Thursday, August 30, 2012

7-Layer Cookie Ice Cream & a Sweet 16

Sixteen years ago, we were married.  Sixteen years ago, I made the best decision I've ever made.  Sixteen years ago, I started a life with my love and my best friend.

{Sixteen years ago, I was having a size 8 wedding dress taken IN. *what happened?*}

For sixteen years, here are 16 reasons I love this man I married.  

Dear Mr. E,
  1. I love that you love my family.
  2. I love that you calm my tendency to be *slightly* overemotional.
  3. I love your corny puns (even if I roll my eyes).
  4. I love that you're my own personal combination of Don Draper/Phil Dunphy/Mike Rowe, only better.
  5. I love that you are the first person I want to share news with, good or bad.
  6. I love that you're an even better dad than I imagined you would be.
  7. I love that you read my friends' blogs (and love them as much as I do).
  8. I love that you take the question, "does this cookie look better with or without sanding sugar" as seriously as I do. 
  9. I love that you bring home Starbucks.
  10. I love that you provide for us, even when it means extra work or long hours.
  11. I love that being in the same room with you makes me instantly secure.
  12. I love that you finish all of the crazy projects I dream up, like say, buying a 100-year-old piano at Goodwill and painting it yellow.
  13. I love that you fill up the gas tank in my car.
  14. I love that you have the courage of your convictions.
  15. I love that you wash the dishes...even the icing tips.
  16. I love that you picked me. ♥
Also, I love that you love ice cream.  

When my uncle was in town over the summer, we talked about the big this flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream not sold in stores.  It's 7-layer cookie ice cream...and while I've never had it, my uncle did a pretty great job of describing it in a way that made me slightly obsessed.

So, rather than fly out to Vermont to try it myself, I made up a little version right here at home.  You know all those flavors in 7-layer cookies...the graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, pecans, sweetened condensed milk, butter?!?  They're all in here.
Bottom line: you need this in your life.  Just ask Mr. E. 

7-Layer Cookie Ice Cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup finely chopped pecan pieces, lightly toasted
2 cups whipping cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled

Stir together the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Place in the refrigerator to chill.

In another bowl, stir together the coconut, chips and pecans.  Place in the refrigerator to chill.

Whisk the cream and sweetened condensed milk together until well combined.  Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions, about 25-30 minutes.

Five minutes before the ice cream cycle is complete, add in the chilled coconut, chips and nuts, and continue to process for the remaining five minutes.

Scoop out the finished, soft ice cream into a freezer container, adding in bits of the graham cracker mixture, trying to keep some of it in chunks.

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down onto the ice cream and freeze for several hours until hardened and scoopable.

Happy anniversary, sweetie. ♥ 
Here's to many more years of eating ice cream together.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Moose Munch Shortbread Cookies and a Trip to Harry & David

*alternate post title: Why I've gained 10 pounds in two weeks.*
This is a long "picture-heavy" post, but bear with me...I think you're gonna like it. 

Along with several other bloggers, I was invited to visit the Harry & David headquarters in Medford, Oregon. 

A. After seeing their catalogs for years, I've always secretly hoped that someone would send me a Harry & David gift basket (it never happened), so I was curious and knew this was a place I needed to visit.

B. Take a look at these other bloggers in attendance:  hello, bloggy rock stars!!!  (I'm not sure how I got thrown in with this bunch...they are the coolest.) I couldn't pass up seeing some familiar faces again AND meeting some bloggers I've been jonesing to meet for years now.
{back row: RebeccaKristenJenna, Lori, Heidi and moi.  
front row: Maria, SandyRachelJessica, and Amy  photo credit: Sandy}

Here's my big takeaway from the trip... 
...the people at Harry & David LOVE food.  Love.  I had no idea that in the Rogue Valley of Oregon, Harry & David has over 700,000 pear trees.
They are famous for their Royal Riviera Pear; it's a Comice.  They don't grow it because it's the easiest to grow (it's not); they grow it because they feel they are the best.

