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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13 and S’mores Ice Cream

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Must be summertime if the word “s’mores” comes up in the conversation.

Actually, we’re still a few days short of the summer solstice (though you wouldn’t know that from the many areas in the Northern Hemisphere already experiencing extreme heat). But most schools are out, vacations have started, pools are open and beaches filling up. Even if it’s not summer on the calendar, it’s summer in our activities and in our hearts.

And also here at Reading and Recipes! This week we’re kicking off the season with a recipe that has a double-shot of summer–S’mores Ice Cream!

This combination of the signature flavor of summer (remember those marshmallows burnt over the campfire then pushed off the stick onto a milk chocolate square and sandwiched between two graham crackers? those were the days!) and the signature dessert of summer (what’s summer without ice cream?) is easy to prepare and doesn’t require a churn (that signature pain of summer).  Just mix together, freeze, then enjoy–at the beach, at the pool, on the deck, or around the kitchen table.

Wherever and whenever you eat this S’mores Ice Cream, it will be summertime.

Speaking of summertime vacations, Reading and Recipes will be taking a summertime vacation of its own. Over the next several weeks, we will not be making additional posts. But be sure to check back later in the summer for new posts; or, better yet, use the “follow” button to sign up to get alerts of future posts.

In the meantime, feel free to browse through our 168 recipes (all yummy, we promise) and our numerous serialized stories and novels, using the index links at the top of the page.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer. See you again soon!!!!

smores no churn ice cream

S’mores Ice Cream

2 cups whipped cream or whipped topping*

7-ounces (1/2 of a can) sweetened condensed milk**

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

7-ounce jar marshmallow fluff

8 honey graham cracker sheets, finely chopped***

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream, condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat ingredients until well combined. Fold the marshmallow fluff into the mixture, until thoroughly mixed throughout the ice cream. Fold in the graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container with a lid. Freeze the mixture for 4-6 hours, stirring every couple of hours, or until the ice cream reaches the consistency of frozen yogurt. Note: this ice cream will never fully freeze. Store leftovers in freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 8 half-cup servings.

*If you prefer to use freshly whipped cream, you will need to beat 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. If you are using whipped topping, make sure the whipped topping is softened and has come to room temperature.

**You can use the other half of the sweetened condensed milk to make caramel sauce or peanut butter ice cream.

***This is equal to 16 graham cracker squares, or 32 small graham cracker rectangles. You can also use 1 1/2 cups of Honey Teddy Grahams, finely chopped.

smores ice cream

{Adapted from My Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #13, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #12 and Strawberry Mug Cake

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These mug cakes are the stuff!

Why didn’t they think of that when I was a kid? Would have had a different one every day! But then, they didn’t have microwave ovens back then. Did they have mugs? I don’t know–can’t remember.

But they’ve got microwaves and mugs now, that’s for sure. And these mug cakes are the stuff–quick, easy, minimal clean-up, near infinite variety.

This week we are featuring a Strawberry Mug Cake. There are still some local fresh strawberries, depending on where you live. But one of the great recent inventions (to go along with microwaves and mugs) are year-round fresh strawberries readily available in any grocery store. So while this Strawberry Mug Cake may seem like the ideal late-spring afternoon or evening treat, it’s ready and waiting any time of the year. Just pick up some fresh strawberries and give it a try.

Now let me go call my brother and ask if he remembers if we had mugs when we were kids.

berry mug cake

Strawberry Mug Cake

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

2 heaping Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2-3 large strawberries, hulled and finely diced

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and sugar until ingredients are well mixed. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat all of the ingredients together. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt, until just mixed into the batter. Fold in the diced strawberries.

Spray a 12-ounce mug with cooking spray.* Spoon the batter into the prepared mug. Microwave the cake on high for 60 seconds. Check the cake for done-ness. Continue to microwave the cake on high in 15 second increments, until the cake is done and no longer raw in the center. (It took my cake about 75 seconds.)

Remove the cake from the microwave and allow to cool slightly. Enjoy warm, straight out of the mug. For an extra decadent treat, drizzle the cake with chocolate syrup, vanilla glaze, or add a scoop of ice cream on top.

Makes 1 mug cake.

*Use a 12-ounce mug or larger for this cake. The cake doubles in size when it bakes, so don’t make the mistake of using a smaller mug and having a mess to clean up!

berry microwave mug cake

{Adapted from Averie Cooks}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #12, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #12, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #11 and Banana Berry Smoothie

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Okay, call us patriotic–and (sometimes) healthy!

