Summer Recipe: Salted Caramel Ice Cream

The salted caramel flavor train is sweeping the nation and its next stop is right in your kitchen! Last month we gave you a skinny margarita recipe, and now that summer’s here it’s time to indulge. You’ll need an ice cream maker, so if you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one from a neighbor or friend! Here’s our recipe for homemade salted caramel ice cream:

caramel

(source)

Equipment

  • Ice cream maker
  • 10-inch heavy skillet
  • 2 medium-sized bowls
  • Small, heavy saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Large bowl
  • Airtight container

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs

Step One: Heat 1 cup of the sugar in a dry, 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir it with a fork so that the heat distributes evenly. When it begins to melt, stop stirring and cook it by picking up the skillet and swirling it around so that it melts evenly. When the sugar takes on a dark amber color, it’s time for Step Two!

Step Two: Add 1 and ¼ cups of heavy cream to the sugar (this might spatter, so be careful!) and cook until all of the caramel (AKA dark, melted sugar) has dissolved. Move this mixture to a bowl and then stir in the ½ teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pro tip: if you don’t have two ½ teaspoon measuring spoons, use the same spoon for dry ingredient first, then the wet ingredient last. That way you’ll end up with the right amounts of both.

Step Three: Bring milk, the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Stir occasionally.

Step Four: Lightly whisk eggs in a medium-size bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour it back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a custard-like consistency appears and coats the back of the spoon, registering 170 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Do NOT let the custardy mixture boil!

Step Five: Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and then stir in the cooled caramel. Chill the custard, stirring occasionally, until it’s very cold – this will take between 3 to 6 hours. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker (it’ll be soft), then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the freezer to firm up.

This recipe will last you a whole week, so once you’re done be sure to save some to show off what a cooking maestro you have become!

Need more inspiration? Check out our Idea Book and learn more about how to take your hardscape to the next level.

 

Memorial Day Grilling Tips & Ideas

The first thing that comes to mind when planning a Memorial Day get-together is the age-old query, “what are we going to eat?” Typical Memorial Day fare includes hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. This year, feel free to break tradition and grill up something new with some of these ideas:

Kebabs

Kebabs are a staple of grilling events, but have you tried any unconventional combinations of foods on your skewers? Here are some that are sure to deliver on flavor:

  • Peaches, pork, pineapple and sweet Vidalia onion
  • Pineapple, red bell pepper, chicken, and shredded coconut
  • Curry-marinated beef, zucchini, cherry tomato and potato
  • Eggplant, lemongrass tofu, yellow squash and cherry tomato

To make the most of your meats and vegetarian equivalents, you’ll need a good seasoning or rub to anchor the flavor so you don’t end up with a bunch of tasteless food sticks. For a good chicken and pork rub, try Rufus Teague’s Meat Rub. For any and everything, try Konriko’s Greek seasoning. There’s a world of flavor out there and there’s likely to be someone local with an online spice apothecary – and being able to buy local is always a plus.

kebabs

(image source)

Burgers

There’s a world of possibility out there when it comes to burgers. Entire restaurants have been dedicated to serving up dozens of types of burgers with a wide array of flavor infusions. To create something memorable this year, fold in a little bit of brown sugar to create a sweet and rich flavor. For a richer flavor, fold in minced garlic. Don’t go buck wild loading your burger with a lot of junk unless you want meatloaf.

Whatever you do, season your burger liberally and don’t add salt until the patties are formed. And once they’re on the grill, flip them as often as you’d like. It helps them cook faster and distribute flavor evenly. And once they’re done, be sure to have plenty of toppings set out so everyone can deck out their burger.

burgers

(image source)

Grilling Tips

You can use gas or charcoal to grill. Gas burns cleaner, but some people prefer the smoky flavor you get from grilling with charcoal. If you’re trying to stay environmentally friendly while entertaining, go with gas. If you want to be kind to the earth and still get that smoky flavor, you can just use additive-free lump charcoal (AKA charred wood), and don’t use lighter fluid.

Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any lingering bacteria). If your grill is heated properly, it will sear foods on contact without drying it up or causing it to stick to the grill. Searing may not seal in the juices of whatever you put on the grill, but it causes them to caramelize, making the flavor rich and decadent. To reduce sticking, oil the grill rack when it’s hot with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel.

Now for the fun part: cooking the marinated the meat. Marinades will drop some serious flavor bombs into your food. You need to make sure that the marinades are soaked in before you toss the meat on the grill or else you’ll get some fiery Pompeii-esque backsplash. Once they start to look done, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature to make sure the meat is ready. If you are making kebabs and are worried about some of the pieces falling off the skewers and into the grill, put a grill basket below the grill rack to catch any runaway foods.

sauces

(image source)

For safety, keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to douse the flames of any flare-ups, since flare-ups resulting from dripping fats can compromise the flavor of the meats and also be a general nuisance.

