Hudson Valley Foie Gras PB&J Ice Cream

My husband loves foie gras. And I mean really loves it. So much so that he insisted we serve it to our guests at our wedding. Me? Not so much. Foie gras is rich, fatty and melts in your mouth. It’s a unique flavor that people tend to love or hate.

If you’re a fan of foie, do I have an ice cream recipe for you! On a recent cold Sunday, K and I found ourselves with no plans. I haven’t made homemade ice cream in a while, so I started getting ready to go grocery shopping to pick up some supplies. But what flavor should I make? K was feeling creative. “How about foie gras ice cream?” he asked. We had tried foie gras ice cream in Hong Kong once, and K wanted me to try it at home. Not one to back down from a cooking challenge, I hit up Google for some inspiration.

K always keeps a big supply of foie gras in our freezer, which he buys directly from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. When you see foie gras on the menu at any of the top restaurants in the U.S., there is a good chance it comes from Hudson Valley. Foie gras itself can be controversial, but Hudson Valley is committed to careful and transparent processes. You can even schedule a visit to their farm in Upstate New York — and take photos!

Foie gras is often served with fruit, or fruit preserves, so that got me thinking about peanut butter and jelly. There are many great recipes for peanut butter ice cream out there, so I used some for inspiration and took plenty of creative license!

This recipe is egg-less, but it still isn’t the easiest of recipes. First, you heat the milk and cream with the sugar until it’s dissolved. You cook the foie gras, then use a blender to blend it completely with the ice cream base.

Once the ice cream is ready, you layer it with swirls of jam. I would recommend high-quality jam here. Homemade would be ideal! While I love dear old Smuckers, I just don’t think gelatinous jelly would do well here.

Foie Gras PB & J Ice Cream
{Makes 1 pint}

Ingredients

  • One slice of frozen Hudson Valley foie gras (2 oz.)
  • 1.5 cups light cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup peanut butte
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup runny jam (if it’s too thick to pour, heat with tablespoon or two of water and a pinch of sugar)

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until sugar dissolves.
  • Remove from heat and mix in the peanut butter,  vanilla, and salt. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour or until cool.
  • Meanwhile, cook the foie gras. You could grill it, but I had K sear it on the stove and finish in the oven.
  • Pour the ice cream mixture and foie gras into a blender and blend until completely smooth and frothy. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing alone for 15 minutes or so.
  • In an airtight container, layer the ice cream with thin layers or drizzles of jam. When you’re done, you can take a wooden skewer or think knife and make a couple swirls. You can find more tips about making swirls (plus photos!) in this article. Freeze for at least an hour before serving.

The verdict? This was some rich, fancy ice cream! While the foie gras flavor wasn’t as prominent as I’d expected, it did seem to deepen the taste of the peanut butter. We could taste the foie gras when we thought about it, but we’re not convinced that we could have named the flavor if we didn’t know what it was. The ice cream base wasn’t very sweet, but the jam swirl brought a sugary punch. I’m glad that I sprung for the fancier, expensive mixed berry jam, as it brought another level of sophistication to the dish. Look at that red color! Overall, this ice cream was smooth, thick, and complex. If you have a foie-gras fan in the family, you should make this ice cream for a special occasion!

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

Sometimes, I just need ice cream for dinner. As a kid, I fantasized about all the ice cream breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I would enjoy as an adult. I imagined that I’d need to rotate in some “real” meals like pizza, macaroni and cheese and chicken pot pie, but I’d be eating ice cream for at least one meal per day from the moment I moved out. Right?

Like everyone else, I eventually learned the unfair truth that ice cream and other sweets can make one sick when consumed daily. What a bummer! But while it doesn’t happen as often as I’d once imagined it would, I do enjoy ice cream for dinner or lunch once in a while.

The perfect opportunity to eat ice cream for dinner came a couple Sundays ago. K and I had been in Vermont for my cousin’s wedding, and we ate a very late lunch at Legal Seafood in Boston’s Logan Airport while waiting for our flight. We knew we’d need a hearty snack at home to tide us over until bedtime. And what would be better than an ice cream sundae?

