Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream

You know what vanilla ice cream is good with? Chocolate sauce. A lot of chocolate sauce.  Or strawberry sauce.  Or strawberry sauce and chocolate chips.  Or crushed up Oreos.  I have never in my life ordered vanilla ice cream when given other flavor options.  Vanilla is absolutely my last pick in the ice cream world.  Sorry all you vanilla fans, but I think it's a little boring.

I love ice cream and enjoy it most on it's own. I don't want any pie or cake to get in the way (and in reverse, when I'm eating pie or cake, I don't want any ice cream to compete with my cake or pie).  But as with most things in life, there are a few exceptions to this rule.  Like ice cream cake (mint chip ice cream with chocolate cake from Baskin Robbins).  And I also made an exception when I baked a Plum and Raspberry Pie for Father's Day thinking a nice sweet vanilla would pair well with this (what turned out to be very tart) fruit pie.  And it did!  (Post on the pie coming in about 2 weeks.)

I will note the 2 issues I had making this.  Both are most likely attributable to user error.  One, I could not get my custard to reach 180 degrees.  It would not budge past 160 on my candy thermometer.  After nearly 40 minutes of stirring (when it's supposed to take 10) I decided to call it a day.  The mixture had thickened slightly and if the temperature didn't come up after 40 minutes, I figured it never would.  Two, I failed to read the entire recipe through before embarking on this the day guests were coming over for Father's Day.  It takes 8 1/2 hours to make....which of course I didn't have.  I had about 6 hours before dessert was tentatively scheduled to be served and I decided to forge ahead.  It turned out great despite the shortened freezing time. 

This vanilla ice cream is pretty exceptional.  That is saying a lot coming from a chocolate girl.  See, this vanilla ice cream is different.  It's brown sugar vanilla. And I like brown sugar.  So I guess it is safe to say I also like this vanilla ice cream.  The brown sugar gives it almost a caramel flavor. I even think this ice cream might make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.  But don't be surprised if it's served with a little chocolate sauce and maybe some peanut praline.

Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream
by Melissa Murphy from Sweet Melissa Baking Book

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry skim milk powder
5 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, reserving the seeds and pod
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Bring 3 inches of water to a simmer in a large pot.  Select a large bowl and fit it inside the pot so the bowl is not toucing the water.  Remove the bowl and whisk all the ingredients together until fully combined.  Place the bowl back over the water and stir continuously for 5 to 10 minutes until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and has reached 180 - 185 degrees on a candy thermometer. 

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a bowl large enough to fit the bowl with the custard mixture.  Once custard is ready, place the bowl in the ice bath for 15-20 minutes.  Strain mixture into a smaller bowl or container with a lid and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  Pour the cooled mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions (mine takes about 30 minutes).  Transfer ice cream to a freezer safe container with a lid and freeze for another 4 hours or overnight prior to serving.

Yields 1 quart

Monday, June 27, 2011

Easy Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sliders with Coleslaw

Though I am not a vegetarian, I really don't cook a lot of meat.  If we do eat meat (or chicken, or seafood) it is often grilled by hubby.  And when I do cook meat, I stay away from large cuts. They kind of freak me out.  Especially ones with bones.  The first and only time I cooked a whole chicken I was jumpy about handling the raw and flesh and bones of this headless bird.  Creepy. I felt similar the first time I worked with a whole rack of ribs.  When I reached to grab the ribs from the package they came in, I literally pulled my hand back like it was on fire because the squishy meat with bones protruding out gave me the heebie jeebies. I am a wimp and I made Hubby take over.  I enjoy eating meat, just not working with it.

So I wasn't all that thrilled to buy my very first pork shoulder for our Father's Day celebration.  But my dad definitely likes meat and I wanted to do something that would be easy.  I had bookmarked Easy Crock pot Pulled Pork from My Baking Addiction a few weeks back and it fit the bill perfectly.  Off we went to Costco to buy a huge hunk of pork.  The smallest size they had was 9.8 pounds (twice the size called for in the recipe).  Hello.  The one redeeming quality it had was that it was boneless. 

