Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I know I said that the Mint Oreo Ice Cream was my most bestest, favoritest flavor yet, but I think I’ve changed my mind or at least this brown sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream may be a close second.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

While I was making regular vanilla bean ice cream using my old-standby recipe, I thought, “hmmm, I wonder how this would taste with brown sugar instead of white sugar…”, and it was a great decision! I don’t think I can go back to the old standby anymore; it was THAT good!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I’ve made it this way two times already – once for a Friendsgiving party and the last time was for Thanksgiving at my stepmother’s house. On both occasions this Vanilla Bean Ice Cream remained with other people so I could only dream about having another bite. I can’t make it at home because I’ll just eat the whole thing in one or two days haha.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

When you start making this Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, initially the amount will seem like a paltry amount because you add the cream later. Also, the ice cream maker creates more air into the custard, so there will be enough for everyone (or just yourself!).

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Please try out this amazingly, rich Vanilla Bean Ice Cream! If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can use vanilla bean paste or add more extract when you add the heavy cream. It is so rich that you’ll need only a scoop or two at a time.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
After taking one bite of this ice cream, my friend/colleague said that it reminded her of cookie dough ice cream without the bits of cookie dough. Because of the brown sugar, I would agree that it does seem a bit like the cold base of a chocolate chip cookie dough. You could add in chocolate chips, nuts, or whatever add-ins you like; however, try this recipe out without add-ins the first time around! You won’t regret it!
Don’t forget to check cout a plethora of other ice cream flavors such as traditional vanilla bean (twice), espresso, milk chocolate, Mexican chocolate, gelato al limone, chocolate chip cookie dough, coffee, double chocolate, mint chocolate chip (w/extract), and Mint Oreo Ice Cream!

Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

adapted from Ice Cream!; it is my go-to recipe for vanilla-based ice cream

1 1/4 (300ml) whole milk
1 vanilla bean (if none, add 1 more tsp of vanilla extract to below amount when you add the cream)
4 large egg yolks (save egg whites for macarons, meringues, or omelettes!)
1/2 cup (100g) BROWN sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1 1/4 (300ml) heavy cream
1-2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean

Put the milk, vanilla seeds, and vanilla bean (if using) in a medium saucepan, and heat gently to near-boiling point. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow the vanilla to infuse for 15 minutes.

In a separate, heatproof bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar, using a whisk or electric beater, until thick and pale. Gradually beat the milk into the egg mixture.

Slower method: Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (book’s instructions)
Quicker method: Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, and stir the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. (this is what I did). This took about 5-10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Transfer the hot mixture into a bowl (you can put the bowl over a bowl of ice to cool it down quickly); stir in the cream and vanilla extract or paste.

Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the custard to cool completely by refrigerating mixture for 4 hours to overnight.

After the custard has chilled, churn it in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately as a soft serve, or transfer to a freezer container; cover the surface directly with waxed paper or foil, and put in the freezer.

Copyright – Memoria James –

Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg Double Chocolate Brownies

Peanut Butter Brownies

Reese’s Peanut Butter Brownies

It’s funny how I made these Peanut Butter Brownies almost exactly a year ago. I know it was about a year because Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs were on sale in time for Easter, and I decided to use these eggs in a brownie recipe that I had made 2 or three times previously.

Peanut Butter Brownies

By this time, I had decided to make these Peanut Butter Brownies recipe my go-to recipe for brownies. So, I no longer needed to try other brownie recipes after having enjoyed these Peanut Butter Brownies consistently, and with the Reese’s peanut butter cup/egg add-ins, I was in love for sure.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Although my brownies were cooked a bit longer than the original, fudgier brownies found on How Crazy Cooks, they were still so fudgey, yet had a crackly top on them! I love how they naturally formed two layers in the oven. Please try these brownies with or without the Reese’s peanut butter candy; you won’t regret it!

Peanut Butter Brownies
Oops! Who took a bite out of that brownie?! Not me! *teehee*
 Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies
adapted from How Crazy Cooks


1/2 cup (113 g) butter

1/3 cup (39 g) dark cocoa powder
1 cup (225 g) sugar
3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 (2 g) teaspoon salt

1 (8 g) teaspoon espresso or coffee powder (optional; to enhance chocolate flavor)
1/4 (2 g) teaspoon baking powder
2 whole large eggs
1/2 cup (63 g) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (78 g) chocolate chips

1 1.2 oz package (4-6 eggs) Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. 
  2. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick/baking spray. For easy brownie removal, line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper/foil, leaving some overhang. Spray the parchment/foil.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the  butter on the stove or in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.
  4. Whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt, espresso/coffee powder (if using), and baking powder. Mixture will have a grainy texture.
  5. Working quickly whisk in the eggs one at a time.
  6. In order to avoid the add-ins (peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) from sinking to the bottom of the pan, stir the add-ins and flour together in a small bowl.
  7. Add the flour/add-ins mixture to the saucepan with the wet ingredients.
  8. Mix the two together just until combined. Some lumps and/or streaks of flour are fine. Do not overmix!
  9. Pour brownie batter into the lined 8×8 baking dish.
  10. Bake at 350/180 for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out with no raw batter. Do not overbake.
  11. Let brownies cool in the pan at least 15 minutes. Then use the parchment paper/foil to lift them out of the pan. Slice into squares and serve.

