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Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Marshmallows

 These Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies sandwiched around a melty toasted marshmallow put s’mores to shame!

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies make the perfect sandwich for a toasted marshmallow!

What could possibly be better than a warm chocolate chip cookie?

How about 2 warm chocolate chip cookies…

…filled with gooey fire roasted marshmallows?

If this doesn’t make you want to start a bonfire right now, I’m not sure you’re breathing.

 Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies sandwiched around a toasted marshmallow is all you need for a perfect camping dessert.

This, dear friends, is a s’mookie. At least, that’s what we call it around these parts.

Truthfully, I owe you all an apology, because I’ve been holding out on you.

You see, I’ve known about s’mookies for almost two decades. I was introduced to them way back in middle school when I attended my first summer camp. Each year we spent one evening in a beautiful valley surrounded by rock formations. The valley was lit up by a giant bonfire, and everyone was invited to a campfire meal comprised of roasted hot dogs, baked beans, and potato chips.

Simple as it was, that was always one of my favorite camp meals. Nothing quite compares to a hot dog blackened over a blazing fire. And it was there in that valley I first discovered baked beans make a wonderful dip for ruffle chips.

As great as that meal was, by far the highlight of those nights was the dessert. Everyone was handed two chocolate chip cookies, a poker, and a marshmallow, and we’d all rush to the campfire to roast our mallows. The more patient among us took great care to slowly rotate their poker, braving the heat long enough to get the most perfect, even toast.

Others, with either less self-control or a taste for char, would thrust their poker straight into the flame, catch the marshmallow on fire and then huff and puff in a frenzy to blow it out.

But in the end it didn’t really matter whether the marshmallow was golden brown or crisp and blackened.

Because once that marshmallow wedged it’s warm, ooey gooey goodness between those two cookies there was only incredible, mouth watering, delectable s’mookie.

To this day no bonfire, no camping trip is quite complete for me without the presence of s’mookies.

 These Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies are soft and chewy with chunks of semi sweet and milk chocolate.

For the past few years, I’ve been relying on my favorite Bakery Style Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe for all my s’mookie needs. But lately I’ve had the urge to make these cookies slightly more like their s’more knock off. I wanted it to be reminiscent of that classic graham cracker and chocolate bar combo, while still retaining the wonderful cookie properties that make the s’mookie so special. So I tweaked my favorite recipe just slightly, adding chunks of milk chocolate, crumbled graham cracker, and a hint of cinnamon. The resulting cookie is still just as chewy and irresistible as the original, with a few surprises hidden inside.

I know everyone loves s’mores, but can I just tell you? THESE ARE ONE THOUSAND TIMES BETTER. The cookies and toasty marshmallow melt into each other becoming one giant, warm, gooey, chocolatey mess.

Need more convincing?

Well, there’s this.

Nothing better than a Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies nestled around a toasted marshmallow. This is the ultimate camping dessert!

And then there’s also this.

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies sandwiched around a toasted marshmallow is the best summer dessert!

If you’re not planning a bonfire soon, don’t worry. You can toast your marshmallows over a grill. Heck, I’ve even used my broiler. Desperate s’mookie cravings call for desperate measures. These cookies stay soft for days so you can make them in advance, pack them in your backpack and be good for a week’s worth of camping dessert gold. Don’t wait to try this twist on a summer classic. They’re so good, you may never have a s’more again.

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cook Time 0:10 2017-06-26T00:10:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 0:20 2017-06-26T00:20:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time 0:30 2017-06-26T00:30:00+00:00 Total Time
Serves 15     adjust servings

Chewy graham cracker chocolate chunk cookies are the perfect vehicle for a gooey toasted marshmallow. You're going to love these smookies!

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies sandwiched around a toasted marshmallow is all you need for a perfect camping dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate bars, coarsely chopped
  • 5 full graham cracker sheets, divided

Instructions

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon.

In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add in the egg and yolk and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract then stir in the flour until just combined. Crumble two of the graham cracker sheet into the batter and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and chunks, reserving 1/2 cup of the chunks for topping.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight. If refrigerating overnight, you'll need to take the bowl out of the fridge about a half hour before you plan to bake these so they're scoopable.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and crush the remaining 3 sheets of graham crackers. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough out into heaping Tablespoons, roll in the graham cracker crumbs, then place them about 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set on the outside, but still puffed and a bit gooey in the center. Remove from oven and place the reserved chunks on top. Allow the cookies to set up and the chocolate to melt for about 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

To serve, roast the marshmallows over the fire then smoosh them between two chocolate chip cookies. HEAVEN.

by

Recipe Notes


Your home feels like a great place for a family, which is exactly what we are looking for.

These Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies (or S'mookies!) are my favorite summer dessert. Chewy, melty, gooey goodness with a toasted marshmallow nestled inside. It's perfect for campfire evenings!
{ 2 comments }

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats

These Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats are as delicious as they are lovely. Make the easy strawberry rhubarb compote ahead of time, and you’ll be ready for floats whenever the mood strikes!

These Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats are an easy summer dessert that's so refreshing!

Things have been just a tad busy around these parts the last few months, as we’ve been both house hunting and also preparing our house to sell. The process has been a lot more time consuming and a lot more emotional than I’d expected. We’ve poured so much love into our home over the last seven years, and it’s going to be hard to let it go, no matter how excited I am about a new home for our family. And of course, we did what we said we never would–waited until preparing to sell to make updates we should’ve made years ago. Sigh. Live and learn, I suppose. In the meantime, we’re enjoying every minute we have left with our no-longer-hideously-orange hallway and refreshing sea salt inspired bathrooms.

In the hubbub of moving, it’s been tough to keep up with daily tasks. Laundry piles up. Floors beg for a good mopping, and grocery shopping? Well, grocery shopping has been hit or miss, and mostly miss. We’ve eaten out much more than usual the last few months, and while I love takeout, my waist line doesn’t. I had my fill of burgers and lo mein, and I was craving the sense of normalcy that comes from planning, shopping, and making meals for my family. That’s why I was thrilled to discover Shipt, the new grocery delivery service that partners with local stores to bring fresh groceries straight to your door. Ordering takes place right on your phone, which means I can add things to my order wherever I am–in the car, watching my son run through the sprinkler, or in line at Kohl’s. Here in Columbus, groceries come from our local Meijer and I can have them delivered the exact same day. THE SAME DAY. (Insert all the praise hand emojis here!). This service has been such a huge lifesaver for us during this season. It’s given us back a precious few hours each week that we can spend painting, house hunting, or just enjoying a completely mundane, normal night together.

