Friday, September 30, 2011

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone

Let me warn you, this cake is not difficult to make, but there are LOTS of steps. But pretty please, don't let that scare you from making this one. If you love lemon, this one is for you. It's light and lemony and perfect for hot summer nights. Shoot, this one is good any night. Also, if you are planning to make this cake, make it at least one day ahead to the flavors can merry and get more lemony. I made it the same day and it was good, but it got better as it sat. Or so I was told. The only complaint I had about this cake is that the lemon curd was a little eggy tasting to me and the cake was a tad dry. No one else mentioned this, so maybe it was just me. Next time I will be trying this with another one of my lemon curd recipes and cooking the cake a few minutes shy of the 15 minutes. On another note, if you have another lemon curd recipe you love, use it here or try this one!

First step in this cake is making the lemon curd - you need to do this at least the night before because it will need to cool and firm up in the fridge. Lemon curd is easy to make right at home in your own kitchen, so there is no need to go buy some from the store. All you need for this one is sugar, eggs, lemon juice and a little butter. Put everything in a bowl using a double boiler and cook and whisk (don't stop whisking!) for about 10 minutes or a thermometer reads about 160 degrees. You will know when it gets close because it gets super thick and creamy. Once it's thick, stir in the butter until melted and then chill. Make sure you put plastic wrap right on top of the curd so it does not get a film. It's like when you get film on homemade pudding. No one likes that film. It's just nasty. Oh, and if you think you got some eggy lumps in there (it's happened to me before), just pass it through a fine mesh strainer before you chill it and you are good to go. You can even make this a few days ahead too! Here's how I did it (full recipe at the end of this post).

so many lemons

picked up this little juicer in the cooking clearance section at target for a dollar. Always search that section for good kitchen items!

whisking that curd

adding butter to the thick curd

straining to remove lumpies

Okay, curd is done and chilling. Now on to the cake. Are you tired yet? Buck up and wake up. It's time for cake! This cake is a spounge cake and take lots of egg whites and whipping. After seperating the whites and yolks, whip the yolks and sugar until fluffy. Then, in another bowl (you will need lots of bowls), beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks. Fold in the whites to the yolk, keeping it light and fluffy. Then add in the dry goods and fold in until just mixed. Before you bake these, make sure you line your pans with parchment. If you don't, you will not get these out of the pan. There is no non-stick spray used here. Pour evenly into pans and bake. They will be lightly brown and smelling yum.


line with parchment!

this is what stiff peaks looks like

folding the yolks and whites

baked and cooling

We are almost there. Now on to putting this bad boy together. Once the cakes are cooled, cut each one in half, so that there are four layers total.  Place one layer on a plate, but make sure to lay down parchment strips like this so that you can have a clean plate after frosting. Once the first layer is down, brush the cake with 1/4th of the lemon simple syrup, then 1/4 cup lemon curd, then the 1 cup frosting (recipe below). Continue with all of the layers until you get to the top and all the lemon curd and syrup is gone. Then cover the cake with the remaining icing and decorate as you wish. I put fresh lemon slices, raspberries and clear sprinkles for crunch, but you don't have to put anything if you don't want. I always feel that decorations make cakes prettier and if the cake is prettier, you will want to eat it. That's just my theory.

you should have seen me cutting these. cut perfectly!

masacarpone cheese, whipping cream and lemon curd make the frosting. YUM.

mixing the mascarpone and lemon curd together

lemon simple syrup

brushing the first layer with syrup

spreading the curd

spreading the frosting

all layered and frosted

all decorated and ready to eat!

Woo, are you tired yet? I am. 

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone (from

Lemon curd
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


6 large eggs, separated
14 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Filling and frosting

2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese

For lemon curd:
Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until thickened and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter; whisk until melted. Transfer 1 cup curd to small bowl for spreading on cake layers. Reserve remaining curd for filling. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of both curds. Chill overnight. 

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with parchment paper (do not grease pans or parchment). Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy. Fold half of whites into yolk mixture, then sift half of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt over and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining whites, then sift remaining flour over and fold in just until combined, being careful not to deflate batter. 

