Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't Turn on Your Ovens! Ice Cream Cake to the Rescue!

 I'm pretty sure it's hot everywhere right now, and I'm pretty sure there are tons of us home cooks wishing we could make what we love to make without sweating through our aprons, donning extra coats of deodorant and rockin' headbands just to make it through dinner.

So we don't cook.

We say to our family, "It's sandwiches again tonight, kids." (To which, my kids anyways, start celebrating that I'm not forcing grilled zucchini salad and salmon cakes down their throats.- They just don't like it yet.)

Or we make giant salads or eat bowls of salsa and chips and call it dinner. Growing up, BLT's were the hot weather meal of choice.

So when it comes to baking in the summer, it's really tough. It feels like the oven is burping out copious amounts of hot-air balloon quality air and it's chapping my face! Slight exaggeration, but seriously, I do not enjoying doing loads of dishes in Sahara-like temperatures while dusty balls of camel hair roll past my feet. Okay, yet another slight exaggeration.

My little Tiny just turned two and I wanted something fun and festive for his cake. Cupcakes are overdone and tedious. I wanted something I could slap together and forget about, and preferably NOT use the oven.

 So I made this!

I had made this recipe some years ago, loved it and then forgot about it. It re-emerged like flotsam on the high seas of this brain of mine and I quickly decided this would be the BEST recipe for his birthday party. And it did turn out pretty great. I did, however, forget one little thing...his party was outside in 96 degree heat. All I can say is that we ate it pretty fast and licked our plates clean.
 My favorite part of this cake is the outside ring of quartered ice cream sandwiches! It's such a stunning presentation. It looks complex but couldn't be easier.
 Layered Ice Cream Cake
Adapted from Family Circle Magazine's recipe

  • 15   Oreos ( I used about 5-6 more because I didn't feel the crust was thick enough)
  • 1 tablespoon  milk (I added and extra tbsp for the extra Oreos)
  • 8 to 9   ice cream sandwiches, depending on size
  • 1 pint  mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 pint  vanilla frozen yogurt (I used ice cream)
  • 1 pint  strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt

Coat bottom and side of a 9-inch round springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line side with waxed paper, using spray to help adhere to pan. Trim paper to height of pan.
Finely crush 12 of the cookies (this is where I added the extras) in a food processor. Add milk; pulse just until mixture holds together. Set aside.

Unwrap 4 ice cream sandwiches. Working quickly, cut each in quarters. Stack strips of sandwiches on end, packing them snugly together, around waxed-paper-lined pan. Repeat with remaining sandwiches to form a stand-up edge. Spoon cookie crumbs into center of pan; press firmly over bottom. Freeze 1 hour.

Remove all 3 flavors of ice cream or frozen yogurt from freezer and let soften for 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer mint ice cream to a small bowl and stir until good but firm spreading consistency. Repeat with vanilla and strawberry. Remove pan from freezer. Spread mint ice cream on bottom, then top with vanilla and strawberry, spreading all layers level. 
I used my off-set spatula to create a pattern on the top of the cake. The original recipe called for Cool Whip on top, but I don't like that stuff so I skipped it. I then broke the extra Oreos in half and stuck them in around the edge for a nice finished look.
To serve, remove side of pan, then waxed paper. Cut into wedges. It works well to use a sharp knife and dip it in hot water before you cut.

P.S. I was able to find all the ice creams without egg (unfortunately they were not "high end" brands like a luscious Hagen Daz or something like that, but I was just happy I didn't have to make the ice cream!!!) so everyone was happy.

Is that a cherub hovering over that cake? Yes, yes it is.

Told ya it was hot.

That pretty much sums it up. 

Its such a great party dessert. I hope this get you out of your hot kitchen and your face into some ice cream!

Love ya, Foodies!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ode to Pregger Jeans

 I had a moment this morning...with my maternity jeans. I am not pregnant, but I put them on and did a dance.

No, really. I did.

I danced in my maternity jeans, with the stretchy panel pulled up to my bosom and shook it like a Polaroid picture. It was organic, spontaneous and stupid. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's to gushing over a pair of pants that I wore for moment in history and who didn't judge my rolls.

Me in 2009, 21 weeks pregnant and workin' the pregger jeans.

Ode to Pregger Jeans

Oh, Pregger Jeans, how I adore you.
How I miss your stretchy front panel
Coddling my once bulbous belly.

How I daydream of the days we spent together.
Growing a baby and ingesting horrific culinary combos.
Raisin bran and chicken curry, grapefruit and Oreos.

Unheard of amounts of peanut butter and protein bars
Did I ingest.
Oh, the indigestion that occurred.

Lonely are the days I don't wear you.
How my shrunken belly misses your kind caress.
It's been an cruel two years of conventional jeans.

You never pinched or prodded like your evil twin Regular Jeans.
No ugly indentations on my stomach like "button dent" or "waist ripple".
No muffin tops or bagel bulge to declare.

