Monday, February 27, 2012

Bite Me at The Ice Cream Man

I love my job.  What’s that old saying? Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.  That’s how I feel about my job at the Ice Cream Man in Greenwich NY. 
What is this job that makes me so happy?  I make ice cream.  I actually make the ice cream that goes into the dip table and into the famous ice cream cakes they sell.  Now when I say I make ice cream this is what I mean.  First of all I put the machine together and make sure it’s clean and sanitary.  Then its time to put in the cream.  Depending on the recipe of the ice cream we’re making (and we make at least 10 batches a day) I add the first bag of cream and the ingredients then add the second bag of cream.  Each bag of cream weighs 20 pounds so 40 pounds of cream is added to the machine which will make at least 4 boxes of ice cream each weighing 2.5 gallons. Not only do I make ice cream for pints, quarts and the shop, I also make vanilla and chocolate to fill the cake pans for ice cream cakes.  Sounds like a hard day?  Yes, but so much fun too! 

On the days that I don’t make ice cream I decorate the cakes that we made during the previous ice cream making day.  The ice cream cakes are usually decorated with balloons or flowers but can be decorated with just about anything.  We’ve even made wedding cakes!

The Ice Cream Man is well known in the Saratoga area.  So well known that Bobby Flay wanted to do a Throw down there in 2007 and most recently we were visited by Jennifer Savino host of the public access cable show called “Bite Me.”  In her show she highlights local food business owners and asks them questions about the business, what makes it their passion and how they got started.  Since she was once a food business owner (she owned a gourmet cookie business) she likes to participate in the actual preparation process and since we were making ice cream the day she visited, Julia (the owner and my boss) decided she would let her “dingle” in the ingredients in the last batch of ice cream for the day—almond joy.  They filmed Julia making the Almond Joy ice cream. The first bag of cream goes into the machine, then coconut extract and real coconut, then the second bag of cream. The machine runs for five minutes, then chocolate covered almonds are added and the machine runs for another 5 minutes.  Then it’s time to draw the ice cream into the boxes while another person “dingles.”  What’s dingling? Very simple. While the ice cream is coming out of the machine the second person sprinkles in whatever ingredients the recipe calls for, in this case more chocolate covered almonds.

After the ice cream was finished it was time to show Jennifer how we make waffle cones.  Julia explained the batter and then demonstrated the procedure.  Finally Jennifer got to sample the final product.  Then she knew why it was our number one seller!  “Tastes like a frozen Almond Joy candy bar!” she said.  

For us it was just another day at the Ice Cream Man, sharing our delicious Ice Cream and letting people know where and how they can get it.  The Ice Cream Man has grown since it was started in the 1980’s by the Mann family and will continue to grow.  The original shop was housed in the small log cabin which now the production room, where the magic happens even if I do say so myself.  The next owner, Nancy Schneider added on the addition of the larger dip room, indoor seating and screened in porch so that the ice cream business could go year round.  In 2001 the current owner, Julia Reynolds bought the business (after being the shop manager) and has grown it into what it is today – by adding deli sandwiches, soups, pies (from Smith’s Orchard in Charlton), cheesecake from the Nuns of New Skete along with custom ice cream cakes and a growing retail business.  Ice Cream Man ice cream is available in pints and quarts at Shop Rite, Hannaford (which also carries cakes), Meat House and East Side Deli in Saratoga.  If your having a birthday party at Strike Zone you can add one of our fresh made and decorated cakes for an additional cost.

Northeasterners love their ice cream, there’s no doubt about that.  So come into the Ice Cream Man and see why we’re so well known.  Try a sample, buy a pint or quart, order your next special event cake (I’ll decorate it for you personally) or just grab a sandwich and a cone, sundae or shake. 
Please be sure to say you saw it on my blog. I’d love to meet anyone who stops by!

