delicious discourse

what i wish for you: real ice cream

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on March 27, 2009

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On Monday, I entered every Texan ice cream lover’s dream land – the Blue Bell Creamery headquarters in Brenham, Texas. Since I was on a press tour, we got the royal treatment: greeted before we even entered the building by the Public Relations Manager, ushered into the board room for a special chat and Q & A with Paul Kruse, CEO, a VIP tour of the production facilities, and our very own exclusive ice cream tasting from 3 flavors that had just come off the production line. Life was good. Or so I thought.

Having inherited the ice cream gene (my grandfather is a notorious ice cream eater, known for satisfying late-night cravings sitting in a dark kitchen with a long-handled spoon, eating straight from the carton), I know a thing or two about ice cream. And ever since the ice cream attachment to my KitchenAid mixer came as a birthday gift last year, I have been a sort of home made ice cream connoisseur.

Now, home made ice cream has very few ingredients – the number really depends on the flavor pursuit as well as whether you are making French or American-style ice cream. French-style ice cream involves using yolks and cooking a custard that you eventually freeze. It is known for its silkiness and smoothness due to the emulsifying properties of yolks. American-style ice cream, better known as Philadelphia-style, is made with cream, or a combination of cream and milk, and no eggs. It tends to freeze a little harder and is said to have a chewier texture, but believe me it is good and so very easy to make.

Back to Blue Bell. I was pleased to hear Paul Kruse, whose family started Blue Bell (named after a long-stemmed flower that appears in July and August—peak ice cream eating season), talk about quality and authenticity. Three things he said come to mind. The first, “Ice cream can’t get any better than what you start with,” the second: “It is about making ice cream the way it should be,” and the third: “When people think of Blue Bell, they think of real ice cream.”

You can imagine my surprise when up in our private tasting room, where we were sampling fresh, not yet blast-frozen ice cream, I glanced at the ingredient list on the Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla container I was spooning Pralines & Sweet Cream out of and there, the second or third ingredient was HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP a.k.a. one of the most processed forms on sugar known to man. There is nothing about high-fructose corn syrup that is “quality, real, or as it should be.” If ice cream cannot get any better than the ingredients you put into it, Blue Bell has a serious problem and I highly doubt years ago when grandma was hand cranking ice cream on the front porch, she was using high-fructose corn syrup.

My suggestion to you? Invest in an ice cream maker. I really think the ice cream tastes better when you make it and you know that you started with REAL ingredients and that in every bite there is quality, authenticity, and craftsmanship.

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The recipe below is one of my favorites. And yes, it is this easy. I must tell you, this recipe comes with a warning – ignorance can be bliss – once you go homemade, you never go back.

You can’t say you weren’t warned. Now, get to work. And once you have some ice cream, take those strawberries you bought at the farmer’s market and slice them over a scoop and enjoy the teat on your front porch. I can’t wait for peach season … REAL homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh peaches, peach ice cream, peach cobbler with homemade vanilla … the possibilities are endless.
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Vanilla Ice Cream, Philly Style
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

by David Lebovitz (a.k.a. my ice cream bible)

3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour one cup of cream into a medium saucepan. Add sugar and salt. Warm over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add remaining two cups of cream and vanilla extract. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready, freeze the mixture in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: This post was written as part of Fight Back Fridays with Food Renegade.

what i wish for you – real milk

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on March 13, 2009

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Nina Planck’s Real Food was recommended to me by a woman I know with the introduction of, “She will make you feel great about drinking whole milk.” Of course, I was intrigued. I knew the importance of eating milk products and meat from grassfed cows having already read Omnivore’s Dilemma and was well-versed in the concept and philosophy of eating locally as well as organically. But I did not know the benefits of drinking whole milk (and whole milk products), which in a nutshell, is milk as nature intends it to be.

Humans have consumed the milk of animals for over 11,000 years, which was when sheep and goats were domesticated in the Near East. It is believed that animals were first domesticated for their milk, not for their meat. Animal husbandry started with sheep and goats because they were small, easy to handle, and rugged – they could handle rough terrain. Think salty, crumbling feta from sheep’s milk in Greece and creamy chevre from goat’s milk in Provence – both cheese have been around since ancient times. Even then the French and the Greek new how to eat well. People began to milk the larger, more productive cow about 8,500 years ago in Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. Even though cows are more delicate than sheep and goats, they are the creme de la creme (no pun intended) when it comes to milk.

