Harv: My Ice Cream Idol

One very special friend of mine, Harv, surprised me with a fabulous new kitchen toy over the weekend. He graciously gave me a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker. Thank you Harv! He’s quite the ice cream connoisseur and well, I have ice cream maker envy because he has the king of all ice cream makers. Even more impressive is that he’s rebuilt/refurbished 2 commercial ice cream makers from scratch himself! (I’m in complete and utter awe…) Here are similar pics of his handsome ice cream maker, a Taylor 104-27 (which is very similar to what is used on Iron Chef competitions of Food Network):

My first recipe I tried was a simple strawberry ice cream. Unfortunately my attempts to make it healthier by using 2% fat milk and half & half didn’t result in the consistency I wanted. I learned from a fellow friend and blogger, Annie of Annie’s Eats, that full fat is definitely necessary. Check out her blog for the same recipe but with much better results!

So for my second attempt I wanted to use up some well ripe fruits and ingredients I had on hand. Thankfully this time around I had success! I made an adaptation of a sherbet recipe included in the instruction/recipe booklet. Here’s my recipe for a low fat pineapple sherbet:1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
2 cups 2% low fat milk
1 cup processed fresh pineapple*
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

*Process fresh pineapple in a blender. Use 1 cup of this processed fresh pineapple for the recipe.

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into your ice cream maker and churn/freeze based on your manufacturer’s directions.
You may want to transfer the finished product in a freezer proof container so that it can “ripen” for an hour or two in the freezer.

Harv: My Ice Cream Idol

One very special friend of mine, Harv, surprised me with a fabulous new kitchen toy over the weekend. He graciously gave me a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker. Thank you Harv! He’s quite the ice cream connoisseur and well, I have ice cream maker envy because he has the king of all ice cream makers. Even more impressive is that he’s rebuilt/refurbished 2 commercial ice cream makers from scratch himself! (I’m in complete and utter awe…) Here are similar pics of his handsome ice cream maker, a Taylor 104-27 (which is very similar to what is used on Iron Chef competitions of Food Network):

My first recipe I tried was a simple strawberry ice cream. Unfortunately my attempts to make it healthier by using 2% fat milk and half & half didn’t result in the consistency I wanted. I learned from a fellow friend and blogger, Annie of Annie’s Eats, that full fat is definitely necessary. Check out her blog for the same recipe but with much better results!

So for my second attempt I wanted to use up some well ripe fruits and ingredients I had on hand. Thankfully this time around I had success! I made an adaptation of a sherbet recipe included in the instruction/recipe booklet. Here’s my recipe for a low fat pineapple sherbet:1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
2 cups 2% low fat milk
1 cup processed fresh pineapple*
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

*Process fresh pineapple in a blender. Use 1 cup of this processed fresh pineapple for the recipe.

Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into your ice cream maker and churn/freeze based on your manufacturer’s directions.
You may want to transfer the finished product in a freezer proof container so that it can “ripen” for an hour or two in the freezer.

Thai Me Up to Drink!

Memorial day fare usually involves burgers, hot dogs, brats… but for me, I like doing things a little differently. To kick off our Memorial Day, I hosted another monthly Wine & Dine event highlighting Thai cuisine, paired with Viognier wines.

As usual, it was a fabulous turnout. Having Thai dishes grace the table offered our palates some interesting flavors to play with the wines I selected for the tasting. It also encouraged friends to create recipes of a cuisine they may not have necessarily tried on their own.

For the wines, Viognier is not exactly a common varietal. In fact, it’s one that can be difficult to find and because of the type of harvesting involved, it can also be a little pricey. I like thinking of Viognier as Chardonnay’s “sister”. They both look alike in the glass but the aromas and tastes can vary greatly. If you’re interested in trying Viognier wines, I highly recommend that you purchase an early vintage… preferably one within the last 3 years. This is the type of grape you want to drink early and slightly chilled. It pairs exceptionally well with spicy asian cuisine such as Thai.

Another thing to note is that New and Old world wines of this varietal will be very different. New World (California, South Africa, Australia, Chile, etc) will be darker in color and have more tropical, fruitier aromas and tastes. Old World (France, Italy, etc) will be lighter in color and have more floral, earthy aromas and tastes. For me, I prefer the California Viogniers… a good one to try is the Christine Andrew Viognier. We tried a 2005 and it was smooth, slightly dry and a short finish.