K doesn’t often get excited about ice cream, but he LOVES caramel topping. When we travel internationally on United Airlines, he’ll order a caramel sundae when I order my favorite strawberry sundae. He always asks for extra caramel — no whipped cream, no nuts, no cherries.  I’ve tasted his caramel and understand the hype — it’s super thick and sticky and nothing like the caramel topping I see in the grocery store next to the Hershey’s syrup. So for this special ice cream dinner, I set out to replicate United’s caramel as best I could.

After reading through a quite few different recipes online, I stumbled upon a recipe for “Oh-So-Easy Caramel Sauce” on AllRecipes.com (a Seattle-based company!) and decided to doctor it up a bit. I used cream instead of milk and added a full teaspoon of salt to make salted-caramel sauce.

img_0530

img_0532To build our sundaes, I drizzled the salted caramel sauce over store-bought vanilla ice cream and sprinkled a handful of chopped pecans on top.

img_0535

img_0536

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce
{Makes about 2 cups}
Loosely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt (use good sea salt if you have some!)

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and cream and mix. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking almost constantly. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • If you like a thicker caramel sauce (like I do), reduce to low heat and whisk for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and salt.
  • Serve immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

The verdict? This sauce is everything that you love about salted caramel — sweet, salty, and sticky! It was easy to pour and paired perfectly with vanilla ice cream and pecans. K loved that this sauce was just as thick as his favorite caramel on United Airlines. The extra salt really does give this sauce “somethin’ special.” If you’re looking to impress your caramel-loving friends and family, give this easy recipe a try!

The leftover sauce gets quite thick in the fridge, and I enjoyed it with apple slices and even straight-up with a spoon. If you need to loosen it up a bit to pour over ice cream, simply microwave the sauce for 30 seconds.

 

Coconut Rice Pudding Ice Cream

I was a pretty good eater as a kid. There were few foods that I disliked. Funny enough, it was some of these foods (namely avocados, sweet potatoes, sushi, and chunky tomato sauce) that became my absolute favorites as an adult.

Rice pudding is a newfound love of mine. I wouldn’t say that I hated it as a child, but I certainly wouldn’t have chosen it over simple chocolate pudding. Same thing goes for tapioca pudding. Why pick lumpy and chewy pudding over the velvety-smooth creaminess of a Kozy Shack chocolate pudding cup?

It wasn’t until I went off to college and started frequenting Thai restaurants that I fell in love with rice pudding, specifically coconut sticky rice with mango. When I went gluten-free eight years ago, rice pudding quickly became a safe dessert for me.  And it wasn’t hard to find once I started looking. Many cultures and cuisines have their own take on rice-based desserts. My friend Anna makes a lovely Lebanese version with rose water, and I adore arroz con leche at Mexican restaurants and kheer at Indian restaurants.

Eating tapioca ice cream in Rio de Janeiro gave me an idea: if tapioca pudding can become ice cream, why can’t rice pudding do the same?

This weekend, I pulled together the ingredients for coconut rice pudding and added a couple more essential ice cream ingredients (namely egg yolk and more milk).

IMG_9587I began by cooking the rice in coconut milk, sugar, and salt on the stove top. This step takes about a  half hour and requires regular stirring. After that, everything else was a breeze.

IMG_9588Once the rice was nice and tender, I added some more milk, egg yolk, cinnamon and vanilla extract and chilled the mixture in the fridge for a while. Once it had cooled off, I simply dumped everything into the ice-cream maker and let it churn!

IMG_9589Unlike some ice creams, this one came out of the Cuisinart mixer hard enough to eat right then. But since I was on my way out to dinner, I put the ice cream into an airtight container and popped it into the fridge for a couple hours. As soon as I got home, I scooped out a couple bowls for K and me.

