Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars

I made these ice cream bars last week as dessert for a going away gathering we had for several of Greg’s co-workers. These are supposed to be a homemade version of Good Humor’s Strawberry Shortcake bars. I’ve never had the original bars, but I thought the combination of strawberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream seemed interesting and I’ve always wanted to make an ice cream cake, so I decided this would be a perfect one to try.

Everyone who’d had a Good Humor bar before said this dessert brought back memories of eating them as a kid, except that this version was better than the original. One person even claimed that this was the best dessert he’d ever eaten! With reviews like that, I guess I won’t be buying ice cream bars at the grocery store any time soon.

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The recipe calls for store bought ice cream and strawberry sorbet, and I’m sure the dessert would have turned out TOTALLY FINE if I had actually done that. But this is me we’re talking about. And I’m crazy. So I made them both from scratch.

Ice cream really isn’t difficult to make at home, and it tastes infinitely better than most stuff you can buy at the store. It’s especially easy when you make Philadelphia style ice cream like I did for this recipe. Instead of tempering eggs and cooking the custard on the stove before cooling and freezing it like you would for French-style ice cream, Philadelphia-style ice cream just involves mixing cream, milk and sugar and freezing it. Philadelphia-style ice cream tends to freeze a bit harder than custard based ice creams, which makes it ideal for using in a frozen dessert that you want to be firm enough to hold its shape.

I’d never made sorbet before, because I always assumed that since sorbet sounds more fancy than ice cream that it would be more difficult to make. I couldn’t have been more wrong. You just purée fruit with sugar, freeze it and BAM! You’ve got homemade sorbet!

I’ve included both the vanilla bean ice cream and strawberry sorbet recipes below in case you really want to go all out. But seriously, this would still be an amazing dessert made with any brand of ice cream you love. You could also change up the flavors using a different sorbet and freeze-dried fruit combination.

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Chicken Piccata

I LOVE Italian food! I love it so much that my dream vacation is to travel to Italy with a pocket full of cash and to just eat until I’m broke. Fortunately for my wallet and my waistline I don’t think my husband would let me take it quite to that extreme if we ever go to Italy again. My favorite place to get Italian recipes here at home is from Food Network chef, Giada de Laurentiis. It was actually her show “Everyday Italian” that first sparked my interest in cooking years ago. Everything she makes looks amazing, and I’ve never tried one of her recipes and not liked it.

This chicken piccata is full of flavor and really quick to put together. I modified the original recipe a little bit by adding artichoke hearts because I love them so much. If you don’t like artichokes, or want to be true to the original Italian dish, you can easily leave them out. I like to serve the chicken with sauteed asparagus or broccolini, but it would be delicious with pasta or polenta too.

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Fesenjan

Fesenjan is a Persian chicken stew made with ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup. It’s a really hearty and filling dish, but it’s actually also really healthy. The stew is rich and creamy, but not from the addition of butter or cream. The broth actually gets its creamy texture from ground walnuts! You simmer ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses and water for half an hour, then use that liquid to braise the chicken.  The stew has a tangy sweetness from the pomegranate molasses, exotic flavors of saffron and turmeric, and a slight crunch from the tiny walnut pieces. This is my favorite kind of dish to make at home. One with techniques and ingredients I’ve never used before that ends up introducing me to a whole new world of deliciousness.

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There’s a lot of strong exotic flavors in this dish and unfortunately not all of them are readily available in all grocery stores. Fortunately, the show where I originally got the recipe provided several alternatives so you can still try fesenjan, even if you’re having trouble finding all the ingredients. First of all, if you can’t get a hold of pomegranate molasses, you can reduce pomegranate juice by 1/3 and use that in place of the molasses. Most grocery stores carry saffron, but the price tag can be a bit of a shock. They aren’t kidding when they say this is the most expensive spice! I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to fork over $17.99 for a measly 0.06 ounces of the stuff but looking back on it now, I’m glad I did. It will keep for a really long time in the pantry and you can get a lot of flavor out of just a small pinch by allowing the strands to bloom in a bit of warm water before adding to the recipe. If you can’t find the saffron or just don’t want to pay for it (which is perfectly reasonable) you can get a similarly exotic flavor by using smoked paprika in its place.