Easy is in the name of the recipe and it really is easy.  Especially if you aren't weirded out by dealing with a large slab of meat.  You make a simple rub and give the meat a nice coating.  Slice up some onions, make a vinegar based sauce and cook on low heat for up to 12 hours.  Easy, easy, easy. 

The pulled pork was delicious and was a big hit with the boys on Dad's Day.  It's even more delicious served on a sweet Hawaiian roll with a little barbecue sauce and topped with coleslaw or pickles.  Yum. 

Easy.  Delicious. What more could you ask for? 

Easy Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sliders
adapted from Easy Crock Pot Pulled Pork from My Baking Addiction

1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 4-6 boneless port butt or pork shoulder
3/4 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

24 Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls
Barbecue sauce
Coleslaw or thinly sliced red onions

Place onions in the bottom of crock pot.  Rinse pork in cold water and pat dry.  Make a rub for the pork by combining brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub evenly over all sides of the pork and place in the crock pot on top of the onions.  Whisk together vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic salt and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.  Drizzle 1/3 of the vinegar mixture over the pork and refrigerate the remaining mixture.  Cover crock pot and cook on low for 10-12 hours. 

During the last 30 minutes of cooking drizzle 1/3 of the vinegar mixture over the pork.  When pork is done, remove the meat into a large bowl or 9x13 baking dish.  Using 2 forks, shred the pork and remove and discard large pieces of fat.  The meat should be incredibly tender.  Skim off remaining onions and add to the meat.  Once meat is shredded drizzle 1/4 - 1/2 cup liquid over to keep meat extra moist.  You can serve the pork with the remaining vinegar mixture or your favorite barbecue sauce. 

Assemble sliders.  Cut rolls in half and top with pork, barbecue sauce, coleslaw and or red onions. 

Click here to get the coleslaw recipe.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tabouli Salad and a Kayak Adventure

Going back to work is tough after a vacation.  Everyone says you are supposed to be refreshed and ready to dig back in.  I must have gone wrong by taking too few days off.  A week really flies by in no time.  Despite it rushing by so quickly, Hubby and I had a great time on our recent trip to the central coast of California.  We can't get enough of the beautiful rolling hills that line Highway 1 on the east and the sweeping rocky coastline on the west.

After leaving the hustle and bustle of southern California the largely undisturbed expanse of mother nature is a breath of fresh air.  It's quiet, peaceful and pristine. 

Part of our trip included a kayaking adventure in Morro Bay given to Hubby as a birthday gift by his mom through a cool website called

The adventure started just before 6 pm on a Monday evening where Hubby and I boarded a 2 man kayak and set out with our guide Mandy.  The weather was cool and a bit windy so we bundled up with several layers. We kayaked around the bay to observe the local wildlife, like the egrets and herons that inhabit part of the coast line.  Mandy was amazing and provided us a ton of information about the bay and estuary.  Eventually we made our way across the bay to the sand dunes also known as the sand spit.

We beached our kayaks and our guide unloaded her (just over 200 pounds of ) gear and prepared a dinner for us on the beach as we explored the dunes with beers in hand.

Our guide (right) leading Hubby (left) and I to show us where we could explore

Our guide setting up camp and grilling dinner

When we returned from our tour of the sand spit, dinner was served.  The accommodations weren't fancy...we ate off fun summery plastic type plates and sat on the sand, but the food was really delicious.  Our guide grilled gourmet chicken sausages, zucchini and red peppers to go with pear, blue cheese and walnut salad, tabouli salad and homemade brownies.  The food was awesome and we went back for seconds. 

If it hadn't been foggy out the dinner would have been accompanied by a sunset.  The fog was kind of nice though and a little mysterious...

The best part of the trip was the kayak ride back...the winds died down and the bay was completely calm as we made our way in the last bit of lingering daylight, bordering on darkness.  Our paddles pulled through the water with ease and everything was so quiet and serene.  It was pretty magical. 

