Guest Blogger – Mint Chocolate Chip Coconut Milk Ice Cream

After experiencing fresh sorbet at some recent dinners, we decided that it was time to add to our growing list of kitchen gadgets.  Not that we have room for an ice cream maker, but some things are worth cluttering for.

We first tried to make a vegan strawberry sorbet and quickly learned that skipping simple syrup, while making it vegan, also meant that we were really only making water ice.  One Saturday while Mel was at school, I decided to experiment and made a strawberry sorbet with simple syrup.  This turned out fresh and creamy, just like we had at restaurants.

My sister Sarah and I are obsessed with mint chocolate chip ice cream.  We have been since we were little kids going to the Frosted Mug in Beach Haven, New Jersey.  We even made up our own little song to go along with the experience; get us drunk enough and I am sure we would do it as adults (Mel hasn’t even heard said song yet!).  I knew that Mint Chocolate Chip had to be the next treat to come out of our ice cream maker.  Luckily Mel loves MCC ice cream also, and it was her idea to add fresh mint to the frozen concoction.

We made some tweaks, most notably using coconut milk instead of dairy milk.  This was really easy, and very minty.  Just like it should be.

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 13.5oz can light coconut milk
13.5 oz of carton coconut milk
3 tsp peppermint extract
2 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1.  Be sure to follow your ice cream maker’s instructions regarding preparation of the machine.  We have a Cuisinart unit which has a bowl that is frozen for a minimum of 12 hours prior to use.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, coconut milk, and peppermint extract.
3.  Start the ice cream maker and slowly pour the mixture into the machine.  Set timer for 15 minutes.
4.  After 15 minutes, add the fresh mint and the chocolate chips.  It is very important to wait until the ice cream starts to thicken otherwise the mint and chips will sink to the bottom.
5.  Continue churning the ice cream for another 10-15 minutes until fully set.
6.  Remove from ice cream maker and transfer into an air tight container.

The ice cream will be ready for immediate enjoyment or you can save it for later.  Depending on your freezer settings, it may be necessary to thaw the ice cream after freezing.


Pseudo-Guest Blogger Strikes Back: Dave dives into the world of doughnuts!

I’m back!  If 2011 was the year of the pancake, 2012 may be the year of the doughnut.  Well, at least till I have them figured out.  What started out as a mission to replicate the beignets that we loved in New Orleans has turned into a quest to make the perfect doughnut.  So far, this has proven to be quiet difficult.

We wanted to have party favors for a recent dinner party we threw; something sweet that our guests could enjoy on their walk or ride home.  We threw around doing doughnuts initially, but I said “what about beignets?”  After trying 3 different recipes, I found one that I liked, added a bit more sugar to it and then experimented with cooking times.  Our guests liked them, and I didn’t think they were half bad myself (although they were no Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans).  I thought “that wasn’t terrible, let’s try actual doughnuts.”  Famous last words.

I am now on recipe number 4 or 5 of the doughnuts and most have different ingredients for the dough.  From what I have found, the key principles to the dough are simple: 1) make sure your yeast activates and 2) give your dough enough time to rise.  I also made some slight tweaks with the ingredients. I enjoy adding a little bit of cinnamon or brown sugar even when the recipe does not call for it.  And vanilla extract, Mel will attest that when I bake vanilla extract goes into almost anything.

While the dough part isn’t all that difficult, the cook time in the oil and thickness of the dough when you cut the doughnuts all has to be pretty exact.  After allowing the dough to rise the first time, I use a sheet pan lined with flour to roll out the dough to a thickness of between 3/8″ to 1/2″.  This step is the difference between making a doughnut that is light and airy and one that is dense and chewy.  While dense and chewy may be good, light and airy is how I like my doughnuts.

My last doughnuts were my best so far; not quite perfect but I would call them pretty damn good.  They even stayed fresh for a few days afterwards, only needing to be reheated shortly in the microwave.  They weren’t quite the yeast doughnuts that we loved from Doughnut Plant in New York City, but I put those on a silver platter that I hardly expect to reach.  It’s not like I go around and compare my pancakes to those at brunch establishments in the city (oh, wait…), why would I do that to my doughnuts?

