Survivalist Mushroom Caraway Soup

I like Survival Lily on Youtube and a few weeks ago she showed how to make a soup from things that can either be found in the woods or can be stored easily for a long time.  Melanie and I look for ways to incorporate mushrooms into our diet since they are so healthy and we don’t eat them that often and this soup seemed like an easy way to do just that.

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A Faux Treatise on Doughnuts and The Donut Shoppe

DOUGHNUTS
While I try to eat healthy most of the time, I’m no stranger to junk food and I love doughnuts (or donuts – both deliciously acceptable spellings).  In high school it wasn’t unusual to tuck into a cruller or Bavarian creme at Krispy Kreme after everything else but Krystal had shut down for the night.  With the slowing of my metabolism, I have to be more intentional about how often I eat these treats and, therefore, more selective when I spend the calories in my doughnut bank.

I’ve never had a doughnut better than Krispy Kreme.  Of course, I’m only talking about those that you get directly from one of their stores.  The hideous hardboard franken-nuts available at gas stations and grocery stores only share the green box and name with the genuine article.  If you want to tell me that Dunkin’ Donuts are a viable alternative, get out of my blog you lightly-sweetened bread eater!  You might as well have a piece of frosted toast.

Generally a shop can be judged on their plain glazed doughnut because there is almost always a direct correlation between the plain and the fancies.  When hot, it should dissolve almost without chewing like angel’s breath, cotton candy or a dream.  When room temp, it should have some chew but still be delicious and never too bready or greasy.  These magical properties must surely come from a recipe that is both 100% fat and 100% sugar.

I’ve heard many times before about how this local doughnut place is better or that doughnut shop is best.  In every case, the statement has been a lie.  Recently, a trusted doughnuteer recommended a local place I’d never heard of –  The Donut Shoppe.  I was immediately skeptical, but he assured me that the doughnuts were great – “the best,” in fact.  “They aren’t like Dunkin’ are they?”  “Of course not.”  “They’re really the best?”  “They are great.”  “Better than Krispy Kreme?”  “Wellll… As good as.  You should try them.”

He had withstood my withering cross-examination.  Maybe, just maybe, I’d found a Krispy Kreme alternative.  Dare I dream?  Perhaps even a new doughnut king?  I had to give them a try.

THE DONUT SHOPPE

There it is in the Righthand Corner

The Donut Shoppe is located in Jacksonville, Florida in the Arlington neighborhood close to Jacksonville University.  As with almost all really great local one-off establishments there are Soup Nazi quirks and rules.  In the case of this place I’d been forewarned of two things:

1. Get there early.  These guys don’t play.  They make what they make and when they sell out they shut down for the day.  Arrive after 10 am and you won’t have much selection.  Arrive after noon and you’ll probably be greeted by a locked door.

2.  Know what you want by the time you get to the counter.  The line will probably be kinda long and the store is tiny so others can’t go around you and they don’t want to wait forever on you.  The staff will be polite but they keep things moving.

With the rules fresh in my mind, I pulled up to the shop one weekday morning around 9am.  I’d been told parking is a problem and that wasn’t a joke.  Every available legal and illegal spot had been filled at the shop and the connected gas station.  I ended up pulling around the corner and parking at a mini-park.

As I approached the front door I noticed the line of happy people extending out of it.  There was even a vacationing family getting a group photo in front of the building.  All signs were pointing to yum.  My wait was short lived as the line moved at a steady clip.  I got to the glass case and noticed a variety of old standards.  This would not be a crazy combo place like Voodoo Doughnut (another shop I’d desperately love to visit) but its lineup could certainly compete with Krispy – perhaps even topple it, I thought.

Soon it was my turn and I cracked off an order for a plain glazed, custard-filled, lemon-filled and an apple fritter (trail plop).  Confident that I had selected an excellent cross section of the available ‘nuts, I paid, returned to my car and headed home to test.

Look at the Size of that Fritter

I wish I could be more dramatic about the actual tasting but they were exactly what I expected them to be – deliciously predictable.  With my advanced planning, I had forgone breakfast so I was able to shovel all of them into my gut not wasting a single bite or saving any for a later snack.  It was the equivalent of five doughnuts in one sitting.  I’d be sorry later, but at the time I couldn’t have been happier.

The verdict:  As good as Krispy Kreme.  Please note, I was not able to compare any hot off the presses so they may fall a little flat there but this is the highest praise I’ve ever given a non-Krispy doughnut.  In addition, with this place you get the “in the know”/local-secret excitement when you visit.  I would definitely go back and would recommend it to anyone.  Well, not to a diabetic.

THE DONUT SHOPPE
1721 University Blvd N
Jacksonville, FL 32211
(904) 743-1844

Pro tip:  I’ve since learned that you can call in an order.  Do it.  That way you are assured you’ll get something before you drive over.

