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Night Into Day

Now that the Winter Olympics are over, we’re at the halfway point in the 12 Days of Oscar series.  Today’s film is the 2001 film Monster’s Ball.  Halle Berry won the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leticia, who falls for a widowed prison guard (Hank, played by Billy Bob Thornton) following the execution of her husband.  The film is so much deeper and more complicated than I can explain here without giving too much away.  Monster’s Ball was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen but lost to Gosford Park.

Early in the film, Leticia works as a waitress in a diner that Hank frequents.  He orders chocolate ice cream, and it is served to him in a white bowl with a white plastic spoon.  This is just one of the many encounters he will have with Leticia, and one of the many ways color is used in the film.

This chocolate ice cream recipe is my new favorite thing.  It blows away any other ice cream I’ve ever had or ever made.  Use a good cocoa powder, because that’s the star of this show.  Chop the chocolate fairly finely so that it melts a little more quickly and save yourself a little elbow grease.  Also, be sure to have enough ice on hand to make an ice bath for the mixture, to cool it before it goes in to churn.

chocolate ice cream

Chocolate Ice Cream


  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 1 C. evaporated milk
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
  • 3 oz.  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Mix a few Tbsp. of the milk in a small bowl with the corn starch until smooth.

Heat the remaining milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4 quart saucepan.

When the mixture comes to a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder, then let the mixture cook at a modest boil for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, whisk in the cornstarch mixture then continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until completely melted and smooth.

Stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the ice cream mixture into a resealable plastic bag, then submerge the bag in a bowl full of ice.

Let it sit until completely cool, about 30 minutes, adding more ice during the cooling period if necessary.

Remove the bag from the bowl of ice and wipe off any excess water.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.

Source: David Lebovitz, originally from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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Give it All You Got

The U.S. swept the men’s slopestyle ski event yesterday in Sochi when Josh Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, and Nicholas Goepper won gold, silver, and bronze in the event.  The U.S. men’s hockey team beat Slovakia 7 to 1 and Russia beat Slovenia; the two teams play each other on Saturday.  In the ladies’ 1000m speed skating event, Hong Zhang became the first athlete to win a gold medal in speed skating for China.

Our next stop in the Winter Olympics feature is the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.  This was the first Winter Olympics to make use of artificial snow.  These Olympic Games are perhaps best remembered for the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the Soviet team, with the U.S. team going on to win the gold medal.  Lake Placid, New York is home to one of two or so Howard Johnson’s restaurants still in operation.  It seems this Howard Johnson’s is rich with Olympics associations.  According to the restaurant’s history, ABC television crews filled up most of the rooms at the motel portion of the “Ho-Jo” and the restaurant was open round-the-clock for the duration of the Olympics.  Howard Johnson’s also hosted a party for the U.S. and Czechoslovakian men’s hockey teams after a game they played against each other.

Howard Johnson’s is a cult favorite, with many favorite foods on the menu.  Fried clams, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and twenty-eight ice cream flavors seem to be among the most memorable.  I had a really hard time narrowing down which one to tackle, and I decided to combine a few of my favorite things and make a replica of the orange sherbet Megan Draper doesn’t care for in an episode of Mad Men.  The server reminds Megan and Don “it isn’t for everyone, that’s why we have twenty-eight flavors.”  If you don’t want to squeeze two or three pounds of oranges (it sounds like way more oranges than it really is), you can use two cups of store-bought orange juice and it will work just fine.

hojo orange sherbet

Orange Sherbet


  • 7 oz. sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 C. freshly squeezed orange juice (from approximately 2-3 lbs. of oranges).
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C. ice cold whole milk


Combine all of the ingredients except for the milk in the bowl of a food processor and process for about 1 minute until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and whisk in the milk.

Cover and refrigerate the mixture for about 1 hour, until the mixture is 40 degrees or less.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions and process until it reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream (this takes about 1/2 an hour in my ice cream maker, yours may vary).

Pour the mixture into a lidded container and freeze until firm, approximately 3 hours.

Makes 8 (1/2 C.) servings.

Source: Alton Brown

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Academy Award

The 85th Academy Awards air tonight from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and before I settle in to catch all of the red carpet action, I want to share a round-up of the film-inspired recipes I’ve shared over the previous twelve days.  It wouldn’t be a round-up without some Oscar trivia:

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role, taking the distinction from actress Keisha Castle-Hughes who was nominated at thirteen for her role in Whale Rider.  She competes against Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who at eighty-five is the oldest nominee in the category.

The youngest actor ever nominated is Justin Henry, who at eight years old was nominated for his role as Billy Kramer in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film since the 1981 film Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture.

Les Miserables is the first musical nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002, and prior to Chicago no musical had been nominated in the Best Picture category since Oliver! in 1969.

Composer John Williams, nominated this year for his work on Lincoln, still holds the record for the living person with the most nominations at forty-eight.  Next in line is Woody Allen with twenty-three.

Three of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, and Hugh Jackman, have previously been named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.

