TQFTMDMCCIC: In Space! [and a GIVEAWAY!]

Okay, so this won’t be nearly as exciting as Muppets In Space, or as intense as watching Gravity in IMAX, or anything like that…But it’s still pretty dang interesting. I have eaten astronaut food, without even leaving the atmosphere. Or … Continue reading

TQFTMDMCCIC: Ding Ding Ding, We Have A Winner!

One of my best friends came to visit about a month ago, and on a trip into San Francisco we were set on hitting up the Ben&Jerry’s store along the waterfront. Until we came across this signage:

Norman's | Thin Mint

 

I took the bait, and boy am I glad I did! I’ve found a five-star flavor!Norman's | Thin Mint

THE SCOOP: Thin Mint by Mitchell’s Ice Cream. A  fresh, natural-tasting peppermint ice cream with dark chocolate shavings.

PROS: EVERYTHING. Light, fresh peppermint flavor that isn’t dyed green and doesn’t taste fake. With the most amazing texture. And high quality chocolate chips, that are the perfect texture to melt in your mouth!! Oh my. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Loved every last second of this cone.

CONS: I can’t purchase it just anywhere. The closest grocery store that carries it in the freezer section is Draeger’s in San Mateo! And if I ever move away from the Bay I’m straight outta luck.

OVERALL RATING: 5/5
And now my palate has been tainted, because I’ve finally tasted something that qualifies for five whole stars. My apologies for any further ice cream reviews – I promise I’ll try not to let my judgment be altered but I figured it’s only fair to let you know that it might be 😉

Since this was such a special find, I have a couple bonus categories/photos to share with you!

 

Norman's | Thin Mint

THE FELLOW TASTE TESTERS: This was the first time my darling daughter actually enjoyed ice cream! Before she’s just made nasty faces because it’s cold. Or maybe because it just wasn’t as delicious as this stuff. My BFF Maye was also here and taste-tested too!! But for some reason the only photographic evidence I have of our trip into the city together is the fact that you can see her shoes in the photo I took of the ice cream cone.

Norman's | Thin Mint

THE SHOP: Norman’s Ice Cream and Freezes. It’s adorable! Hidden in a little corner of a courtyard (in the Cannery), with that fantastic signage. I’m pretty sure the owner, Norman, is the one who served us, and he is a gem. “It’s a lovely day, huh? But not as lovely as you ladies or my beautiful wife!” Totally tipped him. You *can* purchase Mitchell’s ice cream at other locations, but I love this little place so much.

All in all, I’d say this day was one of the best days ever. It was enough to get both the “Best Day Ever” and “Everything Is Awesome” songs (a la Spongebob and The Lego Movie) both running through my head, because I am so mature and grown up when it comes to my mental my-life-is-awesome soundtrack.

love, rach
disclosure, again: ain’t nobody paying me to write this bidness.

[previous ice cream reviews can be viewed here!]

TQFTMDMCCIC the 5th

OKAY, OKAY, I KNOW.
I have been seriously slacking in my ice cream critiques. Not in person – I definitely have been glutting myself on creamy ice-y minty goodness. But the actually sharing my findings here on this good ‘ol blog?? Well. The crickets speak for themselves.

So, onwards and upwards! I have some exciting reviews coming your way – including a little giveaway [my first one, ahh!] and an actual 5/5 star amazing I-could-eat-this-every-day find that I came across yesterday!!! I am stoked.

But first up, this intriguing find from my grocer’s freezer. Technically, it IS a gelato and NOT an ice cream. What’s the difference??? I have no idea except that I think it has something to do with the temperature it is frozen to (gelato is frozen colder..?) and that temperature has an effect on the overall texture. But I have yet to actually do any real research on the matter and I’m basing that conjecture solely on the types of ice cream makers I used to memorize spiels about while working kitchen retail. BUT that is neither here nor there – I give you gelato!

Talenti Gelato | Mediterranean Mint

TALENTI GELATO | MEDITERRANEAN MINT

THE DISH: A light green, mint flavored ice cream (uh, gelato) with flat, non-uniform rectangular chunks of semisweet chocolate.

