“While Visions of Sugar-Plums Danced in Their Heads”

I don’t really know what sugar-plums are but I decided they are anything sweet and delectable eaten during the Christmas season so you can have visions of them the night before Christmas. Sounds good to me.

Try this year’s version of my sugar-plums.

Ice Cream Cups, Inspired by Snickers®
An easy make-ahead dessert

  • 1 pint of chocolate ice cream
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 boxes of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (found in the baking aisle, not the cookie aisle)

Use about 24 paper cupcake cups. Place one chocolate wafer in each cup.

Soften the ice cream with a spoon, takes about 2-3 minutes. Stir peanut butter into the ice cream until well blended

Spread a tablespoon of ice cream mixture on each chocolate wafer. Top with a few teaspoons of caramel topping, top with another chocolate wafer, another layer of ice cream, then caramel topping. End with a chocolate wafer, drizzle with caramel sauce and red and green sprinkles. Put into freezer covered tightly for up to one week. Serve directly from freezer.

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

You can also use vanilla ice cream with peanut butter stirred into it. Or, use both flavors and alternate layers.

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It’s Not the 1960s Anymore

By this time in 1969, I had consumed at least (at least!) 52 Sealtest ® Ice Cream Sandwiches at the local Clarion pool in the college town where I grew up. Clarion was sleepy in the summer because the college kids left and all the happenings were at the pool on Liberty Street or down at the river.

I remember those ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine – thick with ice cream, not like the skimpy ones today. Maybe when you’re a kid everything just seems bigger and better like the little house you grew up in.

I never deviated from that frozen treat, even though the lure of banana popsicles beckoned. I think I only sat out one week that summer when I had what mom called, “sun poisoning.” I looked like a lobster with bumps and the word “poisoning” scared me enough to stay home, but it killed me!

The pool closed down after that for several years on and off for repairs and I never really got back into going. I found books, bicycling and baking instead. Hang on to those good memories as you build new ones.

2016 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pictured above is my brownie bar filled with Breyers® Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Cut the brownies into squares, freeze them. Take them out of the freezer and slice in half crosswise and top each half with your favorite flavor of ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt. Make little ice cream sandwiches and wrap each individually with plastic wrap. Make a ton and keep them in the freezer for when the kids come in looking for something good.

Cookies work well too. I used molasses cookies here. And, keep enjoying summer with all those food memories!

Yesterday’s Fresh Baked Goods

The boys coined the term and appreciate the oxymoron-ness of “yesterday’s fresh-baked goods.” For a few years, the Friday-night destination has been Giant Food where the rack in the back holds the day-old bakery bargains. They used to venture on their bikes, but now that they are 16 and can drive, it’s the car.

No matter the mode of transportation, the destination and the goal remains the same. They come home with bags, grins, and a sugary score. Pour some milk and the feast begins!

Kelley Hospitality has never been only about the food; it’s about the experience. Food brings us together. As our son says, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” (With a caveat from him, “Mom, don’t write that down, I didn’t make up that saying, someone else did.”)

Let the Kids Do the Smashing

CoverI was in Balducci’s last week stopping in for a fresh-brewed cup of their wonderful coffee on my way to the office. I noticed the gorgeous display of chocolate-covered pretzels. Price: $15.99 for 20 ounces of hand-dipped pretzels cleverly decorated with colorful toppings. I don’t know if prices are high this year or I’m feeling frugal, or just wanting to do things myself, but for whatever the reason, I re-created the pretzels, Easter style.

I took some ordinary, bagged Easter candy and used them for the pretzel toppings. Whoppers’ mini Robins Eggs and egg-shaped M&Ms are easily ground in a food processor. Or, put them in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a rolling pin. (The kids love to do the smashing.) I also used some spring-looking toppings.

In the end, I produced about 100 chocolate-covered pretzels for around $20 max. Be creative, use various toppings, different-shaped pretzels, bag them in cellophane with ribbon

Ingredients

  • Pretzels
  • Chocolate for dipping. I used white and dark chocolate. You can buy the Wilton Candy Melts where cake baking/decorating supplies are sold or Dolci frutta meltable chocolate from your grocery store. Check the baking aisle for other brands.
  • Various toppings: crushed candies, mini M&Ms, nuts, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, and more.

    candy-close-up

    Crush candies for topping after you dip the pretzels in chocolate.

Have at It!

Melt the chocolate according to directions. Dip a pretzel in the chocolate, and then dip in the topping. Place on waxed paper to cool.

That’s it! Have fun! And, please, don’t get me wrong, Balducci’s is great.

good

I used four different toppings with white and dark chocolate.

Give Your Heart Away

When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no short cuts. That’s why you have to make these from scratch. Simple ingredients make up these Linzer Heart Tearts, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I was thinking all day about making these but I am on a deadline, the family stuff, that project in the basement…

But, you know, the deadline always gets met, the basement project isn’t going anywhere, but Valentine’s Day comes once a year. As soon as I started baking, our son walked in the kitchen and said, “I smell goodness.”

So, make these for someone you love. Or make them for yourself. No matter who they are for, make them with love.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Linzer Heart Tearts (no, that is not a typo)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • raspberry preserves

Beat together first three ingredients (butter, sugar salt). Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. (You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract if you like.) Add the flour until mixture forms a ball. Chill dough one hour.

Roll onto lightly floured surface, about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out and place on ungreased cookie sheet

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Cool cookies and spread half of the cookie with raspberry preserves and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Hint: If you want the raspberry to show, cut a small heart into the big heart.

Savory 16? Keep This in Your Hip Pocket

I don’t know what to call it when a boy turns 16 — for girls it’s Sweet 16. And, when you have a boy who wants everything lower than low key, you can’t go all out.

Here’s an idea for your new driver’s 16th birthday. Find a baby photo like this in your archives. My local Giant made the cake. I am not going to say he was thrilled – but at least it wasn’t naked baby pictures!

Sweet 16 for Girls?
That one is easy. Here is my eHow video on how to make unique Sweet 16 centerpieces for a girl’s party.

To all the teens I love who turn 16 this year, Happy Birthday!

The Cavalier Dog

I’m not talking about a nonchalant puppy. I’m talking about a 15-year-old’s foray into the kitchen.

When our son’s baseball team (The Cavaliers) wins, he’s hungry. It’s a physical hunger mixed with the thrill of victory. That’s when the mood is high and the appetite is strong. After a win on the first day of a tournament, he asked on the way home:

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Pasta with meat marinara sauce, I thought we would do some carb loading for your games tomorrow.”

“Do we have any hot dogs?” he asked.

“Yes, but we are having pasta with meat sauce.”

“I know, I want that, but do we have any hot dogs? I have something I want to do.”

“Knock yourself out.” I thought to myself.

He came up with a hot dog on a bun topped with pasta and meat/marinara sauce. Was it that good he will make it again? I don’t think so, but that’s not the point.

This is where it starts with our kids. Let them go in the kitchen when they’re motivated, even if it’s not in the game plan. This is the beginning – the training – for how they will one day enjoy feeding their own families. And the kitchen isn’t just for girls. In this family, all of us consider it meaningful work to feed the family and our friends.