Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream

I have tried several different vanilla ice cream recipes, all varying in their level of difficulty and list of ingredients.
I seriously think that my favorite is still my three-ingredient ice cream from Eagle Brand.
But...this is pretty darn tasty also.
It comes out really creamy and of course as most homemade ice creams go, are better soon after they are frozen. In my personal experience whenever I put homemade ice cream in the freezer it tends to get icy and not as flavorful as when it was first made. Does anybody else experience that as well? It can't just be me...

This photo is from right after it was churned in the ice cream freezer and these "extras" wouldn't fit into our container for keeping it all in the freezer. Just enough for a bowl for my daughter and I to share :)

But after it sat in the freezer for about two hours, the consistency was still remarkable and super creamy. In fact, it scooped out quite nicely for our ice cream and cake celebration.

Two days later we are still eating from this batch of ice cream. It is still good, just not as rich and creamy as I love. But, it's homemade, so of course it is delicious no matter what!
I found this recipe from a newspaper clipping tucked into an old cookbook I purchased on eBay. I can't give credit to the original author because there is none listed. 
So thank you to whomever printed this recipe many moons ago!
I made the recipe as written, as I filled our freezer to the fill line. We use an electric one with the ice and rock salt, and all but about 1-2 cups of the mix wouldn't fit into it. So, if you feel the need to adapt the recipe, go for it, otherwise you will get 1 gallon of deliciousness with this. I just dumped out the remaining bit of the mix.

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: freeze as directed in your fre
Ingredients (1 gallon)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 pint half & half
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 5-6 tablespoons vanilla extract
Cream together the eggs and sugar with a mixer.
Add the milk, half & half, heavy whipping cream, evaporated milk, and vanilla.
Mix well.
Add to your ice cream maker and continue freezing as directed per your manufacturer's instructions.
When done freezing, remove the paddle and serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the freezer.
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Delicious Homemade White Cake & Frosting

Please forgive me in advance for this crazy post!
I found a new recipe widget I want to use because I think it will make printing recipes MUCH easier for everyone (including me).

Besides that, this is a whammy of a recipe post!
Originally I was going to add in the recipe for vanilla homemade ice cream we whipped up yesterday as well, but decided to create a separate post and publish it tomorrow.
I don't want to overload anyone!

Today would have been my Grandpa's 90th birthday. As I blogged about before, he passed away May 8th, so he missed his big day by just a few months. It is a total bummer. For years he has been pre-inviting people to his 100th birthday party. He was set on making it until then. But, I can assure everyone I won't forget that day 10 years from now and we will have a nice little party in his honor then as well :)

I've mentioned before that my Grandpa and my daughter were really close. Sophia is missing her great-grandpa very much and she talks about him everyday. She is so worried that he doesn't remember her. She makes my heart happy! I reassure her that he hasn't forgotten her. I can't imagine processing death at the age of 5. I know many kids do it, I remember when my great-grandpa passed away. I was about that same age. But we weren't near as close as these two.

In these photos Sophia was a little two-year-old, then just days before he passed away...
Then us during his last bust out of the nursing home (for Sophia's dance recital), and then him and Sophia waiting eagerly for the train to come so we could hop on for a ride!

I promised her that we wouldn't forget Grandpa's birthday and we would make a cake.
She knew how much Grandpa loved homemade ice cream, so we also made a batch of creamy delicious ice cream to go with it.

Sophia wanted to put a candle in the cake so badly. I couldn't say 'no', so in went a single, blue candle.
She promised my hubs and me that she would make the wish for Grandpa. 
We weren't sure exactly what she was going to wish for, but it broke my heart.

"I wish for Grandpa to be alive."

Needless to say, I am so glad we celebrated his birthday in his honor.
I was very close to my Grandpa and miss him very, very, very much. 
So, this helps me, too!

Now, let's get to business! THIS CAKE IS UNREAL!
If you haven't noticed I haven't posted any "made-from-scratch" white cake recipes.
Because they all stink.
If you have ever tried to make a white cake from scratch, odds are that it turned out kind of like cornbread, or it sunk and was really dense and not airy like it should be.

Now, behold the first white cake recipe that I am going to post. 
This is the only successful white cake from scratch I have made, so far. 
I keep working on it. 
I figured it was finally time to post this recipe and thought this would be a good post to do it on :)

This is a fairly sweet, almond flavored cake. Because of the sweetness, I paired it with a classic, cooked frosting recipe.
The white cake comes originally from Cooks Illustrated, but I used the adapted recipe from iambaker.

