Monday, February 24, 2014

#PartyLikeAJournalist

Fun fact: the cool way to spend a Friday night in Roswell in the '90s was to cruise Main Street, including taking a spin through the Sonic Drive-In downtown.

Yes, I meant 1890s.

I'd taken the institution of Sonic's happy hours for granted until I moved to Utah. I think there was one in Utah County to serve 500,000+ people. Fortunately, it was in Provo, so every time I needed a fix it wasn't a huge problem. When I was in high school, I tasted my first lemon-berry slush. It was slushy and lemony and strawberry-y, and I always got so frustrated at how quickly all the liquid was gone, leaving me with fruity-tinged ice.

I was not thinking of that slush when I was shopping for ice cream ingredients on Saturday. I actually was planning to make berry ice cream, since berries were on sale everywhere. I bought lemons on a whim. I made strawberry lemon ice cream. It is solid stuff.

(Now, I know what at least some of you are thinking -- that strawberry ice cream is disgusting. This is absolutely true if you are buying it in a carton from a store. Do not waste an ice cream purchase on that. Homemade strawberry ice cream, however, is a different beast entirely. It tastes like strawberries and cream. I guarantee you, when you make your own strawberry ice cream, you will not think strawberry ice cream is anything but divine. You also may never be able to buy ice cream again because you're always comparing it to homemade. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

On an unrelated note, if I every make this ice cream into ice cream on a stick, I'm going to call them Whimsicles! (Trademark pending.)

Anyway, ice cream. I am not going to tell you how much I've eaten since I made it. I am definitely not going to tell you that I'm eating it out of the container right now, at 10:30 a.m., before I go to work.


Food does not have to be pretty to taste good, but it's really fun when it is.

This recipe is adapted from two recipes from "The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook Ever" by Peggy Fallon, which I can also highly recommend.

Ingredients
2 pounds (about six cups) of rinsed and hulled strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
3 large lemons
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk (I used skim. I suspect it doesn't matter.)
2 egg yolks
1/2 to 3/4 cups lemon juice
2 tsps vanilla

1. Put the strawberries in a bowl and mash them with 1/4 cup sugar. Get them good and juicy, although I highly recommend leaving small chunks of strawberry. I think it adds to the authenticity of the ice cream. Keep them small, though. I discovered I didn't have a potato masher and so did rather a poor job of the mashing, leaving me with large chunks of strawberry. The problem with that is when the ice cream has been in the freezer, you get large, extremely solid fruit chunks.
Set aside for an hour or so while you make the custard.

2. Thoroughly wash the lemons, because you're using that peel. Lemon zest adds great flavor. Trust me. Zest them with a paring knife or a cheese grater; just make sure you're only getting the yellow peel and not the white stuff that you find in citrus. Put the zest and 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor; process for about 30 seconds until the zest is in small pieces and the sugar is evenly mixed. Don't worry if the zest is still large enough to be noticeable. You can strain it out later if you need to.

3. Mix the cream, half and half, milk, one cup of sugar and the lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. You can use a different combination of milk products. You can even go healthier and not use heavy cream. However, if you want the creamiest, most delicious ice cream, you need some fat in there. If you're feeling guilty, keep in mind that ice cream is not a health food. If you want healthy, eat a carrot. If you want delicious, continue.

4. Cook for six to eight minutes or until it's hot. DO NOT BOIL IT YOU WILL NEVER GET OVER THE REGRET OF ACCIDENTALLY BOILING THE CUSTARD. Stir occasionally.
5. Put the two egg yolks in a bowl; whisk with a fork.

6. When it is hot, slowly pour a cup of the custard into the egg yolks; whisk it until it's smooth. Then slowly pour that mixture into the custard and put it back on the burner on medium-low heat. Cook and stir frequently until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (I'm pretty sure heavy cream is always thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Generally, 6-8 minutes is fine. It should be pretty hot all the way through.)

7. Strain the custard (I poured it through a large slotted spoon), pour into a bowl, cover it (not airtight) and let it cool for an hour or so. Juice the lemons.

