Try This: Fresh Mint & Chip Ice Cream

 Fresh Mint & Chip Ice Cream
 Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 gr) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 cups packed (80 gr) fresh mint leaves
6 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
5 ounces (140 gr) semisweet or milk chocolate, chopped
In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream, salt, vanilla and mint.
Once the mixture is hot and steaming, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour to infuse the mint flavor.
Remove the mint and vanilla bean with a strainer, then press down with a spatula firmly to extract as much mint flavor and color as possible. Once the flavor is squeezed out, discard.
Pour the remaining heavy cream into a large bowl and set the strainer over the top.
Rewarm the infused milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then slowly pour some of the warm mint mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.
Cook the custard, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant read thermometer, it should read around 170ºF.
Immediately strain the mixture into the cream, then stir the mixture over an ice bath until cool.
When mixture is thoroughly cold, churn using your method of choice. Add chocolate chips to the ice cream when there are about 5 minutes left in the churning process. Transfer to a freezer safer container and freeze for several hours before serving.

Beef and Guinness Stew

Still no word from Anca about the recipe but I feel I’ve got it in the bag!  I even decided to make things easier on her by asking permission to cook for her family.  By asking I mean, waving my arms and saying each word 50 times before we finally understood each other.  She accepted giving me a curious look and went on her way.

I dug out an old recipe called Beef and Guinness Stew.  It’s exactly what it sounds like but with vegetables as well. If seasoned right, the flavors are quite brilliant.

It was pretty amazing cooking without a microwave or stove. The iron grates they cook on outside heat up quickly and dare I say, make the food taste better?  Maybe it only tasted better because I was sore and tired from cooking for 19 people. Yes…19.

I hope you enjoy this as much as they did.

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Ingredients
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 to 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, water, wine, or a combination, or more as needed*
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 medium to large waxy or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish 
 
Directions
Heat a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes; add the oil and the crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then remove and discard the garlic.
 
Add the meat to the skillet a few minutes at a time, turning to brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Do not crowd or the cubes will not brown properly; cook in batches if necessary. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as it cooks.
2. When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon. Pour or spoon off most of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring until softened, about 10 minutes.
 
Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
3. Uncover the pot; the mixture should be wet (if not, add a little more liquid). Add the potatoes and carrots, turn the heat up for a minute or so to bring the liquid back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover again. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
 
(At this point, you may remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and refrigerate them and the stock separately. Skim the fat from the stock before combining it with the meat and vegetables, reheating, and proceeding with the recipe from this point.)
4. Add the minced garlic and the peas; if you’re pleased with the stew’s consistency, continue to cook, covered, over low heat. If it’s too soupy, remve the cover and raise the heat to high.
 
In either case, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the peas have heated through and the garlic has flavored the stew. Garnish with parsley and serve.
*Beef and Guinness Stew. In Step 2, omit the flour. Use 2 cups Guinness and 1- to 1 ½-cups beef broth for the liquid (add more beer, broth or water as needed during the cooking process).

 

Real Homemade

 

Imagine waking up after a long journey and seeing a sword of bright light piercing through white cotton curtains flowing gently from the wind.  As you sit up, stretching your tired muscles, you hear singing and laughter coming from outside.

Upon parting those curtains and letting the coolest of breezes kiss your face, you behold fog engulfed mountain peaks, dew covered green grass and the sun’s achingly beautiful attempt to shine through the trees.

There are men and woman dressed in colorful garb laughing, talking, singing and getting ready for a long day of work. Little Roma children chase goats and dogs around the tiny village nestled between two mountains and hidden deep within the woods. You smile and inhale deeply as total contentment rests your weary bones and replenish your spirit.

It’s at that moment you notice the most amazing aroma and walk from your room in search of the source.  On your way, you pass by another room filled with the tangled, tanned limbs of the Romanian men women and children who gave up their sleeping quarters to make you more comfortable.

You’re heart aches at their hospitality and you smile while venturing onward in search of the aromas source.  You walk outside and a large fire pit with iron rods stretched across the expanse of heat and on top of the iron rods are pots and pans. There is a small iron dome heated by the fire as well that served as their oven. This was their kitchen.

Two tiny woman, one old the other young, were busily kneading dough with their fists and taking the finished product from the oven.  You notice other food and hug your stomach as it growls.

The two woman notice you and smile cheerfully.  The young girls name is Anca and the older woman is Catina.  They speak broken English but manage to ask how I slept and if I was hungry.  I told them I’d slept perfectly and that I was indeed very hungry.

Anca offers you a piece of bread that you call Lady Fists. You know of Lady Fists. Your mother and law makes it every Christmas but refuses to give you the recipe.  You take a bite and sink into bliss. You must have this recipe.

Once finished, you look up at Anca and Catina’s smiling faces and ask.

“That was absolutely delicious, how did you make it?” The tenor changes slightly as Anca’s eyes widen and turn to look at her mother who stands perplexed.

“It is family secret,” Catina says in a deep throaty accent smiling gently.

“Oh, of course it is my apologies.  Is…is there any way I could maybe work for it?  You see I’m a traveler…”

“No,” says Catina her smile tightening.  Not wanting to anger her and be thrown out, you nod politely.

“I completely understand.  I just wanted to show the world what a talented cook you are.  But, I respect you decision, just know that if you change you’re mind, I’m willing to do whatever you ask…whatever you ask.” You emphasize and before leaving, thank them again for the food.

