Fresh mint ice cream with chocolate chunks

If you have ever grown mint in a garden, you probably know that mint is easy to care for. In fact, it’s almost too easy – it explodes in growth and takes over other plants. In our garden we have so much chocolate mint (yes, there is a variety of mint with a chocolate flavor – try it!) it’s almost a forest. In an attempt to put the forest to use, I made chocolate mint extract. Then I remembered how fantastic ice cream made with fresh herbs is. This ice cream has a minty freshness you simply can’t get with mint extract. And the chocolate chunks, well, they simply belong. Nothing hits the spot better on a hot day!

fresh mint ice cream with chocolate chunks
recipe adapted from Annies Eats
If you can’t find chocolate mint, normal fresh mint will have a similar flavor.

2 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cup packed fresh chocolate mint (see note)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz. (3 tbsp.) cream cheese, softened
4 oz chopped chocolate

Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, warm 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the milk to just below a simmer. Add the mint and remove from the heat. Cover and allow to steep for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons milk.
Add the heavy cream, salt, sugar, and corn syrup to the saucepan with the milk and mint. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Stirring constantly, boil the mixture for 4 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the mixture returns to a boil and thickens. Pour the custard through the strainer you got out earlier. Press on the mint leaves to get as much custard as possible into the bowl.
Whisk the cream cheese and vanilla extract into the custard until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Once chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Right before the ice cream is done churning, add the chocolate to incorporate. Transfer the ice cream to a container and chill it further until it is scoop able.

banana muffins with chocolate and crystallized ginger

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Never underestimate the power of a good muffin. (Also: never underestimate the power of chocolate). A good muffin is wholesome while still being light and indulgent. With muffins, there is a delicate balance, and if you tip the scale too far, you’ll be in the realm of cupcakes. In these muffins, we keep the scale balanced by using some whole wheat flour.

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The chocolate and crystallized ginger combo may seem strange to you, but it works. The crystallized ginger brings pops of heat and sweetness while the chocolate brings a cool contrast. Together with the banana, they create a muffin much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

banana muffins with chocolate and crystallized ginger

Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (from about 3 large or 4 small bananas)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not low fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with liners. Set aside. Melt the butter in a microwave or in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate and crystallized ginger and whisk until well combined. Make sure the ginger clumps have broken up.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to incorporate. Do not over mix or your muffins will be tough! Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes. Cool the muffins of a wire rack for 5 minutes and then enjoy!

coconut explosion ice cream

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I think we can all agree that coconut, chocolate, and almond are a dynamite combo. My mom loves coconut so it was only a matter of time before I created something involving this combo for her. I’ve made coconut macaroons and coconut cakes, but this ice cream really raises the bar. It has a coconut milk base with coconut flakes, almonds, and chocolate swirled in. The coconut milk base adds a nice creaminess and coconut feel while the coconut flakes amp up the coconut flavor. The almonds and chocolate add crunch and complete the trifecta. I made this recipe up myself and I must say I am very pleased with how it turned out. You don’t have to love coconut to love this ice cream!

coconut explosion ice cream

Adapted very loosely from David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream

Note: Be sure to chop the almonds and chocolate well because if the pieces are too large thy will damage your ice cream maker. Also, the coconut extract is not essential to the recipe but I like what it adds.

1/2 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
13 oz can coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate, chopped well
1/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped well
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Add the milk, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk to the saucepan and warm the mixture over medium heat (if your coconut milk has separated, add the more watery stuff with the sauce pan and save the creamier stuff for the next step).
Pour the heavy cream and remaining coconut milk into a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Once the milk mixture on the stovetop is hot, temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in the hot milk. Once it has all been incorporated, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (170 degrees on a thermometer).
Pour the custard into the bowl with the heavy cream slowly and whisk to incorporate. Whisk in the extracts. Set the custard in the fridge and allow it to chill completely.
Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker. When it is almost done churning, add the chocolate, coconut flakes, and almonds and churn until they are just incorporated.
Place in the freezer to allow the ice cream to firm up before enjoying!

spinach sun dried tomato risotto

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Risotto is one of my favorite foods ever and we have it a lot, so I was a little shocked when I realized this blog has only one risotto recipe. Plus, it wasn’t even legit (we totally faked it and broke some unspoken rules, like whoa). But that risotto was really good, if not thoroughly italian (so it’s okay).

However, I have decided to up my game and give you guys a real risotto recipe this time. It was a good decision. I’m actually proud of myself because I improvised this recipe with the guidelines of another. Spinach  and tomatoes are a classic combo and they work really nicely  together here.

