Key Lime Pie Ice Cream- Top Chef Nitro Style!

There are a ton of cooking shows on television today.  Some I love, some are just “ehh”, and some are just garbage.  The shows I don’t like are the ones that make professional kitchens and chefs look ridiculous. Many of my friends and family ask me after seeing Hell’s Kitchen, “Is that what you do?”…So I’d like to say to everyone, while there are times when chef is screaming in our kitchen, there is no Gordon Ramsey running around yelling at seemingly inexperienced “chefs” that don’t know how to saute a piece of fish. It just isn’t reality….

I am a Top Chef fan, I think Bravo does a great job, capturing the energy and vibe of a kitchen.  When my friends and family chat me up about cooking, our conversations often lead to Top Chef.  I love the creativity of the chefs, the familiar competition amongst them and the accurate portrayal of the stress all kitchens have.  The producers really capture it well, so I love for friends outside of food and beverage world to watch, so they can understand the day to day life in a kitchen.

We have a lot of kitchen “toys” at work, some of which are used by the chefs on Top Chef.  The one fault I see in the show, is that the contestants use new, cutting edge cooking techniques, equipment, presentations and ideas, but don’t give a clear explanation for the viewers. (Perhaps they need a 2 hour time slot).  We recently had a “teach and learn” at work using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, a method I have seen on Top Chef fairly often.  So I thought I would share the process, while you might not have a liquid nitrogen tank at home, you can at least know what the heck Richard Blais is doing!

The Tank! Saftey first!

Transferring the Liquid Nitrogen

We used Paula Deen’s recipe for Key Lime Pie filling, which is delicious!  Of course we used liquid nitrogen, but if you can make it at home in your ice cream maker too!

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cups key lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon key lime zest
  • 1 pint half-and-half

Some of the Mise en Place for the Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat cream until slightly thickened. Gradually add the sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Add condensed milk and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in lime juice, lime zest, and half-and-half. Now you are ready for the ice cream maker, they all have slightly different directions, follow the method of the maker you have at home.  OR…go get yourself a liquid nitrogen tank, and do not forget the saftey mask and gloves!

Pour the liquid nitrogen into a manageable pitcher.

The Key Lime Pie filling is freezing in the mixer!

It's so cool to have the "smoke" blowing all over the place. They should do this in high school science classes!

I am refilling the pitcher, it takes a little more than I thought.

A little more and it should be nicely frozen. It took just minutes!

Voila, Key Lime Pie Ice Cream. Now I need a Graham Cracker Cone!

Now you are ready for the next Top Chef Auditions 🙂


Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, with Sweets by Maggie!

My girl Maggie came down to Florida a few weeks ago for a visit and over a few glasses of our beloved sangria, she told me about her upcoming event at The Chef’s Garden.  Wow!!! I was excited to hear that she would be participating in The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, an event I have been hearing about for many years.  The event is put together to combat childhood obesity, with chefs, wine vendors, and food & beverage companies all participating to make the magic happen.  There are wine seminars, chef demos, book signings and of course, lots of tasting!!  By the end of the pitcher of sangria, she had me convinced, I must travel to Ohio and help the Sweets by Maggie team!

The event kicked off with a welcome reception for all the participants and their teams!  The scenery was lovely; the wine was flowing and the buffet was plentiful.  The host of the event, the staff of Veggie U, The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute welcomed us graciously.  It was a perfect summer evening to meet many new friends and reconnect with old ones!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, also known as CVI

Welcome to Ohio Chef Brian!! Maggie and Brian worked together years ago at WDW. I guess it IS a Small world after all ;-/

Birds eye view of the dining room at the CVI. The chefs were finishing up their prep for the evening before joining the welcome reception.

Chef's finish your mise en place!!

The Grand Tasting Tent- this is where the action would take place! Vendors, chefs, sponsors will thrill guests with their bounty from The Chef's Garden!

Our favorite sales person, Michele!

We were home from the welcoming party by 12:30 AM, grabbed a quick nap before heading to Maggie’s shop at 3:00 AM.  (My friends at work thought I was taking a vacation, hahaha).  We made up batters, beat buttercream, baked cupcakes, packed all the equipment and shoved it in the car by 1:00 pm.  And we were off to the races!

The Subaru was loaded! But it all fit! And that is the lovely Cheryl, who rocked all weekend long with us! Attention Wrigley, you have a new Life Saver flavor!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, I ran by those chairs all evening long....tempting!

The Reefer Truck- It was refreshing to run and get supplies from the truck, despite the distance, as it gave me break from the heat!

Port Wine Brownies by Sweets By Maggie- We prepped in the reefer truck and were able to keep the desserts from spoiling....mostly... I ate the other ones! 🙂

Wine Seminar Tent - This was great because we were very close to it, while I was busy being a Cake Ball Ninja, I listened closely to the Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado!

The gardens around the property were gorgeous! I love that you can see people hustling in back before we get started!

Such a beautiful setting to work in!

The Sweets by Maggie table! Getting close to opening, JUST a few friends to feed! 🙂

The tent before the action started.

Tart Cherry Cupcake with Grand Marnier Buttercream; and Lemon Lavender Cupcake with Local Honey Buttercream! They were fabulous!

Port Wine Brownies. I gotta say, the reduction was beautiful -hollllaaaaa!

