Ice Cream Sandwiches

Well, we’ve entered the “feels like the surface of the sun” season out here in the Southwest. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is a hot meal when we are dealing with record breaking heat. I’m kicking off a week of frozen treats and tips for freezing foods with this post devoted to ice cream sandwiches. Is there anything better really? These are so easy to assemble and you can really flex your creative muscle with these. I’m offering suggestions for ingredients you can mix and match to make your own dreamy treats.

Tips for making ice cream sandwiches:

Ice cream sandwiches can be tricky and I’ve had my fair share of epic fails trying to make these. Here are a few tips to help you make amazing ice cream sandwiches.

  • use soft cookies: If you’re baking cookies from scratch or using pre-made cookie dough, be sure to under bake these. If the cookies are crispy fresh out of the oven, they will be like a rock coming out of the freezer.
  • use mini-sized add-ins: Adding in chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, cookie pieces, cake pieces or any other add-in? Remember, these will freeze and become hard when frozen. I recommend using mini-chocolate chips or candies. For larger add-ins, just chop them up before mixing into the ice cream.
  • make in small batches: Because you’ll be working with melting ice cream, I recommend making small batches at a time. You can always wrap individual sandwiches in freezer paper and store them in larger containers.
  • match cookie halves in advance: There is nothing more stressful than trying to find a cookie half to complete your sandwich while ice cream melts and drips all over the place. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything. For this reason, I love to use my Pampered Chef Ice Cream Sandwich Maker. This ensures uniform cookie halves and is easy to assemble and release. As an added bonus, you can bake your cookies, brownies, cakes, etc in this handy gadget. As an even bigger bonus, you can toss this bad boy into the dishwasher when you’re done. Holy Dishwasher Safe Kitchen Gadgets, Batman! One more thing, since these are square, buy the square shaped containers of ice cream and slice that up into squares while it’s frozen. Boom, ice cream filling to match the size of the cookie part.

What to use for the cookie part:

So many choices here to create endless possibilities for amazing desserts. My favorites include:

  • chocolate chip cookies
  • peanut butter cookies
  • waffles
  • stroopwaffle cookies
  • pies
  • brownies
  • churros
  • donuts
  • gooey butter cake cookies

There are endless possibilities for making unique ice cream sandwiches. Donuts and cake batter ice cream, lemon sorbet between sugar cookies and so many more.

My favorite flavor combinations

  1. Tiramisu: angel food cake with cappuccino ice cream. Freeze and dip in chocolate. *Friendly tip: after slicing your angel food cake, roll it with a rolling pin to flatten it out a bit.
  2. Dreamsicle: vanilla wafers and swirl orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream or orange cookies with vanilla ice cream
  3. Chocolate cake mix cookies with vanilla
  4. Brownies with peanut butter ice cream
  5. Waffles with maple ice cream or snickerdoodle ice cream
  6. Stroopwaffle cookies with coffee ice cream
  7. Chocolate cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream: Devil’s food cake mix cookies are amazing to use with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  8. Lemon bar ice cream sandwiches: shortbread cookie/butter cookie, lemon curd and vanilla ice cream for the filling
  9. Frozen Greek yogurt: add sugar, key lime juice, key lime zest, vanilla to Greek yogurt. Freeze between graham cracker sheets. Boom, key lime pie treats. For an added treat, after freezing these, dip them in white chocolate. You can do this with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, whatever kind of fruit combo you like. You can even get really fancy and make some shortbread cookies with basil and pair with a frozen strawberry Greek yogurt mixture.
  10. S’mores: cinnamon graham cracker sheets, caramel Greek yogurt, vanilla, sugar, splash of coffee or coffee liqueur, marshmallow cream, dip in chocolate

Which ones are your favorites? Let me know how these turn out when you try them.

Cheers!

-The Nerdy Cajun Chef

Meal Prepping Post 3: Going to the store

Welcome back to the third post in a series on meal prepping and meal planning.  Today we’re going to focus on taking inventory, going to the store and meal prepping.

