Picnic Veggie Sandwich

I have very mixed feelings about eating outside. On the one hand, I love the idea of fresh air and a warm breeze with a summery meal. But I'm not too find of the more common reality of napkins flying everywhere, a bug in my sandwich and grass in my soda. Not to mention the part of a picnic nobody seems to recognize: sitting on the ground is actually the most uncomfortable thing. But the truth is, as soon as it gets warm out, I tend to forget all of these things and all I want to do is eat outside (I only change my tune after 2 hours of a tree root digging into my butt). I think the key to eating outside is having things that don't require a lot of dexterity. If I'm going to be swatting bugs away from my drink and chasing cups as they blow away, I can't really be holding a knife and fork and pouring dressing onto a salad at the same time. 

And this is why sandwiches are the king of all picnic food. They're portable, easy to eat and undeniably delicious. And if they happen to have strawberries, cucumbers and anything else you find at the farmer's market, well then it really just couldn't get any better. 

This veggie sandwich is the ideal lazy summer afternoon picnic lunch food. Spinach, cucumbers and strawberries piled high on a bagel smeared with herby basil cream cheese. We all know that strawberries and basil are ultimate summer BFFs and it really isn't a veggie sandwich without crunchy cucumbers and mounds and mounds of spinach, in my opinion. The best part is, this is the perfect base for anything you find at the farmers market. Anything. Sugar snap peas, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, any herb, any lettuce. It's basically a really yummy salad but in portable, bagel form and all brought together with basil cream cheese. Don't skimp on the basil cream cheese. 

So whether you brave the bugs, the wind and the invasive tree roots or you decide to stick with the classic indoor table eating situation, you really can't go wrong with summer in a sandwich. 

Picnic Veggie Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches

| Ingredients

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 4 bagels or 8 slices of your favorite bread

| Instructions

  • In a small bowl, stir cream cheese and basil until combined. You can also do this in a food processor to save your arm some work.
  • Toast the bagels or bread slices. If you are going on an actual picnic, I would skip the toasting. But if you are staying inside, go for the toast!
  • Spread the basil cream cheese on the top half of each bagel. On the bottom half layer spinach, cucumbers and strawberries. Top with the cream cheese half. 
  • Eat outside! Or inside, just enjoy the fact that it's SUMMER! 



Charred Jalapeño and Peach Guacamole with Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips

There are so many things I want to tell you! Like how my mom is coming to visit for the week and I'm peeing my pants I'm so excited. And it's finally warm enough out to leave the windows open 24 hours a day and all the fresh air is making me goofy with excitement. And I had an idea for a S'mores cookie while I was at work this morning and now I can't think about anything but how amazing it would be. But really, none of this is probably as exciting for you as it is for me, so I'll just stick to something that is exciting to every person on earth: Chips and Guac.


Now I know that everyone and their mother has a recipe for guacamole. Or really, not a recipe. Guacamole isn't so much of recipe thing as it is a smash avocados in a bowl and go to town with a bag of chips of thing. But that is exactly why you need this guacamole in your life. It's fruity, spicy, summery and a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill guacamole (don't worry old school guac, I still love you too). Side not, I had to google run-of-the-mill to make sure it was hyphenated and it suggested I use 'humdrum' as a synonym. Let's just make it the goal of the summer to avoid humdrum guacamole. 


To spice things up even more I made some (baked!) chili lime tortilla chips.  I had no idea until this moment how ridiculously easy it is to make your own tortilla chips but I am SO happy to know now. Essentially you cut up corn tortillas, brush them with oil and bake them for 20 minutes. And instead of of crumbly, flavorless bagged tortilla chips you get thick, ridiculously crunchy chips that can be customized a million different ways. I mixed oil with lime juice, brushed the tortillas and sprinkled them with salt and chili powder. Lime tortilla chips have always been my favorite but I usually feel that they're missing a little bit of spice. Problem solved. In the most delicious way possible. 

And so here it is, the best way I know how to avoid a potential humdrum guacamole situation. Now let's summer! 

