Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blackberry Ice Cream

I think the best thing my hubby did after making our little raised rock garden in the backyard, was to train some wild blackberry bushes to grow over our back fence.  These last few years we have really been enjoying our mini harvest of berries.  We've made cobblers, crisps, blackberry pancakes, blackberry syrup, and of course, blackberry ice cream with our Cuisinart 2-quart ice cream maker.  There is just something simple and magical that happens when sweet cream and berries get together.

Beautiful blackberry ice cream
I searched the interwebs high and low for an easy recipe.  It seemed every single one I found had eggs in it.  Some kind of eggs or egg yokes and tempering.  Tempering is the scariest cooking term I can think of.  It's the process of mixing a hot cream liquid in with eggs.  Do it right, and you have a heavenly custard.  Do it wrong, and you've got sweet scrambled eggs.  Maybe I will one day be brave enough to attempt my all time favorite dessert creme brule' and blog about it for you (a thought that makes my stomach twist in knots). For now I looked at all the online recipes and immediately thought, I don't want to ruin a beautiful bunch of blackberries with scrambled eggs.  So I decided to pretend these were blueberries and make almost the same ice cream recipe I did for those, which turned out fabulous!!  First you want to pick some blackberries, about 4-5 cups worth.

backyard blackberries at their finest
Wash and rinse them well.  We like to lay them out on a few paper towels and pat them dry.  Next dump four heaping cups of blackberries into a pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 2 Tablespoons of water, and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. (Printable recipe found at the end of post).

I did not have a lemon in the blueberry recipe but all the online blackberry recipes seemed to have it, so we added it.
Turn the stove to medium heat and stir until the the ingredients combine and the berries start to form a sauce.

You don't want a hard boil here, just a nice simmering to reduce the berries and sugar to a sauce
To help the process along, I got out our potato masher and squished the berries to help them burst.

Why is smashing berries so satisfyingly therapeutic?  I'm not sure, but I like it.
After about 10-15 minutes you will be left with a blackberry syrup of sorts.  The berries have broken down into a lovely rich sauce, and let me tell you, your house will smell completely fabulous.

bubble bubble little sauce

While your sauce is reducing, find a wire mesh strainer and place it over a bowl of about the same size.

When your berry mixture is ready, pour it very slowly into this strainer.  Blackberries have very large seeds (unlike raspberries or blueberries) and this sauce is going to have to be strained to make the ice cream texture more enjoyable.

Oh and by the way, this stuff can get splattery real quick so be careful and pour slow
Now you want to use a spatula and start pushing the berry mixture through the strainer.  All the seeds will be left behind and the blackberry syrup will drip down to the bowl below.

Whoa!  Look at all the seeds left behind! Imagine picking all of those out of your teeth! Ug.
Now if you peek into the bowl below, you will have a smooth, silky, blackberry syrup that is packed with flavor.  Note: You do not have to add any more sugar or anything else to this recipe later.  All the sweetness is added when making this sauce.

Feel free to take a little taste here... you've earned it.
Now you are going to want this mixture completely cool.  We put this in the fridge for a few hours until it was nice and cold.  The next step is to add this sauce to the milk and cream, and if it's still warm it will change the texture of the ice cream.  Okay, so some time has passed, In another bowl you want to add the 3 cups heavy cream and 2 cups of milk.  Pour the chilled blackberry syrup mixture into the cold milk mixture.

Stir gently together until it changes from swirl colors...

The girls love to watch this part
To this lovely shade of purple/mauve

Where the blueberry sauce turned a vibrant purple, the blackberry sauce has some lovely shades of pink in it
Since everything is chilled and ready to go, you can now pour the ice cream mixture into your inner canister of the ice cream machine.  We chill our canister for 12-24 hours before, so it's nice and cold.

Set your timer for about 22 minutes and soon you will have something that looks like this:

Soft serve blackberry ice cream... you can eat it now or send it into a deep freeze for scoopable fun
We like to transfer this back to the 2-quart Pyrex bowl, cover with some plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 5-6 hours, sometimes longer.  When you have it to a solid, frozen consistency, then scoop away and add it to cones, bowls, open mouths of children standing near by...

Blackberry perfection

We loved making up our own recipe for this ice cream.  Smooth, creamy, and the blackberry fruit flavor really comes through.  Here's a link to a printable version of the recipe.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Have FUN With Your Pictures!

When you find something fun, that is easy to use, and makes life easier to boot, you want to share it with others.  This site I found happens to do fun, awesome things with your photos, and best of all it's free.  I am always on the lookout for how to make my blog pictures look more professional, especially when I am doing a demo that has a ton of steps.  I received a tip on this great photo website from another blogger, and it's called Big Huge Labs and you are going to love it as much as I do.

