How to Make “Magic Shell” Style Ice Cream Topping

I’ve got nothing but love for “Magic Shell,” the chocolate ice cream topping that starts out a liquid, but freezes instantly over ice cream into a thin, crackly shell that you whack with the back of a spoon before you take a bite. It’s equal parts food science from the wizards at Smucker’s and, as is clearly stated on the label, magic.

If it has one problem, it’s that Magic Shell’s delicious flavor isn’t exactly its most prominent feature. It’s too sweet, too waxy, and not very chocolatey. We wanted to take Magic Shell’s magical ingredient, coconut oil, and try combining it with some other flavors to make a dessert topping that would be beloved by both kids and parents alike.

Coconut oil is pretty amazing stuff. Though high in saturated fat, it’s made a bit of a splash recently on the health food circuit, credited with everything from increased metabolism to lowered cholesterol to decreased diabetes risk to enhanced liver function. To me though, its most remarkable property is the very slight change in temperature needed to turn it from a liquid to a solid. Refined coconut oil liquefies at 74 degrees, and returns to a solid at just 70 degrees. A drop of those four little degrees turns a mixture of chocolate and coconut oil into a solid, the “Magic Shell” that we remember so fondly from our childhood.

We started with a white chocolate version flavored with peppermint; it’s amazing over chocolate ice cream. Of course, for the purists, we’re also including the instructions for the traditional chocolate flavor Magic Shell-inspired topping. The finished product will keep at room temperature in a sealed container for about a month. If it solidifies on the shelf, just zap it for a few seconds in the microwave to return it to liquid form.

Experiment with different flavored extracts as you see fit; chocolate coconut topping would be excellent over pistachio ice cream, or white chocolate and raspberry topping over strawberry ice cream. The possibilities are endless!

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“All Natural Black Angus Burger” (L & H Burgers)

Today’s sandwich is the “Black Angus Beef Burger” from L & H Burgers in Rockland. I made it my own with garlic lemon mayo, caramelized onions, and lettuce.

Location: 313 Main Street, Rockland
The first word that rose from my tongue after taking one bite, was “supple”. I ordered my burger medium-rare, and it was. The menu indicates that unless specified they cook burgers to “medium (pink center)”. Be fairly warned, their medium-rare was rare. Super rare. It was fall-apart pink throughout, soft and, yes, supple. I was a big fan, but it’s not for everyone, I realize. With high quality beef like this – “humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free”  according to the Facebook page menu – I don’t need any more char.

L & H Burgers

The L & H menu is a little jangly at first glance. There are starters and salads, paninis, sides, kids items, a “From the Masters” section where they have put together interesting topping combinations for either beef, chicken or a veggie burger, and then the options for creating your own. Since we’re not treating the entire breadth of the menu and doing a comprehensive restaurant review, which we definitely will, and soon, I will stick to the facts of this one burger.

And this burger was a little messy. With lots of gooey, sweet onions and tangy mayonnaise. The lettuce was super green, not an anemic afterthought as it often is, and almost cooked by the heat of the burger. This was all done up on a buttery bakery bun that held its own against the juicy meat. It’s the right size. We were impressed with the subtlety and quality, two attributes not always associated with burger joints. There is obvious care being put into this food. My burger was awesome and I don’t think we’ll wait very long before heading back for the complete experience.

L & H Burgers: 313 Maine Street, Rockland, Maine; 207-593-7995

Pumpkin Pie with Crushed Walnut Crust

Last year during the holidays, I was pregnant, and in the spacious kitchen of our rented farmhouse, I learned to bake. I made cookies and breads, cakes and pie crusts from scratch. I also volunteered at a senior citizens home, reading and listening to music with patients losing time and memory and spent hours talking in therapy with a very kind, wise soul. I felt like after thirty-three years of hoping it would all come together eventually, I had nine short months to get really good at being a person. To be happier and healthier than I ever had been. I packed a lot in to that period and made it count. I was dancing with my Nia class until two weeks before Violet was born. I read a lot of nonfiction.

This year, I don’t have time for anything. I don’t know what we do all day but scramble around and dance to music she needs to know in our living room and feed her and bathe her and keep us all alive, and at the end of the day, collapse in front of the television with a glass of wine. We cook. We look at the baby. We go for walks to town. As I wrote before, there is a lot to be thankful for. It’s not perfect, and neither am I. But she’s happy, and so am I.

The art of baking taught me patience and practicality, qualities I still aspire to embrace. The pie I put together today with pantry staples contains a basic, creamy spiced pumpkin filling. But instead of a flour/butter/shortening crust, I made a pie shell out of crushed walnuts, which adds both texture and flavor. This would be a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving feast, and a thoughtful treat for gluten-free friends and family.

