Jasmine Ice Cream

My pink jasmine is in full bloom and its intoxicating fragrance beckoned me to use it in my kitchen.

Pink Jasmine blossoms

Here is my take on a simple, creamy and luscious custard ice cream gently perfumed with fresh pink jasmine.

Jasmine Ice Cream

I use my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker for homemade ice cream.  It only takes about 20 minutes to churn the cold base into soft serve ice cream.  I store the cylinder in the freezer so it’s always at the ready.  Enjoy!

Jasmine Ice Cream, just after churning

Jasmine Ice Cream
(makes a quart of ice cream)

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh pink jasmine blossoms, stems and leaves removed
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks

Combine cream, milk, sugar, salt, and jasmine blossoms in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but not quite simmering.  Do not let come to a boil, but get it close.   Turn off heat, cover, and allow the blossoms to steep in the hot cream mixture until they are limp – about 15 – 20 minutes.  Strain off and discard the blossoms, and return the hot cream mixture to the pan.

Place the two egg yolks into a heat proof mixing bowl.

Bring the cream mixture to a gentle boil.  Pour a couple tablespoons of hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while stirring the egg yolks.  After the hot cream mixture is incorporated, add about 1/2 cup more, stirring all the while.  Return the pan with the remaining hot cream mixture to the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the egg yolk mixture.  (this is called tempering the yolks, BTW).  Stirring all the time, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for one minute.  Strain into a quart container, cover, and chill completely — at least 6 hours.

Freeze the custard base until thick and soft serve consistency.  Store in the freezer for a couple hours to firm up the ice cream.

PB&J Smoothie

Calling all PB&J fans — this is YOUR smoothie!  It captures the taste of a childhood favorite sandwich in a grownup friendly (ie: less sugar) smoothie.

PB&J Smoothie

I love it for breakfast before heading out on a bike ride, as it has a great balance of energy for sustained activity.  Peanuts* are a fabulous source of protein and healthy fats, easy on the environment and the budget.
Probiotic drink
I started with frozen berries, added a Yakult probiotic shot for flavor and nutrition, and rounded it out with peanut butter and lowfat milk for healthy protein and fats.  And flavor?  YES please.  Enjoy!

PB&J Smoothie
(serves one)

1 cup frozen berries (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 heaping TB smooth natural peanut butter*
1 Yakult drink (omit for vegans and dairy-allergic folks)
1/3 – 1/2 cup lowfat milk of your chosing (dairy, almond, coconut, hemp, soy — it’s up to you)
2 packets stevia (optional.  may use honey to sweeten to taste if desired)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until thick and creamy.  Adjust amount of milk to create the texture you prefer.  Enjoy!

*for those avoiding peanuts due to allergies, simply substitute a smooth nut butter of your choosing

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

I grow a number of herbs in my garden.  They are not only great to have for cooking, they are also pretty, easy-going members of my garden plant communities.  While tabouleh is often made with parsley, I’m highlighting three mild fresh green herbs in this version:  mint, lemon balm, and fennel fronds.  They’re like good friends, and play well together on the palate.  And, just for fun, I added some primrose petals for a bit of color.  (Yes!  some flowers are edible)

lemon, primrose, mint, fennel fronds, and lemon balm

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

Lemon balm is a delightful, easy to grow herb, and smells of lemon.  I grow a couple different types of mint.  In this recipe I use my favorite for cooking – Kentucky Colonel.  I lightly dressed the bulgur and herbs with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, seasoning with sea salt to taste.  Simple, easy, fresh and satisfying.  Enjoy!

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

1 cup wheat bulgur
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
3 TB olive oil
2 – 3 sprigs mint
2 – 3 sprigs lemon balm
fennel fronds

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur and salt.  Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove cover, fluff the bulgur, and cool in the fridge for another 20 minutes.

Chop herbs fine, then mix into the prepared bulgur with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add more salt to taste if needed, then serve.  Garnish with edible flowers if desired.

Panna cotta with saffron & rose

The fluffy pink plum blossoms outside my window reminded me of this simple recipe from a couple years ago.  I’m gonna make it again soon!  Enjoy!

It’s February in the Bay area, but it feels like Spring.  The plum trees are covered in fluffy pink and white blossoms.  I wanted a dessert to fit the season, and created this delicate versio…

Source: Panna cotta with saffron & rose

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Savory, rich, and full flavored chicken thighs simmered with a few key ingredients — just what I wanted on a rainy evening.

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Fresh garlic and diced red tomatoes combine with warm herbes de Provence and Parmesan rind to create the perfect simmer sauce for chicken thighs.  Parmesan rinds are just that — the hard outer edge of my wedges of Parmesan cheese.  I save them in bags in the freezer and bring out pieces to add wonderful umami to broth or simmer sauces.

