Friday, July 18, 2014

Ice Cream 101...Means Ice Cream Fun

The summer time heat is really starting to show its head here in MA! We have the hot, humid and sticky weather which is followed by afternoon/evening thunderstorms. Every year it is the same, we complain about the cold weather and then complain about the heat.

Well today we are going to beat the heat with a cool summer time treat!! Lets go make some Ice Cream folks! This is going to take a bit of reading and you may have to review the steps a few times. I'll do my best to keep it all simple and easy. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me over on Facebook by clicking on this link.

The history surrounding our delicious subject today is almost as wild as the combinations of flavors you can find. Stories of Marco Polo bringing ice cream back to Europe from China along with King Charles I inventing the frozen treat are just, but still stories without any evidence to support the claims. There is evidence of an ice cream like creation in 618 AD from China and later on in historical texts from India, which detailed the mixing of salt and ice to help "freeze" cow or goats' milk. In the early 1500's the trick of freezing products with a mixture of ice and salt appeared in Italy and another 150 years would pass before the chemists of that day and age began to create frozen foods. These early mixtures became known as Sorbets all across Europe. In 1664 Naples, people began to see ices mixed with sweetened milk and from then on Ice Cream became a true national treasure.

Ice Cream was so popular that the creation of the tasty dessert was a deeply held secret. Common people only knew stories of its existence. One such story told about a feast by Charles II, in which the royal table alone was allowed the honor of being served. The rest of the party goers could only watch as the table ate.

These days we all have access to ice cream from many different sources and also in an infinite amount of flavors. There is hardly a simple chocolate or vanilla out in the market today, rather we are now forced to choose between 15-20 different types of chocolate alone!

It is so much a part of our daily lives that the entire month of July is known as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of July is National Ice Cream Day (for all of you who don't have a calendar in front of you, that date is July 20th). Check out some of these great ice cream facts before we continue and learn about how to make ice cream at home...

Chocolate Syrup is the number one ice Cream topping in the US.
In 2002 the CBS television news show, Early Show, aired a segment where Carvel Ice Cream created the worlds largest ice cream scoop pyramid. It was made in under an hour and contained over 3800 individual scoops.
The largest ice cream sundae was made in Alberta Canada by Palm Dairies and it weighed around 55,00 pounds
American favorite Ben and Jerry's was started in an old converted garage up in Vermont
On average, the US consumes about 20 quarts of ice cream per person each year

Fun, interesting and just plain wow! Lets get down to business and see how you can make this good stuff at home.
Many people would love to make ice cream at home and once you get the hang of it, you are only limited to what your imagination says when it comes to flavor. What holds back many of us though is the thought of "not having an ice cream making machine"...I did a bunch of research on this, especially considering that the modern version of the ice cream machine hasn't really been around all that long. Years ago it was made with ice, salt, and lots of muscle to keep it mixed correctly. If you have a pair of glass bowls, an electric hand mixer and some patience...then you can make ice cream anytime you want!

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream, Made Without An Ice Cream Machine
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Half & Half
1 Tbs Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Cups Whipping Cream
2 Cups Crushed Oreo Cookies
You begin the whole process by scalding the milk in a small sauce pot. Scalding is done by heating the milk over a low/medium heat until it begins to gently simmer with small bubbles forming around the edge. Remove from the heat.

Add in the salt and sugar immediately, stir gently until both are dissolved. Once completed add in the half and half along with the vanilla extract and whipping cream. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. This process allows flavors to combine and helps to create a smoother product.

Now for the freezing process. Remove your bowl from the refrigerator and stir the mixture thoroughly. A wooden spoon or firm rubber spatula will work best for these next steps. Cover the bowl with fresh plastic wrap or an appropriate cover. Place it in the freezer for two hours. While you're waiting, take and crumble your 2 cups of cookies. Set them aside for a bit later.

Remove the bowl from the freezer and use the electric hand mixer to whip the mixture. Always start with a lower setting to avoid a mess. Beat the mixture for about 30 seconds to a minute. You are looking to just mix up any ice that may be forming. Cover again and place it back into the freezer for an additional 2 hours. Repeat the same whipping process. At this point the ice cream is still going to be soft and may need additional time to freeze to a loose ice cream consistency, think melted but not soup here! Check every 30 to 45 minutes until you get to this point. Then use the spatula or spoon to stir in the cookie pieces. Take the mixture and pack it into a plastic, Tupperware style container with a lid. Leave room at the top to allow the mixture a place to expand to. If you don't give it a little breathing room, the resulting mess is not much fun to clean up. I speak from experience here!

