Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NEW BLOG: Portraits of the Ordinary

Hi, Readers!

I've started a new blog that launched on June 22, 2011: Portraits of the Ordinary

While this site will remain up, I encourage you to join me at Portraits of the Ordinary, which will be the primary location for future blog posts.

Thank you for reading!

Cindy (aka, Tara)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mother Power’s Congo Bar Ice Cream


I know what you’re thinking – who is this Mother Power, what is a congo bar, and how do these two things translate into ice cream? Well, I’ll tell you. Each holiday season we’re sent a box (and I mean a BOX) of home-made baked goods by my mother-in-law, whose last name is Power (yeah, I know you’re baffled by my decision to keep my last name). Within this refrigerator-box full of goodies is an assortment of sweets that usually changes from year-to-year, but the mainstay is always the disgustingly sweet and obscenely delicious block of congo bars. You’d think they were made of lead because they weigh so much, but in reality they are a baked concoction of graham cracker crumbs, semi-sweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, and shredded coconut, layered and then drenched in a can of sweetened condensed milk. The first time I had one I nearly fell to my knees, which is why I make them each year for various holiday parties (watching people fall is funny). That, and they’re always the talk of the party even though it didn’t take me hours to make them and the ingredients aren’t exotic – they’re just a combination of flavors you wouldn’t think to put together until you’ve tried them. They’re salty, they’re sweet, and holy mother of Buddha they’re delicious!

But, enough about the congo bars. Now that you know what they are, I can tell you about my recent obsession with my new Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment and how I quickly nosedove from making “healthy” ice cream by creating the recipe I’ll be sharing with you now: Mother Power’s Congo Bar Ice Cream!

INGREDIENTS
1C Coconut milk
1C Heavy whipping cream
1C Half-and-half
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2/3C Semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3C Butterscotch chips
1C shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but you can used sweetened)
12 Graham crackers, crushed
*For the purpose of this recipe, I’ll be explaining how to make it with the Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment.

QUICK & DIRTY
Combine the liquid ingredients in a bowl and chill for at least 1 hour.

Toss the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and shredded coconut in a separate bowl and place that mix in the refrigerator as well.

Crush the graham crackers with your hands in a plastic bag till the pieces are no larger than a nickel each, but not smaller than the head a pencil eraser. Throw the bag in the fridge too.

Once chilled for an hour, remove prefrozen Kitchenaid ice cream bowl from the freezer, and set up mixer per the instructions (attach bowl, place mixing paddle in bowl, attach paddle attachment to mixer, place mixer head in its down and locked position, and join paddle to paddle attachment). Turn the mixer on “stir” and slowly pour in liquid mixture. Allow mixer to mix ice cream for no less than 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, the mixture will have doubled in size and be the consistency of softy serve. With the mixer still on “Stir”, slowly add in the chip and coconut mixture, followed by the crushed graham crackers. Allow mixer to continue to stir for about 2 minutes more.

Remove ice cream from the bowl, and place in a tightly sealing container. Place container in the freezer and allow ice cream to set for an additional 2 hours, transforming the soft-serve into motherfucking ice cream.

Eat!

ROOKIE COOKIES
Ice cream is incredibly easy to make as long as you follow the golden rule of ice cream making: chill. Seriously, the ice cream mixing bowl must have been in the freezer for at least 15 hours, if not overnight, and your ingredients must be cold as well, or you’ll end up with soupy soft serve that I can’t vouch for! That having been said…

Combine the liquid ingredients in a bowl and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Put the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and shredded coconut in a separate bowl and mix them well with a spoon. Place this bowl of mix in the refrigerator as well.

Place the graham crackers in a plastic bag (a sandwich bag), and break them into pieces with your hands (as if you’re putting crackers into soup). Break the crackers until the pieces are no larger than a nickel each, but not smaller than the head a pencil eraser. You want to keep them this size, so they don’t get utterly pulverized when added to the ice cream – you want to taste them in the ice cream! Throw this bag in the fridge too.

