This time of year, our thoughts turn to something, ANYTHING, to make us cooler. No, no, I am not talking popped collars and wayfarer sunglasses kind of cool. Although let’s face it—those ARE still cool….I am talking boat drinks, water sports, and blasting the A/C kind of cool.
The temperatures are hovering in the triple digits, and the eggs are a fryin’ on the sidewalk. And the native wildlife are restless for cool treats.
“Mom, can you make us milkshakes?”
“Mom can you make us fruit slushes?”
“Mom can you make popsicles?”
Yada yada yada…
And horror upon horrors, I heard the first ice cream truck of the season somewhere nearby a few evenings ago. The pied piper of Boerne, luring all the neighborhood kids out into the street, but not before a quick fly-by of mom’s wallet. Three dollars for a flippin’ Bomb Pop…..Clearly, they are insane, and I don’t think insane people should be allowed around kids. But I digress.
Ice cream really is the quintessential summer treat. What healthy American person, male or female, young or old, doesn’t like ice cream? It’s cold. It’s sweet. It’s creamy. It’s fun to play with. What red-blooded American child doesn’t love to put vanilla ice cream in a bowl, top it with Hershey’s syrup, and then stir the bejeezus out of it until it looks like a chocolate milkshake? I did it. My husband did it. My kids do it. And their kids will do it after them. It’s a rite of passage.
Heck, growing up in my family, just enjoying ice cream was a birth right. You see, my father is an ice cream connoisseur. A true ice cream aficionado.
When I was a kid, we would take several mini-vacations each year in New Braunfels—an old German town north of San Antonio–a short 3 hour drive from our home in Corpus Christi. I thought for years that it was because we loved New Braunfels. Or that we enjoyed tubing down the Guadalupe River, shopping for antiques, and eating German food in quaint Bavarian restaurants. Nope. I’ve figured out it was none of that. It was because of the ice cream. Did you hear that? We vacationed in New Braunfels because of the ice cream.
You see, at some point, my dad discovered Blue Bell ice cream. More specifically, he discovered Blue Bell Cookies And Cream ice cream. Blue Bell Creameries, established in Brenham, Texas in 1907, was at the time a small regional creamery. The north side of San Antonio was about as far south as he could find it, and about 146 miles from where we lived. You can see the dilemma, can you not?
So, a few times a year we would venture north, for a “vacation” in New Braunfels. In retrospect, I now understand too why we stayed in lodging that had kitchenettes. My dad needed a freezer in which to store his stash. His contraband dairy products.
He would go through a half-gallon of cookies and cream in a day. Half of it over the morning news, and half of it over the evening news. Funny how those trips became far less frequent when Blue Bell finally made it big time. That’s when it occurred to me that these family get aways had been a farce. A ruse. A ploy to get his hands on “the best ice cream in the country”.
As I did then, I still enjoy watching my dad eat ice cream. He is so cute as he sits there with his big ice cream bowl, loaded up with cookies and cream. (yes, he has tried others from time to time, but Blue Bell cookies and cream is and will always be his true ice cream love). He enjoys it with great reverence, and concentration, and a deep commitment.
He sits back in his recliner, with his feet up. He rests the bowl gently on his chest. He raises the spoon to his mouth, closes his eyes, slowly allowing each bite to melt in his mouth, savoring each and every bit of it on his tongue. Frequently, he doesn’t even open his eyes between bites. He allows his ice cream chakra (there is an ice cream chakra, right?) to beckon to the ice cream, to lead the ice cream into his mouth. Even my kids notice, and giggle with love and admiration at his dedication. Only moments after the ice cream is served, one of them will inevitably whisper “look at Papa….”
Truly, everyone should enjoy something as much. Instead of horking down food without tasting it, try savoring it…Taste it slowly, noticing every nuance, every texture, every aroma. If we took the time to enjoy the small things, the world would be a much happier place.
A few weeks ago, I posed a question on Facebook to my readers and friends…If I were to create an ice cream just for them, what might be in it? The results were fascinating, odd, and fabulous! There were more traditional flavors, such as Vanilla with Peppermint Patty, Chocolate with Orange, and Vanilla with Cookies and Cookie Dough. Then there was more adventurous Black Licorice, Chocolate and Bacon, and Mexican Cheese. Then the truly surprising such as Wasabi, Asparagus, Green Apple/Cucumber/ Lemon, and Spiced Fig/Fennel/Cognac….
So many ice creams, so little time.
Inspired by my friends’ suggestions, here are few new flavors for you to enjoy. Savor them with your eyes closed, your feet up, and with reckless abandon.
Green Apple, Cucumber and Honeydew Ice Cream
This recipe is different, but delicious, refreshing and bright…..If you like melon flavors, you will love it. If the cucumber scares you, just use more melon. This one is best after being allowed to mellow for 2 days in the freezer.