When the meat is ready, let it sit on a platter for about ten minutes so the juice can distribute evenly and so you don’t burn your palette!

Party Time!

Now you’re ready to grill. Be sure to share some of your favorite foods to grill and let us know how your grilling adventures turn out!

Cinco de Mayo Skinny Margarita Recipe

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

We all know it’s hard to unwind completely with a margarita when you’re thinking about those empty calories from sugar. So we’ve got a guilt-free margarita recipe for you (not that you should feel guilty for enjoying a treat, for goodness’ sake). Unwind without spiking your blood sugar level with this easy, delicious recipe:

  • 3 ½ cups of strawberries
  • 2 ½ cups of crushed ice
  • ½ cup of tequila
  • ½ cup of fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • Lime or orange wedges (optional for garnishing)

Combine strawberries, ice, tequila, lime juice, sugar and liqueur in blender and process until smooth. Pour into four large glasses and serve immediately (185 calories per serving).

margarita

Photo courtesy of Last Shred of Sanity

Tip: If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of squeezing a half-cup’s worth of juice out of fresh limes, try Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice. It’s delicious and a close second to freshly squeezed citrus.

No margarita recipe is set in stone, so feel free to improvise and use this recipe as a jumping off point! Use peaches instead of strawberries, lemon juice instead of lime, or get wild and toss some fresh grated ginger in there. Using fresh (or frozen) whole ingredients helps reduce the need for sugar and artificially-flavored syrup. Because who needs strawberry-flavored syrup when you’ve got the real deal? And with summer right around the bend, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of fresh produce.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy some leisure time this Cinco de Mayo with some special people.

And if you’re serious about healthy outdoor living, don’t forget to enter our sweepstakes, where you could win a $10,000 outdoor yoga studio, basketball court, or other addition to your backyard!

Recipe of the Month: Smoked Salmon Dip

iStock_000021014254Small

Our recipe of the month is back, and this month it’s a savory smoked salmon dip! This dip takes a mere five minutes to whip up and makes a great party appetizer or a decadent snack.

Here’s what you need and how to make it:

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 12 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill weed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion

In a medium-sized bowl, stir the cream cheese until it’s pliable and yielding. Add the salmon, Worcestershire sauce, dill and green onion and stir well until the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the cream cheese. And that’s it!

If you want to add a bit of kick to it, add a few drops of hot pepper sauce into the mix. If you’re not a fan of smoked salmon, you can substitute smoked rainbow trout or another smoked fish. If you’re watching calories, substitute some of the cream cheese (though no more than half) with fat free or 2% milkfat plain Greek yogurt (it sounds weird, but it’s basically sour cream without the fat and it’s loaded with protein!).

Serve with crackers and if you still have leftovers and you’re feeling adventurous, spread some on a bagel.

And there you have it. Now you’ve got something new to bring to a party or to debut at a get-together of your own.

Recipe of the Month: Traditional Wassail

iStock_000001436037MediumIf you’ve ever celebrated the holidays with someone of English ancestry, you may have had the pleasure of sharing a pot of delicious wassail. Wassail was originally considered a symbol of greeting and celebration. Drinking was often accompanied by caroling and general merriment, which makes it perfect for the winter season. Wassail, which means “be you healthy” or “be whole,” is a hot mulled cider traditionally enjoyed with others as an ancient southern English ritual intending to ensure a good cider apple harvest the next year.

So how exactly does one go about concocting this drink from olden days? It may have a rich history, but it’s very easy to whip up. You only need six ingredients, none of which require traveling back in time to the English courts:

  • 2 quarts of apple cider
  • 2 quarts of pineapple juice
  • 2 cups of orange juice
  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Start by combining the apple cider, pineapple, orange and lemon juices in a large pot over low heat. Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and serve.

You can serve wassail hot or cold, though it is traditionally served hot. If you’d like it to be less tart, you can quarter the lemon juice or add more cider. Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your palette. (Ghosts from King Arthur’s Court are not going to come haunt you for breaking tradition.)

And voila! Fresh, homemade wassail. Enjoy!

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Orange-Scented Mulled Wine

mulledwine

Don’t let the cold weather discourage you from enjoying your outdoor space this winter — all you need is a few blankets and a tasty beverage to keep you warm. This Mulled Wine recipe is one of our favorite remedies for frosty nights. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 8 to 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
  • ¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • Thin orange slices (optional)

Preparation

  1. With a vegetable peeler, pare 8 thin strips zest (4 in. by ½ in.) from orange. Juice orange, and reserve juice.
  2. Wrap cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.
  3. In a nonreactive saucepan, crush orange zest and 7 tablespoons sugar with a wooden spoon to release oils from zest. Add reserved orange juice, wine, and spice packet. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 30 minutes. Discard spice packet and orange zest.
  4. To serve, heat wine, covered, over medium heat just until steaming. If you like, stir in liqueur and more sugar to taste. Ladle into heatproof glasses. Garnish with thin orange slices.

From Sunset 2009