Chocolate Covered Ice Cream Bars

Were you a pool kid?

chocolate ice cream bars

I grew up at the pool. I remember refusing sunscreen, getting stung by bees, lots of skinned knees, and  that big wet spot on my shorts that was left behind from my swim suit.  We wore those pool-wounds like badges of honor -as proof that we were having fun.

And some days we were even allowed to pick a treat from the pool snack bar that gushed Choco Tacos’, Push Up Pops and Screwballs.

chocolate covered ice cream

And among a crowd of fancy frozen novelties were the old standbys -chocolate covered ice cream bars. So simple and understated, just like we were.

Here’s a refined but simple version of that snack bar classic.

chocolate and cream

Ingredients:

1 quart of vanilla ice cream
1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions:

chocolate sauce

Fill Popsicle molds with softened ice cream. Freeze several hours or overnight.

To make the chocolate sauce:

Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan and heat on medium low. When warm, stir in the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool to room temp.

Gently remove the ice cream bars from the mold and arrange on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

Using a spoon, pour the chocolate sauce onto the ice cream bar. Lay the bar back on the tray and freeze until firm.

pavlova cookies

It was my first attempt at meringue.

meringue cookies

And they flopped. They flopped the second and third time, too.

So I can’t sit here and tell you how to make meringue.

But I can tell you that even if you mess up, you can still make it look so pretty that no one will ever know.

meringue cookies

Just call them Pavlova cookies, a sweet wafer like crust destined to be piled with roasted almonds, dark chocolate and fresh strawberries.

cream of tartar, vintage

Send your meringue making tips my way!!

 

rum and lime cocktail

rum and lime

I was a die-hard diet soda drinker for years. I bled diet coke and breathed Camel Lights for over a decade. The funny part is, once I stopped drinking diet soda, I actually lost 8 pounds, with absolutely no other changes in my diet or exercise routine.

So forget the rum and coke. Try this simple sweet-tart-summery cocktail which works with either dark spiced rum or light rum.

Rum and Lime Cocktail

2 ounces Rum

1 ounce fresh squeezed Lime Juice

Simple Syrup, agave syrup or sugar to taste

club soda to fill the glass

rum and lime (4 of 3)

rum and lime (3 of 3)

 

 

 

the cutest cupcake ever

Ok, maybe not ever. But as far as baked goods in pots go, it’s pretty cute.

flower pot cupcakes

Here are the directions for making the cupcake segment.

All you need after that is one  mammoth bag of butter cream frosting and a few skewers with tiny paper flowers attached.

flower pot cupcakes

Happy Mother’s Day!!

quinoa stuffed cabbage- a gluten free galumpki

stuffed cabbage, galumpki

I love putting quinoa in unexpected places. If I put it out somewhere expected, like in a bowl on the dinner table, no one would eat it. Myself included. But here, the quinoa blends seamlessly into the salty sausage, caramelized onions and it just loves being all snuggled up in a warm blanket of cabbage leaves.

I know, some folks still aren’t on the quinoa train, but this dish is sure to convert them. It even got the thumbs up from my inked up ex-marine brother who seldom strays from cheese steaks and meatballs. And he is way too cool to give an actual thumbs up.  It was more like “This is good”.

I interpreted this as an enthusiastic thumbs up.

stuffed cabbage-Easter

Gulumpki

Disclosure this is yet another one of my grandfather’s traditional Polish dishes that I have successfully butchered and healthified.

Ingredients

1 pound sausage, casings removed

1 cup cooked quinoa (about ½ cup uncooked)

1 cup chopped onions (1-2 small onions or one large onion)

1 head of cabbage, about 3 pounds

1 cup tomato sauce

Directions

Trim the stump off of the cabbage. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. During a full boil, add the entire head of cabbage and boil, rotating if necessary, until the leaves begin to loosen and fall off. This will take approximately 6-8 minutes. Using a  large slotted spoon, carefully remove the head of cabbage. Allow to cool while you prepare the sausage. Begin cooking the sausage in a hot skillet.  When evenly browned, remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spatula. Add the diced onions to the pan. Fry the onions in the sausage fat. (If you are hesitant to fry things in pork fat, feel free to wipe the pan out and cook the onions in olive oil)

When the onions are fragrant and nicely browned, add the sausage back into the pan along with cooked quinoa. Gently heat and mix all ingredients together. Season with black pepper or any herbs you may have on hand.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the cabbage leaves are cooled, begin by laying a large leaf out and slicing out just the hard white core in the center. Scoop some of the sausage-quinoa mixture in the center of the cabbage leaf and roll it up like a burrito. Repeat for the remaining cabbage leaves.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan and arrange the cabbage rolls on top. Any extra cabbage leaves can be layered on top of the rolls. Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with additional tomato sauce.

stuffed cabbage-Easter (2 of 1)

cheese babka with raspberry sauce; polish easter bread

cheese babka with raspberry sauce

Babka floods my polish arteries but once a year, every Easter since birth.  There will never be a bread to match my beloved babka on Easter morning.

