Sunday, July 26, 2015

Homemade Ice Cream - Two Ingredients

The best part about this recipe is that is so simple and versatile.   You can add a million things to it, to customize it to what you want it to be.   This honestly is just a simple base, and for those of you who like and easy, soft serve, this is wonderful on its own.   But for those of us who enjoy being creative, or want to let the kids have some fun, I have included some flavor ideas at the bottom of the page, just to get you started.   But I’m sure after reading those, you will be flooded with your own ideas.    The sky is the limit!  You can also put this recipe into an ice cream maker if you have one, but if you don’t, the container method works great too.   

Homemade Ice Cream - Two Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream (600ml or 20 oz)
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk (400ml)


*  If using an ice cream machine, you do not need to whip the heavy cream.  Simply combine both liquids and place in the machine.  

1.        Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl.   Beat with an electric mixer on high speed, until stiff.  
2.        Add the sweeten condensed milk to the cream.   Fold everything together with a rubber spatula until well combined.   
3.        Transfer mixture into a Tupperware container with a tight sealing lid.  Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours, but overnight is best.   Serve.  
Flavor Ideas (after freezing): 

1.  Accessorize your ice cream with nuts, sprinkles, your favorite syrups, shell chocolate, etc.   
2.  Place between 2 cookies for an ice cream sandwich.

Other Flavor Ideas (before freezing): 

1.       Replace the sweetened condensed milk with the same amount of something else that is equally thick, sweet and flavorful-- like strawberry preserves, chocolate sundae topping (the kind in a jar is best), etc.  
2.       If making the chocolate version, dissolve some instant coffee crystals in a few tablespoons of hot milk and add to the ice cream mixture.   Toss in some chopped almonds, and you have “mocha almond fudge”!  Or skip the coffee and add marshmallows for “rocky road”. 
3.       Crumble in a bunch of Oreos for “cookies and cream”. 
4.       Chop up your favorite candy bar and mix it in.   Then partially fold in sundae topping caramel (the kind from a jar).  Only fold in until there are thick caramel swirls, then stop stirring and freeze.  
Be creative and have fun!

Dad's Fried Rice

My Dad not only spent some time on R&R traveling in Asian countries during his tour in Vietnam, where he learned a few things…  But he also worked as a cook in a place called “The Straight” during his young adult years.   That place served a little bit of everything, from traditional American favorites to Mexican food, to Chinese.   He learned a lot of cooking basics there.   So he actually knew how to make some tasty fried rice.   One thing-- not everybody adds drained bamboo shoots or water chess nuts to fried rice, but he LOVED it and always put those in.   That’s how he learned it.   So I’m proud to share his recipe here:

Dad’s Fried Rice

2 cups chicken, beef or pork, cut in small cubes and sautéed until done
4 cups cooked medium to long grain white rice (cold or leftover, DO NOT use freshly made)
Sweet peas 1 cup or 1 can
Green onion 8 talks, thinly sliced
1 can (about 8oz) water chess nuts, drained
1 can (about 8oz) bamboo shoots, drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 large carrot cut in small cubes
Salt, pepper to taste (white pepper is traditional)
Garlic 2 cloves
3 eggs, whisked together
1 tablespoon cooking oil


Use the largest pan or wok you own (12 to 14 inch is best), and do not over crowd it.
1.        Heat oil over high heat, swirl around in pan. 
2.        Reduce heat to medium, garlic and onion, stir, let it sweat about 15 to 30 seconds.   Add carrots, cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.   Add in the other vegetables (except peas), fry for a few minutes.   
3.        Move all ingredients to one side of the pan.  Pour eggs into the pan and scramble them in the clear space until they are almost completely cooked but slightly soggy, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.  
4.        Add meat and peas.   Followed by rice.  Stirring and tossing everything together between each addition.  Use your spatula to break up clumps.  
5.        Add soy sauce, salt, pepper and stir.  Be sure to stir everything quickly until the rice is well coated and colored (some bits of white here and there is fine).   Everything should be heated through.   This should take about 5 minutes.   Add extra oil if the pan is too dry.  But not too much, and reduce the heat so nothing will scorch.   Taste while adding flavors, to make sure you have the right amount of seasonings.    
6.        Remove from heat.   Serve hot.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dad's Perfect White Rice

So many people go out and spend money on "rice cookers" because they are frustrated with how their pot-cooked rice turns out.   Or they are intimidated by the "art" of rice cooking.   But my Dad showed me an amazingly SIMPLE way to get rice-cooker-quality steamed rice from a pot/pan, with little or no effort.   This method is so easy, its literally "walk away for 20 minutes, come back and its done!".  It has worked for me for 20 years, without fail.   Follow this method and among the foodies, you will always be known as "the one who makes great rice".   Below is a simple basic recipe, with helpful tips and information down at the bottom.   You can double/triple the recipe as needed.   

Dad’s Perfect White Rice  
(Works for most kinds of rice, but brown rice might need more time) 

1 cup long grain white rice (regular or Basmatti)
2 cups cold water


Rice has an easy "2 to 1" formula.  Meaning 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.   And the cooked rice will always be equal to the water you use.    To be clear, here is a little reference chart:

1 cup uncooked rice + 2 cups water = 2 cups cooked rice
2 cups uncooked rice + 4 cups water = 4 cups cooked rice
3 cups uncooked rice + 6 cups water = 6 cups cooked rice

Etc., etc.  This recipe is simple:  Boil the water, add the rice, cover and walk away for 20 minutes-- DONE.   That's it.   Easy.   

1.        Use a pan or pot large enough to hold all the water with at least an inch or so left at the top.  Bigger is great too.    Be sure your pot/pan has a tight-fitting lid.   Pour water into into the pot/pan and bring to a boil over high heat. 
2.       As soon as the water is boiling, dump the rice in.   Use a fork to immediately stir the rice for about 10 seconds, gently mashing out any clumps that may form. 
3.       Make sure the rice is all even under the water (at a flat level).   Wait until the rice starts to boil.   Cover with a tight lid.  
4.       Turn the heat down to LOW.  Then walk away.   Come back in about 20 minutes to check if it is done.     DO NOT STIR OR LIFT THE LID DURING THIS TIME.   Any steam/heat that escapes will greatly affect the quality of your rice and the cooking time.   Steam is very important to rice cooking and must be kept inside.  
5.       After 20 minutes, remove the lid and tilt the pan to the side to see if any water remains.   If not, taste a small spoonful of rice from the center (for some odd reason most under-cooked rice is in the center).   It should be in individual grains and tender.  If the water is gone and the rice is tender—its done.   Remove from the heat and let it stand 5 minutes.    Fluff gently with a fork and serve.  
Tips:   If the rice is crunchy and water remains, cover and continue cooking.  But if it is crunchy and there is NO water, add a little water and continue cooking.

Helpful Rice Information:  

Rice cooked properly, with the correct water/rice ratio and the right temperatures, should be fluffy, in individual grains and tender.  This method cooks on a low heat, so there is no burning, and therefore no stirring, which means less stickiness.   Plus the exact measurements means all the water is absorbed, and there is no straining needed.

Rice should not be soupy, gloppy, mushy or crunchy.   Stirring rice throughout cooking can cause it to be extremely sticky (from the starches moving around), and even mush it all together, almost like mashed potatoes.   You really should not stir rice, except for a few seconds in the beginning, to break up clumps.   When it is done, try not to touch or stir the rice for at least 5 minutes.   Rice is extremely brittle with it is first done.   It needs a few minutes for the grains to settle into their shape.   After 5 minutes, it is ok to gently fluff the rice with a fork. 

Did You Know?-- The Chinese sometimes purposely make their rice extra sticky, so it is easy to pick up in chunks, with chop sticks.  Or so it will stick and form on sushi better.  But for other dishes, its better for the rice to have single grains, and be fluffy.  

Melissa's Oven Roasted Chicken With Potatoes And Carrots

I had been trying to figure out a way to make my at-home baked chicken taste more like those rotisseries you buy at the store.   I wanted the skin brown and flavorful, the meat juicy.   Instead, the skin kept coming out pale and bland, the meat dry.  I also learned that your results will be slightly different with a roaster chicken, as apposed to a fryer chicken...   Roasters are meant specially for roasting and have a different texture.   But after doing some searching on the internet for a good baking time  for a roaster, and adding my own favorite flavors, I came up with a great recipe!   I don't miss the store-bought rotisseries at all, with this one.   I baked it and it came out just the way I like!  Even my picky husband was a fan.   So I would like to share it here with everyone.

Melissa’s Oven-Roasted Chicken With Potatoes And Carrots

1 whole raw roaster chicken, thawed (5 to 5.6 lbs)
½ tsp salt (or more/less, to taste)
¼ tsp ground black pepper (or more/less to taste)
½ tsp dried rosemary, crumbled or ground
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup chicken broth
4 medium potatoes, halved (or more, for extra people)
2 cups baby carrots
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1.        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.        Wash chicken with cold water, inside and out.  Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. 
3.       Place chicken in a large roasting pan, about 2 inches deep.  Chicken should be breast side up.  
4.       Blend spices together in a bowl (salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, poultry seasoning).  Rub spices all over the chicken.  
5.       Pack butter/margarine down on top of the chicken breast.   The butter will melt as the chicken cooks, and baste the chicken.   Do not rub the butter all over the chicken, this tends to wipe the spices off, since the butter doesn’t always stick to the chicken.  
6.       Pile the vegetables all around the chicken (potatoes, carrots, onions).   You can even throw a few onion chunks inside the chicken for flavor.   You can also salt and pepper the vegetables, if you like.   
7.       Pour chicken broth around the chicken, letting it drizzle over the vegetables for flavor.  Try to make sure as much of the vegetables are touching the broth in the bottom of the pan as possible.  Drizzle lemon juice all over the chicken and vegetables.
8.       Place pan with chicken and vegetables in the oven, on a center rack.   Do not cover.   The chicken gets brown much better without a covering. 
9.       Bake chicken at 350 for EXACTLY 2 hours.   Open the oven to baste the entire chicken thoroughly  with juices about every 45 minutes. 
10.   Carefully remove the chicken/vegetable pan from the oven.   Baste the chicken one last time, and then tightly cover with foil.   Let the chicken rest on the counter like this for about 15 minutes.   This will allow the juices to settle into the meat, so it will be more juicy (cutting the bird too soon will cause the juices to run out and the meat will get dry).   Serve.