Without a lot of extra time on our hands, I’ve been keeping our meals really simple with things like Sheet Pan Pesto Chicken and Grilled Foil Packet Tilapia. So far, I haven’t run into a single ingredient we couldn’t get through Shipt, and the quality of all the fresh produce has been great. I can also grab cleaning supplies and laundry soap through Shipt, which will definitely come in handy if I ever get around to doing laundry again.

These refreshing Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats will be a hit at all your summer parties!

Of course, even when we’re pressed for time, I can’t forget about dessert. Priorities, y’all. I like my summer desserts to be easy to make, fruity, and include ice cream, and these Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats are a giant check, check, check on all three fronts. This right here is summer dessert perfection. It’s made by combining the same strawberry rhubarb compote found in this Strawberry Rhubarb Fool with club soda to make a bubbly soda perfect for floats. The syrup takes about 15 minutes to make, and it’s a great thing to make ahead of time and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. When the mood strikes, just combine the syrup with your favorite club soda and pour over vanilla ice cream. It’s cool, creamy, bubbly, and so refreshing.

We might be busy, but we’re never too busy for ice cream floats. I’m sure this drink will be making many more appearances this summer, at backyard dinner parties, and, with any luck, as a celebration drink in our new home. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Shipt can get you all the ingredients, including the ice cream (can I get an AMEN?!), TODAY. If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can visit Shipt’s website to learn more and sign up!

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats are an easy dessert perfect for any summer gathering.

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats

Cook Time 0:15 2017-06-26T00:15:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 0:05 2017-06-26T00:05:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time 0:20 2017-06-26T00:20:00+00:00 Total Time
Serves 3     adjust servings


These refreshing Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats will be a hit at all your summer parties!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. rhubarb stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1 inch long orange peel slices (optional, but super tasty!)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 cups your favorite club soda
  • Your favorite vanilla ice cream

Instructions

To make the syrup, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, orange peel, and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a potato masher to break up the fruit until it's fairly smooth. Cool and store in the fridge until ready to use. 

To assemble the floats, fill glasses with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. Combine the club soda and syrup together then pour over the ice cream. Top off with a little extra soda, if desired. Alternately, if you'd like to just mix up one or two at a time, combine about 3/4 cup of soda with syrup to taste, pour over ice cream, and serve. 

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Recipe Notes


This post is sponsored by Shipt. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the services and brands who keep NeighborFood running!

These Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Floats are an easy, refreshing dessert perfect for all your summer parties!
{ 4 comments }

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa

This recipe for Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa has been sponsored by The Coca Cola Company. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and stories are my own. This easy foil-grilled salmon has an intense smoky heat which pairs beautifully with sweet mango, red onions, and cilantro. I can’t wait for you all to try this one!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa is a fresh, healthy meal loaded with flavor. This dinner is perfect for summer BBQs!

This Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa recipe was a big deal around these parts. You see, for the last several years, salmon has been my seafood nemesis. Cooking other fish? Not a problem. I can make lemon garlic tilapia that flakes when you look at it, and a chipotle shrimp sandwich that will make you weak in the knees. But salmon? Can’t do it. I’ve baked it. I’ve pan fried it. I’ve used my trusty thermometer and set enough timers to alert the neighbors. It doesn’t matter. I still always always over cook my salmon.

It would almost be funny if dry salmon weren’t so darn depressing. I don’t have a single baked salmon recipe on this site, and it’s not because I don’t like salmon. It’s because I’ve never been able to cook it properly.

If that’s not sad enough, let’s discuss my incompetence when it comes to mango. If salmon is my Achilles’ heel of the seafood world, mango is the equivalent of the fruit world. I can never seem to pick a ripe one, and then I inevitably either slice it too early or wait too long. When I do finally decide to slice it, I feel like a four year old who has never used a knife before. What is up with that huge wonky pit and how the heck am I supposed to slice around it without losing a finger (or all the viable fruit)?

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa is a light, refreshing summer meal that's super easy to make and perfect for serving a crowd!

Ah, salmon and mango. Those feisty little stinkers. It would’ve made sense to give up on them years ago. Besides, there are plenty of other fish in the sea (so bad, I know).

But giving up just isn’t how I roll. This summer I was determined to show salmon and mango who’s boss. The season of BBQs and late nights lingering on patios is upon us, so I knew I wanted a recipe that was simple, grillable, and ideal for entertaining.

My first strategy for conquering salmon was to ditch the individual fillets and instead buy one large salmon steak. Sam’s Club’s Member’s Mark brand offers two pound salmon fillets that are perfect for feeding a crowd (or having leftovers all week). I found using a larger piece of salmon helped keep the fish from drying out before it was finished cooking.

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa is a great summer meal that serves a crowd!

The next move? Put it in foil. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this ages ago. Foil packet tilapia is one of my favorite healthy summer meals, and it only makes sense that salmon would benefit from this grilling method as well. I love foil packet cooking because it not only helps seal in moisture, but it also makes cleanup a breeze. I sprinkled the salmon with a rub made from smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic, salt and pepper, then brushed it with a honey and apple cider vinegar mixture before tossing it on the grill.

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa is the perfect smoky sweet dish for summer!

I was a bit of a basket case standing next to the grill, but I set a timer and distracted myself by pulling the weeds that mistakenly believe they are the king of our yard. After about 12 minutes, I ventured a peek. The salmon looked good, great even. I peeled the foil back completely, covered the grill, and let it cook a few more minutes to get that dreamy sticky glazed skin.

One look at the finished salmon, and I knew this was the one. I stabbed it gently with a fork, and it fell apart like a dream. I tasted it. It was heaven. I never described salmon as melt-in-your-mouth until I met this salmon. The foil packet and the high, steady heat of the grill produced the most perfect, tender, juicy salmon I have ever made, and the smoky sweet rub made it even more irresistible. Now all it needed was a scoop of fresh mango salsa, and my victory would be complete.

Defeating the mango turned out to be easier than I thought. I followed this helpful mango cutting tutorial, which made me feel slightly less inept, but you know what else you can do? Use frozen mango! (And all the people said Hallelujah!). Frozen mango is dependably ripe, juicy, and flavorful and can cut your prep time in half. It doesn’t hold up quite as well as fresh, so if you go the frozen route, I recommend using the salsa within one day. Tossed with red onion, bell pepper, a splash of lime, and a lot of cilantro, this mango salsa is packed with fresh flavors.

I tortured the contractors who were working at our house last week by making and photographing this in front of them, so of course I had to share. They both gave the recipe such high praise and couldn’t get over how well all of these flavors blended together. This healthy, quick meal screams summer. It’s the perfect meal to enjoy on a warm, sticky evening, paired with a Vitamin Water Zero® xxx or squeezed to keep things light and refreshing. The leftovers are also amazing served on salad greens. You and whoever is lucky enough to be invited to your table are going to love this grilled salmon. Here’s to conquering our cooking nemesis and enjoying all the flavors summer has to offer!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa uses a foil packet to keep the salmon moist and tender!

