Dec 28, 2012

Chocolate Chai Pie with Homemade Boozy Eggnog Ice Cream

Homemade Boozy Eggnog Ice Cream and Chocolate Chai Pie were my biggest experimental recipes this holiday season.  I love them!  SOOO GOOD!

There are two types of people in the world:  1) Those who like eggnog, and 2) Those who think eggnog is disgusting.  I'm personally of the former group.  Which are you?

I've only ever had the grocery store carton variety of eggnog.  Though that's too thick for my liking, so I usually cut it half / half with skim milk...and add a sprinkling of nutmeg to the top.  Mmmm.

This year I got it in my head that I REALLY wanted to make homemade eggnog.  Never have I done it before.  But this year was my year to attempt it, despite several people telling me it was hard.

It's not.

I stole Alton Brown's recipe exactly.  Super tasty.  Not hard.  I made two batches; one for drinking as is, and another for trying it as ice cream.  Both turned out super tasty.

Alton Brown's Eggnog Recipe
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in colour.  Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved.  Add the milk, cream, bourbon, and nutmeg...stirring to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of another stand mixer and beat until soft peaks form.  With the mixer still running, gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the milk mixture.  

*Here's where I deviated from the recipe slightly to make ice cream.  Chill your final eggnog mixture for about 15 minutes so it's cold.  Pour into your cold ice cream maker and let it churn for about 20-25 minutes. 
Also note, this is a little more "icy" over "creamy" because a) it has alcohol which is harder to freeze and b) it has meringue egg whites.  But it's super yummy!

Once I finished that, I decided I wanted to a) have a yummy contrasting flavour to serve with the ice cream, and b) use my brand new Pampered Chef Pie Slice 'n Serve.  Sooo, I made a Chocolate Chai Pie!!  I found my inspiration in this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.  But I changed a few ingredients and steps, as follows.

Chocolate Chai Pie
1.5 cups whipping cream
4 black tea bags ( I used Tetley Black tea)
58 vanilla wafers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled 
*When I make this again, I will add a little less ground cardamom (simply because I ground my own from pods, which makes a more intense flavour.  And I would use more chocolate.*

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream until just simmering. Remove from heat, and add the tea bags, pressing to immerse the bags into the cream.
Cover the saucepan and let it stand for 30 minutes to steep thoroughly.  Remove the tea bags, carefully squeezing them over the mixture to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the tea bags, and set mixture aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Crush the vanilla wafers into small crumbs.  I used a meat tenderizer, and vented my frustrations.  :)
In a medium sized bowl, combine the crushed vanilla wafers, 1/4 cup melted butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla.  (I should have crushed my wafers smaller, but I was impatient.  oops)
Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch or 9.5-inch pie plate (I used 9.5-inch).  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the 1/2 cup softened butter on medium to high for approximately 30 seconds.  Then add the powdered sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.  Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the melted chocolate and cream mixture, beating until just combined.
Beat until just combined.
Cover and chill for about 15 minutes.  Then beat for another 3-5 minutes until the mixture thickens and ribbons form.
Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust.
Smooth the surface.
Cover and chill for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.  Serve with a scoop of the homemade eggnog ice cream.  
And *swoon*.

Dec 24, 2012

Christmas Eve breakfast

This is the first year that Blair and I will celebrate Christmas without family.  It's a bittersweet time, for sure.  We deeply miss our family, at all times, but especially around the holidays.  Yet we are excited to figure out how WE want to celebrate.  

Last night we sat down and tried to come up with traditions that we wanted to keep or some we might want to start.  We wrote everything down in a big brainstorming session...and will pick and choose our favourites.  *I would LOVE to hear your favourite holiday traditions!!  Please share them with me in the comments section.  We might just "steal" them for our own. :) *

One thing we really didn't know what to do with was Christmas Eve breakfast.  Surprisingly, both of our families had the exact same Christmas morning sausage/egg casserole while we were growing up.  So we will definitely be continuing that one!  But Christmas Eve breakfast stumped us.  Neither one of our families did anything specific.  Always special, yes.  But nothing that really repeated year after year.  So we were stumped.  