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6-Layer Greek Dip

My Greek kick continued this past weekend when I made this dip to bring to church on Sunday. As I mentioned before, I always try to bring at least one healthy option on the weeks I’m signed up, but for some reason I always have a hard time picking something healthy to make. When I’m planning what to bring I always have TONS of cookies, cakes, pastries, etc. that I want to make, but never any ideas for a healthier option. After scouring my Pinterest boards, and sifting through the multitude of pages I’ve torn out of magazines, I finally settled on this Greek dip.

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I apologize for this absolutely horrible picture. After setting the time for my alarm on Saturday night, I forgot to actually turn it on and so woke up an hour later than I intended to. That means I ended up running around like a crazy person trying to get myself and the food ready in time to leave for church. Although if you ask Greg, I’m sure he’d say that I run around like a crazy person every Sunday morning, even when I don’t have food to get ready.

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Grilled Marinated Chicken Breasts with Watermelon Feta Salad

I still had half a watermelon left over from when I made the Watermelon and haloumi salad, and I really wanted to find something new and interesting to do with it, instead of just slicing it and eating it. I’ve been on a bit of a Greek kick lately, and when I found this recipe I knew it’d be the perfect way to finish up the watermelon. The salty feta goes great with watermelon, and with the fresh mint and flavorful grilled chicken, this is a perfect summer dinner.

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This recipe is super easy, and comes together pretty quickly once the chicken’s marinated. One thing I really like about this recipe is that it’s a perfect example of how quick and easy it can be to make your own marinade at home. In mere minutes you can make a delicious marinade made out of real, whole foods and avoid all the preservatives and other mystery ingredients that are found in store bought marinades.

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Watermelon and Haloumi Salad

If you’ve never tried haloumi cheese, you should definitely go to the store right now and get some. It’s the coolest cheese ever! Haloumi is a salty Greek cheese that you can grill. That’s right! You can throw this cheese straight onto a grill or into a pan and cook it! Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Lauren, you’re crazy! I know what happens when I’m grilling burgers or making a grilled cheese sandwich and some melted cheese oozes and comes into contact with the grill or pan. It burns almost instantly and I have a huge mess to clean up.” I’ve experienced that many, many times myself, but this is no ordinary cheese! When haloumi is heated it softens and gets slightly gooey, but keeps its shape and develops a beautiful golden crust on the outside. It’s all the goodness of a grilled cheese sandwich without the bread!

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Haloumi is a very salty cheese. It’s easily just as salty, if not more so, than feta, so I wouldn’t recommend just buying a hunk of haloumi and planning on coming home, grilling it up and eating it straight. You probably know that watermelon tastes great with a bit of salt, which means it pairs perfectly with this salty cheese.

The original version of this recipe simply involved topping some slices of grilled haloumi with cubed watermelon that had been tossed in dressing. I could tell though that the recipe would make much more dressing than you’d need, so I decided to put the whole thing over a bed of romaine and make a meal out of it.

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Homemade Nutter Butters

I don’t think I’ve ever had a Nutter Butter, but I love I’m obsessed with peanut butter, so when I saw this recipe I thought I’d give them a try. I can’t tell you how they compare to the original, but I can say that these are really good cookies. The cookies are peanut buttery but not too sweet, and they have a nice texture from the oats and chopped peanuts. The filling is really creamy, making it a perfect addition to the slightly crunchy cookies on either side of it.

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When followed exactly, the recipe makes a small amount of filling. The most recent time I made these cookies, I had to use a bit less filling for each sandwich than I would have liked, and I ended up with two or three cookies without filling. If you like lots of filling in your Nutter Butters, or if you want to be sure not to run out of filling, just add a bit more peanut butter and butter. After all, you can never have too much peanut butter!

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