Sam’s Club and Coca Cola© are offering a special sweepstakes as part of their 100 Ways to Summer Campaign. Visit their website to enter and get a lot more ideas for fresh summer feasts!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa

Cook Time 15 mins 2017-06-26T00:15:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 25 mins 2017-06-26T00:25:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time
Serves 8     adjust servings

This paprika, honey, and garlic rubbed salmon is grilled in a foil packet and topped with fresh mango salsa for a light and refreshing summer meal.

Ingredients

For the salmon

  • 2 lb. whole skinless salmon fillet
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon apple cider vineger

For the mango salsa

  • 2 large ripe mangos, chopped (or substitute 2 1/2 cups frozen mango)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 sweet bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded if you don’t want a lot of heat), diced
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Lots of fresh chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat a grill to medium high heat. Brush a large, heavy duty piece of foil with olive oil. The foil should be long enough to lay the salmon on top and wrap completely around it. Mix all the spices together and rub on both sides of the salmon. Whisk together the honey and apple cider vinegar and brush it on both sides of the salmon. Place the salmon on the foil and bring the sides together, sealing it tightly. Grill for about 12 minutes then carefully open the foil packet (steam will escape so be careful!). Leave the the foil packet open, cover the grill, and continue to grill for another 3-5 minutes or until the fish flakes apart easily with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, toss all the mango salsa ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be made several hours in advance and the flavor actually gets better as it sits.
  3. To serve, divide the salmon up into individual portions and spoon the mango salsa on top.

by

Recipe Notes


This Foil Packet Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa is a super refreshing, light summer meal. Everyone will love the sweet and smoky flavor, and you'll love how easy it is to make!
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Spring Vegetable Platter with Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip

Say goodbye to boring veggie trays and hello to this bright, fresh, and colorful Spring Vegetable Platter. Paired with a quick Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip this is a healthy appetizer people might actually want to eat. 

This Spring Vegetable Platter puts those boring store-bought versions to shame. The freshest, most colorful spring veggies are paired with a quick herbed Greek yogurt dip for an appetizer people will actually enjoy eating!I have little patience for fancy language when it comes to food. I believe menus should be readable, haricot verts should be called skinny green beans, and a crudité platter is really just a veggie tray all grown up.

I remember the first time I went to an expensive restaurant and ordered a meal that included haricot verts. I had no idea what it was, and couldn’t wait to see the exotic side dish that awaited me. You can imagine my disappointment when I received a plate of rather average looking green beans. And look, they were delicious green beans, but they were green beans nonetheless. An elegant name can’t change the fact that a green bean is a green bean, whether Italian or French, skinny or short.

I suppose that’s enough ranting about green beans for the day. Let’s talk about the classic veggie tray, or, if you want to feel superior, the crudité platter. Normally the veggie tray is the saddest dish at the party, picked last for every plate. Most people grab a carrot or two out of guilt or a futile attempt to make a plate that is mostly filled with cheese and carbs look slightly more balanced. #priorities. But really, the veggie platter has so much more to offer than it’s lackluster grocery store plastic container would have you believe. This year, I wanted to make a vegetable plate that would be more than a half-hearted attempt to add “something healthy” to the spread.

Say goodbye to boring vegetable platters and hello to this tasty, beautiful Spring Vegetable Platter with Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip.

When most of you hear the word “vegetable platter,” I’m guessing you imagine a rather boring combination of baby carrots, stringy celery, on-its-way-out cauliflower, and a thick dip that falls somewhere in the ranch family.

Take that boring image and throw it out the window. This spring vegetable platter is made to appeal to your eyes first and your taste buds next. I ditched convention and instead found the most colorful, fresh, and bright vegetables my grocery store had to offer. Fresh asparagus, stop light colored bell peppers, crisp and spicy radishes, and juicy cherry tomatoes all made their way onto the plate. Carrots still earned a spot as well, but I ditched the boring baby carrots in favor of skinny peeled carrots, so you get more crunch in every bite.

I also traded in the gloppy dip of our youths for a fresh, healthy dip made with whole milk Greek yogurt. If you haven’t tried whole Greek yogurt yet, you must! It is so rich and creamy! All it needs is a good handful of fresh herbs (dill, chives, and basil are my top picks, but feel free to experiment), and a squeeze of lemon juice or white balsamic vinegar to brighten it up.

This Spring Vegetable Platter with Herbed Greek Yogurt is the perfect appetizer for spring and summer cookouts!

Of course, the possibilities for customizing and beautifying this plate to your tastes are endless. Rainbow carrots would be absolutely divine, as would the various heirloom tomato cherry varieties that will be popping up in stores in the coming months. Snap peas or endive would also be lovely. Look for fresh and colorful produce and you can’t go wrong!

I made this platter at the beginning of the week and loved having fresh vegetables to munch on all week. And because they’re beautiful, pre-chopped, and filled with so many different tastes and textures, I found myself eating vegetables as a snack way more than I usually do. This platter feels far from punishment, and maybe even deserving of that pretentious name after all. Well played, crudité platter, well played.

Vegetable Platter with Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip

Cook Time 0:00 2017-06-26T00:00:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 0:10 2017-06-26T00:10:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time 0:10 2017-06-26T00:10:00+00:00 Total Time
Serves 8     adjust servings


Ingredients

For the dip

  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt (I prefer whole milk yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup mixed chopped herbs (dill, chives, and basil are my favorites!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • Vegetables of your choice

Instructions

Mix all of the dip ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables of your choice into easily grab-able pieces. My favorites are carrots (skinny, left whole), radishes (halved), sweet bell peppers (sliced), asparagus (woody ends removed), mushrooms (halved), and tomatoes (whole), but feel free to pick your own favorites to add to the plate! Arrange the vegetables on a platter around the dip, interspersing different colors and shapes for the prettiest effect. 

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Recipe Notes


This spring inspired vegetable platter is made with the freshest, most colorful produce and paired with a quick herbed Greek yogurt dip for an appetizer everyone will love.
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Creamiest Mac and Cheese

After years of searching (and making more boxed mac than I care to admit), I finally found the creamiest mac and cheese recipe around. Super cheddary, rich, and made on the stove top in under 30 minutes, this is going to be making many more appearances on our family table. 

This is the Creamiest Mac and Cheese recipe made with simple ingredients and an amazing cheddar flavor!

