Monday, August 18, 2008

Ice Cream on the pie or IN the pie?

Growing up, fresh-baked cherry pie with a scoop of ice cream hit the spot! Even on a hot summer day, the treat was welcomed. For my birthday, my babysitter's sister would bake a lattice-crust cherry pie. Add that to the German chocolate cake my grandma brought, and oh, the day was a dessert lover's delight!

Now, thanks to ice cream superstores like Coldstone Creamery and DQ, ice cream pies are popular. Delicious ice cream mixed with add-ins chilled inside some kind of crust. I'm not sure if this is how the ice cream pie gained its popularity, or if some crafty chef realized ice cream inside the pie shell equaled a delicious treat!

In honor of National Ice Cream Pie Day, why not combine a fancy ice cream treat - the banana split - with a pie shell. You'll love the results! I prefer to make a graham cracker crust, but if convenience is necessary, a prepared graham cracker crust will suffice.

Banana Split Pie
  • 4 Tbsp. chocolate hard-shell ice cream topping
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust (chocolate crusts work, too)
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 t. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple ice cream topping
  • 1 quart strawberry ice cream, softened
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • chocolate syrup

Pour chocolate topping into crust. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Place sliced bananas in small bowl. Mix with lemon juice. Arrange bananas over chocolate topping. Layer with pineapple topping, ice cream, whipped cream, and nuts.

Cover and freeze until firm (a couple hours). Remove from freezer approximately 15 minutes prior to serving.

Garnish with chocolate syrup and maraschino cherries.

Serves: 8.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Decadency on a spoon - Chocolate Ice Cream Melts the Palette

Decadent. Sinful. And oh! so delicious. Chocolate ice cream remains a popular ice cream treat.

Forget the local dairy king imposters known as soft serve. Dish up the good stuff: the homemade indulgence that grandma and grandpa used to make.

Ice cream dates back to 4th century B.C., when Nero demanded snow and ice be brought down from the mountains. Then, the ice was mixed with fruit, creating the first-known example of ice cream.

The Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 697) were the first to mix ice and milk products to form the creamy treat. Eventually, traders tales of the frozen cream weaved their way back to Europe, where experimentation led to the development of sherbets, ices, and milk ices.

Americans enjoyed the dessert, too. In 1782, the French envoy honored the new American republic and served the concoction to the assembly. Dolly Madison dished it in the White House.

The first mention of chocolate ice cream was in a cookbook by Jean-Pierre Buc'hoz from 1787, but it is possible that earlier experiments in the kitchen produced the chocolaty goodness first.

Try this recipe today, in honor of National Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

  • 4 oz. quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/4 C. milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. cream
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. cold milk

Melt chocolate over low heat. At the same time, heat milk over low heat in a small saucepan. Gradually stir milk into melted chocolate. It is important to slowly add the milk; otherwise, the chocolate will clump and become hard. Heat while stirring until mixture reaches a smooth consistency. The mixture will be thick.

Beat eggs with sugar. Stir in the hot chocolate and milk mixture, stirring constantly. Add cream, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 C. cold milk. Allow mix to cool. Freeze in an ice cream freezer.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Apples or Applesauce? Hand me a spoon!

Pureed and cooked apples first appeared in British cookbooks in the 18th century. Quite a few of those early recipes included pork or other meat in the sauce. Meat in applesauce?

It seems that how the applesauce is served varies from continent to continent. In the U.S., applesauce is usually served as a sidedish or dessert. Europeans prefer applesauce as a sauce on top of meats such as ham or pork chops. For Passover, applesauce is served as a side with potato pancakes.

Applesauce is a $100 million a year business for the main applesauce manufacturers: Motts, Seneca, and Musselmans.

The sauce is a fantastic substitute for oil when baking. When I made the cupcakes for my wedding, I substituted applesauce for the oil. You can't tell a difference when noshing on one. And, it seems like the consistency holds together better than if you use oil.

I also like applesauce cake. It's a good sweet treat and a good use for that jar of applesauce that is sitting in your pantry. And in honor of National Applesauce Cake Day, go ahead and whip up this delightful treat!

