Homemade Shamrock Shake

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

McDonald’s offers the Shamrock Shake at select restaurants for a limited time only during a few weeks in February and March to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. But if we want to slurp up a smooth, mint flavored, light green colored ice cream dessert, we make our own Shamrock Shake at home to enjoy any time of the year. Get in a green mood and make a festive food like this easy homemade Shamrock Shake for St. Patrick’s Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • ¾ – 1 cup milk
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon mint extract
  • green food coloring
  • whipped cream
  • green sugar or shamrock-shaped sprinkles
  • maraschino cherry (red or green)

Directions

In a blender, combine the ice cream, milk and mint extract. Put a few drops of green food coloring to get the desired shade of green for the shake.

Blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Generously swirl whipped cream on top. Optional: Garnish with green sugar or shamrock-shaped sprinkles and a maraschino cherry. Insert a straw and serve immediately.

Notes

  • McDonald’s debuted the Shamrock Shake in 1970. It was a lemon/lime sherbet instead of today’s mint flavored ice cream shake.
  • That Irish elf sitting by our homemade Shamrock Shake above is Lucky the Leprechaun, mascot of General Mills’ Lucky Charms cereal.
  • Search our blog for more Irish-inspired or green-colored recipes to make in observation of the Feast Day of St. Patrick.

 

Pears Helene

(Poire belle Hélène)

March 15: National Pears Helene Day

We have posted recipes for Peach Melba and Melba Toast on our blog before. Now we are trying Pears Helene. All of these dishes were invented by a French chef during the 19th century.

Auguste Escoffier created Peach Melba at the Savoy Hotel in London, England, in 1892 or 1893, in honor of Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (he revised the recipe in 1900 when he became head chef at the Carlton Hotel). In 1897, Escoffier also made Melba Toast for her when she was ill.

Apparently, even great chefs need inspiration and motivation. Before Escoffier named his culinary creations after Nellie Melba, he was moved to make a fruity dessert from the operetta “La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach (the operetta parodies the story of Helen’s elopement with Paris, which set off the Trojan War). And voilà—he invented Poire belle Hélène in 1864.

When we get stuck in a rut and routine in our kitchen, what inspires and motivates us is the theme for a food holiday. It gives us an idea of what to make for our meal as well as for our blog, and we also get to try out new and different recipes so cooking does not get to be the same old boring chore.

For National Pears Helene Day, we were inspired to make Poire belle Hélène. Simple poached pears are upgraded to a fancy dessert status when chocolate sauce is drizzled on them, sprinkled with toasted almond slices and served à la mode! Channel Chef Escoffier and be motivated to make Pears Helene for National Pears Helene Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 firm pears, Bosc or Bartlett, with stems
  • water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • almonds, sliced and toasted
  • 4 ounces (1 package) semi-sweet chocolate
  • ¼ cup milk
  • vanilla ice cream

Directions

Wash and peel the pears, leaving the stems intact. Place them in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the pears. Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pears are softened. Drain and set aside to cool until ready to use.

Toast the almonds in a skillet to bring out the nutty flavor. Set aside to cool until ready to use. In a bowl, combine the chocolate with milk. Melt and stir until smooth.

Assemble a poached pear in a dessert dish. Pour chocolate sauce over the fruit. Scoop vanilla ice cream into the dish next to the pear. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.

Notes

 

Original Girl Scout Cookies

girlscoutdropcookies

March 12: Girl Scouts Birthday (founded in 1912)

Congratulations to the Girl Scouts, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build “girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place”, for reaching 100 years of their cookie sales program in 2017. The program, which began in 1917, helps fund its mission and sustain troop activities.

We sometimes buy Girl Scout cookies. Their “Thin Mints” are our favorite, especially when we eat them right out of the refrigerator! There are many other Girl Scout cookies, from “Samoas” (caramel de-lites) and “Tagalongs” (peanut butter patties) to the newest “S’mores” (introduced in 2017 for its 100th year of cookie sales history). Their basic sugar-shorbread cookie, “Trefoils”, which now bears the Girl Scout logo, was the first cookie to be sold by local troops en masse.