Confession: I haven’t been on a roller coaster since high school, which was over ten years ago (I know, I couldn’t believe it either). I think that means I’m officially old. To be honest, even back then I wasn’t super into rides. I tried to keep up with my classmates during our senior trip to Cedar Point, but after a few coasters, I was ready to find myself some shade, a slushie, and a seat that didn’t move at 80 miles per hour.

My husband, on the other hand, has always been a thrill seeker. He likes to get to the park early so he has plenty of time to ride all the rides and repeat his favorites. He can hop from one to the next without any issues, and without his stomach or head crying out for mercy. For the last few years, I’ve told him to find a friend to go to Cedar Point so he can get all of his high flying, zero gravity cravings met while I stay at home and get my adrenaline going with a riveting book.

But this year Cedar Point was offering something a little different. Not the tallest coaster or the fastest acceleration, but something much more my speed: BBQ. Every weekend from May 19th to June 11th, Cedar Point is offering Brew and BBQ, a foodie experience with live bluegrass music, beer, and tons of delicious smoked meat.

Cedar Point Brew and BBQ

Suddenly I really wanted to ditch my novel and go to Cedar Point again. My husband was able to take Friday off at the last minute, so we buckled up and headed towards Sandusky for a little adventure. I’ll admit, I was in it for the food, but I promised my husband I’d let my feet leave the ground at least once.

The day ended up being dreary, rainy, and cold, but we still had a blast, and I even made good on my promise by riding the Merry Go Round…twice!

Cedar Point Brew and BBQ

Okay, okay, I know that doesn’t count, so just for good measure I also rode The Gatekeeper (which looked deceptively small and mild and turned out to be rather large and intense), and the Iron Dragon, which was just my speed (ie: a breezy 40 mph). I felt pretty proud of myself after those two, but also felt no further need to prove I still had it. So we headed to the back of the park to warm up with some great BBQ. Little did we know the feast that awaited us–BBQ of every kind (Nashville, Kansas, Texas, Carolina) and cut (ribs, brisket, pulled pork, nachos, sliders, sausages, and more). I also discovered Not Your Momma’s Iced Tea (amazing!) and indulged in some of the creamiest, dreamiest mac and cheese I’ve had in awhile.

Cedar Point Brew and BBQ

There’s not a classic macaroni and cheese recipe anywhere on the blog, mainly because I’ve never found one worth sharing. I’ve eaten way too many awesome mac and cheese plates to settle for anything less than supremely creamy, rich, and cheddary noodles. But with summer BBQ season fast approaching, I decided it was past time for me to find my go-to recipe for mac. I did a lot of research on this one, learning about different types of cheese, the construction of the perfect bechamel, and what type of noodle to use. After much debate, I finally decided to try a recipe from the ladies behind Homeroom restaurant, an Oakland, CA eatery devoted entirely to macaroni and cheese.

The Creamiest Mac and Cheese recipe is made on the stove top in under 30 minutes! This cheddary mac will be everyone's new favorite!

Their tips? Start with a rich bechamel made with whole milk and plenty of butter. Use hearty macaroni noodles (the kind with ridges for soaking up sauce)! And stick to traditional cheeses–a flavorful aged sharp cheddar and a dry pecorino romano. I set out to take their advice, and guys? I’m convinced. This will now be my macaroni and cheese recipe. This is what I will take to reunions and bake under breadcrumbs and serve up alongside BBQ ribs. It is creamy and oh-so-rich, with a really pronounced salty cheddar flavor. Of course, there’s plenty of room for customization here. I think I might try American cheese in place of the Pecorino for  a mild flavor or add Pepper Jack for heat. You can stir in peas or hot dogs, or add hot sauce or jalapenos. But if you’re looking for an awesome base recipe you can make for any occasion, this creamy macaroni and cheese is your guy.

Looking for the creamiest mac and cheese recipe? This is the one! Made on the stove top in under a half hour this will be everyone's new favorite meal!

Definitely give this recipe a whirl, and consider taking an adventure to Cedar Point this year as well! It was refreshing and really fun to do something with my husband that’s admittedly out of my comfort zone. Nothing makes you feel young and brave and wild quite like climbing that first big hill.

This post was developed in partnership with Blog Meets Brand and Cedar Fair. As always, all opinions are my own. 

The Creamiest Mac and Cheese

Cook Time 0:20 2017-06-26T00:20:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 0:05 2017-06-26T00:05:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time 0:25 2017-06-26T00:25:00+00:00 Total Time
Serves 4     adjust servings

This classic macaroni and cheese is extra creamy and rich with a great cheddar flavor. 

This is the Creamiest Mac and Cheese recipe made with simple ingredients and an amazing cheddar flavor!

Ingredients

For the bechamel sauce

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder

For the macaroni

  • 8 ounces (2 cups) sturdy macaroni noodles *see note
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp aged cheddar cheese *see note
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Cook the macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted water according to package directions, draining them a minute before the "al dente" cooking time.

Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top until very hot but not boiling. 

In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns a light brown color. Remove from heat. Slowly start pouring in the milk, whisking constantly. The mixture will look very thick at first and will thin out as you whisk in the remainder of the milk. Return the pot to the heat and cook the mixture, whisking continuously, another 3-5 minutes or until thickened. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon. If you put a little bit on a spoon and run your finger through it, the line from your finger should remain. Stir in the salt and ground mustard. Remove 1 cup of the sauce and store it in airtight container in the fridge to be used for creamy soups or sausage gravy. 

Return the remaining sauce to the stove. Over low heat, add the cheeses, stirring to melt. If you're unable to melt in all the cheese, add a bit more milk, a Tablespoon at a time, until the cheese is melted completely. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese and stir until well coated and heated through. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed or simply serve hot with a sprinkle of parsley. 

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Recipe Notes

I recommend Barilla or Ronzoni large elbows for the pasta. For the cheese, look for a good quality aged cheddar, preferably aged over 9 months. I recommend Tillamook. 

This recipe makes 3 cups of bechamel sauce, but you'll only need two to make the mac and cheese. Save the third cup to make a creamy soup or delicious sausage gravy. 

Recipe adapted from The Mac and Cheese Cookbook

This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, a small percentage will come back to support this blog. Thanks for your support!

This is the creamiest mac and cheese I have ever made! Super rich, cheddary, and made on the stove top in less than 30 minutes, this recipe is going to be a dinner staple!
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Easy Rhubarb Custard Cake

A layer of creamy, tangy sweet custard forms the base of this easy to make Rhubarb Custard Cake. 

Rhubarb Custard Cake is an easy dessert that's perfect for spring!

