Strawberries and Champagne Ice Cream

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Happy New Year’s Eve! Do you have any special plans tonight?

In our house, we like to lie around, eat cheese, and sip sparkling wine or champagne as we watch other, more adventurous people celebrate on TV. It’s my favorite kind of holiday!

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A few days ago, when I started drafting this post, I set out to write something prolific and reflective about the year that has passed. Then, I realized that I was taking myself way too seriously.

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Instead of writing some lengthy novel about 2013, why not focus on giving 2014 the very best welcome party that I could muster?

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And…what better way to celebrate the arrival of 2014 than with a little strawberries and Champagne?

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This ice cream is super easy – just add some Champagne to your favorite strawberry ice cream recipe.  Or, even simpler – purchase storebought strawberry ice cream, layer scoops of ice cream and diced strawberries in a Champagne flute, and then top with chilled Champagne for your very own New Year’s ice cream float!

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For a boozier flavor, just add more Champagne.

After all, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

Do you think he felt the same way about ice cream?

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Thank you to all of you who made 2013 the best year yet! (Including all of my brand new Internet friends!)

I hope you all have a safe and joyful New Year’s Eve, and that 2014 brings you continued happiness, success, and excitement.

Happy scooping! See you next year 🙂

Strawberries and Champagne Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Yield: About 1.5 Quarts

 You will need:

2 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of whole milk

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

5 large egg yolks

1 lb frozen strawberries, pureed, strained, and mixed with ¼ sugar (or slightly more sugar if your berries are extremely tart)

¾ cup Champagne or sparkling wine (or to taste, depending upon how boozy you want it)

Extra chopped strawberries for decoration (or to mix in, if you desire a chunky texture).

Directions:

  1. Prepare an ice bath and set aside for later.
  2. In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yolks with a whisk and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, and salt. Heat until the granules of sugar are melted and the mixture just begins to steam.
  4. Add the heated cream to the egg yolks, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly (you don’t want scrambled eggs!).
  5. Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
  6. Pour the custard through a sieve and into an empty bowl. Submerge into ice bath and stir occasionally until cooled. Then add in the strawberry puree. Refrigerate mixture for 4 hours or preferably, overnight.
  7. When mixture is thoroughly chilled, add the Champagne. Freeze mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you desire a chunky texture, add a few chopped strawberries during the final few minutes of churning (but keep in mind the berries may become hard if you freeze the ice cream in your fridge overnight).
  8. Enjoy immediately for a softer ice cream, or freeze overnight. Make your own New Year’s float by adding ice cream and chopped berries to a champagne flute and topping off with sparkling wine or champagne. Enjoy!

Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

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Happy Christmas Eve!

For those of you who are celebrating today and tomorrow, I hope you stay safe and warm while awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus this evening.

(And if you happen to live in a region that is already warm, well…you’re already half way there!)

So, I’ve been jonesing to make this peppermint mocha ice cream for quite some time now, long before the drink version made its annual appearance onto coffee shop menus this holiday season. In fact, I started thinking about this flavor months and months ago, when the weather was still summery and I found myself daydreaming about snowflakes and hot chocolate.

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Peppermint mochas are a special seasonal drink here in the United States, and my girlfriends and I always look forward to our first sips each year. Along with Thanksgiving parades, snow flurries, and Christmas songs on the radio, the arrival of peppermint mochas at local (and not-so-local) coffee shops signifies the beginning of the holiday season.

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This year, I was determined to make a knock-your-socks-off ice cream version of this celebrated drink that I could enjoy at home, whenever I wanted.

There was just one thing standing in my way.

Espresso powder.

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In preparation for this post, I spent a great deal of time researching peppermint mochas…and then mochas in general. Though I’m no barista, all of my research seemed to support one key fact: the best mochas are made with the strongest espresso (not coffee).

A simple way to incorporate the rich espresso flavor into baked goods and ice creams is through the use of espresso powder. However, easier said than done; espresso powder, or instant espresso, is notoriously difficult to find in the States (especially in little country bumpkin towns like mine).

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Not to be confused with plain ol’ instant coffee, espresso powder packs a powerful punch when added to desserts. One tablespoon greatly enhances the flavor of chocolate confections, while two tablespoons imparts a lovely and undeniable coffee flavor.

Determined to make the very best mocha ice cream I could imagine, I began my quest for this elusive and coveted ingredient.

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However, after days of searching, it became clear that espresso powder (or rather, my lack of it) was going to cause me some major headaches.

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Instead of immediately ordering espresso powder from a trusted online retailer like a normal person, I created unnecessary obstacles for myself and began an exhaustive search of every grocery store within a 30 mile radius of my house.

Okay, so “exhaustive” might be a bit dramatic. But you know how it feels when you’ve got your heart set on making cookies, only to find that you’re out of eggs? Well, imagine if your local grocer just stopped carrying eggs completely.

That’s how I felt!

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Finally, after weeks of searching (and incessant grumbling), my Senior Product Manager disappeared one morning, and an hour later, a tub of the special ingredient magically appeared in our kitchen.

It was a Christmas miracle!

