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This Ice Cream is Bananas!

Banana Ice Cream

I absolutely love the flavor of a perfectly ripe banana atop an ice cream sundae or in a milkshake, but I had never tried making banana ice cream.  I thought a cornstarch based ice cream would be perfect to let the banana flavor really shine through, but I couldn’t find the right recipe.  I often start with Mark Bittman’s cornstarch ice cream recipe as a base, so that’s where I began with this, but tweaked it to incorporate the wonderful flavor of ripe bananas.  This tastes great as is, but I also enjoyed it with a heavy dose of cinnamon and several tablespoons of bourbon in a recent batch.

Eggless Banana Ice Cream

  • 3 Medium Bananas (eating ripeness; not overripe)
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 3 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups Half & Half
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • pinch Kosher Salt
  • 3 T. Cornstarch

First, add bananas, vanilla, cream cheese, and maple syrup to food processor and puree until smooth.

Then, put 2 cups of the half & half into a saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugars and salt, then stir.  In the meantime, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of half & half with cornstarch and stir until smooth.  Once the half & half and sugar mixture is hot, pour in cornstarch mixture and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Turn off heat and whisk in pureed banana mixture.

Once combined, force the mixture through a sieve and refrigerate until cold before processing in your ice cream maker.

To speed up the cooling process, you can add the ice cream base to a gallon size bag and either put it in an ice bath or freeze it for about an hour.  If you do put the bag into the freezer, just be sure not to forget about it!

I was impressed with how this turned out and am happy to share it with you.  This will be a go-to at our house.  While still indulgent, the bananas and absence of eggs make this slightly lighter than most homemade ice cream recipes.   As you can see, I served this with some graham crackers, pecans, and dark chocolate in the featured photo. This combination was great, but I am thinking some fresh sliced strawberries will be my next topping for this tasty frozen treat!

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Crazy Brocco-Flower, a Cookie Sale, & the return of Coconut Peas

My blog has unfortunately been on a bit of a hiatus lately, but I had some things to share with you, so here goes.  On a bright note, now I know what my new year’s resolution will be: Blog more!

Romanesco

Romanesco: Silly Look, Serious Taste

Let’s start with the first.  If you have never seen a cauliflower or broccoli like the one here (sources seem to refer to it as both Roman cauliflower or Roman broccoli) then I would guess you are not alone.  This is the Romanesco variety and I think it is fabulous.  They do look more like something out of the Super Mario Brother’s garden than your local farmers field, but I think that is what makes them so much fun.

We recently had this for the first time while dining at Forequarter in Madison and I’ve had my eye out for it since.  These made an appearance at a local grocery store over the weekend, so I picked one up.

For my first try at cooking this, I divided this into florets and tossed them with olive oil, a grated garlic glove, some minced hot peppers, rosemary, and of course some salt and pepper.  I pan roasted these in an effort to save time, but would go with an oven roast at high heat for 20-30 minutes next time.  The conical shape made it difficult to char anything but the stems.  Despite being just a little underdone, I found the flavor to be delicious.  Of course, I had to finely grate on a little cheese before serving. I chose some Belavitano Gold for this and was very happy with that selection. I can’t wait to find another one of these so I can perfect the method.  Check out some shots from my romanesco cooking adventure.

Next item of business to share is information about the Milwaukee Foodies Bake Sale. If you are going to be in Milwaukee this weekend, you should check it out. Local bakers are donating cookies that will be sold to benefit the charity Cookies for Kids’ cancer. The sale is downtown at Best Place from 12p.m.-4p.m. Here is a link to more information: http://www.mkefoodies.com/2012/10/2012-mkefoodies-holiday-bake-sale.html

You may remember my award-winning Chewy White Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies. I will be donating some for the sale! If you know anyone who might be interested in attending this, please do share the blog or forward the link above.

Milwaukee's Best Cookie 2011

Milwaukee’s Best Cookie 2011

As promised, I had three things to share. The last must be prefaced with a quick childhood story. My signature dish from my childhood was what we called “Coconut Peas”. It was literally frozen peas and sweetened coconut. My family pretended to like it, but it is now something we joke about.  Well, tonight they made a reappearance of sorts.  I was trying out a green curry spice rub from World Market on a flat iron steak and needed a quick side dish.  With no fresh vegetables in sight, I grabbed some frozen peas and threw together the following in a saucepan.