Once ingredients are chilled for an hour, remove the prefrozen Kitchenaid ice cream bowl from the freezer, and set up mixer per the instructions (attach bowl, place mixing paddle in bowl, attach paddle attachment to mixer, place mixer head in its down and locked position, and join paddle to paddle attachment). Turn the mixer on “stir” and slowly pour in liquid mixture. This is important!!! Do not add ANYTHING to the bowl until the mixer is turned on and the paddle is moving. If you don’t follow these instructions, the milk mixture will freeze on contact, and you may break the paddle when turning the mixer on. So, turn the mixer on FIRST, then add the milk mixture. Allow mixer to “Stir” ice cream for no less than 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, the mixture will have doubled in size and be the consistency of softy serve. With the mixer still on “Stir”, slowly add in the chip and coconut mixture, followed by the crushed graham crackers. Allow mixer to continue to stir for about 2 minutes more.

Remove ice cream from the bowl, and place in a tightly sealing container – I like to reuse the large Chobani Greek Yogurt containers (they seem to work well for ice cream). Place container in the freezer and allow ice cream to set for an additional 2 hours, transforming the soft-serve into motherfucking ice cream.

Eat!


TIPS & TRICKS
I remember my parents having made ice cream when I was a kid in one of those gigantic old R2-D2-looking ice cream makers that required half a quarry of salt and two full years to make the ice cream. I mean, ice cream IS my favorite food, but what a drag! Thanks to the good people at Kitchenaid, if you store your freezer bowl in the freezer you can be enjoying finished ice cream in less than 4 hours (or less than an hour and a half if you don’t mind the soft-serve consistency).

This is my second attempt at crafting ice cream. My first was fresh strawberry ice cream that I made this past weekend. While the recipe above yields creamy ice cream, the strawberry I made was drier (less creamy, more crumbly), so I can only assume the water content in the strawberries was the variable that made it more dry. If I had to do the strawberry again, I’d use a higher percentage of heavy cream, and I’d wait to add the strawberries until half-way through (instead of in the beginning).


Like making any other type of food, it takes time and practice to get ice cream just the way you want it. I’ll be practicing patience as I continue to try to make an assortment of other ice creams, sorbets, and ice cream bombs (headed to eBay after posting this to look up ice cream bomb molds!). My advice regarding your ice cream making adventures? Chill (pun intended), don’t stress over the new cooking rules associated with making ice cream (the first time I was in a big hurry to get the shit in the bowl), and have fun!  I’m sure you’ll be seeing more ice cream recipes posted here in the future…

Friday, February 26, 2010

Martini Time!

Because it’s been a LONG fucking week for me and because it’s probably been an equally LONG fucking week for you too, can you guess what time it is? It’s MARTINI TIME!!! After meeting a schedule that’s undoubtedly busier than a Vancouver Olympian’s for the past two weeks, I’m ready to relax, and what better way than with a yummy martini on a Friday evening?


INGREDIENTS
2oz Pear Grey Goose vodka
3/4oz St-Germain
1oz Champagne (aka, sparkling white wine)

QUICK & DIRTY
For you ex-bartenders out there, this is a piece of cake: in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine 2oz. Pear Grey Goose vodka, 3/4oz St. Germain, and 1oz champagne. Shake. Pour. Garnish with sliced pear. And last but not least, make sure to tell your customers that they’re drinking a Cindy Lop-her ;)

ROOKIE COOKIES
Okay, folks, in this post I’m going to reveal all my guest-bartending knowledge. Use it for good – not evil.
Ever wish you could look as cool as Tom Cruise in Cocktail, throwing bottles around like Bozo the clown and mixing the classiest drinks while balancing “fun-loving tourist entertainer” and “sex symbol”? Yeah, me either. All I really ever wanted was to be able to make myself a really bitchin’ drink that wouldn’t leave me hung over the next morning. Here’s the secret: skip the syrups and sweeteners, and go for top-shelf liquors and naturally-sweetened alcohols and mixers (aka, crushed fresh fruit). Yeah, this makes a more expensive drink, but it also means you’ll be up at a reasonable hour tomorrow, and you won’t be running to the bathroom immediately after greasy diner food – always a plus if you’re a regular anywhere.


