Recipe Review: Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

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Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

For the recipe: Jump to Eat Yourself Skinny! 

Lately I’ve been working on taking better care of myself and trying to be a little healthier. I’ve been getting more sleep, taking walks around the neighborhood in the morning, and trying to trade out sugary soda for water. The walking and sleeping have been easy, the giving up soda…not so much. I’ve also been working on trying to eat better, and boy, some days that’s really tough.

Roz's favorite place to nap, Daddy's lap while he's playing video games

Roz’s favorite place to nap, Daddy’s lap while he’s playing video games

While scrolling through my Pinterest boards looking for a new meal to try, I came upon a Broccoli Grape Salad from Eat Yourself Skinny. I thought this recipe sounded scrumptious and not too bad for my health. Broccoli is full of vitamin C, red onion has plenty of B6 and pecans have both magnesium and protein.  I did substitute sugar for stevia, regular bacon (but only 4 strips) for the turkey kind, and full fat mayonnaise for the light version. I already had those ingredients on hand and didn’t want to pick up the others. And let’s face it, light mayo is an abomination to a girl from South Georgia. I guess can’t be completely well behaved where calories are concerned. 🙂

the washed broccoli

the washed broccoli

Mmm grapes

Mmm grapes

There are several prep steps that can be done simultaneously. I cooked the bacon while I chopped the broccoli and toasted the pecans while cooking the pasta. Because of my multitasking, putting the salad together only took about 30 minutes.

The Mayo/Yogurt dressing with the chopped pecans and red onion

The Mayo/Yogurt dressing with the chopped pecans and red onion

I am not normally a huge fan of cold pasta salads, but I really love this one. The tang of the red wine vinegar perfectly offsets the sweetness from the grapes. The red onion adds a peppery sort of crunch to the salad, which I craved. And though broccoli is a go-to vegetable here in the 2 Cats house, I think this may be one of the best uses for broccoli I have found. I can’t say I’ve ever found a recipe that makes raw broccoli delicious. I liked this salad so much that I chose to eat it for lunch and dinner the day I made it.

pasta salad pre-refridgerator.

Going forward this will be my first choice salad for events like barbeques, picnics, and tailgating. I think its kind of perfect, even if it could be a little healthier. I guess I’ll just have to exercise more and maybe start jogging regularly instead of walking….

Workout bench? You mean my nap bench.

Workout bench? You mean my nap bench.

maybe….

Coffee Ice Cream: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Coffee Ice Cream

I’m going to start this post with a confession: I am a coffee addict. I’ve been drinking the stuff since I was 15 years old, thinking that by doing so I’d look all cool and mysterious. When I was in college I was living off mochas and café au laits. Though I don’t take my coffee black, I do appreciate a good dark french roast. There’s almost nothing better in the world than a beautiful Sunday morning sitting on my back porch with a good cup of joe watching the kitties wander around and attempt to eat the herbs.

But Moooom, I want to eat the daisy!

But Moooom, I want to eat the daisy!

Up close Roz shot

Up close Roz shot

As much as I love coffee I can’t say that I ever have a craving for coffee flavored desserts, especially ice creams. When I’ve tried grocery store versions I find they’re either too sweet, don’t have enough coffee flavor, or both problems at the same time. Since I had the technology (and the craving), I decided I’d give making my own coffee ice cream a shot. (No pun intended)

The players in this recipe

The players in this recipe

I started by using Hugh Acheson’s vanilla ice cream recipe as a base and repurposed it to create my own creamy coffee treat. The recipe appealed to me because of its steeping process. I think steeping the coffee beans in the milk mixture makes all the difference in flavor. The little kick of espresso powder is nice, but really it’s all about those beans. There’s no need to buy anything fancy for this recipe, I just used our regular every morning coffee beans and was very pleased with the results.

steeping beans

steeping beans

Look at these duck yolks, THEY'RE HUGE

Look at these duck yolks, THEY’RE HUGE

I was lucky enough to have some wonderful duck eggs on hand from my friends at Darko Farm. Duck egg yolks are quite a bit larger than their chicken counterparts so you don’t need to use as many eggs for this recipe. I think they actually made the dessert creamier and more luscious. If you’re able to get duck eggs, I totally recommend them here.

The ice cream making process is a bit time consuming. There are several inactive steps that take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. I found that this was a good recipe to make one afternoon whilst I was doing some deep spring cleaning. Whipping egg yolks and cooking custard were nice stress-free activities between the miserable dusting and mopping sessions.

making the ice cream custard

making the ice cream custard

When I tasted the ice cream it made me think of my morning cup of coffee, which was exactly what I hoped for. I really like this recipe, as does Chris. We both put a little chocolate syrup on our dessert servings that evening which leads me to believe that some chocolate chips or covered espresso beans would go really well folded into the ice cream.  I think it will be a regular afternoon treat while I sit outside on the porch and keep the kitties away from our daises.

 

The ice cream after its finished churning. Yum!

The ice cream after its finished churning. Yum!