IMG_9592Coconut Rice Pudding Ice Cream
{Makes 1 pint}
Loosely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp milk (I used almond-coconut milk)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

  • In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of milk.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and rice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce to a simmer over low heat and stir occasionally until nearly all of the liquid has dissolved and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and mix in the rest of the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Then temper the egg yolk by adding a couple spoonfuls of the warm mixture, then adding the egg to the saucepan.
  • Chill the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour or until cool. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing alone for 15 minutes or so.
  • Serve immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer.

The verdict? K and I couldn’t get enough of this chewy, sweet, and comforting ice cream. The coconut milk adds a richness to the ice cream, while the cinnamon gives it additional depth. The rice remained quite soft and chewy; I think being cooked in coconut milk and sugar prevented it from freezing too hard. This is a fun treat for any rice-pudding lover. It’s an easy recipe, requiring no additional freezing time after the machine, so the payoff is big. I will note that this ice cream was quite chewy and full of rice. If you prefer a smoother texture, I’d recommend adding a bit more milk or coconut milk before freezing.

The Best, Worst & Most Unique of 2015

The year 2015 treated me well. It was a challenging year in some regards, but I’m heading into 2016 stronger and happier. Highlights of the past year included ringing in the new year with K and my in-laws in Australia, watching my sister Ava graduate from UCONN, salmon fishing in Alaska, finally visiting the McRae homeland in Scotland, and a “family weekend” in New York City this fall. In August, K and I celebrated a successful first year of marriage. And in December, I officially entered my 30s. There’s a heck of a lot to be grateful for!

Not surprisingly, many of my favorite memories from 2015 involved ice cream. Here is a recap of the best, the worst, and the weirdest ice creams I experienced in 2015. I hope you enjoy!

All-Around Best Ice Cream:
Magic Bar at FoMu Ice Cream (Jamaica Plains, MA)

IMG_7774

Best New Recipe:
Toasted Oat Ice Cream (no-churn!)

IMG_8877

Best Atmosphere:
Lapp Valley Farm (New Holland, PA)

IMG_7726

Worst Ice Cream:
Millions at Waltons Traditional Sweet Shop

IMG_8513

Most Unique Ice Cream:
Chocolate Chip at Greedy Goat (London, U.K.)

Bottom scoop: Chocolate Chip; Top scoop: Salted Caramel

What was your favorite ice cream from 2015?

Second Day in Scotland: Three Chimneys’ Toasted Oat Ice Cream

Our second day in Scotland was both my and K’s favorite day of our vacation. We woke up bright and early to start the long drive from Fort William to the Isle of Skye. As one of Scotland’s top three destinations, Isle of Skye is well-known for its stunning scenery and quaint seaside towns.

Another one of our “must sees,” the Eilean Donan Castle, is conveniently located right near the bridge to Skye. The castle has deep ties to the Clan MacRae, which my father’s side of the family descends from. It was so fun exploring the castle and spotting “MacRae” everywhere!

11938674_10103208222353534_8533718171967573635_oAfter the castle, it was a short drive to the Isle of Skye. I wish the photos we took from the car did this beautiful drive justice, because it was unbelievable, but alas the iPhones just didn’t cut it. Isle of Skye’s name comes from the old Norse sky-a, which means “cloud island.” I couldn’t describe the island any better than that! The vast sky and spectacular clouds seem closer to earth on that island.

Our first stop was the Talisker Distillery, where we took a tour of how Talisker makes their famous single malt Scotch whiskey. I don’t like whiskey, but I love tours! If you make the trip to Skye, I highly recommend a visit to Talisker.

We saved our last stop for last: The Three Chimneys and the House Over-by. I had stumbled across the inn and restaurant while reading some tour books that my girlfriend generously loaned me this summer. The restaurant has a Michelin star, and the TripAdvisor reviews were impressive. We considered our stay a first wedding anniversary present to ourselves. And nothing could have compared me for how special this little oasis is. It is located closer to the “middle of nowhere” on the Isle of Skye; we had to break many times for sheep crossing the single-lane road. There was no cell service. But, man, was it worth the trek!

