Sammies to Scream For</br>Chocolate Wafer Ice Cream Sandwiches - Bring On the Berries! </br>Strawberries and Cream Pie - Dressed to Impress; Mastering Classic Vinaigrette - Easter Egg Salad Sandwiches - The Amazing, Erupting Volcano Cake -

Sammies to Scream For
Chocolate Wafer Ice Cream Sandwiches

Go on, take a bite. Just one and you’ll know why everyone screams for these ice cream sandwiches. To my mind, the wonderfully soft, dark chocolate wafers made with Dutch-process cocoa and deepened with espresso powder are perfection. Fill them with a generous scoop of your favorite flavored ice cream and you’ll never go back for store-bought again!   Kid sized ice cream sandwiches Big eyes. Little tummies. The tiny-fingered crowd at my house loves the 2-inch rounds, especially when joyfully decorated with brilliantly colored sprinkles. Gone are the days of sticky, gooey puddles of abandoned too-big treats…or worse yet, tummy aches.   Chocolate wafer ice cream sandwich with star sprinkles Big, full-sized ice cream sandwiches all decked out with red and blue stars for Independence Day tickle my fancy. What’s not to love? Be it declared: absolutely no guilt allowed. None. I bought my first chocolate wafer “sammie” off the ice cream truck that drove through my neighborhood on hot summer days. What a treat! Years later, there were no trucks in the hills of MillValley, so I made the sandwiches for my kids. We got creative and cut the wafers into our favorite shapes and filled them with what seemed like a million flavors: mint, vanilla, banana, cherry pecan, coffee and all the crazy Ben & Jerry mixtures.   One thing is for sure, they are super easy and stress-free when you know a few tricks. 1. Roll the wafer dough 1/8-inch thick instead of the standard 1/4-inch. You want a thin, soft wafer that melds into the ice cream as you bite, finishing with wickedly good chocolate crumbs. 3. Bake the chocolate wafers until just set. You may fret thinking they’re still raw, but trust me and remove from the oven. They firm up as they cool and remain soft through the freezing process. Over-baked wafers become crisp and break easily. 4. After baking, place the cooled, empty, parchment-lined cookie sheets in the freezer for 15 minutes before filling. This helps prevent melting as you work—especially when the kitchen becomes hot during the summer months. 6. Soften the ice cream slightly—just enough to scoop—approximately 12 to 15 seconds in the microwave. 7. Working in batches, place six cookies on a flat working surface and fill with ice cream. Top with a second cookie. Lightly press the sandwiches to distribute the ice cream. Using clean hands quickly press the sprinkles or decorations on the sides of the sandwich. 9. Set the sandwiches on the cold cookie sheet in the freezer and firm up for several hours. Repeat the process until completed. 10. Hide your favorite ice cream sandwiches deep in the freezer or they’ll mysteriously disappear when you’re not looking. Today’s indulgence is tomorrow’s sweet memory.   Print a copy of my Chocolate Wafer Ice Cream Sandwiches recipe for your convenience.

Bring On the Berries!
Strawberries and Cream Pie

 Hello Gorgeous!

What makes this summer pie is so irresistible? Perhaps it’s the whole, glazed strawberries or the luscious layer of whipped cream cheese filling in a graham cracker crust. Or the fragrance that wafts up from the ripe, deep red berries? Then again, consider tossing your fork and swirling the strawberries in the cream with your fingers. No matter what—it’s pure pleasure to the last bite.

For the cook, it’s an easy, make-ahead pie. Just one important thing to remember: select the strawberries with care as the pie depends almost entirely on them for its flavor. Here are a few tips that will make your Strawberries and Cream pie a delicious showstopper.

First, trust me when I say never, never buy supermarket strawberries for this pie, as they will disappoint. Bred for size, shipping and long shelf life, these berries lack flavor, fragrance and depth of color.

Count on a trusted farmers market, independent produce dealer or farm stand and don’t be afraid to be picky. You’ll find the most wonderful small to medium sized, older strawberry varieties that are delicious and nutritious.

Selecting Strawberries:

Once picked, strawberries do not ripen further—so don’t waste your money on mediocre berries in hopes that they’ll improve over time. It’s better to select perfectly ripe berries and enjoy them within a day or two.