It was an awesome adventure.  

All the food was great, but the tabouli salad really stood out.  I knew I wanted to make it when we got home.  It is a simple and delicious, no cook, summer salad.  It comes together quickly and it tastes even better the next day.  Give it a try!

Tabouli Salad
adapted from Central Coast Outdoors

For the salad:
2 cups couscous
1 7/8 cups water, just shy
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 english cucumber, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 3.8 ounce can sliced black olives (I omitted)
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (I omitted)
8 ounces of crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Place dry couscous in a large bowl and cover with cold water.  The water will moisten the cooking required!  Allow couscous soak in the water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  It will be completely absorbed and ready to go by the time you are done prepping.  When the remaining ingredients are ready, fluff up the couscous with a fork.  Gently stir in the green onions, mint, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, garbanzo beans and feta cheese with the couscous.  Pour dressing over the salad and mix until fully combined.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Mango and Avocado Salsa

Grilling season is officially in full swing at our house.  And hubby and I are trying to eat a little more healthy as a few extra pounds have crept up on both of us.  Plus vacation last week didn't help.  After a week of indulgence I thought a nice simple fish with a fresh salsa was the perfect meal to start our post vacation detox. 

I didn't grow up eating fish.  Unless you count fish sticks.  I ate a lot of fish sticks but never cared much for real fish.  Over the years I've introduced more and more fish into my diet, but I mostly stick to the mild white fleshed fish, like halibut, cod, tilapia, swordfish and mahi mahi.  I'm still not a fan of fish snapper, salmon or sea bass.  But mahi mahi ranks among my top fish picks.  I buy it at Costco and it's packaged in individual fillets and frozen. 

Mahi mahi is a firm and very mild tasting fish that is taken up about 10 notches with this delicious mango and avocado salsa.  The fish is like a blank canvas for the sweet mangoes and creamy avocados.  I have also made this salsa with white peaches in the past and it's equally fabulous.  This is a nice simple dish that can be put together in about 20 minutes (if your hubby or significant other is helping out by doing the grilling).  It's a nice light and fresh dinner.  We ate our fish with just the salsa.  It would also pair nicely with cilantro white rice if you want something a little more hearty.  Or you could flake up the fish and make fish tacos topped with this tasty salsa. 

Even if you are not a fish fan, I urge you to try the salsa.  It's simple and delicious and would make a lovely appetizer for your next summer barbecue.

Grilled Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi filets
Olive oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Drizzle fish generously with olive on both sides.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Grill on medium high heat with lid closed until fillet looks opaque on the sides (about 4 minutes depending on thickness).  Using a grill safe spatula flip fillet and cook for additional 3 minutes with lid closed until fish just feels firm.  If you don't have a grill you could use a grill pan or simply pan sear the fish.

Mango and Avocado Salad
adapted from

2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large ripe avocado (or 2 small avocados), peeled, pitted and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except avocado in a medium bowl and stir.  Gently toss in avocado so the juices fully coat the avocado pieces (to prevent browning).  Serve a generous portion over grilled mahi mahi or enjoy as an appetizer with white or blue corn tortilla chips.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blueberry Oat Bars

Have you ever had a Blueberry Oat Bar from Starbucks?  They are my favorite sweet treat from the coffee house giant.  I don't even drink coffee, but will make a stop occasionally for a black iced tea (unsweetened) or a chai tea latte and a blueberry oat bar.  It tastes like a homemade treat with a delicious oat crust base, a blueberry filling with a bright fresh blueberry taste and a tender oat crumble topping. If you are a blueberry fan, you should try one next time you stop at Starbucks.

I decided I wanted to try making them at home, so I went in search of recipes.  I found a recipe on that claimed to be like the delicious Starbucks treat, if not better!  So I put it to the test.  It's not quite like the original. Seems like this recipe has more oats and a different blueberry to  crust/crumble ratio.   I also read online that other folks recommended adding cinnamon to the crust/crumble mixture.  I meant to add cinnamon, but forgot.  The finished product would definitely be enhanced with a little kiss of cinnamon.  Next time!