Talenti Gelato | Mediterranean Mint

THE PROS: Very smooth! The texture is wonderful. The ice cream gelato portion is very high quality. An interesting mint flavor too – not like anything I’ve ever had before. It really grew on me, though! Reminds me more of the flavor of peppermint tea than the traditional “mint” flavor in your run of the mill MCCIC. Also, check out those ingredients! I love seeing something so simple.

Talenti Gelato | Mediterranean Mint

 

THE CONS: While the gelato base is unconventional but lovable and of an exceedingly high quality, the chocolate is disappointingly sub-par. With a dessert such as this, I expect quality in every ingredient. It cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.00 for one pint, which is not the most expensive frozen dessert I’ve ever purchased, but it’s certainly more than a pint of Ben&Jerry’s and every B&J’s flavor I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying has had better chocolate than this. You’d think they’d be able to source a better ingredient, it would make their product truly sing!

OVERALL RATING: 2/5
Once again, I am overly critical, especially after sampling SO many types of the same flavor combination. But the price point coupled with the disappointing chocolate left me extremely unimpressed. I would, however, be willing to sample more Talenti flavors….provided they did not have any chocolate mix-ins 😉

Stay tuned for weekly ice cream installments! Giveaways and five stars and consistency, oh my! And once again, ain’t nobody paid me to write this bidniz. I am a simple person who has a passion for mint chocolate chip ice cream, makes a point to buy all of the kinds I deem worth my time (with my own monies), and thereby ingests copious amounts of minty chocolate-y frozen treats. Sometimes I even share them with my family or friends.

TQFTMDMCCIC: IV

This week I’ve got yet another Ben&Jerry’s flavor for you!

Ben&Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie

Ben&Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie

THE DISH: A white mint ice cream with crumbled chocolate sandwich cookie bits. Think cookies n’ cream, but with a mint ice cream base.

Ben&Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie 2

See that right there?! Almost a full cookie. So beautiful.

THE PROS: Substantial cookie chunks! I don’t know about you, but I consider it a very good omen when I’m able to root out an entire cookie still in tact from my carton of ice cream. It is the ultimate archaeological dig. And I found two in this little pint! I love that, and the fact that the cookies stay soft and give you more of an immediate chocolate flavor, unlike chips which need time to melt on the tongue. It’s a nice subtle minty flavor, almost like mint Oreos blended with vanilla ice cream (instead of the other way around). It’s quite pleasant overall.

THE CONS: I wish it was “mintier”, if you eat the entire pint in one sitting (oops) you kind of grow numb to the mint and can’t taste it by the end.

OVERALL RATING: 3/5. The subtle mint just doesn’t do it for me. Again, very good ice cream, nothing “annoying” about eating it, but simply not worth it for the price point. I’m happy someone finally made a mint cookies n cream, because it is a BRILLIANT idea, but I’m not going to buy it unless it’s on sale. Come on off-brands, let’s see some knock offs!

Stayed tuned next week for HAAGEN DAZS!!!

love — Rach

previous reviews [1] [2] [3]

TQFTMDMCCIC: The Sequel

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m slacking off here! I definitely have three different flavors I’ve been meaning to share with you. I’ll start off with one that I really, truly loved:

Breyers Blasts! Girl Scout Thin Mints

 

IMG_7231

 

IMG_7232

IMG_7234

THE DISH: A non-green mint, with flakes of chocolate and crushed Thin Mints cookies in irregular shapes and sizes (sometimes you get lucky and find a whole one!) – it’s like cookies&cream, but with Thin Mints instead of “chocolate sandwich cookies”.

PROS: PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. Seriously. This was awesome. Lovely minty flavor – I couldn’t tell if it was the cookies or the ice cream but either way, it was a nice dispersion. The chips were the perfect size/thickness. The texture of the cookies was awesome – like they had been dunked in a glass of milk for the perfect amount of time. Nice overall mouth feel!

CONS: I honestly couldn’t think of any while eating it. And I can’t come up with any now.

OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5 stars – I can’t justify a 5 star rating in this context because it is not technically a “mint chocolate chip” ice cream. But I would totes give it 5 stars just for existing, outside of the TQFTMDMCCIC context!!! Yummm. I hope this sticks around.

Anyone else found this flavor and given it a try? Do you prefer just chips or cookies in your mint ice cream??

Love, Rach

The Quest For The Most Delicious Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: Part I

You guys, my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream knows no bounds.

Relishing some MCC at Disneyland. Can you feel the love?!

Relishing some MCC at Disneyland, Summer 2011. Can you feel the love?! [I was probably also textin’ my boyfrand-who-turned-husband and was a little twitterpated, so there’s love radiating from that too, but still. The ice cream.]

There is something about the combination of minty freshness and decadent chocolatey-ness that really makes my heart sing. I’m no respecter of brands – nearly anything chocolatey and minty [green coloring not required] gets my heartstrings hummin’ along – but I definitely have my preferences.

Hence, I embarked on The Quest For The Most Delicious Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream…which shall hereby be known as TQFTMDMCCIC.
It’s pronounced “t’qwuf t’mmm-duh-mmm-kick”it’s got a little bit of a rhythm to it and sounds like beatboxing. Sort of. Almost. You may do a little dance whilst saying it if you wish.
I know I did.

But what good is TQFTMDMCCIC if I don’t share the deliciousness in photographic form and opine on each and every iced cream I try along the way?!

FIRST UP: Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream in “mmmm Mint Chocolate Chip”

TQFTMDMCCIC_1 TQFTMDMCCIC_2

THE DISH: A creamy smooth, green mint ice cream with a nice zingy flavor. Packed with semi-sweet chocolate chunks of varying rectangular size.

PROS: I do like the mint flavor on it’s own! It’s not timid. Very refreshing. The chocolate chunks take a little longer to melt, so each bite has a smooth chocolatey finish that’s kind of nice. Also, the chunks vary greatly in size, which makes for a fun eating experience!

CONS: Personally, I don’t like ice cream that I have to “chew”, if that makes sense. And these chocolate chunks require quite a bit of jaw action. Also, the chip-to-cream ratio seems okay at first, but occasionally I end up with a mouthful of chips alone, which is also not my fave but if that’s what you’re into you’d dig it. The mint by itself is punchy, but still is overtaken by the chocolate chunks, and I don’t love the chocolate by itself enough to really love that.

OVERALL RATING: 3 out of 5 stars. It ain’t bad, it’s good quality, and I do enjoy it…it just ain’t worth my money unless it’s on sale (which it was at the time this was purchased). I typically enjoy the off-brand/store brand mint chip just a smidge more!

I hope you’re all excited to join me in TQFTMDMCCIC! What’s your personal favorite flavor of ice cream? Any other mint chip lovers out there with recommendations for me??

love, rach

PS, mad props to my seester Sarah, who documents nearly all of the moments in my life that are worth documenting [AKA that ice cream cone at Dinneyland]. She has some sweet skillz.

PPS, in the interest of full disclosure, I ain’t sponsored by nobody and don’t have aspirations to be. This blog is just for fun, nobody is paying me to do it, and the thoughts/opinions/words are all my own. I initially purchased this ice cream to go along with my birthday cake last month (more on that later).

the most delicious pizza of all the pizzas.

The hubs and I took advantage of the recent three-day weekend to visit some of our good friends that live up in Alameda. They are quite awesome and know all of the delicious restaurants up there…so we took a chance on this neat little Italian place called Tomatina’s.

They have a special pizza this month, “Pizza Cipolla Caramellate Con Mele”.
AKA “Caramelized Onion, Cranberry, and Roasted Apple Pizza”
AKA
“The Best Pizza I’ve Ever Had In My Life.”
It looked a little something like this:

yes, that would a photo of my leftovers that I re-heated and ate for lunch the next day. And obviously instagrammed. Because that’s what it’s for…pictures of your food.

