December 16, 2016

Peppermint Crunch Oreo Ice Cream Cake

There are two kinds of people in the world.

Actually, there are lots of kinds of "two kinds of people" in the world.

This is not, mind you, a right-versus-wrong thing: it's just a this-way-or-that-way thing.

For instance, there are people who love camping...and people whose idea of "roughing it" is a hotel room whose breakfast bar doesn't come with one of those flip waffle makers.

There are people who love cilantro...and people who think it tastes like soap and why, oh why, would you ruin a perfectly good batch of guacamole by putting this in it?

There are people who think a 5-mile run sounds like a good idea...and people who think running is only a good idea if you're being chased by something or someone who might possibly harm you more than the running itself.

And (to the post at hand), there are people who adore chocolate and mint in tandem...and people who'd rather eat a mentholated cough drop for dessert.

If you'd pick the cough drop, I apologize for taking up your time. Actually, if that's your bent, you probably aren't reading this post in the first place. So never mind.

As an equal-opportunity chocolate lover, I appreciate chocolate in combination with almost anything, including itself. But this chocolate-peppermint power duo is one of my favorites. Parenthetically, I can tell you it did do rather a lot to spread peace and goodwill in my kitchen when I recently announced to my family that I was making it. And if there's one thing a house with two teenage daughters and a mom who is, well, me needs more of, it's peace and any time of the year.

Peppermint Crunch Oreo Ice Cream Cake {print}

1 package (about 14 ounces) chocolate sandwich cookies, moderately crushed* (gluten-free if desired...we do gluten around here, so I used reduced-fat Oreos)

3 tablespoon butter, melted

1.5 quarts vanilla ice cream

1 cup moderately crushed* peppermint candies (candy canes, or those round candies in cellophane wrappers some restaurants have sitting around, etc.)

8 ounces whipped topping, thawed, OR 3 cups prepared sweetened whipped cream (if you really want to power up your peppermint here, use peppermint Cool Whip when seasonally available)

hot fudge or chocolate sauce, for serving (my favorite homemade hot fudge recipe is here if you need one)

(*By "moderately" crushed, I mean medium crumbs with a few large pieces and some fine "dust" in the mix.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Round up a 9" springform pan or a 9" cake pan (the higher the sides, the better). Dump 1 1/2 cups of your cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan and drizzle them with the melted butter. Use a fork to toss the butter and crumbs together. Press this addictive mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 6 minutes. No, it is not okay to round up to 10 here unless you want Oreo asphalt instead of a cookie crust. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely. You can rush this process by putting the crust in the refrigerator if necessary. You cannot rush this process by not cooling the crust and proceeding with the recipe anyway.

Once your crust is cooled, scoop the ice cream into a large bowl. Add in 1/2 cup of your crushed peppermint candies and mix them in with an electric mixer or a sturdy spoon and some muscle power. Sprinkle an additional 1/4 cup crushed candies over the surface of your ice cream mixture and fold in gently. Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup crushed peppermints for decoration when you serve this masterpiece.

Spread 1/2 of your ice cream mixture evenly onto your prepared, cooled crust. Dollop on 1 1/2 cups of your whipped topping or whipped cream and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 of your remaining cookie crumbs over the surface of the whipped topping/cream, and spread evenly with a fork. Repeat this layering, using up the remaining ice cream mixture, whipped topping/cream, and crushed cookies. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cake, wrap the whole thing in foil, and freeze until firm, several hours or overnight or up to a month or so. 

To serve: cut cake into slivers or slices or sections; drizzle with chocolate syrup or hot fudge sauce; and sprinkle with some of the reserved crushed peppermint candies. Serves 8-10 normal people or 4-6 of the sort who live in my house.

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

December 1, 2016

Stocking Stuffers from A to Z

'Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all through the house, 
all the creatures were stirring (except, please God, not a louse). 
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 
in hopes that the mom would stick something clever down there.

Which brings us to this alphabetical assortment.

On my list of "top moments in blogging and in life in general," the day I met Lisa the Syncopated Mama is easily in the top 5. I found Lisa via a link party, and the minute I landed on her page and saw her tag line--"living a life that's just a little offbeat"--I was hooked. Because, among other reasons, I'm a little "offbeat" myself. 

Lisa is funny and friendly and fascinating and frugal. She's the kind of blogger who can write about making her own cheese and teach you about making your own cheese and make you think you should be making your own cheese while in no way making you think she thinks you're a rotten person if you don't, in fact, make your own cheese. 