We tried out the original recipe, which is for a roll-out dough. But it was too sticky to handle and we ended up making drop cookies instead. Besides, we did not have a “trefoil” cookie cutter to make the shapes so we kept it simple.

In honor of the Girl Scouts birthday, bake their original cookie recipe and indulge in the sweet treat that started the seasonal sales a century ago.

Recipe

(Adapted from the Girl Scouts)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspon baking powder

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the milk. Add the vanilla extract.

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In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture to make a sticky dough. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

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Scoop a tablespoon of the cookie dough onto lightly greased, foil or parchment paper lined baking sheets, leaving at least two inches between the dough to expand during baking. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Notes

  • We halved the recipe for this blog post, which yielded 1 ½ dozen 2-inch round drop cookies.
  • We substituted the vanilla extract for almond flavor and lessened the amount of sugar from ½ to 1/3 cup.
  • If making roll-out cookies, generously flour the surface and rolling pin before handling the cold dough. Roll out to ¼-inch thickness and cut out desired shapes. Sprinkle the top with sanding or colored sugars before baking.
  • Learn more about the Girl Scouts from their official website at http://www.girlscouts.org.

Chocolate Soufflé

chocolatesouffle

February 28: National Chocolate Soufflé Day

While going out on “date nights”, we are always impressed when we see the waitstaff present a chocolate soufflé to couples sitting at other tables at a romantic restaurant. Then we want to order one, too, because 1) it is chocolate (duh!) and 2) it looks so light, fluffy and fancy! But we can enjoy that delicious dessert at home without paying the “fancy” price. Serve soufflés with fresh berries or à la mode (with vanilla ice cream) and that makes them extra special for someone special! Extend your Valentine’s Day celebration and make a chocolate soufflé on National Chocolate Soufflé Day and the end of National Chocolate Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Good Housekeeping)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 4 ounces baking squares), melted
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white (total: 3 eggs, minus 1 yolk)
  • powdered sugar

Directions

Spray small ceramic ramekins with nonstick baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy brand) OR generously butter the bottom and sides of the ramekins and sprinkle a little sugar in them. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to the package instructions. Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate with the condensed milk until smooth. Beat in two egg yolks (saving the remaining one for another recipe).

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In a separate bowl, whisk 3 egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg whites in thirds into the chocolate mixture and fold until just incorporated. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

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Sift about 1 scant teaspoon of powdered sugar over each of the tops. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 11-13 minutes or until the tops rise about half-to-an-inch above the rims of the ramekins. When done, remove from the oven and serve immediately while the tops are still risen.

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Notes

  • Avoid over baking or the soufflés will have a cake-like instead of light and airy texture with moist centers. Also do not open the oven until the end of the baking time or the soufflés will fall (scroll down to see our deflated ego soufflés on our Food Flops page).
  • Check out our cheese soufflé recipe for a savory snack. 
  • Our date nights and “month-aversaries” are not always held at fancy restaurants. Sometimes we just go out to get a pepperoni pizza or try a new ethnic restaurant. The main point is to focus on us and on our marriage, especially when life gets too busy or complacent. As marriage sponsors, we always advise our church couples to have date nights—whether fancy or frugal!
  • Search our blog for other chocolate recipes.

 

 

Pistachio Pudding Cupcakes

pistachiopuddingcupcakes

February 26: National Pistachio Day

As the end of February quickly approaches, we look forward to marching on toward St. Patrick’s Day. During this time, we experiment with a variety of green-colored recipes before deciding what to take to potluck parties in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. Although pistachio pudding cupcakes are not Irish, we like the subtly nutty taste and the soft shade of green from the frosting. They look festive at the food table for green-themed get-togethers and pistachio pudding cupcakes are perfect on National Pistachio Day.

Recipe

(From an undated community cookbook)

For the pistachio pudding cake

  • ½ cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix
  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • 1 cup cooking oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup lemon-lime soda (such as 7Up)
  • 3 eggs

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the pistachio nuts, cake mix, pistachio pudding mix, cooking oil and lemon-lime soda. Beat in the eggs.

