Eggnog Ice Cream

So I guess this is how we do winter in Southern California. We wear sweaters when temps dip into the lower 60s, and we string Christmas lights on palm trees. We cut out paper snowflakes and bake snowflake cookies and listen to “White Christmas” on repeat. And we make holiday-inspired ice cream because, after all, it’s still ice cream season here.

I’m heading to Minnesota next week to get my fill of winter, but I thought I’d give this recipe a whirl before heading to the frozen tundra. Oh my, is it delicious. If you like eggnog (and you really have to like eggnog) you will love this take on it. Also, it’s for grownups. Yep, I spiked the ice cream. (SNL might think that Adele is the answer to holiday family squabbles, but I say if that doesn’t work, try a boozy dessert.)

Adding 1/4 cup of alcohol means the ice cream churns up very soft, but don’t fret! Chill the freshly churned ice cream in your freezer for a few hours and it will firm up nicely but still be delightfully scoopable.

One more thing you should know: freshly grated nutmeg is a must here. I got whole nutmeg from Penzey’s and gently rubbed one of the seeds over my microplane grater until I had a teaspoonful. (The phrase, “What is this lovely fragrance?” definitely entered my mind.)

Wishing you all a lovely holiday season! Thanks for indulging me in yet another year of cooking adventures!

Eggnog ice cream

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Eggnog Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 4 Tbs. brandy, dark rum, or bourbon***
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Set aside.

Whisk egg yolks together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the milk, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture is steamy but not boiling. Carefully pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, a little bit at a time, while whisking constantly.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (The mixture should reach 170° F on an instant-read thermometer.) Pour the mixture through the strainer and into the cream. Stir in nutmeg, spirits, and vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator and then churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve with more freshly grated nutmeg, if desired.

Makes about 1 quart.

Okay, lots of notes here:

* As always, I made this lactose-free by substituting equal amounts of lactose-free half-and-half for both the cream and milk.

** Here’s one of my favorite cooking tips from this recipe: Fold a piece of paper in half, open it, and grate the nutmeg onto the paper. Then refold the paper along the crease to carefully direct the grated nutmeg into your teaspoon.

*** David Lebovitz suggests a mixture of 2 Tbs. brandy and 2 Tbs. dark rum. I did 4 Tbs. bourbon and it was fantastic. Feel free to experiment!

Source: Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

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Patriotic Popsicles

Happy July, everyone! We’re getting ready to head up to Carmel Valley tomorrow for the wedding weekend extravaganza for some dear friends of ours. And since it’s the Fourth of July, we get to celebrate both wedded bliss and ‘Murica. Talk about fireworks.

If you’re feeling inspired to celebrate the good old USA by making frozen treats this weekend, here’s a fun and fairly simple project. I couldn’t resist. Because summer = popsicles, and the Fourth of July = red, white, and blue food.

This recipe is more of a technique than an actual recipe. Feel free to adjust it to fit your own taste preferences and the size of your popsicle molds. One thing I have to mention: for each pouring step, be very careful to fill the molds from the center so you don’t drip any puree on the insides– or you’ll get messy-looking popsicles. Of course, they’ll get messy when they melt (see exhibit A below), but hey, that’s part of the fun! Hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Patriotic popsicles

Side note: Those of you who know me well understand that two of my least favorite things are being cold and being sticky. Taking this photo was a true labor of love. ;)

Patriotic Popsicles

  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • milk
  • 12 oz. strawberries
  • honey, to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree blueberries until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired. (Remember, things taste more tart once they’re frozen!) Pour equal amounts of the blueberry puree into popsicle molds, filling the bottom third or so of the molds. Freeze until firm.

In a small bowl, stir together greek yogurt and a tablespoon or two of milk until it’s a good pouring consistency. Stir in honey to taste. When the blueberry layer of popsicles is frozen solid, cover it with a short layer of greek yogurt mixture, maybe half an inch or so depending on the size of your molds. Refrigerate remaining yogurt mixture and freeze popsicles until firm.