Homemade White Cake

by Emily Chhouy {adapted}

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Ingredients (8 inch, double layer)

  • 1 cup milk {at room temperature}
  • 6 large egg whites {at room temperature}
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter {softened, but still cool}


Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with shortening and then flour.

Pour the milk, egg whites, almond, and vanilla into a large bowl and whisk together until combined.

In bowl to a mixer, add the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Combine slowly.

Cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour mixture.

Continue to beat on low for 2 minutes.

Scrap the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add 1/2 of the milk and egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat for minute.

Add the remaining 1/2 of the milk and egg mixture and continue to beat for another minute.

Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans.

Bake about 28-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Invert onto cooling racks to cool completely (run a knife around the edge to loosen it before inverting).


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Classic Frosting

by Emily Chhouy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 5 min

Ingredients (frosts 8 in, double layer cake)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated, white sugar {do not used powdered sugar}


In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and flour over a medium/low heat.

Whisk/stir constantly until the mixture thickens. {about 3 minutes}

Do not burn the mixture.

As it thickened, I lift the saucepan off of the heat and keep stirring it with the other hand.

Let the mixture cool completely after thickened.

After it has came to room temperature (no more heat coming from it), cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.

Mix in the vanilla.

Add the cooled flour mixture to the butter mixture and continue beating until it becomes light and fluffy.

It should start to look like whipping cream.

Scrape the sides as needed.

The frosting should thicken and hold peaks.

Keep beating until this happens.

Pipe or frost cake as desired.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Snickerdoodle Cookies

We absolutely love cookies at my house. And, we were going through cookie withdrawals.
I haven't made any since a few weeks ago when I made the Peanut Butter Nutella Sandwich cookies I blogged about.
Well, I had been craving a cookie and after the whirlwind we had during the past couple of weeks (work, mini vacay, housework, school, getting daughter ready for kindergarten...I am teary-eyed) I haven't had the time to do much baking. 
But, our Iowa weather has been so cool that I should be baking everyday. I totally mean that also. We have had such mild temps that it tricked our lilac bush and it is blooming again! So crazy!!
So, I knew I was wanting a cookie and decided to bake up a batch of Snickerdoodles. 
I haven't made them for a while because I am so also impatient when it comes to these cookies that waiting for the dough to chill is so stinking hard for me!

I found a recipe over at Lovin' From The Oven and knew I had to give it a whirl.
I doubled it because making 18 of these just won't satisfy my family :)
So, I ended up getting about 3 dozen cookies.
I used a cookie scoop to get even sized cookies, and I also flattened them slightly by pressing them with the palm of my hand before baking. 
Since they are baked at a low temperature, it took my oven about 15 minutes to get them puffed up in the middle and not over-baked (they will turn rock hard if you over-bake these...so don't do it). It all depends on your oven and your cookie sheets. So pay close attention after they bake for about 10 minutes. 

Snickerdoodle Cookies

by Emily Chhouy

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 15 min

Ingredients (36 cookies)

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon


Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and the eggs until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and the baking soda.

Add slowly to the creamed mixture and continue to mix until dough forms.

Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degree.

In a small bowl combine together the 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and coat with the sugar mixture.

Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Press down the tops with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, not over-baking. The middles of the cookie will be puffed up.

Let cool completely on the baking sheet before removing.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Simple Thai Food {a cookbook review}

I just have to start out by saying that the author of this wonderful cookbook, Leela Punyaratabandhu is my new kitchen hero! My husband is Cambodian and I have been trying to teach myself how to create all the foods he grew up with. His mom lives in Washington state and we are in Iowa, so he misses his mommy's food...a lot! I have been doing fairly well, but Leela's book is just what our home needed!
Thai food is definitely a favorite because it is so flavorful and so diverse. The Pad Thai is absolutely wonderful! I have been buying the pre-made sauce for it at the Asian markets and it doesn't even compare.
There is nothing bad to say about this cookbook.
Leela provides several different methods for preparing ingredients and the dishes themselves. Her glossary in the back is so in-depth that any question you may have will be easily answered with a quick glance. Her list of stores to find supplies from is absolutely amazing. I scour the internet and typically end up purchasing goods that I know fall short.
But, not anymore! The photos are beautiful and show the food in all of their delicious glory. The recipe instructions don't miss any steps and anyone who has never cooked Asian cuisine before will be able to follow the recipe and come out with a wonderfully prepared meal! I promise!
This is the best Asian cookbook I have ever glanced through, let alone own and I am so happy to have it part of my collection. If someone is on the edge of trying to make Thai food at home, get this cookbook. You will never look at take-out the same ever again.
This deserves 6 of 5 stars. She went above and beyond with the tips and information that is filling the pages.
Simple Thai Food is bursting with nothing but greatness!