For this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature, I selected four movies that have been nominated for but did not win Oscars, four films that have won at least one Oscar, and four films hoping to win an Oscar this year.

salisbury steak

Pleasantville, Salisbury Steak

ihop sweet crepes

I Am Sam, Crepes

chef salad

When Harry Met Sally, Chef Salad (with oil and vinegar on the side!)

roasted chicken salad

My Week With Marilyn, Roasted Chicken Salad

banana ripple ice cream

The Aviator, Banana Ripple Ice Cream

cream puff

Marie Antoinette, Cream Puffs

chicago deep dish

Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza

chicken lyonnaise

Titanic, Chicken Lyonnaise

lemon butter pollock

Moonrise Kingdom, Lemon Butter Pollock

french bread

Les Miserables, French Bread

crabby snacks

Silver Linings Playbook, Crabby Snacks

mary lincoln apple bread pudding

Lincoln, Mary Lincoln’s Apple Bread Pudding

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Howard Hughes

Today’s 12 Days of Oscar feature shifts us into films that have won at least one Academy Award.  Nominated for eleven Oscars, the 2004 film The Aviator won five.  In addition to winning Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Cate Blanchett won Best Actress in a Supporting Role, making her the first actress to win the award for her portrayal of a previous Oscar winner.  In The Aviator, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays film maker and aviator Howard Hughes.  The film follows Hughes from his work on Hell’s Angels, through his relationships with Catherine Hepburn (Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsdale), his ownership of Trans World Airlines and his development of the “Spruce Goose” which led to investigations for war profiteering.  The film also depicts Hughes’ continually worsening obsessive compulsive disorder, and shows a period in which Hughes took to living in is screening room due to severe depression and pain caused by a terrible flying accident.

aviator dinner scene

The movie ends before Hughes moves into and later buys the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.  During his time there, Hughes took a liking to Baskin-Robbins banana ripple ice cream, and his aides arranged to purchase 200 gallons of the discontinued flavor, only to have Hughes get bored with it and take a liking to chocolate marshmallow instead.  Left with a surplus of banana ripple, the Desert Inn distributed free banana ripple ice cream to its customers.  I couldn’t find out anywhere what exactly the banana ripple flavor was like, and so I decided to make a vanilla ice cream rippled with a banana puree mixture.  M and O graciously volunteered to try out the results of my experiment, and rated it a huge success.  To ripple fruit or other sauces into ice cream, the ice cream and sauce are made separately and then layered together.  I mashed bananas with a little bit of brown sugar and vanilla extract, then pureed the mixture until it was smooth and layered it with a simple vanilla ice cream.  The banana flavor is there but doesn’t overpower the ice cream, you get two distinct flavors throughout which is nice.

banana ripple ice cream

Banana Ripple Ice Cream


for the vanilla ice cream:

  • 2 C. heavy cream, divided
  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

for the banana ripple:

  • 1 1/2 C. banana slices (3-4 medium bananas)
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


In a medium saucepan, combine 1 C. of the heavy cream and the sugar.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot and add the empty pod to the pot as well.

Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining cream, whole milk, and vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When the mixture is ready to churn, remove the empty vanilla bean and freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions (for my ice cream maker, this took about 25 minutes).

While the ice cream is churning, make the banana ripple by mashing the bananas, vanilla extract and brown sugar together with a fork or immersion blender until the mixture is smooth (some small chunks of banana are fine).

Spread 1/3 of the ice cream mixture into a 2 quart, lidded, freezer safe container.

Spread 1/2 of the banana mixture on top of the layer of ice cream.

Spread another 1/3 of the ice cream mixture on top of the banana layer.

Spread remaining banana mixture on top of the ice cream layer.

Finish by spreading the remaining ice cream on top of the banana layer.

Cover and freeze until ice cream has hardened, about 2 hours, before serving.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Source: vanilla ice cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz; banana layer Diana Dishes original

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Inauguration Moments

Yesterday was the second public inauguration of President Barack Obama.  After taking advantage of a day off from school with a nature hike with the kids where the park had a bonfire for marshmallow toasting, we settled in by a fire at home to watch the inaugural parade.  It was funny to hear the kids’ thoughts about the proceedings.  O was pretty interested in the motorcycles and Secret Service while M would like me to run for president so we can have a dog and live in the White House.  If you missed yesterday’s inaugural speech, here was my favorite excerpt:

For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got wind of the menu for yesterday’s inaugural luncheon and decided I had to make the individual apple pies that were served.  At the luncheon, the pies were served warm and topped with sour cream ice cream.  I left out the maple caramel sauce that was included with the original recipe, but this ice cream was all the addition the warm apple pie needed.  This has a texture more like a frozen custard, and tastes like cheesecake.  I think I have a new favorite ice cream flavor!  Because this has a custard base, there are egg yolks, and the egg yolks must be heated by slowly pouring in the warm half-and-half mixture.  This has to be done carefully, because clumps of cooked egg yolk aren’t a welcome addition to ice cream.  The mixture must then be chilled before it can be put into the ice cream maker, and I strongly suggest budgeting enough time to chill the mixture overnight.  With or without the apple pies, this is a fantastic treat.

sour cream ice cream

Sour Cream Ice Cream


  • 2 C. half-and-half
  • 1 C. sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 4 C. sour cream


In heavy saucepan combine the half-and-half, ¾ cup of the sugar, and the vanilla bean and heat just until it starts to boil, then remove from the heat.

