Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream

I have this thing for REALLY GOOD ice cream, made with REALLY GOOD ingredients.  I saw an experiment on one of my favorite blogs which showed that most cartons of ice cream sold in the freezer section of your favorite grocery store, even the ones with basic, wholesome ingredients, will not melt when left out of the freezer.  The stuff just shrinks a little bit and doesn't turn to liquid.  ???  Strange... See this POST at Heavenly Homemaker where Laura experimented using homemade ice cream and two kinds of store bought ice cream.  After 72 hours, both of the cartons of store bought ice cream had still not melted.  Eeek!  Something about that really bugs me.

Ice cream is one of those things that I never buy at the store any more.  I have one of these Cuisinart countertop ice cream makers which doesn't need ice or salt:

I normally make Super Simple Vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream.  This weekend I made Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream.  

HOMEMADE Butter Pecan Ice Cream???  !!! Need I say more?  This stuff is the most delicious, wonderful, creamy ice cream EVER!  Straight out of the ice cream maker, it is divine (I had to taste...) although I placed mine in the freezer overnight for the whole scooping experience, ha-ha!    I used fresh Missouri pecans for my ice cream (which I keep in my freezer).  The hints of maple and toasted pecans will win you over for sure!  

Keep in mind that with completely frozen, homemade ice cream you need to let it sit out until it is scoopable.  The TINY bit of prep is COMPLETELY worth it.  

Here's how I made Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream AT HOME MY WAY:

Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (sold as "whipping cream")
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavoring/extract
  • 3 Tablespoons butter/margarine (I used butter)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (check for shells)

In a small sauce pan melt butter/margarine, add pecans and cook a few minutes, stirring often until pecans are toasted.

Combine all ingredients, including the butter/toasted pecans, in a container, stir well.  Place in fridge until cold (before adding to the ice cream maker).

After completely chilled, add to the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Place in freezer container and freeze.  (Remember homemade ice cream needs to sit out and soften a bit before you can scoop it.)



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Zucchini Pasta - I made it and I LOVED it!

I work with a bunch of young lawyers in my office who are about the age of my older daughter.  They are most always a complete joy to work around.  I'm not a fan of working outside my home and I often PROTEST to my family loudly my dislike for working LOL, but the people I work with are the best!

I have worked a very long time- just about 30 years long to be exact!  It seems like times are a changing.  Used to, everyone ate out for lunch.  They ate fast food, grocery store take-out, and some even went to sit down restaurants and diners.  Lately, LOTS of my friends at work bring lunch from home, even these young men lawyers!  Gotta love that!

I am always intrigued by the cooking skills of these young men.  They are making their moms and dads proud, obviously!  My husband, who just turned 50, would NEVER be bringing his own cooking for lunch, nor would it be anything close to the delicious and well balanced meals, heavy on vegetables, that these young men are cooking!

Today, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a look at one such lunch.  Although "C" didn't cook it himself this time, it looked super yummy! He brought zucchini pasta swimming in a delicious sauce of ground turkey, chunky tomatoes, and other veges.  A friend had made it for him with a special kitchen gadget (spiral cutter) that cut the zucchini in long strands like pasta. Mmmmm.. I wanted to know more! 

Over lunch, I browsed my favorite blogs and found a post by one of my first-favorite bloggers:  The Hillbilly Housewife.  Of course, she would save the day!  Not only did she give my actual inspiration, but her post and recipe (FOUND HERE) explained that I could use something I already had at home to make the long strands of zucchini pasta- no special equipment needed!  A vegetable peeler!  Cool beans!  I was trying it.

I made a quick sauce tonight after work using ground beef, garden fresh tomatoes, canned mushrooms, garlic and basil.  I used my vegetable peeler to make long strands from a huge peeled zucchini.  My dinner was DELICIOUS!  Did it taste exactly like spaghetti?  I have to confess-no.  It did not taste like spaghetti pasta.  Was it delicious and everything I hoped it to be?  Yes, yes & YES!  I love squash!  I love everything about it!  I also LOVE spaghetti sauce.  I knew this was a recipe I was going to love.

This recipe reminded me of cabbage rolls in texture.  Of course, it didn't taste like cabbage - I used zucchini.  But the texture if you're wondering - was similar to a plate full of cabbage rolls. 

Here's how I made Zucchini Pasta with Garden Fresh Tomato/Mushroom Sauce AT HOME MY WAY:

Zucchini Pasta with Garden Fresh Tomato/Mushroom Sauce
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 extra large garden fresh tomatoes - equal to about 3 cups of chopped tomatoes (peeled); or 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can of mushrooms, stems & pieces - drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • **OPTIONAL:  You could use a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce instead of making your own if you prefer.  You could use chopped Italian sausage instead of ground beef.  You could probably even make it a meatless dish if that's your thing!
In a large skillet, brown ground beef until completely done - juices all clear; and drain well.
Add peeled & chopped tomatoes and other ingredients/spices, as well as some salt & pepper (or use a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce instead of making your own here). 
Simmer on medium about 15-20 minutes until thick (without a lid).
Meanwhile, peel your zucchini - running the vegetable peeler lengthwise on your zucchini, cut into ribbons of zucchini until you think you have enough for your sauce. 
If making the homemade sauce, let it cook 15-20 minutes without a lid until it thickens up nicely.  Give it a taste and make sure it has enough salt.  If not, just heat the jarred sauce with the meat in the skillet until thick.
Once the sauce is thick, add the uncooked zucchini pasta ribbons.  Stir gently and let simmer 10 minutes or so, or until the zucchini is sauce and getting translucent.
OK.  All done!  Get out some plates and the shaky cheese (parmesan).
Dig in!