I was so very impressed with their approach to growing, innovative pest management, and how they treat their harvesters by providing daily meals, medical care, and housing. 

Harry & David has a 3rd generation chocolatier who has been with the company for over 30 years...yes, as a matter of fact, his name IS Charlie.  The recipes are developed and made right there on site. May I recommend the coffee truffles?
This is a good place to talk about these Moose Munch Cookies.  They consist of a buttery, thick shortbread cookie, spread with a luscious, bittersweet chocolate glaze, and topped with a generous sprinkle of Harry & David's Moose Munch. 

{Moose Munch is a delectable caramel popcorn (made with slabs of butter...I saw it), mixed with cashews and almonds and enrobed in chocolate.  Yep.  I used the Dark Chocolate variety here.}

Moose Munch Cookies 
{makes 15-18}

for the cookies:
3 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) salted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or extract)

for the topping:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
2 TBSP unsalted butter
Moose Munch

Whisk together the flour and salt.  Set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugars using an electric mixer until creamy.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste.  Add the the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating on low, just until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing the dough together and refrigerate 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the chilled dough on a floured surface to 1/2" thick.  Cut with a 2 & 1/2" cutter and place the cut-outs on a cookie sheet.  Freeze for 10-15 minutes to prevent spreading.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden on the edges.  Remove immediately to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, place the chocolate chips and butter in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until melted.
Dollop the melted chocolate onto the cooled cookies and spread with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle on the Moose Munch.

The chocolate will set after several minutes, but will not harden completely.

Optional:  if you're feeling festive, break out your gold disco dust (you have gold disco dust, right?) and add just a touch to the completed cookies. 

Can I show you just a few more peeks from the trip?

{Travel day: sparkly shoes, big airplane and tiny airplane rides with Rachel proved to be very memorable, Ashland Springs Hotel...gorgeous.}

Sandy & her darling hubby Paul hosted dinner at their home our first night.  Sandy has a long relationship with Harry & David...her mom and aunts all worked there.
Sandy may call herself the Reluctant Entertainer, but she sure pulls off entertaining with a calm, relaxed demeanor and knows how to put everyone at ease.  From the setting, to the food, to the conversation, the night was perfection.  Her lovely daughter even provided music.

Harry & David treated us like royalty...snacks in the fields overlooking the orchards, dinner at a vineyard, wine and cheese tasting.  Yes, I could get used to this.  (Somehow, my yogurt for lunch doesn't cut it anymore.)

Aaaand, hanging out with these ladies wasn't too shabby, either.
{from top: Jenna, Maria, Jessica...Jessica (me) and bottom: Jenna, (me), Rebecca, Lori, Rachel, Maria, Rachel, Heidi}
(photo credit, bottom 3:, Jenna, Lori & Kristen)

I was even able to hang out with a few of my fellow red-faced runners!
{Amy, Kristen, Lori, (me)}

Let's look at those gorgeous pears one more time.
 Thank you, Harry & David.  You have a customer for life.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Composition in Black & White

What is it about a composition notebook?  Even in college, I loved getting a school/class supply sheet and seeing "composition notebook" on the list.
Somehow, writing in a composition notebook would elevate my writing to a level that a spiral notebook had never seen (or so I thought).  Plus, it was classy.  You can't really write "Bridget + Tommy" in pink paint pen on a composition notebook; that's strictly for spirals.

{In case you were wondering, that "Tommy" was C. Thomas Howell, but you might know him as Ponyboy.}

Anyhoo...composition notebook cookies.  Let's make them.  You'll need:

  • rectangle sugar cookies
  • royal icing, divided and tinted with AmeriColor Super Black and Bright White
  • couplers and tips, #2, #1
  • disposable icing bags
  • squeeze bottles
  • toothpicks
  • basting brush or large (clean) paintbrush

    Use a #2 tip to outline the cookie in black icing.  Reserve some piping consistency black icing.