The Donut Shoppe on Yelp

The Donut Shoppe on Urban Spoon

Simple Delicious Homemade Ice Cream

There is a light bulb moment the time you make your first dessert.  Things that look complicated are really simple.  Cookies seem complex until you find out they are little more than butter and sugar.  Frosting is even simpler.  You can literally make it from just butter and sugar.  In this pantheon of simple but sweet, we should include ice cream.  It tastes great but what is it?  “I know there is a loud machine and a lot of ice involved.  It must be too hard to make.  Please pass the Häagen-Dazs.”

Hold on!  Ice cream is simple.  With the right equipment and the recipes I’m about to give you, you can have soft serve sitting in your lap in about an hour.

Step One – Get the right kind of ice cream maker.  Unless you really love ice cream or have a large family, sell that giant beast of an ice cream maker lurking in the corner of the garage.  You want a smaller, quicker and easier machine.  We received the Cuisinart ICE-20 as a gift one year and it works great.  It is such a simple device that I’m sure you can find something comparable for about $50 (example).

“Can’t I just mix the ingredients together and stick them in my freezer?  Then I don’t need an ice cream maker.”  Only if you want a solid ice brick instead of ice cream.  The ice cream maker freezes the concoction while it is whipping air into it.

Preferred Ice Cream Maker Specifications
1. 1-1/2 to 2 quart capacity
2. Reusable freezer bowl (liquid core freezes so no ice used)
3. Simple to set up, operate and clean.

From Left to Right: Cover, Paddle, Freezer Bowl, Motorized Base

Step Two – Develop your base recipe.
The first ice cream aha moment came when we made our first batch of vanilla.  You freeze milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract while whipping air into it.  That’s all there is to it.  Simple!

My second aha moment was when I realized that pretty much every flavor of ice cream uses the same base and adds in different flavorings and those flavorings are usually in about the same proportions.  Wow!  That means you can get new flavors pretty true to what you want with very little experimenting.

So let’s develop our base recipe first.  Everyone has slightly different ideas about what ice cream should taste and feel like.  Almost all of this is controlled by the amount of butterfat that is used.  You can get butterfat from a number of dairy ingredients like whipping cream, 2% milk and so on.  To keep things simple I recommend that you work with two sources:  heavy cream (it has the highest concentration at 36%) and whole milk (3 to 4%).

Try this recipe for vanilla first.

Vanilla Ice Cream (Printable PDF version)
Makes about 5 cups

1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Freeze freezer bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (probably overnight).
2. Keep all ingredients cold – store in refrigerator until just before using.
3. Mix milk and sugar in medium bowl on low speed for about two minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
4.  Add cream and vanilla and mix about one minute until evenly incorporated.
5. Pour immediately into ice cream maker and operate according to manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream is thick and frozen (probably 30 minutes).
6. Eat immediately for soft serve.  Transfer to container and place in freezer for about two hours for firmer ice cream.

Next, modify the recipe to suit your tastes.  Most recipes call for two cups of heavy cream and one cup of whole milk.  We thought that tasted great and was very smooth but it leaves a greasy feeling in your mouth.  One cup of heavy cream and two cups of whole milk is acceptable but the ice cream begins to get a little more crunchy and I wouldn’t reduce the butterfat below this level.  As you can see with our recipe above, we settled right in the middle.

A note about eggs.  The very best ice creams use eggs.  Look on the side of Ben & Jerry’s and you’ll see them listed.  Why are they there?  Well, they serve as an emulsifier suspending all those little butterfat particles.  They also impart a nice texture, increase the shelf life and aid in whipping air into the mixture.  We don’t include them here because they are either added raw or really add complexity to the recipe when you cook them into a custard.  You can make great tasting ice cream without them so we leave them out.

Step Three – Go crazy with the combo moves.
You have your base tweaked just the way you like it.  Now comes the fun part.  Get creative and mix tasty stuff into it.

I’ve found that usually one teaspoon of liquids and two cups of chopped up or small solids works well so use this as a starting point.  Here are three recipes that we really like:

Oreo Mint Ice Cream (Printable PDF version)
Makes about 5 cups

1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups coarsely chopped Oreos

1.  Freeze freezer bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (probably overnight).
2. Keep all ingredients cold – store in refrigerator until just before using.
3. Mix milk and sugar in medium bowl on low speed for about two minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
4.  Add cream and peppermint and mix about one minute until evenly incorporated.
5. Pour immediately into ice cream maker and operate according to manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream is relatively thick but not completely frozen (probably 28 minutes).
6. Add Oreos and mix for two minutes until ice cream is thick and frozen.  NOTE:  You may need to remove a little of the base before adding the Oreos if your machine is small and whips in a lot of air.
7. Eat immediately for soft serve.  Transfer to container and place in freezer for about two hours for firmer ice cream.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream (Printable PDF version)
Makes about 6 cups

1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups Reece’s Peanut Butter Minis (1 bag – the tiny unwrapped ones)

1.  Freeze freezer bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (probably overnight).
2. Keep all ingredients cold – store in refrigerator until just before using.
3. Mix milk, sugar and peanut butter in medium bowl on low speed for about two minutes until mixture is smooth.
4.  Add cream and vanilla and mix about one minute until evenly incorporated.
5. Pour immediately into ice cream maker and operate according to manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream is relatively thick but not completely frozen (probably 28 minutes).
6. Add PB minis and mix for two minutes until ice cream is thick and frozen.  NOTE:  You may need to remove a little of the base before adding the PB minis if your machine is small and whips in a lot of air.
7. Eat immediately for soft serve.  Transfer to container and place in freezer for about two hours for firmer ice cream.