And of course, we didn't start brainstorming until bed time last night.  That makes our options limited based on the on-hand ingredients in the house (which, for us, is not all that much).  Blair suggested pancakes...which is our easy go-to "fancy" breakfast.  I was fine with pancakes, but I wanted to somehow spruce them up to make them festive.  More brainstorming....aka not sleeping.

Here's what I came up with:

I doubt it will become a least until we start having kids.  But we had fun with all the festivity.  :)

Chocolate Peppermint Walnut Flax Seed Pancakes - Snowman Style
Krusteaz Pancake Mix (we went simple instead of making our own batter)
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Peppermint Extract
Organic Golden Flax Seed
Toppings (optional)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Candy corn, leftover from Halloween
Powdered Sugar
Egg, fried
Sugar-free maple syrup (not pictured)

This is so unlike me if I'm preparing for a blog post, but I didn't measure anything.  So sorry.  I just kind of mixed everything together until it "looked right". 
Then we scooped 1/2 cup of batter onto the griddle, and 1/4 batter directly above.  Once that was ready, flip (making sure to flip both the top and bottom simultaneously so they stay together).
When they are almost ready to be pulled off, add two chocolate chips to the small pancake for "rock eyes".  Also place the candy corn on for a "carrot nose".  Then add three chocolate chips to the big pancake for "coal buttons". 
Pull it off the griddle (again, top and bottom simultaneously) and plate it.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over it, to create a "snowy" effect.
Then cut your fried egg in half and place it around the neck as a "scarf". 
We also topped with sugar free maple syrup (not pictured).

Merry Christmas!

Dec 11, 2012

Crafting Mania

I haven't posted in a while, not because I haven't been doing any projects, but quite the opposite.

I've been so crafting up a storm for Christmas.  You see, I got it into my head that I wanted to make every Christmas present this year....for everyone in my family.  I. AM. CRAZY.   

I don't know about you, but I have a fairly large family.  Which means I have a fairly long list of gift recipients.  Which means I have a VERY long list of craft projects.

So, despite the blogging hiatus, I've been doing my fair share of over-ambitious crafting.  After Christmas, and all my presents have been given to my family (and hopefully loved by all), you should revert back to your boy/girl scout days and make sure you are prepared.  An onslaught of craft project ideas is coming your way.

Don't say I didn't warn you....

Nov 7, 2012

Best Pho Ever

One of my co-workers in Seattle introduced me to this amazing dish called Pho.  It's a Vietnamese noodle soup.  Now, while this meal can be incredibly delicious, you have to be very careful where you go to get it.  

Since I'm now in New Mexico and have yet to find a great location, I decided to make my own.  And, let me just tell you, it was the best pho ever.  Seriously, THE BEST.

Because I'm the kind, considerate, generous person that I am...stop laughing....I've decided to share the recipe with you, my faithful followers. :)
5 oz dried rice noodles
heaped 1/2 cup bean sprouts
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 small handful mint leaves
1 small handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 red chili, sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
9 oz. beef tenderloin, very thinly sliced
4 cups beef stock
6 cloves
10 whole black peppercorns
1 1/4 in. piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
 6 green cardamom pods
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Put all of the ingredients for the broth in a large saucepan and simmer gently over low heat 20-30 minutes.
While the broth is simmering, put the rice noodles in a large bow, cover well with boiling water, and leave to soak 15 minutes.  
 Once the noodles are soft, drain and divide them into serving bowls.  
Put the bean sprouts, scallions, mint and cilantro leaves, chili, and lime wedges in small individual bowls for topping options.
Bring the broth to a boil over high heat.  Strain.
Fill a large soup ladle with a few of the steak slices.  
 Dip them into the boiling broth for approximately 10-20 seconds until the beef turns light brown but still pink.  
 Then pour 1/4th of the meat and broth over the noodles, so the noodles are covered (or mostly covered) with broth.
Repeat for each of the bowls and serve immediately, allowing guests to help themselves to the garnishes.
Enjoy this deliciousness!!

