There's something special about July 4. It's right in the middle of the lazy days of summer, when we're already in a laid-back mood.
It's not one of the high-pressure holidays. You don't have to buy gifts, cook a turkey or come up with the perfect card for your sweetheart. You just get to enjoy it. At my house, that usually means cooking on the grill or at least eating picnic foods, even if we buy the fried chicken from a restaurant and team it with locally grown corn on the cob.
And although the menu has changed from year to year -- maybe hot dogs one year and cheeseburgers the next -- I have made a flag cake almost every year since I had children. I know you've seen this cake: yellow cake in large Pyrex dish, frosted with vanilla frosting or Kool Whip and decorated with strawberries and blueberries to resemble the American flag.
This time of year, women's magazines have all kind of recipes that incorporate a patriotic theme, and most look fairly easy, from red and blue sprinkles on a cupcake to sugar cookies dyed red or blue and cut out in the shape of stars. Most are easy adaptations of recipes and decorations we are already familiar with.
I've been wanting to make ice cream sandwiches, and decided I'd give them a patriotic theme with red and blue M&M Minis that I sorted from a large bag of the candies. I've made ice cream sandwiches several times over the years, using different chocolate chip cookie recipes. This time I used my family's favorite chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, adding some corn syrup because I read that would keep the cookies from getting too hard in the freezer.
I have a few tips if you're making your own ice cream sandwiches this summer.
First, find somewhere cool to assemble the dessert. My kitchen was hot when I put dollops of ice cream between my cooled cookies. The ice cream started melting quickly, and the M&M decorations I put on the sides immediately started to melt colors onto my vanilla ice cream before falling off altogether. I wanted to cry, but instead, I came up with a solution.
I placed my remaining ice cream sandwiches on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for several hours to harden the ice cream. When I was ready to serve them later that day, I dotted the ice cream with M&Ms Minis that had been chilled in the refrigerator. They must be served immediately.
If you want to avoid dealing with the M&Ms on the side of your cookie, mix them into the cookie batter instead, adjusting the amount of chips accordingly. When I make this cookie recipe, I use 1 cup M&M Minis and 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.
If you have any remaining ice cream sandwiches, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and return to the freezer until ready to serve. I found that if I wrapped the sandwiches in plastic as soon as I made them, the ice cream continued to melt and attach itself to the plastic wrap, making a mess.
For an easier version of this recipe, use ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies instead of cookies made from scratch. You can also vary the ice cream flavor. Wouldn't a chocolate cookie be delicious with mint chocolate chip ice cream? And you can certainly vary the decorations on the side and use sprinkles or chocolate chips or even chopped nuts.
When you're planning your July 4 gathering, you might want to consider a new pasta salad. You can make the dish in advance and keep it chilling until it's time to eat. And other than boiling the pasta, you don't have to worry about heating up the kitchen.
I asked readers last week to submit their favorite pasta salad, and I got two responses.
Laura Harris said her recipe is always a hit and feeds a crowd.
Marie Brown has a tuna salad made with a box of macaroni and cheese. She said it's one of her favorites.
Thanks to Laura and Marie for sharing their recipes!
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips*
In medium bowl cream melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk until creamy. Mix in flour until blended. Add in chocolate chips until mixed throughout dough.
Drop approximately 2 teaspoons dough per cookie onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake at 325 degrees for 17 minutes or until top turns a light golden brown. Don’t overcook because you want the cookies to stay soft.
Makes approximately 28 cookies.
*I make this recipe often; it’s my family’s favorite chocolate chip cookie. I usually make it with 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup M&M Minis. I also omit the corn syrup if I’m not using them for ice cream sandwiches. I usually make them large, using my muffin scoop to form each cookie.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Cooled chocolate chip cookies
- Vanilla ice cream (I use the low-fat version.)
- M&M Minis or other decorations, such as nuts or sprinkles (I find it works better to cool the M&Ms in the refrigerator.)
- 1 box penne pasta
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon Accent
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large cucumber, sliced thin
- 4 ounce jar pimentos, drained
Make 1 day ahead and refrigerate.
Mac and Cheese Tuna Salad
- 1 box Kraft Deluxe Mac and Cheese (prepared as directed and cooled)
- 2 cans white tuna (drained)
- 3 eggs (boiled and chopped)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup green bell peppers
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles
- 1 jar chopped pimentos (drained)
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise