My Baby’s Chunky Monkey

Here is my Valentines Day post for the Dark Days Challenge.

On any Saturday night my baby and I will be sitting around. We will have sent the monsters to bed and have broke out the wine. About this time we start thinking of junk food. We play rock, paper, scissors to see who has to leave the comfort of the house and travel to Cub Foods to pick some up. On top of that list is some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. My wife is Chunky Monkey and I am Phish Food.

Chunky Monkey is not exactly local (Banana ice cream, walnuts and chocolate chunks) so I will be making strawberry along with the chunky monkey.The Chunky Monkey ingredients will be legit: Sustainable and organic.

I like to be a little bit ghetto, I like a challenge, I want to be resourceful, I want to break some cooking rules so I am making ice cream without an ice cream maker. Mainly because I don’t have one… and ’cause I’m cool like that!

The basic recipe:

3 Cups Half and Half

1 Cup Heavy Cream

8 Large Egg Yolks

1 cup of Sweetener

Here’s how I started out both of the ice creams: I took 1 cup of heavy cream and 3 cups of half and half and slowly heated it to just a simmer.

Now things get tricky because I want to make a half batch for both ice creams (1.5 quarts total-.75 quarts per) and I need to use all local ingredients for the strawberry and non local for the chunky monkey.

For the chunky monkey I took 4 egg yolks and blended them real well. I then added 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar- good co-op stuff.

For the strawberry I took 4 egg yolks and blended them real well. I then added 1/2 cup of strawberry preserve that was made with honey. It’s a straight local ice cream including the sweetener!

I then took half of the heavy cream and half and half mixture and slowly mixed it into the egg and preserve mixture for the strawberry. I put that in a saucepan and added more preserves. I brought that up to 160 degrees and poured that into a quart mason jar- we use those for everything.

Same for the chunky monkey. I took the second half of the heavy cream and half and half mixture and slowly added that to the egg and sugar mixture. I put that in the sauce pan and I figure this is where I make the banana ice cream. I’m not sure if I used the right technique or the right amount. I cut up two medium sized bananas and put them into the sauce pan with the mixture and mixed it up real well. It came up to 160 degrees and it thickened up. I continued to mix it and put it in a quart jar.

I let the jars come down to room temp and put them in the fridge for 4 hours. I then transferred the jars to the freezer. I let them sit in there for an hour or so. I took them out to ‘turn’ the ice cream. I took one of the beaters from my hand mixer and attached it to my cordless power drill. Yes, I could have used the hand mixer but I felt the drill was more manly. I mixed up the freezing ice cream once every 45 minutes a total of three times. The second time I mixed up the chunky monkey I added the walnuts and the dark chocolate.

Strawberry on left- Chunky Monkey on right

The cost of both ice creams together was around $15. The strawberry really tasted like honey. It wasn’t over powering but I would have to call it strawberry/honey flavored ice cream. The chunky monkey was definitely thicker than the strawberry. I think next time I will saute the bananas with sugar before adding them to the ice cream. I wasn’t going for it but: The chunky monkey did not taste like Ben and Jerry’s AT ALL. The texture of both of them wasn’t as good as I wanted. I will need that KitchenAid stand mixer to correct that.

I love my baby! Each day we are together is a wonderful treat. We have been together for over 11 years and my love for her continues to deepen. I am enjoying and I am looking forward to going through life with her. I often picture us being old cootes sitting around a nursing home laughing and enjoy each others company. Here’s to another 67 years of your love! I love you baby! Happy Valentines Day!

Me and my baby

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Chicken Alfredo

Dark Days

This is my third attempt at making homemade pasta. I am getting closer each time. I will do a quick run through on how I made the pasta. It’s very similar to the way I did it a couple weeks ago.

I used 1 pint of spelt flour and 4 eggs. I dumped out the flour on the counter and made a well in the center of it and put 2 eggs in. I combined the eggs and the flour with a fork. Seeing that I needed more liquid I added 2 more eggs. I combined the mixture and started to form a ball. At this point I looked at what I was doing: I had a pint of flour and 4 eggs on my counter, it looked pretty messy and I was wondering if it would turn out. The ball formed and I rolled that out as best I could on a very floured surface. When it got to be about 3ft long I cut it in thirds. For each of those thirds I rolled them out to about 2-2.5 feet. I then folded them in half three times and cut them as thin as I could. I fluffed the noodles up, unfolding them, and put them in a bowl. I set the bowl aside and started on the rest of the dish.

