Sunday, May 29, 2011

Irresistible Fresh Cherry-Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

***I hope that you are all having an absolutely wonderful weekend, and Happy Memorial Day to all my readers here in the USA.  So far, we're having a terrific holiday weekend, because my little sisters came to visit us - Suzanne and Maranne (they're twins!).

They are AWESOME, and we had such a great time.  We spent a lot of time in the kitchen while they were in town, so get ready for some great posts coming up soon...One of which I am super excited about.  Guess what...We filmed the first ever instructional cooking video to be shared here on Sugar & Spice by Celeste!  I think you'll find the video funny and informative, so stay tuned for that.

First up, I'm excited to share with you a recipe we created for Fresh Cherry-Dark Chocolate Ice Cream.  I found a gorgeous bag of red cherries at my local grocer, and I simply could not resist buying them.  I didn't really have a specific plan in mind for them at the time, but I figured I'd come up with something fun.  So when my sisters got the urge to put the ice cream maker to work last night, this is what we came up with.

I've always adored chocolate covered cherries, so the flavor combo was a no-brainer.   Chocolate and cherries go together like rock and roll, shake and bake, salt and pepper...Well, you get the idea!  :)

I think you'll really love this fresh fruit infused ice cream - Especially on a hot summer day!

Bon Appetit!*** 

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1  1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and chopped into small pieces

Combine all ingredients, except for the chocolate and cherries, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the unit's instructions.

About 3/4 into the freezing process, add the chocolate and cherry pieces.  Continue to freeze until it has increased by 1/2 to 3/4 the original volume, and has reached a soft serve consistency (It will not freeze hard in the machine).

Next, spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Favorite Quiche!

***It's not often that a recipe is worthy of re-posting.  I think I've only done that once or twice in the entire time I've written this blog.  However, this is one of those rare occasions.  Back in 2009 when Brad and I went to Europe, we had the most amazing Quiche Lorraine at the incredible Les Deux Magots cafe in Paris.  It was delicious and was served alongside a yummy salad of fresh greens (Quiche Lorraine sur Salade Verte).  Oh, it was heaven on a plate!  It also didn't hurt that we were sitting on the patio of one of the most famous cafes in Paris, after all...haha.  The atmosphere and people-watching in that particular area are hard to beat.

I'll never forget the elderly lady that was sitting at the table right next to us (the tables were situated pretty close together).  She was dressed to-the-nines, was all by herself, and was just the quintessential, classy Parisian lady.  I wish more than anything that I had tried to strike up a conversation with her.  Brad and I had spent that entire day shopping at all the famous patisseries and bakeries that I had researched before the trip.  I had bags from all over - Poilane, Pierre Herme, Laduree - and I had them all piled at my feet under the table.  The lady noticed my bags and smiled the sweetest smile.  We said "hello" and that was that.  She just seemed like someone who could tell you some pretty awesome stories.

Shortly after we returned from our trip, I posted a recipe for Quiche, which you can see HERE.  This time around, I added more mushrooms and spinach.  This made all the difference, and I definitely prefer this dish as listed below.  It's packed with yummy ingredients, and the Gruyere cheese is simply decadent.  

After one bite of this, you'll be in love!

Bon Appetit!***

Ingredients:1 pie crust, rolled out and fitted into a 9″ pie pan
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, minced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 bag (6 oz) baby spinach
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 tbsp flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the pie crust for 5-7 minutes, until very lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven to 325°F.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the mushrooms and onions for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and saute until the spinach is wilted. If there is a lot of extra moisture in the pan, drain the vegetable mixture.

In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, milk, onion, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and salt. In a separate bowl, toss the cheese and flour together. Add the cheese to the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into your partially baked pie crust and bake 45-55 minutes, until set. Let it cool for about 20 minutes before slicing. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts

***We all need an arsenal of easy side dishes that are exciting but uncomplicated and perfect for busy week nights.  Couscous is such a great option because it cooks so quickly, and you can literally flavor it with almost anything.  It's like a blank palate that's ready for you to create something fabulous with!

This dish comes from Ina Garten's new cookbook, How Easy Is That?  What an appropriate title...don't ya think?  I've always loved Ina's fresh approach to old favorites.  I use her recipes often, and this couscous recipe is something I'll be coming back to all the time.

The toasted pine nuts add such a wonderful flavor...nutty, fragrant, and delicious!  I know that pine nuts can be a little expensive, so I can picture any nut making a good substitute.  Perhaps toasted pecans or almonds?

Bon Appetit!***

Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts
Source:  How Easy Is That?  by Ina Garten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and immediately turn off the heat. Cover the saucepan and allow the couscous to steam for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then stir in the pine nuts, parsley and lemon juice (if using). Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Tornado's Fury

On Wednesday, April 27th, an outbreak of deadly tornadoes hit the state of Alabama.  These horrific storms have killed at least 250 people in my state of Alabama alone.  I feel so incredibly blessed and lucky to have survived these storms with my house fully intact.  I was in Tuscaloosa, AL all day long on the day the mile-wide tornado came through.  I watched it approach Tuscaloosa LIVE on TV...I will absolutely never forget that sight.  I beat the storm only by about 1-2 hours.  As it approached, I had a sick feeling in my stomach and tears in my eyes.  Watching a monster that big approach a city, you know that there will inevitably be casualties.  All you can do at that point is pray that those families get out of the path of destruction in time.  Words just simply cannot describe watching that horror unfold.

Once it finished it's devastating path through Tuscaloosa, our local weather station announced that it was then headed straight for Birmingham.  We were put in a state of "tornado emergency."  After Birmingham, they were reporting it would be on a direct path to my suburb on the northeastern side of the city.  After some debating about what I should do, I decided to load up our two dogs into the car, and head to my in-law's basement.  I knew I'd be much safer there, since we do not have a basement.  Shortly after I arrived, Brad and his parents also made it home from work.  We hid in the safety of the basement with bated breath, waiting to see what would happen.  

Miraculously, his parent's never lost power, so we were able to watch the TV and see that it had passed over us.  Only later did we learn the startling news that the massive tornado lifted up into the sky just before it reached our area, and then touched back down shortly after it passed over the grace of God.

After learning this, it's hard to describe how lucky and blessed we truly feel.  I know that things could have been so much worse for us.  A day after the storm, I had a work appointment in one of the worst hit areas, Pleasant Grove, AL.  Driving through the destroyed city brought me to tears again.  There are cities that have completely been wiped off the map.  These areas look like war zones.  Seeing photos on the news is one thing, but being there in the middle of it all is indescribable.

I urge you all to do what you can to help those affected by these storms, which is officially the deadliest string of tornadoes since 1925.

The photos in this post are all from Pleasant Grove, AL.  I ask you all to please pray for these families.

Please visit THIS LINK to see some of the ways you can help.