I’m Back with Graham Cracker Ice Cream

Hi! I had to take some time off to tend to things in my personal life, but all’s well and I’m back to baking and blogging! (I never stopped baking – I just ran out of time to talk about it!)

One of my go-to special occasion treats is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, which I purchase either at my local wine store or Whole Foods. Here’s where to buy Jeni’s in your area. I also love making Jeni’s at home, which is why I was super excited when her second cookbook came out. The first recipe I tried from the second book? Graham Cracker Ice Cream.Graham Cracker

It was great! I used crushed Trader Joe’s Honey Graham Crackers. The recipe only used a few, so there were plenty left for serving as a garnish (or munching while the ice cream churned).

Jeni’s suggestion to serve the ice cream with sliced bananas was spot-on. I also added homemade chocolate sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. I think it would also be nice with sliced peaches.

It was definitely a sweet treat, and perfect for those hot summer evenings when turning on the oven is too much.

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Need to Lock Your Ice Cream?

When I discovered that Ben & Jerry’s sells a pint lock for their iconic ice cream pints, I just had to buy one and test it out.  Finally, protection for

Here is my Chocolate Fudge Brownie Fro-Yo secured with the Ben & Jerry's Euphori-Lock.

Here is my Chocolate Fudge Brownie Fro-Yo secured with the Ben & Jerry’s Euphori-Lock.

my Peanut Butter Cup!  Assurance for my pint of Americone Dream! Confidence for my Cookie Dough!  Too often my ice cream or frozen yogurt (B&J’s Half Baked Frozen Yogurt is a revelation!) disappears, spoonful by spoonful, with me being none the wiser.  Then I go to have dessert and there is just a skimpy scoop left in the bottom of the container – if I’m lucky.  Other times the entire pint has disappeared (no names here – you know who you are!)

The pint lock came quickly in the mail.  It consists of two pieces of thick black plastic that fit together around the pint lid.  The lock has a preprogrammed 3-digit alphanumeric code.  It doesn’t seem like you can change your lock’s code, so you’d better write it down and keep it in a secure location, or your pint lock will be useless.  The last thing I want to do is lock myself out of my own ice cream!

You could defeat the lock by slashing the top or bottom of the container with a knife (it is only cardboard, after all) but, as a colleague pointed out, you would have to be pretty desperate.  I think the lock functions as a good deterrent.  It definitely sends the “hands off” message.  Of course, while Ben & Jerry’s sells the lock (and it is surprisingly inexpensive – only slightly more than the pint of ice cream itself) it would work on any brand of ice cream pint.

In short, I recommend the lock, especially if you live with roommates, or are otherwise not into sharing.  It would also make a great gift for Father’s Day or graduation.  As Ben & Jerry’s says on the lock packaging, “There is no ‘u’ in ‘my pint.’”

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere!

‘Tis the season for pumpkin products in the stores and displays of mini pumpkins and squash at the store entrance.  I love pumpkin, so this is a welcome time, though I have been amazed at the growing diversity of pumpkin products.  It seems like there are more this year than ever before.  It’s exciting to see the pumpkin products arrive, and I suspect part of their appeal is that they are offered for a limited time.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bars, pumpkin macarons, pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin cookies (pictured), as well as the traditional pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice cake.  I spotted a pumpkin-flavored dark chocolate bar. I’ve also heard rumors of Pumpkin Pringles. Compared to all this, pumpkin pie seems downright boring!

Pepperidge Farm’s tasty Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

That’s just food.  As for beverages, I bought Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee and Stash Decaf Pumpkin Spice Tea.  My favorite Mexican restaurant has Pumpkin Margaritas on the menu!  I am also tempted by this recipe for Pumpkin Liqueur.  Not to mention all the delicious pumpkin ales out there.

I find this array of pumpkin products to be surprising because, amongst my family and friends, pumpkin is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of food.  For every pumpkin lover, there is someone who can’t stand the taste, or even the smell.  Granted, many of these “pumpkin” products don’t contain any actual pumpkin – they are just flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm, homey fall spices.  I wonder how many people with a dislike for pumpkin are turned off by these products, even when they are pumpkin-free?

That’s not a worry for me – the pumpkiny-er the better!  I’ll post any updates on new pumpkin products as I try them.

The Amazing Blueberry Puffin Muffin (TM)

Part moist blueberry muffin, part flaky puff pastry – the Blueberry Puffin Muffin is an absolutely delicious breakfast treat.  The only place I know of where you can buy this muffin is the Lewes Bake Shoppe and Notting Hill Coffee Roastery in Lewes, Delaware.  They’ve trademarked this scrumptious muffin, which is drizzled with just a hint of glaze.

