Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

I love Red Mango and Pinkberry as much as the next 20-something woman, but sometimes it's just easier and tastier to make your own fro-yo at home.  This is by far the easiest thing I've whipped up in our ice cream maker, but John and I were both amazed by how great it tasted.  Who knew three ingredients could go so far?  This also makes you seriously reconsider whether your fro-yo habit is worth the $5 a pop.

Here are your three ingredients - the best plain whole milk yogurt you can find (this organic yogurt was $2.99, quite the splurge), sugar, and vanilla extract.

Mix three cups of yogurt with 1 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until the sugar dissolves completely.  Put in the fridge for an hour and then churn according to the instructions of your ice cream maker.  If you like especially tart yogurt, add little or no sugar and make your treat even healthier (from the mound of sugar pictured above, you can tell I like my yogurt sweet).

Once frozen in your freezer, the yogurt will need to soften on the counter for about 10 minutes before scooping.

My favorite Red Mango toppings are raspberries and dark chocolate chips, so naturally I went the same route at home.  This frozen yogurt has a lot more flavor than the yogurt you buy from the trendy shops and makes for the perfect summer dessert on a hot day.  Especially the days when it's too hot to drag yourself to Pinkberry.  

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
From David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

3 cups (720 g) plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together 3 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until the sugar dissolves.  Refrigerate for an hour.  Churn the yogurt in your ice cream maker according to the machine's directions.  Store in the freezer and be sure to remove 10 minutes prior to scooping.  Top with your favorite healthy or not-so-healthy toppings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just in Cases

Just in case (or "just in cases" for those of you who like Love Actually) you thought I was joking about going through my bland cookie dough ice cream and picking out all of the chocolate before I threw it out, I wanted to show some proof of my little excavation the other day.  I took a knife and on and off for an hour (while making dinner) picked out all of the worthwhile chocolate chunks before pouring this icy mess down the sink. John came down during the process and had a good laugh at my chocolate hunt.

Thought I'd let you guys know that I make good on my word...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Failure

If there are two things I love, it's ice cream and cookie dough.  Clearly this is a rare love that no one shares - I am so unique!  When I saw a recipe that made the actual ice cream taste like cookie dough itself, I knew this was one I had to try.  Unfortunately, the ice cream turned out terrible.  It had no flavor, which is especially pathetic considering it had dark brown sugar and BUTTER.

The most tragic part was that I used almost a whole bar of Valrhona chocolate on this ice cream.

What a waste.

I'm throwing the rest of the ice cream out, but I might do some picking around in that bland chunk of ice for some pieces of chocolate to salvage before I dump it.

I've learned my lesson though - I need to stick to my man, David Lebovitz, when it comes to ice cream recipes.  Can't wait to try the nectarine ice cream cooling in my fridge.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I was pretty ashamed to come home from work and find four boxes from J.Crew sitting on my porch (well, one was from Madewell, their sister store).  I immediately tucked these boxes inside before any more of my neighbors saw my new-found J.Crew obsession.

Not to be defensive, but there were two straw hats in the boxes, which accounted for a lot of the space.

A girl's gotta look cute when she's cooking, right?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Potatoes Au Gratin - Cheesy Style

If you cover a carb with cheese and heavy cream, you can count on me to dig in.  I love potatoes au gratin and decided to try out Pioneer Woman's recipe since the cheese was calling to me (as it often does).  The recipe did not disappoint and every warm, cheesy bite made me want about ten more.

First you want to slice two  russet potatoes into rounds.  Stack the rounds on top of each other and cut each circle into quarters.

Whisk together 1 cup half-and-half, 1 tablespoon flour, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Butter the bottom of a baking dish.  Place 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish and pour 1/3 of the whisked mixture over top.

Repeat two more times, layering 1/3 of the potatoes and sauce each time.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees - be careful, mine boiled over when I waited 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake 20 more minutes until the potatoes brown and bubble.  Add 1/2 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese to the top and bake another 5 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

You are advised to let the potatoes cool for a minute or two before spooning this out onto your dinner plate, but this is a tough task!

One thing I love about this dish is that it feels at home on your dinner plate during the summer or winter.  Nothing like potatoes to make us happy year-round.  

Potatoes Au Gratin - Cheesy Style
Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

2 russet potatoes, washed
Butter for baking dish
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a baking dish (I used one about the size of a sheet of paper).  Scrub two russet potatoes clean and then slice into rounds.  Cut the rounds into quarters.  Whisk together 1 cup half and half, 1 tablespoon flour, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of freshly ground pepper.  Put 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish and pour 1/3 of half-and-half mixture on top.  Repeat twice more with 1/3 of the potatoes and 1/3 of the sauce each time.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, being careful not to let it boil over.  Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes are browned.  Cover with 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese and bake for 5 more minutes until the cheese melts and browns.  Wait a couple of minutes and serve in heaping portions any time of year.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cavallo Point Preview

John heard about this magical place at the foot of the Golden Gate complete with a dog-friendly resort with a Michelin-starred restaurants.  Clearly we booked our trip immediately.