Divide batter between pans and smooth tops. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in pans on racks. Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch-diameter cardboard rounds, tapping on work surface if necessary to release cakes. Remove parchment paper. Cut each cake horizontally in half (layers will be thin). 

For syrup:
Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice. 

For filling and frosting:
Beat whipping cream and sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone to lemon curd in medium bowl and whisk until blended. Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture. 

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush with 1/4 of syrup. Spread 1/4 cup lemon curd over, then 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer and brush with 1/4 of syrup and spread with 1/4 cup lemon curd and 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Repeat with third cake layer, syrup, lemon curd, and filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Brush with remaining syrup, then spread remaining lemon curd over.  Spread remaining lemon-mascarpone filling as a frosting over sides of cake. Cover cake with cake dome or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


No, I am not talking about the super expensive truffles (which by the way, I have never purchased before). I am talking about rich, creamy, chocolaty truffles. I have seen lots of recipes for truffles and have always wanted to make them, especially during the holidays, but just never got around to making them - until now. I had left over cream in the fridge from making homemade strawberry ice cream and thought this would be the perfect way to use up the ingredients I already had. Why not, right?

Truffles seem fancy, but they are super easy to make. All you need is heavy cream, chocolate and whatever flavorings you might want. Seriously, that's it. The hardest part is probably waiting for the heavy cream and chocolate mixture to cool. Other then that it is a piece of cake. Or a piece of truffle. Wait, that doesn't sound right. Plus, who just wants a piece of a truffle? You have to eat the whole thing! Maybe even have two. These are so good, you will probably want to have two and hide the rest because they will be hard to resist.

For my first truffle experience, I decided to just go straight chocolate and not add any flavorings. Next time I will be trying a raspberry one with chambord, orange with grand mariner, and maybe even mint. Those sound good to me. Do they sound good to you? Like I said, they are easy and you should try these too. I can't wait to make more of these for the holidays and give them away as gifts!

Note- Make sure you use heavy whipping cream when making these and not just whipping cream. It will not turn out the same and the mixture will turn out separated and gross. I learned this the hard way since I had whipping cream left over from the ice cream, not heavy whipping cream. Also, this recipe also says it makes 20 truffles. Ya right. Who eats pea sized truffles. Not me. I got about 9, but you will get 8-10 pending the size you make them.

cream and chocolate

melting away

stir to smooth out lumps
cover with plastic wrap - make sure the plastic is touching the top of the chocolate mixture

once cooled, roll into balls and place into the freezer (if you are not coating in chocolate like me, skip this step and roll in your favorite topping - cocoa powder, nuts, coconut, etc)

melted dark chocolate and dipping the truffles

truffles dipped and dusted with gold sprinkles.

boxed up and ready for delivery. So cute.

 Chocolate Truffles (adapted from

¼ cup heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Heat the cream, chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, until melted. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the truffle mixture is firm (this will take several hours or overnight).

Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator. With your hands form the chocolate into round bite-sized balls. Line a plate with parchment paper, place the truffles and put in the freezer for 45 minutes. In the meantime, melt six ounces of dark chocolate and one tablespoon of shortening. Once very cold, remove truffles from the freezer and dip into the warm chocolate. I put the truffle on a fork and then spooned over the chocolate and then dipped the bottom to get a full coating. Place back on the parchment and top with sprinkles, nuts or leave plain.

See, I told you it was easy. That and the truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or else frozen for a couple of months. Just bring them to room temperature before you want to serve them and you are ready to go. Who needs Lindt truffles. These are better. Way better.

"Homemade" Lasagna

I think the last time I had lasagna was, well, it was a long time ago. My grandma was in town and Ryan's family was coming over for dinner, and my grandma had the great idea to make lasagna for our family dinner.  You should have seen the kitchen. Sauce was boiling away. In fact, there was even sauce on the wall. Noodles boiling and cheese everywhere. I never had her lasagna before that night, but let me tell you, it was SO good. I thought it was strange that she used cheddar cheese along with mozzarella, but I shouldn't have second guessed her. That and she even put olives in hers. I love olives! I knew she made good stuff, but this was out of this world delicious.