8. When the custard is lukewarm, add the lemon juice (it should be 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Pour the custard into the strawberries and syrup; mix. Cover and put into the fridge for four hours until it's very cold.

9. Mix according to the ice cream maker's instructions. When it's done, eat a bowl, then put it in the freezer. Eat another bowl when it's set a little more. It miraculously just moved from slushy to soft-serve. If you want to replicate my eating experience, listen to the police scanner while you're eating.

I have made a lot of ice cream in the last four years. Ice cream with peanut butter, ice cream that tasted like an Almond Joy, ice cream with cookie dough, ice cream that included homemade marshmallows and homemade caramel sauce, ice cream that had goat cheese, ice cream that had Nutella. (FYI, I really love ice cream.) And this ice cream, with no chocolate, no fancy ingredients -- and fruit! -- ranks in the top five. And there really only is a top five; I can't pick a top one. (I'm not very handy at concrete decision-making.)

Now there's only one thing left to consider -- why are you still reading this? Go make ice cream!





Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to do salad right: Put it on a pizza crust

I am supposed to eat five to seven servings of vegetables a day.

Crushed it.

And the best part is that, with the exception of a few southerly ends of asparagus stalks, every serving was absolutely delicious. It's days like today that I think I could be a vegetarian. (It's days like Thanksgiving and any day that involves steak that makes me rethink the all-green route.)

The idea for dinner came courtesy of Bountiful Baskets, which I participated in by myself for the first time on Saturday. I got a bunch of normal fruits and vegetables, but I also got asparagus and avocados, which are not abnormal unless you're me and you don't particularly like either of those things so you never buy them.

I'll get to that later. First, I'm going to tell you about the almost vegan pizza I made that was so good I didn't save room for brownies. Brownies. Fully 50 percent of my cookies have "chocolate" in the title, and I ate too many vegetables to be able to eat brownies.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Thyme Pizz'alad with Spinach Crust, Flavored with Garlic and Sprinkled with Awesome.



I know, right?

The idea came because I had a lot of spinach and lettuce and there's just no way I'm going to eat that much salad. Salad is delicious when it has lots of colors, flavors and textures; when all you have are greens and tomatoes, but no salad dressing, it's really just a LOT of greens and tomatoes. The spinach became the crust. The lettuce and tomatoes, mixed with a little Parmesan cheese and thyme-infused oil, went on top of the pizza. The entire pie went on the table, where I forewent the pizza cutter (I don't have one) and pulled it apart by hand.

Here's what you need for the crust, which is adapted from All Recipes.

1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast
1.5 cups warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
2 cups fresh spinach
3.5 cups flour

1. Put the yeast, sugar and water into a large mixing bowl; let it sit for about 10 minutes until foamy.
2. Put the spinach into a food processor and process until it's in small bits. (You can cook it if you prefer, but fresh spinach is bright and fluffy and delightful and cooked spinach is a dark, goopy mass.) When you're processing, do NOT stick your spoon or spatula into the food processor while it's going. No matter how good you think you're going to be at not sticking the utensil into the blade, you will end up with a chopped up utensil and flying spinach on your cabinets.) 
3. When foamy, add the olive oil and salt; mix. Add the spinach.
4. Add flour, one cup at a time, until it's reached a good texture. It should mostly hold its shape when you're done. You don't want it sticking to the mixer or bowl, but you also don't want it too dry.
5. If you don't have a mixer, you'll have to knead the dough for five to 10 minutes. And get a mixer. When the dough is kneaded, put it in a greased bowl, turn it over to get it all greased and set it aside for an hour to rise. 
6. When it's about doubled in rise, make your pizza crust. You can make one big one, two smaller ones, thick crust, thin crust, whatever. Just go to town. Bake at 400 degrees -- 15-20 minutes for a thick crust, 10 minutes or so for a thin crust. Just watch it closely. 

All right, boys and girls, got your alien-hued pizza crust ready? It's salad time!

