decide to add more chicken broth, though. It's likely that the bacon and ham will have a gracious plenty of salt already, and you want to be able to wear your rings the next day. ;)
You can either serve it immediately, or freeze it and serve it at your leisure. (but whatever you do, serve it with cornbread. For the love of God, don't forget the cornbread! Greens & cornbread are like peas & carrots, Peanut butter & jelly, Santa & Reindeer. If you make this soup, you must, absolutely, one-thousand percent also serve cornbread.
I'm saving the rest of mine for my New Year's day get-together.... I love to share a little luck on the first day of each year with a few friends and neighbors. Here's wishing you holiday cheer and luck and money in 2015!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tradition to Adopt: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes as a Thanksgiving side

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes (serves 4 as main, 8 as side)
Its about time for me to share this recipe... although I made it back in early September with a HUGE sack of Okra a friend brought to us and the last of our garden's tomatoes, it really would be a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving side dish. Also, most recipes I found call for frozen okra and canned tomatoes, so you really can make this year-round.

I've always thought of Thanksgiving as an important holiday for Americans to celebrate our "meltingpot" cultural heritage, and okra is an amazing food that does just that. Originating in modern-day Ethiopia, okra was most likely brought to our country by enslaved Africans (like most delicious southern food). It's also called "gumbo" although it's more likely that you've heard this word in context of soups thickened with okra rather than references to the vegetable itself. Aggie Horticulture writes of the name, "Both of these names are of African origin. 'Gumbo' is believed to be a corruption of a Portuguese corruption, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa." This dish definitely has its roots in the Cajun and Creole traditions of the south... plus, a version of stewed okra and tomatoes recipe found in Indian cuisine as well. What's more meltingpot than a vegetable and recipe that immigrated to the US from multiple parts of the world? Definitely a contender for a new Thanksgiving side dish tradition.
Confession: Okra's hairy-sliminess isn't always palatable to me... but this recipe breaks down the okra and makes it a smooth texture, plus the flavor of it and the tomatoes comes out beautifully. My grandmother used to make this and for a long time it was the ONLY way I'd eat this vegetable.

What You Need:
2 cups of quartered/cored fresh tomatoes (2 cans of whole tomatoes will do..if you use canned, the Neely's, who I LOVE, of Food Network say to add in the tomato juice from the can, too)
2 cups of sliced okra (I had fresh but a bag of frozen works, too)
1 diced yellow onion
4 slices of bacon + the bacon grease
salt and pepper to taste
if you're feeling frisky... a tsp of red pepper flakes

What To Do:
Start by frying your bacon in your heavy bottomed dutch oven or cast iron pot. While it's cooking,  chop the onion, okra, and tomatoes.

Remove the bacon, and sautee' the onion in the bacon grease until it's transluscent. Add in the okra and sautee for about 2 minutes, adding in the tomato and sauteeing for 2 more minutes. Chop the bacon into small pieces to be added back into the dish.
Pour in the chicken stock or water, add in the bacon, and let simmer for 1-2 hours until the flavors have combined adn the vegetables have broken down considerably. It will be thick and smooth in texture, with some okra pieces still in tact. Salt and pepper to taste here, and add in the red pepper flakes if you're going spicy.
Serve over rice and eat up! What's a traditional dish on your family's Thanksgiving table you think other people should adopt?