Now, I probably got you all riled up to give you my grandmothers recipe. Sorry, you are not getting it. Well, someday, but not today. The sauce she makes for this takes time to simmer and for the flavors to merry and we just did not have time for that. Ryan was craving lasagna, and apparently I was suppose to make one for his birthday last year, oops. Sorry Ryan! Anyways, we didn't have the time to make the proper sauce, so we used my quick and easy homemade sauce. It's super simple and if you have an hour or more to let it simmer, you are good to go. All you need is two jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Classico), either a pound of ground beef or Italian sausages (casings removed and browned up), red wine, onions, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and seasonings of your choice. Let it simmer and get all yummy. 

Once you have that done and ready to go, boil the noodles and start layering the lasagna. Sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, mozzarella and repeat until you are done. It is a little work, but it's worth it. When I made this, I could have sworn we would have had enough cheese, but I was wrong. I should have listened to Ryan. I'm pretty sure he told me I should get more. Maybe I should start listening to him more! The flavors were good, but it needed a little more ooey gooeyness if you ask me. Nothing beats slicing the lasagna and all that cheese hanging off the spatula. Mmmm.

sweet italian sausage browning (casings removed) and sauce simmering in the back

cooked sausage into the tomato pool

sautee the onions and garlic - LOTS OF GARLIC

green pepper cooking away (softening the veggies before helps speed up the cooking process)

cheese station!

oodles of noodles

cheese station meets lasagna station


finished and ready to bake. I forgot to take a picture when it came out of the oven. oops.

"Homemade" Lasagna 

2 jars spaghetti sauce (use your favorite or whatever is on sale)
1 pound of your favorite meat (sausage, beef, turkey, or no meat for a veggie dish!)
1 head garlic (about 10 cloves), chopped (less if you don't love garlic as much as I do)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups mushrooms
1 cup red wine (use what you would drink, but don't spend lots on a bottle!)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 box lasagna noodles
1 - 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated (one pound for mine, two pounds for cheesy)
1 - 2 containers ricotta cheese (I used low fat here, and again, one for less cheese, two for more)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large skillet and brown your choice of meat. If you are using hot or sweet sausage, remove the casing and break up the meat in the pan like you would do for ground meat. Meanwhile, heat up a large pot and put the two jars of sauce in the pot. Keep this on low so it does not splatter. Once the meat has been cooked, drain if there is fat in the pan and then add the meat to the sauce and stir. In the same skillet, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until softened. Do not have the heat too high as you may burn the garlic. If you do that you have to start all over again. Once the onion is cooked, add to the pot with the sauce and repeat with the bell pepper. Add the mushrooms directly to the sauce and stir all the vegetables and meat together in the sauce.  Next, add the wine, seasonings, salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and let cook for at least an hour. Stir every 20 minutes and add addtional seasonings to taste. When the sauce is ready, remove the bay leaves and throw away.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles as per the directions on the box. Once they are done, pour two cups of sauce onto the bottom of a 9X13 pan. This helps the noodles not to stick.  Then lay down four lasagna noodles and top with enough ricotta to cover. This is a little hard to spread, but just use your fingers. Then pour sauce to cover the ricotta and then sprinkle with mozzarella to cover. Repeat until you have four layers.  On the top of the fourth layer, there will be no ricotta. Pour the remaining sauce on (unless you have a lot leftover - then just use enough to cover the top) and cover with mozzarella cheese.

For ease of transportation from counter to oven, line a baking sheet with foil and place the pan on the baking sheet. This will also help keep your oven clean if the lasagna boils over. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Then, remove pan from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes and then serve!

