Archives for June 2011

ice cream cookie bars

There are just no excuses for this dessert. It’s cookies. Layered with ice cream. Layered with more cookies. Layered with more ice cream. Layered with more cookies. Layered with chocolate sauce.

See? No excuses. It’s purely evil. Plan on adding an extra mile to your run. Another 200 push-ups. Twenty more flights of stairs. Whatever you have to do to justify it, do it. Because this concoction is just worth it. I like to serve it at parties so I have partners in dessert crime. Kids love it, too.

It begins as all calorie-laden items do: with cookies. Oreos and Nutter Butters, to be exact.

And then, because cookies aren’t nearly enough, there’s ice cream. Chocolate peanut butter and cookies & cream.

And in addition to the cookies and ice cream, butter. I know, I know.

And then chocolate syrup. For good measure.

Begin by melting the butter. Whirl some Oreos around in a food processor.

…mix with the butter, and press into the bottom of a pan. Freeze for 15 minutes, or until the crust is nice and solid.

Meanwhile, remove the ice creams from the freezer to let soften.

While you’ve got the food processor out, whirl around a few more Oreos until they’re coarsely ground. Not powdery, but no big hunks either.

Do the same with some Nutter Butters.

Remove the pan from the freezer and spread on a layer of ice cream.

Sprinkle on a nice layer of cookie crumbs and pat down. A little helper can assist you with this step (with clean hands, of course. No strawberry jam hands, as my wee one often has. And yes, those are legwarmers on her arms. What can I say? She inherited my love of Flashdance). Freeze again to give the ice cream a chance to solidify.

Next, spread on another layer of ice cream…

…and finish with the rest of the cookie crumbs. Pat down once again.

Drizzle with chocolate sauce. Attempt to make a pretty design and fail miserably. Freeze for 1 hour.

Cut into bars. Serve. Swoon.

This is such a fun, easy dessert for a party, especially for kids (although adults will lick their plates clean, too). Mix and match your favorite cookies and ice creams to create a personalized treat for your little person’s birthday or end-of-the-school-year extravaganza.

Some flavor ideas:

  • Thin mints with mint chip ice cream
  • Chips Ahoy! with chocolate chip ice cream
  • Samoas with caramel ice cream
  • Oatmeal cookies with rum raisin ice cream
  • S’mores: graham crackers with rocky road ice cream
  • Vanilla creme cookies with strawberry ice cream

It’s tastier and easier to make than an ice cream cake (and cheaper than ordering one!), and makes a sinful, chilly treat on a hot summer day. What flavor would you make?

Ice Cream Cookie Bars printable pdf

Makes one 9×13″ pan, or roughly 15-18 servings. Halve the recipe if you’re not serving a crowd. Mix and match your favorite cookies and ice creams to create unique flavors!

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 16 oz package Oreo cookies
  • 8 oz Nutter Butter cookies (half of one 16 oz package)
  • 1.75 qt cookies & cream ice cream
  • 1.75 qt chocolate peanut butter ice cream
  • chocolate sauce for topping

1) Melt butter. In a food processor, blend 24 Oreo cookies until finely ground. Mix crumbs with butter and press firmly into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan. Freeze 15 minutes or until solid.

2) Let ice cream soften at room temperature for 15 minutes. Pulse remaining Oreos in food processor until very coarsely ground. Repeat with Nutter Butters.

3) Spread chocolate peanut butter ice cream on top of frozen Oreo crust. Sprinkle half of Oreo crumbs and half of Nutter Butter crumbs on top and press down. Freeze for 15 minutes.

4) Spread chocolate peanut butter ice cream on top of cookie layer. Sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top and press down. Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour. Cut into squares and drizzle with chocolate sauce before serving.


summer reads

It’s been too long since I’ve done a book post. Heck, it’s been since last year. You’d think I have no time to read, but I squeeze it in when I can—during middle-of-the-night feedings, nap time, before bed. It’s a bit like showering. If I don’t get to do it everyday, I get a little cranky.