Charred Jalapeno and Peach Guacamole 

Makes about 4 cups

| Ingredients

  • 3 avocados, diced
  • 1 jalapeño 
  • 1/2 small red onion (about 1/4 cup) 
  • 1 large peach, diced (about 1 cup) 
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

| Instructions

  • Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the jalapeño and cook, turning with a tongs until the skin is blackened and charred. If you have a gas stove, you can eliminate the pan and just use a tongs to hold the pepper over the flame of the burner. You can also grill it. Or put it under the broiler. The goal is peeling, blackened skin on the pepper and no burnt skin on you. 
  • Let pepper cool slightly and chop finely, removing the seeds. If you want a spicer guacamole, leave some of the seeds in (or all of them. In which case, we need to be friends). 
  • Place avocado in a large bowl and mash with a fork until only small chunks remain. Add red onion, peach, lime juice, cilantro and charred jalapeño. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Garnish with additional cilantro and peach. Serve with chili-lime tortilla chips (see below). 


Baked Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips

Makes 60 chips

| Ingredients | 

  • 15 small corn tortillas
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt
  • chili powder

Instructions |

  • Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil. 
  • In a small bowl, combine lime juice and olive oil.
  • Brush both sides of a tortilla with the lime oil. Brush another tortilla and stack on top of the first. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, creating a single stack. You don't need to douse the tortillas in oil, but make sure to get all the way to the edges so that they crisp as well.
  • Cut the stack of tortillas into 4 sections of triangles (cut in half one way then in half the other way). Brush the prepared baking sheets with a thin coat of oil or spray with cooking spray. Arrange tortilla pieces in a single layer on the sheets and sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy. Start checking them often after 15 minutes. Mine were perfect around 18 and little too overdone by 20. 
  • Serve with charred jalapeño and peach guacamole. 


Strawberry Ice Cream Cake with Waffle Cone Crust

OMG guys. Believe me when I say, no one hates cutesy, confusing acronyms more than me and yet here I am saying O.M.G because I am so excited about this recipe. Really the reason I don't like acronyms is because I usually have no idea what they mean. TFW? Had to google that one just this morning (for those likewise afflicted, it means 'that feel when...', just thought I'd save you an embarrassing google search there). But anyways, OMG this ice cream cake. 

I had the idea for this back in like January. When the temperature was similar to a freezer, the sun hadn't come out in 20 days and the thought of ice cream cake was enough to make me collapse into a pile of snow and frozen tears because it was definitely not the time to make and post a strawberry ice cream cake. And so I waited and waited, kind of forgot about it, remembered and finally made it!

If there ever was a month to get your ice cream cake on, it's May. My sister and I have birthdays that are very close together and so May was the time of combined birthday parties, matching outfits and the mandatory Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Let's all just take a moment to acknowledge that there are few things better than a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Especially when you're 7. Or 23. 

But when you are not near a Dairy Queen or you want your ice cream cake to go the more strawberry flavored/waffle cone crusted route or you just want to straight up show off and wow everyone with a homemade ice cream cake, it's actually very simple to make at home. All thanks to the secret weapon of no-churn ice cream. I posted a recipe last year for malted strawberry no-churn ice cream and this cake is the exact same process, just poured on top of a crust. No churn ice cream is made of whipped cream folded into sweetened condensed milk. It could not be simpler, requires no fancy ice cream maker and can be customized in a gazillion different ways. The cream can be infused with things like vanilla bean, tea, spices or fresh herbs (mint!). And the condensed milk can be mixed with more solid things like melted chocolate, fruit purees or espresso powder. After the two are combined you can mix in anything from nuts to cookie dough to fresh fruit, stick it the freezer and have ice cream ready in 6 hours. Or less if soft-serve texture is your thing. 


I kept the flavors in the ice cream very simple, which is how I like my strawberry ice cream. Pureed strawberries are mixed into the base and diced strawberries are added in at the end. But you can absolutely spice it up. Add malt powder, chocolate chunks, roast the strawberries. You can't go wrong. But whichever way you choose to go, do not skip the waffle cone crust. 

The crust is made the same way as a graham crust, but with crushed up waffle cones subbed in for graham crumbs. It is the perfect, crunchy, toasty bottom for this cake because really, what is ice cream without the cone? 