IMG_8377From the moment we arrived at the House Over-By (the inn, which is located on the right-hand side in this photo), K and I felt welcome and relaxed. Our room was elegant yet cozy, offering a stunning view of the Loch across the street.

IMG_8376After a quick rest (nap for me) in our room, K and I got ready for dinner. We convened with the other guests in the House Over-By’s sitting area, where we enjoyed a glass of champagne and met our table-mates for the evening, Ian and Sheila. K and I had elected to eat dinner at the Three Chimneys’ “Kitchen Table,” which is just what it sounds like. Diners get the opportunity to enjoy a multi-course meal while observing the chaos (or lack thereof) of a fine restaurant’s kitchen. Below is a photo of our table that K took the next morning:

FullSizeRenderEating dinner at the Three Chimneys’ Kitchen Table was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible (a personal favorite: beetroot cured Solway salmon with quail egg and pickled cauliflower), but the service was the best I’ve had. Our server, Charlotte, was meticulous yet warm and friendly. She ensured that no gluten touched my plates and that our wine glasses remained full at all times. Our conversation with Ian and Sheila also added to the experience; Ian recently bought a house a couple miles from the Three Chimneys, and he and Sheila gave us plenty of local tips. We felt lucky to share this incredible experience with two new friends.

Charlotte had encouraged us to get up and explore the different stations in the kitchen. Naturally, Sheila and I made a beeline for the pastry area. There, pastry chef Jackie showed us how to make the Three Chimneys’ signature dessert: Hot Marmalade Pudding Souffle. Essentially, she makes a paste by pureeing traditional Scottish sticky pudding and combining that paste with whipped egg whites, sugar, a tiny bit of flour (left out for gluten-free versions) and milk. She then divided the mixture into special ceramic cups, popped them into the oven, and voilá! Jackie made the finicky pastry look like a breeze to make.

Our Hot Marmalade Pudding Souflees were served with Drambuie (whiskey) Syrup and Mealie Ice Cream. Jackie even wrote “Congratulations” on K and my plates for our first anniversary.

FullSizeRender_1We all agreed that the Mealie Ice Cream was delicious, but I had been expecting cornmeal-flavored ice cream. But Jackie told me that it was actually Scottish oatmeal ice cream, and that she made it without an ice-cream maker! The ingredients were quite simple: oats, eggs, sugar, and cream. I immediately resolved to make myself it.

Just this past weekend, I picked up my ingredients and attempted to recreate some of the Three Chimneys’ magic here in Washington, D.C. My surroundings weren’t quite as picturesque, but I had great company (K was home!) and my Scottish memories to lean on.

IMG_8873First, I toasted some oats and brown sugar in the oven. Jackie didn’t use brown sugar, but it felt wrong to toast naked oats. The granola-lover in me just couldn’t do it.

IMG_8875While my oats cooled, I channeled my memories of Jackie beating eggs for souffle and decided to beat the egg whites for an airy ice cream. Since I was attempting this recipe without an ice-cream maker, I figured I could aerate the ice cream this way.

IMG_8874I added sugar to the egg whites, beat them a bit more, and then added slightly-whipped cream, vanilla, salt and the egg yokes. After a brief stint in the freezer, I folded in my oats.

IMG_8876Despite being a no-churn ice cream, the final product was very easy to scoop and looked just as airy as traditional ice cream that I make in my Cuisinart machine. Each scoop had plenty of toasty-brown oats, and K and I couldn’t wait to dig in!

