Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Today I've brought you something that's been floating around in my brain for MONTHS now. For Christmas, G gave me the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid (!!!!) and after looking through a bunch of new ice cream cookbooks and the book that came with the attachment, I decided I wanted my first endeavor to be strawberry ice cream.

This is kind of a strange choice for me. I like strawberry ice cream, but I definitely wouldn't say it's my favorite or even go-to ice cream (for those wondering at home, my go-to ice cream is peanut butter swirl). But strawberry seemed easy enough, better than just plain vanilla, and a flavor that would lend itself to being homemade. Strawberry ice cream from a carton is good, but homemade strawberry ice cream, where you chopped the strawberries and made it that day, would be next level.

But it wasn't until I made these Raspberry-Dusted Lemon Donuts that I discovered the amazingness of freeze-dried fruits (I get mine at Whole Foods). I can't get enough! And, added bonus, they kind of mimic the crunchy bits on a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar! The Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich was born.

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Makes 12 sandwiches

For Sugar Cookies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/3 cups flour

Strawberry Ice Cream
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 oz freeze-dried strawberry slices, crushed into small pieces but not dust (optional)

Make your ice cream: In a bowl, mix chopped strawberries with 1/2 cup of sugar and lime juice. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Whisk in sugar until combined. Add in milk and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Switch to a rubber spatula and add in strawberries and all the juice. Finally, stir in heavy whipping cream. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions. Once ice cream is done, pour into a 9x11 inch baking sheet and spread evenly. Place in the freezer for 2 hours (overnight is even better).

Make your cookies: Cream butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk flour, salt, and baking powder to combine. With your mixer on low, add dry ingredients to the butter/egg mixer.

Drop rounded balls of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I made mine about a tablespoon and a half large. Bake 8-10 minutes or until bottoms just begin to brown. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheet, about 5 minutes, and then transfer onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make your sandwiches: Once cookies are completely cool, match cookies of the same size. Spread your crushed freeze-dried strawberries onto a plate. Because I wanted to ice cream centers to be uniform, I used a circle cookie cutter to cut out pucks of ice cream all the same size. I placed each puck onto a cookie and topped with another cookie, pressing them together slightly. If you want to make your sandwiches the easy way, scoop a large ice cream scoopful of ice cream and place it on one cookie. Using the other cookie, press the sandwich together. Either way, they'll be beautiful and delicious.

Over the plate, spoon the crushed strawberries onto the sides of one half of the ice cream center, pressing lightly with the back of the spoon until they stick. Place back in the freeze to harder completely. Once completely frozen, store in an air tight container in the freezer. Enjoy!

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Cocktail: Blood Orange Spritz

I'm all about the citrus cocktails these days. And with the produce section of my grocery store constantly tempting me with grapefruits and tangerines and blood oranges, I knew I needed to turn one of them into a cocktail.

Unlike a lot of my recipes, this recipe makes a large batch cocktail that can be thrown together ahead of time. Because it's similar to a mimosa, this drink makes the perfect brunch cocktail: not too boozy, light and fresh, and easy for guests to pour themselves. It's actually one of the cocktails I created and served at our Galentine's Day Brunch a few weeks ago!

Blood Orange Spritz

Makes 1 pitcher (about 8 servings)

2 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 cup Hendrick's gin
1/4 cup St. Germain or another elderflower liqueur
ice
champagne or prosecco
blood orange slices (optional)

Add blood orange juice, gin, and elderflower liqueur into a pitcher and stir to combine. Refrigerate mixture for an hour or up to overnight.

When you are ready to make your individual cocktail, fill glass with ice and fill glass half full with blood orange/gin mix. Top with champagne or prosecco and stir gently. Garnish with a blood orange slice and enjoy immediately.

All photography in this post created by Kate McCann Photography.

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5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

Hey Hi Hello! I returned last weekend from Miami Beach, packed my shorts and sandals back under my bed, put on my boots and drug myself into work every day this week in the 40 degree temperatures. I don't usually travel during the winter months and it was down right HARD to get back into the swing of things. But I did unpack my suitcase last night and it only took me 5 days (I'm writing this on a Friday) so that feels like a tiny win. Anyone else just dread unpacking a suitcase??

But Miami was a wonderful vacation. The weather was lovely, we ate some great food, went to the beach, I drank some pina coladas, and the whole trip was one of the most affordable trips I've ever been on! I'm torn on if I want to share some photos and information on the places we went, things we did, restaurants we enjoyed. I'm in no way an expert, but I also couldn't find a ton of guides online that were up my alley. Let me know if you'd like to see my recommendations in a upcoming post! But I'm back to real life now and thought I'd share some of my favorite things. 

