Saturday, June 26, 2010

Heirloom Ice Cream Maker and Limoncello Poppy Seed Gelato

My grandmother-in-law was a collector. That woman collected everything - antique furniture, china, vintage costume jewelry. Though I never met GiGi, I have greatly benefited from her. It's hard to say what my favorite thing she gave me is; the mink coat is awesome, then there's the turquoise ring I wear constantly, or the vintage red clutch, (I'd like to say my favorite thing was my amazing father-in-law who in turn gave me my dashing husband, but he would think that's cheesy so I won't say it). One way or another, the gift currently getting the most use is the ice cream maker.

This is no ordinary ice cream maker. No Cuisinart here. GiGi's ice cream maker is the real deal, the same thing I used while working in a professional kitchen. There is no bowl that needs to be stuffed precariously between the peas and ice cube trays in the freezer for 3 days before it can be used. This sucker has a metal bowl that is refrigerated by an internal compressor. It spits out luscious ice creams and sorbets in 15-20 minutes and you can just keep on spinning the flavors one after another, back to back to back. And that's exactly what I've been doing.

I have been making tons of flavors from David Lebovitz's AMAZING book, The Perfect Scoop. If you are into ice cream making, you need this book. Anything you could ever imagine, and then some, is in this book. Anything except Limoncello Poppy Seed Gelato, a flavor that the Muse team knew needed to be created. This is a Freelance Muses original recipe. And come to find out, GiGi's dessert of choice was always anything lemon... perfect.

*paired here with Earl Grey Ice Cream

Limoncello Poppy Seed Gelato

3 cups half and half, divided
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 lemons, unsprayed
4 tablespoons limoncello
3-4 tablespoons poppy seeds
several tablespoons milk

The evening before making ice cream, place poppy seeds in enough milk to cover, let stand over night. (This step can be skipped in a time crunch)

Combine 2 cups of half and half, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until mixture begins to steam and sugar is completely dissolved.

In a separate bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining half and half; add the half and half a few tablespoons at a time to ensure there are no lumps. Add cornstarch slurry to the pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and stir for 5 minutes or until thick.

Immediately strain the mixture through a fine sieve to stop any lumps. Add the zest of 2 lemons, limoncello, and 2-3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Chill over an ice bath. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Drain any remaining milk from poppy seeds. Once gelato is frozen, remove from machine and stir in poppy seeds.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vinaigrette – big word, small effort

Let’s face it – salads often get the shaft.

If you’re preparing a meal – whether it be for your beau, your in-laws or just the run-of-the-mill weekday dinner for husband and kiddos – salads offer a great, easy option for the mandatory green side dish. After all, you can purchase bagged lettuce, pre-chopped carrots and a few grape tomatoes that require no cutting or slicing and voila! Instant side dish. Just set out the array of bottled salad dressings from your refridgerator and there you go.

[insert record scratch here] Hold the phone. Bottled salad dressing? Come on ladies – you can do so much better than that, and with very little effort. Take that salad from snooze to new, from banal to badass, from commonplace to commanding. All you need is a homemade vinaigrette. And no, it’s not hard.

To make a vinaigrette, you really only need four essential components:
1) an oil
2) an acid
3) a sweet
4) an emulsifier (which is just a big fancy word for an agent that emulsifies, or combines two unlike ingredients into one, be it a blender, food processor, immersion blender or your arm and a whisk)

*photo thanks to tipnut

With the above components, you can make a supreme accompaniment for any type of salad, according to any kind of palette.

For a summery, classic Italian vinaigrette:
Extra virgin olive oil (your oil)
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (your acid)
Honey (your sweet)
Food processor

Pour the lemon juice and honey into your food processor; turn it on, and while the blade is whirling pour in the olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper and you’re done.

For a Tuscan Italian variation, substitute balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice.