A custom rainbow mosaic I made at Big Huge Labs for my friend Rachel's birthday to post to her facebook wall
I know you are thinking, what's the catch?  Well you can use the website directly from your facebook and Flickr accounts.  This is great because you can access all the pics on these sites and have fun manipulating them.  You are more than welcome to do it that way, though I never really like logging in through public sites, just for security reasons.  They have a second option to register by signing up with your email. This will then allow you to upload full resolution pictures from your computer AND it will let you save your creations back on your computer. Once you create a masterpiece it will then allow you to save a really nice copy (usually around 600x400 or sometimes higher) on your computer.  Then upload them wherever you want.  A friend's facebook wall, email it to them, etc.  Again all of that is free and no spam mail or anything like that.  By the way I am not working for them or anything, just found a great site I wanted to pass on.  :)

They have many ways you can customize your pictures. My absolute favorite is the mosaic maker.  You can choose numbers of rows, columns, and they have some predetermined shapes too.  You can pick the color of the borders and how thick they are.  I will use mosaics a lot in my cooking demonstrations such as this:

You can make custom birthday greetings for friends and love ones on their facebook pages

This is my sister in law Jenny.  She loves super model hair flips, princess waves, and nacho cheese bugles!

You can change the border colors

You can make long step by step instructions for those pinterest posts:

And that is only ONE feature they offer.  You can select cool borders and frames for your pics, put special effects on them, make movie posters, add comic captions on your pics... I haven't even tried them all.  Just the mosaic maker is worth the email registration.  Here I just tried the caption maker:

Hey that was fun.  I can add Santa hats using that same "captioner" function

Ho ho ho it's Christmas in July
Oo I just tried the "billboard" option... choose from a sign on a street, a sidewalk, Broadway, or a forest Ranger sign.  Hilarious.

They do have some things on the website that you can buy.  Make custom calendars, coffee mugs, and high resolution prints of your creations for purchase, but seriously everything I've done over there has been free and really fun.  It's absolutely great if you are just going to use it on line for blogging, facebook friends, or any other kind of social media.  So go upload a photo right now and have some fun!  Thank me later.  :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blackberry Cobbler Cake

So, I'm not quite sure what to call this thing.  Is it a cobbler?  Is it a cake?  If you have two cups of blackberries (or any fruit) at your disposal and a few other staples you can whip one up... and the one thing I know for sure is that it is delicious, no matter WHAT you call it.  This is another recipe I am testing out from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman's cookbook.  She definitely calls this thing a cobbler.  My only trouble with that is that growing up, our cobblers were fruit on the bottom, with globs of sweet biscuit dough on top.  This is just the opposite, with a sweet easy batter on the bottom, with berries sprinkled on the top and baked in.  Either way, you are going to want to make this as soon as humanly possible.

I'm calling this blackberry cobbler cake, just to be safe.

You only will need a few ingredients:

1 stick of butter (melted)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of self rising flour (*See note below)
1 cup of milk
2 cups of washed blackberries
1/4 cup of sugar for the topping

*Note.  Ree says to use self rising flour, which I did not have on hand.  I also didn't want to go out and buy a whole 5-pound bag of self rising flour for just one recipe.  A quick Google search will give you an easy substitution using regular all-purpose flour, which more people will have in their pantries and I will show that below.

Okay first you want to melt your stick of butter in the microwave:

I did 20 seconds at time until it was melted - once melted, set aside

Next, add 1 cup of sugar to a medium bowl

Now here comes the flour.  Ree says 1 cup of self rising flour...

So the secret to make regular AP (all purpose) flour into self rising, simply add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  There are many versions and ratios out there on the baking powder, salt, and flour amounts, this is the one I chose to try.

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt turn AP flour into self rising flour

Next add 1 cup of milk and whisk the batter together

That was a lot of pale ingredients in one place, no?  Let's add some color next

Remember your melted butter?  Now is the time to stir it in.

Pour the batter into a baking dish

This I believe was a 2 or 3 quart baking dish

Next you want to add your blackberries.  We are fortunate to have some blackberry bushes growing over the fence in our backyard and the girls loved helping daddy pick enough for our little cobbler/cake here.  We washed and patted them dry.

Next add or sprinkle in 2 cups of blackberries on top of the batter in the baking dish.

Spread out the berries evenly

Then take and sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar all over the top of the cobbler cake

This will turn into sort of a brule' type topping.  It will also crisp up the edges into a divine crunchy golden delight
Put it in a 350ยบ oven for one hour, or until golden brown and bubbly.  Ree also suggested sprinkling another Tablespoon of sugar over the top the last ten minutes of baking time... we did that... we are rule followers.

After that you can let it cool a bit and serve it warm, or serve it a bit later when it's completely cooled with a bit of whipped cream.

This is a fabulous way to use 2 cups of blackberries.  YUM.
And with whipped cream?? Even BETTER!


We took this over to my mom's house last night after she invited us over for an impromptu dinner.  Let's just say it was the hit of the evening.  So for now the great debate rages on.  What do you say this is.... is it a cake, is it a cobbler, or my newfangled hybrid name of cobbler cake??

