What I love most about this time of year can be summed up in five blow-your-face-off-they’re-so-awesome things:
5 – Homemade Ice Cream. This is my new obsession. I realized a few years ago that I didn’t really love most homemade ice cream. It was always too “ice milky”, lacking flavor, filled with rock hard chunks of fruit or too runny. So I started experimenting. To date I have created five varieties that I really, really love (Blueberry Cheesecake, Buttermilk Peach, Chocolate Cheesecake, Birthday Cake and Banana Pudding). Something I love equally is the harvest gold 1970’s churn I stole borrowed from my mom (a.k.a. My Precious). This thing has a 4-quart tub and could pull a freight train.
4 – Cold Beer. I lean toward red wine in the cooler months but once the temperature starts climbing, I’m all about the beer. There is nothing – repeat: NOTHING – better than finishing up some yard work, all sweaty and dirty, then pouring an ice cold New Castle in a frosty glass and sitting down to survey your hard work. Happiness is sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs in the front yard, just under the pink dogwood, turning up that frosted glass of goodness.
3 – Pool Baths. This will likely make Perfect Mommy gasp in horror but I totally substitute a dip in the pool for the kids’ bath at least twice a week. The days are longer and so is the laundry list of afternoon activities this time of year so getting the onions to bed on time can be a challenge. What? You’re already clean because you’ve been in chlorinated water so long that you have raisin fingers? Hells yeah!
2 – Big Fat Salads. The produce is so amazingly awesome now; it’s too effing hot to slave over the stove and we’re always short on time (see #3). But it takes like two seconds to prepare a Big Fat Salad. I make a typical garden salad and usually top it with one of the following: grilled chicken breasts, buffaloed chicken or thin-sliced steak (each of which takes no time to cook).
1 – Ninja Gardenias. I have a Ninja. Her name is Barbara (a.k.a. Ninja Barb). She’s my seventy-something year old neighbor that could beat you in a foot race to the Quik Stop and back. Every day when I load up the onions and leave for the day she sneaks in the house all stealth-like and does mind-blowingly awesome things like unload the dishwasher, wash a load of clothes and put away all the minefield debris of our morning routine. When I finally do get home in the evenings I walk into a neater, cozier, more welcoming version of home. And this time of year, the house is dotted with little jars of fresh gardenias (they’re my all-time favorite bloom and she’s knows it) that she cuts fresh and places in strategic spots that seem intended for me. Just me. She resets the chaos clock back to zero. Every day.
Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 8-oz block cream cheese
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 can blueberry pie filling
Mix sugar, cream cheese, egg yolks, salt, milk and heavy cream in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-low heat stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 12-15 minutes). Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Cool mixture completely in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally (this takes several hours).
Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer*; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container then stir in pie filling (stir just until ribbons of pie filling appear, do not completely incorporate). Cover and freeze for 2-4 hours or until set.
*You’ll need at least a 2-quart mixer for this recipe. I highly recommend doubling it if you have a 4-quart machine. Trust me, you’ll eat it all.
Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream: substitute blueberry pie filling with cherry pie filling. Reduce vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add one teaspoon of almond extract.
Chunky Cheesecake Ice Cream: Add 1 sleeve of crushed/chunked graham crackers to any variation just before freezing.
Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream: Add ¾ cup of cocoa to the milk mixture half way through the simmering process. Omit blueberry pie filling.
Brownie Chunked Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream: Add ¾ cup of cocoa to the milk mixture half way through the simmering process. Omit blueberry pie filling. Add 3 cups chopped brownie pieces to mixture before freezing.
“Mandy’s recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream is the BEST ice cream that I have ever had! Hands down! I made the blueberry cheesecake version last week, so I decided to try my all-time-fave of chocolate, and I will never, NEVER, buy chocolate ice cream again! Seriously… yesterday when I mixed it up I was tempted to pour it in a glass and drink it before it had a chance to cool and freeze! I should be embarrassed about that… but when you try the recipe you will know what I mean!” – Julie Hill, Lexington SC