While I love the people here in Oklahoma, when all I see in the forecast is 100-degree weather, sometimes it makes me question my sanity — especially after going home to one of the most beautiful places in the world where it’s a perfect 70 degrees. Alas, I’m married to a Brazilian who hates cold winter weather, which means we’ll be staying put in Oklahoma. But at least we can vacation in Michigan!
We visited recently for my sister’s wedding so tonight I’m taking a break from my month of homemade ice cream to share some of the things (other than the weather) that I love most about Michigan – which are also some of the reasons you should visit!
1) The Scenery
The Pure Michigan commercials don’t lie – Michigan is truly beautiful! I think God must have created it especially for his vacation home.
2) The Food
If you’re planning a visit, here are some of my favorites.
- BC Pizza: It started in my hometown and now has more than 30 locations across Northern Michigan. It has a slightly sweet crust and sauce and is loaded with fresh ingredients. It’s not fancy pizza, but it’s good! BC Pizza will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Kilwin’s Ice Cream and Fudge: My brother worked for Kilwin’s making fudge and serving ice cream while we were growing up and we took full advantage of our family discount! They make their own waffle cones, which are definitely the best I’ve had. My sister had a surprise treat of Mackinaw Island Fudge ice cream and waffle cones at her wedding and it was a huge hit! Kilwin’s can be found all over Northern Michigan as well.
- Blackbird Gardens: This Petoskey-based company catered my wedding five years ago and catered my sister’s wedding as well. They are amazing! Everything is very fresh — they picked the salad the day of her wedding and served the most delicious homegrown strawberries. Chef Mike is very creative: for our wedding he made a couple of Brazilian dishes (for the Brazilian groom) and for my sister’s he made a Thai shrimp hors d’oeuvre and Thai chicken and dipping sauces (for the Thai groom). Mike is also a very talented chef. The beef in our kabobs was cooked perfectly. We were sitting by a couple who had vegetarian kabobs and they said it was the best wedding food they’d ever had!
- Red Mesa Grill: If you’re ever in Boyne City, Red Mesa is a great casual restaurant with good quality Latin food. Their chili crusted chicken twister is my favorite! Sadly, we were so busy I didn’t get to have one during our recent visit.
- Corky’s: For my sister’s bachelorette party we toured a few vineyards in the Leelanau Penninsula. Our tour began and ended at Corky’s in Sutton’s Bay. While the service was sub-par (our server had only been working there for three days and probably wasn’t cut out to waitress), the peaceful setting with a view of Lake Michigan and good food make it worth a mention. I’m not saying it was the best food ever, but it was better than average and the experience was enjoyable over all.
- 45 Vineyard: Our favorite of the three vineyards we visited. It’s named after its location on the 45th parallel.
- Michigan has an abundance of fresh fruit, from cherries to blueberries to apples and more. Chef Mom recently posted some some delicious-looking recipes featuring Michigan cherries.
3) The People
At least for me, the people (my family) are one of the things I love and miss most about Michigan.
Today is day #2 in my month of ice cream. I was talking to a coworker about the difference between gelato and ice cream. She called her Italian mom to find out more about gelato. It turns out that gelato is not just the Italian word for ice cream as I had always thought. It’s normally made with milk instead of cream and the lower fat content actually brings out the flavors. Lower in fat and more flavorful – Italians are smart people! Gelato is also made a little bit differently than ice cream, with less aeration, which gives it a denser consistency.
I should have applied what I learned today when I made tonight’s batch of fresh lemon ice cream. I used two cups of heavy cream and one cup of milk. It tasted good but I wish it was a little more lemony. In the recipe below, I recommend using two cups of milk and only one cup of heavy cream. I had also planned to add limoncello to my ice cream, but when I saw the price tag, I changed my mind (yes, I’m cheap!). If you have it, adding a little limoncello to the ice cream would be delicious. Alcohol will soften the consistency of ice cream so don’t add too much!
#29 – Fresh Lemon Ice Cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 2 or 3 lemons
- 1 tablespoon limoncello
In a medium bowl, mix the milk and cream. Whisk in the sugar and salt until they’re dissolved. Add the lemon juice and freeze in an ice cream maker immediately (so it doesn’t cause the milk to curdle). Add the lemon zest and limoncello (if you’re using it) at the end of the freezing process.
The count down has begun! In less than a month, I will be turning the big 3-0!
I had been trying to think of something fun to do to celebrate the milestone. Since ice cream is my favorite food, I decided that over the next month, I will make 30 flavors of homemade ice cream. On my birthday, we’re going to have homemade pizza and do an ice cream tasting to rate our favorites.
I’m taking suggestions for flavors. My favorite is plain old chocolate and though a little texture is okay, I don’t like too much stuff in my ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s is way too much for me). However, I definitely want to be creative with the flavors I try. Let me know if you have any ideas!
#30 – Raspberry Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Bits
adapted from David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups raspberries
- 1 – 3 to 4 ounce dark chocolate bar
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, cream, sugar and salt over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Don’t allow the mixture to boil.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking a small amount of the hot cream mixture into them. Continue to whisk, adding more of the cream.
Once the yolk mixture is warm, whisk it into the cream mixture in the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t allow it to boil.
Remove the mixture from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Refrigerate the mixture until it’s completely chilled (several hours or overnight). Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate shavings from the chocolate bar.
Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker. Add the berries and chocolate shavings at the end of the freezing process.
9 butter cake mixes
+ 3 dozen eggs
+ an unmentionable amount of butter
+ 2 dozen lemons for the marmalade filling
+ 6 cups of raspberries for the fresh berry filling
+ 10 pounds of powdered sugar for the buttercream icing
+ 10 pounds of dry ice for the 20 hour road trip to Michigan
= MY SISTER’S WEDDING CAKE!!!
I was so busy with the cake, I forgot to take a picture. Here’s one thanks to my cousin, Kristen. It didn’t turn out exactly like I planned, but no one noticed because they were all looking at the beautiful bride!
More pictures from the trip to Michigan are coming soon!
Last weekend Josue had to attend a conference in Oklahoma City so I took Friday off of work and we planned a mini vacation (visit family, take Natalie to the zoo, and have a date night). A toddler with an ear infection quickly changed our plans, but thanks to our family we were able to go on a date on Sunday night. We even booked a hotel room online so we’d have more time to enjoy together. When we drove by the prison and the GPS said our destination was imminent, we knew it wasn’t a good sign. Two tenths of a mile later, we pulled up in front of a sketchy looking hotel. We decided to venture inside to see if it was any better than the outside. It wasn’t. Lesson learned: three stars doesn’t always mean nice. Fortunately the front desk guy was nice and gave us a refund even though we had booked through a third party.
By the time all this happened we were starving. We decided to go to Bricktown (a fun, historic district of Oklahoma City) for dinner. We literally drove a loop through Bricktown at least six times because we couldn’t decide where to eat. By that time Josue was pretty frustrated so he started driving back in the direction of the prison. As we were driving out of town, I saw a sign for “The Wedge.” One of my co-workers had recommended a pizza place in Tulsa with the same name so we decided to check it out (though we found out it’s not related to the one in Tulsa).
When we drove up and saw a veggie garden in front of the restaurant, I had to eat there.
The Wedge is located in the Deep Deuce district of Oklahoma City (I think they have another location as well). Our server told us that they make everything they can from scratch, including the Italian sausage we had on our pizza. They grow their own herbs and use local ingredients as much as possible, including chicken from a local farmer. In addition to the normal pizza toppings they offer fresh mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto, figs, kalamata olives, roasted beets, fennel, roasted nuts and a variety of homemade sauces. All of the pizzas are cooked in their wood fire oven.
And most importantly, the pizza is delicious!
It was a the perfect place to relax and forget about the craziness of the day and daily life and enjoy a great date night.
Today I made a very exciting discovery. Are you ready for it?
After years of trying different seasoning combinations and cooking techniques, I realized (thanks to all the input I received on my Quest for the Perfect Burger post a few months back) that the secret to the perfect burger is actually IN THE MEAT! (I don’t know how I overlooked this most important part of a burger for so long!)
Josue was working out of town over the weekend and arrived home tonight. To welcome him home, I made him a special meal (full of carbs!) – burgers, corn on the cob and potato wedges. Instead of beef from the grocery store, I purchased freshly ground beef from Perry’s Meat Market in Tulsa. (It was definitely worth the $3.50/pound!) I lightly seasoned the beef with kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, a little Worcestershire, and some grated onion. Since we don’t have a grill (getting one is on my bucket list), I cooked them to a perfect medium in my favorite iron skillet. And instead of regular buns, I used toasted ciabatta rolls.
Now that the secret is out, I can’t wait to experiment with the toppings. I think a mushroom swiss burger is on the menu next.
With my sister’s wedding coming up in just a few weeks, I’ve been trying to cut out a lot of the carbs from my diet. Eating fewer carbs has been surprisingly easy. Coming up with family-friendly meals that are low in carbs has been more difficult. I’ve been eating a lot of stir fry without rice, tacos without shells, and salad.
I saw a Vegetable Lasagna Throwdown a while back and Bobby Flay’s competitors used fried zucchini instead of noodles in their lasagna. I decided to try my own zucchini lasagna, but to make it a little healthier I oven roasted the zucchini. It turned out really well; I didn’t even miss the pasta. Even Josue, who’s more of a carb lover than a veggie lover, enjoyed it.
- 3 large zucchini
- Olive oil
- 1 pound mushrooms (optional)
- 1 pound turkey sausage
- 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Marinara sauce
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices. Place the slices on baking sheets, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast the zucchini until it’s tender, 15-20 minutes. Slice the mushrooms and saute them in a large skillet over high heat in a little bit of olive oil. (Pre-cooking the mushrooms will prevent them from giving off water inside the lasagna.) Cook the mushrooms until they’re browned. Remove them from the pan and use the skillet to brown the turkey sausage. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, the egg, the herbs, the black pepper and the Parmesan cheese together.
To assemble the lasagna, coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan with a thin layer of the marinara sauce. Cover the marina with a third of the zucchini “noodles.” Spread half of the ricotta over the zucchini, cover with half of the turkey sausage, half of the mushrooms and cover with marinara sauce. Repeat this process with a second layer. Finish with a layer of zucchini covered with marinara and topped with mozzarella. Bake the lasagna until it’s heated through and the cheese is browned, about 30 minutes. Allow the lasagna to stand for 15 minutes before serving to give it time to set up.