Frozen Assets

There’s nothing more satisfying than an indulgent scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day. And it’s even better when you’ve whipped up your own homemade creation. Brian and I don’t make nearly enough in our house, even though the bowl for our ice cream maker is always frozen, always ready to go. This past weekend we FINALLY checked the activity off of our to-do list and man, I have no idea why we waited so long! The creamy blend we put together wasn’t difficult, or even that time consuming to make. And the best part: We have enough creamy goodness to last us for days!

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream by

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream by

We started out with a classic base and dressed it up a bit with flecks of dark chocolate and vanilla bean. The addition of some strawberry simple syrup (leftover from another project) and tiny pieces of fresh strawberries made sure that every lick of this decadent treat was one we’ll remember.

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream

(Recipe adapted from True Vanilla Ice Cream, printed in the August 2013 issue of Bon Appétit)

Makes about 2.5 pints

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons all-natural strawberry simple syrup 
  • 1 3.5-ounce bar 70-percent dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, cut into a tiny dice

1. Combine the heavy cream, whole milk, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center and use a knife to loosen the seeds. Add both to pot. Heat over medium and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, cover and let sit aside for 30 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar for about 2 minutes or until pale. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the eggs and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup more and combine. Now pour the yolk mixture into the pot with the remaining milk mixture. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain custard into a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled.

3. Once chilled, pour custard into an ice cream machine and churn until nearly finished. Once you think you have about 5 minutes remaining, add the strawberry simple syrup, chocolate pieces and fresh strawberry and continue to let the ice cream maker do its thing. When complete, transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or more.

SWWU Tip 1: Don’t have time to make the all-natural strawberry simple syrup? Don’t worry, you can skip it and have a more subtle strawberry flavor. (It really is quite a tasty addition though!)

SWWU Tip 2: Need to send someone a unique thank you note? Check out these adorable ice cream themed thank you cards you can make in just minutes

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Homemade Vanilla Extract That’s Worth the Wait

While doing some spring cleaning Brian and I discovered we had a major surplus of vodka. We’re talking about an extra 4 or 5 bottles taking up space in our bar area. And since it’s not the go-to spirit for either of us, we needed another way to put the supply to good use. I’ve always wanted to make my own vanilla extract and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Homemade Vanilla Extract With Bourbon by

Homemade Vanilla Extract With Bourbon by

Actually mixing the ingredients together couldn’t be simpler. It’s the waiting, and waiting, and waiting that’s the hard part. But after 2 months, I have to admit I’m pretty impressed with the final product. I’ve already tried it out in Lemon-Blueberry French Toast Cups and a batch of Orange-Maple Popcorn, and we can’t wait to try more. There are a few different techniques to make this product, but I found the best result to come from the easiest one. Lucky us!

Homemade Vanilla Extract With Bourbon

Makes 1 375ml bottle

  • 13 whole vanilla beans
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 1/4 cup vodka

1. Use a pairing knife to put a slit down the side of each vanilla bean. Place them into your bottle and top with the bourbon and vodka, making sure the entire bean is submerged. If your beans are long you may need to cut them in half. Top with a tight-fitting lid.

2. Store the bottle in a cool dark place for at least two months. The longer you let it sit, the more the flavor will mature. Gently shake your bottle every week or so to help mix the contents up. When two months have passed, remove the beans. You can strain out the extract if you like, but I prefer to leave the little flecks of vanilla in for extra flavor. Transfer to smaller jars if you’ll be sharing.

SWWU Tip 1: Do not leave the beans in the extract unless you plan to top it off with more vodka after each use. Leaving them exposed will allow the beans to go bad and your extract will be ruined.

SWWU Tip 2: Save used beans to make a sweet vanilla sugar. I’ll post about that soon!

SWWU Tip 3: You can use any size jar or bottle for this that you like. We used an empty Hudson Whiskey bottle because it was the right size to fit into our spice drawer. 

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Rise and Shine with Nut-Free Granola

Have you ever looked for a nut-free granola? It’s nearly impossible to spot in most stores, yet alone find one that’s filling and satisfying and not overly sweet. I know what you’re thinking, granola without nuts—that’s crazy. Believe me, I understand. I would put nuts in and on everything if I could. But since someone who lives in this house has a nut allergy, I’ve adjusted my consumption a bit. After all, I don’t want to be responsible for eating the entire package by myself. Well, after being disappointed by the commercial offerings, Brian and I decided to whip up our own special batch.

Nut-free Vanilla-Orange Granola by

Nut-free Vanilla-Orange Granola by

We came up with a crunchy and sweet, but not overly so, mix. Hints of vanilla and orange zest give a pleasant kick, that’s just enough to help get you going in the morning. Rise and shine!

Vanilla-Orange Granola

Makes about 4 cups

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup raw agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 vanilla bean

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine vegetable oil, agave nectar, maple syrup and orange zest. Use a knife to split the vanilla bean down the middle, remove the seeds and place in saucepan with the pod. Heat over medium-low until just simmering, then remove vanilla bean.

3. Pour the hot mixture over the oat mixture and toss until well coated. Spread in an even layer on the two baking sheets. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned, swapping the positions of the baking sheets halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet, then break into small pieces and store in an airtight container.

SWWU Tip 1: The granola will still be wet and soft when removed from the oven. Don’t worry, it will crisp up as it cools.

SWWU Tip 2: Spread the mixture as evenly as possible on the baking sheets when cooking. Big clumps may result in uneven cooking and a less-crunchy final product.

SWWU Tip 3: This recipe yields a good amount. Package some up in jars and share with your friends or family. 

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