  1. Smell and examine your strawberries carefully. They should be fragrant, fairly firm and a deep red color with attached green caps.
  2. Promptly discard any moldy, shriveled or soft, squishy strawberries found among the good ones. Also get rid of berries with loose, discolored caps. All of these flaws are signs of age and possible mold, which can spread quickly and ruin the whole bunch.
  3. Do not purchase tightly packed baskets of strawberries that only reveal the top layer. They could be damaged and decaying underneath.
  4. Reject bleeding baskets of strawberries—another sign of age and decay.

Storing Strawberries:

Strawberries are best eaten within a day of purchase, but will keep for 2–3 days in the refrigerator when stored properly. For very best flavor, bring them to room temperature before using.

  1. Store berries unwashed, then rinse just prior to use.
  2. Store strawberries in the refrigerator in a paper bag or an airtight plastic container lined with paper towels to absorb moisture. Never store them in plastic bags, which speed decomposition.
  3. Do not store strawberries on the open counter exposed to sunlight and high temperatures.
  4. Check stored berries daily and remove any moldy, shriveled or soft ones. This helps keep the rest from rotting as well.

And now, the Strawberries and Cream Pie.

 

Print out a copy of my Strawberries and Cream Pie recipe for your convenience.

 

 

 

 

Dressed to Impress; Mastering Classic Vinaigrette

 

Growing up, bottled salad dressings were the norm at my parent’s house. Italian and Thousand Island mainly, sometimes French. Who knew how long they’d been in the refrigerator because they always tasted the same with their flavor enhancers, stabilizers and additives. I just poured, swished and consumed. Then as a novice cook learning the five mother sauces, I discovered vinaigrettes. Oh my, salads were never the same again.

Vinaigrette’s  in their simplest form use highest-quality oils and vinegars or freshly squeezed citrus juice with a little salt and pepper before whisked into an emulsion.  More complex versions may include a variety of fresh herbs, garlic, shallots, onions or mustard.

There is no definitive vinaigrette recipe. Classically, one begins with four parts oil and one part vinegar, or a more tart mixture of three parts oil and one part vinegar.

When conjuring vinaigrette, think of yourself as a chemist selecting the perfect components, measuring, whisking, tasting, adjusting—ultimately balancing the flavors and seasonings so that your palate sings. First, what greens are you using? A mild Boston or Bibb lettuce calls for a light dressing while crisp Romaine, red lettuce and stronger greens require a more robust sauce.

A first cold-press extra-virgin olive oil is one your best all-around choices because it blends well with many different vinegars. Hazelnut and walnut oils lend a deep, nutty richness to salads with pears and apples. Flavored oils like lemon and blood orange provide a subtle zing, while flavorless vegetable oils add structure.

Vinegars come in a huge variety of flavors and strengths and can make or break your vinaigrette. Experiment with red wine, Champagne, sherry and apple cider vinegars as well as the fruity varieties like raspberry. Remember one cardinal rule: never buy cheap acidic vinegars, as you will get exactly what you pay for— the puckers.

I love salads every day, especially simple mixed greens with freshly picked herbs, torn not chopped. My vinaigrette of choice is three tablespoons of extra-virgin oil with one tablespoon of Cabernet red wine vinegar. Add a clove of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and I’m in alchemist heaven.

Preparing vinaigrette isn’t difficult, but it does require mastery of a technique known as “emulsion”—vigorous whisking to bring oil and vinegar together into a homogeneous blend. Give it a try.
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1.Place the base ingredients in the bowl as directed in your recipe.

 

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2.Add the oil in a thin, steady stream while whisking the mixture vigorously.

 

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3.If at any time the emulsion begins to look “broken” or curdled, stop adding the oil and continue to whisk until smooth.

 

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4.Continue adding oil very gradually until finished.

 

Toss the greens with vinaigrette.

 

Wash and dry your greens thoroughly before dressing. Excess water will dilute your vinaigrette. Add just enough dressing to lightly coat each leaf.

Vinaigrettes are best made a few minutes before using, but can be stored a day or two and re-whisked. But why? Fresh is best.

 

Print a copy of my How To Make an Emulsion for your convenience.

 

 

Easter Egg Salad Sandwiches

-+Easter egg salad sandwich recipe.