But since we are going in August, we needed to stop by for a preview trip one afternoon, just to make sure we knew what we were getting into.

A charming gift shop full of organic cotton clothes, cookbooks, and local photography will be pillaged by me later this summer I'm sure.

What a great way to spend your afternoon.  I can't wait to sip iced tea here reading a book next to John.

Speak of the devil.

It was a beautifully sunny day at Cavallo Point, but the Golden Gate was completely fogged in.

Look to the left and it's sunny...

Look to the right and it's all fog.

Cavallo Point is located at the former Fort Baker army base, but there are also some newer buildings where we will be staying.

Back to those Adirondack chairs.  Don't they just make you want to spend the weekend in this beautiful place?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberry Sorbet

Our farmers market carries strawberries about 6 months out of the year, so it's high time that I figured out some recipes to use them.  I find that it's hard to improve upon fresh strawberries, but sorbet is one way to make a good thing great.  Strawberry sorbet is one flavor everyone can agree on and was an easy choice for my first sorbet - cherry and nectarine hopefully will be just around the corner.

Fresh sorbet has so much flavor that you won't even miss the fat.  John and I were both amazed by how "creamy" the sorbet actually tasted, which I attribute to its freshness and to straining out the seeds.  If you leave in the seeds your job will be easier, but it obviously won't have the same texture.

Start with one pound of strawberries.  I bought half a "box," and that turns out to be about 4 pounds.  Oops.

Chop off the tops of the strawberries and then slice them thinly.

Toss the strawberries with 3/4 cup of sugar until the sugar starts to dissolve.  Cover and let sit for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the strawberry mixture to a blender and toss in 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Blend the mixture thoroughly until it is smooth.

If you want, strain out the seeds using a mesh strainer.

You will need to physically force the mixture through the strainer.  I was expecting it to be quick and easy - like draining out pasta water, but that is most definitely not the case.  Once you get a pure unadulterated liquid, put it in the fridge for a few hours to chill thoroughly.  When cold, mix it in your ice cream maker according to the machine's directions.   

Your first spoonful will be unlike any sorbet you've ever had - so creamy you will think it must have a secret ingredient.

So here's to a dessert you can make with minimal effort and eat with minimal guilt.  Make sure you use sweet and ripe strawberries.  Unless you live in California, that means you probably only have a two-month window, so hop to it!

Strawberry Sorbet
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 pound (450 g) fresh strawberries
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Remove the stems from the strawberries and slice.  Toss the strawberries with 3/4 cup sugar until the sugar begins to dissolve.  Cover and let stand for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Pour the strawberry mixture into a blender and add in 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Blend until smooth.  If you want extra smooth sorbet, press the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds.  Chill the mixture in the fridge and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the machine's directions.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pt. Isabel

John and I somehow find time to go to Point Isabel with Maddie almost every weekend.  It's north of Berkeley, so it's an hour drive each way.  Nothing like Semifreddi's morning buns to get you out every weekend...

This little missy had quite the 'do.

And this dog had the longest tongue I have ever seen.

I was so shocked I couldn't stop taking pictures!

It was like it had fallen out and needed to be rolled up back inside the mouth like a cartoon!

A beautiful cityscape just makes Point Isabel all the more enticing.

I love the pure joy of dogs playing in the water.

Sometimes the owners have quite a challenge getting their playful pooches out of the water.  Good thing Maddie is far too afraid of the water to ever get caught up in the excitement.

Like daddy like doggy.

This one is for you, Mom!  People bring their extra plastic bags to the park and leave them here for people to use, because reusing is even better than recycling.  My mom was the first person I know to reuse bags at the grocery store.  She kept plastic bags tied in little knots and packed into her purse.  Sales clerks could hardly understand the concept of "I brought my own bag."  Nowadays bringing your own bag is commonplace, but don't forget my mom was the first.

The day ended with a picture-perfect puppy who was better behaved than almost most dogs I've ever met.  Look at that sweet smile.  Can I have one?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sushi Ran

After a week in a Marriott in Ohio, a late lunch at one of the highest-rated sushi restaurants in the Bay Area was exactly what I needed (after sleeping in as late as I could get away with, of course).  Nothing like overly salted french fries all week to make you crave some sashimi.

It was 90 degrees in Sausalito, but in the shade of the porch we enjoyed eating outside.  Thank goodness there is no humidity here.

John got spicy tuna (in back, made without mayo, by the way) and shrimp tempura (made with asparagus) rolls.

Just a wee bit excited to dig in...

We both got orders of Albacore sashimi.  Right now it ranks at the top of my list of things to order at sushi restaurants.  Melt-in-your-mouth good, my friends.

I got the sashimi lunch platter and combined with a salmon avocado roll, I was too stuffed to even finish.

Is it just me, or do you find yourself getting more adventurous with sushi as time goes on?  It's only a matter of time before I'm licking my lips over raw eel or something.
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