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My brain is still not accepting the fact that summer is coming to a close. School starts this week for Princess Nagger and Little Dude – but wait…didn’t they just get out  of school? Where’d the summer go?!

Luckily they’re looking forward to returning to the halls of education – it’s a new adventure for Little Dude what with him going to a different school this year, and Princess Nagger is looking forward to reconnecting with her people – I mean, friends – she missed over the summer.

I’m looking forward to unencumbered time to purge their rooms of old/broken toys and clothes they’ve rapidly outgrown over the summer so they have more room to grow (literally and figuratively speaking) what with their birthday month coming up and Christmas in the offing.

Dude. Christmas will be here before you know it, so it’s now or never.

Being that the beginning of school is a celebration of sorts for all parties, what better way to celebrate than with Dreyer’s Ice Cream, right? I’m honored to partner with The Motherhood and Dreyer’s to help Dreyer’s gift 500 life-changing surgeries to children with cleft lip and cleft palate through Operation Smile as part of their Reason to Smile campaign.

To assist in that celebration – and encourage lots of smiles – I was challenged to come up with a unique dessert incorporating Dreyer’s ice cream as one of the ingredients. Challenge accepted!

I discovered that “challenge” is an understatement – trying to think of something different, but so many people have so many delicious sounding desserts already. I wanted to make a crowd pleaser without following the crowd. I’m a rebel like that.

So I plotted and planned, looked forward to finally using my shiny new KitchenAid mixer and decided it was the perfect excuse to get the mini spring form pans I’d had my eye on. I finally came up with something a little bit different, gathered (almost) all of my ingredients and got to work:

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So far fairly simple, right? Pay no attention to the caramel frappuccino on the left – that was for me to drink, not to include in the recipe. I know, some of you are wondering where the wine is – that comes later, of course. 

There are several parts to this recipe, but all are easy peasy. First and foremost is baking an angel food cake. You can make it from scratch, but I opted for the easy way using a cake mix. Since you need to cut the cake into little cubed chunks, I decided to try my hand at baking the angel food cake in loaf pans vs. the traditional tube pan:

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Let me be a cautionary tale for you… See those pans? Those are obviously non-stick pans. They’re the only ones I currently have, which have served me well when making loaves of bread or anything loaf-y, since they slide out with little or no effort.

The non-stick surface, however, is not angel-food friendly. The angel food cake grabs on to the pan and holds on for dear life – so it take some major finessing to get it out without completely destroying the cake.

Luckily for this recipe you only need one of the loaf pans full of cake, so you can use the first pan as your guinea pig to figure out how to remove the cake effectively without making a huge mess. And of course then the cake itself is up for grabs by anyone who is interested in snacking on yummy angel food cake.

In the future, and please heed these words – if you are like me and only have non-stick loaf pans, be sure to line the pans with foil first – leave enough hanging out over the edge to become your handy dandy handles to get the cake out without lots of effort and creating chisel-happy moments that aren’t so happy. Ahem.

While the cakes were in the oven making the house smell heavenly, I decided for this recipe I wanted to make graham cracker crusts. So I mixed up the graham crackers, sugar and melted butter and lined the bottom of those six mini spring form pans I convinced myself I didn’t just want,  but needed:

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Just pop them in the oven on 300°F for 7 minutes:

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This is another time when having a double-oven stove comes in quite handy – while the cakes were baking in the lower oven, I baked the graham cracker crusts in the upper oven. I timed it so they all finished at the same time and were ready for their cool off period:

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Notice I have the loaf pans on their sides – since there’s no good way of cooling the angel food cakes upside down like you do in a tube pan, on their side is the next best thing so they won’t sink like a badly executed souffle.

Once they’re cooled, cut one loaf into cubes, chunks, whatever shape you so desire. Then the next part of the fun begins, starting with this deliciousness:

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Oh yeah! Cheesecake ice cream? And light  to boot? I’m sold! You’ve probably figured out with that great reveal where I’m going with this recipe, haven’t you? If not, no worries, we’ll keep moving along.

You mix 2 cups of softened ice cream (let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes – that’ll get it from rock solid to manageable without defrosting it into puddles, and you can stick the rest back in the freezer without compromising the taste for future indulging) with 8 ounces of either Cool Whip or whipped topping of your choice, and add the Jello gelatin until it’s all mixed together nicely:

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Next, using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold the cake chunks into the fluffy cloud of deliciousness:

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Either pour that mixture into an 8×8 square cake pan, or divide it equally between mini spring form pans like I did. I was packing them extra full, so I only ended up filling 5 instead of the 6 I got ready – next time I’ll make them a little shallower to extend to all 6, but for now, we’ll go with it:

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Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours – you can make them ahead by several days so you don’t have to stress about the timing. After removal from the freezer, you can simply eat them as they are, or add a few flourishes.