The New Coconut Peas

The New Coconut Peas

  • Bulgur cooked in chicken broth
  • Peas
  • A little lemon juice and zest
  • Drizzle of garlic olive oil
  • Dash of half and half
  • Chopped Marcona Almonds
  • Flaked Unsweetened Coconut 
  • Salt and Pepper (of course)

The verdict: This was pretty tasty and paired great with the green curry beef. Maybe I was on to something back in the 80s…

Thanks for reading and hope this inspires you to cook something new or buy some cookies for a good cause.  Cheers!

What’s New in the Kitchen

I suppose this post would have been more appropriate to start the New Year, but it still feels like 2012 has just begun. Since Christmas, I’ve acquired a short list of new things for the kitchen; ALL of which I am very excited to share with you.

The first item is this cookbook stand given to me by my mother for Christmas. Thanks mom!! It is truly awesome. Who knew I’d be so excited about a cookbook holder, but if your cookbooks and magazines tend to look like they’ve gone through a food war after you cook, you need this too!

This one is made by Clear Solutions and I guess it was rated #1 by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.  A clear cover goes over your pages to protect them from splatter.  It also folds for easy storage, which is a definite plus.

The second is a ceramic Y-Peeler.  Why did it take me so long to buy a Y-Peeler?  This makes peeling large items so much easier than the traditional designed peeler and I personally prefer it for peeling just about every vegetable I’ve tried so far…cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, squash…I am a big fan of the Y-Peeler.  Plus, the sharp ceramic blade lets me put it through the dishwasher without fear of dulling.

Next up is a stainless steel slotted spatula. Mine is a vintage find from my mom’s kitchen. Apparently she hadn’t been using it, but I love it so much that I feel bad that I’ve taken it from her. From carefully turning eggs to removing cookies from the cookie sheet, this is another item I can’t believe I waited so long to add to my kitchen.

Speaking of cookies, I finally bought a silicone baking mat.  I was gifted a larger silicone mat a few years ago and love it for rolling out dough, but it is too large for any of my baking sheets.  This one was under $10 from Nordic Ware and I’m loving it.  My addiction to parchment paper has been curbed in favor of baking with this mat.

And finally!  This one is more of a fun gift for myself than a kitchen essential, but I was very excited when it came in the mail on Wednesday. Bobby Flay recommended I buy this on Open Sky and it’s called “Bobby’s Bourbon Barrel Baking Bundle”.   (I say that jokingly.  If you aren’t familiar with the site, you sign up for free membership and receive regular e-mails stating that different celebrities have shared a product with you.)  The bundle contains regular sorghum, vanilla bourbon sorghum, bourbon barrel vanilla, and a bourbon vanilla sugar.  If you’re not familiar with sorghum, it is a natural sweetener more commonly used in the south.  I had never used it before, but it had been popping up in my latest food magazines and I figured I better have some on hand. I used the bourbon vanilla sorghum in some chocolate chip pecan cookies this week and they were fantastic!

Well that’s what is new here. I guess I’ll get cooking!

Green Beans…on the grill!

Anyone else overloaded with green beans this year?  We get some variety of beans in our CSA each week and kudos to them for growing a variety of different species.  The problem, my husband is not a big fan.  He will eat them, but finds them boring…so a simple steam or blanch will not cut it on our dinner plates.

I got out my special pan for the grill and threw on some beans lightly seasoned and coated in olive oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  They were a bit charred, which I prefer, but you could of course cook them just until tender.

Beyond the grilling, I still needed to work on enhancing the flavor.  In addition to salt and pepper before grilling, I grated on some lemon zest and parmesan cheese.  From there, a light drizzle of aged balsamic was the perfect sweet contrast to the zest of the lemon and the grilled flavor of the beans.

Green beans were never something I considered for the grill, but I will definitely be adding them to my list of favorite grilled veggies.

Cheers!