Only you know how to keep my belly smooth and unwrinkled.
My friends make fun of me, but I don't care.
I'll declare my love for you, Pregger Jeans!

Most women voice their disdain for you.
They hate the vast wind sail you create across their bellies.
But I embraced you.

I secretly wish to wear them everyday.
But now that it is no longer a secret,
I will shout my love for you from a rooftop or tabletop, whichever is nearer.

There is no judging when I wear you.
No applied pressure to my wobbly bits.
Just a stretchy, Spandex-woven tent of acceptance.

Your job was never to conceal or constrict.
Squeeze or contour.
Just to hug and love,
My belly of baby.

Though there's no baby there now,
You still managed to call to me from your perch on high (the closet shelf),
"Once last dance?" you shyly asked.

I put you on for a quick reunion,
Spontaneous and jubilant it was,
Ridiculous and rare.

I danced and sang the words, "I love my pregger pants!"
I swiveled my hips and awkwardly lunged in abandonment.
No fears of ripping the seams or cutting my waist in two.

Wild and free was I.
All to you, comfy, non-judgmental pants.
All to you.

But sadly, now is time to put you away,
Into the Spacebag you go.
Until the time comes to wear you again,
Hopefully with a child in tow.

Love ya, Foodies!

P.S. My four year-old son took the flashy/bad jean advertisement pictures for me. Poor child. I was laughing my butt off, as I realized the absurdity of a four year old child with a camera, hunkered down in the corner of a room taking photos of his crazy mother dancing in some stupid pants. All I can say is that my kids are not going to have the usual childhood memories of eating dirt and dancing in the rain. They will have those plus their mother doing the maternity pants can-can.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Best Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie EVER...really

Chocolate chip cookies are a good recipe to have up your sleeve. You never know when a C.C.C.E. (that's Chocolate Chip Cookie Emergency, for the lay person), may hit. I've got the rundown for you on what qualifies as a C.C.C.E.

1. PMS
2. Peace offering to the Hubs for spending too much at the craft store.
3. Bribing children to eat their food.
4. A counter-productive reward for doing lunges.
5. A tasty replacement for a frisbee (when and if a frisbee replacement was ever an emergency).

So there are a couple special things about this cookie. It's a riff on the famous Nieman Marcus cookie...the real one. Not the one that floated around in forwarded emails in the mid-nineties. Not the one that requires you to blend oatmeal and grate chocolate. Unfortunately, I made my fair share of the faux cookie during my time working in a coffee shop, hence the shabby knuckles. This is far more simple.

Also, this is an egg-free cookie, not originally, but I made it so. Not vegan, but you could easily make it vegan by replacing the butter with shortening. I think  it would work fine, but don't quote me on it. I'm merely guessing. But yes, no eggs! I'll share my secret weapon with you.

Ener-G Egg Replacer! This stuff is so awesome...even if this picture is not. LAME-O.

This has worked beautifully in many baked items I've made, other things not so much. I tried it once in homemade pudding...horrible. Tasted like paste. If you are using it in a heavier baked good, such as a chocolate loaf or pound cake, it may not rise properly. But for cookies, it rocks! It's mainly potato starch and it creates a crisp exterior that eggs simply cannot achieve.

When we found out my son had an egg allergy, I immediately started crossing off the list all the things I thought he couldn't have. But this egg replacer has been such a help. I make all my baked goods egg-free now and he can enjoy them with everyone else. It's also great to use in baked items that you are giving to babies or toddlers if you are wary they may be allergic to eggs.

Foodie House Version
Nieman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I'm going to give you the double batch recipe. This makes 16 giant cookies or 30 something smaller ones.

2 sticks soften butter (or one cup veggie shortening, for vegans)
2 cups brown sugar
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer PLUS 5 tbsp. water, mix well (this is more water than what the box would tell you. Also, if you are not making this egg-free, this is where you would put 2 eggs)
4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. instant espresso (I don't usually add this, just because I don't want the kids to have the caffeine, but it tastes delicious!)
1-1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chunks ( I don't like a TON of chocolate chips in my cookies. I normally add just 1 cup. I know most people like a bunch. Just add what you like.)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (that's not a typo, it's an unusual temperature to bake cookies at but it works great!). Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg or egg-replacer and water mixture and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together. Add to butter mixture. Beat in coffee powder, then stir in chocolate. Scoop onto cookie tray (I use a silpat liner or parchment) and gently press down tops. Bake for 18 minutes for smaller ones or 22 minutes for large ones. I always let them rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Enjoy, Foodies! Love ya.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Read Your Veggies!

I spent twenty minutes in 100 degree heat arranging bits of vegetation into a word. I was in complete awe of how a green bean can grow into a perfect circle or "u" shape. I can't let that pass by me without doing something with it can I? 

What a merciless taskmaster Inspiration is. She doesn't care how hot it is outside, she only cares that you craft!

(Now that you have that in-depth preface)
I slithered back into the house, glistening with sweat, breathing a little heavier from my crafty-sweatshop workout and I proudly showed my husband the above picture on my camera's play back mode.