Cake Balls! There were teams developing amongst the guests, arguing which one was better. (It was a tough decision, but I finally sided with Team White Cake Ball)

Sea Turtle Cake Balls, caramel, pecans, chocolate, sea salt, a few other things and of course, love! Just make sure you don't call them Sea Turtle Balls- I got a few looks when I quickly spieled the desserts.

Salted Caramel Cake Balls! These are soooo good, unfortunately I didn't have any to bring home to my friends in Florida! Hoping Sweets by Maggie starts shipping soon!

That's me- Cake Ball Ninja

Pipe Away Maggie!

I did manage to slip away before the event got going, taking a tour of all the chefs and what they were serving.  The caliber of creativity and culinary responsibility (local, sustainable, fresh, ect…) was extreme!  So many dishes I could not wait to try!

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, by far the best thing I learned about on my trip north. (Excluding everything I learned at the Sweets by Maggie Shop)

Flavors from Jeni's treasure chest!

Jeni's Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries Ice Cream. This will be in my freezer by the weekend. It was A-maZing!

Rockmill Brewery- I can't say enough about this brewer, every brew I tasted was...sooooo good.

Our new and old friends! Brian from Gary's Seafood, Chef Brian and Chef Garrett. We knew there was a great chef next to us, but was delighted when Garrett shared his beverages with us too!

Whoop, Whoop!!!  The event was amazing, the Sweets by Maggie table had guests raving….A complete SUCCESS!!! And like after any huge event, it is time to join in the party!

Welcome to The After Party!

The After Party! Good times were had by all!!


Steelite International was a sponsor of the Chef competition. The award was a trip to Alinea!! #Awesome! Congrats @Jonathon Sawyer!!!

The After Party! The winning chefs were announced, the volunteers, chefs, participants gathered as a team, broke bread, drank wine and relaxed!

By the end of the evening, with the bustle winding down, I was able to look around and soak in the atmosphere, the friendly faces, all the talent and passion in one beautiful field.  Knowing that all the effort that went into the event was going to fight the rising epidemic of childhood obesity was “icing” on top!

To learn more about Sweets by Maggie, take a look at the website or “Like” them on the Sweets By Maggie Facebook Page.

Banana and Orange Granola

At Casa Mohler, we try to maintain a well balance lifestyle- exercise, sleep,  healthy meals, ECT.   We often have to refocus the balance after I have gotten an itch to make cookies, breads, or maybe we have been “over served” by our bartender.  Needless to say we usually are a bit “off balance”…..none the less we try!

The ripest banana will prove tastiest!!

This recipe for granola is great, I was looking for a low-calorie, low-fat recipe and ran into a few with mashed banana as the binder.  No oil? Perfect.  I added a few ingredients to build up a bit more flavor and protein.  There isn’t a ton of honey in the recipe, so the orange zest really plays a part in the sweetness factor. I am pretty certain without the orange zest that I would be feeding cardboard to my family.

Pulse, Pulse, Puree! BamO!

Banana and Orange Granola

Makes about  6- ½ cup servings

2 cups rolled oats

1 ripe banana

3/4 cup water

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tablespoon orange zest

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup almond slivers

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a blender or food processor (or by hand if nothing else), purée banana, water, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and kosher salt until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the banana mix with the remaining ingredients, oats, wheat germ, orange zest and nuts.
  4. Lay out the mixture in a single layer on a baking tray, either non-stick or lined with baking paper.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes until oats are starting to brown. Check and stir often.  It can take longer to crisp; just give it a few more minutes.  It will become toasted and crunchy!
  6. Remove from the oven and allow cooling.

Stir it well!

Before the oven

This granola is perfect with all the typical granola roles, yogurt (Greek or Icelandic is my preference), or berries and fresh fruit.  I think it is perfect to use as cobbler topping, or even in a salad when you want some crunch instead of croutons.

Get it fast!

Bon Appetit!

Lemon Tarragon filled Almond Flour Shortbread Cookies

Summer Goodness!!!

These cookies are great, buttered goodness.  They are a bit on the crumbly side with the almond flour, but it adds such a great texture.  The tarragon is perfect with lemon, and the healthier cookie.

These cookies are complete summer

Almond Shortbread:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (With
Shortbread cookies, I think it is a time to splurge on butter)

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup almond flour (almond meal)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar  until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl,  whisk together the whole wheat flour, almond flour, cornstarch and salt.  Add this mixture to the butter and sugar and beat just until incorporated.

Scrape batter out onto a sheet of parchment and form a log.  Refrigerate for one hour, and then slice into ¼ inch slices and place on a cookie sheet.  I made a well in the center of each cookie, using the screw top bottle. Put the cookie sheet back in the refrigerator to cool back down for 10 -15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300, and slide the cookies into the preheated oven.  Bake them for about 35-45 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Once they come out of the oven I used the screw top again to reform the well.  Allow cookies to cool completely before filling, I would also recommend filling the cookies with the lemon filling the same day you will serve them which keeps the cookie from losing its great crumble texture.  I used some toasted almonds as garnish on some cookies and powdered sugar on others.

Creamed butter and sugar

Use what you have, you don't always need some fancy tool.

Evenly toasted, fresh out of the oven

Lemon Tarragon Filling:

Mis en place for the lemon filling

Juice & grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1 eggs

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons tarragon, chopped fine

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler on stove. Simmer until thickened stirring constantly, about 15 minutes or 140 degrees.  Remove from heat and stir in the tarragon,
put in the refrigerator to chill.

Stir, stir, stir

It was so good, I was looking for things to spread it on!

Ready for the finishing touches!