 

Have you ever played the game 2 Truths and a Lie? It’s a classic icebreaker, where someone shares two true statements about themselves along with one lie, and everyone else in the group has to guess which one is the lie.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had my stock answers:

I once cleaned a gas station bathroom.

I was a starting forward on my high school basketball team.

and my grandparents grew up Amish.

Want to guess which one is a lie?

The first one is (disturbingly) true. It happened on a high school mission trip where we set out to surprise local businesses with extraordinary acts of service. Cleaning a gas station bathroom (for free!), seemed about as extraordinary as we could get. The look on the manager’s face when we asked if we could clean his bathroom almost made it worth it. Still, I wouldn’t mind NEVER doing that again.

The second one? Definitely a lie. While I spent nearly ever summer of my growing up years at basketball camp, my love for the game never translated into actual talent. I think my high school (and everyone else) is very glad I decided to stick with watching, and not playing, basketball.

Then comes the last one, which, obviously, the second truth. My grandparents on both sides were raised Amish, but left the church as young adults. They remained in the conservative Mennonite faith for the remainder of their lives, and passed on the values of that community to my parents and on to me. I credit at least some of my love for food and gathering at the table to my Mennonite heritage. If you ever find yourself at a Mennonite family reunion, you can count on at least one thing: there will be plenty of food, and it will all be delicious.

This Rhubarb Custard Cake is made with only 6 ingredients and comes together in a flash!

Though I’ve branched out to cook and enjoy recipes from many different cultures, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the comfort foods I grew up with–Amish Apple Fry Pies, Amish Chicken and Noodles, and the best Homemade Amish White Bread, just to name a few.

That’s why I was thrilled to discover the new Amish Community Cookbook, filled with recipes gathered from Amish and Mennonite cooks across the U.S. and Canada. I spent an evening flipping through the pages, dog-earring recipes I knew I had to make. The book is filled with classics like Chicken Pot Pie and Ham and Bean Soup, but also has a few surprises (Dandelion Salad, anyone)? Alongside traditional Amish desserts like Shoofly Pie was this unexpected recipe simply titled Fresh Rhubarb Dessert. I scanned through the ingredients and was shocked and intrigued to discover there were only four, with one of them being cake mix.

It might surprise you to find cake mix in an Amish recipe, but sometimes Amish families need shortcuts just as much as the rest of us (and maybe even more)! While I love to bake from scratch, there are days when a quick cake mix dessert is all I have time for. And when that day comes, I guarantee you I’m going to come back to this Easy Rhubarb Custard Cake again and again.

This Rhubarb Custard Cake has a fluffy cake layer and a creamy sweet rhubarb custard layer. It's beautiful, delicious, and SO EASY to make!

Wonderfully moist and perfectly sweet with a hint of tang from the rhubarb, this cake is made by sprinkling cake mix batter with sugared rhubarb then pouring whipping cream over top. Honestly, I felt almost certain this wasn’t going to turn out. It felt positively wrong to drench a cake in cream, but I trusted whoever contributed this recipe knew what they were doing. Sure enough, the cake was a beauty. After 45 minutes, the cream and rhubarb had sunk to the bottom, forming a wonderful custard layer topped with fluffy, golden cake. I dove into the cake warm, because I have no self control around fresh baked goods, and it was heavenly. I almost always prefer baked goods warm over cold, and this one is no different. However, if you refrigerate the cake for a few hours, the custard layer firms up and allows you to serve up neater slices, with a more pronounced and pretty layer of pink custard. The cold cake almost takes on the texture of a tres leches cake, where every morsel is soaked in rich cream. It’s really a delightful cake, and a great way to use up rhubarb. I’m so glad to add this quick and delicious recipe to my arsenal!

If you’re interested in checking out the cookbook for yourself, you can order the Amish Community Cookbook here.

Easy Rhubarb Custard Cake

Cook Time 0:45 2017-06-26T00:45:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 0:15 2017-06-26T00:15:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time 1:00 2017-06-26T01:00:00+00:00 Total Time
Serves 12     adjust servings

This creamy, fluffy rhubarb custard cake is so simple to make and is a lovely recipe for spring!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 yellow cake mix + Ingredients for making the cake mix
  • 2 cups whipping cream

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.

Place the rhubarb in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over top. Allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Prepare the cake mix according to package instructions then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Toss together the rhubarb and sugar then sprinkle evenly on top. Pour the cream over the entire top.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until top is set and a toothpick comes out clean (the bottom third of the cake will still be wet so don't base the toothpick test on that portion). Serve the cake warm (it will be messy!), or chill for a few hours or overnight to have neater slices.

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Recipe Notes


This post may contain affiliate links. If you place an order using this link, a small portion of the profits will come back to support this blog. 

This Rhubarb Custard Cake with a fluffy cake layer and a creamy rhubarb custard layer is the perfect spring dessert. And did I mention how incredibly EASY it is to make?
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Banh Mi Burgers with Quick Pickled Carrots and Daikon

These Bánh Mì Burgers with Quick Pickled Carrots and Daikon were developed in partnership with Ohio Beef. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Banh Mi Burgers are loaded with quick pickled veggies for a summer meal that's bursting with flavor!

Last week I had the opportunity to visit several beef farms here in Ohio. One of the things I love about living in Columbus is we enjoy all the benefits of big city living while only being a 45 minute drive from country life. I grew up in a rural community surrounded by cornfields, so while I love city life, something about wide open fields, silos, and the faint scent of cow manure will always feel like home.

Just a little south of the city, we met the Jepsens and the Hoffmans, first and second generation beef cattle farmers. Every time I have the opportunity to speak with a farmer, I come away with renewed respect for the incredibly difficult but important job they have. I was grateful to have the chance to speak with each family, and was amazed by their transparency and openness about the entire process of raising, butchering, and bringing beef to our tables. These men and women have an impressive level of expertise about everything from cow behavior and biology to efficient, sustainable land usage. They work long hours in 90 degree heat and below freezing temperatures. No one becomes a farmer because they want to make a lot of money and live a super comfortable life. You have to have a passion for this type of work, and that passion was evident in both farmers we spoke to. The Jepsens and Hoffmans are just two of the 17,000 beef family farmers who are committed to providing excellent care of their animals and protecting the environment for future generations, often without thanks or recognition for the vital role they play in bringing safe, quality food to our tables.

After meeting with local beef farmers, we had the pleasure of dining and cooking with Peter Chapman, Regional Chef at Cameron Mitchell restaurants. In about a 36 hour window, we tried beef in about 10 different forms, some familiar and some not so familiar. We had roasts and ribeyes, meatballs and carpaccio, hangar steak and shepherd’s pie. Everything was carefully made and artfully plated. You might think in a line up this exquisite the humble burger couldn’t stand up, but you’d be wrong. Even amidst a sea of lovely and delectable beef dishes, the simple burger held it’s own, enticing all of us with it’s rich flavor and dribble-down-the-chin-juiciness.