The best accompaniment for this dish is salad, bread and a big glass of red wine! You can also make this in a disposable foil pan, make a double batch (or more) and freeze. All you need to do is make the lasagna as above, let cool, wrap in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. I would say this would last about 3 months in the freezer and all you would need to do is heat it back up in the oven and you have a hot meal ready to go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Time Favorite Banana Bread

Let me start off by saying that this banana bread is hands down, the best one I have ever made. It always turns out great and is a winner with everyone else that has it. You can make it plain or you can make it with a crumbly topping. Who doesn't love brown sugar, cinnamon and butter crumbilies. If crumbilies is not a word, it is now. There is just something about it that that makes the banana bread extra special.

I always have bananas on hand since I buy a bunch every week and never can finish them all by myself before they start to get too brown and squishy. When that happens, I just pop them in the freezer so I have them on hand to make banana bread (or muffins or pancakes or smoothies). You just pull them out, set them in a bowl and let them get squishy. If you want to speed this up, you can also put them in the microwave on low for a couple of minutes at time to get them to defrost quickly. Either way works. Just be aware that even though the skin on the banana looks yellow and spotty, once it defrosts, it will be black. Don't let that scare you. Just open the peel and the banana will literally slide out! Once you have the bananas defrosted and ready to go, you are almost there. A few more wet and dry ingredients and you are ready to bake this yummy bread. If you are a crumble person (and trust me, just try it - you'll like it!), make sure to put these on before baking and spread them out evenly. You want crumbilies all over. Even in the corners!

This bread is great for breakfast or even for a snack. You can even lower the fat and calories by replacing the oil with unsweetened apple sauce and the eggs for egg substitute. I have done this plenty of time and let me tell you, no one has been able to tell the difference! The other good thing about this bread is that it freezes great. I usually make two loaves at a time - one to have to snack on and one to have in the freezer if guests come over or if I need a quick breakfast one morning. Just take it out of the freezer the night before and it will be ready to eat the next morning.  It tastes just as fresh as when you made it! Are you ready to try this one now? Let's go!

Note - When I made this, the tester came out clean, but after it cooled and  cut into it, it was gooey. I am not sure what happened, maybe the bananas weren't fully mixed in or it just wasn't cooked enough. Maybe it was because this was the first time I made this recipe sans crumbilies. Ya, that has to be it. That has never happened before, but at least the ends were still good. I will be trying this one again tonight, but with crumbilies!

see, told you the bananas got black

swirling flour

baking bread

done and looking good, right?

tester came out clean, but the bread was definitely not done. What happened?

Banana Bread (adapted from The New Cookbook - Limited Edition by Better Homes & Garden)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 recipe streusel nut topping (recipe below)

Grease the bottom of one 9x5x3 inch or two 7 1/2x3 1/2x2 inch loaf pans. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, bananas, sugar and oil. Once blended, slowly add the dry mixture and mix until blended. Fold in walnuts, if using. Spread batter into pan and sprinkle streusel topping over the top.

For the Streusel Nut Topping: In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons flour. Using your hands or a pasty blender, cut in 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional).

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes for one loaf or 40 to 45 minutes for two pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. If needed, cover loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent over browning). Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Even though this recipe says let cool completely, I never follow that rule. I am too impatient to try a slice. It is so delicious straight from the oven and I bet you will have a hard time resisting too when the bread smells up your whole house while it is baking.

Fall Cooking To-Do's

With the official start of fall last Friday and all the pumpkins that are already out  (isn't it too early for pumpkins?!), I have been thinking of all the recipes and I want to make and new ones I want to try. Once the weather cools and gets more fall like (not 100 degrees like it was last week), these will be perfect to start trying and perfecting. When I see a recipe I want to try (whether it is on tv, online or in a cookbook) I write it down right away, but then I end up with notes all over the place! Needless to say it's not very organized and they get lost rather easily. So, I've decided to dedicate this blog to some of the items I am looking forward to making and trying within the coming months. Maybe this will inspire you to put a list together and try some of these recipes too!