How to make your own cheese, by the Syncopated Mama.
(Who will not judge you if you don't.)

Lisa and I began stalking each other's blogs and social media channels and eventually took things to the next level: emails. We started, formally, with a cyber version of "The Alphabet Game," and, since it 'twas the season back then, too, we settled on "stocking stuffers" as our theme. We weren't too far in before both of us figured out our accumulating list would make a great blog post. And now here you are, looking at the very thing.

Lisa and I went back and forth on our original list, so you'll "hear" both our voices and see pieces of both our stories in alternating fashion here. And since one of the approximately 5,172 things we have in common is our wordiness, we're not only giving you an item for each letter of the alphabet, but also our "icing" for every item. 

I can't actually imagine a house during the Christmas season when the mom is not only "stirring" but is, in actuality, running around in a festive and frantic frenzy. But at least with this guide, you'll be able to cross one item off your list. Which you've no doubt checked a lot more than twice.

A is for aftershave. Notice I said “aftershave” and not cologne? That’s because for every year of my existence, this is one item I have got to give to my dad and he cannot stand cologne! This gift is also pretty much my only chance to give my dad something “wild,” because his Christmas list consists of: brown socks, black socks, brown belt, black belt and those little plastic wallet inserts that hold your credit cards. Every. Single. Year.

B is for bobby pins. Although I have purchased
approximately 10,000 of these necessities of long hair and ballet buns for my girls, on any given school morning at 6:13 a.m., how many do we still actually have in our possession (including the ones under the couch cushions)? Three. We have three. If we're having a "good" morning.

C is for chocolate. Now, I'm not saying this means there can't be other chocolaty food items on the list later, but I just think chocolate deserves its own mention. I mean, I'm writing this post with The Guilty Chocoholic Mama, for goodness’ sake, so this is just a given, right? But this chocolate refers to just plain chocolate and not some nut/creme/caramel-filled concoction--usually some fancy-schmancy bar from deep in the the mountains of Switzerland or something. Deliciousness like that deserves its own category, dontcha think?
D is for deodorant. It's not only adolescent boys who smell, er, "pungent." Dancing daughters do, too. As well, my mom was a firm believer in and practitioner of practicality in stocking stuffing. As adult children, my siblings and I still get family stockings, and my favorite item is the roll of heavy-duty blue paper towels my dad throws in, which I ration all year. Will my current roll last until this Christmas? Must conserve.
E is for Etch-a-Sketch. The one I got in my stocking was keychain-sized, but I'm pretty sure they have versions that are a bit larger than that, but still small enough to fit in a stocking. Your crew might not be into etching a sketch themselves, but at the time, I thought it was a fun trinket to get and would often fiddle with it while waiting for something, since I kept it in my purse.

Etch A Sketch...stocking-sized.
F is for flossers or floss-ups or whatever you call those preloaded dental floss picks. A package of these is definitely going in my husband's stocking, because in the category "you know you've been married a long time when..." he puts one out for me every night when he gets one for himself. I guess you could say dental hygiene is one of our love languages.
G is for gum. Which, nowadays, I don't really like to chew. But it was always a big thrill to find it in my stocking back in the day. And it always had to be Carefree (sugarless) pink gum. Yes, pink was the flavor, which was technically labeled as "bubble gum," but let's be honest and just tell it like it really is--that the very specific taste of this flavor can only be described as Carefree pink!

H is for Hershey's kisses. The milk chocolate version. I don't care that these are common-folk chocolates and not some fair trade certified, chili-infused, quinoa-enriched imported deal. I still love them. I think the kiss shape makes them taste better or something.
I is for ice skating stuff. Anything ice skating (and small, obviously, because it has to fit into the stocking) goes here. In years past, this has included ornaments (lots and LOTS of ornaments--have I mentioned we have a skating tree?), jewelry, keychains or anything else random that happens to have something skating on it (these things are hard to find down here in FL, let me tell you!), new laces, gloves, get the idea. (I'm afraid this idea is not going to be very helpful for most households out there in the world, but it is an extremely important one around here!)