Adapted from

Yields ~9 Doughnuts

1 envelope active dry yeast (.25oz)
1/4 cup warm water (~110 degrees)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (can be omitted)
5 cups all purpose flour (plus more for the pan)
1 quart of vegetable oil for frying

For Glaze
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons milk

1) sprinkle yeast into warm water, let dissolve and then let stand for 5-10 until foamy.  If the yeast does not get foamy, it’s not active.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the yeast mixture, milk, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of flour.  Mix for a few minutes using a wooden spoon.  Beat in remaining 3 cups of flour 1 cup at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.  Knead for about 5 minutes then transfer the dough to a greased bowl.  Set in a warm, dark place for 1.5-2 hours or until dough has doubled in size (initial rise).
3) After the initial rise, place dough into a floured cookie sheet and roll out until 1/2″ thick.  Cut the floured dough with a dougnut cutter.  Cover the cut dough with a towel and let sit for 1 hour or until roughly double in size (second rise).
4) In a shallow bowl or platter, mix the confectioners sugar, cinnamon, and 2-4 tablespoons of milk until a thick glaze has formed.
5) Heat oil in a dutch oven, heavy skilley, or deep fryer to 350 degrees.  Place doughnuts into oil and allow 20-30 seconds of cooking per side.  The doughnuts will rise in thickness.  Be careful not to overcook, judge by color of the doughnut as it frys.  Remove after cooking and allow to drain on a paper towel lined cooling rack.  Dip into glaze while still hot, allow to cool slightly, serve while warm.

A Love Letter to the Baltimore Chocolate Top

My Darling Chocolate Top,

I so enjoyed the time we spent together during my recent visit to Baltimore.  You always entertain my taste buds with your savory sweet personality. The combination is delightful.

When I set my eyes on you, I see a work of art. I love your perfectly coiffed chocolate icing sitting upon a simple shortbread cookie.  The contrast is striking.  Just thinking about you makes my salivary glands sing!

You are one of a kind. Having lived outside of Baltimore for 15 years now, I have searched high and low for you, but your beauty can only be found in the dessert cases of Baltimore delis.  And although there are a few imitators out there, your originality can only come from the Gourmet Bakery.

The time we have spent together over the years has been wonderful.  You’ve traveled on trains and planes with my mother to visit me.  For this I am grateful.

Stay decadent my sweet and I look forward to our next rendezvous together.



Blood Oranges Three Ways

Not sure if you have noticed all the citrus in the grocery store and at produce stands, but Dave and I sure have.  We even schlepped back a bushel of citrus from our Florida road trip in December.  And ever since our juicer has been working overtime making fresh squeezed orange juice of different varietals. Let me tell you, there is nothing better than fresh squeezed orange juice!

Among my favorites this time of year is the Honeybell (aka tangelo) and most recently the blood orange.  I had obviously heard of this said blood orange (El Vez’s Blood Orange Margarita anyone?), but I had never brought one home to my own kitchen.  During one of our weekly trips to the Italian Market, Dave and I saw the oranges being sold at one of our favorite stands and picked them up.  I love the beautiful crimson color on the inside and the sweetness of its juice.

The first recipe we tried was this Blood Orange and Onion Salad.  So delightful and refreshing.

Of course, we had to test our own version of a Blood Orange Margarita.

And my sweet tooth couldn’t resist this Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake.

I even made blood orange mimosas for a recent Girls’ Dinner.  While they are in abundance, I would highly recommend picking up a few!  All three recipes are below:

Blood Orange and Red Onion Salad
Adapted from Food and Wine

1/4 small red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Maldon salt and fresh ground white pepper
4 blood oranges
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T basil leaves chiffonade or torn

1. In a bowl, toss the red onion with the vinegar and season with Maldon salt and white pepper. Let stand at room temperature until softened, 15 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice the oranges crosswise, removing any pits. Arrange the oranges on a platter and scatter the red onion on top. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with Maldon salt and white pepper. Garnish with the basil and serve.