Fall Nails

All summer I've had either clear, french tip, or pink nails.  It's my typical summer routine.  I find them to be fresh and light to go with the sunny days.

But I'm sick of it.  And, despite the fact that it's still 80 degrees here during the day, it is 'technically' Fall.  So I went with it.

Dark purple nails with silver glitter tips.  Base coat.  Two coats of dark purple. Silver tips. Top coat.

Pretty fall nails.  :)

Oct 25, 2012

Pinterest Fail

So far on this blog, I've pretty much just shown the creations, crafts, recipes that have worked well. However, that isn't how it always turns out.  I'm definitely not always so lucky.  Trust me.  Today, I decided to prove it by showing you a major Pinterest Fail.  

I have long-ish hair and wanted to try an easy way to curl it without using a curling iron.  To Pinterest I went in search of a good technique to try.  I found this tutorial:
Seemed simple enough.   Just twist and bobby-pin.  Sleep.  Undo and finger-comb.

So I tried it.  My husband thought I was ridiculous to try to sleep with my hair like this.  It wasn't as problematic as I assumed it would be, but I did end up with a tender spot on my head the next morning from a bobby pin.

 The next day, this is how I looked.  hah!!!
Luckily I didn't have anywhere special to go that day.  Oh well.

Sep 27, 2012

Honey Beer Bread

After having just returned home from 2.5 month away, we obviously didn't have many groceries in the house.  Sure, we had a few "basics" but not much out of which to make a yummy homemade treat.

We pretty much had spices, flour, coffee, a smidge of sugar, beer and jalapenos.  All things that won't spoil while we were gone.  What, oh what, can I make with THAT???

Honey Beer Bread.  That's what.  Homemade goodness with barely any ingredients?  YES!

This recipe doesn't call for self-rising flour or yeast for one reason: beer has yeast! The beer is our leavening agent...and a tasty one at that.  Make sure you cook with one that you would actually enjoy drinking.  Don't buy the cheapest one you can find because, if you don't like the taste of the beer alone, chances are it will hinder the tastiness of your bread.  I used ShockTop because a) it's yummy and b) I thought it's hint of citrus would be a nice additional flavour.

Makes: 1 loaf of bread                                                         
Servings: depends on your will power!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey, heated
1 bottle of beer
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat over to 350F. Grease a 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
When baking, always measure precisely.  Cooking is different and experiments can take place.  But baking is more of a science and it is really important to make sure your ingredients are measured well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Another tip:  when measuring flour for baking, always scoop it with a spoon and pour into your measuring cup.  Then flatten with the straight end of a knife.  If you simply scoop the flour directly into your measuring cup, it will be too compact and you will end up with too much flour...making your recipe dense.
 Measure your honey into a small microwavable bowl and microwave for about 5-10 seconds.  This will make it easier to work with and mix into your dough.
Open your beer with a really awesome bottle opener.  I used one from my trip in Croatia.  (okay, so you don't HAVE to use a cool opener, but it does make it more fun!)
 Pour the heated honey and the beer into the dry mixture.
 Enjoy the reaction made when pouring the yeasty beer into the mixture. :)
 Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer and honey into the dry ingredients until just mixed.
 Don't over-mix, or your bread might turn out tough instead of fluffy.
 Melt the butter.  Pour half into the bottom of the loaf pan. 
Spoon the batter into the pan, making sure its fairly evenly spread out.  It doesn't have to be perfect.
Pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter and use a pastry brush to spread it around.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  It will make your home smell yummy!!
Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
 Enjoy!  I served mine with homemade BBQ meatballs and salad.  SUCH a good dinner!  But this bread could also be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack...yes, it's THAT good.

Source:  lululu at home