Oh and one final caveat, this cake, and no-churn ice cream in general, is a MELTER. If definitely does not need time sit out and thaw. Just remove from the freezer, slice and eat (quickly). And if you try to make it pose for photos and your entire camera is covered in melted ice cream, well that's just your own darn fault. Oops. 

Strawberry Ice Cream Cake with Waffle Cone Crust

Makes one 10" ice cream cake

Note: The one bummer about homemade strawberry ice cream is that the berries tend to become ice chunks pretty quickly. If you are not serving this right away, I would recommend soaking the berries in a mixture of sugar and alcohol (vodka is best because it's flavorless) before adding them to the ice cream. 

| Ingredients| 

  • 1 7oz. box waffle cones, broken into pieces
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream 
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 lb. strawberries, diced

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 10" springform pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. You can also line the sides with foil for easier removal, but I found that it came out pretty easily without it. 

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the waffle cones and brown sugar until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse until combined. Transfer crust to the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. 

Meanwhile, set aside 1 cup of the diced strawberries. Place the remaining strawberries in a blender and puree until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the condensed milk, strawberry puree and vanilla until combined. 

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture until incorporated. Fold in the remaining cup of strawberries. 

Pour the ice cream on top of the cooled crust. Smooth into an even layer and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Top with additional strawberries or crumbled waffle cones. Or some hot fudge, if you think ahead more than I do. 

Blueberry Banana Pancakes with Almond Butter Maple Syrup

So here's a question for you: do you like fruit? I sure hope the answer is yes because I just realized that, with the exception of some french fries, every recipe I have posted so far this month has fruit in it. Spoiler alert: the next two recipes I have planned most definitely have fruit (but also ice cream, so stick around). I just can't help it. Fruit goes so well in everything I love, and it goes particularly well in pancakes. I will say, my all time favorite pancakes are still chocolate chip but a close, close second is blueberry. Or banana. And if I have a stroke of genius and decide to put them together, blueberry banana! 

A few weeks ago, The Kitchn posted an article about 5 ways to infuse maple syrup. And ever since I saw it, I have had syrupy soaked pancakes floating around in my mind. I really want to try all of the variations they suggested (black peppercorns and cinnamon!) but the one that caught my eye first was peanut butter maple syrup. I know lots of people that love to put nut butters on pancakes and, while it always sounds like a good idea, I actually really don't like it. Something about doughy pancakes and sticky, thick peanut butter makes me feel like my mouth is being cemented shut. But the flavor of roasted nuts with the consistency of maple syrup? That I can get behind. 

I'm sure I've gone on some sort of peanut butter rant on here before but just in case not, let me catch you up. I hate it. But almond butter is a whole other story. I eat so much almond butter that I'm pretty sure my body is 90% almond butter at this point. So I took the peanut butter syrup idea, subbed in almond butter and boy oh boy, I was not disappointed. 

This pancake recipe is a variation of my standard favorite pancake recipe. It uses buttermilk which, in my opinion is non-negotiable in pancake making. It gives them unparalleled fluffiness and a little bit of tang. And on the same not-overly-sweet note, it uses honey instead of sugar which gives it just the slightest hint of sweetness that I love. They are the perfect light, fluffy canvas to set you up for all sorts of add-ins (bluebs and bananas, obviously) and maple syrup experiments.

Blueberry Banana Pancakes with Almond Butter Maple Syrup

Serves 3-4

| Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, cooled
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 banana, sliced

For the syrup: 

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1-2 tbsp. almond butter

| Instructions

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine maple syrup and almond butter. Bring to a boil, whisking often and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. If the syrup sits for a while, it will separate so just be sure to give it a good shake or stir before serving. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, whole milk, eggs and honey. Add in the melted butter and whisk until smooth. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and and whisk to combine. It's ok if there are still a few lumps. Let batter rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Brush with a light coat of oil, non-stick spray or butter. Working in batches, ladle between 1/4 and 1/2 cup batter into the pan (depending on the size you want) per pancake. Arrange blueberries and sliced bananas on top of each pancake, pressing lightly into the batter. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the top, flip and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. 

Transfer the pancakes to a large plate or baking sheet covered with foil. Repeat with remaining batter. Top pancakes with additional blueberries and bananas, if desired, and serve with warm almond butter maple syrup.