Ready, set, here we go:

  1. Fig & Walnut Bread - I have been eying this for sandwiches ever since I got my Williams Sonoma Baking Cookbook.
  2. Crockpot Minestrone Soup - this is a spiced up Weight Watchers recipe. So good and so easy.
  3. Pumpkin Chiffon Pie - I love pumpkin and Ryan says he likes this, so this is a must make.
  4. Garlic Whole Roasted Chicken - Time to master the roasted chicken and not squirm by picking out the innards. Completed September 29, 2011
  5. Homemade Pizza Crust - Been dying to try this and this will be a great rainy day project.
  6. Indoor Grilled Pizza - A must make after making the dough. Perfect dinner for a rainy night.
  7. Baked Potato Soup - This just sounds too good to not try and you can do it in the crock pot. I think if I make this with soy milk, it will be lower in fat and better on my tummy.
  8. Italian Wedding Soup - Homemade chicken meatballs make this a must try. Once of my fave soups.
  9. Banana Cake - Always have tons of bananas on hand and this is another way to use them. It's one layer and just as easy as making bread? Heck yes!
  10. Homemade Apple Sauce - Can't wait to go to apple hill to make this and can it!
  11. Chicken Pot Pie - Attempting to make a low fat version with a puff pastry "crust".
  12. Homemade Cinnamon Rolls - This will be weekend project that I can't wait to try. I made sticky rolls when I moved into my apartment two years ago. Time to try it again. Completed on November 2, 2011
  13. Onion Focaccia - This is for dunking in the minestrone.
  14. Pumpkin Scones with Cranberry Butter - One of my mom's recipes and it's so addicting.
  15. Sweet Potato Hummus - This sounds too good and to weird not to try.
  16. Grilled Portobello Burgers - Can't wait to try these Quinn!
  17. Rustic Apple Galette - Already drooling over this one and can't wait to go apple picking to make this.
  18. Flaky Pastry Dough - Guess I'll need to make this if I want to try the apple gallette. I will master this.
  19. Apricot Pork Loin - This one can be done in the crock pot? I will be trying it and adding my own spin on this one.
  20. Homemade Croutons - Going to attempt to make some as good as Barb's, but that might be hard. Her's were so garlicky delicious!

I could probably keep typing for another hour or so, but we will keep this action item list to a maximum of 20. Here's to hoping I can try to make all of these. Who knows how they will all turn out, but experimenting with all of these will be half the fun! 

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

    A couple of weeks ago, I had a ton of fresh strawberries in my fridge to use and had no idea what to make with them. Of course I could make bread or muffins with them, but I make breads all the time and I wanted to do something different. I could make a smoothie, but I make those a lot and have a stash in my freezer to make smoothies with. After looking through a few cookbooks, it finally came to me - fresh, homemade strawberry ice cream! I already had half and half and cream in the fridge from another recipe, so this was perfect.

    This recipe starts out with a simple tart, yet sweet strawberry puree that I have used in recipes before. Specifically the recipe here, strawberry champagne cupcakes. You can find the recipe there. Even better, this puree is great for topping your ice cream with, on pancakes, or by the spoon full.  I now just realized it would probably be good in cocktails too. Ooh, yum. It also freezes well, so if you have a ton of berries, make a big batch and freeze it for later!

    The recipe is super easy to make, but there are a few steps. First, you start by making the custard. Trust me, this is easier then it sounds and it makes the ice cream so rich and creamy. You whisk the yolks in a stand mixer (or by using a hand mixer) until they are light and fluffy. Then, you heat up the half and half. Slowly add the warmed milk to the yolks and then transfer over to a double boiler (see picture below) and cook until the mixture is nice and thick. This takes about 10 minutes or so.  My tip for this step is to wear a pot holder while you are stirring the mixture - sometimes the steam comes out and burns the hands. Ouchy. Just make sure you keep stirring and don't stop until it's thick. No scrambled eggs wanted here. If you are worried you might have a few lumps, you can strain through a fine mesh strainer to catch anything. Don't worry, it's happened to me and this saves you from lumpies in your ice cream.