Interestingly enough, and it makes sense, historically milk was never a luxury. It was seen as an important source of essential nutrients and could enrich the poorest diet. “For peasants, the cow kept the grocery bill down and the doctor away,” says Planck. No matter how poor you were, if you had a cow and some grass, you would always be rich in milk that could be used to make cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt. Milk is a very important source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamin B. The irony of milk today, is it is a luxury to drink milk from grassfed cows, and even more of a luxury to find raw milk. And by luxury I mean extremely hard to find and most likely more expensive, gallon for gallon, than what you will pay for industrial milk.

Critics of milk and dairy say that it has powerful growth hormones, cholesterol, lots of fat, allergenic bovine proteins, insecticides, antibiotics, viruses, and bacteria. What the critics fail to say is that almost all their grievances against dairy are found only in industrial, milk, not real milk that is raw and from cows that feed on grass not treated with chemicals. Real milk is from happy cows that are not given growth hormones to increase their milk production or from cows that are fed corn that makes them sick (because they are ruminants and are meant to eat grass) and have to be given antibiotics.

As for cholesterol in milk, what you want to avoid is oxidized or damaged cholesterol (oxidized low-density lipoprotein), which causes heart disease. Industrial powdered milk is created by spray-drying, a process that creates oxidized and damaged cholesterol. Powdered milk is commonly found in processed foods and nonfat dried milk is added to industrial skim and low-fat milk. The better dairies will not use powdered milk to make lowfat milk, they will simply take whole fresh milk and skim the cream off the top, but your best bet is just to drink whole milk, it tastes better too.

As for the fats that are in milk, the fats are good fats. Our bodies need fats. Our brains are mostly fats, and fat adds flavor. The butterfat in milk helps the body digest the protein in milk and saturated fats are necessary for bones to absorb the calcium in milk. The cream in milk contains the essential vitamin A and D that are fat-soluble (are absorbed by the intestinal tract with the aid of fats). Only 10% of the valuable calcium in milk can be absorbed without vitamin D. That being said, it is required by law that synthetic vitamin A and D be added to skim and low-fat milk. And if that wasn’t enough, you will want the glycosphingolipids, fats that protect from gastrointestinal infection, that are in whole milk.

Traditional, real milk is better for the you and for the cows it comes from and it tastes infinitely better. Happy, healthy cows, means a happier, healthier, more satisfied you. It is a direct example of good karma. And I don’t know about you, but there is so much bad energy in the world, I am going to take the good and cherish it wherever it may be found.

Organic milk is better than industrial milk. It means the cows have not been fed synthetic growth hormones and that they have been fed organic grain, corn, and soybeans. Organic milk is still pasteurized (Heating raw milk to a certain temperature in order to kill bacteria, but it also makes the milk more travel-friendly and extends its shelf life 2 to 3 weeks. However, pasteurization does not kill all bacteria and it kills good bacteria too.) and most of it is homogenized (A process that uniformly blends the cream throughout the milk, which would normally rise to the top. Homogenization has made milk more travel-friendly as well because the cream and milk do not separate intransit. It also evenly spread the sludge of dead white blood cells and bacteria that form after pasteurization that would otherwise form at the botton of the bottle.), but it is definitely a better option than cows fed corn, grain, and soybeans grown with chemicals and that have been pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. However, the best option is traditional, real milk from grassfed cows that is nonhomogenized. Raw milk (unpasteurized) is ideal, but there are strict rules when it comes to farmers selling raw milk.

However, if you live in Texas, you are in luck because we have Remember When Dairy. Located in Yantis, Texas, Remember When’s cows are grassfed and given grain just when they are being milked. They offer skim, low-fat, and whole milk that are only lightly pasteurized. Both their low-fat and whole milk are nonhomogenized, meaning the cream is on top and the bottle needs good shake before you pour yourself a glass or take a swig. In Austin, their milk and butter can be found at Central Market and the Whole Foods on South Lamar. They are also have a booth at the Downtown Austin Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a selection of yogurt, ice cream, buttermilk, butter (which has the most unbelievable smell), cream, and milk. Last week they had chocolate milk. Recently after sending an email inquiry to the owners, who responded by the end of the day, I found out that you can buy raw milk directly from the farm. In my 24 years, I have never had raw milk and I can’t wait to try it. My only wish is that it wasn’t such a luxury and more people could enjoy it. I know it will be wonderful, tasty, and nourishing.

Saving the world one blog entry at a time. Check out more  entries from Fight-Back-Fridays with Food Renegade. Click here.