I added a tablespoon or so of whipped cream to the top to give it a smoother look, then drizzled hot fudge on a plate, placed the ice cream cheesecake onto the center, then drizzled black raspberry preserves over top.

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Final touches – I garnished with a cherry and raspberries – and even a mint leaf. Not bad for an amateur, right?

This recipe can be versatile – don’t like cherry? Switch it up to Peach or Strawberry or Blueberry or your favorite berry. You don’t even have to use Cheesecake ice cream (especially since it’s a Limited Edition) – you can use whatever ice cream or frozen yogurt of any flavor you so desire.

I was thinking next time I’d do some sort of Caramel Macchiato version with drizzled caramel…yum! Switch it up to your personal taste – make it uniquely you!

The final result of this experimentation? Absolutely delicious! Both kids inhaled theirs like nobody’s business, Princess Nagger started digging into hers while it was still on the kitchen counter:

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Check out more delicious recipes guaranteed to make you drool – and give your whole family a reason to smile – visit Dreyer’s new Pinterest page that is filled with recipes and family fun inspiration.

Dreyer’s is helping Operation Smile with the goal to donate 500 life-changing surgeries to children with cleft lip and cleft palate to help them smile again. You can easily participate and help the cause by uploading or sharing a photo on the Dreyer’s Facebook page using #ReasonToSmile in the caption.

Every picture shared will count towards a donation for a child in need! This promotion only runs through today, September 1, 2014, so hurry over and share a picture to join this great cause.

What makes you smile?

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Angelic Ice Cream Cheesecake

Angelic Ice Cream Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed
  • 1 pint (2 Cups) softened ice cream
  • 1 pkg (4 serving size) JELL-O brand gelatin (unprepared)
  • 4 Cups Angel Food cake cubes (or pound cake)
  • 1/4 Cups fruit preserves
  • Fruit garnish of choice

Instructions

  1. Stir whipped topping, ice cream and dry gelatin in large bowl until well blended.
  2. Gently stir in cake cubes until fully incorporated.
  3. Spoon into spring form pans or 8x8 square cake pan.
  4. Freeze 3-4 hours until firm.
  5. Drizzle with fruit preserves, cut into squares and top with fruit garnish of choice.
  6. Store leftover dessert in freezer.

Notes

Light alternative: Use Cool Whip Light whipped topping and low fat ice cream or frozen yogurt. You can also use sugar free low calorie gelatin vs. the regular gelatin as well.

Thaw Cool Whip in fridge - do not microwave.

Soften ice cream by placing container in the fridge for approx. 30 minutes - less chance of total meltdown that way vs. using the microwave to soften.

http://stacysrandomthoughts.com/2014/09/angelic-ice-cream-cheesecake-recipe-with-dreyers-and-a-reasontosmile/

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A big thank you to The Motherhood for this opportunity, and to  Dreyer’s for so many delicious flavors of ice cream.  While this is a paid review, all opinions are of my own personal experience and not influenced by any outside source.  Disclosure policy here.

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I am so late posting tonight! This weekend got away from me – but with it being a holiday weekend, you can relate, right? School starts in a few days – I had every intention of getting the kids back into an early morning routine to build up to it, but that didn’t happen. We’ll just have to wing it.

And by ‘we’, I really mean ‘me’. Let the fun begin!

This week’s theme is a freebie, so let’s have fun with it, shall we? Let’s start off with a duo whose new single is all about struttin’ around with a hottie on your arm. Well, on their  arm. Though I’m sure the hubby or any red-blooded guy wouldn’t mind a hottie struttin’ on my arm.

But I digress. Even though it’s a ‘story’ that’s told often, this duo’s charming harmonies make that story feel fresh. The song isn’t sweet like honey or molasses — it’s more like the crisp flavor of a fresh-picked peach.

DanShay

Sing along with Dan + Shay with “Show You Off”:

Next up is a duo I’m really excited about their new album coming out later this month (the 23rd, to be exact). It’s weird to think that back in 2009, they were nowhere to be found, even though they’d had some awesome hits prior to radio silence. One of the duo was recovering from neck surgery, and the other released his first solo album, instigating rumors they’d parted ways.

Then in 2012 they showed back up with another amazing song, teasing us fans who were hoping for an imminent return, but another year went by with more radio silence. But this year is finally the year – this newest album will be their fifth studio album as a duo. When they first started as a duo, they made their name with a mixture of party songs and sentimental ballads.

This new album will not disappoint, since they parted ways with their original label and formed their own, which means they now get to do their songs their own way. I hope this is the beginning of lots of great music to come.