It will take a few months for the final editing to be done on the “Bite Me Show” episode so I will be sure to put the link on the blog.
In the meantime here’s the link to Jennifer’s blog:

Been to the Ice Cream Man in Greenwich NY? or are you planning a visit?  What's your favorite flavor?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

5 Ingredient Greek Chicken Rice Soup

I usually spend Saturdays running errands and this past Saturday was no different. My husband and I decided that we would treat ourselves to a Greek lunch while out shopping so we headed over to one of our favorite Greek/diner restaurants called Grecian Gardens.  There we both had a lunch of salad, fries and gyros.  But I was surprised to see that Avgolemono (Greek chicken and rice soup with lemon) wasn't on the menu and I really was looking forward to a nice, warming bowl of soup to go with my gyro.

I can try to make it myself, I thought.  How hard could it be?   I had homemade broth that was cooked all day in the crock pot.  I had left over chicken from the night before, and I had plenty of eggs and a whole bottle of lemon juice.  All I needed was a recipe.

I did an internet search and came across a recipe on  and it was very simple.

This soup can be made quickly (if you have instant rice and the broth on hand) or it can take all day if you first cook the chicken to make the broth as in the original recipe.  I'll give you the short version.

To make Greek Chicken and Rice Soup this is what you'll need:

12 cups of broth
1 cup of instant rice
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice of 2 large lemons)
cooked chicken (in the original recipe the chicken isn't added to the soup.  They suggest serving it on the side.)

Pour the broth into a large stock pot.  Heat to boil.  Add the rice, turn off the heat and cook 5 minutes.  Meanwhile take the cooked chicken and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano.  Beat the whole eggs into a separate bowl and add the lemon juice.  Whisk until frothy.  Once the rice is cooked ladle out about a cup of the broth into a separate cup, then pour the broth very slowly into the egg/lemon juice mixture, whisking the entire time.  This will temper the eggs so that they don't scramble when you add them to the soup.
Pour the broth/egg/lemon mixture into the soup pot, whisking.  Stir in the cooked, seasoned chicken if using.  Check the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Simple 5 ingredient Greek Chicken Rice Soup warm and filling.  Serve it by itself or with a sandwich or Greek salad.

<TIP> If you make your own broth be sure to skim off any of the fat that might be on the top.  You don't want greasy soup
<TIP>  I used only a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and I think it could have used a little more.  You might want to start with a 1/4 cup especially if your lemons are fresh.
<TIP>  Be sure to be careful with the seasoning.  My broth was homemade so it needed salt. Most canned broths are pretty salty, so taste before adding any more.

Makes about 6-8 main course servings and is ready in 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Add Tons of Flavor with Compound Butter

I like to make a special meal for my sweetie on Valentine's day.  This year it included spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, bacon and mushrooms with a hot bacon dressing, poutine (A Canadian favorite) which is fries with cheese curds and gravy, asparagus with hollandaise (which broke, but that's another blog post) and T-bone steaks with compound butter.

I wanted to make the compound butter, not because I thought the T-bones needed more flavor but because it looks impressive but couldn't be easier.  Compound butters are just that -- butter that has flavorful ingredients added to it.  It can be used on meats, fish and even vegetables.

I chose to add garlic and parsley to my butter along with a little salt and pepper.  But you can add just about any herb you'd like to your butter.

If you're going to use a compound butter I would suggest seasoning your meat, fish or vegetables very simply so that it doesn't fight the flavors of the butter.

I made extra of the butter so that we would have some leftover.  It would be delicious in scrambled eggs.

To make compound butter this is what you'll need:

1 stick unsalted butter
herbs (fresh or dried) of your choice.

Let the butter come to room temperature so that your ingredients can be mixed into it easily.
For the butter I served I used 2 large cloves of garlic that I grated into the butter.  I prefer to grate the garlic since then you're not biting into a huge piece of garlic and it gives a more pronounced garlic flavor.  I also added about 1/2 teaspoon or a liberal sprinkling of dried parsley.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

This can be made a day ahead of time.  Once the steaks were cooked to our liking then we topped each one with the butter that melted all over the delicious meat.  HEAVENLY!

