Welcome to my Food Blog!

Welcome! My name is Anne, aka ThePharmGirl. In 2010, I successfully made 100 recipes as a New Year's Resolution to expand my culinary repertoire and cooking skills beyond the frozen microwave dinner. This blog is a continuation of my culinary journey and serves as my personal virtual recipe box. Sometimes I like to have fun-- Check out my Muppet Mania Menu, The 12 Days of Christmas, and my Musical-themed recipes.

My current mission(s) for 2020:
* Make at least 20 recipes for the Instant Pot
* Use the Spiralizer more often

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fresh Herb Focaccia

I feel like Oprah: "I love bread." haha.  I just happened to have all the fresh herbs from my herb garden (rosemary, thyme, parsley, and chives), so I went for it.   The top of the bread got a little more brown than I would have preferred (I forgot to check on it in the oven), but the inside was still soft and the bread tastes awesome.  I just ate it as it and thought it was delicious, but tomorrow I think I'll cut a slice in half and make a sandwich.  I'd definitely bake this again!

Fresh Herb Focaccia
Makes two 8" focaccia

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzle
2&3/4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
coarse salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water; mix in the honey.  Let stand for 10 minutes to proof until the yeast has bloomed and is frothy.

Add the remaining water, olive oil, flour, salt, and herbs.  Mix on low speed until dough comes together.  Increase speed to medium-high and knead for about 5-8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.

Wipe a large bowl with olive oil and place dough in bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm, draft-free place.  Let rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down and return to lightly floured surface.  Divide dough in two.

Lightly oil two 8" baking pans.  Stretch each portion of dough to fit in the pans with even thickness.  Cover with towel and set in a warm place for 60 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450º.   Use fingers to make indentations in the dough.  Bake for ~13-15 minutes until focaccia is golden.  Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Remove from pans and let cool on wire rack.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mini Strawberry Pavlovas

I had egg whites to use after using yolks for another recipe so I decided to make this sweet and airy dessert.  I love meringue.  It was all soft and marshmallow-y on the inside (see my photo below where I broke off part of the outer shell to get a view of the inside). Soooo good.   I chose to use store-bought whipped cream because that's what I had on hand.  As far as desserts go, it doesn't break the calorie bank that way.  Win-win.  Also, the shells kept well for several days.

(Makes 1 big 9" pavlova or 8 mini-pavlovas)

4 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups fruit (diced, sliced, or whatever)

Preheat oven to 275º and line one or two baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.

In one small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch.  In another small bowl, mix the vanilla and vinegar.   In the large bowl of your electric mixer, pour the egg whites and beat at low speed to start, gradually increasing the speed to medium.  When the whites reach soft peaks and the beaters leave trail marks, start adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time while also gradually increasing the speed so that you're at max speed by the time all the sugar is added.  Continue whipping until meringue holds stiff peaks.  Add the vanilla/vinegar and beat for another 20 seconds.

Immediately transfer the meringue to the prepared baking sheet, forming one big 9" circle on a single sheet or 8 smaller mounds on two sheets.  Even out the layer or create a dip in the center for the fruit.

Turn the heat down to 250º and bake for ~55-60 minutes for the large pavlova or ~40-45 minutes for the mini pavlovas.  They are done when the outside is dry to the touch, slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped.    Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlovas in the oven with the door ajar until cooled off.   (Can be stored in plastic bags or airtight containers for several days at this point.)

Make the whipped cream by mixing together the cream, vanilla, and sugar until stiff peaks form.  Spread over the pavlova shells and top with fruit of your choice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream

It was time to harvest my herbs, and I didn't want to dry my mint.  It's just so much better fresh.  So I decided to make ice cream as a nice treat.  I found this recipe online at TheBestMintChipIceCream.  Six egg yolks seemed like a lot, but egg whites keep well so I saved those for another recipe.   Although it took a lot of time to make, this ice cream was worth it.  The fresh mint flavor really pops and tastes much different than mint extract.  And I liked the chocolate bits--of course!  No seriously, the chocolate bits are good-they are somewhat soft in the ice cream, not overly hard.  Two thumbs up.  

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream
Recipe adapted slightly from Online Source
Makes 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (I used skim milk and it worked just fine)
1 large bunch fresh mint leaves (I used ~2 heaping cups/fistfuls of leaves)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces dark chocolate (I used semisweet baking squares)
2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring cream and milk to a simmer.   Remove from the heat, stir in the mint leaves, cover, and let steep for 2 hours.

In another heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined.  Quickly strain the mint-infused milk/cream into the pot with the eggs.  Really press hard on the mint leaves in the strainer to extract as much flavor as possible.  Discard the leaves.  Whisk the mixture and set over medium heat, whisking frequently, until a coating forms on a spoon and a finger swiped across the back of the spoon leaves a clean line (custard temperature reaches 170ºF).  Add salt to taste.

Pour custard through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container and chill in an ice bath (4 hours) or in the fridge overnight until temperature drops to 40ºF.

Pour cold mixture into an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's directions.   While it churns, melt chocolate in the microwave and stir to combine with oil.  At the end of the churning, drizzle chocolate into the ice cream to form thin lines of chocolate which will break into small chips.   Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.