Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

img_2484

Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

img_2485

Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Advertisements

Foodie Travels: Scratch Bakery, Durham, N.C.

img_0470
Molly and I are always excited to find a fresh local bakery. When that bakery serves up several kinds of homemade pie, it’s even better.
During a quick stop in Durham, N.C., we visited Scratch, one of those local places that feels almost like it’s set in a different location than it actually is. Scratch offers outdoor seating that has the cafe-style feeling of a European city plaza. But it also provides the desserts and brunch items recognizable in American dining venues.
We went to Scratch for pie, and on the day we visited, the offerings included chocolate, lemon chess, buttermilk sugar, sweet potato, rhubarb and more.
img_0472
While all of the options we sampled were delicious, and we sampled about everything but my least favorite flavor of rhubarb, the buttermilk sugar was the most unique. It had a creamy yet light, sweet, buttermilk-flavored filling, with a crunchy layer of sugar right on the crust.
The crust. It was the most flaky, pastry-like crust I’ve had in recent memory on any pie. And pie is our typical dessert of choice anywhere we can eat it, at home or on the road.
Scratch also serves up brunch items like the popular avocado toast and traditional breakfast sandwiches, as well as other pastries, coffees and drinks, and lunch menu choices.
If you visit, don’t expect to park right outside. The section of Orange Street is set up to be a pedestrian walkway. But you can find a variety of half-hour, hour and two-hour parking throughout downtown.
Scratch Bakery
111 W. Orange St., Durham, N.C.
img_0474

Creative Southeast-Style Fish Tacos

The recipe is a missing ingredient when I approach the kitchen. There are very few things I cook that follow an actual tried-and-true recipe with measurements. Something thrills me about looking in the fridge and the pantry and creating a meal. Maybe that’s a trait I developed during my bachelor days. And maybe that’s why many of my posts in this space are restaurant adventures; I cook often, but I rarely use a recipe that’s very shareable.

Cooking is a therapy for me, and there’s very little that’s therapeutic about sweating what expensive ingredients I need to pick up at the store and how carefully I follow someone else’s directions. It’s the creativity that makes the whole experience fun and flavorful.

That’s the case with these “Southeast-Style Fish Tacos” I made up on a recent Sunday afternoon. We cook a lot of homemade Mexican in our house, and we usually keep things incredibly simple. This on-the-fly “recipe” is easy, too.

Here are the basic parts of the plate: Fish, Tortilla, Sugar Slaw, Garlic-Onion Aioli

Molly makes amazing homemade tortillas, but for this “dish” we used store-bought. We always prefer flour.

The fish can be any fish you like. To be truly “Southeast” I’d suggest something like a catfish that you commonly see here in North Carolina. You could also use a flounder or a tilapia. We had fresh-cooked salmon on hand, so that’s what I used, lightly seasoned with a little paprika and fresh-squeezed lime juice. I cooked the salmon on a medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes on each side, just enough to cook it through and through without losing any of that beautiful flaky texture and light pink color.

For the slaw, I took 2 cups of fresh red cabbage (great for color), 2 teaspoons of white sugar and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and a teaspoon of milk to add a little liquid to break down the sugars a bit faster. I mixed the slaw in a bowl and then flash-froze it for about 15 minutes. The combination of two basic sugars in the slaw is one reason I call this “Southeast.” There are many variations of Asian slaw out there that have a sweet ingredient, but the sugar just seemed to place this in the Southeast United States.

The aioli was a combination of a 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of onion powder, a teaspoon of chopped garlic and a teaspoon of garlic salt. This sauce was intended to give the aioli a bit of a quick kick that would counter the sweetness of the slaw and the citrus spice of the fish. The mayo in this ingredient is another reason I refer to this as “Southeast Style.”

I spread a few lines of the aioli on a warm tortilla, added a few strips of freshly cooked fish (the salmon in our case) and then topped the plate with a healthy pinch of the slaw.

It took about 30 minutes to put this dish together, from the moment I gathered ingredients to the time we took our first bites. Let me know what you think of the concept and the dish if you try it, and feel free to share with me in the comments below what you think about my approach to cooking. Eat well!

Molly’s Take: As a big fan of White Duck Taco in Asheville, I have to say, this is the closest we’ve come at home to replicating the explosion of flavor and fresh ingredients you’ll find in one of their tacos. The three parts of this taco were each incredibly flavorful – the citrus-y, grilled salmon; the crispy, cool slaw; and the salty, saucy aioli. I don’t always rate dishes on our blog, but I give these easy tacos an A+ for originality and taste.

Matthew’s Take: Obviously, I love this approach to cooking, as I said above. But I was also quite pleased with how these tacos came out. We feature beef, chicken, fish and shrimp in tacos at our house on a regular basis, and this particular combination varied from the homemade pico de gallo, rice and beans we normally use to accompany the main ingredients. I really liked the flavor combination of the sweet slaw and the spice of the aioli, along with the hearty lightness of the fish. And I ultimately decided that cabbage holds up much better in a taco than the oft-used lettuce.

Fancy Pecan French Toast for Two

French Toast

We’re big fans of the $1 specialty bakery-quality bread loaves you can buy at Walmart. The bread has a short shelf life, but that just encourages you to get creative in how you use the bread to ensure you make the most out of that $1.