Anyway. I thought a great deal about recreating it in my own kitchen (thanks to the urging of a couple dear friends of mine).
When I went grocery shopping the other day and found baby Arugula on sale for less than a dollar a package, I took it as a sign.
This is what I came up with:

Because I just love you all so much, I’ll share my secrets with you : )

I started off with my favorite pizza dough recipe (<– click that! it’s delicious.)
I made the full recipe, which produces enough dough for one 14″ (medium) pizza. But I split the dough in half and made two 10″ pizzas (one for me, one for le husband).

Here’s a short little ‘recipe’ for everything else I did!

Caramelized Onion, Cranberry, and Roasted Apple Pizza
adapted from what-I-tasted-at-Tomatina’s.

Ingredients:

All of my super duper fancy ingredients.

All of my super duper fancy ingredients.

Pizza dough (enough for one 10″ thin-crust pizza)
1.5 T Olive oil, plus more to brush on crust
4oz grated mozzarella cheese
1 small/medium onion, chopped thinly
1 medium apple (use a sweet variety, not baking apples. I chose Gala.) – peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2″ cubes
1/8 – 1/4C dried cranberries (I have a huge bag of ‘pomegranate infused Craisins’, so I used those. Still good, but I definitely prefer plain cranberries)
1C fresh baby arugula
Grated Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle (I used dried/preserved, fresh-grated would be delightful)
*these are just the measurements I used – you can adjust them to fit your personal taste!

Method:
I don’t have a functional pizza stone at the moment (mine has something funky stuck to it, so it smokes and smells terrible whenever I put it in the oven…), so this is how I did it instead.
quick word to the wise: I warped my pan while doing this because the oven has to be so dang hot. Haha. So, pick a pan you don’t care as much for, or use a higher oven rack, or turn the heat down to 475 or so and bake a little longer to try and avoid this. Or just get yourself a pizza/baking stone – it’s worth it.

Position a rack in the lower portion of your oven, and preheat to SUPER ULTRA CRAZY HOT. Or, 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit (but not broil). That works too.

Yeah, I forgot to move my oven rack before preheating, so this is what "lower portion" means in regards to me and my gas oven!

Yeah, I forgot to move my oven rack before preheating, so this is what “lower portion” means in regards to me and my gas oven!

While oven is heating, caramelize yourself some onions.
First, chop them so they look like so:

Chopped onions! Thin squares. Easy, because the layers of the onion peel apart to make the "thinly sliced" thing happen automatically!

Thin squares. Easy, because the layers of the onion peel apart to make the “thinly sliced” thing happen automatically!

Well actually, you can chop them up any old way you want. So long as they’re thin in the end : ) some people like long strips instead.

Heat 1.5 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet until it is hot, but not smoking. Add onions, 1/8t salt and a dash of pepper. Cover directly with a parchment round and cook until onions are soft and golden brown – about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally as this is going on.

And so it begins…

Covering Directly! Parchment paper is breathable, so moisture is retained but not too much. This process is somewhere in between using a regular lid and leaving the pan uncovered.

If this starts to happen (blackened/burning-ness) - turn the heat down a touch and stir more frequently

If this starts to happen (blackened/burning/crispy onions) – turn the heat down a touch and stir more frequently

BAM. Caramelized.

BAM. Caramelized. Delicious. They smell SO GOOD.

Once that’s done, shape your pizza dough however your little heart desires and place atop a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Top with onions, diced apples, and dried cranberries. Sprinkle parmesan over all toppings.

dough - shaped and oiled

dough – shaped and oiled

the mozzarella!

the mozzarella!

all of the toppings! I layered onions - cranberries - apples - parmesan - and an extra layer of mozzarella (because I like that)

all of the toppings! I layered onions – cranberries – apples – parmesan – and an extra layer of mozzarella (because I like that)

Place baking sheet on the lowest oven rack and cook about 12 minutes, or until edges of crust are golden and cheese is melted. Carefully remove from oven. Allow to cool for a couple minutes, then top with baby arugula. Serve immediately.

Cooked!

Cooked!