Banh Mi Burgers are a fun, summer take on the banh mi sandwich that's perfect for grilling!

I’ve made a lot of good burgers over the years (these All American Bacon Cheeseburgers and Red Wine Burgers with Caramelized Onions come to mind), but these Bánh Mì Burgers are a new favorite.

If you’re not familiar with the traditional bánh mì sandwich, here’s a quick run down. This Vietnamese favorite is stacked with juicy roasted pork and pickled vegetables, typically a combination of carrots, daikon radish, and sometimes cucumber. It often has a spicy mayonnaise based sauce and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. It’s fresh and crunchy, with a range of textures and tastes to enjoy.

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how the bright, sweet and sour flavors of a classic báhn mì would convert to burger form, but it turns out beef and pickled vegetables belong together. The puckery crunch of the carrots and daikon really helps balance out the richness of the beef. Think about how dill pickles give a burger that hint of crunch and acidity, now multiply that effect by about five. It’s perfection. Pair it with fresh jalapeno slices (for those how can handle the extra heat), fresh cilantro, and a spicy Sriracha mayo and you have yourself one heck of a burger.

Banh Mi Burgers topped with quick pickled vegetables and spicy Sriracha mayo are a great way to bust out of your burger rut!

A few notes on the process: Normally bánh mì vegetables need to sit for several hours or days to get their trademark sweet and sour flavor. The problem is, sometimes you need a bánh mì burger TONIGHT. That’s where these quick pickled vegetables come in. Made in the time it takes you to fry up the hamburgers and set the table, these vegetables are ready to go in 30 minutes. However, if you happen to have the time (and foresight) to make classic pickled vegetables, I recommend checking out the White on Rice Couple’s Vietnamese Pickled Vegetable recipe.

I like to use a mixture of carrots, daikon radish, and cucumber for these burgers, but you can omit the cucumber if you prefer. I was able to find daikon at my local Kroger, but if you have trouble finding it, I think you could substitute red radishes with good results!

The quick pickled vegetables stay good for a few days, and make enough for 6 (heavily loaded) sandwich. If you need less, I recommend halving the recipe.

To make perfect grilled burgers, be sure to preheat your grill to at least 450 degrees. The high heat gives the meat a nice sear. After a minute, you can reduce the heat to around 350 for the remainder of the cooking time. I like to shape the beef patties, then put a small thumbprint in the center so they cook evenly and don’t get that domed shape typical of homemade burgers. Most importantly, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, smash, poke, prod or otherwise torment your patties while they’re cooking. This causes all those delicious juices to escape and end up in the bottom of your grill rather than in your mouth where you want them. Leave the patties alone (besides flipping and testing for temperature), and you’ll be rewarded with tender, juicy burgers everyone will love.

Banh Mi Burgers

Cook Time 15 mins 2017-06-26T00:15:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 30 mins 2017-06-26T00:30:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time
Serves 5     adjust servings

Ingredients

Quick pickles

  • 1 cup shredded carrots (about 3 large carrots)
  • 1 cup daikon radish (about 1 daikon)
  • 1 cup cucumber ((about 1 English cucumber)
  • 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the burgers

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Cilantro
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons sriracha

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, radish, cucumber, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes. If you're preparing this ahead of time, cover and refrigerate. Note: It will smell horrendous the following day, but will still be good to eat. You've been warned.
  2. Preheat the grill to 450 degrees. For the burgers, gently mix the salt into the ground beef using your fingers. Shape into 5 patties and place a small thumbprint divot in the center of each one. Grill the burgers for about a minute on high heat, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to grill until liquid starts to form on the top of the burger and it easily lifts off the grate. Flip and grill until the internal temperature reaches 145 for medium rare or 160 for medium well.
  3. To serve, place the burgers in buns and top with cilantro, jalapenos, and pickled vegetables. Mix together the mayonnaise and sriracha and spread on top.

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Banh Mi Burgers topped with quick pickled vegetables and spicy Sriracha mayo are loaded with flavor and perfect for summer cookouts!
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The Mean Girl in My Head

I sank into the cushions of my couch, feeling the full weight of two rounds of colds in our household in the last month. My little guy was sleeping, and I longed to do the same. The pillows stared back at me like temptresses, willing me to rest my weary head. I couldn’t resist. I grabbed our fuzziest blanket, curled up, and buried my face in the fluffiest pillow in the pile. And that’s when I heard it. My inner mom voice.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. You aren’t going to take a nap, are you?’

“Have you looked at this house lately? It’s a pig sty!”

“The baby is sleeping. This is your only chance. Those dishes aren’t going to do themselves!”

“Oh, and don’t forget about dinner prep. You’ve been eating waaaay too much mac and cheese around here. We don’t want little P to grow up addicted to sugar and carbs now, do we? By the way, when’s the last time your son ate something green? You really aren’t pushing those veggies enough. He’s probably already on the path to obesity!”

On and on the little voice rattles, until I drag myself up off the couch and pick up a vacuum or a sponge or my laptop and get back to work.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that voice. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my inner monologue sounds more like a 17 year old mean girl than a grown adult mother. Sure, she seems well meaning enough at first. She appears to want what’s best for me and my family. None of what she says to me is necessarily wrong. Sometimes my house really does need cleaned. Sometimes I can’t remember the last vegetable my son ate. Sometimes I really could use a good workout.

Ever feel like you have a mean girl on your shoulder pointing out all of your flaws? That voice can be deafening, but it's not the truth. You are precious and deserve to be treated with kindness, not just by other people, but by yourself as well.

But here’s the thing about my inner mean girl. She‘s never satisfied. I can do yoga and scrub the floors and lose weight and attend all the toddler development play dates in the world, and she’ll still tell me I’m not enough. Like Regina George dressed in pepto-bismol pink, she seems pure and good and sweet until she rips your heart to shreds. My inner mean mom paralyzes me with guilt when I take an hour to read or watch Netflix or, God forbid, take a nap. She tells me everyone else is getting along so much better than me, and why can’t I just do ALL THE THINGS like so-and-so seems to (so easily) do?

This voice is not driven by love for my child or myself (a lie that’s quite easy to believe), but by judgmental comments, comparison shopping, and jealousy. It gets it’s power from articles like “5 Ways to Make Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by 4 Months” or “How to Raise an Angel Baby Who Never Cries and Will Definitely Never Have an Epic Meltdown in a Target.” Even articles telling us to ignore the dirty dishes and “be really present” can feel like eternal judgments on our parenting. According to the Internet, when I’m cleaning, I should feel guilty about not soaking up precious minutes of my child’s life, and when I’m busy “being present” I should feel stressed about the food hardening to diamond-like strength on last night’s dinner dishes.