Place the container into the freezer to allow it time to properly set itself up. Give it at least a couple of more hours and you should be good to go. The actual time will vary depending on the ingredients you choose.

When you feel comfortable with your ice cream making skills. Feel free to substitute the traditional dairy products for ones lower in fat or even swapping in coconut or almond based milk products. If you need to be lactose free, you can substitute for that as well. Just remember to follow the steps and adjust the timing if needed to suit your needs. 

The secret to adding in ingredients for texture and flavor comes later in the whole process, by folding in your extra goodies you retain consistency and enhance the overall final batch. This basic, vanilla style base goes perfectly with pretty much everything. You can always change your base flavor by removing the vanilla extract and stirring in flavored berry sauces towards the end. This process makes for great Blueberry or Strawberry Ice Cream. You can even use coffee beans in your base mix to make a delicious Coffee Ice Cream. Check out these next few recipes for ideas on how to flavor a special treat just for yourself. Follow the same instructions for freezing using the hand mixer and enjoy! It takes some patience, but the results are well worth it.

Lets see about getting back to those recipes I promised!!

Black Raspberry Ice Cream
2 Cups Fresh Blackberries
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Each Whole Lemon

Simple and easy recipe to make some amazing ice cream. Follow the base directions for the ice cream making above. Once you have placed the mixture into the freezer for the first time you can get the fruit ready which will be added, in place of the cookie pieces. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a small sauce pot. Be careful to remove any seeds. Add in the raspberries and stir over low/medium heat. Pour the sugar over the top of the berries and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Fold this into the ice cream mixture. Be careful to not totally crush the berries. This will give you a great looking marble texture in the finished product. After the berries have been added. Place back into the freezer and wait until it is done freezing. Make sure to follow all of the basic steps that were outlined above.

Blueberry Ice Cream
2 Cups Fresh Blueberries
2 Tbs Sugar
1 Each Whole Lemon
1/2 to 1 tsp of Cinnamon (optional)

Follow the same exact steps as you would for the Black Raspberry Ice Cream. In this case if you are using the cinnamon, add it into the pot at the same time as the sugar. Feeling a little adventurous? pick up some lavender and sprinkle it into the ice cream at the same time as the blueberries.

Strawberry Ice Cream
2 Cups Strawberries, tops removed and chopped or quartered
1 Large Orange
2 Tbs Sugar
2 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
This is a fun one to make as the strawberries will take on an amazing flavor from roasting and the colors really pop. Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. While the oven heats up you can begin chopping or quartering your strawberries. Toss the berries with the balsamic vinegar and the juice of the orange. Then place them into an oven safe baking dish, sprinkle with the sugar and place into the oven for about 15 minutes. Allow them to fully cool before folding into your ice cream.

Caramel Coffee Ice Cream
This recipe is kind of surprising and really made me shake my head with how simple it is. In terms of making something at home this one is a no brain hit!! The original base recipe for making simple ice cream at home uses milk. In this case, you don't buy milk!! You purchase any of the several different varieties of ice coffee that line the shelves of your local store. I have been keeping my eyes open for a sale on the Starbucks variety and plan on picking up the Caramel flavored coffee this week! It is made the same way with substituting the milk for flavored coffee. I would also recommend tossing in some espresso powder...maybe a half to whole teaspoon in the beginning to enhance the coffee flavor. To make it even better, you can buy a small amount of caramel syrup and fold it into that almost finished mixture!!

I'll be posting pictures of my own ice cream adventure this weekend. Still not sure which one to make, but it is going to be fun! Remember the key to making something in YOUR kitchen is letting your imagination and heart run wild. So have fun, be creative with the flavors and play!

See you in the kitchen sometime soon


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer has finally arrived!

Welcome back Summer, you have been really missed!! The Kitchen is once again open for business and if last year taught me anything, it is that life is never exactly what we expect. Right now I have so many ideas and thoughts racing through my head that it is a little difficult to figure out where a good starting point might be.

These are my giant Roma Tomato Plants!
I began growing these back in late May and never
truly thought this garden would work.
I am now a believer in my own skills!
I turned the light switch off on the my dining room desk last fall because it was time for me to concentrate on the most important job in my life, that would be me being a dad. Many people don't know this about me but I am a full time stay-at-home father of three great children!! I used to try and hide that fact or kind of pass over the things I did at home. It hasn't been very easy for me to go from being in charge of full kitchens, preparing meals for hundreds, launching big diaper duty and homework. Three children and a whole house to look after was never something I learned in school and the 'family' support network is not an option for me to turn towards when I need advice. It is also not easy to watch as my better half works some long hours and brings home our only real paycheck. She is amazing and I probably don't say "Thanks" nearly enough, especially for all she does for the kids and myself.

