RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream. Oh, and I graduated from nursing school.

So.

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Damn it, RumChata, I’ll get back to you in a second. Stop looking so delicious. (Or, as the lady at the liquor store told me, stop looking like a giant bottle of lotion.)

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On Thursday, I finally, after an insane three years of paper-writing, textbook-reading, note-taking, care plan-making, and IV-flushing, graduated from nursing school. Hooray for me!

Now, when I write about things on here, the attitude is usually “hooray for me” all the time, mostly because it’s a blog, and what other kind of attitude are you supposed to have when you are mostly writing about your own accomplishments in knitting and baking? (And cats. I do write about cats a lot.) It’s also written from that perspective because I often have a very hard time accepting compliments in the real world. Or thinking that my work is good enough in general. I often ride a very fine line of knowing that I am extremely capable when I work hard at something and also thinking that the world and everything I love will suddenly plummet to a firey descent of death if I don’t get an A on this damn paper.

It makes life weird.

Anyway, attitudes like that which generally make my day-to-day life anxiety-fraught (and the word ‘anxiety’ consistently makes it onto the most-frequently-used tags cloud at the bottom of the page, so are we really surprised?) made this moment that much sweeter.

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Yep, valedictorian. I just. I. I don’t even know. I was pretty sure that it was coming (except during one particularly harrowing afternoon when it looked like some sort of weird snafu of transfer credits, prerequisites, and weird university by-laws was going to make it not happen), especially because of my general desire to set unattainable goals, but I still don’t even know what to say. All I know is that I smiled from ear-to-ear for nearly 48 hours straight. Might be a record.

Now. Back to the ice cream.

A graduation party had been in the works for some time prior to all of this, mostly because I wanted to make sure that I could properly thank the people in my life who made the experience bearable with their kindness, warmth, and humor, with an entirely ridiculous amount of food and alcohol. When I was brainstorming desserts, my friend Brittany issued me a challenge. An ice cream challenge, which is probably the best kind. She suggested making alcoholic ice cream. RumChata ice cream, specifically.

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Hey there, you beautiful bottle. Glad you’re back.

If you’ve never partaken in the glory of a shot of RumChata, let me let their website describe it to you: “Rum and horchata had a lovechild, and it’s delicious.” Good copy.

It tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But with alcohol. And it is a fantastic addition to any graduation party, all on its own. But in ice cream? I found lots of fakey-type ice cream recipes online for it (like the coconut cream or bananas methods), but to make it a real custard-based ice cream, I had to get creative.

You see, RumChata is 27.5 proof alcohol, low on the general drinkability scale, but high when it comes to attempting to freeze something. Some research was definitely required to get everything to work out properly. Enter Ice Cream Happy Hour, a fabulous book by Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison and definitely required reading if you’re attempting to freeze anything that’s loaded with alcohol. Their method employs prepared gelatin and chilled alcohol incorporated at the end of the custard base chilling process, which is totally genius stuff right there. I also pulled together inspiration from the Pioneer Woman and Food.com in creating this cinnamony delight.

Here we go.

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream
with a great deal of adapting and combining from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, Ice Cream Happy Hour, the Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Ice Cream and Virginia’s Cinnamon Sauce

Ingredients:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pinch salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 cups water
1 tsp vanilla

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 packet plain gelatin
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chilled Rumchata liqueur

Directions:
Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:

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Whisk all ingredients together, except for the vanilla, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

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Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and set aside to cool. (I let it sit out on the counter while I prepared the ice cream base and then refrigerated it until it was time to assemble the finished ice cream.) The sauce will thicken as it cools.

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RumChata Ice Cream Base:
This is all done using the Jeni’s method of ice cream making, which comes highly recommended by me and countless others. Please do go check out their website and support them in their awesome grand re-opening.

Mix two tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl (a giant bowl) with ice and water in order to chill your ice cream base when ready.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, being sure to stir constantly to prevent scorching or boiling over, and boil for 4 minutes. (And be precise, people! Your ice cream is counting on you!)

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Remove from heat and gradually whisk in your cornstarch slurry mixture. Return to the heat and bring it back to a boil, still stirring, allowing it to cook and thicken up for about 1 minute. Fish out those cinnamon sticks and throw them away, unless you know something I don’t about what to do with them now.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the ground cinnamon and mix until well-distributed.