*Store any leftovers in an airtight container and eat within 2-3 days. For longer storage and to prevent diet sabotage :), freeze the leftover brownies by wrapping them well (and separately) with wax paper or foil and freezer bags/containers. Frozen brownies last up to 4-6 months!

Copyright – Memoria James –

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes

A comparison of Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: adapted version of Everyday Food Magazine on the left/Cooking Channel on the right.

El día de los muertos

A Comparison of two Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies recipes. For El Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), I’ve made Pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead) in the past. This time, however, I decided to make Mexican Chocolate Cookies for my students because the cookies were portable and pleasant hybrids between Mexican and U.S. desserts. I tried out two recipes: 1) a heavily adapted version from Everyday Food Magazine on Martha Stewart’s website and 2) a recipe from the Cooking Channel website. While both recipes yielded delicious cookies, one was clearly better than the other. Before I reveal the winner, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each recipe and its end product.

Continue reading “Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes”

My Mom, Christmas Gifts, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Tartlets

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets

Recipe and Photos of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets below!

If you haven’t noticed already, my mom and I are very close. We have a very “Gilmore Girls” type of relationship in the sense that she is a single mother, and I’m an only child on my mother’s side. She is my best friend and my mother. I talk to her every single day, 5-10 times a day.

For many years, she and I had been graduate students at the same time. When she started working on her dissertation, I invited her to live with me in order to expedite the PhD process so she could graduate sooner. Only two semesters later, I was able to call her “Dr. Mom”, and she became a professor of English Literature. I am immensely proud of my mom. She is my inspiration and my role model.

For Christmas, she bought me a bunch of stuff for my somewhat new cooking/baking/photography addiction to make up for all the times she couldn’t give me everything I wanted while she was a struggling student. So, I thought I’d share all the kitchen-related gifts I received because the non-kitchen stuff like clothes and batteries (yes, she even wrapped up my batteries!) is just boring haha!

Canon EOS
A beautiful Canon EOS XSi with a 50mm lens! I love this camera!


Christmas Kitchen Gifts
Left to right: glass cake stand; steamer (used to make the tamales; was on sale for 30 dollars at Bed, Bath, & Beyond); mortar & pestle (yes!); in and near the Pyrex cup: pastry cutter, grater, candy thermometer, offset spatula, zester, egg separator; pastry mat; roast pan (no more foil pans anymore!)


Lodge Cast Iron
Ahh, a cast-iron dutch oven! My mom actually bought this a few years ago and never used it (GASP!) because well…she doesn’t cook much. After a bit of coaxing, she reluctantly let me have it! Yes!

In return, I cooked and baked for her, including making chocolate peanut butter tartlets! Most importantly, I bought her a standing globe, which is something she’s wanted for years. She would always say, “Whenever I become a professor, I want to have a standing globe in my office.” I got to admit, out of all the presents I saw on Christmas Day, her present, not mine, was my favorite because I got to make her happy. She even cried happy tears, and she doesn’t cry very often. I love you, mom! Thanks for everything!

GlobeOkay, enough of the mushy stuff! I promised to post these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets a long time ago but never got around to it because of the tamales and the rosca for Three Kings’ Day. I made these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets for Christmas because I thought the crust looked very interesting and indulgent. It is comprised of melted chocolate and chocolate wafers (I used Oreos)!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets Unfortunately, the crust was really hard, and after discussing this problem with the blogger who posted the recipe originally, we figured that it may be hard because of the thickness of the crust. So, if you decide to make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets, make the crust thin around the edges.
Chocolate Peanut Butter TarletIn order to remedy the hardness factor, I placed the next Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets in a small pool of milk to soften the crust. That worked perfectly. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan of peanut butter, and I’m getting tired of chocolate. Nevertheless, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets were good. If you’re craving chocolate and peanut butter make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets while keeping the abovementioned pointers in mind. Enjoy!!

Like peanut butter anc chocolate? Check out these Peanut Butter Brownies!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarlets
adapted from Once Upon a Chef (She made one large 10-inch tart)
Note the differences in how much each layer yields if you’re making small tarts! I would half the peanut butter layer for the small tarts.