Caramel Applesauce Cake
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda

Sift the above ingredients together in a large bowl.

  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 c. applesauce

Beat for five minutes. Add 2 large eggs. Beat for two additional minutes. Pour into a 9x13 pan or two layer pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 - 55 minutes. Cool and then top with caramel frosting.


  • 2 b. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream or light cream
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla

Combine sugar, cream and butter in saucepan. Cook slowly to the soft ball stage (234 degrees F). Add vanilla. Beat until it is at spreading consistency. If necessary, think with a few drops of cream.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Make Yourself a Dang Quesadilla for National Dairy Month

Maybe Napoleon Dynamite's grandma appreciated qualtiy dairy products.

Or maybe she just thought he could fend for himself.

June kicks of the annual Dairy Month celebration. And, as the wife of a dairy farmer, I can proudly say that we believe integrating dairy products into your diet does more than build strong bones. By incorporating the 3-a-day plan, you can meet calcium and vitamin D needs.

At our house, not only do we drink a lot of milk - sometimes using a gallon or more a day - but we eat our fair share of cheese.

One of our favorites, featuring cheese, is black bean and cheese quesadillas. Try it for a spicy snack or make several and serve as a main dish.

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 T. chopped green onion
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1 T. butter OR butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1 t. cumin

Mash beans. Combine with salsa, onion, cilantro, cheese, and cumin. Divide mixture on four tortillas, spreading close to the edge. Top with a tortilla.

Melt butter or spray cooking spray into skillet. Over medium low to medium heat, cook until lightly browned, approximately 2 - 3 minutes per side. Cut into wedges before serving.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mint Julep - Medicine or Cocktail?

One of the most relaxing and refreshing alcoholic drinks is the mint julep. Popular for nearly two centuries, the drink's history is not clear.

"Julep" is derived from the Persian gulab and the Arabic julab, both of which mean rosewater, and were a scented liquid made from rose petals immersed in water. North African and Middle Eastern cooking relied on its use. During medieval times, rosewater was a popular medicine in Europe.

John Davis' book Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States (1803) mentions the drink that contains a dram of liquor and mint and is consumed by Virginians in the morning. Davis' book does not say the drink contains whiskey.

The Food Chronology by James Trager reports that brandy poured over ice and garnished with mint leaves is served at White Sulphur Springs, a spa in western Virginia. Reportedly, the drink was considered as a protection against malaria.

Trager's book also mentions that in 1859, the drink was served at Old White Springs in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. The drink contains brandy, cut loaf sugar, limestone water, ice, and mint. Eventually, the brandy was replaced by bourbon whiskey.

While Henry Clay served as a U.S. senator from Kentucky, he brought the drink to the Round Robin Bar located in the Willard Hotel. Thus, a popular southern treat finds its way into political circles.

And no Kentucky Derby would be complete without its signature drink. The julep earned that title in 1938 when the cocktail was served in a souvenir glass that sold for 75 cents. The Kentucky Derby Museum estimates that over 80,000 juleps are served during the Derby.

To whip up a pitcher of the famed drink, you need the following ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • mint leaves for garnish

Combine water and sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add mint and boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 30 minutes. Pour mint syrup through a strainer. Allow to cool.

Combine syrup and bourbon. Pour into a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated for up to one month. Garnish with mint leaves when serving.

Servings: 4

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chocolate Chips Discovered By Accident

A favorite snack for young and old alike is the chocolate chip cookie. How did the invention of the chocolate chip come about? Thank a Massachusetts inn owner.

Ruth Wakefield graduated from Massachusetts Normal School n 1924 and worked as a dietitian. But she and her husband purchased a tourist lodge and dubbed it Toll House Inn.

Ruth earned a reputation for her fancy desserts and sweets. Her favorite cookie recipe was the Butter Drop Do cookies. Usually, baker's chocolate was a staple for the recipe, but Ruth's pantry was void on that fateful day. Instead, she substituted baker's chocolate with a semisweet bar that she cut into pieces. The bar, incidentally, was a gift from Andrew Nestle of Nestle Chocolate Company.