BigAndRich

Give a listen to Big & Rich with “Brand New Buzz”:

Up next is a song that caught my ear and attention earlier this summer while watching one of my favorite summer shows, Rookie Blue. The song itself has a great tap-your-toe beat, and the video is quite intriguing.

Lots of mixed reviews on both the video and the song – the artist has said they “decided to film variations of all the issues we as a people are facing – whether it’s personal, political or social. Everything is thrown at you from the day you’re born, your only chance is to think for yourself, which is not as simple as it sounds.”

ThePrettyReckless

Without further ado, here’s The Pretty Reckless with “Heaven Knows”:

Last but not least is a former “The Voice” contestant who’s climbing the charts with her brand new single. It’s only been two years since this artist was on the second season of ‘The Voice’ in 2012, but she’s done a lot in that time, including songwriting, writing lots of music and getting out on a radio tour. Even though she didn’t win the show, she built a friendship with both Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. 

She’s said that The Voice ignited a fire in her to be an artist and counry singer – but not winning the show ignited a bigger fire, making her want it even more. Hence the reason she’s been working hard writing and recording. She loved doing the video for this song, she said it was magical. 

From majestic mountains to a full, bright moon, the video’s effects and scenery are gorgeous. There’s even a white horse and a ballerina - the artist looks like a fairy princess as she sits on giant stairs that seem to lead straight to the sky.

RaeLynn

Give a listen to RaeLynn with “God Made Girls”:

Have a great Monday!

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Now on to the particulars of Monday’s Music Move’s Me:

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I have the supreme honor and privilege of being a co-host with the inimitable Xmas Dolly and our musical cohorts, Callie from JAmericanSpice, Cathy from Cathy Kennedy’s Blog, and Becca of Everyday Life.

Want to join in the fun? It’s easy – just find a tune that rocks your boat, post it and link up – don’t forget to grab Xmas Dolly…er, um, I mean her button…over at her place here. Check out Xmas Dolly’s sidebar for the random themes we sport each week – and you can always ask for a specific theme of music you like, too. Check out the other music lovahs and let’s jam!



 

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It’s no secret I’m a wine girl, right? I mean, I drink wine, I make wine, I cook with wine and I drink wine. Oh wait, I already mentioned the drinking wine part.

Years and years and years ago I made the  unfortunate mistake of using cooking wine to enhance a recipe. You know the stuff I’m talking about – usually it’s found in the aisle with Worcestershire sauce and whatnot.

Why did I consider it a mistake? Because the gourmet meal I was attempting to make tasted like the cooking wine, which tasted more like Mad Dog 20/20. In other words, it tasted horrible.

No offense to those that actually drink Mad Dog 20/20 because they enjoy it, not because they’re forced to drink wine out of a bottle nestled in a brown paper bag. Ahem.

I was nonetheless intrigued when I was asked to try out Holland House Cooking Wines, since I’d seen their name pop up here and there in various recipes and cooking sites, as well as spied them on a shelf. Bring it on!

HollandHouse

I received one each of Marsala Cooking Wine, White Cooking Wine and Sake Cooking Wine

Can I be honest here for a minute? My rule of thumb when cooking with wine is to always always use a wine you would actually drink out of a bottle. Well, OK, maybe not literally out of a bottle, unless that’s your thing. Put it in a glass, first.

My reasoning behind that is if you don’t like the taste of a particular wine, that’s how your food is going to taste. Which is one of the reasons my gourmet meal failure transpired all those years ago, using a bitter vinegar-y tasting cooking wine.

So good news / bad news – Holland House is way better than that rancid stuff I used years ago. It doesn’t have that Mad Dog 20/20 vibe at all. So there’s that. 

Because I’m picky about taste and flavors (and often attempt to channel my inner Gordon Ramsay when cooking), usually I’ll taste test any wine products that are going into the food I’m preparing. And no, it’s not an excuse to drink more wine. As far as you  know.

This time I decided not to do a taste test before using the White Cooking Wine, because they all have an abundance of added salt to enable them to be called ‘cooking’ wine:

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I always limit my salt intake because I already have an extreme case of water retention all the time, so I don’t need to feed the bloating. I decided to do a blind test with a recipe I’ve been meaning to make, and this gave me the perfect platform in which to do it.

What dish, you ask? Slow Cooker Chicken with Wino Mushroom Sauce, of course. OK, I changed the name a bit, since I changed the original recipe to meet the demands of my people. 

I gathered the necessary ingredients:

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Notice it’s a very simple recipe, not a lot of ingredients. Not pictured is the milk and fresh garlic. Don’t worry, the recipe is coming. I used a combination of boneless skinless chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken tenders.

