Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kit Kat Ice Cream

Kit Kat's were hands down my favorite candy bar as a kid.  "Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!"  Come on, sing it with me!   "Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece...." 

Sorry.  Had to do it. 

This was long before I took a liking to dark chocolate.  In fact, these days, I rarely eat milk chocolate.  After going to the dark side, I find milk chocolate a little too sweet.  But I still have a soft spot for my childhood favorite.  I came across this recipe on Baked Bree and it made me smile, feeling a surge of nostalgia.  Kit Kat's and ice cream sounded like the perfect way to enjoy my favorite candy bar.  Plus my cat's name is Kit Kat.  No relation to the candy bar, but sweet nonetheless.

The ice cream made it's debut over the long weekend.  Memorial Day weekend is a turning point in the year.  It marks the (unofficial) start of summer.  It's also the anniversary of when Hubby and I officially bought our current home 8 years ago and embarked on a number of heavy duty home improvement projects.   It's also the one year anniversary of the purchase of our very first ice cream maker.  So you see, the Kit Kat ice cream was meant to be this weekend.

I'm a few days late here, but still want to highlight that Memorial Day is more than a long weekend and fun ice cream.  It's a day dedicated to remembering and honoring the brave men and women who have served our country and have lost their lives.  Their bravery and sacrifice is what makes it possible for us to enjoy the freedom and civil liberties that make life great in America.  I have to be honest that I have not paid this national holiday the homage it deserves in the past.  I am embarrassed to admit that I posted last year about our Memorial Day weekend without a single mention of the meaning of the holiday.  It's too easy to get caught up in life and forget to take a moment to think about all that we have to be thankful for.  This my reminder to be mindful and my opportunity to say thank you to the soldiers that have lost their lives in service and thank you to the soldiers currently serving.

Thank you.

Okay, I have to talk a little about the ice cream.  When I told my Hubby I was making Kit Kat ice cream, he was excited.  What he didn't realize was the ice cream base is chocolate (not the vanilla he was hoping for).  The chocolate base mimics the flavor of the candy bar with cocoa powder, milk chocolate and malted milk powder.  The malted milk powder is wafer-esque in flavor, just like the crunch in the candy bar.  Once the ice cream is churned, 1/4 inch pieces of Kit Kat's are mixed in.  And to take it over the top, it's garnished with a stick or two.  I churned my ice cream for 25 minutes, but think it could have used another 5.  It was on the soft side, even after being frozen overnight.  Though it was a touch on the soft side, that certainly didn't stop me from eating it all.  Aside from a small bowl Hubby ate, I devoured the rest over 4 days.  Don't tell anyone.

If you have a soft spot for Kit Kat's, give this ice cream a try.  You won't be sorry.  Unless you (nearly) eat it all by yourself like I someone I know.


Kit Kat Ice Cream
from Baked Bree

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup malted milk powder
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 full size Kit Kat bars

In a saucepan heat milk, sugar, cocoa powder, malted milk powder and salt over medium heat to a just a simmer until sugar and cocoa powder are dissolved.  Do not boil.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl and very slowly stream in half of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking continuously.  If you add it too quickly the eggs will scramble.   Add the egg and milk mixture back to your saucepan and heat on medium low until mixture is thickened (the mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon).  This only took a few minutes for me.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.  Add chopped chocolate, heavy cream and vanilla and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and churn accordingly to the manufacturer's instructions.  While the ice cream is churning, chop the Kit Kat bars into 1/4 inch pieces (reserving 2 sticks for garnish).  Transfer ice cream into a container and stir in the Kit Kat pieces.  Cover and freeze until firm, 4 hours or overnight.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Tart

This is a post of random thoughts...and eventually a strawberry tart.  Mostly because my mind refuses to focus on one train of thought at the moment.

Random thought #1:
Operation Baking GALS rocks.  I sent my first box of baked goods off to Afghanistan on May 8th and earlier this week I received emails from three soldiers expressing their thanks.  I can't tell you how cool it was to get those emails.  And it was extra cool, because each email addressed me as, "Ma'am."  So official!  The next round of baking starts on June 1st - 13th.  That means you have time to join the GALS and share some goodies with our troops overseas.   To join head to the Baking GALS site, check out the FAQ's and then click on "Register New Account".  Once you are registered you can access the teams and read about each solider(s) that team is baking for and choose a team to join.  I seriously wanted to join 3 different teams this time, but I'm taking it slow and going to just stick with one for my first few rounds.  Meanwhile, thoughts of cookies are dancing in my head.