Even though this recipe isn't an exact replica of the original, it is very tasty and definitely holds its own and makes a great snack or breakfast.  Katrina from Baking and Boys has a blueberry cream cheese oat bar on her blog that looks amazing.  Next time I will try Katrina's version. The cream cheese layer looks like it would take these bars to the next level.

Some of these blueberry oat bars will be my breakfast for the next few days and the rest will serve as a gift to my Grandpa who is turning 94 years old this week.  Happy Birthday Grandpa!   

Blueberry Oat Bars
adapted from

3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

In small saucepan combine blueberries, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Whisk in the cornstarch and boil until thickened about 1 minute.  Transfer to a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cooled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with foil to come up over all four sides of the dish for easy removal after the bars are baked.  Spray the foil with non stick cooking spray. 

Make the base/crumble topping by combining  oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon (if using). Cut the butter into small pieces and combine in the flour mixture.  Using your hands mix the butter into the flour mixture to form a crumble. 

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and press the remaining mixture evenly into the prepared pan.  Top with the cooled blueberry filling.  Sprinkle reserved crumble evenly over the top.  Bake for 40-45 until lightly golden brown.  Let cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Pear and Blackbery Pie with Gingersnap Crumble

I almost didn't make this pie.  Even though I had bought a 6 pound bag of pears at Costco last weekend with the intention some would be used for this pie.  Then I remembered that I had a mini pie crust in the freezer from when the group made ginger pumpkin pie last year.  I also had some gingersnap cookie dough balls in the freezer too.  I had everything I needed and no real excuse.  Then I read Dawn's rave review and I knew it had to be done.  Thank you Dawn of Growing Up (And Having Fun) After 40 for hosting this delicious recipe!

I'm glad I got over my laziness and made this tasty pie.  The recipe calls for cranberries but I used blackberries because I had them on hand.  The pears have a very mild flavor and the berries added a nice tartness to this very sweet pie.  The gingersnap crumble adds a nice crunch and the spices pair well with the pears and berries.  This recipe is definitely a keeper. 

There are several steps to make this pie come together.  It would be best to make it over 2 days.  On day 1 make the pie crust, place it in your pie pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Make and cool the gingersnaps, process in the food processor to grind and place in an airtight container.  On day 2 assemble the pie filling and the ginger snap crumble topping then bake.

To get the recipe head over to Dawn's site.   To see other SMS baker's pies click here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

KFC Cole Slaw

I admit it.  I like Kentucky Fried Chicken.  What's not to like?  Crunchy deep fried chicken and tasty sides.  Mmmmm.  As much as I like it, we don't eat KFC a whole lot.  Maybe once a year or even less.  But when we do I MUST get the coleslaw and mashed potatoes and gravy.  Oh, and I guess some chicken too.  But really, it's all about the coleslaw.  The cabbage is drunk with delicious tangy and sweet dressing.  It's good stuff.  So good that Hubby better order his own because homegirl isn't sharing.

But I guess I should start sharing now since I found a great copy cat recipe to make at home.  It's pretty darn close to the real deal.  The key is letting the coleslaw marinate in the sauce for a at least a four hours or even overnight so the cabbage can drink in all the delicious sauce.

The KFC coleslaw was a great accompaniment to the barbecued baby back ribs we made this past weekend.  And a little cornbread didn't hurt either. 

If you too like the Colonel's coleslaw you should give this recipe a try!

KFC Coleslaw

8 cups finely shredded cabbage (about 1 head)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and toss in the minced onions.  Using a small food processor, hand blender or even a whisk, blend together sugar, salt, pepper, milk, buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar and lemon juice until smooth and sugar is dissolved.  Pour dressing over the the cabbage mixture and stir to coat cabbage.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight before serving.