I'm going to tell you what I did to make this pizz'alad. If you have vegetables you like in your salad or different kinds of nuts or fruit or dressing or whatever, put it on. There are as many types of pizz'alad as there are types of salads.

1. Heat up 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium. When it's warm, add half a tablespoon of thyme and 1/2 a cup of pine nuts. ($19.99 a pound is a good price for pine nuts. I know, it hurts.) Cook for two minutes and add minced garlic. If you've invited me over for dinner, put in three or four or seven cloves of garlic. If you have less of an obsession, two to three is good. Cook for another two minutes until nuts are golden, then remove from heat. If you tasted the oil at this point, it would taste like thyme. (And, if you're only using half the pizza dough, cook all of this, use half and save the other half for next time.)
2. Tear up lettuce leaves, slice tomatoes, put into a bowl.
3. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. You will not regret the extra two minutes to grate it yourself.
4. Pour the oil over the salad, add a tablespoon of vinegar. White is fine, as would just about any other vinegar. I only had white. If you use balsamic you'll get a more intense flavor; if you only want the lightness and tang vinegar offers, try red or white wine or apple cider vinegar. 
5. Mix it all together and put it on the still hot from the oven pizza crust. It should be hot enough that the crust melts the cheese. 
6. Eat. And keep eating until your pizza pan looks like this.

90% what the pan looked like when I was done, 10% my rockin' leopard print pajama pants
Between the crunchy pine nuts, the tang of the tomatoes, the fact that I love garlic so much, the warm bread -- it's the best salad I've had in a long time. Plus, spinach and garlic are full of antioxidants, and romaine lettuce has all sorts of nutrients. (I forbid you from using iceberg, but green or red leaf is OK.) The crust is all whole wheat flour, all the fat is good and there is so much flavor I can't even take it.

As for the brownies -- well, that's where my errant avocados went. Wish my tastebuds luck! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Every kiss begins with garlic

I missed Valentine's Day.

Now, I didn't actually miss it; I both remembered it and noted it, and now that it is past I don't feel any grief because it's gone, so I don't miss it in that sense either. But I did miss what is a glorious opportunity to be sarcastic about Valentine's Day on my blog.



Tomorrow night is Relief Society activity night in my ward. I already had a flier and I can't go because of work, but when I discovered they had chocolates taped to them, I quickly repented. The above was my fortune. 

My first crush? I am two weeks shy of 32. I first figured out that boys were attractive when I was about 5 and my best friend, who was a boy, came over with his family to go Christmas caroling and I kissed him under the mistletoe. I once got to be stage-married to this guy in our fifth-grade class production and then we met up at a church Halloween party and it was like being on a date for 10-year-olds. (It may have been one of my more successful nights with someone from the opposite sex.) I once lip-synced NSYNC's "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You" to the poster of Prince William on my wall. And just to drive home what we're dealing with here in the way of remembering my first crush, I've picked out a few of my favorite boy-themed excerpts from my 1996 journal pages. *Words in red are editorial comments by 32-year-old Heidi.

  • "Also, Roswell has next to no cute guys. Please don't think I'm boy crazy, but I'm entitled to my opinion." This was followed by a list of cute guys. I think maybe I was boy crazy.
  • "He has a dark complexion, brown hair, gorgeous brown eyes, a great smile and personality." Said of a crush. He did have brown hair. He did not have a great personality.
  • "He is cute! He plays sweeper on the Sierra soccer team, I at least had good taste in one aspect. refs soccer, has the cutest red hair I've ever seen, This was before I saw "Brave" or met Fred Weasley, this charming smile and a very charming manner." He was 14. Charming did not describe any aspect of this boy. Subsequent years proved he was not even a particularly nice person.
  • "I also really like Matt ******. I have been dreaming about him all day." 14-year-old Heidi needed a hobby.
However, I am pleased to announce that I do in fact remember my first crush, who actually got a mention in one of the journal pages I perused looking for the above gems. (I'm not holding back, it just wasn't juicy enough to share.) I was about 8 and I liked this boy from the other ward. My best friend had a crush on this guy's friend. One time in church, before sacrament meeting began, us girls were sitting next to each other in about the middle of a pew, and the boys started walking in our direction, with the boy we each liked headed for us! So we switched places -- and they switched places so they were still headed for us! It was magical! *Several weeks ago I read an article about how many of our memories didn't actually happen, but they're implanted via all sorts of means that probably include alien probes. I'm guessing, 24 years later, this memory is one of those. Regardless, I had a crush on this guy.