Check it out! A Honey Blossom has an instagram page and it’s super fun. (here’s the link)

Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Risotto

adapted from the kitchen

note: I used sun dried tomatoes packed in oil but you can also use the dry variety. If you use the oil packed variety, save some of the tomatoey oil to drizzle on the risotto as you serve it. You can also just drizzle on a little olive oil for a similar affect.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup of white wine

6 cups chicken stock

4 cups loosely packed spinach, chopped roughlyy

4 oz sun dried tomatoes (about 10) (see note)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a large pot, warm the stock over medium heat. Heat a large dutch oven or high sided sauté pan and add the oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until it is softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the rice and stir until every grain is coated in fat (you may need to add a little more butter or oil). Toast for 2-3 minutes until the edges of each grain begin to look translucent. Add the white wine and simmer until the wine has reduced and the pan is nearly dry (it won’t take long), scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Add a ladle of stock and stir until the rice has absorbed all of the stock. Continue adding stock and stirring until all of the stock is gone and the rice is tender. Add the sun dried tomatoes and spinach and cook until the spinach just wilts. Stir in the butter and parmesan. Serve with extra parmesan and olive/sun dried tomato oil.

my blog’s first birthday! (+tiramisu layer cake)

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a birthday cupcake, complete with candles

It is hard to believe, but I have had this blog for an entire year. That’s 365 days, people. In that time, I shared 41 recipes with you.

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I have learned a tremendous amount in this past year. If you look back into the archives and find my very first post, you will see how much my photography has improved. If you actually read that first post (I just went back and read it, and oh boy, does it make me cringe!), you will hopefully agree that my food writing has improved. I have even gotten better at cooking as a result of this blog. Take, for instance, that yesterday I handled a raw chicken while a year ago I was grossed out by touching raw meat. Or to think that in one of my first posts, I described my struggles with whipping egg whites! Now I could probably do that in my sleep.

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This tiramisu cake is actually a great metaphor for this blog. Tiramisu is supposed to be an adult thing; it has alcohol in it, and normally, teenagers don’t have tastes for coffee and fancy italian cheeses. And yet, here I am, enjoying a slice of tiramisu cake. Food Blogging is something that is almost always left to adults, and yet, here I am.image

I was a great year.

Here’s to another great one!

As Julia would say, Bon Appetit!

tiramisu layer cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Notes: I made this cake without the alcohol, but I will write the recipe including the alcohol (there isn’t that much). My expresso syrup is darker than yours will be because I added a little chocolate to it, which I am leaving out here because I didn’t think it added much. This cake is delicious and amazingly vanilla scented, but be careful not to over bake it because no one likes dry cake. And the mascarpone cream . . .  don’t even get me started on that!

Cake layers:

2 cups (255 g) cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200 g) sugar

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

Espresso extract:

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons boiling water

Espresso syrup

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon Kahlua, brandy, or amaretto

Mascarpone cream:

1 8 oz container mascarpone

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 1/2 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans and then line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between additions, and then add the yolk. Mix in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternatively with the buttermilk, adding the flour in three additions and the buttermilk in two. Mix until all the ingredients are just combined. Divide evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth out the batter.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through until the cakes are golden and springy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove the cakes from their pans, peel off the parchment, and let cool to room temperature right side up.

For the espresso extract:

Stir together the espresso powder and water until well blended. Set aside.

To make the espresso syrup:

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water and bring just to a boil. Take off the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy. Set aside.

To make the mascarpone cream:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream until it holds firm peaks. Stir 1/4 of the cream into the mascarpone, and then fold in the rest gently.

To assemble the cake:

If your cake layers have crowned, gently even them with a serrated knife. Set one cake layer right set up on a cake plate lined with strips of wax paper. Using a pastry brush or small spoon, soak the cake layer with about a third of the espresso syrup. Spread some of the mascarpone cream over the layer (about 1 1/4 cups) and sprinkle the chocolate over the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak it with another third of the syrup. Place this layer soaked side down on top of the other layer. Then, soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the rest of the mascarpone filling. Taste as you go so you add just the right amount for your taste. If the frosting looks too soft to spread on the cake, refrigerate it for 15 minutes (refrigerate the cake, too).

Spread the frosting over the sides of the cake and over the top. Smooth it as best you can. Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day before serving.

Before serving, dust the cake with cocoa. I cut the outline of a star out of waxed paper and then soften cocoa powder over it. Once the wax paper was removed, there was a cocoa star.

red kidney bean curry with homemade naan

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Chili is one of the most standard recipes out there. It’s beans, tomatoes, meat, and chili powder, stewed together for a while, and then topped with a dollop of sour cream and eaten on a cold winter night. However, it also happens to be one of the most deviated recipes in the books, and boy, do people have strong opinions about chili. Some are meat and tomato purists, while others will allow a few beans to sneak into their chili. Chili also differs on how it is spiced and how aggressively it is spiced. Some like a little burn, some (myself included) hate spicy things, and others just get interpretive with their spices.