So enough of my wine geek talk, here are pictures of our Thai inspired dinner:



Green Curry Tofu w/Brown Rice and Pad Thai

Tropical Fruit & Shrimp Salad and Bamboo Shoots w/Egg

Mango Roll & Mocha Roll and Quinoa w/Mango & Cilantro

Fresh Mango & Pineapple and Spicy Pork w/Carrots

Thai Fried Rice and Green Curry Chicken

Banana Eggrolls and Spicy Chicken & Beef Fried Rice

Thai Green salad and Thai Spring Rolls

Thai Me Up to Drink!

Memorial day fare usually involves burgers, hot dogs, brats… but for me, I like doing things a little differently. To kick off our Memorial Day, I hosted another monthly Wine & Dine event highlighting Thai cuisine, paired with Viognier wines.

As usual, it was a fabulous turnout. Having Thai dishes grace the table offered our palates some interesting flavors to play with the wines I selected for the tasting. It also encouraged friends to create recipes of a cuisine they may not have necessarily tried on their own.

For the wines, Viognier is not exactly a common varietal. In fact, it’s one that can be difficult to find and because of the type of harvesting involved, it can also be a little pricey. I like thinking of Viognier as Chardonnay’s “sister”. They both look alike in the glass but the aromas and tastes can vary greatly. If you’re interested in trying Viognier wines, I highly recommend that you purchase an early vintage… preferably one within the last 3 years. This is the type of grape you want to drink early and slightly chilled. It pairs exceptionally well with spicy asian cuisine such as Thai.

Another thing to note is that New and Old world wines of this varietal will be very different. New World (California, South Africa, Australia, Chile, etc) will be darker in color and have more tropical, fruitier aromas and tastes. Old World (France, Italy, etc) will be lighter in color and have more floral, earthy aromas and tastes. For me, I prefer the California Viogniers… a good one to try is the Christine Andrew Viognier. We tried a 2005 and it was smooth, slightly dry and a short finish.

So enough of my wine geek talk, here are pictures of our Thai inspired dinner:



Green Curry Tofu w/Brown Rice and Pad Thai

Tropical Fruit & Shrimp Salad and Bamboo Shoots w/Egg

Mango Roll & Mocha Roll and Quinoa w/Mango & Cilantro

Fresh Mango & Pineapple and Spicy Pork w/Carrots

Thai Fried Rice and Green Curry Chicken

Banana Eggrolls and Spicy Chicken & Beef Fried Rice

Thai Green salad and Thai Spring Rolls

Who Moved My Cheese?

Thank goodness I’m not lactose intolerant. And thank goodness cheese is one of my favorite food groups! Today I hosted 2 tasting sessions focused on soft French cheeses. It was a great way to try a slew of various cheeses without having to buy them all.

In hosting a cheese tasting session, friends came over with a cheese to share… specifically soft French cheeses. As the hostess, I provided a nice variety of accompaniments such as wine, crackers, artisnal bread, cured meats, & fruit for the tasting. To encourage learning about the cheeses and how to taste cheeses, I also provided everyone with a “Cheese Passport” – a small journal of sorts where folks can write notes of each cheese they tried at the event. It even included a lot of basic cheese information about purchasing, storing and serving cheese… even wine pairings!

I started my cheese tastings with a short talk on cheeses and how they are made. In many ways, cheese making is similar to wine making. Just as grapes make wine, it’s milk that makes cheese… and similar factors like the terroir, source, aging and storing all provide cheese very unique characteristics. But rather than bore my friends (and you) about cheese science, I had everyone break into small groups to try the various cheeses each person brought. Here are some pictures of the tastings:

My accompaniments for the tasting included:
strawberries, apples, Bosc pears, red & green grapes, honey, kalamata olives, walnuts, dried apricots, dried bing cherries, french baguette slices, 4 types of crackers (whole wheat, vegetable, cracked pepper and water crackers), sopressata salame and a black pepper salame. For wines, we had a variety of whites – Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chadonnay, Pinot Grigio and Viognier…

And here are the various cheeses that came to the party,
although there are still others I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of:…

Who Moved My Cheese?

