comfort food

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream

By Lisa

I have this fantasy: Someday I will give them something so good they will be happy forever. Once and for all, they will love me without complaining.  They will stop fighting.  They will remember gratitude. They will be transported, their minds and mouths silenced by perfect joy.  This joy will last, and last, and last.

Magical thinking, I know.  But it’s the kind of magical thinking that turns a warm day daydream…nutella…vanilla ice cream…hazelnuts...into a batch of cold, sweet bliss.  Some mothers might think the magical thing is a hug, or a kind word, or a pony.  For me, on this day, it was ice cream.

It didn’t silence them. It did fill them with joy. It didn’t stop the complaining. It did conjure gratitude.  It didn’t last. But I can make it again. And again. And again.

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream with Hazelnut Crunch

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2-1 cup Nutella
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, more or less to taste (optional)
  1. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks until well blended and smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, salt, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour a small amount of the warmed milk into the egg yolks and stir gently to loosen the yolks, then pour the yolks back into the pan containing the warm milk and sugar.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  6. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. At this point, you are supposed to set the custard into an ice bath and cool it thoroughly.  I almost never do this.
  7. Refrigerate the custard until it is thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  8. Gently toast the hazlenuts until they are aromatic. Rub together to remove the skins and roughly chop.
  9. After the custard is chilled, set the Nutella in a double boiler and simmer until Nutella is pourable.
  10. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.
  11. When ice cream is finished, add the hazlenuts and continue churning until incorporated.
  12. Once nuts are incorporated, pour the warm Nutella, very, very quickly, in one or two large spoonfuls into the churning ice cream. Churn for only a few seconds–just until the Nutella is incorporated.
  13. You can return the ice cream to the freezer to finish freezing.  Or you can give in and eat it immediately.

Homemade Nutella or, Because it’s there

by Caroline

I guess I feel about recipes the way some people feel about mountains. It’s there in front of you, so why not give it a shot? There is really no pressing need to make nutella (you could push it and say there’s no pressing need to eat nutella, but I won’t go so far), but when you find a recipe that looks so easy, and promises a result so delicious, why not? Besides, it’s summer. And in summer, we say yes.

1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-11 minutes, or until fragrant. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skin; use your fingers as they cool and do the best you can — it won’t all come off. Let the nuts cool.

Grind the nuts in the food processor until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue blending until smooth and spreadable.

This keeps at room temperature for three days, apparently, or in the fridge for two months, but we wouldn’t know.

How Do I Love Thee?

By Lisa

A few weeks ago, Kory and flew to Los Angeles to attend the Annie Awards, for which he was a judge.  I wore shoes with feathers. Kory wore a really nice suit.

We had a fancy hotel room, cocktails, a terrific lunch date,  Korean food at the best Korean spa in town, picadillo at Mercedes Grill, drinks with my best friend from grad school at a new lounge, owned by someone we watch on TV.

It was our first weekend away from the kids in 6 years.  It was love and sunshine all around.

At home with my parents, the kids had a blast, too. We arrived home just in time to watch my childhood team win the Superbowl and eat big bowls of my mother’s chili, with cornbread cooked by Ella.

And that would have been the end of it, except yesterday, Ella typed up a poem about that chili. She claims the chili is better than mine, which, being meticulously prepared from Pierre Franey’s recipe, I freely admit that it was is. I have permission to quote you only a few lines:

from How do I Love Thee?

by Ella

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways. I remember the last time I saw you.  The crumbles of cornbread resting upon your warm top.  The delicious steam rising up and the tasty chunks of meat swirling at your warm surface.  You look like heaven in a bowl.//

I remember the last time I smelled you.  The chili powder going up my nose. The beans in the broth and the fire on the stove….//

I remember the last time I tasted you.  Your freshly baked cornbread and the delicious sauce in my mouth.  I loved your black beans.  You taste like the best meal in the world.

I dream of the next time we will be together.  I love you, chili, for it is you who makes dinner the best meal of the day.

Cornbreads + flags by Ella

The full recipe is yours for the asking:

Chili a la Pierre Franey, from 60-Minute Gourment

  • 1 lb very lean coarsely ground pork
  • 1 lb very lean coarsely ground beef
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 cups  finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 T finely minced garlic
  • 1 T crumbled dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 3 cups tomatoes with tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t dried hot re d pepper flakes
  • 2 cups drained kidney beans
  • Sour cream as garnish, optional
  • Lime wedges as garnish, optional
  1. If possible, have the pork and beef ground together coarsely.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy kettle and add the meat.  Cook, chipping down and stirring with the side of a heavy metal kitchen spoon to break up the lumps.
  3. Add the onions, green pepper, celery, garlic, oregano, bay leaves and cumin. Stir to blend well.
  4. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, salt and pepper to taste, and add the red pepper flakes. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the beans and cook 10 minutes longer. Serve in hot bowls with a doll0p of sour cream and lime wedges, if desired.