Random thought #2:
In the wake of Facebook's (less than) stellar introduction to the stock market I am finally getting around to telling you all The Ginger Snap Girl now has a Facebook fan page!  Yeah!  For some reason I was nervous to put up a page.  What if no one "likes" my page?   But I can always count on my friends and family to be my cheering section.  So I'm super excited to have 46 likes.  If you'd like to make it 47, 48, 49 or magic number 50, check it out...  Like most things, now that I've done it, I wonder what the heck I was nervous about to begin with?

Random thought #3:
Are you all geared up for the Memorial Day weekend?  Do you have travel plans or barbecuing plans?  Tackling a home improvement project?  Or lounging on the beach?  All of these things sound pretty good to me.  We're keeping it low key over here.  Already did our Costco run to stock up on watermelons, blueberries and feta cheese, among other things.  Barbecuing is on the agenda, along with seeing The Avengers, maybe some planting in the garden/flower bed and dinner with friends at one of our favorite restaurants, California Shabu Shabu

Random thought #3.1:
Have you ever had shabu shabu?  We've only gone to one shabu shabu place, so I really have no clue how it compares to any other...but it's so good that we have no need to look further.  Shabu shabu is Japanese style of cooking your food in a pot of boiling water.  This is a do it yourself meal where you "swish-swish" thinly sliced meats and vegetables in a hot pot until cooked (which takes literally 5 seconds for beef).  The cooked stuff gets dipped in sauces and then eaten with rice.  The sauce is where it's at.  Honestly, the meat and veggies are just a vehicle in which to consume large portions of ponzu and sesame sauce (similar to peanut sauce).  So. Freakin'. Mouth wateringly delicious.  Can't wait.

Really random thought #4:
I had a dream last night that Hubby and I were on a long road trip, driving at night, pulling a boat behind our Jeep (we don't have a boat).  Then in slow motion I see headlights coming towards us.  In our lane.  It was a big old clunker car circa 1977.  We are headed straight for the clunker's headlights and I close my eyes waiting for impact.  But we just keep driving.  The car swerves and misses us, crashing into something on the side of the road.  What does that mean?  Never mind.  I am pretty sure I don't want to know.

Random thought #5:
This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the purchase of our ice cream maker.  I am SO making ice cream to celebrate.  Now the hard part....choosing a flavor.  Perhaps this Kit Kat Ice Cream?  Lime Sherbet?  My own concoction?

Random thought #6:
While working from home today I turned around from my desk to see this (sorry it's a little blurry)...

And this....

Random thought #7:
Holiday weekends make me think about childhood barbecues at my grandparents house and crave deviled eggs, potato salad and strawberry shortcake.  Three things I've never posted.  I need to work on that.

Random thought #8:
Enough with random thoughts. 

Strawberry Cream Cheese Crumble Tart has been on my baking to do list for a year.  I first saw the recipe on Nick Malgieri's blog and bookmarked it.  Strawberry season passed last year and I never got around to making it.  I was recently reminded about it when Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures and Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker each posted beautiful renditions of what I knew would be an awesome tart.  So when I needed a dessert for Mother's Day, this was it! 

The tart starts with a sweet cookie crust.  Cream cheese goodness and strawberries fill the crust and a chunky, crunchy crumb adorns the top.  The tart was a hit with the fam, just one lonely peace remaining.  If you're looking for a special dessert to bring to a Memorial Day party, this would be perfect. 

This dessert is not hard to make.  It is however, time consuming.  Make the cookie crust dough the day before.  It requires chilling time before you roll it out and more chilling time after you roll it out.  But don't bake it yet.  Cover it and store in the fridge.  Bake the crust and the crumble topping at the same time on the day you plan to serve the tart.  Mix the cream cheese filling and cut the berries while the crust and crumble bake.  Assemble it all no more than a few hours before you plan to serve it.  I found the crumble to crust/filling ratio to be a little high.  I only used about 3/4 of the crumble.  I left my tart at room temperature for about 3 hours prior to serving.  It didn't cut into the nice clean pieces I was hoping for.  Next time I will store the tart in the fridge until about an hour prior to serving this tasty tart!