Topped with Arugula and ready to slice!

YUMMMMM.

TA-DA! That’s all there is to it! The toppings aren’t hard to prepare at all, and it’s super delicious (and dare I say, impressive?).
The only thing that takes up a bit of your time is the crust – unless you decide to go with store bought, which to be honest would probably still taste fabulous because this combination of toppings is so brilliant.
Or, with my favorite recipe I linked to up there, you can make it to a month ahead! Just freeze it after it’s risen : ) if you’re not that forward-thinking, it can be allowed to rise in a covered, refrigerated bowl for up to one day. Whatever make-ahead method you choose, be sure to allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping it!

Let me know if you give it a go, or have any questions! Enjoy!

Love, Rach

The Pie-Maker

**EDIT 10-16-12: after receiving a phone call from a dear friend while she was actually making this recipe, I realized I forgot to mention a couple semi-important things when typing it out the first time! So please take a moment to re-read before making your own. If you have any more questions, PLEASE let me know [if you’ve got my numba don’t hesitate to call, haha] and I’d also love to hear how yours turns out!**

It’s never been a secret that I absolutely adore pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were my favorite holidays growing up. My Mom would make a ridiculous amount of the most delicious pies ever during these seasons. We got to eat them for dessert AND for breakfast…..cold pie for breakfast is probably one of my very favorite things.

As luck would have it, the hubs loves pie just as much as I do! I discovered this when we were dating. His birthday was coming up, and I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate….his picture of a perfect day involved baking pies with me and devouring them while watching college football. D’AWWW ; )

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fulfill that dream on his birthday weekend, for reasons I can’t remember. BUT. I sneakily baked him a strawberry-rhubarb pie (his favorite) (after going to a billion grocery stores to find some dang rhubarb) and made a special delivery on his birthday….he loved it. And ate it for every single meal for three days straight [it was a biiiig pie. and, well, that’s how bachelors’ eat. haha]

Thus began my journey into pie-maker-dom.

Since then I have been finding every excuse to bake a pie, test a new crust recipe, find intriguing filling combinations, etc. etc. etc….and I thought I would share a piece of my most recent success with you! [not literally though….I wish I could!]

Feast your eyes on the rustic blueberry pie I made last weekend! Served with fresh, home whipped chantilly cream of course. mmmmm…

The main success here was perfecting my most favorite pie crust. The original recipe is from renowned pastry chef Emily Luchetti, published in her cookbook  A Passion for Desserts. Why is it my favorite?? Because the crust alone is deeee-licious. It has just a touch of vanilla bean and sugar – thus transforming the ENTIRE piece of pie an amazing piece of deliciousness. None of those tasteless hunks of flavorless, empty carbs hanging off the ends, as you sometimes get with storebought pies/crusts. It’s also made entirely with butter – no lard or shortening or any of that nonsense 🙂

The original recipe is quite fantastic, but I have tweaked it just a bit to give it a touch more flakiness [my personal preference]. Every time I’ve tried my hand at Ms Luchetti’s recipe, it just wasn’t as flaky as I hoped. So here’s the recipe, with my little adjustments! If you’d like the original, hit me up.

BASIC PIE DOUGH

adapted from Emily Luchetti

yeild: top and bottom crust for one 9″ pie

(for a single crust pie, divide the recipe or save half the dough for later)

ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

8 ounces (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1/2 vanilla bean)*

3-4 tablespoons ice-cold water

2 tablespoons white vinegar

to make the dough by hand**: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter.

*now here comes the vanilla. You can use a traditional vanilla bean, but I opt for this lovely stuff right here:

I didn’t use my stand mixer at all for this pie – this photo is from my chocolate cheesecake experiment (recipe coming soon!)

Neilsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. It’s a mixture of vanilla extract and vanilla beans – you get the benefits of vanilla bean (no additional water content, flavor, and those lovely speckles!) without having to buy vanilla beans. Use it anywhere you would use vanilla bean or vanilla extract! 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste = 1 vanilla bean. However, if you do go with a vanilla bean, I will include those directions for you as well. And of course, if you only have vanilla extract, use that! You might want to use 1/2 tablespoon less water to offset the liquid content (see tip at the end)*

mixing by hand, continued: Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them to the flour mixture; reserve the bean for another use (or add 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract to the flour mixture). Using two knives or a pastry blender (or your hands), mix together until the butter is pea sized. Pour the ice-cold water and vinegar into the flour and mix just until the dough comes together.

**you can also make the dough in a food processor or stand mixer, I just prefer the old-fashioned way so those are the directions I’m including!*

prebaking the piecrust: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a parchment paper circle 12 inches in diameter. You can also use plain wax paper, with no ill results – if you do this, be SURE the waxy-coated side is NOT touching the crust!

To prebake the piecrust, place the parchment paper circle on top of the dough in the pie pan and fill it with dried rice or beans. Bake until the edges of the crust are lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights and continue to bake until the bottom is slightly brown, about 3-5 minutes. Crust will be a bit crisp on the edges, but still slightly spongy in the center. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Fill with your favorite pie filling and bake according to recipe instructions – making sure to wrap the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning them. Remove this “crust shield” for the last 10 minutes of baking.

planning ahead (or saving the other half, if you’re making a one-crust pie): From Emily Luchetti: “Tart and pie dough can be made several days in advance. If the dough has been in the refrigerator overnight, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, making it easier to roll out. Dough can be formed in the pan and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for 3 weeks. For maximum flavor and flakiness, tarts and pies should be baked the day you are going to eat them.” — I would also add that you could probably freeze the dough as-is (aka not in the pie dish), wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Just transfer the dough to the refrigerator 24 hours before you plan to use it, and proceed from there! I haven’t done this myself, but I wouldn’t have any qualms about trying it. I have, however, kept my leftover dough refrigerated for longer than 3 days and it’s been fine. Not quite as awesome as the day-of crust, but still great.

et voila! the beginning of a delicious dessert : )

Some tips (about this pie, and about crusts in general) :

  • Specific to THIS recipe: I am not a pre-baker of crusts, usually. But I do follow the book on this one, aside from baking it for a shorter amount of time (original recipe says 20mins+5mins). Baking it that long made a crust that was not as soft as I like.
  • You CAN get away with not pre-baking at all. The main reason to pre-bake is to ensure the bottom crust does not get “soggy” from the filling – if you are making a fruit pie with a high water content I would recommend pre-baking at least a little, but if you like soft bottom crusts and are making a cream or custard style pie (think: pumpkin), then you will be fine baking in the raw crust.
  • In all crust recipes: The liquid measurements are flexible. Only add enough for the dough to just come together – stop before it becomes sticky!
  • Vinegar evaporates as the crust bakes, thus producing a flakier, lighter crust.
  • If you over mix or over work the dough, it will become tough. Don’t knead it like bread, handle it as little as possible.
  • Allow the dough time to “rest” between mixing, rolling, and pre-baking. I refrigerate my dough for 30mins immediately after mixing, rest 5-10mins on the counter before rolling, and refrigerate another 15-30mins in the pie plate before baking. This helps alleviate bubbling/cracking/shrinking while baking and discourages toughness!
  • If you do pre-bake a crust, the pie weights (or dried rice and beans) ensure that the crust does not shrink or bubble up. I’ve heard of people poking the crust with the tines of a fork as well, but this can cause some fillings to leak through.
  • When baking the entire pie, be sure to protect your edge crust! Wrap the edges with aluminum foil before baking. This ensures they cook slower than the rest of the crust and prevents them from burning.

Anyway. Those are my pieces of pie-making wisdom for the day 🙂 If you try this recipe or have any questions, let me know! Happy pie season! : )

love, rach

PS – the blueberry pie recipe in the photo IS the one I used as a basis for the pie shown here!  taken from Gourmet Today.

PPS – I really hope you’ve seen Pushing Daisies. It tickled all of my pie fancies! There are only two seasons and they are beautiful. And it’s free to watch if you have Amazon Prime. BAM.