Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint chocolate chip ice cream is one of my favorite flavors, and it’s not very difficult to make. You just need a good vanilla ice cream recipe, chocolate, and some mint flavoring. I have the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer. I was using the vanilla ice cream recipe that came with it, but it never came out exactly how I hoped. I stumbled upon this recipe from the New York Times. It’s called “the only ice cream recipe you’ll ever need” for a reason! I used 2% milk instead of whole milk (it was all I had in the fridge) and it turned out great.

I added 1 tsp vanilla to the cream/milk/sugar mixture at the beginning of the recipe. After it finished cooking and had several hours to chill in the fridge, I added 1 tsp of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring before churning for 20 minutes. I added half a bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to the ice cream at the end (with about 2 minutes of churning time remaining). I transferred the ice cream to storage containers and let it hang out in the fridge overnight to get a little firmer – but of course I ate a little bit right away, too. So good!

Granola Bars

granola barsMy wife had a bag of granola that she was snacking on, but once she was about halfway through it was too crumbly to eat unless she made ate it with milk like a cereal. She asked me to make her some granola bars with it.

The recipe in this post is one I made a really long time ago that didn’t use pre-made granola, but I used a similar process for the bars from the pre-made granola. You’ll want to use less honey and brown sugar if you’re making them from pre-made granola – I think I used 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup butter, and 2 tbsp brown sugar for every 2 cups of granola. If this doesn’t seem like enough to keep them together, keep adding melted butter and honey a tablespoon at a time until the everything is coated. You also do not need to toast pre-made granola because it’s already been baked.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can easily change the ingredients. I really like pineapple, but if you don’t, you could use dried apricots or cherries instead. You can also swap out some of the fruit for a different type of nut, reduce the amount of oats and add some flax seed, or use two types of nuts instead of just walnuts.

The Tastefully Simple silicone bar pan is amazing for making granola bars. I’ve made them on a sheet pan with a silpat before, which is fine, but the bar pan is an easy way to make bars all the same size. The silicone also prevents sticking. If you use a regular pan to make these, trust me, you will need to definitely use a silicone baking mat or line your pan with parchment paper. If not, you will be chiseling them out of the pan.

Ingredients

4 cups oats
2 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla (optional)
1 ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp kosher salt (use ¼ tsp if you don’t use any fruit)
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup dried pineapple, chopped into pieces similar in size to the cranberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix oats and walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Add honey and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and everything is combined. Add cinnamon and vanilla.

Mix dried fruit, oats, and walnuts in a large bowl. Pour liquid mixture over the dry mix and stir until everything is evenly coated with the liquid.

Place the bar pan on a baking sheet. Use a spoon to fill each compartment of the bar pan. (Warning – if your bar pan is not silicone, don’t attempt to use if for this recipe! You will be chiseling granola out for days. Instead, use a baking pan completely lined with parchment paper – including the sides.)

Press each bar firmly with the back of the spoon until each compartment is packed. If you have empty compartments after using all of the granola mixture, fill them abut halfway with water. (Not sure why this is necessary, but the directions for the bar pan say to do this.)

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the bars become golden brown and the outside edges start to get crispy. Let cool for about an hour. The bars should come out of the pan pretty easily once they’re cooled. If they are too buttery, place them on a cookie rack to drain once they’re cool.

Mini Chocolate Cakes

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I had a party yesterday afternoon and needed a quick and easy dessert to make. I was already running behind schedule. I had some chocolate pound cake mix, which would be super easy to do something with. (I’m totally serious – you just add butter and water to this magical mix!)

Ingredients

1 package Tastefully Simple Classy Chocolate Pound Cake Mix
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup water
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 ¾ cups heavy cream
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar

If you want to use store bought whipped cream, you don’t need the powdered sugar or vanilla, and you only need 1 ¾ cups heavy cream.

Instructions

Cake

Mix the pound cake mix, melted butter, and water. Grease two 9-inch round pans. I probably would’ve used a jelly roll pan if I had one. Make sure you set your cakes up to bake flat. I have these Wilton bake even strips that go around the pan to promote even baking. A Cozy Kitchen also had a DIY method here. I totally forgot to use the strips, which is why you see some uneven layers in the photo.

Bake at 325 for about 15-18 minutes. I think I did 12 minutes, tested, and put it back for another 5. Like a regular cake, a toothpick will come out clean when it’s done. Don’t be scared if the toothpick comes out clean and the cake still looks a little jiggly in the center.

Cool cakes fully before assembling.

Filling

Beat 1 ¾ heavy cream until it thickens slightly. Add ¼ cup milk and the packet of pudding mix. Beat for 2 minutes. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Whipped Cream

Beat 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¼ cup powdered sugar until it’s a whipped cream consistency with stiff peaks. I could’ve beaten mine for a few more minutes. It wasn’t runny, but it wasn’t quite as stiff as I wanted. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembly

Remove the cakes from the pans. (Caution – don’t remove until your cake is fully cooled!) Use a biscuit cutter to cut the cakes into small circular pieces. You can use whatever size cutter you want. The one I used was about 2″ and I was able to get 16 pieces (for 8 cakes). Go smaller if you don’t want people to need a fork.