Paraphrasing just a bit here..."but a funny thing happened on the way to the market"...Realizing that I have strengths that go along with my weaknesses was and still is hard for me to come to terms with. I have learned that not only was I pretty damn good at being a Chef, it just so happens that I am even better at being the man of the house!! Certainly was a shock to me...apparently however, not to most people around me. One of these days I will stop doubting myself and listen more.

Right about now, you may be asking yourself what any of this has to do with food, recipes or even being healthy. I am getting back to that sort of thing in a minute. Before I do though, it is important for me to let people know that writing, cooking and coming up with new recipes is really fun for me and is also therapeutic in many ways. I also have a bit of green thumb and spent somewhere around 6-8 weeks working on my yard, making a huge vegetable garden and generally feeling good about what I wanted in life.

So the book got placed on the shelf until I had free time to bring her back to the table. I dusted off the notebook which was covered in my daughters artwork, grabbed out my recipe files and started to get back into working on book creation 2.0

Sweet Onions are growing and coming along great!
I have missed writing and creating these past months and am looking forward to a fun filled summer of exploring different Farmers Markets, coming up with new ideas, playing in the
kitchen and making dreams come true. I may have even convinced the before mentioned other half that we need to invite people over to see my new garden oasis and to also try some of these recipes. Sangria anyone?

I plan on doing things different this summer as well. Recipes are important and they go along with all the stories which come from the people and farms that are such an inspiration when I am creating things in the kitchen or writing. I am going to cut out the marathon recipe weekends and concentrate on quality over quantity. This summer is also going to be about taking a stand and being much more vocal about the food community and culture around all of us.

This brings me to the reason why I felt the urge to get things rolling again and why I am going to be an advocate for doing things the right way when it comes to food.

The other day I was at our local supermarket and needed strawberries, so I grabbed a container and for some reason never really looked at the package. In my head it was berry season and naturally anything in the produce area would be fresh, local and packed with flavor. The strawberries weren't exactly bad but they were far from what I expected. These little guys were picked somewhere down in Georgia, then trucked to some shipping facility, then transported to another facility where they were divided up and shipped to us here in that they are here though, they get loaded into yet another truck for drop off at the supermarket, where they are then placed in a cooler until they make it out onto into the produce area. They have been handled by countless pairs of hands, sprayed with who knows what, washed, left to dry, brought in and out of a cooler, washed again and then finally they get put out on display for everyone to grab at.

These are the strawberries I mentioned.
They were gigantic and packed with flavor! I did this can go the local farmers market and buy your strawberries that were picked a few hours ago (while most of us were sleeping). You can pay the same person who picked them and drive home with the entire car smelling of fresh picked goodness. In a nutshell, you get better quality produce, a cheaper price, you help out the local economy and you have the feeling of doing something better when it comes to the food in your life.

These markets are literally everywhere!! I have taken the whole family to different markets, some close to home and others further away. Each one of them has something different, a new vendor or an interesting way of presenting themselves. Live music, activities for the kids, gardening resources, fantastic local south coast wines and so much more.

Did you know that many markets will match dollar for dollar what you receive in the way of SNAP benefits as well! Seriously, there is no excuse when it comes to the food we eat!

Here is a great way to see where you can find a local market here on the South Shore of MA.

Edible South Shore and South Coast is a member of Edible Communities and has some great ideas when it comes to food, farms and living the good life. Clicking the name will bring you to the main website and by clicking on this one, you will be taken directly to the page where they list all of the current farmers markets in the area.

Squash is growing well in the garden. Next season it is
time to flex the muscles a bit more and try
for some more variety
I also want to give a special shout out to both the Hingham Farmers Market and the Weymouth Farmers Markets today. I visited both and had a great time with the family. The people were fantastic and the markets were hopping. My heart holds a special place for the market in Hingham after doing some food demos late last summer. The people I met made a very lasting impression and I owe them a huge thank you for all the support!!

I'll see everyone here on the blog page and over on Facebook during the weeks to come. Feels great to back doing what I love surrounded by the people, friends and family who support my efforts. I love all of you!