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Hello?  Anyone there?  If you are, I apologize for my 3 month-long blog silence.  I can’t even feign being super busy this spring (speaking of, what spring?), as I was only taking one class this semester.  And boy, was that SO nice.  But not nice enough to make me want to spend the next 4 years getting my grad degree.  We’ll stick with 2.5 or so, if possible.  That’s slow enough as it is!

Anyway, thanks for sticking around, blogging friends.  As you can see, my poor blog wasn’t a high priority for me this winter/spring.  I have been making and eating some amazing meals, but I haven’t been chronicling them enough, or at all.  I got an ice cream attachment for my mixer, and oh man, the world of homemade ice cream is a really amazing (and fattening) one.  Sadly it’s the one baked good/dessert that I can’t just send to work with Brad and be done with.  We actually eat the ice cream ourselves, and all of it at that!

This recipe, oh this recipe.  So this was one of the more involved ice creams I have made (although there has been talk of trying to make coffee oreo with homemade oeros.  I’ve done both, but separately), and it’s SO delicious.  I honestly don’t remember if I have had tin roof ice cream (or sundaes) before, but the flavor combination is pretty awesome.  Vanilla ice cream (and not that yellowy crap you might find at the grocery store, this has beans in it), homemade fudge ripple (again, another favorite), and chocolate covered peanuts.

I’ve gotten it down where I will make the base one evening, chill it overnight, churn it the next evening (or day, depending), and then chill that overnight, so that I have some really delicious and firm ice cream.  I still do love to go to the beach (Revere, don’t judge) to get ice cream at my favorite shop Twist & Shake (the owner is pretty awesome).  But nothing beats the homemade stuff.

I promise I am going to try to come around more often, I really will.

Tin Roof Ice Cream

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup Chocolate-Covered Peanuts (recipe follows)
Fudge Ripple (recipe follows)

1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. With a sharp paring knife, scrape the flavorful seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the hot milk mixture. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Rewarm the vanilla-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, wipe it clean of any egg bits, and add it back to the custard. Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. When ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean (it can be rinsed and reused). Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, chop the peanuts into bite-sized peanuts.

5. Fold the peanut pieces into the frozen ice cream as you remove it from the machine, and layer it with Fudge Ripple.


Chocolate-Covered Peanuts

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

1. Put the pieces of chocolate in an absolutely dry heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. In the meantime, stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a dinner plate.

2. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanuts, coating them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture on the plastic-lined plate and chil.

Mixing them in: Use a chef’s knife to chop the chocolate-covered block of peanuts into bite-sized pieces, then mix them into 1 quart of ice cream as you remove it from the machine.

Storage: Chocolate-Covered Peanuts can be stored for several months in an air-tight container, refrigerated at room temperature.


Fudge Ripple

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

2. Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1  minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

Mixing it in: The Fudge Ripple should be thoroughly chilled, as it’s easiest to use when very cold. Just before you remove the ice cream from the machine, spoon some of the Fudge Ripple onto the bottom of the storage container. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, layer generous spoonfuls of the sauce between layers of ice cream. Avoid stirring the Fudge Ripple, as it will make the ice cream muddy looking.

Storage: Fudge Ripple can be stored for up to 2 weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.

I realize that it has been close to 2 months since my last post.  I have been struggling with what to do about my blog these days.  As you might remember, life has changed quite a bit for me this summer, new job, new friends, and grad school started last week.  I have still been cooking, but haven’t been as good about documenting it as I was in the past.

I feel like I am at a crossroads with my blog, and I am trying to figure out where to go.  I started this blog 2 years ago as a project, a hobby, something to pour my energy and creativity into.  I had just gotten married, and as anyone who has anything to do with planning a wedding knows, it can be time consuming and once it’s over you can be left with a feeling of, “well what now?”.  So I decided to start a food blog.  It was a learning process, my photography was pretty bad in the beginning (not that it’s magazine quality now), and I had yet to really find a voice as a blogger.

After that first year we bought a condo, which was a great place to focus my energy and creativity.  It’s grown so much, and for the time being I am truly happy with the decor, so I don’t need to focus as much time into that.  I am a person who craves projects (although I don’t always finish them quickly, take my quilt I have been working on for close to 2 years, the good news is that it is so close to being finished!), because I like having things to do.  Just ask Brad, I’m not one to sit around doing nothing for days on end (unless it’s a vacation from work, then I definitely can sit around and do nothing but read).