IMG_8877Toasted Oat Ice Cream (No-Churn!)
{Makes 1.5 quarts}
Inspired by the Three Chimneys Restaurant

Ingredients
• 2/3 cup oats (I used gluten-free; feel free to grind to finer consistency)
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 4 free-range eggs, yokes and whites separated
• 1.5 cups whipping cream
• 1 cup superfine sugar (or grind cane sugar in a food processor)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• pinch of salt

Instructions:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oats evenly on a baking tray, then sprinkle brown sugar on top. Bake until slightly toasted and smells nutty — probably 5 to 10 minutes. Pull out tray and allow to cool.
• Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until firm peaks form when you pull out the whisk. At this point, add the superfine sugar and whisk until sugar is incorporated and egg whites look glossy.
• Whisk the cream in a separate bowl. Then, add the cream, egg yokes, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites. Gently fold these ingredients into the egg whites.

• Pour into an airtight plastic container and freeze for 15-30 minutes. Take container out of freezer, fold in the oatmeal and brown sugar mixture, and return to freezer for another two hours.

The verdict? If you like oatmeal or muesli, you will love this recipe! Both the taste and texture of this ice cream reminded me of muesli or “overnight oats.” Per my note in the ingredient list above, I realized that the Three Chimneys must have ground their oats up a bit since I couldn’t remember eating full oats. While K and I both enjoyed the unique chewy texture and sweet creamy ice cream, it would have been easy to grind the oats before adding them to the ice cream. Also, I’m glad that Jackie tipped me off as to the ease of no-churn ice cream. This recipe was simple to make, yet it tasted good enough to serve at the Three Chimneys.

The Stats:
Three Chimneys Restaurant
1 Colbost
Isle of Skye, IV55 8ZT
Scotland

Strawberry-Swirl Ice Cream with Candied Jalapeños

It’s been quite a busy winter, and my ice-cream making has definitely suffered. But this week, I finally put my foot down and got creative in the kitchen. Ever since the surprising success of my Jalapeño-Chocolate Sorbet, K and I have been envisioning other ways to incorporate the pepper into desserts.

Have you ever tried candied jalapeños? I’ve had plenty of pickled jalapeños, but never candied ones. I spotted a recipe for Meyer lemon ice cream with candied jalapeños on Pinterest and decided to play around with idea. My mom makes an easy and delicious strawberry sauce for shortcakes, and that sounded like a good compliment to jalapeños.

IMG_6896The night before I wanted to serve the ice cream, I got to making the candied jalapeños. The process is pretty simple: let chopped jalapeños simmer in sugar water for a bit, and then pop the pieces of pepper onto parchment paper to cool overnight. Because I was making this for K, I tried to preserve as many seeds as possible. So much of the heat of jalapeños is trapped in those little white seeds.

IMG_6898As soon as I got home from work the next day, I quickly whipped up the strawberry sauce for a fruity swirl in the ice cream. Just sugar and slightly defrosted strawberries puréed in the blender. My mom usually mashes the strawberries by hand to preserve some pieces of strawberries, making for a rustic and comforting texture. But since I was freezing this, I figured a purée was better.

The ice-cream base is just a simple sweet cream recipe; no egg yolks or cornstarch. It does freeze a bit harder than recipes with yolk or cornstarch, but I knew I’d be letting this ice cream soften a bit before scooping to allow the strawberries and frozen bits of jalapeños to soften slightly.

Look at that snow-white color of the cream base offset with deep red strawberry swirls and festive green candied jalapeños! This is definitely one of the prettier ice creams I’ve made.

IMG_6938Strawberry-Swirl Ice Cream with Candied Jalapeños
{Makes 1 quart}
Inspired by this and this recipe

For Candied Jalapeños
• 3 jalapeños, de-seeded and chopped (for more heat, keep in some seeds)
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water

For Strawberry Swirl
• 1.5 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen
• 1/3 – 1/4 cup sugar (I recommend using 1/4)

For Ice-Cream Base
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt (I used this, a gift from my mom)

To make candied jalapeños:
• Combine sugar and water in small saucepan and heat to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, whisking until sugar has dissolved completely.
• Add jalapeños and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn of heat and drain liquid.
• Spread jalapeños out on wax paper and cool completely (preferably overnight)

For strawberry swirl:
• If you’re using frozen strawberries, let them thaw a bit. Place strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor and blend until puréed.
• Keep purée in fridge until you need it.