Use a piping bag to pipe the filling onto each bottom piece. Stack with the top cake piece and top with whipped cream. You could also add some chocolate shavings.

1972 Sugar Cookies

photo-feb-16-7-56-42-pmI have a boatload of cookbooks, but I have to admit, my 1972 Betty Crocker is my go-to for cookie recipes. I made these one night last week after dinner to take to work the next day. So yeah, I didn’t chill the dough for 2-3 hours like I was supposed to. I took a shortcut, and they turned out fine.

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He knows just where to hang out. Notice mixer above him and flour on his back leg.

It’s best to chill them in the fridge for the recommended time, but sometimes I just don’t have time for that! The primary purpose of chilling is so the cookies won’t spread too much when you bake them. Chilling the dough helps prevent spreading because it makes the fats in the dough solidify (so they won’t melt when they hit the oven). Anyway, I stuck the dough in the freezer while I was making the frosting and the oven was preheating. After rolling out and cutting a batch of the cookies, I wrapped the leftover portion of the dough and stick it in the fridge. I basically had a rotation of dough portions in and out of the fridge until I was finished.

If you don’t have a Betty Crocker cookbook, this recipe from their website is almost identical to the one in the book I have. The icing is the meringue buttercream from Karen’s Cookies. I used ½ tsp of almond extract instead of ¼.

I also made the powdered sugar in my Vitamix. I actually haven’t purchased powdered sugar since I bought my Vitamix. Test it to make sure it isn’t grainy. Sometimes I have to blend a bit longer.

I frosted them in different patterns. I filled some in completely, did some in a zig-zag (like the photo), and some just had an outline. People have varying degrees of like or dislike of frosting, so I wanted to have a variety since I was taking them to work.

Once the cookies were finished and the icing was solid enough not to get on stuff when it touches, I put the cookies in layers separated by wax paper in my Snapware Snap N’ Stack container with the egg trays removed. I always email my coworkers when I have baked goods available. I had a lot of repeat visitors!

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Strawberries & Cream Filled Cupcakes

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Pretty sure these are the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The filling and buttercream were amazing. I can’t take any credit for a recipe for the actual cake part, so this post focuses on the filling, frosting, and putting it all together at the end. If you need a good vanilla cupcake recipe, try this one from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Ingredients – Filling

2 cups quartered strawberries
⅔ cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy cream
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (have a second package on hand just in case)

You will likely have some left over. This is definitely enough for 3 dozen, maybe even 4 (I’ll report back on this when I make the next batch.) I did 2 dozen and froze the rest of the filing for next time.

Ingredients – Vanilla Buttercream

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter at room temperature
Colored sugar sprinkles or food coloring (optional)

Double the buttercream recipe if you like your icing super high (higher than the photo). This was just enough for 24 cupcakes frosted as shown in the photo.

Instructions

Star baking the cupcakes before you start making the filling. This will allow the cupcakes enough time to cool before you fill and frost them.

Filling

fullsizeoutput_c1bPuree the strawberries. I used the Vitamix, but you could use any blender or food processor.

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook while stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the strawberry puree, combine, cook over low for a few minutes, and put it in the fridge to cool.

Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the strawberry mixture. It’s OK if the strawberry mixture is not super cold at this point, but you don’t want it to be hot. Put the mixture in the fridge to chill. Once mixed, it will need to be cold for the next step. You can move on to the buttercream while it’s chilling.

Once the strawberry-cream mixture is cold (it’s very important for it to be cold!), add the package of vanilla pudding mix and beat for 2 minutes. Give it a few minutes to set. It shouldn’t be runny. It’s OK if it’s looser than a normal pudding or custard, but if it’s flowing right out of your piping bag before you even squeeze, it’s too runny. It’s OK if a small amount drips out.

  • Troubleshooting – Too runny? Make sure you’ve left it in the fridge for several minutes to set. Still too runny? Whisk in another package of pudding mix. Start with half of a package, whisk in for at least a minute, let it sit for a few minutes to see how it sets. Add the rest if needed. Too firm? Whisk in some milk, a little at a time, until it loosens up enough.

Buttercream

photo-feb-11-4-33-01-pmUse the paddle attachment to your stand mixer – bonus if you have one with the flex edge.

Beat butter until it’s fluffy, then beat in the vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar and heavy cream by alternating ½ cup of powdered sugar and ½ tsp of heavy cream. Wait until the powdered sugar is fully incorporated before adding the next ½ cup. (This is a good time to use the pouring shield for your stand mixer. The powdered sugar tends to fly.)

Add sugar sprinkles or food coloring at the end. I just shook the sprinkles in until the buttercream turned pink and the sprinkles were incorporated throughout.

Finish the Cupcakes! 

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Put the piping bag in a mason jar and fold the sides over to make filling it easier

When the cupcakes and filling are fully cooled, use an apple corer to make a hole for the filling in the center of each cupcake.

Add filling to a piping bag. You can also use a plastic zip-top bag with a corner cut off if you don’t have a piping bag. I highly recommend using a piping bag with a tip for this, though, because it really gets the filling distributed throughout the center.

Pipe buttercream on top of each cupcake. I used Wilton tip #32.