I mixed all the ingredients together (except for the chicken, duh!) and added the Holland House White Cooking Wine as the final step:

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Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of yourself pouring wine (or anything) into a giant measuring cup? Awkward!

I mixed all the liquid ingredients (with the few non-liquid ingredients, if you’re following along and tend to be literal) all together, placed the chicken in the bottom of my handy dandy crock pot, then poured the mixture over the top to cover:

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When there was about an hour left of the cooking time, I used two forks to shred up the chicken and stir it all together. Then made some Angel Hair pasta and dished it up:

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We (meaning I) was in such a hurry to eat, I neglected to get the plated food ready for its close-up. It looked great when it was completely plated – I added a side of buttered asparagus spears and home made crusty bread before serving it up to my peeps.

General consensus was that it was pretty good – everyone polished off their plates, so there’s that. But I was trying to figure out what was missing… 

It was then that I decided to take a sip of the cooking wine for a taste test after the fact, extra salt be damned. It didn’t taste like wine.

Which I expected - after all, with the added salt technically it wasn’t supposed  to taste like wine-wine. But then again, it’s cooking wine,  so it’s supposed to at least have the flavor of wine, right?

I’m sure my palate is spoiled by all the wine tastings I’ve participated in over the years, or when making wine, making sure the flavor and bouquet is just so,  so I’ll have to take the taste with a grain of salt. Pun intended.

It doesn’t taste like any Chablis I’ve ever had – it didn’t taste like wine at all. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, then had an epiphany that it tastes like really good chicken stock or broth.

Now don’t get me wrong – the flavor was OK, but I was expecting more of a wine  flavor. So if you want more of a wine  flavor in your recipe, make sure you use your favorite wine.

And the fact that it didn’t have that strong wine flavor was certainly not bad thing – I’m pretty sure the kids liked it better without the strong winey taste. And, like regular wine, the alcohol content gets burned off during cooking, so there’s no worries there, either.

Since I hadn’t had a chance to try the Marsala Cooking Wine or the Sake Cooking Wine, I figured I’d better to a taste test on those for the sake of this post. I know, the things I do for you, right?

They didn’t taste like chicken stock, so that’s a relief. The Marsala had a very faint hint of Marsala – but definitely salty. Same deal with the Sake – salty Sake.

But remember, since I’ve reduced my salt intake in a big way, when there’s added salt to anything, I notice that above and beyond all else. So someone who ingests lots of salt may not get that salty mouthfeel when tasting these cooking wines. And obviously cooking wines are not meant to put in a glass to drink, either. Or out of the bottle. 

That being said, I can definitely see using them in appropriate recipes if you want to make sure you have a hint of flavor of Sake or Marsala without the overwhelming flavor of Sake or Marsala. If that makes sense. 

If you use a different brand of cooking wines, stop.  Holland House is way  better than the other brands – their flavors are more robust, and they’re the perfect option to get that hint of flavor without being too overpowering. 

Would I use them again? Absolutely!  I’ve been perusing their website and have already bookmarked some of their delicious sounding recipes to try with their various flavors of cooking wine. They have a well-rounded selection, that’s for sure:

Holland-House-Cooking-Wine

I’m jonesin’ to try out the White Wine with Lemon, and want to see how their Red Wine version stacks up, too. I will keep you posted on future experimentation for sure!

You can learn more about Holland House Cooking wine at their website www.hollandhouseflavors.com as well as Facebook and Youtube. (the videos are great with excellent tips!)

Ready for that recipe? Here you go!

Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion (or 1/2 small onion, diced)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 to 2 fresh garlic cloves minced)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (or cream for more richness)
  • 2 (4 ounce) can mushroom pieces, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste, or favorite herbs and spices to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper or herb/spice of choice. You can either place them directly in the slow cooker, or give them a quick sear in a frying pan depending on preference and time.
  2. Mix together the soup, onion, parsley, wine, garlic powder, milk and mushroom pieces. Season to taste.
  3. Pour soup mixture over the chicken in the crockpot, cover.
  4. Cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours, or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Serve over pasta, rice or couscous.

Notes

If you don't prefer as much sauce as we do, you can halve all the ingredients in the recipe except the chicken.

http://stacysrandomthoughts.com/2014/08/holland-house-is-not-your-ordinary-cooking-wine-review-and-slow-cooker-chicken-wwine-mushroom-sauce-recipe/

Do you cook with wine or cooking wines? What are your favorites?

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A big thank you to Holland House  for providing the product for review. No other compensation was received for this post, implied or otherwise. The opinions are all mine and not influenced by any outside sources. See my Disclosure Policy here.

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