I made cookies for former co-worker Missy's birthday early this month and met up with her; her boyfriend, Brad; and some of her friends in Rockefeller Center to celebrate.
Here she is posing, at my request, with the adorable card I gave her that I'd bought in Frenchtown when Tony, Dad, and I went there:
Missy loves corgis, and as she acknowledges, she's a bit on the short side. :-) (And, of course, I also realize that shorty/shortie/shawty can mean girlfriend or hottie in the world of hip hop.) I once again made the Chips Ahoy! cookies from BabyCakes Covers the Classics, and their texture is so much better now that I'm able to use oat flour in them, thanks to Bob's Red Mill's gluten-free version. I made a double batch so I could keep some cookies at home for me and my Tony/Tonie/Tawny.
Dan and Paul came to see our new home three Sundays ago, and we went to dinner at Rick's in Lambertville afterward:
Next time we go there, I'll have to remember to say I don't want cheese on the garlic bread or my pasta. #reducingdairy
All of us, and especially Dan, enjoyed the liter bottle of Rosso Dei Politici Montepulciano d'Abruzzo I brought along. Md'Abs rarely disappoint me—with their red fruit flavor and easy-drinking nature—and this one was a definite winner, particularly because it was only $12 plus tax for a third more wine than you get in a usual-size (750-ml) bottle. It was so cheap, I'd had my doubts that it would be worth buying, but I'm glad I did.
Earlier that day, for lunch, I'd made hamburgers with lots of Penzeys California Seasoned Pepper for Tony and me and heated-up leftover mashed potatoes and rutabaga only for me. (Tony has a thing about leftover potatoes.) And I made us two of the most vibrant salads ever, with buttercrunch-style lettuce with lots of light green inner leaves; shaved gold beet; slices of orange carrot; and a lime juice–lemon thyme dressing:
Here's the sun-kissed table with our plates:
And here's Grady curled up under the table after we were done eating:
He'd squeezed under there while we were eating, as he occasionally does, and stuck around for a little while to enjoy the sun, even though it looked like a far-from-comfortable position.
And speaking of vibrant things, here's a shot looking up into the Japanese maple near the end of our driveway I took that same day:
The next day, the 9th, I made my first batch of non–coconut milk–based vegan ice cream ever, out of rice milk. For my new business, I've decided to focus on vegan (so, of course, nondairy) ice creams as a way of differentiating myself from other local producers. Nondairy ice creams would also be healthier for my customers and me. And the listeria outbreaks at makers of conventional ice creams, including Jeni's and Blue Bell, in the past year have gotten me thinking about the food safety issues associated with dairy operations, though I realize vegan products are also susceptible to bacteria contamination.
If it's feasible, I'd like to make my ice creams free of all major allergens. So no legumes, including peanuts and soy; nuts; or gluten. That's important to me because I'd want Tony—and people like him who have autoimmune or allergic reactions to certain ingredients—to be able to enjoy them. The feasibility of doing that would ultimately depend on the facility I end up making my products in. That's a factor I hope to get settled in the next few weeks.
I decided to experiment with rice milk in my initial batch because one issue I've had with my coconut milk ice creams is that they always taste at least a little bit like coconut. I want a base that has practically no flavor on its own, so I can imbue my ice creams with precise flavors of my own choosing.
The first flavor was Vanilla With Chocolate Chips. I scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean into 24 ounces of Enriched Original Organic Rice Dream and also threw in the halved bean. I brought the rice milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, I whisked together 3/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons xanthan gum. I whisked the heated milk into the dry ingredients and returned them to a clean pot on the stove. I heated the mixture on low for 6 minutes while stirring it and then strained and cooled it in the fridge. I processed it in my ice cream maker for 40 minutes and added about a cup of chocolate chips before putting it in a container and freezing it solid:
This initial effort tasted OK, but the texture wasn't so hot. Two teaspoons of xanthan gum was at least one teaspoon too much.
Tony has been encouraging me to consider eating more rice and fewer potatoes, as a change of pace. And if he keeps making rice dishes like the wonderful pilaf he flavored with his go-to sauce for salmon (that I've mentioned on the blog before), I will consider myself encouraged. We also had salmon, Brussels sprouts, and pinot noir:
Missy looked adorable begging for handouts:
The next day, I collected some Osage oranges from a ditch down the road a bit:
Tony made a ragu from a piece of pork shoulder we bought from our butcher, Manny, at the Stockton Market:
He pretty much followed this recipe from the TasteFood blog, only substituting pork for wild boar and adjusting other ingredients in proportion to the weight of the meat. That night, we ate the ragu over pasta:
We enjoyed the ragu, but the juniper berries came through too strongly for us. By the next night, when we ate the ragu with polenta, the juniper flavor had mellowed and the ragu was pretty much perfect.