Compound butters can be made for sweet things too.  Like taking butter and cinnamon and a little sugar to top off french toast or pancakes.  Or using a compound butter to stuff inside a hollowed out apple then baked in the oven.

Compound butter is versatile and delicious.  You can easily add tons of flavor to almost anything!  So give it a try.

Have favorite compound butter combination?  I'd love to hear it -- leave it in the comments below!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

3 Recipes- Fruit Topped Cupcakes-Just in Time for Valentine's Day

Want to do something special for your someone special?  But don’t have the time or talent to bake?  Try these simple yet impressive fruit topped cupcakes.  They’re easy to make and your loved one will love them!

It all starts with a cake mix, any flavor.  The combination I used are classic combos but use your imagination and try different combinations of what you like best.  As I experiment with other flavor combos I’ll post the recipes on the blog.

The way I came up with this idea is from a childhood memory.  When I lived in St. Louis we would go to the bakery after church almost every Sunday and get a fruit topped yeast cake.  This cake can only be found in St. Louis, at least I think it can only be found in St. Louis. I’ve never seen it anywhere else….  The cake would be topped with apples or cherries and they were delicious!  So I thought why not try topping cupcakes with the same combination?  These are the combinations I came up with….

Spice cake with Apples
Chocolate cake with Cherries and Almonds
French vanilla cake with lemon curd and candied lemon peel

I had my husband take them to work and they've all a been a hit!!
The first 2 are really more of a method and the last one is 3 recipes in 1.

If you’d like to make fruit topped cupcake this is what you’ll need:

Spice Cake topped with Apples

Spice cake mix any brand
1 can cream cheese frosting any brand
1 large can of apple pie filling
1 pastry bag with a star tip

muffin pan and cupcake liners

Make the mix according to the package directions and bake in the muffin pans that have been lined with cupcake liners.  Let cool completely.

Fill the pastry bag with cream cheese frosting.
Pour the apple pie filling into a bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon

Once the cupcakes are cooled ring the cupcake with frosting by using the star tip.  Fill the center with apple pie filling.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cherries and Almonds

Double chocolate fudge cake mix
1 can chocolate frosting, any brand
1 large can of cherry pie filling
Toasted slivered almonds

Make the cake mix according to the package directions and bake in the muffin pans lined with cupcake liners.  Let cool completely.

Fill a pastry bag with a star tip with chocolate frosting.
Pour the cherry pie filling in a bowl and flavor with ½ teaspoon almond extract.

Once the cupcakes are cooled completely, ring the cupcake with chocolate frosting and fill the center with the cherry pie filling.  Garnish with toasted almonds.

French Vanilla Cupcakes Topped with Homemade Lemon Curd and Candied Lemon Peel

This is really 3 recipes in one, the completely cupcakes, the recipe for the lemon curd and the recipe for the candied lemon peel.

I found the recipe for lemon curd on King Arthur Flour’s website.  It caught my eye since it was made in the microwave.  I never made lemon curd before and this recipe really is as easy as they said it was, and absolutely delicious.

To make lemon curd you’ll need

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice

In a large microwave safe bowl crack the eggs and add the sugar.  Whisk to combine.  

Add the lemon juice (I used fresh lemons and it took about 8 small ones) and whisk to combine.  

Place the bowl on a plate to catch any over flow and microwave on high in 1 minute increments, stirring in between.  It will take about 10 minutes. 
You will see the curd starting to form on the top.  But if you’re in doubt as to whether or not it’s cooked enough you can check it with a thermometer, it should read at least 185 degrees, this assures that the eggs are fully cooked.  Once the curd is cooked, set it aside.  When cooled, refrigerate.