    Thin the remaining black icing with water, a bit at a time, stirring with a silicone spatula, until it is the consistency of a thick syrup.  You'll want to drop a "ribbon" of icing back into the bowl and have it disappear in a count of "one thousand one, one thousand two." Four is too thick, one is too thin.  Count of 2-3 is good.  Cover with a damp dishcloth and let sit for several minutes.

    Stir gently with a silicone spatula to pop and large air bubbles that have formed.  Pour into squeeze bottle. 

    Fill in the outline with the thinned flood icing, using a toothpick to guide to the edges and to pop large air bubbles.

    Let the cookies dry for at least one hour.

    Thin about half of the white icing with a bit of water until it is loosened, but not thinned to the point for flooding as described above.

    Use a basting brush or large paintbrush and your finger to flick the thinned icing from the bristles on top of the black cookies.  Your table will be a mess. It's ok.

    {This is a great technique for going all Jackson Pollock with your cookies.  Ooo...this makes me want to homeschool again and do art history in cookies.} 

    Let the cookies dry for at least one hour.  Wipe off your table.

    Again with a #2 tip, pipe a "binding" along the side of the cookies in black.

    Use the unthinned white icing to pipe detail outline with a #2 tip.

    Thin the remaining white outline as described for the flood icing above and fill in the white outline.

    Let the cookies dry at least one hour.

    Switch the tip on the black icing to a #1 and personalize them however you wish...or leave them blank.

    Let the cookies dry uncovered 6-8 hours or overnight.
    What did you love to see on your school supply list? 

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Butter...Works for Me Wednesday

    Butter.  Without it, life would be so *blah.*

    You know if you've read this blog for a while, that not only do I love butter, I LOVE Ree (The Pioneer Woman). Ree also happens to love butter, so this is a big, chubby love triangle going on right here.
    {Let me be clear, the chubby is on my part...Ree can rock a pair of skinny jeans like nobody's business.}

    Can we please take a moment to sigh over with new Land O Lakes Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt?

    Anyway...Land O Lakes contacted me and asked if I'd like to giveaway a little (fabulous) prize package featuring butter, and Ree!  Well, of course...but then, doesn't everyone ALREADY have Ree's books?!?

    Fast forward a few weeks, I was in Barnes & Noble looking at drooling over all of the cookbooks, and what do you know, there was a lady in there, looking at Ree's cookbooks.  Seriously...I couldn't quit staring at her.  All I could think was, "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?"  I was trying to convey this through my eyes, but I think she got a little scared and turned to face the other direction.

    So, this giveaway is for you....YOU, lovers of butter. You, who don't have, or know of someone who doesn't have, Ree's cookbooks.  You, the lady I scared at the bookstore.
    This giveaway is for TWO prize packages.  You'll receive:

    • one full-value coupon for Land OLakes Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt, 
    • Ree Drummond’s two cookbooks: Food From My Frontier and The Pioneer Woman Cooks, 
    • and a flat whisk, 
    • slotted spoon, 
    • stainless steel tongs
     All you have to do is use the widget below (log in with your email or Facebook; click over if you're in email or a reader) and answer the question.  Giveaway runs through midnight EST, August 26th.
    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Good luck! 
    (While you have butter on the brain, be sure to check out Ree's recipes at Land O Lakes!)

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Cute as a Button Cupcakes

    Welcome!  Come on in!  Today you're attending a baby shower.
    {Yes, you your're at a baby shower.}
    Our baby shower today is in honor of Jenny from Picky Palate.  Jenny is the creator of such lovelies as Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, and Pumpkin Ice Cream Glazed Donuts, and she has a cookbook *just about* ready to come out. Jenny always has her two precious boys helping in the kitchen (I love that), and is currently cooking up another little helper. ;)

    Now, when I was asked to "bring something" for the shower (and if you must know, my household of 3 ate them all), I first thought of these Cute as a Button cookies, and thought, "I'll turn those into cupcakes!"  I then realized that maybe I had seen something like that before and lo and behold, Button Cupcakes are in Meaghan's book, Sugarlicious.  So, maybe I didn't come up with such an original idea after all.

