Brandied Peach Ice Cream

Summertime in the South means putting up with heat, humidity and mosquitos the size of small cars. As a consolation, summer also brings us peaches. It makes my soul happy when I hold its softly in my hand, breathe deep of its perfume before biting into it and letting the succulent juice run down my chin.

Saving a few of them for ice cream makes me even happier. And, adding a little brandy to the mix can make a person nearly expire from happiness! Of course, if you choose not to use brandy, you can replace it with 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

Brandied Peach Ice Cream

2 pounds peaches (about 5-6 large peaches)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy

Peel and pit peaches; cut into chunks. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.

After it has set for a while in the refrigerator, blend everything one last time to ensure it is well mixed. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to plastic container and freeze until firm.

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Blackberry Bellinis

We are having fried chicken and waffles for dinner and decided we ought to kick the meal up a notch with a cocktail. Michelle has been out picking wild blackberries, so we decided to have blackberry bellinis.

This recipe makes 4 average drinks or 2 generous ones.

Blackberry Bellini

1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons honey
Champagne, moscato, prosecco or other sparkling wine

In a blender, puree blackberries, mint leaves and honey. Let sit in blender for 15 minutes. Pulse again and then pour in a sieve over a bowl. Use a spatula to press out the juice from the seeds and leaves. Discard pulp. Let the juice sit in a bowl for another 15 minutes. You should end up with about a 1/2 cup of delicious juice.

Put 2 tablespoons of juice in a glass and pour over your choice of sparkling wine. Pour only a little at first and let the bubbles calm down before slowly filling the glass.

Garnish with mint and toast!

A Fine Strawberry Eton Mess

Both Prince Harry and William attended Eton. It seems only fitting, as the older brother is best man when his younger brother gets married to Meghan Markle, to make another British dessert created at that school. The Eton Mess has layers of whipped cream, meringues and rough chopped strawberries.

Strawberries in whipped cream can be pretty darn romantic. At least as romantic as when the prince says to the commoner, “I’m so lucky.”

I could probably come up with a recipe but, seriously, this is a super easy dessert to make, especially if you use store bought meringues. Whip the cream with a little sugar and vanilla. Mix the chopped strawberries some sugar to get them juicy and to keep things sweet.

Crumble the meringues and mix with the whipped cream. Your choice to either mix the strawberries with the cream to make a more traditional mess or to layer the whipped cream and strawberries in glass for a prettier presentation. In any event, prepare to gobble this up!

If you’re like me and make yours in a glass, you can raise it to the newlyweds. My toast to them is: “A toast to love and laughter, and happily ever after.”

Sticky Toffee Pudding

In celebration of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I decided to make a decidedly British dessert. Of course, I’m going to put a southern American twist on it, too. Sticky toffee pudding is one of those things I’ve read about in novels and thought that it would good to eat in the early morning hours.

I started with this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food but then had to make a number or substitutions and conversions (and translations). I don’t have treacle, but I did have molasses. I don’t have the demerara or muscovado sugar but I did have brown sugar. I had no dates but I did have figs.

The result is a figgy spice cake that is very rich with complex flavor.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 cup whole dried figs
¾ cups boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 stick butter, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses (or black treacle)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon rum

For the toffee sauce

¾ cups light brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon molasses (or black treacle)

Chop the figs into small and pieces and then put them in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water over and leave for about 30 mins until cool and well-soaked. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the figs. Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside.

Use two tablespoons of the butter to butter and flour seven ramekins or a small bundt pan and sit them on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together. Beat the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter and sugar together in a large bowl for a few minutes until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the molasses. Gently fold in one-third of the flour, then half the milk, being careful not to overbeat. Repeat until all the flour and milk is used. Mix in the rum. Stir the soaked figs into the pudding batter. The batter will be soft and thick. Spoon it evenly between the containers, allowing room to rise. Bake for 20-25 minutes for ramekins and 35-40 minutes for a bundt pan, until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, put the sugar and butter for the sauce in a medium saucepan with half the cream. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the molasses, turn up the heat slightly and let the mixture bubble away for 5 minutes or until it is a rich toffee color, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. Take the pan off the heat and beat in the rest of the cream.