Right now school will be the focus of my energy.  Working full time and going to grad school part time at night is definitely going to be a challenge, but a welcome one at that.  I am hoping that when I am done I will be able to have the skills to someday down the road run some sort of community arts organization, a true collaboration of my artist within and my desire to work for the arts in a different way than being a traditional artist.

So for now I am going on a bit of a blog hiatus.  I will still continue to read my favorite blogs and keep up with what is going on in the blogging world (as well as the world of the home cook/foodie), but I think I will not be spending as much of my time hunting for new recipes to try and share with the world.

I wasn’t sure what would come of this project, and it made me break out of my regular cooking shell and try new things.  Some were successful, others were complete failures (and not necessarily shared with my readers).  I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually read my blog besides my mom and friends, but people did.  And they commented, which I also really appreciated.  So here’s to seeing where the road takes me, and who knows, maybe we will meet again sometime in the future!

P.S. I just discovered that I never posted the recipe for s’mores cupcakes, so I am going to share them below.  They are easy, awesome, and a total crowd-pleaser, so make them, immediately.

S’mores Cupcakes

Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake

3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil or applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with foil liners or squares of foil for the rustic look; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Spoon batter out evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Marshmallow Fluff Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. tub of marshmallow cream (or fluff, if you are from New England)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until fluffy each time

Beat in the vanilla until incorporated. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until creamy.

Pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes using a large ziploc bag with the end snipped off (a la Sandra Lee).  Top the piped frosting with crushed graham crackers and an individual piece of hershey’s chocolate.

I know I have sort of dropped off the face of the earth.  I promise, I am still alive, I started my new job a few weeks ago, and am still getting used to my new commute, coworkers, job and routine.  I do have to say that working in downtown Boston is quite fabulous, even if I am tempted by countless stores and restaurants.  I’m trying to be good and continue to bring my own tea and lunch everyday.

Summer has also finally arrived here (both officially and in terms of weather)!  We had a slow start to June, which was unfortunate, considering that May was gorgeous.  We never have nice springs here in New England, and this year seemed to be the best one I can remember in a long time.  Let’s hope that we can continue the momentum and have a fantastic summer.  I’m looking forward to random beach days!

This recipe for chocolate whiskey pots de creme comes from Tartelette, who happens to be a woman named Helen, who lives in Charleston (my favorite!) by way of France.  If you don’t know her site, you should, as her pictures are to die for.  Mine does her recipe no justice, but she seems to have an amazing array of serving pieces.

The recipe is actually quite easy, and amazingly delicious.  I had to borrow some whiskey from some neighbors of ours, as I am not generally a brown liquor kind of girl (I am trying to expand my horizons).  The result was not overpowering at all, and the chocolate wasn’t too rich or sweet.  I definitely recommend this recipe, and I am pretty sure I used the whites to make either meringues or angel food cake.  Since I don’t have an ice cream maker I always end up wasting yolks when I make angel food cake, so now I can actually use all of the egg when making something that requires egg whites!

This is also a great entertaining recipe, since you can make it well in advance and you really have to do nothing to serve them except for take them out of the fridge!

Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme

Source: Tartelette

6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk (I had 1% and it still worked fine)
1 cup heavy cream
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup Irish whiskey (I used the full 1/4 cup and didn’t think it was too overpowering)

Place 6 to 8 ramekins into a roasting pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the honey for 2-3 minutes.

In the meantime, bring the milk and cream to a simmer in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the mixture. Slowly whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. (return over low heat if it needs a bit more heat to dissolve). Slowly pour the chocolate mixture over the egg yolks and honey, whisking constantly until both mixtures come together. Add the whiskey and stir briefly.

Divide the chocolate batter evenly among the ramekins. Pour hot water into the roasting pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the cream appears just set. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before eating.

I know what you’re thinking.  Chocolate beet cake?  I dismissed the idea as soon as it was presented to me.  As you probably know by now, I am not a big fan of vegetables.  But I decided to take a second look, and I am glad I did.  Because the cake was not as weird as I thought it was going to be.

