Tuesday, June 28, 2011

it's it

If you're from the West Coast, especially from San Francisco, you're familiar with the other San Francisco treat......the it's it!!! But if the words "it's its" sound unfamiliar to you, please let me introduce you to something super special.....
it's its are ultimately ice cream sandwiches. Ice cream sandwiched between oatmeal cookies and then dipped in chocolate. Sounds good, right??? They come in a few combinations, but our favorite combo is with the mint ice cream.

It's summer and it's hot and sunny and it's time for it's its!!!!

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies
kindly taken from the blog Macheesmo via Cook's Illustrated and adapted to my taste buds and preferences

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, @ room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
zest of an orange (optional) ***I did not add this to my cookies***
1 large egg @ room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
***I added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and a pinch of cloves***
2 1/2 cups whole rolled oats
***I also added 1/2 cup of sliced almonds for some added crunch*** 

Preheat your oven to 350˚.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and other spices if using. In another large bowl, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy with a wooden spoon or hand held mixer. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add vanilla extract. Slowly incorporate your flour mixture. Gently fold/stir in your oats. You can add your sliced almonds here if you also wanted the added crunch in your cookie.

On parchment paper lined baking sheets, scoop or drop 2 tablespoons of dough onto the pans. I used a 1 1/2 inch in diameter cookie scoop. Place no more than eight on a cookie sheet, these will spread generously. With damp fingers, press down mounds of dough, 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 14 - 16 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking.

Cool completely on cookie sheets. Do not transfer hot cookies to wire racks!!!

The original recipe said it made 24 cookies. These cookies must have been Cookie Monster size because I got 36, 4 inch round cookies..... 

Turning them into it's its.....
You'll need oatmeal cookies, your favorite ice cream flavor and melted chocolate. I cheated a little bit and bought the stuff that freezes right away, by Hershey's SHELL. You can easily melt your own chocolate, but why bother when using this is so easy!! In my experiences in making ice cream sandwiches, your cookies (if fragile like these) will break easily when you're trying to mash them together. I scoop big scoops of ice cream on a small parchment lined sheet, press them down to my desired thickness and then place them back into the freezer to set up. I then top off one of the cookies with the frozen disk of ice cream and drizzle the shell topping all over!!! Place the other cookie on top, freeze for a few minutes and that's it!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

a woman's right to shoes.....

These party favors were designed and created for a fashionista's 40th birthday party, 
with a "Sex and the City" theme, 
who also loves SHOES!!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

icebox strawberry pie

I've lived in New York for 10 years now and it's been years since I've really felt spring.....The winter season seems incredibly long and before you know it, it's hot & humid and with a blink of an eye.....it's Memorial Day and summer!!!
A couple of weeks ago I spent some much needed quality time with my family in San Diego, CA. Luckily I was there during the perfect time of the year.....strawberry season!!! This icebox strawberry pie tasted like cool springtime. The organic strawberries were bright red and super duper sweet. It was kind of a shame that I mixed them into this pie when the fruit was good as-is.....

icebox strawberry pie
courtesy of Cook's Country via Cook's Illustrated

2 pounds frozen strawberries ***I used TJ's organic frozen strawberries***
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water ***If I make this pie again, I would omit one of the tablespoons of water. The berries release enough of their own juices, that I feel this added liquid is not necessary***
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin ***If you're using packets, 1 packet is just shy of a tablespoon. The pie in the end could use a little "firmness", so increase the amount of gelatin to 2 tablespoons or 2 packets. I need to make this pie again to test the increase of gelatin, but I am confident that "more" will be just ay-oh-kay....***
1 cup of sugar
pinch of salt

1 pound of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin ***I saved half of the berries for the top of the pie/tart. You can do the same and make it pretty, or just fold all of them in***
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled ***I used a shortbread-like crust by Martha Stewart, doubled the recipe and used a shallow tart pan instead of a pie pan*** 

1. COOK FROZEN BERRIES Cook frozen berries in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jam-like, about 25 minutes. The mixture should measure 2 cups. Cool. ***It is super important that you reduce this mixture to 2 cups, even less if possible***

2. ADD GELATIN Combine lemon juice, water and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar and salt into cooled berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 - 45 minutes.

3. ADD FRESH BERRIES Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Filled pie can be refrigerated for 24 hours.

Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or make the following topping from the original recipe.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

4. MAKE TOPPING With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds, With mixer running, add cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Some helpful hints from Cook's Country

  • We used 2 pounds of frozen berries (which worked well for cooking and cost less than fresh) and cooked them down in a dry saucepan until they released their juices and the mixture was thick, concentrated, and flavorful.
  • Be sure that the reduced berries measure 2 cups exactly; if the mixture measures any more, the filling will be loose.
  • Because strawberries are low in pectin, the natural thickener found in citrus fruits and many other plants, we added some lemon juice, which perked up the flavor and tightened the texture of the filling a little. To thicken the filling further, we added a bit of unflavored gelatin, which produced a clean-slicing, not-too-bouncy pie.
  • After stirring in the gelatin—which we combined with the lemon juice and water—along with sugar and salt, we then stirred in fresh strawberries off the heat. This gave us the big berry flavor we wanted.
  • Diner strawberry pies typically get a squirt of Reddi-wip, but we made our own. We whipped cream cheese into real whipped cream along with vanilla and sugar for a slightly tangy topping that balanced the sweetness of the berries.
  • Use our No-Fear Pie Crust recipe or use your own.

We've just returned from vacation and throughout many German cities/towns, there were strawberry stands with some of the brightest and juiciest strawberries we've ever had.......