Check out more about Leela here!

*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Best Peach Cobbler

Peaches are in season which means that the hubs is eating them like candy.
My favorite way to eat peaches would be in cobbler.
I have made several different cobblers before, and some peach desserts I made recently would be the Peach Cobbler Cake and the Peachy Cream Bars which were both mighty tasty. But, they were missing something.
They weren't like I wanted it to be. Although, I don't really know what I wanted it to be.
Then, alas.

I came across a peach cobbler recipe over at thefoodhussy.com and I had a feeling that *this* would be the peach cobbler recipe of my dreams. 
The way the boiling water creates a sugar crust on top is absolutely wonderful. 
I use fresh peaches, because they are in season and super cheap...and nothing beats a fresh peach.
If you haven't made anything with fresh ones before, be sure to check out my post on how to peel a peach easily. It saves you so much hassle!

And, I cannot lie. I was eating it with a spoon while it was cooling after coming out of the oven.
It was delicious.
The hubs even agreed.
We ended up eating half of the cobbler with a spoon. 
From the baking dish.
Before it cooled.

The Best Peach Cobbler

4 cups peaches, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 375.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.
Place peaches evenly in the dish.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup sugar and butter.
Add the salt, flour, baking powder, and milk.
Mix well.
Spread as evenly as you can over the peaches.
In a small bowl mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch.
Sprinkle evenly over the batter.
Pour the boiling water over the sugar top so it is all moistened.
Do not mix.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Let cool until desired warmth before serving.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad{Things to Do}

I have always had the intention to post fun things to do in my "Travel" section. I mean, I did design my blog to have a section for those posts, but I haven't utilized it...until now.
So to kick off my summer 2014 adventure blog posts I will start with the first field-trip I took my daycare kiddos on this summer.
We spent the afternoon at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad riding the train.

If you have a kid, then the odds are that they find trains fascinating.
I mean, they are huge things that move super fast and they have that awesome whistle.
What isn't to enjoy about that?

Boone is an old train town just west of Ames and they provide multiple train rides at various times throughout the day.
They have the basic excursion, which is what we went on this time with the kids; but there are also dessert and dinner trains.
My husband and I took my Grandpa on the dinner train for his 81st birthday, I believe it was. Grandpa was a huge train buff...steam engines were his thing! He worked on M & St L many moons ago, and was an avid train watcher. The dinner train is definitely worth it if you have someone special who enjoys all things trains.
I don't have any pictures that I can find :( but we were able to sit in a private room, which is original to the train (think early 1900's train style). It was just a fun evening! I highly recommend it!

Back to the kiddos...
We took the basic excursion, which runs from the train depot in Boone, to Fraser (about a 30 minute trip both ways). The railroad started here in the late 1800's. The train cars are old, again early 1900's. The cars are not air conditioned, but the windows comes down. There is a concession car on the train and restrooms of course :)
The hubs and I got them all pumped up about the riding the choo-choo train so they were so excited to actually see the train.

They loved holding their train tickets in the station before departure:

And then we found our seats:

Of course we had to flip one of the seats around because they just thought it was so much fun:

The views on the train are pretty amazing. It does go over the high bridge; Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which has some amazing views that the kids loved:

It does go over the Des Moines River Bridge as well, which is fun to watch the river run beside the train and then cross over. The trip is narrated by a volunteer...which all the people that work for the train are volunteers. This I think is pretty amazing. It is nice to have people volunteer their time for something fun that is preserving the past.

There is a museum back at the train station that you can pay to visit without going on a train ride, or it is included in your admission when riding a train. Of course there is a gift shop, which if you visit I highly suggest picking up a copy of the book Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express which is an amazing true story of a fifteen-year-old girl that risked her life to stop incoming trains from passing over a bridge during a horrible storm that a train wreck just happened upon. When you are leaving town, you might also swing out by the bridge just to see how amazing her feat was. I wouldn't have ever climbed that bridge, let alone during a horrible storm!!

Overall the train ride is fun for everyone! During the summer there many different options like I mentioned earlier. The dessert, dinner, and even a picnic train. There are also several seating options available.
Check out their website to see what best fits your schedule!
In the early fall Thomas the Train makes an appearance, so young fans are bound to love that day!
There is also a pumpkin train during the fall that you can take out to the pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin. Talk about more fun than just going to the farm!
And of course, close to the holidays Santa sets up a workshop nearby...

So what does it cost?
Again, we went basic coach:
For adults, it is pricier...$20 a person.
Children 3-12...$7 each
2 and under...free!