I browned the chicken breasts in a frying pan. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and rosemary. I took them out of the pan and let them rest for 10 minutes. Then I cut them in bite size pieces and put them back in the frying pan for another minute on medium heat.

To make the sauce I melted 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauce pan and added 3 cloves of mined garlic. I let that cook for 3 minutes and added 3/4 of a pint of heavy cream. I seasoned that with dried parsley then added 1/4 pound of cream cheese. I let that melt, just come up to a boil and I shut off the heat.

Before I plated the noodles I pan fried them for a couple minutes to ‘help’ them taste better?! The noodles just didn’t do it for me.

At this point I dished up some noodles, added some chicken, put some sauce on the top and added salt and pepper.

The chicken and the sauce were very good. The chicken was tender and the rosemary was a very nice touch. The sauce was garlic, butter, heavy cream and cream cheese; How couldn’t that be good?

The noodles: I made them myself, they tasted like whole wheat noodles, the texture was different, they were not uniform (I’m not a machine),  I coated them with sunflower oil,  I don’t know! They were noodles but the were just not that good. I think I will have to try a different flour… Maybe something more Italian?

Overall I think that this was a success. It was local (beyond the spices) and homemade. I learned a few tricks on making the pasta. I also learned I can make a good Alfredo sauce. Kristina thought it was very good. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on my noodles.

Notes for next time-

The meal is cooked, the post is made and in the editing process. I Google ‘homemade pasta’ and find out that The Pioneer Women has a recipe. I used this website for my braised short ribs. I looked at the recipe for her pasta and learn I didn’t knead my pasta ball long enough. I will know for next time. Dude, that’s frustrating! The joys of cooking and allowing others to see your mistakes.

French Toast

It was down to two recipes this week for the Dark Days Challenge: French Toast or Chicken Alfredo. I chose the french toast and I’m thinking of doing the chicken alfredo next week. I did make a run to the co-op for bread and bacon. I got the bacon from Pastures A Plenty and the sourdough bread from New French Bakery.

I am a pancake man and I have always been a pancake man… or boy when I was younger. I have made french toast a time or two in my life but I normally stick with pancakes. I might just have to switch over to french toast. It is a lot easier to make and it feeds that same craving. I made the batter for the bread with some half&half and 2 eggs. I cut the bread into 1/4″ slices and dipped it into the batter. It cooked pretty fast. While doing that I baked the bacon at 350. When I cooked all the french toasted I cooked a couple eggs for the fun of it.

I normally don’t eat breakfast and I haven’t had a fried egg in a long time. It was a very nice treat. The sourdough was wonderful! The bacon topped with some local maple syrup…yum. Amara even had a couple slices of the french toast.

Roast Chicken

I have had two chicken in my freezer for months. One that I processed last summer and the other one I got at the co-op late last summer. Buying local meat can get expensive. Buying whole chickens makes more sense than buying a cut up chicken or chicken breasts. But then you are left with a whole chicken you need to cut up or cook. Let’s face it: The more an animal is processed the easier it is to eat. If I had to cut those short ribs off a cow carcass last week there is no way I would have enjoyed them.
When planning this meal I knew I had all the ingredients. One of the cool things about eating locally is that your pantry, freezer and frig fills up with local food. I didn’t have to make my lovely trip to the co-op to make this meal.

Roast Chicken! That’s where I started. I know you need a chicken, a oven, a pan of some sort, some butchers twine and some spices. But how long does the chicken cook and at what temperature? That’s where my idol, Anthony Bourdain comes in. He made a ‘Techniques Special’ for No Reservations. I did a youtube search and found the roast chicken clip. Thomas Keller walked me through how to simply roast a chicken. Then I went to my kitchen to put it to practice.

I did it a little different than Thomas Keller did. I cut up some veggies to roast with the bird. I cut up a carrot, two onions, and three potatoes…all local. I added them to my cast iron cooking pan. Then I added some butter and a drizzle of sunflower oil. Then I went to cut the wishbone out of my chicken and found it was already gone. I rinsed it out and seasoned it generously with salt and pepper.

