Weekend Fare: Peppermint Ice-Cream

Peppermint ice-cream is such a delicious seasonal dessert! And, when it’s homemade, it’s nothing short of luxury! If possible, make the custard the night before you plan to use it, chilling it in the fridge overnight. If you are in a rush, stir it over the ice bath until very cool.


2 1/2 cups heavy cream (Costco organic is not only very cheap but also very good)
1  1/2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks (preferably from free range chickens)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or hard peppermint candy

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Make sure the sugar and salt completely dissolve.

Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes. Don’t think twice when the mixture coats the spoon — remove it from the heat immediately!

Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Then stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, add peppermint extract, a 1/4 teaspoon at a time, tasting the mixture after each addition, until you reach the desired level of peppermintiness.

Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.


Easiest Tomato Soup

We don’t frequently have tomato soup at our house, but it is a comfort food that I crave every so often. And, I never have the cans of tomato soup sitting around when that craving hits (nor do I really relish canned soup). This problem is now solved for all time. This tomato soup is so easy to make, and the ingredients are nearly always in my pantry, that I think we’ll be enjoying this for lunch regularly.

(The Cooks Next Door)
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1 jar (32 oz.) good quality spaghetti sauce (I used Bertolli)
32 oz. chicken stock (I use “Better than Bouillon” paste mixed with water)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the spaghetti sauce and stock in a saucepan until piping hot. Stir in the heavy cream and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Off The Shelf: Poor Girl Gourmet

I recently came across this book: Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy.  Overall, I was impressed. The book included delicious, health-conscious meals that are aimed at not costing you a fortune. In fact, the author gives you the estimated cost for each dish and how she figures the cost to break down.

The book includes pictures of most of the recipes, which is always a plus. It doesn’t have the layout finesse of a top-dollar publication, but it is attractive nonetheless and easy to flip through. At times I found the author’s instructions somewhat convoluted, but not to the point of making the recipe too hard to figure out. I  should also mention that the book tends toward the Italian flavors.

Recipes include such things as: Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup, Harvest Salad with Honey-Balsamic Dressing, Tomato Tart, Chicken in Cider Gravy, Roasted Carrots with Thyme, Honey-Mustard Coleslaw, Butternut Squash Risotto, Calzones, Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata, and Banana-Wheat Muffins.

I chose to try the Chicken, Sausage, and Kale Soup. At first I wondered if this soup would be anything special. By the time dinner was finished I was already looking forward to leftovers and planning to put the recipe in my company dinners file. The soup was really, really good.

(Poor Girl Gourmet)
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1 whole cooked chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used a bit less)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp. fresh
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 (6-inch) links sweet Italian sausage (approximately 1/2 pound), casings removed, meat cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, including liquid
1 bunch kale (approximately 3/4 pounds), washed, stemmed, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

While the chicken roasts, prepare the other ingredients. (Bake it covered in a 350F oven until cooked, about 20-30 minutes.)

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot — at least 6-quart capacity, as the kale starts off as quite a gargantuan pile — over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute — you are in the soffritto phase of this soup now — until the whole lot is softened and has blended together such that the color is leaning toward orange, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the thyme and crushed red pepper flakes, then add the sausage — you should have in the neighborhood of 24 pieces of 1/2-inch sausage from the two links, in the event that you are curious — cooking until the sausage is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth, the beans with their liquid, and the kale.

Add the chicken pieces to the pot, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the massive pile of kale is fully incorporated into the soup, 20 to 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve it forth.

Serves 4.

Note: I served ours with a dollop of pesto on top, but it was equally good the next day without!

Superbowl Snack: Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn

To be honest, I wasn’t initially excited about the idea of “peanut butter and jelly popcorn” when this recipe first crossed my inbox. But, the novelty of the idea caught me and since I love food experimentation, I couldn’t help but try this recipe. That’s when I discovered that this popcorn is addictive. Yes, it is. It was nearly as good as caramel corn, but with far less sugar and only a few minutes of time invested. It’s my new favorite.

(adapted from the Cook It Quick Newsletter)
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1 large bowl of popped popcorn (probably 2 bags of microwave popcorn)
3 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. grape jelly (or jelly/jam of your choice — I used strawberry jam)
2 Tbsp. butter

Melt peanut butter, jelly, and butter together in microwave or over low heat.

Pour over popcorn and toss evenly to coat.

Serves 4-6.

Snow Day Must: Marshmallows

We thought this post from Heather was perfect to include today after the hot cocoa yesterday! Homemade marshmallow & cocoa is a wonderful winter treat!

Homemade marshmallows are a new discovery for me and now I can’t sing their praises often enough! Their soft, squidgy texture keeps the store-bought type from even entering the competition. Next time you have a snow day, you must give these a try!

The marshmallows do take at least 2 hours to “firm up”, so be sure to allow yourself enough time for that before you begin.