So here’s what I’ve read lately. If you’ve seen my book posts before you know I have pretty varied taste (see here). I used to teach middle school and retained a love of young adult lit. Sometimes I dig sci-fi. Once in a while I’m in the mood for nonfiction. I adore novels.

At any rate, here are a few of my favorites as of late (links go to Amazon, because Amazon is awesomeballs and I read on a Kindle. But no one is paying me to promote these books or where to purchase them).

The Ghost Map

It started with one tainted water tap in 1850’s London. So begins the cholera epidemic that wiped out a portion of the city and baffled the medical world. It’s a tragic but enlightening history of infrastructure, “modern” medicine, and how a budding metropolis turned into a deadly breeding ground of bacteria.

The Hangman’s Daughter

Jakob is an executioner in 1600s Bavaria. When a boy is found dead in the river of their small logging town with mysterious marks on his arm, the citizens suspect witchraft. With the help of his daughter, Jakob discovers that there’s something much worse brewing in his town.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

I was a sucker for this book from the start—it’s written by a local author and set in Seattle. Sam works at a fast food restaurant. He’s got little ambition and prefers to hang with his dopey co-workers, drink and play video games. That is, until a hulking beast of a man enters the restaurant one night and nearly tears him to shreds. Turns out, he’s got other plans for Sam. And Sam’s mom has some explaining to do about his supernatural lineage. A funny, quirky read that has movie deal written all over it.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

30 year-old Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American tobacco farmer from the south, died in 1951 from cancer. Doctors took a few of her postmortem cancerous cells to study. But a funny thing happened: her cells didn’t die in the lab. They thrived. They multiplied. They generated so rapidly, in fact, that petri dish upon petri dish were sold to hospitals around the world. Her cells have allowed for some of the most remarkable advances in modern medicine and generated millions of dollars to the sellers.

But Henrietta’s real legacy, her children, never saw a penny. Her kids, now adults in their 50’s, are a sad, uneducated lot with a myriad of problems. Author Rebecca Skloot tells the story of the Lacks family through interviews which are sometimes sad, sometimes funny (Henrietta’s daughter truly believes that her mother is still alive in a petri dish somewhere), and always thought-provoking. A powerful true story.

The Radleys

I know, I know. You don’t need to hear about another vampire book. But this one—about a family trying to cover up their blood-drinking past and live in the suburbs—is a super fun summer read.

The Coffins of Little Hope

A small town daughter disappears. The local 83 year-old obituary writer investigates. A mysterious JK Rowling-esque author hires the town’s printing press to manufacture the nail-biting final chapter in her book series. But is the missing girl as fictitious as Harry Potter? Book details leak, the missing girl’s mother gets caught in lies, and the lines between fact and fiction blur in this compelling read.

The Paris Wife

Ernest Hemingway was, to put it gently, “a man about town.” This fictional account from the perspective of his first wife examines life with the philandering author, their travels, their child, and how it all crumbled to pieces.

The Happiest Mom

If there’s one genre I detest, it’s self-help. But this short book by Meagan Francis (mother of 5, and happily so) is more like the Cliffs Notes to enjoying parenting. I’ve read it several times over, trying to memorize her quick tricks to not sweating the small stuff. So when Lucy decides that syrup is better squirted all over the kitchen counters than on her waffles, I know how to react (and it’s not to lock myself in the closet and never come out). A must-read if you’re a mom.

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

I’m quite certain that Karen Russell will be one of the greatest literary voices of our generation. In this collection of short stories, reality and fantasy are indistinguishable: children grow up on alligator-wrestling farms, old men retire to floating nursing homes in the Everglades, boys dive in caves with their dead sister’s ghost, girls raised by werewolves attend prep school. It’s a whimsical retreat into a gently fantastic world. I’m currently engrossed in her second book, Swamplandia!


