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The Art of Brown Bagging.

The Art of Brown Bagging.

I am dedicating this post to co-workers at my office. Often when I am in the lunch room heating up my lunch I am asked what I brought because it smells and looks good. I share with my co-workers that I try to plan and pre-make my meals. If not the entire meal, at least the proteins and then it is a quick rummage through the well stocked pantry to make my lunch for the day. I was asked by a co-worker, our AMAZING Training Administrator, if I gave cooking lessons. I laughed and said I would like to but I have the best job ever already.

I thought about this request and the need we all have to eat well, nutritiously and on a budget. I told my co-worker that when I prepare my meals for this week, I would take time to blog it and do my best to show the steps.

Some tips for your pantry to remember:

  • Buy proteins on sale.
  • Stock your pantry with sauces, pastas, beans, rice.
  • Keep fresh, canned or frozen veggies on hand.
  • Canned crushed tomatoes and canned petite diced tomatoes.
  • ALWAYS keep beef, chicken and vegetable broths on hand.
  • Chili seasonings, gravy mixes, herbs and spices.
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder are basics.

I would show  you my pantry…but then I would need to organize it and I would not have time to blog.

Here we go, I made these four lunches in about 1 1/2 hours, plus I have one chicken breast left over to make a couple of quick dinners for my husband and me after work this week.

20170218_173015This is Teriyaki Chicken  With Cabbage. I use cabbage because it is more filling and healthy than white rice and fewer carbs. Just pop it in the microwave until it is hot about 1 minute on high.

20170218_173949This is Chicken Parmesan with egg noodles and sauteed Kale with Bacon. Again I am using a veggie to fill me up and less noodles. Microwave 1 minute on high.

20170218_173404Barbecue Chicken With Sauteed Kale and Bacon with tomatoes. Use your favorite sauce, I like Famous Dave’s. Microwave 1 minute on high.

20170218_174508Buffalo Chicken with Baked Parmesan Cauliflower and a side of Cucumber and tomatoes with Blu Cheese Dressing. Heat chicken and cauliflower in the Microwave 1 minute on high.

Here is how I made these four meals and more in 1 1/2 hours.

I bought split chicken breasts on sale at Basha’s grocery store for 89 cents a pound. This gave me 4 nice size breast for just over 4 dollars.

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I put the chicken skin side up on my baking pan added salt and pepper to the chicken and baked it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit  uncovered for one hour.

During the hour the chicken was cooking I prepared my sides. I chopped the cabbage, and boiled some noodles, sliced my tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions. I prepared the cauliflower to go into the oven as soon as the chicken came out.

  • My prep for the Cauliflower was to break off the florets and then slice florets into three slices. Toss the slices with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. When the chicken comes out of the oven put the cauliflower in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. 

I want to show how to make the Sauteed Kale and Bacon.

20170218_165426 Wash the fresh kale or you could use frozen. I bought this at my local produce store for 69 cents.

20170218_165501Cut out the middle stem and then chop the kale into small pieces.

20170218_165356While you are getting the Kale ready begin cooking your bacon and onions in a skillet, this is a 9 inch skillet.

20170218_165759 When you have the kale chopped and ready put it on top of the onions and bacon wait a minute before you begin stirring. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder not too much salt as the bacon will be salty.

20170218_170250When the kale turns bright green and is just tender it is done, about 5 minutes.

The chicken is done!20170218_164920

Take the chicken off the pan and place on a plate to cool. See the chicken drippings on the pan? After you remove the chicken off the pan, put about a cup of hot water in this pan and begin to scrape the drippings on the bottom of the pan. Save this aside, I will show you what to do with it in a moment.

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This is the chicken breasts on the plate. After it has cooled enough to handle I took the skin off and took the breasts off the bones. This is all very easy since the chicken is cooked it comes off the bone easily. Do not throw he bones and skin away, I will tell you what to do with them shortly.

Notice I have also pictured here the sauces I used to make the meals I mentioned.20170218_175812

 

I used this for the chicken Parmesan.

