I recently tried cake batter ice cream for the first time. The kid in me really enjoyed it. After all, my birthday cake of choice, even still, is Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden with homemade chocolate lovers’ frosting. Yeah, they changed the name, but it’ll always be “Butter Recipe Golden” to me.


Now how silly is that, really? Let’s make homemade gelato so it’s made with fresh–often local–ingredients. Then let’s add in boxed cake mix and junk it up. Hmm. In a word, YES! And why? Because we can. And because some things just plain taste good even if they’re a little trashtastic. You only live once. Let’s enjoy the ride. With rainbow shots. WHEEEEEEEE!


1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, halved the long way and scraped
½ to 3/4 of a cup (I went all out and used 3/4, but ½ might do the trick just as nicely) boxed cake mix

Combine milk and cream in a saucepan. Scrape vanilla bean seeds with the tip of a sharp knife. Add both seeds and pod to the milk mixture.

Heat on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, till small bubbles form at edge of pan. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for half an hour.

In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk till smooth. Temper egg mixture by slowly adding to hot milk, whisking constantly.

Cook over medium-high heat and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Do not let it boil!

Strain through fine-mesh sieve into clean bowl, remove pod. Whisk in cake batter. Let cool to room temperature. You can make an ice bath to speed up the process. Chill custard overnight or at least four hours.

Just before turning the chilled custard into your ice cream maker, place the custard and the dasher from your machine into the freezer for up to 10 minutes. And now, time to spin it up: process according to your ice cream machine’s directions.

I wanted little rainbow goodies in mine, as I had in the cone I tried. But I learned it’s better to sprinkle the shots–sprinkles, Jimmies, nonpareils–over the top when you serve the gelato. It’s a party and you’re invited!

P1160680Buon caturday and happy weekend, amici!


You may have heard, here in the Land of Steady Habits (a.k.a. Connecticut), we were walloped by a monster blizzard this weekend. In my 44 years living in this area, I don’t recall snowfall of this magnitude. I can’t open my front door.


The door to my back deck leads to a wall of snow. The deck itself looks like a giant bowl of powdered sugar.


The only door that will open is in the basement. I opened it to dig out my heat pump (insert wallet here), in hopes I can keep things relatively toasty here. Have I told you lately I’m a crummy pioneer?

So, what time is it? Well, it was about 1:30ish when I stirred it up, but that’s beside the point.


It’s really time for a liquid thin mint! A liquored up Girl Scout cookie cocoa, replete with whippy cream to make the day a little brighter. Kid you not, it tastes just like a thin mint with the added magic factor of being an adult beverage.

Follow me, you might just earn your bartender merit badge for this one! With apologies to Mrs. Kachinsky, my Brownie leader–I never made it further than Brownies–I really am a good girl deep down where it counts.


1/2 cup + of milk (overpour so you have a standard mug half filled with milk)
1 tablespoon Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
1 Valrhona feve (or small amount of your favorite dark chocolate, broken into pieces; note: 1 Valrhona feve = 1/8 oz.)
1/4 cup Rumple Minze peppermint schnapps
generous glug of Bailey’s Irish Cream
whipped cream (I like Reddi-wip for this purpose) to top your cocoa

Heat the milk in the mug in the microwave. About 45 seconds worked nicely here. Take it out, stir in the Ghirardelli cocoa, then break up the dark chocolate, drop it into the mug and stir again. It should melt in, but an extra trip to the microwave will make it perfect–about 20 seconds more.

Stir in the Rumple Minze, then the Bailey’s. Remember, you need to leave enough space to top it with whipped cream. Et voilà!

So, I leave you singing a “Song of Joy” with alllllllllllll the happiness this melody brings…because the power is on and I’m safe and warm, however snowbound. And now a little warmer–OK and mildly buzzed–from  this killer cup of cocoa. I was a huge Captain & Tennille fan back in my Brownie days (oh, yes, I had this album, for the record). 🙂 Make no mistake, they still sound good to me, too. CENT’ANNI, amici! Stay safe and toasty, wherever you are!

Well, how did your chili come out? Are you ready for some cornbread? It’s not just good with chili, of course. I’ve made stuffing out of it and it tastes mighty fine for breakfast or a snack when there’s a homemade pan in the house.

Adapted from Virginia Hanker

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (I used White Lily)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I used Lievito Pane degli Angeli per Dolci)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients till moistened.

Pour batter into buttered 8″ square baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. This cornbread reheats fantastically with a brief spin in the microwave.

Bet you didn’t think this kat could find a tune to share with you about cornbread. Well, you’d lose that bet! Let’s give it up for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band: “We’ve got some beans and some good cornbread, now listen to what the preacher said!”

April Katt's on quality control patrol!

A week of rain and chilly temps calls for chili! What does a kat from the Land of Steady Habits know about making chili, you ask? I can only say, “That’s the way–uh-huh, uh-huh–I like it!” The base recipe came from a friend of mine years back. Over time, I’ve modified it considerably to create what I’m sharing with you here. Best of all, you can do the same to make it your own. Or maybe you’ll like it just the way it is!


