Homemade Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches— Oh Yeah.

I collect cookie jars. Vintage McCoy cookie jars to be precise. I’ve collected them for years, way before I had little people to make cookies with or for. You see I have a weakness for housewares. When I was a young girl I would go to the local department store with my mother and head straight for the fine china department. I would walk around and around the beautiful sets of dinnerware and crystal, dreaming of which patterns I choose one day when I was grown up. This would therefore explain why I own five sets of dishes (we had a yard sale and I sold two “extra” sets), enough serving pieces to easily set a buffet for a hundred, a ridiculous number of tiny antique aperitif glasses, a crazy collection of water pitchers and just about every size and shape cocktail glass you could ask for. Feel like margaritas? I’ve got the glasses… Red wine? But of course, balloon or bordeaux… Champagne? Got it… Dark and Stormy? Yup, swizzle sticks too! I could go on but you get the picture.

Okay, so back to cookie jars… I own many. And while most of them are currently in the attic I do have a few of my favorites in the kitchen. One holds loose change, one holds bric-a-brac that we may need to get our hands on one day and the remainder hold dust, the odd button and perhaps a few pebbles from the beach or an old parkway token. That is except one. If you’re a frequent guest at my house then you know exactly which cookie jar I’m speaking of. It’s the one that’s almost always filled with some homemade delight. Since family and friends have come to expect homemade cookies at our house I do my best to keep it full, but sometimes cookie making gets pushed to the back burner. I always know its time to refill the cookie jar when I hear the lid being lifted and replaced, followed immediately by a sad-faced individual wandering into the room.

It happened to be time for me to whip up another batch for my nearly empty jar, but with the arrival of warm weather the kids have been more inclined to ask for popsicles as a snack than cookies. So, I wondered to myself, how do you think they would feel about cookies turned into ice cream sandwiches?…

I’ll give you one guess as to how they felt about homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches. If these two little people could have hoisted me on their shoulders and marched me around the room I think they would have. Instead I got a “Mom you and these are THE BEST!”, which was even better.

Brown Sugar Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
The addition of a little bit of espresso powder really kicks the dark chocolate flavor up a notch. One batch of these cookies typically makes about two dozen cookies, certainly enough to make ice cream sandwiches and enjoy solo as well.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tsp. of water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. plain yogurt
5 oz. dark chocolate morsels* (these are bigger than ordinary chips)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and brown sugar until thoroughly blended. Add the egg, espresso/water, vanilla, milk and yogurt and mix well. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix, add the remaining flour and mix until completely blended. Gently fold in the chips.
  4. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon place mounds of dough on the prepared cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies have spread a bit and the tops have begun to crack, but are still soft to the touch.
  6. Transfer cookies to racks to cool and enjoy with a loved one and an ice-cold glass of milk, or use to create ice cream sandwiches.

*In the past I have also made these with 3/4 cup peanut butter chips instead of the morsels. Holy cow they were good!

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Having all the ingredients cold when you assemble these seems to be the key to building a successful ice cream sandwich.

Ice cream in flavors of your choice
Homemade chocolate cookies

  1. Place pre-baked chocolate cookies in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Working quickly, one flavor at a time, place a generous scoop of ice cream in the center of each cookie and top with a second. Place the completed sandwich on a cookie sheet in the freezer and repeat with remaining cookies and ice cream flavors.
  3. Chill ice cream sandwiches for at least an hour before serving. Store in an air tight container in the freezer or gobble up immediately.
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donut you wanna bite me?

A few years ago I bought a set of donut pans. I imagined myself churning out dozens of freshly baked donuts, much to my family’s delight. Fresh donuts would become our Sunday morning ritual and on cool Fall afternoons we would sit on the deck among the gently falling leaves and eat warm cinnamon-sugar donuts while drinking coffee and apple cider. It was quite the bucolic vision I had created for myself, all resting on these two little pans. Perhaps it was an attempt to recreate my own New England childhood for my kids, or simply the desire to make something a little more special than yet another batch of cookies. Whatever the initial reason, lovely daydreams were all that ever materialized from these pans.

I made fantastic looking vanilla donuts with chocolate glaze and bakery look-alike chocolate donuts with loads of sprinkles— but they all tasted awful. Too dry, too tasteless, too salty, too oddly textured and almost too frustrating to continue attempting. I had one mild success with an apple donut, but apparently they weren’t delicious enough for seconds because the leftovers sat around long enough to grow fur.

I was truly ready to shelve my donut pans forever, “Perhaps I’ll sell them at my next yard sale” I thought to myself. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for some simple spice donuts that looked easy to make, fairly low-fat (what a crazy idea!) and who’s list of ingredients somehow just sounded right to me. At this point I think my family was tired of being teased with fantastic looking/disgusting tasting donuts, so I didn’t tell I was making another batch. They were out running errands one Saturday morning when I decide to whip some up and surprise them. They would walk in without expectations of warm sugary goodness and would therefore be less disappointed if this recipe was yet another flop.

Ha a flop! A flop my transplanted New England butt! These donuts were fantastic, seriously fantastic! They were light and moist with just the right amount of spices and sugar. They were really and truly delicious baked donuts.