Remove the puddings from the oven and set on a wire rack for 5 minutes before loosening them from the sides with a small knife before turning them out. They can be served now with the sauce drizzled over, but they’ll be even stickier if left for a day or two coated in the sauce. To do this, pour about half the sauce into one or two ovenproof serving dishes. Sit the upturned puddings on the sauce, then pour the rest of the sauce over them. Cover with a loose tent of foil so that the sauce doesn’t smudge (no need to chill).

When ready to serve, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Warm the puddings through, still covered, for 15-20 mins or until the sauce is bubbling.

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

I’ve been trying to find more recipes for my sister that are lower in sugar and friendly to diabetics. I’m still working on desserts she can enjoy but, in this recipe, the bananas (high in fiber) and peanut butter (low glycemic index) are a good start. I put them in small ramekins to help with portion control, too.

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups 2% milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium banana, one smushed the other sliced
1 1/2 cups ‘Nilla wafers

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and milk and stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into eggs before pouring the eggs into the pan. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter, butter and vanilla. Stir in smushed and sliced bananas. Let cool slightly while you prepare the dessert dishes.

Crush all but 6 ‘Nilla wafers and sprinkle them into ramekins or pudding cups to cover the bottom. Pour in peanut butter and banana pudding. Place any additional crumbs and a single ‘Nilla wafer on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Strawberry Drinks For All Tastes

I totally took advantage of the bountiful harvest of strawberries this year and went all out in making jams and desserts with my girlfriend. But strawberries are also good in drinks and here are the ones we made with some of the bounty:

First, make a strawberry simple syrup.

Strawberry Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced

In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Gently stir to dissolve sugar. Place in the sliced strawberries and bring to a boil. Skim off foam and discard. Reduce to a low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Skim off remaining foam and pour contents into a mesh strainer, set over a medium bowl. Allow the liquid to drain. Do not press extra liquid from the strawberries, this will create a foggy liquid. Discard solids. Cool to room temperature, then transfer liquid to desired storage container and chill until ready to use. Can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator or poured into a ice cube tray and frozen.

Once you have your simple syrup, then you make the drinks:

Strawberry Lemonade

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup strawberry simple syrup
3-4 cups water

Mix juice and simple syrup. Stir in water, tasting after three cups to see how much more water to add.

Muddle two hulled and chopped strawberries in the bottom of a glass. Top with strawberry lemonade.

Optional: muddle about 10 torn mint leaves with the strawberries.

Strawberry Margarita

cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 lime – quartered
1/4 cup strawberry simple syrup
1/4 ounces orange liqueur like Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
1/2 cup tequila

Muddle together the strawberries, all but one of the lime quarters and the simple syrup. Stir the strawberry mixture together with the orange liqueur, and tequila, then taste. Add additional simple syrup or lime juice, if necessary. Place in a shaker and shake well with plenty of ice. Pour into two salted glasses. Garnish each margarita with a half of the remaining lime wedge.

Finally, a healthy option from Michelle:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

It is preferable that the fruit you use is frozen

1 banana
1 cup strawberries, hulled
1 cup orange juice
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup crushed ice

Mix in a blender until smooth.

Roasted Strawberry Limoncello Jam

Using some of the strawberries we picked up in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, we spent part of two days making jam. We tried one batch like my earlier Baked Strawberry Jam recipe (we substituted the lemon juice with limoncello) and it was good but we actually made it better by reducing the sugar and switching to a glass roasting pan. You can use metal but it does make the jam a little darker.

As we were doing this at Michelle’s house, we were able to can the results in a water bath.

Roasted Strawberry Limoncello Jam

2 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Limoncello
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F

Mix all ingredients in a 9X13 glass roasting pan.

Stir every thirty minutes for three to four hours until thickened. Test on plates you’ve put in the freezer – place a small dollop on the cold plate and check the thickness then.

Fill sterilized half pint jars with the jam before finger tightening sterilized lids and rings. Drop jars into a water bath for 8 minutes to seal. Remove to counter to cool.

Any jars that don’t seal should be placed in the refrigerator and eaten quickly. But, don’t worry – this jam is so good, you’ll be happy to do so.