Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between soft, chewy, spiced cookies make a delectable warm weather treat.
Did you hear that? That’s the clock ticking toward the unofficial start of summer. The weekend where I underestimate the strength of the sun and overestimate the amount of food and drink I need for guests. That’s right, Memorial Day!
With the unofficial start to summer comes the very official start of summer entertaining. We spend as much time at the shore as we can and frequently have a houseful of people to feed. I’m not going to lie, as much as I love to cook and entertain, a steady stream of visitors can even turn me off to the kitchen. It took me a long time to realize that our guests were less interested in a seven course meal than they were in spending time with us. After all, a frazzled host means an unrelaxed guest.
So how do you strike a balance between being Julia Child and Jimmy Fallon? Well let’s call it a three-prong approach. First prong…planning and prep. Just like preparing for a party, you want to knock out as much as you can ahead of the weekend and before your guests arrive. That means lists, and lists of lists, getting the shopping done, the drinks chilling, serving pieces washed and at the ready, and knocking out as much meal prep as possible. If you’re grilling chicken or steak, get it marinating early. Fruit and veggies can be washed and trimmed, cheeses sliced, and cookies baked. Make sure you have plenty of ice for drinks and lots of nibbles to tide people over just in case you’re running behind.
Prong two…simplify. I don’t know about you, but even with careful planning, I sometimes find myself scurrying around at the last minute looking for the salad tongs or willing the chicken to finish cooking quickly. Once I took a step back to see why I was scrambling, I realized that it happens when I bite off more than I can chew and don’t account for life’s little hiccups. Now when I review my menu before heading out to the store to buy the goods, I follow the words of the brilliant Coco Chanel (even though she was talking about accessorizing) “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”. Now I take a look at that menu and edit. Instead of three sides, it’s two. Dessert can be made ahead and I’ve learned not to go crazy with starters if I want people to eat the actual meal.
Third prong…spend time with your guests. This may seem simple, but it’s taken me a long time to get here. Being a good host means you need to strike a balance between your time in the kitchen and your time visiting with the people that came to see you, not just to eat your food. Listen, of course you’re going to be in the kitchen for periods of time. Between cooking and cleaning, you’re not Super(wo)man and can’t be in two places at once. But, you can plan menus and meals that mean you don’t have to be standing at the stove for the entire night. And dare I say it, you can even order in for a meal or two if you’re so inclined. Upon waving goodbye after a fun weekend, I’ve never regretted not serving that extra side of vegetables, but I have kicked myself for not relaxing more and enjoying our friends and family.
So, in the spirit of hosting, planning ahead and wowing your guests I have a two-fer recipe for you today. My favorite oatmeal cookies (which are perfectly delicious on their own) can also be made into kid (and adult) friendly ice cream sandwiches. They are packed full of spice (including a hint of black pepper), and they are soft and chewy. They also bake off nice and flat which makes them ice cream sandwich ready. My favorite trick in ice cream sandwich prep is to soften the ice cream until it’s spreadable (not melting) and smooth it into an even layer in a baking pan. Then, refreeze the ice cream and use a cookie cutter (that matches up to the size of your cookies) to cut out rounds that can be easily pressed between two cookies.
Know what else? These cookies and the ice cream sandwiches can be made well ahead of any guests knocking at your door. Yep, the cookies keep well in an air tight container and the ice cream sandwiches store beautifully well-wrapped in the freezer. They are an ideal warm weather dessert for both kids and adults and are perfectly suited for Memorial Day. You know I’m going to have a stack of them at the ready this weekend and I have an equally festive prep-ahead cocktail in the works. Check back Friday for a Sangria Slushie recipe that screams holiday weekend. And I promise, both of these recipes will have you enjoying your time out of the kitchen as much as in it this weekend.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of cloves
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 8 oz unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
- 1 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 36 spiced oatmeal cookie (recipe above)
- 2 quarts vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
Line 1 - 9 x 13 inch pan and 1 - 8 x 8 inch pan with plastic wrap. Spread ice cream into a 1 inch layer in the pans, cover with plastic wrap and place the pans in the freezer to refreeze.
While ice cream re-freezes, make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, cloves and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter with an electric mixer for 1 min and then add the brown sugar. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 mins.
Add the egg and beat until well blended.
Add the in the flour mixture and mix on med/low speed until just combined.
Mix in the vanilla and rolled oats until just combined.
Using a 1 1/2 Tbsp ice cream scoop, measure out 36 scoops of dough. Place 12 scoops on each cookie sheet and bake for 10 mins, turning midway through baking.
Bake off the remaining dough on the same sheets once the other cookies are baked and removed to a wire rack (let baked cookies set for about 5 mins on the sheet before removing them to the rack.)
Match up cookie bottoms and tops in pairs so they fit with little overlap. You will have 18 pairs.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer and use a 3 inch round cookie cutter to quickly cut out ice cream rounds. You will likely get 16 rounds, but you can pull together the scraps and reform them to reach 18.
Place one round on top of each bottom and top with the matching cookie. Pop the ice cream sandwiches back in the freezer until you're ready to serve.
- Special Equipment: 1 1/2 Tbsp ice cream scoop, 3 inch round cookie cutter
- Recipe yields 36 cookies.
- Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days and ice cream sandwiches can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to one week.