Thank goodness I’m not lactose intolerant. And thank goodness cheese is one of my favorite food groups! Today I hosted 2 tasting sessions focused on soft French cheeses. It was a great way to try a slew of various cheeses without having to buy them all.

In hosting a cheese tasting session, friends came over with a cheese to share… specifically soft French cheeses. As the hostess, I provided a nice variety of accompaniments such as wine, crackers, artisnal bread, cured meats, & fruit for the tasting. To encourage learning about the cheeses and how to taste cheeses, I also provided everyone with a “Cheese Passport” – a small journal of sorts where folks can write notes of each cheese they tried at the event. It even included a lot of basic cheese information about purchasing, storing and serving cheese… even wine pairings!

I started my cheese tastings with a short talk on cheeses and how they are made. In many ways, cheese making is similar to wine making. Just as grapes make wine, it’s milk that makes cheese… and similar factors like the terroir, source, aging and storing all provide cheese very unique characteristics. But rather than bore my friends (and you) about cheese science, I had everyone break into small groups to try the various cheeses each person brought. Here are some pictures of the tastings:

My accompaniments for the tasting included:
strawberries, apples, Bosc pears, red & green grapes, honey, kalamata olives, walnuts, dried apricots, dried bing cherries, french baguette slices, 4 types of crackers (whole wheat, vegetable, cracked pepper and water crackers), sopressata salame and a black pepper salame. For wines, we had a variety of whites – Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chadonnay, Pinot Grigio and Viognier…

And here are the various cheeses that came to the party,
although there are still others I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of:…

Join My Culinary Adventures in Cyberspace!

For over the past year, I’ve been heavily involved in hosting local culinary events for members of my social activity group, What’s Cookin Chicago. As a result of my group’s popularity, other groups were created in various cities in the country including Canada! I’ve gotten quite a few emails from random folks asking if there was some way they could participate in my events from a distance, especially if they didn’t have a similar social group in their area. The answer?

Of course! I’ve decided to share my local culinary adventures with everyone via cyberspace with blogging events that are in tandem to the many types of events I host each month for fellow Chicagoans. Here’s how it works:

The 15th of every month I send my What’s Cookin Chicago members an email informing them of the upcoming month’s adventures. I’ll post the corresponding “Blogging Adventures” on my blog on the same day to allow folks ample time to find/make recipes and share through their own blog. When I post the summary of my group’s adventures with pictures and recipes, I’ll include the round up of posts received related to that specific adventure. To add a personal touch, for each blogging adventure, a related giveaway will be given to a chosen blogger that best captures the adventure in their post/entry/submission. Good luck and I hope you can participate!

Here’s how to submit your entries for the following blogging adventures:
1) Make a recipe or blog post for any of the blogging adventures outlined below. Create a blog post about it from now until the midnight deadline on the dates noted for the event.

2) Add a link back to this event’s URL

3) Submit your entry by emailing the following information to itsjoelen@gmail.com:
– with the title of the blogging adventure in subject line
– Your name
– Your state, country location
– Your food blog name & link to your event entry
– Name & picture of your entry

You can participate even if you don’t have a blog. Non-bloggers can email the above information (sans blog details) and I’ll include it in the round up.

Chosen bloggers for the giveaways will be contacted when the round up is posted to obtain mailing information. Good luck and hope you can join me in my Culinary Adventures!

Little Chefs: Cookies ~ This event is dedicated to all the young aspiring chefs out there. In this culinary adventure, we’re teaming up with the Ronald McDonald House each month to provide some kid-friendly events to their children & families… as well as a chance for your children to participate too! This month, we’re making cookies from scratch with the kids. If you have any cookie recipes easy enough for kids to make, please share it during this culinary blogging adventure! Deadline for submitting your entry is Saturday, June 4th. Giveaway – Cookie scoops!

