Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ice cream!

I finally bought an ice cream maker! A few months ago I spotted a small and very cute baby blue ice cream maker in a Target ad. I wanted to get it but with Christmas coming up at the time, I didn't want to buy anything extra. But this weekend I decided to go for it!

It was a small investment of $30 that I hope brings us big returns in the form of yummy homemade ice cream. This particular maker is space-friendly (aka small), which is a must around here. The other advantage to its petite nature is it limits the amount of ice cream we can make. Being huge ice cream fans, that's a very good thing. Even though we have ice cream in the freezer pretty much year around, it's still considered a treat.

Like anything else I get the opportunity to make myself, I was most excited about having control over the ingredients. And how cool is it for the boys to help make ice cream? It's another opportunity to teach them about quality ingredients and how much better a treat is when we make it ourselves.

A while back I had stumbled upon a recipe for "cornstarch ice cream" by Mark Bittman. I like Mark Bittman and figured it was worth a shot. The cornstarch replaces the need for eggs making for a non-eggy, lower fat ice cream base. Even though, in some circles, cornstarch can be frowned upon, I'm not opposed to it. I do use arrowroot when possible in place of cornstarch but arrowroot can become slimy when used with dairy. Besides, if Mr. Bittman is down with a little cornstarch, I am too. Here's my version of the original recipe:

Strawberry Buttermilk Cornstarch Ice Cream

1 3/4 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup strawberries, sliced

1. Put 1 1/4 cups milk, the sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until mixture begins to steam.

2. In a bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup milk; there should be no lumps. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill until cool, a couple of hours (you can skip this step if you have a machine with a built-in freezer). When cool or if there are no lumps, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: 1 generous pint.

This ice cream came out great. It was a hit with the kids and the hubby. I'm looking forward to making different varieties of the cornstarch ice cream as well as other more typical ice cream bases. Next flavors on deck: Low fat banana then chocolate!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hot chocolate

While at Trader Joe's recently, I noticed a new product - instant hot cocoa mix. I had to pick up a box and do my research.

It requires the same "just add water" method as other instant hot chocolate packets. After mixing up a cup the first thing I noticed was the aroma. It was different than Swiss Miss or like brands. It was subtle. Second, the color was different. Lighter, not as dense looking but not at all watery. Finally, as for the taste, it was mild and not artificial tasting. I'd drink it again.

Instant mixes, such as hot cocoa or pudding, contain things like stabilizers or thickeners so the ingredients list is longer than I prefer. But if you compare the Trader Joe's version to Swiss Miss, there are differences. Trader Joe's has the cleaner list. Considering this and the nice taste, I'd use their mix once in a while to make a quick cup for my son. And as most items at Trader Joe's, the price is a budget-friendly $2.99.

Trader Joe's Instant Hot Cocoa ingredients: Cane sugar, whole milk powder, natural cocoa powder, whey protein, tricalcium phosphate, stabilizer (carragenean and gum acacia), emulsifier (soy lecithin), salt, natural vanilla flavor, vitamin and mineral mix (iron, niacin (B3), thiamin (B1), vitamin A, riboflavin (B2)).

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, modified milk, cocoa (processed with alkali), hydrogenated coconut oil, nonfat milk, calcium carbonate, less than 2% of: Salt, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, artificial flavor, carragenean.