Coffee Ice Cream

(Makes a little over 1 pint)

1 2/3 Cup Whole Milk

½ Cup Heavy Cream

1/3 Cup white sugar

1/3 cup whole coffee beans

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

A pinch of salt

 2-3 egg yolks, depending on size

 

In a medium mixing bowl combine milk, cream half the sugar, salt and espresso powder. Once combined well add the coffee beans and pour mixture into a medium saucepan. Heat the saucepan on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until the mixture starts to steam.  Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan, and steep the milk mixture for at least 30 minutes.

In another medium bowl whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Slowly temper the yolks by mixing in the steeped milk. Do this gradually or you’ll have scrambled eggs. Once tempered (when at least 2/3 of the milk mixture is mixed with the yolks) pour in all the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Strain out the coffee beans and place the egg and milk mixture back in the medium saucepan on the stove. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the spatula, approximately 10 – 12 minutes.

Once thickened, place the ice cream mixture in the fridge to cool down, this should be at least 3 hours. Once the mixture is cooled, add it to your ice cream make and follow directions. Once the ice cream maker is done, put the  ice cream in the freezer for an hour. Then enjoy!

Recipe Review: Corn Dogs

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Corn Dogs

For the Recipe: http://www.chef-in-training.com/2013/03/easy-homemade-corn-dogs/

Roz trying to find food on the kitchen floor

Roz trying to play with part of a wooden skewer

My apologies dear readers for my long absence, the month of March has been an incredibly busy and stressful time. I spent the first week or so trying to catch up at work from all of the snow days. This included building next year’s class schedule, compiling spring evaluation forms from instructors, and writing somewhere around 100 placement letters for our families.  At the same time, my own students (I teach theatre classes for those who don’t know) had their big yearly showcase. It went super well and I was a very proud mama bear. The very next weekend, we had our studio-wide fundraiser for our May ballet. I ended up MC’ing at the last minute due to a sudden case of Mono. Needless to say, I haven’t really had a lot of down time to relax and think about cooking or blogging.

But now that the craziness has passed and Spring is underway. I am working towards getting on a regular writing and posting schedule. How do other bloggers do it? I have yet to figure out how to juggle all these pieces. Suggestions and hints are always welcome in the comment section.

dukebasketball

Speaking of March Madness, the NCAA tournament is of great importance in the 2 Cats household. Chris is a lifelong Duke fan and roots for his team during the tourney. I’m pretty new to this whole basketball thing; I watched my first game when Duke won its last national title. I was really excited when UGA made it to the dance this year….and annoyed when they got eliminated in the first round *sigh*. This past weekend when Duke was playing Michigan State in the Final Four, I decided I’d make a Chris-pleasing sports appropriate dinner, homemade corn dogs.

I can’t recall ever eating a corn dog before I met Chris. I had an aversion to hot dogs for a while due to a lecture on their contents and processing by a middle school teacher. But eventually I moved past that fear and realized that corndogs are just hush puppy batter covering a sausage of meaty goodness. During one Pinterest session, I stumbled on a recipe from the blog “Chef in Training” and thought, why not?  I can make these; they’re simple and straight forward….and deep fried. Deep fried is always good.

While the Duke/ Michigan State game was in half time, I mixed together the dry ingredients and skewered the dogs. This all took around 10 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to set up the frying oil in my large dutch oven and return to the man cave for the second half of the game. Once the game was over (a.k.a. when Duke was so far ahead there was no possible way they could lose) I started heating the oil and mixed the wet & dry ingredients together. The batter was very fluffy and expanded a great deal due to the amount of baking powder.

the ingredients minus the hot dogs

the ingredients minus the hot dogs

I found that because the batter was so fluffy, getting it on to the hot dogs evenly was challenging. I solved the problem by using the back of the spoon to spread the batter around the hotdogs evenly. I did just one corn dog at a time to maintain consistency, but if you had extra hands I think you could make an assembly line for frying and do 2 or 3 dogs at a time.

Fry puppies, fry

Fry puppies, fry

Once the oil was heated, each corn dog took less than 3 minutes to fry. You have to turn the corn dogs every 30-45 seconds, otherwise the frying won’t be even and you might end up with a corn dog that looks somewhat like a dinosaur (or according to Chris, cow utters). I ended up making only 1 package of hot dogs, so there was plenty of batter left. I made a few hushpuppies from the leftover dough, which were unfortunately disappointing due to lack of flavor. Actually, I found even as corndogs, the batter could be livened up a bit with some spices. I think the next time I make these, I may try adding some turmeric and paprika to the dry ingredients, and maybe some red pepper for a little bit of heat.

The corn dogs do lend themselves well to additional sauces and sides. Chris served his pair of corn dogs with some canned hot dog chili (ew). I dipped mine in some homemade sriracha mayo though I think some plain ketchup & mustard would be good as well.

a pair of finished corndogs awaiting sauce

a pair of finished corndogs awaiting sauce

I think once I figure out the spice mixture these corndogs will be perfect for a summer get together or another sporting event. Then again, now that Duke is the tournament champion, I may be required to make these every year as part of the 2 Cats household superstition.