Ruth assumed the semisweet chunks would melt into the cookies, but once she removed the cookie sheet from the oven, she discovered that the small chunks softened, and the Toll House Inn guests loved her cookies.

As Ruth's recipe gained popularity, she and Nestle made a deal. He would print her now-famous recipe on the package and in return, Ruth received a lifetime's supply of chocolate.

My favorite chocolate chip cookies are the ones my Grandma Larson used to bake. They were oh so moist and the chips would just melt in your mouth. She would line an old metal coffee can (yes, this was in the 60s) with a bread sack and fill it full of the delectable treat.

One time, we had friends over on a Friday night. Our parents were downstairs and we girls were upstairs, but we took a can of grandma's cookies with us. I think I ate 19 of them and my friend ate about 17. I was so "not-feeling-up-to-par" the next day. But I didn't let that setback deter me.

Now when I have the chance, I make chocolate chip cookies using the Toll House recipe, but I also like to add coconut and chopped nuts. Mmmm. Delicious!!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Truffles aren't a trifle to make

Mention the word 'truffle' and two thoughts might filter through your mind: an expensive chocolate treat or a mushroom. Interestingly, one was inspired by the other.

Chocolate truffles originated in France and featured a mound of ganache - chocolate and cream - rolled in chocolate. These globs resembled the highly sought after mushrooms. Thus, the sweet treat earned the same name.

Stories concerning the invention of the chocolate truffle attribute its discovery to famous French food expert Auguste Escoffier. Reportedly, one of his assistants poured hot cream over chunks of chocolate instead of into a bowl of sugar and eggs. And thus, ganache was born.

In the U.S., the truffle is often confused with any cream-filled chocolate. The two candies are nothing alike. Truffles feature balls of ganache covered in expensive chocolate.

Truffles make a classy gift, especially when they are homemade delicacies. A popular choice is the Champagne Truffle. The following recipe makes 24 delightful pieces.

Champagne Truffles
  • 1 pound quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ounce Cognac or 3 Tablespoons champagne
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 pound cocoa powder

Note: The champagne can change the consistency of the ganache, but the mixture will still form easily into balls.

Bring cream to a boil, stirring to prevent scorching. Pour over one pound of quality bittersweet chocolate. Beat in butter. Cool to set. Beat on medium speed until light. Add cognac or champagne.

Pour mixture into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tube and form mounds of the ganache on wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate until set.

After the centers have set, melt another pound of bittersweet chocolate. Sift cocoa into a pan. Dip balls into the melted chocolate and then place in the cocoa, rolling until coated. Once set, place truffles in a strainer and shake gently to remove any excess cocoa powder.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Parfait - A Sinfully Good Dessert

Want an easy dessert that will satisfy everyone? Consider serving a parfait.

Originally, parfait was developed during the 1800s. It tasted like coffee and was a frozen treat served in several forms because the parfaits were placed in ice cream molds. Eventually, these layered ice cream desserts were laced with fruit, syrups, or liqueurs.

The American version of the treat features ice cream layered with fruit or syrup that is served in a tall, thin glass. Parfaits should not be confused with ice cream sundaes. The difference: the dish.

Parfait can be made with pudding, mousse, or ice cream. Here's an easy treat that is sure to delight!

1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding (fat-free works for this recipe)
2 cups cold milk (skim may be used)
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. whipped cream (low-fat or fat-free is suitable)

Layer options: chocolate syrup, fruit, whipped cream

Combine pudding mix and milk and mix according to package directions. Add vanilla and whipped cream. Whip until smooth. Layer pudding mixture into parfait glasses, alternating with layers of chocolate syrup, fresh fruit, or whipped cream.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Break-Up Diet - 365 Days a Year

My good pal Annette Fix, from WOW-Women on Writing, is my guest blogger for the day. She has an amazing book launching today.

The Break-Up Diet: a memoir by Annette Fix goes on sale today! You can order it on or from your local bookseller.

The Break-Up Diet is the true story of a 30-something single mother/aspiring writer who is working as an exotic dancer, searching for Prince Charming, and trying to find a perfect balance between her dreams and her day-to-day life as Supermom.