For ice-cream base:
• Combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking from time to time until the sugar has dissolved completely and has barely reached a simmer.
• Turn off heat and pour mixture into a metal or glass bowl. Let it cool a bit and then place then refrigerate until cold, at least an hour. While you’re waiting, start the strawberry swirl.

Bringing it all together:
• Pour chilled ice-cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze per your mixer’s instructions. For my Cuisinart ice-cream maker, this means 1) turn on machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing alone for at least 15 minutes.
• When the ice cream is done, scoop out enough to fill the bottom of an airtight container about an inch high. Then, sprinkle some candied jalapeños and drizzle some strawberry sauce onto the ice cream. Add another layer of ice cream. Repeat the process until you’re all out of ice cream. I had some leftover candied jalapeños and strawberry sauce, which I used later for serving!
• While you can serve the ice cream immediately, my preference is to pop the container into the freezer until firm. When frozen to your liking (2 hours for me), simply scoop into a dish and garnish with some of the reserved candied jalapenos.

IMG_6895The verdict? Those candied jalapeños have a kick to them! Of course, leaving the seeds in definitely cranked up the heat. Regardless, I wouldn’t serve this ice cream to those with sensitive taste buds. But spice lovers will rejoice. The contrast between the sweet, milky ice cream and the hot bits of candied jalapeño kept my taste buds. The jalapeños were nice and soft even straight from the freezer, thanks to the candying. The smooth and refreshing strawberry swirl was a bit icy and hard (thus my recommendation above to add more sugar), but it provided cool relief to the heat. K polished off his cup with ease, and commented on how this ice cream would be perfect on a warm August afternoon. And I’d just have to agree.

The Best, Worst & Most Unique of 2014

Welcome to 2015!

On this first day of this new year, I want to take a moment to reminisce about the many adventures and ice creams of 2014. It was quite a year, from getting married(!!) to exploring new places and spending quality time with friends and family.

While I enjoyed countless ice creams in 2014, below is a recap of the best, the worst, and the weirdest ones. I hope you enjoy!

All-Around Best Ice Cream:
final
Best New Recipe:
Best Atmosphere:
IMG_6456
Worst Ice Cream:
Most Unique Ice Cream:
What was your favorite ice cream of 2014?

andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp’s Amarula Milkshake

For me, the absolute highlight of our honeymoon was a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger boasts 147 species of mammals, including the famous “Big 5” — the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros. And while the safari concept was born in East Africa (where the Great Migration happens), South Africa is known for its luxury safari experience. Which means Kruger is an ideal place for safari novices like myself.

K and I spent three blissful days at the andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp, which a colleague of K’s had recommended. Set on its own private reserve, the Ngala Tented Camp is a magical place. From the moment you arrive, the staff welcomes you and seemingly anticipates your every need. All it took was one mention of my gluten intolerance, and Chef Stephie sent out slices of homemade gluten-free bread with every one of my meals. And the private “tented” accommodations were incredibly comfortable. My favorite features were the secluded outdoor shower and our private deck.

(source)

K and I would join four other guests for two game drives each day — one at 5:45am and another around 4:15pm. Each drive lasts over three hours, which sounds like a lot but always flew by too fast. Our guide and driver, Lee-Anne, was insanely knowledgeable about the animals, fauna, and history of the park. Her “tracker”, Richard, had eyes like a hawk and appeared to be one of the most successful trackers at Ngala. Lee-Anne would be casually driving our open-air vehicle and chatting with us, and suddenly Richard would point out elephant tracks or motion that he’d heard a lioness’ growl (which nobody else heard). And, lo and behold, he’d direct Lee-Anne to wherever the animals were.