And let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait. In a few minutes, our home was filled with the sweet, refreshing aroma of peppermint and mocha, and later that evening, as our Belly Monsters dined on the richest of ice creams, I finally understood what all the fuss was about.

Espresso powder is now a staple in my baking cabinet, and I can’t wait to start adding it to all of my chocolate treats!

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Although I’m a huge fan of custard based ice creams, this recipe contains no egg, and thus has a slight iciness that perfectly compliments the minty mocha flavor. It’s a wonderful finish to a filling holiday meal, or a great afternoon pick me up after a long day of shopping.

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I hope you enjoy this ice cream version of my favorite holiday drink!

And special thanks to my Sr. Product Manager for tracking down the ingredient that made this post a possibility 🙂

Happy scooping!

Peppermint Mocha Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 Quart

You will need:

1 cup of whole milk

2 cups of heavy cream

¾ cup of sugar

2.5 tablespoons of instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

¼ cup of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp (or to taste) peppermint extract

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring ocassionally until sugar granules have dissolved and mixture begins to steam slightly.

2. Turn off the heat, and add in chopped chocolate. Stir until melted and combined, and allow to cool to room temperature. Add a few drops of peppermint extract, tasting as you go. I found that about 1/8 tsp was enough for me, but if you prefer a stronger flavor, you can always add more. Refrigerate the mixture for at least two hours (but preferably overnight).

3. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Eat immediately for a soft serve texture, or freeze overnight for a firmer finished product. Add chocolate chips for even more decadence. Enjoy!

Simple Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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In honor of my better half’s birthday this week, we decided to spend our weekend doing exactly what we do best.

Eating.

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Our food extravaganza began yesterday morning with a trip to Peet’s coffee, where we braved the winter storm to sip on dark roast coffee and locally baked pain au chocolat that was the size of my head (and I’ve got a pretty sizable head).  After that, we headed home and spent the day in pajamas, watching TV and nibbling on popcorn and movie candy, waiting for our Belly Monsters to tell us it was time for dinner.

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Later that evening, when my stomach began to sound the alarm, we were disheartened to see that the roads were impossibly slick with snow. Determined to  still have a fun birthday dinner out on the town, we cancelled our dinner reservations in downtown Cleveland and instead made an impromptu trip to Cork & Cleaver, a wonderful new restaurant in the Cleveland suburb of Broadview Heights. Not only was this hotspot a closer drive for us than Cleveland proper, but we ended up having one of the best meals of our lives. The appetizers were inventive and awe-inspiring (not to mention scrumptious), and my dinner, a simple but delicious fried chicken with mac n cheese, was homey, rich, and everything I would have wanted on a cold winter’s night. My better half ordered the Pork Paprikash, made with braised pork shoulder, smoked paprika spaetzle, and creme fraiche. It was so good!

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Wait – I take that back. This place isn’t just good; it was, as my fiancé put it, “‘last meal on death row’ good.”

It might just be my favorite restaurant. Ever.

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Day 2 of the food frenzy continued this morning with these amazing pumpkin waffles, complete with Ohio maple syrup and freshly toasted pecans. Hours later, when we awoke from our breakfast coma, we headed to our favorite Lebanese joint for hummus, hot sauce, and beef shawarma on warm pita bread.

Needless to say, it has been a wonderful foodie weekend, and the Belly Monster is sound asleep.

I know what you’re thinking, though:

No birthday cake?

Nope, no birthday cake. But, there was this:

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Cheesecake ice cream, with a raspberry swirl and homemade graham cracker crust chunks. Or as I like to call it, happiness in a bowl.

The best part? It actually tastes like cheesecake! Not artificial cheesecake flavoring.

This is full-fledged, creamy, cheese-cakey goodness.

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Cheesecake is my fiancé’s favorite, especially the New York style variety. No bells and whistles, just a plain slice with slight drizzles of raspberry or strawberry sauce. Classic yet modern, understated but bold. Sort of like a certain guy I know 🙂

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This ice cream perfectly captures the flavor of a baked cheesecake, but with minimal fuss: no eggs, no custard, no stovetop; the base for this ice cream comes together in a matter of minutes with your blender.

I hope you like this colder version of a classic cheesecake, and that is satisfies your craving for the real thing.

Happy scooping! And happy birthday to the greatest guy I know 🙂

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Yield: About 1 Quart

Ingredients:

For the ice cream base:

8 oz (1 package) of cream cheese

2/3 cup of sugar

1 Lemon

1 cup of sour cream

½ cup of half and half

1/8 tsp of salt

Graham cracker crust pieces (optional)

For the raspberry swirl:

2 cups of raspberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup of white sugar

1 tsp of cornstarch (if needed)

Directions:

  1. Add the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, half and half, and salt to a blender. Zest 2/3 of the lemon straight into the machine, saving the rest for later
  2. Blend on the lowest setting until blended, no longer than 30 seconds.
  3. Refridgerate base for a few hours until chilled thoroughly, or freeze for an hour if you’re In a hurry.
  4. Make the raspberry sauce: Combine the raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until thickened, adding cornstarch if needed. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove seeds by straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Refrigerate until needed.
  5. When ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, freeze ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding graham chunks during the last few minutes. Also add remaining lemon zest, for an extra boost of flavor.
  6. Swirl in Raspberry Sauce, or drop by spoonfuls into ice cream.
  7. Eat immediately, or freeze overnight for a firmer texture (This is one that actually tastes a little better when its completely frozen, because then it just tastes like cold cheesecake!)