You smile as you walk back to your room knowing by the pondering look upon on their faces, that you’ve peaked their interest.

Guilty Pleasure No Longer Guilty

Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Bark

I’m quite sure I am not alone in this confession of  intense love for any combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I’m surprised I’m not grotesquely overweight by now but with the food I eat on a regular basis. But anywho, the treat shown above is a healthier version of the classic Reese’s Cup though I still advise against gorging, as tempting as that may sound. This is a lengthy process so make a lot and as always enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup raw almonds

1/8 cup honey

Dash of sea salt

1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tbsp honey

1 bar of 70% dark chocolate

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan. Once melted, pour half the chocolate onto parchment paper, spreading it out into a 1/4-inch thick layer. It should as thin as the bar was before melting, which means it had enough thickness to hold its own when hardened.

Put the chocolate spread into the freezer. While the chocolate hardens, it’s time to roast the almonds. Spread the almonds over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Massage 1/8 cup of honey and a dash of sea salt into the almonds until each one is evenly coated.

Spread the almonds so that each has its own place on the parchment paper. This will ensure equal roasting. Broil the almonds in the oven on medium (or low), keeping an eye. This process will only take under 5 minutes, so don’t go anywhere.

Keep an eye on the almonds and move them around with spatula so they wont burn. Once finished, they should golden brown. Along with 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 tablespoon of honey, food process the cooled almonds until the mixture sticks together. At first it will become mealy but will soon clump.

Form an almond “patty” with your hand, placing it on the frozen chocolate to cover its area, leaving about 1/2 – 1 inch width from the almond mixture to the edge of the frozen chocolate. Warm up the rest of the melted chocolate so that it spreads easily, topping the almond layer evenly, making sure to “seal” the edges so that the melted chocolate meets the frozen chocolate.

Pop back into the freezer until hardened – about 30 minutes.

Try This: Vegan Piña Colada Smoothies

Vegan Piña Colada Smoothies

 Ingredients

1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks

1 cup coconut milk

1 large banana

1/2 ice cubes

Directions

Place pineapple chunks, banana, coconut milk and ice cubes in blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Pour into two glasses.  You can garnish the top with pineapple or whip cream (vegan whip if desired) or drizzle with honey.

Unique Treat

Whole Grain, Honey Sweetened Raspberry Lemonade Bars

I’ve had just about every fruity bar you can think of but I’ve never tried a Raspberry Lemonade Bar!  Get ready to pucker your lips with this one. It’s delicious but extremely tart.  Want to know something even more amazing…? It’s healthy!

I noticed a few of you enjoyed the Cinnamon Cracker post and thought I’d add another healthy treat! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Whole Wheat Shortbread Crust

1/2 C softened, salted butter

1/2 C brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp sea salt

1 C + 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour(from soft wheat)

Raspberry Lemon Filling

4 large eggs

1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour, or white whole wheat

1/2 C liquid honey

1 tbsp lemon zest

1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice

scant 1 C raspberry juice and pulp(from about 2-2 1/2 C frozen berries)

Directions 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying lightly with oil, or lining with parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, beating for 4-5  minutes.

Add the vanilla, salt and 1/2 C flour.  Beat well before adding the rest of the flour.  Beat until completely combined(may still be crumbly).  Press into the prepared 8×8 pan and poke gently with a fork all over the dough.

If the dough is crumbly, gently press any broken pieces back into place.  Bake shortbread 17-18 minutes until barely golden around the edges.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little while preparing the filling.

Thaw the raspberries and puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender.  Pour and press through a small sieve with a spoon to remove most, if not all, of the seeds.  Measure the puree, 1 C or just under is perfect.  Set aside till ready to use.

In a large bowl, place the eggs and the grain flour.  Whisk together until no lumps remain.  Measure out and add the honey(warm the honey just slightly if it’s solid).  Add the lemon zest and the freshly squeezed juice.

Whisk together until the honey combines with the lemon juice and eggs.  Add in the raspberry puree and whisk together.

Pour the mixture over the crust while it’s still warm and place back in the 350 degree oven.  Bake 28-30 minutes until the filling is set(the very center may still wiggle a little but will set completely as it cools).

Remove from the oven and cool completely and chill in the fridge before cutting into 16 squares and serving with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Roaming in Romania

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Bucharest

Since my bout in Egypt I have yet to update you on my journey. I hope you enjoyed the Shortbread story. It came to mind on the train ride to Romania. I’ve just left Bucharest for Bistrița, a city near the Carpathian Mountains.  When my mum left him, my father had a meltdown and a midlife crisis at the same time. I was 13 at the time.

Out of nowhere he up and left, forcing me to go to live with my two aunts who wanted nothing to do with me and sent me to boarding school. I received letters from my father the two years I was there telling me of his adventures in Romania of all places. It was in Bistrița, in an “obscure patch of woods” (his words not mine), that he met the gypsy, or Roma as they prefer to be called, that would soon become my mother and law.

When he returned, he had a beautiful Roma girl clinging to his hips and a baby girl nestled in his arms. I will tell more of this later I promise, but I must not get sidetracked. For now, know she was the one who ignited my taste buds and created my insatiable palate with her exotic, most delightful dishes.

To my extreme dismay she refuses to tell me how she makes anything. So, I figured if I can find her village I’d simply ask her people. Simple enough right? But I must leave you now, the bus I am on has gone as far as it can go and I must transfer to another bus.  I’ll get back to you soon! Enjoy the photos!

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Carpathian Mountains