    The cupcakes are just a simple one-bowl chocolate cupcake from Martha, topped with Shelly's vanilla buttercream and fondant buttons.

    You'll want to make the buttons ahead of time (the instructions are here), and let them dry a bit before using.  Place them on the cupcakes as close to serving as you can and don't refrigerate the fondant.

    I used Satin Ice brand fondant, and tinted it in three shades of blue using AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste food coloring.

    Be sure to have some more baby shower snacks with the other hostesses!

    Angie: Bakerella Baby Faces
    Bev: Bev Cooks Horseradish Deviled Eggs
    Bridget: Bake at 350 Cute as a Button Cupcakes
    Cheryl: TidyMom Salted Caramel Cupcakes
    Gaby: Whats Gaby Cooking Blueberry Buttermilk Cake
    Heather: Heather's Dish Perfect Pancake Bites   
    Julie: The Little Kitchen Mixed Berry Mint Slushies
    Kathy: Panini Happy Baby Oreo Ice Cream Pies
    Kristan: Confessions of a Cookbook Queen Homemade Animal Crackers
    Lauren: Lauren's Latest Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes
    Maria: Two Peas and Their Pod Cookies 'n Cream Sheet Cake
    Marion: Sweetopia Baby Shower Cookie Favors 
    Marla: Family Fresh Cooking Blueberry Mint Agua Fresca
    Michelle: Brown Eyed Baker Shrimp Nacho Bites 
    Robyn: Add a Pinch Blue Velvet Cake
    Shaina: Food For My Family Ginger Plum Preserves
    Shelly: Cookies and Cups Oreo Pop Baby Rattles
    Teresa: Blooming on Bainbridge Pom-Pom Cupcakes

    Happy new baby, Jenny!!!  We're all so excited to see your newest little kitchen helper!!! ♥

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Biscoff-Glazed Soft Oatmeal Cookies

    The alternate title to this post is:
    If you still haven't tried Biscoff Spread, well sister, it's time.
    (You can also use Trader Joe's Cookie Butter...don't you love that name?)

    We've talked Biscoff before.  We've made Biscoff Brownies.  We've made Biscoff Cut-Out Cookies.  We've eaten it by the spoonful. (Just me?)

    Today, we turn it into a glaze and pour it over the softest, most tender oatmeal cookies ever.

    For the oatmeal, I used 1-minute oats.  They're cut smaller, but if you only have old-fashioned on hand, that's just fine, too.  Your oatmeal pieces will just be larger.

    You'll also be using Greek yogurt.  I love the Fage brand.

    Biscoff-Glazed Soft Oatmeal Cookies
    {makes 18}

    for the cookies:
    2 cups quick-cook (1-minute) oats
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 (1 stick) cup salted butter
    2 TBSP vegetable oil
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1 egg
    6 TBSP plain Greek yogurt (2% or full-fat)
    2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

    for the glaze:
    1/4 cup Biscoff Spread
    1/4 cup milk
    1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
    2 teaspoons light corn syrup

    Whisk together the oats, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and flour. Set aside.

    In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil and sugar.  Add the egg, beating until fluffy.  Beat in the yogurt and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

    Add in the flour mixture in three additions; beat on low just until incorporated.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    Use a two tablespoon cookie scoop to place the dough onto the prepared sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until light brown.
    Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze.  Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth.  If the glaze looks a little too thin, add more powdered sugar.  If it looks too thick, stir in a little more milk.  You may omit the corn syrup, but it does add a nice shine.

    Put the cookies close together on a wire rack and place the rack over a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Pour the glaze over the cookies.  The glaze will spread and smooth; and after about 30 minutes, will set.

    Can we just take a few moments to look at the glaze?
    I {heart} glaze.  It's so pretty & shiny.
    Glaze is very photogenic.  It's the Kate Middleton of dessert toppings...always beautiful.

    Looking for Biscoff?  You may be able to find it at your local grocery store, WalMart, or you can order it on Amazon.

    Oh, and do you know what the sign of a true friend is?  When *someone* sends you one of their vintage tablecloths and it's not even your birthday. ♥