Something Slow, Something New

By Lisa

I’ve come to learn the hard way that it’s not a good idea to introduce new food on a weeknight, especially not after a long afternoon on the soccer field.  When the kids sit down to eat at 6:40 (if we’re lucky) on Monday nights, it’s cold, it’s dark, they’re covered in turf dirt, and all they want is something warm and familiar. You can’t really them. It takes energy to try new things, and an hour before bedtime is not a good time to ask them to rally.

So this week, I made the new (to them) soup in the slow cooker on Sunday. This way, if there were tears, at least it would be early in the night, bedtime wouldn’t be jeopardized, I could mitigate the damage.  As a precaution, I served the soup with the pannini they love.  They could decide what to eat.

We all pitched in with the final prep.  The soup, which is about as far as I’ve ever gotten in Julia Child’s classic cookbook (in case you don’t know, it’s the first recipe…), was delicious.  And even though they were reluctant to stop eating the warm bread and various kinds of pork on offer (Finley has taken to repeating, “Ham? Yes! HAM!!” and bouncing in ecstasy whenever said meat is offered to him), both kids  admitted they liked the soup and drank their cups without complaint.  Small victories.  More: the leftovers have kept Kory and I fed these past few cold nights.

pannini prep: ham & swiss, salami & swiss, just swiss

Dad’s kidtinis

Finn tests the immersion blender…

no kids harmed…

Ella’s table

Potato and Leek Soup

  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into rounds, including white & tender green leaves
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons butter
  1. Place all ingredients in large pot or slow cooker, cover, and bring to simmer.
  2. Simmer soup 1-2 hours, until leeks and potatoes are tender.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add butter and blend until mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Serve immediately.

Full Stop: Slow Cooker Red Sauce

By Lisa

One of my resolutions this year is to do only One Thing At A Time.  This is very, very hard for me.  Somedays, when I have 12 things on my to-do list, including writing, teaching, errands, chores–it’s physically painful not to do that one extra thing.  The commitment has meant, among other things, that I am trying hard not to Get Dinner Ready While Helping With Homework. Or not to Section The Cauliflower While Doing Laundry.  Or not to Peel Carrots In Ten Minutes Before School Pickup.  I’m trying hard to avoid Eating Dinner In The Car On My Way To Work.  It means other things, too, like not asking my kids to Get Ready For Soccer And Eat Your Snack. Or Clean Your Room and Get Ready for Bed.  You can extrapolate.

You can call it my Oxford comma moment.

However, I am still trying to cook with fresh food.

Leaving the fast food to Finn

Doing One Thing At A Time means I have to plan more than ever. It means I have to start early. It means I have been thinking hard about what I can do to minimize my cooking time between the hours of 3 and 6.

In my quest, my new appliance has been life changing. Technically, my slow cooker is not a traditional slow cooker. It also roasts, sautees, browns, and simmers.  I am still learning the best ways to use it: how the high/low settings work; how long to parboil pastas; best cooking times for different sizes of baked potatoes; how much extra liquid  to add to simmer-all-day soups.  But it has been on my countertop nearly every other day since I got I it, and it has helped me slow down and simplify in countless ways. To date, I’ve made delicious Swedish Meatballs and Beef Stew.  But also: macaroni and cheese, red sauce, baked ziti (with leftover red sauce), split pea soup, baked potatoes.  Not all the recipes are perfect. Yet. (Except the pea soup. And the hint to rub the potatoes lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before baking.)  But it has made my life exponentially less stressful.  And that, as some of you know, makes everyone less stressed-out. Funny how that works. Funnier that it has taken me so long to learn the lesson.

So along comes last Sunday, when our local football team played my childhood football team for a spot in the Superbowl.  I have fond memories of dark winter afternoons, a house full of the smells of my mother’s red sauce, or spaghetti and meatballs, or lasagna, endless football games, tv trays, warm garlic bread. And so even though I didn’t need to use it, I pulled out my slow cooker, sauteed the meat, added the tomatoes, herbs, and wine, and set it to Simmer for the next, oh, 4 or 5 hours.

Right before game time I cooked the pasta. Ella made kidtinis. We watched the game.  We ate.  We put in all the stops.

Ella’s 49er Kidtini. It involved club soda, Meyer lemons, grenadine, and a whole lot of cherries. Also red sugar.

Slow Cooker Red Sauce

  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cans Italian tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4-1/2 cup red wine
  1. With slow cooker on Sautee/brown, sautee meats with a pinch of salt until cooked through.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring constantly, until onion begins to soften.
  3. Add tomatoes, thyme, wine.
  4. Simmer for 4-5 hours.

This easily makes enough to dress 2 lbs of pasta. Save 1/2 for a batch of quick baked ziti during the week.