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Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, seal it, and submerge it in your giant bowl of water and ice until it’s totally chilled, about 30 minutes.

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When the ice cream base is chilled, it’s time for alcohol! Put the 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Allow it about 2 minutes to properly absorb, and then cook the mixture over low heat for approximately 3 minutes, until it is clear and all the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the chilled RumChata, resisting the urge to take a big swig from the bottle as you do so.

Pour this new alcohol mixture into the Ziplock bag with the chilled ice cream base, and then give the bag a good massage to make sure that everything’s mixed up nice. Pour the whole thing (most easily accomplished by snipping off a corner of the bag and squeezing it out) into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and process it until it’s thick and creamy, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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This can be very different for different machines, and with the alcohol content involved in this one, may be very different from your normal time. Usually, my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment takes only about 30-35 minutes before the base is ready to freeze, but in this case, I let it go for 45 minutes before I realized it was just never going to be as lofty as it usually gets. Instead, I then poured it into a freezer container and stuck it in the coldest part of my freezer, taking it out to whisk it up every 30 minutes or so for the next 2 hours, at which point it had finally evolved into something I was more familiar with. Just keep an eye on it and have a little cinnamon-based faith. Even if it doesn’t get as beautiful as normal, it’ll turn out.

Pack your new ice cream into a storage container, layering the cinnamon sauce as you go.

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The recipe makes a boatload of sauce, so there’s plenty left over to warm up and put on top if you want when you’re serving it. Press a sheet of parchment paper firmly against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. Normally, ice cream only takes about 5-6 hours to cure in my freezer, but this one was best left in there for the course of 24 hours. Plan ahead for this ice cream deprivation.

When you’re ready, make sure you’ve got people crowded around and waiting, because even after all that effort, if you so much as look wrong at that ice cream when you take it out of the freezer, it will melt just to spite you. (But no, seriously, you don’t have to let it thaw or anything like you might normally. Just get to scooping and work fast.)

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Marvel in the fact that it actually worked! And then hurry up and scoop some more because you’ve got more people waiting.

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This is Brittany, the gauntlet-thrower for this entire experiment, and I think she was pleased.

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I think everyone was, as this was the scene five minutes after I started scooping.

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Luckily, I saved a tiny bit for myself at the end to enjoy. The ice cream itself was smooth and packed with warm cinnamon flavor, with a hint of that rum that reminds you that you are eating some ice cream only for grown-ups. The cinnamon sauce ribbon was slightly icy and grainy, but in the best way possible, giving the whole thing an interesting texture and more complex palate. It tasted like…Cinnamon Toast Crunch. With alcohol.

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Mission accomplished.

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Vote Vote Vote for Me!

Tomorrow, December 19th, is the big day!

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Go vote for my gingerbread creation at Movita Beaucoup tomorrow to get me into the finals for Ginger 2012! Help me lay the smackdown on these other gingerbread-lovin’ bitches and give ’em what for.

Yeah.

Man, I can’t even sound hip and cool when I’m typing.

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Anyway, vote vote VOTE so that I can get some glory (and maybe some awesome cookbooks!), and I’ll consider putting up some embarrassing photos of kitchen disasters for you. Or maybe I’ll bake everyone some cookies. Either way, you guys win!

Do it. Make me proud.

Crazy Stuff! The Versatile Blogger Award!

My lovely blogging pal Karen, AKA the Sweaty Knitter, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award, and I must say I’m a little flummoxed. I never know how to deal with these things, so I am just going to be a nice normal person, and say, “Thank you!” Karen’s blog is a wealth of knitting and textile information and history, and she has probably forgotten more about knitting than I will ever learn. She is awesome. Go read her blog. Right now.

The Versatile Blogger Award!

