Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (Dairy free)

It’s been too long since we talked about ice cream. After all, it’s one of summer’s primary food groups if you count popsicles, smoothies, and milkshakes in there too.

I think the biggest thing I miss being dairy-free is ice cream. It might even beat out butter cravings. Fortunately we live near an inspiring ice cream shop that turns out some of the best dairy-free ice cream that is on a rotating flavor schedule so I never get tired of a flavor.

DSC_0794But really, you can’t go out for ice cream every night. So I started playing around at home. We made some delicious sorbets. But this new try is the kind of thing you start thinking about in the middle of the afternoon and can’t always wait until after dinner.  Perfect for midnight snacking straight out of the container. But also fancy enough to serve in pretty glass dishes with pretty silver spoons that you’re selling for a friend but had to sneak into a photo.

DSC_0795This isn’t a very original recipe, since cherries and chocolate have been put in ice cream since the beginning of ice cream.  There are fresh bing cherries at the farmer’s markets right now, so it’s time to get your hands dirty (literally) and make some cherry ice cream.

Most cherry chocolate chunk ice cream recipes call for pureeing some or most of the cherries into the ice cream. I prefer it with the cherries just chopped and mixed in. It makes each bite explode with the distinct flavors of cream, cherry, and chocolate. But if you want it to be more pink, puree a couple cherries into the milk before churning.

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Two 13.5 oz cans of full fat coconut milk
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1/2 to 1 cup of pitted chopped bing cherries
A healthy sized pinch of salt
A dash of vanilla
3 T of sugar or honey
a generous 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

Mix the corn starch into a bit of the room temp/cold coconut milk to blend. Heat the rest of the coconut milk to a simmer in a saucepan, then stir in the corn starch mixture until completely smooth. Add everything else but the chocolate and chill completely.
Freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions.   (Add the chocolate during the last couple minutes of churning).

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A New Super for the Beehive

Each level or box of the beehive is called a super. Large super, medium super, small super. Our hive needed an expansion as Queen Hilda makes alot of babies. A little glue, some clamps, a too-big nail gun, and some varnish later, we had two new floors for the hive.

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Independence Day in the Mountains

In our effort to squeeze in as many camping trips as possible during the sunny months, we went camping over Fourth of July. Really, the holiday was very accommodating to fall on a Friday to give us a three day weekend. We escaped to the mountains away from the crowds and the noise. Up to where showers are optional and housework is minimal.

We drove up to the Icicle Creek area outside of Leavenworth, WA. And since one of the friends we went with had spent a summer backpacking the area, he knew all the secrets. Such as where to camp to avoid the masses of generators and crowds and stereos of the normal campgrounds, yet still on a creek for water. We’re really starting to get very attached to the blessing of a 4runner that allows us to use out-of-the-way-not-a-campground sites. Ryan has almost won me over to an additional 2 inches of lift. Almost. But then I try to get into it in a pencil skirt and all bets are off.

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We hiked to Stuart Lake one day. It was longer, buggier, and colder than we expected; and as beautiful and worth every minute as we’d hoped.

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Ryan took a nap break.

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Andrew fishing a Nalgene out of the lake.

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A Brief Camping Trip and a Recipe

This last weekend was the first of the summer we got out for our favorite activity. We got up on Saturday morning, packed up the car, and took off for the mountains through Monday to come back sunburned and grimy and happy and refreshed.  We’ve been tossing and turning some game plans for our next couple years, and took the down time to hammer out decisions.

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We drove down around Mt Rainier National Park, which is always beautiful. Then we cruised down the other side of the Cascades out of the mountain air until it was warm, and found a place to camp.  The next day we spent bouncing from fishing hole to fishing hole around Naches and Yakima, before 4-wheeling our way into a ‘campsite’ on a lake for the next night.

 

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I tried some new camping foods out this time.  I’m a huge fan of simple camping food. Give me a brat, some potato chips and a couple marshmallows or some bacon and eggs charred over the fire and I’m good to go. We try to see if we can go a whole trip without ever lighting up the campstove (we did get lazy and use it to boil water one morning this time…). But it’s nice to mix things up some.  So I messed around with foil-wrapped-stuff-in-the-coals. To go with brats or the fish Ryan caught, I had pre-made potato packets.  Sliced potatoes, a little chopped onion and tomato and thyme, and plenty of salt and pepper. Wrap it all in two layers of foil, and throw them in the fire. For the fish we sliced up a lemon and grated some garlic salt and threw it in the fire with the potatoes.  Yum.

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But here’s the real reason we’re here chatting.  We made fire-baked orange blueberry muffins. Fire baked. Orange. Blueberry. Muffins. In the woods, sleeping on the ground, eating a few bugs with every meal, and we made muffins.

(My camera battery died, so bear with me and the iphone photos here.)

Know that if I was willing to do this while camping, it’s a pretty simple process and anyone could do it.
First, you make plain old blueberry muffin batter, the simpler the better. I had the dry ingredients together in a bag, and a jar of the wet ingredients (including the blueberries), and mixed the two together that morning.  The jar of wet ingredients had been in the cooler, and so the coconut oil was pretty solid, so I set the jar next to the fire until it thawed out and I could mix it all together. Or you could also just get a box of just-add-water blueberry muffin mix, which would make this even simpler.