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strawberries of spring

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on March 10, 2009
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Strawberries of Spring

Saturday morning at the Austin Farmer’s Market in Downtown, I was surprised to see baskets of deep red strawberries among the greens, spring onions, carrots, and various bounty. I had been so focused on life and where I want to go, I had forgotten the natural rhythm of the world and the beauty of the changing of seasons. Unlike one might think, winter, filled with travels, milestones, and days, flew by. And now an early spring has descended on Austin, first indicated by consistently warm weather, then strawberries, and confirmed by daylight savings lengthening the days that will eventually turn into summer.

I never can resist spring and I am always ready for it to come, just like I could not resist these wonderful berries bursting with the freshness and sweetness that is spring. What could be a better sign? These berries, which started the day at some Hill Country farm, ended the day on the dinner table sprinkled among spinach, walnuts, and goat cheese and tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple. From farm to table and shared with friends. Even though I lost track, things are as they should be. I look forward to much, much more of spring.

books to devour

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on March 4, 2009

I read today on Orangette that the official release of her book, A Homemade Life, was yesterday. I look forward to curling up with a copy soon. If it is anything like her blog and columns for Bon Appetit, I am sure it will be wonderful, fresh, and intimate. Ever since I devoured A Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee, I have been looking for another sort of soul-searching memoir that reflects my own pursuit of focus and direction – something I like to call my mid-twenties-crisis that never seems to end. But as Rumi so wisely wrote, “Remember the looking itself is a trace of what we’re looking for…” Nicely said.

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scones of simplicity

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on March 2, 2009

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

I had a realization this weekend after my Sunday yoga class: In the kitchen and on the mat, are two places I feel really good about myself. On the mat I am able to just let things go and concentrate on the task at hand, and still the voices and waves in my head and body. Similarly, in the kitchen, the task at hand requires focus, and if done carefully, consciously, and creatively, it guarantees results, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always an adventure, and always a lesson. Not to mention, I love the anticipation of that first bite and recognizing something you made with your own to hands is really, really good. So, maybe this is why when things are troubling me or maybe not going my way, or I’m feeling creative, I am seek these two very different, yet very similar places.

Drawn to the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon, maybe because the gusty wind outside was mirroring what I was feeling inside, I knew I would bake scones because I had just the recipe I wanted to try. I love all things breakfast. Muffins, pancakes, eggs, french toast, granola, yogurt, omelettes, lattes, orange juice, oatmeal—these are all things I could eat all day long, and often do. It has long been drilled into my head that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—you would never start a road trip on empty (you wouldn’t get very far), why would you do that to your body at the start of every day? I honestly have never really ever considered not eating breakfast, it just isn’t an option. To this day, my sister and I both start the day off with some sort of sustenance.

When Gourmet in their March 2009 issue reviewed Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book for their Cookbook Club review, I knew the book was for me. The recipe featured in the magazine, was Cunningham’s famed Raised Waffles, and this Dried Fruit Cream Scones one was available only to the members of the Cookbook Club on Gourmet’s web site (You can easily become a member, by registering at gourmet.com. By joining, you will be able to view additional recipes from the current and past Cookbook Club selections.) Long wanting to try by hand at scones, this recipe struck me as perfectly simple and easy. I also noticed cream was used in the batter instead of butter, which was only used in the glaze. Interesting. I was intrigued.

Dough formed into a disk, awaiting its glaze of butter and sprinkle of sugar.

Dough formed into a disk, awaiting its glaze of butter and sprinkle of sugar.

The batter whipped together in no time and with such ease I was sure I had missed something. Once the dough is formed into a round disk, brushed with butter, and sprinkled with sugar, all that is left to do is cut slices and bake for 15 minutes and voila, you have gorgeous scones.

Cut into wedges and ready for the oven.

Cut into wedges and ready for the oven.

Buttery and crispy on the outside and dense and creamy (you can really taste the thick cream) on the inside, these scones are not only perfect for the taste buds, but they are great for the soul.

Crispy, yet creamy & dense, with bits of sweet fruit.

Crispy, yet creamy & dense, with bits of sweet fruit.

Dried Fruit Cream Scones
Yields a dozen scones
From Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Use an ungreased baking sheet.

Combine:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar

Stir with a fork to mix well.

Add:

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, prunes, or figs)*
1/4 cup golden raisins

Still using a fork, stir in 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and mix until the dough holds together in a rough mass (the dough will be quite sticky).

Lightly flour a board and transfer the dough to it. Knead the dough 8 or 9 times. Pat into a circle about 10 inches round.

For the glaze, 3 tablespoons melted butter over the top and side of the circle of dough and sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar on top. Cut the circle into 12 wedges** and place each piece on the baking sheet, allowing about an inch between pieces.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

* I used unsulphured turkish apricots, which is why they are orange-brown.

** I halved the recipe, which is why my batch yielded only six scones.

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