O.K., Mother Nature. We get it. You're in charge, and you can change your mind whenever and as often as you like. You've made your point to virtually all 50 states over the past few months, and we will never, ever take you for granted again. Now, can't we just have a nice and uneventful spring and a sunny summer (but preferably not one of those over-the-top, brutally hot, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk Vegas summers)?
I don't know how to dress anymore. Like most of the country, the weather in Las Vegas has been nothing short of crazy and unpredictable for much too long. It's cold. It's warm. It's cold and rainy. It's warm and windy. At first, it was cute. Kind of like the initial snowfall back east, the rare sight of rain in the desert was an excuse to stay off the slick roads and cozy up indoors. But by days 5, 6, and 7, when we had surpassed our annual average rainfall, the novelty had completely worn off. If one more knucklehead in a truck sprays my car when going through a puddle...... Only "knucklehead" wasn't really the word that I used in my thoughts. This is a PG-rated blog.
On the bright side, my dry cleaners are making a ton of money from my business alone. I could swear that when I walk through the front doors of Maple Cleaners, two little $ dollar signs $ pop up in the owner's eyes. So far this year, I have foolishly retired my wool winter coats no fewer than five times at the first sight of warm weather....only to have the temperatures dip back down the next day. Having two dogs who are apparently trying to break some sort of Guinness Book world record for shedding, a measly lint roller doesn't even begin to do the trick.
So after one whole week of consistently sunny days and warmer temps, I feel confident that the coats can finally call it a season. Shorts, tank tops, and flip flops are starting to make an appearance around town. The Japanese Plum trees in our neighborhood are in full bloom. And my golden lab, Fenway, is doing his best imitation of Michael Phelps at least ten times a day in the pool. Ah........spring is here and summer is on its way.
I felt compelled to make some ice cream.
I love to make homemade ice cream. It's really quite easy, and once you get the hang of the basic recipe, you can create just about any flavor. I've been on a real peanut butter kick lately, even asking my husband to do a blind taste-test of every natural variety that I could find to determine which one is indeed "the best." Yes, that is just one example of the sort of odd things that my poor husband must endure on a daily basis, having a foodie for a wife. For the record, it was a tie between Jif Creamy and Sunland Crunchy.
Because the combination of peanut butter and jelly is so classic, and because it ties in so well with my blog title (a bit self-indulgent, I know), I decided to swirl a fresh strawberry sauce into the peanut butter base. To turn the frozen treat into sandwiches, I made a few alterations to my usual gingerbread cookie recipe, substituting honey for molasses and changing around the spices so that the ginger was less predominant. These would be a perfect special party treat--for kids and adults alike! Here are my extra tips for making these variations on a lunch box favorite:
- I originally tried making the cookies with molasses instead of honey, but I found the the molasses sort of overpowered the flavors in the peanut butter and jelly ice cream, so I substituted honey in the version below.
- If you want to add an extra bit of decor to your cookies, poke holes in the dough using the tip of a chopstick prior to baking, similar to those on store-bought ice cream sandwiches.
- Because the ice cream contains rich peanut butter, I opted for a combination of whole milk and half and half (as opposed to cream) for the ice cream base. You can really use any combination of the three items, so long as it adds up to 2 ½ cups. Of course the ice cream will be much richer using all cream than all whole milk.
- To chill the custard faster, use an ice water bath. Place the custard in a glass bowl, and set it over a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir occasionally until chilled.
- Feel free to substitute fresh strawberries or even store-bought strawberry sauce or preserves for the homemade sauce.
- If you want to use a natural peanut butter for this recipe, I recommend Jif, Smart Balance, Sunland, or Smuckers. The ones that require extra stirring and are too "clumpy" will not work as well.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes about 12-15 sandwiches
For the PB&J Ice Cream
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
¾ cup peanut butter
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup half and half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Strawberry Swirl
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice from ½ lemon
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
For the Honey-Spice Cookies
6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup honey
2 tablespoons whole milk
3 cups flour (plus more for work surface)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Prepare the PB&J Ice Cream: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until they are thickened and pale yellow. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and set over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or a whisk until the custard thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let the mixture boil or you will have scrambled eggs! Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter and cinnamon. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the half and half and vanilla, cover, and chill until very cold (3 hours).
Prepare the Strawberry Swirl: In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook and stir until the strawberries have begun to break down and the mixture has thickened to a sauce. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
When the custard has chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. At the very end, add some of the strawberry sauce, just so that it is swirled into the ice cream. You can also stir it in by hand. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze at least 2 hours.
Prepare the cookies: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the honey and mix until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the milk.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape the dough onto a clean work surface and divide in half. Shaper each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. After the dough has chilled, roll it out to a ¼-inch thickness onto a lightly floured work surface. Using 3-4 inch fluted or round cutters, cut circles and carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Chill the circles until firm, 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 15 minutes in the freezer.
Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, until just set in the center. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 3 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Assemble the sandwiches: Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, place a softened scoop of the PB&J ice cream on the flat side of a cookie. Gently press the ice cream down with the back of the scoop, and then place a second cookie on top, pressing some more so that the ice cream is evenly distributed. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and cookies.