    Once the custard has been made, add in the puree and make sure you cool the mixture until very cold. This will take a couple of hours at least, but if you can let it go overnight, that is even better. Just make sure it's cold. That's the most important thing. Let me tell you, this is worth the wait though. So fruity, so creamy and well worth the stomach ache after (hello lactose intolerance!). This would be the perfect dessert for a warm summer night, but you don't need a summer night to enjoy this one. It's a classic flavor that is always great to have on hand.

    This custard is a great base to create your favorite flavor combination - cherry, blackberry, raspberry. Whatever fruit is in season, blend it up and swirl it in. Even better, top it off with some reserved puree for an extra boost of flavor on top. Delish!

    only a few ingredients for this one


    double boiler. If you have a glass bowl, you can use one. I only have metal and it gets hot, so be careful!

    stirring that custard!

    strawberries blending for puree

    stirring the puree into the warm custard

    ice cream churning and smelling so good!

    Homemade Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream (

    2 cups half-and-half
    5 large egg yolks
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2/3 cup strawberry puree 


    In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the half-and-half and the vanilla bean (if using) to the scalding point (the milk begins to foam up). Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Meanwhile in a stainless steel bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy (about two minutes). You can do this with a wire whisk or I like to use a stand mixer. Gradually pour the scalding half-and-half into the whipped egg yolk mixture, making sure you keep whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle. If any lumps do form, strain the mixture first before heating.

    Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until the custard thickens enough that it coats the back of a spoon (170 Degrees F). The term 'coat a spoon' is a technique used mainly as a way to test when an egg-based custard or sauce is done. A spoon, usually wooden, is placed in the custard and, when the spoon is raised, the film of custard on the back of the spoon will stay in place even when you draw a line with your finger through the middle of the custard. Immediately remove the custard from the heat and continue to stir the custard for a few minutes so it does not overcook. 

    At this point stir in the vanilla extract if using. Stir in the strawberry sauce (puree). Cover and let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate the custard until it is completely cold (several hours but preferably overnight).   Transfer the cold custard to the chilled container of your ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once made, transfer the ice cream to a chilled container and store in the freezer.  If the ice cream becomes too hard, place in the refrigerator until softened.

    Scoop and enjoy!

    Eat Drink and Be Merry!

    I keep talking about cookies and vacation and you all are probably wondering where the heck we went on vacation!

    Last year was my first Gorge and Dave Matthews Band experience. And let me tell you, it was AMAZING. I have seen Dave before, but the seeing them at the Gorge is an experience you must have if you ever get the opportunity. The sunsets are beautiful and the music is awesome. How much better can it get with an outdoor venue overlooking the Columbia River with wind turbines in the background? Not much.

    See, told you it was beautiful. Needless to say, we started off our trip with a flight to Oregon to see Ryan's Dad and Barb. Hi Dean and Barb! Oh, wait. I didn't tell you. Ryan is a pilot, so he flew us up and down the pacific northwest that week. How cool, right? Super cool. Side story - the first time he ever took me flying this girl got sick. Not just a little, ALL OVER. Totally embarrassing right? I took Dramamine thinking it would work, but boy was I wrong. I think it made it even worse. Needless to say, after that flight (I don't even think we were in the air five minutes!), I went to see my doctor and she perscribed me these patches you wear behind you ear. Let me tell you, they are a miracle! I don't feel anything and my stomach hasn't hurt yet. Knock on wood! Yes, they give you dry mouth and make you kinda woozy, but it's well worth the other stuff that can happen. Motion sickness is awful, and hopefully you don't have it like I do. It's the worst.

    Okay, enough of that, back to vacation. So, we went up to Oregon for a day, spent the night and then got up super early the next morning to make the next flight up to Quincy, Washington. We made it safe and sound, got to the campground and set everything up. It was defintely warm the few days were were there, but it was a nice change from the year before where it was quite chilly. The campground is about a mile away from the venue, but they have a bus that takes you to and from, so that is really nice. The campground has a little cafe with pretty good food, the showers are usually hot (I had one super hot shower and one freezing shower) and they clean the port-a-potties throughout the day, so they are pretty clean. This year I realized that if I got up early enough, I could get a hot shower and a freshly cleaned port-a-potty. I'm the crazy girl who got up at 6:30 am to shower. Well worth it if you ask me.