I plopped the chicken on top of the veggies and went to find my butchers twine. No luck! I have three young daughters that like to make girly things, such as necklaces and bracelets. Stuff I don’t understand being a raised with no siblings. So somewhere a pretty little doll is wearing my butchers twine. I use the butchers twine to truss the chicken so the bird evenly cooks. You basically tie the legs and the wings into the body. Finally I tossed it in my oven at 400… without being trussed!

I took the wonderful-ness out of the oven and set in on the counter. It cooked for about 45 minutes. It smelled and looked done. I put a thermometer in it and it was at 180, so it was plenty done.  I picked at a few potatoes while letting the chicken set for 10 minutes. I cut off a breast and plated some veggies. At this point is when you are happy you took out that wishbone. Taking the wishbone out helps get those wonderful breasts off the bird easier.

I sat down at the table and gave out nothing but grunts of approval. It was very good. It was up there with the braised short ribs. What made it so good was the quality of the local free range chicken and the butter I put over the veggies.

Braised Short Ribs (Part 2)

Dark Days

Part 2 of 2. Here is part 1.

The Braised Short Ribs

I bought less than 1.5 pounds of the short ribs so my recipe isn’t as big as what I’m going off. I used 3 pieces of bacon and cooked them in a 5 quart, heavy bottom pot. As the bacon was cooking I covered the short ribs in spelt flour.

I then browned the meat in only the bacon juice. I took out the meat and added some butter. I got local hand rolled butter, so I really don’t know how much I put in… maybe like half a stick!? By that time I had a medium carrot- diced. Along with a small onion and a shallot- also diced. This is my first time cooking with a shallot. I added the veggies to the pot to start to cook them.

When the veggies were looking slightly browned I added my homemade wine. The wine I have is naturally carbonated, sweet and low in alcohol. I brought that to a boil and added my non-local spices- thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and two bay leaves.

At the point I ran to my chest freezer and grab a pint of turkey stock from the local Thanksgiving turkey and put that in the pot. When that just came to a boil I added the short ribs and put in the cut up bacon pieces, covered and set in my oven at 350.

The liquid was very dark. It was looking wonderful when I put it in. The recipe says to cook at 350 for 2 hours and turn the heat down to 325 the last 45 minutes or so.

Just after I put the pot in the oven I remembered I didn’t add a pepper. While at the co-op I was thinking BBQ sauce and I found dried local peppers. Lately I have been craving smoked peppers in a dish, so I wanted to add a dried pepper to this dish. I took the pepper out of the bag and it sounded like a rattle. I cut half of it up and put it in the pot saving as many seeds as I could. By spring I should have a lot of seeds. I want to plant those seeds to see if I can get more peppers. I don’t know the drying process, but it is worth a shot to see if the seeds survived. As a locavore that buys legit food you need to be thinking of getting food in the future AND for a decent price. I paid $2.99 for those peppers, if they grow I could potentially have peppers for years. (Not including the cost of growing and preserving them.)

I made the mashed potatoes. Then I took the short ribs out 2.5 hours later. These things are no joke. They looked awesome and smelled wonderful. I laid down some potatoes, the short ribs with some of the veggies and that sweet, sweet juice. Let it cool and dug in. I might need to go back up to the co-op for more short ribs.

The Co-op… Wha Haha! (Part 1)

The Co-op…Wha haha haha haha!!!

Part 1 of 2. Here is part 2.

For those of you that don’t know, I am doing a local eating challenge called the Dark Days Challenge. Once a week I need to prepare a meal from sustainable, organic, local and ethically raised food- then blog about it. My first few post were a challenge due to the Daniel Fast and my cooking skills were not able to shine.

I feel I have been taking the easy way out by going to the co-op and buying what the co-op calls ‘local food,’ making a so-so dish and blogging about it. This week was a bit more fun. I was able to buy some meat; My Daniel Fast is over.

The past few weeks I have had “Braised Short Ribs” running through my head. I have never had them or made them. I have just felt inspired to make them. I love BBQ ribs! Love them! With this type of rib I feel they are more Asian?! Maybe? At the co-op I bought the short ribs, more sunflower oil, spelt flour, butter, carrots and some hot peppers- all local. I was thinking I was going to make a BBQ sauce to cook the ribs in. I was trying to think of what I had that was local to make the sauce. All I was missing was some vinegar.