Peach Ice Cream (Printable PDF version)
Makes about 5 cups

2 cups finely chopped peaches (about 4 small peaches – small have less water & better taste)
½ juice of a lemon
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1.  Freeze freezer bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (probably overnight).
2. Keep all ingredients cold – store in refrigerator until just before using.
3. Combine peaches, lemon juice and ½ cup of sugar in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Stir mixture occasionally (if desired).
4. Stir mixture and strain liquid into a separate bowl.  Return peaches to refrigerator.
5. Mix peach juice, milk and remaining 1 cup of sugar in medium bowl on low speed for about two minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
6.  Add cream and mix about one minute until evenly incorporated.
7. Pour immediately into ice cream maker and operate according to manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream is relatively thick but not completely frozen (probably 28 minutes).
8. Add peaches and mix for two minutes until ice cream is thick and frozen.  NOTE:  You may need to remove a little of the base before adding the peaches if your machine is small and whips in a lot of air.
9. Eat immediately for soft serve.  Transfer to container and place in freezer for about two hours for firmer ice cream.

Be sure to let me know about your fantastic cream creations.  I’m always looking for an excuse to eat more ice cream.

Update:  Here are all four ice cream recipes on a one-page layout.

Heavyweight Brownie Champs

If you don’t have an aversion to chocolate, you like brownies.  That’s just nutritional science.  If you are like most American families, your brownies come from a box.  Have you ever tried homemade brownies?  The difference is incredible.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not dislike box brownies but homemade brownies pack more chocolate punch.

On top of that, brownies are super easy to make from scratch.  You dump stuff together in one bowl, mix it, pour it into a pan and cook it.

There are some things you should know about brownies up front:
1.  They are allergic to nuts.  If you want a healthy snack, eat a handful of pecans or walnuts.  Leave them off brownies.  You are ruining them.
2.  They like to be a flat chewy black shingle of barely-cooked batter.  You cakesters can take your pan and go home.  If we wanted a fluffy chocolate dessert we would have made chocolate cake.
3.  Like any sane person, they will never turn away frosting.  However, the non-frosted recipes below lack nothing.

After years of personal tasting and trying different recipes, here are the three ways I’d recommend that you go depending on your objective:

Best Box – Fastest

Best Box Mix

Most box recipes are really quite bland.  You’ll wolf them down and like them, but to get a close-to-homemade flavor, I recommend Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Chips.  They take about 2-3 minutes to prepare.  Cooking and cooling time is the same as homemade.

My one suggestion is to use a cooking-sprayed aluminum foil sling in your pan for easy removal.  If you don’t know how to make one, check out the video or read the recipe for Chewy Brownies below.

Ultimate Fudgy Brownies (Also Titled Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies Sometimes) – Most Chocolate Flavor

I believe these brownies pack the most chocolate flavor, but that is up for debate in our household.  My wife contends that they offer nothing more than the Chewy Brownies discussed below.  Whoever is right, these brownies and the Chewy Brownies are a close #1 and #2.

The only issue is that these are drier than box mixes, which can be a bonus for brownies n’ ice cream.

You can find the recipe here.  I’m sorry it is behind America’s Test Kitchen’s pay wall (14 days for free).

Chewy Brownies – The Winner

Chewy Brownies

These brownies are the best all-around brownies you can make.  They have great chocolate taste and great texture.  There are chunks of chocolate hidden inside and if you really pay attention there is a complementary shot of espresso flavor.

The secret to the texture is a mixture of saturated fat (butter) and unsaturated fat (veggie oil).  The unsaturated fat stays liquid at room temp giving the brownies a more gooey fudgy texture that has been the hallmark of box brownies since time began.

The biggest disadvantages of these brownies are that they take more time to prepare (not much – maybe 15 minutes?) and are the most expensive because they use lots of different kinds of chocolate.  One thing to keep in mind price-wise is that these make about 1/3 more brownies than the Ghirardelli boxed version.

You can find the recipe for free here where you can watch an instructional video or download the recipe.  To get the written recipe you do have to provide an email address.

NOTE:  For whatever reason they make two measurement errors in the video (written recipe is correct).  Use 4 tablespoons of melted butter and 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil NOT 4-1/2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil.  1-1/2 cups of oil would have these things swimming.  Yuk!

Taste Test

Last night at a Super Bowl party I decided to put the Chewy Brownies to the test.  We pitted them against the Ghirardelli brownies and results were unanimous.  Chewy Brownies are better.  One attendee described the difference between them best when he said that they were “Sweeter, more chocolaty and also more bitter all at the same time”.

If you think you can beat these recipes, please post your thoughts in the comments below.