Vernors Ice Cream with a Caramel Pretzel Swirl

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When my fiancé and I first started dating a few years ago, we spent a lot of time exchanging our favorite childhood memories (as most new couples do). Not surprisingly, the majority of these stories often involved the consumption of food in some form or another – family dinners, holiday meals, trips to the local custard stand. The more we talked, the more I realized just how important a role food plays in shaping our personalities, our culture, and well, our entire lives, really.

(But I could be a little bit biased).

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With a major American food holiday, Thanksgiving, under our belts (and on top of our waistlines), the idea of food and family has been at the forefront of my mind all this week.

This year, my better half and I spent Thanksgiving Day with his family in Michigan, just north of Detroit (and one state over from Ohio). His family is so much fun – playful and funny, loving and exuberant.  Needless to say, I’m a pretty lucky girl to have inherited such a nice group of people as my future family.

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After a few days with the fam (and the lovely Michigan), I felt inspired to create an ice cream that captured the vibrancy of his family while paying homage to the awesome state of Michigan – no easy task, as I was soon to find out.

As I feverishly Googled “Michigan food” on the car ride home, I quickly realized a few things: 1) it’s really hard for people with short, chubby fingers to type “feverishly” on an iPhone and 2) its difficult to pinpoint one or two flavors that are decidedly Michigan, because there is just so much delicious food to be had!

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Michigan, although just one state over from Ohio, has an extremely unique cultural landscape that mixes industry with art, tradition with modernity. To boot, Michigan (and Detroit specifically) has this amazing emerging foodie culture, with fusions of Lebanese, American, and Mexican flavors (just to name a few).

For the people of Detroit, its awesome; but for a wee ice cream blogger in the heartland, it was an overwhelming amount of options that I just wasn’t ready for.

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Then, for some reason, I started thinking about some of the stories that my fiancé had shared with me during those weeks when we were first getting to know one another. One in particular stuck out in my mind:

As a small child, my fiancé often drank Vernors, a ginger soda that was a favorite with one of his uncles. Even though his underdeveloped palate didn’t love the spicy ginger flavor at the time, he persisted in drinking the soda so that he could be “cool” like his uncle.

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Little did I know, as I scoured the Interwebs searching for Michigan-inspired flavors, that this iconic ginger soda was actually a tried and true Michigan hometown favorite.  Better yet, it even has its own special ice cream drink that was created in its honor – a Boston Cooler.

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Don’t mind my pink socks

The Boston Cooler (which was actually created in Detroit, despite its name) is undoubtedly Michigan. It’s sort of the ginger soda equivalent to a root beer float, but much more unique and unexpected (just like Michigan!)

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Fizzy and refreshing, this ice cream is my tribute to an awesome Michigan creation. For an extra boost of flavor, I also added a salty pretzel swirl, bound together by a few teaspoons of last week’s homemade caramel.

So to summarize: I have a Boston-Cooler flavored ice cream, inspired by Detroit, produced by an amateur food blogger in Ohio.

Okay..you got all that? Good.

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Thanks again to my wonderful future family – and the awesome state of Michigan – for a fantastic holiday.  I couldn’t have imagined a better place to spend my day and create (food) memories that I will remember for years to come.

What’s your favorite food memory?

Happy scooping!

Vernors Ice Cream with a Caramel Pretzel Swirl

Yield: Approximately two quarts

You will need:

Ice bath

Fine mesh sieve, placed atop a large bowl or container

For the ice cream:

5 large egg yolks

2 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of whole milk

¾ cups white sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 can of cold Vernors (or other ginger flavored soda)

For the pretzel swirl:

½ cup of crushed pretzels

2 tsps of caramel, homemade or storebought

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yokes with a whisk. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, salt, and ground ginger. Heat until the granules of sugar are melted and the mixture just begins to steam.
  3. Add the heated cream to the egg yokes, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly (you don’t want scrambled eggs!).
  4. Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
  5. Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl. Add the vanilla, then stir to combine, and submerge into ice bath. Stir occasionally until mixture is cooled.  Then add the can of ginger soda. Refrigerate mixture for 4 hours or preferably, overnight.
  6. Make the pretzel swirl: combine pretzels and caramel in a bowl, stirring until pretzels clump together.
  7. Make your ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once churned, swirl in the pretzel clumps (I usually use a loaf pan – add one layer of ice cream to the bottom, then a layer of pretzels, and top with a final layer of ice cream. When you scoop, it will leave a swirled effect!)
  8. Enjoy immediately for a softer ice cream, or freeze overnight. Make your own Boston Cooler by pouring ginger soda over two scoops of ice cream.