Last week, a few days before Memorial Day, we posted a Frosted Sugar Cookie Bar recipe and dressed those cookie bars up with some red and blue frosting to go along with the “white” cookie. Red, white, and blue–get it? But maybe this cookie bar isn’t the healthiest snack in the universe.

Now this week, a few days after the holiday, we’re still in a patriotic mood with our Banana Berry Smoothie. Only this week we’re adding healthy to our mix of flag-waving colors. Healthy is patriotic, right–as long as it tastes good! And this smoothie tastes good and looks so delicious in the glass and is cool and refreshing.

So take some red berries–strawberries are great this time of year and still in season–and mix in some white banana and yogurt then add a few blue blueberries and whirl it all together and you have this healthy and patriotic smoothie, a delicious farewell to the holiday just past or a great anticipation of the holiday to come in just a little over a month.

Or enjoy it anytime–a refreshing and healthy snack in a patriotic theme!

banana berry smoothie

Banana Berry Smoothie

1 banana, previously peeled, sliced, and frozen

1 cup mixed berries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons honey

Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend on high for 30 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust as necessary; add more honey for a sweeter smoothie, add more milk for a thinner smoothie, or add a handful of ice for a thicker smoothie. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 smoothie.

*If you use vanilla Greek yogurt, you can omit the vanilla extract and honey.

berry banana smoothie

{Adapted from Food Network Kitchen}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #11, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #11, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10 and Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

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So you want to have a celebration but not make a big deal about it. Maybe it’s the end of the school year, or a promotion at work, or a non-biggie anniversary–of your first date, maybe; or of thirty-two years together (I know, hard to count that high). You want to mark the occasion with something less than a $300 meal for two or a forty-guest party. But you just don’t know what to do.

Well, click on Reading and Recipes and we’ll give you a hand.

First, turn a regular sugar cookie recipe into a pan of bar cookies–that goes a lot faster and tastes just as good (even better since there are no individual cookies to get dried out). Then jazz those bar cookies up with a quick and easy and colorful frosting. And voila–you’ve got your celebration: Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars.

These work anytime of year, for any holiday or occasion. Our red, white, and blue this week are a nod toward the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, but school colors work for graduation, green for Saint Patty’s, red for Valentine’s, and so on.

Tuck this recipe and idea away for future reference, right after you mix up a batch for this weekend. And enjoy your quiet (and easy) celebration!

frosted sugar cookie bars

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

For the bars:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

For the frosting:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablespoons milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

food coloring, optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 5×7 inch pan, and set aside.

To make the bars, add the butter and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients on high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter. Slowly mix in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch until all ingredients are just combined. The dough will be thick!

Press the dough into the prepared pan. For an chewy, cookie-like texture, bake the bars for 15-17 minutes; OR, for more of a cake-like, crumb texture (as shown in the pictures), bake the bars for 18-20 minutes. The top should only just begin to turn golden brown and the bars will look underdone. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan. The middle will sink significantly while the bars are cooling.

Once the bars have cooled, make the frosting by whipping the butter until it is fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in three increments, beating into the butter after each addition. Mix in 1 tablespoon of milk. If the frosting is still too thick, add one more tablespoon. Stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt. If you have food coloring, add one or two drops and stir into the frosting.

Frost the cooled bars. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 bars.

frosted sugar bars

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8 and Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

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Life is best found in simplicity, or at least it should be.

Sometimes that’s a hard truth to remember as we run around doing twenty different things at once and not able to keep track of all we’ve got going on let alone appreciate and absorb some of the simple pleasures associated with those tasks.

So, in pursuit of, or with a nod towards, such simple pleasures, this week’s Homemade Chocolate Strawberries couldn’t be much simpler: fresh strawberries, melting chocolate, done.

And the pleasure gained from this dessert is not merely in its simplicity. There are few things better suited to being coated in chocolate than a ripe strawberry. And there are few combinations of flavors more satisfying and elemental than that of a sweet and juicy strawberry mixed with the earthy richness of chocolate.

So dial your life back a few notches, and partake of this simple two-ingredient dessert. And then look around and be grateful for all your blessings.

in memory of Cathy

chocolate covered starwberries

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

4-6 strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried 

3 ounces chocolate melting wafers*

sprinkles, optional

Melt the chocolate according to package directions. Hold one strawberry by its stem over the melted chocolate. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over top of the strawberry until the fruit is completely covered. Place the strawberry on a plate lined with wax paper. Add sprinkles, if desired. Once all of the strawberries are coated, place them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until hardened. Store strawberries in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 4 chocolate strawberries.

