Easy Ice Cream Cakes ~

My family is a big clan of Ice Cream Cakes lovers.  So I decided to play around with making them.  Now, it's one of my "hit" and one of my family's favorite requested desserts.  My grandkids even get to design their own for each of their Birthdays.  This was my grandson's choice of Moose Track Ice Cream cake and it was a big hit.  I try to add a little color with candies for decoration.

The recipe is simple and it only takes a few ingredients to make. And the possibilities are endless.  Please give making this easy dessert for one of your family members and you will be so happy you did.  This is a fail proof, yet easy thing to make.  And it will be the hit at any party, trust me on this.....


2 & 1/2 sleeves of oreo cookies
2 quarts really good ice cream (you can even do two different kinds)
9 inch spring form pan
candies of your choice

Soften you ice cream on the counter for about 1/2 hour before making.  You want it soft to medium soft, not soupy.

In the beginning, I used a sleeve of oreos for the bottom and a sleeve for the middle then the 1/2 sleeve for the tops.  So I put them in the food processor seperately.  Now, I just wing it and put the whole 2 & 1/2 sleeves of oreo cookies in at once. Whichever way you chose, it will be fine.  As you can see in my pictures, these are very rustic looking cakes.  But you can finish off the sides more if you want by adding more oreo crumbs and candy around the bottom edges if you would like.  Mine gets gobbled up so quickly, I don't bother.

Line your spring form pan with plastic wrap, making sure you cover the bottom and sides with an overlap of about 2 inches.

Pulse one sleeve of oreo cookies in a food processor for a few seconds to break up cookies.  Then turn it on for 2 minutes to really crush up cookies.

Press the cookies into the bottom of your spring form pan.  Using the back of a spoon, pack it down, making sure you get all the way to the edges.

Take one of your quarts of ice cream and by the spoonful, make one layer on top of your cookie crust.  Place in freezer.  If you are using soft candy and want to add it to the middle layer, which I do, then chop up about 1/2 cup.  Grind up second sleeve of oreo cookies and set aside.  Bring cake out of the freezer.  Spoon on, kind of evenly, the oreo mixture.  Sprinke with your chopped candy and press down a little with the back of spoon.  Now spoon the second quart of ice cream on top.  Smooth it with an offset spatula, but don't fuss too much.  Place cake back in freezer.  Grind up your 1/2 sleeve of oreo cookies in the food processor.  And whatever candy you want to decorate with, just cut it in larger chunks.  Don't chop it.  This looks nicer on top, I think.  Bring your cake out of the freezer and decorate away. On the top, I spoon the oreos around the edges and some right in the center.  Then place any candy you want to decorate with, around the edges and some in the middle. Cover your cake with plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight.  About 20 minutes before you want to serve the cake, take out of the freezer and remove the spring form pan.  Carefully remove the plastic wrap and place on a platter. 

You can make this easy cake with many different themes and flavors.  It will be a hit at your next Holiday, or family birthday party.  I make a simple chocolate sauce of butter, sugar and bittersweet chocolate (with a bit of cream at the end), to drizzle over each slice. 

My granddaughter's birthday was a month ago and she wanted Mint Chocolate Chip.  Remember if you add hard candy, do so just on top, because when it's frozen, they get extra hard.

This one was a big hit, Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake.

Here is another, Ande's Mint Chocolate Chip.  The picture isn't great,  so sorry....

Have fun and enjoy ~


My Hearty Root Vegetable Soup with Orzo ~

I have been making this delicious soup for over twenty years.  I started making it because for about 10 years during the eighties, I was a vegetarian.  It was and still is, an excellent and hearty cold weather soup, even if you are a carnivore.  And I now use chicken stock instead of a vegetable stock, which I think makes it taste even richer.  But, you can make it either way.   The only fussy part about this dish is you have to cut the vegetables to small, 1/2 inch dice pieces.  Other than that, it's a cinch to make.  And lets not forget, very healthy too.

4 medium carrots, peeled and small diced
1 medium turnip, peeled and small diced
1 large onion, small diced
1/2 of a large head of green cabbage (I can never find a small head),
cored and outside leaves discarded.  Large dice.
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, chopped, small and large stems discarded
6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 box of orzo pasta, cooked, or any other small pasta you like
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 whole bay leaves
good parmesan cheese, grated (I sprinkle about 1 tablespoon per bowl)

On stove top, heat a large dutch oven to medium heat.  Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add onion and let saute a minute, add turnip and carrot.  Stir and add salt and pepper.  Saute and stir for about 5 minutes.  Add cabbage and let saute about 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine.  Stir.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add bay leaves and red pepper flakes, and let simmer on low for 10 minutes.  Add broccoli rabe, turn heat off and cover.
Let sit on stovetop for about 20 minutes.  Uncover, check seasonings and serve with a small scoop of orzo at bottom of each bowl, ladle in soup and add some parmesan cheese on top.  Now, doesn't it look so yummy?

This recipe makes enough to feed eight people well.  I usually don't have that many people to cook for, so I freeze the extra, minus the orzo and parmesan cheese.

And this soup, although no guarentees, will help ward off all of those cold weather colds too ~

Spinach and Gruyere Strata ~

This dish has become a favorite brunch item of mine.  It's adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet, yada, yada.  You get the picture....