Chocolate Crust (makes about 5 small tarts):
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use Ghirardelli)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
8 ounces Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies (about 32 cookies from a 9-ounce package), finely ground in a food processor (2 cups)

Peanut Butter Filling (makes 8-10 small tarts):
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (1 small tub or box)
1 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream

Chocolate Topping (makes enough for 5 small tarts):
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped (I didn’t use this; I’m not a nut lover)

Chocolate Crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Stir well, then stir in the cookie crumbs. Press the cookie crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the rim of the tart pans (Be sure not to make the crust too thick in any one spot, especially around the rim. Keep it thin throughout, otherwise it will come out too hard.) Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then cool on rack.

Peanut Butter Filling: In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the chilled cream until firm. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface. Refrigerate uncovered for about 1 hour.

Chocolate Topping: In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted and the cream is hot. Stir the chocolate topping until blended, then let cool to barely warm, stirring occasionally. Spread the chocolate topping over the chilled peanut butter filling and sprinkle the chopped peanuts around the edge of the pie. Chill uncovered in refrigerator for 3 more hours.

Carefully remove the rim from the pan by gently pressing upwards on the bottom while holding the rim in place. (If using a springform pan, run a thin knife around the crust to loosen it, then remove the springform ring.) Use a sharp knife to cut the pie into wedges. Run the knife under hot water and dry it between each cut. Serve chilled or slightly cooler than room temperature.

Can be made one day ahead of time.

P.S. Here is the red mixer I won on Pioneer Woman! The mixer my mom gave me last year is the black one.
kitchenaid mixers

Copyright – Memoria James –

Rosca de Reyes

Rosca de reyes


Have you ever heard of a Rosca de Reyes? In Mexico, many other Central and Southern American countries, Europe, and some parts of the U.S. (in Catholic-prevalent parts of the world), they celebrate el Día de los Reyes on the 6th of January, which is TODAY! Traditionally, (at least in Mexico) on the 5th of January, children leave their shoes out by a miniature nativity scene so that the three kings can place gifts in them. They also leave food, hay, and water for the kings and camels to express their gratitude for gifts. Later, everyone celebrates this day of epifanía or Epiphany by sitting around an oval-shaped, chewy, lightly sweetened Rosca de Reyes and Mexican hot chocolate or atole.

Rosca de reyes
The rosca de reyes is shaped this way to symbolize the crown of Jesus; the candied fruits represent the jewels on the crown. Traditionally, the rosca de reyes is filled with baby Jesus figurines. The people who get the slices of rosca with the baby Jesus figurines in them will have to make and serve tamales (or whatever else you want to serve) on the 2nd of February (I still owe a party or two…oops!)!

Not surprisingly, this bread tastes different than the Pan de muerto I made. After doing a bit of research on rosca de reyes recipes, I realized that there are many disparate versions out there depending on which region you follow. So, based on the knowledge I acquired, I created a “new” version. My goal with this version was to recreate the rosca I remembered eating while living in East L.A. There was no edible filling like raisins or cajeta, so I didn’t include that, but I did post it in the recipe below as an option add-in, along with directions on how to add it, for anyone who would like to include it.


I made a lot of mistakes on this rosca de reyes, so bear with me through this post. I’m glad that it looks pretty well, though. I’ll do better next year!

Rosca de reyesI made the bread a bit sweeter by adding sugar to the baño (literally means “bath”, but is the glaze, in this case) that goes on top of the bread. The pasta (sugar/flour paste) browned a lot because I didn’t realize that I was supposed to put it on until after it was done baking! DOH!

Also, I candied the pineapples myself from a fresh pineapple. I also candied the cherries. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find fresh papaya, so I bought the candied papaya. The candied papaya was dry and kept poking and popping out of my rosca. The fruits I candied, however, looked shiny and beautiful and were sticky enough that I didn’t have to worry about them popping up.


Candying sugar is a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you ever make this rosca de reyes, I highly suggest you candy your own fruit instead of buying it. If you can’t find fresh papaya (I couldn’t around this time of year), try dipping the store-bought kind in the leftover sugar syrup from the other fruits so that they adhere to the rosca de reyes. I followed this recipe to candy the fruits.

I am submitting this bread to yeastspotting!!

Rosca de reyes

Rosca de Reyes

adapted from various sources


2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/4 c warm water (105-110°F)
1/4 c warm milk (can put both milk and water in one measuring cup and microwave mixture for 30-45 seconds. Check the temperature!)
1 Tbsp sugar
4 – 4 1/2 c AP flour (I needed 4 1/4 cups. You could also use half wheat and half white flour. Be prepared to make adjustments with the liquid, though!)
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c milk (I used whole)
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
Zest of one orange (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional) (I used orange zest only)
1/4 c leche condensada
1 tsp vanilla extract (I forgot to add this!!)

1 egg whites (use the white from the pasta below)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar (I accidentally used granulated sugar. Don’t make my mistake.)