I kept reminding myself that the station runs off of volunteers and donations to justify the price. However, when we got there and saw the smiles on the kid's faces - it was totally worth the money!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies

The Fourth of July weekend went by in a flash, didn't it?
We were completely busy all weekend, some of it my own doing since I started a project...a fairly large project. But, I managed to make up a batch of these delicious little cookies yesterday:

Oh, and the large project I started? I ripped up the carpet in our living room!! Yep!
Do you ever get an itch to do something and then it consumes you?
That's me after I finally peeked under the carpet on Thursday to discover hardwood there!
WOO HOO! I knew the chances of it existing beneath the carpet were fairly decent. We have a hallway and our daughter's room that are both hardwood, I just don't know why it took me ten years of living here to finally look? I guess staring at those stains on the carpet every day and trying so hard to clean them out were getting to me!
So...I started that project, by myself. The hubs wants no part of it. I don't blame him! But, he will be the sandman when we refinish them in a few weeks. We still need to pull up the carpet in our bedroom so we can do it all at once. I am so EXCITED!
Well, that's how I spent all of my spare time on Saturday and Sunday. Toss in a bit of homework (Shakespeare and nonfiction writing to be exact) and that was my weekend!
Friday though, we did have a LOT of fun!
We of course went to the parade:

Then we went to my Uncle's for a cookout and a quick swim in his pool...and homemade ice cream!

After that we headed to Red Rock Lake to meet my brother and sister and spent the evening out on the boat!

My sister, Ann & Sophia

My brother, Levi chillaxin' while Channa captains the boat

Beautiful Red Rock

Me & my girl!
Then we came home just in time to watch the fireworks.

I was exhausted!!
I do have to note that while boating we did grill some hot dogs (Wranglers, All Beef of course since the hubs is a hot dog snob) and my sister in her quest for healthy food alternatives made herself some Carrot Dogs to toss on the grill! If you are interested in reading about them, check out her blog post here!

But in the midst of my carpet ripping yesterday I managed to whip up a batch of these cookies that I found over at Tasty Kitchen
So freaking good!
Sophia was a bit freaked out about them at first, "please just make me regular peanut butter cookies, they are my favorite!" she kept telling me.
I reminded her that she absolutely loves Nutella and that she will love these, too.
No surprise here. She loves them.
It is just a basic peanut butter cookie recipe with a quick and easy Nutella filling slathered in between two cookies of the same size. This made 32 sandwich cookies, just as the original recipe says it would.
The filling is just enough to smoosh a small amount in between cookies, so I recommend bumping up the amount a bit. Especially if you are like me and really, really love Nutella.
Totally easy to make, stores well, came out moist and tasty.
Pretty sure you need to make these right now!

Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies
{printable recipe}

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

6oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup marshmallow creme
3/4 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixer, beat together the butter and sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Mix in the vanilla and peanut butter, combining well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add slowly to the creamed mixture, mixing just until combined.
Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, or roll dough into even-sized 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
Make the balls as uniform sized as possible and not too large.
You will make 64 cookies altogether.
Using a fork, or tenderizer, dip into the 2 tablespoons of sugar to prevent sticking, and make pattern on top of the cookies.
Bake for 8 minutes, or until puffed in the center.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on baking sheet before removing.

While cookies are baking, make the filling:
In a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, marshmallow creme, and Nutella.

When the cookies are done baking and hardened a bit from cooling, using a frosting spatula or butter knife, swipe even amounts of the frosting on the flat side of one cookie, using another of about the same size and shape, make a sandwich with the cookies - the Nutella as the filling.
Repeat until all cookies are sandwiches.
Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garden Update!

We have had a fairly mild, rainy summer so far and my garden is definitely reaping the benefits of it!
I did learn that zucchini grows a lot larger than I expected...
But, it's all good!
We love watching all the plants grow and we are eagerly awaiting for the fruits of our labor to start blooming.
Our herb garden has been harvested two times now, which I am so happy about! I was a bit nervous on how they were going to do. In fact, last night I was cutting back the spearmint (which spreads like crazy) and when I walked into our kitchen after washing it all, it smelled like a pack of gum. It was a great smell!
We did have some insane winds during a storm the other day, so all my plants suffered a bit of damage (like practically being bent in half). However, with a little TLC, they are doing alright. I do have one serrano pepper plant that the stem broke almost in half. So I have propped it up and am hoping that it is able to make a full recovery!
The weeds aren't too bad anymore. I was religiously weeding, and now I can do it about every three or four days. That makes me happy because I really hate weeding!

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