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Peach Mango Slurpee

We are still trying new ways to use our 2-quart ice cream maker.  We made root beer Slurpee/slushies with much success and it says in the directions you can use any liquid.  You can even use sugar free mixes such as crystal light or lemonade.  We are not Kool Aid drinkers are here, but we were at the store the other day and I though the girls could pick some flavors to try for the sole purpose of making some slushies.  Hey for $.10 cents a pack you can't go wrong there.  I thought the best flavor to try would be Peach Mango, mostly because it was lighter in color, and therefore, in my mind, less likely to stain gaint fake cherry smiles on their faces or worse, never come out of the carpet.

Cool and refreshing peach mango slushies
Simply make a pitcher of the Kool Aid like normal.  Pour 6 cups of the liquid into the pre-chilled inner canister (we freeze ours overnight or at least 12 hours so it is nice and cold), and turn the machine on.

A mango peach pool of deliciousness

After 20 minutes your drinks will be ready.  See how much it slushed up?

Did I mention you can slush up adult-type drinks in this same manner?

After that, gather your glasses and find a few straws.  (For the kids we used sippie type cups that came with lids and straws, great for the no spill factor).  Then high-tail it outside (especially if it's still nice and warm like it has been here the last month) and have a little treat.  Again, you can also make sugar free versions of this for guilt free enjoyment.  An alternative to this if you don't have an ice cream maker is to freeze the juice into ice cube trays, then throw them into the blender with a little extra juice, and pour into glasses.

I always think this frozen concoction is going to turn back into a liquid the second it gets out of the machine, but this stayed nice and "slurpeefied" for the 20 minutes it took to leisurely enjoy it.

Two peach mango slurpees - a nice little treat.  One for me, one for you!

So all in all I think this turned out pretty good.  The peach mango flavor was rather "light" in comparison to the slap your grandma grape or cherry flavors of yesteryear.  I can't even remember the last time I had Kool Aid, but this was a great way to make a special treat out of it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Crocodile Stitch - Crochet

I have been teaching myself a new crochet stitch over the last few days.  It's call the "crocodile" stitch and it's all the rage this year for yarn addicts across the land.  I thought I would try my hand at it after finally seeing a good tutorial on it by Mike Sellick over on youtube. The pattern resulting from the variegated scales would make a lovely scarf or handbag. 

Pictures of inspiration by zoomyummy,  Mike Sellick, and Catherine Hirst
This is probably not considered a basic stitch, more of an intermediate one, or for someone who has already done some crochet.  It does however use only the the three main basic stitches, such as chain, slip stitch, double crochet.  If you are inspired to learn crochet from these pictures I highly recommend going to youtube and looking up Teresa at Crochet Geek.  She has beginning courses of all the basic stitches, and many many projects up to intermediate and advanced with tutorials, patterns and walkthroughs.  I learned all my crochet basics from her.  In the meantime, if you have a little crochet technique already under your belt and wanted to try this crocodile stitch, I recommend watching Mikeysmail on you tube.

So that is what I did today and here is my first attempt:

The first row of any project is usually somewhat frompy and wonky.  Yes I'm pretty sure those are real words.  The first row tends to twist and is hard to hold onto.  Once you get past the first row, things start falling into place.

My very first attempt at the crocodile stitch  (Using Red Heart yarn and a "J" crochet hook)

Then, following the tutorial, I press on.

The second row helps shore up the "scales" and now it's starting to look like something.  The pattern goes one row of 4 scales, then a row of three.  This way, you will have an even edge going up the sides.  I decide to try a few more rows.

Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of this!

The hardest part of this stitch is the second half of the scale.  The first side of the scale is from the right side, but the other side of the scale you have to hold the project oddly and almost do five double crochets "backward" or back up the other side of the scale.  It doesn't feel right or look right until you get to the top, then you lay the scale flat, and all of the sudden it looks great.

The back of the project sort of resembles a "ladder" for the scales to climb up on.

I want to find a longer variegated yarn that doesn't change colors so fast, like Mikey had in his tutorial.
After another row I stop to admire my crocodile pattern.

Hey this is getting fun!  Long live the crocodile.
Here are some shots of the crocodile stitch put to good use:

Once you master this stitch there are some darn cute things you can make with it.  I am most inspired by zoom yummy, look how cute this hand bag is!

Petra over at ZoomYummy rocks.  How cute is this?!

She has Etsy shop where you can purchase this pattern so you can make it for yourself!  Another cute thing she made was this scarf.  I love the color!

Pictures used with permission from Petra over at ZoomYummy

I like that solid yarn colors look just as great as variegated ones.

This picture is by Catherine Hirst over at her blog
It seems to be a versatile stitch as well, as I've seen it used in costumes, gloves, and even helps to add some awesome dimension to granny squares in the form of flower pedals. Cute!

Free pattern for this granny square by Joyce Lewis over at Ravelry

So I will keep you posted on my new stitch.  So far it's been a bit of a challenge but ended up being fun.  I'm thinking of finding a softer yarn and try a full length scarf, followed shortly by a little hand bag.  Can't wait to see what I'll make from it. Have you completed any projects with this stitch? Feel free to share. :)
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