Tasting New Ideas – Ice Cream

A few years ago, in my constant quest for the perfect ice cream and all tastes Asian, I tried making Green Tea Ice Cream. It was an instant hit and I went on to Thai Tea Ice Cream. Over the years, I have experimented with many flavors. I love using maple syrup instead of sugar in all of my recipes. The ice cream is tastier without the heavy sweetness of sugar.

ice cream mix

Green Tea Ice Cream

Getting the right creaminess has been a challenge. To make an ice cream that freezes well, but isn’t too hard to scoop is a real trick.  I’ve used rice milk, almond milk, goat milk and cow milk to get different consistencies and textures.

Currently my favorite non-dairy milk is almond. I’ve recently created a Carob Mint ice cream using almond milk and no dairy. Sweetened as usual with maple syrup, it is a lovely change of flavor. Many people want to use carob to replace chocolate. I find that is a big mistake! If you’re wanting chocolate, have chocolate. Carob is a rich, lovely flavor in its own right and is wonderful in ice cream, candy bars, in cookies or as a hot drink. Enjoy carob for itself.

Cinnamon Vanilla and Carob Mint

For dairy ice creams, I like a combination of heavy whipping cream and goat’s milk. I’m finding that the number of eggs I use has a strong influence on the consistency too. I have a great recipe right now that seems to work well with a large variety of flavors.

steaming mochi

Rolling green tea mochi

Green Tea Mochi

 

    On Saturday, March 3 from 2 – 3pm I’ll be

offering a free tasting at my Pleasant Hill

               location. Hope you can join me!

        Please RSVP ahead if you plan on coming

so I have enough for everyone.

 

I’ll be featuring the following flavors:

Ginger-Lemon ice cream

Peppermint Fudge  Chunk (this has Ofer’s homemade fudge in it)

Green Tea

Thai Tea (hoping to have some wrapped in mochi just for fun!)

Ginger-Lemon

Cinnamon Vanilla

Kahlua Chocolate Mint (using my homemade kahlua)

Dairy-free Carob Mint

 


Asian Cooking at Home

For years I told my family “No matter how good of a cook I become, Asian cooking will best be enjoyed in restaurants.” I thought that my unfamiliarity with the ingredients and the seemingly complicated cooking styles, were beyond my skills. Fast forward many years and the growth of one child, and I am experimenting with Asian cooking again. This time, I have a talented sidekick, Yo’el, who has an equal passion for food and Asian culture.

It all started years ago when we took a sushi making class – Yo’el was only 9 at the time. It was 3 hours of brutal work, though fun, when we tried the recipes at home, it was way too much work! Recently, though, we became inspired to try again. Yo’el took it upon himself to perfect the rice (with Ofer’s help) and now he has also perfected the rolling technique.

Washing Rice

Rice cooking with kombu

Prepped ingredients for sushi

Rolling sushi

 

We went on to exploring a large variety of types of sushi and chirashi (which is sushi ingredients served on a bowl of rice instead of in a roll). From using recipe books to recipes online to making up our own concoctions, we are now looking at restaurant menus and copying their ideas at home.

 

 

We make lemon mayonnaise sauce, eel sauce and sriracha sauce. All are great in combination with tuna, salmon, imitation crab, shrimp and more. Vegetables can be added too – carrot, umeboshi plum, avocado, spinach, cucumber, red bell pepper, mushroom, onion etc. Cream cheese is a great addition to many types of sushi. Here are some of the sushis we’ve made over the last few months:

naked Lion King roll

blanketed Lion King

Lion King piece

Butterflied Shrimp

naked Shrimp King roll

blanketed Shrimp King roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

slicing sushi

making sauces

placing shrimp

sushi and seaweed salad

umeboshi spinach crab roll

Sesame Tofu Chirashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last few weeks, we’ve turned our attention to Thai dishes. Thom Kha Gai (coconut chicken soup), Spicy Angel Wings, Volcano fish and chicken are all fun dishes that we tried with pretty good success. We’ve also been making a larger variety of Japanese dishes like teriyaki, seaweed salad, shabu shabu, miso soup and more. Mochi is a recent exploration – a very traditional Japanese dish. Most often known as an ice cream wrapping (see my next blog post on Ice Creams), I tried it as a savory dish just for fun!

Miso Wakame Vegetable Stew

Teriyaki Beef and vegetables

Spicy Angel Wings

Sesame Mochi on tray

 

I made the mochi, rolled it into balls and poked caramelized onion sausage meatball pieces into the center of the mochi. I placed them on an oiled tray and topped them with a sauce made of miso, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Baked them til golden and boy, were they good! Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Yum!