To make the candied lemon peel 

Before you juice the lemons, take a vegetable peeler and take off the peel in long strips to make the candied lemon peel.  In a saucepan add 2 cups of water, add the lemon peels and bring to a boil.  Once the water boils, drain the water from the saucepan and fill with another 2 cups water and bring to a boil again. Do this a total of 3 times, this will take the bitterness out of the peels and will parboil them.

After the 3rd time, drain the water again and then add 1 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar to the saucepan.  Heat on medium heat until the sugar melts, whisking to combine. Once the sugar melts add the lemon peels and let them cook on medium high heat for 10-15 minutes.   Take the peels out and let them cool.  Before they are completely dry twist them and let them dry.  The peels will be the garnish for the cupcakes.

Make the cake mix according to the package directions and bake in a cupcake lined muffin pan.  Once the cupcakes are cooled, ring the cupcakes with vanilla frosting, fill the center with lemon curd and garnish with the candied lemon peel.

That’s it!  Three easy, delicious, and creative cupcake recipes.  All 3 were a big hit.  Someone even said I should be on Cupcake Wars!!  Well,  I wouldn’t go that far…..

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Personal Post- Remembering Skylar

I don’t like to blog about my personal life.  I like to keep it light and fun with entries about what’s cooking in my kitchen or what new and delicious restaurant we’ve tried recently or how to save big at the grocery store.  But this entry will be completely different from anything I’ve done before.
Recently I’ve had an experience that I’d like to share with everyone, an experience I’ve never had before.  In 2009 (which was a very difficult and emotional year for me and my family) we adopted a little, black mixed breed dog from the SPCA.  We decided to name her Skylar.  She was a quirky, funny, scruffy and charming little dog that we all fell in love with.  As a puppy Skylar was well behaved, she never chewed anything up and she got along well with our other 2 dogs.  She had some unusual habits. One, she like to nudge your leg from behind, almost like a little nip.  This made me think that she might have had some herding dog in her.  When we were sitting at the dining room table she would poke our legs with her nose to get our attention, for scraps, no doubt. And her other little quirk?  She could talk.  Yeah, I know, right, a talking dog! But she could.  Okay, she wasn’t Scooby Doo but she could communicate with us whenever she wanted something.  We always knew that she either wanted water, food or to go outside.  I still believe that sometimes in answer to our question she would say “uh huh”. 

Even though she might have had some herding instincts she was a gentle dog who loved to be
outside, lay in the grass or in the snow.  She was independent and wasn’t much for cuddling, but every once in awhile she would snuggle up next to us on the couch and lay her head in our hand and make our hearts melt.  She was happy, and she was healthy up until about a month ago.

We noticed that her breathing wasn’t quite right.  She seemed to be struggling just a little bit, almost like panting.  It got increasingly worse over the next couple of days.   We made a vet appointment.  Dr Brockett at Saratoga Veterinary Hospital gave her a thorough examination.  We told him about a few things that we had noticed that didn’t seem right to us.  She had bumps on her head, she had something on her gums, a cobblestone pattern and of course trouble breathing.  We told him that she came from a kill shelter in Tennessee.  So he thought that maybe she had some form of disease that was indigenous to that region, since he had never seen anything like this before.  He decided to treat it with an antifungal, an antibiotic and a steroid.  At first she seemed to respond and her breathing improved, but once the steroid dose was decreased she had trouble breathing again.  Dr Brockett decided to take blood and send it to Cornell University.  Unfortunately the blood showed nothing unusual. So once again he was stumped.  We continued the treatment and even after consulting with several other vets and the doctors at Cornell, there was no answer.

I watched as Skylar got sicker and sicker.  Her eyes were red all the time and looked like they were bulging.  Her tongue was now swollen and covered in ulcerations, and her gums were so covered in the cobblestone pattern that it made it almost impossible for her to eat anything that wasn’t soft.  As a last resort we decided to take biopsies of the affected area since the steroids were no longer helping her breathing.  The result: a rare form of lymphoma with no cure or treatment.  We were devastated.