    That Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves from camping, to hanging out with some awesome people and best of all, rocking out every night to Dave Matthews The weather was perfect and you didn't even need a light jacket or sweater until you were walking back to the bus at 11pm. This year was not just Dave, there were other bands playing throughout the day, which was really cool. You could go see a few bands, go back to the campground to grab a bite to eat and then head back to see Dave. There were a lot of bands, and we needed up seeing TR3, John Butler Trio, The Roots, Dispatch and we even saw an acoustic Dave and Tim set too. All awesome and all great, but they always saved the best for last - DAVE MATTHEWS BAND! They played my favorite song, Grey Street, and well, honestly, they played a lot of my favorite songs. But, Grey Street is my all time favorite. We got close to the stage, rocked out, sung out loud had a great time.

    listening to a little John Butler Trio before Dave came on!

    night one!

    night three. Guess I forgot to take a picture of night two. oops.

    encore during night three - we escaped the crowed to use the bathroom before our hike back to the buses.

    Nothing like 20,000+ fans to get you in the mood! Everyone is super nice and usually pretty good to deal with - there are always those really drunk people, but for the most part, people are fine. Well, there was the super super drunk guy who decided to relive himself next to me on night three. GROSS. Other then that, they are all nice, I promise. After three days of Dave and camping, it was time for us to head back to Oregon for a few more days of vacation and relaxation. We loaded up the plane and headed back to Oregon. My favorite part of the flight is seeing all the wind turbines. You should see how many pictures I took of those things. Here are a few pictures from our flight!

    Mt. Shasta on our first leg to Oregon

    ooooh ahhhh pretty

    flight from Washington to Oregon. Look at all those turbines. They were EVERYWHERE!
     We got back to Oregon and spent a few days there. It was great to finally take a real shower and relax for a few days. Ryan worked his booty off doing things around the house while Barb and I went into Bend and wandered around Sisters. It was such a great time and I always enjoy going to visit them. I love Oregon, it just smells good up there. I don't know what it is, but it just really smells fresh and piney. Is piney even a word? Well, it is now. I did get a head cold while I was up there and was kinda out of commission for a few days, but that didn't stop us. Our last night in town we went to this super cute restaurant out in Camp Sherman called Kokanee Cafe. Right along a river and the food was good. I had cedar planked salmon with grape risotto. The risotto sounds funny doesn't it? But adding fresh grapes into it added this subtle sweetness that was just right. So good. I thought that since I could taste my dinner that I would be able to taste some of Ryan's super peanut butter and chocolate dessert. Nope. Nothing. Maybe a hint of chocolate came through, but that's about it. Darn. It sure was pretty though.

    kinda dark photo, but mmm pb mouse with dark chocolate coating and a nutter butter on top! I wish I could have tasted this one.

    pretty sunset during our post dinner walk near the cafe

    After a great trip, we headed back home to California. It was good to get away, but it's always good to get home too. We got home on a Thursday and Ryan was headed back down to San Luis Obispo to bring the plane back to his brother and asked me if I wanted to go too. At first, I thought it would best to stay home, rest since I still wasn't feeling good, but then I changed my mind. Live life on the edge and fly to SLO for the weekend! I am sure glad I did and it was a great time. We hiked Bishops Peak (where I almost gave up since I thought I was going to lose my lunch, but we made it!), went to some of our favorite places, saw the Cal Poly men's soccer team play on Sunday and I felt like I was a college student all over again. Okay, not really, but it's fun to pretend. Things are still pretty much the same, but it's always so weird to go back and explore your old stomping grounds for a weekend. We didn't end up getting home until super late that Sunday and I knew I would be paying for it come the next week getting back into the swing of things at work, but it was well worth it. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend, a better vacation and a better captain to spend it all with.

                                                            Here's to next year, captain!