Blood Orange Margaritas
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
makes a single serving

1 1/2 ounces tequila (silver or gold, based on your preference)
1 ounce aperol, grand mariner, or other orange-flavored liquor
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 1/2 ounces blood orange juice (about 1-2 oranges)
salt for the rim, lime/orange wedges for garnish

Rim the ridge of your glass with a lime wedge and dip in salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, aperol, blood orange and lime juice with ice, and shake for about 30 seconds. Pour over ice and squeeze in lemon and orange slices.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Butter for greasing pan
3 blood oranges
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt*
3 large eggs
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

*I actually used soy yogurt and it worked well

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

2. Cut off bottom and top of the oranges so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers or cut to about 1/4-inch pieces with a knife.

3. Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you’ll will have about 1/4 cup. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

4. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

5. Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Serve with whipped cream.

Carrot Cake Cookies

‘Tis the season for holiday cookies, and plenty of them.  This time of year I gorge myself on cookies and other sweets, and then every year my New Year’s resolution is to cut back on the sweets.  Notice the cycle here?

I love the carrot cake cookies from Talula’s Garden and decided I was going to attempt to make them for my book club’s 3rd Annual Cookie Swap.  They turned out softer than the ones at Talula’s, but still had that great carrot cake flavor.  They also happen to be good for breakfast on the go.

Carrot Cake Cookies

Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about 24 cookies (12 filled cookie sandwiches)


3/4 cup golden raisins (2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 + 3 tablespoons cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely grated carrots (2 medium or 4 small)
1 cup walnuts (3 ounces), chopped

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


Place raisins in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and pat dry.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, walnuts and raisins (drained!) on low speed. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Set dough in refrigerator to chill for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Working with one baking sheet at a time, drop 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake each sheet separately, 13-15 minutes or until centers spring back to the touch. Cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, pulse cream cheese and butter in a food processor, scraping down sides with a spatula as needed, until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and pulse until combined.

If making ahead, store cookies at room temperature and frosting in refrigerator. Frost cookies before serving.

Pseudo-Guest Blogger: Dave Experiments With Chocolate Covered Bacon!

Chocolate?  Yes!  Bacon?  Yes!  Chocolate covered bacon?  Sign me up!  That was my thought process when Mel asked me to be a guest blogger and write about my first foray into creating chocolate covered bacon.  Who could pass up such an offer?  It’s a sweet and savory treat that combines two foods that I thoroughly enjoy.  Just ignore the fact that they neither are healthy when considered by themselves, let alone together.

I had been talking about trying some chocolate covered bacon for a while.  One night when we were walking home from running errands, we stopped in front of Jake’s Sandwich Shop on 12th street.  There it was, staring me in the face: Chocolate Covered Bacon.  It was barely dinner time but I knew that we had to try it.  We found a few things odd when trying Jake’s version.  First, the chocolate taste noticeably outweighed the bacon taste; we decided this was because there was a huge amount of chocolate surrounding the thin piece of bacon.  Second, the bacon was very crispy, too crispy.  Last, the pieces were really small; it seemed like each piece only contained a small portion of a strip of bacon.

With these issues in mind, we scoured the internet for some good recipes to create chocolate covered bacon at home.  After finding a few, I combined what I thought were the best recommendations and methods and created my first batch.

The raw bacon

The melting chocolate

The finished product

All in all, the first batch was pretty good.  Mel and I got to enjoy most of it, and we even managed to share some as well.  I learned some lessons for next time, but you’ll get the benefit immediately!

Chocolate Covered Bacon

¾ lb of melting chocolate (milk, dark, white – it’s your choice)
1 lb of thick sliced bacon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350f.
  2. Line a big cooling rack with parchment paper.
  3. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate completely until it is smooth.  Use a whisk to ensure that all pieces are melted and that it is not lumpy.  Remove from heat after melted.
  4. While the chocolate is starting to melt, line two cooking sheets with aluminum and place the bacon strips on the sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp.  Remove immediately from the oven and transfer the bacon strips to paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  5. Place the bacon strip into the melted chocolate.  Use a spoon or fork to coat the bacon strip completely.  After coating, place on cooling rack.
  6. Put cooling rack in refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the chocolate prior to eating.