Please visit The Break-Up Story Forum (
A place where women can go to read and share their break-up and dating stories. Check it out and join the fun!

Annette Fix is the Senior Editor for WOW! Women On Writing, an author, and spoken-word storyteller, living in Laguna Niguel, California with her Danish Prince Charming, her aspiring photographer son, and two rescued dogs.

Book Website:
The Break-Up Story Forum:

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. As a matter of fact, if you ask my husband what date it falls on, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you. And I like it that way.

Why? Because he believes we shouldn’t cherish each other on only one day out of an entire year.

We have a special ritual that I believe will keep us happily married all the way into the fairytale sunset. Each morning, and at different times throughout the day, my husband will ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” And, after my either yes or no reply, I ask him the same question.

Beyond the obvious and tangible benefit of having a quick errand run or a particular meal prepared, offering to do “anything” for each other is a constant reminder of why we got married in the first place. Love and devotion.

And I’ll take that over a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers any day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms - Veggie Delight!

Portobello mushrooms are a huge favorite of mine. After marinating, they make a great grilled sandwich or panini. Slice them for a stir-fry style side dish. Or stuff them with cheese. Even the biggest meat eater in our house enjoys them!

Just a couple weeks ago, the local grocery store (I live on a farm outside a town of 400 residents) had packages of portobellos priced at 5 for $10. Each package had 3 fairly good sized mushrooms, so I purchased them and served them several different ways.

The website The Gourmet Sleuth has a wonderful read on portobello mushrooms.

Here's a good stuffed mushroom recipe that makes a great side dish or a vegetarian entree.
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • 3/4 chup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (I substituted almonds and thought it was good)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 3 T. Parmesan chese
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 T. vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15 x 10 baking sheet with cooking spray.

Remove stems from mushrooms. Combine 1/4 c. mozzarella, bread crumbs, nuts, onion, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in egg and broth. Blend.

Spoon the cheese mixture into mushroom caps. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Place on baking sheet and bake uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes. Mushrooms should be tender.

Carrot Cake

When my college roommate got married some 20-odd years ago, she served a tasty carrot cake at the reception. She also told me that carrot cake should be served at all weddings since it is the "traditional" cake. Actually, I believe fruit cakes were the original wedding cakes, but nonetheless, her wedding/carrot cake was a hit!

The first cakes resembled bread instead of having the consistency of the cakes we consume today. Carrot cake as we know it derived from medieval times. Sweeteners were scarce so carrots were substituted in cakes and desserts. This cake resembles a quick bread more than a cake.

Molly O'Neill, in her New York Cookbook (1992) states that Washington was served carrot cake at a tavern in New York in 1783 as a celebration of British Evacuation Day.

During WWII, the British revival of carrot cake came about due to sugar rationing. The sweet spice dessert did not gain popularity in the U.S. until the 1960s.

Carrot cake can be a plain spice cake with grated carrots or it can be a culinary work of art. Ingredients for one of my favorite variations are:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil (I substitute apple sauce for the oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan or two 9-inch round cake pans.

Combine dry ingredients and stir to blend. Add eggs, oil, carrots, and vanilla. Beat until blended. Stir in pineapple, coconut, and walnuts. Pour mixture into the pan(s). Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

If you like the traditional cream cheese frosting most American carrot cakes are topped with, try this recipe. This recipe will frost a 9 x 13 cake. If you prepared two 9-inch round cakes, you'll need to double this recipe.

  • 1 3-oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 T. warm water
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, water, and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting reaches a smooth consistency.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hash It Over

Once considered a traditional breakfast side dish, hash has been dished up in both diners and home kitchens alike. I will admit that when I think of hash, I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and think of some can on a shelf in the canned vegetable aisle at the grocery store. The picture isn't appetizing, and I question why someone would subject themselves to such a foodstuff.

But since hash consists of finely-chopped ingredients mashed into a paste, the end result of a homemade hash certainly makes the canned variety pale in comparison. Corned beef is the preferred choice of meat; however, any leftovers will suffice. Typically, leftover beef, onions, potatoes, and spices serve as the basis for the dish. Quite often, the mixture accompanies eggs and toast on the breakfast plate.