In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries until smooth. Stir in honey if desired. Pour a layer of strawberry puree into the popsicle molds over the frozen greek yogurt layer. (Keep them close to the same size to resemble the stripes on the flag.) Place tinfoil over the tops of the popsicle molds and insert popsicle sticks. (The foil helps them stay in place.) Freeze until firm.

Finish the popsicles by adding one more layer of greek yogurt and one final layer of strawberry puree, freezing between each step. Once the popsicles are frozen solid, they’re ready to serve. Release from popsicle molds by carefully running hot water over the molds until they loosen.

Makes six three-ounce popsicles.

Source: Oh the Things We’ll Make.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Do you have something for your sweetheart? If cooking and baking is your secret Valentine’s weapon, please drop everything and make these truffles right now. Peanut butter, chocolate, and pretzels, the perfect combo of salty and sweet. Oh yes.

These truffles are sure to please all the loves in your life: kids, friends, partner, mailman, golden retriever with a stomach of steel. I’m kidding, please don’t give your pets chocolate. Anyway, making these truffles is almost as easy as picking up a heart-shaped box of chocolates at your local drug store, but you’ll get the warm glow that comes with saying, “Look! I made you something!” Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some chocolate to eat.

Peanut butter pretzel truffles

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Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Stir together peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter until creamy and well combined. (You can use a mixer, but it’s not necessary.) Add pretzels and stir until they are completely incorporated into the peanut butter mixture. Using a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop (or your hands), scoop the mixture into about 3 dozen evenly sized balls. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Chop the chocolate and carefully melt it in the microwave or over a double boiler. Remove the truffles from the freezer and carefully dip each truffle in the chocolate until completely covered. (I generally use a fork to dip the truffles.) Gently shake off excess chocolate and place each truffle back on the cookie sheet. Let cool until fully set.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: Annie’s Eats.

Holiday Baking Ideas

The other night I was sitting on the couch trying to decide what meals to plan this week, when I thought I’d scroll through my phone for inspiration. You see, I keep a running list of recipe names on a digital “Things to Make” list, so hitting the “show completed” button seemed like a good way to draw ideas from recipes I’d already made.

Down the rabbit hole I went.

It was a virtual time capsule filled with hundreds of completed recipes. Sometimes I could recognize a specific event (Halloween party! Valentine’s weekend at Cape Cod!) simply by the recipes that appeared next to each other.

photo 2

Since I’m much more likely to pore over cookbooks looking for new recipes than to reflect on all the things I’ve made in the past, it was fun to take a step back and think about all the hits and misses of the past few years. And I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for reading, sharing, and in some cases eating all these foods. You’ve been fantastic guinea pigs as I’ve learned to become a more confident cook.

So that little journey inspired this retrospective post: twelve fantastic recipes to make for yourself or others this holiday season. I specifically picked out fun gift ideas since I’ve been in full-on shopping mode the past two days. Enjoy! And stay tuned for some fun new goodies this week!

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Holiday Baking Ideas

Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas
Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas Holiday baking ideas

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

I’m part Swedish (along with a dozen or so other nationalities). And I work at a very Swedish place. And my little sisters visited Sweden just last summer. And this blog is named after a Swedish delicacy.

But before this weekend, I had never once in my life baked with cardamom, a spice essential to Swedish baked goods.

Heresy!

Cardamom has a distinct taste that’s difficult to describe. To me it smells almost piney, but with a warm sweetness. It’s equally delightful in Scandinavian baking and Indian curries, demonstrating quite the versatility.

I first tried cardamom bread at a staff meeting a few weeks ago, and I was instantly hooked. I knew I wanted to try my hand at making it, mostly to get in touch with my heritage and/or make my belly happy. The braiding looks complicated, but it’s really quiet simple and turns out an elegant loaf. Gabe was unsure of the cardamom taste at first, but after three bites he proclaimed himself a fan.

So I invite you to add this to your holiday baking repertoire, regardless of national heritage. A warm, sweet bread is a welcome reprieve from the rich food and sugar bombs cookies that seem to be everywhere this time of year.

Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

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Swedish Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together yeast, 2 cups flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly add milk and stir until it’s almost smooth. The dough will be the consistency of a sticky cake batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, butter, salt, and cardamom. Switch the paddle attachment for a dough hook and add the remaining 2 cups flour. Knead until smooth. (You might have to finish the kneading on a floured surface for a few minutes.) Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Now it’s slicing and braiding time! (Scroll to the bottom of this post for detailed pictures.) Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections. Don’t cut all the way through; these lines will just be a guide. Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line. Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line. Continue braiding, alternating sides. Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other.

Place dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds, if using. Let rest for another 20 minutes. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, covering with foil during the baking period if the top starts to brown too much. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve. It’s even better with a pat of salted butter melting on top.

Source: Slightly adapted from This Week for Dinner.

 Braiding Instructions for Vetebröd

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into two even pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 9×12 inches and 1/4-inch thick. Gently cut two score lines– 12 inches long– to divide the dough into three sections.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Now cut one-inch thick perpendicular strips from one outside edge of the dough up to the nearest score line. It’ll sort of look like fringe. Repeat on the other side, using the same number of cuts.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Starting at one end, fold a strip diagonally across the middle section of dough until it reaches the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Grab a strip of dough from the other side and fold it over the strip you just folded, again diagonally to the other score line.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Continue braiding, alternating sides.

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Once you’ve reached the end of the braid, tuck the last two strips under each other. Voila! Ain’t it purty?

Braiding Vetebröd (Cardamom Bread)

Thanksgivukkah Recap

Alrighty, I promised you all a recap of our first and last Thanksgivukkah. Despite the fact that my dreidel cookies turned out slightly… lopsided… and my turkey breast took a full 45 minutes longer than I’d planned (more wine!) a good time was had by all. As my third time as Thanksgiving hostess would prove, it’s always better to let go and just relax.

Thanksgivukkah recap- place settings

Like I said before, the color theme was blue and orange, and I had fun pulling different elements of those colors together at the last minute. I made tiny vases for each place setting out of spice jars and blue washi tape. (Yep, I temporarily relocated some dried herbs. All in the name of decorating. Still haven’t put them back yet either…) I also amused myself by designing and printing out place cards and “Thanksgivukkah Fun Facts.” The table was rounded out with blue and orange napkins, a shiny pumpkin, gelt, dreidels, and our hanukkiyah.

Thanksgivukkah recap- table

Despite my plan to have a “pared down” menu, we used all the recipes I posted last week, and at the last minute I decided to make cranberry sauce and roasted garlic. Not together; that would be weird. Dinner was on the table at 4:35 instead of 4:05 like I’d hoped, but we still got to eat more than we wanted with leftovers to spare. And when all was cleaned up at the end of the night, I had a big pot of turkey stock simmering on the stove. That’s success in my book.

Thanksgivukkah recap- menu

I just have to leave you with the silly story of my dreidel cookies. I tried to make homemade slice-n-bake cookies with a dreidel shape in the middle, and they turned out… different. I started by forming a long extrusion of blue cookie dough that would look like a dreidel when cross-sectioned. Then I planned to wrap plain cookie dough around the dreidel log to form a round cookie. (Yes, it required some math and advanced planning.) Unfortunately I wasn’t patient enough to let the dreidel log chill sufficiently, and it got a wee bit squished when I wrapped it with the plain cookie dough.

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies

So they kind of looked like blue chili pepper cookies. I found the whole situation hilarious and served them anyway. Luckily they still tasted good! And now it’s Christmas-cookie season, so I have plenty of time to practice my slice-n-bake cookie-making. Unless, of course, I find some holiday to celebrate that includes blue peppers. You never know. :)

Thanksgivukkah recap- goofy dreidel cookies

Preparing for Thanksgivukkah

Gobble tov! I’m busy preparing for our first (and last) ever Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-chaim event, if you will. While I don’t want to totally ruin the surprise for my guests, here’s a little sneak preview of the menu I’m planning, two days out. I’ll do a full recap, for sure, but I wanted to throw out some helpful links before the main event in case anyone is still looking for Thanksgivukkah recipes.

Thanksgivukkah Menu:

The decor will revolve around the two complementary colors of blue (for Hanukkah) and orange (for Thanksgiving). Seems like even the color wheel wanted these two holidays to collide. Alrighty, gotta run. Challah’s going in the oven!

Preparing for Thanksgivukkah