Check your inventory

First things first: go through your fridge and freezer and see what you have and what may need to be used up sooner.  Have some veggies that have been hanging out in your fridge for a week?  Find a recipe to use those first.

Step 2: Look to see what’s on sale.  I usually pick 1 type of meat and focus meal planning with that type of meat first.  Is ground turkey on sale?  Then we’re having turkey burgers, turkey tacos, turkey stir-fry bowls, etc.  Are whole chickens on sale?  Great, buy 2 and roast both of them.  Save the bones to make stock and use the chicken for chicken salad, soups, sandwiches, wraps, etc.

Step 3: Pick your recipes.  It seems odd that this is step 3 for going to the store, but once you see what’s on sale, you can better plan your meals.  Several of the couponing sites will post sale ads several days before the sale, giving you extra time to plan.  This is the point at which you want to evaluate your week and see what your schedule will allow you to do.  Do you have a particularly busy week coming up?  If so, select at least 1 slow cooker meal and 1 sheet pan dinner.  Are you trying to spend less money this week?  If so, google for budget dinners.  Pick at least 1 recipe to double so you have ample leftovers.

Step 4: Write a list.  Yes, really, make a list and stick to it.  Also, eat something before you go to the store.  You’ll have more patience and avoid impulse purchases because you won’t be hungry.  Include a back up plan on your list.  This will cover working late, someone getting sick, a last minute school project that must be completed, etc.  I usually grab a frozen pizza to keep in the freezer.

Step 5: Go shopping!  I prefer to go early in the day because I hate crowds.  Talk about setting off my anxiety…..

How to pick meals for the week

choosing_recipes

Welcome back, friends!  Today is post #2 in my series on meal prepping and meal planning.  Yesterday, I gave y’all some tips for stocking your pantry without breaking the bank.  Today we are going to talk meal picking strategies.  There are a few pitfalls to avoid here:

  1. choosing all new recipes to try
  2. choosing recipes with wildly different ingredient lists
  3. choosing recipes that require lots of prep and/or cook time
  4. choosing food that will not give you leftovers

 

So let me share some tips to help avoid these pitfalls, which often lead to spending more at the grocery store and/or eating out because the recipes are too time consuming.

Picking all new recipes to try

I recommend trying 1 new recipe a week.  Planning a week of all new meals can be overwhelming and very time consuming.  Pick recipes that you are comfortable with making so you don’t have to spend copious amounts of time reading complicated recipes.  Try 1 or 2 (at the most) new recipes a week to make meal prepping fun and to keep variety in your cooking.  If I get bored with the food I’m eating, I’ll start eating out.

Picking recipes with wildly different ingredient lists

Using common ingredients simplifies your meal prep and keeps your grocery bill down.  For up front prep work, common ingredients cut down on time spent in the kitchen and cut down on the grocery bill.  If you’re roasting a chicken for one meal, buy 2 chickens at the store and roast both of them.  Use the left over chicken for tacos, enchiladas, salads, sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes, etc.  Cook in the slow cooker and use the meat for tacos and add BBQ sauce to make a pulled pork sandwich (or even BBQ nachos).

Picking recipes that require a lot of cook time during the week.

If you’re spending time on the weekend prepping some food for the week, the last thing you want to do is get home late from work and have to spend an hour or more cooking dinner.  If you need chopped onions for 3 recipes, chop all the onions on the weekend.  If 2 recipes require rice, cook all the rice you need on the weekend and portion it out for meals during the week.

Pick food that will leave you with leftovers.

Hello lunch for the next day!  Leftovers can be easily portioned out and packaged up the night before to save you time in the morning.  Leftovers can be re-purposed into different recipes to add variety to your week.  This roasted chicken and vegetable soup is one of my favorites.  Roasted veggies are great in soups, on salads, in wraps, in tacos, etc.  Roast a couple pans of veggies and use those in multiple recipes.