On a recent Sunday morning, Matthew used slices of a French bread loaf and just a few ingredients to whip up a quick and fancy breakfast. Here’s how he made his own variation of French toast for two, using the ingredients from a simple Food Network recipe.

Ingredients

four slices of $1 loaf of bread (we used the specialty Walmart bread, but many French toast recipes call for your plain, stale white bread loaf)

two eggs

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar

1/3 cup of milk

butter

syrup

powdered sugar

brown sugar

pecans halves

Step one: Preheat your stovetop burner on medium heat.

Step two: Thoroughly mix your eggs, vanilla, cinnamon sugar and milk in a bowl.

Step three: Coat your bread slices in the sweet egg mixture.

Step four: Lightly butter (or oil) your pan and place your first two slices of coated bread into the pan.

Step five: Turn your French toast slices once, then repeat the process for the remainder of your bread.

Step six: Cut each French toast slice of bread in half and arrange as you like on a plate. With the ingredients in this recipe, you will have four half-slices each for two plates.

Step seven: Crush a few pecan halves with your hands and sprinkle on the French toast slices.

Step eight: Sprinkle your desired amount of brown and powdered sugars onto your French toast.

Step nine: Serve with the desired amount of syrup.

Matthew’s Take: When I’m cooking for people, I like to deliver a beautiful presentation when possible. There’s so much you can do to make French toast look beautiful. Powdered sugar and pecans (or any kind of nuts or fruit) can make your dish look like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe is my take on a Food Network basic French toast formula. I added the pecans and sugar topping, but the original recipe suggests the perfect ratio of eggs, milk, cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract. You can take that basic provision and then top the toast with your favorite ingredients. I give this French toast an A+ for presentation, an A for taste and a B for cost-effectiveness. You can make French toast very cheap, with only bread, milk, eggs and a cinnamon and/or sugar ingredient. The pecans, multiple sugars and vanilla are extras that add taste, while also adding a few more ingredients and dollars to that grocery bill. The only reason I didn’t give this recipe an A+ on taste is that I used a French bread loaf that had “everything” seasoning topping on it and, although I brushed the topping off, a slight hint of flavor remained on a few slices of the bread. I would suggest using plain French bread, but I used the loaf we had in our pantry.

Molly’s Take: How do I love this French toast – let me count the ways! Not only is it fluffy, soft and deliciously moist, this French toast is covered in tasty toppings that enhance its hearty, pancake-y exterior. Now, you have to know me to know how absolutely crazy it is that I like this dish. I have a bad history with French toast (a church camp experience in which I was forced to play dizzy dodgeball in the summer heat after eating a ton of it along with chocolate milk=bad idea), and I generally dislike pancakes. Yes, I dislike – and have even used the term hate – pancakes. But since Matthew and I have been together, I’ve developed a more open mind toward them. On a recent trip, I even ate them twice! This breakfast dish reminded me of pancakes, but was so much more hearty and nowhere near as mushy as pancakes can be. It was like perfectly fluffy pancakes with a soft, yet firm, sugar-dusted exterior. Altogether, if I gave this dish a grade, it would definitely be A+.

Five-Minute Summer Cherry Limeade That Rivals Sonic’s

-1

Both sides of our family have a history of traditions in the kitchen. In 2013, Matthew’s mom, Chris, created a cookbook of recipes from her branch of the family. The book includes a heaping of sweet and savory dishes, and amongst all the food is an almost-hidden entry for Cherry Limeade. The drink took about five minutes to make, resembles punch and it rivals the limeades that Sonic Drive-ins sell. Here’s how you make it in about five minutes.

Ingredients

2-liter bottle of lemon-lime soda

1 10 oz. jar of maraschino cherries, with juice

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 cup sugar

Step one: Mix soda, cherries, lime juice and sugar in a large bowl or pitcher and stir. (The recipe suggests to chill all the ingredients before mixing.)

Step two: Cut wedges from a lime and cut a slit in each one to fix on the rim of your glasses.

Step three: Chill limeade for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Step four: Pour your limeade and cherries into each glass (with ice, as desired), and serve.

Molly’s Take: I’ve always loved lemonades and punch – and what’s better in the warm summers of the South than a delicious, cold, fruity, refreshing beverage? This is perfect for a party or just a simple get-together. The maraschino cherries give it a delightful punch of flavor. We happened to have lime soda in the fridge, cherries from a dessert we’d made and limes from a dinner we’d made. So it was super easy to put together. But it’s just as easy to pick up those few ingredients. Definitely worth a try!

Matthew’s Take: I’m a sucker for a good limeade when I visit Sonic. I’d rather get a limeade than any other drink on the menu. This limeade is as good as Sonic’s, and it reminds me of a punch you’d find at a wedding, birthday or other celebration reception. If you have the ingredients on hand, it really takes about five minutes to prepare, and it’s the kind of fancy-looking drink that would make someone ask what it is as they pass you on your deck or patio. I give this creation an A+ for taste, an A+ for presentation and an A for ease. While the preparation time is amazing, it’s not likely you always have cherries and fresh lime in the kitchen like we did when we decided to make this limeade.

Credit: This recipe is credited to Matthew’s cousin, Sherri Blanton.