I just went round and round my big old zucchini with a vegetable peeler so as not to get into the seeds/center.  With the remaining zucchini, I grated it and placed 3 cups in a freezer bag, for using in a future batch of zucchini bread.
The fresh tomatoes and mushrooms, and spices, added to the skillet will not look right at first.  But stir, and let it simmer.  This will cook into a wonderful, rich sauce!
Ready for dinner!  Come & get it!


Scraped clean!  Delish!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake (Icebox Pie) - DITCH THE BOX RECIPE

This past Friday, my daughter and her boyfriend were coming in from KC for a visit.  What to make???  

I decided to try a recipe that I found in my hoard of paper recipes.  I often sit in my recliner just paging them through checking out whatever I might have missed.  (It's one of my favorite past times - I'm a little weird like that LOL.)  I found a recipe for a "Chocolate Icebox Pie" that sounded good.  I decided to increase the cream cheese to more equal the recipe for my Ditch the Box - No Bake Homemade Cheesecake recipe here which I knew was a guaranteed success:

This no-bake Chocolate Cheesecake recipe was super easy to whip up and was super delicious!  The boyfriend really LOVED it!  I also loved it!  It reminded me of a Wendy's Frosty-Mmmm.  

  • The chocolate in this cheesecake is chocolate syrup.  Of course, I used my Homemade Chocolate Syrup but by all means, use the store bought kind if that's the kind you keep in your fridge.  
  • I used a regular graham cracker crust (you could use a premade one if that's your thing) and you could also use smashed chocolate cookies to make a chocolate crust if you have those.  I happen to have a huge bag of regular graham cracker crumbs in my freezer so I used them but either would be great.  I don't bake my graham cracker crusts in the oven because that would totally defeat the No-Bake thing.  I just cook the crust in the microwave for 1 minute.  Works every time!  Just remember to fully cool your crust (I used the freezer) before dumping in the filling.

OK, here's how I made No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake - Icebox Pie AT HOME MY WAY:

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake
Icebox Pie
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (low/no fat is fine)
  • 1/2  cup sugar (regular, granulated)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup 
  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or crushed chocolate cookie crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup butter/margarine, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar

Crust:  Combine all cookie crumbs and sugar.  Stir well. Add melted butter/margarine and stir to combine.  Press into pie pan (up the sides as best you can) (use a microwave safe-glass/corning pie pan).  Cook in microwave for 1 minute. Place in fridge/freezer until cool before adding filling to the crust.

Filling:  Bring cream cheese to room temp or microwave a few seconds until stirs smooth.  Beat cream cheese with mixer 2 minutes.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Blend well.  Add chocolate syrup and blend until smooth.

In a separate dish, beat whipping cream until stiff.

Carefully fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream mixture until well blended and pour into cold crust.

Cover and freeze until firm.  Remove from freezer a few minutes (10 minutes at least) before cutting.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Our weather has been pretty much perfect here in Missouri for gardening!  I didn't plant a garden this year but that hasn't stopped the abundance of cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash that we have been eating.  Seems like everyone is giving me vegetables and I'm not turning ANY AWAY!

Personally, I've never been able to grow much zucchini because of the stinking (literally because they really stink when you smash them-eek!) squash bugs, groundhogs, and deer in our yard, but other people seem to really have the touch.  I was given a few of those beautiful, green, mammoth giants and I couldn't wait to dive in on some of my favorite zucchini recipes.

I remember growing up when my mom used to make a chocolate zucchini cake.  Mmmm!  I love that cake and I consider it a special summer treat!  Since it's just Doug and I at home most of the time these days, I decided to try my hand at a smaller recipe to get my chocolate/zucchini fix instead of making my mom's recipe for that huge cake.  All of the recipes I seemed to find were large recipes, using three eggs, buttermilk, lots of oil, and making boo-coo muffins.  I didn't need a huge recipe.  I needed something for breakfast so I used my favorite, basic Plain Muffin Recipe (thanks for Hillbilly Housewife HERE) which I use to make blueberry and chocolate chip muffins. I tailored that recipe to include cocoa, cinnamon, zucchini, and chocolate chips.  My recipe only uses one egg and two cups of flour and the result is a lightly sweet, chocolatey zucchini muffin.  It made exactly 12 muffins. "Perfectamundo!" (as the Fonz would say).  You could use up to 1 cup of sugar if you prefer a sweeter muffin, but I think they are perfect!

You can enjoy these muffins for breakfast as I did, or as dessert (which my Dad did at our house on Sunday night).  They would be great topped with a little whipped topping for a more cake-like/dessert experience.

Here's how I made Chocolate Zucchini Muffins AT HOME MY WAY:

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk (+ 1 teaspoon lemon juice, if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (peeled or unpeeled - your preference)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • Grate zucchini to equal one cup (you can peel first if your family doesn't like to see green flecks in their muffins.
  • PREHEAT oven to 350°.
  • In a medium size mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt & cinnamon).
  • In a large measuring cup or small bowl, measure & combine 1 cup milk (and the lemon juice if you have it), 1/2 cup oil, 1 egg - Blend until the egg/oil are all fully incorporated together.
  • Dump the liquids over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and lightly stir until just barely combined.
  • Add the zucchini and stir lightly.
  • Add the chocolate chips (and nuts, if using) and stir lightly.
  • Spray a muffin tin (for 12 muffins) and fill until almost full.
  • Bake in a fully PREHEATED oven at 350° for 25 minutes.




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