Towards the end of each game drive, Lee-Anne would stop the vehicle in a safe clearing, giving us a chance to stretch our legs and enjoy some coffee (in the morning) or “adult” beverages (in the evening). You could count on one thing making an appearance in the morning and evening: Amarula Cream Liqueur.  I hadn’t heard about this liqueur before, but I quickly fell in love with it. Made from the fruit of the African marula tree, it has a uniquely silky and complex taste. I’d put it in the same family as Bailey’s Irish Cream, but I’d take the rich flavor of Amarula over Bailey’s any day. In the morning, I’d drink my coffee or hot cocoa with a splash of Amarula. And in the evenings, I’d drink a bit over ice.
Even with all that Amarula drinking during game drives, I still was excited to see an “Amarula Milkshake” listed as the dessert option one day during lunchtime.
I’m not the world’s biggest milkshake fan (I’d rather eat my ice cream than drink it), but the cold concoction sounded great on a warm African afternoon. And boy, oh, boy, does Amarula make a great milkshake. It added a caramel-like depth to the traditional vanilla ice cream, and I had no problems slurping up the sweet and creamy treat.

Since coming home, I haven’t been able to get Amarula out of my head. Luckily, a growing number of alcohol store in the U.S. are carrying the South African liqueur — including my neighborhood shop. While I cannot add a splash to my coffee every morning (darn you, real-life responsibilities!), I can enjoy an Amarula milkshake after dinner. So I recently set out to recreate andBeyond’s famous milkshake in my own kitchen. Here’s what I came up with…

Amarula Milkshake 
{Makes 2 milkshakes}

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream (I’m sure chocolate would be great, too)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 shots (3 oz., or to taste) Amarula Cream Liqueur
  • Handful of ice

Directions

  • Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and frothy!

The verdict? This is a near replica of the Amarula milkshake I enjoyed at andBeyond’s Ngala Tented Camp. I’m pretty sure the original version didn’t involve ice cubes, but I like the extra body that the ice gives this drink. The taste of Amarula easily shines through the milk and ice cream, giving this milkshake a yummy “adult” flavor. I’d highly recommend that anyone who adores milkshakes – or cream liqueur – give Amarula a try!

Jalapeño-Chocolate Sorbet

They say variety is the spice of life.

This old adage rings true to me. But sometimes I get a little too comfortable with my routine and habits. And that extends to ice cream. Eighty percent of the time, you’ll find me eating mint-chocolate chip, caramel or vanilla (with sprinkles) ice cream at home. When I serve myself a bowl, I like knowing that I’ll enjoy it. Nothing is worse than a disappointing ice-cream flavor. But nothing is more exciting than discovering a new flavor that I actually love. It’s a balancing act that requires an open mind.

So in the spirit of variety, I listened when K requested that I develop an ice-cream recipe inspired by one of his favorite foods: jalapeños.

K wants jalapeños on anything and everything. Eggs in the morning. Sandwiches at lunchtime. With a side of jalapeño chips from Tim’s Cascade. And don’t even get me started on dinner! When we make pizza at home, he seriously covers every square inch with jalapeño slices. It’s a wonder the guy doesn’t have an ulcer.

Me? I’m a cautious jalapeño connoisseur. When applied in the right amount, jalapeños can instantly add oomph to salsa, chili, stir-fry, or a quesadilla. But there’s a fine line between “yum” and “my mouth is on fire” when dealing with these little buggers. And jalapeños in ice cream? Um… not sure about that. They’re not exactly a traditional dessert mix-in. But perhaps that’s the point?

Last weekend, we invited two of our closest friends over for dinner. I wanted to make some ice cream (these guests  appreciate a good dessert), so I finally decided to entertain K’s request.

I decided to use jalapeños with chocolate when I remembered the Mexican Chocolate I enjoyed at Little Man in Denver, Colorado. The heat from that ice cream came from cayenne powder and a hint of cinnamon. Could jalapeños work, too?

The base of this ice cream was inspired by a David Lebovitz recipe for chocolate sorbet. I’d saved it on my Pinterest page and was happy for an excuse to try it. And because it doesn’t use any milk or cream, this recipe could be suitable for those avoiding lactose.