Take, for instance, a chili made by someone else that I tried recently. It contained a ton of fatty Jimmy Dean sausage which should have made it seem oily, but instead just made it rich and delicious. It contained no chili power, or any other spices for that matter. Instead it was aggressively seasoned with thyme. Who would have thought to put thyme in their chili? I don’t know. It was good, and very different from my mother’s version (tomatoes, lots of beans, a little venison sausage, some chili powder), but it made me a little queasy after all that fatty meat.

If you have read my about me page, you would know (but might have forgotten) that I am not the hugest fan of meat. I saw this recipe in Smitten Kitchen‘s archives and I thought it would be a interesting new stew-y recipe (bonus points for being vegetarian). When I made it, my mother called it the Indian Chili. Oh well. I guess we’ll have to go with it.

red kidney bean curry

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This curry is an amazing vegetarian main dish that is new and different, but also super comforting and delicious. Especially if you serve it with homemade naan.

1/3 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced (up to 1/4 cup if you like it spicy)

3 small cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)

14 oz can diced tomatoes

2 15 oz cans kidney beans, undrained

Heat oil in a dutch oven. Add the ginger, onion, and garlic and let it cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, and spices and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the kidney beans and a cup of water. Bring it back to a simmer and then let it cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Eat with naan and a scoop of yogurt.

easy homemade naan 

adapted from Half Baked Harvest

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup hot water

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm milk

1 cup greek yogurt

melted butter, for cooking

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Add the yeast and stir until it is dissolved. Let the mixture sit until the yeast starts to foam. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. When the yeast is foaming, whisk in the warm milk and yogurt. Pour the wet ingredients into the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly stir together until there are no longer any floury patches. However, be careful not to knead the dough excessively.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for an hour (I warm up my oven a bit and set it in there).  It won’t rise that much, and that it okay.

Divide the dough into 8 equal shaped pieces and roll them out into 6-8 inch circles, no thinner than 1/4 inch. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Brush with melted butter on both sides. Add a round of dough to the hot skillet, cover, and cook for 1 minute. The naan will puff up and have lots of bubbles. Flip the naan and cook 1-2 minutes on the other side until large toasted spots form. Keep the naan warm in a 200 degree oven.

french onion soup

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Guys, I have an onion problem. Well, I suppose it is not actually a problem, because it involves butter and onions, but it is a dilemma. The first part you should know about my onion dilemma is that whenever a recipe says to sauté an onion in a tablespoon of olive oil at the beginning of a recipe, I always use a generous pat of butter. Not because I can detect a taste difference in the end product, but because of the smell that begins to fill the kitchen while I prep the rest of the ingredients for the recipe. I know you have your doubts, but onions cooking gently in butter smell amazing.

Now, there is a second part to my onion dilemma and that is when the smell of buttery onions fills the air, I lose my self control and eat half of the onions. Which sounds gross, but trust me, if you had a skillet full of buttery, soft, sweet onions, you would be going for the fork, too. And because I eat all my onions, then only a couple actually end up in the dish. Which is sad.

The third part of my onion dilemma is part I find most distressing, and, quite frankly, dilemmaesque (oh yes, I did just invent that word. Don’t question it). Chopping onions makes my cry, guys. Like, so bad that whenever I chop onions, I only get through 1/2 an onion before I have to “take a tissue break.” Which is pretty much pathetic. And the onion goggles are just not happening.

As a result of the third part of my dilemma, it took me a while to chop the six onions I needed for this recipe. But I assure you, it was completely worth it, because French Onion Soup is all the greatness of normal butter softened onions times 10.

And that, my friends, is worth plenty of tears.

french onion soup 

recipe adapted from simply recipes

If you caramelize the onions ahead (maybe on the weekend?), this dish turns into an easy weeknight meal. All you have to do it add the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Caramelized onions can also be frozen.

6 large onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

pinch of sugar

2 cloves of garlic, minced

8 cups beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (I used 5 cups of really good homemade beef stock and 3 cups of chicken stock)

1/2 cup of dry white wine or cooking sherry

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper

8 slices of french bread

1 1/2 cups grated gruyere or parmesan

Make the soup:

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil, and once the butter melts, add the onions. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the sugar. Continue to sauté the onions until they are a deep brown and have caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes longer.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, wine or sherry, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover the soup and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf.

While it is simmering, make the toasts:

In a 350 degree oven, toast the bread on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Top with the cheese and put back into the oven until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

Serve the soup ladled into bowls with a round of bread floating on top.