Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Ice Cream Recipe

I’m so excited to share this recipe! I recently bought an ice cream maker and really got into ice cream making and tasting, which can truly be one’s entire hobby. It’s so addictive and even therapeutic. There is something meditative about watching custard swirl and slowly change its texture – it’s just so mesmerizing. What’s even better is being able to taste it throughout the process. Making your own ice cream is surprisingly effortless. I love customizing ingredients and flavors to my own taste. For example, I used to make dairy-free ice cream with coconut milk and cream when I couldn’t eat dairy for a couple of months due to my daughter’s allergy. I also love being able to control the amount of sugar as I don’t like my ice cream too sweet. This is by far my very favorite ice cream recipe. So rich and decadent, yet not at all heavy. The recipe is adapted from Melissa Clark’s master ice cream recipe, featured here.

Ingredients (makes about 2 pints)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cup 2% milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 large egg yolks 

2 vanilla beans

Directions

  1. In a pot, simmer cream, milk, sugar and sea salt, for a few minutes until sugar completely dissolves (do not boil).
  2. Whisk egg yolks for a few minutes. Add some of the milk and cream mixture to egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Add the yolk mixture to the pot with the rest of the hot milk and cream, return to heat and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens enough to cover a spoon inserted into the pot.
  3. Cut vanilla beans, scrape their sides thoroughly and add seeds and pods into the cream mixture. Refrigerate for  at least a few hours, overnight is best.
  4. Remove vanilla pods from custard and transfer to an ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, typically for 20 minutes or so.  Keep frozen and remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

No Sleep? Get Glowing With These Products

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Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today! I finally have some time to share my recent favorite products with you. If you get plenty of rest and are lucky to live in a tropical paradise, you won’t even need these. Those who are tired, pale and have dry and dull looking skin in winter, read on, this post is for you! As a working mom of an infant, I swear by these amazing products. Anyone who can’t get enough sleep and wants to look rested with a perfect glowing complexion, would love these.

Skin79 SPF25 Super Plus Beblesh Balm

This is by far my absolute favorite BB cream and I’ve tried plenty of them, including drugstore and luxe brands. It has pretty light coverage, so it’s perfect for everyday use, has SPF25, blends extremely well, adapts to your skin tone and really smoothes your skin. Skin79 is a South Korean brand (hence don’t be scared by the name “beblesh balm” – this is how BB creams are called on the Korean market). Let’s face it, South Korean skin care market is years ahead of European and North American markets. BB creams existed in Asian markets for decades now, whereas they weren’t even introduced to Western markets up until a few years ago. Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great BB cream from a Western beauty brand! However, for the best value, go to the experts. You can get a luxe quality BB cream from an Asian drugstore brand without paying $50+ for it. I’ve tried a few South Korean BB creams, including other types from Skin79, but I keep going back to this hot pink bottle. It works best for me. I have a very fair complexion, however, the manufacturer says that this product adapts to any skin color. I’ve had several friends whose complexions ranged from fair to medium tried this product, and it seems to be working well! You can read more consumer reviews of this product on MakeUpAlley. For the price ($11-15 on eBay), it’s really worth trying it as you won’t break the bank. Plenty of Asian sellers on eBay carry it, I usually get it from these sellers:

TinaBeautyStore

Sing-Sing Girl

RubyRuby Shop

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector (in Opal)

Becca is a new brand that I recently discovered and I wish I looked into it sooner! It’s pricey, but I’ve been very curious about it as it’s featured in many Lisa Eldridge’s videos. This product is so good, that I’m already eyeing a few more products from Becca. This skin perfector is not your average highlighter as the shimmering particles are so tiny that you just get that glow without having your face look glittery. You can see it in Lisa’s video here (she’s featuring Pearl color when you get to 3 minutes and 30 seconds of the video). Here are also a couple of pics from my look to give you a better idea of how this product looks on the skin – notice how it just gives your skin a glowing shimmer, without making it glittery or sparkly:

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Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Treatment Concealer

To be honest, I’m still searching for a perfect concealer. I find this one to be very good though and it has been my go to concealer for a couple of months now. I will probably try something else next time, just because I don’t think I bought the same concealer twice! It has a pretty good texture and is easy to apply. I also think that it’s not worse than any of the luxe brand concealers that I’ve tried. It gives you a very good coverage, but isn’t heavy. I usually use the applicator it comes with and then blend it with a wet Beauty Blender or just using my fingers if I’m in a rush.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Bronzer (in Park Avenue Princess)

For the rested glowing look, you can absolutely use your favorite bronzer. I got a travel size of this bronzer as a part of my Sephora Beauty Insider 500 points reward box. I really love this product! It has a light, soft shimmer and gives you a nice glowing tan. However, it doesn’t make your skin orange or too dark – a common problem with bronzers. Apply the bronzer under your cheek bones and blend with a big powder brush. Also, I like to add  touches of bronzer all over my face.

Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray

I love using spray toners. This Clinique spray is particularly nice if you want to achieve glowing, dewy look for your skin. Just spray this on your face after you’re done with your makeup. Don’t worry about spraying this over the makeup,  it will actually help set it and give a dewy finish to your complexion.

Potato Rosti with Smoked Salmon and Capers

Potato Rosti (Pancake) with Smoked Salmon

I love breakfast food and am always looking for new breakfast and brunch recipe ideas. Of course, I stick to my favorite oatmeal with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt during the week, but there is nothing better on a weekend than a hearty brunch! When I tried this dish at one of my favorite local tapas places, I knew that it’d make a perfect breakfast! It’s basically a giant potato latke garnished with smoked salmon and capers. What’s not to love, right?! Serve it with some mint yogurt sauce. Delicious!

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

For the rosti

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

Smoked salmon to taste (about 4 oz.)

1 tablespoon capers

Salt

Pepper

About 2-3 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon butter

For the mint yogurt sauce

1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

Handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt

Pepper

Directions

  1. Make the mint yogurt sauce – mix yogurt with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh mint, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

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  1. Julienne potatoes on a mandoline; if you don’t have a mandoline, you could grate potatoes on a cheese grater. I prefer the texture of the julienned potatoes though for this dish!

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  1. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium, add some canola oil and about half of the butter. Transfer the potato pieces into the skillet and press into the bottom to distribute evenly. Cook for about 8 minutes, lowering the heat if needed to make sure it’s not burning. To turn the rosti to another side, cover it with a plate and turn the skillet upside down. Add more canola oil and butter to the skillet and gently transfer the rosti uncooked side down back to the skillet.

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  1. Cook for another 8 minutes or so until the potato is cooked through. Transfer to a plate, season with salt and pepper and arrange smoked salmon pieces on top. Garnish with capers and fresh herbs and serve immediately with the mint yogurt sauce (optional).

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Simply Divine Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today and happy holiday season to all of you! I brought this cheesecake to the Christmas Eve dinner at my friends’ house last night. My friend and a fellow food blogger made an incredible meal and the cheesecake was a perfect way to finish off our feast.

Cheesecake is my very favorite dessert. My mom tells me that when I was little, I had my particular way of eating a cake. I’d just pick on cream filling, icing or custard, without touching the actual cake. When I came to the US and tried cheesecake for the first time, it was love at first bite. Cheesecake embodies all that I love in a cake – no cake, just the luscious, creamy filling.

I’ve always thought of cheesecake as a very difficult dessert to make and was surprised how simple it actually is! I’ve tried a few recipes throughout the years, and this one by far is the best. It’s a modified recipe based on this one from Tyler Florence with some tips from Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart. Don’t be afraid of orange and lemon zest, it adds so much flavor without overpowering this delicate dessert. Baking the cheesecake in boiling water is key. In the past, I’ve tried a recipe that didn’t call for that and while the end result was pretty decent, the cheesecake baked in water is definitely creamier and has that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Ingredients (for a 10-inch springform pan)

Crust

1 1/2 cup honey graham crackers, ground
1 stick butter, softened

Filling

2 lbs. full fat cream cheese (I had 1 lbs. of regular Philadelphia cream cheese spread and 2 8 oz. blocks)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Boiling water (for the baking)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Make the crust – combine ground graham crackers with the butter and mix well with a fork. Arrange baking paper in a springform pan and spray it with a non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the graham crackers mixture into the pan and press the crumbs down into the base. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

cheesecake crust

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  1. Make the filling. Beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes until smooth. Add eggs one by one and continue beating on slow until smooth. Gradually add sugar, lemon and orange zest, and vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Pour over the crust and smooth with a spatula.

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  1. Set the cheesecake pan on a few pieces of aluminum foil and fold the foil around the sides of the pan. This will prevent the water from getting into the pan. Place the cake pan into a larger roasting dish or pan and fill it with boiling water. Transfer the pans into the oven and bake at 350F for about one hour (depending on your oven) until the cake starts browning a bit on the top. It should still jiggle – don’t overcook it as it will firm up after refrigeration.

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  1. Cool for half and hour and place in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least five hours until completely firm. To cut, dip a knife in hot water after you cut each piece. Serve with your favorite fruit spread or fresh berries, it’s also quite perfect on its own!

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Truffled Eggs with Roasted Vegetables

Breakfast of Eggs and Roasted Vegetables

Weekend breakfasts are the best. You don’t have to rush anywhere and can really enjoy making a special, indulgent breakfast. I love hearty, savory breakfasts, but often get tired of same old eggs. I saw a brilliant idea of roasting mushrooms and tomatoes on the vine a while ago on one of Gordon Ramsey’s cooking shows. Adding these to a breakfast plate really brightens it up and makes it look restaurant-quality. Pour some truffle oil over eggs to make this meal completely indulgent.