- ¾ cup juice from 1 large or 2 small granny smith apples
- 1 cup seedless cucumber (English cucumber), peeled and chopped
- 1 cup chopped honeydew melon
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups half and half
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 t vanilla
- ½ teaspoon salt
Use a juicer to extract the juice from the apples. You’ll need ¾ cup.
Beat eggs and set aside in a medium bowl.
Place apple juice, melon, cucumber and mint in a food processor and puree until very smooth. Add to a medium saucepan with cream, half and half and sugar. Heat until almost simmering.
Ladle a small amount of hot cream into eggs, whisking briskly. Repeat three times. Add egg mixture back into saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add salt and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Peanut Butter Ice Cream With Cayenne Spiced Candied Bacon and Pecans
Bacon and sweets are a fabulous combination. My Granny and Pop used to put peanut butter on their BLT’s, and they were AWESOME. I make a mean Peanut Brittle that has beer, bacon and jalapeno in it, and it is delicious. So when my friend Cat suggested an ice cream with bacon, this is what was born…
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 6 slices thin bacon
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup natural style peanut butter
- (if it is separated, don’t stir it, pour off the oil—it makes for a better texture)
Heat oven to 350*
Mix brown sugar and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. In a sheet pan lined with foil, place a wire rack. Place bacon in sugar mixture, coating thoroughly on one side. Place sugar side up on wire rack. Bake for 24 minutes. Remove from oven and place on paper towels to cool. Break into ½” pieces.
Add pecans to bacon grease in pan. Stir to coat. Add remaining sugar and pepper mix, and stir to coat. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Combine last 6 ingredients in a blender and whiz for 30 seconds until mixed. A few lumps of peanut butter left are fine. In fact they are awesome. Pour into your ice cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is done, stir in the bacon and pecans, and pour into your freezer container to cure in the freezer for 4 hours or overnight.
Mexican Cheese Ice Cream With Guava Paste and Mango
Not too sweet, and with the slight tang of cheese, this ice cream is delightfully tropical.
- 3 cups cream
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 oz softened cream cheese
- 4 oz Manchego or Mahon cheese, finely grated
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Optional: 1 small mango, peeled and chopped
- Optional: 4 oz guava paste, or Mexican guava candy roll
Combine milk, eggs, sugar and salt in a large saucepan, and beat well. Place over medium heat, and bring to 175*. Remove from heat and add cheese, beating until well melted and incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Cool. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for several hours or overnight. Pour into ice cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last few moments, add mango and/or guava. If using, and allow to mix for a minute. Pour into freezer container and allow to temper for several hours.
–drizzle with passion fruit syrup and chopped, toasted hazelnuts
–top with leche quemada and some finely crumbled queso fresco
Apricot Habanero Ice Cream
This is one of my favorite flavor combinations, so I thought I’d put it in an ice cream. Glad I did—it is delicious. The apricot undertones of the Habanero works fabulously with the apricots, and any heat from the Habanero is immediately tempered by the ice cream.
- 2 pounds fresh ripe apricots (Angelcots if you can get them)
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Habanero chili, seeds removed
- 2 cups cream
Cut apricots in half and remove the seeds (leave peel on). Cut into quarters. Add to saucepan with water, sugar, lemon juice, and Habanero. Bring to simmer over medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, until fruit is very soft. Process mixture in a food processor until finely pureed. Allow to cool. Stir in cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Pour into ice cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Dark Chocolate Orange With Toasted Marcona Almonds
This is a fabulously dark chocolate ice cream with excellent mouthfeel. Studded with bits of orange flavored dark chocolate and toasted marcona almonds, it is a slightly more sophisticated version of some childhood favorites.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- zest of 1 orange, or three mandarins
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup dark cocoa, I use Valrhona
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 12 oz dark chocolate chips
- 8 oz orange flavored dark chocolate bar, chopped
- 8 oz Marcona almonds, or blanched almonds, chopped and toasted*
Place milk, vanilla, almond extract, salt, and orange zest in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk eggs in a small bowl and set aside. In a large saucepan, whisk the cream, cocoa, and sugar together, and heat over medium until almost simmering. Remove from heat, and whisk in the chocolate chips until melted and smooth. While whisking the eggs vigorously, slowly ladle one cup of hot chocolate mixture into the eggs. When fully incorporated, repeat two times. Then add egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the chocolate. Heat again until almost boiling. Pour chocolate into milk mixture, and mix well. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. Pour into ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. When done, pour into freezer container, and fold in chopped chocolate and toasted almonds. Allow to freeze overnight or for several hours before serving.
* spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake at 350* for 10-15 minutes until golden and fragrant