Yummy DIY Ice Cream!

Well, we went ahead and did it! A couple months ago, inspired by a few friends of ours, Doug and I bought an electric ice cream maker (this model). I had never thought of really making ice cream at home before, but ever since I started demonstrating this very machine at work–I realized how easy it is! Home-made ice cream is a great option for those who like to experiment. Overall, as long as you add enough heavy cream or half and half, plus lots of sugar, the sky is the limit when it comes to adding flavors and mix-ins.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Our first foray into ice cream making was a standard strawberry recipe from the booklet that came with the machine. However, I tweaked it a bit:

Instead of mashing the strawberries, I pulsed them in the food processor so that the juices were released but there were plainly still small strawberry pieces–the strawberry pieces froze wonderfully and add a sort of satisfying crunchy texture to contrast with the smoothness of the rest of the ice cream. Also, we subbed in a tablespoon of hot chocolate mix where it called for vanilla extract (since we were out of vanilla). With this particular batch, we froze it overnight, which gave it a harder consistency. I preferred that to straight out of the machine. Other varieties taste awesome straight from the machine–a little more like soft-serve.

One thing I noticed about making our own ice cream is this: it really encourages a person to eat less. I mean, pouring in two cups of heavy whipping cream really makes it hit home–this stuff is not healthy! The process reminded me of an article I read about cooking vs. purchasing processed food. The quote that came to mind was–

“Special occasion foods become every day foods when we let industry cook for us.” (One example Pollan gives is french fries or chips. They taste great when you cook them yourself, but the process is highly labour intensive(washing, peeling, cutting, pan, oil, splattering, oil, washing up etc) so left to our own devices we might eat them only every month or so as a treat, but many Americans now eat two batches of french fries a day because they have become so convenient.) … The diet that would work for everybody is: eat anything you like, just cook it yourself.

Does that make sense? Since I know exactly what is in my ice cream, I can enjoy the delicious, indulgent fruits of my labor, but the size of the scoop I serve myself will definitely be smaller than a scoop that Ben & Jerry’s would serve me!

Either way… I plan on making lots of yummy ice cream at home for the last few weeks of summer, and well into fall. Can anyone say pumpkin chai ice cream??

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5 Awesome but Totally Unnecessary Kitchen Tools

File these under “For the person who has everything.”

Like the title says, these things are awesome, but if you don’t have them… you will probably still live a wonderful and fulfilling life.

5 Awesome but Unnecessary Kitchen Tools

  1. An ice cream maker is totally unnecessary but awesome to have. Case in point–we got one (not the one pictured) and have made ice cream a few times by now! The one pictured plays ice cream truck music when it’s ready, and since it has a compressor, cools itself down instead of having to store the drum in the freezer. Nice features, if you can afford them.
  2. Copper cookware will last forever and is the best conductor of heat–but that kind of luxury has a price! The set shown will cost about a grand.
  3. Using a juicer is a great commitment that one can make towards their health. If I were to buy a juicer, I would get this one. It gives you a little bit of fruit/veggie pulp (read: more of the nutrients) while still taking some pulp out so the smoothie is still drinkable.
  4. An espresso machine. Yes, I have a Nespresso. No, I don’t need it. Yes, it’s awesome. Enough said? Stop looking at me like that!
  5. Novelty fruit tools. Okay, I lumped these together. People have been eating fruit perfectly fine for thousands of years without fancy tools! I mean… at one point I’m sure people used rocks and sharpened sticks to make yummy fruit goodness happen. However…. I know from experience that if you have a whole bag of cherries that you want to be pit-less, and fast, that investing in a cherry pitter is a big step towards time and sanity.

Anything you care to add?? Or, do you think any of these items are necessary? Share your opinion in the comments! 

The 5 Kitchen Tools You Need

When I thought up this post, I wanted to do an experiment. “If I could only have five kitchen tools, what would they be?” Excluding tabletop items like plates and silverware, here’s what I came up with, and my rationale.

Top 5 Kitchen Tools

  1. Every kitchen needs an 8-inch chef’s knife. This much is a given. Get a sharp one with a nice point, and you can do most of your detail-work, paring, with it as well (although paring knives are safer since they’re less unwieldy). I wholly recommend this one–my favorite feature is the hollows along the edge, which reduce the effect of food clinging to the knife after you’ve made your cut. A great chef’s knife can also be used to peel/smash garlic.
  2. If you make the investment of a good knife, you must have a cutting board to keep it in shape. The people who lived in the apartment before us just used… the kitchen counter. There are cut marks all over and it’s so awful–not to mention bad for the knife’s blade! Getting a good cutting board (wood or plastic) is very important. And never, ever use a knife on tile, glass, stone, or metal. Just don’t! If you get a large and attractive cutting board, you can also use it for tons of other things. Decor, serving tray, perched on an ottoman to make it a coffee table? All of the above.
  3. If I could only have one pot/pan, I would get a nice large sauté pan (with lid). The large surface area on the bottom can be used like a skillet (frying pan), but the high sides and lid can act as a saucepan or stockpot to make rice or even soup or chili, if you have to. This one in particular has some slope to it which makes it almost wok-like, too. Every pan has its own use, but this one is a nice, useful hybrid and can perform lots of duties in a pinch.
  4. My go-to item for stirring, flipping, everything is my bamboo spatula. If you want to cheat on this “five tools” challenge, you can grab this set, which is what I have used for years and I loooove. Bamboo holds up really nicely (I prefer it to regular light-wood spoons or turners) and will not damage nonstick pans. Overall, one should avoid using metal utensils in any pots and pans unless it’s a non-coated stainless steel pan.
  5. The sauté pan I listed above can go in the oven, but there’s just something about a rectangular, covered casserole dish that I wouldn’t want to be without. Use it for anything from casseroles to roasting meat, to brownies or cakes.

I hope this is encouraging to someone who watches the Food Network and sees the chefs using all this specialized gadgetry or walks into a kitchen store and gets glassy-eyed. You can create amazing meals at home with the most minimal of tools. Even someone with the smallest of kitchens surely has space for these… right?

But, just for fun… come back Wednesday for 5 unnecessary but awesome-to-have tools. ;)