If you’re not used to mixing cocktails, don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a cocktail shaker. Yes, they make things easier, but if you learn the method I describe below no special tools are required, and your friends will think you spent at least one summer as a bartender, which will at the very least move you up a notch in the book of your one friend who’s kind of a douche bag.

Fill a glass 1/2 –full with ice. To properly measure an ounce, fill a standard shot glass (it’s an ounce!) – here you’ll see my classy Las Vegas shot glass modeling the ounce of, well, whatever.


Pour all ingredients over ice. Next you’re going to mix them using 2 cups. Pay attention to what I’m about to say next, because it’s important. NEVER use glass-on-glass. If you do, you’re asking for disaster. Typically, bartenders use a stainless steel mixing tumbler and a pint glass to mix cocktails. Since you don’t live in a bar, grab a plastic cup – disposable or reusable, it doesn’t matter. Next pour the drink and the ice into the cup with the WIDER rim – it’s important this cup is on the bottom, or you’re gonna get your fru-fru drink all over yourself. Next, place the cup with the smaller circumference inside the cup with the drink in it. Push it down to ensure a seal. Next, break out your inner Tom Cruise and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Remember: more than 5 shakes is masturbation.


Next, holding both cups still together, one in each hand, carefully create an opening about ¼ inch and no more than the smallest cube of ice that’s chilling your mixed beverage. With the small separation, strain your drink from the ice into the cup of your choosing. Martinis don’t necessitate martini glasses, so pour it in whatever the hell you want (just make sure it’s clean).

TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS
Although I’ve never had a full-time bartending gig, I always get accused of it when guest bartending for my derby team. Apparently I look like I know what I’m doing. Good for me. This martini was inspired by the bar and bar-owner who gladly let my team guest bartend once a month last year to help us fundraise for travel: Bad Decisions. Bad Decisions is possibly the MOST underrated bar in Baltimore. Granted, it’s name says “vomiting on the sidewalk, then going home with the uggo”, however Bad Decisions is one of the most unique martini bars I’ve ever been to  - in Baltimore or otherwise. They have a vast selection of proprietary martinis that are made from the freshest fruits and most top-shelf liquors from around the world. It was here that I fell in love with St-Germain, one of the ingredients in this martini. St-Germain is a French alcohol that’s made from elderflower, which gives it a unique floral taste, without being perfumy or too sickeningly sweet. When I guest bartended at Bad Decisions last, I’m pretty sure it was an ingredient, along with Pimms, that makes a pretty damn good sangria tasting concoction. It’s light, it’s versatile, and once you try it, you’re going to want to keep experimenting with what else you can put it in.

You may have noticed that my champagne (cough, cough) still has its $5.99 price sticker on it in the picture. If you noticed that, then you’ve also noticed I’m a woman of distinguishing tastes. As far as champagne (aka, sparkling wine) goes, I like the sweet shit – the $5.99 shit – sue me. The important thing to remember here and any other time you’re cooking or drink-concocting is that if you don’t like an ingredient in something, you’re probably not going to like the end result. So, if you like dry, pricy champagne use dry, pricy champagne. If you’re an 18-year-old female hockey player who just won an Olympic gold metal, use Dom and don’t apologize to Canadian officials for consuming alcohol under age on every major broadcasting network across world. At least it’s not Crystal. THAT would send a bad message to the kids.

Well, I’ve almost entirely wasted this buzz typing out this entry, so I’m outtie 5000. I hope you like your martini as much as I’ve been enjoying mine. I think I’ll listen to a little bit more Beach House and pass out on the sofa in my work clothes. Cheers.