There you have it. Grab a book, a cocktail and a lounge chair and enjoy summer one page at a time. Happy reading!


creamsicle shortcakes

I’m so lucky to live in Washington. We get the best berries in the summertime. The most crisp, juicy apples in the fall. But citrus isn’t really our thing. Consequently, we import most of it and get pretty decent varieties year-round. Our local strawberries are still a few weeks shy from being ready (we had a very cold, wet winter and spring), but I was dying for shortcake. So I turned to the one thing I can always count on: oranges. From constantly sunny California.

What resulted was a dreamy shortcake with sweet tangelos and vanilla bean whipped cream. Layer the two on a sweet, flaky scone and you’ve got a dessert that tastes remarkably like those frozen creamsicle treats of your childhood.

Begin with your favorite oranges. I’m digging tangelos right now, but use whatever is juicy and sweet at the moment. Grab some whipping cream, a little sugar, vanilla extract, one vanilla bean, and your favorite scone mix or recipe.

I like Fisher’s. If you grew up in Washington this probably tastes like the Puyallup Fair to you. It’s a snap to make (just add water) and I have yet to find a scratch recipe that is as good.

Begin by peeling the oranges. Take all the white stringy bits off if you have the patience. I never do.

Slice into rounds.

Place in a bowl and drizzle with vanilla extract. Stir and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Next, slice that vanilla bean down the middle. See all those little bits that look like dirt? Those are the vanilla beans that will make our whipped cream extra vanilla-ey.

Use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the beans out of the pod…

…and scrape them straight into the whipped cream container. Shake and refrigerate along with the oranges.

Meanwhile, whip up your scones.

Bake. By now your whole house should smell like vanilla and warm scones. Heaven.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the whipped cream into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add the sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form.

Slice a scone in half and layer on the oranges and whipped cream.

Sweet, warm scone, juicy vanilla-scented oranges, and fluffy whipped cream. It’s such a nice alternative to the traditional berry shortcakes. And best of all, you can enjoy it any time of year. Long live the creamsicle!


Creamsicle Shortcakes  printable pdf

I like Fisher’s Fair Scone Mix (available in Washington), but feel free to use your favorite mix or recipe. Makes 8 shortcakes. Eat the leftover scones for breakfast with a little butter and jam!

Active Prep Time: 15 minutes     Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour     Bake Time: 12 minutes (may vary according to your scone recipe)

  • 4-5 oranges, peeled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 box Fischer’s Fair Scone Mix

1. Slice oranges into 1/2 inch rounds. Place in a bowl, pour in vanilla extract and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

2. Slice the vanilla bean down the middle. Using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape the vanilla beans from the pod and place beans in whipping cream container. Shake and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

3. Prepare scones according to package directions. Shake whipping cream well and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.

4. Slice scones in half. Layer with orange slices and dollops of whipped cream. Serve.


buffalo fries

After a particularly greuling day full of doctors appointments and screaming children, Dave and I needed a respite. I couldn’t stand the thought of cooking and it was already late in the day, so we stopped in for happy hour at a local brewery. Lucy dug into a box of crayons, the baby napped, Dave spaced out to a baseball game on the bar television, and I sipped a very large, cold hefeweizen. It was just what the doctor ordered.

We picked a smattering of appetizers which included a plate of “buffalo fries”: soggy steak fries in a pool of buffalo sauce with some melted cheese on top. It was a dish that was much better in theory than in execution. And even though it was a pretty crappy appetizer, the thought of it stayed with me all week. I could make it better. Perfect, even.

And so can you. Grab a few yukon gold potatoes, a bunch of green onions, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, shredded jack, Johnny’s seasoning salt (or your favorite variety), buffalo sauce (I like Frank’s), and blue cheese dressing.

Begin by slicing the potatoes into wedges. You’re welcome to use regular old russet potatoes, but I find that for oven fries, yukon golds have a better texture and flavor.

Throw them in a bowl and toss with a little cooking oil.

Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with seasoning salt.

Roast in the oven until golden and crisp around the edges, roughly 15 minutes per side.

Next, find yourself an oven safe plate or platter that you’d like to serve the fries on. Carefully spread the hot fries onto it.

Drizzle with buffalo sauce…

…and top with the shredded jack and crumbled gorgonzola. Place under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble.