After baking, add the pasta:
(I halved this part of the recipe from What’s Cooking and still had more left):
1/2 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 c flour
1/3 c butter, softened

3-5 Baby Jesus figurines (I used 4)


Cajeta or dulce de leche

Melted chocolate

Proof yeast in 1/4 cup of water and milk (105-110°F) and 1 Tbsp of sugar. While yeast mixture is proofing, mix the flour and cinnamon together in a large bowl or on a table, and form a well (alternatively, you can use a stand mixer). In the middle of the well, put in the yeast mixture, butter, egg yolks, whole eggs, condensed milk, and vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients together and then gradually blend in the flour until you form a ball. Knead the dough or use a stand mixer for about 8-10 minutes. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and allow the dough to sit in a warm place in a greased bowl for one hour or until its doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, place a dough scraper or knife in the middle of the ball to create the rosca, which should be oval-shaped with a large hole in the center. Make sure the hole is larger than you would think it should be since the hole will close up after the second rising. Allow the shaped dough to rise for about 45 minutes.

If adding cajeta, dulce de leche, or melted chocolate:

Once the dough has doubled, take out the dough and knead the dough for a few seconds to remove the air out of them. Roll the dough back into a ball, and then roll out the dough to form a long rectangle. With the long part of the rolled-out dough in front of you, pipe or spread the filling on one side of dough. Add raisins on top, if desired. Brush egg wash on the side facing you. Fold the opposite side of the dough on top of the egg-washed side. Then, roll the dough into a thick, snake-like shape, pinching the ends together really well so that they don’t come apart (the dough should now look like in the photo above).

Mix the baño mixture with beaters or in a mixer, and brush it on top of the shaped, risen dough. This mixture will also help the dried fruit adhere to the rosca (it didn’t help at all for me).

Rosca de reyes
I actually allowed the rosca de reyes to rise with the decorations on them. Don’t make my mistake. The dried candy from the store kept lifting up after baking.

Bake the rosca de reyes for 25-30 minutes in a 350°F oven. Next, spread the pasta in 6-8 sections on top of the rosca, leaving enough space in between them for the fruits. Cut the fruits and place them on the rosca to the left and right of the pasta.


Allow rosca de reyes to cool for 5-10 mins, and add in the figurines, if using, underneath the rosca by punching a hole at the bottom with the figurine itself. Tuck the figurines in the rosca well so that they don’t fall out.

Rosca de reyes
Reclining on top of the rosca; awww, can you see his little feet poking out?
Eat the rosca de reyes with your family and friends.
Copyright – Memoria James –

“Over The Rainbow” Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

“Over the Rainbow” Macaroni and Cheese

I have been wanting to blog about this macaroni and cheese for a very long time. This is my go-to mac-n-cheese, and it comes from Patti LaBelle, a popular R&B singer from the 60s to the 80s. The macaroni and cheese recipe calls for 5 different cheeses, lots of butter, and half-n-half. Also, there’s no need to make a roux for the cheese sauce.

Macaroni and CheeseOn a similar note, here is the Christmas dinner my mother and I had. Since it was just the two of us, we didn’t have to make loads of food, but it still turned out to be much more than we could handle because we still have leftovers of everything but the gravy.

My mom made potato salad and green beans. (Notice out traditional, holiday drink: Welch’s Sparkling Red Grape juice cocktail! YUM! I can drink a whole bottle w/o the use of a glass!)
macaroni and cheeseI brined and roasted a whole chicken (the only way to roast chicken and turkey in my opinion). I also made yeast rolls (not pictured), the “famous” crockpot dressing, “Over the Rainbow” Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below), and chicken gravy (chicken drippings + roux + salt to taste). (Do you see the standing globe in the background? That is the present I gave my mom for Christmas. She was so excited about it that she wanted it in almost all of my photos haha.)

macaroni and cheeseFor dessert, I made chocolate peanut butter tartlets, which I will blog about next.

I hope you try out this macaroni and cheese dish. It is fabulous. Please grate your own cheese instead of buying the already grated kind for a cheesier, creamier result, and don’t be afraid of the Velveeta. 😀

macaroni and cheese“Over the Rainbow” Macaroni and Cheese

adapted by LaBelle‘s cuisine: Recipes to Sing About.
Recipe posted on (here is a video of her making it with Oprah Winfrey)

1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 lb elbow macaroni (454 grams) or any other small-shaped pasta
8 Tbsp (1 stick) plus 1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese (Use more of the other cheeses in place of this if you don’t have it)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (8 ounces) Velveeta , cut into small cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s)
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole.

Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 6-7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot.

In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons (one stick) of the butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta (all of it), and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter.

Bake until it’s bubbling around the edges for approximately 30-35 minutes.

Copyright – Memoria James –