Monday, January 18, 2010

Adventures in Ice Cream Making

Santa left a very special present under the tree for me this year: an ice cream maker! I don't really eat a lot of ice cream myself, but I kept seeing all these yummy recipes for homemade ice cream, and I'd have to go sulk in the corner because I didn't have a way to make them. No more!

Since the holidays, I've been stashing away recipes to's the tale of my first adventure.

Everyone has those leftover candycanes lying around after Christmas that go stale, but are so enticing that you don't dare throw away the pretty red and white striped jewels (especially since it will be an entire year before you can get more). My answer: crush them up for peppermint ice cream. Who wouldn't love that?

Fortunately, there was a recipe in my Cuisinart ice cream recipe book for just that. And I made it. And I ate it. And I loved it!

Ladies and gents, this is about the easiest thing to make since boxed cake mix was invented (well, I'm imagining so at least). The machine does ALL the work for you. Seriously.

I started by mixing whole milk and sugar together in a mixer. Then you add heavy cream, vanilla and peppermint extract. You put that into the ice cream maker and turn it on.

Let it go for about 25 minutes.

While it's churning away, crush up the candycanes with a meat mallet or rolling pin in a Ziploc bag. Tip: use the flat edge of the meat mallet or you'll have poked holes all through the bag and will end up with crumbs everywhere. (Yes, I speak from experience. Unfortunately. Embarrassingly.)

When the ice cream has been churning for about 25 minutes, add the crushed candycanes and let it churn for about 5 more minutes or until it is set. (The ice cream turns this lovely shade of pink!)

Pour the ice cream into containers, and put them in the freezer to harden.

A few hours later, enjoy!

When they've stopped carrying peppermint ice cream in the grocery stores, you'll have your own personal stash (that coincidentally tastes much better, and you can prounounce all the ingredients).

Peppermint Ice Cream


1 Cup whole milk, well chilled
3/4 Cup sugar
2 Cups heavy cream, well chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 Cup crushed peppermint candies or candycanes


In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved; about 1-2 minutes on low speed. (I used my KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment, and it worked perfectly.)

Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla and peppermint extract.

Turn the ice cream machine on, and pour the mixture into the freezer bowl through the ingredient spout and let mix until thickened; about 25-30 minutes.

Add the crushed candy during the last 5 minutes of mixing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

'Tis the Season for Soup

I’m a major fan of soups and stews, especially if you are trying to eat healthy and save a buck. One of my favorites is beef and barley soup. It’s full of flavorful veggies, tender meat, delicious beef stock and hearty barley, and it’s perfect to freeze in individual containers and take to work for an easy and healthy meal.

(Something you likely won’t find for less than $10 at the local cafĂ©…and I guarantee you’ll be tempted with all sorts of deliciously not-good-for-you things in the process).

Another reason I love making soups and stews…

…it gives me a chance to use my new favorite kitchen item: my 7 quart porcelain Dutch oven. How bad can that be? (That was for all you BFC fans.) I L-O-V-E this thing.

Lazy Sunday afternoons are my favorite soup-making days. I start with a trip to the grocery store for all my ingredients for my weekly meals, and then the fun begins. I begin by browning chuck roast (cut into cubes for stew meat – you can buy it already cut) in a little bit of olive oil. The smell is amazing. Beef.

Once that’s done, remove the meat from the pan and add the veggies – I used onions, carrots and celery. You can use other veggies as long as they are hearty and can withstand the cooking without getting mushy (squash is probably a no-go). Beware: more amazing smells entering your kitchen.

I add some flavorings like salt and pepper – I know, crazy.

Add the meat back in and add some beef stock and a little water (until you have the desired amount of liquid you like). I usually don’t add more than a couple cups of extra water just because I don’t want the stock to lose its yumminess.

Throw in a bay leaf or two. You could add other spices or fresh herbs if you like at this point. Rosemary or thyme would be delish!

Let everything simmer for about 60-90 minutes until it all gets happy and makes your house smell divine. Add the barley during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Pour yourself a bowl and settle in for a cozy night, and save the rest for lunches that week.

And there you have it folks. A delicious, healthy meal with plenty of leftovers for those tempting days at the office.

Easy Beef and Barley Soup
(adapted from Cooking Light's Beef-Barley Soup recipe)

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 Cup of carrots, sliced thin
1 1/2 Cup of onions, sliced thin
1 1/2 Cup of celery, sliced thin
4 Cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1-2 Cups of water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-2 bay leaves
2/3 - 1 Cup pearl barley, uncooked


Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high-heat. Add beef to pan, cooking 3-4 minutes or until all sides are browned. Remove meat from pan.