For the recipe head over to Nick's blog.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Monster Cookies

How the month sneaks by so quickly, I don't know.  But it's already time for the latest installment of Secret Recipe Club. This month I was assigned Moms Crazy Cooking.  Tina has a really fun blog with a lot of little craziness in the mix. ;) Between cooking for her family of six, her twin girl's competitive cheer schedule and participating in several online cooking/baking groups I don't think there is a dull moment at Tina's house.  Tina even hosts a monthly themed cooking challenge online called the "Crazy Cooking Challenge" where other bloggers make their take on the assigned theme, link up their posts and then everyone votes for the "Ultimate Recipe".  The last Crazy Cooking Challenge theme was Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  There were some pretty good looking recipes in there!  Check out Tina's blog when you get a chance. 

As usual I flagged a number of recipes while perusing Moms Crazy Cooking.  In fact I even made two of her recipes this week.  The first was Au Gratin Potatoes in a crock pot.  First of all, that's a genius idea.  Second of all, it's stinkin delicious.  It was a huge hit at our Mother's Day lunch last weekend.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures because we were too busy fighting over these tasty potatoes.  Yes I said fighting.  There was a little scuffle at the table when my mom's fork suddenly nose dived into my aunt's plate to swipe the oh so coveted, browned crispy parts of the potatoes.  I guess sisters can do that.  My family takes potatoes very seriously! Needless to say, I will be making these again, and I hope have a clear enough mind to actually take a picture or two. 

Thankfully I did take photos of these Monster Cookies.  I have made dozens of different kinds of cookies through the years, but never a monster cookie.  Tina's blog had two versions, one with and without peanut butter.  I went with the non peanut butter version, but will have to try the peanut butter version at some point too. 

This monster cookie is a cross between a chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie with 3 cups of anything and everything mixed in. You can customize your monster cookie to your taste by stirring in nuts, candy, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, pretzels...whatever you can think of really. I kept mine pretty simple, mixing in pretzel M&M's and chocolate chips. The oatmeal brings a very homey texture to the cookie.  I am putting monster cookies on the baking list next time my nieces and nephews are over. 


Monster Cookies
from Mom's Crazy Cooking

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine (I used all butter)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
3 cups of your favorite mixins - such as nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, toffee, M&M's, chopped up candy, marshmallows, pretzels, etc. (I used 2 cups of pretzel M&M's and 1 cup of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and oats and whisk to combine. 

In the bowl of stand mixer, beat butter, margarine and sugars on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time and vanilla, mixing until just blended.  With mixer on low add the flour mixture in three batches until just combined.  Add your 3 cups of mixins and mix on low to combine.

For truly monster size cookies, use a full size ice cream scoop with a release mechanism and bake 6 cookies per sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden brown on the edges (mine took 14 minutes).  Makes 24 extra large monstrous cookies!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Operation Baking GALS

If you're a regular reader here, you probably know I've joined a few online cooking and baking groups along the way.  It all started two years ago when I stumbled upon the Sweet Melissa Sundays  baking group.  I did a brief stint with French Fridays with Dorie.  I'm currently baking out of the Baked Explorations cookbook with Club: Baked once or twice a month and cooking/baking along monthly with Secret Recipe Club.  I love all these groups because a.) I learn things I didn't even know I wanted to learn, b.) I connect with fabulous food bloggers, many who are now friends, and c.) I get to eat some tasty stuff.

I'm pretty excited to tell you about a new baking group that is a little different than the rest.  This month I joined Operation Baking GALS.  Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give a Little Support) is a group of volunteers that bake and ship home baked treats to soldiers deployed in a war zone. "Our goal is to show our support and send a little bit of home to remind them that we appreciate all that they do for our freedom."  Pretty darn cool.

The GALS started back in 2008 and have been baking ever since.  You don't have know someone in the military to join.  Though if you do know someone, you can nominate that person to be a recipient of the Operation Baking GALS goodies.  Every month teams are formed, each representing a solider or soldiers to bake for.  Baking GALS read about each team and choose one or more teams to join. Up to 20 people can join each team.  All the teams bake and ship within the same 10 day period with the idea that the solider(s) get showered with all sorts of treats that they can share with the rest of the their unit.