In a bowl whisk together egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar.

Add the hot half-and-half mixture in a steady slow stream, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the mixture reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove pan from heat.

Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture, stir until combined well and discard pod.

Stir sour cream into half-and-half mixture until combined well.

Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.

Chill the custard until completely cold, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions (I have this one, and it chilled to soft serve consistency in 30 minutes).

If necessary, freeze until the ice cream is hard in an airtight container in the freezer.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Source: Senate Inaugural Committee

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New Year’s Eve at Home

As 2012 comes to a close tonight, I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends at home tonight.  I’ve enjoyed New Year’s Eve a number of ways in the past- sometimes visiting friends, sometimes hosting parties at home, and sometimes hanging out on the couch eating Chinese food and waiting to see the ball drop on tv.  This year, we’re enjoying the evening at home with M and O, and a dear friend of mine and her two girls.  I won’t be making fancy things, or coming up with signature drinks.  Instead, we’ll have some kid-friendly snacks (snacks as a meal are a New Year’s Eve guilty pleasure tradition for me), maybe in our pajamas, and see which of the grown-ups is snoring first.

I had a good year here at Diana’s Dishes, and it seemed fitting to celebrate that as I look forward to a better one in 2013.  A lot of posts were competing for popularity on here, but these are the top ten as determined by my readers.

soft pretzel#10 Soft Pretzels

I made these for day 6 of my Summer Olympics feature, showing foods from countries that have hosted the Summer Games.  These soft pretzels, for Munich, are easier than they look and incredibly delicious.

cannoli cupcake

#9  Cannoli Cupcakes

What happens when the birthday girl loves cannolis and the baker can’t find her cannoli forms?  These cannoli cupcakes, which made a delicious dessert for M’s eighth birthday.

barbecue sauce

#8  Homemade Barbecue Sauce

I made a huge batch of this and put it in jars for both of my dads, and for Lane as a Father’s Day gift and it met with rave reviews. Definitely man-approved.

monster cookies (1280x856)

#7 One Bowl Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chcolate Chip M&M Cookies

We had absolutely no trouble working our way quickly through four dozen of these easy one-bowl cookies.


#6  Basic Belgian Waffles

Ditch the boxed mix and make fresh waffles.  These are amazing with fruit and whipped cream or butter and syrup.  Make a big batch and freeze them for another day!

arroz con pollo

#5 Cheater’s Arroz con Pollo

An amazingly easy chicken and rice dish, simplifying a classic.


#4 French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

There are hardly words for how delicious these are.  Oh, and if you were wondering how “Lane” got his nickname, this would be an entertaining post to read.


#3  Milk Chocolate Whisky Marshmallow Candied Bacon Bark

There are hardly words for how absolutely amazing this stuff is.  I made it for a New Year’s Eve party last year, and a year later, we’re still talking about it.

smores bars

#2  S’mores Bars

When I ask if I can bring anything to a party, the answer now is almost always “yes, those amazing s’mores bars.”  Every bit as delicious as traditional s’mores, but without the open flame and sticks.

honey ginger chicken wing

# 1  Honey Ginger Baked Chicken Wings

Great for a snack anytime, super for a party and easy on your waistline since they’re baked, not fried.  Isn’t the Super Bowl coming up?

While I completely enjoyed every one of the things in my top ten as determined by my readers, there were a few things that were my personal favorites that didn’t make the list.  I’d like to take a moment and give these ten recipes the love they deserve, in no particular order.

high heel cupcake 2

The high heel cupcakes I made for my birthday.  Time consuming? Yes.  Worth it? Absolutely.  We’re still talking about these!


The homemade Cookie Puss ice cream cake replica I made for Lane’s birthday.  This was worth the effort, and I solved the mystery of how to make amazing ice cream cake cookie crunchies.

perry the platypus cake

The Perry the Platypus cake I made for O’s birthday.  Perry starts out as a pound cake!

fettucine alfredo

Fettucini Alfredo, for my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  It turned out to be her final birthday, and I’m glad I got a chance to make her one of her favorite dishes.


The chicken sandwich that was so good, it changed my life.

bacon roses

Roses, made out of bacon.  I’m sure no further explanation is necessary.

blue moon cupcake

Blue Moon beer cupcakes to celebrate the blue moon we had in August.  Hope you made it count!

apple crumble pieApple crumble pie we made after apple picking.  It was the first project I took on with Chef M and Chef O, and I can still hear O declaring his love for the “apple peeler machine.”

cranberry apple sangriaCranberry Apple Sangria.  This delicious (and easy) beverage saved my sanity this holiday season.

cheesecake3Classic cheesecake.  I brought this for dessert the first time I met Lane’s family and it was enjoyed by all.

Looking through the twenty posts above has provided me with a great look back at 2012, and I can’t wait to share the excitement of 2013 with all of you.  Happy New Year!

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