(adapted from Martha Stewart)
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Nonstick cooking spray

3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for coating

  • Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes.


    Add vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula or your hands. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours.


    Carefully remove marshmallows from pan. Remove all plastic wrap and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed sharp knife. Place confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    Makes about 16.

    Kids in the Kitchen: Snowmen

    I saw this cute snowmen idea in Midwest Living and had to make them for my kids who just loved them! You need:

    vanilla ice-cream
    string licorice
    chocolate chips
    regular sized marshmallows
    a candy kiss or maraschino cherry for the hat

    Place 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a freezer ziplock bag and immerse in hot water until chips are melted. Snip the tip of the ziplock bag and squeeze eyes, nose and mouth onto a marshmallow.

    Scoop ice-cream onto plates, two scoops per plate, arranged on top of each other. Place chocolate chips on for buttons and set marshmallow head on top. “Glue” cherry or chocolate kiss to marshmallow with more of the melted chocolate chips.

    Stick in licorice arms.

    Magazine Review Extra: Southern Living

    I’m chiming in a little late this month with my take on the holiday magazines. This year it is Southern Living that has given me the most inspiration. The magazine is filled with many beautiful pages of Christmas decorations and festive holiday houses. Then begin the recipes. I really feel like Southern Living’s forte is Christmas recipes, and it is no accident that they publish a yearly collection of Christmas recipes which I often check out of the library.

    The article on party trays motivated me to create the tray pictured below for a family gathering. I served Rosemary Spiced Nuts, Cheese Straws, and olives. Everyone loved the presentation and the nuts were amazing.

    My Christmas dinner is slated to include the Cherries Jubilee-Black Pepper Glazed Ham, and I really want to try the Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart with Buttermilk Whipped Cream. Cherry-Pecan Brie is also on my list. There are entire articles on caramel dishes and peppermint hot chocolate drinks, and a myriad of side dishes, appetizers and desserts.

    I had to try the Easy, Irresistible Scones and they turned out to be the best scones I have ever made. Southern Living offers four sweet and four savory variations.

    All in all, it is an issue worth investing in.

    I decided to change around the Southern Living recipe for spiced pecans because I wanted a certain flavor. I loved the outcome so much that I am including it here.

    (greatly adapted from Southern Living December 2010)
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    1 pound pecan halves
    2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
    1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    2 egg whites, beaten lightly

    Toss the pecan with the egg whites. Dump in the remaining ingredients and mix to coat evenly. Bake the pecans at 350F for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until nuts are crisp, but not burnt!

    About 4 cups.

    Market Fresh: Persimmons

    For the first Thanksgiving that I lived in Indiana, a friend made persimmon pudding for us. I had never heard of persimmons before, but immediately fell in love with the moist, fruity dessert.

    Persimmons are native to Indiana. Last year a friend let us pick some from her tree and I found myself imagining pioneer times and the women picking up persimmons to feed their families.

    Once I got my persimmons home, I rinsed them off and threw them, skin and all, into a sieve. I pushed them around the sieve until most of the yellow flesh fell through and only the brown seeds were left.

    Here’s my persimmon  pulp:

    If you don’t have a source of fresh persimmons and you live in the Midwest, you can check the grocery store frozen section for persimmon pulp, or your local orchard store. I even came across a sign in the front yard of a house in my area advertising persimmon pulp.

    Persimmon cake is just a bit more sophisticated than persimmon pudding and perfect for the holiday season. Don’t be surprised if your cake sinks a little. That’s just characteristic of cooking with persimmons.

    Print this recipe
    2 c. all-purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    1/4 tsp. ground cloves
    4 eggs
    1 c. granulated sugar
    3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 c. canola oil
    3 c. persimmon pulp (I only had 2 cup bags so I used 2 cups persimmon and 1 cup applesauce)
    3/4 c. black walnuts, chopped

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. In small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In large mixer bowl, combine eggs, sugars and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer at slow speed, gradually add oil in steady stream. Add flour mixture and beat until just blended. Fold in persimmon pulp and nuts.

    Spoon into prepared pans and bake 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks. This cake is delicious frosted with cream cheese icing made with 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel and 3 cups confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light and fluffy and garnish with 1/2 cup finely chopped black walnuts. This cake is even better after it is aged for a couple of days.

    NOTES: I baked my cake in a bundt pan — just one layer, but thick. I also just served it with plenty of whipped cream rather than making icing.

    Counter Culture

    Just stepping in briefly to say hello and give you a glimpse into my kitchen in the past month. While I haven’t been able to participate in the November Magazine Review, I have been enjoying browsing through the food magazines and drooling at the amazing line-up of recipes. Midwest Living and Cooking Light were my favorites.