*For best results, please use chocolate specifically designed for making candy. Brands such as Candiquik and Ghirardelli Melting Chocolate should be readily available at your local grocery store or Target. I would not suggest using regular baking chocolate, chocolate chips, or any other form of chocolate.

choc covered strawberry

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7 and Yogurt Fruit Dip

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So you come home from work or school or running errands and you’re starving. It’s too late for lunch but way too early for dinner. You go rooting around the cupboards and the fridge for something to eat, and if you’re lucky you find a few crackers or maybe some fruit in the back of the veggie drawer at the bottom of the fridge. And you wolf down those tidbits like a bear just come out of hibernation.

And in the aftermath of that snack, you look at yourself in the hall mirror and think two things–one, that was not a very graceful way to satisfy your late afternoon hunger; and two, you’re still hungry because a couple dry crackers or a few grapes by themselves just doesn’t cut the craving.

But wait–Reading and Recipes to the Rescue (R&R to the R!).

This week’s Yogurt Fruit Dip takes just a few minutes to mix together and can be stored in a covered container in the fridge, waiting there to jazz up any afternoon snack.

And just like that, you are no longer wolfing unsatisfying tidbits like a wild child but are now eating flavor-enhanced tea-time fare like the landed gentry on one of those cable-t.v. mini-series. Next thing you know, you’ll be ordering a sterling tea set and booking a butler.

Nah. Bag of pretzels and this Yogurt Dip will do just fine.

fruit dip

Yogurt Fruit Dip

8 ounces plain Greek yogurt*

2 ounces whipped cream or Cool Whip

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

a pinch of salt

In a small mixing bowl, mix the yogurt, whipped cream, and vanilla. To another bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt, ensuring there are no lumps. Stir this mixture into the yogurt until well incorporated. Refrigerate the dip for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled, with fruit, graham crackers, pretzels, or other dippers.

Makes about 1 cup.

*Greek yogurt is preferred. You can substitute regular yogurt, but the dip will not be as thick.

vanilla fruit dip

{Adapted from Layers of Happiness}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6 and Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

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Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.” Give me an “R.”

I’m not going to waste your time or mine finishing the word, but I trust you get the idea. It’s spring!!! And I feel like cheering about it.

O.K. So you’re probably thinking–Get a life. It’s been spring for over a month.

Yes, that’s true. But until the fresh berries start showing up at the farmer’s markets, it’s not really spring. And just this week, the pick-your-own strawberry farm down the road opened its gates–earliest opening on record!

So it’s spring! Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”

How ’bout give me a recipe?

O.K. Try this out for size–Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes. Doesn’t that just cry out for spring (and summer)? Lemon! Fresh berries! The cool richness of cheesecake! The baker, who lives a little farther north than this writer, used blueberries for this batch. But fresh-picked strawberries would work just as well. And they’ll be coming your way soon, because it’s spring!

Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”  .  .  .

Hey, don’t throw your shoe at me. I’m not some howling dog!

mini lemon cheesecakes

Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

For the crust:

4 honey graham cracker sheets

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, room temperature

1 large lemon, juiced

For the topping:

6 Tablespoons berry jam* 

1/2 cup fresh berries*

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 9 paper liners, and set aside.

Add the graham cracker sheets to a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Add the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and melted butter, and process until ingredients come together. Divide the mixture between the 9 paper liners, pressing and packing the mixture into the bottom of each liner.

Next, make the filling by adding the cream cheese and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the ingredients on high until smooth. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, egg, and lemon juice to the mixture, and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Divide the batter between the 9 paper liners. Bake the cheesecakes in your preheated oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown and the centers are just set. Allow the cheesecakes to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once the cheesecakes are cooled, the centers will have sunk slightly, leaving room for the fruit topping. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the berry jam on high for 10-15 seconds, or until warmed. Mix the fresh blueberries into the jam. Spoon this mixture on top of each cheesecake. Return the cheesecakes to your refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes 9 mini cheesecakes.

*Any berry jam or berries will do. I used blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, but any variety of berry jam and berries will work. The possibilities are endless!

mini lemon berry cheesecakes

{Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, text © Jeffrey Anderson