But depending on your geographic region, hash might resemble a completely different dish. In Cuba, hash is a.k.a. picadillo - shredded beef (although sometimes shredded chicken), garlic, tomatoes, onion, and spices - used as a stuffing for tacos. Occasionally, additional vegetables are added to the mix; the Cuban version, featuring raisins and olives, is a well-known rendition.

In the southern U.S., shredded pork and barbeque sauce marinate into a spicy mixture and the meat is served over rice.

Traditional corned beef hash remains relatively simple to make. Serve this one beside eggs cooked to your style for a hearty breakfast. The ingredients list includes:
  • 2 lbs. cooked corn beef, cubed
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 T. butter

Boil potatoes until tender but firm. Drain, cool and dice. Saute pepper and onion in 2 T.butter. Mix cubed corn beef, potatoes, pepper, onion, egg yolk, and egg until a firm consistency, similar to a meatloaf. Form into patties. You may chill overnight or fix immediately. Melt 4 T. butter over medium heat, add meat mixture, and cook thoroughly (approximately 8 - 10 minutes).

If you prefer to utilize those meaty leftovers for another main dish meal, try a Texas hash. This dish is a family favorite!

  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 c. uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 quart casserole dish. Brown beef and onions. When onions are transparent, add peppers and garlic. Cook until green peppers are soft. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients and pour into casserole dish. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

4 - 6 servings.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Baked Alaska

When I was a senior in high school, I had to cook a dinner - complete with appetizer, main course, vegetable, potato or rice, salad, and dessert - and invite someone to eat dinner with me. I wanted something elegant; something that others would never consider making. I'm not sure what I prepared for the main course, but I do remember making a Baked Alaska for dessert.

The French call it a bombe, a conglomeration of solid ice cream and cake, coated with the meringue. Legend has it that the dessert evolved from the French. A Chinese delegation was visiting Paris, and the Chinese chef showed the French cook how to prepare the dessert.

Baked Alaska features a sponge cake topped with hard ice cream. Uncooked meringue covers the entire dish and it is placed in the freezer until serving time. Just prior to serving, the dessert is placed in a hot oven or under the broiler until the meringue begins to brown.

Many claims to discovering the dessert exist. An American physicist boasted about his creation in 1804 after testing the heat resistance of beaten egg whites. His "invention" is known as omlette surprise.

But the name, Baked Alaska, originated in 1867 at Delmonico's. Chef Charles Ranhofer coated a brick of ice cream with meringue and popped into a toasty oven for a short time. The cause for celebration: America's acquisition of the Alaska Territory. Ranhofer dubbed the dessert Alaska-Florida.

Considered a sign of wealth, the dessert was served in fancy hotels and was popularized in America with a mention in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Here's a fairly easy recipe for Baked Alaska:

1 sponge cake or 1 1-inch layer cake, any flavor
1 qt. ice cream sliced in half to fit on cake; any flavor
5 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cream of tartar
2/3 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place sliced ice cream halves on top of cake. Trim excess cake to a 1 inch border around the ice cream. Freeze until solid. Beat 5 egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue around cake and ice cream, making sure to form a seal around the cake. Bake in 500 degree oven until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Welcome To the Kitchen

So, I was sitting in my office yesterday glancing through an old cookbook when genius struck! I like food. I enjoy history. I am a writer. Why not combine those three elements and create a recipe for a blog?

So with that thought in mind, I decided that this will be a good exercise for me. This is a creative recipe for food writing experience and a chance to experiment in the kitchen.

It's a match made in heaven!

Each day's blog will focus on a particular food. If a certain day is a national or international celebration, for instance, January 26 is Pistachio Day, then that day's blog will give information about that particular food, including its history. I'll also include a recipe that either I have developed or one that is a family favorite.

If the inspiration would have hit me earlier, I would have started this on the first day of the month, but since I didn't receive the epiphany until the third, I will catch up this week.

So take a seat at the kitchen table (or your computer desk) and dish with me.