Spicing up Chicken with Harissa

There were chicken breasts in the fridge and the weather was dry, so doing grilled chicken for dinner seemed like a good idea.   While my first inclination was to just throw on some garlic and herbs, I decided I was looking for something a little different.  After rummaging through the pantry, I found a small can of harissa that I thought would be the cure for my boring chicken.  Harissa is a hot chili paste if you’re not familiar.  This is by no means an expertly perfected recipe, but it was easy and perhaps it will inspire you to try out some new flavors in the kitchen.

For the chicken, I simply went with the following:

Dry chicken breasts.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Spread harissa onto breasts.  I would use a teaspoon per piece as a guideline.  I used more of a heaping teaspoon each for pleasantly spicy chicken, but you can go either way depending on preference.  I cooked these on the grill, but these could be done on the stove or in the oven.

I smeared the harissa onto the chicken before starting the grill so that it would penetrate the chicken a bit.  In the meantime, I also started concocting a garnish for the meat.  This lemon cilantro relish provided great balance to the spiciness of the chicken.

Cilantro Lemon Relish (Enough for 4 chicken breasts)

    • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • Juice from one lemon
    • Pinch of Kosher Salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Place onions in bowl.  Pour lemon juice over onions and add salt and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Add oil and cilantro and stir well. Let sit for at least ten minutes.  Use as garnish.


Maple Peanut Butter Syrup and my thoughts on Pretzel Bread French Toast

My new favorite breakfast spot features a pretzel bread french toast with a maple peanut butter syrup which I have yet to order.  Having some pretzel bread on hand, I was inspired to try this at home.  The verdict: I don’t know that I would go out of my way to use pretzel bread for French toast again, BUT this easy syrup was keeper!

Maple Peanut Butter Syrup (per serving)

  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon chunky peanut butter

Combine ingredients in microwave-safe dish and microwave until butter appears to be melting. (For this individual sized serving, you’ll only need about 15-20 seconds in the microwave.)  Stir ingredients together and voila.  If I was making this for a group, I would probably do this on the stove and start with the butter and peanut butter and then slowly stir in the syrup.

I am daydreaming of using this over pancakes with some sliced bananas! Ironically, the syrup is one of the reasons I haven’t actually ordered this dish at the mentioned restaurant.  I’m a bit of a maple syrup purist and I didn’t think I’d want peanut butter messing with its delicious flavor, but this was a pleasant surprise.

As for my thoughts on the french toast, I used my typical 2 egg to 1/4 cup milk mixture with a dash of sugar and vanilla and the flavor was good, but the end result was a bit soggy.  I used a stovetop cooking method.  The bread was soft to start, so I gave it 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven to dry out, but that wasn’t enough.  If I did this again I would be sure to start with truly stale bread, use less milk, and only give my bread a brief dip in the mixture.

Asparagus with Blood Orange Syrup


The asparagus looked great and was on sale, so I had to pick some up.  While I like asparagus simply done, it is nice to spice things up now and again.  I happened to have a blood orange in the fridge, so I thought it would dress up my green vegetable a bit.  I had never bought a blood orange before, but I will be buying them again for sure.  What a striking fruit!  After slicing in and exposing the bright red flesh, I almost didn’t want to juice it and disturb its beauty.

Blood Orange Syrup

     

  • Juice from one blood orange (mine yielded about 3/4 cup)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon turbinado (or other) sugar
  • 2 teaspoon  olive oil
  • A few turns of the pepper mill
  • Zest from orange
  • Place juice in small saucepan and let cook over medium for 5 minutes.  Add sugar and salt and let it dissolve.  Reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes or until juice resembles a syrup.  Stir in olive oil and season with pepper to taste.  This will be salty…but you will not add any other salt so this will season the asparagus well.

Simple Indoor Grilled Asparagus

  • 1 lb. asparagus (cleaned, ends trimmed)
    Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high.  Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side depending on size and preference.  I like mine to be flexible, but still crisp. 

    Drizzle syrup over asparagus and garnish with the zest.  I found the zest to be very mild, yet delicious–so feel free to garnish generously. I must admit I let my syrup reduce a little too much, so I had to move mine around to coat the spears.

    In review, this little spontaneous creation was tasty, easy…and something different, which was what I was going for.