The duality of this muffin – pastry outside, muffin inside – means that there are as many ways to eat it as Oreos have.  My preferred method is to peel the puff pastry off carefully and eat it first, before the muffin.  My friends like to eat it all together, combining pastry and muffin in one bite.  You could also just pull the four pastry corners off and eat those first, thus making your puffin muffin round rather than square-ish.

I’ve noticed that the puff pastry seems to keep the muffin more moist than it would be otherwise.  Thus, the Puffin Muffin has a longer shelf life than you might expect, though they never last long around me!

So far, I haven’t found Puffin Muffins anywhere else – they are a special treat that I look forward to when vacationing at the Delaware beaches.  An Internet search shows a “puffin” to be more of a pancake/muffin hybrid.  I must admit that I’ve never tried to make these myself, since I am not a big fan of working with puff pastry.  I don’t think they’d taste as good as the Lewes Bake Shoppe can make them!

Have you seen a similar muffin anywhere else in your travels?  Or have you tried to make them?  If so, please leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from other Puffin Muffin lovers out there!

My New Cookbook: Rustic Fruit Desserts

I was just given a copy of Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, and I can’t wait to give their recipes a try.  (Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend who found the book!)

The cookbook is conveniently organized by season, with spring featuring a number of great rhubarb desserts.  I plan to get some rhubarb at the local farmers’ market and start with the recipe for Rhubarb Fool.  I’ve never made a fool, but it can’t be too difficult, right?

I’m also looking forward to some of the heavier desserts (i.e. bread pudding) in the cooler months.

The book also includes a convenient glossary that defines the difference between cobbler, crisp, buckle, pandowdy, and more.  While I’ve understood the subtle differences, a glossary is helpful in explaining it to others.

The photography is excellent, and the book definitely makes me want to travel to Julie’s bakery, Baker and Spice, in Portland, OR.

 I’ll report back after I’ve made a few recipes from the book, but in the meantime, if you’re a fan of fruit desserts like me, I’d definitely recommend it!

Product Review: Dole Peach Fruit Crisp

I first saw an ad for Dole’s new fruit crisps in the Sunday coupons and was immediately excited.  Peach crisp is one of my all-time favorite desserts.  Could this fruit company create something that tasted similar to a good, homemade peach crisp for enjoyment when peaches are out of season?  I was dubious, but willing to try.

I had to wait a few months for this item to show up on my supermarket shelves, and even now, peach is harder to find than the apple varieties.  I recommend stocking up when you see it, because the peach crisp is quite good in its own way.

I brought the crisps to work with me, which was very convenient.  There are two crisps in a package, each consisting of a peach cup and an oat cup.  The peach cup is difficult to separate from the oat cup.  Once you figure that out, peel back the plastic cover on the peaches and microwave for 30 seconds.  I then sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on the peaches before stirring in the oat mixture.  I recommend using a larger bowl if you have one because the little peach cup can overflow.

Voila!  A little peach crisp.  It’s a bit syrupy and lacks the flavor dimension of fresh summer peaches, but it makes a good afternoon snack at work or anywhere there is a microwave.  It would have been great to have these in my college dorm room.  Plus, at 150 calories and with no artificial sweeteners, it is reasonably healthy.

I’d like to see Dole come out with additional flavors.  Blackberry, anyone?

Overall Grade: B

Note: I purchased Dole Peach Fruit Crisp at my local supermarket at full price.  This review is not a paid product endorsement.

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Single Serving Brownies

This brownie mix’s single-serving option caught my eye on a recent trip to Trader Joe’s.  Having only one brownie, rather than the temptation of a full pan, would be great!  I was dubious about the process and how the end product would taste, but it is a quick, easy dessert option for one.

You add 1 tablespoon of plain or vanilla fat-free yogurt to 2 tablespoons of the brownie mix.  The box says to stir until the mixture becomes “shiny,” which takes about 30 seconds.  You then microwave the mixture for 45 seconds, and, voila, brownie!

The brownie is definitely best warm.   It is sweet but lacks a deep chocolate flavor.  I have experimented with mixing mini chocolate chips into the mixture, which helps bring out a more chocolate-y goodness.  About 1 tablespoon of mini chips seems to be the right amount, although even if you add more, the brownie miraculously still cooks in 45 seconds. [Read more…]

Mix-ing It Up

I am not a fan of cake mixes.  If you are a fairly regular baker, you no doubt have the few dry ingredients needed on hand and can whip up a cake batter just as fast as Betty Crocker.  When I do use a mix and bring the cake somewhere, I never admit use of the mix.  After all, my mother raised me right.

However, every once in a while, a cake/muffin mix comes along that is so good and so simple, I just have to use it.  It becomes a staple on my pantry shelf next to the flour and sugar.

[Read more…]