 

The bunny has come and gone. The family egg hunt and brunch is over. I, on the other hand have a truckload of green bunny grass to clean up and a dozen colored eggs left in the fridge.

Call me weird but the only thing on my mind at the moment is an egg salad sandwich.

I absolutely love them and the day after Easter–it’s my kind of “holiday”. The recipe is simple and delicious with a bit of Dijon mustard and green scallions for kick and crunch. The fun comes when chopping up the leftover eggs stained brilliant shades of blue, green, pink, orange and yellow. Edible confetti.

Easter egg salad has been a family favorite at my house since the kids were tiny. As toddlers, they dropped and cracked lots of eggs on their way in and out of the dye pots. When peeling the eggs, we all discovered the interiors were stained the same colors! What fun. From then on everyone began cracking and peeling the eggs and a tradition was born.

Today, Sammy kept buzzing around the kitchen waiting for me to whip up the egg salad for lunch. Silly boy. I put him to work.

 

Peel hard-cooked Easter egg.

 

Before he knew it, I pulled up the stool and handed him an egg to peel. Let’s make this together.

 

Cut Easter hard-cooked egg.

 

Here, let me show you how to chop the egg with a big, sharp knife. Don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand.

 

Mix Easter egg salad for sandwiches.

 

Place the eggs, mayo, mustard, scallions and salt and pepper in the bowl. Mix it up gently.

 

Slather egg salad on bread.

 

Now spread it all around the first piece of bread. It’s OK to slop it over a little.

 

Cut egg salad sandwich in half.

 

“Here, Ma—I made you a sandwich—it’s the best one ever.” And so it was, for more than one reason.

 

Print out a copy of Easter Egg Salad Sandwiches for your convenience.

The Amazing, Erupting Volcano Cake

The Amazing Exploding Volcano Cake

 

It smokes, it gurgles and bubbles, then spews orange marshmallow lava over a dark chocolate mountain of cake. The crowd goes wild!

I made my first Amazing Erupting Volcano Cake several years ago when Chef Catherine Christiansen sent the recipes for her Beyond Wonderful baking column. At first glance they seemed complex, but with a bit of planning the cake was easy and came together quickly. This cake is all about fun so don’t get hung up on perfection. Embrace all its lumps, bumps and crumbs—they add character and keep you sane.

First pick a theme, then let your imagination soar. I’ve made this cake with dinosaurs, super heroes…

 

Star Wars on the Amazing Erupting Volcano Cake.

 

Star Wars characters and …

 

Zombies on the Amazing Erupting Volcano Cake
…zombies—lots of zombies slipping and sliding in  green slime.

You’ll find everything you need at cake supply, party and toy stores; from small bottles of brilliant red, orange and turquoise food coloring to plastic trees, edible rocks and a variety of characters, candles and costumes for added party fun.

 

Theme parties like Star Wars with the cake.

 

Who can resist Darth Vadar and a Jedi Master blowing up the Amazing Erupting Volcano cake?

 

Zombie face paint makes the exploding cake even more fun.

And with a little face paint and disgusting teeth, this birthday boy looks like he jumped off the zombie cake.

I bake the cakes and prepared the black chocolate and green buttercreams and the Kahlúa soaking syrup the day before assembly. Next day, I frost the cakes, made the sugar lava and lake and color the marshmallow lava. Assembly is a breeze and great fun. Once the Amazing Volcano stands before me in all its glory, I just can’t wait to blow it up! When it’s time, everyone gathers and holds their breath as I fuel the cake with cubes of dry ice, hot water, and warm lava. Then it starts—a little smoke—a few bubbles—lots of hoots and hollers—and over the side it goes. “That is so cool! I want that cake for my birthday.” “WOW!” Soon the group joins in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday with intermittent giggles as the volcano continues its spectacular show.

 

Cutting the amazing erupting volcano cake.

 

As the lava…or oozing slime slows, everyone goes for the cake and just can’t believe how good it is. More than a few have a second piece, but my mind is always on the leftover chocolate frosting. No matter how delicious—and how spectacular—the cake, it’s hard to beat the thrill of pure buttercream, sneaked on the sly. Give me a spoon.

 

See more photos from the hilarious zombie birthday party on our Facebook page.

 

Get a printable copy of The Amazing Erupting Volcano Cake.