I sent my first box out on Tuesday to a solider overseas in the Air Force.  The box included these homemade brownies and homemade ginger snaps.  With a little extra room in the box I filled in the gaps with gum, candy, cornnuts and cup of noodles.  It was a fun project to put everything together.  Hopefully it brings a little taste of home to some of the brave soldiers who make freedom possible for all of us. 

If you are interested in joining, head over to the Operations Baking GALS website and read through the FAQ's.  The next round of baking will take place in June.  Come and join the fun!

On completely unrelated note, you might have noticed that today I've posted my first photo collage! Woo hoo! I've always admired blogs with a snazzy collage. A quick web search led me to easy breezy instructions on how to do it with my Lightroom 3 software. I'm looking forward to playing around with it. Meaning you can totally expect to see more photo collages here.

P.S. Do something special for your the moms in your life on Sunday, May 13th, Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chai Banana Bread

I almost gave up.  I've been getting Cooking Light magazine since the beginning of the year and I've had completely mediocre, non-blog-worthy, results with the three recipes I've tried to date.  Until now.  Recipe number four from the May issue turned it all around.  I guess I won't cancel my subscription just yet. 

Chai banana bread was a big success, making the previous lack luster results all worth it.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.  I measure the success of a recipe by asking is it something I would make again?  It may need some tweaks or changes, but the base recipe is solid enough to warrant a repeat.  This recipe?  Already planning it.  No further tweaking necessary (you'll see below I already did the slightest bit of tweaking).

Wondering what "chai" is?  Chai, which is a reference to masala chai, means mixed spiced tea and originates in southeast Asia (around India).  The chai spice mixture, which can vary, typically consists of things like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, star anise and allspice.  Chai tea has become popular all over the world, and you can sample the Americanized version at your local Starbucks or coffee house.  Just ask for a "Chai Tea Latte".  You'll get a slightly sweetened, steamed milk beverage infused with a concentration of black tea and spices.  It's actually my favorite hot coffee house beverage (no coffee for this girl).  It reminds me of spice cookies and gingerbread.  Which is probably why it works so well with banana bread.

In this recipe there is no tea involved, just the spices.  Cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and allspice are mixed together.  A portion goes into the banana bread batter and the remainder gets mixed with powdered sugar and a touch of vanilla to create a spiced glaze to finish the bread.  The spices are present, but not overwhelming. 

This lightened up version of banana bread doesn't lack in flavor or richness.  It can easily pass for it's full fat banana bread cousin. 

I made one substitution in the recipe.  I didn't have plain yogurt on hand so I substituted fat free buttermilk.  I didn't actually have store bought buttermilk on hand either, so I made my own.  I added 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to 1/3 cup of fat free milk.  It worked perfectly!

Tip of the day - Make Your Own Buttermilk:

I always get so frustrated when I buy buttermilk at the store because I can never ever seem to use the whole container despite my best efforts.  Making your own is easy. 

To make one cup of buttermilk - Add one tablespoon of white vinegar to a glass measuring cup and then fill up to the one cup line with milk.  Let it stand for 5 minutes and stir before using. 

That's it.  No more wasted buttermilk!  You can use any type of milk you have on hand--fat free, low fat or whole milk.


Hubby and several of my co-workers sampled the bread and it was well received by all.  Hubs even went back for thirds!  This spiced twist on a classic may just become my new "go to" banana bread recipe. 


Chai Banana Bread
from Cooking Light

Notes: the instructions below are how they are laid out in the magazine.  I did make a modification on preparing this by mixing my spice mixture and then adding the 1 1/2 teaspoons of it into the dry flour mixture (instead of mixing it into the batter at the end).  I just had a hard time stepping away from the traditional method of mixing wet and ingredients separately and then combining them together at the end.  I also mixed my vanilla in with the rest of the wet ingredients.  It would probably work out just fine either with either method.

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
1/3 cup plain non fat yogurt (I used fat free buttermilk)
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
10 ounces all purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons low fat milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

You can use a stand mixer, hand mixer or just mix by hand the old fashioned way.  I used a stand mixer.  Combine bananas, yogurt, cooled melted butter and eggs until just blended.  Add sugars and mix until blended.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and beat until just blended.

In a small bowl combine the cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.  Stir 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mixture and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract into the batter until just combined.  Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.  To store, wrap the bread in foil and place in a zip top bag with the air removed. 

Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, remaining spice mixture and milk until fully combined and spoon over the bread.