Add carrots, onions and celery to pan. Cook 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and liquid almost evapaorates.

Add the beef back to the pan; salt and pepper lightly. Add the chicken stock, water and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.

Cover, reduce to low simmer and cook for 60-90 minutes until the beef is tender, stirring every now and then.

Add the barley and cook for another 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Salsa: the Greatest Condiment on Earth

This statement may sound strange, but it's true. Salsa - in my humble opinion - is the greatest condiment invented. Think about it. What else is more versatile, pleases more taste buds and changes the way an entire dish tastes in one bite more than salsa? You've got tomato (red, yellow or green!), peach, mango, pineapple...the list goes on. Look in your fridge. Dice up and combine whatever fruits, veggies and herbs you have with a little bit of salt and/or sugar and bam! You've got salsa.

It's great with meat, fish, salad, potatoes. THAT'S why I love me some salsa.

Last week, I made a clementine salsa (inspired from a recipe in this month's Bon Appetit magazine: chicken paillards with clementine salsa).

I started with clementines, limes and a mess of herbs (parsley, thyme and cilantro to be exact).

Add in some red onions and scallions to give it some bite (plus, the colors just look cool). Throw in a little clementine juice, lime juice and olive oil along with some salt and pepper. Now, whisk that mixture away and ta-dah!

You've got salsa for the week that just gets better and better as the flavors marry all together. The sweetness of the clementines mixed with the zing of the limes and the freshness of the herbs creates this delicious, crisp, clean sensation in your mouth that you just can't help but smile over (I'm smiling now just thinking about it).

Now, roast some chicken or pork or grill a piece of fish and you are set. Me? I pan-cooked some boneless chicken thighs and smothered them in salsa...mmmmm.....

Fungirl Clementine Salsa

6-8 clementines, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, diced
2-3 scallions, chopped
1/4 Cup of fresh herbs, finely chopped (any kind, I used a mixture of parsley, cilantro and thyme)
juice of 1-2 limes
juice of 3-4 clementines
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less if you like)
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the diced clementines, red onion, scallions and herbs in a bowl. Add the clementine and lime juice and stir together until well-combined. Add the red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix until combined.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Fresh Start

There's nothing like a new pair of sneakers, is there? The promise and anticipation of miles filled with good intentions...the sights the two of you will see...(sappy alert! sappy alert!)...

I'm not one for a hard and fast list of official resolutions, but everyone needs a fresh start now and then. What's better than the beginning of a new decade? Like many of my peeps, I too have resolved to take better care of myself in this new year (and perhaps see a certain number on the scale...again...).

After a month of stuffing myself to the brim with deliciously rich and in-no-way-figure-flattering holiday foods, I am vowing right here and now to eat more fruits and veggies, cook more for myself, use new ingredients and yes, to use those sneakers and sweat more.

My chicken avocado feta wraps have me off to a pretty good start this January 2nd.

After flipping through all my cookbooks, making my grocery list and stopping at Whole Foods, Publix and Costco (hey, I'm a foodie), my fridge and pantry are sufficiently stocked with everything needed to make delicious, healthy meals for the next two weeks.

(So what if I never actually tasted the sweetness of a Chick-fil-a peppermint chocolate shake? Too late now!)

I've recently become slightly obsessed with different ways to use tortilla wraps. They are a light and health alternative to a heavy sandwich bread; plus, they're fun and come in all different flavors. My personal favorites: spinach and sundried tomato.

Today, I spread some artichoke-garlic hummus over a spinach tortilla...

...topped it with grilled chicken, feta cheese, Romaine lettuce and avocado slices.


Chicken Avocado Feta Wrap

I’m always trying new kinds of tortillas and stuffing them with different ingredients. This wrap is great for a quick lunch on the weekend or for a healthy lunch during the workweek. You can change it up with different kinds of hummus and cheese or even substitute the chicken for thick-cut veggies if you prefer a meatless version.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 spinach tortilla (sundried tomato would be yummy too!)
¼ Cup of hummus, any kind you like
Half of an avocado, diced
¼ Cup of crumbled feta cheese
2 Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper


Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Place chicken breast between two pieces of wax paper; use a meat mallet to tenderize the chicken breast until it is about ½ inch in thickness.

Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides; place in skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and juices run clear when poked with a fork.

Let chicken breast cool; cut into strips or dice as you like.

Heat tortilla in microwave for 10 seconds; spread with hummus.

Place chicken, avocado, feta cheese in the center of the tortilla; top with the lettuce.

Roll up the tortilla and cut in half; enjoy!