From watching Food Network I knew I would have to slow cook the short ribs in some sauce. I just needed to know: what type of sauce, how long…etc. When I came home from the co-op I looked up recipes for braised short ribs and found an awesome one at The Pioneer Woman. This recipe did not have any type of BBQ sauce, but I could work with all ingredients. I am adapting this recipe for the short ribs and using her recipe for creamy mashed potatoes to complete the meal.

After looking at the recipes, I found I was a few ingredients short. So, I went back up to the co-op. On the drive up there I knew I had all of the ingredients at home, but they were not local. I was planning on only buying only two of the ingredients using the other two non-local ingredients because I didn’t want to pay for their local counterparts.

I like my co-op, but every time I say the word “co-op,” my wife cringes. She knows the food is better for you, but she also knows it costs twice as much. I have put A LOT of thought in becoming a locavore, but realized it is something I cannot do at this time.

I have been married for ten years and I have three daughters. I have a few points with this. (1.) All five of us will not always agree on food. (2.) The money will not always be there to get sustainable, organic, local and ethically raised food. (3.) This diet is something my wife and I have to be in complete agreement with.

Becoming a locavore is not something to take lightly. There are responsibilities. You will need to eat seasonally, preserve food, grow some food, FORAGE, visit farms or farmers, do a lot of meal work yourself and be a very thorough planner. Did I mention you need mad discipline?

That’s why I’m saying I have been doing a very basic job getting my food. I have been going to the co-op, buying food that has the “buy local” sticker next to the price tag and cooking a simple meal. I feel I am not taking the responsibility in gathering my food. I know there is a ton more to eating local. I want this challenge to mean something. To go through the dark days of eating locally means preparing extensively for the dark days.

I have some preserved food. We had a garden last year and I knew I had to save as much as I could. We have pumpkins, tomatoes, wine, pickles and jams. If I knew I was going to go through the winter months as a locavore, my spring, summer and fall would be filled with doing as much as I could to make these dark days as pleasant as they could be.

When I got to the co-op I did buy all four ingredients I needed for the meal, so beyond the seasonings it will be a local meal. When I got home I looked in the fridge and found the non-local ingredients. I was a bit irritated by feeling I was wasting resources, but understanding the motions of eating locally. I told my wife and she had a ‘thanks for wasting our precious money’ laugh.

Part 2

Sweet Potato Fries and Butternut Squash

The third Dark Days post, nice! The first two posts were a challenge and I felt like the recipes sucked because of my Daniel Fast. This will be the last week of my Daniel Fast! I am making a lunch for myself with a butternut squash and a sweet potato. I will be slightly breaking my Daniel Fast with some local maple syrup and frying the potatoes. I bought the sweet potato and the butternut squash from the co-op; they had the “buy local” sticker next to them. They are both local with-in the rules of the challenge.

I cut the top half of the butternut squash off and used it in a soup for my last Dark Days post. I like to roast the lower half of the squash. I just cut it down the center. I leave all the guts and seeds inside. I typically eat everything including the skin.

With the sweet potato I tried something new. I normally cut the potato into fries and bake them for a half hour, take them out, mix them up and put them back in the oven until brown. I have done this several dozen times and I never REALLY like them, so I will finish them off by frying them in some sunflower oil.

To get started I cut the potato into 1/4″x1/4″ fries and let them soak in cold water for a few hours. I drained the water and coated them with sunflower oil and spread them out on a baking sheet. I then roasted them at 350 for 40 minutes.

During this time I cut the squash down the center. Slightly oiled a baking sheet putting the squash inside down and roasting it at 350 for 45 minutes while cooking the sweet potato fries. I took out the squash when it was the color I like. I took out the fries when the bottoms were starting to brown and set aside.

I pan fried the fries in the sunflower oil. This is one of my first times using that type of oil and I found out it has a lower smoking point than what I am use to.

The fries turned out awesome. The texture was very good; soft in the middle and a crunchy outside. Sweet and yes, salty… I had to salt them! The squash was very good too! I poured some maple syrup on it and salted it. It’s been a while since I’ve had a squash, so it was a nice treat.