I love a good brunch and it's something I prefer to do because I find it much easier to do than a dinner party.  It's more me, more relaxed.  And I'm all about easy..... recipes as well.  But, they have to be delicious.  Not an easy combo to find, however; this dish fits all of my requirements.  Everyone raves and thinks you have slaved over it..... ha!  Not so, but it tastes like you did too, it's such a delicious and easy dish.

Like Deb, I used a low sided, oval 3 quart baking dish.  And do watch the timing on the finished dish.   It takes longer than what the recipe calls for, more like an hour and ten minutes.  So just check it after the 55 minutes with a toothpick in the center.  If it appears a little moist you are good.  But if the toothpick comes out with lots of loose egg on it, give it another five minutes and check again.  Oh, I removed the strata from the fridge about an hour before I put it in to bake.

I usually bake a spiral ham, make a fruit salad of some sort (whatever is in season), and serve chocolate croissants (frozen), from Trader Joe's (amazing), and voila you have a fabulous brunch without a lot of hard work.  Oh, and don't forget the mimosas.  ;)

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (she adapted from Gourmet)

Serves 6 to 8
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped (I buy chopped, frozen spinach)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1 long french baguette usually makes enough cubes)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.
Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of bread cubes, one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese.

 Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.
Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy this fabulous and easy dish ~


Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil Spaghetti ~

Once in awhile we get a true Indian Summer in Boston and this is one of those years.  On Friday the temps starting climbing into the 60's and yesterday afternoon it was 80 degrees.  Today we are going for 85 degrees.  And the best part, besides it being totally sunny?  No humidity.  Trust me, with the temps being this high, no humidity is a rare thing here.  And that's what makes it a truely gorgeous weekend.... aaahh.

So I decided to make a quick but delicious dinner.  This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and couldn't be easier.  She makes it as a side dish and doesn't add the garlic.  I wanted a meatless meal and love tomatoes and garlic together.  Some things go well together, garlic and tomatoes are one of those things.  And so all you need is a container of nice, ripe cherry tomatoes, a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, 8 leaves of julienned basil and 2 tablespoons of good olive oil.  A little salt and pepper and some freshly cooked pasta.  I shaved some good parmesan cheese over the top and drizzled with a tiny bit more of olive oil.  No meat needed, as far as I am concerned.

Garlic, just mince a couple of cloves.

Toss with a quart of cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Next, remove from the oven and let them rest while you cook your pasta.  They'll get nice and juicy.

When the pasta is ready, add salt and black pepper, toss with tomatoes, add basil and shaved parmesan cheese.  A tiny drizzle of olive oil to finish.  Yum ~

Now this is so easy, it allows you to spend the day out in all of this glorious weather we are so lucky to have back, even if it's just for the weekend.  Enjoy ~


Dreamy, Cheesy, Creamy, Chicken, Corn Chowder ~

I love chowder of any kind.  It makes a great lunch with a salad on a cold, damp day.  But, I wanted a chowder that would make for a hearty dinner, so I played around until I came up with this one.  It has all that you are looking for in a great meal, chicken, cheese, corn, potatoes, carrots and celery.  Oh and cream too.  Or if you want you can use milk, it will still be great.  And did I mention bacon?  Well that is what takes this chowder dreamy.... oh yes, the bacon.... yum ~ 

Don't let the steps deter you, because I make my own chicken stock for this chowder.  It's a cinch to make because I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, which is a great time saver.  And it adds a ton of flavor to the chicken stock.  This is why I don't add any extra salt until the end of the cooking process.

So, if you do want to make it with the rotisserie chicken, just cut off the breasts (I put mine in the freezer to use another time).  I use the rest of the carcass to make the stock.  I use a large 6 quart dutch oven, place the chicken in whole.  Add 1 large onion cut in half and please leave the skin on, it adds a depth of color.  Two large carrots, cut in half, two large celery cut in half, 2 bay leaves and a whole head of garlic cut in half.  Fill the pot up with cold water until it almost fills it, about an inch from the top.  Put it on the stove, bring to a boil and turn it down to simmer and place a cover on top (not all the way) and let simmer for 2 hours.  Remove the meat, bones and other items, strain into a very large bowl.  When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat and set aside.

Ingredients for chowder:

6 slices of bacon (diced, after cooking)
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
2 stalks of celery, diced small
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced small
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (I used sharp)
3 cups of Chicken stock
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of cream
2 cups shredded chicken
5 ear of fresh corn, shucked
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of red pepper

In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon on stovetop and remove from pan, set aside.  With the pan on medium heat, cook carrots and celery in renedered bacon fat for about 5 minutes, until softened a bit. Add corn and butter, stir.  Add flour and let cook while stiring for 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Turn down to medium low and add potatoes.  Simmer for 15 minutes. Add bay leaves and red pepper.

Add chicken, stir and then add milk and cream.  Bring to a near boil, but not quite.  Turn stove to medium low again. Add shredded cheese, a handful at a time, stiring to make sure all is melted before
adding more.  When cheese has been incorporated fully, shut stove off and cover chowder.  Let sit covered for 10 minutes.  Take cover off and remove bay leaves, and adjust salt and pepper.  Add crumbled bacon, stir.  Serve with a nice crusty bread.

Enjoy ~