My mean girl lurks behind the noise of tractor toys and Bob the Builder (“ah, ah, ah, better be careful about that screen time!”), laying on the sarcasm and the judgement wherever she can. She’s Regina, only perhaps worse, since she’s armed with a decade’s worth of expectations about what “good moms” or “good women” do (or don’t do).

Here’s the thing. We all know our inner Regina isn’t good. She’s a life ruiner, remember? It may not be the most “fetch” lesson we learned from Mean Girls, but it’s just as important. Mean girls steal our joy and destroy our relationships, making them nothing more than a game of jealousy and comparison.

Almost every mom I know is battling an inner mean girl. But when we start heaping ourselves with guilt and judgment, we have to remember what Mean Girls taught us all those years ago. That mean girl voice is a life ruiner. She ruins people's lives.

Deep down, I know that judgmental, condescending voice taking up space in my brain and heart isn’t my real voice. The reason I know that is because it sounds completely different from the voice I use with my own child when I’m at my best. My genuine voice, the one that loves my little one so much it hurts, is full of tenderness and grace, patience and good humor. That voice doesn’t condemn or shame or weigh down with guilt. Instead, it gently leads, corrects, affirms, and encourages. It assumes we’re on the same team. We are a work in progress, but we’re growing and learning together. I expect there to be mistakes made along the way, lessons to be learned, and consequences to learn them from. But my truest inner mom, or at least the mom I long to be, doesn’t ever want my child’s life to be ruled by guilt and unmet expectations. I want him to grow up joyfully believing he is fearfully and wonderfully made and loved exactly as he is–imperfections and all.

I want to say I’m DONE listening to my mean mom voice, but even as I make that declaration, I hear her whispering, “You can’t do it. You’ll just go back to the way you’ve always been. You NEED me.”

And you know what? She’s right. I will fail. I will continue to hear her voice, and sometimes I will listen to it. That doesn’t mean I am a failure. That means I am a human. Because I’m human, I will sometimes fail. I will yell. I’ll use the TV as a crutch. I’ll eat junk food too many days in a row. I’ll look at my phone too much. I’ll clean when I should be playing or play when I should be cleaning. I’ll make mistakes I don’t even realize I’m making until years later. Perfection is not an option, despite what Instagram or Pinterest would have us believe. The only option we have is our response, the voice we choose to listen to. We can talk to ourselves like Regina George on a power trip or meet ourselves with the same grace and gentleness we long to give our own children. This Mother’s Day my heart is so tender towards all of you who are battling the same mean girl I have in my head. This motherhood business is hard enough without listening to a mean girl judging you all day long. Be kind and take care of yourself this year.

Take a nap.
Read a book.
Go to Target by yourself.
Write or paint or work out or hike or garden.

And when you make a mistake or feel like you’re failing, treat yourself with the same tenderness you give your own children. Because the truth is you are a child too, sweet friend. And you are just as precious as them. Our heavenly Father doesn’t want His children to live with the crushing weight of guilt, envy, or impossible expectations. If you can quiet the mean girl long enough, you’ll hear the whisper of the truth–you are fearfully and wonderfully made and loved exactly as you are, failures and all.

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Strawberry Icebox Cake

When life hands you strawberries, make strawberry icebox cake. When life hands you a crazy week with little access to your kitchen, eat strawberry icebox cake for dinner. 

Strawberry Icebox Cakes are so easy to make, with only five ingredients and no baking! They're creamy, refreshing, and perfect for summer!

Last week was one of THOSE weeks. It was the kind of week where you wake up with a head cold, resolve to spend the entire day watching Bob the Builder in your pajamas, then realize with horror that contractors are arriving at your home in less than 30 minutes, which means you not only have to put on proper pants, but you’ll also need to leave the house if you want to use the bathroom any time in the next 8 hours.

The whole house was basically in disarray for the week, with furniture crammed to the center of most rooms for painting, and the few untouched rooms housing all the crap we couldn’t fit in the center of the other rooms. Yikes. Nothing makes you realize how blessed you are with more than you need than having to move all the stuff you own to new locations.

Since I clearly had not planned well for this disruption in our usual routine, we ate out a whole lot last week. More chicken nuggets were consumed than is probably advisable. I had made this Strawberry Ice Box Cake for a get together on Sunday, and we may have eaten the leftovers for dinner once or twice. I’d be embarrassed if it weren’t so darn good. Plus, it’s got fruit and it’s creamy, so this is practically a smoothie. JUST GO WITH IT.

Strawberry Icebox Cake is one of the easiest desserts to make and it tastes like summer!

This recipe first appeared on the blog way back in 2011, when dinosaurs still roamed the Internet and the only people reading this blog were me and my mom (hi, mom!). Over the past few months, I’ve been going through old posts, trying to decide what’s worthy of an update and what needs to go. I had almost forgotten about this lovely Strawberry Ice Box Cake, which is a shame because it’s a simple, beautiful, and tasty dessert that’s perfect for summer. It went onto the update pile immediately, and here we are.

Back in 2011 I said this dessert tastes like “chocolate drizzled strawberry cream clouds,” and you know what? I stand by that claim. Made with layers of graham crackers, whipped cream, and strawberries fused together by nothing more than a few hours in the fridge, this “cake” is about as basic as you get, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is the best summer has to offer–simple flavors, minimal prep time, maximum enjoyment.

Strawberry Icebox Cakes are a cool, creamy, no bake dessert that's perfect for summer.

Ice box cakes can really be made with any kind of juicy fruit and creamy filling, but strawberries and homemade whipped cream is still my favorite. If I’m feeing really fancy, I like to swirl some vanilla bean seeds into the whipped cream and top the cake with fresh bananas and a generous drizzle of bittersweet chocolate ganache. After a few hours in the fridge, the graham crackers soften into thin, sponge cake-like layers, and the cake can be sliced and served like any other layer cake. I like the cake best when it’s really cold, so chilling for several hours and serving it straight from the fridge is definitely a bonus. Feel free to add banana slices to the layers for more of a banana split flavor profile or branch out with other fruits.

This Strawberry Icebox Cake recipe is so easy to make! It's the perfect cool, creamy, no bake dessert for summer!