Chop up the light green parts of the scallions…

…and sprinkle on top of the finished fries.

Of course you can’t serve anything “buffalo” without blue cheese dressing on the side.

Now these are buffalo fries done right. The potatoes are crisp and salty, the buffalo sauce adds heat, and the creaminess of the melted cheese tempers the spice. Make these for your next party and your friends will never leave.

I’m going to whip up a plate of these next time Dave and I need a break. Which is…pretty much always.


Buffalo Fries printable pdf

Serves 4-5 as an appetizer. Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes

  • 3 large yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • seasoning salt
  • 1/3 c buffalo sauce
  • 1 c shredded jack cheese
  • 1/3 c crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • blue cheese dressing (optional, for dipping)

1. Preheat oven to 475F. Slice each potato in half lengthwise, then each half into 6 wedges. Place in a bowl and toss with cooking oil. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or Silpat. Sprinkle with seasoning salt. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn fries, sprinkle with more seasoning salt, and roast for an additional 15 minutes.

2. Set oven to broil. Carefully place hot fries onto an oven safe platter. Drizzle with buffalo sauce, then sprinkle with cheeses. Broil until cheese is melted and just begins to bubble. Remove from oven.

3. Dice green onions and sprinkle over the top of the fries. Serve with blue cheese dressing on the side.

bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers

The best kinds of friends will show up at your doorstep with beer and dinner. They’ll bring homemade fresh pizza dough, cilantro, red onions, barbecue chicken and shredded cheese, and then proceed to amaze and delight you by cooking pizza on your grill. To tide you over while the miraculous pizza grilling is being performed, they will serve you jalapeno poppers.

I have the best kinds of friends. Not only did they come over and feed us freshly grilled BBQ chicken pizza (a post for another time—I’m still trying to master my pizza-grilling skills), but they also introduced me to the mother of all appetizers that I’ll be making from now until September.

Making your own poppers is easy. All you need is cream cheese, finely shredded jack (or motzerella, or cheddar—whatever your preference. You could even go a little crazy with blue or gorgonzola), fresh jalapenos, and regular-cut bacon (not thick-cut).

To begin, lop off the stems of those spicy peppers.

Slice lengthwise down the middle…

…and remove the seeds. I wear gloves when handling hot peppers because I’m the kind of woman who will *forget* that she just had her finger in a jalapeno and then use said finger to scratch my eye. I’m not the smartest cookie sometimes.

Mash together the cream cheese and the jack cheese.

Fill the jalapeno halves with the cream cheese mixture…

…and wrap each one with a half slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.

And now for the best part: fire up your grill to medium. I love these as a summer appetizer because there’s no running back and forth from the kitchen to the grill—it can all be done outside. Prep your poppers in the morning, refrigerate, and grill whenever your company shows up.

Grill for roughly 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t walk away from the grill for too long; that pesky bacon loves to spark grease fires.

Hand each guest their own little bowl of these and they will be smitten with you all evening. Or at least as long as the poppers hold out.

Cool cream cheese in a spicy jalapeno wrapped with salty, smoky bacon. Wash it down with a cold beer (or better yet, a salted margarita!) and you’ll be singing the Beach Boys all summer long.


P.S. Thanks Ric & Tennille for 1) being amazeballs and 2) for introducing us to poppers and BBQ pizza. We love you more than bacon.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers printable poppers

Makes 20 poppers. Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 8 minutes

  • 10 jalapeno peppers
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 c finely shredded jack cheese
  • 10 slices bacon (regular-cut, not thick-cut), sliced in half widthwise
  • 20 toothpicks

1) Rinse and dry the jalapenos. Lop off the stems, then slice each one lengthwise down the middle. Remove the seeds.

2) Mix the cream cheese and jack cheese together with a fork. Fill each jalapeno half with some of the cream cheese mixture. Wrap each pepper with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

3) Preheat gas grill to medium. Grill poppers for 3-4 minutes per side, until bacon is lightly browned. Serve immediately.