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Scoop into cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

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For the pistachio pudding frosting

(Adapted from Food.com)

  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1+ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • pistachio nuts, chopped (for garnish)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the pistachio pudding mix with the milk and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the shortening. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix well until creamy.

pistachiopuddingcupcakessteps3

Blend in the thickened pudding mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Scoop into a piping bag with a decorator’s tip (we used Wilton tip 1M). Pipe swirls of frosting on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle pistachio nut pieces on top.

pistachiopuddingcupcakessteps4

Notes

  • Toast the pistachios to boost the flavor of the nuts in this recipe. In a small pan on the stovetop, heat the nuts over medium high heat, stirring constantly so the pistachios do not burn or brown too much. Remove the nuts from the pan and cool completely before using them in this recipe.
  • Optional: Sift out the pistachio pieces in the boxed pudding mix before using in the frosting recipe to make it smooth for piping out from a pastry bag.
  • Add powdered sugar a little at a time to the butter-shortening mixture in the frosting recipe and blend until it is a desired consistency for piping. Otherwise, the moist and soft frosting simply may be spread onto the cooled cupcakes instead.

Easy Caramel Sticky Buns

stickybuns

February 21: National Sticky Bun Day

We have seen some sticky buns served at social gatherings and potlucks but usually avoid them there because they are really gooey and messy to eat while mingling with people. So we bake them at home quickly and easily on the rare occasion when we want to indulge our sweet tooth and can freely make a mess of ourselves! The recipe we use features a refrigerated can of buttermilk biscuits as a shortcut to making the dough. The topping on these buns really live up to its name and are very sticky and super sweet!!! Chew on some gooey goodness on National Sticky Bun Day and make easy caramel sticky buns.

Recipe

(Adapted from Pillsbury)

For the topping

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped

For the sticky buns

  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can (7.5 ounces) canned buttermilk biscuit (Pillsbury)
  • ½ cup butter, melted

Directions

In the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch round pan, combine the melted butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup. Mix well. Sprinkle the chopped pecans.

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In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon. Remove the dough from the can and separate the biscuits. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter on all sides. Then dip that biscuit entirely into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

stickybunssteps2

Arrange the biscuits in the pan over the topping, making sure the sides touch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for a couple of minutes. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and spoon the remaining caramelized drippings over the buns. Serve warm.

stickybunssteps3

Tourin (French Garlic Soup)

tourin soup

February 18: Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes (France) [also April 16]

As a newly-professed religious brother, Islander’s sibling, K, had to go to France to learn about the 200-year history of his congregation and its founder. Along with his fellow brothers and sisters from all over the world, they met in Bordeaux for an ongoing program of formation to learn about their roles as young missionaries. They were also fortunate to have made a pilgrimage to nearby Lourdes, the hometown of St. Bernadette, who had incredible visions of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, in 1858.

lourdes-HIcookery

St. Bernadette’s life story, apparitions and journey to sainthood have been chronicled elsewhere so we are not elaborating here. However, we are providing a peasant’s recipe from the Midi-Pyrénées region where she grew up as a poor girl. Tourin is a French-style soup made of sautéed garlic thickened with a little flour and egg. It is very flavorful for those who love garlic like we do!

So celebrate with simple soup on the Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes today or on April 16.

Recipe

(Adapted from Southwest Story)

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • croutons (optional garnish)

Directions

Slice the garlic cloves thinly. In a small soup pot, sauté in olive oil over medium low heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in the flour quickly to make a roux. Slowly pour water while constantly stirring and dissolving any clumps of flour. Boil on medium low heat for 20 minutes for the garlic flavor to develop. Season with salt and pepper.

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Meanwhile, separate the white and yolk of the egg. Mix the vinegar with the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the boiling soup water. Pour this mixture back into the pot. Stir well. Whisk in the egg white quickly. Allow the soup to thicken for another 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with croutons. Serve hot. Yield: 2 servings.

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Notes

  • February 18 is when the locals in Lourdes and traditional congregations in France observe the Feast Day of St. Bernadette. Others celebrate on April 16, the date of her death in 1879.
  • Thanks to Islander’s brother who brought back a bottle of Lourdes water from the grotto’s spring as a souvenir. It is pictured in the final food photo above next to the garlic bulb. Learn more about Lourdes water, St. Bernadette, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the place for pilgrimages from the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes website.