This recipe makes plenty for sharing. If you have a smaller (or bigger) crowd, you can also feel free to adjust the size by adding more or less graham crackers to the bottom layer. Of course, I recommend making the full size, that way you have the leftovers to eat for dinner all week long. 🙂

Strawberry Icebox Cake

Prep Time
Preparation 30 mins 2017-06-26T00:30:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time
Serves 8     adjust servings

Layers of graham crackers, strawberries, and whipped cream combine to make a creamy no-bake cake that's perfect for summer.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed and saved
  • 24 graham crackers (3 sleeves)
  • 1 banana, sliced

For the ganache

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  1. Place whipping cream in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip with a wire whisk until it begins to hold stiff peaks. Add powdered sugar and vanilla or vanilla bean seeds and whip to combine.
  2. On your serving tray, spread a thin layer of whipped cream. Cover with a layer of six graham crackers. Place another thin layer of whipped cream on top of the graham crackers. Cover with a layer of strawberries. Add a layer of graham crackers and repeat this process three times, until there are four layers of graham crackers, ending with a final layer of whipped cream.
  3. On the last layer, swirl the whipped cream to desired "look" and top with fresh sliced strawberries and bananas, if desired. Refrigerate for 4 or more hours.
  4. For the ganache, heat the whipping cream over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the outside. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit for about two minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over the cake. To drizzle, place ganache in a small ziplock bag and cut a tiny hole in one corner. Squeeze top of bag to drizzle over cake.

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Strawberry Icebox Cake is a creamy, refreshing, no bake dessert that's perfect for summer. It's so easy to make, it'll be your go-to dessert all season long!
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Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables use the best summer produce to make a sweet, tangy vegetable side dish with the fire-roasted taste of the grill!

Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables are loaded with the best summer produce in a sweet, tangy marinade.

I am a bargain hunter to my core. Over the years, our income has fluctuated along with our jobs, bills, and life circumstances, but my commitment to finding a good deal has never wavered. I’m pretty sure even if we struck it rich someday, I’d still check Amazon before buying something at a store just to make sure I couldn’t save a couple bucks. I literally spent two years looking for a pair of good winter boots, because my brain couldn’t justify spending $40 on a pair (clearly I hadn’t bought boots since 1999). My husband finally convinced me boots actually cost more than $40 these days, and avoiding frost bitten toes is a prudent investment.

With most pantry items, I will buy the store brand, clip coupons, and use every mobile app at my disposal to keep the grocery bill under control, but there are a few things even my clearance loving heart knows not to cheap out on. One of those things is balsamic vinegar. While you might not be able to tell the difference between a Cheerio and a Kroger-O in a blind taste test, you can absolutely tell a difference in the range of quality balsamic vinegars. On the low end, you’ll come up with something that is watery, acidic and abrasive. But if you can save a few extra pennies and splurge on the good stuff, you’ll be rewarded with thick, rich balsamic that’s so naturally sweet you don’t even need to reduce it.

So what’s a bargain hunter to do? My money saving heart actually recommends keeping two different kinds of balsamic on hand. Buy a cheaper variety to use in marinades and other scenarios where it will be cooked, then buy a more expensive balsamic to use for finishing a dish. If you have an oil and vinegar tasting bar near you, I highly recommend checking it out (bring a friend! It’s a great date activity!). You’ll quickly be able to get a sense for the different tastes and textures of various balsamics. My current favorite is a 25 year aged balsamic I get at The Oilerie here in Columbus. You can also mimic the rich flavor and texture of an aged balsamic by simmering a cheaper balsamic on the stove top for 20-30 minutes until syrupy and slightly sweet. Warning: it will make your house smell like a kimchi factory and may cause watery eyes, but it IS super delicious. Keep the reduced balsamic around for use in salads, tomatoes, or bread dipping. It’s also the perfect finishing touch on grilled meats or vegetables, including these Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables are the perfect easy side dish for grilling season. Loaded with bell peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and onions these flavorful veggies are sure to be a hit!

I got the idea for this recipe from a magazine that called it “Marvelous Mediterranean Grilled Vegetables.” The original recipe called for a store-bought Greek dressing. It was dead simple to make, but the results were just okay. It needed something. After trying it, I went to the cupboard and pulled out my BFF balsamic, drizzled it on, and a few minutes later we were all eating these vegetables by the forkful, loving every sweet tangy bite.

The next go-around I decided to whip up the marinade myself, using a mixture of balsamic and red wine vinegars, oregano, basil, and a bit of dijon to make a hybrid Greek/Balsamic vinaigrette. It’s still incredibly fast to throw together, and because these veggies can be thrown right on the grill, they require almost no clean up. The marinade is also great with chicken, so feel free to add that to the mix and have your entire dinner prepared on the grill in a jiffy. I like to add some chunks of creamy goat cheese to the grilled vegetables because it goes SO WELL with these flavors, but if you’re avoiding dairy or you’re a goat cheese hater (WHHHY?), feel free to leave it out.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables are an easy, flavorful side dish for the summer!

This recipe includes A LOT of different vegetables, and it’s one of the reasons I like it so much. Each bite is a little different, with loads of texture and different flavors to enjoy. That said, feel free to substitute to best suit your family. I loved throwing asparagus into the mix with the bell peppers and squash, but next time I think I’ll be adding mushrooms to the mix as well. This makes a large batch of vegetables so you can either feed a crowd or feed yourself all week long (<<I highly recommend this approach). Here are just a few things you can do with the leftovers: throw them on a pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese and prosciutto (FAB), stir into scrambled eggs (breakfast win!), add to a bowl with quinoa, hummus, and salad greens (yay power lunch!), or roll into veggie tacos or a Sweet Potato Black Bean Burrito (BOOM-freezer lunch!).

These Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables are a super flavorful, no mess side dish for summer!

Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Feta

Cook Time 15 mins 2017-06-26T00:15:00+00:00Prep Time
Preparation 20 mins 2017-06-26T00:20:00+00:00Cook Time
Total Time
Serves 6     adjust servings

Summer's best produce is marinated in a sweet and tangy sauce then grilled to perfection and topped with fresh goat cheese.

Ingredients

For the marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • A few turns of fresh cracked pepper

The veggies

  • 2 sweet bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow)
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 small onion (I prefer red, but anything works)
  • 1 lb. asparagus stalks
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 additional Tablespoons high quality balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction

Instructions

  1. In a measuring cup, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes or place in the fridge and marinate several hours.
  2. Heat the grill over medium high heat. Spread the vegetables out over a vegetable basket, cast iron griddle, or heavy duty foil on the grill. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until veggies are starting to brown and caramelize on one side. Flip and grill an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from the grill. Drizzle with a few more Tablespoons of high quality balsamic and chunks of goat cheese.

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These Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese use the best summer produce to make a sweet and tangy side dish with the fire roasted flavor of the grill!
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