This cake was made for the always wonderful Cake Day, which you might remember from last year.  Last year the fabulous Kelley and I made this beauty, which was wildly popular, so we knew it would be hard to follow up this year.  So we decided to go off the beaten path, and went with the chocolate beet cake that Kelley discovered online.  It was simple, but had rave reviews, and seemed completely appropriate for a Cake Day celebration.

We also got bonus points for the fact that we made the cake during the hottest weekend of the year so far, and in the middle of a boil water order for the Greater Boston area.  We made do, and still made this lovely cake.  People were a bit hesitant to eat it at the celebration, which I can understand, especially since it did not have any special decorations, or even any frosting.  Besides, Linden had made pop rocks cupcakes, what can possibly beat that?

The consensus was that the cake was quite good.  A little lacking on the chocolate flavor, if you ask me, but then again by now you should know that I love my chocolate.  Brad liked it quite a bit, he tends to like more classic tasting cakes that aren’t so overpowering in flavor.  Although I would maybe like to top this with some sort of frosting, just to give it a bit more something extra.  But you definitely can not taste the beets, they just lend an earthy flavor and make the cake quite dense and moist.  It was fairly easy to make, although we apparently had monster beets, as we had enough to make at least two cakes.

Chocolate Beet Cake

Source: Straight From the Farm

1 C. margarine or butter, softened, divided
1 1/2 C. packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs at room temp
2-3 oz. dark chocolate
5 medium beets (2 C. pureed) *Our beets were giant, so we probably only needed 2-3
1 t. vanilla extract
2 C. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

To make beet puree, trim stems and roots off beets and quarter them.  Place in heavy sauce pan filled with water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 50 mins or until the beets are tender.  Drain off remaining liquid and rinse beets in cold water as they’ll be too hot to handle otherwise.  Slide skins off and place beets in blender.  Process until a smooth puree forms.  Let cool slightly before using in cake.  I like to make the puree ahead and store it in the fridge, sometimes up to several days in advance.

In a mixing bowl, cream 3/4 cup margarine and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Melt chocolate with remaining butter in the microwave on high in 20 second intervals, stirring each time until smooth. Cool slightly. Blend chocolate mixture, beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture.  The batter will appear separated so don’t fret.

Combine flour, baking soda , salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. spring form pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 60-70 minutes  or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely before dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

I apologize for the lack of posting this week, things have been busy at casa pickyeatings.  We got new blinds for our 10 foot tall windows, and needless to say, I am excited to have real blinds and actual privacy.  It’s kind of fantastic.  I get excited about the little things.

This week I actually have a sweet recipe for you, after I have shared more soups and  stews and chili than you probably want all at once.  See, here in New England, the weather is fickle, and I can still be eating a slightly hearty soup in April or May.  One week it was almost 90, and then this week it barely got out of the 50′s.  This weekend is no exception, the Boston Marathon is Monday (aka we get the day off), and while the runners will probably love the weather in the 50′s, the residents won’t as much.

I found these blondies over on Erin Cooks, and had bookmarked it on my reader ages ago.  I am not usually a maker of blondies, I have a few bars in my recipe binder, but as you can probably tell, I am a cookie and cupcake fiend.  But when I saw these, they looked delicious, and seemed pretty easy.

And they were.  Anything that starts with a cup and a half of melted butter mixed with brown sugar is bound to be really good, right?  The first time I made them they were slightly undercooked, which made them gooey and delicious.  The second time I made them they were a little more solid, and not quite as good in my opinion, although the people eating them didn’t seem to mind, although now that I think of it, one was pregnant, so she ate about 5 regardless.  Speaking of which, I am going to be an aunt again!  That means I need to get my rear in gear and finish  the quilt I am making and have been working on for about a year and a half  and start another one for niece or nephew #2!

Make these blondies, you will probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already (I did) and you won’t be disappointed!

Blondies

Source: Erin Cooks/Cooks Illustrated

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate chips (1 cup) or chopped bar, or 3 ounces each white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips *

* As far as chocolate was concerned, I used some white chocolate chips I had laying around, and then started throwing in chocolate chips until I was satisfied.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. I never do this.

Whisk melted butter and brown sugar together in medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in chocolate and nuts and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula.

Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

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