Food Swap: Fudge ~ It’s another month to enjoy another swap of treats. This month we are paying homage to fudge. What makes it so great is that it’s a candy that comes in an array of flavors and can be easily shared. For this adventure, bloggers can submit their favorite fudge recipe to share by Saturday, June 14th. I’ll be posting pictures, the recipes of my attendees and the adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 16th. Giveaway – Candy making goodies!
Salad Spinnin’ ~ Each month I teach a few cooking classes and for this adventure, we are focusing on light and healthy salads, perfect for the summer. If you have a favorite dressing, vinaigrette and/or salad recipe to share for this adventure, please send it in by Sunday, June 15th. I’ll be posting pictures, the recipes of my attendees and the adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 16th. Giveaway – Salad dressing cruet!
Ethnic Food Tour: Pilsen & Mexican Morsels ~ I’m taking fellow Chicagoan foodies on a trip to the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago where we’ll enjoy an authentic Mexican lunch at one of Chicago’s best & affordable Mexican restaurants. To end on a sweet note, we’ll also make a stop at BomBon, a favorite bakery of Chicago… and maybe to check out a tortilla factory located nearby. For this blogging adventure, share with us a little about a Mexican neighborhood or area in your local area within a blog post. Deadline for this blogging adventure is Saturday, June 21st. We’d love to see how the Mexican food culture has made its mark all over the world! I’ll be posting pictures of our food tour and the blogging adventure roundup by Monday, June 23rd. Giveaway – Mexican cookbook!
Chef Spotlight: Tastes of Chicago ~ Each month, friends come over for dinner to celebrate the culinary contributions of a specific chef. In honor of the famous “Taste of Chicago” event taking place this month, we’re dedicating our Chef Spotlight dinner to all the fabulous chefs here in Chicago. The chefs we’re highlighting include Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter and Gale Gand – all who have made significant culinary contributions to Chicago. Attendees will be bringing dishes made from local chef recipes to enjoy potluck style. We’ll talk about the Chicago culinary scene, our city’s culinary contributions and the dishes we’ve prepared from local cookbooks. Come join us by sharing your favorite recipe from Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter and/or Gale Gand by posting about it in your blog! Deadline for this blogging adventure is Saturday, June 21st. I’ll be posting pictures of our Chef Spotlight dinner, recipes made by the attendees and the blogging adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 23rd. Giveaway – Chicago food gift!

“Iron Chef” Tasting Sessions: Honey ~ My group is always learning with me about food through the tasting sessions I host each month. This month we’re getting a bit competitive by putting an “Iron Chef” spin to our tasting sessions. For June, attendees will be making a potluck dish to share that highlights the not-so-secret ingredient, honey. Everyone will get to enjoy the dishes and they will also be judged. The winner will be awarded bragging rights and a special prize. We’ll also learn about honey and its characteristics, as well as new recipes to use honey in! For this blogging adventure, share your favorite recipe that highlights honey as a main ingredient. Deadline for this adventure is Sunday, June 22nd. I’ll be posting pictures and recipes of our Iron Chef: Honey recipes made by the attendees and the blogging adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 23rd. Giveaway – gourmet honey!

Wine & Dine: Reisling & Japanese Eats ~ Every month my group takes a wine varietal to taste and prepare a potluck of paired dishes. For June, we are drinking our way through Riesling wines and pairing them with Japanese inspired dishes. Share your favorite recipes using Riesling wines or your favorite Japanese dishes! Deadline for this adventure is Saturday, June 28th. I’ll be posting pictures of the event, the Japanese inspired recipes made by the attendees and the blogging adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 30th. Giveaway – Sushi making items!

Burger Bonanza ~ Summer definitely involves cooking on a grill so at this event, my group and I are firing up the grill with burgers! Everyone will be making their own custom burgers from scratch. For this blogging adventure, share with us your favorite burger recipe by Sunday, June 29th. I’ll be posting pictures of the event, the burger recipes made by the attendees and the blogging adventure recipe roundup by Monday, June 30th. Giveaway – Burger Cookbook!

Tasty Tools ~ I haven’t forgotten this blogging event and I’m still going to continue highlighting the tools of the trade! For June, I’ve chosen to highlight the Juicer. Summer is a great time to juice various fruits for refreshing dishes and beverages. Will you be submitting a lemonade recipe? A sangria recipe? Or a dish that highlights citrus juices? So get your juices flowing and submit a recipe using your juicer! Deadline for submissions is Friday, June 27 and the round up will be posted on Monday June 30.