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and Herbes de Provence

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and herbes de Provence

I consider this a pantry dish, as the ingredients are either shelf stable, or in my freezer.  Serve this warming dish with crusty bread or polenta.  Enjoy!

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence
(serves 4)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 TB olive oil
2 tsp herbes de Provence
Parmesean rind piece
Sea salt (start with 1/2 tsp, more if needed)

Heat covered sauté pan over medium heat.  When pan is warm, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and sauté just for a few seconds.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender.  Check toward the end of the simmer time to be sure the sauce isn’t getting too dry.  Add a bit of white wine or water to add moisture if needed.

Cabbage Salad with Roasted Garbanzos and Spicy Tahini dressing

Crunchy, subtly sweet, mild, savory, and a tasty nutrient powerhouse.  I’m talking about cabbage, of course!  This stalwart vegetable deserves some love, especially in the winter when quality salad greens can be scarce.  But cabbage — it’s there for you!

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I paired mine with a zingy, savory tahini dressing and added roasted garbanzos and pepitas for awesome crunch and a punch of protein.  The spicy tahini dressing is really creamy and zingy — but relatively low in fat, for a dressing.  The secret?  Tahini — which is just finely ground roasted sesame seeds.  Water, an unusual ingredient in most dressings, is important for proper texture in this dressing.

Spicy Tahini Dressing, after a quick blend with immersion blender

Spicy Tahini Dressing, after a quick blend with immersion blender

Using an immersion blender makes the Spicy Tahini dressing super easy to make — but you can use a whisk or regular blender if that’s what you have.  (Consider purchasing an immersion blender.  I use mine regularly for puréed soups and dressings)

Garbanzos, roasted with oil and salt

Garbanzos, roasted with oil and salt

Roasting canned garbanzos transforms these tasty beans into crunchy/chewy nuggets. This is a vegan main dish, full flavored, and easy on the budget.  And I consider it a pantry meal — because cabbage is such a long keeper in the fridge and the other ingredients are pantry basics.  Enjoy!

Cabbage Salad with Roasted Garbanzos and Spicy Tahini Dressing

for the Spicy Tahini dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
2 TB olive oil
3 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Blend until creamy.  May add more or less cayenne as desired.  The amount I included makes a mildly spicy dressing.

for the Roasted Garbanzos
1 can garbanzos
1 TB olive oil
sprinkle of sea salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Drain garbanzos, and pat dry with paper towel.  Drizzle with oil and toss lightly, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes in the oven, until they are browned and crunchy.

To serve the salad:
Cabbage, finely shredded
Roasted Garbanzos (see above)
Spicy Tahini Dressing (see above)Pepitas
cherry tomato quarters

Quantity of cabbage, pepitas and cherry tomatoes depends on number of servings desired.  The dressing and garbanzo recipes double easily for more servings.  Toss the all ingredients together, and enjoy!

Fresh Lemon Bars

It’s been gray skies for a couple weeks, but my lemons are ripe.  They are little yellow reminders of warm sunshine in the midst of winter.   I made these fab bars this week, and will re-post this recipe for your pleasure.

lemon bar

It’s citrus season, and my lemon trees are loaded with beautiful, yellow gems.  Here’s a recipe for luscious, tangy-sweet lemon bars with a buttery crust.  Enjoy!

Fresh Lemon Bars
Makes 24 bars**

For the crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (10 oz) flour
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

For the filling:
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) flour
5 large eggs
2 TB fine grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice*

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment.  Blend together the ingredients listed for the crust until a crumby mixture forms.  Pat into the parchment lined pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling ingredients.  Begin by blending the sugar with the flour in a medium mixing bowl.  To this mixture add the eggs and stir until combined.  Add the lemon juice and zest, stirring until combined.

When the crust is lightly golden brown, pour the filling mixture onto the hot crust and put it right back into the oven.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the filling is no longer liquid in the middle.  Remove from oven and cool until room temperature.  Dust cooled bars with a powdered sugar for a beautiful snowy top.  Cut into bars and serve at room temp or cold.  Store any uneaten bars airtight in the refrigerator.

* These bars may be made with any type of lemon, as long as they are good, fresh lemons.  I especially like to use ripe Meyer lemons in this recipe.  Fresh limes may be substituted, but decrease the zest by 1 TB and the replace 1/4 cup of the juice with water.  You may very gently tint the filling green if making lime bars. Just use a couple drops green food coloring if desired.

** for a 1/2 batch, use a 8 X 8 inch square baking pan, and halve all ingredients.