Let’s say you want to make a vinaigrette for a salad to accompany a Tex-Mex meal. Try:
Vegetable oil
Lime juice
Food processor (or whatever you have – blender, immersion blender, etc. If you’re using your arm and a whisk, just do the same thing – pour the oil in while you stir vigorously. This is what emulsifies the oil and acid).

Add salt, pepper, cilantro and maybe a touch of cumin. Done.

Asian on the menu for tonight, you say?
A combo of sesame seed oil and canola oil (sesame seed oil is too strong to stand alone)
Orange juice/soy sauce mixture
Little bit of sugar

Combine as instructed above, and maybe add a little bit of fresh grated ginger (or the powdered kind you find on the spice rack), too.

See? Simple. Because one half of this Muse team doesn’t do complicated. No need to peform Cirque du Soleil type theatrics in the kitchen when you can impress with home-prepared simple ingredients and not a mass corporate manufacturer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother-In-Law of the Bride: Help!

To the Muses Via Text: Can you look for a dress for me for this wedding? I just don't want to pay 500 bucks for a dress and I can't seem to not get frustrated when I look online!! Either 3X or 24-26.

Ok, ok, scoot your chair back, take your hand off the mouse and take a deep breath. Trying to find a decent online retailer is like rumaging through those racks of unorganized clothes at Ross to find the perfect sundress. It can be done, but is not for the faint of heart. The Muses are gonna help you skip all that and just hand you what you want on a silver platter.

We will give you a couple rules so you don't get stuck in the MOB trap.

Rule Number 1: Do not google "mother of the bride dress." This is only going to give you David's Bridal and random boutiques in cities you've never heard of. AND if you tack the word "wedding" onto anything, the price doubles. You can find a beautiful dress for this wedding, and it doesn't have to be labeled "mother of the bride".

Rule Number 2: When looking online, do not be scared away from dresses that have 20 year-old women in them. Just cause you're a momma doesn't mean you have to wear beige and long sleeves.

Rule Number 3: Do not wear a sack. Let's find something great that helps give shape. You need a defined waist and lovely flowing skirt.

Rule Number 4: If you are worried about showing your arms, please sweet gracious Jesus, do not wear a jacket. Suit coats are for the office not a classy party. If you need something to cover up a bit, lets do a lovely detailed sweater, bolero or wrap.

Now, let's see what we can find using our ground rules!


From Kiyonna

When in doubt, Nordstrom

Or Dillards (beware: they have some of those hideous jackets on here, just say no to the chiffon suit coat...uh, cringe)

Girl, these are some great options. Now you just gotta find the dynamite, yet practical...oh screw practicality ...dynamite shoes to match.

PS. We found a load of coupon codes here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Petite Vanilla Bean Scone Remix

Occasionally while standing in the line at Starbucks, one's lover says "Oh, I could really go for some of those petite vanilla scones but why are they covered in that icing?" And he might get them anyway and comment on how they are basically sugar cookies and not breakfast. But he may also mention how lovely the little specks of vanilla bean mixed into the dough are (he, of course, wouldn't use the word "lovely").

At this point a little baker muses' mind is racing trying to figure out how she could create an appropriate-for-breakfast scone with that delicate speckling of vanilla essence. Of course, she would be maintaining perfect composure while her mind is racing on this task. One cannot give away too soon that they are working through such a thought. A good muse can act perfectly indifferent on a given topic until perfection is achieved and the beautiful finish product is revealed. (It makes us appear much more competent...which keeps everyone coming back for more).

Better-Than-Starbucks Petite Vanilla Bean Scones
*these are more dense and less sweet than the Starbucks version - created for one cherished lover's palette.

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter for finishing
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the insides. Add this to the cream, mix and let sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives. Add the eggs to the heavy cream and beat slightly to break up the eggs and distribute the delicious vanilla specks. Add to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface. Pat or roll the dough into an even square about 3/4" to 1" thick. Cut into 9 squares and then cut in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.

Brush the scones with melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.