So I’m sure you’re now wondering if these baked beauties have fulfilled all the dreams I had riding on them. If I’m cranking out batches every Sunday morning and praying for cool weather. Well here’s the thing… Sunday is usually my weekend morning to sleep in. And it’s barely Spring, Fall is still a long way off. So I’d have to answer with a resounding no. But now anytime someone in my family says they feel like donuts, at least I can offer to make them a batch of homemade…

Cinnamon-Sugar Baked Donuts
These are not fried donuts, so don’t compare them to what you think you
know a donut to be. These are much lighter than fried which means you can eat at least two before you begin to feel guilty!

3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. dried buttermilk powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. apple juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. plain yogurt

For the sugar-coating:
half a stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, juice, vanilla and yogurt.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just until combined.
  4. Grease or spray the doughnut pan and fill each doughnut form half way. (I find it’s easiest to pour the batter into a ziplock bag, snip off one corner and pipe it into the pan.)
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they spring back when touched and are just beginning to brown on top.
  6. While the donuts are baking mix together the cinnamon-sugar coating and melt the butter. Set aside.
  7. When the donuts are finished baking, immediately remove them from the oven and brush them with melted butter. Give them a quick roll in the cinnamon-sugar coating and enjoy.

*adapted from king arthur flour

you’re so granola!

I happen to be a savory, not a sweet girl (but then you may have already known that!) I like bold flavors like dark chocolate, strong coffee and dry red wine. This preference of mine is most evident at breakfast time. I’m a sunny side up eggs, grits with butter or even last night’s leftovers kinda girl. The idea of a stack of pancakes smothered in syrup and butter makes my stomach ache. In fact I have childhood memories of waking up to the smell of pancakes cooking and thinking “oh yuck, not pancakes again.” (sorry Mom!) Anyway you get the idea, I don’t like sweet, especially in the morning.

My breakfast most weekday mornings is usually something fast, simple and often consumed standing at the kitchen counter. Something like toast with butter, a homemade muffin or granola with a dollop of plain yogurt. Good store bought granola can be expensive and is often too high in calories to feel like I’m starting the day the right way. So instead I make my own. It’s quite tasty and as long as you keep an eye on it while it bakes (a lesson I learned the hard way) almost foolproof to make.

While standing at said kitchen counter one recent morning I thought to myself “I wonder how difficult it is to make yogurt.” It turns out it’s not difficult at all, but it is a process. It’s by no means hard or even particularly labor intensive, but if you want a bowl if fresh yogurt and granola on Sunday morning, then you better start cooking it on Saturday morning.

I read a lot of recipes for making yogurt before attempting my first batch and it turns out that the science of fermenting milk is fairly straightforward: You heat the milk to just short of boiling, cool the milk to a temperature that will allow the yogurt cultures to grow, stir in the cultures and let it sit in a warm and undisturbed spot for several hours. And voilà— yogurt!

My homemade yogurt was creamy, delicious and much more lush than store bought. And even though it was crazy easy to make, I still get this great sense of accomplishment each time I sit down to eat it (or lean against the counter as the case may be). But next time I make it I think I’ll double the recipe. Now that my family has tasted homemade yogurt they look truly offended when I try to offer them the store bought variety. But I guess I only have myself to blame…

Homemade Granola
This granola can really be customized with whatever dried fruits or nuts that
appeal to you the most.

2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
3 tbsp. wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp of salt
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup apple juice
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup apricots, diced
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease baking sheet with cooking-oil spray. In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, coconut and salt. Mix well.
  2. In a small bowl combine the apple juice, maple syrup, honey. Mix well.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is fully combined and moist.
  4. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown and crisp.
  5. Remove from the oven and stir again. Allow to cool. Store the granola in an airtight container.

*adapted from Body + Soul

Homemade Yogurt
You can make this yogurt with whole milk or 2% if you like, but I don’t think I would use skim milk.

1/2 gallon organic 2% milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt (store bought or your own)
1/2 cup organic powdered milk (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven on to 250°F. When it comes to temperature turn it off but keep the door closed to retain the heat.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the the 1/2 gallon of milk to 180°F. Stir constantly and do not allow to come to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot milk into a bowl and set that bowl in a larger one filled with ice water. Let the mixture cool to 110-115°F and stir in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and the powdered milk (if you’re using it).
  4. Ladle the yogurt mixture into warm glass jars, cap and put on a tray in the still warm oven. Wrap the tray in a blanket or heavy towel and let cool down slowly, for 12 hours or overnight.
  5. In the morning you will have yogurt! If you didn’t use the powdered milk and you prefer your yogurt more of a greek style, then you need to drain the whey out.
  6. Line a mesh strainer with a paper coffee filter and set over a bowl. Add your thin yogurt to the filter and allow the whey to drain into the bowl*. After about an hour you will have a thick homemade greek style yogurt.
    Refrigerate and enjoy.

*adapted from happy simple living

*Many of the recipes I read recommended saving the whey to use in place of water when you bake. It’s an easy way to increase the amount of protein in your homemade breads and muffins.