Monday, January 17, 2011

Fresh Mint Ice Cream Recipe using fresh Aerogarden mint!

One thing that's been on my mind for a very, very long time to try is real mint ice cream. I'm not talking about that bright green alien life form you see in the supermarket freeze shelves, I'm talking about real ice cream that's made from real mint leaves. While most of my Aerogarden herbs this go-around have died prematurely (thanks, I believe, to my letting the seeds sit around for way too long), the mint has proven to be resilient to the point of being weed-like.

I chopped every last bit of mint until my Aerogarden looked like me after my dad gave me one of his buzz haircuts as a kid (which would make my brother and me run out of the room in tears every time).

Taking a bunches of mint...

...I tore the leaves until I had two packed cups. I threw them into a cream-milk mixture.

...and then I heated. What happens here is that the essential oils of the mint leaves go into the milk and cream, infusing it with a minty taste and color.

After simmering, you then press the mixture through a strainer so that you're just left with the mint-infused cream and milk.

The color was supposed to be more green, I think. But it did smell minty. Here's what was left of the mint leaves after I squeeze it all through.
The next step was to churn in my ice cream maker. I personally use a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.It's a snap to use--you freeze the metal bowl, you chill the milk and cream mixture, and you let it churn for about 20 minutes. It's just as easy and takes up a lot less space than buying a standalone ice cream maker. The result was this creamy frozen delight.

As for the taste, it was very interesting. The mint was not quite like the mint ice cream you buy in the store which was both good and not so good. On the positive side, it struck me how "natural" and "fresh" this ice cream tasted.On the not-so-positive side, I found that I have gotten used to "unnatural" tasting mint ice cream with heaping helpings of infused flavors to make it a bit more "minty" than this preparation technique could probably muster. Still, I found it an overall success. Next time, I'd probably break up some chocolate and throw it into the mix.

By the way, if you're curious, I got the recipe from book that's widely considered THE authority on ice cream, The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Seed Starting with the Aerogarden: starting your outdoor garden indoors

I remember back in the days when I had a beautiful large yard, I would plant tomatoes every year. I'd buy what were called "Seed N Start" kits from Burpee, which were like cute mini greenhouses, start the seeds indoors, get them accustomed to the climate by moving the seedlings outdoors, and then transplant the seedlings outdoors. This method let me harvest bushels and bushels of beautiful Jersey tomatoes every year. Burpee doesn't seem to sell these anymore, but they've since started selling what looks to be an improved version in their "Burpee Ultimate Growing System".

But admittedly, the system wasn't perfect. It was kind of messy to deal with the dirt. There were times the seeds just didn't sprout, perhaps because of the lighting. And it seemed that the seedlings were always a little too fragile for my liking when it came time to plant them in the cruel outside world with wind and frost and critters.

If only I had my Aerogarden back then. One of the cool features of the Aerogarden is that they have a Seed Starting system specially designed for you to start your seeds' life in the Aerogarden, and then transplant them to your garden outside when they're good and strong.

Garden Starter System (For 6-Pod & 7-Pod AeroGardens)
First, you'll need to purchase the
Garden Starter System (For 6-Pod & 7-Pod AeroGardens)
or if you have a Space Saver model, you'll need to get the
Garden Starter System (Space Saver 6)
. This is basically a special tray that you put in your Aerogarden that where you can plant up to 66 seedlings. They come complete with grow sponges and nutrients, as well as a "how to" guide. (If you don't have an Aerogarden yet, I believe if you go to their site, they're actually bundling Seed Starter Kits for free with new units.

What I would recommend is to buy the seeds at Burpee. (In fact, for a limited time, you can receive 2 FREE 135th Anniversary Seed Packets when you spend $30 or more!) I have always been very impressed by the seeds at Burpee--they are always fresh and sure to sprout.

With the combination of Burpee seeds and Aerogarden starter kit, you'll have the foundation for an incredible victory garden! And you'll be the envy of all of us who are stuck in apartments :P

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The best way to save herbs for use later

Herb MillSo, as loyal readers of this blog know, I'm often caught in a situation where I need to use up a lot of herbs at once or throw them out. This usually means I end up making dishes that use tons and tons of herbs, like basil pesto or the basil Thai stir fry of the last post. And wait'll you see what happened with the mint leaves I chop chop chopped from the herb Aerogarden!

So, I get an email today from Aerogrow announcing their new Herb Mill. This is a dream come true for me. It looks a lot like their
Herb 'n Serve
, which allows you to mix up herbs with olive oil to make dressing (works well, but there's only so much dressing you can make). I've also tried their Herb 'n Ice Silicone Freezer Trays, but wasn't too impressed with the results--the frozen ice cubes eventually dried out to the point where the herbs weren't very useful. The Herb 'n Save was a good idea, but only keeps herbs fresh for a few days--I'd rather just keep them growing on the Aerogarden if that's the case. So I tried them all. It feels like the only product I didn't try was the "Herb 'N' Cowboy" (sorry, I had to say it).

But like I said, this product seems promising. You put your extra herbs in the chamber, chop them, and freeze them on the spot. Then, when you're ready to use them, you just sprinkle on what you need. Seems that they'd be a nice alternative to dry herbs (face it--that bottle of oregano that's been sitting in the cupboard for 10 years has had it).

Good job by Aerogarden to continue to innovate in ways to "pres-herb" your hard work (okay, no more bad puns, I promise).