1/2 a large onion, diced
olive oil
1.5 pounds ground chuck (you can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken)
1 teaspoon Adobo
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 bottle of beer
1 tablespoon soy sauce
scant tablespoon granulated garlic (or 3 cloves garlic, pressed–throw it in with the onion if you choose to take the fresh path)
1 bell pepper, diced (I prefer red or orange or yellow, but green works, too)
1 tablespoon chili powder*
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (no kidding!)
1 teaspoon sugar

*I use 1 teaspoon Penzey’s medium hot chili powder, 1 teaspoon ancho chili, 1 teaspoon chipotle

Saute onions in olive oil till golden.

Add ground beef, sprinkle with Adobo. Once cooked, drain juices.

Add spices.

Add tomatoes, paste, beer and bell pepper.

Simmer till chili begins to thicken (15-20 minutes). This is a great time to put a lid on it so the chili doesn’t splatter all over your stove.

Last, add the beans.

Top with cheddar, and serve with some tortilla chips or cornbread. Yes, easy, delicious, homemade cornbread! Can I tell you about it later?

Katty’s Chili!

It’s challenging to take a picture of a black katty on a dark, rainy night. Her expression cracks me up, though. Long live The Queen! And cheers to her chili!

“Good morning! Today’s forecast calls for blue skies!”
Indeed, that is today’s forecast, but the sun was in short supply this past week, so I baked some up in the form of lemon squares. Almond-y shortbread crust with a bright lemon topping–this classic treat is as good as sunshine on a plate for this kat.

Adapted from Joy of Baking

1 cup flour (or better yet, 3/4 cup flour + 1/4 cup almond flour)
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
juice of 2 large lemons
zest of one lemon
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
additional confectioners sugar to dust over the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, butter, salt, almond extract with a fork. Press crumbly mixture into a buttered 8 x 8 inch pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Crust will be lightly golden at the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Now it’s time to make the lemon part. Ready?

Beat sugar, salt and eggs till smooth. Add lemon juice and zest. As always, scrape the zest down carefully, as it tends to stick to the beater or paddle. Fold in flour.

Pour over crust and bake for 20 minutes or until there is no imprint when you touch the center.

Freshly baked sunshine–straight outta the oven!

Cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar. Now they’re ready for cutting and eating. The bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days (if they last that long in your house). You can keep them in the fridge, too.

The Queen, a true sun goddess, enjoyed some rays earlier this week.

While Queenie cannot vouch for the deliciousness of these bars, I certainly can! Care for a spot of sunshine?

Sending sunny thoughts your way today!
April Katt (Queenie) and her girl

Got basil?

Adding tomatoes makes this pesto different and especially summery good! Small disclaimer: this kat’s not Sicilian. But I was born and raised in Melilli’s sister city, and many of those closest to me are–at least in part–so let’s say I’m Sicilian by association, thereby qualified to share this particular recipe with you.

San Marzanos from the deck

With basil blowing up outside and too many tomatoes, this recipe perfectly combines what’s fresh and plentiful in a variation on the pesto you already know and love.

Bountiful basil: lemon, cinnamon and Genovese

adapted from Cooking Light

¼ cup pine nuts
3  garlic cloves
4  cups  loosely packed basil leaves (about 2 ounces)
¼  cup  extra-virgin olive oil
½  teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼  teaspoon  crushed red pepper (I use Penzey’s Aleppo)
½  cup grated Pecorino Romano
2  cups  chopped seeded tomato (I used a combo of San Marzanos and Cherokee Purples)

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes, shaking the pan constantly.

Add nuts and garlic to food processor; process till minced.

Feline supervision is key!

Add basil, oil, salt and peppers; process until blended, scraping sides as needed. Add cheese; process until smooth. Spoon into a bowl; fold in tomato. Toss with pasta of your choice.

Dinner is served--dig in!

Makes about 2.5 cups of pesto. Be sure to save at least a few tablespoons ’cause I’ll be back with another way to use the pesto later this week. Till then, ciao for now!

"Make us a treat!"

“Make us a treat,” April Katt seems to suggest. I’ve wanted to make corn ice cream for a long time now, but that’s been done. What could I do to make it different?
I’ll make sweet corn gelato.

I love The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein. I’ve made many creative frozen treats from it over the past year. This time, I used his lower fat Vanilla Ice Cream #3 (page 133) as a base. By the way, to get back to his original recipe, simply remove the corn from the equation, increase the amount of vanilla extract to 4 teaspoons, subtract the salt, and there it is.


2 cups milk (I used 1% Hood Simply Smart—reduced fat milk that tastes like whole)
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
12 oz. bag of frozen sweet corn
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Bring milk and corn to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring regularly. Remove from heat.

Pour into a blender, puree, then let infuse for 1 hour.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer. Remove from heat. Slowly beat hot milk/corn mixture into the beaten eggs in a medium bowl. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture boil to avoid scrambling the eggs.

Remove from heat and pour hot custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large, clean bowl, pressing down on the solids; discard solids. Let the custard cool slightly, next stir in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Cover and refrigerate till cold—at least four hours or overnight.

Cooled corn custard

Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When finished, the gelato will be soft, but ready to eat. For a firmer consistency, freeze at least two hours.

To everything--churn, churn, churn--there is a season...

I can’t wait till corn is in season here in the Land of Steady Habits. In the meantime, this sweet corn gelato is a smooth, little frozen taste of summer on a spoon. Yum! Try it with a sprinkle of freshly ground salt over the top for a  nice sweet/salty contrast a la chocolate chip cookies.

Sweet corn gelato is out of this world!