Here are some things I've been loving recently:

1. I'm now on my third month of Studio DIY's Can't Clutch This clutch subscription box and I'm still totally and utterly in love with them. I'm sure at some point I'll have too many clutch bags, but as of now it's still such a fun surprise to look forward to every week. Added bonus, I get more compliments on these bags than any other bag I've ever used. And the quality has been wonderful as well.

2. I've recently found and am loving several new beauty products. I know you are probably here to hear about butter and sugar and cocktails, so I'll just list the products that I'm loving. If you want to hear about anything in particular, feel free to ask me in the comments and I'm tell you more about this things! Herbivore Botanicals DETOX Bath Salts, Real Techniques Setting Brush, Sonia Kashuk Blending Brush, Anastasia Beverly Hills Caramel Eye Shadow, Kevyn Aucoin Contour Duo On The Go, Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanser, Tarte Tarteist Lip Paint in Birthday Suit (I have mini), NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Prague, Not Your Mothers Dry Shampoo Mini, Essie Gel Couture Nail Polishes, Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty, and Glossier Boy Brow in Brown.

3. New routines! I've been attempting to read more and make my way through a handful of books that have been lying around the house unread for a while now. Because G gets up for work early and I need like 10 hours of sleep at night to function, we tend to be in bed by 10PM during the week. So I've been trying a new routine of going to bed around 10 and then reading until about 10:30. Not a ton of time, but it gets me off Instagram and clears my head a bit more. I'm currently reading Mary Roach's Stiff

4. I was given an oil diffuser for my birthday, which turns out to be a gift I didn't know I wanted and needed! I have a handful of friends who swear by essential oils but they've never really worked for me personally. But I love having the relaxing scents going in my house at night. I have one of these and I love it!

5. We booked our hotel in Miami with the Hotel Tonight app. With this app, you can book last-minute hotel rooms (up to a week before check-in) and get some really great deals. This was my second time using it and I definitely plan on using it for some smaller trips we have planned this year. After looking at all kinds of discount travel sites, this still gave us the best price.

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Recipe: Citrus Upside Down Cake

Happy Valentine's Day my loves! I hope you are celebrating a little bit of love today, whether that's with a fancy dinner date, a pizza night at home on the sofa, or just a glass of nice wine and the bathtub. Valentine's Day is a day to treat yourself and the ones around you that you love. So do it up!

In other exciting news, today I'm sharing the recipe for the Citrus Upside Down Cake I made for our Galentine's Day Brunch! It's a stunning cake with a bright citrus flavor and I think you'll be impressed how easy it is! 

Citrus Upside Down Cake

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1 blood orange
1 small grapefruit
1 navel orange
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a 9 inch cake pan** with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.

With the skin still on, slice the grapefruit, orange, and blood orange 1/2 inch thick. Using a paring knife, remove the skin from each citrus slice. You don't have to remove all the pith, but instead cut through the center of the pith and remove half of it. Microwave the 1/3 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water together until the sugar dissolves, about a minute. Pour half of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake pan, arrange citrus fruits in a tight layer, and top with rest of sugar water. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, press orange zest into sugar with a spoon until it's clumpy and fragrant. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add in eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients into the mixer and combine. Add greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and orange juice and mix. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour batter over the prepared citrus slices and spread evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Allow to cool completely before turning out onto a serving platter.

**I baked this cake in an 8 inch cake pan because I couldn't find my 9 inch one. If you only have an 8 inch pan, you'll have a little extra batter. Do not fill cake pan above 3/4 full or cake will not bake properly.

All photography in this post created by Kate McCann Photography.

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How to Throw A Galentine's Day Brunch

Galentine's Day: Bar Area. Unusually Lovely Blog

As much as I love celebrating Valentine's Day with my boyfriend, VDay serves another purpose for me. I like to use this time every year to let the important ladies in my life know how much they mean to me. Usually I do this in the form of a handwritten Valentine's Day card, but this year I partnered with Kate from Kate McCann Photography to throw a Galentine's Day brunch for a handful of our friends! Unfamiliar with the term Galentine's Day? Let Leslie Knope tell you all about it.

Check out my tips and tricks for throwing a simple, stress-free Galentine's Day brunch!

Don't Bake Everything Yourself

Hosting a party, no matter the size, can quickly become overwhelming and stressful if you decide to make everything yourself. I'm here to tell you it isn't worth it. Whether you ask your guests to bring something—potluck style—or not, your brunch should be a mix of homemade dishes and purchased items. Bagels, pastries, and even desserts are sometimes best made by professionals. And your anxiety will thank you when all you have to do is open a box and arrange them on a plate. 