The chrusciki? Way too crunchy.

The Polish poppyseed  bread? Too much like bird food mixed with butter.

As a kid, I would sneak slices from the babka bread basket and eat it while nestled under the dining room table or while jumping on my grandmother’s bed. Later, my teenage angst led me to rebel against my parents,all traffic laws and polish food- laughing in the face of stop signs and sticking my nose up at anything containing meat or cabbage.

babka 4 (2 of 1)

But I always ate the babka. While everyone else was swooping down like vultures on piles of smoked kielbasa and pools of polish mustards, I was munching on my third slice of babka.

cheese babka

Although our traditional Polish meal was enthusiastically shared with friends, neighbors and passersby, only the traditional polish food was welcome at this table and any creative culinary variations were scorned as sacrilege.

I just hope my late grandfather never finds out that my dad grills the polish kielbasa instead of boiling it and may he never know that I infused a homemade cheese babka with (sssshhhh…) raspberry sauce.

 

Babka, Polish Easter Bread

Cheese babka is traditionally speckled with lemon peel and raisins, but this one has soft scented raspberry preserves swirled through the center.

Ingredients:

21/2 tsp. active dry yeast (equal to one packet)

¼ cup water (use a thermometer to get it around 110 degrees)

½ cup sugar

5 eggs yolks (or 3 whole eggs)

½ tsp. salt

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup melted butter

¾ cup warm milk, using more if needed

1 pound of flour (approximately 4 cups sifted flour)

Raspberry Cheese Swirl

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 ½ cups farmers cheese (or ricotta or cream cheese)

¼ cup confectioner sugar

¼ cup of raspberry preserves

 

Start by proofing the yeast. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the warm water. The temperature is important here, because the yeast cannot grow correctly if the water is too hot or too cold. Give a little stir and let sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s smelly and bubbly.

While the yeast is proofing, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar, salt and vanilla, beating until smooth. Slowly pour in the melted butter while continuously whisking until smooth. Pour in the yeast mixture and beat.  Add one cup of flour, then a splash of milk, alternating with each for the remaining milk and flour. If the dough is too sticky and wet, add more flour until it is firm enough to knead on a counter top.

On a floured work surface, knead the dough a few times until smooth. Place the dough in a clean, buttered bowl. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and set in a warm place for about an hour, until is doubles in size.

Prepare the filling. Mix the cheese with the confectioner sugar and vanilla. Gently heat the raspberry sauce in the microwave or a small pot until it loosens up a bit.

Prepare the bundt pan. Generously grease the pan with melted butter and a dusting of flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured work surface and shape into a 10 x 15 rectangle.  Brush the dough with the melted butter and then layer on the cheese filling. Spoon the raspberry sauce on top of the cheese filling, adding more if needed.

Begin rolling the dough into a log shape. Gently lift the log and place it in the greased bundt pan. Seal the ends shut and let rise another hour, until doubled in size.

Bake the babka for 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting on a plate.

Salted Caramel Pudding

salted caramel pudding

Salted Caramel Pudding

So here’s a dessert that you can make at the last minute, (in case you have forgotten that it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow) and you most likely have these ingredients in your pantry.

whisk  (1 of 1)

If you are short on an ingredient, this is where it comes in real handy to have great neighbors. Hopefully, you live in neighborhood like mine, where it is completely normal to knock on a neighbor’s door with a smile and a measuring cup, asking to borrow a cup of milk or a few eggs.

eggs

You: can I borrow some eggs?
Cute guy down the hall: Of course, here you go…

Come to think of it, college dorms are not much different. A cup of milk is nothing compared to all the unmentionable random things I borrowed from my hall-mates in the dorms.

 

Salted Caramel Pudding

Adapted from Good Earth Country Cooking, by Betty Groff

Salted caramel is the new thing, and here is a way to enjoy it without it yanking out your fillings…

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 cups milk, room temperature

¾ tsp sea salt

1 Tablespoon flour

2 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Next, add the brown sugar and cook on medium for 3-5 minutes, or until gently caramelized. While whisking the sugar, very slowly and gradually pour in 2 cups of the milk. Continue whisking as it bubbles and thickens. You may need to reduce the heat slightly if it is too hot.

Add the flour and cornstarch to the remaining cup of milk and mix well.

Stir this mixture into the pot and whisk together until thickened.

In a separate medium sized bowl, crack the eggs and beat with a fork. Remove 1 cup of the pudding mixture from the sauce pot and slowly whisk it into the eggs. Continue whisking until fully blended. Slowly pour the egg-pudding mixture back into the pot and whisk until blended again.

