Thursday, July 31, 2008

Water Ice? Pick a Side.

The other day at church, everyone stuck around after the service to have Rita's. When someone mentioned Rita's, I said, "Oh, water ice. That sounds good." But then I got a lot of funny looks, because no one here has ever heard of water ice. They call it Italian ice.

I'd never heard of either before I lived near Philadelphia during college. There was a lot of water ice there -- I get the feeling Philadelphians take their water ice pretty seriously. (Also their cheesesteaks. And their professional sports. And their Rocky. But I digress.)

Based on my near-Philadelphia experiences, I've come to believe there is a difference between Italian ice (think sno-cone) and water ice, which is more like ice cream in consistency and a lot more flavorful. And my pal Nicole, an actual Philadelphian, agrees.

But now that I've been thinking about it, my eyes have been opened to the contradiction in the term.

People, either it's water or it's ice. I think we've got to pick a side.

Can someone explain this to me?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Milk End of the Macaroni

Back when we were counselors at China Lake Baptist Camp, my friend Randi Lynn and I had a little saying: "Sorry, looks like you got the milk end of the macaroni." We used this on macaroni-and-cheese night in the dining hall, when the last camper served got more noodle and whitish liquid than actual cheese. Similar to getting the short end of the stick, if you will.

That type of situation is what I was trying to avoid tonight when I tried a new mac and cheese recipe from Cook's Country, an excellent source of comfort food, mom's-home-cooking type recipes.

Unfortunately, I had trouble at the other end of the spectrum: not enough milk. The recipe called for three cans of evaporated milk. Not one for reading recipes too awful closely prior to starting the actual cooking, I only had one can. So I improvised. By adding regular milk. Which, you guessed it, made it pretty runny.

I think I was too hard on the cooks at China Lake.

The food: Cook's Country mac and cheese
The verdict: Can someone hand me a spoon for all this milk, please?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Supermarket Sweep!

So, my trip to Harris Teeter today felt a little bit like Supermarket Sweep. The aisles were crowded. The deals were extreme. The coupons were tripled.

This is a picture of my fridge. You know, where people put pictures of their friends and their kids' report cards? Things that they love and are proud of? That's where I'm putting my receipt from today.

Before coupons and store specials, by bill was $120.84. After coupons and specials, I paid $52.16. I am reveling. And making shelf space in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You're One, Two, Three Times the Coupon

This Thursday, like every Thursday, I am planning a menu for the upcoming week and making a list of groceries to pick up tomorrow.

Tonight, however, I am extra excited because today, tomorrow and Saturday are triple coupon days at Harris Teeter. Imagine that you already love grocery shopping. Then imagine that you have a coupon-tripling opportunity at the same time. It's enough to nearly put you over the edge.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whip It. Whip It Good.

So, for the last two weeks or so, I've been on a (renewed) healthy eating kick, which basically means nothing good in the house to eat. But 100-calorie packs of Oreo crisps only feel like dessert for so long, so this afternoon, I decided it was time to get in the kitchen.

Of course, thanks to the aforementioned health quest, I didn't have much to work with as far as ingredients go. No chocolate, no cream -- just my baking staples and my wits.

I chose two new recipes from my recipes-in-waiting file: lemon-cornmeal cookies (which, since they're from Cooking Light, still count as healthy in my book) and frozen lemon mousse (because it is one bazillion degrees in North Carolina today, approximately).

I didn't have any lemons on hand, so I made orange-cornmeal cookies instead. I'd make them again -- and I think I'd try them with lemon next time. They've got ginger in them, and I really like lemon and ginger together. They bake down pretty flat (which usually is a bad sign, but the magazine photo shows flat cookies, too) but they're chewy and kind of grainy (again, not usually what you look for in a cookie, but I like it) and they're especially good with milk.

Now the mousse was another story. I've been waiting to try this recipe for a while because frozen mousse sounds like so much fun to eat. But something went wrong. For one thing, I used lemon juice from concentrate instead of fresh lemon juice (no lemons -- see above). I don't usually worry to much about that, but in a recipe with so few ingredients, and where lemon juice is so prominent, maybe fresh is best.

Second, I didn't have the heavy cream called for by the recipe. What I did have was leftover half-and-half. And I said to myself, hey, that will work.

Except that the recipe called for the cream to be whipped. Do you know what half-and-half looks like whipped? It looks like half-and-half. With a couple of bubbles.

The idea of the mousse is a rich, lemony base that gets fluffed up with whipped cream, then frozen. Without the whippedness, the texture (and the fun of eating it) just isn't there.

Also, it turned out tasting too buttery, I thought. Usually I'm a the-more-butter-the-better kind of girl (like Paula Deen, y'all) but it just wasn't working in the mousse.

So my tip for today is to keep cream on hand. If nothing else, you can dip your Oreo crisps in it.

The foods: Orange-cornmeal cookies and frozen lemon mousse
The verdict: Thumbs up on the cookies, thumbs down on the mousse

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Good? Berry.

I've always been a Dairy Queen girl (the Nixon women are very fond of the Blizzard-as-lunch meal) but last night Ben and I decided to try a Triangle tradition: Goodberry's Frozen Custard. Everyone else in the Triangle had the same idea, however, and we had visit two locations before we found a place to park.

This was my first-ever custard. Like ice cream but made with eggs in addition to sugar and cream, custard is -- as you can imagine -- very rich. Goodberry's specialty is the Carolina Concrete. You can choose vanilla, chocolate or the flavor-of-the-day custard and then whatever mix-ins tickle your fancy. I went with peanut butter fudge. Ben chose mocha.

We've already marked our calendars for two Saturdays from now, when the flavor of the day is key lime. I will be adding pineapple and coconut. And maybe playing Jimmy Buffett tunes as I eat, to celebrate the tropic nature of my dessert.

My only complaint? On their website, the fine folks at Goodberry's say their Concretes are so thick, the servers tip them upside down before they give them to you (to demonstrate viscosity, no doubt). Neither one of our Concretes were inverted prior to serving. I was disappointed. Let's have some truth in advertising, people.

Blizzards are still number one in my heart, but Concretes are a close second.

The food: Mini Carolina Concrete (vanilla with peanut butter fudge)
The verdict: 100 times tastier than actual concrete

Friday, July 11, 2008

Coiled Again

If you're up for some baking this weekend, I'd recommend cream cheese coils. These are definitely a weekend project for me because they take a little bit to make, but they are excellent. I like them because they taste like cheese danishes without all the sticky sweetness.

Cream Cheese Coils

For the rolls:
  • 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 8-oz. cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze:
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
Combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, yeast and salt. In a sauce pan, heat the milk, water and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour; beat on high for two minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form stiff dough. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; divide into 18 pieces. Roll each piece into a 15-inch rope. Form a coil, tucking and pinching end to seal. Place coils 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Combine cream cheese, egg yolk, vanilla and remaining sugar; beat until smooth. Using the back of a spoon, make a 1-inch indentation in the center of each coil; place a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese mixture in each center.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Combine glaze ingredients with enough water to achieve icing consistency; drizzle over coils. Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

The food: Cream cheese coils
The verdict: Yummy (if you've got a few hours)