Hubs: (comfortably sitting in his recliner, playing dorky bird game on his iphone. Stares at the picture, squints, says nothing)
Me: (waiting with a goofy smile on my face, while intently watching his face for a reaction)
Hubs: (stills says nothing)
Me: Can't you read it?!
Hubs: No. Wait, "gorcen"?
Me: Huh? (I look back at the play back screen, searching for "gorcen")
Hubs: What's that supposed to be? (points at the yellow cucumber flower)
Me: That's an "a". (as soon as I say it, I see how it's not so much like an "a")
Hubs: Oh, that's a "d". (pointing to the chili pepper and near invisible thyme sprig)

As I walk into the kitchen, I take time to toot my own horn on how creative I thought it was and how adorable the vegetables were, my voice trailing off behind me. From there I schlepped my deflated-balloon self to my computer to upload my un-readable vegetable word. Wah, wah.

I hate it when you craft in Sahara-like temperatures and you get no reaction, no reaction at all, I tell ya!
That's all. Just a little something to share. 

It says "garden" by the way. But I know you guys got it, right?

Love ya, Foodies!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chic Guacamole

You may be saying, "Lauren, 'chic' is not the first word that comes to my mind when I think of guacamole." I understand, it's weird. But let's think of it in a fashion sense, shall we?

What's the chicest thing you can think of when it comes to fashion? What is timeless? My first thought is the little black dress. Simple, classic and does not draw attention to itself but to the one wearing it. (I'm not implying you wear this guacamole, although, you may in your ravenous state and utter euphoria, end up with a schmear here or there.)

When I think "chic" I also think, uncluttered.

I hate cluttered guacamole. The saying, "less is more" is definitely appropriate here, as it is with fashion. I'm against all forms of tomatoes in my guac and I am abhorred by garlic (some my be gasping at this moment), I don't want corn or beans or cilantro or mayo (!), but here is why.

I want to taste the avocado. I've just paid $4 for 2 organic avocados (and that was on sale!). I don't want to taste garlic or have a seedy, watery tomato fighting with my creamy, smooth super-food.

So I have stripped down what I usually end up getting if I were to order guacamole in a restaurant and have created for you a simple, easy guacamole that will not only cut back on buying a butt-load of ingredients but will let you taste what nature intended.

Chic Guacamole

2 perfectly-ripe, organic avocados
1/2 green onion, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
Juice of 1/2 -3/4 fresh lime

Mash it all together. Adjust for salt and spice. Go crazy on the jalapenos or use whatever pepper is your favorite. And if you want to make it even simpler, cut out the onions and peppers and simply use salt and lime. Such a summery treat!

Love ya, Foodies!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Duo Of Nap Time Snacks

I don't quite know what it is, but when nap time rolls around, I tend to celebrate with a snack. It could be for a couple of reasons: A. I didn't get to eat much of a lunch (as I am more of a short-order cook rather than a diner in my own house during the frenzied lunchtime rush of my three children). B. I simply get so excited about having some peace and quiet that I yank the Nutella out of the pantry with exaggerated Kung-Fu moves.

One snack is healthy the other is is not. I like giving my readers options, ya know? You like that, right?

I adore cottage cheese. I have very fond memories of eating bowlfuls of the stuff with canned peaches and pears (in heavy syrup, of course) over the top. Well, nowadays, I don't do canned fruit. So here's my updated and more healthy version, which honestly tastes better.

1/2 cup lowfat, organic cottage cheese
1/2 organic peach or pear, sliced
drizzle of raw, organic agave
One issue House Beautiful or Food and Wine magazine

You could layer it into a parfait or do like I did, make it all dainty in a tea cup. Whatever suits your nap time (or anytime really) hankerings.

Alright, so the above is super healthy. This little guy below...not so much.

He looks kinda dejected, huh? He's not really. I accepted him heartily and fully into my giant mouth of pearly chompers. Gosh, it was so good. What is this unhealthy-ish snack? Well, maybe it's not too unhealthy. Two out of the 3 ingredients are actually pretty good for you. It's that dang Nutella.

So stack these three ingredients up for a super satisfying (mainly for the sweet tooth in us all) snack:

One brown rice cake
One heaping tablespoon Nutella (don't be chintzy!)
6-7 sliced banana
Dash of Kung-Fu moves (optional)

It's not only the taste that is so great, but the textures. If you have been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that I am huge on texture. Most things I eat need to have some form of crunch or it's just not worth eating. The creaminess of the bananas and Nutella play beautifully together. Add a glass of milk and you just entered snack time heaven.

Being a stay-at-home mommy is a hard job, but your snacks don't have to be! That sounded like a commercial on much-too-late night t.v.

Well, Foodies, whether you are a stay-at-home mommy, working mommy, not-a-mommy or daddy, everyone needs a good snack. Maybe I will make snack posts a regular thing. I've got some more yummy ones up my sleeve.

Love ya, Foodies!
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