By the way, you can get cheap and decent truffle oil at Trader Joe’s. Love, love, love Trader Joe’s for amazing finds like this one!

Trader Joe's Truffle Oil

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

4 eggs

1/2 bell pepper, cored and sliced

2 vines with 2-3 baby tomatoes

6 baby mushrooms

1 shallot, sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

About 2 tablespoons truffle oil

Handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Directions

  1. Heat some olive oil in a small pan on medium. Add garlic, shallot and pepper slices. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pepper slices are slightly golden and soft. Add mustard, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

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  1. Heat some olive oil in another small pan on high, add mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover the pan and cook on high for about 3-5 minutes.Turn the heat off and let them rest covered, for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

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  1. Heat vegetable oil in a small non-stick pan. Add eggs and cook for about 5 minutes until whites are completely set while yolks are soft and runny. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped parsley.

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  1. Transfer roasted peppers onto plates and arrange eggs on top. Pour some truffle oil over eggs. Arrange the remaining vegetables on the plates and enjoy with toasted bread.

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Lemon Glazed Cookies

Lemon Cookies

I have to confess that I’ve never in my life made cookies. Yes, I love cooking and although I rarely bake, I’m a pretty good baker, but for some reason I’ve been intimidated by cookies. No joke! This week, my company is having a cookie (of course) bake off contest and I decided to face my fear and try this cookie thing out. After all, I really want that Target gift card!

I wanted to make something easy and different, so this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis has caught my eye. I loved that I didn’t have to refrigerate the dough for hours or even roll it out! I’m also a huge fan of lemon desserts (like this yummy lemon apple cake) so this recipe seemed right up my alley. These cookies turned out delicious! Now, all I have to hope for is to win the contest! Ah well, even if I don’t win it, I’ll have leftovers to enjoy and a great go-to cookie recipe.

I did make some adjustments to Giada’s original recipe  – I had to bake my cookies longer and added more lemon juice to the glaze because 3 tablespoons weren’t enough for 1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to absorb. Also, these cookies definitely look and taste better when smaller, so I suggest scooping no more that 3/4 , even 1/2 tablespoons of the cookie dough for each individual cookie.

Ingredients (for about 40 small cookies)

Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a hand mixer until until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add ricotta cheese, lemon juice and zest. Beat to combine, stir in the dry ingredients and beat until the dough is smooth. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the dough (about 1/2 tablespoon) onto the baking sheets making sure the cookies are spaced out. Bake for about 20 minutes, until slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet until cool.

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  1. Make the glaze. Combine  powdered sugar, lemon juice and  zest in a small bowl and stir with spatula until smooth (add more lemon juice if needed). Spread about 1/2 teaspoon of glaze on each cookie and let them rest until the glaze completely hardens for a couple of hours.

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Butternut Squash Omelette

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I love summer and typically dread fall because of a long and cold New England winter which comes after it. This year, I feel surprisingly different about Autumn. I’ve truly been enjoying its gorgeous colors, cool weather, soft sun and the smell of fallen leaves in the air. I think my recent trip to a beautiful and romantic Quebec city made me fall into the fall. Was it a long spectacular drive through Vermont and New Hampshire with breathtaking mountain views and foliage colors? Maybe, postcard-like views of Quebec city’s streets – so picturesque during this time of year – did it. But I’m a foodie. So, it must have been those pumpkin spice lattes, French onion soups and traditional gross Poutine (which was just what doctor ordered after long walks in brisk air).

Although I haven’t always felt this passionate about fall, I’ve always loved its seasonal fruits and veggies. I get butternut squash pretty much every time I go grocery shopping now, sometimes forgetting that I still have some left at home. That said, I was getting pretty sick of one of my favorite soups, and wanted to try something new. The butternut squash omelette  turned out perfect! I highly recommend trying it out for a lazy weekend breakfast or brunch, even a light dinner.Image

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

5 large eggs

2-3 tablespoons milk

About 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into medium pieces

1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly

About 2 oz. goat cheese (I had goat brie)

2-3 springs fresh thyme

Salt

Pepper

Chives for garnish

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

Vegetable oil

  1. Pre-heat the oven on broil setting. Heat a small skillet with some vegetable oil. Saute onion until translucent, add garlic, thyme leaves and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add butternut squash and saute on medium to low heat for about 10-15 minutes, season with salt and pepper. You may have to add some water to the skillet and cover it – make sure the squash is completely soft and cooked through.

  2. Make an omelette: whisk eggs with milk, salt and pepper.  Heat a large oven-proof skillet with some vegetable oil and the remaining butter,  and pour the egg mixture into it. Let the omelette set for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat. Arrange the vegetable mixture on top, sprinkle with you favorite cheese. I had goat brie and the flavor combination was absolutely fantastic, but feel free to use something else if you don’t like goat cheese. Transfer the skillet into the pre-heated oven and broil for about 5 minutes until the omelette is completely set. Garnish with herbs and enjoy immediately!