Our once vibrant and playful 2 year old was now ravaged with cancer and there was nothing anyone could do.  The last word from the vet: “tell us when you want to put her down.”

Needless to say the next few days were emotional.  Having to make that kind of decision, not being able to ask her how she felt, when she was ready to go, made it even harder.  I could see the change in her over the next few days after getting the diagnosis.  This cancer is fast moving and ravaged her body in a matter of days to the point where she could no longer eat or drink. 

She didn’t look like a 2 yr old dog, but one that was much, much older.  The night before I made the final decision we were both awake (Skylar and me) most of the night.  She outside and me in my bathroom, crying, trying to come to the full realization that it was indeed time. 

I spent the next day with her.  Watching her, stroking her, remembering her when she was healthy and full of personality, telling her over and over again that I was sorry.  Seeing her be able to do almost nothing but lay still, occasionally getting up to go outside but not being able to eat or drink.  I spent most of that day second guessing myself but knowing in my heart that it was the right thing to do, to have her go peacefully and not suffer anymore being eaten alive by the cancer.  I realized that wanting to hold onto her, having hope that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it was, was just being selfish on my part.  Many hours and many tears later I realized…. and stopped second guessing myself and said, yes its time.

My husband Mark took her.  I just couldn’t face it.  He assured me that she went peacefully.  They put out a blanket for her on the floor and she laid right down and never moved.  Dr. Brockett could see the change in her too – the amount of weight that she had lost, the condition of her mouth and her tongue.  He assured Mark that this was the right thing to do, that she was in fact suffering. It was all over after she received a simple injection, she went to sleep. Afterward, Mark called and wanted to know what to do with her remains, store them until Spring or have her cremated so we could spread her ashes over the places she loved the most.  We decided to have her cremated.  I know to some people it might sound silly or ridiculous to save her ashes. After all she was just a dog.  I was raised to believe that all life has value, even if it’s an animal. Skylar was part of our family.  She made us laugh, she made us happy, and so we thought it only fitting to spread her ashes over the places where she was most happy.

It’s true, Skylar was just a mutt from a kill shelter in Tennessee. True that she was scruffy and not well bred. But it’s also true that she captured our hearts with her quirky ways and her funny habits. I hope that this story doesn’t stop anyone from adopting a needy animal from a shelter.  That you don’t think twice about giving your heart to a puppy that will give you all of themselves and enrich your life.  In a case like that I think it’s okay for your emotions to guide you.  Fall in love, I did and I don’t regret it, not one bit.

If you do have an animal that has any of the symptoms that Skylar had: breathing trouble, knots on the head, red, puffy eyes, ulcerations on the tongue and cobblestone gums ask for a biopsy immediately to rule out lymphoma.  This is something I wish I would have insisted on.  But prepare yourself for the worst. These symptoms seem to all point to this rare form of cancer.

I’ve lost other dogs in my life mostly to old age so to have such a young dog with such a serious, incurable illness just didn’t seem fair. Sometimes life just isn’t fair and can offer opportunities to learn.

This piece isn’t meant to compare the loss of a family pet to that of a human family member.  I’ve never experienced anyone, human or animal dying of cancer right before my eyes and I hope I never have to experience it again.  I might still go to a pet adoption but I’m not likely to adopt one, at least not right away.  You can’t replace one pet with another, you just won’t find  one that will be the same.  Each dog has it’s own unique personality and needs.  I know I won’t be able to replace Skylar and I wouldn’t even try.  Right now I’ll remember her the way she was before she got sick, when she was happy and healthy.
Cherish your pets….

I’d like to thank Dr. Chris Brockett and his team at Saratoga Veterinary Hospital.  Even though Skylar wasn’t able to be saved, they were kind and compassionate when we most needed them to be.  We will continue to bring our other dogs there for care.  They really are the best.

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