 

 

Though not specifically Asian, the current trend for making kale chips feels like another great way to eat healthy food! Ofer initially tried this dish with much success. We love to wander around the garden in early spring like this and collect the volunteers that are offering us their nutritious goodness! Mustard, Wild Mallow and others are a wonderful variation on kale for making chips. They’re not only tasty, they’re beautiful!

Here’s the recipe –

Kale Chips

unbaked green chips

crispy green chips

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash kale or other greens and spin dry. Cut out the center stems. I use kitchen scissors for this and it is quick and easy. Put greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil, cider vinegar and salt. Mix thoroughly. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Lay the greens flat on papered tray without overlapping. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl or container to cool. Repeat until all greens are done. I reuse the same paper for a full batch, then throw it out.

Enjoy!


Signs of Spring

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I find myself feeling the full influence of what we call in California “false spring”. Every year at this time, I feel the pull of the sunshine and the slightly warmer days, fooling me into thinking that it is time to plant. Instead, it is a good time to prune, plant bare-root trees and flowers, and clean up from the winter – leaves that are in unattractive places, mud-spattered areas, jumbled pots and sticks flung around the yard.

Fig branch budding

Nonetheless, the signs of spring are evident all around the garden and I can take comfort in their presence. The first blooms every year are the snowdrops – a lovely little bulb that brightens everyone’s heart. The first year we lived here, my son (who was barely 6 at the time) and I went out in the yard in late January to take a look around.

First snowdrops

We spied the Snowdrop blossoms and our hearts soared. My tender-hearted boy let tears fall at the immense joy he felt seeing these lovely little harbingers of spring.

Not long after, the Oxalis begins to show its face. Many people don’t like this plant and call it a weed. It does tend to be invasive, but I find that it’s lovely yellow blossoms and pretty leaves  (easily visible with the snowdrops here) make up for its effusive enthusiasm. I just pull it out of the areas that I don’t want it living in and enjoy its beauty everywhere else. It has a flavorful spike that it puts out and is

Oxalis flowers

often called Sourgrass. Another child-friendly plant, the kids love to suck out the sour flavor in the early spring.

One of our favorite features of the kind of “wild and natural” style of gardening we do is the presence of volunteer natives every year. When we first moved here, we found large patches of Miner’s Lettuce in the back of the property. It is a treat in the early spring, and we love adding it to our salads for a little spice. It grows profusely in the hills around here, but we aren’t allowed to pick it – it’s against the law! When we expanded the garden last summer, I was a little concerned that we were covering up all the wild areas that the miner’s lettuce would grow. My fears were unfounded.

Now, in this earliest of springtime, I am finding many miner’s lettuce volunteers popping up all over. Some are in the vegetable beds, where I leave them to happily grow; others are placing themselves in pots and seem quite happy there as well.

Evening Primrose leaves

Evidence of one of my favorite natives, Evening Primrose, is showing itself quite early this year. This is a wonderful flower that is useful as an herb and is one of the flower essences I use in my flower essence therapy practice. When this one is blooming, I’ll show you it’s lovely blossom.

The many bulbs that I planted in the fall also begin to show themselves at this time of year. Though they aren’t blooming quite yet, when I look closely, I can see their leaves pushing up through the soil. The freesias, one of my favorite bulbs, have been showing their leaves for over a month already.

Sweet pea starts

Sweet peas also come up early in the spring if you get the early bloomers. Here is a pot of sweet peas that started growing a month ago and are looking quite happy even without much rain.

Last year, I planted some goldenrod as I read that it is a good companion plant. I also use it with my flower essence practice and enjoy having those flowers in my garden as much as possible. I didn’t know how the goldenrod would behave after it died back. I looked a week ago at the pot it is in and there is already happy evidence of its return!

Goldenrod leaves

A childhood favorite, Pussy Willow, grows in my front yard. For me, this tree is all heart. As an avid cat person, I relate on many levels to the pussy willow. It’s association with love and joy stays deep in my heart.

Early Pussy Willow Buds

Interesting that its soft little buds appear around Valentine’s Day each year.

Speaking of hearts, did you know that there is scientific study demonstrating that people die from “broken heart syndrome”?  Dr. Kate Scannell recently wrote in an article in the Contra Costa Times, “Experts think broken heart syndrome is caused by adrenaline surges triggered during physical trauma or acute emotional states such as bereavement, anxiety and anger.” So, if you know someone who has recently experienced a deep loss now is a good time to offer solace. Spring blooms are a beautiful way to open the heart again. As I mentioned, flower essence therapy uses flowers for that very purpose. The flower’s essence heals the stricken soul.

Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled on ClevelandClinic.org says,  “Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.” What a nice way to say “Love” on Valentine’s Day!

            We’re taking orders for heart-shaped fudge for Valentine’s Day until Friday, Feb. 10.

Who would you like to give some love to this Valentine’s Day?