Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ice cream cake

Right now I'm not able to work out and it's starting to drive me crazy.  A big part of the way that I manage stress in my life is by exercising regularly and a big part of the way I manage my weight is also by exercising.  Now, after 3 sedentary weeks, I want to eat ALL THE FOOD that we have.  Just sit on the couch and eat it.  So, today, instead of eating the food and watching the television, I'm sitting outside watching some random people play tennis and looking at pictures of food.  I was remembering how amazing this dessert was when I made it for a fun, summer pool party we had this summer.  It's still about 90 degrees here in So Cal so it would still be fun to make this if you have any weekend plans with a bunch of people.

This is a fake ice cream cake - you layer ice cream sandwiches instead of baking any cake.  It was really, really good.  Desserts in 9x13 pans are funny - sometimes it seems like it won't stretch far enough and other times, you end up with a ton leftover.  I fed 10 adults and 8 kids with this recipe and had about 1 large piece leftover.  It's pretty rich and it will feed a lot of friends!  You can substitute the peanut butter chips with actual peanuts or other chopped up candy (peanut butter cups? snickers? the possibilities are endless).  
Photo credits:  Big

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

1 (16oz) can of chocolate syrup (the Hersheys kind - not hot fudge)
3/4 cup peanut butter (the smooth kind)
19 ice cream sandwiches (regular size)
1 (12oz) container of Cool Whip
1 cup peanut butter chips (or other nuts or candy)

Heat the chocolate syrup in the microwave or on the stove until it's hot but don't boil.  Stir peanut butter into hot chocolate until smooth.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a layer of ice cream sandwiches.  Spread half of the whipped topping over them.

Spoon half the the chocolate mixture over that.  Top with half of the peanut butter chips.  Repeat layers.  Freeze until firm, at least one hour.  Cut into squares to serve.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Baking with Little

I had the strongest sense of deja vu the other morning when it was me and Little at home while sisters were in school and she asked me to "make." It reminded me of when Middle would do the same thing after Big started school.  There's something about being the only one at home - the only one who gets to dump, mix, and taste without having to take turns - that makes baking sound like extra fun.  Of course, she wanted to do it right away.  I hadn't been planning on it and had no softened butter so I played around with my usual oatmeal chocolate chip recipe to substitute vegetable oil.

The results weren't bad - not quite as soft and chewy but still really yummy.  And, my house smelled amazing all morning!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (made 4 dozen)

2 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
2 large eggs
4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dump in everything except the chocolate chips and cranberries.  Beat until the dough is moist and the ingredients are combined.  The dough might be a little crumbly.  If it's too dry, add a little more oil, a tablespoon at a time.

Either using your hands or a small scoop, form balls about a tablespoon in size and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Taco seasoning

With soccer and school underway, I've been serving a steady rotation of some family favorites - tacos, grilled salmon, and spaghetti are three of those easy meals that everybody around here loves.  With all the tacos lately, it was time to make a new batch of taco seasoning.

I originally posted a link to this on one of my rants about hidden msg in food but I thought I'd share the whole recipe.  You can tweak it for your family's tastes.  I don't find it to be spicy (even with the red pepper flakes) but feel free to add a little less or more of a particular ingredient.  I was out of garlic powder and left it out this time.  This amount usually lasts me a few months and I sprinkle it over ground turkey or beef for tacos but it's also come in handy for enchilada casseroles and other dishes.  It's way cheaper than buying packets of taco seasoning and I think it tastes better too!

Taco Seasoning (from
Makes about 1 cup

1/4 c. + 1 T chili powder
1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 T + 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 T + 2 tsp sea salt
1 T + 2 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients together, place in a glass jar and store with your spices.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Still summer!

My kids have been back to school for a week now and we're getting into soccer and our fall routine, but it's definitely still summer in southern California1  While I daydream about pumpkin desserts and look at crock pot recipes on Pinterest, the reality is that I'm still cooking like summer - grilling and eating a lot of salads.

Here's one of our favorite recent salad dinners.  I doubled the chicken and marinade and used the grilled chicken for two different meals.  It's really versatile and my kids love it this way.  You can grill or roast the chicken and if you want a gluten free version of this recipe, white rice is a decent substitution for the orzo.

Lemon Orzo Salad with Chicken and Asparagus

2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup orzo
8-12 asparagus spears
2 cups packed fresh spinach
juice of 2 lemons (divided)
1/3 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Make the chicken marinade:  Combine yogurt, coriander, cumin, garlic salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a large ziplock bag.  Add chicken breasts and massage to completely coat.  Refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 415 degrees.  Toss the asparagus with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 10-15 minutes or until crisp tender.  Chop into 1 inch pieces.
Chop fresh spinach and put in a large bowl.  Cook the orzo according to package instructions.  Drain and stir it together with the fresh spinach (it'll wilt the spinach slightly).  Add the asparagus to the bowl.

Grill or roast the chicken breasts until cooked through (I put mine on the same pan as the asparagus when the asparagus was done and then roasted it at 450 for about 15 minutes).  Slice into thin slices.  Toss with the orzo and vegetables.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and toss.  Add more lemon juice or a drizzle of olive oil if it seems dry.

Sprinkle feta on top and serve warm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The rest of the summer in photos

The time since my last post is the longest I've ever gone on this blog.  Even when I've had babies, worked a ton, and been out of town or the country for long stretches, I've managed to post.  I don't have a great excuse just that I was soaking up every minute of summer and I didn't take my laptop anywhere with me this year.  So, here's a little recap of what's happened since my last post.  In photos.  It was hard to choose but this should give you an idea!  And now that the kids are back to school and a somewhat "normal" schedule is in place, I hope to be back to posting recipes and pictures more often!  If you're still here, thank you!

Middle turned 5 years old!
We had an amazing visit with these ladies

Such fun memories and friendships - I'm so glad they came to visit.
Then, we travelled to Kauai for almost 3 weeks.  Little swam every day, even with pneumonia.

We met lots of God's creatures, including this sea cucumber that Middle loved so much she cried when we returned him to his ocean home.

It was astonishingly beautiful - even a walk down the road had this type of backdrop

I didn't take enough pictures but I have great memories of the time spent with siblings, parents, and cousins.

Big grew up right before my eyes into this tall, confident (tan!) almost 8 year old

Lots of island and tide pool exploring.  

"In the waves, and the water"

We tried stand up Paddle boarding which soon led to Big's desire to surf
Almost every morning it was this beautiful and I sat and watched my kids in their element
Middle snorkeling with Daddy
Big finally surfing.  She was a natural and loved every minute out on the water.
It's not so sad to come home from vacation when you have visitors waiting for you!
More fun girl time with our Seattle friends
One more of sweet AJ!