2 bonus tips: 

1. Make sure you use up the food that needs to be eaten quickly (produce on the verge of going bad? cook with those foods first).

2. Cook food you know you like.  Seems obvious, I know but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cooked something thinking “maybe I’ll like it this time” and then the food doesn’t even get eaten the day I cook it.  This is where the “1 new recipe a week” rule can help out too.

So, now we’ve covered stocking your pantry and avoiding pitfalls when it comes to choosing recipes for the week.  Up next, sample menus for your week of meal planning.  Stay tuned…..

Stock your pantry without breaking the bank

Meal planning made easier (1)We are gearing up for back to school time around here (year round school will be an adjustment for sure).  This means our lazy days of fixing meals at home whenever we want are few and far between.  It also means I need to get organized and crank out some meal prepping awesomeness to avoid eating takeout or fast food every night.  Not that we don’t do takeout or fast food ever, but I am desperately trying to improve our family eating habits over here.  First up, cleaning out my pantry and seriously taking stock of what we have, what we will reasonably eat and what we need.

What items do I keep stocked during the school year for meal prep and lunches?

Rice & Grains:  I rarely have all of these at the same time.  I try to rotate these around to keep the food interesting enough that we all want to eat it.

brown rice
quinoa
couscous (try Israeli couscous for a more pasta-like taste)
barley
polenta
pasta (I try to keep spaghetti and a smaller sized pasta for pasta salads)

Basic seasonings

olive oil
canola oil or grapeseed oil (these are neutral tasting oils)
apple cider vinegar
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper
cumin
oregano
nutritional yeast
Italian seasoning blend
Southwest seasoning blend
**I stock up on seasonings and pick up 1-2 every time I shop.  I recommend curry, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, garlic salt and pretty much any seasoning you can put in your spice cabinet.  Start small so you’re not breaking the bank.

Baking needs & sweeteners

white whole wheat flour
sugar: white and light brown
maple syrup
baking powder
baking soda
vanilla
cream of tartar
cocoa
cornmeal
cornstarch

Cereal & Breakfast

rolled oats
nuts: cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts (I rotate these based on what’s on sale)
sunflower seed butter (or peanut butter, cashew butter, etc)
dried fruit: craisins & blueberries are a favorite around here
applesauce
breakfast cereal

Snacks

popcorn kernels (seriously, buy these and pop your own.  Saves $$ and doesn’t come with all the nasty chemicals)
crackers
pretzels
cookies
pita chips/tortilla chips

Canned/Jarred items

salsa
chicken broth or vegetable broth
beans (dried and canned)
tomato paste
marinara
pizza sauce
jelly
mustard: yellow & dijon
ketchup

How to save money when it comes to stocking your pantry

  1. Know what you and your family like.  I try to eat clean and introduce new foods into the house, but rather than buying a whole bunch of stuff you’ve never tried, buy 1 new grain to try and stick with staples that you know will work.  Otherwise, the food sits in your pantry until it expires or you move and have to clean it out (speaking from personal experience)a
  2.  Know what’s about to expire and use that up first. 
  3. Look for sales and clip coupons. There are oodles of websites devoted to telling you the best deals at every grocery store in town every week.  These sites are huge time savers so take advantage.
  4. Make it yourself.  At some point, things become so time intensive that it’s so much easier to just buy it already made.  One example of something quick to make at home and save money at the same time are nut butters.  I bought a bag of raw cashews from Trader Joe’s for $7.99.  I used 2 cups of cashews out of the bag (still have 2 cups left in the bag) and processed this in my food processor for 10 minutes.  I can get 2 jars of cashew butter out of 1 bag of cashews making a jar of cashew butter cost me $4 a jar to make.  I’ve seen cashew butter *on sale* for $10 a jar (or more some places).  That’s an insane amount of savings for me.  Also, if you haven’t tried cashew butter, it’s seriously amazing.  So, make yourself some!
  5. Shop online.  Depending on your family’s dietary needs, buying online may be worth the membership prices.  Thrive Market has amazing deals on organic items for all different diets.  Brandless also has great prices (it’s all $3).  **I am not an affiliate for either place.  I just have experience as a customer.**