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Lamb Belly Wrapped Dates

I remember a butcher shop, in the neighborhood where my mom was a girl, a grouping of houses with streetlights and sidewalks, on the outskirts of a city, not a suburb or a subdivision, something from the past, where my grandparents still lived when we would go and visit them on Sundays. On the corner, a block from their little red house on Ruth Street, was a row of shops, a green grocer, a butcher, a package store. Before there were supermarkets and beverage barns, there were specialized stores that sold things.

Crown Budget smelled like blood and had sawdust on the floor. The swarthy men in stained white coats kept a pencil slid behind the ear. They would wrap up your purchases in brown paper and string; these packets had weight. Then you would open the door into the sideways falling snow and trudge home, uphill both ways. In my generation we’ve gone from this model to something much more sterile, removed from the visceral experience of the abattoir. Recently, there has been a movement to bring back the old time butchers, the farm to table, nose to tail paradigm is a product of people my age, who must have similar memories.

We discovered Bleecker and Flamm’s Maine Street Meats, a store within a store in the Rockport Marketplace, where I found this crazy good stuff, cured and thinly sliced. They have amazing cheeses, unpasteurized milk, rustic bread, enormous pork chops, bone marrow, chicken stock, interesting candy, tubes of tomato paste and harissa, and even more lovely and pleasing products. I noticed the lamb belly the other day when I was shopping for bleu cheese. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I went back I was given a sample and suggestion for serving with figs, olives, and cheese. I knew we were having roasted garlic, red pepper flake and basil pizza for dinner, but we needed an appetizer. Something fun to have with drinks before dinner on a Friday night.

I’d say this qualifies. I have to warn you, it is not for the feint of heart. The lamb is…musky. In a totally good way. It tastes like what it is. Meat that lived in a field, next to a mountain. Its lambiness is tempered by the wonderful, sweet, I will not use the word unctuous dates. And the cream cheese just gives it a little gooze. You know gooze, don’t you? Melty, tangy, perfection, you might say. When I make this dish with regular, old bacon, I stuff the date with goat cheese, but I have to draw the line somewhere. So, it’s simple. Three ingredients. Make as many as you like. I do believe you’ll need more than you might think. They’re addictive. You have got to try this.

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Whole Baked Garlic with Bleu Cheese

One of the coziest restaurants in Rockland to sit and watch the snow fall has to be In Good Company, a small, inviting restaurant housed in a renovated bank on Main Street that feels more like a good friend’s living room than an elegant late-night spot. While we haven’t sat down for a full meal yet (and as soon as we do, you can count on a full review), we have spent plenty of evenings there either sitting at the bar or sharing a table, sipping cocktails and snacking from round after round of small plates from the restaurant’s “Nibbles” menu. This can include simple snacks, like roasted Marcona almonds, black olive tapenade, or a “tasting” menu of assorted olive oils. One of my absolute favorite dishes, though, is the restaurant’s whole roast garlic.

It’s dead-simple eating that pairs perfectly with a dry martini: a whole roast garlic bulb, served with your choice of bleu, brie, or goat cheese, served molten and bubbly. Roasted in a hot oven, the garlic turns golden brown and loses a lot of its characteristic sharp pungency. Extracted from the clove and spread on a piece of crostini or fresh bread, then topped with the strong cheese, it’s an explosion of flavor that’s instantly addictive.

While the dish is certainly affordable, our baby daughter keeps us home sometimes more often than we’d like. On those nights, Jillian whips up a batch of her no-knead bread, tosses a quick salad while I shake up a martini, and we recreate the “In Good Company” experience at home. Now you can, too.

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Sweet Potato Soup

The day after my birthday, I start thinking about Thanksgiving. A giant meal, a great parade, the fancy silver, wine, and board games. What is not to love? We feel especially thankful this year for our little family; we have a happy, healthy baby who has brought us so much joy. And we can’t wait to share the festive season with this magical little butt munch. The division of labor for the holiday of feasting was established long ago, when we did most of our cooking on hot plates. Malcolm is firmly in charge of the bird. Even after once stuffing a turkey with ostrich meat, I continue to have great confidence in his ability to turn out a juicy and delicious focal point for the meal. When he was put in charge of sides, he and a college friend decided to add a packet of ramen noodles to instant mashed potatoes for a starch that clings to your insides for at least a dozen years. So I’ve taken over the accompaniments. Those are my favorite anyway.

What can I say about stuffing? It is the light of my life. I could eat it every day. I would marry it and have a thousand of its babies. Stuffing, you complete me. I haven’t decided which version I’m doing yet, but I have had a few ideas about dessert. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll start with the soup. I also plan to post a great salad recipe I’m working on and maybe a special cocktail. But, the soup! It’s very good soup. The color is gorgeous, the texture velvety-smooth. It’s rich even though it only has a kiss of cream. And I love the smoky-spicy chipotle powder with sweet potato. You could finish this soup with a sprinkling of candied walnuts or pecans, melted bleu cheese topped crostini, or a drizzle of chili oil. I think a hint of lime would adds a perfect, unexpected tart kick. Good vinegar would work well here, also. I’m all about traditions with a twist. What’s on your menu this year?

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