Well, now that we've got that out of the way, let's move on to more important things -- food! I've been planning to blog about food for about six weeks now because we kept eating really good food. Over Martin Luther King Day weekend my brother and his girlfriend came down and we grilled pizza, then Sam came down and we made lemon strawberry poppy seed pancakes, then Mom and I made Superbowl Sunday fresh coconut cake (and ate half of it one night; yeah, I'm owning that). And one day, when I have a little more time, I will tell you about the day I made honey butter cookies and burned the back of my throat because I was eating them so quickly, even though baking the dough made me sad inside because the dough was so honeylicious.

That's what she said.

But then something happened that changed my life: I met this guy.


Not my mom. She's not a guy.
Look at that pizza! It's from West Crust Artisan Pizza, which according to the Food Network is the best pizza place in Texas. I agree. (To be fair, I have not eaten at probably 99.9 percent of the pizza places in Texas. However, it is the best pizza place at which I have eaten in Texas.) There is no meat on that pizza, and you sort of get the feeling as you're eating it that had it had meat, everything would have been ruined.

Spinach, artichoke, bread, Parmesan, awesome 
I love food. That's all.

Well, not totally all. This blog post, while it will no doubt be hailed as a literary masterpiece that will change people's lives, was a distraction from the post that I will write tomorrow (tomorrow being a fluid time period meaning "sometime after right now"). The world is messed up. We have got to change things. 

And I think we should start with good food. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

#TEDxTexasTech #mademethink


I'm spending my first Saturday in the LBK in an auditorium at the Texas Tech Law School, listening to people talk about subjects I had no idea were this fascinating. (3D printing -- who knew?)

The inaugural TEDxTexasTech event is probably the most interesting thing that's ever happened in a law school. I found a woman who has such a similar dating persona that I wanted to jump up and down, then hug her. I've laughed at jokes told by a robot, admired the artistry of Burning Man and gotten tears in my eyes as a young Pakistani woman pleaded to be considered an American. The speakers have talked about language, science, technology, overcoming adversity, becoming smarter and really helping the poor, not just helping ourselves feel better about helping the poor. 

I've learned that being the first follower is just as hard and just as important as being a leader, that "impossible" should always be followed with "challenge accepted!" and that our emotions dictate so much of who we are and what we do. (I've also been blown away by the technology tha is out there. What some people can make computers do is unreal.) I've also done some introspection, obviously, and one thing is clear -- I need to become a computer programmer. 

Psych! Sort of. In all seriousness, though, I need to get to know myself a lot better. Either I don't know where I want to end up, or I'm ignoring it because it's hard. 

One thing, more than anything else, that was said today, is sticking to me: Don't be afraid to fail. 

Because I am in fact wickedly afraid of failure. When I worked at Target after my mission, I hated running into people I knew and was quick to explain why I was there instead of off doing something better. I still look back on my year as editor of the college newspaper with some shame because I didn't accomplish what I wanted to. I didn't teach and baptize as many people on my mission as many others. (As if God is keeping a score sheet?) 

The secondary question here is, why am I so afraid of failure? Really, what's going to happen--I don't have any money or a job and have to move home? Been there, done that --twice. I realize I'm not good at something I wanted and lose a dream? Sad, yes, but nowhere near as sad as never trying it. I wasn't good at pole vaulting in high school, but I have never forgotten the thrill of flying even just those few feet. 

The primary question is, what would I be doing if I wasn't afraid of failure? 

Well, I suppose I would be flying.