When you are ready to make your individual lunches slice the chicken breasts, put the chicken into your plastic lunch container, pour your chosen sauce over the chicken, put your chosen side in the other section of the container. This takes literally less than 5 minutes for each meal. Now put on the lids and place into the refrigerator.

The extra chicken breast I did not use for my lunches, I will make a chicken quesadilla for dinner one evening after work.

20170218_171340Now to use the chicken drippings in your baking pan you set aside earlier, bones and skin. Place all of these items in a sauce pan add water just to cover the bones. Place on the stove to cook for about 30 minutes, while you make your individual meals.

By the time you have made all of your individual lunches as I have pictured above, your home made chicken broth is done.

20170218_175638 Remove the bones and skin from the pan and pour the broth into jars or plastic container and put in the refrigerator to make soup with later instead of using a box broth. This made two pints of broth for free!

20170218_175901Another product from the chicken is a little of the broth and small pieces of chicken that can still be taken off the bones and saved aside to add to our doggy’s food, she loves it, I keep it in the fridge. Free dog food!

I hope these directions are easy to follow. Just remember to keep your pantry stocked with staples and buy your proteins on sale, schedule a time on your off time to prepare head and you will always eat well, they will be nutritious meals and they will cost less than two dollars per lunch.

Some times I buy pork loin roast or brisket that is on sale and cook the whole thing and make my lunches and dinners for the week. When I do this pre-planning I can literally have dinner on the table in 20 minutes after I get home from work.

Of course you can do the same thing using a crock pot, crock pot food is not my personal favorite. I am not a good cook with Crock Pots I can not seem to get the flavor I enjoy, but they are great for warming food for a buffet.

Let me know if this blog was helpful in any way or if you have suggestions.

Happy Brown Bagging!

 

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Cooking

 

Well These Turned Out Well…

Well  These Turned Out Well…

Here is another ornament I was able to make today. This is not a new idea and it is not my idea, but it’s a good one.20161126_184112

I went to a Holiday Festival today and a vendor had some of these she was selling. I remembered I have a couple of dozen clear plastic ornaments I got at the dollar store that I used last year and saved. 

I pulled those ornaments out and all of my paints. I used some tempura paint I have and some poster paints along with some acrylic craft paints. I made these dozen ornaments in about an hour. 

The key is to not use too much paint at one time, be purposeful where you place the paint in the ornament. Use the color you want to be the focal color first then fill in with the minor colors. 

If you want the paint feathered and swirly then move the paint along bu tapping the ornament. If you want less blending of color this is when you want to be more clear in your decision where to place the color to begin with. 

I liked using the glitter tempura paint first then placing a few other colors then swirl the paint around this caused the glitter paint to show and gave glitter to the whole ornament. If I used an opaque color first and then used the glitter paint last the glitter only showed in the windows that were left over after swirling the opaque colors first.

This is a very easy craft to make and using the ornaments at the dollar store it is an inexpensive craft. I did not ask the vendor how much she was selling her ornaments for but I feel $2.50 dollars would be fair. 

I like going to art and craft festivals seeing the creativity of others, the creative energy is so great! Fine artist and home crafters all sitting in the same area showing and selling their wares and being vulnerable to exhibit their creations that demonstrate their desire to produce items that never existed before, that cause joy in those that view their creations and then happiness to the person who may eventually end up with the creation as a gift. It is a nice feeling to know that our creations will be enjoyed by others as they use them in their lives.

I came away from the festival with a list of ideas to try or build on….when I have time.

I hope you will try to make these beautiful ornaments.

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Did You Ever Think...?, General, Jewelry

 

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I’m on vacation! It’s time to create!

I’m on vacation! It’s time to create!

We downsized about a year and a half ago and I was limited on what I could keep from my craft supplies. I decided to keep the 6 burnt out light bulbs I have had in my craft drawer for at least the past 5 years. Remember, I went back into the work field just over 4 years ago, I have done very little in the way of crafting if it was not actually for my work.