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Then you take orange peels that you’ve sliced in half and scraped all the flesh out, and fill one half with batter. (I had cut and emptied the orange peels at home and had them all in a bag in my cooler ready to go.
It looks kinda unappetizing here but just transport yourself to the stage of being soo hungry and out in the forest, etc.

photo 2 (4) Match the other half of the orange over it, and firmly wrap the whole thing in foil. Drop it into the hot coals. The orange peels insulate the muffin (I use the term muffin loosely) from the heat and give off wonderful citrus aroma.  Wait about 10-15 minutes, during which time you can make your coffee and roast some sausage.

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Finally, fish them out of the coals and set them out to cool a little before opening them and eating them out of the peel with a fork. They are moist and delicious and now I want to do the same thing only with chocolate cake batter.  This could be a dangerous hobby.

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Ryan finally has a Charcoal Grill

This whole saga started a couple weeks ago, when we helped a friend pick up their new grill. It was a beautiful shiny Weber grill with a hybrid of charcoal and gas, a perfect choice. It’s a charcoal grill, but the coals are kick started with a gas ignition.  Coals are ready to roll in 20 minutes flat.

We love our little Craigslist gas grill, but Ryan was pretty impressed with this new one. And he’s been wanting a charcoal grill for a while.

So he talked to his people.

Whenever Ryan decides he going to find something, I picture him as a mob boss. He tells mafia members to get him something, and they scatter, only daring to come back when they have something. Seriously, that is what plays out in my head when he says he’ll look for something. I think in reality it’s more his patience and searching that really wins the prize. But I prefer the pinstripes and cigars version playing out in my head.

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And a couple days ago his best friends at Got Junk came through for him.  It is the previous model, but a beautiful, practically unused Weber charcoal gas hybrid grill. Originally priced much too high, Ryan went back the next day, and that day’s attendant gave it to him at half price for $10.  And as always at this place, Ryan got them to throw in a little extra, a replacement gas line.  (When he bought a ladder they threw in a cooler, and we got a baseball bat with our fire pit). After some cleaning and a new grate, we were ready for grilling.

We’ve decided to go with wood lump charcoal instead of briquettes.  It’s a little more expensive, but the residual wood particles add a wood-smoked flavor to the grilling, besides being free of the chemical additives.

Bring on the BBQs.

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Herb Window Boxes

Guys, I am have now arrived to grown-up-ness when I get excited about things like window boxes and herb gardens.

Ryan came home the other day with a couple boards tied to the top of the car.  He’d seen them along the side of the road at his favorite junk yard. What, you don’t have a favorite junk yard?  Everyone should have one, preferably where the proprietors are willing to negotiate and throw in extras like baseball bats and coolers. (yep, both of those happened) Ryan finds the best treasures there.

But as I was saying, these boards were free, and he wanted to build window boxes for the front of our house. They are lovely, true 1-inch thick 10 foot pieces.  After further inspection, we  decided to just go buy cheap cedar planks to build the boxes. The side-of-the-road boards were too cool to cut up into little window boxes.

But regardless, we took a trip to visit friends and Ryan’s tablesaw that lives in their garage to cut the cedar, and less than a week later, we had these boxes on our two front windows.DSC_0162

We put mostly herbs in them, so I could have easy access.  Here we have marjoram, thyme, parsley, and cilantro.  The other box has rosemary, sage, and some flowers.  It is the time of year when Ryan starts planting flowers everywhere so that for the next couple months, our yard will be exploding with color.  He also is piecing scraps and leftovers together to make an simple irrigation system, so it will easily stay green all summer.

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In which we start an Apiary

This week, we dipped into apiculture.

Ryan has wanted bees for a long time, and recently a friend of a friend was getting rid of a swarm, and the friend wanted a road trip and picked them up for us. What service. We didn’t have alot of lead time, so Ryan ordered a hive (the whole time saying, ‘this would be so easy to make , why am I buying this’) and my brother sent his leftover hat/gloves/smoker.

So Ryan has his bees.

He built a platform for the hive on a Cherry stump.  We were going to use cinder blocks like everyone else, but this is much cuter.

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Bzzzzzz.  zzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzz. 10,000ish Italian Honey Bees stressing out in a crate.

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Our friend Stefan has had bees, so he came over to help with the transfer from crate to hive.  His youngest son was fascinated.

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Hive is ready to go. It is a hollow box with about 10 trays that slide in for the bees to lay eggs/make honey on. A few trays are left out at first to give you space to pour the bees.

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Popping out the tin can of sugar water from the opening and sliding a tray over the hole.
Can’t come out yet, little guys.  This whole time we’ve been periodically spraying the bees with sugar water.  It keeps them busy eating, and puts them in a food coma so they are easier to transfer.  It also makes them all stick together so you can pour them like jelly into the hive.

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Freedom at last! After putting the opened tiny cage holding the queen down into the hive, Ryan starting dumping her kingdom down to her.  It took quite a bit of shaking and banging to get them all out. They all fell in a stupor into the hive. Very few flew up into their faces.
The trick is to not let one sting you. If one stings you, the rest smell the dying bee’s pheromones, and come to the rescue…aka they all want to sting you. (This is why you smoke a hive, it gets in the way of the pheromone communications.)

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Putting a tray into the empty space without squishing any bees.
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And capping it off. DSC_0309

Now we just have to wait for them to settle into their new home and make us delicious honey.

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This morning there was just one guard bee at the entrance. DSC_0316I’m sure we’ll have lots of bee adventures to tell you about this summer. Hopefully none of which will involve stings.

 

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