Travels: Empire State of Mind

No, Dave and I were not singing Jay-Z and Alicia Keys while we were walking through the concrete jungle of New York City this past weekend. But we gave our taste buds a ride all over town while visiting family and cheering on a close friend for the NYC marathon. Here is a quick rundown of our itinerary:

Friday night
Dinner at BYOB Kuma Inn in the Lower East Side with Dave’s sister and her boyfriend (this place was an obscure restaurant above a Bavarian bar, but the tapas style Asian food really stood out!)
Drinks at Elsa’s

Brunch at Petite Abeille in Stuyvesant Town with my cousin Jami
Being a tourist at the Empire State Building (spectacular views!)
Dinner at One If By Land, Two If By Sea

Brunch at The Standard Grill in the Meatpacking District
Quick walk through of EATALY in the Flatiron District (where Dave freaked out because Mario Lemieux walked by us)
Being spectators at the NYC Marathon

I’d like to shine a spotlight on a few activities from our weekend….

  • Dinner at One If By Land, Two If By Sea in the West Village. Dave’s research paid off for finding a romantic atmosphere for our Saturday night date night. According to press clippings displayed near the restroom, One If By Land has been voted Most Romantic Restaurant in NYC multiple times and apparently is an old carriage house once owned by Aaron Burr. This fact I thought was especially cool, because I am always thoroughly entertained by this Got Milk? commercial from a few years back:

I’m sure Burr was proud to have won the dual, but I would hope he would be proud to know that his former residence is now a pretty awesome restaurant. My love of dirty martinis has been elevated with their Horse and Carriage cocktail. It was a dirty martini with horseradish-infused vodka, olive juice, and a tooth pick spear of bleu cheese & onion stuffed olives. A first whiff smelled like a Jewish Holiday, but it gave the cocktail a swift kick in the pants, like the Jews did to the Egyptians.

Their menu is a Four Course Prix Fixe including a choice of a small, medium, large, and dessert dish. With this type of menu, there were many delectable bites, but my favorite dish was the Halibut, which sadly was not included in our photo shoot for the evening. It was perfectly cooked and surrounded by trumpet royale and Shiitake mushrooms, on a bed of roasted garlic potato purée. There was a lemon burst that really balanced out the flavors in the rest of the dish.

  • Brunch at The Standard Grill in the Meatpacking District. I first stumbled upon this place the summer of 2010 during my annual Girls Weekend with college friends. We had drinks here and it was a fun, happening place. When I came back to Philly from that trip, the Twenty Manning restaurant near Rittenhouse Square had been reinvented to Twenty Manning Grill. TMG eerily looked like The Standard Grill I had just been too in Manhattan; Beef, Fish, Fowl, Poultry sign and all. I had told Dave previously about Philadelphia’s venerable restauraneurs’ imitation of New York City restaurants; now he had had seen it first hand with this example as well as Pastis (Parc in Rittenhouse). Brunch didn’t really stand out for me, besides our celebrity sighting of Bridget Monyahan, the housemade raised donuts, and these really cute salt and pepper shakers.

  • I failed to mention the real reason for our visit to NYC, I opened a bakery!

    Just kidding……but if I did, I guess I couldn’t use this name. However, because this shop had my namesake, we popped in to taste the mini, and I mean mini, cupcakes they were selling. Apparently, each cupcake is less than 50 calories. They weren’t anything to write home about. The concept appeals to me, since I often need something sweet to cleanse my palate after a meal, but am not looking for anything filling. The frosting was good, but something about the cake itself was off, but we couldn’t put our finger on it.

With lots of reasons for frequent NYC visits and it being in close proximity to Philadelphia, there will plenty more Manhattan posts. Lucky for us, the city has boundless gastronomic options!

One last thing I would like to mention – while watching the marathon runners pass by us with less than a mile to cross the finish line, we saw a few amputees and individuals in wheelchairs. I believe completing a marathon when you are healthy is inspirational on its own, but this just blew me out of the water. Here is a picture of a female amputee close to finishing the race:

Dave found out more about her today. Her name is Melissa Stockwell and here is her Web site. The quote on the home page is “All of our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” I couldn’t agree more! I have decided to pursue my own dream and start culinary school part-time this week! Wish me luck!