I knew exactly what I saved these bulbs for, it was to make these little penguins. I think they are very sweet and I am able to reuse a throw away item, I am re-purposing, that is always good. Well, you say there are 8 penguins…Yes and I have 8 more I am completing. I could not just have 6 of these little guys so I went to the dollar store and bought some more, yes they are perfectly usable bulbs, however they are incandescent bulbs and they are going out of style, I mean I don’t use them in my home any more so why not make penguins out of them. At the dollar store I can get two bulbs for a dollar…they are CHEAP!

Here is how I begin the process and they you can dress them how ever you like. I have made hats out of children’s socks and as you see I have even hand crocheted little red hats. All of my embellishments I got at the dollar store.

These penguins can be table decorations the way have have presented them or if you want them to be tree decorations just add a hook to the hat and do not add the washer to the bottom of the bulb.

20161126_140913these are the tools I used. Primer, black acrylic paint, a large metal washer for weight, all purpose adhesive that will adhere to glass and my paint brush.

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Glue the washer to the bottom of the bulb. You will need to let the glue dry at least 30 minutes but 12 hours is best. Hot glue does not work as well as it tends to pop off of glass surfaces.

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Paint the bulb with the primer

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After the primer has dried then paint the entire bulb with the black acrylic paint leaving a white space that it where the penguin’s tummy is. I used spray adhesive to attach the white felt it is quite permanent and attaches smoothly and quickly.

You will see that I have used a piece of white felt for the tummy and a small orange felt triangle for the beak.

I have had a lot of fun making these little guys, I will give them to my co-workers for a small Christmas gift a a token of my appreciation.

The little fat penguin you see at the top of the picture and the snow men that are made out children’s size 4-6 socks and rice, NO sewing needed. I will post those directions later next week. the snowmen I will be helping my grandson’s first grade class to make next week.

Happy Holidays everyone, let me know how you like these little guys!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in General

 

We had Weddings!

We had Weddings!

In the past year, from last November to June, we had four children get married we are expecting two more weddings next year one in Missouri in February (maybe) and one in in Utah in July…whew!

We are happy our children have found wonderful people to marry and are all happy and doing well.

Three of our children asked me to make their wedding cakes  and here are the pictures we took.

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This is our Nov. 2015 wedding. Each tier is a lemon cake with lemon filling. I slice each layer after it is baked so each tier is four layers of cake and three layers of filling. The tiers are all 6 inches tall.

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This cake was our May 2016 wedding. this cake is white cake with a strawberry fluff filling.  Again I sliced each layer after it is baked so each tier is four layers of cake and three layers of filling.  The tiers are all 6 inches tall. The emblems are all created with fondant.

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This is our June 2015 wedding in Missouri held at the Civil War Ranch by Carthage Missouri. We drove so I was able to take all of my supplies and I used my sister’s kitchen while she was at work and created this cake. This case is a combination of a yellow tier with a butter cream filling, Strawberry tier with strawberry filling and a chocolate tier with of course a chocolate filling.

Again I sliced each layer after it is baked so each tier is four layers of cake and three layers of filling.  The tiers are all 6 inches tall.

The sunflowers are all hand  made one peddle at a time out of gum paste and a gum paste center, then assembled to make these really life-like sunflowers.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Cakes

 

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Happy Veteran’s Day

Happy  Veteran’s Day

My father and brother are both veterans, luckily they were not in during a time of war but they served with honor and dignity and I am proud of their service. We have many friends and other family members who are also veterans and to them thank you for your service and sacrifice  we are happy you made it through so we can benefit from knowing you.

We have 5 children who were in the armed services we are grateful for their service. Two did not deploy, three did deployed, one to Germany and two the war zones in the Middle East. All survived physically and we are grateful they are with us. Some are doing just fine. Some suffered emotional scars that will be with them on-going, that is a heartbreak for parents as well.

We never know how life’s twists and turns will affect us and those around us in the moment. I know we all are doing the best we can in the moment and always hope to be doing what is best for other’s around us.

It is my hope that as a part of humanity, we will have that extra measure of empathy for those who have suffered the traumas of war or even any trauma in life and will reach out to give them a hand up and hope for the future.