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

I have a confession to make. I love love love granola bars, but I haven’t been able to make them because every time I cut the bars, the whole thing falls apart. So, I used to be really good at making granola to go on top of yogurt, but a bar that you could easily pack in a lunch was my kryptonite. I needed something nut free and dairy free for school and my daughter’s allergy respectively. I was so excited to get my hands on this bar pan and try it out. Y’all, it did not disappoint. These bars are so good and are loaded with good things (blueberries, quinoa, oats, flax). I was so excited to pop these out of the bar pan and have them all come out with no breaking, no crumbling and no sticking to the pan.

Why oats, quinoa, flax and blueberries?

My kiddo has a dairy allergy and rarely eats meat. We have to make sure she’s getting protein, iron, calcium and all that other good stuff in her diet. Oats, quinoa and flax all have good fiber and iron. Quinoa is a great source of protein (flax and oats have protein too). Blueberries are a powerhouse in their own right with antioxidants, calcium, B-6, fiber and other nutrients.

**Also, and this is important too: I had all of these ingredients in my kitchen. It’s supposed to be 108 here today, so I’m a fan of not having to go outside to make a grocery store run.

How to make these?

I’ve put the recipe on a handy graphic for reference. I hate having to read through pages and pages and step by step instructions before I can see the recipe. So, I made this graphic and you get it with minimal scrolling through some personal story that you’re probably not interested in at the moment if you’re scrambling to find a recipe that works with what you have. At least, that’s how I feel if I’m wanting to try a recipe. Enjoy!

Interesting in the magical bar pan I used??? Click here to see what it’s all about.

Summer Soups

Chilled Soup Recipes

Continuing on with our theme of summer recipes that require minimal cooking, I present to you the chilled summer soups that will knock your socks off! I love a good gazpacho, but these soups take flavor to a whole different level. Salmorejo is one of my favorites because it is so rich. Definitely don’t skimp on the toppings for the soup. Serrano ham is fantastic with some boiled eggs and a bit of manchego cheese. Mmmmmmmm…….Here are my top 5 favorite chilled soups.

1. Salmorejo: A Spanish gazpacho with a richer, more decadent feel. Adding the crusty bread really makes this soup something special.

2. Chilled Macadamia Nut and Asparagus Soup: Ummmm, it’s macadamia nuts. Need I say more? Oh wait! There’s asparagus too. It doesn’t get much more spring/early summer than asparagus. Do you know how to tell what part of the asparagus to cut off? Just bend the asparagus until it breaks on its own. No need to guess. The asparagus will tell you.

3. Chilled Vegan Corn and Cauliflower Bisque: Ok, now this has me thinking of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine says, “No, I mentioned the bisque.” It’s the yadda yadda episode and it’s fantastic. I love this soup because it’s awesome and my daughter adores it. It’s dairy free but oh-so-good and she just devours it.

4. Thai Gazpacho: Sweet, salty, spicy….everything I love about Thai food. The coconut milk adds a richness and I love love love fresh ginger and the s-iciness it contributes.

5. Moroccan carrot bisque: I love a good, carrot bisque and I love a good chilled carrot bisque. Black peppercorn on top is a must. If you like a little extra spice, drizzle some chili oil, hot sauce or Tobasco sauce (I’m part Cajun, so Tobasco is required). Serve it warm, room temp or chilled. Along with some crusty bread and OMG this dish is amazing!

I’m still on the hunt for more chilled summer soups. A lot of the ones I see are very sweet and almost ice-cream like. This is great for a dessert, but not what I want for a light dinner. Have some favorite summer soups to recommend? Leave me a comment and a link below.