As per the rules, here’s 15 blogs that I recently discovered and massively enjoy (in no particular order) that I know you’ll love, too, accompanied by my short, silly descriptions:

1. the Breakfast Bachelor – adorable breakfast musings from a lovely Brooklyn kitchen
2. the Modern Home Economist – fabulous quilting, knitting, and baking from Australia
3. Sweet & Crumby – drool-inducing homey baking and photography
4. 101 Books – reading the greatest books ever written, with a light dose of snark
5. the Missing Needle – knitting and spinning and pretties
6. the Soulsby Farm – farming and chickens, all kinds of how-to when you’re just getting started on your own garden
7. Books & Bowel Movements – oodles of books, photos, and charm (full disclosure: Cassie is my totally awesome pen pal. More people should be pen pals with us. We are interested in a movement.)
8. domestic diva, m.d. – all the joys of a handcrafted life, plus stress and awesome med school stories
9. Sadie & Dasie – daily inspiration for things I didn’t know I needed
10. Photo Nature Blog – gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous
11. made by mike – jealousy-inspiring baking and photography, and honey-flavored ice cream, goddamit! (It looks so good, it makes me mad. Seriously.)
12. Acorn in the Kitchen – exotic cuisine and awesome inspirational videos about the process of handmaking your life
13. the Burlesque Baker – with a title like that, do I really need to explain?
14. the Yellow House – this blog will make you want to throw a barbeque every day
15. barefoot rooster – knitting and wonderful genuine everyday silliness

Go read them. Right now. I’ll wait.

Geez, I need to get reading some more blogs in case this happens again (ha!), because I’m sure no one needs me to link them to the Yarn Harlot or Bakerella. Give me more, people!

Anyway, to completely fulfill the Versatile Blogger rules, now I have to disclose 7 things about myself, probably that I haven’t already expressed recently on this blog. Deep breath. Here we go.

1. After watching The Avengers, I spent (wasted? nope!) an inordinately long amount of time looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston online and sighing.

This is embarrassing already.

2. I love bunnies. In a serious fan-girl type of way, even though I’ve never owned one. This information causes people to give me lots of bunny-related paraphernalia — including stuffed animals, figurines, tins, cookie cutters, and a crazy-awesome painting that’s in my living room. I don’t think this will ever get out of hand enough for me. Just no live bunnies, please. My cat will try to eat them.

3. I am going to be thirty this year, and I still get super excited about my birthday. Not like I expect people to get me things or really do anything special or anything, but I just love telling people when my birthday is (June 21st. *ahem*) and getting simple birthday wishes. Facebook has taken this off the deep end for me. I am trying to see how this isn’t selfish and weird, but I really don’t care at the same time. Birthdays are awesome.

4. Dan and I live in the newly remodeled version of the childhood home in which I grew up. I will turn corners and enter rooms sometimes and still get a flash of what it used to look like instead of how it looks now. It’s an odd sensation.

5. I just bought Pixar stamps today to put on my pen pal letters. They make me happy just sitting here on my desk.

6. Speaking of making me happy, my 365 Project is still going strong, I’m just not doing weekly updates with commentary anymore. Trust me, though, it’s all still good. Lots of pictures of vegetables, knitting, and my cat, just like the usual on here anyway.

7. Revenge is totally my new favorite thing on TV, maybe ever. I might talk all high and mighty, but fabulous trashy revengey TV is awesome and will always be awesome. Nolan is my favorite character, of course. I wish I had been around to watch when Dynasty was really up and kicking. That would have been great.

And we’re done! Thanks for getting through that if you actually did. Understand that the writing process for this one involved a whole lot of me staring out into space and wondering what wouldn’t sound completely insane. Now go read those other blogs. You’ll be glad you did.

What the What Now? The Kreativ Blogger Award!

Apparently I am creative. Or kreativ. Or something. Or maybe I’m so verklempt that I can’t write sentences with words that sound good.

Kreativ Blogger Award.  What?

In addition to making me blush uncontrollably, this award has got some rules to it:

First, thank and link back to the blogger who nominated you.

The fabulous Rock Salt nominated me for this little beauty. Let me tell you, she rocked her nomination on her Mad Men cupcakes alone, I bet. I’m totally going to make the Old Fashioned ones next time I want to get a little bit hammered with my buttercream frosting.  Thank you, my dear!  You are awesome.

Second, list 7 things about yourself that your readers may find interesting.

Oh, dear. Here we go. Try not to point and laugh. Too much.

1. My name has always started with a J, contrary to what people often want to believe. My dad originally decided to name me after the custom color that he had his wonderful big boat LTD Continental painted. (They just don’t make cars like that anymore. They just don’t make good car chases starring them anymore, either. Sigh.) It was called “ginger brown.” Change that G up to a J to make all of our initials the same, and there you have it. (And, yes, I know about the Duggars, please don’t tell me about them. We are not those type of crazygonuts people.)