God Bless America.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in General

 

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Venna’s Mexican Sundae

Venna’s Mexican Sundae

I saw a post by a new follower this morning stating she was about to have her first dinner party and she was serving enchiladas. I immediately thought about this dessert I often make when I am serving Mexican food for a dinner party.

I had to run out to the market and get the needed items so I could post this today. My poor husband had to eat the sundae I created that you see in the picture….how he suffers for my hobbies…lol

I used to work at Taco Bell many years ago, at that time they had Cinnamon Crispas on the menu. I used to buy those and make this dessert. Now I make my own Cinnamon Crispas and here is how I do it.

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I use small fajita size flour tortillas, cinnamon sugar, vegetable oil

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As your oil is heating to 350 degrees,

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Prepare your tortilla by cutting them into six pieces. One tortilla will make two sundaes.

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When  our oil reaches 350 degrees place two or three chips in your pot to fry.

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When the chips have cooked about one minute on each side and are crispy remove them from the fryer and place them on a rack to cool. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar immediately after you place them on the rack.

To create the sundae you can use your favorite ice cream and toppings. Fruit that is in season is always best but you may have other preferences.

I will usually opt for either strawberries or raspberries mixed with a little sugar to get the fruit juices flowing. We like to drizzle a little chocolate syrup on top and then top the sundae with whipped topping and mini chocolate chips. I hope you will enjoy this dessert it has been the hit of many dinners.

20161111_095939 I wanted to show the thermometer I have to monitor my cooking temperatures. My husband bought this for me a few years ago and I enjoy using it about everyday.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Cooking, Crochet

 

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Easy Tom Yum Soup made with Lemon Ginger Lipton Tea

Easy  Tom Yum Soup made with Lemon Ginger Lipton Tea

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This is what Wikipedia has to say about Tom Yum soup

“Literally, the words “tom yam” are derived from two Thai words: “tom” and “yam”. “Tom” refers to boiling process, while “yam” refers to a Thai spicy and sour salad. Indeed, tom yum is characterised by its distinct hot and sour flavours, with fragrant spices and herbs generously used in the broth. The basic broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers.”

I had this soup at a little restaurant one day last summer. It was so delicious, warm lemony and spicy with wonderful vegetables and shrimp. One day a couple of weeks later I wanted to have this soup again and I figured I would make some for myself. I looked up the recipe and it was quite involved and I would need to make a trip to the Asian market. I was too impatient for all of that so I had my husband take me out to the restaurant again.

Last week when I was at my local grocery store I looked on the marked down isle and found a box of Lipton Lemon Tea. I had a cold at the time and thought this would be a nice herbal tea to help me feel better. I had the tea for my cold and as I was drinking it, a thought came to me and I made this recipe.

My version has chicken because that is what I had in my fridge already cooked but you can also use cooked shrimp.

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I make this soup to take to work with me in just this way.

3/4 cup precooked chicken chopped or shrimp

1/2 cup frozen veggies your choice

1/4 cup mushrooms

1 green onion chopped

1 chicken bouillon cube

1 1/2 cup chicken broth

2 Lipton Lemon Ginger tea bags

2 tblsp. chopped cilantro

2 tblsp. Wonton strips

I place the first 7 ingredients in my microwave cup (I got it at Bed Bath and Beyond).  I put the soup in my fridge at work. At lunch time I microwave the soup for 3 minutes.

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When the soup is hot, top the soup with the cilantro and wanton strips.20161107_055428

The Lemon Ginger tea give the soup a very similar taste of the Tom Yum soup without having to go to the Asian market and doing all of the prep work to make the authentic soup.

When I have the time and the funds I will go back to the little restaurant and have the real thing, but in the mean time I will make this quick yummy fake Tom Yum soup.