Of the 6 or 7 brunch dishes we served, we picked up beautiful pastries from Philadelphia bakery Cake Life, used local cheeses for a quick cheeseboard, and poured one of my favorite bloody mary mixes into a carafe instead of making our own. Even having those few things ready to go helped.

Prep What You Can

Along with a mix of homemade and purchased dishes, you'll want to include many dishes that can be made ahead of time. You'll go crazy if you attempt to bake 5 dishes before your guests arrive at 10am. Create a menu that includes things like salads and casseroles that can be baked the night before and just need to be heated prior to serving. Prep batters for waffles or pancakes, mix large batch cocktails and store in the fridge, cut up fruit, and even get your dessert options squared away. Anything you do ahead of time will help your morning go more smoothly.

The day/night before our brunch, we cut up all the fruit for fruit salads and toppings, baked a Citrus Upside Down Cake, mixed a pitcher of cocktails, and cooked some breakfast sausage that just needed to be reheated the morning of. Before our guests arrived that morning, Kate made a mushroom and leek frittata and we made waffles and coffee for everyone.

Booze Booze Booze

I know not everyone agrees, but cocktails/mocktails are kind of a brunch staple for me. They just make brunch feel a little more special. But I also didn't want to spend the entire morning making complicated drinks for everyone. The keys for a successful cocktail area are simple drinks with easy to remember ratios that guests to make themselves. Large batch cocktails are perfect for this, as well as something that can be made in advance.

I wanted something traditional (bloody marys) and something a little different (blood orange spritz). I arranged a cocktail area that had everything our guests would need to make their drinks. For the blood orange spritz, I had a pitcher filled with blood orange juice, gin and elderflower liquor that guests poured into glasses and then added champagne. For the bloody marys, guests added vodka or tequila to a glass and topped it with bloody mary mix and whatever fixins they wanted. Recipes from both the Blood Orange Spritz and the Bloody Mary Bar will be posted in the coming weeks!

Toppings and Fixins

A great way to create the appearance of tons of options at a brunch is with one dish and a handful of different toppings. We made a large batch of waffles while our guests were hanging out eating pastries and cheese, and then offered whipped cream, different berries, pomegranate seeds, chocolate chips and syrup. Create your own adventure waffle!

I knew I wanted to do a cocktail bar the minute we decided to host a brunch. Similar to a mimosa bar, we decided to set up all the things a guest might want in their bloody mary. Different types of booze, pickles, pickled veggies, celery, tiny peppers, limes, paprika salt for the rim, and worcestershire and sriracha to add in. Everyone can make whatever drink they want and not make the same drink twice. For a similar idea, you could do a mimosa bar (champagne, citrus juices, and fresh fruit) or even a bellini bar (champagne, fruit purees, and fresh fruit).

Set a Simple Table 

Especially with Valentine's Day, it's easy to go overboard with heart-shaped decorations and tons of pink and red all over the place. But in my opinion, it takes a lot of creativity and $$$ to make that type of table setting look good. I'm all about the simple, practical, and pretty table setting.

If you don't have anything that fits your brunch theme but want to decorate your table inexpensively, pick one item that will be the focal piece, splurge on that, and then use what you have or shop basic. Having one focal piece can also help tie together other mix and matched pieces. We used matching white dinner plates ($2/each from Target!), pink salad/dessert plates (our slurge item), and gold flatware with miss and matched cloth napkins and whatever platters we already had. Our glasses were a mix of cocktail glasses I already owned as well. Besides the table setting, our table had a low floral arrangement (from From Blossoms) and we added platters of food to the table and shared everything family-style.

Quick Gifts Go a Long Way

What better way to celebrate your friends than with a little gift. As a last minute idea, I decided to throw together these little gift boxes to place on everyone's plate. I found the boxes on sale at Homegoods, bought a bag of chocolate, a package of cute temporary tattoos, and Vaseline rose lip therapy. I wanted them to be something easy that didn't cost very much and everything inside could be used or eaten. And everyone likes a gift, no matter how small it is.

And that's it! I hope these tips and tricks help when you're planning your next brunch (or even a dinner party). Planning and prep is key to making sure your guests leave happy and full, and you get to sit down and enjoy yourself as well. And stay tuned for several follow up posts with recipes for both cocktails and that Citrus Upside Down Cake!

Anyone else throwing a Galentine's Day Brunch?? Happy brunching! <3

All photos in this blog post were taken by Kate McCann Photography and more photos can be found over on her blog. Thank you so much for partnering with me!

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