2. My favorite movie of all time? Little Shop of Horrors.

3. I listen to podcasts during almost my entire day, except for when I really have to read and comprehend something or when I’m forced to interact with real people. At the moment, I am all about Nerdist, Geekshow, WTF, Freakonomics, Judge John Hodgman, Stuff You Should Know, Radiolab, and This American Life. That is such a crazy long list, and it’s not even complete. I am such a dork.

4. I only truly learned how to ride a bike 5-ish years ago. All previous childhood attempts never really took. Dan helped me buy my own bike and learn to ride it, and although I am still a little tentative about it (Dan would correct this to say that I am actually a bit of a whiny baby about it), Dan and I try to ride in City Park or on the Lakefront every week.

5. I hate ginger. I think it is gross. Please don’t give me any. And yes, I know how amusing this is to everyone but me.

6. I taught myself to knit with a ball of Red Heart Worsted, a learn-to-knit website, and a pair of chopsticks. My friend TJ received that horribly itchy and wonky scarf and kept it wrapped around a cement donkey for years. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

7. I have been told that the way I eat pizza is extremely bizarre, but I don’t care. This only applies to standard delivery pizza and does not include homemade, restaurant, or any type of thin-crust pizza for some reason. I like to scrape the toppings off with a fork, then to eat the crust, and then to eat the topping with the aforementioned fork. And no, I can’t tell you why. It’s just awesome. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Oh man. Okay, that’s done.

Third, nominate and link 7 other deserving bloggers, and be sure to let them know.

Now, here’s a list of totally deserving, totally awesome bloggers, in completely random order. They may not know who I am and wonder why I am nominating them out of nowhere because I am not much of a commenter, but I enjoy their work immensely and have for a long time. Also, if I’m bothering or insulting anyone by tagging them for this, I’m sorry. I just think you’re great, and I’d like to have a beer with you.

1. Blatherskite – Moni knits, writes, librarians (can I please make that a real verb?), and takes photographs — all with an unapologetic honesty and intensity to which I can only aspire.

2. Mixxedtape – Maxime was my first follower here on jingersnaps, and I adore her super fun and healthy breakfast recipes and unabashed positive outlook. She makes me want to try meditation. That was a weird sentence, but it is totally true.

3. Everybody Likes Sandwiches – Jeannette is just fantastic. Years ago, Everybody Likes Sandwiches was the blog that made me feel like maybe I could cook and bake and blog. She makes it all look so simple and intuitive and elegant, and I have a big ole blogging girl-crush on her. I pretended not to be all excited when she followed me on Pinterest. Unsuccessfully. I just hope that I am not bothering her.

4. The Food Librarian – I once won a giveaway contest on Mary’s blog, and she sent me all this amazing Trader Joe’s stuff and the cutest little card. She’s such a sweetie, and her exploits in the world of butter and sugar are commendable. She’s the brains behind I Like Big Bundts, by the way. Baking, plus 90s hip-hop? I’m so game.

5. Turtlegirl’s Bloggy Thing – Cristy was one of the first people that I noticed and friended on Ravelry, and she’s continued to be a source of envy and inspiration ever since. She effortlessly segues between beautiful complex knitting projects and lolspeak like a pro, and I love her for it.

6. Door Sixteen – I want to be Anna when I grow up. I want to get an awesome haircut, paint my entire house black and white, listen to the Smiths, and design book covers. Seriously. She is a creative force to be reckoned with. (I already listen to the Smiths, so I’m partway there, right?)

7. Pepperknit – I am a bit of a newcomer to Erin’s blog, but I feel like we are kindred spirits in knitting, cooking, and photography. Although, in saying that, I feel like I’m equating my work to hers, and that’s just not it. Her knits and photo sessions are always terribly, painfully lovely, and she makes me want to be a better blogger.

There we go! A peek into some of my weirdnesses, and a call to action to go and visit the amazing blogs of all of those wonderful people.

Thank you again to Rock Salt, and to everyone else who reads me here. You guys are fabulous, too. I’m going to go and hyperventilate now from too much happy.