I hope you enjoy, let me know!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Cooking

 

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Home Remedy Tomato Soup

Home Remedy Tomato Soup

This home made spicy tomato soup is one I have been making since I was about 12 years old. Way back then,  my parents always made sure we had a garden and my mother taught me how to can our tomatoes and other produce. Of course tomatoes are ripe and ready to eat in the middle of the summer, so canning our tomatoes was always a hot, hot, hot endeavor, we did not have central air in our home at the time. That did not come until I had already left home years later…..hmmmm.  Anyway my mother would put me to the task of scalding and then peeling the scalded tomatoes and stuffing them into the hot jars….it seemed everything in this procedure had to be hot and scalding.

I have to say, when we were finished, I did have quite the sense of pride looking at all of the many dozens of jars of tomatoes we canned sitting on the counter shining in the sunlight and cooling, waiting to be put away in the cellar. We canned enough tomatoes to last through most of the winter it seems, and that is where this recipe for the tomato soup derived from.

One very cold day, I was not feeling very well and I wanted some soup. I asked my mother if I could use  jar of our tomatoes to make some tomato soup for myself. My mother gave me permission and I set to work creating this soup. I just started adding what ever I thought would be good and as the soup cooked the aroma filled the kitchen I knew it was going to be really good and I have been making it every since. As  girl I did not strain the pulp after pureeing the soup. I strain it now, it’s more like a hot spicy tomato juice and it can be sipped slowly no need for a spoon.

I call this my Home Remedy, because it is great when you have a cold or sinus problem, it may not cure you, but it sure makes you feel warm and cozy and loved. As you sip it, your throat feels relief as the warm soup runs down your throat then as the chili and garlic to their work your congestion begins to clear, so have plenty of tissue on hand.

One of my daughters loves to make this soup as much as I do and now she will have this recipe to look at….I love you Casey Blue.

I decided to post the recipe today because I brought my soup to work and shared with my friend and co-worker, she wanted to know how to make it for herself so I made a pot and took these pictures so here it is.

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These are the ingredients pictured here. You see I have canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes here. If you choose to use canned tomatoes use the small can, if you choose to use fresh tomatoes use 2 1/2 cups of chopped Roma tomatoes.

The lime you see here is for squeezing into your  individual cup of hot soup when it is done.

Now for the recipe and instructions.

2 1/2 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 small can of canned tomatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 of an onion chopped

1/2 tsp. celery seeds

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes. (More or less depending on your taste for heat.)

1 chicken bouillon cube

1 tblsp. minced garlic

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

Salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to taste after the soup is done.

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Except for the salt, pepper and lime , put all of the ingredients in  a small pot and cook on high heat until the veggies are all cooked and soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove the soup from the stove and using a had blender like this one, puree the soup right in the pot.

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If you do not have a hand blender, use your regular counter top blender to puree, just be careful the hot soup will want to fly out of the blender so pulse first. After the soup is pureed, I use a siv and strain the soup from the pulp, pressing as much of the soup from the pulp as I can.20161106_140735

You should end up with about 4 cups of soup.20161106_140951If you chose to leave the pulp that is fine and you will have about  5 cups of soup.

I hope you will enjoy this soup as much as I do on these cold winter days!!! Let me know how it goes.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Cooking, Did You Ever Think...?

 

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Another New Chapter

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog.  I was sick for a little while, but I’m fine now,  then I bagan working again after 11 years of being a stay at home mom, and I have a new grand daughter.

First before I begin about my new job, I need to post this recipe for making homemade yogurt.  My daughter was asking about it since it is cheaper to make yogurt than it is to buy especiallyt if you get the milk  on sale.

So, for any of you out there who are interested in making your own yogurt here we go…

You do not need a fancy yogurt maker, here is mine:  Canning jars, heating pad and the box the canning jars came in and a large towel or two.

The supplies you will  need to make the yogurt are a large stanless steal pot, a candy thermometer, milk and yogurt for the starter.  You will only need a small amout of the yogurt for a starter, so don’t buy a quart container, 8 oz. will do.

When you buy your yogurt make sure you buy one with “live active” cultures.  Dannon is the least expensive one I have found on the market.  Read the lable it will tell you if the cultures are live and active.

The first step is to heat the milk to 190-200 degrees F, in the stainless steel pan.