(When in doubt, just keep whisking)

Cook this mixture for about 2 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extra and an extra pinch of sea salt.

Serve with whipped cream and sea salt flakes.

milk

Chocolate Butter Mints

butter mints small

These are slow mints. Not the sort of thing you shovel into your chute like a handful of M&M’s or a plate of brownies. These treats just kind of linger on your tongue for a bit as the minty, buttery sweetness slowly dissolves. And if someone offers you a slice of triple chocolate cake, you will most definitely say something like:

“ No thanks, I am really enjoying this super awesome mint”.

And you will be so proud of yourself for not eating that ridiculously indulgent dessert, and instead opting for one of these Chocolate Butter Mints.

Chocolate Butter Mints

There is just enough butter in here to bind the sugar together to form a little patty that is suitable for a minty melting experience.

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 cups confectioner sugar

2 Tablespoons water

¼ teaspoon peppermint oil

½ cup chocolate

Mix the butter, sugar, water and peppermint oil together in a bowl. It will be slightly crumbly. Take about a third of the batter out and knead it onto a surface dusted with confectioner sugar. Flatten it out to a patty about ¼ inch thick. Slice into little squares or rectangles, and repeat with the remaining dough.

DSC_0282 (2)

Melt the chocolate in a double broiler and use a butter knife to spread a thin layer of chocolate on each one. Allow to cool in the fridge.

buttermints3small

Spiked Cranberry Citrus Slush

Who says cranberry sauce has to be that goopy, jelly like condiment plopped out onto the plate? I know, this is the time of year that people want the same dishes they have eaten every Thanksgiving for the past 30 years. And to go and change something, even something as a simple as the cranberry condiment could disrupt the whole harmony of the holiday. Because that’s what make the holidays so great.  The recipes made by grandmothers and great aunts who are long gone, and these edible memories are the only thing we have left to keep us connected to our past.

And then people like me go and try to change something as crucial as the cranberry sauce. So I would never recommend replacing your traditional cranberry sauce with cranberry slushy, but rather, adding to it. Because not only does this cold, icy texture make a great contrast with warm turkey, but it can also double as a cocktail mix. Just mix equal parts vodka and cranberry slush for a festive cranberry cocktail.

Spiked Cranberry Citrus Slush

Recipe adapted from Betty Groff

1 lb. Cranberries

½ cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

2 cups club soda

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 2 grapefruits

Vodka (optional)

Wash cranberries and put in a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook until the berries are starting to soften and burst. Using a wood spoon, start mashing the berries against the walls of the pot to help smooth it out. While the berries are hot, stir in the sugar. Allow to cool and add the lime juice, grapefruit juice and soda. Pour into a Quiche or pie plate and freeze for a few hours or until a slushy like- texture and serve in the pie plate.

Optional adult version: float a tablespoon of vodka on top just before serving. It cuts the sweetness a bit.

Use any leftover slushy as a cocktail mix, just mix 2 oz. vodka with 2 oz. cranberry slushy.

Strawberry Vanilla Butter Compound

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.

-Joan Gussow

I am sad to say sayonara to strawberry season of 2012. It was a good run, and  I have but one pint of fresh picked strawberries left. I strategically hid them from my children, who will go to great lengths building makeshift ladders to the kitchen counter, spotting any berries left unattended. But this last little pint of puny berries were destined for something great. Something unusually simple that could transform a piece of toast is something extraordinary. Something like Strawberry-Vanilla Butter.

Now I could just whip the berries up with 2 sticks of good quality butter, or I could go ahead and make it from scratch. There are certain things in life that must be tried and tasted at least once. Homemade butter is one of them.

Here’s what to do:

1 pint of fresh cream (the better the cream, the better your butter will be. I love Seven Stars Heavy Whipping Cream, available at Kimberton Whole Foods.)

½ cup of fresh strawberries, chopped

2-3 Tbls Maple syrup

Salt to taste

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod

Pour the cream in a stand mixer and beat on medium. After about 5 minutes or so, the cream will inevitably turn into whipped cream, at which point you can stop the mixer, scoop out a few spoonful’s and eat this while you continue to make your butter. (this step is optional)

Now, turn the mixer back on, and in about 5 minutes, the cream will start to separate into chunks and buttermilk will be splashing around the bowl.

Scoop the butter out and put it into a sieve to drain out the buttermilk. Prepare an ice bath, (bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes) and drop the butter in the cold water to completely rinse out the buttermilk. Work the butter a bit, to squeeze out all the liquid.

Wipe the mixer clean and return the butter back to the mixer. Add the berries, vanilla bean seeds, salt and maple syrup. Mix until incorporated. This butter lasts about a week in the fridge. If you roll it into a log and wrap it in wax paper and aluminum, it will last about 2 months in the freezer.