    One Sunday this past month we enjoyed a pork roast with a dried fruit sauce that came from Southern Living. It was simple to make and not very time consuming. The results looked outstanding on the plate.

    I have a cardboard box on the floor of the kitchen filled with my stash of fall squash: butternut, cheese pumpkin, acorn, and pie pumpkin. Some of the squash found their way to the mantel for my fall decoration. We’ll eat those in December and January. The recipe below was from Rachael Ray (October I think). Butter, brown sugar, and herbs formed a sweet/savory coating on these acorn squash wedges.

    Mustard greens recently came in my CSA. They looked different from the ones in the grocery store. I was so surprised to find they were mild and delicious when sautéed with onion and olive oil.

    The kids and I are working on US geography this year — studying one state a week. The highlight for me is finding food specific to each state. Rhode Island was our last state and we ate “pizza strips” with “coffee milk.” I can hardly believe they call cold, sauce-less pizza a delicacy. Ours was warm, and it was good.

    Something I haven’t made in many years is Cornish Pasties. I used to make them regularly for picnics as they are delicious and filling. Needing a portable dinner for a trip I decided to pull them out of the file. I used whole wheat flour for the pastry and they tasted great!

    (The Picnic Gourmet)
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    1 lb. raw beef cut into ¼” cubes
    3 raw potatoes, diced
    5 green onions minced (or one small reg. onion)
    1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    dash pepper
    seasonings of your choice: garlic powder, steak seasoning, etc.

    1 c. butter
    4 c. flour
    1 tsp. salt
    ½ tsp. baking powder
    ice water

    Mix together the filling ingredients.

    Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in butter and mix with hands until small crumbs form. Add ice water to make a workable dough. Knead a few times. Divide into small balls. Roll balls into circles. Place a spoon or two of meat filling to one side of the circle. Dip your finger in water and “paint” the edge of the circle.  Fold dough over to form half circles. Seal edges. Brush with milk. Bake at 425 for one hour.

    Serves 8. Easily halved.

    Another recipe I recently tried recently was Butternut Squash with Pecans and Vanilla. It was nice, but next time I’ll throw the vanilla extract in at the end so we can taste it more.

    The apples leftover from my orchard trip were slowly turning nasty. The answer to that problem was pies. Lots of them. Yum, yum, yum! Pie for breakfast three days in a row is such a treat! (I used part whole-wheat crust and only a dab of honey to sweeten them.)

    I can’t believe I’ve had zinnias blooming up to the first week of November! They brighten our table and mix well with the pumpkins.

    I hope you all are eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving and thinking ahead to what you’re going to cook!

    Gluten-free Goodness: Dutch Apple Pie

    Apple pie is one of my very favorite comfort foods. I could eat it day in and day out. And, I would much rather have a pie than a cake for just about any occasion. So, when contemplating gluten-free, it’s the pie crust that sticks in my mind as the hardest thing to say good-bye too. That was until I found this recipe. After trying out this pie crust, and realizing how good it was, I would not be afraid to go gluten-free.

    (crust: adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook)
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    6-8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
    juice of 1 lemon
    1 tsp. cinnamon

    3/4 cup rice flour (white or brown)
    1/2 cup nuts (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts)
    4 Tbsp. butter
    3 Tbsp. honey (or one good glug from the honey jar)


    1/2 cup tapioca flour
    1/2 cup cornstarch
    1/4 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
    1 cup rice flour
    dash of sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt
    rounded teaspoon of xanthan gum
    1 cup butter
    1 egg
    1 Tbsp. vinegar
    1/4 cup ice water
    rice flour for rolling

    Blend together the flours, xathan gum, salt and sugar. (Flours for gluten-free baking must be well-blended.)

    Cut in butter.  Beat egg , add vinegar and ice-water.  Stir into flour mixture forming a ball.  Add a little more water if too dry. (Note: I find the dough almost wet, but it still works.)  You may knead the dough a bit since rice flour crust can stand handling. Knead until you have a smooth soft ball.

    Refrigerate dough for 1 hour or more to chill.

    Roll out between wax paper dusted with sweet rice flour. I scotch tape the wax paper to the counter to keep from sliding. Peel off top layer of wax paper , flip over onto pie plate and then carefully peel off the other layer of wax paper and fit pastry into pie shell fluting edges.

    Filling: Mix together apple slices, lemon juice and cinnamon. If you like a sweet pie, add 1/2 cup sugar. Place the apples inside of the lined pie plate.

    In a food processor, mix together the rice flour, nuts, butter and honey. It will be a wet consistency. Drop the nut mixture in globs on top of the apples.

    Bake at 375′ until the apples are tender and the topping browned (Note: because of the honey, the topping will probably brown faster than the apples cook.)

    Crust makes enough for 2 single crust pies so you can either freeze the extra dough, or double the filling recipe and make 2 pies at once.