Once it reaches that temperature (take care not to let it boil), you want to cool the milk down to 120 degrees F. I do this by filling my sink with cold water and placing the pot in. The water helps reduce the temperature quite rapidly, so don’t walk away during this step.

Once it has cooled to 120 degrees F, whisk two tablespoons of yogurt into the milk. I’ve tried using different amounts of yogurt to start my yogurt and I’ve actually found that the smaller amounts work better than larger amounts. A tablespoon for every 3-4 cups of milk.

There was also a time during which I stirred some dry milk into each batch of yogurt I made.

After the yogurt starter has been stirred into the milk, pour this mixture into the canning jars, put the lids on.  Place the jars into the canning jar box with the heating pad placed in the bottom of the box and turned up to high.

Wrap the box of jars in a large beach towel or two bath towels just to hold the temperature steady. Do not move the jars around while incubating.  The yogurt will  not set.

After about 4 hours you have nice warm yogurt.  Label and date the jars of yogurt and place them in the refrigerator.

Think about it when you can get milk on sale, which here where I live milk is on sale somewhere at least twice a month for $1.67 a gallon.  This means you can have a gallon of yogurt for $1.67.

Not that this is plain yogurt. If you want flavored yogurt you just add your own flavorings, sweeteners and fruit when you are ready to eat it.  I use my yogurt in my baking, pancake batters, and muffin batter. Use it where ever you might use milk in your baking.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Cooking

 

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Homemade Blueberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This Saturday we will be attending a function at the church, it is a picnic and concert in the park.  But since we live in Arizona and it is 108 degrees by 11:30 am the activity will be at the church in the gym.  We are to all bring a box dinner and some of us have been asked to bring homemade ice cream.

I began making this ice cream recipe about 15 years ago when I lived in Missouri and I took the children Blueberry picking.  We of course froze some and made muffins and syrup for pancakes.  But then I also thought about ice cream.  I make Blueberry Chocolate Chip Muffins so I thought Blueberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream would be good too.

So here we go….

Blueberry Ice Cream

  • 2 Cups Half and Half
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups whipping cream
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

A note here, you really want to use mini chocolate chips

because the larger ones are very hard when the ice cream is frozen.

Also only add the chocolate chips into the mix during the last few minutes of freezing just long enough to mix them all into the ice cream.  Adding them at this time keeps them from getting broken up during the freezing process.

 

Place the egg yolks in a bowl and beat just to break up then add the sugar, do not over mix, you just want to incorporate the sugar into the eggs.  Set aside.

 

 

Use a sharp knife to slit your vanilla bean lengthwise, pour the half and half into a heavy 1 to 2 quart sauce pan, add the vanilla bean.  Heat to just boiling, do not allow the milk to boil over.  When the half and half is heated to boiling remove the vanilla bean.  You will notice little flecks in the milk, these are the vanilla seeds you want them, pour the vanilla milk into the egg and sugar mixture stirring constantly.

 

Clean out the pan and dry the outside of the pan leaving the inside wet, this will help keep the custard from sticking to the side of the pan. Pour the custard mixture back into the pan and on a very low heat and constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, cook the custard about 7 minutes until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon.

Do not rush this process if you cook the custard too fast too hot the eggs will curdle and you will have scrambled egg ice cream.  So low and slow stirring constantly. After the custard is cooked if it has curdled a little pout it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add the whipping cream, lemon zest and blueberries at this point and the vanilla extract if you did not use the vanilla beans in the half and half earlier.

Cover the custard and place in the refrigerator to cool.  when the mixture is cold follow the manufacturers directions on your ice cream machine.  If you like soft serve ice cream eat it as soon as the ice cream machine says the ice cream is ready.  if you like hard serve or hand dipped ice cream place the soft ice cream in a container and place it in the freezer for a few hours until it sets and is ready to scoop.

Finished blueberry custard just put into the ice cream freezer

 

Finished soft serve

Either way this is a great ice cream.  Just note that the actual custard recipe can be used to make really any fruit ice cream or just as it is for a vanilla ice cream.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Cooking, Did You Ever Think...?

 

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