J is for Jello cups. You know those individual evil plastic cups filled nothing more than red dye #5, cherry "flavor," and artificial sweetener? Yes, my middle-schooler loves these wicked things, and I am That Kind of Mom who buys them for her for after-dance late-night snacks.
K is for Kit-Kats. This so easy for me, because one of my must-have stocking items is a whole bunch of Kit-Kats!!! Mmmm, I love those things...
L is for lip balm. A staple item along with water and toilet paper in this house. My girls and I are pretty addicted to the fabulous flavors and fun shape of Eos, but I'm also good with the 2-for-$1 grocery store regular version, which is a little bit vanilla-y.
M is for music CD. And if it's MY stocking, then I know it will be the latest WOW hits CD; I think I have them all since the beginning of time. They're pretty much the best bang for the buck, in my book.
N is for Nutella & Go cups. My girls discovered these for their dance studio gift exchanges last year, and I know my Anna would love one in her stocking this year. Lydia loves the idea of them but is not a Nutella fan. Oh well...she might get one anyway, 'cause they're the perfect stocking-stuffer size. And then I can eat hers. Genius.

O is for orange. Because although I've never really taken part in that particular St. Nicholas tradition, we do usually happen to have a bag of clementines sitting on the kitchen counter due to their rock-bottom prices this time of year. Shopping for stocking stuffers from stuff we already have around the house? Yes, please! That makes my hermit heart very happy!
P is for pens. Along with mechanical pencils, these are one of the currencies of middle- and high-school life. And we always have a zillion around here...except when someone actually needs one. At which time we have none.
Write in style. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the bad
pun. Of course, I didn't try very hard.)
Q is for Quiet Books. The first thing I thought of for this letter was Q-tips--not just a plain pack, but one of those fancy make-up packs that have one flat side and one pointed side. But then I remembered all the cute Quiet Books that I've seen floating around the interwebs and I'm choosing that, instead.

R is for razors. Sorry to be boring and possibly horrify young mamas with the thought that their littles might actually have to shave someday, but razors are a hot commodity around here.
S is for Socks. Who doesn’t like getting fun socks in their stocking? I actually have 9 pairs to jam into Gv's stocking this year, because they're great fillers and also because her feet just exploded in the last few weeks and are already creeping dangerously close to her mother's clown-length hooves...

T  is for toothpaste/toothbrush. To complete the dental hygiene package I started with “F.”
U is for Underwear. I always secretly longed for some Underoos in my stocking, but I never got them. Just had to imagine myself decked out in Wonder Woman undies in my mind…

So, Christmas stocking underwear isn't just your everyday white variety--it is most likely purchased all on its own and not in the package of 6 or 8 that everyday underwear is (at least in my house) and does not have any type of fruit on the label...

V is for Vandoren V12 clarinet reeds. Here, I am admittedly going with something that will only help a very small percentage of the world’s stocking-stuffer population. But I am a clarinet mom, so this is my "v" choice. In the clarinet world, reeds are the Holy Grail of all supplies. Clarinetists are always looking for The One that will do everything they want it to do, every time. It is well known that in a box of 20 reeds, 2 might be "good." When you find a "good" one, you put it on your list of "stuff to save from the house if it ever catches on fire." After much trial and error (and weeping and gnashing of teeth), my high-school clarinetist has settled on this make and model of reed. All of which is just to say that she would be very pleased to find these in her stocking.

W is for water bottle. We're always on the hunt for good ones around here, so finding one that is not only stainless steel, but has openings that are easy to clean is quite an accomplishment. I found a 3 pack last year of these great skinny bottles that just fit perfectly in each of our stockings. I've kept my eyes peeled for new ones for this year, but alas, I feel our dented beauties will need to last another 12 months.
X is for xanthan gum. This powdery substance that looks nothing like gum is used to mimic the chew-enhancing powers of gluten in gluten-free baking. A small stash would be a great stocking stuffer for anyone who does very much GF baking. But my main reason for including it on this list is to avoid copping out with “x is for extra” anything.
Y for yo-yo. Even though Gv isn't anywhere close to being ready for this toy, I have been ready to stick this one in her stocking since her first Christmas a few years ago.  It, along with a harmonica, were two of my favorite stocking stuffers to get, ever.

Z for zipper pull. Ours cannot be the only house in which pulls come off zippers on a maddeningly regular basis. Coats, backpacks, hoodies, etc….all frequent victims of zipper-pull malfunctions. Without questions, somebody whose life I oversee needs one of these in their stocking.
If you happen to have a ballerina on your list of people whose stockings needs stuffing, here’s an adorable option.
(On the other hand, if all the zipper pulls in your house are behaving, go with a Zero candy bar.)

Okay, mamas and friends, what's missing from this list? 
Add it on in a comment here, over on Lisa's blog, or on Facebook
And then, may a joyous, hope-filled Christmas
--and a long winter's nap--be yours soon.

**This post may be been shared at some of these link parties.**