I skipped last month’s foodie penpal exchange because I knew I would not have enough time to get things together for it. A friend was visiting, I was visiting back home, we had a mini-vacation scheduled…it just wasn’t going to happen. I was excited to pick up again this month. I sent items to Meg in New York and received from Amy in North Carolina of Basal Evolution. Meg didn’t give me any restrictions, so I got lots of snack foods for her. I even discovered some new ones for myself!
As I posted on Monday, the end of August is like birthday week for a bunch of people. Today is my other friend’s birthday (hello to Kathy!). She is super busy right now working on moving, changing jobs, and prepping for a wedding. I have some idea of that (eek!) but I definitely would not wish to be in her shoes right now. She loves Chinese/Asian culture, so I think she would be into my posting of a Chinese recipe on her birthday.
This is a odd posting day for me. It is both awesome and sad. Awesome because it’s one of my closest friends’ birthdays (hi, Sarah!) and sad because it is also the day my mom passed away, several years ago. That was a tough phone call–happy birthday, Sarah, and I have bad news. Luckily, she was such a good friend that she took it in stride. In many ways I am grateful that it was on the same day because August 27 will always mean, first and foremost, Sarah’s birthday. It was part of her AOL screen-name when we first started being friends, it also is two days away from one of my other closest friends’ birthdays, and a few days after my sister-in-law’s birthday. Basically, the end of August is so full of celebration, that I really can’t get too sad about it.
In honor of today, I wanted to post a recipe that was suitable for both. Since both are such ladies, they both like tea. One of my mom’s favorites was Earl Grey, and I used to make sure I had some on hand at first my apartment and then my house just in case she wanted some on a visit. One of the best college memories was going to the dining hall with Sarah and getting milkshakes. We had a local dairy on campus (does that make us sound like farmers? I promise it is a full university and right near DC) and the ice cream was just amazing. I still enjoy it when I make it back for a visit. They would make you a milkshake from any of the flavors. Cookies and cream was one of the best, but I like to think that this Earl Grey milkshake could almost put it to shame.
I have come to the realization that you can basically make sorbet out of anything. You see it at restaurants serving fancy sounding “palate cleansers” and that sort of thing, but at home it is easy to stick to the basics. I have branched out some, with strawberry lemonade, sparkling wine blackberry, and now this tropical smoothie one. I was planning on making a 2-fruit sorbet, but I could not resist the package at the store: a frozen fruit mixture of strawberries, pineapples, and mangoes! I knew it would be a hit with my husband (and with me). So, I did lots of taste-testing as I went, but came up with a sorbet that tastes just like a smoothie you could get out, but in sorbet form.
This is not my first time making Chicken Biryani, but it is my first time following the America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I was surprised that none of the spices I bought when we first started making Indian food were included in this. No cumin, turmeric…none! Instead, this recipe was all fancy and included saffron and cardamom seed pods. Well, I did my best with this recipe, but I definitely had to make some changes to have it work in my kitchen. I am providing the recipe below, but in “Fudging Ahead Style”.
Before you get all upset about purchasing saffron, I will say that you do not use very much at all. The amount I got cost about $16, but I only used a tiny piece of it, so maybe a couple dollars worth end up in the dish? Not so bad when you think about how adding cilantro and mint each cost a fair amount. It seems pointless, but I will say that this dish had a lot of flavor. As for the cardamom seed pods, I did not find them initially, so I bought just the seeds in bulk and did a bit of an estimate on how many to throw in. If you can get the actual pods, the recipe says to use 10 of them and grind them with the handle of a cleaver.
It has actually been hot again in Seattle. We have used our room air conditioner for better sleep, and have been eating more ice cream for cooler evenings. As a result, we went from having large amounts of homemade ice cream to just a serving left. Emergency measures had to be taken! So, I woke up early so that I could make the base before work. Partially to save time, but also to have a stronger “mint” flavor, I decided to leave out the egg yolks, which made the process pretty speedy. To top it off, I had leftover mint from an Indian dish over the weekend, so I did not even need to purchase any ingredients. Score!
I know some people are not mint and chocolate fans (I’m talking about you, Dad!). You can leave out the chocolate or do some other variation. My husband really doesn’t like mix-ins, but he’s ok with this one because the chocolate melts easily in his mouth, and I love having different textures mixed into my ice creams. Chocolate chips, brownies, or heck, you could even throw in peppermint patties! Whatever you like. I stuck with dark chocolate because it makes me think of Andes bars.
Whatever you call it, you have to call it delicious. This is one of those cakes that you make the exception for and buy at the store. You see those little sugary balls on top and visualize the fluffy vanilla cake underneath…and then the store has the nerve to put it on sale??? How can you resist the Entenmann’s crumb cake, especially their ultimate version? Well, the way you resist it is by making your own and realizing that it can taste better (fresher) and healthier (well, maybe not, but as least the ingredients are all easy to pronounce!).