So this recipe meshes two new elements. Hot peppers and a dairy-free chocolate sorbet. Who knew how it would turn out?

Jalapeño-Chocolate Sorbet (Nearly Dairy-Free)
{Makes 1 quart}
Loosely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced (de-seed 1 jalapeño for medium heat; de-seed both for mild heat)

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk 1 1/2 cups of the water, the sugar, cocoa powder and salt together. Bring to a boil whisking frequently. Let it boil for 45 seconds or so, whisking continuously.
  • Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk in chocolate until melted, then stir in vanilla extract, the remaining 3/4 cup water, and the sliced jalapeños. Pour the mixture into the blender and blend on a low setting for 30 seconds and then for 15 seconds on a high setting. Chill the mixture in the fridge (should take 2-4 hours).
  • Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) let the thing churn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Serve immediately or, if a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.

The verdict? K is convinced that this sorbet is the best ice cream or sorbet I’ve ever made – or will ever make. And I, too, was surprised by just how creamy, rich and interesting this concoction was. The cool, refined sweetness of the cocoa and dark chocolate was perfectly balanced with the deep, spicy heat of the jalapeños. And even though this recipe contains no cream, milk or eggs, it was rich, creamy and voluminous. The texture was closer to frozen chocolate mousse than to a traditional sorbet. This recipe got rave reviews from everyone around the table (they practically licked their bowls clean). It will definitely be part of the normal rotation around here. Heck, it might become another routine. And if you’re looking for an easy ice-cream recipe that’s sure to impress, this one’s for you.

Quick & Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (Vegan, Dairy-Free)

2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Between greater work responsibilities, more travel, and planning a wedding, I’ve found that cooking and baking have taken a back seat. Weeknight dinners these days tends to come from the freezer, a can, or (when I’ve planned ahead) the Whole Foods hot bar. It’s only when K comes home for the weekends that I’ll get my butt into the kitchen and whip up something special.

While I’m willing to sacrifice home-cooked meals to make room for more work and wedding-planning, I’m NOT about to let my ice cream cravings go unsatisfied! Last weekend, my sister (and co-Maid of Honor) Carolyn, accompanied K and I on a trip to Seattle to take care of some wedding-planning things. While the trip was productive and fun, I came back to DC exhausted and feeling unprepared to tackle a particularly-busy week at work.

Luckily for me, Carolyn had decided to spend a couple days in DC with me before heading back home to Boston. And with such a special guest staying with me, it was time to dust off the ol’ Cuisinart and whip up something yummy. I wanted to play around more with coconut-milk ice cream, but I also didn’t have much time to dedicate to ice-cream making on a weeknight. After perusing some different recipes online, I came up with my own creation using just a handful of common pantry items.

Making due with ingredients I had on hand, Carolyn and I managed to make this ice cream in about an hour. Not too bad, considering I heated the ice-cream mixture on the stove to dissolve the sugar.

Here’s what I did…

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (Vegan, Dairy-Free)
{Makes 2 cups, or 2 Grace-sized servings}
Loosely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups full-fat coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5-7 drops of pure peppermint oil
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, sugar and cornstarch over low heat until sugar melts (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour mixture into small mixing bowl.
  • Add salt and peppermint oil and stir to mix evenly. Cover bowl and place in fridge for about 30 minutes or until slightly chilled (shouldn’t take long since mixture was heated on low heat).
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing churn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • A few minutes before the ice cream is finished churning, slowly pour the mini chocolate chips into machine.
  • Serve immediately or, if a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.


The Verdict? Cool, creamy and minty, this ice cream was the perfect refreshing evening treat. The pure mint extract masked the taste of coconut milk which, in my opinion, was a good thing (Carolyn agreed!). Compared to other vegan ice creams I’ve tried, this version is much more creamy and thick – which I attribute to using cornstarch instead of eggs here. I can’t wait to try cornstarch in other recipes! Overall, this recipe is a triple threat: it’s vegan/dairy-free, easy to make, and absolutely delicious to eat.